"You can't get there from here."
From my house it is a 212-mile drive to Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom. I was slightly suprised to find that it is actually a longer drive for me than Kennywood, which is almost exactly 200 miles. So it takes about 3:52 to make the trip, and I arrived just after 1:00pm. I paid my $3 parking fee, parked the car, and loaded up the computer, the newly-repaired video camera, and my season pass certificate.
I wish I knew why the season pass processing line moves so slowly. Getting the pass certificate processed takes less than a minute, and there are four people doing it, so they should be able to process about 240 passes/hour. But there was no where near 240 people lined up ahead of me, and it took every bit of an hour to get the pass done. I don't understand it. It was nothing that Kentucky Kingdom was doing wrong; that's just the way it works.
With my pass in hand, I started wandering the park, shooting video. The most obvious change from the end of last season is the new paint job on Chang. A lot of people have talked about Chang's new paint here, but perhaps some of the description could have been avoided by simply noting that Chang now matches the Ferris wheel, with its purple supports and lime-yellow track. The lift isn't quite done yet, but the coaster's new paint is nearly complete. They have also closed the path behind T^2 that winds around the back of the waterpark to Thunder Run. T^2 is also blocked off, as that ride is not yet operational for this season. It does look good in black, though. Wandering around this area, I also noticed that, not suprisingly, there were a couple of maintenance guys working on Chaos. It seems that wherever there is a Chaos or a Quasar, a maintenance man is never far away; I think the maintenance department's nickname for the Chaos ought to be "Job Security." 8-)
Unfortunately, there was nothing to indicate that the path from T^2 to Thunder Run was closed, meaning that the only route is to go back to the Damn Bridge, down the ramp, and up the hill past the Quake (another Maintenance Department favorite; that one wasn't working at all) to the carousel, Roller Skater, Thunder Run, and the path to Twisted Sisters. In my opinion, Kentucky Kingdom should open the two gates to the (closed) water park and put up railings in there to form a cut-through from Chang to Thunder Run, until they get the Blizzard River construction done. Kentucky Kingdom has probably the worst layout of any park in the hemisphere...yes, it is worse than MarineLand, with almost as much walking. They have tried to improve the layout over the years by adding some cut-throughs, but they keep closing those paths.
I got in line for Thunder Run, but was turned away when the ride broke down. It turned out to be a brief shutdown, but it had been announced as a 30-minute closure. So I headed for Twisted Sisters and was prepared to take a front-seat ride on Stella when I was turned away because of my camera. Sorry, no, I just got the thing repaired, I am NOT leaving it behind. So I didn't ride that one either. By this time I was getting a bit frustrated.
Thunder Run was working again, so I did get a front-seat ride on that one, not to mention a chance to chat with Cory and Mark on the platform. There is a lot of new track on Thunder Run, and it was a good way to start the season. Awfully long wait, though, about 40 minutes. Thunder Run is a 2-minute ride, and it desperately needs a second train. It also needs longer seat belts so that us folks with large thighs can actually get the belt fastened. I think I am just as happy that Thunder Run has seat belts, as the ride is an extreme airtime festival, and there were times during the ride where I felt the belt go tight. Wheee! But they need to come up with another solution to the short-belt problem.
I adjourned to the car and dumped some equipment, then returned to the park for some more riding. On the way out I bumped into our friend Leslie who informed me that half of the staff that day was from Six Flags St. Louis...and that she was stuck on the Thrill Park Theatre for the day, but that she will be returning to Twisted Sisters later in the season.
Also on my way out I passed through the kiddie ride area, which is becoming Warner Bros. Movieworld, I think. Two new attractions in that area are both somewhat notable; first is the Foam Factory, which is a new soft-play area. The neat thing about this one is that there is no ball pit. To avoid the MANY problems that ball pits cause, there are many machines which apparently move and throw small plastic balls, but instead of a ball pit the balls are spread about the facility, and when I peeked in were strewn about the floor (it had not yet opened for operation). So I guess the balls have gone from something for the kids to play in to something for the kids to play with. The second new attraction there is the Frogger, which is a 6-seat Frog Hopper with a Thylvethter figure thtanding on top of the car, with a Tweety tanding on top wit a beeeeeg mallet in hand. The ride was not yet operational (but they were working on it!), but what got my attention was the "Zamperla" name plate on the side of the tub. I think the Frog Hopper is to kiddie rides what the Wild Mouse is to roller coasters these days!
On my return I headed over to the Vampire, which is in need of a paint job. When I sat down in the second-from-last seat, one of the first things I noticed is that the train has all new shoulder bars, which seem to be coated with black concrete, and which, unfortunately, have a little extra thickness on the inside edge. At least I can still get my ears clear. Vampire is an older Vekoma Boomerang, but happens to be running very well. Is it my imagination, or are both lifts on Vampire a bit faster than on most of the Boomerangs I have ridden? And it was giving an exceptionally smooth ride, though the sidewinders still have that nasty head-bashing sideways jerk to them. At the end of the ride, it is also worth noting that Vampire is at the end of yet another dead-end pathway.
I wandered on around the front loop to The Damn Bridge, noting that the Rainbow was not operating. Across the bridge, I went past the Wheel and took a ride on Chang. The new paint on the ride is quite attractive, but it hasn't made the ride any better. Of course part of the problem is that I am not a fan of stand-up coasters. And part of the problem is that Mr. Bolliger and Mr. Mabillard don't seem to know a whole lot about human factors engineering...on the stand-up, the seat horn is too wide, the floor pan is too narrow, the seats are too close together, and the top of the shoulder bar is too high. And for some reason, Chang is giving a very rough...meaning "bumpy"...ride, with lateral shuffle and wheel hop, things I never expected to feel on a B&M coaster. I suspect the train may be due for a set of wheels. I was suprised. I got off with sore shoulders and thighs and decided not to ride again.
I headed over to the Roller Skater. This is a fun little junior coaster, and it is so nice to not have to wait for a ride. Does anyone know what the steel bracket hanging over the track near the end of the ride is for? There is nothing attached to it, and it is just close enough to look like it could take your head off... 8-)
I thought I was on my way back to Twisted Sisters when I ran into the Three Coasternuts; we chatted about our plans for the upcoming season, and I ended up riding Thunder Run again. Yes, the ride is incredible. Okay, the operation is incredibly SLOW, with about a 3:30 interval (that's about 400 PPH). No two ways about it...it is an outstanding ride, running very smooth this season, and well deserving of a transfer table. It's only taking the crew about a minute to get the riders in place, so a second train would at least double the capacity; they would not often have a train waiting on the safety brake. Thunder Run is such a good ride I wish I could spend more time riding it, but instead I end up waiting in a long, slow-moving line that prompts me to go back to Twisted Sisters.
Of course I had to get something to eat at this point, so I stopped for pizza. Pizza is $2.50/slice and drinks are $2.00. Or, they have a deal where you can get two slices AND a 20 oz. drink for $5.75, which based on the slice price makes for a reasonably priced drink. I had considered the 'all-you-can eat' fried chicken buffet at Swampwater Jack's ($6.99 + drink) but decided I wasn't that hungry.
For some reason there are no tables or seats within sight of the pizza stand, though there are some tables back behind the (closed) Landings eatery, and a couple of seats on the other side of the pizza joint in front of the overpriced Subway shop.
Twisted Sisters have more than double the capacity of Thunder Run. First because there are two tracks (and hence, two trains), second because the ride is shorter than Thunder Run. Lola seemed to have some kind of unidentified problem so that it ran in yo-yo mode most of the evening, but both Lola and Stella were running fast and hard. Someone mentioned that Kentucky Kingdom may have adopted the Six Flags "no singles in back" rule; if this is the case I simply didn't notice...but the one time I took a back seat ride on Stella someone else jumped in with me. This was something of an annoyance, actually, as Twisted Sisters has a lot of lateral force, and I can't reach that opposite-side hand-hold if there is someone sitting in that other seat.......!
You can tell with the first ride that these are CCI coasters. From the time they take off from the station, they do not slow down until they hit the brakes at the end of the course. It sounded like the Gerstlauer cars were protesting a bit on a couple of the turns, but in general they were running really well. Very smooth, lots of airtime in selected spots. Not quite the extreme yank-loose-from-seat airtime of Thunder Run, but close. I really like these coasters; I just wish there were more padding on the seats as I only rode a few times and still ended up sore. Not as sore as I was at the end of my last visit (and 90+ rides on the Sisters), but sore nonetheless. Still, it is hard to believe that such a small coaster can go so FAST. Wow!
One unpleasant item regarding the Twisted Sisters; the ride has a huge queue maze, and the shortest path wraps all the way around the perimeter of this maze and ends up at the decision point adjacent to the midway. At this point, there is a flower bed, which will not last long as it is used as a cut-through by almost every patron of the coaster...basically the only people who were walking through the queue instead of the flower bed were the people who could be identified as coaster nuts. While I am happy to see that the coaster nuts were setting a good example, the majority of the patrons were not paying attention. Since they obviously have a problem here (so bad that for part of the day an attendant was stationed at that cut-through to "encourage" people to use the proper entrance) whenever there are not enough customers to fill the queue, why doesn't Kentucky Kingdom install a gate at this point and create an alternate entrance for the ride to use when the ride is not terribly busy (which is most of the time, apparently). It would be a simple solution to an irritating problem.
I spent the rest of the evening riding Twisted Sisters, though I think I got fewer than 10 rides due to the number of riders, and the fact that Lola kept breaking down. Finally, we were next in line for Stella, and in fact the train was loaded, when the entire ride went down mechanical for the remainder of the evening. At that point, I took one last ride on Thunder Run and decided to head home. Well, by this time it was 9:30pm, and with a 4-hour drive home, it was time to leave.
The park is still a bit rough around the edges, and it has some serious staffing problems. But as the season wears on and the staff is built up and becomes more comfortable, we will see improvement. The completion of Blizzard River and the Batman stunt show ampitheatre will improve the traffic flow through the park. Good things are about to happen to Kentucky Kingdom, but it's going to take a while to get the park broken in for the season.
Rides installed in the park:
|Break Dance||Huss||Break Dance|
|Vampire||Vekoma||Boomerang coaster (Train by Arrow Dynamics)|
|Tin Lizzies||Arrow||Antique Cars|
|Giant Wheel||Vekoma||Giant Ferris Wheel|
|Chang||Bolliger & Mabillard||Stand-Up Coaster|
|Flying Dutchman||Intamin||Flying Dutchman|
|Thunder Run||Summers/Dinn||Wood Coaster (train by Philadelphia Toboggan)|
|Roller Skater||Vekoma||Roller Skater/700J|
|Mile High Falls||Arrow?||Shoot-The-Chute|
|Twisted Sisters||Custom Coasters Int'l||Wood Coasters(trains by Gerstlauer)|
|Thrill Park Theatre||Iwerks||Turbo Tour theatre|
|Frightfully Funny Free Falling Fire Engine #9||Zamperla||Fire Chief|
|Duke of the Road||Zamperla||4x4|
|Up Up and Away Balloon Race||Zamperla||Samba Balloon|
|Royal Air Force||Zamperla||Red Baron Mini Jet 6|
|Musical Carousel||Zierer?||Musical Carousel|
|Foam Factory||?||Ball Play Area|
|Sun Moon Wheel||Zamperla||Sun Moon Wheel|
|Queen's Quadrille||?||Swing Ride|
--Dave Althoff, Jr.
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