"Which finger is that supposed to be?"
Either this has been one hell of a weekend, or I am getting old. Since John and Dave are both younger than me and suffering in similar ways, I'm inclined to believe the former. Where we were late getting out yesterday, today we were VERY late, actually leaving the hotel after their official check-out time. At this point, Kentucky Kingdom isn't so much a major destination for us as it is a place to stop to break up the long drive home. It's about two hours from Beech Bend to Kentucky Kingdom, it's about two hours from Kentucky Kingdom to Dave's house in Cincinnati, and it's about two hours from there back to my home in Columbus. So it all works out.
When we got to the park, we discovered that there was some Big Event going on in the exhibit halls on the Kentucky fairgrounds, the buildings directly across the parking lot from Kentucky Kingdom. You know, it occurs to me that the fairgrounds has a pretty inefficient layout. They have constructed it so that instead of grouping all of the attractions together and surrounding them with parking, they grouped all the parking together and surrounded it with attractions, so that different events all end up competing with each other for parking space. In any case, we finally found a hole, and proceeded to the park. I was able to scan my Wyandot Lake pass (which I have yet to use at Wyandot Lake) and go directly into the park. Just inside the entrance is a metal detector, which wailed incessantly at each patron, even as a park employee simply waved us all into the park. If you're going to put metal detectors on a park entrance, this is the way to do it. Better still would be to simply unplug the @#$! things entirely, but then it's kind of hard to justify the expense. [Footnote 1] On entering, I noticed that only the Hellevator and Roadrunner Express were scheduled to be closed for the day.
As is often the case when visiting Kentucky Kingdom, we entered the park and turned to the left, stopping at the end of the midway to visit with the Break Dance. I wonder, if this ride were to go back to Huss for service, would they even recognize it anymore? The gondolas have undergone a series of odd modifications, and this year we noticed that the large mirrored centerpiece of the ride has been completely removed. All in the name of "safety" I guess. I still don't know what the seat belt is supposed to accomplish, given that riders are secured by a fully-encircling lap bar that can only be opened by sticking a special tool into the outside of the tub...
While we were riding the Break Dance, the Road Runner Express coaster opened at the end of the midway. Remember, that is one of the rides that was scheduled to be closed today. Anyway, it's a Maurer (I think) Wild Mouse coaster, and it's a pretty decent ride. I thought the lap bar was rammed down way too hard into my gut, but apart from that it is a decent ride. From there we circled the Skycoaster to ride the Pirat, which still desperately needs a paint job, but runs pretty well. Pity it is so badly donnikered in this dead-end front corner of the park where nobody ever seems to go anymore.
As long as we're busying ourselves with decent rides, we can't miss Greezed Lightnin'. Okay, so it's a really old Schwarzkopf launched loop that has been in at least two other parks. It's a unique ride in this part of the country, and it's a pretty darned good ride. It's certainlly a lot better than the Vampire ever was. I was a bit disappointed to discover that they are now braking the train HARD as it comes backward through the station, meaning that the back of the train barely makes it up to the angle transition point on the back spike. It's a good ride anyway, but I wish it were still running the way it was the first few times I rode it.
We continued on 'round the circle to the Rainbow. As it was last year, the ride has been fixed and no longer moves in ways that the Rainbow" shouldn't. The ride is running well, now they just need to give it a long-overdue paint job. As we exited, we saw an interesting example of why signs require maintenance. On the front of the gondola, on one of the steps, there is a graphic "No Smoking" sign...a picture of a burning cigarette in a circle-slash emblem. The problem is that the red paint of the circle-slash emblem is so badly faded away that the graphic almost looks like a "Smoke here!" sign.
Having travelled halfway around the front half of the park, we crossed the Damn Bridge. On the other side we cursed the jerk who left off the stairs on the Thunder Run side of the bridge, and proceeded down, under, and back up the hill on the other side. We rode the Roller Skater and the flying wooden shoes ride. I looked at the carousel and noticed another sign issue. On the concrete sidewalk around the base of the carousel there are yellow arrows pointing the way to the nearest exit gate. Except that instead of arrows they are stencil graphics of a hand pointing in the appropriate direction. The trouble here is that it's just an outline. You can almost tell that it is supposed to be a hand pointing the way, but there is no detail. Which leads one to wonder, when looking at the arrow, just which finger is being used to point the direction. It is really kind of hard to tell. I guess the moral of the story is that if you are spray-painting directions with a stencil, it's probably best to stick with the standard type arrows.
Thunder Run is, I know from experience, a front-seat ride. With a moderate to light crowd in the park, it was a fairly short wait. Operationally, we noticed that the park has adopted a "You fasten your seat belt, we will lower your lap bar" procedure which seems to slow down an already slow process. The ride is running exceptionally well, with obvious fresh lubricant on all three of the high-speed turns. Pity it has only one train and always takes so long even with a short wait.
For this visit, the empty midway between the (idle) Top Eliminator attraction and Thunder Run was blocked off, with a sign indicating that something new would be coming there. Instead, we were directed down the mostly-abandoned midway along side Mile High Falls to get back to the dueling coaster, whatever it is called now. For my convenience, I shall refer to it as Twisted Sisters as that is the name it had the day I got nearly 100 rides on the two tracks. The ride has received some much-needed attention in a few areas, but only in a few areas and only on the "Stella" side of the ride. "Lola" is as brutal as ever and in desperate need of some track work. "Stella" got some much needed track work, but some of it seems to be a little "tight" in that the train was consistently late to the designated dueling point, and it just felt slow. Both tracks on this ride could use an extensive overhaul, and the nation's oldest set of Gerstlauer wood coaster trains is feeling ever worse for wear. I'm afraid there is a lot of room for improvement on this coaster.
Something else that could use some improvement is the singing skills of the people who actually agreed to get up and sing on the karaoke stage on the midway near Twisted Sisters. At least there is something on that midway now!
Back the other way across the back of the water park we skipped the rapids ride and took advantage of the many misting-fans mounted over the midway. T2 was a near walk-on, so we did. I took my ride in the back row of the train, which usually gives the best ride on these suspended looping coasters. The jungle under the lift hill is still a sight to behold, and I just hope there is no poison ivy in it. Some of the suspended looping coasters are pretty good rides, but unfortunately this particular one, only the second one built, is not one of them. It is worth noting that Kentucky Kingdom has changed over to the same machined wheels as Geauga Lake is using on Thunderhawk: The Ride that was Serial Thriller in place of the standard Vekoma forged wheels. It is also worth noting that while the head-thwacking was pretty bad on this ride, something else happened somewhere that aggravated my leg injury. My knee had been behaving itself all weekend long, but when I got off of T2 it hurt like crazy. In fact it hurt bad enough that instead of going down the exit ramp, I opted to backtrack through the entrance and go down the stairs in the queue. The stairs are easier to navigate with a sore knee.
Dave and John wanted to take a ride on Chang. Ever since the safety belts were added, I can no longer ride, so I sat it out and waited for them. The ride looks good with its new color scheme, representing the...ummm...third time that Chang has been painted since it opened less than ten years ago. Pity that in that same timeframe, the Giant Wheel has never been painted. I think it also says bad things about Louisville that the insides of the Wheel spokes are covered with chewing gum in all the accessible spots. Yuck.
Speaking of paint, I noticed that the railings around the front of the Himalaya have been repainted. Unfortunately it looks like they were painted by the same crew that did the original paint job on Chang in that the new paint is just as spotty, peeled, and damaged as the old paint was. Oh, well, better luck next time I guess.
We finished our day by browsing for gifts, failing to ride the Enterprise and by taking additional rides on Thunder Run and Greezed Lightnin', without a doubt the park's two best rides. In all, it was a decent day at the park, if somewhat unremarkable. It was a good way to finish w really busy roller coaster weekend.
--Dave Althoff, Jr.
Footnote 1: Remember I am not a fan of park-entrance metal detectors. I think they are far too indiscriminate to be useful, and I think there are far better ways to maintain park security. [Return to text]
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