Thursday, February 27, 2014

Kennywood Offseason Wintry Update February 26th, 2014

Don't forget to vote for your favorite Pennsylvania terrain coaster on the right side of the page. It is the last day to vote!

I was in no particular rush to get home and I love taking pictures, so I figured I would make a little stop at Kennywood since I was passing by. Of the literally thousands of times I have passed by or seen the park in my life, the way in which the coasters are built into the dramatic landscape never ceases to amaze me. I started from a unique vantage point that you can add to the "used to be a Pizza Hut" category. A family practice may be the most unique re-use of one of these distinctively styled retail buildings. Other former Huts that come to mind are a pawn shop and a Mexican restaurant in my immediate region, but I digress.
Below you can see the view of the skyline from this vantage point. 
You can see that just over a third of the Racer's lift hill support structure has been replaced between work this and last offseason. The park's aggressive care plans for their three wooden coasters led towards them riding better than ever last season. I am proud to say that we rode the Racer for the first public ride of last season with GOCC on opening day last season after we had the chance to walk through the ride's infield. A terrific memory. Opening Day Visit 2013
Here you can see the scope of the skyline from this view. This area also has a world of potential for future expansion. All of this land is now under Kennywood ownership. The former steel buildings down below would be awesome for some attractions. I would love to see another giant steel coaster utilize this ravine. The park has the potential to see another homerun coaster like the Phantom with this giant ravine. A terrain wood coaster would be neat as well. It would be pretty neat if they could integrate these old steel buildings into the plan as possible tunnels for a ride or have them integrated into a brand new midway with a ski-lift or incline down the cliff and a possible midway expansion off of to the right of the main entrance with a tunnel under the road way and then a path under the highway bridge. This would take a ton of infrastructure and I am not sure how feasible this would be, but I can dream. With all of the land they have at their disposal they could possibly double the current midway space. 
A view you cannot get once the summer comes around and everything is grown in. The angles and sheer beauty of looking at the immensity of this ride always amaze me. 
This is a fuzzy shot but you can see some of the retracking work that the Thunderbolt has undergone. 
Black Widow in the foreground with the dominating second drop of Phantom looming in the background. I love the view through the old Arrow style supports. 
Sadly Sky Rocket is not in flight........
A shot of the giant overbanked turn thing. I love this element. My favorite part is the giant and twisting drop it provides back into the ravine and under the Thunderbolt. The scope of this element is huge as you can see with how far the Thunderbolt is from this spot. 
Another shot through the weeds with this one featuring the sawhorse Morgan supports for the giant overbank element and a better view of the Thunderbolt. 
I love this view! This features the super-powerful airtime hills at the end of the Phantom. The park is eerie and quiet midwinter with a dusting of snow, but the views are breathtaking nonetheless. You can see the great work the park has continued in their multi-year revamping of the wood coasters and the potential the park has with all of the recently acquired land. I look forward to seeing the rides running even more awesome next season. The Phantom will also be getting brand new fiberglass toppers to the trains, making one fully green train and one fully purple train. The trains will be heavier, making this wild ride likely even more wild. The new trains will also make maintenance more easy with side openings. All in all, between these infrastructure changes, plus the opening of a Johnny Rocket's sit-down restaurant in the historic carousel building, 2014 should be a decent season. The wood coasters alone will be even better than they were last season.  

Don't forget to check out our book "Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip" available through the drop down menu at the top of the page, all of the shops shown at the top of the page and Amazon. A portion of the proceeds have been going to help out Conneaut Lake and Lakemont. Purchase through the drop down menu at the top of the page and you will get your choice of either a Conneaut Blue Streak or Lakemont Leap the Dips ride ticket. 

Monday, February 24, 2014

Cedar Point Maverick Construction Report June 2006

Occasionally I run into something in my piles and piles of saved photos that transport me into another moment. The moment I saw and recalled today was my first look at the Maverick construction site at Cedar Point in June of 2006. No track or supports had made an appearance yet. The ride was announced at the end of August 2006 and the net abounded with discussion up until that point. I recall that the popular rumor was "AquaTrax" at the time, which would make sense since they had removed the terrific Whitewater Landing Arrow Hydroflume in the fall of 2005. On warm days at the Point, this ride is still greatly missed. Prior to that I recall rumors from dueling B&M flyers to a new GCI. It is funny how the discussions have not really changed much in speculation since that point. The classic "NASA studied Arrow Giga Arrowbatic" rumors had finally gone to rest now that Arrow was pretty much no more.
You can see the sandy soils which inhabit the point. I wonder if they have to take any out of the ordinary special considerations for projects at the Point in regards to the sandy soil. 

What fueled even more speculation was the fact that they opted to keep the old Whitewater Landing station that once housed the high capacity turntable loading system for the flume.

No one aside from CF management quite knew what that was all about. The park also opted to leave cryptic hints around the construction site, peepholes through the fence and hints around the net. They were utilizing social media at the height of early sites like Xanga and during the rise of Myspace, two sites that I am sure a few of you younger folks do not even know about. Youtube was also starting to really gain steam. It feels like this was yesterday, it is amazing how much has changed in a short 8 years.
I am trying to figure out as far as perceptions of the location. Is this the spot of the corkscrew roll thing or the entry into the launch?

No matter what the end result would be, we knew the addition would be huge. The footers were mysterious and this was a pretty compact site. If I am not mistaken, the first move the park made was moving the train tracks over a few feet to accommodate Maverick. I joked that since this was the year the Paramount Parks were acquired that Maverick would be an extension of Top Gun into the Point.

It is like that "Back up Bronco" warning was reinforced by the dynamic Lake Erie weather. Thankfully it was late afternoon and we were heading out anyways. We had to take shelter in a gift shop at the front of the park. The storm was wild! 

We all know the end result of the project

I love the way they opted to utilize the old station and grown in queue from Whitewater Landing for the Maverick queue line. When rides do not have large capacities, nice and shaded queues should be offered. 

Friday, February 21, 2014

Be sure to vote for your favorite Pennsylvania Terrain Coaster!

Be sure to vote for your favorite Pennsylvania Terrain Coaster on the right hand side of the page!

Also, check out the map at the top of the page. Those are all some great local stores where you can purchase our book "Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip." Be sure to check out and support those stores!

In addition to those bookstores, the book is also available on our website using the drop down menu and on Amazon. With any purchase using our website, you get your choice of a free Conneaut Lake Blue Streak or Lakemont Leap the Dips ticket. A portion of the proceeds go to help out those parks.

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Working at an amusement park was so fulfilling for me. It is hiring time!

Getting your first job is a critical step in your development as a person. It is also critical that you enjoy your job. Work will not always be fun, but chances are that you will have more fun working at a place where folks go to let go instead of just any old place. Fun or not, you need to work. If you are an adult you have to work to pay the rent/mortgage, utilities and other bills. If you are a teenager, you need to learn how to make it in a workplace and learn social skills so that when you become an adult you will have those skills to hold onto a job and keep a roof over your head. I worked at Dorney Park for my first job and it was great. There were days that dragged on, but all of that was fixed by seeing one person get onto a ride scared, scream in fun and then jump off of the ride all excited and having a blast with their friends. Seeing that joy, seeing folks having a good time made the day go by so much smoother. Also seeing your friends drop by to say hi, or your new friends that you have met as a result of the job was always a great time as well.

Having fun with the guests was what got me through through days that felt like they dragged on. I say, if you have not worked at least two weeks in a service job, you do not know anything. You see so many different folks and see how they react to things. You see how you can be a better person and see folks making the mistakes you have made or may make in the future and see the repercussions of those mistakes. I would not trade the experiences I encountered and learned from my first job as a ride operator for anything. I learned how to keep an eye out for the safety of the guests while handling the demands of many folks. I learned how to keep a smile on my face regardless of anything. I learned how to handle someone who was acting belligerent and calm them down and more. All of these lessons I learned in that job have translated in some way to every job I have worked in since. It is critical that you go out and gain work experience as a teenager.

Additionally, working at an amusement park can lead towards promotional opportunities. My immediate ride supervisor stayed with the company through college and now he is the Dorney Park Ride Operations Manager. Other folks that stayed with the company have worked their way up as well. There is room for growth in that job. Just ask guys like Waldameer's Owner Paul Nelson, Dick Knoebel or former Dutch Wonderland owner Murl Clark about how you can work your way up from doing basic work to having a career at the park. This leads back to amusement parks being a crucial center to the communities they are located in. They do not just provide a place for communities to bond and let loose, but they provide an economic backbone to areas with all of the money they bring in an livelihoods for their workers.

Pretty much any amusement park is hiring right now, so track down your local amusement park, go to the office dressed respectably and fill out an application in addition to doing whatever is necessary online. Make a good impression and start a job that will be critical to your success in your development in life or in helping bring in some money to pay the bills.

If you live near Knoebels, check out this job fair. I also know for certain that Kennywood, Lakemont and Dorney Park are hiring right now. Pretty much every other park is probably hiring as well. Parks want to bring in reliable people to fill their jobs and not have to worry about filling these roles when it gets closer to the season. Go work in a place that people go to have fun!

Be sure to check out our new book "Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip," available with a free Conneaut Lake Blue Streak or Lakemont Leap the Dips ride ticket through the drop down menu at the top of the page. A portion of the proceeds go to help these parks. Our book is also available on Amazon and at book shops like Bradley's Books and many independent book shops.

Monday, February 17, 2014

A sunday drive to see Frozen Lake Erie, Conneaut Lake and Waldameer

Earlier in the week we heard about the cool formations that are on Lake Erie as a result of this Polar Vortex which is shifting the Arctic air down here as opposed to places like Alaska that are facing avalanches due to warm weather. Naturally with how much we love the "lake life" we wanted to go check out these ice formations because there is a possibility these may never happen again in our lifetime. This extreme weather is rare. Pittsburgh is close enough to Erie that you can drive up to it, spend a really nice day there and then drive back with plenty of time to spare. We decided to take a little detour to Conneaut Lake. The fantastic recent track work on the Blue Streak by the Adams and the abrupt Vettel designed hills look even more amazing all snow covered. I had never gone down the side road by the coaster. It is tough to get good shots or a full good view because the track layout is so long and it is so wooded back there. The trees around it are spectacular with many of them being way taller than the coaster itself. The coaster is pretty large at 78 feet tall, with multiple large hills in succession after the drop. The design is so radically different from the rest that came out of this era, almost reminiscent of El Toro's multiple drops in succession. The intensity of these hills in an old NAD train and tradition wooden track makes these drops seem as intense. This is one of those rides that you hold on for dear life. The work the Adams did from the top of the first drop to the turnaround is nothing short of spectacular. Here is the view of the lead up, turn-around and the return. This section was absolutely terrible before the Adams rebuilt this. The lack of banking makes it very intense. The way they rebuilt so much of the track on this ride is nothing short of spectacular. 
In the bottom shot especially, you can see the relatively new wood in that turnaround. 
Experimenting with panorama today, bear with me :-)
Welcome to snowy and desolate Conneaut Lake!
The sign is looking lonely! I prefer seeing the letters on it saying "unveiling something in August!"
Park Avenue and I believe that is hill three of the Blue Streak in the background.
Beautiful in the snow!
Now off to the side road. I believe this is the second hill. It is tough to see through the thick trees.
The giant layout of the ride, hidden by the trees
This shot really shows how great the start of the layout is. The 78 foot hill leads into that very large second hill. I am not sure of the exact height of it, but look at how abrupt the angles are on both the first drop and the second hill. It is really quite spectacular. I hope this coaster does not remain threatened because it is such a gem. Those abrupt drops and hills are more intense than most of the coasters out there, even modern rides. Additionally, those trees are HUGE. That first drop is 78 feet and those trees have at least 20 or 30 feet on the coaster. We are talking trees over a hundred feet, undisturbed. Not many places have a coaster that is completely covered in trees. 
Being a relative newcomer to Western Pennsylvania I am wondering what this was from. Was this on the train, another ride or was this from another park. I assume that this is the small boneyard for the park.

The side of the Hotel Conneaut. Such a cool Victorian era hotel. The fact that it is near Utley Road shows that folks in Eastern PA should make the trip here.

Conneaut was a cool stop, both figuratively and literally, with all of the snow. It is not often that you see summer attractions all covered in snow. I hope to goodness that the park's situation goes away because it is so beautiful and it has such potential. If folks like the Adams and the community work together at this same rate, the park should be completely amazing in a short amount of time. 

Seeing Conneaut was really neat. It is pretty easy to get up to Erie from this point, we just continued on the road that took us to the park. We went up to see the frozen wonderland that is Presque Isle State Park. Both Presque Isle Bay and Lake Erie were fully frozen with some awesome ice formations on Lake Erie. I seriously recommend anyone to go take a trip up before the meltdown happens. It is really something else to see. 

You could see nothing but white when you looked out on the lake. These ice dunes formed here near the shore. The state park patrols were warning not to walk on them since often times these formations are hollow. They were really something to see though!
On the bay side it was hopping with activity. In the middle of the shot you can see some kids dug out snow and were playing some traditional pond hockey. On the left you can see the "Joe Roots Frozen Open" going on. They were golfing on the icy Presque Isle Bay. We had to take the opportunity go up and see this. I have a smile on my face just thinking about how awesome it was yesterday. Presque Isle State Park really has something to offer during every season. Cross country skiing across the flat peninsula is another popular activity in the snow in addition to ice fishing. Once the snow starts to melt, bicyclists and runners will start showing up. The following photo is a comparison to what the bay looks like on a summer day.

Golfers on the frozen bay
Kids playing hockey
The Perry monument to the man that saved us during the Lake Erie Naval Battles in the War of 1812. I have  a feeling the fountains are not going today. 
Cold picnic weather. The person on that ice dune was not well advised. Here is a comparison shot to what it looks like in this exact spot on a summer day:
No need to preserve the sand dunes today. the fencing seems to be creating a nice snow dune though!
A little sand peeking through. 
The Ice Dunes are so cool

We ate at Joe Roots and that was pretty awesome. Very affordable and delicious food. The Bay area was so awesome so we had to go back to it before we left. 
Brit took this shot. I was literally in awe of how amazing it was to be on top of the bay. I had never been on a frozen lake or pond before. 
Brit enjoying the frozen bay

The bright new colors on the Waldameer waterslides are truly awesome. They make the slides look brand new. I am sure they will bring in many locals that see them from the distance and think "oh man we need to get to Waldameer!" The bright colors really catch your eyes. Kudos to the Waldameer team for doing a wonderful job on these. 
Old school filter for this shot. Picture through our car's old style blue sun tinting. 
Another drive by picture!
The bridge is always impressive
Ravine Flyer II's Turnaround is really spectacular. I cannot wait until summer to ride this wonder again.
You should make the trip up to Erie anytime of the year but I highly recommend getting up there as soon as you can. You need to see how amazing the frozen over lake is. Seeing snow covered coasters is pretty awesome too. Be sure to swing over to Conneaut as well. 

Erie makes for a great and affordable day trip or weekend for anyone within range of the two parks. You can easily get to both parks and Presque Isle State Park. Be sure to support both of the amusement parks, but Conneaut is in real trouble and needs everyone's help. I have donated a portion of the book proceeds towards helping out the park. If you are interested our book "Great Pennsylvania Amusement Parks Road Trip," be sure to use the drop down menu at the top of the page and I will also send you your choice of either a Conneaut Lake Blue Streak ticket or a Lakemont Leap the Dips Ticket. 

The book is also available through Amazon, all Bradley's Books locations, and many independent bookstores.