Thursday, July 7, 2022

Belmont Park: Classic Giant Dipper Coaster and Seaside Fun in San Diego

My favorite kinds of park days are those where the park is a part of the experience of an overall fantastic day. Carefree days where maybe you go out and swim on the beach for a while, walk along the shores, and go ride some rides and have some good food. Seaside parks generally fit the bill for this kind of fun, and Belmont Park in San Diego is a wonderful place to do this. Pacific Beach and Mission Beach are a delight for surfers, swimmers, sunbathers, skaters, bicyclists, and more. Mission Beach is home to Belmont Park and their classic Giant Dipper coaster, one of the most picturesque classic roller coasters out there. San Diego has something to offer for pretty much everyone, and the weather is almost always perfectly in the 70s. All of the stress just melts away when you are in San Diego. As someone who is into bodyboarding, riding the wild Pacific waves is as much of a thrill to me as riding any roller coaster as well. 
Anyways, back to the topic at hand,  Belmont Park and their Giant Dipper Roller Coaster. This is a lovely little boardwalk amusement park with one of the last three remaining coasters with the touch of Prior and Church. The other two being the other Giant Dipper up at Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, and the Dragon Coaster at Rye Playland Park in New York. This is a great little coaster with some awesome and flowy curves. As much as I respect Morgan for getting this coaster running again after a long SBNO period, I would love if the park got some GCI Millennium Flyers for this ride, both to provide riding stock that is more like the old Prior and Church trains, but also to better accommodate riders. Every time we rode, the ride ops had to work hard to get the two row single position lapbars to fit average sized riders. I had to slide my feet to the side of the car to make the lapbar fit, and I am only 6 feet tall. Since the trains are so light, when they would get caught by the brakes at the end, the train would often stop in the brake run and the ride operators had to go out and push it into the station. The lightness of the trains caused cars to fishtail in the higher speed portions of the curves. All of these issues would be solved with a new set of Millennium Flyers from GCI.

With all of that being said though I will say that the ride is still fantastic, especially with the lateral forces in the turnarounds. The station and coaster are also built to be a spectacle for the midway. It looks fantastic, especially as it gets dark and the lights come on. 

The station is so cool looking and ornate.

With the other rides, including an ice cream sundae themed tilt-a-whirl, and Control Freak, which is a Gyro Loop from Moser. I never saw one of these little rides before, and it is a ridiculously neat and super intense little ride. It can't be more than 30 feet tall, yet it was such a great center of attention on the midway. The park also has a series of great little family rides and a nice arcade.

Overall, I would rate Belmont Park with its surrounding beach, boardwalk, and overall fun atmosphere, as one of my favorite parks. While it does not have much of a collection of rides due to it small size, it is perfect as a part of an overall great time at the beach. Seaside amusement parks are usually my favorite in general. Couple that with the year-round perfect weather in San Diego and you have one of the most pleasant places to be. I highly recommend checking this out along with just slowing down and taking in the environs. While fixating on just coasters and parks is what we tend to do in this hobby, it is important to slow down and check out what a region has to offer as much as you can. If you don't slow down and check out San Diego, you are really missing out on some of the best scenery and overall environment that this country has to offer. 

Monday, July 4, 2022

Knott's Berry Farm Trip Report

Visiting Knotts was such a pleasant experience for the most part. The park was very crowded, likely near capacity, yet walking around it was still so pleasant. We got most of our rides in on the early side and then headed out in the afternoon when every ride had a full queue. Normally that would not be a very good time at any amusement park, but the theming, landscaping, and planning of this park make it such a pleasant place to be. Today's report is a split of photos with camera and with my phone. 
Even with two of the main attractions out of the running, with Montezooma's Revenge down for a planned restoration and Xcelerator doing its typical Intamin extended downtime schtick, we still had a great time at the park. 
Ghost Rider was a fun ride, especially in the second half. 
The first half was alright, but I was expecting the wicked laterals of Great White at Morey's Piers on this CCI creation, but it seems like the GCI renovation likely tamed this down, and the Millennium Flyers absorb the lateral forces more than the PTC trains. They seem to have left the second half more intact since it is at a lower speed. 
I would imagine that when Ghost Rider first opened, it had way more in common with the wicked laterals of Great White. Still a fine ride though, and it is likely the most popular in the park. Seemed to have a full queue from the start of the day and you could hear everyone raving about the ride all over the park. It is probably the most popular wooden roller coaster out there thanks to its placement right in the front of the park as your entrance greeting. It is great to see a wooden roller coaster be the center of the party like this. It seriously is a fun ride.
Next we rode Hang Time. This Gerstlauer Infinity Coaster is terrific. Fantastic airtime, hang time, elements, and inversions. 
I would love to see Gerstlauer attempt a hyper and see what they could pull off with that much space, height, and speed. Hang Time feels completely out of control, and the dive gimmick on the first drop is so thrilling. 
Next we attempted to ride Pony Express, but it ended up breaking down for a little bit, and when we came back later the line queue was full so we opted to skip it. Looks like it is a great ride though. We did the same maneuver with Sierra Sidewinder. I opted to ride Silver Bullet a few extra times with a 15 minute wait than waste a ton of time getting those two credits. 
The park's log flume, dark ride, and railroad are just terrific. With the Ghost Town and Calico Railroad, I was especially impressed with the authentic narrow gauge railroad equipment, and antique locomotive, and rail cars. It is authentic Denver and Rio Grande Railroad and Rio Grande Southern Railroad equipment and the fact that the park had the foresight to preserve this priceless equipment, and have the means to do so, is really rare. Walter Knott is one of the few people who had the foresight to preserve this equipment for the joy of future generations, and one of an even smaller amount of people who had the means to successfully pull off the feat in a location that makes the operation sustainable. 
They also have horse drawn carriage rides through the park. It is the little touches where the park really went above and beyond that make this not just a pleasant amusement park, but also just a pleasant place to be in general. 
Silver Bullet is an absolutely terrific custom B&M invert. I love the genre and have enjoyed pretty much every one of them I have ever ridden.
The location of the coaster makes it appear absolutely giant, as it winds over a lagoon and the midway at the park. The interaction with the surroundings of this coaster with the features of the park, and the cobra roll right at the entrance to the park, makes it look so awesome. 
The only other invert that I have ridden and can think of that really interacts with the midway and surroundings like this is Great Bear. 
I love when a ride makes itself a visual center and marker for a midway. As far as the ride itself, the turning drop, loop, overbank, cobra roll, zero g, final two corkscrews, with terrific laterals on turns interspersed. The final helix is just awesome and very forceful. I absolutely loved this ride. 

Before our first ride, for some reason they were cycling empty trains and had the queue line closed off, but they did not give us any updates on what was going on. It only ended up being a 15 minute hold up, and because of the line being closed for that long, we had a window where you could get right on for 3 more rides before the queue filled up again. 

At this point we attempted to find lunch, and that took a while. The offerings were not terrific, and they were sparse. The stands had lines that were 20-30 minutes long. At least the food quality was alright though, but not really any different than the standard Cedar Fair chicken fingers. 
We had the best food later when we got an afternoon snack at the bakery with some of their famous boysenberry pie. 
We got in a ride on the observation tower, which was awesome. Riding on these is always a treat and seeing the views from the top was terrific. 
We closed out our day with a ride on Jaguar, which was pretty nice, except for the really slow moving line. There is no reason that the ride line needs to move that slow, but between line skip pass and filling out and checking accommodations sheets, they somehow managed to have 5 minutes between dispatches and stacking, which is ridiculous. There is no reason the entire ride crew needs to stop and not do anything while these things are sorted out. Overall though, that is a really fun family ride. It has such an enjoyable and meandering layout. The station area is also a nice shelter from the heat and it is really nicely themed.
An animatronic bear fishing in the river at the river rapids ride.
What Knotts doesn't have in quantity and size, it has the charm and quality with the rides and overall park experience. This overall experience is so greatly lacking across the industry. The intangible charm of this place makes it a place I want to regularly visit, not just on a conquest to ride as many rides as possible but to just go and relax at. There are only a handful of parks that I really want to revisit for being the whole package. So many times, large amusement parks are just a jumble of coasters put together with barely any touches on the quality of the visit experience. The little things are what make a day at a park great, and not just feel like a different venue for the typical experience of doing work. Knotts is a just about perfect amusement park and we highly recommend checking it out.