In the fall, I read an article written by CPFoodBlog on their website www.cpfoodblog.com about Coasterstock, Kings Island's event for coaster club members only. After attending Coastermania! last year for the first time, I really wanted to go, so I started planning everything right about the time tickets went on sale in January. I recruited my engineer-trivia-bowling buddy Nick and one of my past baseball players (Anthony) to come down here with me, and reflecting on the great time we had, it was definitely the right decision.
Now first off, the lead up to leaving on Thursday night to drive down turned into a huge fiasco. I drive a 2009 Ford Escape and I have hardly had any problems with it. However, on the way to Nick's house in Parma Heights (which is about 20 minutes from my house), it started making all kinds of noises and the wheel was shaking really badly and the braking became erratic. I'm fairly certain the wheel bearing is about to take a dump on me. Luckily, my parents were out of town for the weekend in my dad's van and left my mom's car in my garage, so a quick text to her for permission and we grabbed her car instead, which is not only more reliable right now, but far better on gas. At the end of the day, we picked up Anthony in Norton and headed down. We arrived at our hotel Thursday night just after eleven and got to bed right after that to get ready for our first Coasterstock.
We got up around 7 on Friday morning to get ready and were out the door about 8. We knew that ERT started at 8:30 and that we'd have to go through security and check-in, but we were ok with that. Just like at CP opening weekend, security was quick and painless and then we got in line to check in for the event. We were about 20 deep in the line (there were three lines total) and while I thought they should have a few more windows open, they really shuffled people through fast. They gave us our free drink wristbands (didn't even know we were getting those) as well as a Mystic Timbers bag and Mystic Timbers/Coasterstock t-shirt, which are both really nice.
So after check-in and entering the park, I grabbed a large locker for my camera and we headed directly to Banshee. Now, Nick's last trip to the park was around 2004 when he was 9 or 10 and Anthony had been there but not in a long time as well. They asked me how Banshee compares to Raptor and I gave them my typical answer that I don't usually ride inverts more than once because they give me a headache, but Banshee not only doesn't give me a headache, I could ride it again and again. So we rode it for the first time in the second row I think. I would have loved back row the best or first row the second-best but whatever. For what it's worth, Banshee was walk-on almost the entire day.
After Banshee, Nick and Anthony went to ride the Bat and Invertigo. I'm not a fan of either of those, so I skipped them and let them ride. They liked the Bat other than it being really short and Anthony liked Invertigo, Nick did not. While they were riding, I walked around the area a bit taking pictures, and one of the things I noticed was how great the park was looking. While that sounds like common sense at the beginning of the year, I've been to several parks that have looked run-down and ragged at the beginning of the season, but not Kings Island.
By this point, it was around 9:40, so we started making our way towards Mystic Timbers for our first ride ever. We went around through Planet Snoopy back past Diamondback and realized that they were letting people on before 10am, so we got in line and waited less than ten minutes for our first ride. I'm not picky about seats usually unless I travel really far to ride something (like when we went to Dollywood and I requested front and back on LR). I think I rode in row 6 or 7 on that first ride. I will say, I was absolutely blown away by Mystic Timbers. The couple GCIs I've been on have all been great in their own way, but MT is beyond well done. Kings Island hit a homerun on this one. Now, had I not known what's in the shed, I think I would have been disappointed. It was a cool touch, but its whatever. It beats sitting on the brake run waiting. The music choices for the radio were fantastic though. That first ride, we saw the snakes in the shed.
After Mystic Timbers, I took those two over to Diamondback. I pretty much told Nick that its my favorite ride in the park because the floater airtime on it is fantastic. That was also a station wait and we walked right into the middle rows again. I always love DB but both of my partners enjoyed it immensely. The splashdown ending is always cool, but seeing it from the back or side after you get off always blew me away. I loved it on Griffon and I love it on DB. I also want to say that the B&M clam shell restraints are by-far my favorite on any coaster. (I also like the Intamin restraints on Millennium Force and TTD).
After DB, we walked over to the Beast, which was down for mechanical issues, so Nick and Anthony rode Vortex, which is my 2nd least favorite coaster in the park just due to roughness.
After that, we had the unique experience of bartering with the ride op for the front row on Firehawk and getting leaned back and ready to be dispatched.... then Firehawk went down. We were stuck on our backs for 10-15 minutes until they manually put us back up. We waited in the queue about 15-20 minutes, talking with a ride op about the merits of his golf cart tours of Dinosaurs Alive. He invited us on a private tour after 5pm, which we said "maybe" to (it never happened). After 20 minutes, we decided to get out of line and come back later. One observation I made while waiting for Firehawk and then several other times throughout the weekend is that the coaster really needs a repaint. I love the charcoal-maroon color scheme, but the neon green from its X-Flight days is showing through pretty badly on the track and supports at this point.
Nick and Anthony then rode Flight of Fear (my least favorite coaster in the park) and the ride ops there were slow and there was a decent line, so it took about 20 minutes more than it should have. I went and used my drink plan while I waited and I will say that for a busy day, the food stand lines were extensively long. I know that during Coasterstock, all participants had free drink wristbands (since I have the drink plan and I hate wearing stuff on my wrists, I just used my pass), but some lines (Auntie Anne's was one) were 25-30 people deep. While I understood what was going on, it was pretty hot by this point and I was thirsty.
Right after Flight of Fear, we walked back to Firehawk and rode in the back seat. Anthony and I liked it, Nick did not.
The Beast always holds a special place in my heart. Some rides are better than others, and seat choice is part of that, but taking someone on their first ride or their first ride since they were a kid is always awesome. Nick and Anthony truly enjoyed it and I just kept telling them "wait until tonight".
So then we decided since it was 1pm, to go back to the Picnic Grove for lunch. This was the only bad part of the day. First off, the line was enormous because pretty much everyone at CS decided to right when it opened -- that part is somewhat expected. However, the line did move quick. When you finally got to the buffet, the only foods available were burgers and hot dogs, which didn't taste very good, potato salad, baked beans and chocolate chip cookies. The cookies themselves were off to the side and many people didn't notice them. The burgers were dry, the hot dogs were bland and the buns seemed somewhat dry as well. I hardly complain about food, but my first thought upon seeing all this was that there really weren't any options for vegetarians, no salad or anything like that. There were three double-sided lines for the buffet items but then in front of that, there were only two condiments tables which caused a huge bottleneck. The pavilion wasn't big enough to accommodate everyone in the group, so a lot of groups including us, moved to a neighboring pavilion and in doing so, couldn't hear Jeff and Logan Joiner talk. We ate fairly quickly and decided to head back towards the park.
Nick and Anthony went and rode Backlot Stunt Coaster, which I always found to be a fun ride. For a compact little launched coaster, it packs a good punch. I managed to sneak up to the fence and get a picture of Nick and Anthony riding in the front car, although Nick spotted me at the last second.
At this point, Nick wanted to try to improve on his "4" score from Cedar Point and ended up getting 3 points and just missing out on a prize. Thank you to all of you that watched on IG live and talked about his terrible form and asked me some questions. I don't go live very often, but it was cool to talk to a bunch of you as Nick failed and as we walked down the Midway towards Racer and Adventure Express. Nick and Anthony rode those two rides and then we decided to go back to the hotel for a bit to get some dinner.
I went to Kent State for college, but friends, co-workers and family that have been to Bowling Green always rave about Frickers. Well the hotel I typically stay at (Red Roof Inn at Governor's Hill - 5 minutes from the park) has a Frickers right next door. So we went there and it was glorious. I definitely recommend their barbecue wings (or hotter if that's your thing).
We returned to the park about 8pm and made our way over to Banshee, which was still walk-on. After a fantastic ride just before dusk, we decided to go ride Diamondback and the Beast for Nick and Anthony's first night rides. Diamondback isn't in my top-10 but it is definitely my favorite at KI. I love the first drop and all of the air time. The splashdown ending is always a nice bonus. Then of course, everybody remembers their first night ride on Beast (or at least first in many years). We got in line around 9:45 and first got hung up by the fireworks and then some mechanical issue. Finally, around 10:30, we decided to get out of line and head to Mystic Timbers, which was a station wait. As much as MT was an awesome, great ride during the day, the night rides on it are incredible. The darkness always makes fast feel faster, but MT doesn't let up until you hit that break run and head into the shed. Sure the shed is cheesy, but who cares - we saw the snakes again on the first ride, got right back in line, rode in the back car and got the bats. Personal opinion: the bats were WAY cooler than the snakes. I really wanted to see the tree though, so I'll definitely be trying to get a few more rides in when I'm there for a half day at the end of June.
We quickly ran back to Flying Ace Aerial Chase so I could pick up an easy credit and rode it basically by ourselves.
Beast had reopened by this point, so we went and rode another night ride, which was still awesome, and then Nick and Anthony wanted to wait for the front seat and get one more ride in. After exiting Beast, I passed joe_coaster (IG), who I tried to say hello to, but who completely didn't hear me.
After this, it was 11:54pm, so we decided to head back to the hotel. We knew that we weren't going for morning ERT on Saturday (those rides aren't our thing), so knowing we would be able to sleep in was a huge plus.
Saturday, May 20
We had breakfast at the hotel and got organized to head back over to the park around 11 on Saturday morning. As we did on Friday, we put our camera and bags in a locker near the front and headed to Banshee. "Storm Chaser" Peter (@kentucky_coasters on IG) had told me to ride in the back right seat for the most intense ride on Banshee. So I picked that seat and Nick sat right next to me. Banshee typically doesn't make me feel light-headed or dizzy or anything, but that ride was as intense as he had claimed. I got off feeling a bit woozy (in a good way).
After Banshee, we walked back to Firehawk, which was down... AGAIN (more on this in a second). So the two of them talked me into riding Flight of Fear (despite my hatred of it). However, I rode in the front seat for the first time ever and while it wasn't an enjoyable experience, it wasn't particularly rough either. I found it boring more than anything else.
Now, to get back to Firehawk -- four different times during the course of the weekend we tried to get on and four times it was either down or broke down while we were in line. Nick and Anthony finally waited about a half hour later in the day and rode front row, but while I expect poor load times on the ride, I didn't expect that many mechanical problems.
After Firehawk, we walked over to check the wait times on The Beast, Diamondback and Mystic Timbers, because the app is not always accurate. When we got over there, The Beast was 60 minutes, Diamondback was around 45 and MT was 50. We decided to head over to Beast to wait for the 2PM tour. Our badges were checked and we were off to a couple great spots for pictures on the tour (the lift, the first drop and the second lift hill area). Don talked about some of the history and I finally figured out who coaster_bean (IG) was and also saw some other GOCC and internet people that I recognized but do not know personally (the OhioValleyCoasters guys and Peg to name a few). I wish we could have gotten some better angles or in positions where fences didn't get in the way, but safety had to come first so we understood.
After the tour ended, it was around 2:30PM by this point and dinner wasn't until 5:30, so we decided to run out and grab a small meal (ended up being Chick Fil-a near our hotel) and relax for a bit before heading back. I wanted to unload my camera anyways and see how some of my shots came out, so it was a welcome break.
We returned to the park around 5:15 and made our way back to the picnic pavilions for dinner. The line was long again, but this time, moved exceptionally fast. As we walked up, I was pleasantly surprised (ok, shocked) to see that the picture I had submitted for the photo contest had made the top 3 and was up for voting. We got our dinner of barbecue chicken, pulled pork sandwiches and some side dishes and had a seat at one of the side pavilions (again due to overcrowding). We couldn't really hear the first two speakers (Don Helbig and KI GM Mike Koontz), but we moved over to the back of the pavilion to listen to Jeff Pike from Skyline Attractions (and formerly GCI) speak about his experiences. He told some great stories and had some hilarious one-liners, and although he stayed afterwards for people to talk to him and ask him questions, Nick was disappointed that he was so swamped by attendees that he didn't get a chance to talk to him directly.
After Jeff was done speaking, Don announced five door prize winners for a piece of the Mystic Timbers leftover wood. Finally, it was time to announce the winner of the photo contest. I had submitted a picture I took last fall during the first night of Haunt from near the exit of The Beast. It was a silhouette of Diamondback going over the first drop with a beautiful sunset in the background. Coincidentally, when I first found out I was in the top three, I walked up to ask if I could have the giant print afterwards regardless if it won and while I was asking, I finally met coaster_bean (IG), who I had been hoping to meet all weekend and who also had a fantastic picture in the top three. The third picture was a winter time picture that I didn't take a great look at but that was also very unique. Well after all the voting had taken place, turns out, much to my surprise, that I had won the contest. For me, it was pretty special because it validated the money and time I've invested into getting better at photography, despite it only being a part-time hobby. I still think coaster_bean's picture was better and had I voted at all (I did not), I would have voted for his over mine. I do want to say that for as great of a photographer as he is, coaster_bean turned out to be one of the nicest, coolest guys I've ever met at any one of these events. So I was called up to the stage and awarded a prize pack which contained a piece of the Mystic Timbers wood, a KI picture frame and bag, a Mystic Timbers magnet, a KI pin set and a giant sucker. I would have been happy just receiving my blown up print, but the other stuff was all awesome and a great way to end my weekend.
After dinner, Nick and Anthony had their Firehawk ride that I mentioned earlier and we made our way back to Banshee for another ride. By the time all of this was done, it was around 9pm and we decided to walk back over to see if we could get on Beast, MT or Diamondback. All the lines were still pretty long and we started seeing storm clouds roll in. We saw some lightning in the distance and checked this app on Nick's phone which was pretty accurate in terms of telling when the rain and storms would start up. We went to check MT wait time one last time and it had been temporarily shut down due to the lightning. At this point, we decided that we were pretty sure the storms would hit, so we stopped at Guest Services to pick up my prizes from the photo contest and head back to the hotel to watch the Spurs-Warriors game. As soon as we got to the car, it started drizzling and by the time we got into our hotel about ten minutes later, it was already pouring. So as disappointing as it was, we made the right call.
Overall, Coasterstock was an amazing experience. Don and the KI crew went far out of their way to make it special for everyone in attendance. (Don is also an extremely wonderful person to talk to). I met some great people and got some amazing rides on some of my favorite coasters. I definitely recommend it to anyone thinking about going next year. Thank you to CPFoodBlog for his great article last year - it is 100% the reason I decided to make the trip this year. Please make sure to visit their site at www.cpfoodblog.com and follow them on twitter @cpfoodblog