Everybody knew that the 2018 season was going to be special, and for me, it truly was, in many many ways.
The season started with me winning an invite to Steel Vengeance Media Day, where I not only got to spend seven hours riding and photographing perhaps the best coaster on the planet, but my friend @cp_guest1870 and I also got to hang out with some great new friends in @jantzen73, @coaster_bean and @pursuitofthrills. Riding SV for the first time in the dark, in dense fog, with no trims, was perhaps one of the greatest experiences of my life. From Jon’s epic battle with Thirsty Pony cheese fries to the entire group doing our best ThemeParkReview noises while riding our last ride of the day with Robb, it was just an incredible experience.
After Media Day, I already had a ticket for the first public train on First Rider Night, which I hung onto, and luckily drew the back row for my two rides. I took four rides that night, as the line really never died down like I expected as the evening went on. I also took my mom on her first ride at the first night of the Hoedown. We luckily got on fairly quickly because right after we rode, it went down for an hour. My favorite part of those two events however, was watching the look on people’s faces not only as they walked up to the ride for the first time, but as soon as they got off. From ecstasy to terror to amazement, it was incredible to see. It’s still awesome in fact on any given day at the park.
Two weeks later, I made the drive out on Sunday of opening weekend. The bumping incident had occurred the day before, but the ride had reopened that evening with one-train ops. The park itself wasn’t too packed. I think the SV line was 2 hours at worst – which is what it has been on most weekdays at the park during the summer. However, a lot of rides were still having major issues that day and were down more than they were up. I think it’s a common thing at many parks that the first couple weeks there are a lot of kinks. It happened opening weekend last year as well. Luckily, I still rode some of the stuff I wanted to ride and had a lot of time to take pictures elsewhere.
Next up was my favorite event of the year, Coasterstock at Kings Island. It is such a well-coordinated event and Don and his crew take care of everyone in so many ways. This year, they added several behind the scenes ops and tours. Going as far back as possible behind The Beast was a highlight for me, as was the Banshee and Diamondback photo ops. The lights on tour of Flight of Fear was really cool as well. We had to dodge a little bit of rain here and there, but not only did I have a great time, especially with the ERT each night on MT, DB, Beast and others, I got to hang out with a bunch of friends, both old and new. Give @brianlammmedia@kriswernerdesigns@midgetman82@j_fannin15@coaster_to_coaster @wildgravitytravels@coastermattproductions and @mramusementmedia a follow. They are all awesome guys with great content.
I get out of school on the Thursday or Friday before Memorial Day and for the last three years, I’ve volunteered at the NAQT High School National quizbowl tournament. The first year I helped out it was in Dallas and the last two years it has been held in Atlanta. The first year I visited Six Flags Over Texas that Friday and then took a flight up to Six Flags St. Louis and Silver Dollar City. The past two years I’ve made a point to visit Six Flags Over Georgia. This year, I only had a couple hours to spare that Friday, so I went to SFOG with the intention of getting a couple rides on Twisted Cyclone and then heading out. Luckily for me, it was passholder preview day so the line never made it past 10-15 minutes. Let me say that TC is a great ride. That wave turn is really fun and it’s a great addition to the park. That said, I’ve been on a majority of the RMCs in the United States as this point and it is by far the weakest one overall. (I have yet to ride Joker). After the event was over on Memorial Day, I decided to go visit some friends in Tampa so I could hit up Busch Gardens again, as well as Universal. I knew I had to fly home Thursday because Coastermania! was on Friday, so I played my cards right in terms of how I wanted to travel. I met up with several people over the course of those three days in Tampa including @fgphotographs and one of my favorite coaster photographers from outside my area, @buschphotographer. They showed me all kinds of great spots that I would have missed at BGT as well as rode a bunch of the coasters with me. Lines weren’t walk on, but they were fairly minimal. I don’t think I waited more than 10 minutes for anything that day. I headed to Universal that Wednesday and bounced between the two parks. It rained nearly all day however so taking pictures was pretty much a wash, no pun intended. I got stuck on Escape from Gringotts and was given a 1-ride quick queue pass, which I used on Kong, since it was the only ride I hadn’t been on at the park. Unlike BGT, Uni was pretty packed despite the rain, but I made the most of it. I actually took more time to check out some of the indoor places and shops that I never went into before, which was really cool. I headed out of Uni around 5 when the rain was just starting to lighten up and headed back to my hotel to get ready for my flight home.
I arrived at Coastermania! and immediately met up with @peter_schwab_@coaster_studios and a whole bunch of the @ohiovalleycoasters crew and acquaintances. We ran – and this means, they ran and I tried to keep up – to SV to be the first ride of the day, since the only entry was the front gate. We ended up getting the first ride of the day, which was as great as always. The morning was overcast and cool, so the early rides were actually pretty pleasant but as the morning went on and we headed over for our boat tour on the Jet Express, it became super windy and super cold. The boat ride was cool as always, but it was brutal for many of us who weren’t dressed for cold weather. The rest of the day I spent hanging out with that same group and taking pictures and somehow despite my exhaustion from having narcolepsy, I made it all the way until closing time. We met up with a big group of enthusiasts including Pegkeeper and Koasterkids for last ride of the night on SV, or LROTNOSV, however you want to pronounce that. We waited about 90 minutes and Peter, Taylor and I, along with many others, got off with our jaws on the ground. By this point I had been on SV around 35 times and I had never had a ride that crazy. Warmed up, no trims, in the dark. It was something special. We ran over to Raptor to get one last ride but it was down due to some nonexistent winds. Instead, we headed over to Gatekeeper where @coastergal attempted to join up with us, but the two spinstresses at the entrance to the ride wouldn’t let her without a Coastermania! wristband. By that time, it was midnight and our day was over.
On June 14, I flew to Texas for a trip I had been planning for nearly two years. I landed in Dallas and had planned to spend the day in the city, but decided since it was a nice (albeit hot) day, I would go to SFOT for a few hours before heading up to OKC, just in case it rained on Monday. SFOT is a great park and it has that nostalgic feel that only a few parks seem to have. I was disappointed in the Oil Derrick being closed, but it didn’t put a hamper on my day. I got most of my credits in that day, only skipping the Mine Train, Shockwave and NTG (NTG I had already ridden two years ago). The surprise of the park for me was Titan. I did not expect it to be as forceful or as fun as it was. I grayed out a couple times unexpectedly and other than the MCBR killing the momentum, it was a super fun ride. Special thanks to Eric at @rollercoasterandmore who gave me all kinds of tips and guided me around the park. I’m looking forward to meeting him hopefully next year at Steel Curtain Media Day (if I get to go) or elsewhere.
I headed up to Frontier City for Ride for a Cure Day, which is run by @paulydavi in honor of his brother Trevor, who battled MD up until his death that evening after the event. It put an unfortunate damper on what was a really fun day. Frontier City is an interesting little park with interesting history, and I’ll be interested to see if Six Flags invests anything into the park in the future. I also got to see my friends @thecoastercache and @kevinmotto again for the first time in almost two years, so that was an added bonus.
I headed back down to SFOT on Monday to pick up the remaining credits and it was another hot day. I did get a couple rides on NTG, as the park was pretty dead but I was able to head out early for my 4 hour drive to Waco and my next hotel. The next morning I headed to SeaWorld San Antonio. It was a park I was looking forward to for a long time, mainly for Wave Breaker more than anything else. To say this park disappointed me would be an understatement. First off, most of the shows don’t start until a long time after the park has been open. Secondly, their collection is pretty bad as a whole. Wave Breaker was fun but seemed to creep over its hill despite the launches. Steel Eel was ok but relatively boring other than a bit of floater. I actually loved Great White, but I like most of the Batman clones, so that wasn’t a big surprise. I even took a quick ride on Shamu Express for the credit. I did not ride Journey to Atlantis. The one at SWO is definitely part coaster, but I refuse to call the JTA at SWSA a coaster simply because of the small piece of track between the lift and the drop. It’s a giant flume, that’s all. I use common sense when counting coasters – I don’t need to be a coaster whore and try to justify everything as a coaster to raise my count. Sorry not sorry. I left the park after only about 4 hours and several rides on the 3 main coasters, since it was drizzling and I was aggravated. I went and checked into my hotel and headed to the Alamo and CityWalk. I won’t bore you with the details but I found both to be very cool. I wish we had something like CityWalk in Cleveland. I decided after dinner that I would head to SFFT to knock out some credits and to see the nighttime show that Jeff Joiner and a few others had told me was a can’t miss show. I was able to get a ride on Wonder Woman and Superman Krypton Coaster as soon as I got to SFFT because it was still drizzling on and off and the park was a ghost town. It started to rain harder so I took shelter for a bit until I went near the quarry wall for the show. I can truly say it was the best non-Disney, non-Universal show I’ve ever seen. If you haven’t seen “Celebrate” in person and won’t be able to, go watch a video of it on YouTube. It is absolutely stunning. I spent the next day at SFFT for the remaining credits and got to witness an evac on both Wonder Woman and SKC after the power went out. After I realized the whole park was out, I bailed back to my hotel and decided to relax that evening before heading back to SFFT in the morning before ZDTs. Right next to my hotel was a Mexican restaurant where a Mariachi band was playing 80s music. Nothing like a mariachi twist on “Take My Breath Away” by Berlin. The next morning I headed back to SFFT for a couple last rides on Iron Rattler, SKC and WW. After about 2 hours in the park, I left and headed for ZDTs. ZDTs is a very interesting park in the middle of absolutely nowhere. Switchback is a really cool concept for a coaster and with nobody in the park, I took multiple rides on it, sometimes by myself. It was really fun and really well done. I took pictures for a bit, walked around and played some video games, then headed out, knowing I had to drive back to Dallas afterwards. I stayed overnight in Dallas, took my first Uber ride ever and then flew to Saint Louis that morning. After picking up my rental, I headed to SFSTL, which was basically a ghost town. I had been there once before but only rode three or four coasters. I picked up all the remaining credits in about two hours and then headed out as it began to pour. Highlight of the day for me is that American Thunder is seriously underrated. It is an extremely good and fun coaster. The other thought of my day is that The Boss definitely needs to be RMC’d. After the Mean Streak-esque distance you have to walk and then the Mean Streak-esque roughness, its bad. I flew home that evening after a great trip.
In early July, I attended an event at Seabreeze in New York co-sponsored by ACE and GOCC. The day before I decided to head up early and get some missing credits at Darien Lake. I also wanted to take pictures because who knows if Six Flags will ban DSLRs there when the takeover occurs. It was a really nice day for the most part. I didn’t bother with any of the coasters I had already ridden there, which basically meant that I needed to ride Tantrum, Mind Eraser (SLC) and Boomerang. Tantrum was fun but entirely too short. Mind Eraser and Boomerang were awful. Unfortunately, Ride of Steel was down or I would have ridden that a few times and I had no desire to ride Viper or Predator that day. I really wanted to ride the Moto Coaster, which I absolutely love, but the line for that was outrageous. Darien’s 1-train ops on almost everything was pretty pathetic to be honest. I left after only a few hours, having gotten all the credits and having no reason to stay any longer.
The Seabreeze event was on Saturday. Seabreeze is a small family park that sits on the shores of Lake Ontario. We had ERT on all four of their coasters at various times of the morning. Jack Rabbit was remarkably smooth for being one of the oldest operating coasters in the world. Bear Trax caused me to nearly lose some fingers by T-posing. Bobsleds was fun but pretty rough. However, Whirlwind, their Mack spinning coaster is a hidden gem. I’ve ridden many of those coasters and this was by far the best. Intense, fast, smooth, everything you want in a coaster. It was an awesome experience. I also had a chance to talk to some of the GOCC board members and other people and get to know them really well, which was an added bonus. I had a chance to talk to some of the local ACE/GOCC members that attended: a really nice guy named Shane and his son, ACE rep Wade Abbott and his family and many more. It was a great experience at a truly beautiful park.
The following week was a trip I had been looking forward to for quite some time. I drove down to Kings Island on Wednesday afternoon and met up with Peter and his co-worker Trent for some afternoon rides. KI was fairly dead that day, although it seemed like we got into line for several walk-on rides and right behind us, lines formed. It happened at Diamondback, Mystic Timbers and Banshee (twice). We stayed until close, got LROTNOB and then drove to Louisville. I spent a few hours Thursday at Kentucky Kingdom, mostly to take pictures because it was not too hot and sunny that day. Friday, we went to Holiday World for most of the day, which was also pretty dead. Saturday we took Peter’s senior pictures at KK, Churchill Downs and his school and then Sunday was Koasterkids Day at KK. Last year, I wasn’t sure what to expect and I had a fantastic time. This year was no different. I got to meet all kinds of new people including @paulcorso2 from Oregon, @brokethemorning from Indiana, @westptms from Illinois and many more. I also got to hang out for awhile with Kris Werner again, as well as @jmikewm and @thrillride2006. I hadn’t seen those guys since the event the year before, so it was good to catch up. I think what amazes me about the @koasterkids events and meet-ups is just how many kids and families show up and always have a great time just hanging out together with each other. Each time I’ve been at one of their events or just in the park with them, everybody has smiles on their faces, kids overcome their fears and enjoy each other’s company. Its really an amazing and awesome thing. The morning ERT on Lightning Run was awesome, with overcast skies keeping the temps pretty cool. Most of the day was overcast outside of a small part during midday where the sun came out and it briefly became unbearably hot. Just before the Storm Chaser evening ERT, the skies opened up for about 30 minutes and pretty much cleared the park, which led to starting the ERT earlier and even more smiles. If you have never been to KK day at KK (as weird as that sounds), you need to make plans to get there next year. Between the ERT, the food, the families, the fun and of course, getting to meet me, its an unbelievable day.
As soon as I got home from Kentucky that Monday, I had enough time to pack my cooler, wash clothes and I was on the road again. This time, I made my friend Ryan drive for our trip to Maryland and Virginia. I had never been to Six Flags America, so that was first on the list. It was an absolutely dead day, so I really didn’t have any issues with operations seeming slow. That said, I will say that Batwing being down was a disappointment, only from a credits standpoint. This Superman ride was a bit rougher than the Darien Lake one had been when I rode it awhile back. The Wild One and Roar both were fun in my opinion. Sure Roar could use a retracking or some other work, but it wasn’t nearly as bad as some people make it seem. Mind Eraser WAS as bad as people say, if not worse. So was Apocalypse. As of the time writing this, Apocalypse is set to close soon although I do hope they make it floorless instead of scrapping it altogether. That park needs all the coasters they have plus more.
The next day we headed down to Kings Dominion. While I was disappointed about Volcano being down (already had the credit), I couldn’t wait to ride I-305. I haven’t really been anxious or nervous on a coaster in a long time, but I was a bit nervous about graying out potentially after the drop. Needless to say, I rode it 5 times that day, grayed out hard 4 of the 5 times and still kept getting back in line. The night rides in the dark were complete insanity. Twisted Timbers was also an incredible add to the park. Both are in my new top 10. Grizzly was awful during the day but incredible in the dark. And I refuse to call it Racer 75, it will always be Rebel Yell to me.
The last park of the trip was Busch Gardens Williamsburg. I love the theming, the backdrop and just the overall experience at BGW. I needed the credits on Tempesto, LNM and Invadr. Tempesto was great except for the “comfort collars”, which are anything but. LNM has a typical Arrow feel to it, but a lot smoother and so much better in terms of layout. Invadr was fun but I wouldn’t wait for it more than we did (20 minutes or so). I got to say hi quickly to @koasterzone@koaster_key and @koaster_reviews while I was boarding Tempesto and hung out briefly with @j_fannin15 and his mom and dad. Ryan got to ride Escape from Pompeii the day before the fire and I took him on Verbolten without telling him about the drop track. Verbolten is still one of my most underrated coasters.
I did also meet up with @coaster_hunter@ohiothrills and @coastergal at Cedar Point as well as @fgphotographs and his uncle while they were in town. I chose to not include my fairly regular Cedar Point trips in this post.
For me, the highlight of the summer outside of all the trips and new coaster credits was just getting to meet so many people. Whether planned or whether they saw my shirt or knew I was in a park and came up to say hi, was a really cool experience. All the friends I’ve made, people and families I’ve met, just know that I appreciate you taking the time to say hello, tell me you like my photos, etc. As I write this, I’m looking forward to planning trips to KI for Haunt, KK for Last Rides night (hopefully) and CP for Fall Freak Out.
For those wondering – my new top 10 is as follows:
1. Steel Vengeance (Cedar Point)
2. Intimidator 305 (Kings Dominion)
3. Fury 325 (Carowinds)
4. Lightning Rod (Dollywood) (when it works)
5. Skyrush (Hersheypark)
6. Storm Chaser (Kentucky Kingdom)
7. Mako (SeaWorld Orlando)
8. Twisted Timbers (Kings Dominion)
9. Outlaw Run (Silver Dollar City)
10. Mystic Timbers (Kings Island)
11-20 in no particular order:
Millennium Force, Diamondback, Montu,
Storm Runner, El Toro, Top Thrill Dragster,
Iron Rattler, New Texas Giant,
Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster
Thank you to everyone who made this year great. I look forward to seeing all of you again soon and meeting a whole bunch of new people next year.