Long before I set out for Kennywood Park I was well aware that this visit would be a dumb thing to do. I had being staying in Cincinnati, Ohio and had to be in Columbus, Ohio that evening, roughly a one hundred mile drive. Calling in Kennywood Park would involve a four hundred mile diversion, and I would be limited to a half day in the park at most. Against this, however, was the fact that Kennywood was one of the parks I had wanted to visit for the longest time, and it was just about within reach.
I set out a little before eight in the morning, and was making very good progress until a little after noon, when I suddenly hit bumper to bumper traffic. Sitting still in a car is always frustrating, but was all the more so for me as it was eating vital park time. The computer said I was less than thirty miles away, but the remaining distance nevertheless took me two full hours.
The first sight of the park skyline would normally have improved my mood, but if anything it made me even more agitated. I could see the magnificent looking Phantom's Revenge towering over the road, with one of the wooden coasters behind it. I could see immediately that I would not have enough time here no matter what, and that the best I could hope for would be one ride on each of the coasters. There are some parks which can be done that way without any major loss, but even from the road I could see that Kennywood was clearly not one of them. It was at this point that I finally told my internal self to shut up; I was going to make the best of my time here, and ride what I could before driving back to Columbus.
While queueing for Pitt Fall, I made the decision to scrap my planned departure time and arrive late in Columbus, within reason. There would not be time for everything, but I was not going to feel pressured to leave until I was ready to do so. I was also able to indulge my sadistic inner self by admiring the faces of other passengers as they made their rapid return to earth. The ride, a standard Intamin drop tower, did what I had thus far failed to do for myself; it cleared my head effectively.
It was time to ride Phantom's Revenge (#519). There was a three quarter of an hour wait, largely because the park was operating just one train, the other sitting idle on the transfer track. The loading efficiency was nothing special either; I timed the interval between trains as an average of just under four minutes. Fortunately, there was a vacancy for a single rider in the back row as I approached the station, saving me some time while at the same time giving me what I fully anticipated to be one of the best seats on the train.
The ride is unusual in so far as its first drop is not the major one; that honour falls to the second, where the route takes advantage of the terrain to plunge 228ft, right through the wooden structure of one of the other coasters. The rest of the course is a series of small but powerful airtime hills, all taken with a smoothness and grace that seems impossible for a train moving so fast. Hyperbole doesn't come easily to me, but it would be unfair to describe Phantom's Revenge as anything less than a top five coaster. After thinking about it I think it's my second favourite coaster out there, behind Anaconda. It might make first place were it a bit longer; just 3200ft of track doesn't take very long at 82mph. Having said that, the track there is is close enough to flawless that any extension would have to be very good indeed to avoid destroying the quality of the ride.
I was amused by the signage on Exterminator (#520), which described it as unlike any ride you've ever experienced. It is difficult for me to agree with this description, given that at the time of writing, I had previously experienced thirteen other identical Reverchon-built spinning mouse rides. There was one difference though; Kennywood have put their model inside a building. In al honesty however this had no major effect on the ride that I noticed; a spinning mouse is a spinning mouse.
It is worth noting that the queue for this ride was stupidly long. I waited over an hour, much of this time in the blazing sunshine. As far as I could tell a full compliment of cars was in use, so the wait is not one that can be blamed on laziness by the operators or cost saving by the park. Given that my visit was on a Wednesday, I can only conclude that this attraction does not have the capacity for the number of guests wishing to partake of it; perhaps the Disney solution of two identical rides side by side might be the way to go? Regardless, enclosing more of the queue line or at least putting up sun shades would be a very welcome addition should anyone from the park be reading this.
The first wooden coaster I came to, Thunderbolt (#521) had a rule I have never come across before, namely that no single riders are permitted. Everyone must have a partner. Does anyone know the reason for this rule? As luck would have it, there was a single rider waiting for the front seat, allowing me the best location in the train without having to wait for it. Perhaps I should have looked more closely at the ride before entering the queue, but nevertheless I was completely surprised by the fact that the lift hill comes half way through the ride, with two substantial drops before it. This sort of design adds a lot to a ride, as passengers know a little more about what they are in for during the anticipation of going up the lift hill.
There was no problem with me riding Lil Phantom (#522), my first encounter with a Molina & Sons coaster. Though eleven have been built, just six are in operation today, all in the United States. The operator thought it was a little strange that I should want to ride something clearly designed for children, but there was no rule against it!
The Racer (#523) was operating two trains instead of four, much to the consternation of the gentleman waiting in front of me. Apparently it used to be possible to buy individual ride tickets. He remarked loudly that now that everyone was paying for a flat rate admission there was no incentive to run rides to capacity any more, since there would be no additional profit. Such a cynical suggestion couldn't possibly be true, now could it?
It was really time for me to leave, but I just couldn't bring myself to do so before riding Phantom's Revenge one more time. I elected to wait for front seat, which proved to be well worth doing. Once again, though, the wait was far longer than it should have been due to the one train operation. There is really no excuse for this, and without an information announcement telling us otherwise I can only assume that the train was not being used to save on maintenance.
The rest of the evening would scarcely have been enough time to appreciate the park properly, but my better judgment reminded me that it was time to go. Hopefully I will be able to return at some stage in the future.