Anyone with the broadest idea of American geography who read yesterday's diary (and, for that matter, tomorrow's one) will wonder what on earth we were doing diverting to Indiana and Kentucky on a journey between two parks in Missouri. There is absolutely no sane defence for this journey, and it becomes worse yet when you consider that we had a hotel booking in Missouri that it was too late to cancel. The genesis of the idea came during the lengthy drive from Des Moines, Iowa to Kansas City, Missouri; it had become clear that we would have time to hit Worlds of Fun for an evening, leaving a completely open day with no fixed plans. George suggested that we use this time to visit Holiday World (yes, hard as it may be to believe, not all insane suggestions are mine). Holiday World was something that we had investigated during the planning stages of our trip, given the presence of a new wooden roller coaster. However, I had made the decision that it was simply too far away, as it would add nearly one thousand miles of driving to an already considerable distance.
The initial plan was to keep our existing hotel booking, get an early night, then hit the road early, probably about 4:00am. However, this was shot down by me almost immediately on the grounds of messing up sleep patterns. The only even remotely feasible option was, in my view, to drive until we were too tired to continue safely, check into a hotel, and then have a reasonably early start timed to get to the park ahead of opening. As it was, we arrived into a Holiday Inn three quarters of an hour from the park only a few minutes after midnight, allowing us to leave the hotel at an entirely reasonable 9:00am.
1st June 2006
The reason behind such unmitigated insanity was, needless to say, Voyage (#742). There are many web pages saying many things about the latest creation by the Gravity Group, and based on my cursory searching not one comment has been anything but positive. Having ridden the coaster now, it is easy to see what the reviewers have been talking about. The ride is, without question, one of the most physically demanding coasters out there; two back to back rides necessitated a brief rest period on something else. Due to clever use of the terrain, the train hits the brakes with huge amounts of energy to spare despite having traversed over a mile of track.
The front seat is pretty wild, but the back is bordering on the insane, particularly during the two twisted sections at the middle and end of the ride respectively. If this ride was in any other park I'd be worried about how it will be riding in a year or two, but knowing the care the Holiday World staff put into their rides it is hard for me to see how this can come in at anything other than number one in next year's wooden coaster rankings, and it wouldn't surprise me at all if it stayed there indefinitely. It'll be hard for any park to top this one.
The other new ride this year is Gobbler Getaway, a dark ride from Sally Corp which would normally be considered to be a target shooting ride. This being Holiday World, however, riders use Turkey Callers to summon the appropriate animals, presumably for the dinner table. These implements make a rather distinctive gobbling noise when a target is, er, acquired, which was cute the first ten times, moderately irritating the second ten, and, censored the rest. Sound effects aside, though, the scenery is particularly cute and colourful, making for a ride the whole family can enjoy. The younger ones probably won't be offended by the gobbling sound either.
We managed two more rides on Voyage before stopping briefly at the coaster George had yet to ride, Howler. With that out of the way, we hatched a cunning plan to ride the two older wooden coasters before doing a comparison with the new. We'd entered the line for Legend in pursuit of this plan when things went pear-shaped in style. The sky, which had been getting darker, let go completely, plunging us into a seriously impressive thunderstorm. We decided to leave the queue and bring forward a planned lunch, adopting a small sheltered area beside the food stall for a meal. However, the weather degenerated further, to the point that the staff asked everyone around the stall to pile into the store room at the back to escape from the elements. It wasn't a particularly exclusive store room session, but it was certainly different, and brings back memories of a somewhat different policy at Dollywood last year. In the event that anyone at the park is reading this, though, one curiosity question; there was a bucket on a top shelf saying do not touch this bucket. None of the guests present could figure out why. Care to spill the beans (or bucket)?
After more than half an hour, the weather had still not improved, and we decided to brave the elements for a mad dash to the car. It would have been nice to have gotten more rides in, but we figured that it would be at least another hour before things reopened, and possibly more. With another park in the vicinity and a seven hour drive ahead of us, something had to give.
1st June 2006
The weather conditions as we left Holiday World were so poor that we seriously contemplated whether we should just head for our overnight hotel. In the end, however, insanity won out over reason; it would only be a ninety minute diversion, the weather could well be better there, and if we decided to skip it we'd wonder forever if it was the right thing to do or not. The drive was not promising, with thick thunderstorms, and one stage where I ended up slowing down to what I considered to be the maximum safe speed, a stately twenty miles an hour on the interstate. However, the sky began to brighten as we entered Kentucky, and by the time we arrived at the park we had somehow found a beautifully sunny day.
We might as well have had an exclusive ride session on Kentucky Rumbler (#743), a wonderful new wooden coaster that from a media perspective has been eclipsed by its higher budget neighbour ninety miles up the road. This is unfortunate, because the good folks at GCI have built a stunningly good wooden coaster in its own right. It may not have the impressive statistics of its neighbour, but nevertheless the ride remains fast, intense, and above all, fun. Due to time restrictions we only rode four circuits, but we had the train completely to ourselves for three of these. The other coasters in the park were all eminently missable; Looping Star (#744), Dragon (#745), and Wild Mouse (#746). There was something definitely not right about the car we were in on the latter, as it was crashing pretty hard into each corner during the first section of the ride. Both of us have ridden enough spinning mouse rides to know that it certainly should not have been doing that. We told the operator what was going on, so hopefully park maintenance will look at the offending car before anything more serious occurs.
Though we were enjoying the park and would gladly have stayed longer, we decided to call it a day in the interests of getting to the hotel by midnight. The last hour of the driving was a truly horrid experience; in the space of five minutes I went from being fully alert to unable to drive safely. Fortunately George was still awake enough to drive, though we were both glad by the time we arrived at the Holiday Inn Express in Branson. It wasn't where SatNav had said it would be, but the sign was unmissable. There was only one problem, however. There were actually two Holiday Inn Expresses in Branson, and we'd found the wrong one. You'd have thought that they might have slightly different names on their signs. It wouldn't need to be clever; calling them Fred and Dave would have been enough. As it was, we had parked the car and unloaded baggage before realising our mistake. It was only a ten minute drive to the other one, but as you can imagine this journey was covered with plenty of colourful metaphors.