Kentucky Kingdom

12th July 2016

Two years ago we had an excellent day at the recently reopened Kentucky Kingdom where we made the most of the magnificent new roller coaster that had premiered just weeks before. I knew at the time that I wanted to return before too long, and the required excuse was handed to me on a plate with the announcement of a another new credit, this time from Rocky Mountain Construction, that would be built on the foundations of the long-defunct Twisted Twins. Megan found an enthusiast discount online that gave us two consecutive days of admission and unlimited complimentary soft drinks for just twenty dollars per person, representing incredible value for money especially when compared against the rip-off a few days earlier at Dollywood.

It will come as no surprise to the reader that we began our day with a brisk walk across the park to Storm Chaser (#2264), located against the western boundary of the park and directly adjacent to the flight path for runway 17R at Louisville International Airport. As we approached we saw a UPS MD-11F passing overhead on short final, and a quick check of Flightradar24 on my phone showed it to be inbound from Dallas after a short sector representing less than fifteen percent of its nominal 12,670km range. Planes continued to pass overhead every few minutes, and while they didn't quite have the variety of what we'd seen in Bangladesh it was nevertheless quite a treat for two armchair planespotters.

Storm Chaser

The purple train was on the track today, with the blue one under obvious maintenance on the transfer track nearby. We immediately noticed that a large chunk of one of the headrest cushions was missing in row two, and we overheard two of the operators discussing its absence; apparently the failure had occurred during regular operations the evening before, and the pieces had yet to be found. The break wasn't a clean one, making me wonder whether it might have been induced by a guest wearing jewellery with a sharp edge; it seems doubtful that it could have been torn by forces alone.

The ride started out in the same fashion as the magnificent Medusa Steel Coaster, with a descending barrel roll inversion running from the apex of the lift hill to a few feet above the ground. This was followed by an immensely powerful airtime hill and an over-banked left turn. From that point onwards things blurred together as we were treated to a delicious mix of sharp turns and ejector airtime hills interrupted only briefly by a second barrel roll. The layout concluded with a low-to-ground helix and final airtime leap onto the brake run. We took a total of five laps in various points of the train, including front and back, and to be honest there was little difference between seats, as all of them delivered in spectacular fashion. The only thing I wasn't altogether fond of was the heaviness of the lap bars, which were not enormously friendly towards the male anatomy, but I quickly figured out that that relatively minor niggle could be largely ameliorated by a little care (and personal rearrangement!) while sitting down.

Last year the park reopened the coaster formerly known as T2, and I decided that I'd join Megan on the reconstituted T3 even though I'd had the questionable pleasure of it years earlier and lived to tell the tale. During its refurbishment the ride was fitted with Kumbak rolling stock, which worked remarkably well on a similar ride in Australia. Unfortunately the same was not true here; much of the course was marked by near continuous thumping in the back as the train clattered awkwardly around, and the lap bar restraint got progressively tighter and tighter throughout. When we hit the brake run we overheard a child behind us saying that she couldn't feel her legs, and she wasn't the only one; the general consensus among disembarking guests was that this wasn't a ride any of us would be subjecting ourselves to again.

Thunder Run, on the other hand, was running fairly well. The tracking wasn't quite as smooth as it had been on our last trip, but that wasn't a huge surprise given that it had just come out of a major refurbishment at that time. During our lap I found myself contemplating what the park's next weather related coaster should be. One option that occurred to me was to rename the kiddie coaster to Light Rain Meander or perhaps Drizzle Walk, though it seems likely that the marketing team will have better ideas.

Though it wasn't part of our plan for the day we decided to try out the Angry Birds ride, a simulator attraction featuring the stars of the franchise well outside of their accustomed environment. The show began with a driving scene, not something I recall from any of the games, but in due course our protagonists arrived at a fortress that it was apparently important to destroy. Remarkably there was both a conveniently located catapult and a stock of TNT in the basement, and our avian heroes managed to survive the resultant explosion that completely wiped out a reinforced building. The script writers were apparently oblivious to the fact that TNT doesn't explode without a detonator, though perhaps I'm overthinking things a little.

Angry Birds

We did a back seat on Lightning Run, and found the ride to be just as smooth and intense as it was when new, a testament to the quality of both the design and the construction. The only perceptible difference today was the lack of the audible farting noises that the train originally made when cresting the various airtime hills. Given the standard of the design it seems absolutely amazing that no other park has bought their own version; smaller parks could do an awful lot worse.

I'd like to conclude this trip report with a brief commentary on the coasters at the park today, which lean towards pleasing thrill seekers at the expense of families. Lightning Run and Storm Chaser feel like very similar rides, and both deliver an aggressive experience well suited to enthusiasts but probably a bit much for the more hesitant guests. T3 is definitely not a ride for beginners (or, arguably, for anyone at all), meaning that the only bridge between the Roller Skater and the major rides is Thunder Run, a definite change from the Six Flags days when the park also featured a Shuttle Loop and a Wild Mouse. It'd be good to see the park choosing something a little more laid back for its next addition; perhaps a Mack spinning coaster would be a good fit?

 

Holiday World

12th July 2016

Holiday World operates in central time, one hour behind Kentucky Kingdom, and as a result we lost just thirty minutes out of our day on the eighty mile drive between them, despite a brief stop en route for food. Hortense took us via a different road to my previous trips, and as a result we were treated to an excellent view of the two newest coasters and Hyena Falls, a set of water slides installed for the 2013 season. We paid full respect to our nerd credentials by parking the car at the side of the road for a few photographs.

Once through the gate we headed directly back to Thunderbird (#2265), a launched wing coaster from B&M that was added to the park last year. The addition marked a significant change in direction for a park that up until that point had specialised in wood, and many enthusiasts were quite surprised when it was subsequently revealed that the late Will Koch had been planning to buy a steel coaster for many years. Though he passed away before the contract for the new ride was signed it was nevertheless given some theming in his memory, namely a huge sign proclaiming Will Power on the side of the launch building.

Thunderbird

The ride was cycling test trains as we approached following an earlier shutdown, but the queuing area was open and largely empty, with the wait beginning no more than a metre in front of the split between left and right staircases. We elected to start with a right hand side lap, and minutes later an operator directed us to row four. It was a shame to see assigned seating, but the operator was so nice about it that it didn't feel like an imposition.

Once loaded the train is dispatched into a staging area, and a pair of dry ice machines located on either side of the track spray a thick cloud that blocks the view straight ahead for a few seconds. It then accelerates to its sixty mile per hour top speed over a period of three and a half seconds and into the first inversion, an immelmann that is negotiated with finesse. A vertical loop follows, along with two 180° turns, one to the right and one to the left. The best section of the ride begins with a zero-gravity roll followed by two passes through a building in short succession, the first time upright and the second at the midpoint of a barrel roll onto the final brake run. I liked the ride a lot, though it was hard not to think of it as short, with the track length being slightly less than half that of the nearby Voyage. That said, the fifty seconds from launch to brakes was well paced from start to end, and those after more always have the option of going back for a second lap.

We were joined at the park by Maria, a friend of ours from Brazil, and she was joined in turn by someone she'd met through one of the American coaster clubs. They were both of the view that the seats on the left hand side of Thunderbird delivered the better overall experience, and we duly tried sitting there to see for ourselves. To be honest the differences seemed negligible to me, but we found there was a massive difference from the front row, both for the effect of the launch and the ability to see ahead. The seating policy meant that we only got to try front once over the course of the day; if anyone from the park is reading this it'd be awesome if you'd look at retrofitting in a dedicated front seat queue for those prepared to wait a few extra cycles.

Our group decided to ride in the back car on Voyage, which we considered to be a preemptive vote of confidence in the track maintenance team. The first few drops were in remarkably good condition for a decade old ride, and while the turnaround and return journey were more rickety than in times past the overall comfort level was reasonable enough. That said, it felt very much like the ride lacked the raw intensity that I remembered, and I couldn't put my finger on why until I looked at photos later that evening; it turned out that the train had been reduced from seven cars to six, making the back seat somewhat less aggressive than in years past.

Legend was given a lot of new track for the 2016 season, as well as a new tunnel and a double-down element towards the end of the ride. I'd largely forgotten the layout, and honestly that is because it is largely forgettable in comparison to the other wooden coasters at the park, consisting almost entirely of laterals with not a lot else besides. Given the nature of the forces it is tempting to describe the experience as a flat ride built with coaster track, and while that might be perfectly adequate for some readers it just doesn't do all that much for me. I was far happier riding Raven, which I still consider to be one of the finest wood coasters ever built, thanks to a layout which was pure fun from start to end.

Angry Granny

We made a brief stop at Gobbler Getaway, where I noticed what I immediately branded the most American thing ever: an elderly animatronic female holding a weapon (yes Paula, I know it's a turkey caller). I remember almost nothing of the ride itself because things quickly became very competitive, with Megan and I trading high scores throughout. She eventually won, but the margin was extremely narrow, our final values being 840 and 850 respectively.

In an ideal world we'd have had dinner at the park, but we were not in the mood for fast food and couldn't find any full service options that were open. Based on an earlier recommendation we drove a little under half an hour to Schnitzelbank in nearby Jasper where we had an absolutely superb meal; those travelling through the area could do far worse.