I know this is a little late, but I spent most of today recovering from a very full and packed weekend and getting ready to head back to work tomorrow. However, I had to post a TR as yesterday's event was nothing short of phenomenal and I wanted to try to relate as much of my experience as possible. Just trying to remember all of the details and write them out has taken a while!
I look forward to the Winter Coaster Solace/West Coast Bash weekend every year, but I was really looking forward to this one for a few reasons: First off, 2007 was a tough year for me on a variety of levels-no real vacation last year or "get away" from my stressful job, and some trying events in my personal life. Second, I have not been able to get out to the parks and do as much coaster riding and all day trips as much as I would like this year due to taking on a lot of freelance work that has kept even my off time spent at the computer. And finally, after the TPR DVD Release Party at SFMM back in January being such a great event, I had a feeling West Coast Bash was going to be amazing.
I'll start this off with a quick rundown on Solace, it won't be that long as there isn't too much to report and I did not take my camera into the event this time as I was in a hurry going in. (I'll try to snap some Pony Express pics when I go this coming Saturday).
I had taken the Friday off before Solace, but still ended up getting to bed late and unfortunately overslept by a couple of hours Saturday. As a result, I didn't get to Knott's until about 8:45 am. I was afraid it would be packed but I got a parking space right up in front in the front lot, and had my lanyard and tickets and was in the park by 8:55 am-just in time for the behind the scenes tour of the new Pony Express. The General Manager took everyone into the construction area, first into the area over by the Western Entrance to see the newly completed brake run and where the ride will jump over Bigfoot Rapids, do a dip through a tunnel by Western Avenue and then hop up into the brakes (we got to walk over the part of Bigfoot which is currently filled with dirt) and then over by the station which they were in the process of sealing the foundation of and by the launch area and banked turn. The entrance will be over by Bigfoot Rapids, so I guess "Wild Water Wilderness" has been accessed by Ghost Town.
After that, I managed a couple of great rides with no wait on Xcelerator and Supreme Scream (both of which were running great, and with no waiting at all-very light crowd at Solace this year) and then went over for a ride on Sierra Sidewinder. Seeing that Silver Bullet was in one train operation (Train A was half taken apart on the transfer) I decided to catch a ride before the line got too bad. Afterwards, went over to check out the new Panda Express and got a soda, rode the Log Ride, Boomerang, La Revolucion, and the Wave Swinger, bought a new pair of sunglasses to replace the ones that broke, and just kind of walked around the park until it was lunchtime.
Lunch was the same as it has been in years past, with the usual spread, and the endless soda fountain (Interestingly, the park did not give away drink cups or offer free soda refills to attendees this year aside from at lunch). The only familiar faces I saw this year were Andy, Shaun, Mike, Steve and a couple of the guys from WAYDD/site banned, but other than that there were very few people I knew there and a lot less people in attendance than last year.
There was a pretty good, but short presentation by Valerio Ferrari from Zamperla, where he discussed Pony Express and some of their ride catalogue and new concepts in development, and then the raffle; I did not buy any tickets this year but enjoyed watching. After lunch, I went back in the park and got in line for Silver Bullet, and ended up waiting almost two hours due to the one train operation. Feeling really tired (I nearly nodded off while waiting in line) and wanting to get some rest before night ERT, I decided to pick up my t-shirt (pretty nice one this year) and then went out to the car, put the sunshade up and crashed out for a few hours.
I went back in the park and grabbed some coffee and rode a few more rides, ending off with Silver Bullet and then kind of hanging out and resting over in the area by GhostRider. The ERT started a bit late due to the large line of GP folks, so I grabbed a coffee and a cookie from the "late night snack" (again, same spread as last year) and went back to Silver Bullet for a few rides. I decided to leave for a few and go back for one ride on GhostRider-they were running it with all lights and trims off-and snagged a front seat ride. Very good, and intense, but still running very rough. I finished out the night at Silver Bullet. To give you an idea of how few people were there, on GhostRider, I don't think I ever saw a full station, and I only saw one full train on Bullet the entire night, even with one train op. For at least 3-4 cycles towards the end of ERT, I was the sole person on the train, enjoying several rides in the front right seat, my favorite on the ride-enjoyable, if a little eerie. The last cycle, a few more people got on and rode. The park was very quiet-it looked like there was no private party there this year.
All in all, I think the park did an okay job, but I am really hoping that they can bring Solace up to the level that it used to be. Here's hoping that the reports of the following day, West Coast Bash, will provide some inspiration.
I left KBF about 12:10 am, and even with a detour, managed to get to the Holiday Inn Express in Valencia across from SFMM at 1:05 am. This was the exact opposite of the negative experience I have had the past two years at Best Western: the person at the desk was friendly and helpful, the room was correct and at the correct price, and in great condition. I don't care if it was pricey, it was worth it.
Amazingly, even with the loss of an hour, I was able to wake up at 6:30 am (whose idea was it to schedule Daylight Savings Time on this particular weekend, anyway?
After taking advantage of the amazing HI Express showers everyone raves about, I grabbed a free coffee and Cinnamon Roll from the breakfast buffet at the hotel, and was off. HI Express makes a big deal about their Cinnamon Rolls as being the Cinnamon Roll by which all others are judged; it was decent, and it was fresh, but I have had better. Still, it was a nice perk and a welcome one as I had not really eaten anything since lunch at Solace and a cookie during night ERT.
I arrived at SFMM to find the event had already surpassed Solace: not only was there Free Parking-with all of the gates open, they had the trams running to bring attendees to the front gate. I said hi to a few people who I had met at previous events, and then arrived to get wristband, lanyard registration packet and shirt. Lots of people; lots of familiar faces and lots of friendly people.
Neal Thurman gave us a good but very brief intro speech; when the man says Magic Mountain is back and better than ever, he says it with confidence and rightfully so-with this management team, they are definitely back and better than ever, and destined for great things.
We went in and I headed up for Tatsu first, and got a back row ride which was more effective than the coffee at waking me up. When I got off, they had breakfast laid out down at Katy's Kettle (muffins, donuts, bagels, OJ and coffee); since I already had a sugar rush from the cinnamon roll I opted for OJ and a muffin. I ran into Eric (EBL) who was looking for a Diet Coke (a nice employee went out of their way to get one) and we talked for a few minutes and then walked up to Superman; there was a behind the scenes tour up there, and being that S:TE was the ONE coaster at SFMM I had yet to go on, I was glad it was on ERT as I wanted to finally get a ride.
We walked on-I have to say that although I thought the pop of airtime on the reverse freefall was really good, I found the launch a bit underwhelming compared to Xcelerator or Montezoomas Revenge. Still, a cool ride, and I was glad I finally got to ride it. We headed back down and grabbed a front seat ride on Tatsu (more and more, I am liking the front row on Tatsu-the front row is pleasant, the back row is intense and both offer a great ride) and shortly after that was when Eric unfortunately realized his camera was missing. While he went with another employee to find Neal and look for it, I took one more ride on Tatsu.
When I got off, the park was open-I took a ride on Riddler's and Scream-both great rides, with not too bad of a wait-and then found that I had a headache, due to lack of sleep, contact lens problems, and just being tired, so I went to the little store over next to the Paint Ball Alley game in search of some Tylenol. They didn't have any out, but some very nice girl working their went out of her way going through the boxes with the medications in them until she found it.....another example of good service being seen in the park. After pounding some Tylenol, I felt better and started to make my way towards the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo to store my camera and to the Picnic Pavilions, as lunch was supposed to start at 11:45. I stopped for a few minutes out in front of Mooseburger Lodge to say hello to Chris Godsey and family and walked with them up to the picnic area.
I put my camera in the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo in the very nice and newly renovated day use fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo area and walked around to lunch-to find quite a few people:
Lunch was fantastic-a choice of BBQ Beef Brisket or Chicken, rolls, and side dishes as well as sodas and even Ice Cream for dessert. Having had chicken the day before, I went for the beef brisket and thought it was great. I ended up sitting at the table with EBL, WhatNow, and Jodi (apologies for spilling my soda in the middle of the table) and when lunch was done, went to get the camera for the tours that were about to begin. When I got back, returned to see that an X2 train was cycling; another surprise-it looked as if we were going to be able to see the new trains cycle.
I ended up with the red group-with wrs28330 being a very good tour guide for the duration of the tour-and was pleased to find out X2 was the first stop on the tour. Walking up, I had to say I was very impressed with the new paint job-I was not 100% sold on the colors, but they really do look great. They brought the first X2 train into the station, and Tim Burkhart answered questions and talked a bit about the ride before we were allowed to go out near the transfer shed to see the new train run a couple of cycles (which also allowed for some great vantage points for Viper, as well!) The trains are still testing-they are quiet, but seems as if they are still working out some issues with the seat rotations-but it was great to see this.
Next stop was Thomas Town-where although most of what we saw was dirt and markers, they are right on schedule. Took the opportunity to get some good pics of Goliath as well. After a quick break near the former location of Sierra Twist, we proceeded over towards the "Psyclone Graveyard" with a quick stop off at the Batman Theater where we found out a little about the show (which I definitely plan to check out on an upcoming visit to the park). We saw some interesting pieces of rides past over in the graveyard, and then made our way up to the Sky Tower, passing by what was left of Spin Out. Although at the time it was too windy to go up to the new museum, Brandon, the mastermind behind it had taken the time to put out a small display to show us in the elevator, which I thought was really cool.
By that time, it was time to head to Magic Moments for the 4:00 presentations to begin. After a fun group photo and video, we made our way in to find they had bottled water for us (another nice gesture) and the presentations began. First up was Neal Thurman, with a presentation about new attractions chain wide, and a talk about the IBU (Individual Business Units) and new additions for 2008. Then it was open for Q and A with park President Jay Thomas (who is the best thing to happen to SFMM in years), Tim Burkhart, and Neal. Although I personally felt that a few of the questions posed were a shade inappropriate for the venue, or maybe could have just been presented in a slightly different manner, the new management team did an outstanding job of answering them the best they could, assuaging concerns and offering insight into what appears to be a bright future for SFMM. No major secrets were revealed (although I think they made Sue Carpenter a bit nervous a few times with some very vague hints
) but they really did a great job with the questions that were asked. Tim's response to the question about why they are just now taking the initiative to fix the problems at SFMM was extremely honest and well said, I thought.
Next up was Kevin from S&S, who did a great presentation talking about their product offerings; he was very good at addressing the questions people had, and his comments regarding X2 made me even more confident that both S&S and the park are really making every effort to make X2 a success on every level. He spoke a bit about the new El Loco coaster going into Indiana as well. As part of the presentation, he showed what looked to be a completely outrageous coaster, the 300' + "extreme" version of one of these which looks absolutely crazy, and also hinted that one of the "El Loco" rides is going somewhere on the West Coast.....let the speculation begin! All in all, a great presentation.
Finally, we were treated to the big surprise of the night: ALL the coasters, as well as the Sky Tower museum, were going to be open to us at ERT. I had a thought this might be the planned "surprise", but then dismissed the idea as being about as far fetched as them having X2 open for the event. But no, this was for real. And quite an awesome surprise. I was floored by this one.
We watched some retro Magic Mountain commercials, which I found very entertaining-my favorites being the Revolution commercials with the funny jingle, the superhero guy building Colossus, and the ones with the dolls and the retro 80's music telling people to go to Magic Mountain and "Get Some!"-and then some great clips from the upcoming DVD. When everything was over, I decided to go to put the camera in the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo. On the way, decided to go up in the Sky Tower and have a look. I passed by Johnny Rockets, thinking I should eat and that the food smelled great, but decided to pass and try Panda Express on the way to the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo.
I went up in the Sky Tower, and although it was a bit dark up there the first time I went (Corey from CoasterRealm was actually helping them put in some lights) I was immediately impressed. Brandon deserves HUGE applause for this entire project-a great use of space and a job well done. Alas, it was too dark for me to get a lot of pics, but I will definitely be back to see this. Although the slightly swaying tower makes me a little acrophobic, that will not stop me from going back to see this attraction on a regular basis. Just amazing.
I left long enough to go down and find Panda Express closed, and ended up getting a pack of candy from the Flags store to tide me over, and then it was time for the orgy of night coaster riding ahead. I made my way up the mountain, and as I was coming back down the mountain after an insane back row ride on Tatsu and front seat ride on Ninja, I ran into EBL again, and we went up and checked out the Sky Tower museum one more time. We stayed up there for a while and then left and did a couple of night rides on Ninja and Tatsu. The Tatsu crew announced they were running the last train at about 10, and we ended up heading over to Scream, where they had the music blasting and we got a front row ride with the train all to ourselves. By this time, it was nearly 10:30 and time to head out.
They still had the trams running so we took the trams to the lot. I got to my car and went to put away my camera and.....
I had left my camera in the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo in the park. So I had to walk all the way back to the front, rushing past everyone else that was leaving and thankfully, they let me back in to get it, and Neal opened up the fluffy, fluffy bunny filled with medicine and goo for me. Which was good, not only because I got the camera, but because I got the chance to say thanks for an awesome event in person.
I finally got back to the car and ended up being one of the last three cars out....I was exhausted, but it was a good kind of tired. Stopped at am/pm and although I didn't get home until after 2am because of freeway closures and delays, thankfully I had taken today off.
All in all, this was an incredible weekend-with the definite highlight being WCB. Truly an amazing event, and the best enthusiast event I have ever had the pleasure of attending. Thanks very much again to Robb and Chris for your part in putting this together, the planning and above and beyond hospitality of Jay, Tim and Neal, and all of the SFMM staff who went above and beyond to make this such a memorable event.
Those who are still a shade skeptical of SFMM-you might want to reconsider your position: With the people in charge now, this park is destined for great things. While there may still be some issues, they know about them and are working on them. One thing is for certain: they are definitely listening and care about what those of us who frequent the parks the most have to say, and are trying to make this park a premier destination for not only GP but enthusiasts as well. And so far, it's working.