The TPR Mini New Hotness / Mini East Coast tour ... also known as the Coney-to-Coney tour, the #66MinutesOfSleep tour, the Fried-Chicken-And-Hot-Dogs tour, and the Awful-Zamperla-Kiddie-Coaster Tour.
Welcome to my trip report for the 2014 TPR New Hotness and East Coast trips. This is going to be a work in progress for quite a while, but I think it's worth the effort to share some pictures and stories from an outstanding two weeks with TPR.
Day 0 -- Coney Island Cincinnati and Stricker's Grove (Page 1) Day 1 -- Kings Island (Page 3) Day 2 pt 1 -- Kentucky Kingdom (Page 4) Day 2 pt 2 -- Beech Bend (Page 6) Day 3 -- Holiday World (Page 7) Day 4 -- Indiana Beach (Page 8) Day 5 -- Six Flags Great America (Page 9) Day 6/7 -- Intermission (Page 11) / Hersheypark (Page 11) Day 8 -- Knoebels (Page 14) Day 9 -- Dorney Park (Page 16) Day 10 -- Six Flags Great Adventure (Page 18) Day 11 -- New York City (Page 20) Day 12 pt 1 -- Coney Island / Luna Park (Page 21) Day 12 pt 2/3 -- Scott's Pizza Tour / Top of the Rock (Page 21) Day 13 -- Epilogue (Page 21)
I took my first trip with TPR in 2013, and had an absolutely fantastic time. When the 2014 tours were announced, the close-to-home New Hotness tour was the best fit in my schedule. An east coast add-on was discussed, and eventually that evolved into a separate itinerary, which I also joined. I think there were about 15 people that did both legs of the trip. I was able to extend my vacation by another few days with my brother (who lives on Long Island), before flying back to Ohio after 17 days away from home.
My biggest motivation for this trip was the huge number of highly-rated coasters I'd never been on before. That list includes rides like Voyage, Skyrush, El Toro, Phoenix, Kingda Ka, Kentucky Rumbler, and two great new coasters in Banshee and Goliath. I hit coaster credit #200 on the trip, and made a total of 195 roller coaster rides (with 224 inversions). That's enough to make a lot of people dizzy, but not a TPR crew. There isn't much of anything that could keep this group from the marathon ERT sessions that defined the trip -- not rain, not fatigue, or even smoldering coaster track. True stories on all accounts, but you'll have to wait to hear the details!
Outside of riding coasters, fellow tour members likely never saw me without a camera around my neck. Fast-paced park visits can sometimes be a trade-off between rides and photography, but after four weeks with TPR, I think I've found the balance that fits me best. If I made one adjustment to my photography after last year's efforts, it was an attempt to focus a little more in getting TPR people in the shots, especially at the smaller parks where that was easier to do. So, a pre-emptive thanks to all the great people I shared the experience with in 2014. You're all going to show up in the trip report somewhere.
Day 0 (Part 1) -- Coney Island Cincinnati Thursday, July 24, 2014
Python -- Lunch -- Wipe Out Famous Fairways The Scream Machine Ferris Wheel
Just days after finishing the trip report for my 2013 excursion, I left home for another two weeks with TPR. The big difference for 2014? This trip started very close to home in southwest Ohio, and I was one of just a few TPR members who didn't need an airplane to get to the official meeting place.
To be more precise, the actual start of the 2014 trip was in northern Kentucky, the location of the airport serving the Cincinnati metro area. I stowed my car off-site, cringed at the two weeks' worth of parking fees I'd incur, and made my way to the airport arrivals area at around 11 AM. It was great to quickly meet up with several people I was on the 2013 tour with!
Although not everybody arrived early for our official add-on park, I'd say that about two-thirds of the group was present for our trip to Coney Island. Coney Island is a park with a lot of history for the Cincinnati area. It pre-dates Kings Island by almost a century, and acted as an ancestor for the park -- and its name. "The Coney Island of the West" was certainly a reference to the famous New York location, and combined with the name of the Kings Mills community in which the new park was built, Kings Island was born. Why build a new park 20 miles to the north? Coney Island is located on the banks of the Ohio River, in a location prone to significant flooding. For better or for worse, the Coney Island location could never have supported what Kings Island has become. Thankfully, both parks were able to survive, and Coney Island remains a popular spot for families in the Cincinnati area. Coney Island's defining characteristics are the Sunlite Pool (said to be one of the largest pools in the world) and Lake Como, a small pond with options for boating.
We arrived at Coney Island at 1230 PM, and immediately made our way toward the first credit of the trip, Python. I wouldn't call it a "mad dash" to the coaster -- I'm not sure anyone really knew how to get there from the entrance, but we eventually did find our way. Even though Python is small, it was my first coaster ride in months, and the first drop hit me with that jolt that all first rides tend to produce! After a cycle on Python, the TPR group split up to tackle some of the other attractions at the park. Some people were brave enough to try the Rock-O-Plane, while others enjoyed the trip's first round of drinks. I pity anyone who did both.
At 130 PM, we met up for lunch. We were served fried chicken and hot dogs. That last sentence is getting Ctrl-C'd and saved for future reference. If you were on the trip, you know why.
After lunch, I met up with Mark and Lisa, and we made our way through the rest of Coney Island. We were brave enough to try Wipe Out, competitive enough to face off in a game of Famous Fairways mini-golf (free with wristband), and sure enough of stomach to give the park's small drop tower a ride. The rest of our visit focused primarily on pictures, with some aerial views from the park's Ferris wheel, and a walk around the rest of the property.
Coney Island was a great start to the trip! Although I've lived in southwest Ohio for almost eight years, I'd never been there, and having a few hours with TPR for my first visit made it all the better. With the park's target audience in mind, I really don't see much to complain about at all. One thing I found interesting is that there's really no place to view the Ohio River from the main part of the park. There are good reasons for this, of course, and there's no way the park would ever build anything substantial close to the water. They're definitely trying to expand a little in the thrill department, adding Wipe Out in 2014 and a 360-degree pendulum in 2015. Perhaps the time may come when the park adds something tall enough to see over the trees, and grant a view of the entire river valley!
We departed Coney Island at 4 PM, just in time to head back to the airport to pick up the rest of the Mini New Hotness tour participants.
Python: The former Pepsi Python is a small D.P.V. coaster, very similar to a Pinfari Zyklon. This one runs two-car trains, but the second row in the back car has been built over. It rides about as well as one could expect, but it serves its purpose as a simple family coaster for a simple family park. I'm pretty sure no one was injured by it! See TPR's POV of Python here.
Wipe Out: I don't usually do rides like this, but I had to give it a shot! Wipe Out is a Moser Flipping Action Arm, with a ride cycle that boils down to randomly tossing riders around like rag dolls, in a washing machine, in a tornado. The ride experience was worth trying once, but once you've been through one spin cycle, your bruises will thank you for not going again. See TPR's video of Wipe Out here.
Scream Machine: A 50-foot Moser tower, this packed more punch than I was expecting! It ran a six-shot cycle, with slow lifts to the top, and quick jolts back down. It provided brief but very intense shots of air.
Ferris Wheel: It's a small wheel, but it moves fast and runs a long cycle -- 15 minutes in our case.
OK, like most TPR trips, this one begins at a set location. This time, the selected location was ... the U.S. center of population in 1880 ... uh, strange choice there. Or maybe it's the place behind the sign?
Oh, yeah, the airport.
Maybe some TPR people arriving on that plane right now!
Not that I'd have any way of knowing. Honestly.
OK, you're all welcome to make fun of me for posting airport pictures, and doubly make fun of me because it's an airport I didn't even fly into!
Lest I risk arrest, I did not cross the fence, choosing a TPR adventure instead of a Kentucky state prison system adventure.
So, here we are, back on the good side of the Ohio River at Coney Island!
...are the people from that Delta jet following me?
TPR scurries into the park, not exactly sure where the ex-Pepsi Python is located.
Oh, there it is. No bone injuries, please.
In line for the first coaster of the trip! Not first in line, mind you -- good luck beating out Ryan and Laura for that.
A new credit in the books, and a look at the other TPR members waiting to ride...
...and this is where the ride ops curse their favorite deity.
Let's take a closer look at Python! How was your ride, Mark?
Looks like it was great!
JC and Paul H approve as well.
A wider view of Python, which I guess is some sort of Pinfari SDC Zyklon DPV Galaxi knock-off or something like that.
Robb's ready to ride. Or so he thinks!
There's the drop. It gets you the first time.
Rounding third and heading for home.
Coney Island: Since 1886.
This is one of the main pedestrian gates into the park, though we came in from a parking lot on the opposite side.
More riders take the plunge on Python.
I've figured out what looks weird about rides like this -- it's the teeny-tiny track.
They sure are compact rides, though.
Take a look at the back car -- the second row of seats is gone. Never seen anything like that.
Python is fun for all ages.
Alright, I admit.
If the kid's having a good time, then the coaster's doing its job.
Now, what else is there to see at Coney Island?
Here's a look at one of the main midways. The park is heavily lined with trees and has a family picnic / small carnival feel.
If we had another 15 minutes, I would have picked up one of the orange swirl ice cream cones. Supposedly those are one of the park's signature items.
Several TPR members spent time over in this area.
Here's an interesting looking fountain, standing in front of the Moonlite Gardens building.
Moonlite Gardens is an open-air dance hall constructed in the 20s by PTC (yes, that PTC). It's available for rent for private parties and receptions.
Detail on the balcony.
Here's a time capsule, which was opened in 2011. Or was it?
Alongside Coney Island, here's another Cincinnati institution that was founded in the later 1800s.
A plaque for Ralph Wachs, who (along with his son Gary) had a role in both Coney Island and Kings Island.
Floral clocks are an automatic picture.
A mural for Coney Island. I think I waited almost five minutes for that person to move. Guess I could have asked.
Judging by the image of the Cincinnati skyline, it's a recent mural. Whoever made the Carew Tower bigger than the Great American building gets an A+ from me.
Time to check out a few more rides at the park. Every park needs a carousel, and Coney Island delivers.
Flying Bobs? Yup. I usually skip these.
Kid planes and a round-up, as seen from near Python.
It's a Tilt-A-Whirl with an interesting color scheme.
The park's bumper cars are very green and yellow.
They have an island in the middle, but looked pretty tame.
Don't be fooled into thinking the TPR members at the bottom of this picture are sane. They're standing in line for a Rock-O-Plane. I rest my case.
Here's one I actually rode -- the Moser drop tower, which was surprisingly fun. It looks like a giant frog hopper.
Oh. Wipe Out. Yeah, this one.
Sure, why not, let's give it a spin.
Because this looks comfortable.
Honestly, it wasn't that bad, but certainly once is enough!
This is more my style! I'll never willingly pass up a game of mini-golf, though time constraints forced me to skip a few later on the trip. Not a bad shot, Lisa.
Mark is concentrating heavily on sinking the putt.
Does this mean we all win?
Nope, it means I win. Ha ha ha. Full credit to Lisa for sinking the only hole-in-1, though! Close match, close match. Well done, friends.
Hey, is that a Ferris wheel?
Sure looks like it is!
Hey, did a TPR member on the trip who operates Ferris wheels have some interesting things to say about this one? So what! Let's ride!
Grab bar down, let's get this thing in the air.
Now we're flying. Enjoying the view, Lisa?
It's definitely a small wheel, but it moved pretty quick.
This is what happens when you look up.
I wasn't even contemplating it, but thanks for the warning.
So, if you read my 2013 trip report, you probably figured out I've got a thing for elevated views. Aerial photography. Beautiful vistas. Get used to it, there's plenty where that came from in store for this report!
Here's beautiful Lake Como, a very shallow man-made lake that dates to the late 1800s.
A view across to Kellogg Ave and I-275.
Canoes get the big part of the lake, and paddleboats get the small part.
Hey, is that Russ in Boat 12? I think it is!
Also residing in Lake Como: fish.
A look over to some of the kids rides at Coney Island.
Here's the best views I could get of the water park, which was easily as busy as the dry park, if not more so.
The Sunlite Pool is one of the world's biggest pools, according to Coney Island. I think they're referring to pools that aren't wave pools at big resorts or water parks, but I can't really substantiate that claim.
They do have a pretty big slide tower, as well as a few speed slides (not pictured). Our wristbands weren't good for water park admission, so we couldn't go in to get more pictures.
Don't look down! Actually, look down, 'cause after 15 minutes on this Ferris wheel I'm ready to get off.
This is either Spaceship Earth or EuroSat. Or Euro-Bungy. One of those.
The main park gate, which we didn't go through.
That decorative scaffolding is part of Riverbend Music Center, which is essentially co-located with Coney Island. Riverbend is the main large outdoor music venue for the Cincinnati area, with a capacity of around 20,000.
Oh, they have an old west town?
It's like I'm back at Silver Dollar City!
Looking across Lake Como toward the main entrance.
So, I mentioned the Ohio River in the trip report, which tends to flood every now and then. 1997 was one of the worst, and there are signs posted around the park indicating how high the water got. Let's put it this way -- when the Ohio River is where it's supposed to be, the ground at the park is about 30-35 feet higher than the water level. So, add that plus another few feet to reach the sign, and you can get an idea of how bad it was!
Ed Schott, the president of Coney Island, drew a 79-cent paycheck for helping some guy plan out another theme park. Probably a waste of time. Don't remember who. Would have helped if they named the company after him or something.
Had a great afternoon at Coney Island! Thanks for hosting us and kicking off the trip.
Day 0 (Part 2) -- Stricker's Grove Thursday, July 24, 2014
Teddy Bear Tornado Flying Scooters
We returned to the Cincinnati Northern Kentucky International Airport at 430 PM, picking up the rest of the group, and made an abrupt left turn at I-275. Initially expecting our welcome dinner to be somewhere near our hotel, I caught on immediately to our change in plans, knowing there was only one reason to take a detour to the other side of the city.
North of the dense Cincinnati suburban area, farmland takes over quickly, and I happily prepared to hear the reaction of the bus when two white-painted coasters rose above the seas of corn on the horizon. Stricker's Grove is a very small, privately-run park in Ross, Ohio. It's nestled between the Great Miami River, a cornfield, and an active shooting range. The park is famed not specifically for its rides, but for their elusiveness -- Sticker's Grove is open to the public only four days a year.
This was not one of those days.
Alas, palms can be greased, and Hail Marys can be purchased, or something along those lines. We politely and profitably crashed another group's party for an hour, picking up two big bragging-rights coaster credits, and throwing riders' milestone counts out-of-whack.
We arrived just after 5 PM, but the park wasn't ready to open for another hour. Once the rides were operating, I rode Teddy Bear and Tornado once each, then got some pictures of TPR in action on both coasters. Stricker's Grove also has an assortment of classic flat rides, and I had to take the opportunity to try their Flying Scooters. I'd never been on a set of Flying Scooters before, and needed a warm-up run before visiting the legendary version of the ride at Knoebels eight days later. With more time, I would have liked to play their mini-golf course. I am deeply disappointed, however, that I missed the half-mile train -- in fact, I didn't even know it was operating. Perhaps I'll have to return to Stricker's Grove sooner or later -- Tornado's worth another few rides too.
Teddy Bear: It's a junior woodie with no big surprises. It's very similar to Little Dipper at SFGAm and Meteor at Little Amerricka.
Tornado: Tornado was a pleasant surprise. It's not that much bigger than Teddy Bear, and the ride experience was somewhere between that of a full-size woodie and its adjacent smaller sibling. If it's indeed a pseudo-clone of Comet from Rocky Glen, its height is about 55 feet. Tornado's third leg includes a very nice pop of air for those in the back of the train! Here's the TPR POV of Tornado.
Flying Scooters: Slower than most, but perfectly acceptable to the kids and families at the park. They worked great as a set of training wheels for me.
Welcome to the home of the Hamilton County 4-H Community Fair!
That's not what we're here for, though, is it?
Oh, that's what we're here for. Teddy Bear in blue and white, and Tornado in red and white.
Bored with a zoom lens while we wait for the park to open.
Anyone want some grease?
This wheel looks pretty similar to the one we just rode at Coney Island.
Kiddie rides with those jewel-looking lights are a disappearing piece of nostalgia.
Just about time to open, so here's a view of the north end of the midway.
Let's start off on Teddy Bear, easily the most harmless coaster name in history. Just a short line up to the station platform.
A huge congrats to Nathan for picking up coaster credit #100 on the most adorable coaster with the most adorable logo ever!
This is the part where all the adults take over the kiddie woodie and act like it's I305.
Up the lift...
...and away we go.
No idea how I got this one in focus.
Coming up on the run back into the station.
Elissa and KT approve!
Ryan and Laura approve! Paul S too, he's back there somewhere.
This may be the best front-of-train graphic in the history of coastering.
Another train of picnic attendees crests Teddy Bear.
The front row kids look pretty focused...
...but my favorite is the kid in the Slipknot shirt.
Next up, a coaster I was made for.
Yes, a meteorologist on a coaster named Tornado. It's a match made in ... the favorite final resting place of the folks whose party we crashed!
Tornado has some height to it, at least compared with the rest of the rides at Stricker's Grove.
I like the paint scheme on both coasters -- simple but very effective. They remind me of American Eagle at SFGAm, at least if that structurally-dubious coaster had gone through a lick of upkeep since the day it opened.
Hands up, Zach!
Much better, red train.
This coaster needs an awesome graphic for the front of the train also.
So we're riding and having a good time and start hearing noises. What's that cracking and popping off in the background?
Turns out Stricker's Grove is located adjacent to an active gun range. This is just awesome.
2013's TPR US tour visited a park next to a cemetery. 2014's tour visits a park next to a gun range. Did we do that out of order?
Silhouettes in disguise.
Awesome rides on Tornado and Teddy Bear, and full credit for the rolling stock -- bench seats and buzz bars!
I didn't do a full photo set on the rest of the park, and I'm still mad I missed the train, but here's a few other pictures.
Joe's working the flyers.
TJ also. Glad I got to try this set of flyers as a warm-up for the big day on the second leg of the trip.
It doesn't look like much, but the majority of the park is in this picture. It's a small place, but tightly packed, and with plenty to do for a large paying group.
There's a scrambler, because of course there's a scrambler.
There's a pirate ship, sans the "e" as is customary for this type of ride.
Also, a carousel, with a nice brick enclosure.
Stricker's Grove is a cute little park. I wish I'd done more in the short time I was there, but if I want to head back on an open day some time in the future, it's less than an hour away.
Day 0 Epilogue
After departing Stricker's Grove at 7 PM, we scooted east to the real welcome dinner at a Carrabba's a few miles south of Kings Island. I'd never been in this restaurant before, but it's in an area I visit several times a month, including the weekend just before the tour began. It was almost like having TPR invade my own personal space. Watch, next they'll take over my local park with some sort of giant bash themed to a huge purple roller coaster or something.
We had one coaster event left to tackle before heading to the hotel. With all 40-50 of us sitting in the bus and ready to hear the news together, Holiday World was set to announce their big 2015 addition -- and the end of their #66DaysOfTorture social media campaign. Well done, Paula. How effective was the campaign? The finest gathering of coaster nerds on the planet was sitting in a Carrabba's parking lot, glued to smart phones and waiting for the reveal.
I can still hear the words.
"It's a launched wing rider."
Like we were expecting a GeForce clone. Hey, they got the color!
Minutes later, another B&M appeared in our view -- this one off to the right of the bus. Flying past Banshee on I-71, we turned in for our first night of the trip at 10 PM. Welcome packets were given out, rules were dispersed and taken to heart accordingly, and a few brave souls may have even ventured to Waffle House. Thus began the Mini New Hotness trip, sometimes referred to by several other names, but known best for being the most awesome form of sleep deprivation money can buy.
Yay, Andy's photo TR! I plan on making a few cameos. The Rock-O-Plane at Coney was "great." I just needed some rolaids after. Also it's too bad you missed the train at Sticker's Grove, because there was an incredibly life-like hippo. I thought I had been transported to Africa.
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