Part 2: The Grizzly Bites!
While on our way into Ashland on Friday night we couldn't help but notice the conveniently placed Waffle House a short walk from the Days Inn we were staying at. We quickly agreed it would be our breakfast in the morning. The alarm went off and while I had gotten about 5 hours of decent sleep save for being woken up at almost 4am to the sound of a downpour impersonating a freight train, I had no trouble at all getting up and out of bed for an anticipated first visit to this park. I briefly called the missus to check in and let her know we had made it down fine, and I hopped in the shower. We agreed to a 9am meeting for Waffle House deliciousness. I love these places because they are all business - seated quickly, orders taken, food out fast and hot.
We aimed to arrive at the park at 10, and showed up right on time. We were still getting morning drizzle and lots of fog. Made for a very cool scene upon arrival, barely being able to see the tops of I305, Drop Tower, Windseeker, and the Eiffel Tower.
Getting into the park was quick and easy, with little wait at the gates. I was directed by the attendant at the gate towards a few places directly inside where I could stop to redeem my pre-purchased Fast Lane+, when Bill decided to grab them for himself and Brit. It definitely didn't feel busy, but again, even if the crowds wound up being lighter, we could use it for things that would undoubtedly have longer waits, like Volcano and probably Delirium. The weather was supposed to turn, so we expected it to be at least mildly busy.
We admired the parks Haunt decorations while we walked down International Street, and I was struck at how large the fountains are. They looked really awesome. The area was still quiet, and we all had a good chuckle at a supervisor yelling at her subordinate "Guuurrrl... you need to be up front guest relatin'!!!
Since we had fast lane, we threw out the golden rule at this park of running straight to Volcano, and cut a left toward Dominator instead. First ride of the trip.
It looks enormous as you approach it and having to walk right under the drop and loop only amplifies that. We found a line already steadily building in the standby queue, and spotted the FL entrance, and headed up the steps and right into the station. We had a one train wait for the back row. Bill directed me to the far left seat.
Holy sh*t this thing rips!!! I've been a huge champion of Bizarro at my home park as far as floorless B&Ms but with one lap on this thing Bizarro was quickly dethroned. The yank down the drop is fantastic, nice drawn out hang time through the massive vertical loop, but my favorite part might have been the two high speed turns that follow. It really flies through them, so much that I was then referring to it as the "worlds only floorless/hyper".
Another great section is the sustained floater air off the midcourse, after which it hauls through the remainder of the course. I really enjoyed the hell out of this coaster. I knew going in people ranked it highly (Bill spoke especially high of it) but what a surprise!
Moving on we cut around Woodstock Express, skipping it for later. We thought we'd check out the scene at Volcano, but it had yet to open and had already developed a decent line stretching from its entrance almost over to The Crypt. We watched that run for a minute and moved on to try to hit Flight of Fear and Intimidator.
We were warned and aware of the fact that Flight of Fear would close in the evening since they use it queue for a Haunt trail, but upon approaching it we noticed the entrance was closed off with a handful of employees milling about. I figured I'd ask if they knew when it was going to open and of course they gave me a canned response more or less saying they didn't know.
Well, Intimidator is right next door, and it was running, and had no wait in the standby queue at all. We decided that for my first ride since it was dead I should do the front since I knew as a backseat rider I'd wind up doing that a bunch later, not to mention the Fast Lane entrance dumps you right into the back row, so why not take advantage of the early quiet. We waited maybe 3-4 trains for the front.
I had hyped this ride up so much in my head and here we are about to board, watching each train go tearing out of the station and up the lift to the repeated cry I am so familiar with from POVs "Gentleman!!! Start your engines!!!!
" I was feeling truly intimidated - the first time before a ride since maybe Skyrush or Dragster.
Simultaneously excited and nervous, and I rarely find myself afraid of any rides anymore. It's a good feeling to have again - the anticipation and adrenaline. Bill sat with me in the front with Brit waiting in row 2 for us to catch up to her as hers and most of the other rows were empty.
By now the rain had mostly stopped, though it was still gray and foggy, and before long we were seated, checked and up we went... into a light drizzle. First ride on this beast and it's freaking raining. Nothing we could do at this point but grin and bear it. Thanks to its cable lift we were at the top and hanging over the massive first drop in seconds, and within a flash we were back on the ground, doing 90mph around that first turn, the rain like tiny little pins being shot into my face and hands. Almost hard to keep my eyes open. Hurts, but oh so good. The first ride was incredible but happened so quickly the first thing I said up when we hit the brakes was "Can we do it again? I gotta ride the back!!
So around we went for another lap, which turned into another. Instant love affair. It is less of a fun
ride and definitely more of an endurance challenge as even with the soft shoulder restraints you are thrown around the transitions like a ragdoll. The airtime down the incredibly steep drop - even in the front row, is insane. Butt off of your seat the entire way down. In the back of the train its almost unspeakable. While the first of the twists is easily the craziest of them all, the very last twist right before the camera is almost equally intense and caught me off guard my first few rides. I thought it was hilarious they put the camera right there since I could tell when we passed the photo booth I wasn't the only one who was.
After a few laps I found myself saying to Bill and Brit "I honestly can't believe this exists. I can't believe they actually built it.
" Its absolutely a world class ride that I recommend anyone into coasters to check out. It's only my second giga after Millennium Force, and whomever said its like taking Millenniums drop and putting Maverick on the back of it was 100% right. While I could have comfortably stayed at this ride for the remainder of the day we still had a huge park to check out, not to mention Bill had a flume to ride! We decided to head back toward Volcano when we discovered it was still closed with an even longer line, so we hit up Avalanche instead.
I haven't ridden any sort of bobsled coaster since Sarajevo Bobsleds at Great Adventure when I was a really little kid and I don't even really remember it, so I was looking forward to this ride. We had a 1-2 train wait and Bill and Britt let me go for the front car.
This ride definitely did not disappoint. It's nothing to rave about but some nice speedy parts mixed in with some mild sections. It felt worn in yet well taken care of and I love that this park still has a ride like this.
Passing Volcano again we found it was still closed, and still about 100 people lined up at the entrance. We'd already worked up a bit of an appetite and it was noon and at that point I don't feel like as much of a alcoholic ordering a beer.
I needed to redeem my dining pass and checking the park map I saw the nearby Outer Hanks, which has menu items like fish+chips, hush puppies (yum!), chicken fingers, fries etc, was a spot that I could do it at and had beer and wine. It was pretty empty upon arrival so I got set up with my dining wristband while Bill and Brit ordered some food & drinks. When I then attempted to order a beer from the same girl, she carded me and wouldn't accept my state issued I.D. Now, its not a drivers license, and I have had this problem once or twice before (always out of state), but this was super annoying. She tried to come with some "It's Virginia law that we don't accept non-drivers license - must be a passport or drivers license
." She had other employees and a supervisor come out and they all said the same thing. Ugh. Frustrated, I gave up and ordered food from another employee, hoping this wouldn't be an issue all over the park. I got the fish+chips and when I went to scan my dining pass wristband, it wouldnt work. WTF. After calling over the supervisor and a bit of back and forth, they were able to get it working. At this point Bill realized he was able to order two beers at once so he grabbed one for me while I took my food outside. I was happy to wait less than 2 minutes for my food to come out, and it was actually pretty good I have to admit. And I got my damn beer.
After we sat for a while talking, eating, drinking and people watching, we decided to give Volcano one more shot before we headed elsewhere in the park. It still had the same line though now they were testing it. We posted up at the deserted fast land entrance and watched at first empty trains run the course, before a few launched with employees on them.
A supervisor passed us and we asked nicely for an update when she told us it would be just a few minutes. Then we saw the standby queue open up and people started heading inside. No one was manning the fast lane entrance so we just walked up when an employee noticed us and checked our wristbands before opening the rest of our queue. We beat most of the standby line to get up to an almost empty station.
Bill and I ran for front row, with Brit behind us in row 2. The first train of the day with riders dispatched, with us next up. It disappeared down the launch track, and within 5 seconds the operator got on the mic to declare that "Volcano is having technical difficulties and will be closed indefinitely... you can leave the ride but you will lose your spot... blah blah blah
". Wondering what the hell was going on we then witnessed the crew all heading into the launch track and maintenance showed up. The damn train rolled back. Can we catch a break with this thing?
I have to give credit where credit is due - the crew hustled and got the passengers off the train quickly and relaunched that train successfully. They sent two more empties. Success. We then had to wait for a handful of guests that were on the train that rolled back to jump on for a ride. They were now only loading the first few rows so we wound up having to wait another 2-3 trains. Thankfully, no more rollbacks, and finally we boarded and off we went.
Love this ride!!! I am an Intamin junkie as I love just about every ride I've ever been on by them. They almost always manage to impress me so when I know I get to ride a new-to-me Intamin, especially one as unique as this, I look forward to it. And it did not disappoint. Those launches have some nice kick, especially the second one. Video does not do it justice. Killer Gs going up into that first inversion, and some awesome hangtime on the barrel rolls. Love the drop back down into the volcano at the end. Just an all around great ride, exceeded all expectations. Now that we got my Volcano credit, I asked if we could stop back at I305 for a few laps before heading to the other side of the park. I could really ride this thing all day. The park has a really impressive one-two punch in these Intamin coasters, I don't give a sh*t what the haters say.
On our way out of this area we stopped at Anaconda but since its not on FL, we headed up the standby queue. Bill had pointed out that it was only running one train and when we reached the end of the line he groaned how the wait would be a while. I was not in a hurry to ride this so we went to Backlot Stunt Coaster instead.
Being a family coaster this had a nice long line but we had about a 10 minute wait including in the station. He raved about these coasters and I thought they looked like fun. We sat a few rows back from the front. The launches have some nice punch to them and that first helix is pretty forceful. None of the effects seemed to be working but I wouldn't have noticed, and still had a good time on this coaster.
Around the corner we walked and came upon Drop Tower. They really put some thought into the name, didn't they? Another Intamin ride I was looking forward to. With FL we waited another 10 minutes for this, not too bad. My only issue was the restraint was really tight for me, but I'm a fatass so wasn't a total surprise. Had to happen sooner or later today. I still managed, and thought it was definitely a solid drop tower with some decent airtime and great views from the top.
Bill had a flume boner by now so to Shenandoah Lumber Company we trekked. The temperature had warmed up a good bit by now, with the sun peaking out of the cloud cover so I was up for a little water ride. We boarded immediately through the FL queue, Bill and Brit up front, me in the rear, and all noticed our log tilting to one side.
As I learned in Wildwood over the summer, Brit does not like when Bill and I rock the boats back and forth, which of course only encourages us to do it, and she was convinced we were responsible for tilting to the one side. No, we just had a hole in our log which became apparent as the bottom filled up with water immediately. On the first minuscule drop off the first lift we got hit with a tidal wave of water and the two of them got drenched. I got sprinkled but was mostly spared.
We made our way around to the second lift and when the log tilted backwards as we ascended, all the water inside splashed to the back and went all up my back. Now I was soaked too.
Down the final drop we all got completely drowned. Shoes, socks, everything. Soused. Thank god it was warm and sunny now, if it stayed cool and cloudy I would have been miserable.
What better way to dry off? Flyers! I love a good set of flyers and this would be my first set of the non-Larson variety.
Encouragingly we saw some snapping going on as we waited in the very brief FL queue, and the operator seemed to be allowing it. These were a lot of fun and run a really good longer cycle. All three of us had some minor success in snapping and had a great time.
Time flies when you are having fun because it was now after 3pm already! Before heading out of this area I insisted we ride Grizzly. That's important to remember: I
insisted we ride Grizzly. Out of the four woodies here I was looking forward to Grizzly as it seems to get good reviews for being older and I love a good fast ride through the woods. I'm not sure why they have the entrance hidden behind a gift shop but the station was dead and we had no wait at all. We boarded the back of the train, me on the left side of the train, in front of Bill and Britt. As we headed up the lift, excited, I said how I really wanted to come back at night and ride it in the dark. Bill agreed we should. Unfortunately that wouldn't happen because of what occurred next.
I broke one of my golden rules of coastering: riding hands up on my first lap of an unfamiliar wooden coaster. So dumb. The first drop was great. Nice yank to it and great airtime in the back of the train. We hit the first turnaround and down the second drop. Spotting an airtime hill coming I went hands up again and just at the top, the train banked to right and my body flew to the left into the side of the train when I heard a CRACK
and was suddenly in excruciating pain. I spent the rest of the ride hunched over holding my left side with my right hand and bracing myself with my left as each airtime hill or turn we hit caused me even more pain. "This ride officially sucks
" I thought. When we hit the brakes I said to Bill and Brit "pretty sure I just cracked my rib
We got off and I wondered how the rest of this whirlwind weekend was going to go. Should I even ride anything anymore? Do I go to medical/first aid? This suuuuuuccccks. We all whipped out our phones and looked up rib injuries and there's not a whole lot you can do. Seems most doctors would have wrapped me and told me to take it easy. Based on what we read I checked to see if I had any problems breathing (I didn't, but it wasn't exactly pain free if I took a full breath either), if I could twist back and forth (I could, easily, with little pain). The crack
sound I heard convinced me I fractured my rib but sitting here almost pain free 6 days later with no medical attention I can say that its not. But I bruised the bloody hell out of it. It's still a *tiny* bit sore.
Not only in pain I was now struggling with the reality I might not be able to ride anything and not only did we have a full day planned here but also a visit to Busch Gardens in the morning. I had so much more I wanted to do and I certainly didn't want to ruin Bill and Brit's weekend getaway. Trying to soldier on and not be a Debbie Downer I quickly agreed with their suggestion to take a break and eat something. I wasn't even particularly hungry at this point, I just needed to sit and figure out what I was going to do.
We spotted the nearby Country Kitchen and I checked to make sure it was on the dining plan, and it was. We got huge heaping portions of food here - I got a pulled pork sandwich that had enough meat on it for two - I regret not taking a picture of it but I noticed at this point my phone had hardly a charge so I was avoiding using it except to text the missus that I might not be reachable and that I was hurt but alive. I sent her Bills number in case she needed me after my phone died. I picked at my food for a while - it was good, I just didn't have an appetite thanks to my throbbing ribs - and made the decision to try to keep riding. What else was I going to do? Sit on the sidelines and watch my friends have fun? Nope. Not me...
Stay tuned for Part 3!