Journey 6: Carowinds AKA The Fury-ous Storm
2018 was my fourth year working as a Valleyfair ride operator. Part of the reason for wanting that job was the opportunity to visit other Cedar Fair parks for free. Heading into the year, I'd visited 0 other parks in the chain. I wanted that to change. Since you've read the title of this report, you know it's Carowinds. Or, if you're one of the people that skipped over it, now you know it's Carowinds.
I tried to get my father to come with me on the trip to split hotel costs, but he declined on the basis that he couldn't take the time off work. This became sadly ironic as he was forced into retirement due to health concerns.
A week out, I kept my eye on the weather. Lots of rain and thunder during the trip. Joyous. My flight from MSP was delayed 2 hours. I thought it was due to weather, but another flight to Charlotte on another airline was on time. Scuttlebutt I heard said there was unexpected maintenance with the plane. Go figure.
Anyways, I land in Charlotte at the tail end of a storm. Checked the park's socials, seemed to be open yet. I got a ride to my hotel (the Comfort Inn across from the park), all the while watching for the slightest glimpse of the park. Of course, the first thing I saw was Fury. This was happening.
I quickly checked in, dropped off my bags, and headed out, hoping to still get a couple rides in that night.
Looks like the park's still operating!
Sweet Baby Jesus, Hallelujah!
The parking lot is mostly empty. Rain drove everyone away.
At approximately 7:30pm, the park was scheduled to be open until 10. Hopefully it will stay open until then.
As soon as I flashed my Cedar Fair employee ID at the gates, I stopped taking pictures. Large wall of text incoming, but I don't care. It was time to get serious.
After debating whether to take everyone's advice and riding Intimidator before Fury, and doing the obvious thing, I made my way through the nonexistent crowds to the back row of Intimidator. I was fully prepared to be bored to death as everyone said I would be, but something weird happened. The ride was a lot of fun! A lot of good floater airtime and I didn't feel any trims. Has the internet lied to me? What else isn't real? I stayed on to get a reride to make sure I hadn't just imagined it. Nope, this ride is good.
With that out of the way, it was time for the main event. The reason I wanted to come down here in the first place. I was greeted with a walk-on in the back row. Soon after I sat down, we were on our way. Ascent. Peak. Descent. Oblivion. Bliss. By the time I was aware of the awesomeness that had just happened, I was halfway up the lift again. After the second ride, as much as I wanted an immediate 3rd lap, I couldn't take the risk that the park would close due to weather.
The first post-Fury stop was the Drop Tower. I don't remember too much of it as I was still riding my Fury high. But I rode it. Moving on, I hit up Carolina Cyclone. It was neither good nor bad. It was just another coaster in the park. Not much else to say about it. I then got a zen
ride on Vortex. I cancelled out the "zen" as can a ride on a stand-up be considered zen? Maybe I'd like it better if it was floorless? Who knows.
The longest wait I had of the night was on another walk-on. Although it had nothing to do with how the crew was as the crew was very excellent on Carolina Goldrusher. Those poor ride operators having to deal with those manually locking/unlocking Arrow trains. And then the ride was riddled with your classic coathangers. The crew was hustling, but they could only do so much with those trains.
The Flying Cobras crew didn't even want to acknowledge me when I entered the station. As for the ride, it was a boomerang. We all know how those are. Though this was my first time riding one with the new style of trains. Still sucks. After a quick ghost hunt on Boo Blasters, I got a double back row ride on Afterburn. Switching sides of the train in between cycles. Throughout the trip, the ride only ran one train, which slowed down dispatches. But the wait was worth it. A very intense coaster from an era where parks let B&M let loose with the intensity. Twas a glorious day, indeed.
Passing a closed (shocker) Windseeker, I walked through an empty queue into the empty station of Nighthawk, onto the front row of the next train. Hoo boy. I was expecting this to have a long-A$$ wait no matter when I tried to ride it. Good thing, as I wouldn't wait long for pain. At least, I thought there would be pain. It was fun. I really enjoyed it. It was great to fly. And y'all are wussies.
Since it was on the way to Fury and I still had some time left before park closing, I had to see if my earlier Intimidator rides were a fluke and everyone was right all along. A ride in the front row confirmed my findings. This ride is fun and y'all are snobs. Hypothesis confirmed, I spent the rest of the night getting 3 consecutive rides in the front 2 rows of Fury, including the last dispatch of the night.
It was a great first day at Carowinds, even if it only lasted 2 and a half hours. But it was time to go to bed and rest up for what I hoped for was a full day of Fury.
Around noon, I began my way into the park through the waterpark entrance. It was a good way to get another view of the park.
Afterburn is such a pretty coaster to photograph.
You can get some great shots over here.
The first thing I wanted to do was the Top Scan as it was one of the things I missed the night before. I was loaded into an arm and the ride was about to start when it went down for maintenance.
. On a side note, do all Top Scan arms need to be manually, individually locked? That sucks if it's so.
Since I couldn't get Top Scanned, I love me a good Troika.
After the troika, I had to head back to Fury.
After another mini-marathon on Fury, I had to leave to ride what I had yet to ride in the park. Beginning with Hurler. Another ride I was expecting to hate based on the fact that Twisted Timbers exists, and my fears were nearly confirmed on that turn out of the station. How is that turn so rough but the rest of the ride is decent enough? The ride wasn't painful by any means (outside that first turn), but I definitely think it could be retracked, but it doesn't have to be RMC'd.
Feeling hungry by this point, I made my way to the employee cafeteria. Cedar Fair employee perks, yo! It's the same stuff that you find in the park for actually reasonable prices. I also got talking with some native ride ops, swapping stories and talking about general ride op things.
My first stop after lunch was the Mack mouse. Get the park a mouse trap. The ride was so heavily trimmed and I got gut-punched by the lap bar a few times. Also, was the ride's exit designed by the same
-hole that designed SFGAm's American Eagle's entrance? Cause that thing sucked. I got another quick ride on Fury and Intimidator on the way into Planet Snoopy for the kiddy credits.
The Kiddy woody was a fun little coaster. Good for budding enthusiasts. I was dared to ride the kiddy steel behind the woody by one of the ops I met at lunch to mess with the op. I shouldn't have taken the dare. A cramped coaster for an adult male, but could be fun for smaller people. I then stopped at an interesting looking flat that Worlds of Fun and Canada's Wonderland recently added, Peanuts Pirates. Another cramped ride that threw me into the side of the ride at every chance it could get. And it was a long cycle, so there was no reprieve.
So after that suckage, I moved onto a different piece of suckage.
This would be so much better with the lap bar trains. Why did Vekoma think those OTSRs would be good for kids? Also of note, the ride's auto spiel still proclaimed the ride as a previous name, which me and an op got a good chuckle out of.
By this time, the clouds were starting to look ominous. It was also almost time for a show I wanted to see. Since it was near Boo Blasters, I figured why not ride it again.
That's why not.
After the show, the rain had started, but not everything had closed yet. But I still wanted to head into Harmony Hall for another show.
I ducked into Harmony Hall to catch the show just as the rain really started. I saw the show, and when it was done, the rain had paused, but there was still lightning in the area. Taking advantage of no rain, I decided to go out and photograph the park.
It's shots like these that make me wish the park was cycling. I got so many shots that I wish I had a train in.
Since I visited the park before Copperhead Strike was even announced, I decided to sneak a peek through the construction fences to see what I could see.
And now begins the part of the report where I just dump Afterburn pictures.
After my Afterburn photo shoot, I meandered back to a couple shops at the front of the park to pick up my hats for the park and a Fury Nanocoaster (still in the box
) when I heard a familiar sound: a B&M lift hill. Spirits lifting, I hoped that the park would be reopening. But, it was announced that the park would be closing in 10 minutes. They were just cycling the train off the track.
After I got this picture, I locked my camera back in a ziploc bag. It's a good thing I did as not 5 minutes later, the skies completely opened up. It wasn't raining just cats and dogs; it was raining the whole damn zoo.
After a soggy walk back to the hotel, I really wanted a hot bath. That turned out to not be the best idea as I realized I had neglected to purchase sunscreen. Not 24 hours in the south and I'd already become a redneck.
Day 3 began with me deciding to leave my still-soggy shoes in the hotel in favor of my sandals which I'd broken in since my Animal Kingdom visit. Which would especially help if it stormed like it did the previous night.
I got all my rides on the skytower this day. I love a good observation tower. You can get some good pics from up here.
I hate how blurry this picture is, but it's the only one I have of Hurler and the mouse.
I finally got on the Top Scan today on the outside of an arm. This was the first time I've ridden one and I immediately fell in love. While I initially held my hands rigid in the air, I decided to let myself go limp. There's just something fun about being tossed around like a Raggedy Ann doll.
I also got my only ride on Windseeker this day. For whatever reason, this thing scared me. Maybe it's the problems these things have had and how much I'd rather not be stuck on the ride during a storm and get Kentucky Fried on this 300' lightning rod. Maybe it's because I never felt secure in the seat. And this is coming from a Funtime Starflyer operator. But on the initial ascent, I found it amusing that the ride's soundtrack included a Star Trek theme.
With clouds beginning to roll in, I realized that I had to get my last rides in on Intimidator and Fury. One of my last rides on Fury, it had started to rain as we were dispatched. Rain at 93 mph is painful. Ouchie.
One of the things I still wanted to do but had yet to do because of scheduling, was the Cirque show. So after the rain ride on Fury, I caught a show. Though afterwards, I realized I hadn't taken any pictures of the show.
At least I got pictures with the cast. And I intended to catch another show for the purpose of photography.
After the show I got my last ride on Fury. And then the park went down for lightning. Disappointed, I made my way back to Harmony Hall to wait out the storm. Though I was shocked to see the Enterprise still cycling. The pouring rain convinced me to stay at Harmony Hall and miss the Cirque show repeat. If it was allowed to perform at all as soon after, the park again announced they were closing early. Damn it.
Sadly, I left the park for the last time since I didn't have enough time before my flight/there were more storms forecasted in the morning.
As I was driven away, I kept the park in my sights as long as I could. Because like Spider-Man and the Doctor, I didn't want to go. But go I had to.
I also considered a NIghthawk hat because I liked the design. Sue me.