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The Great Zo

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  1. Friday, July 12, 2019 Day 1: Stormed in Maastricht, Screwed in Belgium What better to do upon arrival in Europe, having just lost 6 hours on an overnight time change, and exhausted anyway coming off a set of midnight shifts? How about renting a car and immediately driving two hours south on an unfamiliar road system in bad weather? The first day of travel brought me to Limburg, the southeastern-most of the 12 provinces of the Netherlands. I visited the provincial capital of Maastricht, before turning my attention to some Dutch and Belgian geographic points of interest. It quickly became one of the weirdest travel days I've experienced, but I'll let the photo captions tell the story. The first thing I see upon looking out the window above European waters is what I'm just going to assume is some kind of pirate vessel overtaking a larger ship. At least that's the version in my head. The Dutch shoreline awaits. Roads I'd soon be driving on. On the ground at Schiphol. Oh, we'd grow to hate Schiphol by the end of the trip, but at this early stage it was still on my good side. Heck, when I won the lottery and got selected for a secondary luggage screening by the Dutch police or whoever, they were at least polite as they looked through my stuff to make sure I wasn't doing anything suspicious. (I'm 2 for 2 on getting doubly-screened upon arrival in Europe...) The car rental process was a little more complicated than I'm used to in the states, and I found it beneficial to do two things. 1) Go through a third party -- I used AutoEurope. 2) Pay for all the insurance stuff up-front, so they don't try to hose you down at the counter. In the US, you can get away with just declining everything, but that's a riskier proposition overseas. Here's my ride for the next 5 days -- an Audi Q2. Getting on the Dutch freeways and driving off felt kind of strange at first, but I got used to it fairly quickly. I prefer self-navigating while driving in the states, but I learned to trust the on-board navigation system here. I arrived in Maastricht! ...and I was immediately doused in a thunderstorm. Oh, how fitting. So, while the lightning struck outside, I took refuge inside of With Love Burrito -- a Chipotle-ish spot on the city's main square. I have no idea if this is normal for The Netherlands, but I ordered a medium spice level, and it was too hot to finish. Ouch. ...and the rest of the spice levels and sauce names are too funny not to share. This was a cool scene -- a gigantic old Dominican church has been de-religioned and turned into a bookstore (Selexyz Dominicanen). Enjoy the architecture while browsing for a novel, or having a drink at the cafe. It's a neat way to re-purpose a cool building. A stage was set up for a concert, soon to be performed, by the famed André Rieu. He's clearly a really big deal in Maastricht. On the city's walk of fame is this guy. Yes, this guy. Apparently, he even appears on stage with André Rieu sometimes! And if you're reading this and you're too young to remember Mambo No. 5, bless your heart. Trying not to lose sight of the fact that I've been roaming Europe for all of a few hours, and just soaking in the different scenery. One thing you learn quickly about cities in Europe -- the churches often have tall towers, and those towers are frequently accessible to the public. See the big red one? That's Sint-Janskerk, and the tower is open. To get to the top, you have to climb a 200+ step spiral staircase, and it's ridiculously steep and narrow. About halfway up is a small art gallery. I think this is Simba? At the top of Sint-Janskerk. The passageways at the top are narrow and fenced, but with cut-out holes big enough to fit a camera lens. Some views over Maastricht. The stage is about set for André Rieu. Something kind of hypnotic about this picture of the seating area -- and yes, every attendee gets what I presume is an André Rieu-branded bottle of water. More views over the city. Maastricht is about as far south as you can go in the Netherlands, and it's certainly the furthest south of the country's larger cities. It's got its fair share of old architecture, but there's some new to go along with it. Cobblestone streets are common in Europe. They look great, though they're a bit tricky to walk on at times. This is De Bisschopsmolen! A water mill that has been operational since the middle ages. It makes me think of the Frontier Trail at Cedar Point. More old stuff -- walls and fortifications on the south end of the city. Another view in Maastricht. Lots of Dutch cities have extravagant gates on the edges, such as the Helpoort here, which dates to 1229. Cannons and stuff. Maastricht is on the Meuse River. It's cloudy and ugly outside -- which, to be honest, is going to be kind of a theme of the first 5 days of this trip. I got rained on three times in Maastricht, all in the span of about two hours. But, with more thunderstorms coming in, I tried to pick up the pace a bit. Another view over the Meuse. A symmetrical shot of a bridge on the Meuse. Kind of impressed by whoever got the graffiti at the top of the bridge. Another old portal/gate thing on the edge of the river. Cafes and restaurants, not doing much outside business thanks to the weather. It's very common to see boats passing by with the owners' cars on top of them. That's not something I really see in the US. More passing boats in Maastricht. This is a cool arch bridge. This is a cool statue thing. Looking north on the Meuse, a view of a different side of Maastricht. Before I departed Maastricht, I made my first grocery store visit, and found myself in Stroopwafel heaven. ...and on my way out of the parking garage, it's absolutely pouring yet again, extending the dampness of my day a little longer. As the storm began to break, I made my next stop at an interesting geographic two-for-one. These flags represent the countries of The Netherlands, Belgium, and Germany -- which all come together at the furthest southeast point in The Netherlands. The observation tower in the background was closed, but the real purpose for my visit was right in front of me. This monument marks Vaalserberg, the highest point in the mainland Netherlands, and the highest point in the province of Limburg, at about 322 meters above sea level. Credit granted for Netherlands Provincial Highpoint #1! It's not /technically/ the highest point in all of The Netherlands, thanks to some of their islands in the Caribbean. (the dirty little secret is that the actual high point is down this path a ways, but who's paying that much attention?) Oh, and there's a distant view of one of those storms that got me earlier. The second point of geographic interest is this monument, which marks the exact triple point between Belgium, Germany, and The Netherlands. So, that brings me to a total of three countries visited so far in Europe. From there, I drove south into Belgium, and that's when things started to go awry... I arrived at my next stop, in a remote area of eastern Belgium, a long ways from anywhere. This place is called Signal de Botrange. Signal de Botrange is the highest point in all of Belgium, at about 694 meters above sea level. My first legit national high point. See the little hill behind the stone marker? Apparently, Belgium was embarrassed that their high point reached "only" 694 meters. So, they built a hill and a staircase... ...and called it 700. That's cheating. You can't do that. A view from the high point. See my little white vehicle? Yeah, it's disabled. We've got some problems. About a minute or so before I arrived at Signal de Botrange, my tire pressure light came on. I pulled into the lot, realizing that it was past 7PM and I was about a million miles from anywhere. I was hoping I'd find that the tire was just a little low. No such luck. I got out of the car and immediately heard an audible hissing sound coming from the left front tire. It didn't take me long to find the reason -- a screw had punctured the tread, and it was losing air fast. I didn't really have much of a choice but to call the rental company to get their roadside assistance -- which first required me learning how to dial a phone number in Belgium. My phone data wasn't working great, but I was able to use my hiking GPS to give the guy on the phone my exact location. From there, I had to wait about 90 minutes for help to arrive. An older Belgian gentleman pulled in with his bright yellow service truck, and it was clear he knew very little English, and I knew very little of any of the languages spoken in this corner of Belgium. Oh, but he knew one English phrase. I showed him the tire, and his immediate response was "OH S***!" I was expecting him to declare the car undriveable, but he did not. He pumped it full of air, and directed me as best he could to follow him. I did so -- choosing to trust this guy I'd never met, in an unfamiliar country, and not really having any clue where we'd end up. After about 15 minutes of driving, we pulled into his shop -- which seemed to be even further into the middle of nowhere. Like, outside of the work he was doing, the soundtrack to the evening was mooing cows. He took off the tire. I snapped this picture to remember the moment. There's his service truck! As it turns out, the tire was punctured by not one but TWO screws. I think that realization provided the one time that this guy and I connected. As it turns out, laughter at misfortune is universal. So, I'll give this gentleman a lot of credit -- he repaired the tire and it held up for the rest of the next 5 days. He charged me 25 Euros, though I'm not exactly what for, and then gave me the two screws to keep as a souvenir. I figured out my location and plotted my path toward my final destination for the night, arriving a couple hours later than I'd hoped. This was my hotel in the Belgian city of St. Vith (Sankt Vith). I've never been at a hotel like this before, but I loved it. I booked online and received a code via email. I opened the door to the entryway, punched the code into the panel on the wall on the left, and a slot opened up -- with my room key inside. There's no clerk and no front desk. It's the quickest check-in I've ever had. St. Vith is a very small municipality in the tiny German-speaking section of eastern Belgium. It's way off the beaten path, but worked as a stop-over for my plans the next day. Tired, but wanting to get out and de-stress after the tire incident, I wandered into the city's main square -- where, uh, something was going on. Yep, it's Friday night, and St. Vith is throwing a full-on party. While a DJ played a set from the stage, hundreds of people gathered around. Food trucks were set up (I got a nice pulled pork sandwich) as well as drink tents. The music was varied, but I distinctly remember taking one of these pictures during a spin of the /explicit/ version of DMX's "Party Up (Up in Here)". Yep, I'm tired as hell, and I'm ending my night at a Belgian dance party. What a start.
  2. Thursday, July 11, 2019 Day 0: A Canadian Departure Booking round-trip airfare across the Atlantic is a tricky thing when you're flying in and out of two different airports, and those two airports are hubs for members of different airline alliances. I was heading into Amsterdam at the start of the trip, which is a hub for KLM and its SkyTeam partners. I was departing from Munich at the end, which is a hub for Lufthansa and Star Alliance. To keep costs down, I'd have to book flights on the same alliance on both legs -- but which to choose? Ultimately, Star Alliance made the most sense, which enabled me to take Lufthansa and United on the way home from Germany. That left me with just one good option for the first leg of the trip -- an Air Canada flight from Toronto to Amsterdam. I'll spare you all the awful story of spending hours on hold with United because they were too stupid to actually send my reservation number to Air Canada, resulting in my tickets being cancelled over and over again. Almost a year since that debacle, I still haven't forgiven United for it. On to the pics for this time-change-shortened day in the air. This trip begins where the 2014 TPR US trip also began -- at the Cincinnati airport. Which is in Kentucky. Amazon is taking over. Insert some sort of condescending joke about Allegiant here. Fun fact: this plane had just come in from Paris. Less fun fact: I did not go to Paris on this trip. Mr. Redlegs is honestly kind of creepy. My flight to Toronto was on-time, and hey, Air Canada was a new airline credit. Caught my plane on the way in for a picture. A farewell to Cincinnati. Blue tarps and felled trees mark the path of an EF4 tornado that hit Dayton, Ohio, in May 2019. A very big deal, but I won't get into the rest of that here. It's one of my trip reports, so there will be cloud pictures on occasion. Arrival in Toronto. -.-- -.-- --.. (rest in peace, Neil Peart) So, I arrived in Toronto, promptly missed my turn to skip customs, and exited the secured area like a chump. Thankfully, the security lines were short, and within 10 minutes I was riding on what has to be one of the fastest moving walkways in all of existence. I guess this is art! The International Pier at the Toronto airport was extremely crowded, with lots of European flights about to make their departures. I thought it would be very American of me to have a burger for my last meal before leaving the continent. It was a rather pathetic burger, and I am disappointed in my selection. Big plane eat little plane. Lots of Canadian airplanes in Toronto. This one counts as foreshadowing. This one is my actual airplane. Next stop: The Netherlands! On-time to Amsterdam. New plane credit: a Boeing 777-300ER. ...and I had an entire row to myself! Not just the three seats next to me, but all ten! That's like hitting the jackpot on a long-haul. The sun set. I tried to sleep. I was mostly unsuccessful. Oh well. Onward to Europe.
  3. CONTENTS: Day 0: A Canadian Departure (Page 1) Day 1: Stormed in Maastricht, Screwed in Belgium (Page 1) Day 2: Luxembourg from Top to Bottom (Page 1) Day 3: Dunes, Dams, and Depraved Santas (Page 2) Day 4: The Deer of Den Haag, the Minions of Leiden (Page 2) Day 5: Old Birds and New Turbines (Page 2) Day 6: Bobbejaanland (Page 3) Day 7/8: Efteling pt 1: Around the Park (Page 3) Day 7/8: Efteling pt 2: Showtime (Page 4) Day 9: Toverland (Page 4) Day ???: Amsterdam-dam-dam-dam (Page 4) Day 10: Walibi Holland (Page 5) Day 11 pt 1: Drievliet (Page 6) Day 11 pt 2: Duinrell (Page 6) Day 11 pt 3: Rhymes With Schiphol (Page 6) Day 12: Energylandia (Page 7) Day 13 pt 1: Legendia (Page 8) Day 13 pt 2: Poland, Continued (Page 9) Day 14: Rhymes With Schiphol Part II (Page 9) Day 15 pt 1: Liseberg (Page 9) Day 15 pt 2: Liseberg Backstage (Page 10) --2016 Retro TR: Liseberg: The Kanonen Era (Page 10) --2016 Retro TR: Gothenburg: Shelter Where Available (Page 10) Day 16: Kolmården (Page 10) Day 17: Gröna Lund (coming soon...) --------------------------------- In July and August of 2019, I joined TPR on a big huge trip across Europe. You've probably already read some stories from our journeys, in TRs by Chuck, Larry, A.J., and Erik. Now, better late than never, I might as well get started on my own. This might have been my most complicated vacation ever -- 12 countries, 12 theme parks, 9 flights, 4 currencies, and 2 rental cars, all on a continent that isn't my own. And yet, those are the things that made the trip such an experience. I travel around the US a lot and frequently go to out-of-the-way destinations, and my biggest goal for this Europe trip was to do the same thing overseas. Sure, I visited Amsterdam, Helsinki, and Munich, but I also visited St. Vith, Vlissingen, Sigmaringen and Soelden. Never heard of those places? You'll learn about them in this thread, eventually. I wouldn't be surprised if it takes me a year or two to finish this TR, but this is my big project now, regardless of any 2020 travel -- so I'll get there at some point. I organized the trip so that I'd have multiple days to do my own travel both before and after the official TPR trip. So, it will be a few updates before I get to any theme park content, which will begin with Day 6 at Bobbejaanland. Oh, and since I never did a TR or posted any pictures from the 2016 TPR Europe trip, I might just find an excuse to include some of the best of those in here too. That's enough of an intro. Onward to the misadventures.
  4. There are so many different ways to cross through the mountains. I've gone through Independence Pass, Loveland Pass, RMNP, and the stretch through the interior of Park County on the way to Colorado Springs. They're all fantastic in different ways.
  5. 1. How many parks did you visit in 2019? Fifteen 2. Best new-for-2019 (or new-to-you-in-2019) ride? Untamed (Walibi Holland) 3. Name the first 3 coasters that come to mind. Millennium Force, Linnunrata eXtra, Teddy Bear 4. What was the best flat ride you rode in 2019? Eclipse (Grona Lund) 5. What is your favorite RMC under 130 feet? Medusa Steel Coaster, according to my rankings, but I wonder if Untamed should be higher... 6. What was the last Premier coaster that you rode? Electric Eel at SWSD in September 2018. Huh. Did I really go through all of 2019 without riding a single Premier coaster? 7. Name a park you've been to that you're already planning to revisit. BGT 8. What is your home park and how many times did you visit in 2019? Kings Island or Cedar Point. Combined in 2019: zero. 9. What park are you most looking forward to visiting in 2020? Haven't decided yet. 10. Kennywood or Dollywood? Pick one When in doubt, pick the one with good ops over the one with crappy ops. Dollywood. 11. What ride/coaster disappointed you the most in 2019? Helix. Still love it, but was broken most of the day, and shuffly/rattly when it was running. 12. You're at Great Adventure. You play that racist-ish gong game and win a one hour ERT session for you and your friends on ONE coaster of your choice. But damn! El Toro, Kingda Ka and Nitro are all down! So you ride... The Tivoli with the 70-car trains 13. What is the last coaster that changed your top 10? Untamed (Walibi Holland) 14. Most recent park food you ate. A roast beef sandwich at Glenwood Caverns 15. What park do you wish was your home park? Europa or Epcot or SDC or Knoebels or anywhere with better restaurants than this stupid middle-of-nowhere city in Ohio 16. What 2020 attraction do you have the biggest boner for? Iron Gwazi 17. What park will you visit next? Undecided 18. Favorite breakfast before a day at a park? Holiday Inn Express cinnamon rolls 19. Cedar Fair park you visited most recently? Knott's 20. Was it awesome? It was. 21. Skyrush or Candymonium? Skyrush ... why are we even asking this? 22. What 2 overseas parks do you want to visit the most? Just gonna throw in for both Tokyo Disney parks to make it easy. 23. The best B&M coaster you rode in 2019 was? Baron 1898 24. What is the saddest/dirtiest credit whore thing you've ever done? Acquiring the Little Titans credit at Mt Olympus in exchange for also having to do multiple rides on Hades 360 25. Last time you bought fast pass? I usually let those in charge take care of such things, so the last time I purchased one on my own was probably a 2015 trip to Cedar Point 26. What was the longest you waited for a ride/coaster in 2019? 30-40 minutes for the mediocre Eurofighter at Duinrell. 27. What season passes/membership do you currently have? None. 28. If you could go to a park with anyone on this forum for a day who would it be and to what park? I'd take DBru to Beech Bend in 2014 so we can try to be the lucky ones who broke the incredibly sketchy kiddie dragon coaster 29. Battle of the Busch 2020: Iron Gwazi or Pantheon - which would you rather ride? Iron Gwazi 30. Most times you've ridden one coaster (rough estimate or exact if you're a super nerd) Something like 60-ish laps on Racer at Kings Island for Coasting for Kids several years ago 31. Congrats! You just won passes to spend A WEEK at the park of your choice! Dorney Park or Valley Fair? Pick one and why. I guess I'll take ValleyFair since I've never been there, but if this is the prize in a contest, I'm not entering the contest. 32. Talk about a park food that knocked your socks off I'm gonna be nice. Everything I ate at Energylandia was well above average. I was impressed. Let's not discuss anything else about that place. 33. Pick one: Kumba or Montu Montu. 34. What are your three least favorite woodies? Let's go all-time: Bandit, Son of Beast, Robin Hood. Two of the three no longer exist. 35. Best sweet snack at a park (degree of difficulty: not Dollywoods cinnamon bread) Silver Dollar City's cinnamon bread. Shut up, I'm following the rules as they are written. 36. Kings Island is on the phone and they want you to decide what is going in the old Vortex spot. What do you add? A bigger, longer, but still just as intense/snappy version of Lech Coaster. Yep, time to replace an Arrow with a Vekoma. 37. What roller coaster currently sits at the top of your bucketlist? (degree of difficulty: NOT a new-for-2020 ride) Superman at SFNE, not because I necessarily think it'll be my new favorite, but because I've been hearing about it forever and still haven't been there. 38. Name 3 parks you want to visit in the next 3 years. Lagoon, SFNE, CGA. 39. Name 3 other forum members you hope fill this out. No. 40. Show us how cool you are by posting a picture of yourself on a coaster or in front of coaster. No one's ever mistaken me for being cool.
  6. Before I get into a few other things we did, here are three things we didn't do, but are worth mentioning: 1) Glenwood Hot Springs Pool -- one of the city's main attractions, a pool fed by the springs right in the middle of the city. I do have one picture of this place below. 2) Iron Mountain Hot Springs -- another hot springs resort area, this one has lots of different pools with different minerals and temperatures. 3) Johnson Park Mini Golf -- we tried to go here, but it not open mid-week. Unfortunate. From the outside it looked kind of quirky and Knoebels-esque. Alright, back to the pictures. We did a short hike up to Linwood Cemetery, which is on a hill in the southeast part of the city. Why would we hike up a hill to visit a cemetery? Because it has some famous graves. The grave of Kid Curry, an outlaw who was part of Butch Cassidy's gang. The star attraction -- Doc Holliday! Everyone's heard of this guy. People even left him some gold coins and a pack of cards as a tribute. There's just one problem. As it turns out, nobody knows for sure where he's actually buried. The gravestone is just a guess! I feel kind of cheated. There are some other ... interesting headstones in the cemetery. "Died together in a mine accident" isn't a common inscription... Yikes! OK, we need some happier photos. How about the view from the cemetery? Yep, some more views of Glenwood Caverns. The gondolas were stopped two-by-two at the end of the day. The main building at Glenwood Caverns. A view of the cliffside attractions. Zoomed in a bit! Another angle from further down... ...and one more shot from back in the city. This little spot of "rapids" (if you can call it that) is called Glenwood Whitewater Park, and is said to be a fun spot to watch the kayakers and rafters head down the Colorado. We were probably there too late in the day to see any. Here's a dinner recommendation in downtown Glenwood Springs -- Masala & Curry, a great Indian/Nepalese restaurant. Given how busy the place was, we aren't the first ones to discover how good it is. A night view of downtown Glenwood Springs. A pedestrian bridge over the Colorado River. Here's the famous Hot Springs pool, which had quite a few people swimming in it, despite the fact that the temperatures were quickly dropping into the 40s. A long-exposure view east on I-70. After the Hanging Lake hike, instead of taking I-70 back east, we took a more roundabout route through Aspen and up Independence Pass. There are lots of scenic spots along the way. This one is called Weller Lake. This one is the Devil's Punchbowl. Mostly above treeline, here's the road heading up to Independence Pass. At the pass -- 12,095 feet above sea level. A view from Independence Pass. The roads to get up here are a bit narrow and curvy at times, with steep drops off to the side, so if you're a nervous driver you may want to stick to I-70. Feeling reflective. Last stop for the evening (and as far as I'll go with this trip report) is Leadville, Colorado -- at over 10kft, it's the highest incorporated city in the US. There's really nothing to do in Leadville except say you've been there. Usually that's good enough for me. Some stunning sunset colors to close this out. Hope you enjoyed the TR.
  7. As promised, here's Part 2 -- other things to do in and near Glenwood Springs! This post is going to cover the big one, which Taylor already mentioned -- the hike to Hanging Lake. It's probably one of the most popular hikes in all of Colorado, at least relative to the capacity of the trail and the trailhead area. Because of that, there's now a permit system for anyone wishing to hike, which also requires the use of a bus to get to the trailhead during most times of the year. That's not a big deal, as the bus pickup area is right in Glenwood Springs. This is a fantastic hike with an amazing, otherworldly scenic payoff. More details in the captions below. The bus to Hanging Lake. It's about 8-10 miles from Glenwood Springs to the Hanging Lake trailhead, and takes about 20-25 minutes to get there. The permit/lanyard. You have to wear your permit at all times while on the trail. Your designated return time is about 3 hours after your arrival at the Hanging Lake trailhead, which is enough time to make the hike and enjoy the lake views at the top. Permit slots were open at all times on the day we went, but I'd imagine that they sell out well in advance during the busy summer season. On the bus... The hike to Hanging Lake is a total of roughly a mile and a half each way, with about 1,000 feet of vertical gain. The first bit is an easy walk alongside the Colorado River in Glenwood Canyon. Then, the hike gets steep, as it heads up a crack in the canyon. There are water crossings over Dead Horse Creek along the way -- and yes, that's the water coming out of Hanging Lake on its way down. Dramatic scenery ensues. The top gets really steep, but it has steps and railings. Getting close to the top. A view down one of the steeper sections. A look down into the canyon. Arrival at Hanging Lake! The best way I can describe it is that it's a small blue-green lake, fed by these waterfalls, that seems like it hangs over the edge of the canyon. It's nothing like anything I've seen before. John and I were actually among the very first people to reach the top of Hanging Lake on this day, though there is plenty of room for photography even if other people are around. The log that sticks out into the lake is an interesting feature. The edge of Hanging Lake, with the canyon below. The boardwalk along the edge of the lake. More lake views. More log views. Just a really cool place. Most of the pictures I'm posting were done with a neutral density (ND) filter and a mini tripod. That let me do some long-ish exposures even in broad daylight. The desired effect -- smooth out the waterfalls. A rainbow? This is what the waterfalls look like with a fast shutter speed. We probably stayed at Hanging Lake for about an hour. It's a beautiful spot. Another view of the impossibly-scenic Hanging Lake. This bird is called an American Dipper. Hanging Lake is a fragile ecosystem, but it has some interesting birds that live nearby. On a short trail just above Hanging Lake is Spouting Rock. It's a waterfall that spouts out of the rock, rather than over the edge of a cliff or hillside. Spouting Rock feeds down into the waterfalls that drop into Hanging Lake. It's also one of those waterfalls that you can walk behind, which is neat. A closer look at the spouting. A wider view of the scene at Spouting Rock. That's it from the top of the trail. Now, to head back down... Here are some views from inside Glenwood Canyon. The Colorado River cuts through the canyon, and it's quite scenic. Interstate 70 was also built through the canyon, and it's one of the most spectacular sections of freeway that I've been on. And hey, since we were on a bus, I could take all the pictures I wanted while we were driving. Glenwood Canyon, continued. Another view in the canyon. We saw a few kayakers in the river along the way. Oh, and I got some views of Glenwood Caverns from the bus as well. The big cliffside attractions -- in particular, the two swings -- are the most obvious feature. Looking up at Glenwood Caverns. The Glenwood Canyon Flyer in action. Didn't get the Screamin' Swing operating from this angle, but you can really see how far out on the cliff it's built. Once back at the pick-up / drop-off point, I took a few more pictures up into the park. There's the lift hill for the alpine coaster. Near the top of the gondola ride... ...and the bottom of the gondola ride, with the nearby hotel.
  8. You're 100% correct! And I've been there so I'm mad at myself for forgetting about it, lol.
  9. Yeah, that's a good point -- it keeps it a bit of a premium experience. I wonder how busy Glenwood Caverns can get, say, on a Saturday in early August? I ... also love my structure. It's the world's only underground drop tower in a box! In fact, the only above-ground one I can think of is Mystery Castle at Phantasialand. Oh, you would love this! It's almost like it was built for you! And yes, I can imagine what it would be like using "the method." You'd snap your neck when you hit brakes at the bottom. I'm gonna be completely honest with you here -- I'm not nerdy enough to be able to tell the difference. Well, that and I haven't been on Runaway Mountain since 2013. As you did, we went to Hanging Lake, which will take up a good chunk of the pictures I'll post later. Pretty amazing place. Thank you! That's exactly what I was going for, since there aren't very many TRs of this place. Figured I'd try to do it as comprehensively as I could. Thanks! Hope you get a chance to go there some time. That's sort of one problem with this place -- it's hard to just be in the area, since it's almost 3 hours west of Denver. But let's put it this way -- for all the times I've been right in the heart of Denver, I've never gone to Elitch Gardens or Lakeside. This was always the Colorado park I was set on getting to. Thanks Bert! I've been painfully slow, but there should be more coming soon.
  10. More pics! With the park as quiet as it was, I was able (with permission) to get pictures from the edge of the ride platforms for both swing rides. Here's one looking up at the Glenwood Canyon Flyer, from the Screamin' Swing platform. This angle makes it clear just how much exposure you get on the swings. Yep, it's really swinging out there. This is a good spot for views off to the east -- into the famous Glenwood Canyon. The best spots for views in this direction: the Screamin' Swing platform, and the ob deck just above it. Looking down at the Colorado River and I-70. A wider view to the east. There are several tunnels on this part of I-70. There's also a trail / bike path that goes through the whole canyon. Looking further east into the canyon. Glenwood Canyon is one of the most scenic stretches of interstate highway in the entire US. When I do the little addendum to this TR, I'll post some pictures from inside the canyon. Great views. More great views! And now, the Giant Canyon Swing. As with the Cliffhanger coaster, I didn't find a ride sign for this attraction. Capacity would be an issue on most days, since this ride only seats 4 people at a time. It was probably running more consistently than any other ride at the park, which gave me plenty of photo opportunities. Here's the ride platform, which is built over the edge of the cliff, just like the other swing ride. It's literally built on uneven ground. Here is another view of the platform, looking down from the observation deck. If you've got a fear of heights, this angle may be giving you some problems. The ride experience is like any other Screamin' Swing. It's fun, there's air time, and some weird upside-down views at the top. The real kick with this one, of course, is looking straight down off the edge of the cliff. That's approximately the view these riders are experiencing right here. Is it fear, or is it adrenaline? Probably enjoyment, also. The low crowds meant that most guests were getting immediate re-rides on this... ...even if they didn't want a second go! The height of the swing is a little more apparent from the ob deck. I have to admit -- it takes some guts to build a ride in a setting like this. Yep, we're way up there. Swinging back down. Swinging some more. And perhaps the most telling angle of all -- yep, just a 1,300-foot drop from the ride platform to the river way down there. So ... how did John do? He didn't. I got him on the zip line, the other swings, and even the Cliffhanger coaster. But he would NOT ride the Giant Canyon Swing. Even at his bravest... even at his best attempt to overcome the fear of heights... this one was just too much. So I rode it twice by myself! The Giant Canyon Swing is at the far end of the right side of the park. Just a bit down the hill from there is the Haunted Mine Drop. That's the name. USA Today really likes this place. That's OK, because I do too. Sorry ... we are open. The queue is themed, and quite nicely. The Glenwood Mining Corporation is hiring! The little details add to the experience. There's a video with some ... safety instructions? A recruitment pitch? Mining advice? I can't remember. But it was probably bad news. A hole in the floor with one of those "infinite mine shaft" lighting tricks. That is not a lot of days without an injury. Here's the six-seat ride vehicle. I won't tell you how it works. I'll just tell you that there's no lap bar. Oh, and when this thing releases, have fun! John is not much for drop rides, but I got him on this one twice! It's that good! If the Haunted Mine Drop is too much for you, perhaps the horse-themed frog hopper is more your style. With all the rides out of the way, now it's time to start the cave portion of this trip report. May I interest you in the SpeleoBox? The SpeleoBox is one of the strangest things I've seen at a park. It's basically a wooden box built like a very tight cave, which supposedly takes 15 minutes to crawl through. I have absolutely zero fear of heights, to an unhealthy extent. But just looking inside of this thing made me realize I'm claustrophobic. This attraction -- if you can call it that -- was a hard pass. Caver's Corner is the section of the park with the entrances to both of the main cave tours. Even on a slow day, the cave tours are offered frequently. They recommend doing the King's Row tour if you only have time for one, but we had time for both, so we started with the Fairy Cave Tour. In fact, our Fairy Cave Tour was a private tour, with no one but the two of us and the cave guide! We were actually lucky enough to get the same guide -- Ken Newton -- on both tours. Ken was fantastic. If you ever visit this park, I hope you also get to meet Ken. Here's the modern entrance to the Fairy Cave. It's a door. Here's the old entrance to the Fairy Cave. It's a pile of rocks. Here's what the old entrance looks like from the inside. It's sealed off now, which allows them to control things like ... visitors. One of the first things that was pointed out to us is that roots from trees atop the caves actually grow down /into/ the caves. This is one of the larger examples we saw. I'm going to have a hard time remembering all of the formations and things we saw in the cave, so I'll share some basic information as best I can. The caves on Iron Mountain were first discovered well over 100 years ago. People toured the caves shortly after they were discovered, and enjoyed the sights. However, public tours ceased in the 1910s. This one looks like a heart! Electricity was still a new thing, but lights were put up in the caves even way back then -- which made the caves accessible. Several light bulbs, including this one, are made in the same style as the bulbs used over 100 years ago. The Fairy Cave Tour is pretty tight, similar to some of the tighter passages on the Marvel Cave tour at SDC. Backpacks are not allowed in the Fairy Cave. Cave Bacon! Yes, that's what they call it. Cool stuff on the wall. This cave has an absolute plethora of random holes, passages, and places that look almost too small to fit through. Nonetheless, many of them have been explored. This is very interesting. I wish I remembered what it was called. I'm not sure if this is it, but there's one hole in this cave called Jam Crack Passage. It's a very narrow segment of the original cave that was quite a jam to get through. Of course, since this is now a show cave, floors have been created with concrete in order to help tourists make their way through. Some formations have survived, but others (see the top right of this picture) have been damaged by years of tourism and irresponsible people. The current system in place, with tour guides who'll make sure you don't mess anything up, should alleviate that concern going into the future. That's one cave tour done -- and the King's Row tour is up next. The King's Row tour takes place in a much larger setting, so backpacks are allowed, and there's more room to breathe. They also use an airlock tunnel to keep wind from entering the cave. We did mix in with a group of about 10 on this tour. Ken, at right, is explaining our entrance to The Barn -- the large room at the start of the tour. The clear tube here is part of a system of instruments in the cave that are measuring ... something. Again, another detail I forgot. Sorry. I'll do better next time. Ken used a black light to show off some features on the rocks. Pretty neat stuff. The King's Row tour goes through some large rooms, with lots of stairways heading down, down, down. The bottom of this stairway is about as deep as it goes. The formations -- stalactites and stalagmites and other stuff -- are very impressive. Some of them have grown to be quite long. More cool cave stuff. At the very bottom of the stairs is this room -- the actual King's Row. It's named King's Row because some of the formations on the ground reminded people of chess pieces. It's said to be one of the best cave rooms in all of Colorado, and I'd believe it. It's a very impressive room. Frankly, it looks like it would be dangerous to try to traverse it. Here's one of the best parts of the tour. After the requisite "pitch black" bit that every good cave tour does, the room is then lit -- but only by black light. Some of the rocks even glow brighter in the black light when the tour guide shines a regular light on them for a short period of time. One by one, rows of standard lighting are flipped back on, starting with the far back of King's Row. The effect helps to highlight some of the best formations, and makes for some pretty cool pictures. Here's the view with just about all of the regular lights back on. This is definitely something I've never seen done in any other cave tour, and I loved it. Of course, we're at the bottom, so now we have to climb back up to the top. Oh, and then there was ... this formation ... ... does this remind you of anything? Well, our day is about done, so let's check out the views over the city of Glenwood Springs. The outdoor deck at the main building is the best place to see the city. Hmm, looks like rain... ...but it cleared up pretty quickly. Downtown is down there. It's actually a neat little downtown. There will be a few pictures in the addendum. There's also a view toward one of Colorado's more impressive mountains -- Mt. Sopris. Mt. Sopris isn't a 14er. It's not even a 13er. But it's the only mountain anywhere near this high in the vicinity, so it stands out impressively on the horizon. Yep, there's still snow up there. I think that about covers it, so it's time to head to the gondolas and make our way back down. High winds could, indeed, be an issue on any sort of cable car system. Thankfully, we didn't have any problems. One look back up the mountain, and a wave goodbye to Glenwood Caverns.
  11. Pics! Here's the lower gondola station, which is the start of the journey to Glenwood Caverns. There's plenty of parking, a nearby affiliated hotel, and the ticket booths that lead to the gondola. You'll also have to sign a waiver before they let you go up, which is interesting. Perhaps it's for the sake of the cave tours, but none of the park attractions were any more "risky" or unsafe compared to any other theme park. This gondola system was installed in 2019, replacing an older system that had been operating for many years. Leitner Poma! Heading up, and looking back down at the station and the parking lot. A view on the way up -- the city of Glenwood Springs. A view to the west -- following the Colorado River through the commercialized part of the city. On the way up, the gondola passes over the alpine coaster track several times. I never saw anyone riding either on the way up or the way down, which is a sign of how light the crowds were. Approaching the top of the gondola, and the park's main building. Here's the view above the upper gondola station. So get out of the car, and... ...welcome to the park! Take a seat in the Big Mountain Chair -- at 7100 feet above sea level. For a quick overview of the entry area, let's head to the tiny Ferris wheel. The cars are themed to mining, and each one is named after a type of gem or precious metal. Here's the main building, which houses the gift shop, lockers, restrooms, restaurant, 4D theater, and laser tag arena. Also near the main building is the group events / picnic area. A look at the facade near the entrance. Go Away. Glenwood Caverns' only restaurant, the Lookout Grille, is located inside the main building. It's a simple menu, mainly sandwiches. We were happy with it. A seating area inside... ...and a seating area on the patio. You've got great views of the park... ...and even down from the mountain. On the upper level of the building is an outdoor patio. The word "views" is going to appear in this trip report a lot. I just can't help it, because the views are that good. Unlike anything from any amusement park I've been to. Hey, it's even educational -- you can learn a bit about the geography and geology of the area. If the rocks start talking to you, though, try lowering your dosage of medication. Since you're right above the gondola station, you'll have a nice view of the bright orange cabins on their way up and down. The city (and the river) are far below. I'll share some better pictures of the views later in the set. With such a quiet day at the park, several of the attractions were operated on an alternating schedule. The 4D theater was closed for the day, and the Haunted Mine opened late due to maintenance. Had the 4D theater been running, I might have been able to see Mack's "Happy Family" in English. I've only seen the German version while at Europa Park with TPR in 2016. Just a reminder that we're in Colorado... The picnic area looks like a good spot to hold a gathering. It's set up in a mini-fortress, so there are towers built at the four corners! Enough of the entry area, though. Let's head over to the left side of the park (from the entrance) and start in on the rides. To begin -- the fantastic alpine coaster. Even USA Today said it's one of the best, and they're always right. Here's the station for the alpine coaster. It's not even a 60-second walk from the main building. This alpine coaster starts at the top, works its way down, and then takes a lift back up. It's sort of an inversion of the typical coaster layout. Thumbs up, and you're good to go. Do not lose your innocence on the alpine coaster. You will not get it back until the next morning. Heading down... A wider look at the big curve at the start of the ride. Riders in the station, ready to descend. Off to the races. Do you focus on the views? Or do you focus on the coaster? It's a very distracting ride. There are corners. There are more corners. This is way near the bottom of the course -- tough to get pictures of. There are a couple of speedy straight bits near the end, including this one heading into the brake run. This is about the end of the ride, before turning right and heading up the very long lift hill. A rider returns to the top of the alpine coaster lift. Oh, and here's John, who ... was probably just relaxing, because I'm pretty sure he loved the ride! Continuing our tour of the left side of the park, here's the Soaring Eagle zip line. This is what happens when you hit the brakes at the end! Though the wires get in the way, the views from the top of the lift are awesome. And then you just get to enjoy a gentle ride down to the bottom. I've seen this attraction as an up-charge with long lines at other parks. This was a great chance to ride one without a wait. Enjoying the ride. Alright, while we're on this side of the park, how about some views? TIP: the best views to the west are from the queue to the zip line. Looking out at the Colorado River, as Interstate 70 heads westbound. Mountains of all shapes and colors. Heading into another canyon. The scenery was fantastic. This was my first time in western Colorado, and it was quite a bit different from what I've seen before closer to Denver. I do have to post about this eyesore -- a mine that is being built just northwest of the amusement park. There have already been protests and efforts to stop it, as it carves up a part of the mountainside that is visible not just from the park, but from many other places in the city. Not sure if they'll be successful, so we'll see how that goes. Alright, back to the rides -- and ready for the kiddie credit. John is super excited to take his 7th-through-12th laps on the Wild West Express! If you've seen one small Zierer Tivoli, you've seen them all. John is not a big coaster guy. This is about the extent of his thrills. Cut him a break. A more acceptable level of excitement. There is also a climbing wall on this side of the park. I didn't climb it, because it looked too easy. Alright -- we've cleared out the left side of the park. Now, we'll head up the Iron Mountain Trail, which heads to the two attractions at the park's highest elevations. John did not beware of the Man-Eating Chicken. I am a little concerned. There are some displays on the trail, including an old stagecoach... ...a bear... ...and a pair of outhouses. Much of the trail, though, looks like this. It's kind of a nice path for an amusement park. I like it, though it does take a few minutes to get up to where the attractions are. The path diverges here -- we'll head left for the coaster. Here's Cliffhanger! It's built at 7,160 feet, which is the highest publicly accessible part of the park. For the sake of completeness, I'll note that the actual highest point on Iron Mountain is at about 7,260 feet, and is in a backstage part of the park -- so I didn't try to visit it. I didn't see a ride sign for Cliffhanger, so this will have to do. The Cliffhanger ride vehicle. With so few guests in the park, this is one of the rides I was worried I wouldn't be able to get pictures of anybody riding. Thankfully, a couple people were just getting on as we got to the top of the trail. If you've been a coaster enthusiast for more than 5 minutes, you know what to expect from rides like this. There will be some quick transitions. Some sharp drops. Some tight turns, with a bit of intensity. The views are nice, but since this ride is set back on the mountain a bit, they aren't as stunning as on some of the other rides. This picture was taken from a bit further away -- on one of the rare occasions I saw Cliffhanger running later in the day. The other attraction on the Iron Mountain Trail is the Glenwood Canyon Flyer. It looks like a pretty basic, low-impact set of swings. Right? Well, here's the ride platform. There's basically nothing behind it, except a drop of over a thousand vertical feet. The Glenwood Canyon Flyer in action! I like the paint job -- it looks like a tree. I rode twice, and John rode three times -- enabling me to get some more pictures. I think this was his favorite ride at the park, actually. One thing I can't properly communicate through these pictures is the way it feels to come around this part of the ride and spin out over the cliff. It's breathtaking, actually. Magnificent views, which is pretty much the story all over this park. The river is way, way down there. A look at the Glenwood Canyon Flyer seats from a little further away. Second half continues below!
  12. I've been working through a backlog of photos from 2019, and I swear I still want to get a trip report going from TPR's awesome trip to Europe. But how can I resist doing a TR from one of the most scenic parks in the US? Especially when it's one that so few park enthusiasts have been to? Here's Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park -- a park on a mountain in beautiful Glenwood Springs, Colorado. In mid-September, I took a 5 day trip to Colorado with my friend and sorta-coworker John. John lives in central Pennsylvania, and while he's not a theme park guy, he's been to Knoebels with me and had a great time. He knew going into this trip that a visit to Glenwood Caverns was going to be on the agenda. He's also afraid of heights. How would it go? Read on to find out! We visited Glenwood Caverns on Tuesday, September 17, driving in from the Denver metro area in the morning. On a weekday after the end of the summer tourist season, the park was almost completely empty, leaving absolutely no problem with getting on all of the rides -- multiple times, if desired. In all honesty, I would be surprised if there were more than 150 guests in the park. You'll see a few guests appearing in multiple pictures throughout the trip report, including John -- who I had to ask nicely, on multiple occasions, to get on a ride by himself so I could actually get pictures of it operating! We spent about 5 and a half hours at Glenwood Caverns, which included quite a bit of time for photography. This was part of a longer visit to the area, so as I normally do, I'll include an addendum to this trip report in a few days -- other things to do near Glenwood Springs. The Attractions: Haunted Mine Drop: This ride is quite the experience. It's the first drop ride in the world that was built into the ground rather than into the air. It's a Stan Checketts creation, so you know there's a little bit of crazy going into it, including the seatbelts-only restraint system. It's also heavily themed, mostly in the dark, and includes some fun / slightly-creepy show scenes. The 110-foot drop is very sudden, and provides the kind of sensation you get from those Larson / ARM drop towers. I won't spoil the story, but there's a bit of family betrayal, and somebody ends up underground. This is a fantastic ride, and deserves all the positive attention it received when it opened in 2017. Here's the one problem: it seats 6 people, with a ride cycle time of probably around 5 minutes. It would be a capacity nightmare if the park was busy. On the day we visited, however, we were the only ones on the ride. Alpine Coaster: It was just about a week ago that I posted a short photo review of the new Georgia Mountain Coaster, and hinted that while I liked it, I'd found a new favorite not long after. Well, here's the new favorite. This Wiegand alpine coaster is outstanding in so many ways, but we'll start with the setting -- it traverses down the side of the mountain that the Glenwood Caverns park is built on. The views are simply stunning the entire way down. It's also a fairly long alpine coaster, with a total elevation change of about 320 feet, and a length (per RCDB) of 3199 feet. That's longer than all the other Alpine coasters I've been on except for the Smoky Mountain coaster in Pigeon Forge. It also makes good use of its length, with lots of tight turns and a few little drops. It's not quite as intense as the best moments on the Georgia or Gatlinburg coasters, but again -- the view! Cliffhanger: The claim to fame with this coaster -- the larger of the two coasters at Glenwood Caverns -- is its 7,160 foot height above sea level. They claim it's the highest elevation full-circuit roller coaster in North America, and I can't argue with that. (edit: as pointed out by thrillseeker4552, Six Flags Mexico has it beat) Of course, the ride isn't anything too special -- it's an S&MC Hurricane, which there aren't many of, but it's basically a slightly-better Pinfari or Windstorm type of coaster. It's also the highest ground-based attraction in the park, though I think the zip line gets higher at the top of its lift. Fun fact: this ride formerly operated at Celebration City as Thunderbolt, before re-opening at Glenwood Caverns in 2012. Wild West Express: Your basic small Zierer Tivoli. I got the credit. Actually, I got the credit six times, because they sent us around over and over and over. John got the credit twelve times, because I needed pictures. Giant Canyon Swing: It's one of the small S&S Screamin' Swings, but oh, does it have a setting. This is probably one of Glenwood Caverns' most famous attractions, because the backswing on this ride faces you straight down the side of a 1300-foot cliff. I'm not joking -- I looked up the elevations. It's that big of a drop. I enjoy Screamin' Swings, especially if they have decent views like at the two at the Herschend parks. This one, however, is in a class all on its own. Glenwood Canyon Flyer: This is a basic swing ride -- SBF/Visa Custom Swing -- that just happens to also be built over the edge of the 1300-foot cliff. When the swings get going, they really do extend out beyond the edge of the ride platform, leaving completely unobstructed views down to Interstate 70 and the Colorado River below. Soaring Eagle Zip Line: You'll see these small zip lines at various parks, usually as up-charge attractions due to their low capacity. This one is included with the full park admission. It offers perhaps the most expansive views at Glenwood Caverns, though the ride isn't really particularly thrilling -- it actually feels fairly controlled. Mine Wheel: A very small Ferris wheel located near the park's entry plaza. I would have loved to see this ride built near the cliffside like some of the others, because its position near the entrance actually doesn't offer up too many good views. The Caverns: The cave tours at Glenwood Caverns are what started the whole thing -- in particular, they were the starring attraction when the current version of Glenwood Caverns opened in 1999. The caves aren't as expansive or magnificent as Marvel Cave at Silver Dollar City, but that's just nature -- Colorado's caves are naturally more cramped and small. For their size, these caves are magnificent, and definitely worth seeing. There are two main cave tours -- the Historic Fairy Cave Tour and the Kings Row Tour. I'll explain a bit more about the caves in the photo captions. There's also a 2-hour Wild Cave Tour, which is a longer experience for those looking to crawl through some really tight spaces and get a bit dirty. You have to book that one in advance. Overall Thoughts: I'm finding it hard to find anything negative to say about Glenwood Caverns. I guess it's a little bit expensive for a small park, with a summer ticket price of $58 -- which also includes your ride on the gondola to get up the mountain. Having just been in the Alps this past summer, I was paying similar prices just for a Gondola ride up a mountain -- without the benefit of having a park at the top! I like mountains, so I'm fine with that, but it makes Glenwood Caverns actually seem like the price isn't all that bad. The other thing, of course, is that it's a small park -- there just aren't that many attractions. The current incarnation of the park has only been open since 1999, so they're growing at a sustainable pace, and I appreciate that for sure. A mid-size thrilling coaster would really round things out, and I think there's probably room behind the current attractions, further north on the mountain. But there's no point in thinking of this park as a credit run -- that would defeat the purpose. I'm excited to see whatever they build next, because the park's setting is going to make just about any type of ride a whole lot better. This is a park that is really about the whole mountain experience, and the attractions are very well rounded. Where else can you get on a roller coaster, an alpine coaster, a Screamin' Swing, and tour inside a cave at the same place? Nowhere that I can think of. So be sure to enjoy all of it when you visit. Do the cave tours. Take some time to enjoy the views. Ride the alpine coaster over and over. This is one of the most unique theme parks in the US, and even if it's small and out of the way, it's easily a place I'd recommend to visit. A tip of the hat to our cave tour guide, Ken Newton, who was fantastic. Also, my thanks to John for joining me on this park visit and conquering ... for the most part ... his fear of heights.
  13. Nice bump -- forgot this thread existed. And great to see alpine coasters continuing to sprout up in new places. In the middle of 2019, the first alpine coaster opened in the state of Georgia -- the Georgia Mountain Coaster in Helen. I went and rode it on a very quiet day on September 5th, and got some pictures that I put up on Twitter but then kinda forgot about until now. Helen is an interesting place -- it's a small alpine-themed resort city in northeastern Georgia, nestled within the southern Appalachian mountains. Helen is a long, long ways from being as developed as Gatlinburg or anywhere along those lines, but it's definitely an interesting place to visit. How's the coaster? To me, it compares most easily to the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster, but I like this one just a little bit better. It's all about the first half of this coaster -- it is surprisingly intense, with a little bit of airtime and some tight turns and drops. The knock on this one, as with the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster, is that it's very short. That makes the $15-per-ride cost a little much, perhaps, but half-off re-rides can help to ease the blow a little. I rode it twice and enjoyed it both times, though overall I probably prefer the length of the Smoky Mountain / Goats coasters in Pigeon Forge. It would still be another couple weeks before I got on what would be my favorite alpine coaster, but that's another story for another time... Anyway, here are some pictures. Helen's pretty far out of the way so I'm not surprised this one hasn't been discussed yet here. The Georgia Mountain Coaster! Here's the ticket window / gift shop / etc. A view of the walk-up entrance to the coaster, which is on the east end of downtown Helen. The Wiegand car on rails out in front is a nice touch. Coaster car and that awesome Helen architecture. An array of colorful Wiegand cars. The pull-out from the station, which makes a left turn and heads straight into the lift hill. Heading up the lift! A rider returns from the course. There weren't a lot of people riding on this day, so I had to wait a bit to get some pictures. This is also a really tough coaster to photograph, since they kept a /lot/ of trees on the hillside. That's a good thing -- it makes the course more thrilling. Heading downhill. A mess of alpine coaster track, as viewed from the parking lot. The helices near the bottom aren't as thrilling as some of the tight turns near the top. Another car heads into the brakes. This is a good, fun ride -- hopefully a sign of continued growth for Helen! Helen is an interesting place. Sort of a Swiss/Alpine themed version of what is still /very much/ a rural southeastern US resort town. The architecture is all coordinated and controlled. I have to admit -- having been through /actual/ Alpine villages in Switzerland/Austria/Germany this summer, it was a little bit weird to see the Georgian facsimile. Flags of the Alps! Gift shops, bakeries, candy stores, etc -- it's still a long ways from being Gatlinburg, but it's trending in a slightly-less-hokey version of that direction. Even the Wendy's is themed! "Well way down yonder on the Chattahoochee..." "It gets hotter than a hoochie coochie..." Yep, one of Helen's biggest tourist draws is going tubing down the Chattahoochee river. Honestly looks kind of relaxing. Anyway, that's it.
  14. This might be the first time a hockey team has ever done a theme night for a roller coaster.
  15. Disneyland - 2018 Walt Disney World - late 1980s Tokyo Disneyland - Not yet. ️ Disneyland Paris - 2016 Hong Kong Disneyland - Not yet. ️ Shanghai Disneyland - Not yet.
  16. Just finished my rankings for 2019 and hit the green button. I have four new-for-me European coasters in my top 25!
  17. Catching up on photos from 2019 and wanted to post a batch from Knott's. Not a full trip report, not even gonna write captions for most of them, just sort of a "here, some stuff I thought looked cool." Did a quick visit the morning of September 22 with John (coasterlvr) (thanks John!!!). Main point was to get the GhostRider credit I missed last year (wasn't operating for WCB) but also did a lap of the other good rides in about 2 and a half hours. Just did one ride on GhostRider in the back row. It was fun. I thought it was funny to be on GCI trains on straight airtime hills, since GCIs are usually pretty twisted. I got the regular version of the flume last year, and this year I got the Halloween overlay, which was really nice! Aircraft sneaking into coaster photos, pt 1. Thanks for being patient with my stupid artistic photo attempts, John. Aircraft sneaking into coaster photos, pt 2. So, this one deserves a caption. There was a mantis hanging out at the Xcel control booth, and the ride ops would even pick it up, put it on their shoulder, or just let it sit on the button. I guess they're all good friends. Sometimes it's fun to look at the detail on rides (and their queues) -- the mine train is a great example. In 2018, I completely forgot to look for the Catawampus. In 2019, we found it. They look kinda weird from the side. That's it. Or... ...ok, that's not it, few bonus pictures from an impromptu Disney trip the night before. John knows how to get to the best spot in the parking garage in a hurry. Trust John for all your "watch the fireworks without paying a cent" desires. This is one of those weird things that only looks right if you're standing at a certain angle. I don't care how expensive this place is, or how long the line is, because it's worth it. Well, slightly more worth it when you sneak into the dwindling line 5 minutes after the place closed. OK, that's it for real now.
  18. The oddly specific ride names at Legendia (that one, Scary Toys Factory, Dragon Wrestling Tournament, Giant Water Pump, etc) were one of the best parts of the park!
  19. From driving by today, the Orion lift hill looks like it's probably somewhere around 200'. The drop is also being constructed but isn't quite as high up yet -- maybe around 150'.
  20. The sad thing is, I have absolutely no memory of what I was even taking a picture of. Sad to see this report come to an end, but what a fun place to end it. And I'd never dare go up against either Larry or Elissa in whack-a-mole, unless I wanted to lose! Great report, Chuck!
  21. Yep, it's outside the park. I think this is it: http://www.elka.parkslaski.pl
  22. The lift piece of Orion's track is visible from I-71. From that angle, it's right next to Racer's lift hill, and it's already almost as tall. The skyline is changing.
  23. I enjoyed this trip report, but I'm even more anxious to read Goldberg's trip report of not going to Silverwood. I'm sure he's hard at work on it!
  24. I love this park, and these are some great photos of it! The control room / maintenance bay tour was awesome, and we got some nice angles of the coasters you can't get anywhere else. Helix was (sadly) disappointing in a few different ways, but Valkyria was fun, and Balder was running much better than when I visited in 2016. Ice cream is always a perfectly acceptable lunch at a theme park. Just past the 7-11, which was /actually/ open from 7 to 11!
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