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Another big Photo TR, this time WITH coasters: HersheyPark


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This past week was our not-so-annual-more-like-occasional family vacation, and this year we headed off to HersheyPark for their 100th anniversary. The group consisted of me, my wife Jen, my mom, and my cousin Chelsea. Chelsea and I were the only real coaster fans in the bunch, so the trip was a pretty diverse mix of riding and other activities. We drove down last Saturday, hit the park Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday, and drove back on Friday, with other touristy goodness on Sunday and Tuesday. Before I get into detail, let me say this: all other theme park companies, learn from Hershey...period!

 

Saturday, as I mentioned, was the trip down. We stayed at the Hershey Highmeadow campground, our second time doing so. We'd stayed there in 2002, and our site was only about fifty feet from the freight train that ran all night. This time we were smart and got a site on the opposite side of the camp. No water or electric hookups, but that was a small price to pay for much quieter nights. We arrived fairly early, and for the first time in about 7 years, we were able to actually pitch camp in daylight. Jen and I camp an average of about 12-15 times a year, on weekends from Memorial Day to Hallowe'en, so that's a LOT of setting up in the dark. Daylight set-up was a rare treat. We had hellacious thunderstorms the first three days, but they were timed just right so that it didn't cut into any park time.

 

Sunday was the Strasburg Railroad, which was a great way to kill an hour. It took us longer to get there, but it was pretty fun. It was also a nice way to relax, knowing that we'd be hitting teh park hard over the next few days.

 

Monday was "Day One" at HersheyPark. Allan "Primogen18" Bray met up with us that morning, checked into his campsite right across from us, and we were off for the "Sweet Start" early entry...loved it! We made a beeline toward StormRunner, as it was one of three credits for me, the other two being Wild Mouse and Roller Soaker (on my last visit in 2002, the lines for both were insane). We got to the proverbial velvet rope right by Reese's Xtreme Cup Challenge before the vast majority of the crowd, and got to witness the "Running of the Bulls" from ahead of the pack. It was pretty funny that the mad rush of humanity crapped out after about 30 feet.

 

The rest of the week was: Amish Country (again) and a buggy ride on Tuesday, Wednesday more coastering, and Thursday a more relaxing day at HersheyPark with some shows and mellower rides.

 

Some of the highlights and overall impressions of the trip: First, the food, cleanliness, and service are second to none! As I said before, all theme parks can learn a little something from HersheyPark. Even ride-ops were awesome, such as the ride-op on Roller Soaker actually getting the crowd (our longest wait all week, incidentally, at just under an hour, and the ONLY wait more than 30 minutes) to do the Hokey Pokey. Super-efficient, friendly, and very attentive to their jobs. Meals were great, too. Our biggest meal was lunch on Monday at the Tudor Grill. Far and away the best park meal (and best value, given the portion sizes) I've ever had. We got there just as they opened, and the entire wait staff was standing outside seemingly waiting just for us. As we were the first table to arrive for lunch, they might as well have been. I had a monstrous plate of awesome nachos and a "side" salad...at any other restaurant in the universe, it would've been an entree salad for two. It was equally huge. Jen had a nuclear-hot quesadilla. We both love hot foods, but damn, this was hot. They gave her extra jalapenos just in case it wasn't hot enough. At ZooAmerica, they double-charged us for one item, and when we figured it all out, they not only gave us back teh $2.66 they owed us, but the rounded up to $2.75. Try that at any Six Flags. Not likely.

 

The Boardwalk was pretty awesome for several reasons. First, the crowd there made pretty much everything else in the park a near-walk-on, except for 20 minute waits at StormRunner and Great Bear, and the aforementioned hour at Roller Soaker. Second, it was one of the best-themed park sections I've ever seen...I found it to be near-Disney in quality. Hershey truly captured the beach, from the seagull and airplane sound effects to the surf and beach theming all over. Third, despite the crowds, some of the people that made up those crowds were well worth it. Let's just say may your chosen deity forever bless the inventor of the waterpark (the last few photos in this TR will tell the tale). One area where they really dropped the ball was a lack of a Lazy River. My pregnant-again wife had really been looking forward to spending time in the waterpark, but without a Lazy River she was really limited and disappointed. Fortunately multiple rides on Soaker and Canyon River Rapids more than made up for it, including two back-to-back Monday night rides on Rapids just as the park was closing.

 

My three credits also represented a few firsts for me: First "classic" wild mouse, first Intamin rocket (though certainly not my first launched coaster), and first Setpoint interactive water coaster. Wild mouse was a night ride, and it was totally unbraked. Allan tells me it's one of the more intense wild mouse coasters out there. StormRunner quickly blasted its way into my top five coasters ever. If not for the short ride, it might well have become my favorite, although the one night ride we got was SICK! I swear it jumps another ten miles an hour after dark...sure felt like it, anyway. Soaker was awesome, and one of the rides Jen could actually enjoy. Despite her very sensitive motion sickness, it's one of a few roller coasters she can ride, and ride she did, several times.

 

The new Flyer trains on Wildcat were amazing, too. Unlike some, I won't go quite so far as to call it a new credit, but it definitely was a new experience. I loved Wildcat back in 2002, but I found that the new trains made the overall experience a thousand times better.

 

Even the shows were pretty amazing. We ended up seeing three. The "Great Candy Caper" sea lion show in the aquatheater was a great way to cool off for a half-hour or so. It was pretty basic sea lion show fare, but they did a nice job mixing it up with a diving show to make it a little more unique. The Chevy Music Box Theater shows "Impact Effect" and "Velocity" were absolutely amazing. I found them to be very "Blue Man" and "Cirque de Soleil" inspired, respectively, but they pulled it off quite well.

 

Finally, I did get to meet the Norwalk CT contingent of TPR, but unfortunately it was late on my last night. Shame we didn't get to ride together, but it was awesome meeting and chatting with you guys. We need to plan a future meet-up!

 

Overall, it was a great trip, and the experience was one I'd almost consider moving to Eastern PA for. In fact, for the right job opportunity, I may just do that. My wife and I both really loved the Hershey/Hummelstown area. There are enough photos to be split up into multiple posts, so feel free to comment in the meantime! Now, on to the photos!!!

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The highlight of the town is a dead tree. Ever think about renaming your town?

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The sprawling downtown area of Paradise PA.

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Amish farm.

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And, of course, the only good "Maize Maze" photo I got was of the sign.

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Rope maze...oddly, considerably more difficult.

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Hay maze...somehow it doesn't seem like it would be all that difficult.

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A little Amish tourist trap along the way.

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Tickets, please.

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Good thing steam trains don't have emissions standards.

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Jen and I are enjoying the ride so far.

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Again, the cheap car. I'd love to see the "expensive" car on my next trip.

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This was the cheap car, if you can believe it.

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Mom enjoys the comfortable seats.

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Fueling up and refilling the water tank.

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The slightly more expensive open-air car.

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We rode in one of these coach cars.

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Our locomotive.

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Rail museum across the street.

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Strasburg Railroad station.

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Freedom on the left, Independence on the right...wait, that's wrong. Mom and Chelsea on the left, me and my wife Jen on the right.

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Our home for the next week...and yes, that's the same soccer mom van as in my NHRA TR.

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Here we are!

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Not quite yet. Gotta check in at the campground first.

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Now THAT'S more like it.

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Talon in the side-view mirror, taunting us as it fades into the distance.

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Talon.

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More Steel Force. This is as close as we got. Maybe next trip.

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DAMN!!! So close, yet so far. Steel Force.

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Dorney?

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Part 2:

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More of Anton's genius in action.

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Ew...I do hope that's chocolate down there. If it is, it's GREAT theming!

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Very cool view of Bear.

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Allan has a picture (and a Skyview seat) all to himself.

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Anton, Walter, and Claude all in one picture.

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From Skyview.

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Bear's awesome immelman.

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And more Great Bear.

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Great Bear

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Funny, this picture makes it LOOK fast.

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Some Vekoma cobra-roll action.

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"GO!"

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That's me and Chelsea in the front row, Allan right behind her. Cue the heartbeat sound effect. "Now, get ready...here we..."

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Vekoma vert-loop awesomeness (insert eye-roll smiley here).

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The sea of humanity...this crowd grew to three times this size by the time the rope dropped.

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Finally, some twisty steel goodness.

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The clock tower at the museum.

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Some awesome RCT theming.

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Random billboard alongside the track.

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Look! Real wooden see-saws!!!

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When was the last time you saw one of these?

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More Amish farmland.

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Oh, good...they didn't.

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There it goes...just don't forget about us.

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...and they'll wave back.

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Wave to the engineers...

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Our locomotive, on the transfer track, getting ready to recouple and take us back.

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Part 3:

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And more...

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Early views of Boardwalk's awesome theming.

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Head snappage at its finest.

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A little Trailblazer goodness.

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For the brake run fan in all of us.

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Transfer track IN ACTION!!!

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For you transfer track enthusiasts.

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This was supposed to be a last-drop POV on Coal Cracker. Instead I got the back of Allan's shirt.

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Twin loopy goodness as seen from Coal Cracker.

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Coal Cracker POV!

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If the net wasn't there, I could totally sell this pic to those people on the ride for big bucks!

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Stupid net.

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Kit Kats. I could live on this ride, if only the candy was accessible.

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A bajillion Kisses in a naked Hershey Kiss orgy.

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MMMMMMMM...I love Almond Joy.

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Chocolate World.

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Jen's nuclear quesadillas. OOPS! I think someone's at the wrong park!

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Some more nacho destruction

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The remains of my nachos. Best nachos I've ever had.

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That's kinda dirty...we didn't get Great Bear spooge on us, but we did manage an in-station E-stop credit on our second ride.

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I so want this to be my garage.

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This is probably one of my favorite shots from this trip...aside from some of the Boardwalk photos.

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Allan approaches Skyview's turnaround.

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Nobody has EVER seen this shot before.

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Great Bear's vert loop quotes Maude Lebowski: "Derek...love me!"

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Part 4: More to be posted later, after a bite to eat!

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A mini Amish buggy and horse for mini tourists?

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Mom and Chelsea are enjoying the ride...Mom more so than Chelsea, apparently.

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So am I, despite the look on my face.

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Don't let the picture fool you. Allan really is pretty excited about the Amish buggy ride we're about to take.

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VERY nice overview.

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Nice overview.

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Yeah, Boardwalk is pretty much jammed in there.

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Surf's up...

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Awesome photo trip report pete! It was great meeting you guys. We definately have to meet up sometime soon! We were at the park on Monday as well, shame we didn't see you. Funny thing is, when you had the station e-stop on Great Bear, we were in line lol. Anyway, I loved the campground and Hershey. I would love to move down to that area as well. Great pix Pete!

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^ That was my second stay at the campground, and it just gets better each time. We were over on the hill last time, and let me tell you, on that side of the camp that train is LOUD. We'll either be bringing an RV with us next time or rentin a cabin.

 

That's awesome that you were in line during that e-stop. So close, huh? Allan's planning on coming up to SFNE sometime, so maybe we should plan a get-together when he does.

 

Anyway, lunch is done, so on to more pics!

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Part 5:

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This looks a little more like high-speed.

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Well, as high speed as you can get on the Whip.

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High speed POV!!!

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Me, I like it both ways (whip rides AND photography).

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Chelsea, however, is...she's just not a fan of being photographed.

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Allan isn't such a big fan of Whips (well, not the theme park kind, anyway).

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Old Whip, meet New Whip.

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East Coast Waterworks is much bigger than it looks.

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More Boardwalk theming.

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A little wild mouse action. Does this count as an Elissa-friendly rodent photo? If not, there are some prairie dogs coming up.

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That's me, front row left.

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No, it's not a Cedar Fair park, as evidenced by the single (I repeat, SINGLE) trash can in this photo.

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This beautiful sight is what a queue looks like before park opening. While it was never truly crowded, Comet's queue never quite looked like this again.

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For you lift hill fans.

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More rolly coasty pics. This is Comet at "Sweet Start" time.

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The rooster and I conspired to scare the crap out of Allan. It worked.

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A DONKEY!!! This TR is now official!

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Menno says "Thanks for joining us for a buggy ride."

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According to Menno, this is the Amish Airport.

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Amish freeway.

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This is Menno, our driver. He's been with Aaron and Jessica's Buggy Rides since they started.

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More Amish farmland.

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Heh...I love Intercourse (Pennsylvania).

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Part 6:

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Guess where we're going to get cooled off next?

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Artsy-fartsy StormRunner

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Hello up there!

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Some more Jahan-friendly Arrow helix-ness. What makes this helix truly great is that it's right over Freeman's BBQ. Yummy!!!

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For you coaster-IN-the-transfer-track enthusiasts.

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More cool Pioneer Frontier theming...very RCT.

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Jen watches one of her favorite rides in operation.

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See?

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A well-timed geyser meant the front riders on ths car got drilled square-on in the face.

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Nice shot of the crossover.

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Lightning Racer looms over The Boardwalk.

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Some of what makes Boardwalk truly great. We'll examine some of these highlights in more detail later in the broadcast.

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Tidal Force was putting some serious water into the air.

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Tidal Force theming.

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My very classy wife shares her opinion about waiting for Mom and Chelsea to show up for our next Canyon River Rapids ride.

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StormRunner THROUGH THE...Aquatheater canopy.

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...until he was thrown into the wall at a very high speed.

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This kid was pretty damn good...

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I, however, had a great time watching her bodyboard.

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Once she finally did get on the board successfully, she didn't look like she enjoyed the ride very much.

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This young woman is on the process of losing her bikini bottom in this photo. It made her fairly popular.

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A little Waverider drag racing action.

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I must admit this is a pretty damn nice shot.

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Beautiful twisty steel.

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Part 7:

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Just some random sight we saw on the way home...sheds that look like giant doll houses.

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The remains our final meal Thursday night before breaking camp Friday morning...marinated chicken.

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Of course I need to get in on the act. Let's see...fanny pack, check. Sandals, check. Chunky gut...check. Nope...I'm not a coaster enthusiast.

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As does Mom.

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Jen gets nutrageous with...Nutrageous.

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As Rolo, Reese, and Original roll up behind for some dancing.

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Symphony and Nutrageous rock out to an Earth Wind and Fire cover performed by the Soda Pops.

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The Claw.

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Pirate, as seen from the Monorail.

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StormRunner from the Monorail.

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Heaven on earth, the Hershey's chocolate factory.

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Chocolate Ave, Hershey.

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Beautiful downtown Hershey...or, technically Derry Township.

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Condor...no, I will NOT call it Flying Falcon.

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The most RCT thing in the park.

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You see a buffalo, I see a couple of coats and several months' worth of dinner.

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Mountain lion.

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...and his beotches.

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The elk pimp...

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The aforementioned prairie dogs.

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Black bear sleeping. Hey! I sleep like that sometimes, too.

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Sleeping river otter. He has the right idea.

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The very cool bobcat.

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...and roadrunner NOT running.

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Roadrunner running...

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Turtle drag racing...very exciting.

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American alligators. There were also American crocs in this pavilion (in another tank, of course), but the pics came out like garbage.

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Eastern Diamondback

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heeyy, nice TR, it was awesome meeting you guys, as well as cool running into you guys Jason, hope you guys liked your Knoebels visit. I just gotta make it up to MA sometime for Superman now. Look forward to the rest of your TR pete, I'll see what happened with my pics if they are even worth posting. Hersheypark was a blast though, Stormrunner was everything I expected and more, and I think every woody should get the MF treatment, so comfortable and Wildcat from what I heard was pretty bad before, but I thought it was awesome.

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Nice trip report pete, it was awesome seeing you guys at the campground. too bad we didnt run into each other earlier we could of went to hershey together. maybe some other time we will meet up, possibly at sfne we are both so close to it. anyways awesome pics.

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Nice Tr! I don't remember the last time I was at the Strasburg RR.! lol And since when do you see a girl lose her bikini bottom!

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mmmmm Baldwin Connie goodness.... *drool* Wait, thats not a connie. Its a decapod. Oh well. *drool*

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heeyy, nice TR, it was awesome meeting you guys, as well as cool running into you guys Jason, hope you guys liked your Knoebels visit. I just gotta make it up to MA sometime for Superman now. Look forward to the rest of your TR pete, I'll see what happened with my pics if they are even worth posting. Hersheypark was a blast though, Stormrunner was everything I expected and more, and I think every woody should get the MF treatment, so comfortable and Wildcat from what I heard was pretty bad before, but I thought it was awesome.

We loved our Knoebels visit Allen. I'm looking forward to going back this year is Flying Turns ever opens lol.

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^Wildcat wasn't that bad at all before the Flyers (in my opinion, anyway), but the new trains did make all the difference.

 

I agree, I haven't ridden it yet with the MFs, but I did ride it when it had the old trains. I didn't think it was a bad ride, just a bit wild. A week from tomorrow, I'll be able to compare.

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Great pics! I was just there yesterday after 5 years of not going. Here's my review on the coasters.

 

Storm Runner is good, but I still like TTD better.

 

Wildcat is still a little rough even with the new MFs, but that's understandable, considering it's older. It's still a great coaster.

 

Lightning racer is awesome, so smooth. Lightning is the better side, not only does it always win, but it has a slightly better layout.

 

Sidewinder was the best boomerang I have ever ridden, very smooth (for a boomerang) and minimal headbanging.

 

Great Bear was good, but too many straight bits, they could have done more.

 

SDL was awesome, very smooth.

 

Comet was cool. I tried to loosen my seatbelt to fly out of my seat, but too bad the coaster has no airtime whatsoever.

 

Trailblazer was meh.

 

Wild Mouse was great! It went so fast, went right over the pool, and seemed as if you were going to fly off the track into the pool! Had great airtime also!

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