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Photo TR: TPR's Steaming Hot Mid-America Trip


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Table of Contents

Chapter 1: It's Nick's Universe--We Just Live in It (scroll down)

Chapter 2: Corn, Coasters, and Gold Spandex--A Hot Night and Day in Iowa

Chapter 3: TPR Makes a Pilgrimmage to Holy Ground--at Worlds of Fun

Chapter 4: Caves, Explosions, and Guys with Socks for Ears . . . What More Do You Want?--Silver Dollar City

Chapter 5: An Interlude--Gateway Arch and City Museum, St. Louis

Chapter 6: The Hottest Day in TPR Trip History? Most Likely--Six Flags St. Louis

Chapter 7: Independence Day, Halloween, Thanksgiving, & Christmas in August--Holiday World

Chapter 8: The Blackpool of the Midwest?--Indiana Beach

Chapter 9: I Have Been Here, Yet I Have Not--Six Flags Great America

Chapter 10: The Stately Vacation Home of the Gods?--The Wisconsin Dells

Chapter 11: They Put the "Fair" After "Cedar"--Valleyfair


Let's see. I've been back from TPR's Mid-America Trip for, what, a full two days now? Better start my trip report--time's a wastin'!


2010 marks my first TPR trip without a passport--and why not? Since 2006, Robb and Elissa have been gracious hosts to myself and many others in the UK, France, Germany, Denmark, the Netherlands, Sweden, Finland, Norway, and Japan. So, why not in Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, Illinois, and Wisconsin? (To some of us, the Midwest seems like a foreign country, anyway, with lots of strange accents, customs, and food, like cheese curds.) Besides, this trip offered a chance to hang out with a good cross-section of TPR members--a sort of "Best of TPR Trippers," if you will--and the hotels often had biscuits and gravy for breakfast. The solid line up of parks wasn't too shabby, either, and, as usual, Robb and Elissa put together an amazing itinerary of ERT, food, and overall goofiness. It's pretty hard to go wrong with that.


So, let's end this prologue and get our butts to Minnesota, the state that gave us Mystery Science Theater 3000, the MOST AWESOME SHOW OF ALL TIME.


Chapter 1: It's Nick's Universe--We Just Live in It


All Americans must make a pilgrimmage to the Mecca of our consumer-driven culture, the Mall of America, which offers not only shopping and dining, but ample opportunity to drop, spin, twirl, and puke your guts out at Nickelodeon Universe. I last visited this holy shrine of capitalism back in the 1990s when the park was still Camp Snoopy, and I admit to having misgivings about the takeover by the likes of Jimmy Neutron, Spongebob, and Dora the Explorer. Camp Snoopy was a very nice park back in the day, and thanks to my age, I have much more of a stake in the Peanuts characters than I do in the likes of the Backyardigans; Camp Snoopy, like Knott's back in the 1970s, had quite a bit of charm, too. But I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised. Nick Universe is a very nice, attractive indoor park that manages to cram a lot into a small space. Plus, Camp Snoopy's old Log Chute remains virtually unchanged (it's still my favorite attraction there). And they have a Eurofighter!


Speaking of Eurofighters and other coasters, here's how Nick's rate, from best to worst:


Spongebob Squarepants Rock Bottom Plunge--OK, I'm not a big fan of this show, and this has to be one of the most awkward names for a ride ever. But this is a very good "mini" Eurofighter with just enough force to be interesting and nice hangtime in the twisty bits. More American parks need to install Eurofighters--and Gerstlauer Bobsleds, for that matter. (Odd--I don't care for Spongebob's show, but I like his coaster and sort of like his simulator ride at KD. Go figure.)


Pepsi Orange Streak--The family coaster formerly known as Ripsaw now sports orange trains, but it still rumbles all over the park and interacts very nicely with the log ride. This ride, which is similar to Knott's Jaguar, was fun back in the 1990s and it's still enjoyable today.


Avatar Airbender--Intamin Half-Pipes are fun, but if your section starts spinning, you may get reacquainted with your breakfast. When I rode it during ERT, we were two riders short, so our seats spun like mad throughout the whole ride. It's pretty freaky as you approach the mall's ceiling, too.


Fairly Odd Coaster--This was Timberline Twister back in the Camp Snoopy days, but even though it's been Nicked up, it's still a a Gerstlauer spinning mouse. Word is that if the riders facing backward throw their weight in the direction of the first drop, their car will spin like crazy.


Back at the Barnyard Hayride--It's a Zamperla powered coaster that goes in a circle around cutouts of cows and other farm animals. Yes, it is about as exciting as it sounds.


The park's shooting dark ride, Ghost Blasters, is the same as it was way back when, too. Heck, I even found a flat ride to like: Jimmy Neutron's Atomic Collider (a "tumbler"). All in all, a very nice park and a cool start (in more ways than one) to TPR's Mid-America Trip. Here's a look at what Nick and TPR wrought at the Mall of America.


All trips must have a beginning. Mine bagan at Newport News-Williamsburg International, the Official Airport of "Mr. Jefferson. " Via Atlanta, I arrived at . . .


. . . Minneapolis-St. Paul, the Official Airport of Useless Advice, You Betcha.


A line of pilgrims arrives at the appointed holy place.


"Welcome to our Universe, Earthmen and women! Many wonders will you behold, some of which may . . .


. . . disturb you!"


Spongebob and Patrick, in the face of the greatest peril they've ever encountered, finally come to grips with their mutual attraction for one another. It is, indeed, a beautiful moment.


Robb is wondering, "Good god, what have I gotten myself into this time?"


Spongebob seems to be "compensating" for something here. I can't quite put my finger on what it is, and I'm not sure I want to.


"The bunny ears are just the beginning of the torment I will inflict upon you, TPDave."


The first car of ERT gently climbs up Spongebob's "compensation."


Screams and moans as they swoop down the other side--and that's just from Spongebob!


Yes, the Sponge is enjoying this way too much.


Scream! Scream to pleasure Spongebob!


Here we see a tribute in steel to his twisted, warped mindset.


Yes, this ride is, indeed, a journey through the sick psyche of Spongebob Squarepants. It's fun, too.


Avatar Airbender should be sponsored by Dramamine.


I hope no one pressed the "Up and Out" button.


Don't look now, TPDave, but Hanno is behind you, and he has the high ground.


Would "Fairly Normal Parents" have a Mack non-spinning mouse?


First, Avatar chops you upside the head . . .


. . . then this guy finishes you off!


Larry always keeps his audience riveted.


Rich is also intensely interested in what Larry is saying.


Aw-w-w-w-w . . .


. . . sweet penguin love for Lou!


Let the degradation begin!


"Yes, I'm a cheap whore--and proud of it!"


"My god, what have I done?"


"This is the bestest ride ever!"


Why so serious, Jake? More to come.

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More sickness and perversion at Nick Universe. Well, not that much perversion. Maybe just a little.


Nick challenges you to take on the most vicious plywood cutouts ever!


Here is the preshow that you can't really hear--poor dope.


"Kids, ya got me already! Quit shooting!"


A terrible tragedy was averted when Time Travelers from the future prevented Mike Austin from killing himself. Unfortunately, their interference in the time stream did result in the career of Justin Bieber, the Chernobyl meltdown, and White Castle.


Let's take a Dora's eye view of the park, shall we?


Noted and understood.


Avatar--up close and personal.


A wee piece of the Nick Universe.


Yay! A flat that I like!


Larry at work.


I like this "falling star," too--but I don't get the theming.


Ready for a little Log Chute trivia?


Why is there a chair on the wall?


Here's the answer. The old ballpark was torn down to make room for the Mall of America.


OK, I didn't go near this one.


Hmm--looks like Jon's brain is surging already.


It appears that Nick is being invaded by disturbing denizens from yet another universe.


OK, this is an "orange streak," but is that really a "great" room? I'm sure it's nice and all, but great?


This ride is so proud of its sponsor that it has "Pepsi" tattooed on its butt.


"Arr! Do ye have the stones to climb me Ghostly Gangplank? More important, mate, do ye have four dollars?"


"Avast! Step lively, there!"


"Ring the bell, wench! Ye have earned it!"


"Now get down here and fetch me some grog!"


"Avast! Thar be no grog fer this underage swab!"


"Never stare into the sea from the masthead, mate--lest ye fall to yer doom!"


"Aye, that's a lively dance to be doin' when ye walks the plank, matey. Go to yer fate laughin', sez I!"


Here's a ride for those who like to swing both ways.


We'll end this chapter with me and the Sponge. Next stop, another strange, alternate universe--Iowa!

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This is an awesome beginning to what will surely be an epic PTR.


I liked the MoA park a lot more than I thought I would. It was a lot nicer than I thought it would be, too. Honestly, the only thing that was bad about it was horrible Pepsi everywhere!


Looking forward to the next installment...



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I'm waiting for the Photo TR of you caressing under the moonlight with Leslie Hall.


Steve - you will truly be amazed, confused, turned on and a little uncomfortable!


Chuck - as always, I love your PTR's. It was great to hang with you again this year and you are definitely the undisputed champion of shooting ghouls.

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I don't even think I realized you were taking my picture in both queue's. You stalker!

Chuck is very stealthy. I suspect he may be part ninja.


Love the updates!

I'm glad someone has posted the picture of Woody taking Buzz to infinity and beyond.

They are now posed as such stuck to my fridge.

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I don't even think I realized you were taking my picture in both queue's. You stalker!

Chuck is very stealthy. I suspect he may be part ninja.


Love the updates!

I'm glad someone has posted the picture of Woody taking Buzz to infinity and beyond.

They are now posed as such stuck to my fridge.


I often scare my female coworkers just by saying "Good morning," thanks to my stealthy approach.

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awsome pictures. I particularly like the close up of Avatar. A ride I regret riding but once, but I was oooo jetlagged on this day that I had to leave early for a nap in the hotel's lobby. This was just the start of an exhausting, though PERFECT trip. Glad I met you on this one, Chuck

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Chapter 2: Corn, Coasters, and Gold Spandex--A Hot Night and Day in Iowa


We rolled out of one alternate universe and into another--one where corn and gold spandex coexist in an uneasy confluence of surreality. If "surreality" isn't a word, it should be, dammit. A state of "surreality" is the best way to describe TPR's evening at the Best Western Norsemen in Wherethehellarewe, Iowa. This quiet little hotel, nestled among corn and soybean fields, probably wasn't sure what it was getting itself into when it accepted a booking from TPR.


But I doubt that the place will ever be the same again. For this was the night of the now traditional Snack Exchange, which involved more than multiple flavors of Doritos, Double Decker Bars, and other such savory delights. The night also belonged to our special guest Leslie Hall. And who is Leslie Hall, the uninformed among you might ask? Let's just say she's a woman who has carved out a unique niche in life--a surreal dimension among waving corn stalks and undulating seas of soybeans. Or you could just watch this video.




I didn't take too many pictures of Leslie--I think I was too busy taking in the sublime strangeness of it all--but she is clever and absolutely hilarious. If I were to own one CD of rap music, it would be hers. She just made the Mid-America Trip all the more amazing--thanks for setting this up, Robb and Elissa! Leslie sold a lot of t-shirts and CDs that night, too.


Oh, and we did head out to a park the next day--Adventureland. You may recall that a fire took out a good-sized chunk of the park's "Main Street" section last winter, and while there is a large hole where those buildings used to be, I was happy to see that the damage wasn't quite as extensive as I'd thought.


Robb described Adventureland as Iowa's version of Lake Winnie or Knoebel's, and that's a good description. It also reminded of me Knott's back in the 1960s and 70s--lots of Old West-style charm and plenty of eccentric attractions. The staff was very nice--particularly the grandmotherly ride-ops at the coasters: "Now, the first thing you're gonna do is put on that seatbelt, dearie." (OK, none of them actually said, "dearie," but it would've made perfect sense if they had.)


The park has three good (and one not-so-good) coasters:


The Outlaw--This is an early CCI woodie that has held up really well. In fact, it was designed by the same fellow who would go on to found Great Coasters International, and it looks and rides very much like the later GCIs--all twisty, fast, and furious.


The Underground--OK, here's what really brought Knott's to mind. This is as much a dark ride as it is a wooden coaster, and the atmosphere is much like Knott's Calico Mine Train (right down to the the creepy, old-school animated figures). Fun stuff.


Tornado--This is a solid, old-school woodie that offers a reasonable amount of airtime (reminds me a bit of Hoosier Hurricane at Indiana Beach).


The Dragon--Ouch! When you first glimpse this thing, you hope against hope that it's an old Schwarzkopf; unfortunately, it was designed and built by Hopkins (a company better known for water rides). Clunky and painful.


OK, watch out for the high kicks and body rolls as we take a look at a surreal night and day in Iowa.


Farewell, Ramada Inn, you refugee of the 1970s you! (It looks sort of like a junior high school--with a comedy club.)


Hours later (and one excellent Buca di Beppo meal later), we were in another dimension entirely.


Why do I expect Anthony Perkins to step out and offer me a toasted-cheese sandwich? I wouldn't have been surprised to see Rob Zombie and Sid Haig lurking about, either.


Yep. Iowa.


Here's your chance to build an empire!


The hotel bar actually had regulars. They were talking about hay, as I recall.


I don't think the regulars were quite prepared for a TPR invasion, though.


But this Iowan fit right in. (You have to love a joint that's named after chewin' tobacky.)


"He's ready to submit, ref! Ask him! Ask him!"


Looks like Leslie's gonna lay the smackdown on this jabronie. (This was one of the most entertaining nights in TPR history.)


Despite heavy traffic the next morning, . . .


. . . and any lingering hangovers due to the "free drink" coupons we used at the hotel the previous evening, we made good time during our drive to . . .


. . . Adventureland.


Never did get a chance to use my milk coupon, though. Darn.


TPR awaits the opening of the Mystical Garage Door of Destiny.


Watch this space.


Is it really "underground," or just located in a big building? Just one of Adventureland's enigmas.


This creepy guy is sort of animated. He moves his arm a bit, anyway, as he tells you the story of the infamous "Bad Bob," whose ghost haunts the Underground. Or something like that. It was kind of hard to hear.


"Lord, we humbly pray . . .


. . . that you will protect us in this, our hour of trial. Amen."


"Yea, though we clunk up the Lifthill of the Shadow of Death, we will fear no . . .




"Why have you forsaken us?"


"Thanks for nothin', Jeebus."


This is how the world looks to you after you've been severely whacked upside the head by the Dragon. The other coasters were much better. More to come.

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Let's take a gander at some more of Adventureland.


I'm just waiting for those royalty checks to come pouring in!


Why, looky here--an authentic, Wild West spinning-raft ride!


It's fun and spins quite a bit, but be warned.


You will get wet.


"This is my tiger! His name is 'Tigery'!"


"Now, when we say 'ride the Outlaw' in these parts, we just mean the rolly coaster. We ain't into yer big-city double entrendres."


"Oh, we will ride the Outlaw. We will ride him hard."




This is a damn good ride.


And it has some right-nice theming, too.


Way to stick it to the man.


Like barrels, boots = theming.


"The world is a carousel of color! Wonderful, wonderful color!"


Hmm--isn't the name of this ride tempting fate in the Midwest?


Corn. Coaster. Iowa.


This is another solid coaster--nice and old fashioned.


Almost there . . .




Somebody wanna had my stomach back to me? Thanks.


I love that clickety-clack sound, don't you? Tornado runs pretty well.


Why do I suddenly crave a ham-and-turkey sandwich with Swiss cheese? Good thing we're having coldcuts for lunch.


Lou models a British delicacy: a cheese-and-crisps sandwich. (They probably call it "Frog in the Boot," or something.)


I was hoping that the show here was "Deuteronomy: The Musical," or "Stop the Apocalypse, I Want to Get Off." But it was just a juggler.


We'll end with one last look at the Outlaw, because it really is very good. Worlds of Fun will be up later this week--stay tuned.

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I liked the MoA park a lot more than I thought I would. It was a lot nicer than I thought it would be, too. Honestly, the only thing that was bad about it was horrible Pepsi everywhere!

I loved this park! I wasn't too crazy about the whole Nick takeover, but it seems to be done ok and they have a lot more rides then when I was last up there in 05


Thanks for posting the Leslie Hall video too. I didn't know who she was, I just figured she was some sort of Yo Gabba gabba figure, not some 40-something who is high on PCP all the time

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^ regarding Leslie Hall - you got it in one!! That entire evening was just surreal. Awesome... but surreal. Imagine her and an Aussie trekking into the corn field to take Dominatrix style photos. Then, imagine the horror of them emerging from the corn to take over the Skoal Cellar Lounge.


Awesome with a side of awesome.

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^I'm sure those photos will surface someday, too.


Here's a stuffed monkey for Larry.



There might be a few stuffed monkeys in the Worlds of Fun chapter, but I'm not sure.

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^I'm sure those photos will surface someday, too.


Here's a stuffed monkey for Larry.


There might be a few stuffed monkeys in the Worlds of Fun chapter, but I'm not sure.


I forgot, were you not one of the Skeeball participants?

Edited by larrygator
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