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Photo TR: Jason Does East Coast Bash 2011


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So wow, it's midnight on Tuesday, and I just got back an hour ago from an extended East Coast Bash weekend. As usual, Robb and Elissa completely outdid themselves once again, and thanks to their hard work and the generosity of Hersheypark, this was a tremendous event.

 

Now for the bad news: In the middle of the event, my trusty camera of four and a half years broke beyond all reasonable repair. While on my honeymoon earlier this summer, I noticed that the lens had a spot on it that I couldn't seem to get off, so I knew it probably would be time for a new one soon, but I never expected the shutter button to just pop off, launching a spring from its interior. I think I just plain wore it out. Counting up during my drive home tonight (following a visit to Knoebel's), I estimated I probably took over a quarter million photos with it on two continents from Christmas 2006 to last weekend.

 

The semi-good news is that by saving the button in my wallet, I was still able to take it out and hold it in place on the camera when I wanted to take pictures, say, for backstage tours. However, because that was a pain, I didn't take too many park pictures in between. But then, you can look most of them up in the park index, anyway.

 

So here it is: the last photo TR taken with my Sony Cybershot. RIP, old friend.

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As all good TPR events do, East Coast Bash started with museum ERT!

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OK, so maybe the museum was just where registration was taking place... but afterward, Robb had some pretty cool stuff to announce, including what more or less amounted to full backstage photo access to 95 percent of the park at various points throughout the day.

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And awaaaaayyyyy we go!

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First stop: a bonus Q&A session and quick peek inside the park's physical plant. Want to know how much electricity the park uses per day? These are the guys to ask. (Answer: 30,000 hamsters worth.)

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Then it was on to Fahrenheit for the start of ERT! Fun fact: The 97-degree drop at the top is only 36 degrees in Celsius.

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First train of East Coast Bash!

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It would be bad manners to ignore Storm Runner, so here's its first ERT train, as well.

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While the other 154 East Coast Bash participants were busy cramming themselves into coasters, six of us watched some dudes fire up the steam trains for the day.

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It was awesome!!!!

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We learned pretty much everything there was to know about these trains, including their orignial color scheme, manufacturer and even the oiling points!

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Turns out the "coal" on top is really a plastic shell. Who knew? These babies run entirely on propane and propane accessories.

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Lauryn is not impressed.

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Personally, I was impressed until I found out the trains didn't stop at Funky Junction.

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We now return to your regularly scheduled ERT, already in progress.

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We also had ERT on the Claw.

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Er... that Claw!

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Yay, Lauryn is tall enough!

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Uh oh! She looks nervous.... Her final assessment was that the Claw was "fun, then scary, then fun again." But not worth a re-ride.

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Noted!

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Yes, but how far is it to Toledo?

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While 99 percent of the rest of the Bashers ran to the nearest unoccupied coaster as soon as ERT was over, Lauryn waited patiently for the honor of being the first person of the day to ride the Howler.

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From there, we decided to test out our accuracy on Reese's Xtreme Cup Challenge.

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For those who don't know the back story, here it is as best as I can figure from the few seconds of pre-show I saw: A pro surfer dude and football star from the '60s became announcers for ESPN. One liked chocolate and the other liked peanut butter. Somehow, this was all related to sports, and a rivalry started. Then one of them had a son who became a pro snowboarder, and the other had a daughter who became a pro skater, and the kids did some hanky panky. There may or may not have been a paternity test involved.

 

So instead of fighting over who got whose chocolate in whose peanut butter or whatever, the dads started a Reese's Cup-themed version of the X Games. Your job is to shoot all the athletes and end this foolishness once and for all.

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After a couple of rides, we were pretty sure we had them all wiped out, so Kelly and Lauryn decided to take a break and ride the Pirate. Which sounds kind of dirty until you see the photo and realize it's a swinging boat ride. Which actually also sounds kind of dirty.

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We had time to squeeze in one more ride before the next backstage tour (seriously, we spent almost as much time behind the scenes as we did in front of them), so Lauryn and I took a quick spin on the Frontier Flyers. Our styles varied vastly. My technique was to get that sucker as high and twisted as humanly possible. Hers was to keep it as straight and low as she could manage. But she'll figure out the "right" way to ride them eventually.

 

Up next: What the Hersheypark mantenance complex looks like and why you should care.

Edited by printersdevil78
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Turns out the "coal" on top is really a plastic shell. Who knew? These babies run entirely on propane and propane accessories.

 

But that's like finding out the Easter Bunny isn't real! Which of course it is (fear not all of you kiddies still reading, you will still get an obscene amount of chocolate that your parents will steal while you're asleep)

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ERT had been over for just an hour when our next major perk of the day began: a tour of the Hersheypark maintenance facility. Enjoy!

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"Gather 'round, TPR members, and I will tell you a story... a story of maintenance."

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The night before our visit, the Hershey area got about seven inches of rain in under eight hours, enough to flood the park. This is what it looked like that evening. Thankfully, it rendered only two attractions non-operational for the day: Tidal Force and Rollersoaker (which, we were told during the Q&A portion of the tour, is the most unreliable ride at the park).

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This is what it looked like just hours before our visit! They were slightly nervous that it wouldn't drain in time... but thankfully, it did. I thought it was really cool that in the middle of trying to get the park ready for operation, someone actually thought, "Hey, we have a theme park enthusiast group coming in, in a few hours. I bet they would be interested in seeing what the park looks like underwater. Let's take some photos to show them."

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Oooh....

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What could be behind this door?

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If you said a 1970s-era office... you're right! This is also where they keep the weather computers. Our host explained which rides close in what order when bad storms are imminent. That knowledge was extremely helpful that afternoon, as I knew when to start seeking shelter from the oncoming heavy rains depending on what rides were being shut down. As a result, I stayed bone dry while the GP got drenched.

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This is the fabrication shop, where they create replacement parts for rides whose manufacturers no longer exist.

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And here I was thinking Arby's.

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Yep.

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Please note that the restroom is neither an exit nor for emergencies.

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When the coaster trains are stored for the winter, they sit on this lumber.

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And speaking of coaster trains....

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Want to see some parts for the new Skyrush? Well, if you looked at the picture before reading this caption, you just did!

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"The precious!"

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"I spy with my little eye...."

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Robb! Do not eat the Skyrush parts! They are not tasty blueberry doughnuts!

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This whip has been whipped.

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Coal Cracker, anyone?

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Remember those trains we saw earlier? This goes on top of them.

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And this goes in front.

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This caboose billboard apparently was located in front of the park for quite some time. They're talking about refurbishing it and putting it back there.

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I wish I had a cabinet full of Krispy Kreme doughnuts.

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This isn't theming, but the actual boxes used to ship the sea lions for the Aquatheatre show to the park in the summer and back to warmer climates in the winter. We also found out what happened to the dolphins that used to be in the show: A hurricane damaged their off-season home, and the company that supplied them went out of business. They all live at other marine-themed parks and zoos now.

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Holy Zamboni, Batman!

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When the engineers need to get beneath the coaster cars, they line them up over this pit and remove the appropriate boards.

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The Roller Cowster lives! Originating as a parade float in connection with one of those urban art statue projects, this bit of decor greeted park guests near the front gate for awhile until the elements finally took their toll. The park plans to fix it up with the idea of possibly donating it to the Roller Coaster Museum.

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Next up was the sign shop.

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This portion of the TR is brought to you by Chevrolet. The hearbeat of America--that's today's Chevrolet.

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This is what we like to refer to as a "chick magnet."

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When's the last time anything at Hersheypark actually cost 15 cents?

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We see you, Great Bear sign!

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There's Jolly Rancher, being all bossy again.

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Virginia may be for lovers, but the Ferris wheel is for Twizzlers.

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OMG, it's like the games page of the Club TPR newsletter suddenly came to life!

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Noted!

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Statuary from the abandoned "Brokeback Mountain: The Ride."

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Hersheypark is really like its own self-contained city. It even has its own street sweeper and garbage truck.

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Exclusive backstage Fahrenheit photo!

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Speaking of snacks and turkey legs, it's time for lunch. What do you want to bet there will be special guests and amazing prizes?

 

More to come....

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As promised, here are the final two portions of my East Coast Bash TR. Enjoy!

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Snacky snack snack snack snack... snack!

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Look "who's" here to greet us! Get it?

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ZooAmerica actually sent over several animals to greet us, including a skunk and this baby alligator. Afterward, we got to flush it! (No, not really.)

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Buf-fay!!!

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Aw, who are we kidding? Beer-fay!

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Chug! Chug! Chug!

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Lauryn says: "Reese's Cup Man is better than a skunk any day!"

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After our guest character, we had a Q&A with the team behind the Skyrush viral marketing campaign. Total cost: $3,000. Amount of that spent on doughnuts: $2,500.

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Then we had a second Q&A with staff from the rides department.

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Then, of course, it was time for TPR Quest! Winners of this insane game, featuring tasks such as "Bring me a pair of shoelaces not attached to any shoes" and "Sing 'Bohemian Rhapsody'" (as well as winners of that morning's scavenger hunt) received tickets to a backstage tour of the Fahrenheit hydraulics room or their choice of other prizes including coaster parts and concept art.

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I mentioned at the beginning of this TR that my camera broke in the middle of the day. This is the photo that did it. Who would have thought that out of all the subjects I photographed throughout the years, Piers would be the camera's downfall?

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After lunch, it was time for more rides... but first, how about a show?

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Lauryn and I rode Trailblazer, the Comet (in a light rain) and the Wild Mouse before I had to leave for the next backstage tour.

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Wait, what's this?

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Water park! This is where Kelly and Lauryn attempted to hang out while I was on the tour.

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This is where I drive to go to the movies.

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See? There's no need to go all the way to Coney Island for an authentic Nathan's hot dog.

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Hey, I wonder what that sign says.

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!!!

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This was our meeting spot for the next backstage tour. Remember when I said Kelly and Lauryn "attempted" to enjoy the water park, however? Well, about 20 minutes after they got in, they announced it was shutting down. Though the skies were still clear, I knew from that morning's tour that meant there was an extreme storm on the way.

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The storm hit just before we were supposed to embark on the tour. Hersheypark was nice enough to open the tent so we could hide out from the pouring rain. And miracle of all miracles, it was even air conditioned! The weather that afternoon fluctuated between 90 degrees and humid, and "wrath of God" thunderstorms.

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It was easy to tell who ran in just before the storm hit and who got caught in it.

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And then there were those who put the break to good use.

 

More photos shortly.

Edited by printersdevil78
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Final segment. Enjoy it while it lasts!

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The storm cleared up almost as quickly as it hit, and we were on our way backstage soon enough.

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And what's backstage that could be so important? Skyrush supports!

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Unscrable this code for your chance to win a support of your very own!

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This coaster is not suited for European outlets.

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Hey! Robb said not to molest the coaster parts!

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For the lift hill enthusiasts.

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Oooh... I hope we don't get caught!

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Forget the coaster supports; let's go get some doughnuts!

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Uh oh. The toe tag says this support was DOA.

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What's so special about this house?

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Its occupants get to stare at coaster supports all day! They're literally laying on the side of the street on the edge of a residential neighborhood.

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Roller Soaker was down for the day due to control room flooding :(

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Trailer: The Ride, however, was operating right on schedule.

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Want to see some backstage photos of Lightning Racer? OK then....

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Backstage Ferris wheel photo? Sure, why not?

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That's a lot of coaster nerds!

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I had been saving Wildcat and Lightning Racer for that evening's ERT, but after the big storm, I decided I'd better get at least one ride in on each (two on Lightning Racer) to make sure I got the credits.

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After Wildcat, I made my way over to Lightning Racer only to find it in the process of closing down. I knew what that meant... another storm.

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Guys? What are you doing singing? Don't you know we're about to get washed away?

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The second storm was even worse than the first one. I was supposed to meet Kelly and Lauryn in Founder's Circle, so I walked in that direction and entered the Reese's Xtreme Cup Challenge cue just as the rain started falling. I got to ride, then took shelter in the exit area once the ride shut down.

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Unfortunately, there aren't many "indoor" areas at Hersheypark, and Kelly and Lauryn got drenched until the park opened up the picnic shelters and herded many of the guests into them. Kelly texted me their location, and once the rain let up, I met them at Fahrenheit. From there, we made our way out of the park for a visit to Chocolate World.

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After a spin on the Great American Chocolate Tour ride, I walked Kelly and Lauryn back to their car so they could get home at a decent hour (Kelly had to work the next day), and I returned to Chocolate world for dinner. It rained again while I was in there.

 

Minor rant: Parents, if you have more than four children with you and you're in line at a fast food/cafeteria-style restaurant, please, for the love of Hershey, ask them what they want before you get to the counter. Also, make sure you have enough money to pay instead of having to wait for your husband, who's in another line, to come over with the debit card. Following these two simple steps will save you and everyone in line behind you at least 20 minutes.

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Upon attempting to re-enter the park, I learned that there was an "enter after 7 p.m., get the next day free" promotion going on, and I had the misfortune of trying to re-enter right at 7. The crowd ("line" really wouldn't be the correct word) was backed up to Chocolate World! Fortunately, as I held my ticket stub up for re-entry, security just kept waving me along, so I really didn't have to wait until I got right to the gate. Once inside, I spent about 20 minutes walking back to Lightning Racer to make sure I got in those "just in case" rides.

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That was about the end of my photo taking for the evening. Following Lightning, I went over and chilled at the TPR picnic pavillion for the last half hour of the ice cream and soda social, then followed the group over to Kissing Tower. That's where we discovered... "The Room." What goes on inside? I dare not say.

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After another spin around the park, we met up at the picnic pavillion again, where we got some Skyrush promotional ephemera and a chance to thank our Hersheypark hosts for the day... then it was on to evening ERT on Wildcat and Lightning Racer! I got in six rides on Lightning and four on Wildcat (including two as the lone person on the ride) before calling it a night. After a stop for gas and a short car ride, I made it back to my hotel just after midnight.

 

Thanks again, Robb, Elissa and Hersheypark for a great 15-hour day!

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