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Road Trip 2017 Photo TR (12 nights, 11 parks, 2,800 miles)


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Part 1: Carowinds

Part 2 (New!): BGW and KD

Part 3: (Coming Soon!): KD and SFGADV

Part 4: Dorney and Hershey

Part 5: Hershey

Part 6: Cedar Point

Part 7: Kings Island and Holiday World

Part 8: Louisville and Kentucky Kingdom

 

When I was young, I was fascinated with theme parks and coasters. I often envisioned that as an adult, I would want to do nothing else with my free time except travel and seek out new parks. As soon as I had the means, I left my family and home in Philadelphia, and moved to Orlando to work for Disney. That was 11 years ago.

 

Throughout the years, I have unfortunately become somewhat jaded with parks. I no longer have the patience I once had to wait in long lines, or to endure the high temperatures. I stopped counting credits, and suddenly it seemed that I had become desensitized to coasters altogether. These rides that once brought my so much joy began to offer little in the way of thrill, and more in the way of discomfort and headaches.

 

But still - the idea of a road trip centered around riding roller coasters felt like a bucket list item for me, so I began to plan. Perhaps somewhere out there, I could rediscover the feelings I had when I was younger, or at the very least, I could make child-me proud.

 

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I get a kick out of trip planning.

I used Google Sheets to ensure my plans were doable. My friend Dan (who currently lives in Nevada) agreed to do the trip with me. Dan and I met on the Disney College Program many years back and have been good friends ever since. He is a casual fan of parks and coasters with some knowledge, but nothing crazy. As I had been to some of the parks on the list before and I knew a lot about the others, I thought it would be fun to see these places through the eyes of someone who doesn't know what to expect. My wife, Anouk, doesn't get as much vacation time as me and had no interest in doing such a trip, but gave me the green light to go without her.

 

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Happily Ever After

Dan arrived in Orlando on 5/25, and him, my wife, and I spent the evening at Magic Kingdom. We rode some rides and saw the phenomenal new night time show, "Happily Ever After." This show is worth the trip to MK by itself. It is a fantastic predecessor to "Wishes," and a must-see if you're in the area.

 

The plan was to get up early the next day and get to DAK to see if they had a Pandora soft opening. I had already visited during a Cast preview, but I was still excited to see it again. However, we ended up sleeping in and deciding it was better to get the road trip underway. I knew that I wanted a night ride on Fury, and so the adventure was about to begin.

 

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Time to go explore the world and ride coasters, like normal adults!

Our rental car was a 2017 Chevy Impala. This is from the "premium" section at Alamo. The cost: $5/day. After taxes and fees, $135 for the duration of the trip, 12 nights, one way from Orlando to Louisville. At the start of summer, rental car companies in Florida offer this deal to move car inventory up North. It works out well if you want to do a trip like this without putting wear and tear on your own car, as long as you're OK with flying back home.

 

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Are we there yet?

This was actually the longest drive of the trip (though not the hardest), clocking in at almost 8 hours. I was the only driver listed on the rental agreement, so it was my responsibility to not kill us.

 

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Goodbye, diet!

Our original goal was to try to not duplicate food places we ate at throughout the journey. We would later break that rule (damn it, Wawa!). Zaxby's is home to some of the best fast food fried chicken you can find, and I wish they were in more places.

 

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Welcome to Carowinds!

At around 6:30PM on Friday, 5/26, we arrived to a park I had never been too, Carowinds!

 

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Reconsidering my life choices and wondering why I didn't use my vacation time to sit in my apartment and play video games for 2 weeks.

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Responsible decisions: Buying an annual pass good for a bunch of parks that are located nowhere near my home.

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Standing in this position, my entire body is located in a state that I have no interest in returning too.

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You have to start somewhere.

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"Let's paint the ride multiple bright colors, and make the station look like a place where you might get serial killed!"

-Park Management, probably

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OK man calm down, we're going there next!

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One of three great coasters in the park.

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The ops at Intimidator were great at keeping people energized while they waited.

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Is it time yet?

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First time - night ride/front row!

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Last ride of the night - I have always wanted to go on one, and now I wonder "why?"

The first day of the trip was a successful one. Crowds were light throughout the park, so we were able to get most everything done with a few re-rides on Fury.

 

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Most of the trip would be spent staying at Hyatt Places, thanks to my wife's employee discount.

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I highly recommend Hyatt Place if you can get a good price - look at all of the room!

We were staying just a few minutes from the park, so we got out of bed early to get there for the AP ert.

 

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Good morning Carowinds!

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Morning ert is the way to go.

If you have an annual pass, do not miss the early entry. We were able to get 5 rides on Fury, 3 of them without leaving the train. Awesome!

 

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I wish I had paid more attention to what the banners said in the background and how they tied into the story-line of being thrown around on a giant robotic arm.

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It's like Flight of Passage, but with guns!

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Their idea of in-park entertainment is to awkwardly disturb people that are resting.

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I'm generally not a fan of B&M inverts, but this one felt unique.

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What a great parking spot.

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Chicken Tender Subs for the road.

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BGW is next!

By 1PM, we had done what we had come for and more. The coasters we "missed" were Flying Ace Aerial Chase (line too long with 1 train), and Lucy's Crabbie Cabbie (don't even remember seeing this?). We decided to get on the road to our next hotel in Richmond so we could get some rest before BGW the next day.

 

Carowinds was a bit underwhelming from what I had pictured. The park was smaller than I had expected. The ride ops, while mostly friendly, were slow and unprofessional in many cases. (3 ops argued over who was getting a promotion at Drop Zone instead of paying any attention to guests). During my time at the park, I got worried that this road trip may have been a bad idea. Would we get bored? Were we "too old" for this? Could my body handle it? (my head was already feeling it!) While Fury was great, it certainly didn't rekindle my love for all-things coasters.

 

On the other hand - 10 parks remained, and my hopes were high that there would be a place out there that would make it all worth while.

Edited by Pseybert
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The night of 5/27, we stayed in Hyatt Place Richmond, woke up early the next day, ate our free breakfast, and drove for an hour to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. When I was younger, my family could afford to make one trip per Summer. Usually, this consisted of a day trip to SFGADV, an overnight stay in Hershey, or a day at Ocean City NJ / Wildwood. In 1997, my parents surprised me with a 3 night trip to Williamsburg, where we spent 2 full days in Busch Gardens and 1 day in Water Country USA. For me, it was as good as a trip to Disney, and the greatest thing I can remember about my childhood. I haven't made it back to the park since.

 

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Until now!

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These weren't here before!

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The park is absolutely beautiful, with many winding and narrow paths that go up and down hills and through woods. You can spend hours just walking around, taking in the sights, the sounds...

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...and statues depicting murder.

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I actually forgot this was a thing.

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Handing out free fanny-packs should be a thing done on every coaster, everywhere.

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...

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Who's afraid of the launching cars?

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This is one of the coasters I was most excited for this trip.

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Dan was actually not aware of the drop-track, which made it great for me to see his reaction.

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These were fun as far as bumper cars go, but a certain place later in the trip would ruin all other bumper cars for me...

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I forgot this was a thing, too!

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The queue wraps around a statue of wolves in a hedge maze. Cool!

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It's like Forbidden Journey, but with a story line, and also nothing at all like Forbidden Journey.

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New for 97' on the left, new for 17' on the right. I was here opening year of each!

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The only line we waited in all day. (45 minutes)

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The rain began coming down hard, so we took 2 round trips on the train to wait it out.

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I feel as if something terrible happened to me here when I was 11, but I can't quite remember...

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I followed this ride on The Travel Channel and early theme park websites. Young-me was disappointed that it didn't live up to the hype. Present day me has no expectations for anything, and enjoyed it for what it was.

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This might be my favorite B&M hyper. Am I crazy?

By 2PM, we had done what we had accomplished more than we had expected, including every coaster in the park with some re-rides. The rain had gone away, and the holiday weekend crowds began to pour into the park. The decision was made to leave early and get a head start on KD, with the hopes that the next day we could leave KD early and get a head start at SFGADV.

 

In retrospect, I regret not closing down BGW when I had the time in the plans to do so. Verbolten was a blast, and I would have liked a night ride on Apollo's. Invadr was OK, but didn't do much for me, and I was OK to ride it just once. Good decision or not, we began the 1 hour trek to Kings Dominion.

 

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The vacation diet continue: for all of this? I had no idea!

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I was here only once before, the opening year of I:305.

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USA! USA!

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View from the top of the high thing in the previous picture.

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I'm actually not a fan of heights. Standing on top of this thing freaks me out.

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The volcano structure once hosted a Smurf's dark ride. Someone with some sense likely came along and said "let's cut the bullshit and begin launching people out of the top of this thing."

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When I rode this opening year, I hated it, and vowed to never ride it again. This time around, I managed two get myself on it twice, but still wasn't a fan.

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Didn't I just ride this yesterday?

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Crowds were light, and Grizzly at night is amazing.

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We made it over to Volcano for a front row night ride, and exited to some patriotic music and fireworks in the distance.

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I highly recommend skipping this Denny's near the park. (I should have checked reviews)

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When you're exhausted, tired, and hot, you really hope to not see a full blown power outage at your hotel! (more details below)

 

The crowds at KD were very manageable - I suppose the rain earlier in the day scared people away. We were able to get on all of the coasters save for 3 of them in our half night here. Overall, this park isn't my favorite. Volcano makes it worth the trip, though.

 

We were staying at a Sleep Inn (as there are no Hyatt's in the area), and when we went back after the park, there was a power outage. The hotel had great reviews and was 5 miles from the park. We were told that the power wouldn't go back on until 7AM at the earliest. We were also told that management had made the decision that no refunds would be issued, and they weren't able to "walk" us to a different hotel. They recommended that we make a reservation at their sister hotel, La Quinta Inn (which was actually right next door to KD). Frustrated and tired, I decided to book La Quinta and try to deal with getting my refund back in the morning. It took two days arguing with corporate and the GM or this location, but we finally were able to get a full refund.

 

From our new hotel, we could see KD outside of our window. We were excited to wake up the next morning, finish KD, and begin traveling north to Jersey.

Edited by Pseybert
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You aren't crazy. Apollo is my favorite B&M hyper.

 

The power outage thing stinks. Glad you got your money back. So does the Denny's near KD. We went once, and that was enough. Surprisingly, I've been to the park multiple times, and I've never gotten a night ride on Grizzly (mainly because we never stay a full day anymore).

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^^ Thank you! I'm excited to share the rest as soon as I can!

^ I grew up riding Nitro, and I Can see Mako from my current apartment. Apollo's felt unique. Glad to know I'm not the only one that thinks so!

 

And yes, it's hard to spend a full day at KD. I really like how it worked out for us, closing the park one night and going early in the morning the next day!

Edited by Pseybert
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