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Dave & Mary Go To Knott's

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It’s been four years since I last set foot in LA. Mary had never been there, other than during a lay over on the way to Australia, so it seemed like a good time for a visit. Besides seeing friends and doing some random sightseeing (and enjoying LA traffic) we visited two local parks. First up was Knott’s, a park I had not visited since Solace 2001. Over the last four years, I’ve read all sorts of stories about how the park has deteriorated, how all the rides now suck, how operations have gone to hell and so on. I was curious to see what the years had done to a park that I once considered one of the best parks in the country…


So after a fun-filled drive in LA traffic, we arrive at Knott’s shortly after 9 in the morning on Saturday. Why so early? Because we were getting passes, and we warned by our hosts for the day (Robb & Elissa) that getting passes would take awhile. They were not kidding. The pass processing place opened a bit after 9:30, with one person working in the building. At various points throughout the process, a random person had to enter the room and enter a coupon code into the computer, and then disappear. Also, two random employees entered the room, were confused by the camera equipment, and also left the room. At one point, the one woman asked “Do you know how to use a camera?” and I thought she was asking the people in the line waiting for their passes…but it turns out she was addressing one of the confused drones that really seemed like they had been picked up that morning out of LA’s homeless population and put into a Knott’s uniform to play some odd practical joke on either Knott’s or the people waiting. Anyway, we eventually did get our passes after about twenty minutes of waiting, and were actually done before the park opened. I felt sorry for the people waiting in line behind us (and it was quite a long line at this point).


So we wander over to the front gates to notice a few things. The first was a giant cobra roll towering over the entrance. That was certainly different than the last time I was there. We also noticed the Closed Attractions sign contained no listed rides, which we thought was a good sign. The last thing I noted was the crowd gathered around the gate. It used to be that Knott’s drew a predominantly family crowd. The crowd gathered outside of the gates (and it was a pretty large one) reminded me of the crowd I used to see at SFMM in the ‘90’s when I lived in LA. Lots of teens/early 20’s, most of them shouting, cursing, shoving and the like. This really was not the type of crowd I was used to seeing at Knott’s and figured it was because the park has more “extreme” rides now. It was certainly different.


So the gates open on time, and we go over to Silver Bullet, figuring that this will get the longest line. I have to say that seeing this section of the park was really strange from what I’m used to seeing here. I know parks have to change over time and all, but this still was sort of shocking to see, especially the new spilled bucket of water, err, “lake”. Anyway, we get up to the station, and watch them test the ride for awhile (interesting that the park didn’t seem to test the ride before 10 AM). After some test cycles and watching some line jumping, we get on the back row. Now, I really didn’t have a whole lot of high expectations for this ride, some because of the reviews I read comparing it to Talon, a ride I’m not too keen on, and some because B&M in general in the last few years really has not put out what I consider a kick-ass ride. I like the more intense ones, like Fire Dragon or Montu or Batman. But I’m willing to give it a chance, and I always figure that a bad B&M is usually better than a lot of other rides. So anyway, after waiting for them to check everyone, we’re off.


We get to the top of the lift, and start to drop down, and immediately it seems like there’s not a great feeling of speed like on most other inverts. Sadly this continued throughout the ride, as it just never really generates a real sense of excitement. The ride moves through its course, and it feels like more of a graceful steel ballet than a kick ass ride experience. It’s very smooth, very quiet and not horrible, but at the same time it doesn’t deliver the sort of ride I look for in an inverted coaster. I’m sure that Knott’s got exactly the sort of ride they wanted, but to me this was the weakest B&M inverted coaster I’ve ever experienced. It’s a shame it doesn’t have a 48 inch height limit, as this would really make a good family coaster.


So my first new credit is out of the way for the year, and we head over to Ghostrider. Now, I’ve also read all sorts of stuff about this ride over the years, some saying that it’s Silver Bullet smooth, and others saying that the ride has deteriorated to the point where riding Son Of Beast while midgets poke you with stun guns in your spine would be pleasurable in comparison. I was somewhat apprehensive, as I really like this coaster and would be really disappointed to see it in sad shape. While waiting in the station, we witnessed more line jumping (yay!) and obnoxious language and behavior by the crowd. Eventually I get settled in the front seat of the back car, and preparing for the worst, head out of the station.


But my fears were unnecessary. Yes, it doesn’t ride exactly like it did when it first opened. Yes, it was a bit rough in spots, but it was not unrideable, and I thought for a day time ride not that long after the park opened, Ghostrider actually delivered a pretty damn good ride. I guess it did just come out of rehab (though how much rehab you can do to a wood coaster in two weeks I’m unsure of), and the capacity seems really bad, as they were constantly stacking trains (we decided they should open a gift shop/bar out on the brake run, since you get to spend so much time out there). Though I suppose some of this can be attributed to park patrons, as I witnessed more than one staring at the seatbelt sort of like a caveman would stare at a remote control. This ride also featured some of the new “interaction” that I dreaded, where some employee attempted to excite the crowd with random banter over the PA system. A bad idea made worse by the fact that this guy has an excellent future as a subway announcer, as he was impossible to understand, keeping me from discovering if he was truly funny or not. From what I could understand, though, he was not…


Our next stop was to be Xcelerator. I’ve been looking forward to riding this for awhile, especially since riding Storm Runner this past year. We get to the ride and there’s no line. Yay! Wait, there’s no line because the ride is not running. And one of the trains is torn apart and is in pieces. And there’s no one working on the ride. This does not bode well. It turns out the ride is in rehab, though this was not noted on the sign out front. We walk pass Perilous Plunge, which was also closed. We walk towards the Screaming Swing, and that whole section of the park is closed off for repaving. On a Saturday. And the park was pretty busy, and seemed to be getting busier. OK, yeah, it has been raining a lot in CA, so perhaps this was the only time they could do this work. But still, to not note rehab rides on the sign outside (since there’s no damn way Xclerator was going to be open any time soon) and closing off a section of the park seemed kind of lame.


So we head back the way we came and eventually decide to ride the log flume. They were only running one loading side, and it took us about fifteen minutes or so to get on. This is still one of the best log rides out there, though it looks like some of the interior could use a bit of work. It’s good that we rode when we did, as the line had GREATLY increased in size when we got off. Actually, at this point, almost everything we passed had a much longer line. I wanted to ride La Revolution (I think that’s the name), but the line was massive, and since I was told it runs pretty much the same as the one at Dorney (which means it won’t be very exciting and really short) we skipped it. We thought about riding Jaguar, but they were doing their infamous and confusing “one train empty, one train full” operation, and still managing to stack the trains for a good three minutes outside the station every time. I’m not sure how you can do this with one empty train, but, um, they were. We eventually found ourselves on Montezuma’s, and after a ride, we all decided that this was still the best ride in the park. It’s great that they still have this ride here, though it’s sort of sad it’s still the most forceful coaster in the park (well, Xcelerator might be better. I’ll have to wait to find out, though).


We walked back past Silver Bullet, thinking we’d try it again, but one look at the lengthy line had us give up that idea. The park was pretty damn crowded, no doubt because it was probably the first nice weekend CA residents had seen for awhile, so we just decided to leave.


I’ll admit, I had a better time here than I thought I would, but the park has changed, and likely not for the better. The operations didn’t seem as good as they once were, and the way some sections of the park look would really just take me awhile to get used to (I miss the lake). The “interaction” on the microphones has GOT to go, as it’s annoying and proves again that people that think they’re funny never are. The crowd in the park was really obnoxious, and line jumping is a big problem that really needs to be watched over. And how hard is it to staff the season pass processing booth with two people, or list your rehab rides on the “closed” sign? Sadly, this is not the Knott’s I was used to, and while it’s not the hellhole that some have described, I certainly wouldn’t rank the park nearly as high as I used to. Ah well, at least I got one credit…

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Great TR! I have never seen such bad operations at the park, that's unacceptable to not list those rides on the closed board. I just don't think the park cares that much anymore about anything. Yeah, I also have noticed the crowd change in Knott's, it's become almost the same as SFMM, it's sad how Knott's gets worse and worse every year under Cedar Fair ownership, I miss the days of family ownership, it's nothing more than a carnival now IMO.

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Yep ride op banter is often painful... Especially when they are trying to be funny.


The only thing more annoying... Dispatch effects. Oh yes the one place I discovered this on all the major coasters was Thorpe Park. Someone please tell the parks that having a track play every time a train is dispatched gets very very tiring after the 3rd or 4th time. I was just about to yell at someone while waiting for a Nemesis Inferno ride...

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