Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Erik Johnson » Fri Jan 03, 2020 12:34 pm

I was able to spend an afternoon/evening in the far west side of Kyoto in the Arashiyama area. You can find a ton of monkeys at the Arashiyama Monkey Park. It is basically a mountain that you climb that has a bunch of monkeys at the top. You do get a nice view of Kyoto. The Arashiyama Bamboo Forest is nearby as well and worth the visit. Thanks for your photos.
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby oriolat » Mon Jan 06, 2020 3:55 pm

I really like the way you are reviewing Japan, because it's not just about the parks but also about the cities.

As for Kyoto, I much prefer it to Tokyo as it is busy, but still manageable, and has plenty of traditional shrines. I also did the Fushimi Inari tori trail but it was mid-summer and it was exhausting and had me completely dehydrated! I also agree that Arashiyama is a nice area to visit while in Kyoto: I visited the bamboo forest and got to experience hot springs (I seemed to be the only foreigner venturing them lol). If you are into railways, Kyoto had a very large and interactive railway museum some 20 minutes away from the main station.

Regarding Nagashima Spaland, I completely agree: FujiQ exceeded my expectations too and Nagashima just met them. The park was nice but a bit too bland, perhaps. Operations were much better at FujiQ than Nagashima in my case. As for Arashi, it was completely insane. I had been on Joker at SFGAdv but nothing could prepare me for the sheer madness Arashi was. It was like being on a top spin on an insane German-run cycle on wheels. In my case, they did something really weird: they were running 3 trains BUT only loading one side (so they still had a ride op checking empty restraints on a side which was roped off to the public), just to make the line for Arashi appear longer than it was, thus fostering FP sales...

Thanks for your pictures and detailed descriptions!

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious JAPAN! Coasters, Culture, &

Postby Gav » Mon Jan 06, 2020 5:33 pm

I was in Japan over Christmas just now, and yeah I was quite surprised too that Fuji Q was better than expected and Nagashima seemed worse in terms of operations.



When I arrived at Fuji Q, the park was under a blanket of snow, and coasters didn’t start opening till 1pm (Though sadly Eejanaika never opened, I got a couple of laps on the rest, plus the minor rides like Fuji Airways, the Naruto dark ride, the hospital, Duncan, the Thomas treasure hunt, rapids etc) But I was impressed how hard they worked to clear snow from the tracks and get rides testing.



At Nagashima, I barely got 1 lap on each coaster (Except Ultra twister because it was closed), and that was relying on express passes, because of silliness like only running 1 side of Arashi (so 4 seats per dispatch!), 1 train/station on Acrobat etc.

The park closed 5:30 but queues shut for SD2000 and Hakugei before 4, so frustratingly only 1 go on each….I sprinted to Acrobat and got a 2nd lap on that at least, using an express pass just before they closed the queue for that one too.



On the other coasters, ops were slow, eg on the Corkscrew, the op would get in a couple of people, they’d deposit their items, take their seats, then the next couple of people would follow and so on. So what looked like a 10 min wait ended up being 30.



The park, was alright, tidy and good rides, but the staff seemed lethargic.



Surpisingly, outside of Disney and Universal, I thought the quickest and most courteous ops were at Legoland Japan!

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels - Hersheypark July

Postby Condor » Tue Aug 11, 2020 1:44 pm

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Pennsylvania & Maryland July 2020

You’re never going to believe this, but my 2020 theme park itinerary did not work out as planned.

Way back in January I made plans as follows: (1) a ten-day, seven park road trip from Indiana to Virginia in July, and (2) a seven-day, seven park retreat to Orlando in October. The summer trip gradually eroded and morphed into a four-day weekend to Pennsylvania and Maryland in late July and I’m currently cobbling together a trip to Tennessee and Texas for the fall.

Hersheypark was already one of my favorite parks in the country and is among the fortunate few to debut their new for 2020 coaster, so it was an easy choice to anchor my trip. And while in the area, there was simply no way I could pass up a visit to Knoebels, even with two of their coasters closed for the season. I flew into Washington Dulles on Thursday and had a late afternoon return flight that Sunday, which seemed like the perfect amount of time for my first visit to Six Flags America on the way to the airport.

The whole thing turned out pretty well. Hershey and Knoebels had the lightest crowds I’ve seen, but still felt lively enough to not seem too far out of the ordinary, and SFA was practically empty for two of the three hours I spent there. I won’t comment much about mask-wearing and social distancing. I work in the hospitality industry so I’m already used to wearing a mask all day and being around throngs of people who either won’t wear one or wear them incorrectly. Seeing it at a theme park made no difference to me. At no point at any of the three parks did I feel at greater risk than I do every day at work.

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Hersheypark now has an entrance befitting a park of its stature.

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The new plaza fits so naturally it feels like it's always been here. I'm always a fan of seeing a park's skyline from the the front gate.

Day 1—Hersheypark

I have long felt that Hersheypark had the second best coaster collection in the United States after Cedar Point. They are the only two parks with lineups I enjoy enough from top to bottom to spend two full days at without resorting to extended marathons on just one or two coasters. I don’t think Candymonium makes Hershey’s collection any qualitatively better, but as the saying goes, “quantity has a quality all its own.” After four rides on it, I’d rank it in the middle of the pack among Hershey’s adult thrill coasters. What it does is add yet one more perfectly enjoyable and visually striking coaster to spread the day out even better.

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Soaring over the midway makes Candymonium's finale more exciting both on and off-ride.

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The Brothers Hyper.

I think Candymonium and Skyrush are a superior complementary pairing than the B&M hyper + B&M giga duos Cedar Fair has been going with lately. You can really see the Cedar Fair influence on the park’s new entrance plaza, “Chocolatetown.” The placement of the B&M is different, set farther back from the gates than Fury 325 or Gatekeeper, but the effect is similar. I might even like Hersheypark’s approach better. While I like seeing the CF coasters soaring over the entrance as much as anyone, Candymonium’s distance from it creates a picturesque vista that will only improve as the landscape around it fills in. So how do I think it rides?

Candymonium
I waited twenty-five minutes for my first backseat ride at opening, the longest queue I waited in all day. While I avoid judging a major coaster on a single ride, let alone before it has warmed up, I wasn’t particularly impressed. Excluding the gigas, I have two B&M hypers I really like (Goliath @ SFOG and Nitro), two I really don’t (Sitting Bull and Intrimidator), and all the rest are grouped together somewhere in the middle. I’m much too sardonic in most situations to dare call myself an optimist, but I kind-of-sort-of expected Candymonium to be in that upper tier and it just wasn’t. The first and second drops were great and that was about it. The rest of it felt a lot like Diamondback, like it was just going through the motions in typical late B&M fashion. But I’ve done a complete 180 on new coasters before and that’s exactly what happened.

I came back to Candymonium in the afternoon and rode once up front and twice more in back, and predictably, giving it time to warm up made a noticeable difference. First the hammerhead whipped a little harder. There’s nothing that can be done about the trim that follows—it kills the subsequent cammelback no matter what. On the speed hill after the camelback is where I really noticed a change, feeling for a moment like I was back on SFOG’s Goliath being vaulted up into my clamshell. The upward helix pulls just hard enough to be interesting and the banked drop and bunny hop had strong floater air, though not as strong as the speed hill. Candymonium is still not an elite B&M to me, but I ended the day a much bigger fan of it than I started. It feels the most similar to Mako, but Candymonium finishes strong whereas Mako kind of meanders through the final third of its layout. 8.5/10

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The first drop is very good. It feels exactly like Mako's.

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It's a minor touch, but I'm glad to see B&M tinkering with their established formula even in small ways like the extra banking here.

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The trim on this hill never harmed it much, something that cannot be said about the first trim earlier in the layout.

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Real men ride the Reese's train.

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There's lots of room for Chocolatetown to grow or landscaping to fill in around Candymonium. Hersheypark could probably relocate some of its older, smaller attractions here to free up more water park space in the back.

B&M hypers ranked:
1. Goliath (SFOG)
2. Nitro
3. Candymonium
4. Mako
5. Silver Star
6. Diamondback
7. Apollo’s Chariot
8. Hollywood Dream
9. Raging Bull
10. Intimidator

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The hillside behind the railing at left leads to what used to be the Skyrush path along the creek. There is still space to pave and reconnect it if the park chooses to do so in the future. Hopefully they do.

Skyrush
Still my number-one coaster. I’ve expounded at length about Skyrush in past installments, so I won’t break it down element-by-element here. It’s the kind of coaster that screams in your face, “There are two kinds of riders in this world—those who work out their quads—and those who don’t!” There are however several ways to improve your comfort level with a little practice. For one, I scoot forward a couple of inches in my seat as I go up the lift to position the lap bar higher up on my thighs. Second, I place my hands on my knees and lean forward during the low-ground turns. Skyrush can vibrate and this mostly alleviates it. And if you’re a real Skyrush masochist like I am, you can sit on a wing seat and plant your inside foot on the floor of the seat beside you on the pullouts to keep the lapbar up. Getting a good, comfortable ride on Skyrush is like a game and while some may hate that, it’s part of why I love it. There aren’t many coasters out there that can make seasoned enthusiasts brace and hold on for dear life, and of those that do, Skyrush is king. That’s why it remains my favorite. 10/10

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Skyrush is like the last of Intamin's old guard. The last major coaster they built that alarmed people with its intensity. After 2012 they still built plenty of excellent coasters, but seemed to dial the aggression down a notch, probably the right move for them.

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The lack of the Skyrush path has turned what used to be one of the most photogenic, easily photographed coasters into one that is now especially difficult.

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My favorite airtime moment in the world.

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Candymonium's banking transitions have nothing on Skyrush's.

Fahrenheit
Another coaster I found underwhelming the first time I rode it, but over time my esteem for Fahrenheit has steadily risen to the point where I now consider it the second best coaster in the park, even when Storm Runner is operating. While I think the general enthusiast opinion of it has similarly risen, it still occasionally gets a bad rap as a rare blemish on Intamin’s record from the 2000s. “If Intamin built a B&M,” is a phrase you might see crop up every so often. It’s certainly not Intamin’s most intense work, but it might be their most well-rounded from that period. Ejector air beyond-vertical drop? One of only two Norwegian loops in the world? More airtime on the exit of said Norwegian loop? A uniquely forceful cobra roll? Snappy, actually worthwhile corkscrews? An ejector air bunny hop finale? Check the box for them all please. 9/10

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Fahrenheit looks like a small child's drawing of a roller coaster from some angles.

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I appreciate it more and more every time I visit.

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The Norwegian Loop is a great inversion. A little side-to-side shimmy at the top, positive g's on the bottom, and airtime on the way back down. I'd like to see more of them.

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Most corkscrews are usually duds, but not Fahrenheit's.

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It packs a diverse set of elements and forces into a tight layout. This ejector airtime hill is the perfect finale for an inversion-focused layout.

Great Bear
To any Pennsylvania enthusiasts who like to complain that Great Bear’s layout is incomplete, I’d like to propose a trade. I’ll give you Silver Bullet for it, straight up… Any takers? Okay, I’ll also throw in your pick of Sierra Sidewinder, Coast Rider, or Pony Express. Any takers now…? Didn’t think so. Sure, the bear’s layout could be more fleshed out than it is, but I argue its myriad idiosyncrasies are part of what makes it special, it’s mimicry of IOA’s Pteranodon Flyers at the end included. A brief stretch of track to admire scenery and reflect on the ride experience can actually be a meaningful element not enough coasters take the time to include. It helps too that Great Bear’s big moments are pretty intense in the old school B&M way. The helix, first drop, and four inversions all deliver and I think the swooping drop/turn between the zero-g-roll and corkscrew is an underrated airtime moment if you catch it at the right time in the back row. 8.5/10

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Great Bear is an excellent example of how space constraints can lead to some very creative solutions.

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I would have loved to see the elevated helix into a drop duplicated at Knott's Berry Farm.

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Great Bear was built after several big 1990s inverts like Montu and Alpengeist, but to me it feels most like one of the earlier, smaller ones, Flight Deck.

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Great Bear will gladly accept all of your favorite camera angles Skyrush was forced to give up this year.

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I enjoy the low-to-the-ground straightaways on Great Bear and Raptor. Some might see it as wasted track, but to me its adds character and an instant to take in and appreciate what you're experiencing.

Lightning Racer
I apparently took no photos of Lightning Racer, which actually makes a lot of sense given that it’s a coaster I’ve long felt completely indifferent towards. In terms of ride experience, I’ve always seen it as the point where GCI began the switch from its original formula as shown by Wildcat, Gwazi, and the Roar twins, to its later design philosophy starting with Ozark Wildcat and Thunderhead, and still being continually refined up through Texas Stingray today. Lightning Racer seems caught in the transition phase between the larger, more drawn-out elements of first group and the lower to the ground, quickly paced elements of the second. If Lightning Racer was firmly in group two, I’d probably like it a lot more. As it is though, I always enjoy it once, but never feel compelled to re-ride. 7/10

And the coaster with the second longest wait of the day was… Wildcat! The ‘every other row’ socially distanced seating is not friendly to the Millennium Flyers’ capacity. The duel tracked Lightning Racer mitigated it, but Wildcat was helpless. It felt exactly the same as I remembered it from two years ago. Rough, but not brutal, and lacking airtime or forces of any kind other than jackhammering. Speculation of eventual RMC treatment isn’t going away unless Hersheypark actually goes through with it, but doing so would ironically rob the ride of its one redeeming quality—its aesthetics. 4/10

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Rule #1 of GCI aesthetics - the better they look to the eye, the worse they actually ride!

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What I mean is that GCI's oldest coasters had an almost poetic flow and symmetry in their structures. You can't really say that about Goldstriker or Mystic Timbers.

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But I'll the the function over form approach of Goldstriker any day!

Comet
This was running brilliantly in 2018. I even stated it was Hersheypark’s best wooden coaster at the time. I could still probably find a way to make that argument in 2020, but Comet was not running nearly as fast this year and I couldn’t tell why. Maybe it needs a full train to properly hit its mark and leaving every other row empty left it too light? Maybe it was helped in 2018 by the fact that it was blazing hot that day? Were portions of it retracked two years ago and the PTC trains have spent the last couple of seasons chewing it up again? Hard for me to say. It has a great layout. It reminds me of a longer, more spread-out, terrain version of Phoenix, a fellow Herb Schmeck design. The on-ride experience just wasn’t there this time. 6/10

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Comet isn't the easiest ride to photograph either.

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The other end of the now-closed Skyrush path.

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Inside the new two-story retail space at Chocolatetown. The upper level was not yet open when I visited.

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Overall, Chocolatetown and Candymonium are a win for Hersheypark.

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I made the obligatory stop at Troegs Brewery after the park. As a SoCal craft beer guy, my standards for breweries are high and Troeg's is one of the best.

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Interior seating was sparse and socially distanced. The patio was full.
Last edited by Condor on Wed Aug 12, 2020 6:46 pm.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby JG-77 » Tue Aug 11, 2020 5:49 pm

Nice report! Shame about the fate of Skyrush path. Oddly enough, the park maps on the website still include it! I wonder if that means they plan to reopen it or that it's so much of an afterthought for them that they forgot to remove it. Glad the new additions seem to be a success!
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby Nrthwnd » Tue Aug 11, 2020 5:55 pm

Wonderful report on Hershey, Condor! I have known about this place since years and years ago,
when it originally opened! Always wanted to visit it. Timing and budgeting, were always 'wrong.'

Thanks for a really great, thorough tour of the Park! :airtime:
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby bill_s » Tue Aug 11, 2020 6:18 pm

I don't understand criticisms like this of Lightning Racer. Yes, if was only a single coaster, it would be a 7 or maybe only 6. Racing, and especially my first ride in a while, it's at least 4 times better, and the best surprise in the park -- even having been there twice before and knowing how good it is.

I also love Wildcat, especially with retracking since my last visit. Comet was running great too; it was at least 4:00 by the time I rode it ... 3 times. I also found my later ride, front row, on Candy far better, very good.

Unfortunately I rode the hypers least of any with reasonable lines. Warning, any rain at all and they close them. Would have been doing me a favor but it was still light at that time and I was next to ride. ~Everything else still open.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby Canobie Coaster » Wed Aug 12, 2020 1:34 pm

Great review! I agree with your assessment of Candymonium. The first half feels like Mako, but it finishes stronger.
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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby coasterbill » Wed Aug 12, 2020 1:39 pm

Great report! I really need to get out and ride Candymonium.

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Re: Photo TR: Condor's Audacious Travels

Postby bert425 » Wed Aug 12, 2020 2:14 pm

wonderful report, and great pics

(tho I disagree with you on Skyrush, and HATE Wildcat. . but that's one less person in line when you're there :P )

thanks for posting.
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