My sincere thanks to those who have been reading this thread. Here's the next installment!Day 3 (Part 2) -- Summer Adventures in Fair ParkThursday, August 1, 2013Lesson of the Day: Take more pictures of your friends.
At first, this one was difficult for me. I've been a hobbyist photographer for years, and I'll take pictures of just about anything, but I've always
shied away from direct shots of other people. On a TPR trip, there's no need for that sort of timidness, and the numerous photo opportunities at Fair Park helped me make that realization. Several of my favorite pictures from the trip involve other TPR members, including shots from SeaWorld San Antonio, the Wisconsin parks, and many I'll be posting here from Summer Adventures.Artifacts:Scorecard:
Top o' Texas Tower
Flow Rider [ERT]Day 3 (Part 2)
A major factor that drew me to the concept of a TPR tour was the way that unanticipated amusement and pleasant surprises seemed to find a way to work themselves into the itinerary. Our short time at Fair Park easily qualified as the
pleasant surprise of the trip's first week.
With Shockwave and New Texas Giant unavailable at Six Flags Over Texas, an alternative set of plans was devised for our afternoon in the Dallas area. Situated on the sprawling grounds of Fair Park -- the September/October home of the Texas State Fair -- Summer Adventures in Fair Park was a new venture for the summer of 2013. Drawing from some of the State Fair's major attractions, Summer Adventures aimed to bring a classic amusement park atmosphere to the under-utilized summer schedule at the fairgrounds -- just two miles east of downtown Dallas.
What started off as a backup plan quickly became an anticipated excursion for TPR, especially after experiencing the questionable affairs at SFOT. According to Robb, 82 of the 97 trip participants made the trip to Fair Park, and I can guarantee that 82 people left the place having enjoyed themselves immensely. This was TPR at its finest -- a group of adults running around a fair like a bunch of kids in a very large playground.
Upon our arrival, we were greeted by the very enthusiastic staff at the front gate, acquiring leis
and tokens for free bottled water. Entering the park, TPR focused initially on the three portable coasters -- the tame Wacky Mouse, the strangely aquatic Windstorm
, and the absolutely insane Jungle Twist
After picking up the three credits, there was time to explore the rest of the park. Summer Adventures is anchored by several permanent installations, including the brand new Top o' Texas Tower -- a 500-foot Intamin gyro observation tower. Even more iconic is the Texas Star -- a 212-foot Ferris wheel that was once the tallest in North America. I didn't get a chance to ride the Texas Star, and I also missed out on the Texas Skyway sky ride -- described by other TPR members as a "sauna" or "sweat lodge" due to the fully-enclosed cabins.
Other portable attractions made up the rest of the park's lineup. I did pick up the log flume credit, though I missed out on the well-lauded dark ride (ghost train), as well as the "bubble house" fun house. There were also several flat rides, which helped to complement the thrill selection with the three roller coasters. The park's lineup was rounded out by live entertainment, including stunt bike riders and a show with dogs and cats.
The best hour at the park was the last hour -- a combination of Flow Rider ERT
, a pizza party, and a massive "Giant Sing Along" karaoke takeover. I guess there's a book's worth of history regarding TPR trips and Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody," and I got to witness another chapter being written! Our dinner was actually quite nice -- several varieties of good
pizza, with salad and desserts. Some TPR members dined inside, away from the heat. Others basked in the high-brow entertainment of the Flow Rider ERT session, cheering the spectacular wipeouts as much as the skillful tricks.
Our tight schedule allowed only about three hours at Summer Adventures. Combined with some of the other activities on the grounds of the park -- the Children's Aquarium, several museums, the Texas Discovery Gardens, and several historical sites -- it would have been easy to spend a much longer amount of time at Fair Park. We lined up for a hugely appreciative group shot
, before forcibly extracting ourselves from the parking lot and heading back to Arlington.
I've spent some time wondering why Summer Adventures didn't seem to attract a huge turnout in 2013. Though I think the historic and well-adorned Fair Park is a big part of what made Summer Adventures unique, it might not the best location with respect to easily drawing in families from the Dallas / Fort-Worth metropolitan area. That's probably an unavoidable problem, as I couldn't see Summer Adventures without the Texas Star wheel in the background! Furthermore, Six Flags Over Texas is well-known as the region's premier amusement park, and that's an uphill battle that Summer Adventures is going to have to fight (even if their target demographics are somewhat different). This is where the power of word-of-mouth is going to be their strongest asset. SFOT is coming off a major tragedy and a season of terrible operational reviews. Fair Park is a cheaper alternative that has all the potential to be just as fun, with a positive and inviting atmosphere that the big guys in Arlington just weren't delivering.
There's room in the Metroplex for two parks to exist, especially if they're being run by caring and hard-working individuals. Summer Adventures in Fair Park fulfilled their end of the bargain, providing our group with an enthralling afternoon, and one that can only be described as classic TPR
Reviews of the attractions at Summer Adventures:Windstorm:
The layout of this ride was quite similar to Runaway Mountain at SFOT, so I should have known what to expect. Unfortunately, I didn't remember to brace myself for the ridiculously sharp dive off the first brake run, and I don't think my neck forgave me until the next day. Windstorm was a fun and compact coaster, intense for its size. This one had an added bonus -- an "underwater tunnel" controlled by the ride operator. I didn't see it coming, and noticed on the ride's final helix that I had somehow gotten wet. It wasn't until watching the next train cycle that I realized the source of the water -- the enthusiastic ride operator with a garden hose!Wacky Mouse:
This tame ride was worth a quick spin, but it was obviously the true kiddie credit of the bunch. It wasn't nearly as memorable as the park's third coaster.Jungle Twist:
There were 85 coaster credits on the trip, and this was easily one of the most memorable (and most talked-about). Words can barely do justice to the insanity that Jungle Twist tossed us all into. With a simple oval track and a few tiny hills, trains on Jungle Twist were sent through the circuit three times. The catch was that each car was set up to spin freely, and none of us had any idea what we were in for. The cars revolved slightly after the first run through the course, but picked up the pace significantly on the second pass. By the third time through, the spinning had increased to a feverous centrifugation, a condition leading to side effects of slight nausea and uncontrollable laughter.Log Flume:
My quest for the trip's log-flume credits was successfully continued at Fair Park! This flume had a bit of an environmentalist theme, with anthropomorphic trees along the winding course, and a neat LED tunnel thrown in for no apparent reason. The drop was pretty short, but overall, it was a fun ride.Top o' Texas Tower:
What's it going to take to get Cedar Point to install one of these? For those of you who were on Space Spiral before it met its demise, the Top o' Texas Tower is everything that Space Spiral wasn't -- comfortable, air-conditioned, and clean. At a height of 500 feet, this tower provided incredible views of Fair Park and downtown Dallas. If I had more time, I would have loved to equip the zoom lens on my camera and go up the tower again.Flow Rider:
The key entry on TPR's Summer Adventures agenda was a full hour of ERT on Fair Park's Flow Rider. The Flow Rider was divided into two halves, doubling the capacity and ensuring all interested TPR members would get their fair share of attempts. I was able to ride just short of ten times, even with a 20 minute break for dinner. My only previous Flow Rider experience was one attempt each at Kings Island in 2009 (an immediate wipeout) and at Hersheypark in 2010 (about 30 seconds of balancing, at best). Here, I was able to talk to, watch, and learn from some of TPR's finest -- and then put those lessons to use with trial-and-error and repetition. By late in the ERT session, I had finally found my center of gravity, and was able to balance enough to switch from laying to kneeling, in addition to controlling some light movements in all four directions. I had my share of wipeouts along the way, but so did everyone else! I had more fun on the Flow Rider than I could have possibly imagined, and I guess it counts as learning a new skill too -- one I'd put to use on another Flow Rider ERT session later in the trip.