My 100th Roller-Coaster, Part 8

This report chronicles my unforgettable two week trip in June,
where I visited 12 parks and rode 42 roller-coasters, including my 100th.

Dorney Park/Knoebels

"Grey skies are gonna clear up, put on a happy face...."

Dorney Park
Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review

Seven o'clock rolled around awfully early this morning! Poor Susan. She really needs her eight hours of sleep. But she's a trouper, never complaining, always smiling, and willing to go along with just about anything anybody wants to do.

But not this morning. She took one look at me and said:

"You're not going anywhere."

I warned her I would not look well until the Flexural had kicked in, but she was not prepared to watch what had now become a routine for me. When you can't cough, can't breathe, can't sneeze, can't poop, can't blow your nose, can't roll over, can't even *move* without moaning - it doesn't exactly impress the one you love. She helped me up and we sat on the edge of the bed and had a talk. I told her this trip was very important to me, which she already knew. I told her I did not want to miss a single day, and in particular this one, which would include a chance to ride Steel Force for the first time and also return to Knoebels for half a day, this time with her. There were people I wanted to meet, including Robb and Sarah Alvey who were on their coaster honeymoon. I had already missed going to Adventure World the day before - I chose to stay in bed all day and rest, so it's not like I wasn't being somewhat reasonable. I assured her I would feel better in an hour and be just like I was the night before. I would be fine. And I promised I wouldn't overdo it. She caved. We got ready to go to Dorney Park.

I think guys like being looked after to a certain extent. Sometimes I tend to do things without regard for my personal safety. Susan calls it "charging." She's much more cautious than I am, and she helps me re-evaluate whether I'm using good judgment or not. Throughout my trip I kept wondering what Susan would think of this mess I'd gotten myself into. I even played out this moment in my mind and, sure enough, our conversation went almost exactly as I imagined. I'm really glad she's finally with me - it's just not the same without her.

We arrived at the park in plenty of time. The sky was clear and it was a nice warm day, thank goodness. We would only be staying at Dorney for morning ERT. After that we were to meet Robb and Sarah Alvey and Jim Westland for a side trip to Knoebels, where we would stay the better part of the day. Then we planned to head back to Dorney later for nighttime ERT.

The entrance to Dorney Park is ugly. It's all concrete. There are only token trees and landscaping. The entrance seems disconnected from the rest of the park, much like Lakemont.

We walked down, down, down, into what immediately reminded me of a midway at the fair. This did not look like a midway worthy of a major amusement park. Where are the trees? Where are the flowers? Where's the pretty?

We entered "Coaster alley" and immediately ran into the Alveys. Hello! Instant friends. Jim Westland was there, too, and they informed us that Adam Revesz had decided to join us at Knoebels as well! Well now we've got a little party going here, all right! Adam soon walked up and confirmed that he'd be coming along to Knoebels with us. After that we all headed to our first coaster of the day and number 91 on my list, Thunderhawk.

Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review
Thunderhawk was one of the big surprise coasters of my trip. I had never heard anything about this, other than people seemed to think it was the only decent woodie in the park. This coaster is more than decent, it's awesome! I loved the layout, which is very hard to describe, but it's kind of an out and back with a twister in the middle. I like the way it winds around the queue. The queue is in a nice little area of the park, very shaded, and I think there is a picnic area nearby. This park isn't so bad, I guess. It's just got a wierd layout.

Thunderhawk was great. The pacing is outstanding on this coaster! It really has a defined beginning, middle and end, and all three sections are superb. I thought, if this is how it runs first thing in the morning I'd love to see what kind of forces it generates at night! Dorney Park passed out Thunderhawk 75th anniversary pins to all event attendees which gives this pin special significance for me. It's just amazing how well some of these coasters hold up! This also reminds me of all the criticism Cedar Fair gets regarding their treatment of wooden roller-coasters. I don't know, Thunderhawk seems to be doing just fine, thank you!
Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review

Next up was Hercules. Dum, da dum dum. The dreaded, wasted pile of wood. We leave the station and oh yeah!!! I love it!!! I overhear Robb remark from behind "That was the best part." We climbed the lift hill and I took a deep breath. I'd seen the coaster shimmy on the banked turn following the first drop and I braced myself to bite the bullet. WHAM! Down the first drop and oh yeah! I likey! We hit the turn, went up on our sides and around we go, OOF! Not too bad. And then.......


I honestly can't remember anything that happened after that. Pehaps it was just too tramatic and my mind wouldn't let me relive the experience. Whatever, all I know is this coaster has two things going for it, the approach to the lift and the first drop. After that it's all just a hazy tragedy.

I asked Robb what he thought of Hercules and he said "It's a new number one woodie...... in what category I have no idea." ERT was almost over so we took one more spin on Thunderhawk, then headed over for one ride on Steel Force, coaster no. 93, before making our way to Knoebels.

Susan and I chose seat 1.3. This would complete our goal of riding every hypercoaster in America. I was also anxious to compare it to Mamba at Worlds of Fun, with which it has been so closely identified.

Photo courtesy of Kevin's Top 15
And..... they're off! Down the first drop they go but wait! STEEL FORCE HAS DISAPPEARED INTO A TUNNEL! There he is again! Up the second hill, Steel Force's is much shorter BUT MAMBA IS STILL CLIMBING STRONG and there he goes over the second drop and whoa!! IT'S AN INCREDIBLE AIRTIME SHOW!!! leaving Steel Force in his wake!! They're both heading for the helix now and WHOA!! Mamba takes a curve down the third hill and down into the LOOK OUT!!!!! OH MY GOD!! IT'S AN AMAZING HEADCHOPPER!!!! MAMBA SAYS EAT MY DUST!!!! Whew! Out of the helix they come and heading for the return run! Mamba and Steel Force are running neck and neck but WAIT!! STEEL FORCE HAS GONE INTO A TUNNEL AGAIN!!! Oh, but it's a just a token tunnel, there they go, into the double up and IT'S OVER!!!! MAMBA HAS WON!!!!

A dozen roses for the runner up. Steel Force has the better logo, it has two tunnels, albeit token ones. It has a fast and furious helix and an amazing return run which gives terrific airtime. Steel Force has a reputation of giving a faster return run than Mamba, however the ride I had on Mamba in April was brakeless and definitely superior to any hyper I've ever ridden. When I went back in August there were two trains running and the mid-course brake was on only lightly, much like Steel Force's. The two coasters are clearly similar in design. But Mamba's second drop is simply incredible, and that headchopper helix is extremely unique and effective. Steel Force did NOT disappoint however! It definitely lived up to the hype and I couldn't wait to return to ride this baby at night!
Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review

For now though, it was time for the gang to head on over to Knoebels.

Adam Revesz decided to ride with Susan and I. This surprised me as Adam had only briefly chatted with me at Holiday World and I would have thought he'd be uncomfortable. I'm so glad he rode with us though! We got to know each other very well and we talked about everything you could imagine - funny stuff, serious stuff. A lot of times you meet people and you never really know if conversation will come easy or not. With Adam it's easy to talk about anything. He's a very funny fellow, but he has a lot of thoughtful ideas as well. We had a terrific time talking and just getting to know one another. Meanwhile Susan snored through the whole ride. Like I said, she's a sleepy head, but she's learned to take advantage of "down time" on trips.

Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review
We arrived at Knoebels and I can only say that this was one of those perfect, and I mean *perfect* days at a park. The six of us had a blast together, and Knoebels was absolutely stunning in the sunshine. Cindy Stout had worried so much about my impression of the park because the weather that day was so cloudy and grey, but I thought at the time it rather suited the area to be shrouded in mist. On this day, however, I could see the park with it's best Sunday clothes on. The sky was blue and the park was beaming. We rode every ride. Susan became an immediate expert on the Flyers. She impressed everybody in the group, which in turn impressed me because Adam Revesz is one hell of a Flyer!!

The Phoenix performed fabulously, not quite as all out as it did in the rain a few days earlier, but still flying. In fact The Phoenix is the most fun coaster I have ever been on. I rate it No. 2 on my woodie list for that very reason.
Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review

We all got our lunch at different places and ate together near the Round Table. Jim, Robb and Sarah went for Cesari's pizza. Susan of course, went for her eighth, ninth and tenth tri-tater of the day. I saw Adam standing in front of the BBQ stand and asked him what I should get. He recommended a Rib-B-Q sandwich and a stuffed baked potato. Yum! Knoebels simply has the best park food anywhere, and it's so reasonably priced it entices you to eat even more. So we did! We gorged ourselves that day on ice cream, sno cones, perogies, italian ice and finally frozen yogurt, which became the site where we "officially" ate our way through the park. Scrumpdillyicious.

Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review
Susan screamed her head off, not at the Haunted Mansion, but at the North Pole. It's actually quite gooey, so I understand her reaction! I opted not to ride the bumper cars which earned brownie points from Susan for my superior level-headedness. We all laughed at Adam modeling the Cow, a backpack Sarah brought with. We rode the High Speed Thrill Coaster, the Paratrooper and the Axis, which Jim believed to be a "stupid, stupid ride."

We rode the Carousel and Sarah posed for a picture while trying to catch the brass ring. We threw out our arms and legs on The Whip. We rode the tea cups and slapped hands as we passed each other's cups. We had fun. A lot of it.
Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review

Finally, sadly, it was time was time to leave and return to Dorney for nighttime ERT. When we got to the park I couldn't believe the transformation that had occured. Dorney Park is *stunning* at night! It has a ton of neon everywhere you look, and the concession stands are lit with those yellow florescent lamps that cast a pretty yellow glow over the area. I always think of an old-fashioned ice cream stand whenever I see those lights. Each ride is decorated with unique lighting schemes and colors. I've never seen a park that looked so different between day and night as Dorney Park. It was a warm welcome back after a truly memorable afternoon.

Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review
We only got three rides that night as Dorney elected to let the public remain for most of the ERT. This bothered quite a lot of people and I understood how they felt if they paid extra for the event, but personally I couldn't have cared less. My first ride, from the backseat of Steel Force was un-blanking-believeable!!! Now this was how I remembered Mamba! I've become aware that of all the steel coasters I've ridden, only hyper coasters seem to ride noticeably, *intensely* faster at night. It really emulates the wooden roller-coaster experience that much further.

I had a slight problem however. I had no business being in the backseat of any coaster, let alone Steel Force. The g's were so intense coming out of the helix and up onto the mid-course brake that it caused great pain in my side. It was like being on the Round Up at Blands. Then came the double up. There were only two moments on this trip (excluding the sneeze at PKD) where the pain was so great that it brought tears to my eyes and this was one of them. My butt slammed into the seat so hard it felt like everything had been pushed up to my throat. Susan promised, no more backseat rides (she lied).

As much as I wanted the Force to be with me, I needed to take a break. So we went over to check out the Lazer Loop, another Schwarzkopf wonder. I L-O-V-E the lighting on this coaster. It's so whimsical! We didn't have to wait long before we were assigned our seat, which turned out to be the back. Funny. Ha.

Outside of The Raven, the backseat of Lazer is the most shocking experience I had on this trip. Fortunately I had my video camera running at the time and you can hear the surprise in both of our voices as we plummeted over the lift, down the first drop and into the two loops. The exit out of the second loop is incredible! This ride is amazing!! I've since ridden it from other seats and none of them compare to the back. It's unfortunate that Dorney has constructed such an odd queue for this ride which makes it impossible to hold out for your favorite seat. There really is only one place to be on this coaster, and that's the back. But it's a special place indeed.
Photo courtesy of Theme Park Review

One last ride on Steel Force, this time from the front. Much better. Had I not been nursing an injury I would have definitely gone back to the back, again and again! However there really isn't a bad seat anywhere on Steel Force, which I guess is the hallmark of a great roller-coaster.

The park announced that ERT was over and we slowly, VERY slowly, made our way out of the park. The socializing that occurs after ERT is an essential part of the coaster experience for me. It's like an affirmation that you don't want the day to end. And this was a day I never wanted to end.

The thing I remember most about this day was the laughter. It was non-stop. And it was needed. After hitting rock bottom the day before, I needed to laugh. And boy, did I. Seeing Susan again helped put everything right. But also meeting Robb and Sarah, and hanging out with Jim and Adam made the day incredibly and unforgettably fun. It's a shame Dorney became almost an afterthought on this day, but most people would agree Knoebels is a special place. And it brought me some of the best memories of my trip.

Tomorrow I'll find relief along with my 100th roller-coaster.

Next Up: Hersheypark

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5 | Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10


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