Preface: Ah, spring has finally sprung, amusement parks are open, and David gets to write his first Trip Report in almost half a year.Hopefully this will be bit shorter than the infamous Minnesota State Fair trip report, but no promises. As a word of caution, Kings Island did install a new dark ride this year, and so this report probably contains intensive spoiler information on the dark ride, as well as other new arrivals at Kings Island. Proceed at your own peril. You have been warned.

Trip Report: Paramount's Kings Island

Mason, OH (as stated in the new PKI guide book)

April 12, 2003

"It's Opening Day!"

It's not often I explain the tag line up front, but Opening Day carries with it not only that great reprieve from months of amusement park deprived life, but it also brings "Opening Day Jitters" That time when new amusement park employees are going beyond the theoretical manuals and role playing sessions and dealing with what happens when those people known as park guests descend upon them in droves.

With that in mind this report will contain some praise for PKI, as well as some criticism. As a trip report this document contains opinions (both positive and negative), frank comments, suggestions, praise, complaints, and humor, which may be satirical in nature.

With all that out of the way, on with the report:

The day found me arriving at PKI early, in fact I arrived at the park around 8:40, just as the toll plaza was opening. My main purpose for arriving early was to take advantage of the Gold Season Pass ERT session. Today's ERT session was to be held in the Action Zone, and considering the number of attraction one could conquer before the general public was admitted, it was a very worthwhile endeavor.

Soon I made my way to the front gate, where I did not notice anything on the ride closings board, but I did notice the much talked about Metal Detection Area. The metal screening area has dozens of metal detectors all in a line under a blue canvas top, slightly behind the detectors are tables for inspecting bags, and a second line of staff wielding hand held metal detection wands. In other words, if you have been to an airport, you know what you are in for. Due to the sheet number of entrance lanes, I did not notice any appreciable delay passing through security. It should also come as no surprise that a lot of the coaster enthusiast crowd were at the heads of the lines. The metal detection area opens at 8:50 and I can already see a potential bottleneck.

For those familiar with PKI, the metal detectors are places along the outer edge of the brick veranda in front of the ticket booths, add in room for the lines to be screened, the detectors, and the bag check tables, and I have concerns with how the traffic pattern is going to be once you add ticket lines into the equation, which will back up into the area where the security staff are trying to perform their function and keep a secure zone. Add to this the season pass guests who formerly could bypass the ticket cages by approaching the gate from either side must now enter through the middle, and pass between the ticket cage lines. The two far sides are now officially park exits.

So we passed through the detectors and then did a hurry-up-and-wait where we advanced to the entrance turnstiles. Here we waited it out till 9:00 and entered the park. With the Gold Pass ERT in Action zone, most of the crowd headed straight for the Action Zone and totally ignoring the Keyhole Photo staff's requests to "stop for a quick photo" Soon we entered the Gold Pass gate and found myself in a very deserted Action Zone.

Having not seen Face/Off run yet, I headed directly across the plaza to Drop Zone where I could see a crew eagerly awaiting riders. Upon approaching Drop Zone I noticed the temporary queue that was in front of the tower has been replaced by a more permanent one. I also noticed that there is some working afoot that look suspiciously like a queue management system taking root. Specifically there is a second queue that runs closer to the ride and goes directly to the rideinstead of through the unshaded and shaded queue areas.

With absolutely nobody in line, we would not need a queue management system right now, and in fact I was the second rider of the day onto Drop Zone. After some rider balancing took place, we lowered the OTSR's and I learned that I have not lost any bulk. In fact, with a jacket and t-shirt on, I had no chance of fastening the belt unassisted. Luckily this is not Cedar Fair, and with a little operator assistance I was securely (and snuggly) fastened into the ride, Hey I will take snug over no ride at all. Soon we were being slowly raised, and yes slowly rotated as we climbed the 310' tower. Once up at the top, I noticed the big dirt pile behind Delirium, and the nice tranquil park scene in front of me. Oh, that lasted about 7 seconds. Then Whamo! Well, do drop in on a new coaster season! A nice airtime filled rush ensued as we took a plummet towards Earth.

With Drop Zone out of the way, I headed over to Face/Off and found walk on conditions. So walk on that I proceeded directly to the end seat nearest the operators booth. Face/Off would prove to be my first coaster of the year, and despite it bearing the Vekoma nameplate, the ride runs quite smooth. Due to my seating position I got to experience the boomerang facing the opposite direction of normal. All in all its still a smooth, powerful ride.

By this time, I had noted Delirium running, and decided to take a spin, and why not it too was a walk on. Delirium is the parks brand new HUSS Giant Frisbee. The ride is spin ride meets swing ride meets Miracle Grow. The specs are quite astounding, 78MPH, 8FPS, 137' max height. I was soon seated in seat 50 (of 50), the OTSR's come down, the belts fastned and I have plenty of slack. It seems the Germans have a better understanding of the size of the American Thrill Rider than the Swiss do. Soon the whirling derivish was spinning and swinging. The ride wastes no time getting warmed up and goes straight to work, throwing you up high in the air, then flipping you back down so it looks like you are heading straight for the grounds. Part of the time you truly are upside down. The spin rate is enough to make the ride motions interesting but seeming not enough to make the rider nauseas. Airtime lovers will enjoy the gentle floats experiences several times on this spin ride. PKI definitely has a winner with this giant sized ride. Appearance? The ride is mostly yellow with red and white accents and a blue support structure, minimal theme work. In other words, is looks like a midway ride, just as it should. Those with loose articles can take advantage of four footlockers placed around the outside of the ride platform.

 Delirium like any good Pendulum ride, adheres to the Edgar Allen Poe rule, and contains a Pit and a pendulum. Before the ride starts, but after the restraints are fastened several pie like floor sections tip down to reveal the pit under the ride. At the end of the ride they are supposed to come up all together. Unfortunately the Pit crew has not quite worked out all the bugs, and sometimes the Pit has to be manually closed from the console, one pie wedge at a time. Opening Day Jitters. I noted another Fast Pass In The Works second queue entrance on this one.

With the rides in the front half of the Action Zone out of the way (Sorry, too cold for Congo Falls), I headed past the pay extra attractions and down the ramp for Son of Beast. Son of Beast was another walk on, despite only having one train. Son of Beast has not received the rumored new restraint package. My theory is that they are currently running the seldom seen third train, while the two primary trains are at the rehab shop. I soon took a seat in 6.1. Yes, it's a wheel seat. The bars are checked, and the train advances about half a train length, where it sits for about 10 minutes while some glitch is looked at and fixed. Part of the fix involved moving some riders around to different seats. Don't know what that was about.  Opening Day Jitters.

What can't be dismissed as Opening Day Jitters is the brutally rough ride I received. Had I been wearing shorts I might have taken the time to point out the bruises my legs received from this ride. Once upon a time, there was a ride called Legend at Holiday World that ran awful German designed coaster trains. The trains tracked well, but had lap bars the were unforgiving on the riders. Repeat riders often developed a condition known affectionately as "Legend Legs". Our Holiday World anecdote has a happy ending when the German made coaster train was ejected from the park, and replaced with an American made train that contains seat cushioning, and a better restraint design. One can only hope Son of Beast's new trains will get similar improvements, as the ride today was "Legend Legs Times Ten", and that was just one ride. BRUTAL! AVOID!

After Masochism: The Ride, I headed to Top Gun. I was somewhat surprised to see Top Gun open. You see there were two versions of the Early Ride Times" bulletin posted to the Internet by the park. One version had Delirium, and the other had Top Gun in its place. PKI deserves kudos by addressing the situation by having BOTH attractions open.

Top Gun has very timely theming. Yes it is filmed to a 1980's action/romance film. But that film involved the military and that lends itself to very current connections. The walk back to the ride features American flags, military flags, posters of scenes from the movie, miniature jet fighters, mock radar and satellite equipment. Further along is a huge billboard for Gillete Mach 3, that featured a big aircraft carrier. Once upon a time you them toured a themed quue area that was meant to look like an aircraft carrier. You saw the bridge, the armory, the communication center and other nifty props. This year like other, the themed area is totally bypassed. I did note what may possibly be a very subtle, minor movement of the jumbo (dare I say Texas Sized) American flag that hung in the themed section of the queue to make it more visible on the final turn before you go up the stairs. Them again I may be just imagining that it was nudged over just a few feet for better visibility. You them climb the stairs and go up on deck, except the flight deck has a roof. Oh well theming has to give way to practicality. Top Gun's theming could use a little TLC, a lot of the military group insignias in the station area could use a touch up or re-application, and what happened to the artificial fog that was supposed to simulate jet exhaust fumes as the train left the station, as well as the military themed costumes the operators used to wear.

However, I am willing to forgo decorative restoration for a more important restoration. Top Gun has its second train back. And there was much rejoicing. I took a seat in the back seat, we slowly climbed the lift, I took my usual look and waved to the smiling campers who were waiving up at us. We crested the lift, and a very reliable Top Gun took us on its fast, swift, albeit short course. All in all a solid reliable fun ride.

I exited the ride, then started taking photos of Action Zone. I have a new digital camera, and I was eager to experiment with it. Besides the ERT time was over. After a brief spell taking photos, I headed into Oktoberfest.

Oktoberfest: The themed area that is surely on its way out. The last vestiges of Oktoberfest are the Festhaus (which offers an American menu, cheesy video entertainment, no live shows, and plastic round tables) The last redeeming feature of the Festhaus is the animated clock out front which plays the Chicken Dance every 15 minutes.  Expect this to be turned into a themed eatery within the next 5 years, just my prediction. Of course I may still be bitter about them removing all the murals that used to be on the walls. Besides Festhaus we have a Viking themed Intamin Bounty. ( A Swiss made pirateship ride, with a Viking theme, that has even lost having its name written in pseudo German on the sign). If it weren't for the strong German heritage in Cincinnati, I feel Paramount would have trashed this whole theme concept 10 years ago, instead of slowly quietly trying to sneak it out a piece at a time. Speaking of sneaking it out, lovers of German fare will be sorely disappointed to find no venue for brats and metts this year (That I have located), Oktoberfest Gardens (nee Beirgarten) is CLOSED for transformation into a Bubba Gump Shrimp Shack. As much as I will probably enjoy the Bubba Gump eatery, I do feel that an amusement park should tell its visitors something about the local culture, it saddens me to see all signs of Germanic themeing being stricken from the park. While I'm at it, is the German Building even called the German Building anymore (on International Street), or Munchen Tower. (User grabs park guide, nope no use of those names) Besides Eiffel Tower, what on International Street is so International anymore, another theme concept lost. (Much more on the French scale model replica landmark later).

User pauses, takes deep breath. The RIDES its all about the rides. Okay, RIDES. User resumes TR.

I skipped Viking Fury and observed a launch on Slingshot. I noticed you can ride solo. I decided not to. I them walked right onto the front seat of Adventure Express. I had heard rumors that Adventure Express had received some cosmetic improvements. Since the word landscaping was used I will give the park the benefit of the doubt, and just say that I didn't notice any changes. I did notice that the ride is still very fun, and is a fine example of an Arrow mine ride. Perhaps the cosmetic rehab will include replacing some light bulbs in the second lift.

From Adventure Express I proceeded into Coney Mall. I noted the Racer station received some new paint, and more importantly a new logo.  While I really like the new logo, I wonder what the folks at Islands of Adventure will think of it. Coat of arms, red and blue split right down the middle. I noticed Ice Racer (I mean Backwards Racer) to be closed, so I took a ride on Fire Racer (I mean Forwards Racer) I boarded the third seat, and was rewarded with a ride filled with gentle airtime. The small hill right before the turnaround was especially potent. It was one of the best Racer rides I have had in a while.

From Racer, I moseyed down the midway, and looked at the new Subway. Sweet Tooth is gone, replaced by a Subway restaurant, America's fasted growing fast food chain (have they outsized McDonalds's yet?) I feel Subway is a great addition to the park, and it will provide a lighter fare option for the park. The price is $4.59 for a 6" sub which is just a dollar more than any other Subway. They really get you on the drinks.

Next to Subway is Monster. Wait Monster with no queue and riders on board. I entered the Monster queue which has received some subtle revisions. The revision is surely meant to improve crew efficiency as the actual ride entry point and exit points are now at the same place. This will eliminate the time the operator spends walking from one gate to the other. At first I though Monster itself received some not so subtle revisions. The ride came to a stop, the operators were unloading cars, except the cars were on the Racer side of the ride, not the midway side. Oh well, I thought they must have just reinstalled the ride backwards. Then the tubs were closed and new riders were not admitted. Then, I saw something I have never seen a Monster do. The operator pulled a lever, and the ride righted itself. Like a movie stunt prop resetting, the tubs that were up high lowered to the ground, and the tubs that were low were raised up in the air. I wish I could have gotten video of that. This was followed by an announcement that the ride would be closed for at least half an hour.Opening Day Jitters.

I bailed out of the Monster queue and walked through the arcade. Once again, PKI has not pinball machines, while it does have a new DDR Extreme game, it also has a very timely Desert Tank game. The arcades have received a major change in policy. Basically they have converted the games from being quarter operated to being token operated. While slightly inconvenient, the tokens do offer bulk discounts. A $10 purchase comes with 4 free tokens, and a $20 purchase comes with 10 free tokens. Those DDR addicts may find the bulk discounts beneficial.

I exited the arcade, and made my way to Flight of Fear. Flight of Fear is the winner of the "Most Improved Ride at PKI - 2001" award. I made my way back to the ride to discover a three train wait. Oh the agony of it all, J and here I thought it was Saturday. I took a couple station photos, noted that the queue area was sufficiently dark to discourage running, then boarded seat 2.2. I think I am officially larger than last season, as this year I needed operator assistance to secure the seatbelt, or I could believe they shortened the seatbelts. Safely secure, the ride launched and we took a mind numbing intense curvey ride through outer space. While Flight of Fear is still an awesome ride, it appears that tons of lights were added to the brake run area. This area is now brightly lit, and some of its light spills out into the spaghetti bowl. We returned to the station, and as I was walking down the exit corridor I noted regular blothes along the wall that were rudely treated with black spray paint. Funny, I don't recall any Outer Limits logos here. The photo booth was closed.

As I was leaving the military installation, I noted the humorous PA announcements are still there., something about the mess hall beiing moved away from the Specimen Storage freezers.

I noted the shooting gallery was removed from the Coney Mall midway area, probably just as well as there is now a much better FREE shooting gallery in the park.. I passed the High Striker and noted that this year California gets to tangle with the light pole, instead of Canada, which got moved to an inner position. I also noted the ATM had an out of service sign. Opening Day Jitters. Reading the notice revealed there were no functioning ATM machines in the park, the park offered check cashing as a substitute. I wonder how many travelers even bother carrying a check book anymore, checks are oh-so-easily accepted on the road.

I inspected the Skeeball building (no pinball), and headed to Vortex. Vortex was running its usual form. Reliable, consistent Vortex.  Another fine coaster ride. I exited Vortex, and looked over at the Action FX Theater. Now all sources, including the park guide, state that Spongebob Squarepants is not supposed to open for a month or two yet. I walked down the path curious to see what was showing. The path to "Secrets of the Tomb" was blocked off, but the path to Spongebob was open. Curiosity got the better of me, and before I know it, even though I have never watched the cartoon, I found myself holding a pair of Theme Park 3D Glasses while standing in front of an automatic door. After trying to ignore the pre-show on the monitors ( a bunch of 'flashbacks' and dopey kid-friendly skits, I guess highlights of the carton series), the doors opened and we entered the auditorium. Seated, belts fastened, movie started. It's a 3D carton episode, Typical Iwerks motion movie. Kid friendly too-cute story line about chasing a pickle. However, if you loved the sadistic cratoons, (like Jerry beating up Tom, Tweety Bird beating up Sylvester, etc, there is one scene that will have you laughing way too hard in this motion movie. It's not a bad ride, though I do have to wonder how many Spongebob Squarepants fans are 44" tall or above.

I then headed back onto the midway, where I noted the Laser Tag trying a nwe pricing tactic. 1 game is $7, 2 are $9.50, but for $12 you can become a Laser Warrior all day. I headed for some rides. I saw a short line for Shake, Rattle and Roll, and did not make the current ride cycle, The ride cycled, and then the automatic lap bar release refused to function. Opening Day Jitters. The ride had a minor downtime, but soon I got to take a ride on it. It's a fun ride, and the ride action sort of reminds me of something that is a cross between a Scrambler and Delirium.

Enough stalling, I can't call myself a ride enthusiast if I don't pay a visit to Flying Eagles. It was just a one cycle wait. I boarded my proud Eagle, which won't do much graceful soaring with me behind the rudder. (User emits evil demented grin) Flying a Flying Skooter is like riding a bike, its hard to learn at first, you can't quite explain how to do it, but once you got the knack, it stays with you. It wasn't long before I was getting the loud violent snaps that any Flyer ACE should be able to accomplish. After some quality Flying Skooters time, I headed into Rivertown.

Rivertown means Beast, no matter how you slice it. I entered the Beast queue where I noticed another one of those Fastpass In the Works second queue entrance. This one looks like Rube Goldberg designed it. With the walk on queue of today, it would have actually taken considerably longer to walk the secondary entrance. It basically runs along the perimeter of the existing queue area, then joins at the ramp where the line used to split into two. Now there is the regular line and the 'rumored to be fastpass line'. This may actually help traffic flow.

I took a ride in seat 4. The Brakes, I mean the Beast still has the same brake package it ended last season with, including the first drop brake. The changes if any to the bottom of the first drop are unnoticeable, save for new wood. The ride does earn points for having the blocking system bring the train all the way up to the back of the station. Typical Beast Ride.

I returned to the midway, where I walked past a closed Tomb Raider. It never would open today, then I walked past the train station, then past white water canyon, and Wings. I finally wound up at Wild Thornberries River Adventure that I would have ridden if not for this jacket. I thought I would stow the jacket and return to the ride, but as things turned out I never made it back.

I then noticed Rugrat's Runaway Reptar was closed. Closer inspection of the ride revealed a valleyed train. Yup, it's a Vekoma. Shame as it is really a fun little ride.

I toured Nick Central, eager to get a Crab Patty at the Krusty Krab, with my new knowledge of what the Krusty Krab is, learned PKI's Krusty Krab only sells snack items. Finished touring Nick Central, looked at Ghoster Coaster. I'm not that big a fan of it, and the line way waytoo long. I walked through HB, stopping off for a spin on Beastie. Beastie is still a very fun kiddie ride. There was a bit of a wait to ride Beastie, but nothing that extended beyond the wooden ramps to the ride.

Okay, now there would be only one more objective, Scooby Doo and the Haunted Castle. I did not go charging directly for it, instead taking some photos of the impressive façade. The castle is truly impressive. It is apparent that someone at PKI took a course in attraction theming.

So the ride gains points on theming, but loses points on the traffic nightmare they created. You see they wrap the queue back past the exit, heading towards International Street. This would not be all bad except for the fact that path is not that wide to begin with, serves as a major access point to HB, and now has from one side to the other: The riders trying to exit Scooby, the riders trying to enter Scooby, the guests trying to get into/out of HB, and then on the other side of the walkway, right at the pinch point is the Scooby Doo On-Ride Photo Booth, which has rope stanchions so that photo booth customers do not get run over by the traffic getting into/out of HB. Something needs to be done about this traffic nightmare, and quick.

I get in line which stretched just past the ride exit, (about 30 minutes) with a full queue, thankfully due to the ride system, the line keeps moving at a more or less steady pace.. First you try to contain your children and your patience as you advance through the traffic tie up, then you get alongside the railing where you can listen to the old Scooby theme songs, then you get to cross over the bridge to the castle, very nice IOA quality ride entrance. Right inside the 'door' there is a chain that looks like it should control the portculis I don't know if guests are supposed to interact with that chain or not, but guests do. A short flight of stairs later and you are down in the anteroom. Cobweb covered chandeliers dimly light the space., while up in the balcony level, cutouts of Shaggy and Scooby pop up, and the characters give the ride instructions. This being Scooby Doo and kidideland and all, the guns usually found on Sally Dark Rides have been rethemed into Fright Light Flashlights. They don't provide much light, through they do have a weird glow to them. Anyway, Shaggy explains that when you see the green and blue targets, to aim for them with your Fright Light Flashlight. Then Shaggy admonishes you to try to hit the targets (pause) 'dead-on'. The ride vehicle will keep the score, For bonus points hit the boxes of Scooby Snacks with will cause Scooby to appear. You then leave the antechamber by means of the oh-so-obvious secret passage. (Which in accordance to the mystery bylaws is behind a sliding bookcase, up a few steps down a nondescrepit hallway that looks like a secret passage should. Careful observers will note red eyes looking at them through the boarded up windows. You then go through an tiny doorway (after passing the merge point for another rumored Fastpass-system-in-the-works secondary queue) You can see the spinning floor for a real neat dizzying effect as the floor is rotating way faster than most of the revolving platform loading systems. A black curtain blocks a sneak peak into the ride. A grouper then assigns you to a car. For my first ride, I get to ride solo. It is a real tight time crunch getting the old riders out, the new riders in, and the lapbar secured. (and the scoreboard reset). Some cars went out empty while the crew tried to catch up to the assembly line, in this earily themed loading chamber. (I wonder how many riders will get scared off before they even GET to the ride vehicle, the queue is about as ominous as Pirates of the Carribean's queue) I took my seat, the lapbar was lowered, I took the Fright Light out of its receptacle and got ready for a shoot-em-up dark ride adventure. It should be noted that I love Sally Interactive Dark Rides. There is a long front section with no targets and Shaggy telling you to be sure to get your Fright Light ready. As if the natural instinct isn't to grab the Fright Light as soon as you are in the car, this area also serves for taking the on ride photo. You now know where you stage creative photos. Please remember this is a kiddie ride, not a ride for making kiddies.

I must now be ashamed to admit that I don't have much recollection of what happens inside the ride, and I rode it three times. I don't even know if the ride has AUDIO for crying out loud. All audio was tuned out in my brain, and my entire thought process turned to a primeval: "See Target, Hit Target, Find Next Target" routine. A pointer that will help you, only bother with targets that are lit. Its like pinball, "Special ONLY when lit" On my first time through I scored 810, which is already off the scoring rating chart at the end of the ride. I know it's the same track as Phantom Theater, I know its twice as fast as Phantom Theater, but it seems a lot longer than Phantom Theater. I can't figure that out. Strange, Oh, I mean I can describe certain disjoint scenes, like there is an art gallery, a great hall, a room with a big pipe organ, a room with wacky appliances, a bank vault, and such, but as far as getting a coherent story line, forget it. Oh, and the park was able to pull this off without the expense of audio animatronics. To be fair to the Scooby ride, I can't describe much of what happens in Den of Lost Thieves, or Ghost Blasters either.

Having completed a circuit of the park, and hitting all the open rides that were on my 'must-see' list, I decided to take a meal break. I had decided early on to give the parks new Chinese restaurant "Mandarin Cuisine" a try. The new restaurant took over what used to be the All-Star Café. It is still a cafeteria-style setup. The outside looks vaguely oriental, and the inside is nicely dim, with a bunch of Chinese characters all along the wall. The place is done in earth-tones and really looks nice. I entered the serving line, and picked up a tray, complete with a Chinese calendar tray liner/placemat, proceeded past the desert bar, and looked up at the menu. The Chinese restaurant has at least a dozen different entrees available, most served with fried rice and an eggroll. The prices are $5-$7 for the entrée combos. Again they get you on the drink. While getting you condiments, be sure to pick up a free fortune cookie. Sources tell me this is an independent concession. I must applaud the park on bringing in a much wider variety of food. The food served was decent, if nothing special, however it is a break from the standard diet of pizza, burgers, and Skyline PKI guests have become accustomed to.

After having my meal, I decided the weather was getting hot, this jacket was getting annoying, and the coin operated locker looked like a viable option. I also decided that since I was going to shell out the money for a locker, I may as well go gift shopping now and beat the end of the night crowd.  I headed for the Emporium, my first goal was to get the new Unofficial PKI Guide Book, a revue of which is not included in this report,. Suffice to say, if you are looking for a historical sketch, this is not it, if you want current park information in typical tour book fashion this is for you. Noteworthy are the ride descriptions that in most cases give the rides birth year and manufacturer. The gift shop has a nice locked display case with miniatures of the carousel horses that should keep the carousel buffs highly entertained, as well as PKI themed desk sets. For the corporate desk jockeys in the group (like myself), I think you could redo your whole desk set in Son of Beast wooden furnishings. While in the gift shop, I also picked up a patriotic themed PKI shirt (to go with my patriotic themed Six Flags shirt, that I happened to be wearing today) Seems my collection of patriotic themed shirts is threatening to overtake my collection of coaster themed shirts. Anyway, this shirt is important for a few reasons. First, PKI has started to restock XXL shirts. (YEAH!!!!), secondly it points out something the park and I have in common. We are 100% American, established in 1972. I'm not as sure I like the pre faded look.. Lastly I picked up a Ohio Bicentennial beanie for mom. The whole thing should come to $32, but wait, one of the perks of the Gold Pass is an e-zine. The park has huger than life signs in front of the season pass processing area encouraging you to provide a valid email address to receive the e-zine. In the April edition, there is embedded about three layers deep, a .pdf file with coupons. One of the coupons is $5 off at the Emporium.

So I step up to a cashier, and before she has a chance to ring my order, I declare the fact that I intend to use a coupon. This took the cashier by total surprise because she was not aware coupons even existed. What ensued is a truly comedic series of events, whereupon the question of my coupon was escalated several levels through management I recall the phrase "Would you have the O.D. contact me": being used. Not too long after my coupon was accepted, at first I figured someone as high up in management as "O.D." would just say "Give the $5 off and be done with it", but it was pointed out to the staff that there is, in fact a button on the cash register programmed for just this coupon. Opening Day Jitters. I only mention it because it was hilarious how many levels of management they went through for a lousy $5 coupon. Oh, and the ATM downtime included the gift shop point-of-sale terminals, time to get out the manual credit card slip imprinters, which is how they solved the problem.

Having done my gift shopping, I took my proud purchases, and my jacket to a coin operated locker, and stowed them away for a reasonable 75 cents. In fact I had just entered the Action Zone, when I ran into Howard G., Scott Short and their entire crew. Scott has just found out he is one centimeter too tall for Delirium. I joined the group, and some of us waited for others to retrieve cameras from cars.

We then turned towards the royal fountain and I looked up at the Eiffel Tower. (User reviews his Politically Correct Thesaurus, user has to first remove all the dust and cobwebs from the thesaurus as he usually doesn't care about being politically correct.) Let's see, here it is "Eiffel Tower: Freedom Tower" Hey, that has a nice ring to it, I think I'll use that for the rest of this report. Anyway, PKI has this tall tower in a very prominent sport in the center of the park. The tower is designed to be a 1/3 scale model of the Freedom Tower in Paris, France. I took a good look a the front of it, and burst out laughing. I think I found the ultimate irony. Draped over the top of a scale model of one of the most famous landmarks, in the capital city of a nation that is currently expressing severe differences of opinion with our nation, is a jumbo sized American flag. Irony at its finest. I took a few photos of that.

The crew with their cameras returned, and we got in line for the Freedom Tower. For those really hard-line anti-France people, just remember that the tower at PKI isn't a French designed structure, it is actually a Swiss designed structure that happens to look a lot like the French tower. Besides scale, there are some key difference, such as paint color, and a fundamental difference in the elevator system.

We spend the time in the queue looking at various pieces of camera equipment. We then board the elevator. I must take time out to write kudos for the older gentlemen who was the afternoon's elevator operator. He had a most delightful sense of humor. We get to the top of tower, we take tons of photos and videos, we stay topside till it starts getting a wee bit cool, then we come back down to earth.

After the tower, we go to take photos of the outside of Scooby. The rest of the group goes to photograph Delirium while I ride Scooby with a gentlemen whose name I forget. If you thought I was competitive riding solo, having a live competitor just fed the frenzy, and even with two in the car I was able to up my score to 1,100. We left the ride, and he took off saying something about Flyers, I paused to participate in an exit survey for Scooby.

Having successfully completed my Survey, I headed over to Delirium to catch up with the group. No group there, but not a long Delirium line  either, with only half of the covered section of the queue maze in use. Delirium has a neat trick. The ride has a queue, a bullpen, and the actual ride. As soon as the ride starts, the next group of riders are advanced from the queue to the bull pen, and are therefore ready to be loaded on at the first opportunity. The time required to fill the bullpen compares nicely with the ride cycle, with an end result that the line tends to keep moving. Really nice effect, a better effect was the ride in seat 43. We have a definite winner here.

I then started to head towards Flyers, but stopped to get that Monster ride. I really like the Monster, and I was rewarded with what seemed to be a generously long ride for a corporate theme park flat ride. I happened to get about to the Skeeball building when I ran smack dab into the rest of the group.

We took a break for some coneys at Skyline. Skyline really is a good value-for-product dining option in the park. We engaged in Strange Coaster Nut Behavior and proceeded to have a long conversation about roller-coasters instead of riding the roller coasters. We did finally break it up for a ride on Racer.

After Racer the group commented that they wanted to check out something at the front gate. It seems that when they went to take their cameras back to the car after taking Delirium photos, they were not allowed to leave the park., due to a "Security Issue". The benefit of time, and the Cincinnati Enquirer reveals the "Security Issue" was a mentally unstable gentlemen who got caught attempting to pass not one but two weapons through the metal detector. Said gentlemen threatened suicide upon being challenged by security, holding security at bay for about an hour. I only mention the details to say, if you had any doubts, or misgivings about the metal detectors before, NOW you see why they are needed. For surely they have already saved at least one life, I mean a man has got to be either mentally unstable, or extremely defiant to charge through a metal detector with two weapons, who knows what he could have done once inside the park. What harm could have befallen innocent park staff and civilians. The fact that he would rather kill himself than turn over the weapons has to make me think that a) he was on a mission to create a scene at the park or b) he would rather die than have the police find out his identity.

With that unpleasant episode behind us, its time for a drink. Howard mentioned that PKI was a test market for Sprite Remix, a tropical fruit punch version of Sprite. I can't pass up a new soft drink offering, and $2.75 later I was enjoying a Sprite Remix. Very good, I hope it hits regular stores soon, so I can afford it. We looked around the Action Zone not eager to join any of the queues. We finally decided to take a big old group ride on Scooby. All 9 of us. We splitup into three groups of three. It was a fine ride, we took a hilarious staged on ride photo, and I scored 1,650 even with 3 of us in the car. Howard the marksman got 1,710. The secret to our high scoring success: a wheelchair rider! For once wheelchair riders are your best friends, as the crew has to slow the ride down. Belt slowed down equals way more scoring opportunity, and more time to aim your shots. It's not quite as easy to aim a Fright Light, but it can be done.

We purchased the hilarious staged on ride photo, then took a ride on Beastie. After Beastie, I looked at my watch, looked at my schedule for the next day, and decided to head out and end the park day. I collected all my things from the locker, exited the park, and noted that tram service is available at PKI

And that ends the first day of coaster season for me in 2003.


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