TR: Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom
June 2nd, 2002
"Well, it beats doing nothing"
June 2nd was, as you are probably aware, the day after the first ever 2 night super SRM over at Holiday World. This meant that we opted to get some recovery time in before being about the last people to check out of the Daystop in Tell City.
During the week or so preceeding the trip, we debated what to do on Sunday. Our heart was with Beach Bend however that was deemed to be a little bit too far out of the way. LeSourdsville Lake and PKI were both closed, which left our roller-coaster choices as: Wonderpark, SFKK, or Coney Island(OH). Wonderpark wasn't much of a consideration since it is mainly an FEC with kiddie rides, including a kiddie coaster and probably the worst set of bumper cars in the region. Did I mention however it was very hot and Wonderpark is indoors and air-conditioned?
This left our decision to be between SFKK and Coney Island. More to the point it was the choice between a portable compact steel coaster and a competent selection of classic flat rides, or several major rollercoasters and a collection of European Flat Rides. Also in SFKK's favor is that it is more along the routing to home than Coney Island. As you probably guessed by the title of this article SFKK won out in the end.
We actually did pretty good with the time zone change and all and pulled up to the entrance road to SFKK right around lunchtime, but before we even hit the toll plaza we made a u-turn and headed back out. You see, SFKK is not exactly known for its food service, and we decided that we could do better foraging on our own in the surrounding neighborhood.
For a neighborhood that borders a major airport, fairgrounds, and amusement park the selection of restaurants is quite depressing. Our choices were to either go with fast-food or to places that are known for their Sunday brunch. Problem with places that are known for Sunday brunch is that they were quite crowded. Our longer than expected food expedition did take us past a traveling carnival that had a Loop-O-Plane. The bad news is that said traveling carnival was packing up to go to their next gig. We were so close to the Loop-O-Plane we could almost touch it, but alas no rides.
In the end we chose the Shoney's which took a lot longer than expected, primarily due to a flaw in that they try to be both a buffet and table service restaurant at the same time. It did not help that we entered just as they were changing the buffett from breakfast to dinner, and I'm sure I can attribute the abysmal slowness in recieivng our sandwhiches to the kitchen dilligently trying to get the dinner buffet up and running. Howver this is a SFKK TR and not a rant on how bad Shoney's has gotten, so we'll fast forward through lunch and arrive at the gates of SFKK just before 3pm.
We enter the parking area after paying the second most reasonable parking fee in the Six Flags empire ($3). [Footnote 1]. We entered the fairly bustling parking lot, but noticed that the vast majority of the cars there seemed to be for the exposition center.
Before we enter the park, a little trip down history lane. To my knowledge Kentucky Kingdom was founded to fulfill two goals, it provided the KY Fairgrounds with a permanent amusement midway, and it replaced the defunct Fontaine Ferry amusement park. Story goes that the first Kentucky Kingdom failed miserably but the story has a happy twist when in the mid 1990's new management breathed new life into the park in a big way. An SLC, a waterpark, a Shoot-The-Chutes, a Giant Drop, a B&M Standup, and two intertwined CCI coasters. In its Kentucky Kingdom days the park showed loads of promise and potential, then Six Flags got a hold of it. At first Six Flags gave the park a much needed cosmetic makeover and continued the aggresive expansion campaign with a Rapids Ride and a Wild Mouse. Then the story takes a turn for the worse.
We enter the park to discover that SFKK has joned the ranks of parks that have invested in metal detectors at the front gate, however this did not slow down our entry into SFKK. In the begining there was Kentucky Kingdom which was a small unasuming park in the corner of the fairgrounds. The modest park had a real simple design, basically having a kiddieland in the center, then all the major rides, shops, shows, and games in a ring around kiddieland. It worked then and still works wonderfully. As you may be aware the front side is the smaller of the two sides, however around the kiddieland in the center (which has quite a number of good kiddie rides including a Foam Factory, Speedway, Pounce N' Bounce, Kiddie Wheel, Kiddie Carousel and other stuff) are positioned a nice selection of rides. Starting imediately at the front gate positioned within the main gate fountain is an Intamin Giant-Drop (Hellavator), Breakdance, pirate ship, kids train ride, Skycoaster, Wild Mouse, !
Eurobungy, Antique Cars, Bumper Cars, Rainbow, Enterprise, show venue, Iweks motion simulator, and a Himalayah. (The remainder of the circle is the classic games of skill midway) I mean the only flaw in the front half of the park is the pirate ship being off in a corner by itself, but they did send that kiddie train ride over to keep it company.
Since not all of us, including myself, had had a ride on Road Runner Express yet, we headed there first. Road Runner Express is the Mauher Shoene Wild Mouse, and it looks quite nice from the midway, and is actually well themed which is a novelty for this park. Upon approaching the queue area I noted that yes this park has joined the ranks of those that offer FastLane, but today the RoadRunner line was so short they were routing everybody through the FastLane path.
The actual ride is hidden from the midway area by a wall, and helps build suspense. The rest of the gang was reading a sign on a wall just beyond my view that read "WIle E. Coyotee's Safe Removal Service" I commented that WIle E. Coyotee and Safe should never be used in the same sentence, I was then informed that Safe was being used as a noun. With a very minimal wait we climbed the stairs and boarded the cars. We lower the lapbar to the first click, the operator lowes it two more clicks, we advance forward and the driver wants to get another click out of us. Before this the bar was already embedded into our gut, and the driver relented when it was quite clear that it was impossible to lower the bar another notch.
The MS Mouse (not to be confused with a common computer product), runs quite close to its vintage counterparts, except that it is a kinder, gentler mouse. The inital switchbacks were brakeless with a slight braking at the end of the switchbacks and a HARD brake right before you start the forwards and backwards dips. All in all it was not a bad ride, though I prefer the Mack better, but I like the old Miler's the best.
We exited the ride and decided to hold off on the spinning rides since we had mostly overstuffed ourselves at lunch. We noted that the Breakdance tubs received side doors and then headed over to Rainbow.
Rainbow has received a newer more professional looking queue maze since my last visit, and we waited through about a 3 cycle wait. What was strange was that the ride tub wasn't nearly full, lots of empty seats. At first we throught that maybe they were not loading the front row after the Elitch Gardens incident, but on the next cycle we noted there were a few people up front, so we next thought that maybe the operator was miscounting or something, but then we noticed that he was counting a very specific number of riders. Eventually we boarded the ride, took our seats and the lapbars came down. The ride started and started shaking very violently on an axis that a rainboaw is not supposed to move in. Usually an Rainbow generates forces and moves along the left/right and up/down axis, but this Rainbow was violently shaking on the forwards/backwards axis. The ride ended and we quickly exited the ride and headed away (Run Away! Run Away!).
At this time we decided it was time to cross the Annoying Bridge. We crossed the annoying bridge which meant that we had to walk clear over by the Giant Wheel even though we were headed up into the Belgian Village. If the front half is a model of how to set up an amusement park, the back half is an amusement park planning and design experiment gone seriously wrong. It wasn't always that way, origianlly the back half was a seperate gate and contained only the water park. (The bridge served as a way to get from one park to the other if you had a combo ticket). Eventually the park decided to expand over into the back half. The Giant Wheel along the walkway to the waterpark was a great start, then they added a themed area, the Belgian Village to the side of the waterpark. The Belgian Village is a well planned area that contains its own food outlets, games of skill area and a few rides,such as the Flying Dutchman (an Intamin themed swing ride), Carousel, Vekoma Roller Skater, Zamperla Crazy Fire Engine, the Thunder Run coaster, and a piece of worthless junk called Quake. We entered the Belgian Village and took a ride on the Rollerskater.
Rollerskater is a Vekoma family coaster. As such it is probably one of the smoothest kiddie coasters around with a wonderfully inspired layout. At SFKK it is also the most natural shade covered attraction in the park, too bad the rest of the park can't have nice shade trees like this. We entered the station and found that even though the ride has single bench cars, the queue gates are, for some reason setup in groups of 2, which means they don't quite line up with your car. Once seated you pull back on the lapbar where you realize the difference between an open bar and a locked bar is about 2 inches. As usual, a nice mild yet intersting coaster ride took place.
We exited the Rollerskater and took a closer look at the Belgian Village. This section of the park contains a very nice Vekoma Carousel. Its a unqiue machine for several reasons. The most obvious of these is some of the unusual toys on the carousel. In addition to the horses, a rider can choose to sit in a hot air balloon shaped tub that rotates slowly throughout the ride, or they can sit in a chariot which slowly rocks back and forth. Less obvious things about this machine is that it is ADA complaint. There is a wheelchair ramp for it, and that big elephant just happens to be big enough to hold a wheelchair. Now for the strange, along the top of the carousel are the names and logos of several famous carousel makers, however Vekoma is surprisingly absent from that list.
Speaking of Vekoma, accross the way is the big red and blue monstrosity called Quake. When it works it is kinda like a Top Spin that never turns upside down, instead the left and right arms can operate independant of each other. It's a wierd feeling for sure, today however, like most days the ride sits broken. It's just as well we walked past Quake so that we could get to Thunder Run.
Make no bones about it, Thunder Run is the best ride this park has to offer. That being said, it's a shame that the ride is missing its big marquee sign, as well as the themed recorded queue area spiel. However the line for Thunder Run did not reach the staircase which is very rare for this ride. We took advantage of the non-existant wait to fly First Class in 1.1 The front seat wait may have been about 5 trains, but it was worth it. Thunder Run is a perfect wind down from SRM. While the ride is fast and fun and has lots of nice airtime, its not as insane as the HW rides. We boarded the yellow train, climbed the lift, noted that car 2 STILL dances its way up the lift, made the turnaround into the ultrabanked high speed turnaround. The ultra steep banking works in this case and the whole turnaround sets you up for the Three Hills Of Airtime that folllow, each hill a bit bigger, each hill offering up a slightly stronger dose of airtime. The ride then takes a few quick peppy turns and returns to the station.
We exited Thunder Run and noted that it was getting incredibly hot with no breeze whatsoever. Looking back at Belgian Village we saw just what we needed, the Intamin Flying Dutchman. This Flying Dutchman is a themed circle swing where you ride in 'wooden shoes' Rumor has it that this is the Flying Dutchman that came from PKI. If so they have totally replaced the shoes, surprisngly the new shoes do NOT have lapbars, merely seatbelts with plastic buckles. (Is the first time SIx Flags has torn the lapbars OUT of a ride...) Anyway, the Flying Dutchman was relaxing and offered a nice breeze. Exiting the Flying Dutchman we decided we would like a drink. After noticing the closed food stands, we headed to the restroom building nearest Mile High Falls. This former eatery has had its service windows boarded up, the drinking fountain showed signs of extended non-use, like not working and having debris collected in the bowl. The restrooms likewise were not open. I guess this has been converted into a storage building and the park was rather embarassed by the small crude restrooms that were in this building.
We walked around the now disused former restroom building towards Mile High Falls. As much as a good drenching sounded good, the line for Mile High Falls was really long, and Mile High gets you a bit too wet for my tastes. Alongside Mile High Falls during the last year of the former management team a great new themed area had been constructed to connect the Belgian Village to Twisted Sisters. This area always reminds me of Northern Exposure and contained family rides, games, gifts and food stands. It also contained a nice large new modern air conditioned restroom building which rendered the one by Mile High Falls obsolete anyway.
While this great themed area still exists, all but one of the family rides that sat along it have been uprooted and sent to other Six Flags parks. The start of a nicely landscaped, but rather uninteresting long stretch of land to get to Twisted Whatevers (The ride's name has been changed to Twisted Twins this year) The only ride left along the way is the old Zeppelin ride. To make matters worse the major food stand in the area was closed, the games were closed, the pop machines were sold out. We grabbed a nice (somewhat cold even) drink of water from the drinking fountains in this area. Pressing on we headed to Twisted Whatevers.
We passed under the archway to Twisted Whatevers and were amazed to see that despite the small crowd, despite the severe short staffing, despite Six Flags tendnacy to only run one side of racing coasters, they were actually running BOTH sides of Twisted Whatevers. We headed towards the Twister Twins queue area and, as usual for this park found an obnoxiously large queue area that was standing their dis-used. The problem is that the shortest possible routing through the queue makes you walk along the perimeter of THREE sides of the queue maze. I did notice that they have spent much time, money and energy strengthening their defenses against people making creative shortcuts than it would have cost to install a gate that could be used on small crowd days. To make matters worse their are two lanes at the Twisted Twins entrance, and if you choose the wrong one you come to a deadend (and the elevator tot he station). More than a few people made this mistake due to the parks lack of adequate signage.
For our first ride we choose the Pink side, and opted to ride towards the back. Maybe it was those two days of SRM, but the pink track just didn't seem to do anything for me. We exited the ride, walked ALL the way around again, then boarded the teal train. (Teal and Pink, are you sure this ride wasn't meant for Americana????) We again opted to ride in the back seat, and the teal side is much more interesting than the pink side, for starters it has fantastic airtime in the backseat on the first few dips. Then it just seems to be superior to the pink side. We exited Twisted Twins and headed back to the Northern Exosure Midway.
Luckily, by this time the park had been merciful to open a cold drinks push cart back in the courtyard by the closed game booths. I grabbed a Pepsi, which was served in a 24oz. bottle for $2.50. We then entered the badly designed part of SFKK.
The badly designed part of SFKK started when they opened T^2, but decided to place it BEHIND the waterpark, and made the only means of access a particularly uninteresting path with absolutely NOTHING of interest along it, not even shade. This improved in 1997 when the opened Chang and completed that loop so that you can get to Chang and T^2 via the much shorter walk from the Giant Wheel. Then 1998 came around and they built this nice new Northern Exposure themed midway, peppered it with family rides with Twisted Whatevers as its anchor.
What the park did wrong then was to make Twisted Twins yet another cul-de-sac attraction, far off from everything else. Shortly thereafter the park offered some relief by unofficially making an employee service path a walkway be leaving the gates open at either end. This path allowed on to go from Twsited Twins to the Top Eliminator Dragsters and so on to go to Thunder Run or T^2/Chang.
To finish telling the tale, in 1999 they installed Penguin's Blizard River, finsihing late in the season. For most of the season, the loop was again broken, with Chang and T^2 only accesible from the Giant Wheel end of the loop, and thus only Top Eliminiator or Thunder Run available from Twisted Twins.
In 2000 the park did something inexcusable, based apparently on the Twisted Twins part of the park still not getting the desired level of traffic. What they did was to build two simple fences that seal off the old pathway from Thunder Run to the Top Eliminator Dragsters. What this does is makes anybody who wants to walk from Thunder Run to T^2 or back must walk all the way back to Twisted Twins. Its a great tactic to force traffic past those game and food stands, and would be a lot more understood if those games and food stands were open. At the very least it is very aggravating in that there is a perfectly good VISIBLE pathway from one point to the other that has been closed off. Speaking of Top Eliminator, while other rides may be suffering from short staffing, the pay-extra rides are fully staffed.
We walked past Top Eliminator and started the long pathway back to T^2. This path is more interesting now that Penguin's Blizzard River Raft ride has been installed along it. Owing to the heat and all, the line for Blizzard River was a lot longer than I was willing to wait in. We continued on around to T^2 where in another great case of planning even though the queue maze is right next to the main midway, you must first walk all the way around to the back of the ride, then enter the queue maze, where again in its shortest configuration you must walk the permimeter of three sides. Today the line was in its shortest configuration and was backed up about halfway down the length of the queue maze. We reached the station and decided on a front seat ride.
It sounded great in theory, after all I had recently ridden Serial Thriller at SFWoA and the front seat ride had excellent visuals and was a real smooth ride. Well T^2 had a rahter lengthy front seat queue, real hot weather, only one train running (the ride-op said that at least two switchbacks of the queue must be full for the second train to be added), but we still opted for the front row. Almost drained of energy we sluggishly made our way around the front seat queue maze. To give you an idea of how easily amused we were, I had a kick out of watching the ride console lights change to indicate which block the train was in.
While waiting the extra half hour for the front seat, we noticed two other things. Primarily that the sky was starting to turn real ugly real fast. I was welcoming a light rainshower to help break the heat, but this looked much more serious. The other thing we noticed was that Chang was dispatching at a rate of about 1 train per 10-15 minutes. We then assumed that the slow disptach indicated the ride was a walk-on. Eventually Brad and Dave ride, and they come back and give the ride a bad review. John and I ride, and the lift hill was great, although I can see the Chang queue through its first switchback. Scratch any thought of standing in that slow nightmate. We hit the top of the lift, drop, and then the recieved an unreasonably rough ride, even for a Hang-N-Bang. It was just awful. We returned to the station, and John voiced his extreme displeasure.
We started to continue on around the circle back around to Thunder Run. We then noticed the sky turned a real strange color, the wind was picking up and started blowing fairly hard, and the rainclouds looked too close for comfort. Although none of us commented aloud, we deicded to leave the park and quickly made our way back around to the annoying bridge. What we noticed was that it seemed like everybody in the park was quietly, voluntarily evacuating the park. Recall that this was 2 days after the Kennywood incident and possbily that was on people's minds. The crowd flowed in an orderly stream accorss the bridge, we then broke off from the crowd and cut through the kiddie area which some people beleive is a shorter path to the front gate, at the very least it got us out of the crowd. We exited the park, returned to our car, and just pulled out of the park onto the interstate when the "Noah get that Ark built" rainstorm started with FURY.
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