Trip Report: Stratosphere Tower

Las Vegas, NV

May 30, 2004

"Stop, STOP!, Please Stop!"

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I had thought I would totally skip the coasters in Vegas this year. I mean most of them are mediocre at best, and are high priced to boot. I knew I wsn't going to pay $12 for that Chiropracters Delight known as Manhattan Express, and I am just not enough of a Trekkie to pay $30 to see Borg. Heck, I don't even know what a Borg is!

I thought I would limit my riding fun to the rides of the North Strip. Well that got more limited when the cost to ride Speed went from $10 POP to $20POP ($10 for one ride). Speed is a good ride, but not worth the cost., and AdventureDome at Circus Circus was just way too crowded. Of note at Adventure Dome is they have a new Chance Slingshot and it is in fact operating. It also looks really dull, especially at $6 a ride.

This leaves Stratosphere which was tops on my list anyway. It so happens that Stratopshere received a new ride called X-Scream which is of a type I had not seen before. Accordingly I entered the casino via the entrance nearest the valet circle. Something tells me the Stratosphere is not the most popular casino in Vegas as they have a spread out layout which is a trick I have seen other venues use to hide the fact they have reduced the number of attractions. To get to the tower from the casino, first you have to ride the escalator up to the second floor. When you go in the entrance I just described you can see the escalator straight ahead of you, you just have to walk around a couple gaming pits and ride on up.

At the top of the escalator there is a ticket office to the right. It looks way too fancy to be an amusement park ticket office, but it is. I noticed a significant change in marketing strategy since last year. Last year the majority of the signage reffered to their combo deals where you purchase Tower admission and a selection of single ride tickets at a discount. The POP wristband was mentioned in fine print at the bottom of the sign. This year, the POP package is first and foremost, and a POP goes for $25.95 which included the $9 tower access fee. So I checked the board and noticed an Open sign next to all three rides, and purchased a wristband.

After obtaining your wristband you head towards their shopping mall like area and go clear through to the other end where the elevators are. There is a brief stop past a metal detector, and then you are loading into the elevator for a 100 story+ climb in less than 30 seconds. Upon accessing the upper tower deck you walk down a short hallway and into the Indoor domed observation deck. I followed the instructions to head left for the rides, and soon you find yourself at a ride ticket desk. They don't miss a chance to sell you tickets, I mean they have an office in the casino, one at the base of the elevators, one on top of the tower, and then at the ride exits. (Should you want more tickets) Then entrance marked to X-Scream was roped off, so I headed to the elevators to Big Shot and High Roller instead. After a short 4 story elevator ride you find yourself in the inner core of the rides level. An attendant in this hallway will direct you to the rides as appropriate. At the top of the elevator you turn right, and the first door takes you to Big Shot, and the second door goes to High Roller. I decided to start my day with a blast, so I went to Big Shot., There is a small outdoor queue area before you head up a flight of stairs to the S&S tower sitting on top of the Stratosphere Tower. I noted the 48" height requirement which seems low for an S&S tower, and was soon taking a seat. Big Shot is an airtime machine, and by my third trip around was starting to produce insane amounts of air. I started the day with 5 rides on Big Shot (yes walking around each time)

Fearing having too much of a good thing, I got in line for High Roller. It was a one cycle wait, and I found myself in a middle of the train seat. (Not like seating preference makes much difference here) I noted the trains still have shoulder bars (which I imagine is to prevent riders from doing anything stupid). High Roller may be the highest coaster on the planet, but if we set it down on the ground, it would'n't be much of a ride at all. Its one of those novelty rides that just doesn't do anything.

After the High Roller ride, I took 3 more goes on Big Shot, its one of those rides that is so re-reideable, but believe it or not after 8 rides the rule of diminishing returns kicks in, and it starts starts becoming routine. At about this time I looked and there was no line for High Roller. So I grabbed a front seat of High Roller to see if the added view would help the effect. Sorry to say it didn't.

After the High Roller ride I boarded the elevator back to the observation deck, but I was sure to ask the elevator operator how to get to X-Scream. He let me off the elevator at 109 instead of going all the way to the deck at 108. X-Scream sits on a portion of the former outdoor observation deck , and as such may be the only ride with revolving doors at both the entrance and exit.

I walked through the revolving door, up a short stairway and got in line. My first attempt was a no-go, but the attendant noticed the bulk in my pockets and suggested I try a locker and see if that helped. SO I emptied my pocket contents into a locker. (One of the new electronic lockers by American Lokcer) then got back in the short line for X-Scream.

As fate would have it I got to sit in the front row. X-Scream uses a T-shaped lapbar with an integrated anklebar. That wasn't the problem, the problem was the short seatbelt that must attach to the buckle on the armrest. It was a tight fit, but I got the buckle fastened on the second try. Attached to the top of the lap bar mechanism are two pegs which seem to be for holding on. They may actually increase the intensity as to grab a hold of them, I had to lean forward in the seat

Then the boarding platform drops away, then well, in case you haven't seen this kind of ride, imagine a giant see-saw, okay now on top of the see saw attach a sled that is free to roll from one end of the sea saw to the other. Okay, The ride starts with the end of the see saw at the load end all the way down. The load you up, the see saw tilts up and the car can slide along the board as dictated by gravity.

First they raised the board slowly so you just sort of slowly rolled towards the end that overhangs the tower. It is also of note the car has a long artificial nose on it that makes it look as if the car has gone clean off the end of the track. It's a real startling visual effect. Not helped when the operator says "Everybody take a good look at that IHOP, here let me help you" The board jerks down as if it is falling and you get a nice good look, then they tilt the board the other way so you roll back down to the loading area, then they bring the board up at a sharp angle so you really fly towards the bitter end. I admit I was screaming bloody murder, I mean no ride has managed to put the fear of God into me so effectively. I mean I know we discussed here about all the fail safes and safety devices and all that, but you aren't thinking of those when the car is rolling towards the end of the track at full tilt. Some have commented that the vice like restraints made them feel ultra secure. They may be missing the point, Those ultra tight restraints are merely holding them into the sled. If the sled goes off the end of the track, you are going down with the ship. (And if you do enjoy going down with the ship, may I suggest you join up with the Pirates at the Sirens of TI show, I hear they get their pirate ship sunk four times a night. Really it's the only pirate ship I have seen with expanded metal decks, at least those pirates thought ahead!). Ahem, where was I, don't you hate those tangents? Anyway after the sled from hell comes to a stop, they use the slight drop gag again before letting you back to the loading area to unload. The operators really get into this ride and make it truly unique. However it was also the only ride I have gotten off of literally SHAKING, I mean the visuals really got to me and it may well be the more frightening ride ever.

Did that stop me from taking two more rides on it? No! Two of my three rides were in the front seat, the other one was in the back. I must say that only the front two seats are effective, in the other 6 seats your vision is cut off by the high seatbacks. You truly haven't ridden this ride until you have a go in the front row. Oh, and a practical matter, if you are riding with a ride partner, please note that the ride has 8 indiviudal seats, 4 on each side, there is a big obstruction in the middle of the sled so you can't cross over the middle. So if you want to ride with someone, make sure you both approach the sled on opposite sides and hope to get the same row.

So after a few rides, I reclaimed my goodies from the locker. Then headed back to the indoor observation deck, and through the gift shop. While the t-shits in the gift shop are cheap ($7) they also didn't have any XXL shirts in patterns I liked. And with that I am all caught up on my Trip Reports. Gee my last ride was on May 30, almost time for another park run!


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