austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

I feel safest of all

So what was so all-fired important about getting to Kings Island this year? It's their roller coasters. They put in a new wooden roller coaster, Mystic Timbers. Great name, and reminiscent of Shivering Timbers at their sister park Michigan's Adventure. Who wouldn't want to get to a wooden roller coaster the first year it was in operation? As bunny_hugger said following our ride, cherish it: it'll never be that smooth again. But there was more.

The ride was built with some theming, a good bit of bunkum to make the ride more fun. Its hype has some tale about being built on the remains of a haunted lumber company's grounds. The station and props bill the ride as something built into the Miami River Lumber Company's facility. There's ``abandoned'' 80s trucks in the queue and ominous advertisement warnings asking --- what's in the shed?

The shed is, well, what you'd think. But it's also a spot where trains stop over the course of the ride. The actual point of the shed is it's one of the brake points, where a train with passengers can be kept while another train is loaded up and readied for dispatch. Nearly any roller coaster has the equivalent. Few try to make it anything more than a spot where passengers do more than get a little bored. Kings Island had decided to try. There was some kind of show in the shed. What?

Well, the secret was out minutes after the ride opened. But we had been unspoiled, and ready to experience the ride without preconceptions. And, really, there's only so long you can go avoiding spoilers for something like this. A couple of months is sustainable. Going without the whole season-plus, if we'd waited until 2018 to go to Kings Island? Getting a little ridiculous, even for someone like me who's only loosely connected to the amusement park news reports. (Plus, who knows when some important element in the show would break and the thing be quietly retired, never to be seen again? Cedar Fair parks have been getting better about the show and presentation stuff, the things that don't objectively improve a ride's statistics, but that do make it a more attractive experience. Yet they haven't fixed the moving star-field lights on Maverick at Cedar Point, a feature that I'm not sure I've ever seen working, and that is just light bulbs for crying out loud.)

My guess was in the shed would be some sort of brief animatronic show, a figure coming out and maybe doing a ``Boo!'' gag. bunny_hugger got word that the show was not some massive spectacle and warned me that it was, by reports, not all that much. We'd find out. The first thing we went to, in the hour ahead of park opening accessible to us by virtue of being season-ticket holders, was Mystic Timbers. (I forget how MWS got the early-admission status.) There was a line already, but not so bad a one. We chose to wait a little extra for a front-seat ride. Well, bunny_hugger and MWS took a front-seat ride; I took second seat. MWS had offered to ride second seat but I pointed out, it's very likely bunny_hugger and I will be able to visit again before he can. He should take the chance while he has it.

It's a fun ride. All wooden roller coasters are fun rides, basically. But it's a modern wooden roller coaster designed by Great Coasters International, so it's got a lot of nice swoopy curves and side-to-side action. I appreciated that on the lift hill, as disembodied voices warned us not to go back there and absolutely don't go in the shed! the climb was erratic, with the trains speeding up and slowing down as if we were on a rickety old track already. bunny_hugger thinks that was the normal irregularity of chain hills and I was perceiving something not there. She may be right; I paid closer attention to the longer chain lifts after and maybe they are more erratic than I imagined. (The speed might also have been ratcheted down to let the train ahead of us get into the shed.

When we got there, what did we find? You can avoid spoilers by not highlighting the text coming.

It looked like, well, a maintenance shed. After a moment a boombox switched on, playing Gary Numan's ``Cars'', for a few seconds, while a projected image of trees swaying played in front of us. Then, our train started to move again, pulling into the station. There was some noise behind us, but we couldn't see it.

So. Goofy and absurdly light? Sure. Was I disappointed? ... Maybe a touch, since I had figured there'd be more props doing things. But I loved the song choice. And modest as the shed contents were, it's still better than just having a wait for the next train to dispatch, and I think a good portent. If Cedar Fair parks are going to make the boring stuff of thrill rides a little more interesting then we're heading into a good era.

We'd probably have gone around to ride again even if the ride operator hadn't pointed out, today's line will never be shorter than it is now. Excellent thought! This time around we didn't wait for the front seat, but contented ourselves with being on the train anywhere, aiming for but not insisting on the back. And when we got to the shed again we could watch the show knowing what was coming. We were wrong about that.

Not wrong in substance. But wrong in detail. This time the boombox played Bonnie Tyler's ``Turn Around''. Which is even better if you think about the people in the front car listening to it. And we could see that there's several projections, suggesting the shed as being in some place. Also, being surrounded by CGI bats that we could now see since the car didn't move out of the line of sight of any screens. Also that one of the bats slams into the ``front'' window and turns out to be a demon. Rather a silly jump scare but, hey, not bad, huh?

So it was a more elaborate show than we figured on. Apparently there's both day and night scenes, and several presentations, some of them rare. I don't know how broad the selection of music is. Certainly the two songs we heard were amusingly on-point enough for roller coaster cars stopped in a spot. And I'm tickled that there's something about the ride that you get to experience less clearly if you have a front seat. That doesn't often happen.

By the end of our second ride the park had opened to general admission, and the queue was an hour-plus. We figured to do other things, and maybe come back if the wait would be closer to a half-hour. Maybe even at dark, since a night ride on a wooden roller coaster poking into the woods would be a great Kings Island experience. We'd see. (We would not get back to ride Mystic Timbers again. But we would have another shed experience.)

Trivia: Virginia's 1806 law regarding private manumission required freed slaves to leave the state or face re-enslavement. Source: American Slavery 1619 - 1877, Peter Kolchin.

Currently Reading: Voodoo Histories: The Role of the Conspiracy Theory in Shaping Modern History, David Aaronovitch.

PS: some more Silverball Museum pinball beauty shots.


New Jersey not at all living up to stereotypes here. Williams 1972 Big Star complete with the claim that it's the exact table which appeared in Bruce Springsteen's ``Girls In Their Summer Clothes'' music video.


Gottlieb's 1966 Dancing Lady, from an era when games were spruced up by having some physical object in a setback scene in the backglass. Here, when you reach milestones (I believe each 100 points) the doll spins around several times. Note the scoring reels only have three digits (but single-point scoring); if you break 999 points a light behind the fourth ``reel'' turns on, showing a '1'. If you break 1999 points, well done.


One of the minor mysteries of pinball is how they never made a Beatles game. This is probably the closest they came, as Williams's 1967 Beat Time skirts so close to trademark infringement. Indeed, you may wonder how this didn't result in a lawsuit that shut down the company right then and there. The answer: this is an after-market backglass not made by Williams. The original backglass names the band ``The Bootles'', which is on the safe side of the danger. On the original the 'Luv Ringo' message underneath the second player's score is 'Luv Dingo'.

Tags: kings island, pinburgh 2017, silverball museum

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