July 7th, 2016

krazy koati

Brush off the clouds and cheer up

Kentucky Kingdom, take two. The park is divided into two elliptic lumps. The park's grounds cross over the access road used to get to the parking lot, and parkgoers just have to take the footbridge from one to the other. This has the advantage that from the footbridge you can get some lovely photographs of either side of the park. It does cut down on how far you can go in any direction. But the park avoids having any really long straight paths, and lines of sight, which make it feel less like the very cramped location it is.

For this trip in we skipped Lightning Run, the roller coaster in the front half, and went to the far end of the park. We were aiming roughly at Storm Chaser, the new-by-most-reasonable-measures roller coaster they had. But we ran across the entrance to Thunder Run, the wooden roller coaster, along the way and diverted to that, not least because it was running and who could guess how long that would last. And so that became our first roller coaster of the day, and for that matter of the season. It's a 90-foot-tall wooden roller coaster from Summers-and-Dinn, a much shorter sister to Cedar Point's Mean Streak. I'm happy with it. Besides the big drop it's got a satisfying number of minor hills and enough side-to-side movement to be thrilling. It's the center of a part of the park that's got a roughly Deep Southern/Bayou theme, though the coaster itself is surrounded with a thick enough grove of trees to feel a bit alone.

Back to Storm Chaser, and you might now be detecting the theme running through Kentucky Kingdom's roller coaster names. It's not really that organized: their other roller coasters are named Roller Skater (which is a kiddie coaster, fair reason not to keep the theme), and T3 (formerly T2). Also, the ride kind of used to be a racing wooden coaster named Twisted Twins. Before that, and a threatened lawsuit, it was named Twisted Sisters. Storm Chaser is the result of a major and within roller coaster circles controversial renovation.

See, the problem with wooden roller coasters is the track is on a bunch of pieces of wood, and wood wears out. This outfit named Rocky Mountain Construction had an idea: replace the stacks of wood with a block of steel that's got roughly the same dimensions and, in principle, feel of the blocks of wood while staying as weather-impervious as metal will be. Or, for that matter, adding the sorts of loops and barrel rolls and such that are easy for steel coasters but difficult for wooden ones. And that are easier on the support structures, in case the wooden roller coaster is itself held up by a wooden structure. (What distinguishes wooden from steel roller coasters isn't what makes up the hill; it's what the strip of metal which makes up the track is attached to.) We've never ridden one before. This could be our chance.

When the park reopened Kentucky Kingdom had the track of Twisted Twins torn out, and replaced with this Rocky Mountain Construction I-Box track. It uses the course of one of the Twins, as best I can work out, but the exact shape's completely changed, including the sorts of barrel rolls that just wouldn't be possible on the old. There was a line for it, one moving mostly by the number of people giving up and exiting the queue. But it seemed like trains were going, so, why not carry on? ... And why did trains stop going?

They stopped because the seat restraints got stuck. It's one of those things that happens, particularly in Roller Coaster Tycoon, but there it was in real life too. They finally got a maintenance guy in to fiddle with something or other and let people out after a fair bit longer a ride than they'd hoped for.

That gave us plenty of time to study the station, though, and to wonder: where was the second track going to go? Because we understood that Storm Chaser was just the one half of what had been Twisted Twins more or less. We'd been under the idea that when they had the spare capital they'd convert and open up the other half and have a racing coaster again. But we couldn't figure a way that this would make sense: the exit queue seemed to block the other half of the station. And it wasn't clear how you could make a second track parallel the first given its current loops and whatnot. As best we can work out, this is because we misunderstood altogether. Storm Chaser isn't to be expanded into a racing coaster; they're just using the station platform from the old racing-coaster days and that's that. Which is sad, and a bit mysterious. They have the second train sitting in the launch queue for the out-of-service other side, but we can't figure how they would possibly transfer it into service when needed.

Well, they got the problem fixed and got to ride. It's a pretty good ride. I can't say it really has that wooden roller coaster feel, though that might reflect more that stuff like a loop is so out of the norm for a wooden roller coaster that it can't feel like one. Nice straighter sections with bunny-hops felt a little more natural. This sort of conversion is certainly better than losing a wooden roller coaster altogether, but I am sad I couldn't have gotten onto the ride in its old incarnation.

Still, as Storm Chaser only opened this season, and so was a few weeks old, this marks the earliest bunny_hugger and I can identify ever getting onto a new roller coaster.

Before Storm Chaser the skies were still overcast and threatening, and the ground all damp. We'd even paused for some photographs of deserted park grounds that seemed especially piquant. While we were waiting, though, and riding, the worst finally passed. The sun came out and it wouldn't threaten rain again. The back half of the day would be pretty good amusement park weather.

Trivia: At 3 pm the 7th of July, 1936, RCA gave a demonstration of television technology, including three Radio City Rockettes (there was no room for more), film clips, comedian Ed Wynn, and David Sarnoff explaining the progress made in television in the past ten years and that TV sets were not available and would not be until they were less expensive. Source: Please Stand By: A Prehistory of Television, Michael Ritchie.

Currently Reading: The John McPhee Reader, Editor William L Howarth.