HoliWood Nights

June 4-5, 2010

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    My friend Doug and I arrived at Holiday World for our first visit since 2008 a little after 8 p.m. Friday, the first day of HoliWood Nights. We got our name tags and went to Kringle's Kafe for free dinner. Mmm. Pizza. After we ate, we went directly to Raven. From there, we'd work our way to Legend and Voyage. The sun had set, so we'd finally get our long-awaited night rides. When we last visited, there was still some light in the sky. Not this time.

    We went to Raven. After waiting a couple of trains, we got in the back seat. Raven is in my top 10 wood, but I think riding it at night bumped it up a spot or two. It tears around those turns and through the woods. My gosh, it was fantastic. After Raven, I ran into Katie, a staff member from ThrillNetwork. We talked and hung out for a while.

    Then we went to Legend. Legend's my No. 2 wood. We got in the back seat. The best part of this ride at night is the double helix. But the first couple of drops are fun and surprising at night. The drop after the double-up was cool, but there were lights on in the tunnel. I wondered why there would be lights on when there aren't any anywhere else. The ride was flying through the four corners of death, and it roared into the brakes. We stopped because there were two trains operating, and the other was still loading. The upstops were still spinning when we stopped, which shows how insane it was running.

    Then we headed to my favorite coaster of all time: Voyage. Finally, I get a night ride. Voyage was supposed to have new trains that probably would help with the roughness, but they weren't ready. Since two of three of the old PTC trains had been sold, the park took a train off Raven, modified it, gave it a Voyage name plate and put it on Voyage. So it was running two six-car trains instead of seven-car trains. I was pretty disappointed to hear this news, but after one ride, I was OK with it. I was there getting my night rides.

    We went to the back seat. After cresting the lift hill, the lights from the park reach a little into the woods, and you can see the second hill. After that, it's completely dark. From the top of the second hill, I could not see the ground and the track at the bottom of the drop. Unbelievable. So awesome! The ride is freaking nuts at night. It's so dark, the only way you can tell you're in a tunnel is that the temperature drops. And the smell. Two of the tunnels had weird smells in them. We didn't know what that was about, but we sure laughed about it.

    The turnaround and return run are so insane. Voyage is so relentless and does not stop. There's a slight breather in the block brake, but then it's complete madness again. Tons of hills, tons of airtime, crazy laterals and turns and left and right and up and down. So wild. I love it. After this one ride, I knew Voyage would continue being my overall favorite coaster. It's got some bumpy spots on it, but it didn't take away from the ride. Voyage is insane.

    After we got off, we looked at a set of two Timberliner cars sitting outside the station. Will Koch, the president of Holiday World, and Mike Graham, with The Gravity Group, were answering questions and talking about the ride and new trains. We sat in the seats and talked to some people. Then we got another ride on Voyage. In these two rides, we got to ride in the Raven train and the Voyage train. Brian F. from ThrillNetwork was there, and we talked a little.

    ERT was nearing an end, so we rode Legend again as we walked toward the entrance.

    We left the park and went to Lake Rudolph to camp. After setting up our tent, we went to bed. But sleep was not going to happen. It was extremely humid, and the tent was only big enough for one person shorter than 5 feet. So Doug and I got very little sleep. And we had to get up early in the morning for ERT on the new water ride, Wildebeest.

Day 2

   We got up and headed to the park for 8 a.m. breakfast and ERT in the water park. I changed, put my stuff in a locker and grabbed breakfast. There were muffins, fruit and juice. After eating, we went to Wildebeest, the new water coaster. This ride is unusual because it uses LIMs to climb the hills instead of jets of water. There was a bit of a line, but we didn't wait terribly long. It's pretty fun. It starts with a normal conveyer lift hill, drops into a helix and has some turns and drops, then it launches you over numerous hills through turns and drops and tunnels. It's really fun. Doug sat in the front, and I was behind him in the four-seat boat.

    We grabbed some more food and wandered over to Zinga, which also was open. There was a little bit of a line for this too. They started testing Legend, which passes right next to the ride, so that was cool seeing a few trains pass by. Doug and I got in one of the four-seat, clover-shaped innertubes. We sat across from each other. The ride op pushed us down the tunnel. Doug went backward, so I got to see all that was coming. There's a big turn and then a drop into the huge bowl. I got some airtime in the drop. Zinga's a pretty fun ride. This was my first time on one of those.

When we got off the ride, we hopped in the single-rider line to ride again. Except this line moved slower than the rest of the line! While waiting, we ran into my friends Marcus and Dave.

    I got in the front seat. It was fun up there, but going up the hills was ridiculous. There are water sprayers that spray right at eye level, so I couldn't see a thing for half the ride. But it's fun anyway. The last tunnel is dark, and there's a drop and small hill into the station. This was my first water coaster, and I'm happy with it.

    They opened the water park to the general public and let us wander around, so we went to the locker and grabbed some of our things. We walked around the park for a while trying to figure out what to do. We decided to go to Liberty Launch, the Double Shot. We got in the single-rider line. We ended up doing that three times in a row. I love the second launch because the airtime at the top is intense.

    I wanted to ride Eagle's Flight because I'm a dork. Doug sat out. I waited one cycle and got on. I like it, though it's run a little too fast to snap the cars.

    Then we went to Gobbler Getaway, where I kept my rein of turkey-shooting superiority over Doug. He sat in the front, and I sat in the back. We each grabbed the two guns in each row and fired away. At the end of the ride, Doug told me his score. I said I had the same score, then I asked what his other gun's score was. He said that was his total. I had that on my left gun. Take that!

    We got on Voyage. I rode toward the back. Doug didn't really want to wait, so he hopped in another line.

   Then I rode Bench: The Ride.

   We headed up the midway and rode Legend in the back row and then went to Raven.

    After we rode Raven, we went on the Raven and Legend walkback. We waited by first aid with other HoliWood Nights attendees for them to open the gate and let us walk on the gravel path next to the rides. We walked right by Legend's first drop, and I got plenty of photos. We also walked right by the double helix and then next to Raven. I got some great shots of Raven between the trees. It was pretty cool seeing these rides from this angle. We walked by a maintenance shed that had wheels and other things in it. The path also took us by the lake, so it's a good spot to get pictures of Raven's turn over the lake. There's also a decent, tree-obscured view of the famous fifth drop. We actually got to walk under the drop. Then we got back in the park and headed over to the Voyage walkback.

    This is really what I was anticipating. I wanted to see the terrain and how Voyage interacted with it. It's surprising. There's a 110-foot-high hill the ride goes through, over and around. The third drop goes underground through an uphill slope, emerges and drops again to exit out the other side of the hill and dive down the side of it. It interacts with the terrain really well. The 90-degree turns look cool too. Doug and I also spotted $2 sitting on a footer. There are thick trees everywhere -- even in the middle of turns. We stood by and talked to Mike Graham about the ride. He's really nice and answers most questions. The ride went down, so we waited for a while to see if another train would come. We started heading back after about 10 minutes of waiting, and the ride started up again. I got more pictures. Doug took one of me pretending to hold the coaster. We were back there for about an hour. Totally worth the hike.

    Since we were a bit tired from the hike, heat and humidity, Doug and I went to Gobbler Getaway again because it's nice and cool in there. Guess who won. Me. Again. I'm undefeated.

    We walked into Halloween again and decided to get in line for HallowSwings. It's a fun ride, and the breeze sure felt good.

    Then we went to Raven. We rode in the back seat. We wandered down to Legend and rode it in the back seat. Legend is running much better than I remember it. It's really forceful.

   Dinner was in another hour, so Doug took a nap on a bench, and I sat down and rested.

    Then we went to the picnic grounds for the buffet meal. Everyone was there! There was a pretty long line, but we all got food. I had a burger, mac and cheese, chicken, and then I got a cookie and brownie. It was a really good meal. A band played while we ate. Will Koch actually played bass that night! How cool. After we all finished eating and Will and his mom, Pat, said some words, they opened the gate and let us go to the coasters for ERT. Most people headed to Voyage. Doug and I got on the first train of ERT of the night. Ahhhh. I love Voyage. It's so good. We rode twice. We sat in the Timberliner trains. I think they'll be a good change.

    Doug persuaded me to ride Pilgrims Plunge, even though I'm not a big fan of water rides. I got in the front seat. The lift hill is pretty crazy. There's a little tilt as it moves out of the way of the other elevator. It's also really tall. The first drop isn't steep, but it's long, and there are little water jets that splash some water up. It levels out and glides over the water before dipping down a little and producing a big splash. But the water is mostly pushed in front of the boat. I only got a little wet.

    We rode Legend. The lights in the second tunnel were off this time. Then I headed up to Raven, which Doug sat out. We were getting tired, but I wanted to get more rides in. After Raven, I went down to Legend again. Love it. I got Doug, and we went to end the night on Voyage. I rode in the very back seat with my friend Dave. This last ride was probably the best ride I've ever had on a coaster. The darkness is amazing. And Voyage just tears through the course. I could see the Big Dipper constellation. The turnaround is so dark, I could hardly tell what was going on. The final drop in the triple-down surprised me each time. I feel like it should end, but the drop gets steeper and drops more. I love it. Voyage is the only coaster that's left me out of breath by the end of it. It's so relentless. And the new trains should help it run better. It's got some rough patches on it. I think the new trains will help it stay just as amazing as it should be for a long time.

    Will was standing near the entrance of Voyage, so we talked to him for a bit. I thanked him for running such a great event, and I told him it was my first time going to the event. He thanked me for coming and was glad I had fun. Holiday World really outdid itself with HoliWood Nights. I hope to attend next year.

*Dedicated to Will Koch. Thanks for the memories.

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