Photo Trip Report

HoliWood Nights

June 2, 2012

I flew out the morning of Friday, June 1, and stopped for a short layover in Baltimore. After catching my next flight, I'd be on my way to Friday night ERT at HoliWood Nights. Then a storm rolled in. A bad storm. A storm that delayed and canceled flights. A storm that included cloud rotation. My flight to Indianapolis was delayed then canceled. A later flight was canceled. I switched to fly to Louisville. Delayed. Again and again. I sat at the airport and waited.

For 10 hours. No Friday ERT for me, and Saturday was starting to look grim. Finally, around 1 a.m. Saturday, I boarded a plane to Louisville. The flight was uneventful, and my friend Doug picked me up and drove to Santa's Lodge in Santa Claus. We got there around 4 a.m. and promptly fell asleep.

We awoke a few hours later and went to the park for morning ERT on the new water ride, Mammoth, and Wildebeest. We went to guest relations and got our badges and packets. We asked if there was anything we could do about missing Friday even though we paid for it. The woman there told us to talk to Eric Snow, and she gave us a card. We were there right at the late deadline for getting to morning ERT, so we hurried up and walked to Splashin' Safari with the rest of the stragglers. We dropped our things off in lockers and went to the water park. We started at the breakfast buffet. I had some fruit, a blueberry muffin, orange juice and coffee. I'm not a coffee drinker, but I needed some caffeine to keep myself from falling asleep on the rides.

While sitting at the table, I met with up Steve and Katie from ThrillNetwork. Doug and I finished eating and went to Mammoth. The temperature was in the 50s, and Mammoth's water isn't heated. What would feel great on a hot July day was absolutely freezing. Doug and I rode in a boat alone. The lift hill probably takes longer than the ride. We dropped and didn't do much spinning, which the circular rafts are supposed to do. Maybe our weightwas distributed pretty evenly. I faced backward for most of the ride, which was fun on some hills. Every drop of water was freezing. Waterfalls and splashes were brutal because it was so cold.

We got off shivering and went to the wave pool to try to acclimate to the temperature. After walking around in that for a while, we went to Wildebeest, where I sat in the back seat and Doug in front. Wow. When I was here in 2010, I never got to ride in the back seat. This time I wanted to because I'd heard there's good airtime there.

Whoa. Great airtime! There are at least two steep drops where I was really lifted out of my seat. Actually, since Doug and I were the only riders, our entire boat lifted off the slide! Lots of fun. There were only a few people in line, so we got right back in line and rode again. Doug took the back, and I got in the front. I rode in the front in 2010, and it was similar. Going up the launched hills is fun, but there are sprayers that just shoot water right at eye level, so it's hard to see where you're going.

We went to Mammoth again and rode with three other guys who hadn't been on it yet. Doug and I were slightly ready for the cold water, but these guys weren't! Since we had a heavier raft, we spun more. I had a lot of fun going over a hill while spinning completely around. Mammoth's a good addition to the park and a lot of fun. Too bad the temperature was so cold.

Since we were running on a few hours' sleep, we went back to the hotel and took naps. After a little bit of sleep, we went back to the park for the walkbacks. We met in the parking lot near Raven and were led down the maintenance trail that runs under the lift hill and back to the turn over Lake Rudolph. We saw Eric Snow and said we'd have to talk to him later, and he said he'd be at the buffet that night.

The views of the coaster from this trail are great. You can see the famous fifth drop, the hills after the first drop and a lot of the layout as it meanders through the trees. On some supports next to the turn over the lake rests a boat, probably for maintenance to work on the turn.

Then we walked to Legend. The best view on this part of the walkback is the first drop. Everyone stood around waiting for a train to come by. We pass by the insane double helix and all the turns that bring so many high laterals. On the way back to the midway, I saw a pretty strange sign.

We had about half an hour to kill before the Voyage walkback, so we headed to Kringle's Kafe. On the way, I saw Santa Claus posing for photos with a kid. In the cafe, we each got a slice of pizza and a free drink. I've said it before, and I'll say it again: Holiday World's policy of free drinks is spectacular.

We ate and walked to Voyage. Just outside the station, a commercial was being shot for the park. Earlier in the day we saw a helicopter flying around filming for a commercial. I ran into my friend Jerry during this walkback. We walked through a gate and next to Voyage's lift hill. The last 90-degree turn was now on the other side of the structure than where you normally see it. Right next to the lift was a huge pile of old track from Voyage's first drop. Thousands of feet of Voyage had been retracked in the offseason. Did it make a difference? I hadn't ridden it yet, so I was yet to find out. The views on the walkback are great. I love getting shots of the first drop and the hills you can't see from the park.

We walked back to the turnaround and stopped a little bit past the first 90-degree turn. Someone pointed out that the ledgers had been modified in this area. Instead of one ledger at the same angle as the degree of banking in the track, there was a horizontal ledger with an angled ledger flush with it and the track. That probably helps add to stability. Next to the area near the brake run on top of the 100-foot hill was a pile of old rails.

We turned around and headed back to the park. The Voyage walkback is one of my favorite things to do during HoliWood Nights. Since Doug and I hadn't ridden anything except the two water coasters, it was now time to do some riding. Steve joined us on Gobbler Getaway. Doug came in first place, and I beat Steve by about 100 points. Doug and I wanted to get some other rides in, so we split from Steve and went on our own.

We went to the other new ride, Sparkler, a giant swing. We waited a couple of cycles, which are really quick, before we got to ride. The views are fun, but you only seem to spin around at the top twice before it starts to go down. We went to Liberty Launch, which is right next to Sparkler, and got in the single-rider line. This ride may be short, but it packs a punch. I still get a big thrill from the second shot when it really delivers the airtime.

Then we went to Raven, which had no line. We waited a couple of trains for the back seat, the best seat on the coaster. My first coaster of 2012 is running really well. The last time I rode, the portion of the ride after the fifth drop was a little rough. This time it was fine. The airtime's still great, and flying through the trees is a blast. Some trees next to the lift hill had been removed, so there's a better view of it from the station. After that we went to Legend, one of my favorite wooden coasters. We got in the back seat, and I took the left side so Doug didn't have to deal with being pressed into the side of the car.

Legend's running all right, but some spots are a little bumpy. Nothing detracts from the ride, but my rides in 2010 were better. It still screams through the helix, and the four corners of death are still ferocious and filled with heavy laterals. When we stopped in the brakes while waiting for the other train to leave the station, the upstops and guide wheels were still screaming. I love it.

Then it was time for my favorite coaster of all time: Voyage. We got in the back seat of the seventh car. Had the retracking helped? Was it going to be knocked down from my No. 1 spot like it almost threatened in 2010?

No. The retracking on the first half of the ride paid off brilliantly. The coaster's running like it's brand new. The turnaround is even more fierce, though you can easily tell when the retracking ends at the first 90-degree turn. The second half is filled with airtime, and the only real pothole is after the last 90-degree turn. Rerides can happen now, though maybe not too many. As I overheard one kid say as we walked down the exit ramp: "I'm gonna do it again and again, and I'm gonna have a migraine!" He sounded excited.

We went back to Raven and rode in the back again. Fun! Then we headed to the picnic area for the buffet. It was time for dinner. We grabbed food and hung out with everyone else. I got seconds. Jerry won a piece of Voyage in the auction. Doug and I walked to Eric Snow to ask about refunds or any help since we missed Friday night ERT but paid for it. He told us that was the cheapest package and that they can't control the weather, which is perfectly understandable. But he told us he'd give us $20 gift cards that are good for three years, so we could use them next time we come. Wow. This park really goes out of its way. He took our names and told us to go to guest relations at the end of the night. Pat and Dan Koch made the standard announcement about how much they love us and this event, how we need to stay safe, and most of all to have fun. Then I grabbed a cookie, and we headed to night ERT.

Steve and I stood around talking and taking pictures. Then we rode Bench: The Ride and went to Voyage, where the only lines were for the front and back seats. Steve and I took the back, and Doug rode in front of us.

Voyage is great during the day. At night, it truly comes alive. It's a completely different ride. It's faster, more out of control, and you cannot see anything out in the woods. The moon was almost full, and there was some cloud cover, so I didn't see any stars like last time, but that didn't make this any less magical. Voyage absolutely tears through the course. The turnaround is so amazing at night, especially since the retracking makes it glass smooth. Voyage solidified itself as my No. 1 coaster again.

I met with the rest of the ThrillNetwork people, and we all rode in the same train. I was in the front seat of the sixth car. When the train ahead of me pulled into the station, I noticed a familiar face. Remember that guy (photo from Cliff's trip) I saw at Cliff's in 2010? I knew he was an ACEr right away because I could hear him talking about coasters to a stranger and he had a glasses strap. Same guy! His train left before I could try to get his attention. Then the ThrillNetwork staff boarded and had another spectacular ride.

We all split up after that. It had started raining a little. Doug and I went to Legend, though he sat out. I rode in the back seat -- right side this time so the laterals didn't kill me. Legend was amazing in the rain. It blew me totally away. It's great at night, but the rain made it better. We went to Raven and rode in the back again. The rain made it better too. I love it.

Then we went to Voyage. Doug sat out again, and I rode in the next to last seat. Amazing. This night ride in the rain might have been the best ride I've ever gotten on a coaster. It's just relentless. Voyage has so much airtime and is so completely out of control, and the rain just seemed to make that stand out more. I love Voyage so much. We left and went to guest services, where we got our gift cards. Doug and I had been talking about what would allow us to write a compliment this year since every time we visit, we have something to compliment the park on. Eric Snow, you really showed us why this park is one of the classiest ever. He said the park doesn't take comments at guest relations anymore, but he gave us a card with contact information. We thanked him again and headed back to the hotel to get some sleep before our next adventure tomorrow.

Holiday World, again, has completely outdone itself. This event is so much fun and can easily become an annual tradition for me if I'm able. The park's clean, fun, the staff's super friendly, the rides are amazing, the prices are reasonable, the food's good, and the ERT is the best. Plus it's good to meet old friends who love coasters like I do. This year's event gets a 10/10.