6.07.2015

Coasting for Kids @ Dorney Park: June 7th, 2015

 

Every year all of the Cedar Fair parks host Coasting For Kids, a charity event for Give Kids The World, which benefits children and their families who are dealing with terminal illness. Essentially its a roller coaster marathon where riders raise money that provides children and their families a week long, cost free fantasy vacation at Orlando's most well known attractions. Tom and I heard about this last year and vowed to sign up for the 2015 event. Raising money to be able to marathon coasters all day? Count me in! We signed up back at the beginning of the year, and after months of fundraising, the day to enjoy some marathon riding was here. 

Good Morning Dorney!

We got to the park right after 9am for registration which took no time at all. We got our wristbands and T-shirts and lined up with season passholders who were headed in for early entry @ 9:30. Down the hill we walked for our half hour early morning ERT session on Possessed when we met Megan, our Coasting For Kids "liaison" for the event, who joked we must have ran because we were the first people to show up! 


It was here we were informed there wouldn't be any actual marathoning all day as the management were required to have us ride one lap, then sit one out, and so on. As other participants showed up we managed 5 laps on Possessed, which is one of my two favorite rides in the park.



I don't know why I like this installation so much better than Wicked Twister at Cedar Point, but we have a few theories. The first is obvious: that straight back spike with the ludicrous holding break, another is that this version is smaller and therefore more packed together resulting in higher G's, similar to how the Batman clones are mostly more intense than the majority of the other B&M inverts. 
 



It's also nice that they mess with you on the launch countdowns, you never really know when you're gonna take off. Whatever the case, we both love this ride and this was a great way to start the day. We rode in both the front and the back of the train and all 5 rides were kickass as expected. I even managed to pick up a really rad Possessed fridge magnet later in the day to add to the ever-growing collection - the missus commented it was "scary" upon arriving home late at night. 


 Hydra The Revenge

Our marathon itinerary for the day was Steel Force from 10am-12pm followed by lunch and awards ceremony, then Talon from 1:30-3:30pm then Hydra from 4-6pm to finish it off. After our mini-marathon on Possessed we were informed Steel Force was not yet ready and they had rejigged the schedule so that we were now heading to Hydra the Revenge for an hour, then Talon for another hour, the Steel Force all afternoon. Super bummed. I hate Hydra. 


We managed two laps, once toward the front of the train, then the back row. I'm not gonna sit here and dog this ride to death but I despise the jo-jo roll, it is uncomfortable and nothing more than a novelty. The rest of the ride is just a let-down: a small/forceless first drop, followed by a whole lotta inversions, no airtime on the two " bunnyhops" and I don't know if it's because it was 10:15am but this coaster was absolutely crawling through the course. The finale is dull and it just sorta limps into the break run. I will say the ride looks amazing, but riding it is a snoozefest. 

Hydra LOOKS great, I'll give it that. Otherwise... *yawn*

The rest of our group soldiered on but we decided to venture off on our own and hit up the Screaming Swing. $2.00 upcharge but who cares because I freaking love these rides so much. They ran a very short cycle but I still had a ton of fun. It was here Tom started to feel a little queasy. We had a half hour til we had to be at Talon for our 11am-noon marathon and we chose to grab a small bite and just sit for a minute across from the Swing. Right at 11 o'clock we spotted our group heading towards Talon and we joined them. 


 Talon is my favorite inverted coaster

During our Talon marathon we were given our own train and the ride supervisor allowed us to stay on the train but just move to different seats, as they were sending out trains with lots of empty seats and the general public waiting were getting a little testy about it (this would only get worse on Steel Force). Tom managed 3 laps in a row before he had to take a breather. I kept on going, jumping from seat to seat and topped out at 8 laps total. I was gutted when they announced "one more cycle". This is my favorite invert and I could have ridden it all day. It is most definitely a front seat ride, and I got a few laps up there. Not only do I love the entire ride but the first half is just amazing. The drop, the vertical loop, the zero-G and the immelman are well paced, and perfectly executed. Coaster nirvana! The end after the 2nd drop into the low-to-the-ground section is incredible. I've decided my favorite seats are the front row/right side and back row/left side. I really wish we got two hours on this as originally promised, but it is what it is. 


 Our view from the Food Fest Grove

From here it was lunch at the Food Fest Grove. The food was average, but we joked we were eating for free at an amusement park, which is kind of a big deal lol. I got a burger, chips, some fruit salad, and potato salad, Tom got a chicken sandwich and some sides I forget what. And ice cream. We hung out for a while, Tom actually laid down on the picnic table bench for a moment after eating since he still wasn't feeling 100%. It's a shame as Tom is never like this, he has the most stamina for this kind of riding out of everyone I know. 


 Dominator!

After lunch we were led to the awards ceremony which was held at that stage between Dominator and Demon Drop but because we're assholes we ditched the group to take a detour to Dominator and did the drop side. We only had a 5 minute wait. After boarding we were actually positioned facing the stage so we could still see what was going on, not that we were paying attention but we knew we were not getting any awards anyway. Anyways Ive said it before and I'll say it again - I LOVE these S&S towers. It feels less like a freefall and more like you are being shot toward the ground. Airtime galore. So fun. 


Our Dorney group of fundraisers, with Chuck!

We made our way over to join our co-participants for the awards ceremony, which actually hadn't started but we made it just in time. We had some major 'characters' in the bunch but generally everyone seemed to be there to have a good time. Once again kudos to everyone that participated, this is such a fun day for a great cause. Some participants raised some serious dough, and we were informed here that Dorney came in 3rd (after Cedar Point and Knotts) with a total of $18,000. Awards distributed, an appearance by Charlie Brown, a few more thank yous, a group photo and we were off to Steel Force, the parks old school giant hypercoaster, where we were allowed to marathon it all afternoon, until 5pm! 


The legendary Steel Force

Again they gave us one whole train which was not completely filled, and told us we could have the whole train for as long as it was warranted. It might be a good idea for the park to maybe put up some sort of display at the entrance of the ride explaining to the general public what we are doing, as the queue for this was half full and they were only running two trains, one of us which was for us and was only halfway filled at the most on the majority of our laps. Not surprisingly we heard some snarky comments from the general public folks waiting behind the airgates, as every time we came back into the station we all just swapped seats and headed back out for another lap. This would only get worse as the day went on. 



During this first marathon, I managed 8 consecutive laps on this, Tom sat the last one or two out - he was feeling better, but he still wasn't 100%. It's hard for this ride to be a favorite when there are so many other great hypercoasters, but over the course of the day I definitely developed a new appreciation for this ride. While the rest of our group continued their Steel Force marathon we hopped off to go do our own thing. 


We really wanted to ride Stinger at least once since we both needed the credit and it was running (gasp!). We had a one-cycle wait and boarded the very last car so that we did the course backwards first then the other way around. This is the first Vekoma credit I've gotten in a really long time, as well as the first boomerang I've ridden in over a year, and surprisingly it rode really well. Surprisingly this was pretty damn smooth, with zero headbanging.



We never came back here because it wasn't THAT good, but it was far from a bad ride. The music/autospeil in the station is another story entirely, I'm surprised the ops haven't committed mass suicide listening to that on repeat all day.


Since they are right next door we decided to do the Cedar Creek Flyers and what a giant waste of time this was. They run very slow, and just as we had some momentum and were able to get our boats really moving, the cycle was over. There is always one big dud of the day and this was it. This will probably change once I get to Knoebels, but so far Hershey has the best installation of these rides I've ridden, this was absolutely the worst.



Also on our list of 'must-do's was Demon Drop, which we somehow just accidentally missed during our visit to Dorney last fall. The last time I've ridden one of these first generation Intamin drop towers was Stuntmans Freefall @ Great Adventure sometime in the early 90s. Since that time Ive gone from hating drop rides to recently flat out loving them again so I was excited to try finally this. 


 Demon Drop

SWEET BABY JESUS THIS THING IS INSANE. Its not so much about the height now that there are so many other huge drop towers everywhere but its so freaking intense! Especially the pull-out. Is it the weight of the old clunky ride vehicles that makes it drop so fast and forcefully? We walked right on and were so blown away we almost walked around for a 2nd drop but it had gotten a decent line within the time that we rode. We did come back later. 


We needed a break so we checked out a couple shops looking for stuff to buy (I snagged a sweet Possessed magnet for the fridge collection) and popped out to the car for some midday beers and a break from the crowds. The park was far from packed but it felt busier than our last visit during Haunt last year. Have I mentioned the weather was perfect all day? A little cloudy here and there but not hot, and no rain that we felt. 



Upon reentering the park we thought we'd hit up Dominator (shoot up side) and Demon Drop again, and I thought we should give Thunderhawk another shot. I only took one ride on the parks classic and only woodie during our visit last year, in the back row, and HATED it. "Worst woodie ever' status. Just brutally rough and no airtime or fun bits at all. I've read/heard from multiple sources the front seats are where its at, so after a short station wait we decided to stake out the front and wait for it. We would up going for row 2 and I have a new appreciation for this ride. While its still unbelievably rough, we did get some great pops of airtime sitting up here. I wish the park would put in some serious padding (ala Kennywoods woodies) because you really need it on this coaster. We didn't go back here but I'm glad we gave it another chance as I feel more favorable about it now. 



While waiting for Thunderhawk we spotted the Coasting For Kids train still going on Steel Force with just a few riders still sticking it out. It was a little after 4pm and knowing that marathon was to end at 5, we hustled over there for a few final laps and were lucky to climb up the exit ramp just when the marathon riders had all just shifted, leaving the front seat wide open for us. Of course we jumped right in! I felt bad that we did this once we completed the course and spotted a more-the-half-full queue for this ride. It's a shame the park was not more prepared for this and was only running 2 trains, as the general public that were waiting were becoming borderline hostile, to the point where we overheard a crew member telling guests they would be led out of the park if they didn't stop making harassing comments to the C4Ks participants. Some people asked nicely what we were doing and seemed OK with it once we explained it was for a childrens' charity, others were flat out cussing us out. Some of the C4K's marathoners returned fire. Ugly. Thick tension in the station since at this point the C4Ks train had at our count 7 other people besides the two of us, the rest of the train being sent out empty. Not our fault obviously, the park should have been more prepared or made it more well known what were doing. 



On this 2nd mini-marathon we got 4 more laps (bringing my total to 12) and I don't know if it was the mid-day beer break or if I had just done so many laps, but it was at this point that I became one with Steel Force. We sat all over the train today but it is without a doubt a front car ride. The most brutal part is the end of the helix when you turn left into the the hill that leads up in the the MCBR, but after a few rides I learned to shift my rear to the right and ride into the curve and it was no longer a problem. On one of these laps I had my own little personal "I feel like I'm flying" moment as we rounded the helix. This ride has great airtime on the return hills and we felt, and others we spoke to agreed, that she was running perfectly all day. I have a newfound appreciation for this ride, and it has without a doubt moved up in my 'favorites' rankings.

It was now almost 5pm and again we were hungry so we headed all the way back up to the full service Chickies & Pete's to sit down and get waited on and grub on some crab fries. I've been eating these way too much lately but I can never get enough of them. The service here was horrendous. We ordered our food and beers all at once the first time our server stopped by our table. Tom got a beer and I got a mixed drink (The Flyin Hawaiian, a rum drink) and my drink came out pretty quickly, but no beer. You would think it takes a few seconds to pour a beer compared to a few minutes to mix a drink, so what gives? After I had my drink for a good ten minutes our server reappeared to inform Tom they were out of the beer he ordered. Tom asked what else they had on tap and the server had no clue so he had to bring us the menu again (which took another 5 minutes), and also happened to mention that this was all the bartenders fault as she was brand new. Ugh. Eventually Tom settled on something else and then our food came out, but still no beer. A good ten minutes AFTER we had our food Tom's beer finally came out. We also had to ask for napkins (!) silverware, and water. Living in the city for almost 20 years, I've come to know quite a few service industry workers and everything this guy did was a huge no-no. This guy was beyond friendly but SUCKED at his job, but we let him know that with our tip (and we are both usually insanely good tippers, for the record). The food was good, my drink was tasty, no other complaints besides the beyond abysmal service. 


Possessed POV

It was now after 6pm and we wanted to get one more ride in before we embarked on our hour long ride back to Philly. Since we love Possessed so much we were willing to walk all the way back down to the other side of the park just to check the line. Lucky for us we are at Dorney Park so we got on after just 2 cycles. This last ride felt lightyears more intense than our early morning marathon. In the middle of our ride I yelled to Tom "she's running a little meaner than this morning!!!" When we got off he said "what did you say the ride did to your wiener?" :)

Overall it was a great day at a pretty great park. It's hard to pick a favorite of the day because Dorney doesn't have a top level ride that stands head and shoulders above the rest of their line-up. They could really use a great wooden coaster, I know a lot of people "predict" they'll get a GCI, but I would LOVE it if they got an Intamin pre-fab, similar to Balder. Fat chance I know but we joked they could put an El Toro clone right along Steel Force. I'm very curious to see what they will do for their next coaster. Stinger is above average and Possessed is flat out amazing, but considering Hydra was installed in 2005, its been ten years since they got a brand new, custom coaster.

Anyways, any day at this park is great for minimal waits and lots of re-riding. Being able to marathon Steel Force, Talon and Possessed was the icing on the cake. And I'm SO happy we got on Demon Drop twice. Overall the park is pretty generic but there are a few charming areas at the bottom of the hill around Thunderhawk with lots of trees and shade. The park is also unique in that it may feel crowded but the lines for the coasters are never really long. I could do without all the hills.

Ride totals (with the marathoning I was able to break my record for most coaster laps in one day w/ an even 30):

Steel Force (12x)
Talon (8x)
Possessed (6x)
Hydra (2x)
Thunderhawk (1x)
Stinger (1x)
Dominator (2x)
Demon Drop (2x)
Screaming Swing (1x)
Cedar Creek Flyers (1x)

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