Let me start off by saying that those of you who know me well may perhaps wonder what I thought about last night and today being too cold for Vortex (and its Arrow coaster siblings) to operate, and being unable to ride them. Yes, it was not what I originally planned, especially with how much I had looked forward to this weekend and getting my long-awaited first rides of the season on my favorite ride, but that does not mean it was a bad weekend. I can wait two more weeks (next time I go back is May 3) to ride Vortex, and the prolonged wait will make that ride even more worth the 5.5-now-6-month wait!
In the meantime, I knew today was a great day to let my other favorite rides (especially Invertigo, Diamondback, and Banshee) take the spotlight. For any ride that isn't Vortex, Adventure Express, or The Bat, the 5.5-month-wait would possibly end today. And for 15 different rides, it did.
Last night was Preview Night, and also my first shift. Needless to say, it was less eventful than usual, as it was too cold to run Vortex and too windy to run WindSeeker. My crew helped out the Antique Autos crew by rotating out who would be "line control," which consisted of standing at the temporary queue entrance and making sure no one in line was "misbehaving." I spent one hour doing that and it went smoothly! Those brave souls in that line were willing to wait upwards of 30-40 minutes in the light rain and wind for the Antique Autos. Seems like they were truly missed! My guest relating skills were better retained than I had expected, and I enjoyed talking to the guests cheerfully all while hoping I would not turn into Mary Poppins and fly away by my umbrella in the strong wind.
When I was at Vortex, I twice cleaned the train in the station (so now Train 3 is extra clean for next weekend! ), cleaned the station queue rails, and cleaned every one of WindSeeker's 64 seats (again, since we also did it on our training day). A few of my crewmates helped, so it didn't take very long. I also cleared countless fallen leaves (two inches deep in a few places!) out of Vortex's rock garden. The nice part of this shift-long downtime was that we all got to watch the fireworks together as a crew. I loved to find that The Greatest Show has returned until the new show debuts in May!!
Today, I was off, so I decided to come as a guest. I already knew well in advance that Vortex wouldn't run today since the high temperature would be in only the mid- to high-40's (it has to be 50 in the spring). So I approached today as some sort of experiment to see how enjoying my other favorite rides (and then some) would still make for a great day at the park despite being unable to ride Vortex. I have had trips where an impromptu downtime situation left me without a Vortex ride, but today was different since I already knew Vortex was out of the question this time. Plus, I had for some time wanted to experience Opening Day as a guest, which I had done before on Opening Day 2013 albeit in the evening rather than in the morning/afternoon.
I arrived at the security checkpoint and joined the line a few minutes past 9:00. The line/crowd was roughly ten people deep when I joined them. As the crowd multiplied in size and 9:30 got closer by the second, I noticed that the listed Early Rides on the displays were eventually changed from "Beast and Antique Autos" to just "Antique Autos." I was not planning on getting a Beast 40th anniversary shirt, but I still wondered how all that was going to work; it just so happened that opening Beast at 10:00 instead of 9:30 was one of those factors.
At 9:30, the National Anthem played, and the Running/Jogging/Speedwalking Of The Bulls began. After passing through the Gold Pass entrance and flashing my Platinum Pass, all of us followed one specific route (as the other paths were blocked off) through Planet Snoopy, past Diamondback, and to The Beast as well as past Vortex to the Antique Autos. When I got as far as The Beast, I noticed that literally EVERYONE in front of me was heading to The Beast and joining the rapidly growing line in hopes of grabbing a coveted 40th anniversary T-shirt. I had already made up my mind to not get a shirt and to just head to the Antique Autos and get a ride or two in before the line got long, so I broke off from the crowd and kept walking into Coney Mall. I was the only one on the midway in front of Vortex when the Antique Autos came up in front of me, open and ready to go.
I became the first public rider of the day on Kings Mills Antique Autos! I entered the temporary queue entrance, went right to the station, and boarded the first car in line for my first ride ever on an antique car ride at Kings Island. I had ridden (and enjoyed) the antique cars at Cedar Point and Darien Lake, and now I don't have to wait until I go back to either of those parks to ride antique cars again! I know, I love roller coasters and high thrill rides, but I enjoy rides like this too. After all, variety is the spice of life.
A few other guests had began their own excursions by the time my First Ride of 2019 concluded. There was still no line, so I got right back in line and rode again for another tranquil three-minute drive. I noticed that WindSeeker was running its normal startups, as it was rather calm (as opposed to last night's winds) and decided that I could snag WindSeeker's first ride of the season after I finished riding the Autos. After my second ride, I still had time for a third. A small line had formed but it was no longer than a five minute wait, so I enjoyed a third drive around the track which finished right at park opening!
And yes, I did end up being WindSeeker's first rider of the season!
My first WindSeeker flight of 2019 was in Seat 17, to the tune of "See You Tomorrow" from How to Train Your Dragon (2010)! It was as fun as I remember, plus the added drizzle in my face. Knowing that "See You Tomorrow" played just two cycles before my favorite soundtrack, "Flying" from Peter Pan (2002), I hung around for a bit before rejoining the line and being assigned to Seat 61 (which, conveniently enough, is right by the hub's on-board speaker) for my second flight, which was also fun! It (literally) felt great to ride WindSeeker again.
I decided I would hit some other rides and then come back later for more flights. I continued on to Backlot Stunt Coaster, as I was in the mood for riding any coaster at this point. Since it was early in the day (about 10:15-10:20) it was the best time to hit at least one of the lower-capacity rides. A line had already formed at Backlot but filled up no switchbacks, so I went for it. Ten minutes later, I was seated in the fourth row of the train for my ride, and it was fun! The launch was fun as always, as well as the rest of the ride. The fire effects (fully functional!) felt nice and warm on this cold day.
Right after I exited Backlot, I saw Diamondback had begun to show signs of life (as it had not operated previous to this time). I really wanted to ride Diamondback today, so I walked over to Rivertown and joined the line outside the entrance.
On the way, I passed Beast's line:
I saw a sight that would make @King Ding Dong happy:
And now, Diamondback's pre-opening line at the time I joined:
It wasn't as bad as it looked. The line was already back to the Brewhouse entrance, but some guests left the line so I was halfway from the Brewhouse to the queue entrance by the time Diamondback opened. During my ~30 minute wait, I began hearing a familiar sound of rushing water. I glanced to the left and...Flume was running!!! In 45 degree weather!! I would later learn that it was also open last night. Even though Flume is also an Arrow ride, today was still warm enough for it to run; apparently its minimum operating temperature is lower than that of the Arrow coasters in the spring. Now, Flume was about to open, so I would still get an Arrow ride this weekend after all!
Diamondback continued doing its thing...
...until finally it opened, just before 11:30!
I was on Diamondback's fourth train of the day, in Row 14. I definitely missed flying down that first drop! It was drizzling slightly so it added to my already chilly ride.
Flume had opened by the time I rode Diamondback, so...I headed there next. Yes, I know, I'm crazy! But this was my chance to ride Flume in 45 degree weather, and I did just that. I was wearing my rain jacket and I also had a rain poncho with me that I laid across my lap to minimize how much water would get on my jeans. I got splashed a little (it's a water ride, of course) but it was fine since I was the only one in my boat. I also kept my hat zippered away in one of my jacket's pockets for when I would get water on my head (the Snoopy fountain was on!) so my hat would still be warm and dry to cover my head afterwards.
After my inaugural 45-degree Flume ride, I headed to Action Zone, as I was ready for an inversion fix and two of the park's four looping coasters call this section home. I wanted to ride Invertigo but it was closed at the moment, so I headed to Banshee, whose dive loop would become my first inversion of 2019.
The line was on the stairs, so only a few minutes passed before I was seated in Row 8 on the Teal train. I remembered how much I loved the back on Banshee, as I was pulled through every element with great intensity. Banshee became my first looping coaster of 2019, and I loved going upside down again!
I wanted to ride Invertigo as well, but it was closed at the time. I planned to come back and ride it later, as I still had several hours left. In the meantime, I saw that one of my favorite flat rides had no line...
I was all for falling 267 feet at 65 mph in 45-degree weather in a light drizzle (which actually had stopped for a short time) so Drop Tower it was! That ride experience never gets old.
I wanted to ride Delirium but it had gone down as well, so I rode Banshee again. The line was a little bit longer, but less than five minutes passed before I was once again on the Teal train, in the same seat as last time for another great ride!
After my second Banshee ride, Delirium had reopened, so I hopped in line. I waited two cycles before boarding my other favorite flat ride, which like the others was something I had missed this past winter! That moment when you swing to the highest point and you float in your seat is always my favorite part of the ride.
After I got off Delirium, I was actually feeling the slightest bit off (which I usually don't) and I realized that I had barely eaten or drank anything since right before I left home at 8:00 in the morning. Chicken Shack smelled good, but there was a decent line; I decided to just grab something on my way back to Coney Mall. It happened to be 12:58 so I took a slight detour to the Festhaus entrance in hopes of catching the Glockenspiel in action at the strike of one.
Well, 1:00 came and went, with nothing happening. A few others who had gathered just to watch the Glockenspiel also wondered why nothing happened. The Glockenspiel characters look really nice though, and I am glad to see them refurbished! I can't complain that I didn't see them in action today, because we have the entire season to enjoy it.
I went to International Street to one of my new favorite food places, the Wishbone Grill. I had gotten bacon-on-a-stick and a turkey leg from there during Winterfest last year, and both were pretty good. I especially enjoyed the bacon-on-a-stick, so that was on my mind when Wishbone Grill came into view. I originally thought of eating a proper meal (and I was actually on my way to Coney BBQ when I decided to see the Glockenspiel) but I decided that a snack would be enough to tide me over until dinner, so I made the healthy choice of getting...bacon-on-a-stick. There was no line when I was there, so I got my bacon-on-a-stick in no time after I had paid the few dollars it cost. And yes, it tasted SO GOOD. I can safely say I have found a new go-to salty/savory snack!
The wind was starting to pick up, but WindSeeker was still going as strongly as when I rode it first after opening. Both sides of Racer were running with a walk-on wait, so I headed there just in time to walk onto Red, where I immediately boarded in 4-2 as my favorite row (5-2) was already occupied. The race went as usual, with Red starting out in the lead, a trim brake kicking in on Red's turnaround, and Blue finishing ahead. In fact, when we were sitting in the brakes, I heard another rider remark, "This is the first ride that we've ever lost," which is understandable because it's usually Red that finishes first. I rode again, but on Blue this time as I wanted to experience the results of the recent retracking. I noticed just how smoother the turnaround was, at least compared to the last time I rode Blue! I also noticed that there is no trim brake (or it was just turned off) on Blue's turnaround, which is why it finishes ahead of Red as long as Red's trim brake is on. Either way, both of my rides were really fun, not to mention complete with flying alongside the other train!
I must mention that later I did see trains on Racer that appeared to be (near) perfectly synced on one particular cycle, so I still have my hopes up for a "synced" Racer ride, like a few Racer rides that I saw last year.
Time for a few smaller rides! Scrambler came next.
I waited one cycle before I rode. I loved being thrown to the side in my seat again!
Next was Dodgem. One of my friends on the Monster-Scrambler-Dodgem crew was there and I knew she would love to see me (and she did) so I said hi to her on my way in while also getting to bump into complete strangers during the ride in true bumper car fashion. That's always a good time.
I crossed the midway to X-Base to see how Flight of Fear's line was. I guessed it would be longer since it was indoors and away from the cold and drizzle...and I was right. In fact, the line was so long that one of the outdoor switchbacks was filled and overflowing out of the entrance. Upon seeing this, I immediately did a 180, walked back to Coney Mall, and rode Zephyr (which had no line -- just a partial cycle wait ). I had a nice flight on that, while also thinking about my rides on it during Winterfest (including the last week of 2017 when it was 9 degrees out -- that was crazy). It was cold enough to feel like Winterfest, and it basically felt like Winterfest but with more rides, fewer shows, and fewer lights. What an interesting in-between.
Continuing my time with the smaller rides, I came back to where I started at the Antique Autos, which now had quite a line that justified my reasoning for making it my first ride if the day (and of the season). I was now up for taking a spin on Troika (Shake, Rattle & Roll) since I hadn't earlier. I rode Troika twice, and both times it was fun. Troika was my last ride of 2018, so my first rides of 2019 brought back some more Winterfest memories! The only differences between Winterfest and today were: fewer lights (the ride's lights were on though), it was daytime, the Autos were completed and open, WindSeeker was up, and Vortex had trains.
I had already ridden WindSeeker twice, but since I won't be back there again until May 3, I wanted to take a third spin on it. I would later learn that it was a good thing I decided to ride it again when I did.
I was assigned to Seat 32. The soundtrack that played was "This is Berk," also from How to Train Your Dragon (2010)! The soundtrack happened to fit perfectly with the interesting ride it would accompany. And by interesting, I mean the winds suddenly picking up to 30-35 mph gusts when the hub wasn't even halfway up! The drizzle had returned which only added to the crazy ride. 99% of the flight consisted of my gondola either speeding up or slowing down while closely encountering neighboring gondolas, and I would not only enjoy the foggy view but also glance around at the other gondolas swinging wildly. The riders in one gondola on the other side of the hub were able to reach the empty gondola in front of them with their feet when it swung close enough. That's how windy it was! Even with all the craziness, the cycle still went normally, and the hub returned safely to its ground-level home position in its normal fashion. WindSeeker had decided to literally kick its wind-seeking up several notches. It definitely lived up to its name on this cycle!
This flight was even windier than my already-crazy-windy flight ft. 25 mph winds on last year's Opening Day, but THIS flight EASILY took the cake as my windiest, and therefore craziest, WindSeeker flight to date! Now I can say that I have ridden WindSeeker in 30+ mph winds!!
I suspected the ride would go down for wind after this cycle, but I hopped in line again in case the next cycle (which would play the aforementioned "Flying") still went. I was assigned to Seat 12 and was heading in when my crew announced that the ride was going down for high winds, justifying my suspicions. I wasn't opposed to it, as the ride was not only fun but COLD, and I already had my "put the Wind in WindSeeker" ride for today!
I said my "see you in two weeks" to WindSeeker and Vortex and headed back over to Rivertown.
Diamondback's line wasn't too bad (looked to be around 30 minutes) but I had only an hour left before I had to leave. So...I rode Flume again. Don't worry, I got only a small splash and I was adequately prepared, so I still had a good time riding a log flume in 45 degree weather!
The fountains seem a bit "empty" without the pedestals, but I still think they look neat. Surely I'll get used to it...
While on my way back into Action Zone, I noticed Invertigo was open! As much as Banshee really helped my inversion fix, I also wanted a ride or two on Invertigo. It (as well as Banshee) is another of my favorite rides, after all.
There was a small line, in which I waited only about 10-15 minutes. I always love standing right under the loop and just watching the ride in general.
Right away, I noticed the train looked very different. On the other side (the side closest to the exit) I noticed outlines of what must have been decals...did this train belong to the late Stinger at Dorney Park? If so, I was not only riding our Invertigo, but also a part of Stinger! How cool. The ride felt about the same (fairly smooth, if not a teeny bit bumpy, as any Vekoma tends to be) if not a little quieter when the train would release form the top of the spike. Whether anything changed about the ride or not, I still think it's cool to be riding on Stinger's train (especially since I still have never been to Dorney Park)!
I wanted to ride a second time, but the line was a little longer than when I waited, so I decided to wait until next time to ride Invertigo again. At least I rode it!
At this point, I had about half an hour left. I had ridden pretty much everything I wanted (and could) so I figured I could do a mini-marathon on Banshee, especially since the line had diminished to a station wait! Plus I can never have too many inversions.
I ended up riding Banshee three more times, as well as getting to see a few of my friends on the Banshee crew. The first of these three rides was in 8-4 on the Blue train. Still fun as always for a back seat ride including my two previous rides earlier in the afternoon.
I decided to change things up a little and ride in the middle of the train, particularly 4-4 on Blue. What I got was a rougher ride, probably the roughest ride I have had on Banshee. Still fun, but it rattled me enough that I actually had a small headache afterward (my needing to drink a bit more water probably had something to do with it) and wasn't as smooth as my rides on Teal and even my previous ride on the same train. I told my Banshee crew friends about this and they said that Blue does tend to be rough (as does Teal - some days it's rougher) and Purple gives the smoothest ride.
On a side note, we have that same kind of thing with Vortex's trains. Train 3 tends to give the smoothest ride (as my smoothest rides ever on Vortex have been on that train), while 1 and 2 are either smoother or rougher than the other which varies by the day. In fact, one day last year, I had a smoother ride in 7-1 on Train 2 than on 5-1 on Train 1! Interesting how this works, especially since a five-year-old B&M invert and a 32-year-old Arrow looper have the same thing going on.
But I digress. I got back in line for my last ride, and made sure I rode on Purple this time. I rode in 6-4.
This ride was MUCH smoother than Blue and a little smoother than Teal, and it was a great way to end my first guest visit of the season!
Now for the million-dollar question: Did I still have a good day without Vortex?
I would say, yes. I got a total of 25 rides on 15 different rides in the 6.5 hours I was in the park, and seeing how I enjoy and appreciate my other favorite rides (and then some) was a great way to use the extra time. Yes, I still greatly missed riding Vortex, but I'll get to ride it in two more weeks after my finals. More importantly, today (and yesterday) epitomized that I can still have fun even if my favorite ride isn't operational for that day. I still got to be there, and that's what mattered this weekend. Banshee and Invertigo did a good job "filling the gap" and delivered on my inversion fix, and the other rides I rode delivered sufficient thrills and fun times, making my prolonged wait to get back on Vortex a whole lot easier.
This opening weekend was still so much fun, and I am thankful that my alternate plans worked!
+ Kings Mills Antique Autos: 3
+ WindSeeker: 3
+ Backlot Stunt Coaster: 1
+ Diamondback: 1
+ Flume: 2
+ Banshee: 5
+ Drop Tower: 1
+ Delirium: 1
+ Red Racer: 1
+ Blue Racer: 1
+ Scrambler: 1
+ Dodgem: 1
+ Zephyr: 1
+ Troika: 2
+ Invertigo: 1