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June 30, 2020: A Long-Awaited Segue


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No pictures in this one, so I hope my word pictures suffice. :D

After losing count of how many weeks had transpired between last season and today, I more-than-readily made it through a near-zero-visibility thunderstorm for a six-mile stretch on I-71 to Kings Island to attend Friends & Family Day.

One parking spot search and sunscreen slathering later, I made my way to the front gate, donning my mask as I approached. I first entered the health screening tent, where I was asked the health questions we all know and love before proceeding to stand in a marked rectangle where a camera system checked my temperature (not sure how that works yet, but it's pretty cool!). Right after that came the security screening, which remained unchanged since Winterfest (walking through the metal detector without putting your things on the table). Lastly came scanning my own voucher at the turnstiles, and then I was in. All these things were done in roughly a minute, and the entry process in general was quite streamlined.

I had made the earliest reservation time, which was half an hour before the rides' scheduled opening at 2. The earliest time basically gives you half an hour to roam the park before it fully opens. I-Street's shops were open, so I briefly perused Emporium (so much Orion merch!) and Sweet Shop before beginning a lap around the park. It was nice to just walk, especially with the non-crowded midways. It was close to 2, so I figured I'd hit the first open ride I would eventually come across. That plan would change, though, when I arrived at Adventure Express and struck up a conversation with two of my ride op friends who were greeting at the still-closed entrance. Although it was after 2, we still had to wait for the inclement weather to move fully out of the area.

Not long later, the flat rides began opening and most of the coasters ran their startups. It finally came Express' turn to open, just after 2:30. I made my way through the clearly-marked queue to the station, where I made a beeline for the last row on Express' first train of the day. With hands up before I was even out of the station, I knew I was excited for my first Arrow of 2020! The now oldest steel coaster in the park took me past snakes, ruins, spears, lava, and drummers with its usual dose of laterals. Earlier this year I had done some work on Express, namely with the spears and drummers, so I loved getting to point out the things on which I worked while I rode past them!

After one Arrow came the next, as I headed off the beaten path to The Bat. Like Express, I rode in the back (7-1 since 7-2 was blocked off). Notably, I was in 7-1 on the left, the same seat in which I took my final ride on Vortex eight months and three days ago. I sure missed flying and swinging through the treetops!

Next came Skyflyer, as its $5 price tag made the deal (I'm always most likely to ride Skyflyer when it's $5). I felt so ready for an adrenaline rush on what I believe is the scariest ride at Kings Island. Even though I know I'm completely safe, some part of me still thinks I'll fall to my death when I pull the ripcord. It definitely feels like it during those three seconds of freefall! :lol:

Invertigo followed that exhilarating flight and would bring my first inversions since October 27. I arrived a few minutes before it opened as it was just finishing its startups. Despite other people waiting in front of me, I had arrived just in time to make its first train of the day! Every other row was used starting with the end row facing the front gate, which meant everyone would ride backwards-first. I got pulled backwards into my first inversions of 2020 before repeating them forwards, and needless to say I loved finally getting to be turned head-over-heels again after an eight-month inversion drought!

Invertigo was where I first noticed the staggered unloading of riders. When a train has more than a few people aboard, the operator spiels to us to remain seated until we're told we can exit. After the train stops and the restraints are unlocked, each row is unloaded one by one starting at either end, working toward the middle. This is done to reduce the normal clustering at the exit. It adds time, but thankfully it does not take very long.

Banshee continued the inversion trend when it conveniently opened not even thirty seconds after I finished my walk there. Like Invertigo, I made it onto the first train of the day by a landslide...and in my favorite seat too! I had Row 8 on the Teal train all to myself. Unlike the coasters which loaded every other row, Banshee had people in each row. Groups were seated together, while single riders like me occupied one seat of an entire row. I waved to Orion and Vortex's former spot as I got whipped off the lift and into Banshee's seven-inversion knot. The rattle is very much there, but at this point I'll take it! I'm just glad we still have a batwing in the park...

My most-anticipated ride of the trip, Diamondback, had opened by this time; I headed there immediately after my 13-inversion dose concluded.

From here on out, you will likely hear me call Diamondback "my original favorite." Prior to my riding Vortex, Diamondback was my favorite ride from the moment I first rode it on August 14, 2009, 11.5 months before my first ride on Vortex (July 23, 2010). At that time, I had loved Diamondback and was just as obsessed with it as I am Vortex, to the point where I called myself a "Diamondbaddict" (Diamondback addict). Obviously that all changed when Vortex dethroned Diamondback as my top favorite ride. Diamondback still remained a favorite, but had remained on the back burner for nearly the last decade. Vortex's departure to the realms of defunct attractions has opened up a unique chance for Diamondback to reclaim that top favorite spot, although I know undoubtedly that Orion will steal the spotlight at least for this year. Either way, Diamondback means just as much to me as Vortex, and I'm eager to see how it will "fill the gap" that Vortex left in dealing with rides with high sentimental value. That being said, I have some catching up to do on the once-tallest, once-fastest, but still meanest coaster to ever strike Kings Island. :)

Diamondback's line was on the stairs, but because groups were spaced out it equated to a station wait for a half-filled train. At most five minutes passed before I boarded the Red train in row 14, a moment for which I had waited ever since I first became excited to ride Diamondback in March. This was where I made another observation: On most of the coasters, the front half of the train uses the odd-numbered rows, while the back half uses the even-numbered rows. This ensures that the front- and rear-most rows are used for those of us who love a bona fide front- or back-seat ride. There are exceptions, though, as I saw on Invertigo and The Bat which used every even row and every odd row, respectively (remember, I rode in 7-1, or row 13, on The Bat). It's very interesting to see the different variations of the new protocols!

Anyways, on to my first Diamondback ride of 2020! I will greatly enjoy getting used to the view of Orion from Diamondback's lift, as it will definitely soften the blow of having to get used to the current view of Vortex's old stomping grounds. Fortunately, the sad reality is forgotten for a moment while flying down that 215-foot drop! I thought "Nothing like the original favorite!" while floating over each hill. I am confident that Orion will become another favorite of mine, and it will join Diamondback, Invertigo, and others on my list of favorite rides. No matter which of those favorites becomes my new #1, I'll still make sure to give my original favorite ride some extra love this year and in future seasons!

Additionally, even though I knew I was wearing a mask, it's nothing to worry about on even the big rides. Sometimes I even forget I'm wearing a mask, especially since it hardly moves in the middle of a ride!

I crossed the midway to my favorite water ride, Flume, where I walked on to my own boat. Thanks to the mask rule exception for water rides, Flume is now my go-to RelaxZone! I took the liberty of enjoying a mask-less first Flume ride of the season while taking care to put my mask back on before getting off. I sure missed getting splashed on the final drop! I even got a reprieve from the Snoopy fountain, which for some reason wasn't firing. If the drop doesn't get me wet, Snoopy definitely will...most of the time. :P

I went back to Diamondback for a second ride just in case I didn't get back around to it before 6 (closing time). The line was a little longer than my first time, but I still didn't wait too long. Half the available rows were filled by the time I reached the station, so I requested to ride in row 16 which was granted. Preferred seating is still a thing, at least when it's not too busy. :) This ride in row 16 was what I called a signature Diamondback ride, as it featured the Diamondback Dive (leaning forward as you go into the drop) and my getting sprayed with water while sticking my hand back during the splashdown. I never tire of rides like that!

From Diamondback, I could see Mystic Timbers' line (or lack thereof) and decided to head there next as I wanted to hit all the available big coasters. I enjoyed another back seat ride as I was assigned to row 12! I believe Mystic is a strong front-row ride, but of course the back is pretty good too. Mystic offered a great first wooden coaster ride of 2020, and of course brought back memories of my "Mystic marathons" during Winterfest!

The world's longest wooden coaster sent nearly empty trains (and it's running all 3!) as I headed to Rivertown's back end. My favorite row, 17, is currently a casualty of the new protocols, so I made do with the very last row, 18. Obviously with it being a wheel seat, the ride was a little rougher than I'm used to since I typically ride in 17 or 8 whenever I can, but what else can we expect from a 41-year-old wooden coaster? Also, roughness is nothing new to me and I've learned to just roll with it and it hasn't hurt terribly. The Beast still offers a beastly hike through the woods, day or night, rain or shine, and my 30th time in its clutches reminded me of that.

Making my way into Coney Mall, I found myself taking the first of six zen rides I would get from now (about 5) until 6. I arrived at Backlot to find the ride ops waiting for riders and both White and Blue trains (Red was on the transfer) sitting empty with restraints open. I took the front row of the White train, which I had all to myself, for my 15th spin overall! My favorite part of Backlot (besides the launch) is the pitch-black warehouse following the fire effects. My first launch of 2020 was fun, and I am so ready for when I can take my first Flight of Fear ride of the season!

Time for some flat-ride fun! Sticking to the theme of riding whichever of Vortex's neighbors were open, I rode Shake Rattle & Roll (Troika) next. This led me to another observation/realization: Some flat rides, including Troika, Scrambler, and Monster, can still operate at full capacity since their ride units are already spaced at least six feet apart. That will definitely help their lines move quickly (as well as Banshee and its aforementioned seating in each row). I believe WindSeeker's gondolas are also far enough apart; I have not seen for myself yet since it was not open today (not all the rides were open). Like Mystic, Troika brought back some Winterfest memories, with the added bonus of an increased need for adjustment. After all, my favorite thing to do while riding Troika was...watching Vortex. Obviously that cannot be the case now. This ride also happened to be my 75th ride on Troika!

I crossed over to Antiques, in hopes of seeing some more of my friends there. I did and gave them something to do by boarding the first available car for a leisurely drive around the track of Kings Island's now second-newest ride.

I swung by a socially-distanced Zephyr. This by far is one of the biggest changes we will see this season in terms of protocols. Zephyr's normal capacity is 48 riders, yet for this season it will hold only 16. And literally 16, as 16 of its seats are present, spaced 6 feet apart. For its next cycle, only one of those 16 seats was occupied...by me! My first Zephyr flight of 2020 (and my 60th ride on it overall :)) was also my second zen ride of today.

At this point, I hadn't eaten or drunk anything since I arrived. Flat rides and their repetitive motions never bother me...unless I'm dehydrated and/or hungry. You know you need at least a drink of water when even a ride as gentle as Zephyr can cause even the slightest queasiness. I headed to the nearby drink stand and got a free cup of water in the same way as before. It looks like one would need to ask for not just water but any particular drink upfront, after which they bring a disposable cup with the requested drink. Seems simple enough.

I walked past Dodgem, which was also empty and waiting for riders. Getting a zen ride on a bumper car attraction isn't nearly as fun; they're most fun when they're busy! So I headed next door to Scrambler to take a spin in its new cars. Scrambler and other rides whose units are adequately spaced "by default" have their only change in the queue lines; otherwise, the seating and ride experience is still the same as before! More Winterfest memories came from this spin on one of my favorite family rides.

I was originally going to skip Monster, but a couple ride ops there recognized me from my working with them. After a short conversation (they were waiting for riders too), I boarded for my third zen ride of the day. It's not too often one can ride a full Monster cycle minus the waiting for other riders to load! This turned out to be my 20th ride ever on Monster.

I raced (not really) over to Racer, whose red/south side was open and also waiting. A train with a few riders was getting ready to leave as I arrived, and no one had joined the line behind me, which meant I would have the other train all to myself for Racer South Ride #35 and Zen Ride #4. Moments later, I was seated in the front and ready to roll. I may not ride Racer too often, but I do enjoy riding hills for the length of Coney Mall and back. It also offers a pretty good view of its new neighbor to the left, especially if you ride on the blue/north side.

At this point, it was about 5:50. I had time for two more rides. I wanted to head back to Diamondback but I had already ridden twice. I came back to where I started at Express, so I decided to give it and The Bat some extra love by taking a second ride on each of them. Zen Ride #5 came in Express' front seat as it took me on another adventure past snakes, ruins, spears, lava, and drummers with abundant laterals. I will always love hearing the drummers and the anti-rollback simultaneously in the finale tunnel!

Finally, I took Zen Ride #6 in the front right seat on The Bat and enjoyed another treetop flight. This was my 120th flight overall on my first big steel coaster!

I ended Friends & Family Day with giving The Bat the same "goodnight" I always gave Vortex. In light of the events that transpired in the last eight months and then some, I only found it more fitting to not only have an "all-Arrow day" (riding all the Arrow rides in the park: Bat, Express, Flume, and formerly Vortex), but to also start and end my first guest visit of 2020 on the same two Arrow coasters.

I did not have any problems with wearing my mask almost constantly for four hours. The only exceptions to wearing it were my riding Flume mask-less and briefly slipping it down to take a sip of water. Everyone else I saw had a mask on and were keeping adequate distance. Yes, I did see a few masks being worn improperly, but for the most part everyone was wearing them. And of course hand sanitizer dispensers were found in every restroom, store, and ride station.

Here's to more visits in the shortened-but-starting 2020 season.

Pandemic Protocol Recap:

Stores: Entrance doors propped open, designated exit doors closed but can be opened from the inside. Signage reminding to practice social distancing. Touch only items you plan to buy and scan them yourself when you check out.

Rides: Social distancing markers throughout ride queues. On most coasters, the front half of the train uses odd-numbered rows while the back half uses even-numbered rows. On The Bat, Adventure Express, and Invertigo, it's every other row all the way. On Banshee, every row is still loaded from what I saw. Staggered unloading to prevent clustering. Sanitation every 30 minutes. Most rides now require you to tug on your own seatbelt and/or restraint, as the operator visually checks. This minimizes contact between rider and associate.

Drink stands: No self-serve drinks. Tell the associate what drink you want and they will bring it to you in a disposable cup.

Food stands: Queues clearly marked, just like rides. Enter one door and exit another.

General: Wear masks except when riding a water ride, eating or drinking, or within a RelaxZone. And of course, keep six feet between your party and others.

+Adventure Express: 2

Total: 74

+The Bat: 2

Total: 120

+Xtreme Skyflyer: 1

Total: 8

+Invertigo: 1

Total: 56

+Banshee: 1

Total: 43

+Diamondback: 2

Total: 138

+Flume: 1

Total: 42

+Mystic Timbers: 1

Total: 67

+The Beast: 1

Total: 30

+Backlot: 1

Total: 15

+Shake Rattle & Roll: 1

Total: 75

+Kings Mills Antique Autos: 1

Total: 19

+Zephyr: 1

Total: 60

+Scrambler: 1

Total: 41

+Monster: 1

Total: 20

+Red Racer/Racer South: 1

Total: 35

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When you mentioned your ride on skyflyer and how you still get nervous on it, that is so true! I will never forget the first skyflyer flight we had together my amazing friend [mention]VortexBFForever [/mention] , I should not have said something on it, but what do you expect for my first time riding it? I am happy to ride skyflyer with you again, along with many other rides, thank you for your wonderful trip report as always!

In case anyone is wondering, I said something that sounded like mother trucker on skyflyer, and I did say those exact words on my second ride on Vortex (not the adult version but just mother trucker on Vortex). That was a funny memory I will remember for my second ride on Vortex, I said it, and [mention]VortexBFForever [/mention] was laughing and so did I the rest of the ride. The image I shared by the way is from my second Vortex ride.4a2ee9154cb1d402fbacc1f432a50d32.jpg

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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