Thursday, October 4, 2018

Fall 2018 Theme Park Trip-Day 14

Last day at Universal?

Today is the day for Halloween Horror Nights (HHN) event so it's going to be a long day.

Up at 6am to get ready and walk over for early entry at 7am. The Wizarding World of Harry Potter is really an amazing place. Something that I noticed is there are all these little mechanical flourishes all throughout and the are all still working, at least the ones that I remember. The one possible exception was the Whomping Willow on the Forbidden Journey ride. Don't know if that has done the Everest Yeti at Disney or if it was just not working when I rode it. But all the little animations in the stores and windows were still performing routinely.

Spending time just walking around and looking at the details is always a lot of fun.  Eventually I ended up in the area where lots of characters come out you can interact with them. Most of them engage slightly, get the picture and then onto the next guest. I really need to compliment the person playing Shaggy from Scooby Doo. He was pulling people in really getting engaged with them. For me he asked where I'm from and the response, as usual, got a big reaction. We got into the discussion and we eventually parted with one last question....Pineapple on pizza? I said no. He said anything would go on a pizza!

Something I've tried to do is monitor the amount of steps/mileage that I've been doing. Unfortunately, if you don't get the numbers before the end of the day, you don't get a summary, but individual sessions broken down and I've discovered that the numbers don't add up.  But I ended up walking back and forth twice to the hotel and all the attractions. But some steps aren't recorded as the cell phone gets locked up before all of the queue walking and steps in certain attractions. The queues for the mazes were crazy long and from the best I can figure I did about 13 very sweaty miles.

For the first time on the trip which I think was because the day was so long, the chaffing started about 10 pm during the horror event. Luckily, earlier in the evening I met up with another former co-host from In the Loop and the discussions helped keep my mind off of the pain. It was great to see Will again and grateful and thankful that he took time out of his schedule to meet up in the park.

This was my second HHN and some of the same issues I had the first time occurred again. Stayed in the park in a lock down zone and even with being in the first group going to the first house before the public was let it, the Stranger Things house was still a 45 minute wait. I saw the movie Killer Clowns from Outer Space about a month ago and really loved the scare zone. Unfortunately, Bill and Ted were no longer populating the stage and I head from several people that the Academy of Villains show was OK but wouldn't be missing anything if you didn't see it.  Overall an enjoyable event.

On the way out of the event, they were asking people to take a survey. I finished and they were asking for statistical information. I got to where they asked gender, they only listed male and female. I was thanked by a manager type when I finished and pointed out that in the city of New York, they officially have 31 genders and why were they not being inclusive by including all of them in their survey. He kinda looked at me and just said thank you for the feedback.

Once I got back to my room I was glad to get the sweat soaked clothing off and start to get comfortable. When I went to write down some more notes  about the resort, I discovered that my notes had disappeared and a new note was there saying "We are very sorry we are already on track to solve your problems." The iPad in the room has a chat feature and I reported that my notes were missing, they were incomplete and that I wanted them back. Within minutes, they chatted back that someone from housekeeping would be in touch in the morning. Finally was able to hit the sack about 2am. Again, it was a long day!

Tomorrow (actually later today) is another transition day, but more importantly, it's a night to go see Yehaa Bob over at the River Roost at Port Orleans Riverside.

Tuesday, October 2, 2018

Fall 2018 Theme Park Trip-Days 12 and 13

After three days at Cedar Point, it was time to head down south to the warmer weather. After 24 hours there, not having problems with a runny nose!  Yea!

One of the issues I had in Cleveland was the blue tooth connection in the vehicle. Had no problems in Knoxville or Boston. I tried several items to get the bluetooth to work with the Sync in the Ford vehicle, but no luck. As I get to select my car I was looking for 1) a covered back so as I ran around today people couldn't see the items in the car and 2) blue tooth and not a USB or AUX input because of the type of phone that I have. After trying several different cars, I ended back in the same type of car I had in Cleveland. UGH!  But, this one had the manual still in the glove compartment. Blue tooth is NOT in the index, you had to look up phone and media and then found what I needed. Apparently because I have Android, I have to get a special app to worth with a car's blue tooth.  Not  a happy camper, but I eventually got it working 45 minutes after getting down to the agency to select my car.

From there it was over to Fun Spot. Got the unlimited band that would allow me to both locations. Did Mine Blower several times. Really liked it!  Good job Gravity Group! Next door at Old Town was the ride called Vomatron. I saw one in Hawaii about a decade ago and decided since one was there I would do it. Unfortunately, all the pictures they took came out blurry so other than a receipt, I have no proof. Did one of the two go-kart tracks they have at the Kissimmee location. Unfortunately one of the two was down for repairs but it was great to try for the first time!

Heading into Orlando, it was Star Flyer time. Really surprised me as it was more forceful rotation speed that I anticipated. I really am not afraid of heights, but I started to rotate. If you ever watched the video of the Tacoma Narrows bridge oscillation, that was me with my rotation a little at first and then eventually, I was facing the people behind me. It freaked me out a bit. I wasn't trying to get it to rotate, but when I asked the attendant why, she was clueless.

Since I was there, did the Ripley's Believe It Or Not museum. Can say I've been in one and not sure I would do it again.

At the Orlando Fun Spot location, I did the coasters there and also the go-karts. On the one track called Thrasher, there was no one waiting in line and me and the one other guy on the track were allowed to keep going and going and going. I finally got the hang of it and it was sort of like drifting. Between the coasters and the go-karts, I got my money's worth of the band use!

At the hotel, I learned that Google Maps gives you wrong directions. They need to put up a big sign saying if you don't turn to the left or right at the one set of lights, you will have to go to Lake Buena Vista and turn around!

The hotel is nice. It opened about a month ago, but it still has some bugs to work out. After I got myself settled down found out that a couple of other coaster buds are checked into the same hotel as they posted on FB their view. Much nicer than mine as I have a view of the garage. Hope to run into them later. After using the room and property a bit, have some feed back for them. One of the items is that they provide coffee in the room. When I asked about tea, was told that I can go to the Urban Pantry or Starbucks to order some. There is a note pad with pen and keeping there in the old fashioned way. So many items are controlled by the iPad and at least the pen and paper are not.

I had a friend who was supposed to get me a discount for park admission. Unfortunately, that fell through so I got on-line and ordered my ticket. Universal is having a special offer where you you get extra admissions for use within a week. I might use it on Thursday.

The room uses an iPad like device to control everything. Set the alarm and figured I'd walk over in the AM. Discovered that the alarm is not that loud and the pathway isn't really clearly marked. Used the bus to get over the parks. I've learned through experience that by using a fanny pack, yeah, I know it looks dumb, but when it comes to going through security, it makes things so much easier. Same thing when you have to put items in a locker for the rides.

Spent the day getting on those items that are new to me like the Jimmy Fallon and Fast and Furious rides as the targets but then just walking around and enjoying the place. With all the go-go-go that I've been doing I did something that I usually don't do, but decided to head back to the hotel and take a nap. I took the path that I was looking for this morning and discovered that they really don't have it marked well and have made notes to give the hotel. As for the nap, it was so worth it. Even with the curtains open, I fell asleep. It was needed.

After heading back into the parks after following the path, this time it was only a 20 minute walk into Islands of Adventure, hit up more rides and just taking in the place. The pathway has some very nice views. Something that really hit me as I was riding the Hulk roller coaster is that these are big mammoth machines and that as a rider you really have to believe that both the manufacturer and park have your best interest in heart when they give you their instructions. You really do have to have faith that the restraints are going to hold you in place and I chose to believe them. While I might have those funny feelings in my lower tummy and I'm being turned upside down, I can rest assured that the restraints and physics are going to hold me in place!

Back to the two coaster buddies. Ran into them and chatted for a few minutes. Tomorrow will probably send more time with them and hopefully some others at the Horror Nights event.

Something that I did today that was bad...I completely threw the eating habits out the window. Something that I did today which makes me proud...managed to get back to my room, put on my gym clothes and put in several miles on the treadmill at the gym in the hotel.

Additionally, I was contacted by work yesterday about a certain report. Some software was supposed to be updated so a new processed would have run the report but the software failed and had to drop back to the old method. Luckily I was in my room and had access to a computer. Today, had a question about a process. Luckily it was a simple text answer.

Tomorrow is going to be a long day with early entry and then the Horror nights event. It might be very practical to take a break in the afternoon.

Monday, October 1, 2018

Fall 2018 Theme Park Trip-Day 11

Last full day here in beautiful Sandusky Ohio.

Being a Sunday, I needed to do a longer run for my marathon training. Not being familiar with the area I did a run, but didn't do the total mileage that I wanted. Running along the causeway that leads out to the park, it gives you a different perspective than you would as you cruise along at 30 MPH getting ready to ride the coasters. At home, along my route I know there are places with restrooms in parks and water fountains. Not so with this run. So I ended up cutting it short. But, at least I got in something.

The weather today has been really warm. I have been using a long sleeve shirt and then I have a second layer of a short sleeve shirt that buttons down but I leave open. It got warm enough that I went into the restroom and took off the long sleeve and just used the short sleeve shirt.  To keep the ladies at bay, I made sure to button up the shirt.

With yesterday's purchase of the season pass, I was allowed into the park an hour early. Immediately head to the back of the park to take in Steel Vengeance. Hiking back there takes time and even with just the passholders in the park, the first ride took 1 hour to complete. But able to take in a few more coasters before the park really got going.

Nice thing about days like this is you have your goals done and you can just relax, walk around, take in some of the smaller details. Go over to the petting zoo and pet some of the llamas they have there. They had the indoor haunts open and I did a couple of them. They were good. The lighting was such that you could see the scenes and the actors which was so nice as compared to the outdoor mazes of the previous nights.

As I walked around the park and rode the rides, the staff seemed to be very efficient, but in terms of friendliness, they were focused. Let me get your your drink, food or up and running on the ride. The associates just did what they needed to do. For me, that meant that I was able to get on and off the rides quickly.  Except for the Giant Wheel. I waited in line and when I got to the front, was told they don't allow single riders. That was the first time that I've been rejected for the number in the party as compared to the weight/size of the rider.

Cedar Point has a long history and that includes a train so a train ride was necessary. They had some scenes set up to add to the experience, but there was something else that really caught my eye. There are so many coasters at the park and as you ride the train, it really becomes apparent. The excursion leads you next to so many parts of the track but more so the support structures. Up along the midway the area is designed so that you have lockers and booths and buildings. But there in the back you really get to see what is making up these rides. It was a fascinating look behind the scenes.

The one ride that I wanted to do a second time but wasn't able was Top Thrill Dragster. It had been marked in the app as being closed. There was staff on the platform and trains on the track, but there was nothing going on not even test runs of the vehicles. I was hoping to see some testing with a possible roll back, but...nothing.

While the park was open until 8pm, I decided to call it a day around 5pm. This is such a long trip and with limited clothing with me, I ended up back at the room and did laundry. At home I line dry my clothes so it was a change of pace to end up using a dryer for the first time in ages.

I thought about going to Chet and Matt's for dinner, as I've heard lots of good things about this location from other coaster enthusiasts but decided that the diet needs to keep some semblance of order so I decided to pass on this trip.

Laundry, packing and getting items lined up for Orlando's adventure that starts tomorrow.

Saturday, September 29, 2018

Fall 2018 Theme Park Trip-Day 10

Today was day two at Cedar point.

The goal was to finish up the coasters that I didn't get yesterday. I didn't spend any time trying to repeat anything. I ran into two problems. The first was with Wicked Twister. It was listed as closed on the app. When I went over there, the sign said one hour, but the app still said closed and there was a sign saying closed but there were people in the station. The other was Wilderness Run. That is in Camp Snoopy. The problem is that if you are an adult over 54 inches you can't ride alone unless you had a small child with you. So on the latter, it was a no go. With the former, I was at Wicked Twister at the right time and got on without a wait when they reopened it.

So from opening until 6pm I was able to get the coasters and some of the flat rides. Mission accomplished!

One of the items that I think would be very helpful is if Cedar Point would standardize what you do at the coasters. Some of them have no bins, some have bins, some only have lockers, some have bins but the sign says leave in locker, some have bins that are only for loose footwear. It would be great if they could get the signage to match what is at the coaster at least.  With the lockers, they need to put up some barriers so that there is shading on the screens. There were several times when I had a real hard time trying to use the screen as it was washed out by the sun.

I also tried a couple of eating locations and couldn't find any place that had unsweetened iced tea. For those of us trying to avoid sugar, the only option was for water.

Lastly,  if I had paid for the Halloweekends event, I would have asked for my money back. I tried the event tonight. I went through another scare zone and then two outdoor mazes. To me the mazes were horrible and the scare zones weren't much better. The biggest issue is the way the lighting and the fake fog interact. The lighting blinded you so you can't see any detail in the sets they had set up. All the details were lost. The players, you couldn't see any details about them. They were backlit and their faces and the makeup or masks were obscured. There was confusion as to were areas began and how the lines were supposed to be lined up. The app didn't give much clarification on these items. again, it was a good thing that it was included and not a separate charge item.

I'm going to head to the park tomorrow. I had purchased a two day ticket. For a third day, I'd have to buy a new ticket. I'd also pay for parking. BUT, Knott's is a Cedar Fair park so I talked to customer service and made the decision to upgrade to a platinum pass. So I'm covered for two more park days and have the parking covered. Weird to be a pass holder for such a short time.

One aspect of the fall season is how the parks decorate outside of the Halloween theme. I really liked all the pumpkins, corn stalks and squash and bounty items scattered around. Due to the difference in the seasons in Hawaii, these sort of decoration really aren't used. It brings back a lot of memories growing up in Massachusetts.

Something I have to give Cedar Point a big thumbs up about is the mark parking spot portion of the app. When you park you can go into your profile and click the save parking location. It shows a google map image of the parking lot with a dot of where you are within the huge parking lot. When I left the park, it changed to Return to Car. I click on that it and showed the dot where my car was parked and another dot where I was. It was very helpful!

Tomorrow will an attempt to run and at the park repeat rides on a couple of coasters and then probably call it a short day so that I can get a bit of rest and updates processed before flying to Orlando on Monday.

Friday, September 28, 2018

Fall 2018 Theme Park Trip-Day 9

Well, I have day 9 listed but the last post was day 4, what happened to the days in between you might be asking? Well, those weren't days spent at a theme park or traveling to/from one. I went back to the Boston area to visit my family. It's been 6 years since the last time I saw them which was when I returned for my mom's funeral. Briefly, it was a emotionally weird trip as I spent most of the time cleaning up my old bedroom. I moved to Hawaii in 1990 with the idea that I would be returning. That didn't happen. This trip makes trip six back and each time I've shipped items back. I have a number of items that I'm shipping back to myself in Hawaii so that I can scan them since I have the devices and software to be a good job doing it. I'll cover issues and feelings while home in another post later.

Meantime, today was a very exciting day. I flew into Cleveland for the second time in my life. The first time I was visiting my Walt Disney College Program trailermate Jim and that was back in 1988. But it wasn't the fact that I was in Cleveland, but that fact that I was on my way to Cedar Point, the East Coast Roller Coaster Capital of the US. The park was open tonight for their Haunt event. My goal is to get my coaster count up.

I arrived and got misty eyed. It was so excited that I finally am doing something that I talked about doing for a long time. As I was driving into parking lot I had that night before Christmas feeling about it. I'm walking in feeling like I'm walking on air as I had an electricity just exciting me as I moved to walk under the Gatekeeper keyhole structures. As I walked in, my head turning left and right looking around taking it all in for both the coasters that surrounded me and the park being decked out for their Halloween event. I also had chills due to both the excitement and the temperatures. I'm really glad I brought the long sleeve shirt.

I figured I'd get the newest, most popular ride out of the way first and Steel Vengeance is all the way at the back of the park. Even though I got there when the park opened, I still ended up waiting for the better part of an hour to ride. I don't know the exact time as they don't want to see any cell phones in line and I put mine in a locker. I did start a conversation with the group of people in front of me. One facet that I have going for me when I do talk to people is that I live in Hawaii. People want to know about Hawaii.  While waiting in line, the park was showing promos on monitors through out the queue . I was surprised that my old In the Loop co-host, Adam House was featured. Unfortunately, I was too far way from the monitor and holding a conversation to hear what Adam was discussing.

In the next line for Maverick I started a conversation with a family who comes from Michigan and the kids in college coming from New York join up for a family event. They highly recommended doing the Haunt events tonight and the rides tomorrow as they said the park will be crowded. I walked around a bit and did one maze and was not impressed. The scare area and the maze had, in my opinion, poor lighting. I couldn't see the objects or people as I had lights flashing in my face. Due to the back-lighting, I couldn't tell if the person coming towards me was a monster or a fellow park attendee. I could hear grunting and yelling and other noises, but couldn't see how the monster was decorated.

The rest of the night was spent riding coasters and doing a bit of shivering as the chill winds blew in from Lake Erie. I know that tomorrow I'll make sure to bring a third layer to have with me. I'll leave it in the car. I'll also be talking to park staff to see if I might save some money by getting a 2018 season pass as I'll be going to Knott's Berry Farm who has Cedar Fair as their parent company as well.

Until then...

Monday, September 24, 2018

Fall 2018 Theme Park Trip-Day 4

Today was all over the place!

I have the Honolulu Marathon in December and decided that for this trip I'm going to do my best to keep up some sort of training while I'm traveling. Going running in an unfamiliar city can bring about different vistas and running patterns. The run brought me along a long veterans highway with a huge side walk along it although for most of it, there were just fields and forest next to it. I ran early so that I could spend the rest of the day running around to attractions so I started at 6am. Next to the motel where I'm staying there is a beautiful mountain stream which lead to a mill. What a beautiful site. As I got closer, I couldn't hear my podcasts as there was a small drop off and the water cascading over it made this beautiful thum-thum-thum sound. From there is was up towards Dollywood's entrance and then just kept going. It was dark and there were very few cars. Being the Smokey Mountains, there was mist everywhere. Several times when I went to scratch my beard I was surprised at how much moisture was clinging to it. I didn't encounter any other people walking or running and I'm sure I must have been out of place to the drivers as they went along their task.  When I returned to the motel, at the embankment of the river there was an older gentleman sitting on top of a picnic table there playing his guitar and singing.  What a way to start a Sunday morning!

For activities, spent the earlier portion  of the day heading into Gatlinburg. Did my first mountain coaster which was before you got into the downtown district. It was different than what I expected but still a lot of fun. I had been on a alpine side where you take a chair lift to the top and then ride down. Part of the charm was being towed up while sitting in the cart. The ride down was lots of fun but didn't expect it to be so short.

I had been to Gatlinburg once before in 1982 when I had visited Knoxville for the world's fair that was taking place in the city. The one memory I had from then is a store that sold these troll creations. Funny enough, the second store I went into had trolls. Not exactly as I remember them but thought it odd that I ran into them so quickly and only in the one store on the second floor of a mall that was tucked away in the back of the walkway.

I did a couple of the really touristy things like the The World of Illusion, Earthquake, the ride, and Mysterious Mansion. The first two were really hokey. I laughed though the whole Earthquake experience. With the Mysterious Mansion, I got grouped up with a number of other people and the "leader" was this 6 ft 270 lb guy that was a really scaredy cat but yet he
kept taking the lead and screeching out as the two actors would pop out of different places and yell boo.

Throughout the day I did four of the mountain coasters. The newest one is called The Rowdy Bear and in addition to the coaster they also had a what is being called a mountain glider. You're suspended from the bar and you zip along. I trust that these devices are safe but there were a couple of corners that I whipped around that made me swing back and forth that made me wonder for a second. I mentioned the Florida Zipline Coaster and they said they were aware of it but this was the first deployment of their technology in the US. I did buy the pic and a video and they have done something that I've never seen before. They gave me the physical print and on there is a QR code that you can use to download both pic and video. Something that I didn't like it that in the downloaded pic, it also includes the QR code so that other people could get it too. I'll need to photoshop it to remove the code, but eventually I'll get those posted.

Away from Gatlinburg, back in Pigeon Forge, spent time at both the Titanic and Alcatraz East attractions. Within Titanic, the item that I thought really drove home the point of what happened to the people is you walk outside the bridge and they have a representation of the iceberg next to the ship. You can run your hand along it, and it's real ice. The air in that room is chilly like it was that night. Then you can put your hand in some water that is kept at 28 degrees, the temp the people of the Titanic were dropped into once the ship sank. I only kept my hand in it for about 20 seconds and could really, really feel it. I could pull my hand out of the water, but they didn't have the option which really drove home the point of how these people died.

At Alcataz East, it's not a history of the place itself, but a museum that looks at crime and justice in all sorts of aspects going from back in ancient times to today. They had a number of actual items involved with topics they were discussing. Something amusing here that happened is that unlike at Titanic where they just handed you a self guide tour wand, the Alcatraz folks wanted you to leave your ID. So I asked if they would be responsible if I had ID theft during the next year. She then commented that the wands were $300 a piece and they could use my car keys to make sure they got it back. Fine. In the back of my head I'm thinking Titanic didn't ask for something as a hold but then again, maybe as a crime museum that's what they're worried about happening to them. At the end of the tour she asked for the name on the ID and said I was the guy with the car keys and she responded, "Oh yah, you....". Bit of an attitude, but the information presented was fascinating. I ended up spending 90 minutes in there.

By this time, it was almost 9pm and it was raining so decided to call it a night after grabbing a bite to eat. Unfortunately, that meant no moonshine tasting so I'll have to save that for another trip. Tomorrow is up really early for an early fight to visit family in Boston.

Saturday, September 22, 2018

Fall 2018 Theme Park Trip-Day 3

Day two at Dollywood was a very calm day as compared to the first day.

To start the day, I didn't set an alarm. I hadn't gotten much sleep the past couple of days. The two flights didn't get me much rest and about the time I was checking into the hotel I was really starting to feel it. I didn't get up until almost 7:30am. I let me body let me know when it was ready. I did a little bit more planning and got to Dollywood for their opening at 10am.

Because I had rushed around the park the day before and basically did all of the coasters, today was just a day to enjoy without worrying about accomplishing any goals. First thing I noticed going into the park is that not only were there more people, but more kids. Also, when did toting kids around in one of those collapsible wagons go into vogue? I was surprised at how many I saw. Because there were more families today, I decided to move quickly and hit a bunch of rides before the crowds really piled up. Made a coaster pass including several rides on Wild Eagle and Mystery Mine.

So on with the exploring. I continued to go back to the Artisan Valley of the park and look at all the different crafts. I talked to some employees and they said that the park wanted to expand that area but was finding it hard due to a troubles finding talent. We then discussed is it because the artisan didn't want to pass it on on there wasn't anyone behind them that wanted to learn? They felt it was more of the latter than the former. That's a shame but then again, we have technologies that help produce items for people at a quicker pace and cheaper cost, but in many cases the quality is not the same.

A train ride is always an enjoyable endevour! They were loading people on and taking people not in a circle pattern, but more of a dumbbell shape something like two circles connected by a line. In parts if you were on the left side of the train, where you saw the left side going out, coming back you got the ride side. If you're a park nerd, the trip went around the area that is being expanded for 2019 called Wildwood Grove. Land has been cleared, grading is going on and some construction has already started. I ended up talking to a clerk at a clothing store that is outside of the park and they said they are really excited as being a resident in the area, it will give them something new to look forward to when they visit the park.

One of the challenges has been the food and what to eat. I did find a couple of items that weren't the best, but better than alternatives. I got what would have been an Italian sausage sandwich but I asked them to hold the bun and the chips. I asked the cashier if she would give the chips out to someone who just wanted chips at her stand and she wouldn't do that so I just asked the people behind me if they wanted an extra bag and they said sure. Later in the day I did decide to go off script. I had one of the park staff say that Ham and Beans had good southern food. I ended up with a platter that had beans, corn bread and potatoes in addition to some meat and other veggies. They also had  blackberry cobbler with vanilla ice cream included in the price. Oh, it all tasted sooo good! A little later when I was looking for an outlet, I ended up getting a salted caramel milkshake. I just know that tomorrow I need to make sure that I don't continue the trend.

While I didn't watch any shows from front to back, there were so many available that I caught pieces of throughout the two days.  One of the people happen to start while I was eating the corn bread. I couldn't see who it was from where I sat due to a wall in the way. It turned out to be part of one of the other items I was told I must do is get a picture with Miss Lillian, the Chicken Lady of Dollywood. After the show was over, Mission Accomplished!

I really want to applaud Dollywood for providing me such a good time. There is a warmth and charm there that just oozes out of everything going on there. As a side note, I was surprised at how many guys I saw there with epic beards and mustaches that were on staff. Disney only allows close cropped stuff. One guy operating Mystery Mine had a beard about as long as mine and a great handlebar mustache. But then again, it totally falls into line with the story they are telling at the park. I found the food prices reasonable. Anywhere you could ask for ice water and you got it for free. They were running the rides with multiple trains and kept the lines down. Granted at one point of the day I did see Tennessee Twister with a 50 minute wait, but that seemed to be the longest I saw when I looked at the map. The longest I personally waited was for Blazing Fury at 10 minutes. Over the past several years they have had Timer Tower, the Adventure Mountain ropes course and Lighting Rods which closed shortly after opening. Granted the other two are already gone and they are still working to get Lightning Rod working, but they have some rides that have some wonderful theming and work very creatively in the spaces they have available for use.

Outside of the park I wanted to do a little bit of shopping (reference paragraph 5) as they have several outlet malls unlike what we have in Hawaii. I went to a store to pick up a shirt and on the way back to the hotel I traveled down Parkway. That's right, just Parkway. Not Parkway Blvd, Parkway Ave or Parkway Parkway. This reminded me of  what RT 192 was in Kissimmee, FL back when I worked at Disney.  Today's Hwy 192 only wishes it is as busy as Parkway is now. One item that was recommend was Jurassic Jungle Boat Ride. I saw the lighted sign and had to go around the block to get back into the parking lot. OMG, I posted a couple of pics to Facebook and I stated it was Gloriously Tacky! It was so bad it was good! Many of the animals didn't work. The lighting didn't work in several areas. There was one place where they had a giant Jurassic cockroach with its latex rubber skin ripped, hanging down and showing the stuffing underneath. There were several times that I just laughed. Unfortunately, the last scene where it seemed to have several things go wrong I was laughing as some action took place with a loud noise and the little girl (is a 10-11 year old little?) in the row in front started crying. I wasn't laughing at her as I started laughing before she started crying. It took the parents a minute or two after getting off the boat to get her calmed down.

I'll go running in the morning, but tomorrow is primarily more of Parkway in Pigeon Forge and the touristy stuff including a couple of mountain coasters, Titanic and moonshine tasting!

Friday, September 21, 2018

Fall 2018 Theme Park Trip-Day 2

Well maybe day 1.5? I left on a Thursday. My usual shuttle company that I have used before went out of business last year so I was left scrambling looking for a new company. With such short notice, I used Uber. With tip is was still cheaper that one of the shuttle service one way charges.

My trip started with a long overnight flight from HNL to EWR or in other words Honolulu to Newark. When I arrived at EWR, it was on a Friday hence what really to call the day. Although, the start was very reminiscent of another trip that I took in 2010 which ended up with major repercussions for me. They said they were needing 124,000  lbs of fuel for the flight. Unfortunately, we had a slow pump. We were supposed to be taking off and we were at 27,000 lbs and still trying to get more. We ended up moving gates to get a different pump. They sent out two updates via text. Eventually we left almost a full hour after we were supposed to. I had 1 hour 45 minutes between connections and the new landing time cut that down to 25 minutes. Fortunately they were able to push a bit and get us there and gave that to about 25 minutes before the boarding began.  Even though the gates were are away, made it there 15 minutes before boarding would start. Praise be for minor miracles!

As someone who has a license, but not a car, I'm spending all sorts of time fooling around with the car trying to figure out what's where and how does it work. All these new fangled  doo-dads.
So it's trying to figure out how to adjust the wing mirrors, adjusting the seat, adjusting the steering column, trying to find if it has a USB port, trying to find how to wash the windshield, how to pair the car with blue tooth and finally, how to pop the hood to be able to check the window washer levels. The USB in the car wouldn't charge the Pixel faster than the battery would drain while using GPS.  Also challenged to control the volume on the device or pause the playback without having to pick up the phone and fingerprint in instead of  dealing with the lock screen.

With the GPS, I finally made it to Dollywood about 12:30. It was hot and humid. I got to the parking lot and changed from jeans to shorts because it was so hot. Once inside the park, looked for the first sit down place so I could plug in and get a bit of charge on my phone. Finally after 15 minutes the phone was charged enough that I started my day at the park.

I was so excited to be there. Being on In The Loop we had Pete Owens, the PR Director of Dollywood, on a number of times talking about the park. It was wonderful to be there to finally experience it myself. My first ride, Thunderhead, a fairly small compact woody. I use a fanny pack at the park and decided to keep it on. I was worried the whole time as I had so much packed in it. After I got off and went to my next ride, they have cubbies there where you can place your items. I used it. OMG, I felt so much better knowing that I couldn't lose my fanny pack. As I was impressed walking around the park and the quality of the staff. I felt like I was in a concierge level service location.Instead of just acknowledging you being there, they asked questions. When I responded, I ended up getting in several conversations with the staff. It was fun! When I go back tomorrow, not sure how crowded it will be as I guess Tennessee is taking the Florida Gators and many people will stay out of the park to watch the game.

Tomorrow will be more focused on the shows as I was able to get most of the rides done with many of them being walked in. In many ways I think Dollywood is like Knott's Berry Farm in that they have lots of historical cultural information to share and I want to take in those details as I also plan to do with my return trip to Knott's.

Monday, September 17, 2018

Fall 2018 Theme Park Trip planning-Recognition Card

Just a couple of days to go before heading out to the mainland.  Really excited about this. The hotel and car reservations are all taken care of. Have several tickets purchased, but not all of them at this point. Looking to see about discounts for some of the attractions.

The first week is pretty well planned out. Dollywood and Pigeon Forge then to Boston to visit family. I had the suggestion to go to Six Flags New England or Canobie Lake Park while in New England. Unfortunately, they are on their fall schedules and not open weekdays while I'm there.

Spent time over the weekend buying some gifts. Not wanting to cart around on the different legs, it will be easier to pack and ship some items rather than trying to bring with me on the plane. Food goodies are nice because they can get eaten and you don't have to dust them over the long haul.

Great Job! CardWorked on the recognition card. When I've talked to people about the idea I haven't received any negative feedback. People really like the idea. It will also help to keep me focused on looking for positive during the trip.  Last time I only gave out half a dozen. This time, I'm hoping for more. Bringing 50 cards with me. I'll bring the softcopy with me in case I need to make more but might need to find a Walmart or something to find the card stock on which to print them.

Since I started planning the trip and knowing that I was going to San Diego I was trying to get in touch with an old college buddy. We lost touch a number of years ago. I would send them my Christmas card and one year I got it back in the mail as deliverable. The old email addresses and phone number went stale. Lookups for name searches didn't work. Facebook negative.  Finally, I did have a  family member name of someone I didn't know. Was able to find them on FB and reached out. They in turn were able to get me some contact information. After doing the Belmont Park roller coaster, we're going to get together. It's been over two decades since we last communicated and I look forward to catching up with them.

One of my concerns for the trip is my diet. I haven't been doing sugars and grains for a while now.  I know there are going to be days when I'll be going outside that range. I just need to remind myself not to do it every day. Last year after doing the marathon I ate whatever. One months later there was a 20lb difference. I don't want that to happen on this trip so I need to be a little more judicious with my choices.

Finally I was trying to decide what to pack as the weather is going to be different in the mountains of Tennessee vs the shore of Lake Erie, New England then Florida and Southern California. Living in Hawaii for so long has thinned out my New England blood and have decided that some long sleeve garments might be necessary as below 70 could be considered cold for me. Stupid, I know, but five locations on one trip forces some choices.

Saturday, September 8, 2018

Fall 2018 Theme Park Trip-plans and planning

Looking back it's been two years since my last post. Time to fix that.

Well, I have another big trip coming up and am totally ecstatic about it. I am about to get a full month off from work. I've been working to make sure there is another person in the office that knows my skills. I'm one that I'm not afraid to share everything that I know.

Travel plans include Dollywood and Pigeon Forge area attractions, going to Boston to visit family. Heading to Cedar Point to the East Coast coaster capital. Time in Florida will include Universal Orlando and Halloween Horror Nights, the Disney parks including Food and Wine Festival and Mickey's Not So Scary Halloween Party, Legoland, Florida Zipline Coaster, Star Flyer, and Fun Spots. In California the West Coast Legoland there in the San Diego area and their SeaWorld plus Belmont Park in the "extreme south" are the plans. Traveling north to Anaheim and the Disneyland resort including Mickey's Halloween Party, Knott's Berry and Scary Farms, Santa Monica Pier, Universal Hollywood, Six Flags Magic Mountain the West Coast coaster capital...possibly their Halloween event and then the Warner Bros Studio Tour and their Halloween event. So Heartland, East Coast, Mid West, the South and West Coast will be covered on this trip.  I am so appreciative that I have the ability to do this.

Along the way I plan to meet up with a number of people. Some are coaster buddies, some are Disney pals, others are college friends and some are former co-workers and podcasters. So while I may be traveling solo, I won't be doing everything as a single.

Surprisingly enough, when I was trying to make the travel arrangements, I wanted to maybe do trains between say Sandusky, OH and Knoxville, TN or Knoxville, TN and Orlando, FL as a way to see the country. Those options weren't viable due to how far away trains stations were from starting or ending points needing buses. I looked at maybe buses outright, but the amount of time and transfers were rather awkward and cumbersome. Luckily I was able to make the flight arrangements through one carrier, United, although several legs will be with code share partners. Learned that it is difficult to try to book a trip with more than five legs to the trip. All totaled, I have nine segments. The first leg I have to travel from Honolulu to Newark which is a ten hour flight and then back up to Knoxville. Blissfully the LAX to HNL flight is six hours.

In my big 2010 trip, I had business cards that I gave out for people going above and beyond in their work. Back then, I gave them a card recognizing them for their effort, took their pic, blogged about them and their actions

and then made sure I wrote back to the companies involved to give the person credit. While I don't have the cards ready to go yet, I plan on doing that again this trip. It's really easy to fall into the negative and those cards helped keep me looking for the positive.

During my fall 2016 trip, I lost my wallet while riding Mako at SeaWorld Orlando the day before I was to fly to LAX. Still haven't heard back from SeaWorld if they dredged the pond where it dropped  and recovered it with the $700 still inside. If I ever get that back, really need to make sure to make big noise about that! But with losing my ID, I want to make sure on this trip that I have backups like maybe making sure that I bring my passport and not keeping all the money on my person. Also I need to make sure that I follow my procedures and not rush when I get on a coaster to make sure that I have everything really secured.

One of the other challenges that I have is with the rental car portions. I have a valid drivers license, but don't own a car in Hawaii. When I rent I must do the responsible action have have some insurance and the costs add up quickly. So the RAC company would look at say Friday noon to Monday 6am as just three days, the insurance company says it's four so on those transfer days, I'm having to pay for insurance twice. Plus the insurance itself isn't cheap with charges that have been 15-25% of the daily rental rate.  But, it's something that I have to do since I don't have my own policy.

I use Flickr instead of Instagram. When I would post to Flickr, it would automatically post to Twitter and then a bit later to Facebook. Something has happened to the interface and that no longer happens.  If you want to see pics during the trip, goto For quick updates I'm @coconutwireless on twitter.

If you have comments or questions, let me know. The fall 2018 Coaster Trip begins on September 20th!