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General Travel

Never Plan to Ride a New Coaster on Opening Day

The saying goes, “There’s only two things in life that are guaranteed – death and taxes.” It’s probably a good idea to add delays to new coasters to that as well.

Less than 48 hours before the scheduled media day, Dollywood announced last week that their launched Lightning Rod wooden roller coaster would not be opening to the public as originally planned.

Hundreds of people (and several coaster groups) had apparently made reservations at local hotels, planning on being the first to ride.

And they should have known better.

They should have seen the hints – the lack of consistent testing, the lack of updates to the park’s social media page. But no, they fell into the all-too-often-seen trap of the modern era – the race to be “first” to everything. Instead, they all left disappointed and unable to cancel their hotel reservations.

Capture 2

Understandably, some people were a bit miffed (just look at the comments section of their Facebook feed). As late as four days before the planned opening, park staff were promoting the ride opening to local media.

But this not a first for a launched coaster debut. Superman: The Escape at Six Flags Magic Mountain was delayed 10 months back in 1996 as Intamin worked out the kinks on it’s prototype LSM launch system.

It doesn’t help that there are several “coaster experts” and “insiders” who are spreading false information or rumors online about the ride and the length of the delay. If it doesn’t come from the park in an official statement, consider it pure bunk.

The bottom line is: If you’re planning a coaster trip to see the latest, greatest creation from B&M or Rocky Mountain Construction – or any prototype ride for that matter – don’t plan around an opening day, unless you live within a reasonable driving distance to the park.

A destination ride will be just as good on an opening day that you miss, as a regular operating day in the middle of the summer. In fact, it’ll probably be better, as all the computer bugs and operational challenges will have been overcome.

Couple Faces Charges for Having Sex on Las Vegas Ferris Wheel

Talk about an awkward ride…

A Houston man and a New York woman are now facing felony charges after they were recorded having sex during a 30-minute ride about the High Roller observation wheel in Las Vegas.

Phillip Frank Panzica III and Chloe Scordianos were arrested back on February 5th, after security caught them “in the act” aboard one of the capsules, 550 feet above the Las Vegas Strip.

Photo credit: Las Vegas Police Department

Photo credit: Las Vegas Police Department

Surveillance cameras captured everything – and passengers in other cabins recorded all the action via their cell phones. Security requested multiple times to stop “enjoying their ride” but it was all for naught. They were arrested when then cabin returned to the ground.

According to the Associated Press, Scordianos’ lawyer, Chris Rasmussen, says his client believed the couple had an expectation of privacy.

No seriously – REALLY?!?

You rode a glass capsule (one of 28 on the wheel) that’s suspended 550 feet above Las Vegas Strip and you expected privacy? Y’all couldn’t wait thirty minutes and get a hotel room – oh I don’t know – ANYWHERE ELSE in Las Vegas?

Now, it’s not like this sort of hanky panky is unheard of – heck, there’s even a blog that gives you TIPS on how to best pull these sorts of shenanigans on the High Roller. My advice: keep personal “thrill rides” to yourself – oh, and bring some Purell on your next ride aboard the High Roller, too.

Happy Thanksgiving from Great American Thrills!

While you gobble up all the delicious food today – enjoy some short, time lapse photography I was able to capture on my recent trip to the Orlando Eye!

For the POV time-lapse – you’ll notice a short stop – something we didn’t even feel on the ride itself (it’s just so smooth in it’s movements).



IAAPA Trip Report, Day One

After flying in yesterday and adjusting to the time change (best as you can) I’m ready to start writing down my thoughts – with some leftover pizza and a Blue Moon at my side.

Today, I was able to visit the Orange County Convention Center for the first time, to help set up the ACE booth as well as pick up my badge for the big IAAPA exhibition. For the first time, was able to see incredible scope of the event. As big as you might think it is – think BIGGER. Of course, the floor isn’t even finished as I type – so it’ll only feel larger by this time tomorrow.

Afterwards, I had lunch with American Coaster Enthusiasts President (and roommate for the week) Jerry Willard – that’s when he brought up his afternoon / evening plans…a trip to the Magic Kingdom.


I bit. It’s been 20 years since I last visited Florida (for Disney World with my family). And boy, was the trip out there today worth it.


Turns out, not only was the “Mickey’s Very Merry Christmas Party” significantly less crowded than it was during the day (the park closed at 7 to the general public), they gave you all the cookies and hot cocoa you could down AND it was CHEAPER to get in, too. Every ride was either a walk on or well under 30 minutes.


If you don’t mind Christmas being jammed down your throat a little too early, this is a great way to experience the Magic Kingdom at breakneck pace, yet still get everything in, too.

Oh, and the fireworks were incredible as well 🙂

Day Two has technically already arrived, so expect a blog post late Monday night. Until next time, everyone!

Five Ways to Have a Bad Day at an Amusement Park

1.) Forget to check about special events on park website:

Nothing will ruin your day faster at a park to find it overrun with cheerleaders for a regional competition or packed for a concert in their ampitheatre.

special events snip

2.) Wear sandals:

They might seem like a good choice for hot weather, but their lack of support and ability to fly away on certain rides will leave you more miserable than you think.


3.) Dress incorrectly for the weather:

You can always bring a jacket to warm up, but you can’t take your pants off to cool down (it’s generally frowned upon). If the weather calls for rain, it’s probably best to re-schedule your trip to the park.


4.) Bring your iPad or tablet computer:

No one wants to be a Padhole. But, you’re risking damaging that $500 device every time you bring that dumb thing to a crowded place. Plus, it blocks our views during the show. Just bring a small point and shoot camera – it has better resolution, anyway.


5.) Visit on Memorial Day Weekend, 4th of July or Labor Day Weekend:

Traditionally the three worst times to visit any park. Although, actual Memorial Day and Labor Day tend to be less crowded than the weekends preceding them.


Got any suggestions to add to this list? Tell us on social media, or comment below!

The Ultimate Thrill Ride with Team Oracle

I’ve been on my fair share of thrill rides. From the carnival circuits, to permanent roller coasters – even the Salt Lake City Olympic Park Bobsled Run (in winter, no less!)

But no thrill ride on the ground can compare with the flight experience I had earlier this week with famed stunt pilot, Sean D. Tucker of Team Oracle. He’s currently practicing for the California International Airshow, which is going on this weekend in Salinas, CA.


I was fortunate enough to be “assigned” this story for my real job, which is at 1590-AM KLIV in San Jose.

Sean has over 25,000 hours of flight time under his belt – and normally flies a Challenger III biplane for all his airshows. But for our flight, we went up in an Extra 300, with tandem seating (the biplane only has one seat).

If I look nervous in these photos – it’s for a good reason – that’s a parachute they’re attaching to me. To say the least, this isn’t your ordinary ride in a 737…





Here’s the complete flight experience, from the cockpit:

During our flight, we maxed out the accelerometer to negative 3G, all the way to positive 6G. (Let’s see a coaster EVER do that!) What’s even more crazy is that Sean actually went easy on me – he routinely DOUBLES those forces during his regular show. You truly have to be an athlete in order to stay conscious during these maneuvers!

Some of the maneuvers included: Vertical (klothoid) loop, barrel roll, hammerhead (modified Immelman), 400 degree snap rolls, inverted flying, flat spins and many more! I’m also happy to report, that the two barf bags given to me were never used.


So, if I can make two suggestions to you – never pass up the opportunity to fly in a stunt plane or acrobatic jet – it will stay with you the rest of your life. Second: go out to the California International Airshow to check out Team Oracle as well as many other aerial acrobats as they turn the skies of Salinas into a canvas of smoke and AVGAS. You won’t be disappointed!


Special thanks to Sean D. Tucker, the Team Oracle Ground Crew and the staff at the California International Airshow for the opportunity to fly with them – I’ll never forget it!


How to Avoid Ticking Off Actors in Haunted Houses

Found this awhile back (thanks, Clayton!) but it’s quite relevant now – here’s the TOP 25 ways to avoid ticking off actors in haunted houses (and in the process, make your experience more enjoyable:


Which one is your favorite? Tell me in the comments section, below: