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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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…

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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.

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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!

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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:

http://m.wikihow.com/Avoid-Ticking-Off-the-Actors-in-a-Haunted-House

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


Great America Pavilion Now Open VIP Preview

If you’re a corporate planner in the greater Silicon Valley or the head of your company’s “Party Planning Committee” – there’s a new venue that demands your attention…immediately.

Great American Thrills was given a VIP preview of the Great America Pavilion, which will play host to the official pregame party for the 49ers this upcoming week. We’re still overwhelmed from the experience of this VIP preview, however.

Let’s start at the beginning. Some will argue this is simply a refresh of the old “Paramount Pavilion” space that has been at the park for years. But that’s where the comparisons end.

The room can be set up in several different configurations. The park showed off three of them that day: The Holiday Party, The Product Launch and The Company Gathering.

As you’ll see in these photos, the whole place just oozed class – you didn’t feel like you were at an amusement park – it felt much more like a corporate retreat:

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And then there was the food options – try to remind yourself that this is food at an amusement park – cooked at the park…FRESH. Each park in the chain now also has Executive and Sous Chefs. That should tell you everything you need to know as you view these mouth watering pics below:

 

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Glass Coke bottle – it always tastes better this way!

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Just a few more of the space of this building:

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 The Peanuts Gang was also on hand for the unveiling event. However, don’t let the photo fool you – it was about 93 degrees outside that day!

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And out of nowhere, Charlie Brown wanted to take a selfie (good training, Clayton) so of course I obliged.

It didn’t work out too well with the 24mm lens on the T5i, however. Something about that giant head… 🙂

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So, no – while it’s not a new ride or coaster this year as so many fans always clamor for – the addition of the Great America Pavilion will add an additional, significant revenue stream to the park and help keep it on it’s upward swing for many years to come. In fact, it just might be a better addition than a ride ever could be in the long run.

You can see why Cedar Fair wanted this revamp done here first – many companies in Silicon Valley are looking for new meeting spaces and CGA’s attached amusement park is a big selling point. I can easily see it going to other parks in the chain over the next few years.

Extra special thanks to California’s Great America for the hospitality and invite – can’t wait to see this facility filled up soon.

What do you say? Would you try to bring your group to this event space? Are you going to the Red Zone Pregame? Write us a comment below or on our social media pages – and let’s keep the conversation going!


New Amusement Park Rides Delayed Significantly This Summer

Remember when new rides and attractions opened with the start of the season at your local amusement or theme park? That’s certainly not the case this year.

A record number of attractions are still fighting to open up for the season, this as many parks pass the halfway point of their operational calendar.

And it’s not just one factor that’s throwing things off – it would appear the entire industry ran into a figurative “buzz saw” when it came to opening attractions on time this year. Here’s a list of attractions off the top of my head that have found themselves “behind the 8-ball” just this year:

Falcon’s Fury
Zumanjaro Drop of Doom
Diagon Alley
Verruckt
Break Point Plunge
Goliath
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
New England SkyScreamer

Now, I say “behind the 8-ball” for this reason: parks advertise their newest product to get people excited to come back next year. But if you (or your group) came early in the season, you more than likely missed out on the new attraction completely (at least, this year).

Even professional park travelers like myself plan for and anticipate delays for new rides – but even we’ve been taken aback at rides opening beyond the Fourth of July – especially in seasonal parks closed in the winter.

So what’s behind all these rides having what I consider to be major delays in opening? Are they too extreme or complex? Or is it sometime much simpler? Let’s take a closer look:

 

Weather:

Photo courtesy of Kings Island Facebook page.

Photo courtesy of Kings Island Facebook page.

This was the worst winter on record east of the Rocky Mountains. In many cases – construction couldn’t even start until the snow was moved and the ground thawed. Sadly, that didn’t happen until April in some places. (It was still icy in the Great Lakes in JUNE).

 

Fabrication:

There are only so many pieces that can be built by these companies, some of which employ less than 50 employees. If a company waited to buy a product until late in the season, they’ll be at the end of the line, so to speak to receive their new products.

 

Bureaucracy:

"Red tape" has done more to kill off parks than it has to make them safer!

“Red tape” has done more to kill off parks than it has to make them safer!

If you’ve ever played the game “RollerCoaster Tycoon” you know it’s quite easy to build new attractions. But if the game were to be truly accurate, players would have to spend more time in the local permits office than managing their park. The litany of paperwork and regulations ended up killing a famous water park here in California.

While most point to the Golden State as the epicenter of red tape (See Gold Striker’s struggles to finally open) the East Coast is now getting into the act.

After a brutal winter prevented construction for most of the off-season at Six Flags Great Adventure, Zumanjaro – a world record free fall in New Jersey, was finally ready to open for season pass previews after months of delays…

…only to be told by the State that their ride inspector would not be able to get out to the park to officially sign off on its operating permit. Whoops.

 

Design Flaws / Challenges:

Verruckt required a complete re-design after tests showed it wasn't performing as predicted.

Verruckt required a complete re-design after tests showed it wasn’t performing as predicted.

Whether it’s too complex in terms of computer and electrical systems – or just a bad design to begin with – sometimes rides don’t transfer perfectly from the computer and drafting board to the real world. All parks (except the old Action Park) have guests’ safety as their number one priority – and if it means opening a ride late to ensure it does not hurt, maim or kill people – it’s a delay that’s always worth taking.

So will all of the rides and attractions open by the end of THIS season? Only time (and a host of other factors) will tell. One can only hope that parks can get “back on schedule” next year and start debuting rides when the season begins (or shortly thereafter).

What do you think? Are there any other factors I might have missed? LEave me a comment either below or on my social media channels – I’d love to hear what you think!


Great America Pavilion the pregame destination for San Francisco 49ers fans this season

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If you’re a California’s Great America fan – it’s time to start cheering. Literally and emphatically.

Yesterday, the park announced that in addition to becoming “the official amusement park of the San Francisco 49ers,” (as if there was any doubt) they will soon be opening the “Great America Pavilion,” an 18,000 sq. ft. multi-purpose facility that will be home to the Red Zone Rally pregame event for all 49ers home games, as well as other Levi’s® Stadium events.

“We’re very excited to be partnering with the 49ers on the Red Zone Rally pregame events,” said California’s Great America Vice President & General Manager Raul Rehnborg. “For 49ers fans and attendees of other Levi’s® Stadium events, Great America Pavilion will be the perfect venue to enjoy the game-day atmosphere, dine on delicious food offerings and easily access Levi’s® Stadium, which is located adjacent to the new facility”

“The Red Zone Rally will be a tremendous pregame destination for 49ers fans,” said 49ers Chief Operating Officer Al Guido.

During 49ers home contests, the Red Zone Rally at Great America Pavilion opens three hours prior to kickoff, features flat screen televisions throughout, San Francisco 49ers Gold Rush cheerleaders and alumni, an array of live entertainment, interactive activities and incredible dining options.

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And when the stadium isn’t in use – the park now has a completely upgraded meeting and dining facility, that can be divided into three distinct areas or combined into one incredibly large venue. Oh, and the first event has already been held in the nearly-finished facility…Coaster Con XXXVII.

So yes, it’s not a new hyper coaster or ride – but it’s more important than that – it signals (quite clearly) a fundamental shift in the relationship between the San Francisco 49ers and Cedar Fair. Specifically, this announcement has far-reaching implications for the long-term future of the park – all positive in nature. Gone are the days of Cedar Fair Corporate (Dick Kinzel in particular) berating and indeed SUING the 49ers over a litany of issues.

It’s quite obvious that new Cedar Fair CEO, Matt Ouimet, has seen the San Francisco 49ers not as the enemy, but rather as a lucrative and positive business partner – and that can only bode well for a park that many (myself included) wrote off only seven years ago. (Lord knows Dick Kinzel tried to literally write it off according to my sources).Resized - Pavilion-Rendering-6(1)So on the outside it may appear to just be an expansion of a picnic pavilion – but this announcement means the world to a park that’s on one hell of a kickoff return.

For more information on the Red Zone Rally, visit: www.49ers.com/tickets

For more information on Group Sales at the park, visit: https://www.cagreatamerica.com/group-sales


Utah Olympic Park bobsled is the ride of your life

With the Sochi Olympics now officially open – the world will showcase the best in winter sports, many of which call to us thrill seekers.

But while most of us will never have the guts to try a ski jump or snowboard a half pipe – there is one Olympic sport that you CAN experience…and it’s one HELL of a ride, too! 

And the best part – you don’t have to travel all the way to Sochi, or even Vancouver to experience this thrill ride – it’s just a short flight away, in Park City, Utah!

Preparing for the 80 MPH thrill ride that is “The Comet” at Utah Olympic Park.

The first part of the experience is in the classroom – that’s where you’ll learn about the course, the sled and safety concerns – and there are many of them. The most notable of which – is how to react if the sled flips. Officials said it doesn’t happen often – but it DOES happen. Even with an experienced pilot at the helm – it’s still a risky sport:

Participants of this thrill ride are warned several times, that a flip is a real possibility.

Participants of this thrill ride are warned several times, that a flip like this is a real possibility.

Despite what it looks like on TV, the ride is rough…VERY rough – and puts an incredible strain on your body. In some instances, g-forces reach between 5.0 – 6.0 G in an instant as you enter the turns. So, if you weigh 200 lbs, like me – that means you feel like you weigh 1200 pounds in an instant. People with heart, neck or back issues – need not apply.

This may look like fun (and it is once or twice), but it’s an incredible amount of work to steer these bullets on ice – while concentrating though incredible g-forces…these folks are TRUE athletes to be able to make multiple runs in the sleds each and every day!

Ironically, the “bobsled” coaster (built by Intamin of Switzerland) was a mainstay of many parks. Even before Intamin was created, “Flying Turns,” made of wood – were in many traditional parks around the country. Knoebels, a park known for taking daring risks to preserve ride history – recently debuted their “Flying Turns” – a wooden bobsled coaster that MET modern safety regulations and codes.

Of course, there’s also the “de facto” bobsled coaster – the Matterhorn at Disneyland…

The Intamin Bobsled coaster saw a surge in popularity in the 1960's through the 1980's.

The Intamin Bobsled coaster saw a surge in popularity in the 1960’s through the 1980’s.

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Flying turns were found at many parks – and saw a resurgence when Intamin began to market steel, less maintenance-heavy versions in the 1970’s.

Even more ironic – the bobsled is directly responsible for the development and impetus for the roller coaster. As far back as 1650, there are documented reports of Russian ice slides, which eventually added wheels to allow for year-round operation. (Except in Siberia). Eventually, hills and loops were added – and the modern roller coaster was born. 

But, back to the present day – while Knoebel’s was able to bring back the tradition of the wooden “Flying Turns,” and Intamin had their bobsled coasters – they certainly don’t come close to the 80 mph top speed – but with that being said – they’re still definitely worth a trip to experience. 

There is no way to describe the rush of reaching down a pipe at nearly 80 mph, except to say, "Wow!"

There is no way to describe the rush of screaming down a frozen pipe at nearly 80 mph, except to say, “Wow!”

That being said – there is ONE thing about the Comet that puts off many people – the price. A single plunge will cost you $199. But, for the true thrill seeker, it’s a worthy investment to say you rode (barreled) down an Olympic bobsled run at 80 mph…on blades and ice. (If you visit in the summer, they still run the sled, albeit on concrete and with wheels – at a slower 70 mph.

So while you watch the bobsleds scream through the Olympic course these next few weeks – grab a ticket on the Comet – and experience it for yourself!

Special thanks to Great American Thrills® friend, Lydia LaPutka for allowing me to experience this once-in-a-lifetime thrill!


Week of Big Announcements!

This week, Great American Thrills® is proud to announce not one, but TWO major initiatives regarding the brand and television concept that are sure to rock your socks off!

Major Announcement #1 –Codename: Showbiz”

Some of you have heard rumblings that “Lost Parks” wasn’t the only project we were working on – and I’m happy today to confirm that this is absolutely true.

We will be premiering an entirely new travelogue / roller coaster / amusement park show concept in the next few weeks. And while we’ll need YOUR help to get it to as many eyeballs as you can – we’ll get into that once it arrives. Oh, did we mention this project is ALREADY trademarked, copyrighted AND registered with the Writer’s Guild of America – so don’t even think about stealing it.

 

Major Announcement #2 – “Project Neptune”

Over the past two years, I’ve seen this website go from a simple WordPress blog, to a significantly more complex “destination” on the web – and the web traffic proves. it. As a result – the site isn’t working as well as it should – and changes will have to be done far more than just cosmetic.

While the timeframe for “Neptune” is not set in stone, expect major changes to the website (in terms of design and interface) to begin showing up over the next few months.

So, why the name “Neptune?” Honestly – it sounded cool – so don’t read into it too much!

This February will be the 4th official year of work (on and off) on this project. It’s amazing to watch it all coming together – slowly, but surely – we’re inching closer to our goal of bringing Great American Thrills® to the masses. We’re so glad to have you along for the ride!


Undertow Now Open at the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

Undertow Car

Photo Credit: Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk

After several months of will they / won’t they open, the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk pulled a “Disney” and had a soft opening for their Undertow spinning roller coaster today.

The first reviews are already in – and everything points to positive so far!

The ride, a brilliant yellow with sea foam green supports, combines the sharp curves of a “wild mouse” with the uncontrolled, spinning action of a “spin n’ puke.” It is manufactured by Maurer Sohne, of Germany.

It is a historical throwback to the past as well – for many years, the park had a wooden wild mouse located on the present site of the “Logger’s Run” flume ride.

Undertow replaced the aging “Hurricane” steel roller coaster that debuted in 1993 in the same location.


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The New Bay Bridge

Sometimes, the thrills in life aren’t just about amusement parks – sometimes, it’s about being a part of history.

So when they announced the new, $6.4 billion eastern span of the Bay Bridge was to open ahead of schedule, late last night – I charged up the GoPro and jumped into the Escape:


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Featured on “This Week in Photo” Podcast!

If you haven’t already, check me out on the “This Week in Photo” podcast! We’ll discuss photo composition, the impetus for me getting into photography…and of course, nausea.

Enjoy, everyone!

Learn more about Frederick’s work at: www.thisweekinphoto.com


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What’s Your Worst Travel Mistake?

Mine was overpaying for hotel rooms on my coaster adventures. Learn from my mistake – always plan ahead!

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Read the entire article here:

http://www.mainstreet.com/slideshow/lifestyle/travel/my-worst-travel-mistake-6-money-lessons


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Asiana Airlines 777 Crashes at SFO

Amazing how many people survived today’s crash – but what’s more amazing was the “meh” attitude of some of the passengers AFTERWARDS! our thoughts and prayers are with those who were injured and may have lost loved ones today…

As a fan of flying and aviation – you always wonder about those people who ignore the safety warnings or don’t put away their notebooks after flight attendants tell them. Maybe you should re-think that the next time you fly…

How to Not Evacuate an Aircraft.

How to Not Evacuate an Aircraft. Photo illustration by Kris Rowberry.


Coaster “Bender” Trip – Vital Stats

Bizzaro at Six Flags New England. Photo (c) 2013, Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

9 – Number of days the trip lasted

5,968 – Total mileage flown

3 – Number of rental car models I rented

4 – Number of Six Flags parks visited

6 – Number of wooden coasters on the trip

3 – Number of coasters missed (2 closed, one required child accompaniment)

$493.93 – Estimated amount of money saved by upgrading to a GOLD Six Flags Season Pass

1 – Number of Cicadas encountered (On the motel door / eyehole in Spiringfield, MA…thankfully only molting).


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Photo of the Day: Gateway Arch in St. Louis, MO

Gateway Arch at Jefferson Western Expansion Memorial. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry.

It may have been a little rainy, bit that didn’t dampen our moods to cross off, “visit the St. Louis Arch” off our bucket lists this weekend!

This disorienting view comes from the the center most window (there is no centered window, as that is where the “keystone” to the arch sits, and must be the strongest portion of the structure.)

It’s quite a weird feeling to realize that unlike a building observation deck, there’s absolutely nothing below you.

Oh, and the ride to the top – worthy of any thrill ride I’ve ever been on…thank you Eero Saarinen!

Gateway Arch at Jefferson Western Expansion Memorial. Photo (c) 2013 Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry.

A HUGE thanks goes out to my friends at BorrowLenses for allowing me to capture such beautiful photos with their gear.

Interested in purchasing / using some of my photos? Check out my 500px: http://500px.com/GreatAmericanThrills

View my videos on YouTube: http://www.youtube.com/user/GreatAmericanThrills

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Gold Striker NOW OPEN at California’s Great America

Yes, it’s official. As of this afternoon, the Gold Rush has officially met your adrenaline rush – GOLD STRIKER at California’s Great America is now offically OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

Look for a full media review in the next few days – but for now, get out and enjoy Gold Striker at California’s Great America!

Gold Striker at California's Great America

Gold Striker is officially open to the public!

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Top Five Most Terrifying Amusement Park Mishaps of All Time

You see it all the time come the summer months, “Killer ride injures passengers,” “Man dies after roller coaster ride.” Heck, search, “roller coaster accident” on YouTube, and you’ll find no shortage of videos – mostly of rides undergoing a “safety cut out” where all trains simply stop where ever they are in the circuit.

While these “stories” are mostly media spin, incidents have and still do occur – however many are a direct result of disobeying park rules and regulations. With that being said, here now are the five most terrifying (actual) amusement park mishaps:

5. Happiest Place on Earth?

Monorail track is not an alternative to the front gate.

Monorail track is not an alternative to the front gate.

Disneyland has certainly seen it’s fair share of problems over the years. Nine people have been killed in the park (although officially they all died ‘on the way to the hospital, as no one ever dies in Disneyland‘).

Seven of the nine deaths can be directly attributed to disobeying park rules or trespassing. Two have drowned in the Rivers of America. An employee who wasn’t aware of her surroundings was crushed in the “America Sings” Theater.

But the one we’ll focus on is the story of Thomas Guy Cleveland, who at 19 years old, had the brilliant idea of getting into the park via the monorail track.

Amazingly, he scaled the 15 foot track, avoided the 240V power line and began his trek to get into Disneyland immortality.

When security spotted him – naturally he began to run down the beam to avoid them. What he didn’t realize, was that they were trying to warn him that a monorail was approaching and that he should jump off the beam.

He didn’t jump off – and he didn’t get into the park for free, either.

This is certainly not the first time that someone has been killed jumping fences or at least trying to at an amusement park. This kid is lucky he still has life after diving into Jurassic Park: The Ride to retrieve his lost hat – while the ride was running. Not the brightest bulb in the set. Even if you’re not a fan of amusement parks – this video will make you cringe.

It just proves – you can’t stop stupid – no matter how many fences, gates and signs you put up.

4. Perilous Plunge – Knott’s Berry Farm, CA (2000-2012)

Perilous Plunge was plagued with delays, malfunctions and modifications in its' 12 year run.

Perilous Plunge was plagued with delays, malfunctions and modifications in its’ 12 year run. (Photo by Knott’s Berry Farm.)

When it opened in 2000, Perilous Plunge was the tallest, fastest, steepest (and wettest) flume ride in the world.

It was also the most temperamental advanced water ride of its’ time, requiring complete computer control and even a magnetic braking system built into the base of the ride to stop it in the limited space available for a splashdown pool.

During a special event at the park, a woman somehow slipped out of the ride’s lap bar restraint system on the drop, killing her instantly. Investigators believed that because she was so overweight, her mass shifted violently in the steep drop, causing her to fall out.

The boats on the ride were later modified with 5-point racing harnesses as additional restraints – then converted to standard, over the shoulder “horse collar” restraints. The entire attraction was scrapped in late 2012 for future expansion.

3. Crystal Beach Cyclone – Ontario, CN (1927-1946)

Traver's most successful of his "terrifying triplets."

Traver’s most successful of his “terrifying triplets.”

The most famous of Harry Traver’s designs, the Cyclone was and still is considered to be the most intense roller coaster ever built. With speeds approaching 55 mph and g forces in excess of +5, there aren’t many steel coasters today that can pull that off. (And the Cyclone was wood, with a steel lattice structure.)

Considering the ride ran for nearly 20 years with only a single fatality was mind boggling – how it happened is even more head turning (Literally).

Turns out in 1938 – on opening day of the season, no less – Amos Wiedrich allegedly stood up to take his coat off, after the ride had begun. Because he was out of his seat on the first drop, he simply fell out from the forces. To ad insult to injury, he was hit seconds later by the train he had been riding in when it came back around through the circuit.

Oh, did we mention this was the only roller coaster in history to have a Nurse’s Station at the exit? (Apparently it was all for show, but considering the damage this ride could have done, it may have been a worthy investment to keep the insurance down!)

2. Action Park “Cannonball Run” – Vernon, NJ (1985-sporadically into 1996)

Someone apparently thought this was a good idea.

Someone apparently thought this was a good idea.

Yes, you heard me right, looping water slide. Long before parks were marketing 45 degree pitched slides as “looping” Action Park in New Jersey had them beat with a bona fide vertical looping water slide.

According to most reports, the ride was open for one month in the summer of 1985, then was opened sporadically through 1996, when it was eventually torn down.

By principle, it *should* have worked – but that wasn’t the case…ever.

Concussions, abrasions and the possibility of being stuck in the slide were all risks people were willing to take to get on this ride – well, that and allegedly $100 bills that park management bribed them with to try it.

You can read a first hand account of the ride from someone who actually experienced it here.

On a related side note – Action Park (and many of it’s “groundbreaking, people breaking” attractions) was closed in 1996, and re-opened as Mountain Creek Resort in 1997. All of the non-conforming (i.e. unsafe) rides, including the looping waterslide were destroyed – with newer, safer ones replacing them (Though, that’s up for debate).

1. Lightning – Revere Beach, MA (1927-1933)

Revere Beach's "Lightning"

Revere Beach’s “Lightning”

The last of Harry Traver’s infamous “Terrifying Triplets” – Lightning was so twisted, most riders could not handle the brutal forces exerted on them.

On the second day of operation, a young girl was somehow ejected from the ride and died after hitting the track below. According to lore, the ride was shut down for 20 minutes, “…so they could remove the body.”

That’s right – the ride was back up and running after only 20 minutes. Odds are, the line increased quite a bit, too.

Back in the 1920’s it wasn’t unheard of for a ride to become more popular after it killed someone. Today, we have a bit higher standards and regards for our personal safety, thankfully.

Roar! at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA

Roar! at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom in Vallejo, CA

Sharp eyed coaster fans will notice that both the Lighting and Cyclone first drops have a modern counterpart. Both the “Roar” wooden coasters at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom and Six Flags America share the similar first drop with Traver’s triplets.

So, will we ever see another Crystal Beach Cyclone, or looping water slide? At the rate safety technology is going – I certainly wouldn’t put it out of the realm of possibility. Just look at how far we’ve come in just the past 90 years!

And there you have it – ten of the most terrifying amusement park mishaps of all time.

It should be noted, that while awful and scary as some of these incidents are, they are also an infinitely tiny minority of the total rides taken over the course of history.

Many of these instances occurred before the advent of safety regulations, government oversight, understanding of g-forces or restraint technology.

The odds of you being injured at a modern amusement park are actually lower than when you are driving to the park itself. So be smart – obey the park rules and you’ll have a fun and safe time!


Man Allegedly Loses $2600 at Carnival Game

This "Rasta Banana" was worth so much to a man, that he blew his life savings trying to win it.

This “Rasta Banana” was worth so much to a man, that he blew his life savings trying to win it.

If there were a dumb guy Olympics, this dude just ran away with all the medals…

Henry Gribbohm claims that at a recent carnival he attended, he lost $2,600 playing a game called “Tubs of Fun.”

And you thought carnival barkers were good at stretching the truth.

In the game, contestants attempt to toss balls into a tub. Apparently, Gribbohm had been practicing the game at home for weeks before the fair – but when it was game time – the results weren’t so good.

Considering the game offers one of the largest prizes at the fair, it should have been fair warning that this wasn’t going to be a cake walk. Predictably, all of Gribbohm’s attempts failed.

But that didn’t stop him, no sir. According to Gribbohm, he kept trying to win back his money by going double or nothing, something that even a carnie wouldn’t dare try (Especially considering that’s gambling!) He also claimed that because he was causing such a large scene and drawing in people, the operator of the game, “…promised me a Xbox.”

Really?

“He dropped $300 in just a few minutes and said he went home to get $2,300 more and soon lost all of that as well,” according to a local TV station.

“It’s not possible that it wasn’t rigged,” he said. “For once in my life, I happened to become that sucker.”

Understatement of the century there. You think they just give these quality items away?

Apparently, Gribbohm went back the next day to complain and the man running the game gave him back $600 – which at least validated his claim that he did spend wayyy too much money on a giant banana.  Despite getting back $600 that he never should have, he still filed a report with the police.

Gribbohm said that he’s considering a lawsuit. I wonder if he realizes that he can’t win there, either.


The Arkham Haunted Mansion

Gotta love this take on the famous “Stretching Room” in Disney’s Haunted Mansion. THis one is themed after the Batman saga and features Harley Quinn, The Joker, Poison Ivy and Batgirl.

Gif art and artwork by Abe Lopez.

Gif art and artwork by Abe Lopez.

Fun fact: The stretching effect is achieved two different ways at Disneyland and Disney World. One has the ceiling rise, the other has the floor descend. Can you identify which one is which? Leave your guess in the comments section below!


Kim Jong Un – Amusement Park Expert?

This kid is a baller
This kid is a baller

Photo Credit: Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) NOTE: State-run media.

Set your foam guns to “master blaster,” amusement park fanboys! Looks like you’ve got some new competition for stingiest park visitor. And this one plays for keeps, what, being a Dictator and all…

Yes, it’s everyone’s favorite twenty-something “threatening to nuke the U.S.” ruler, Kim Jong Un. From the sound of it, he knows quality amusement park traits.

Un was at a North Korean amusement park last year, where he took in the rides, the scenery and the crowds that were carefully staged to be there (probably at gunpoint).

But, he also lambasted the park for potential safety issues with their water slides, poorly maintained showering facilities, weeds growing out of the asphalt and even peeling paint on the rides.

First of all – who would have thought North Korea would even HAVE an amusement park. For most people living there, just getting food is a daily chore, let alone having FUN in the process.

Secondly – is this the first time we’ve seen a Head of State actually partaking in a thrill ride in front of the media? Who knows – maybe that’s why Mitt Romney lost the election – we didn’t see him on a coaster.

So, the inevitable question comes up – can we send Kim Jong Un to (INSERT ANY USA PARK HERE) to fix up some of our lesser maintained parks? Maybe we can call it a “goodwill” mission…