Knotts Berry Farm24th June 2004
One of the best perks of staying in a hotel on park property is the ability to sleep late while still arriving at the front gate in time for opening. I'd planned to be at the turnstiles five minutes before the running of the bulls, in the expectation that thursday in mid-June would be a relatively quiet day. Unfortunately, a group of at least five hundred children on their summer camp had chosen the same day as me, and as this was my last day in Los Angeles there was no point in replanning.
My morning began with a lap on Jaguar! (#277), a custom designed coaster by Zierer featuring two lift hills. The track was quite lengthy, making it a definite candidate for two train operation, but only one was in use today. Be that as it may, the ride was a lot of fun, though I'd have liked a little more padding in the car on some of the sharper turns. The track actually threads the loop on Montezooma's Revenge (#278), which allows for a wonderful near-miss moment when the timing on the two rides is just right. Unfortunately this is entirely down to luck; it'd be nice if the park engineers came up with some form of synchronisation mechanism.
My routing across the park brought me next to the Supreme Scream, the tallest S&S Turbo Drop in the world. This ride would have been a definite no-no for me as little as a year ago, but times have changed; and indeed the experience was really good fun. My only regret was again an operational one; two of the three towers lay silent, resulting in a completely unnecessary twenty minute wait.
I'd known prior to my visit that the signature coaster, Xcelerator, was likely to be down. Some weeks before, there had been a accident on the Hydro ride at Oakwood Theme Park in Wales, in which a young female rider fell to her death. The California authorities requested that the two rides in their state with the same restraint system be shut down pending the results of the investigation. It was impossible not to wonder what the ride would have been like, but no doubt I'll get back there some day.
I struck up a conversation with a ride operator during my wait for the Boomerang (#279), during which the topic of irritating guests came up. As a customer services agent myself it was quite a surprise to learn that he actually preferred days with people complaining, as they broke the monotony for him. He also revealed that his ride generally had no wait at all, and the only reason it did today was the fact that Xcelerator was down. A little over a minute on board the train was more than enough to understand why!
The last coaster for me today was Ghostrider (#280). From the outside it looked like the queue for this ride was relatively short, but the truth became apparent almost immediately; the entire group of schoolchildren had congregated here, leaving me stuck with their company for a tedious ninety minutes. The lions share of this time was spent watching a child about the age of ten arguing with his elder sister. It looked to me like he was happy enough to ride, but was pretending to be terrified in the hope of getting a bribe. His act wasn't convincing enough, however, and the pair of them ended up boarding in the second row. I'd already made the decision to hold out for a front seat on the tallest wooden coaster in California, in the hope that the ride would prove something special. It proved not to be; the experience was disappointly average, and certainly not worth the wait. My second lap in the back seat was if anything worse, though in this case it was due to the seat beside me being occupied by a severely horizontally challenged child who could not manage to keep his elbow out of my stomach. Fortunately my third lap was memorable for the right reasons, but then it was the last ride of the night before park close, when wooden coasters are typically at their best. Only truly awful wood coasters fail to shine at night.
The heat was beginning to get to me at this point, so I decided to put my camera in a locker and do some water rides. First up was the Bigfoot Rapids. As rapids rides go, this wasn't one of the better ones, but nevertheless the objective of getting wet was at least partially accomplished. To finish the job, I decided I'd take a ride on Perilous Plunge.
The designers of Perilous Plunge took a fairly standard giant splash ride then stretched it vertically to a height of one hundred fifteen feet, before steeping the drop to almost seventy eight degrees. The ride looks extremely imposing, and the resulting splash is sufficiently large to soak passengers completely. Only two installations of this Intamin-built monster have been made to date, and as both have had fatal accidents due to restraint problems it seems highly improbable that any more will be built. This is despite the fact that the design has been fixed to prevent future accidents, in this location by the installation of a four point restraint system. Unfortunately, this absolutely cripples ride capacity; boats were being dispatched today at a best interval of once every seven minutes, which is far from ideal. Additionally, while this ride is designed to get passengers wet, putting on a dripping four point harness is not exactly fun.
The worst bit about the whole experience was not the slow loading, or even the fact that only a single boat was in use. The real stinker was the fact that almost half the seats were empty on many of the boats. Six Flags would be proud; this is not a way to run a ride. It wouldn't have taken much for an operator to look for single riders to fill the available spaces. The upshot of this crazy system was a ninety minute wait for a ride which should have been almost a walk on if it was being run properly. During the wait I struck up a conversation with a family from Arizona who were visiting California on their summer holidays. Most of the conversation was generic, but the one bit I remember was a discussion about being sun burnt. The gentleman from Phoenix laughed and said that it was quite okay; where he came from, people were supposed to have red necks.
On finallyboarding the ride and having my restraints secured properly (i.e. tight enough to restrict blood flow) a debate ensued about whether I could wear my glasses or not. I have a strap which holds my glasses on; this, and my glasses, have been on hundreds of coasters and thrill rides of all descriptions. It is normally not a problem for any park; with the strap in place, my glasses are not going anywhere. Fortunately, the ride supervisor decided it was okay, and our boat was finally able to dispatch. Pet peeve; I wish parks wouldn't enforce their policies erratically. No loose items is fair enough, but I saw certain ride operators who allowed things that others did not. Either it's a rule or it isn't! Properly secured glasses are not a risk!
The chain lift takes the boat to the heights very quickly indeed, at which point you start rolling rapidly towards the steep drop. Unlike other splash rides I have been on, the top section of the ride doesn't have water running through it; the boat evidently has wheels or something similar to traverse the turnaround. And then you enter the drop. Much to my surprise I was already dripping wet even before we reached the bottom of the drop; the spray thrown up by the boat was enough to drench on its own. On landing, several seconds of continuous heavy water pouring down finishes the job. The experience is on the far side of thrilling; Perilous Plunge is what water rides should be, climate permitting of course. Hopefully a proper restraint system will be added some day. Maybe the park will also see fit to remove the sign warning potential riders that they may get wet. It does seem just a little bit unnecessary.
I made my way back across to my locker to retrieve my camera, and spent a good hour walking around the park and taking photos. I went up the Sky Cabin observation tower in the hope of getting some good shots but the windows were too dirty to get anything useful. In the end it seemed best to head back to my hotel room, as fatigue was beginning to catch up with me.