Travel Note

9th August 2005

This morning began with me presenting my paper, FPGA Implementation of Image Segmentation using Logarithmic Arithmetic, to an academic audience. It was always going to be a challenge to defend research that said, essentially, that "this doesn't work very well", but I was happy with how things went. It's critically important for students and researchers to remember that "no" is a perfectly acceptable answer; the only trick is to back up a negative with easily reproduced data. I'll be finishing up my Masters in the next few weeks, and I'll be a very happy man when it's out of my life for good!

 

Kings Island

9th August 2005

This park was known as Paramount's Kings Island at the time this trip report was written. The ride names from that time have been left in place in this report.

It was just after noon by the time I arrived at Kings Island, and I was quite hungry, having skipped breakfast in favour of a final rehearsal for my earlier presentation. I'd hoped to return to a Panda Express outlet enjoyed during a previous visit, but a quick scan of the park map revealed that it had followed Chairman Mao to the grave. Just about all of the choices today were of the deep fried heart attack variety, with only a lone branch of Subway targeted at would-be healthy eaters. The thought of reconstituted sandwich meat was enough to make my stomach turn, and with that in mind I decided to put my diet on hold in favour of a trip to the Bubba Gump Shrimp Shack.

Sign

As a seasoned traveller I do my best to avoid food outlets at peak times whenever possible as the wait times can be horrendous. Nowhere is this more true than in large corporate theme parks, where a sizeable number of those queueing end up ordering food for their extended families. Today it looked like I might be through quickly, as there were only five people in line when I arrived, but it wasn't to be. Every minute or so the staff engaged in a synchronised chat presumably taken from Forrest Gump; though moderately musing the first time it soon began to aggravate as it was clearly slowing down service.

The twenty minute wait was made even less pleasant by an oversized American female waiting in front of me who was chatting with a friend in a loud and shrill voice that could shatter glass. She was one of those people with a center of gravity rather than a waistline; were she to fall over she would almost certainly rock back and forth a number of times before coming to a standstill. Fortunately she vanished after receiving her fully loaded tray, allowing me to enjoy my appallingly unhealthy main (and token fresh fruit dessert) in peace.

Modern amusement rides are not cheap, and the investment required to build a roller coaster often hits eight figures, and occasionally nine for really elaborate attractions such as those found at the Disney parks. A significant portion of the total budget invariably goes to design, engineering, and theming. This year Paramount Parks hired Premier Rides to produce a coaster loosely based on The Italian Job, but spread their costs out with the purchase of two versions, one for Kings Island and the other for Canada's Wonderland. Guest feedback was apparently good, as just last week a third installation was announced for next year at Kings Dominion.

Italian Job Stunt Track (#518) features twelve seat trains made up of red, blue, and white cars designed to look like the Mini Coopers seen within the movie, even down to the doors which the operators close prior to dispatch. They feature an onboard sound system and negotiate a layout that travels through a faux parking structure, past a bunch of shipping crates, and into a movie set where they are shot at by a moving helicopter. An enclosed section follows before the cars break out into daylight through a movie billboard, dropping into a brief water splash and returning to the station.

The ride is excellent; anyone after a high quality family coaster would be hard pressed to find better than this one. That said, it definitely requires some tuning both of operations and presentation. Today the onboard sound and quite a few of the special effects were out of order, which hardly bodes well for an attraction that has been open less than three months. Furthermore, it was taking about ninety seconds to load and dispatch each train, or roughly twenty seconds longer than the total ride length, thus negating any benefit of having three on the track.

Italian Job

With my new credit out of the way, I began heading back towards the front of the park, taking in Flight of Fear, Racer (backwards), and Adventure Express on my way. In due course I arrived at Drop Zone, the scene of major humiliation a little over two years ago. Since then I've survived many other drop rides without nerve issues, though none quite as big as this one, and thus I decided to see if I could ride now without problems. The answer turned out to be "mostly"; while I disembarked with a slight case of the shakes I didn't feel the need to white knuckle the experience. Crucially my brain hadn't ruled out the chance of another ride later in the day, a definite step forward from times past.

My next stop was at Top Gun, one of just nine Arrow suspended coasters around the world. Four years ago this ride was my first encounter with a coaster with trains that could swing from side to side, and perhaps that explains why it remains my sentimental favourite even though I've ridden four other versions since. Today the ride was running very well indeed, to the point that I just had to go back for a second lap. Hopefully someday another manufacturer will revisit the idea of swinging cars, as they provide a unique experience unmatched by other rides.

With that done, I decided that it was worth taking a trip up the Eiffel Tower in the hope of getting some decent aerial shots for my collection. My collections from all five of my previous visits to the park were afflicted by my original approach to amusement park photography, which was to point my camera in the vague direction of a target and snap randomly while walking. This was time efficient, but not even remotely conducive towards good pictures, with only one shot in twenty being worth keeping. That said, a few of those turned out extremely well, proving that luck is at least as important as skill when capturing rides.

From there I went to the Beast, which I'm sorry to say was in very poor shape. The tracking was quite rough throughout, despite the application of two trim brakes that burnt off much of the speed. Though I rode a second time it was only because my season pass allowed me to do so without having to rejoin the queue; I don't think I'd have bothered waiting for it otherwise. Hopefully it'll get some overdue care during the winter season before it hurts someone.

Though spin rides are not my forte I decided that I'd make an exception for Tomb Raider: The Ride, as online reviews had suggested that it was not to be missed. The hardware was that of a Huss Rides Giant Top Spin, and I'd probably have liked it well enough if it had been operated in the same way as standard sized models. Unfortunately the programme in use today featured some extremely harsh stops that were not kind at all on the groin area of those riding, and though the theming was superb it was impossible to enjoy as I had to keep bracing myself for the next movement. The presence of car keys inside a zipped pocket made a bad situation worse, and it was a relief when the cycle came to an end.

Tomb Raider

There were several hours to go before the park closed for the evening, but several mediocre rides in a row had taken their toll on my stamina, and given that I decided that I'd begin making my way in the general direction of the exit. I stopped for a lap on both Italian Job Stunt Track and Racer (forwards) before winding up at Drop Zone, which I decided to repeat to see if I could survive it without a nerve attack. I'm pleased to say that I succeeded, proving that big drop towers are no longer a problem for me.