Sunday, July 15th, 2007

Six o'clock came WAY too soon on Sunday morning after my late arrival home from Knoebels. But I knew that I definitely didn't want to be late since a Disney group that I am semi-affiliated with had organized a Storm Runner ERT, and I was invited! I quickly got showered, then repacked my bag and headed out. Of course I still had the wrong directions of how to get out of the hotel, so I drove around until I spotted the same stuff I had spotted the day before and found the highway I needed. The drive was very easy...refreshingly easy, actually! And I ended up arriving in the parking lot at 8:45, with the ERT scheduled to begin at 9:30. I munched on a cereal bar and a small bag of cookies for another "breakfast of champions."


Hooray for chocolate themed parks!

My friend Tracy from Cape Cod was gonna be there, as well as my friends Amanda and Brian from Delaware. So at about 9:00, I got a call from Tracy saying that she was gonna be late because her roommate couldn't find her car keys. I went on up to the front gate, and decided that my cereal bar and cookies just weren't gonna cut it, so I hopped into Dunkin Donuts and got an egg and cheese bagel breakfast sandwich. Yum.

Long story short is that Tracy, Amanda and Brian ended up showing up at 9:45, so a group of us had to get a special security walkback back to Storm Runner since the main group had already left. When we got there, I bet there weren't 25 members of the group there, and they weren't even dispatching trains that quickly.

Tracy and I sat in the back row, and ended up sitting in the train for a few minutes before the ride started. The second time around, we actually sat there, all strapped in and ready to go, until the ERT was over and the GP was able to fill the rest of the train! We could have at least gotten in one more ride, maybe two, if the crew hadn't just sat there.

The ride, though, was awesome! The tophat gave a great view of the park without being so scary that you didn't want to look down! And the inversions were so smooth...wow what a great ride. I don't think the other three in my group were diggin' it as much as I was, since I could have easily stayed on it quite a few more times. The only complaint would be that the ride was so short...I guess that's what you get when you have a ride that fast.

At the end of my first ride, I heard someone say "Julie?" I didn't know who it was, but he quickly introduced himself as Leaping La Ronde Boobis from TPR! If I'd noticed him sooner, I would have recognized that TPR t-shirt! We exchanged a quick hello, but before he went down the exit, he told me to meet him at the entrance after the ride so we could take the obligatory "I randomly spotted another TPR member in a park" photo. Then when I left, I couldn't find him! Oh well, his loss ;-)

My next strategy was to split from the group for a bit and get the Roller Soaker credit as soon as it opened, so I could hopefully get on and off without being completely drenched by waiting in line or having cannons shot at me. When I arrived, it wasn't open yet, so I had to wait about 10 minutes for maintenance to be done. But when it opened, I was the first one on the ride.

I still got pretty wet, but not nearly as wet as if all the cannons had been manned, and people on the ride were dropping water on me as I waited!


Woah! Hershey does *not* play around with their rapids ride!!

I scurried to meet back up with the rest of my group, and when I caught them, they were just about to ride the monorail.


Amanda and Brian, kicking back on the monorail

It was kinda nice since it served as a fun blow dryer to dry me off after Roller Soaker haha. It was a nice ride, and showed quite a bit outside the park, which I wasn't expecting. After the ride, we hopped next door and rode Extreme Cup Challenge, with maybe a 15 minute wait. I thought the ride was kinda crappy...kudos for putting in a dark ride, but poo-poo on them for not making it more advanced (especially considering how fantastic the dark ride is in Chocolate World! But more on that later!).


The Milton Hershey fountain

I said that I was really hoping to get on another coaster pretty soon since the GP was pouring in and wait times were gonna get crazy soon. So we all decided to go ride Great Bear. Along the way we spotted some Disney friends, so we stopped to chat, then found a restroom. While pausing for the restroom break, Amanda said that Brian wasn't feeling good and needed a break. So at that point, I split from the group since I was getting worried about getting all the credits in (we'd passed Comet on the way to the bathroom and it was posted at a 45 minute wait!).

I hung around the area for a bit taking photos of Storm Runner.

That is one incredibly photogenic coaster, and I love how there are so many walkways all around it. It really lends itself to taking a great photo.

Since it was right there, I rode Trailblazer, which thankfully had no wait. From there I headed back out into Comet Hollow.

Hoping that I was catching it in a lull, I went ahead and got in line for Comet just in case the line exploded later. It was a really hot, really long 45 minute wait, but at least watching Great Bear made the time go by. I thought the ride was great though. It was a lot longer than I thought since you can't see that dogleg off to the side from anywhere. I wasn't expecting much from this coaster, but it turned out to be great...setting the tone for all of the park's woodies that day!

About an hour after originally planned, I was finally on my way to Great Bear. The guy at the entrance said that the wait was about 35 minutes...and he was exactly right! This wait wasn't so bad, I guess because it's all shaded and I had an interesting family in front of me that I could eaves drop on hahaha. I thought this ride was excellent as well, with the interesting helix right after the lift. I didn't think the ending was all that strange, which is something that a lot of people complain about. I was also happy to have rounded out the credit collection of coasters pictured on my personal checks hehe.

Since it was next door, I headed for Sooperdooperlooper next, but got sidetracked by taking photos along the way. I probably spent close to a half hour just taking photos of Sooperdooperlooper and Great Bear since the entire area was so scenic.


Great Bear


Sooperdooperlooper

When I finally rode, I rode near the back, and kind of concluded that if Schwarzkopf ever made a looping mine train, this would be it. It just sort of meandered through the trees, and took it's time doing everything. It wasn't very thrilling, but would be a great starter looping coaster for a burgeoning enthusiast.

Wanting to get off my feet for a little bit, I decided to ride the chairlift over the lake next. While I was waiting to load, some teenage girl started to freak out about how high it was, and the chair almost knocked her off the end of the platform! The ride op ran over and e-stopped it just in time, else she'd have been toast! Aside from that near scare, the ride was pleasant, though I'm pretty sure Great Bear was broken down during my ride, hence I wasn't able to get any more good pics of it.

The skies were starting to get dark, but I trudged on towards the Boardwalk area in hopes that the coasters back there were open. After making the entire walk back there, I got there just as everything started to close because of lightning. It was about 2:00, and I called Tracy to see if she, Amanda and Brian had had lunch yet. She said that they had, and that Amanda and Brian had already left for the day. She was on her way to ZooAmerica, and I said I would meet her, but then remembered that I was hungry and needed lunch first. So we ultimately decided to do our own thing for the moment and we'd meet up later before she left for the day.


"It's not a prairie dog!"

The first place I passed that looked good was Mixed Grille, where I found a huge chicken Caesar wrap. When I asked for a glass if ice water to drink, I was given basically a dixie cup of water. I'm not sure how I'm supposed to stay hydrated with that! So I ended up getting a big pink lemonade instead. Since it was lightly raining, all the seats at tables with umbrellas were taken, so I found an empty spot on a rock ledge underneath a tree and ate there. Just my luck, this ended up being directly next to a speaker that played loud country music the entire time I was eating! Ugh! Didn't really want to sit out in the rain and eat though, so I didn't have much of a choice!

Since everything was still closed, I decided that it was a good time to check out the ride inside Chocolate World, so I left the park and headed that way. It was pretty crowded once I got there...obviously I wasn't the only one who had that idea! The line for the ride was long too, backed almost all the way up to the entrance to the ride. The ride itself was really awesome though! It was just like old school Epcot in that it was educational, complex and really, really fun! I didn't know there were so many steps to chocolate making! And the ride was really long...much longer than most other conventional dark rides. So awesome...definitely do not miss this ride if you visit Hershey!


Yummiest wall ever.

When I was in the ride, Tracy called to say that she was leaving, so I said that I would intercept her on her way to the parking lot. We met up outside of Chocolate World and said our goodbyes. I also tried to call Kevin so she could talk to him, but I got his voicemail (turned out that I had called his house phone...that explains the woman's voice on the voicemail! haha). Afterwards, the sky was clearing up, so I went back into the park and headed back to the Boardwalk area again, hoping to clean up the rest of my credits.

The first ride I went for was Wildcat, which had maybe a 15 minute wait. Before the trip, I'd read some old trip reports from the last couple of seasons that talked about how bad Wildcat used to be, but how much better it was running with the Millennium Flyer trains.

I can't speak for how the ride used to ride, but now it was really good! It was a very solid ride, and it wasn't uncomfortable at all. Definitely an all around quality woodie. I'm sure the new trains make all the difference, since riding on a Millennium Flyer is like riding on a leather sofa! As I was leaving, I heard a girl near me say "That's not as bad as I remember it" haha. Then, I hopped next door and grabbed my credit on the wild mouse.

Just down the way was Lightning Racer, so I queued first for the Lightning side. I hadn't given much thought at all to this ride before hand, but this ended up being the sleeper hit of the trip! This ride was fantastic! It reminded me of the CCIs from early in the decade like Stampida...fast, powerful, crazy and extremely fun. Not qualities that I generally associate with GCI!

As soon as Lightning was done, I ran around and got my ride on Thunder, then hung around for a bit taking photos. I couldn't believe how these coasters had come out of nowhere and been overwhelmingly my favorites in the park, and most definitely in my top 10 wood overall.


Uh, what about Twisted Twins? It has two tracks that race and duel.

It was getting late, so I grabbed a ride on the Ferris wheel so I could make sure to get good photos while it was still light. It gave me a great view of Lightning Racer, as well as the water park area of the boardwalk. The play structure looked really fun except that the lines for all the slides were so long. And the lines for the funnel and the bowl...wow...they stretched almost back to Roller Soaker! Holy cow, I just can't imagine that the rides would be worth that kind of wait!

The last credit left in the park was the boomerang, which was left until last just in case I needed to cut one out because of time.

I waited longer to get some photos of the ride than I waited to actually ride it! I find it funny that I enjoy the first drop on boomerangs so much, eventhough it goes from a dead stop and isn't all that big. This ride didn't tear me up as much as I thought it might, much like Alabama Adventure's Zoomerang. Could have been that front seat of the back car seat choice though hehe.

There were only three rides left on my agenda by this point, so I hiked it up the hill to the Kissing Tower for a ride. I always enjoy this kind of ride, despite the tween boy next to me who was kicking his feet all over the window while I was obviously trying to take photos! I wish it wasn't illegal to assault other people's kids.


The Hershey chocolate factory as seen from the Kissing Tower

I was getting hungry, so I found a nearby cafeteria that looked good for dinner. They had lots of nice looking choices, but I ultimately decided on a chicken parmesan sub. As the girl made it, she just kept piling on the chicken and piling on the chicken, and by the time she was done, the sandwich was HUGE! And it was piled with gooey, melty cheese. The guy at the drink station refilled my water bottle with icy cold water, and I proceeded to down as much of my sandwich as I could. It was so good...easily enough for two people as well.

It was fairly dark by the end of dinner, and I was getting kinda tired. I got in line for the flyers next, and only waited through one cycle before my ride. On their own, they were a good ride, but considering that I'd ridden the Knoebels flyers the day before, they just didn't deliver. Y'know, I don't think any flyers will ever deliver again after Knoebels! The last ride I had in my sights was the Dry Gulch railroad. In one particularly noisy tunnel, Allan called, so I just yelled "I'm on a ride! I'll call you back!" as if it wasn't obvious that I couldn't talk right then haha

After the ride, I chatted with Allan for a while, finalizing plans for meeting up the following day at Dorney. When we were done, I made a stop at the bathroom, then headed for the exit. On the way out, I stopped in a gift shop and got myself a little smiling Hershey's kiss magnet, and got some gold kiss earrings for my mom. I also ended up getting lost on the way back out to my car haha I knew that I'd parked close, but I walked around the lot closest to the park and I wasn't there. So I rode the tram round trip, but still didn't see my car! The tram driver said that they would slow down by one of the closer lots and let me see if I was there, and I was. It was farther than I remembered it being that morning...I guess I just had my sights on the credits instead of where I parked! haha

As was par for the course, my directions were crap, so I ended up driving around aimlessly until I found my hotel, which was the Red Carpet Inn Hershey. My first instinct was that this hotel was bad news. It was a one story motor lodge where you park right outside your door, and it had a two story part to the building near the front. In Nashville, hotels that look like this are where they bust the prostitution rings and meth labs! But against my better judgment, I went and checked in. I was given a room that was one room away from the street, which made me pretty uncomfortable, but again, I ignored my judgment and took it. I moved EVERYTHING into the room since I didn't want anything I might need to stay in the car overnight!

The room only had a window unit air conditioner, but it had a microwave and fridge as well. The carpet was old and gross, the bed was rock hard and you could feel every spring, and the bathroom sink was sitting right where a night stand should normally be! But y'know, this room was $65ish, where everything else in the area was well over $200, so I didn't feel like I could complain too much. So I settled in a bit, got some ice water, and watched some King of Queens.

After 45 minutes, my doorknob beings to shake and unlock, and someone tried to push their way into my room! In a panic, I ran to the door and threw my body weight against it, but the person on the other side kept shaking at the doorknob. I screamed "Stay away from my door! Who are you?" and the person calmly said "I just checked into this room." I yelled "No you didn't! I'm in this room!" then immediately ran to the phone and called the desk. I was pretty well livid when I got the manager on the phone and told him that someone had just tried to get into my room. His response..."The person who had that room last night must have kept the key. Just use your deadbolt." Uh, no! On the other end of the phone, I heard the people go back to the office and go "Someone's in that room." The conversation from there was that the manager said he'd checked them into one of the second floor rooms, and the people said that he'd checked them into my room. Once he was done getting them straightened away, I was furious and screaming at him that I was now terrified to stay there because who knows who else might have walked away with a key to that room!

After screaming about how unsafe I felt, and him responding talking about how I should use my deadbolt, I told him that he was giving me my money back and that I was going somewhere else. I quickly packed up everything in the room, throwing stuff into whatever bag had room at the time, and tossed everything into my trunk. I stormed to the desk where I slammed the key down on the desk, snatched my money back from him and left. As quickly as I could, I got in my car and went to the nearby CVS, having no clue what I was gonna be doing about sleeping arrangements that night.

After a few seconds of sitting there, I realized just how dangerous that situation could have been. What if I hadn't had the door deadbolted? What if the wrong person had come barging into my room? Once it sunk it that I had really avoided a pretty scary situation, I started to cry...partially because I'd been scared so bad, partially because I didn't want it to happen again now that I was homeless for the night. I called Kevin to see if he could help me, and he tried his best to calm me down. He reminded me that Tracy had a spare bed in her room in Harrisburg, and that I should call and ask her if I could stay there. So I called her, and she didn't hesitate to say yes since she could tell that I was pretty shaken up by the whole thing. She gave me directions to her hotel, then I got back on the phone with Kevin, and he helped to calm me down as I drove the half hour to Harrisburg.

By the time I got there, I was fairly calmed down, and it was good to be staying with someone else that night! I thanked her profusely for coming to the rescue, then bought a Coke and tried to relax in bed. Her hotel had sleep number beds, so I played with that for a bit (very cool concept, though the bed leaves a stiff ring around the outside when the bed is soft...makes it uncomfortable to get in and out of). Eventually I fell asleep, and slept remarkably soundly considering the events of the night.

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