Everyone who will admit to knowing me knows that I live in Southern California, not too far from the ocean. Beaches galore, but nary a boardwalk. So which boardwalk did I visit? The one at Knott's Berry Farm, where else?
Of course, everyone knows that Knott's Berry Farm is not on the beachfront, so why would there be a boardwalk at Knott's? It's called a "themed area," and I have to admit that Knott's did this one fairly well. The colors, the food, the overall atmosphere all combine to make you feel like you're just a few steps from the big blue Pacific, even though you're actually miles from there.
The next mystery is why am I at Knott's boardwalk—more correctly, "The Boardwalk." It all started a few weeks ago when I got an e-mail from Knott's announcing a preview of their three new-for-2013 attractions. The e-mail said that they were having this preview on June 15 and that there were limited spots open, so hurry and register. So I hurried and registered, nearly breaking a hip in the process. Then I got a confirmation e-mail with attached documents, including instructions as to where to park and check in, as well as a parking pass that needed to be printed so I could present it to the guy at the toll booth and park for free that day. We also got free admission to Knott's for the event and were allowed to stay for the entire day, compliments of the park.
So, Saturday, June 15, 2013 arrives and I get up at 6am to leave the house at 6:30am to be at Knott's by the 8am time they requested. It was easy to park; all I had to do is show the parking pass, not surrender it. And I love getting parking spaces like this one:
My little car in its GIGANTIC parking space. How much you want to bet that the white Expedition to my left had a little space envy? Hmmm?
I walked up to the Western Avenue gate to check in and was asked which company I'm with. "I'm not with any company," I told her. "Oh, then you must be with ACE," she said. In all of the stuff related to this event, I couldn't remember anything about ACE, but I just said, "OK, that must be it..." After finding some of my ACE pals scattered about, I learned that the park had wanted ACE members in attendance, since we are the world's experts on roller coasters and theme parks. [laughter] Well, OK, not experts, per se, but we know more than the general public about these things. After all, it's our hobby.
The first order of business was to get something eat. Eating is something for which most ACE members are known. Our so-called "continental breakfast" was being served in the Boardwalk Ballroom and our wristband would get us in. This "continental breakfast" included eggs (yeah, I had lots...), made to order omelets, waffles, pastries, bacon, sausage, fruit, juice, coffee, soda, and probably a bunch of stuff I left out. When I think "continental breakfast," I think "pastry and juice. Now get out of here."
It's probably the backwards way of doing things, but after eating a good breakfast, I headed for the thrill rides! First up was the new coaster, Coast Rider. Now this is a funny name because right across the park is a huge wooden coaster known as "GhostRider." (I rode GhostRider; more on that later.) Coast Rider is a wild mouse coaster from Mack Rides GmbH in Germany. (If you go to that website, you'll have to translate it into English because it's in German. Or just learn German quickly...)
Coast Rider is actually a clone of the Technic Coaster at Legoland California in Carlsbad, just a few miles down the road from Knott's. This is a good model of the wild mouse, with extra drops and turns in addition to the usual switchbacks found on those rides.
Another ride that Knott's added to the new Boardwalk is a Larson Flying Scooters ride. For reasons unknown to me, I didn't take any pictures of that ride or the Scrambler that was added. But click here to get an idea of what type of ride it is. You may have seen or ridden one at some point. Today was the first time I'd ever ridden one and really kinda liked it. It only has eight gliders, each holding one regular sized person or two small ones, so what may look like a short line may be a horrendously long one. What happens is that the capsules begin rotating around the center of the ride, and you use a giant fin like a rudder to steer your glider with the wind. If you know what you're doing, you can get your glider to make some interesting moves.
The third ride they added was a Scrambler. Not a biggie because I think everyone has seen or ridden a Scrambler at some point. And this particular one has been in several different locations around the park. I didn't ride it during this visit because I wanted to focus on rides that I had not ridden.
Again, I failed to take pictures, but Knott's did just finish doing some major rehab on their classic Timber Mountain Log Ride, and it looks great. I only rode once—in my own log, in fact—and got wetter than I'd wanted to, so I stopped at one ride. They did a remarkable job. For a ride that is coming up on 44 years old, it's amazing.
Now that the new stuff was behind me, I wanted to ride a few old favorites. There were no lines at Xcelerator, and I didn't take any pictures when I rode it the one time. Want to see pictures of Xcelerator? Go here.
Boomerang got a pretty new paint job, the third one of its existence at Knott's, and I gave it a courtesy ride just so I can say that I've ridden it in all of its various paint schemes. Here it is all decked out in two shades of green, which replaced the previous green and purple:
Last year, Knott's added a huge new ride known as Windseeker. Windseeker is more or less a ride similar to the familiar chair swings that some parks and carnivals have. Only Windseeker goes way up toward the heavens. Some of the Cedar Fair parks installed a Windseeker while the few Six Flags parks that added similar attractions went with the more reliable Star Flyer rides. Unfortunately, the Windseeker rides were prototypes and have had a number of problems. (I like to joke that the riders were conceited—they were "stuck up" 300 feet in the air). At this time, they're working on coming up with some sort of rescue device so that if/when that happens again, they'll be able to get people down a lot faster.
Windseeker hasn't sought wind since sometime in 2012. At least I got to ride it twice before it went out of service. I hope to ride it again sometime.
And, finally, there's GhostRider. When it opened in 1998, it was hands down my favorite wooden coaster. (Just to be fair, I've only ridden about seven, so it was an easy choice.) It has a great layout, had fantastic airtime, and just left you wanting to ride it over and over. And then...stuff happened. Roller coastery stuff. Any roller coaster made of wood requires an extraordinary amount of maintenance to keep it running smoothly. Each day before a park opens, a team of carpenters and/or mechanics walk every inch of track looking for loose bolts and nails, loose or broken wood, and any other things that will not allow the ride to run safely or smoothly. Boards are replaced, nails/bolts are replaced or hammered in, and test runs of the trains are made. Each year, trains are taken completely apart to have parts inspected and replaced to factory standards.
As with almost anything, some manufacturers are better than others at making stuff. The company that built GhostRider is no longer in business; its engineers and other staff splitting off into their own company. I can't say that it is flaws in the design or what, but each year, GhostRider gets more and more difficult to ride. What was once a smooth, airtime-filled ride is now a source of business for the local chiropractor. After my ride today, I had to check to see whether my kidneys were still intact. Now had my pancreas gone flying, that's no loss since the darned thing doesn't even work anymore. I'd like to see GhostRider get the majorest of major rehabs so it can run like it did in the early days. That way, the sign on the side of the building can be true once again:
My hat's off to the folks at Knott's and ACE for having this event. In these days of frustration for all sorts of things, a day at a theme park always lifts my spirits. As the Catawampus would say, "Moo."