Drove in my driveway last night from a very exhausting but amazing weekend trip to Mason, OH, the home of Kings Island amusement park, where I met up with my friends Matt and Alex for Coasterstock 2017.
Coasterstock is an annual roller coaster enthusiast event put on Kings Island, and it includes behind-the-scenes tours, presentations, and exclusive ride time on some of the park’s rides before and after regular park hours. This year’s event also included free drink wristbands, a Mystic Timbers drawstring bag, a free 2-day FunPix pass, and a Coasterstock t-shirt with the Mystic Timbers logo on it. One of the many reasons Coasterstock is awesome.
Of course the new hotness this year is Mystic Timbers, the park’s brand new wooden coaster built by Great Coasters International, and what a ride it is. I’ll save my review on it for a separate post later, but I’ll just go ahead and say it’s the coaster I’ve been patiently waiting to come to Kings Island for a long, long time.
I arrived in Mason on Thursday to ride Timbers a few times before the event started the next day. Check in for the event began VERY early Friday morning at 6:30am. I got in line, got my stuff, and headed into the park where ERT (exclusive ride time) began on Banshee, The Bat, Delirium, Drop Tower, and Adventure Express at 8:30am. Unfortunately Adventure Express was down that morning, so we had to wait to ride it later in the day.
Lunch was provided in the the park’s Picnic Grove area where they served burgers and hot dogs, and the speaker for the lunch presentation was Logan Joiner and his father. Logan has autism and struggled a lot with sensory overload in his early childhood, but one day he discovered his newfound love for roller coasters through YouTube, and after being scared of the idea of actually riding one, he gathered the courage to finally visit a park and do it. Some 200+ roller coasters later, Logan has become much more confident, open, and social. His father mentioned that he started doing much better in school after he started riding coasters. Logan has also started a YouTube channel called Koaster Kids, where he visits parks, rides coasters, and ranks them on a scale of 1 to 5 screams, and encourages kids with disabilities to get out there and “Be brave!” I gotta say, I had heard about the Koaster Kids channel, but I had no idea that Logan had autism, and I think it’s super inspiring that he overcame so much of his struggles just by riding coasters. I couldn’t understand why he had gained such a huge following so quickly, but now I get it. Way to go, Logan!
After lunch it was over to the Blackout haunt building for a lights-on tour. Blackout is one of many Haunt mazes guests can walk through during the Halloween season. This particular maze is unique because it is completely dark inside, the walls have different types of creepy feeling textures, and lights will flash on actors and props when you walk close to them. Normally I absolutely hate haunted mazes, but this was something I couldn’t pass up, and it was a really interesting tour.
The next thing on the bill was a backstage tour of Diamondback, the park’s huge hyper coaster. However, that tour was cancelled due to a storm that rolled through the area. My friends and I were waiting to ride Diamondback before the tour would start, ready to walk over after our ride, but of course the ride went down because of lightning, and so did most of the park, so we just got comfortable in the station and waited it out. After a couple of hours, the ride opened again, we rode, and continued on with our day.
Thankfully by the time the park closed, the skies cleared out and gave way for some pleasant, albeit chilly, weather for night time ERT, which included Mystic Timbers, The Beast, Diamondback, and Flying Ace Aerial Chase (one of the parks family coasters). All great rides to ride at night. Timbers was especially cool, because the rain created mist that rose from the White Water Canyon rapids ride and covered half the coaster in fog. It was very eerie and awesome.
ERT the next morning was in the Coney Mall section of the park, featuring The Racer, Flight of Fear, the Zephyr swings, and the Dodgem bumper cars. I arrived a few minutes late so my friends were already riding stuff when I walked in, but I joined them and we continued riding. Flight of Fear, an indoor launched coaster in the dark, was running every other cycle with its lights on, an experience the general public typically never gets to see. Although the ride in some ways is a little more scary when you can see it, because it’s just a huge twisted mass of steel that comes VERY close to your head in several places haha.
We were on our own for lunch on this day, so I decided to try the BBQ Bacon grilled cheese sandwich at the new Tom and Chee location, where they take a grilled cheese and put bacon, bbq chips, and bbq sauce in it. It instantly became my favorite food item in the park as it was quite delicious.
One of the highlights of every Coasterstock is the backstage Beast tour. The Beast of course being the park’s landmark wooden coaster tucked away in the woods. We got to walk way back into the ride area and got some amazing views of the coaster that regular guests don’t get to see. Don Helbig, the park’s PR manager, held a quick presentation talking a little bit about the ride’s history as well as some fun facts about the ride while back there.
Because Friday’s Diamondback tour was cancelled due to weather, Don offered it on Saturday just before dinner, so he took us back behind the Crypt building to get a great view of both Diamondback and Mystic Timbers.
Dinner was provided that evening in the picnic grove. One of the speakers for this day was Jeff Pike, Co-Founder and President of Skyline Attractions and former lead design engineer for Great Coasters International. Now I’m a huge geek when it comes to designing roller coasters. I love figuring out how they work, how they are built, and how they are designed, so this presentation was my favorite of the entire weekend. Despite the fact that Jeff is no longer a GCI employee, he still does design work for the company. In fact, the final design of Mystic Timbers was created by Jeff. He went on to explain some of the challenges that came with the project, including how he had to reroute a section of track after accidentally going outside the ride’s boundary line. Fascinating stuff. He also told his story about how he got into the industry, and how he slowly worked his way to becoming a roller coaster designer.
So Alex and Matt and I made our way to the back of the park to prepare for Saturday’s ERT. We were sitting in Rivertown and had some LaRosa’s pizza to munch on when the skies opened. Right at park closing, a big storm rolled through. Heavy rains, lots of lightning and thunder, the whole package. Several attendees bailed early because they thought there would be no ERT, but we decided to stick it out and wait. It turned out to be a great idea, because at around 11:30pm, Diamondback started cycling trains. My friends and I all rushed to jump in line at Mystic Timbers, which wasn’t quite ready yet, and the ride host told all of us to go to The Beast, which was running, so we all ran that direction and had a very wet but memorable night ride on The Beast. By that time Timbers was ready, so we rode that, then made our way to Diamondback, which unfortunately already went down by the time we got to it, so we finished our Coasterstock with one final ride on Mystic Timbers.
I had a blast. My friends had a blast. Everyone at Coasterstock seemed to have a blast. Kings Island really knows how to treat us coaster enthusiasts well. A huge thanks to Kings Island for hosting an amazing event year after year.
Until next time, I’ll catch you in the front seat!