Cedar Fair Parks Tour: Canada’s Wonderland

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Our schedule for touring the parks also had a few other events on it to be planned around. That is why we didn’t hit Carowinds in the Carolinas nor Dorney Park in Pennsylvania.  Our next park was on Saturday, July 8 in Vaughn Canada: Canada’s Wonderland.

We left Buffalo that morning, and with generally clear driving made it to the park around 11:30 a.m. (our greatest delay was the line at the border to Canada, where our passports all passed muster for entry.) The parking lot was big, and modestly full. There was no instruction on parking, and finding a good spot to park took a little time working our way through the rows of people stopping at odd spots instead of near someplace where they could park.

Canada’s Wonderland was designed on a similar model to King’s Dominion and King’s Island. The entry gate presents you with a view of an entry street – an international street – but unlike the other two parks, the street and its central fountain ends in a “Wonder Mountain” instead of an Eiffel Tower replica.

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We entered the park, enjoyed the street, and had one of our first typically Canadian experiences. A gentleman who saw us there offered to take our pictures as a family, on the bridge across the stream, with the mountain in the background. Once we got our photos, I reciprocated for him and his family.

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With that done, we went back down the street and started a clockwise rotation of the rides in the park that we were most interested in. Flight Deck was the first ride we tried. It was an intense ride, but not especially appealing to us. But what it did do, was give us a good view of the Time Warp, a ride where you go through the ride lying on your stomach in a prone position.  Besides the position you ride the coaster, it has an interesting circular mechanism that hoists you up a circle to start the ride instead of the usual first hill.

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Among other rides that we hit were the Sky Hawk, which had wings you could orient to flip yourself over 360 degrees while flying.  Nathan and I came close, he more than me, but never quite made it over.  He was trying, I got so far and decided that was enough fun.

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And then there was the Fly, our second experience with a Mouse Trap-style roller coaster. My favorite coaster was torn between the Time Warp and The Fly.

Starting a couple of hours after opening, we spent our time in the amusement park section, and didn’t get to the water park, so I can’t make any comments about it.  We had sort of looped one side of the park, coming back toward the Wonder Mountain, and I noticed the sign for the Victoria Falls Divers. We were about 30 minutes to the next show, so we decided to move on and do lunch.

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Before we did lunch we went over to the International Buffet. Even on the food plan it has a $5 CAD upcharge per person, but we had seen it online and thought it might be interesting to do for supper When we got there, it was closed/reserved for a special function/group, and would open around 4 p.m. But they let me peak inside the door to see what it looked like, and I decided we wanted to try it for supper.

By this point we were hungry, and started wandering through the Medieval Faire section looking for lunch, and finding long lines.  We started a search for reasonable lines that led us into Planet Snoopy and a modest gem: Snoopy’s Suppertime. They served chicken fingers, grilled cheese, wraps and hot dogs, per the park program.  They also served mac and cheese. I had the mac and cheese with chicken, with was a large and satisfying sample.  The grilled cheese and turkey sandwich was ordinary but suitable, and the other two had hot dog combos.

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After working through Planet Snoopy and Kidzville, we came out onto a plaza near a “My Canada” video show that celebrated the 150th anniversary of Canada.  Very few people were in the line, which was a shame, since it was a wonderful expression of Canada. Our only other comment was how many of the scenes, Canadians talking about themselves. Featured snow.

We then started a reverse circle around the mountain, and hit the Mountain Guardian and Thunder Run. The Thunder Run train was a fun fast ride that went twice around its short track.

The Mountain Guardian was the unexpected ride.  Its line snaked into the mountain, so you didn’t know how long it was, but it wasn’t a bad wait.  There was an explanatory video that I didn’t understand as well as I should. When we got into our cars, which were four seats back to back, two on a side, we had some osrt of light sensor guns in front of us, and used them at various points on the ride where it momentarily stopped or slowed down, to shoot various vr creatures.

The cars of 4 passengers traveled in pairs of two. Both Nathan and I got the high score (it was scored) for our car, though Nathan’s score was much higher than mine.  I just shot at anything that moved.  Afterward we discussed whether the coins got you points as well. I only know that it was hard to be certain where you were aiming, and whether it was you or someone else that hit the creature that disintegrated. But it was fun.

About this time we were headed by the Victoria falls again, near the time for its final diving show. We probably would have enjoyed any of the earlier shows better.  They wasted 5 minutes with dramatic music and talking before finally getting to the diving, and in that five minutes the sun had crept into the perfect spot to put glare in your eyes when you tried to look up at the divers.  Anticlamatic.

We then went over to the International Buffet. Only to be told they had closed the seating at 6 p.m., and the next would open at 7:30 p.m. So we wandered around a bit, finding the Dragon Fire’s obscured entrance, among other things, and then returned about 6:45 p.m., when we got in the forming line.

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The guy behind us mentioned having been at the buffet several times in the year, and this being the first time he had ever been in a line.  So we waited about 45 minutes – our longest line of the day. But the international buffet was worth it. I recommend you check it out if you make it to Canada’s Wonderland.

All in all, a nice day, though if we had gotten there at opening, with time to try the water park section, it might have been an even fuller experience.

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One side note to mention.  Canada’s Wonderland has something we hadn’t seen before on its soda-only stations.  Their Refresh fountains also had Freestyle machines at the same stop. Wish we had that back home!

I had been to Canada’s Wonderland once before, near when it first opened in 1981. The one thing my mother remembered most about the park was the log flume ride that we really enjoyed and rode several times.  I never did find it, and research afterwards confirmed that it had been near the park entrance, but was eventually replaced by the Flight Deck.  Not everything we remember fondly is always there when you go back.  Which is not a bad thing, just a fact.

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Cedar Fair Parks Tour: King’s Dominion

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After our sojourn to LibertyCon 2017, the family started our second sojourn of the summer: a tour of Cedar Fair amusement parks.

We began the tour in Virginia with King’s Dominion amusement park, Doswell, VA.

We traveled to King’s Dominion on Monday, July 3, getting to the park for the first time during the early evening.

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King’s Dominion has a reserved parking area for gold and platinum passholders.  It seemed like a good idea, so we parked there.  The section was pretty full, but it was closer both to the park entrance and to the exit of the parking lot, which we assumed would make it easier both to enter and to leave the park.

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King’s Dominion is a sister park in design to both King’s Island and Canada’s Wonderland. When you enter the gate at both King’s Island and King’s Dominion you look down an international street with a fountain in the center that leads you to a view of a replica of the Eiffel tower.

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The Eiffel Tower is a great way to get a view of the park.  We rode that up and walked around the observation deck, taking aerial photos of the park.

After the Eiffel Tower we took a look at the map to decide where we wanted to eat. The map listed food locations and which ones were on the dining plan, but we didn’t find a sheet that said what foods were on the dining plan at each location, though it did mention the types of foods served. We found a Country Kitchen that served chicken on the plan that sounded different than the foods we could get at Worlds of Fun, so decided to try it (it had a Country Kitchen Grill next door, not on the plan, that served turkey legs – turkey legs do not appear to be on the plan anywhere we noticed them).

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The line wasn’t bad when we got there – about a 10-15 minute length – and so we waited in line 30 minutes. Some of it was a delay for food to be cooked; the demand wasn’t extreme enough for them to run out, except they hadn’t cooked enough ahead to stay up with it. The rest of the delay was the service staff. A new, full pan of chicken would be brought out, and instead of pulling the old, almost empty tray out, putting the new one in, and transferring the few remaining pieces, the person transferred the pieces from the new pan one or two at a time to the old pan. This took forever.

They had pictures on the menus of fried chicken and roasted chicken. I was going to order roasted, until I saw it.  The fried chicken looked as good as its picture; the roasted chicken did not look as good as its picture.

But once they had chicken, and we were able to place our orders, get our sides, and go on up to the second floor balcony seating to eat, it was a meal worth eating.

After our meal we did a little more strolling, then took in a couple of rides.

There is a style of roller coaster that we call the “mouse trap” – the pattern looks a little like the game Mouse Trap. We found it at several parks, and the one at King’s Dominion was called the Ricochet. It isn’t an intense roller coaster, but it is a perfect one. It does with subtle sudden turns and moderate forces what other roller coasters attempt to achieve with extreme turns and speeds and forces – and does it better than the extreme ones – at least in our opinion.

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We were thinking what we could do before heading over to the recommended location for watching the fireworks. We were near the “Blue Ridge Tollway” taxi ride, and figured we would have enough time to ride it before the fireworks.

When we were ready to get on, we were delayed a couple of minutes while they got a car started that was having troubles, but soon were on our way.

The Blue Ridge Tollway goes through a wooded area, and we were halfway through the course when the can with problems had problems again, and got stopped on the trail.  We were out of sight of the park employees, but were able to wave down a passing patron that we asked to let know they were stuck. We assume the person told them, because soon they were over trying to get it started. Eventually they used the car behind it to push it along to the end.

With all the delay, we ended up being a lot closer to the fireworks time than we planned, but we made it to the suggested observation site.

It was a good evening for fireworks, and it was an enjoyable fireworks show. It would have been better with some sort of music in the park coordinated with the fireworks, or with a more orchestrated sense to the fireworks themselves. The fireworks seemed somewhat random, instead of orchestrated in any pattern towards a climax, but enjoyable nonetheless.

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After the fireworks we went to our car in the parking lot – the reserved parking for gold and platinum passholders. And there we sat for 50 minutes.  Everyone else in the parking lot got out, and we weren’t able to move. And when we finally were able to get out, instead of going to the near exit gate, where we had seen all the other traffic leave, they sent us out the long back way exit of the parking lot.

I am not sure whether it was Virginia drivers not giving other people a chance to get in and move, or whether it was park personnel directing traffic, but that was the worst time I have ever had leaving an event with parking back-up.

We were back on the fourth around opening, and spent the early morning hitting the roller coasters early, along with a few other rides for variety.  We did Dodgem, Intimidator 305, Flight of Fear, Avalanche, BackLot Stunt Coaster, then walked Candy Apple Grove to the Drop Tower.

We were going to ride the Americana, but were told it was closed/delayed for a moment of silence coming up at noon. This was 10 minutes prior to noon. So we waited and observed the moment of silence, which ended with a singing of the national anthem over the park speakers.  We stood up, hands over heart, as the national anthem came on, and watched as people realized and started to stand, or show other forms of respect for the anthem.

After that we did the Americana, Flying Eagles, Ssenandoah Lumber Co. and Rebel Yell, before having lunch at Outer Hanks Wayside Grill.

Then the afternoon was spent at the Soak city water park. There were nice slides, an enjoyable lazy river, and wave pools. I spent 30-45 minutes in line at Baja Bends listening to four military studs rib and jibe each other – especially the newlywed of them who had his wife, and eventually was pulled into their somewhat ribald conversation. Before the end – when we reached the top of the line and finally got to go down the slides – I made sure to thank them all for their service, and the most vocal of the group expressed his appreciation for my comments and conversation with them.

The Baja Bends slides are akin to the Diamond Head slides at Oceans of Fun for style and intensity of sliding, but the materials of the slides are much better – unlike Diamond Head you don’t get your back abraded by the slide when going down the Baja Bends.

The wave pools at King’s Island didn’t compare to the Surf City Wave Pool at Oceans of Fun – we didn’t find any other wave pool to compare on our trip.

After that we went back to the Pizza Parlor on the international street for supper, and then called it a day.

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We enjoyed our day at King’s Dominion, but they still have a lot to learn about audio control and sound zones.  There were too many places in the park where the sound from one ride or event overlapped another event or ride’s sound, and usually the volumes were too loud. Worlds of Fun had this issue in years past, but is getting smarter about it.  King’s Dominion still has some catching up to do.

On the food selections, King’s Dominion had a greater selection of food items.  What we didn’t find – though we may have missed it – was any selection that was a local/regional specialty for us to try.

Promo: Cedar Fair series coming up

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No look ahead promo this week. Still cruising Cedar Fair Parks.  But below is the update on the season dining plan:

Total Price Paid $497.44
Total Number of Meals 302
Total Retail $3,203.56
Average Price Per Meal $1.65
Total Drink Price 29.64
Total number of drinks 288
Total Retail $323.50
Average Price Per Drink $0.10

Expect next week to start a series overviewing  our tour of the Cedar Fair parks (the 5 we hit), what we did, enjoyed, and thought could be done better.

LibertyCon 2017 : thematic after action report

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Now that I have typed up daily reports on LibertyCon 2017, I want to do a slightly different look, thematic perspective on LibertyCon 2017:

  • Where is Sarah? – For those of us in the Hoyts Hun contingent, where Sarah was,  from her highly belated arrival (whose arrival wasn’t) on Thursday, through various other scheduled and other planned activities, Sarah sightings were easy for some, super scarce for others. Sarah herself doesn’t comprehend why so many people flock her way at these events.  We ourselves found her by accident outside a party on Saturday night, and then, finally, where she and Dan were scheduled on Sunday morning.
  • Food – The con staff in the con suite did an impressive job of having snacks, drinks and meals available during the con. There was plenty of sugary snacks, and meals on the scheduled times. My one observation was what percentage of the meals were vegetarian. We always came within the first section of the mealtime, only to find the vegetarian selection as the only thing left. They were tasty, but it seemed they over-estimated the vegetarian portion of the audience.
  • Costumes – LibertyCon isn’t a con that encourages a certain type of cosplay, but it does have a lot of people who wear various combinations of clothing that would look odd on the average street. In the video attached to this post you will see my daughter’s Griffin outfit in the first clip section.
  • Knives/weapons – Speaking of video, there is a part of my compilation that shows someone just pulling out a knife, and impressive knife, to open a package. This was a family con, one where some of the people take spare time to head out to the range to shoot a few rounds. No one is concerned about people with knives. I have no idea how many people might have been concealed carrying, and no one had a problem with that.

Ribbons – My first convention was last year, at WorldCon.  There a lot of different groups were passing out ribbons to attach to your name badge. LibertyCon didn’t have many of those, and most of them were functional.  We ended up with only two, one that said first timer, and the Usaian “scrap of flag”.  This, again, was due to the more family nature – we didn’t need to be  “tribe-signalling”  that we belonged to this or that group, because we all were already family, even the first-timers.

Sunday At LibertyCon 2017

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Session One: The Writing Hoyts

Sunday we started our day with what we had hoped to do on Thursday evening: See the Hoyts read. Every scheduled time we had seen on the schedule something had come up so they hadn’t been there; we had enjoyed the sessions, but missed the Hoyts.

We had a chance encounter with Sarah on Saturday evening (more in a future post), but the Sunday morning reading by her and Dan was definitely a gem.

I didn’t take enough notes to remember specifics, but the reading by Dan, about the farm boy made administrative assistant to the ruler of their planet in the interplanetary empire, the thoughts from his head rang very true to me as someone from a farming background.

Sarah’s reading was from Guardian, something she is working on jointly in the Monster Hunters International universe. It was an interesting snippet. After she explained the task she had been given to write, it was an even more impressive snippet, what she had made of the parameters.

Session Two: John Ringo

This meet the author session with John Ringo was interesting in different ways. We got to hear about the creations of many of his books, how the collaborations came about and worked.

But we also learned that even the great writers can have dry spells and get stuck.  His advice to a starting writer is to write (and finish) the book.  But he currently has something like seven books a third to a half complete, and stymied on where to go, or lacking motivation to work further at the moment.

He’s finding it hard at the moment to follow his advice, but assured us we can expect something coming “soon”.

Session Three: Closing Ceremonies

Unlike the brag on us session, and passing the baton to the next site, of the WorldCon closing session we attended last year, the closing session of a LibertyCon is a “Bitch at Brandy” session. I’m not sure of her title, but Brandy is the top person in charge of the LibertyCon organization, and it was very refreshing to see her, and her committee, sit there and listen to people’s feedback, and take notes on things they could do to make future cons better.

They also got a lot of positive comments from people about various things, which helped them know which items are going well and shouldn’t be meddled with.

The big news to come out of this session is the fact that, due to the transformation of the Chattanooga Choo Choo hotel into a residential condo complex, there are not enough rooms for con goers, and LibertyCon will be held elsewhere in the future.

But they don’t know where yet. It is an outside possibility that they might have to skip a year, if they can’t find a location soon enough. But LibertyCon will definitely continue.

Saturday at LibertyCon 2017

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Session One: Overcoming Writer’s Block

I would have to say, as a currently non-fiction writer, this session was probably one of the most enjoyable, and practical, ones I have sat in on so far. The panel of five addressed the issue of writer’s block.

They started with the process of how to “conquer” the first page. Suggestions included:

* Just start writing, even if garbage

* When stuck, lower your expectations

* Write a couple of sentences about where the story should end.

*  Start outlining and build characters.

* Build plot arcs, character connections “to the point they will pants on their own”.

For general blocks, not just the first, blank page, physical activity was recommended. One panelist mentioned water therapy: Shower, swim, etc. He even had crayons for writing ideas on the wall of the shower – so he wouldn’t lose them by the time he got out of the shower.

The water therapy led to an audience comment about  “hire someone to waterboard us”, to which the panelist replied he wouldn’t comment on the choice — if it was between consenting adults.

The authors discussed the need for conflict: create something your protagonist cares about, then threaten it, to give you ideas.

Rob Howell mentioned his tool/trick for coming up with ideas and motivations for characters that wouldn’t be just like him: The random article option on Wikipedia. He uses that to find out strange tidbits — odd things or ideas, which he puts aside, and then pulls from to compile a complex character with motivations that aren’t his own.

If these options fail, do something different, write something different and come back to this one later.

They also discussed “killing your darlings”, removing scenes that don’t move the story along. But never delete something you wrote; store it somewhere, you might be able to use it somewhere else, sometime else, or even in a later draft of the same story.

Session 2: Baen Roadshow

We took a two-hour block to attend the real carnival event of the convention: The Baen Travelling Road Show. This was my second road show, and the first one MC’d by Toni Weiskoff herself. One could describe it as a cross between a carnival and a family reunion.

As during the first roadshow I had attended, they gave away a lot of free books, and we didn’t get one of them. We didn’t fit into any of the special classes of people they gave books to, and we weren’t forward enough to make leading statements or questions that would garner us a book. We needed to be a bit wilder.

One of the astounding things about the Roadshow is exactly how many and how varied the books and authors published by Baen are. If you want a true example of toleration and diversity, Baen Books is an excellent example.

It was enjoyable hearing about the books, and seeing all the cover art versions they went through. It was enjoyable seeing and hearing from the various authors. Sometimes it almost seemed that the authors outnumbered the other attendees.

Session 3: Reading – Rob Howell and Dave Schroeder

We didn’t attend too many sessions, but as I mentioned previously, the readings were the best thing we found at this convention. The Saturday afternoon reading we attended featured author Rob Howell (whom we had met at WorldCon/MidAmericaCon last year), and Dave Schroeder.

Schroeder read a scene from his XenoTech series, about aliens who give us all the tech cures for Cancer, etc., but then we have to pay for tech support. The first person narrator had a very sharp wit and sense of humor that kept the reading lively.

He then read from a fantasy work that was a real tease about the loss and discovery of a magical talisman, and the trouble it will most likely make for a youth starting out on his coming-of-age walk-about year.

Howell read a very touching segment from his fourth book (first in series), set in the same world as his other books, about a magical ruler stepping down from ruling, and what giving up the magic of ruling does to her, and her three husbands. He expertly wove the pain of love and loss into the vignette he read.

Session 4: Launch party

This shouldn’t actually be called a session, since it was an out-of-programming book launch by Howell and some others. But we didn’t attend any other official session for the day, and so this was our climax, going through the party rooms and scrounging food while listening and talking about the books. The rooms and parties were full and packed, but we did manage to have a nice conversation with Rob and purchase his two new books, along with hearing about Ragnar’s Ale that a friend made for him to match how he described the ale in his first trilogy.

Friday at LibertyCon 2017

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Session 1: Stealth in Space

The first session/panel we hit was Stealth in Space. Which we were told would not work like the Romulan cloaking device.

Stealth is based on detection ability. If you use active sensors to try and detect someone else, be assured they can see you twice as far away as you can see them. In a gloabal environmen you have terrain and curvature, while in space everything is line of site. The key is to create terrain in space, to hide behind and within other things.

A defender has the example of knowing what is normal to the defense area, to be able to recognize something that is an anomaly. An attacker has to find a way to deceive, either by hiding emissions, or by overwhelming the data defender is receiving to hide within that. Can you blend? Can you mimic? Can you overload systems?

The vastness of space is a great place to hide from that perspective. Of course, as the panelists noticed, ocean battles seldom happened in the middle of the ocean. They usually occur near something that needs to be defended. Space battles likewise will most likely occur near planets, etc., that need to be defended.

I also learned some neat euphamisms:

* Kinetic Modalities — Missle/asteroid bombardment.

* Extreme Thermic Coupling — nuclear explosions.

Session 2: David Weber Reading

As I look through the sessions we attended, while G enjoyed the topical ones, I think the readings are actually the ones that we eljoyed the most. But it is much harder to communicate a reading; it is an experience.

David Weber, one of the big names in the Science Fiction universe, did a reading in the main theater, and offered us three options for what he would read. Two of the options involved snippets explaining elements of the life of Eloise Prichart; the third related to Honor Harrington directly. Honor Harrington won.

I haven’t been keeping up on the most recent Honorverse books like I intended to, so the scene, with its plethora of treecats and people in the same room was an interesting exchange. That, and seein Honor so actively using her Treecat-enabled empathic sense, that almost superhuman sense, was something of a change; but it was a very engaging scene, very Weberesque, and very well read by the author himself. I highly recommend hearing him if you ever get the chance.

Weber reads well, and he has a certain irreverent “statesman-like” persona that makes him a good representative of the SFF community.

Session 3: New Madrid Fault System (Stephanie Osborn)

This was a very interesting “hard” science session on the New Madrid fault system and its potential for generating earthquakes. Osborn presented it in a very accessible but not dumed down presentation that kept the facts interesting. The science was very good where present knowledge was concerned, but the assertions about events happening millions of years ago was presented as equally as valid, even though it is experimentally nor experientially impossible for geologists to scientifically prove such events — they fall outside the rules of Westernscience and can only be validated via historical methods. But aside froom this blind spot in her own scientific base, it was an enjoyable and informative time.

Session 4: Confluence of the Western and Science Fiction Genres

Our fourth session was a panel of authors discussing the commonalities of the Western genre and science fiction. What the conversation ultimately showed was the artificality of the divsions between genres.

Several of the panelists talked about how you emphasize various elements to bring the genres together, how you season the story.

The panelists suggested the following common elements between the genres:

* Struggle for survival

* Grit

* Fronteerism.

* Abandoning the structure of society; lack of the safety net

* Creating new societies in new places.

* Both allow for code of conduct stories.

Based on the above traits, the pannel opined that the Star Wars movie Rogue One is actually more of a Western than the original Star Trek series.

Session 5: Opening Ceremonies

The opening ceremonies was a bit of fun, the singing of the LibertyCon “theme song” (which I videoed), introducing the MC — Toni Weiskoff — and a reading of lists of guests and guests of honor. They were all long and stellar lists. And they managed to get through them all in the hour allotted.

Session 6: Straight Outta Tombstone

We didn’t attend any of the evening sessions until the final hour – a reading of a new anthology of stories about “weird westerns”. Our particular reason for this reading was to hear from Sarah Hoyt. But as per our fate up to this point of the convention our every chance of getting a Hoyt sighting proved elusive and unobtained.

Nevertheless, the reading from the anthology by David Boop and Peter Wacks were very interesting. This anthology had contributions from best-selling authors, written in their own created universes, the best of the best. The variety was amazing, while the quality uniformly excellent.