Thursday, July 30, 2015

Summer 2015 Road Trip, Part 4: Pittsburgh

7/16/2015 - Cincinnati to Pittsburgh; Clear 80s

Up at 7:30.  We got ready, but didn't actually leave until almost 10.  We tried to get breakfast, but it was way too crowded and nowhere near enough food.  Bad scene, and I felt badly for the overworked young lady working all by herself to prepare food, take care of people, and clean tables.  I don't usually do this, but I complained to the woman at the front desk.  Rather than be understanding, the lady there debated me to justify their poor service:  "Well, the hotel is completely full."  It was full the day before, too, and there wasn't a problem with breakfast.  Oh, well.  We headed out and went up the road a few miles and found a Frisch's Big Boy.  Wow, was it good!  We continued down the highway and arrived in Canton, OH, at the Pro Football Hall of Fame.  It was surprisingly crowded, but really cool, too.

Saw all of the enshrined Pittsburgh Steelers, and watched their movie about the season last completed (which ended with the New England Patriots winning the Super Bowl).  On to Pittsburgh!  Our lousy Garmin GPS gave us a lousy route again, so it was a LONG trip to Pittsburgh.  We finally stopped for dinner just outside of the city, and another Max & Erma's, at 7:30.  We made a quick stop at Target, then, after wrestling with a major road construction project on Route 51, we arrived at our semi-uncomfortable Comfort Inn.  On to bed at 11.  Lord, Thanks!

7/17/2015 - Kennywood!  West Mifflin, PA; Partly cloudy, rain, sunshine, 80s.

Up at 7:30.  Sleepy Melody up a little later.  We got ready and ate, then headed out to Kennywood!  Great day at the park, even with the occasional light drizzle, and that was completely gone by 3 p.m.  We rode all of the coasters:  The Racer, Thunderbolt, Phantom's Revenge, Sky Rocket, and the Jack Rabbit.  Just a great day.  We rode lots of other rides, too, like Noah's Ark, and we played games, took pictures, at good food, and we even rode the paddle boats.  We decided to call it a day at 7:30.

Back to hotel to turn in a little early...Hopefully we'll get some extra sleep.  We watched a little TV, read, and on to bed.  Lord, thanks!

7/18/2015 - Strip District, Station Square, and Highmark Stadium, Pittsburgh, PA; Clear, 80s.

Up at 7:30.  I got ready, but let Melody sleep a little extra.  I went down for breakfast and brought some back for Melody.  She got ready and we headed out to the Strip District.  We had a lot of fun walking around and wandering and street shopping.  It's like a big flea market.  We bought a few things.

We ate out on the deck at Roland's.  I had a pizza, and Melody had a salad.  Shopped a little more, then we headed back to our hotel to regroup and cool off.  Then it was off to Station Square, and Highmark Stadium, for Dejan Kovajevic's DK On Pittsburgh Sports Lunatic Bash!  DK gave all of his followers two free tickets to the Pittsburgh Riverhounds soccer match vs. Louisville.  We also saw Meghan Klingenberg, who was honored for the Women's US National Team's win in the World Cup.  She's a Pittsburgh native.  Great time!  We left shortly after halftime, then went to get dinner at Steak N Shake in Homestead.  Stopped at Target for ice cream and a couple of games.  Back to our Comfort Inn and we crashed for the night.  Last night of the vacation!

Lord, thank you for taking such great care of us and for a wonderful vacation.  Please keep us safe as we travel home!

7/19/2015 - Pittsburgh to HOME; Hot 90s!

Up at 7:30.  Packing up.  Melody got up, we checked out, and we went out to breakfast at Our Little Secret.  Really nice little shop and great breakfast.  Nice people.  Back to Station Square for a few souvenirs.

Then we began the long journey home.  Down 51 to Route 43 to Old US 40 in Brownsville.  We stopped at the cemetery there and visited my grandparent's grave site.  Continued through Uniontown and Grantsville.  Stopped at the Hilltop Fruit Market for a few things, then on to LaVale for a late lunch at Bob Evan's.  Hit some really bad traffic on 70 just past Hancock.  We took a "shortcut" through Boonsboro on Alternate 40, but got stuck behind some really slow drivers.  Back on 70 outside Frederick, and we continued to Route 32 towards home.  Stopped for a few groceries, and finally arrived at home at 7:45.  Whew!

Lord, thank you for a fantastic journey!

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Roller Coaster Inventory UPDATED

Last year, after a record year for roller coaster riding, my daughter Melody and I decided to inventory our roller coaster rides.  We love roller coasters, and we've been on quite a few, all across the United States.  We used the Roller Coaster DataBase ( to help us compile our list.  There are several that Melody rode that I have not (indicated by a double asterisk - **), and there are a bunch of others that I rode without Melody, mostly long before she was born (indicated by a single asterisk - *).  Many are no longer around, having either been torn down long ago, or moved to another park (or country!).  When compiling the list, we did not include how many times we rode each one.  That was next to impossible for me, especially on ones I've been on hundreds of times since I was a kid (like one of my favorites, the Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which I rode for the first time way back in the late 70s).  We were surprised by the results.  We hadn't realized just how many different roller coasters we've ridden.  Assuming the Roller Coaster DataBase is accurate (and I believe it is), and that my memory is accurate and I am remembering correctly all of the parks my family and I have visited since I was a kid, then our totals are:

Eric has ridden 137 coasters.  Melody has ridden 120 coasters!

(Just a note.... While doing the updates for this list, we discovered that Melody had ridden more coasters prior to our most recent road trip than we had initially counted.  She thought her 100th different coaster was The Voyage, at Holiday World, and we made a big deal about it at the time.  In reality, her 100th coaster was Batman The Ride, at Six Flags St. Louis, which she rode in July 2014!)

In no particular order, here is our list...

Busch Gardens Williamsburg - VA:
Apollo's Chariot
Grover's Alpine Express
Loch Ness Monster
Big Bad Wolf - gone
Drachen Fire* - gone
Das Katzchen* - gone
Die Wildkatze* - gone
Glissade* - gone
Wild Maus* - gone
Eric - 12 coasters, Melody - 7 (Numerous visits to the park)

Dutch Wonderland - PA:
Kingdom Coaster*
Eric - 2, Melody - 1 (about 10 or so visits)

Sesame Place - PA:
Vapor Trail
Both - 1 (about 10 or so visits)

Luna Park - NY:
Both - 1 (1 visit)

Knoebels - PA:
Both - 2 (1 visit)

Idlewild - PA:
Rollo Coaster
Both - 1 (1 visit)

Kennywood - PA:
Phantom's Revenge
Jack Rabbit
Sky Rocket
Laser Loop* - gone
Eric - 6, Melody - 5 (3 and 2 visits)

Cedar Point - OH:
Blue Streak
Cedar Creek Mine Ride
Iron Dragon
Magnum XL-200
Mean Streak
Millennium Force
Wicked Twister
Woodstock Express
Disaster Transport* - gone
Mantis* - transformed into a new coaster
Eric - 14, Melody - 12 (2 and 1 visits)

Hershey Park - PA:
Great Bear
Lightning Racer
Sidewinder (Melody finally rode this coaster in May '15)
Storm Runner
Wild Mouse
Both - 11 (about a dozen visits)

Kings Dominion - VA:
Back Lot Stunt Coaster
Intimidator 305
Rebel Yell
Woodstock Express/Scooby Doo
Galaxi* - gone
HyperSonic XLC* - gone
King Kobra* - gone
Eric - 14, Melody - 11 (10 or so and 1 visits)

Six Flags America/Wild World - MD:
Joker's Jinx
Mind Eraser
Ragin' Cajun
Superman - Ride of Steel
Wild One
Both - 8 (about 10 or so and 2 visits)

Six Flags Great America - IL:
American Eagle
Dark Knight
Vertical Velocity
Both - 6 (1 visit)

Six Flags St. Louis - MO:
American Thunder
Batman The Ride (Melody's 100th Coaster)
Mr. Freeze Reverse Blast
River King Mine Train
Screamin' Eagle
Both - 8 (1 visit)

New York New York Casino - Las Vegas, NV:
Big Apple Coaster
Both - 1 (7 and 1 visits)

NASCAR Cafe - Las Vegas, NV:
Speed:  The Ride* - gone
Eric - 1 (1 visit)

Adventuredome - Las Vegas, NV:
Canyon Blaster*
Eric - 1 (1 visit)

Six Flags Magic Mountain - CA:
Apocalypse The Ride
Gold Rusher
Road Runner Express**
Eric - 8, Melody - 9 (1 visit)

Universal Studios Hollywood - CA:
Revenge of the Mummy
Both - 1 (1 visit)

Universal Studios Islands of Adventure - FL:
Incredible Hulk*
Pteranodon Flyers*
Dueling Dragons (Dragon Challenge)*
Eric - 3, Melody - 0 (too young) (2 and 1 visits)

Universal Studios Florida - FL:
Revenge of the Mummy*
Eric - 1, Melody - 0 (too young) (3 and 1 visits)

Walt Disney World Magic Kingdom - FL:
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad
Space Mountain*
Eric - 2, Melody - 1 (2 and 1 visits)

Legoland Florida:
Lego Technic Test Track
The Dragon
Both - 3 (1 visit)

Busch Gardens Tampa - FL:
Air Grover**
Cheetah Hunt
Sand Serpent
Python* - gone
Eric - 8, Melody - 8 (3 and 2 visits)

Sea World Orlando - FL:
Both - 2 (1 and 2 visits)

Dollywood - TN:
Blazing Fury*
Mystery Mine
Tennessee Tornado
Eric - 4, Melody - 3 (2 and 1 visits)

Holiday World - IN:
The Legend
The Raven
The Voyage
Both - 4 (1 visit)

Kings Island - OH:
Adventure Express
Backlot Stunt Coaster
The Bat
The Beast
Flight of Fear
Flying Ace Aerial Chase
Both - 12 (1 visit)

Saturday, July 25, 2015

Summer 2015 Road Trip, Part 3: Kings Island & Roller Coasters

7/15/2015 - Kings Island, Cincinnati, Ohio; Nice 70s to 80s

Up at 7.  We got ready, ate a nice breakfast, then headed out to Kings Island amusement park.  Kings Island got its claim to fame by being featured on the Brady Bunch TV show years ago, not too long after it opened, as well as on other shows.  Beautiful weather sparked a fantastic day at the park, riding lots of great rides and some incredible roller coasters!  This was our first time visiting this park.  It was fun!  We rode the Beast, an awesome wooden roller coaster, the longest in North America, and one of the best coasters I've ever been on.  It's like a runaway truck, hitting some impressive speeds and Gs, roaring down the track deep into the woods.  What an incredible ride!  We also rode the Diamondback, a really great hyper coaster that reminded me a bit of Apollo's Chariot (Busch Gardens Williamsburg), and just a little bit better!  We also rode Adventure Express, an old mine coaster, Backlot Stunt Coaster (just like its twin at Kings Dominion in Doswell, VA), Banshee (World's longest inverted coaster), Firehawk (where you ride on your back and stomach), the Bat (just like the old Big Bad Wolf at BGW), Flight of Fear (an indoor coaster, another twin of one at KD), Invertigo, the Racer (reminded me of the Rebel Yell at KD), Vortex (which was similar in some ways to the Loch Ness Monster, at BGW), and the Flying Ace Aerial Chase (a very tame inverted coaster), for an even dozen different coasters!  Just an all-around great day!

Big day of travel tomorrow, Lord, so please keep us safe!  Thank you for a wonderful day!



Entrance to Firehawk and Flight of Fear through The Racer
Flight of Fear

The Racer

Waiting to ride The Bat

Riding on The Bat



The Diamondback

Have a great evening, everyone!  To be continued...

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Summer 2015 Road Trip, Part 2: Holiday World, Churchill Downs, & Cincinnati

7/13/2015 - Bloomington, IN, to Holiday World in Santa Claus, IN, to Corydon, IN; Hot, hot, hot 90s!

Up at 7.  We got ourselves ready, at a nice breakfast, and then checked out.  We were on the road by 9.  As we checked out, the hotel manager assumed we were there to visit Indiana University, mistaking Melody as a college student!  Once on the road, we headed towards Holiday World in Santa Claus, Indiana.  Our GPS, which I have a love-hate relationship with, gave us a terrible route to the park.  Lots of backroads made for a much more lengthy drive.  We finally arrived at 10 after two hours on the road (going from the Eastern Time Zone back to the Central).  The time change kept messing me up.... Indiana has too many time zone boundaries!  We had a great time at Holiday World!  Nice small-town park with world-class coasters.  The Raven started us off.  It's a fun ride, an old school woodie.  We rode up front, and it got our blood flowing.  Next, we rode the Legend.  There was a long line, probably the longest we saw all day, and the ride had a complication that took one of its trains out of rotation, which kept us waiting in line for 30 minutes.  It was a fun coaster, though.  The we rode the Voyage.  Wow!  What a ride!  Very tall, very long wooden coaster that gets lost in the woods.  Very fast, and seems to go on forever.  Just an incredible ride.  Moved right into my personal Top 5 favorite coasters.  This was also Melody's 100th different roller coaster!  (My Top 5 - Millennium Force, Cedar Point; Apollo's Chariot, Busch Gardens; The Voyage; Loch Ness Monster, Busch Gardens; Thunderbolt, Kennywood.)

Had a delicious Thanksgiving lunch in the Thanksgiving section of the park, then we roamed over to the back end of the park and rode the brand new Thunderbird roller coaster.  This is a steel launch coaster, which goes quickly from zero to 60 and has a smooth, unique design.  Really fun.  After riding it twice, we walked over to The Voyage and rode it again.  It was so hot, though, so we decided to cut short our day at the park.  We rode a few more rides, including the Raven, then shopped for souvenirs, before heading out around 4:30.

We headed east to Corydon, IN, and checked into at Comfort Inn, topping off the gas tank at the next door Shell station.  We checked in, freshened up, then had a tasty dinner at the adjacent Frische's Big Boy.  Came back to our room and we crashed.  Eventually went to bed at 10.  Lord, thank you for a really great day!  Praying for more good times tomorrow!

7/14/2015 - Corydon, IN, to Louisville, KY, to Cincinnati, OH; Hot 90s and hazy, then brief rain, followed by nice 70s weather.

Up at 7:30.  Melody up later.  After breakfast, we finally hit the road at 10:20.  On to Louisville, KY, and the Kentucky Derby Museum at Churchill Downs.  Neat museum and tour.

Tried finding a place to eat lunch, but construction in and around Louisville and the suburbs made stopping very difficult.  Finally stopped at a KFC (where else do stop when you're in Kentucky?).  It was not very good, and the place was really dirty.  Why is it so many fast food places don't seem to care or respect themselves.  I hate fast food for that reason... except Chick-Fil-A.  On to Cincinnati.  Ironically, we arrived in downtown Cincy just as the Major League Baseball All-Star Festivities were getting going.  Wish we could've planned a little better.  We drove right past Great American Ballpark.  However, the skies got very dark and we had a brief rain storm as we exited downtown.  Found our Quality Inn just outside of town, in Blue Ash.  After checking in and changing clothes, we went to visit my old friends, Tim & Lisa.  Way back in the 90s, Lisa and I worked together at two different churches as youth leaders.  She was the youth group director, and I was a counselor.  We were a part of a foursome that worked really well together for about 6 years.  Lisa and Tim moved to the Cincinnati area, where Lisa grew up, shortly after that, and we've stayed in touch.  Tim worked as a steward on Air Force One under President's Reagan, Bush, Sr., and Clinton.  Lisa hadn't seen Melody since she was a baby, when she came to my wife Teresa's funeral in 2004.  I hadn't seen Tim since 2000, when Teresa and I were on one of our cross-country adventures.  Really nice to see my old friends!  They took us to Skyline Chili for dinner.  Melody loved it!  They treated us right and gave us a grab-bag of goodies.

After we ate, we went back to their place to gab for a while, then we said our goodbyes and headed back to our hotel.  We checked in with my mother (Grammy), who was sitting with Faithful Pup Scout, back at home.  At our hotel, we went to bed at around 11, after watching a good bit of the All-Star game.  Lord, thanks!  Prayers for a great day tomorrow!  Thanks for a wonderful day!

To be continued....

Have a great evening, everyone!

Monday, July 20, 2015

Summer 2015 Road Trip, Part 1: G-Fest XXII

7/9/2015 - Home to Toledo, OH, on the way to Chicago; Rainy - 80s

Up at 5:15 a.m. for work.  Rushed home at 11 -- Vacation time!!!  Straight to Laurel Car Wash for a much needed and much postponed cleaning.  Over to Grace Adventures Day Camp to pick up Melody.  They have such a great staff!  Melody & I came home to load up our Jeep, then we hit the road to Chicago!  Left at 1:15.  Up I-95 to Route 100 to US 29 to I-70 West.  Made a brief stop at a McDonald's to get a little bit of a late lunch and an iced coffee.  Back on the road to the Sideling Hill Rest Area on I-68.  Dark clouds in the sky mean my newly washed Jeep won't stay clean...  Rain almost immediately after getting back on the road.  Bad storm!  Heavy rains and crazy winds!  Rained all the way to Keyser's Ridge.  Decided to stay with I-68 into West Virginia instead of US 40.  Turned out to be a mistake.  Stopped at another Rest Area in WV to double check mileage on GPS and assess our route.  Normally would take US 40 West to Uniontown, then Route 43 and 51 into Pittsburgh.  Instead, we decided to take I-68 to Morgantown, WV, and then I-79 north to Pittsburgh.  Route turned out to be fraught with issues.  Areas of construction, accidents, and off-and-on rain causing stop and go traffic, marred our trip, Arrived at the Max & Erma's for dinner in Cranberry, PA, at 7:15.  Took us six hours to make a trip that should've been less than five.  We had a nice meal, plus their trademarked hot baked chocolate chip cookies!  Got gas at a Sunoco, and a fresh cup of coffee, and we hit the road again... PA Turnpike to Ohio Turnpike to a Comfort Inn in Maumee, Ohio, just past Toledo.  Hotel in a shady area, but too tired.  To bed after midnight!  But we were happy to make it to Toledo, which was our first day goal.

Lord, thanks for watching over us and keeping us safe through the storms.  Praying for good rest and safe, fun travel tomorrow.  Amen.

7/10/2015 - Toledo, OH, to Chicago, IL; cloudy, then clear - 70s to 80s

Up at 6.  We got ready, at a typical Comfort Inn breakfast, and were on the road by 8.  Cooler weather, still overcast, but became sunny as we went along.  Boring travel along the turnpikes.  Into Indiana!  Stopped at a service plaza... possible the worst one ever.  Good job, Indiana.  Place is a dump.  No food services.  Rest rooms were atrocious -- smell was bad and not clean.  Shady people everywhere.  Watched an older man give a toddler an empty box of cigarettes to play with on top of the trunk of his car.  Huh!?!  The whole place looked like it should be bulldozed.  Decided not to get gas and wait until the next rest stop.  Got out of Dodge.  Next service plaza up the road was much better, and I filled up at a Philips 66.  Entered Central Time Zone and Illinois.  Heavy traffic along I-90 in and around Chicago.  Finally arrived in Rosemont, IL at noon.

We went straight to Giordano's for my once-a-year deep dish stuffed pizza!  It was just awesome!  On to the Crowne Plaza.  Check-in was a breeze.  Got parked, headed to our beautiful 12th floor room-with-a-view, where we unpacked and caught our breath!  Back out to the registration table for G-FEST XXII!  Got our credentials and started exploring.  G-Fest is the largest gathering in North America of fans of Japanese giant monsters.  Checked everything out, walked around, and Melody got some stuff in the dealer room.  Good time.  Took a break in our room and ate some leftover pizza, then to the opening ceremonies.  JD Lees, editor of G-Fan magazine and the host of G-Fest, introduced the guests:  Director Masaaki Tezuka, Actor Noboru Kaneko, Friend of the show Robert Scott Field, and author August Ragone.

Masaaki Tezuka

Noboru Kaneko

Scott Field

August Ragone

 Then everyone funneled out for the Big Concert at the nearby Pickwick Theater for Symphonic Fury!  The drive over was uneventful, but other events in the area around the theater made parking nearly impossible.  Very frustrating.  We gave ourselves 45 minutes to make the 10 minute drive, but still didn't find parking until the start of the show.  Dumb luck gave us a space three full blocks away, and we ran to the theater.  Got held at the door because we had print-at-home tickets, which apparently confused the ticket takers.  Once we got in, the show had already started.  How everyone else found parking and got seated is anybody's guess, but once we were seated, we relaxed and enjoyed the wonderful concert.  Music was from composer Kow Otani, a big name in movie scores in Japan, who was in attendance.  After intermission, we heard a suite of music from the wonderful Akira Ifukube, the incredible composer of many of the Godzilla and other monster themes.  I was a backer of this Kickstarter event, and I was very pleased with my investment.  It was a great show.

We went back to the hotel and crashed.

Lord, thanks for a great day!

7/11/2015 - G-Fest Chicago, IL; Mostly cloudy, some rain - 70s

Up at 7.  Decided to try room service for breakfast.  It was delivered at 8, and it was terrific.  It was also expensive, and would be the most expensive meal of our trip.  We got ready kind of slowly.  Out the door at 9:45.  Down to the show.  Shopped a bit in the dealer room, then saw a session with Noboru Kaneko, with Scott Field.

Had a makeshift lunch at our room, then went out exploring at Mitsuwa Japanese Market in Arlington Heights.  This is a favorite stop of ours.  Got a bunch of great Asian snacks, and then a great Japanese-style meal that we took back to our hotel.  Decided to enhance it with some White Castle burgers, but we couldn't find one!  We found an historic McDonald's, which was kind of cool, and we passed East Maine High School, which is where part of THE BREAKFAST CLUB was filmed (the football field).

Back to our hotel.  We ate a nice meal and relaxed, and I actually got a nap.  Headed back down to the show at around 6:30.  The place was packed out for the annual costume contest.  No seats anywhere in the viewing areas.  Melody found a seat on the floor near the main viewing area, and I camped out against the wall, about as far from the action as possible.  Melody got bumped out of her primo spot by a few selfish adults who just don't care that there were kids sitting there.  Great costumes by a lot of people, and we had a great time seeing them.  After the costumes, we saw a few of the homemade films, which was fun.  Then we crashed back at our room.

Lord, thanks for a fun day!  Prayers for more tomorrow, plus a safe drive out of town.

7/12/2015 - G-Fest Chicago, IL, to Bloomington, IN; Sunny 80s

Up at 7:30.  We slowly got ourselves ready and packed up, then loaded up the Jeep.  Formally checked out of the Crowne Plaza, but still a lot of show left in G-Fest!  We went to a session by Robert Scott Field, "Android M-11," who showed us a cool video clip of a short film he made with students in Japan, and then told us about writing his autobiography, which should be out by next G-Fest.  We walked through the dealer room one more time for a few last deals.  Saw a session on Symphonic Fury, and then mentioned that next year's should be great, too.

We had a nice lunch at the hotel's restaurant, Chicago Fire.  Drove up the street to Target to get a Rand McNally road atlas.  I've been so disenchanted with our GPS.  Going Old School, my prerogative as a cartographer.  Back to G-Fest for JD Lees session on G-Fest, G-Fan, etc.  He's a good guy.  Lastly, we attended Stan Hyde's Kaiju Konfessions, the official close-out of G-Fest.  It was a great show!  We immediately hit the road and headed out of town.  Took I-294 to I-80 to I-65 south towards Indianapolis.  Getting late, so we stopped to eat at a lousy McDonald's, about the only thing still open on a Sunday night in the middle of Indiana.  Terrible meal.  This is why I don't like to eat fast food.  Gassed up and got some coffee, then continued on down the road.  Decided to stop at a Comfort Inn in Bloomington, IN, at 11:30.  So tired.... on to bed immediately.

Lord, thank you for keeping us safe, happy, and healthy.  Amen.

To be continued....

Have a great evening, everyone!