Coaster Stock Part 1: Morning ERT
Carowinds’ roller coaster enthusiast event Coaster Stock kicked off with morning ERT (exclusive ride time). Hours before the park was open to the public, we had Afterburn, Woodstock Gliders, Lucy’s Crabby Cabbie & Flying Ace Aerial Chase all to ourselves. Are you wondering why three of the four rides are located in Planet Snoopy (the park’s children’s section)? This was by design as guests usually have to have a kid with them to ride a small kiddie coaster like Lucy’s Crabby Cabbie (formerly Taxi Jam). So, coaster geeks concerned with their coaster count could get two more under their belt. My thrilling ride on Crabby Cabbie was my 199th, setting me up for a trip to Kings Dominion where I’ll ride my 200th roller coaster. More on that later.
A Childhood Thrill Re-Visited
The real highlight of the first part of the day was my introduction, or should I say re-introduction to flyers. Way back when I was too scared to brave any coasters larger than the old Scooby Doo woodie, I remember riding a parrot-themed flyer at Kings Dominion when I was kid. One of my earliest thrills involved my older brother swinging our little car over Kings Dominion’s Lake Charles. Yes, that park use to have an actual lake before the water park and other attractions ate it up. Anyway, I was certain we’d get swung out into the lake and meet our doom as neither of us could swim. Fast forward to today where I hear theme park fans rave about flyers. I didn’t really get it until I got my introduction into the skilled flyers fan club this past weekend.
Flight Lessons & A Wild Ride
Formerly, Phantom Flyers, the now renamed Woodstock Gliders look tame enough at first glance. The big difference with this swinging ride is the rider’s ability to control the flight path of the ride vehicles with a rudder. There’s a good bit of technique and timing to get your glider as high as possible. Anthony and Taylor, both enthusiastic ride ops, gave a short lesson that involved: “Turn to the left for lift, and right to dive. You’ll need to do both to get high.” The goal was to get higher than the roof over the queue and the gliders themselves looked to come within a foot or two of the roof at times. At one point, I was pretty sure that I heard a glider actually hit the roof!
On my first ride, I got up high pretty easily. Then I tried to mix it up and I ended up almost pointing backwards. There was such a concentration of ‘expert’ flyers that I heard Anthony exclaim, ” I’ve never seen this before. What are you guys doing?” When our ride ended he said that he’d come out in a moment to unlock us, but he didn’t want to come out right away as usual because he valued his life! We were all still swinging quite a bit.
Check out this video of the Woodstock Gliders in action:
Flyers Are Misunderstood & Mislabled
Flyers are more like thrill rides than most people realize. Or at least they can be. If you ride without moving your rudder, the vehicle will just gently travel at a nice little altitude. Parents with kids seemed to do this, meanwhile, the geeks were in a contest (encouraged by the ride ops) to see who could get the highest. It created a clash of guests later in the day when the park was open. I was waiting in the queue next to a family that saw one rider’s height as dangerous. I pointed out to the Dad that the ride op was actually giving tips and congratulating the winner. They seemed a bit confused.
Anthony, the ride op from the morning, told me that some believe flyers should be in another area of the park. Maybe then, guests would get the point that while they can be benign they can also be pretty crazy. I can see why people are such big fans of flyers. It was fun although I found myself examing those cables closely. There should definitely be more interactive flat rides like flyers. If there were I might be interested in more than just roller coasters. For some reason, the experience reminded me of a video game, only it was real.
It was cool to meet Taylor, the Woodstock Gliders’ evening ride op who’s a reader. If you’re reading this, feel free to share any stories from your experiences operating this ride. I bet it’s one of the more fun positions at the park. Read more about Flyers on Wikipedia’s Flying Scooters page.
Boo Blasters on Boo Hill Competition
Speaking of interactive rides, the next event at Coaster Stock was a Boo Blasters on Boo Hill Competition. Formerly Scooby Doo’s Haunted Mansion, the re-themed Boo Hill is a dark ride where guests can use laser guns to zap ghosts and rack up points. There are similar rides at the former Paramount parks (Canada’s Wonderland, California’s Great America, Kings Dominion, Kings Island, etc). More on these rides here.
For two hour long sessions, we could try our hand at the ride each time giving our score to the park staff. My best was a measley 650 I think. I rode with someone who scored twice as much and the overall winner scored over 2,000 points! One tip is to squeeze and hold the trigger momentarily. Another rider instructed that’s how he scored so high as most people pull the trigger too fast.
Check back for Part 2 of my Coaster Stock recap including the B&M representative Bob Mampe Q&A session. Also check out more pics from the morning ERT including Afterburn on my Facebook page.
What’s Your Take?
What do you think of the morning ERT at Coaster Stock? Have you ridden a flyer? What did you think? Leave a comment below.