EDITOR'S NOTE: The author of this article is a community member and not a member of the site staff. We encourage all members of our community to submit similar op-ed pieces by e-mailing them to email@example.com for review by our editorial staff.
We have to go back, and I mean way back to August 1977 at Kings Island. That was when I rode my first roller coaster and the day I fell in love with them. Being an enthusiast in the '70s, '80s, and '90s was so different than it is now. Back then, my whole coaster world was Cedar Point, Kings Island, Six Flags Great America, Michigan's Adventure, and visiting family in Florida.
It was a complete 180 from the enthusiast world we have now. There was no social media. Heck, the internet was pure science fiction. Imagine not knowing about Steel Vengeance until TWO MONTHS!!! Before it opened. That is how I found out about Magnum. In a newspaper ad (ask your parents what those are) in March of 1989.
Then in the '90s, the Discovery Channel had the annual thrills and chills marathon on Memorial Day weekend. I truthfully had no idea how many other quality parks were out there. And my mind exploded at all the other wondrous world-class coasters I did not know existed. I desperately wanted to go to all of these parks and ride all those coasters.
However, at that time in my life, I had other passions I enjoyed as much. Snowmobiling, deer hunting, golf, and going to concerts. Just to name a few. Which takes up time and especially money; throw in meeting my wife and raising our son. Coaster trips outside my region had to go on the very back burner.
A couple of decades later, YouTube came along, and the coaster world once again blew up. POV's and off-ride footage of every roller coaster was available for all. In 2015 I watched my first Coaster-Net Uncut episode, and a whole new side of the enthusiast world opened up for me. Analysis and criticism really made me look at the industry from an entirely new perspective.
After a couple of years of watching various YouTube coaster channels, I still found myself watching Coaster-Net the most. They announced the Ride Warrior Discord in 2018, I joined soon afterward. Wow, has my coaster life changed. During the fall and winter of 2018/2019, I met fellow enthusiasts that have become some of my best friends.
I know this might not sound like a big year to some, and it was still in my region. However, in 2019 I went to King's Island opening day and for haunt. My first coaster event Holiwood Nights at Holiday World. I had the privilege of meeting one of my fellow Ride Warrior Discord members Evan Honnert (Please read his blog on Coaster-Net.com), on his first trip to Cedar Point and took some coworkers on their first trip during haunt. The Coaster-Net Patreon meet up at Six Flags Great America (An absolute blast). And, of course, multiple trips to my home park Michigan's Adventure.
2019 was just an appetizer, however. Around Thanksgiving 2019, I was in a voice chat on the Ride Warrior Discord with one Brad Crowe (Please read his previous blogs on Coaster-Net.com), And we were talking about the holidays, of course, and our 2020 plans. Brad and I are both in our late forties and, strangely enough, have similar stories as to why we never could make a coaster road trip. Well, that conversation started our first itinerary. Little did we know at that time how many times it would change.
By February, we had our trip hammered out. We built it around Holiwood Nights. We were starting at Michigan's Adventure going through Ohio and Kentucky. Then Holiwood Nights into Missouri and finishing in Oklahoma and Texas. I was a little kid on Christmas morning excited. Especially for Holiwood Nights, we had a house rented. Brad and I were going to make breakfast for a slew of thoosies. Including a couple from a particular channel on YouTube, you may know. And our current Thrilling 32 champion and another YouTuber (South Coasters), Alex Baker, from the UK.
Most of our voice chats on discord were talking about the upcoming coaster season. And the various trips we were taking, the 2020 coaster season was going to be glorious. Then as you all know, COVID happened. At first, we were very naive, like millions of others. We thought that by Summer, COVID would be under control, and things would be back to normal.
After a few weeks, it became apparent that plans were going to have to change. At first, we just moved some dates around, still holding out hope that nothing would be canceled. Sadly by mid-May, we knew that the whole thing had to be scrapped. To say I was crushed is a massive understatement. After waiting for over thirty years, a lifelong ambition was going to pass me by another year.
Brad would not give up, and we kept watching to see when parks were going to open. Then Holiday World announced they were moving Holiwood Nights to August 28th & 29th. Between parks being on a limited operating schedule or closed altogether, it was a massive challenge to make a new trip work. By the time we finalized it, we had revised and restarted so many times I forgot where we were going. Here is our first coaster trip itinerary.
Aug 11th Flew to Witchita KS, went to the Doc B-29 Museum
Aug 12th Adventureland (Iowa)
Aug 13th Worlds of Fun 1/2 day. Silver Dollar City 1/2 day
Aug 14th Silver Dollar City
Aug 15th Alabama Adventure 1/2 day. Six Flags over Georgia 1/2 day
Aug 16th Six Flags over Georgia
Aug 17th Dollywood
Aug 18th Travel day meet a good friend in Richmond, VA, for dinner.
Aug 19th Six Flags Great Adventure
Aug 20th Dorney Park 1/2 day. Knoebels 1/2 day.
Aug 21st Kennywood 1/2 day. Cedar Point 1/2 day.
Aug 22nd Cedar Point.
Aug 23rd Kings Island
Aug 24th Waldameer
Aug 25th Hershey Park.
Aug 26th Travel day.
Aug 27th Day at Lake Michigan beach
Aug 28th Holiwood Nights Day
Aug 29th Holiwood Nights Day 2
Aug 30th Indiana Beach 1/2 day. Then home.
It was everything I hoped it would be and more. So many parks and coasters that I wanted to experience for decades were finally off the bucket list. My favorite new wood coaster on the trip was, surprisingly, Rampage at Alabama Adventure. My favorite new steel coaster from the trip was Skyrush at Hersheypark.
Brad and I were exhausted (We are older thoosies); however, we also felt fulfilled. We hugged, said our goodbyes, and he and I drove back to our homes. A few weeks later, our good friend, Evan Honnert, whom I mentioned earlier, talked to us. And expressed how lucky we were to go on that trip; he met us at Kings Island and had dinner with us at Montgomery Inn. (Highly recommended) Well, that conversation has turned into another trip, this time with him. I remember Brad saying, "Here we go again." We started the whole process all over again, and my wife told me I am crazy. This trip will be bigger and more ambitious, But that is a story yet to unfold.
Author: Michael Flynn