Friday, July 07, 2006

Kings Dominion - Reviewed by the Five Paragraph Bitter Theme Park Critic

In the hazy days of the 1970s, nothing excited young kids in my neighborhood like a trip to Kings Dominion. It was almost three hours away from Annapolis, Maryland, nestled in a small town near Richmond, Virginia called Doswell, and the drive there surely meant waking up before sunrise to get there at a decent hour. It was great - we'd ride past the big city of Washington DC, fall asleep through the country of Virginia and wake up staring at the 1/3rd-sized Eiffel Tower replica that dominated the Dominion. These were the days when the Rebel Yell and King Cobra were the wildest coasters on the coast, and even the cable car ride provided a thrill. The Scooby Doo Roller Coaster was a right of passage of any elementary school kid, as the 35-foot drop separated the diaper-wearers from the potty-trained. Poor Hershey Park in Pennsylvania was for the fat kids, and Six Flags America wasn't even Wild World yet.

It's a different ball of wax nowadays. The Rebel Yell is still around, the cable cars were removed (apparently, the park realized that keeping people suspended above the games kept those people from spending money on the games), and the King Cobra is in duty at the Boardwalk in Ocean City, Maryland. The King Cobra has been replaced by the Anaconda - bigger, taller, faster, with more loops. The Rebel Yell has been eclipsed by the Grizzly and the Hurler - both bigger, taller, faster with more turns.

Somewhere along the line, some maniac decided to make the Hypersonic XLC, which shoots people straight up and straight down at nearly 100 miles per hour. That wasn't enough, so they built the Drop Zone, which pulls people up nearly 40 stories before dropping them in a free-fall, and then stopped by electromagnets in the last precious few feet to a gentle rest. Somewhere between XLC and Drop Zone, I realized that, if pressured enough to do so, I can shit a brick.

This year, the Flight of Fear indoor coaster has been moved to Canada, the Volcano Blast Coaster has been having maintenance issues, and the Shockwave, so daring back in 1991, seems too tame by today's G-Force-addicted standards. The new Italian Job Turbo Coaster provides a heck of a thrill ride, and in a cute widdle Mini Cooper car. The Scooby Doo Roller Coaster is still there, though surrounded by the Fairly Oddparents instead of Daphne and Shaggy.

The park, like most theme parks, does not attract as many doctors and lawyers and investment bankers as they'd like. There's more than a fair share of gangstas, rednecks, greasy hyper children and people who came straight from the set of the Maury show. You're more likely to find a preppy kid in Tikrit than a full-set of teeth in a Kings Dominion visitor. However, at the end of the day, watching the sun set over the 1/3-sized Eiffel Tower, the stomach a little turned, the wallet a little lighter, and lugging around an oversized German Shepard, the park still has the ability to make any day 1978 again.

7 out of 12 Whammies! - 4 Coasters were outta commission, deducting a Whammy! each. Another Whammy! was deducted by the 10 year old southern kid who assured me, during our hour long wait for the Water Slide ride, that helicopters have M-16s (a rifle used by ground forces) on their sides, and no "dough-hers" - his two syllable way of saying "door" - and he was so certain, he told everybody in line. He's exactly why siblings shouldn't mate. The 7 Whammies! were awarded on the basis that I still feel like I'm seven years old there, no matter how old I really am.

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