2017 was a great season for me. I did several parks, got a new state credit, and participated in quite a few historic moments for the industry, but what makes this season special was what was happening in the background. I've always loved machines of all kinds and the STEM side of the amusement industry had always captivated me, but a new subject on which my interests were focused ended up changing the course of my career. When it was announced that RMC would be building two projects practically in my backyard in 2015, I got interested in exactly what made them so great, allegedly. Well when I started figuring out that they weren't manufactured the way other coasters were and when I rode my first one in 2016 I noticed just how much of a difference it made, my focus shifted from the actual design of the ride itself to exactly what is done to bring that design to life. The CNC machining, the construction, how the manufacturing available affects how it can be designed. Around the same time, I had also seen something about Vekoma getting a sort of new track bending technology around the same time they happen to be cranking out rides that are destroying their reputation as a bad manufacturer. Ultimately this little manufacturing obsession carried over to other things and before you know it, I'm finding a new college program that not only seems to suit me exactly, but allows me to live out this little manufacturing bug I've been picking up. And before you know it, I'm switching to a new program. One that Skyline Attractions mastermind Jeff Pike himself said that the amusement industry needs now more than ever. Aside from this, I had several plans I had made for a wonderful season. My friend Connor had agreed to be my partner in crime for my annual region trip, this time to the Great Lakes states northwest of us. The home park where he and I met was also adding another coaster to their lineup, GCI's new Mystic Timbers terrain out and back coaster that featured some sort of mysterious show building, as one of the only new additions of 2017. My 2017 season began at Cleveland's iconic IX Indoor Amusement Park. Despite the name, this is actually just an event and not a permanent installation. Taking the stage at the iconic expo venue known as the IX Center a stone's throw from the Cleveland airport, several traveling amusement rides including five traveling credits are set up on a convention floor. Here I kicked off the season wonderfully with my 250th credit, putting me at a quarter of a thousand on the event's signature Crazy Mouse spinning coaster. Aside from this were an Orient Express, my first Wacky Worm, this horrendous winged butterfly thing that almost knocked one of my friend's glasses off, and several surprisingly awesome flats. It was a great time all in all and I'm so glad I was able to start my season off here. Spent it with four great friends as well one of which I had met in person for the first time, so that helped even more. We drove past a very closed Cedar Point on the way back too! On a cold April morning one Thursday, I woke up way before the crack of dawn at 2 am and waited for my ACE rep Kat to come get me for a historic event: Media Day for my home park's new Mystic Timbers coaster. After a chilly wait, we were walked back through a darkened park to Rivertown where a creepy IMAscore soundtrack and the occasional screeching loudspeaker of a lift siren set a mood way darker than expected. The wait was about fifteen minutes in what resembled a dark abandoned lumber yard, right down to the smell of freshly cut southern yellow pine. And my first ride in the predawn darkness did something else to change my perception on coasters: I could tell moving forward that aside from RMC (which I consider to be a combination of the best qualities of both mediums), I would prefer the wooden coasters to the steel coasters being built in the future. Flying over that first hill and seeing, in what little light was there, that the rest of the ride was just a mess of airtime hops along the ground taken at a speed way greater than I was anticipating, and any "meh it'll be fun" or "it's a filler ride" I had stated the previous summer went right out the window: this became my new favorite coaster in the park. Later that day I hung out with Scott Schaffer of Upstop Media fame and got to see Adam House speak about his new ride! Later that evening I went back for the first rider auction and met up with my friend Jennifer (front row, driver's side) and her boyfriend (not pictured, that's our employee friend Josh she's with). We got several rides and I even made a new friend named Melissa (back row, passenger's side) who almost broke my nose with her skull getting slammed around one of the corners in a legendary ride that's spawned inside jokes that are still alive among my KI friends today. A few weeks later after school let out, I had a day off that Holiday World was open on a weekday. After looking around for a potential co-enthusiast to go on social media, I ended up going with KI ride op friend Matt and Ohio ACE rep Kat (same one who drove to media day). That day was a ton of fun, between getting to see how lackluster their new Calypso was to taking a good 15 Voyage laps to me getting my phone stuck in Kat's car door (apparently the Saturn Equinox has door pockets that are the perfect size to hold an iPhone 6, I had to pry at it for a good 30 minutes with Matt's keys as both of them laughed at my expense!) to trying those chicken nachos from Taco Bell that Matt accurately referred to as "a triangular chicken" over the phone. All in all it was a wonderful day, one of two I spent at this great park. Then it was off to CoasterMania weekend to meet up with Emily and some of our CP friends but more importantly, to check out what RMC was doing with Mean Streak! They were working on the ledgers for the first drop while I was there but to see such a massive RMC going up before my eyes was unbelievable, photos don't do it justice for how big it is! But wait til you see it later... After CoasterMania I ended up making the trek to New Jersey to visit my friend Celia. Okay, it was more like "Emily's friend that she held a gun to my head and forced me to befriend myself before I ended up deciding she was cool," but it was two enthusiasts riding coasters, same thing despite the odd circumstances. But it lead to an even stranger trip. Between me making an idiot out of myself trying to pump gas in Jersey, getting caught in the middle of about 50 fighting 12 year-olds from two school groups shoving each other over line jumping, Celia adopting us two children without my permission in line for Impulse, an awkward encounter with a broken lock at the bathrooms at Sonic, and meeting two of my other friends from other countries Travis and Steve! And next was that dreaded Hershey trip with my girlfriend at the time (most people know this by now but we aren't together anymore due to the distance but we're still very close friends) for her to do her Skyrush marathoning. I managed to incorporate other parks that were partially cleaned out to rack my count up and even managed to get a season marathoning record for Lightning Racer for the most laps in a day for 2017 at 133! Between Emily's first country concert, Celia bringing some insanity down to Hershey one of the days, my first time eating at Houlihan's (which inspired me to craft my own stuffed mushroom recipe and successfully replicate one of their dishes at home), and ending the week with Emily hitting her 2000th Skyrush lap, it was a ton of fun! While Emily did her thing, I did mine at the park that turned me into a coaster enthusiast, Kings Dominion! While my favorite ride there was down, their best one as of 2018 (most likely) was still under construction, and my little chance to revisit Intimidator 305 left me totally unimpressed, it's still a beautiful park and the show was amazing. Grizzly was also a great surprise, and I'm never going to say no to watching RMC doing their thing. For Fourth of July I went to Coney Island's annual Balloon Glow with Kat and her husband Nick to take photos of the balloons lit up on the park's busiest day of the year. The event was absolutely beautiful and I got several great photos with my point and shoot and tripod. After the event and fireworks we hung out and rode rides for a bit and then went to Awful House, as is almost tradition. Getting to ride in Kat's new Camaro at night with Cinci all lit up was also a really cool experience. Next month was the trip that's served as the highlight of my season since I started doing it in 2014, my annual region trip! Decided to put Texas off another year for financial reasons (wanted to see how this school switch would affect it) and elected for something a bit smaller with about the same cred haul in a region I've had my eyes on for a while, the Great Lakes states up north! Day one brought my KI employee friend Connor and I north of Chicago to Six Flags Great America where we met up with CoasterForce's very own @GuyWithAStick to systematically kick off these creds. My friend Alex also met up with us for a bit and broke the news to us about the Ohio State Fair thing on the midway, which was the first of many "you guys are from Ohio, how was the state fair?" jokes we heard on the trip. Now I will admit that certain bits of the place were rather...unkempt, but all in all, this Six Flags park has quite a nice feel of its own and that's why it ended up being my favorite. Their ride collection was stellar and really wel-rounded, I really enjoyed most of their coasters such as Raging Bull, Viper, and Whizzer... ...but my favorite there was yet another RMC, the ground-up topper track job known as Goliath! While it wasn't any better than any of the other RMCs I'd ridden, RMC is RMC and this one still blew me right away. It was the first ride we rode both days we were there and the last we rode on day two. This coaster's a bit short but it definitely has the best drop of any RMC and the best group of inversions, with some of that lovely RMC ejector thrown in there and a good kick of aggression coming around the turnaround back into the brakes. This was easily the best new credit I got in 2017 and it still sits pretty in both my wood and combined top tens. And of course, being the first RMC I'd been on since my little manufacturing journey began Connor gave me all kinds of crap for the things I was now taking photos of. On the evening of Day 2 we left the park early and headed into the heart of America's Dairy Land in an attempt to get a night ride on the second Alan Schilke coaster of the day, Timber Falls Adventure Park's infamous Avalanche S&S woodie! After I overshot the exit twice and had to find somewhere to turn around on an interstate in the middle of friggin' nowhere, we rolled in ten minutes before they closed and grabbed our stuff and dashed to the ticket gate Amazing Race style to luckily still find it open. And we ended up getting a front seat zen ride on it and HOLY CRAP it was amazing! Nice variety of different types of airtime over the hills and the corners feel like you're getting T-Boned by a semi! I don't see all the hate for this coaster, I personally loved it and it went on to be the surprise of the trip! I also liked that it wrapped around that little FEC and it even inspired me to make something like it in Planet Coaster (which went on to be Pele's Polynesian Playground), even if the property was a bit sketch. But even as shoddy as TFAP is, nothing could have prepared me for where we went tomorrow... "Coaster enthusiasts heading to Mt. Olympus are like Spartans because they go in prepared to die," was kind of the joke of the next morning and boy did it fit! From the start when I managed to purchase a ticket online for only $6, this park's reputation let me know that I was getting exactly what I paid for. Walking in and immediately noticing Zeus had a ribbon bent at a good fifteen degrees, I knew I was in the right place. So Connor and I went in and knocked Zeus out before heading to another featured coaster on the trip, Hades 360! It was on one train but the idiot risking his life jumping the fence to get this girl her lost $20 bill provided almost as much entertainment as the fact that the ride ops had no idea anyone had entered a lockout area, if you could call that a lockout area. Luckily, the coaster ended up to continue proving to me that the Dells coasters aren't that rough, especially to two Son of Beast survivors, but this one was actually stellar! Right out the station are three very violent, abrupt yanks of ejector, the tunnel has some of the most interesting portrayal of speed I've ever seen and the sound of terrified riders mixed with metal on metal ride hardware screeching sounded exactly like hell echoing through that concrete corridor, and the dive back in had airtime strong enough to rival most of what RMC's done. Add in the relatively new double down out of the tunnel exit and some incredibly powerful brakes I'd never seen before and this ended up taking the spot as my favorite hand cut (no machining) wooden coaster from Voyage, which had held that spot for a good three years. Sure it's a bit rough but it feels like a wooden coaster, and those lovely Timberliner trains handle the decrepit structure beautifully and it really take's something that's so wrong and makes it so right I can't even begin to describe. Cyclops was also an enjoyable ride but Pegasus is now the worst coaster I've ever ridden simply due to the rough layout and that turn into the brakes that left my neck sore for a good hour after. And Little Titans spited me so that killed my shot at hitting 300 on this trip. Deciding to leave Mt. Olympus before lunch when we realized the risk of food poisoning and get Burger King instead, we headed to the Twin Cities and hit up Nickelodeon Universe that night since we were ahead of schedule on creds. I was actually really impressed with the place, it's nice and modern with some great rides. Avatar ended up being my favorite coaster but the rest of them were also really good, and some of their flats were stellar, such as this one. And to close out the trip, we hit up the other Twin Cities area park, Valleyfair, for my first time and Connor's second! This park was about the scale of Dorney, not much, but man those employees knew how to work with what they had! Some of the best customer service I've seen at a CF park, great operations, and a great lineup. My friend Brett who I met at CoasterMania two years ago also joined us after he got off work! Wild Thing and Excalubur were both great fun but the highlight of the park was clearly Renegade, which took Mystic Timbers's spot as my favorite GCI just three months after I first rode it. It has by far the coolest first drop GCI's ever done and some great ejector all around, with yet again some great aggressive elements. It felt like Mystic Timbers meets 2014 Thunderhead and that's what managed getting it not only the honor of being a manufacturer's favorite from me, but also a spot in my wooden top ten! Out and back and twister elements play great together on Renegade, I'd love to see more of this out of them in the future. Fun fact: The day after we got back from this trip I was actually picked for jury duty and not even an hour in I got removed from the juror pool because it was so obvious I was nervous. A few weeks after I got back, Cedar Point was slated to unveil their (already pretty much unveiled to begin with) RMC conversion of Mean Streak to the world, and I happened to be off the night before so I made the venture up to Cedar Point to see Ben again and attend the announcement. Seeing the progress they made on RMC Mean Streak was incredible and it was really starting to look less like a giant timber truss being worked on and more like a record-breaking innovative ride, so it was really time to put a name to this machine. When they announced Steel Vengeance the next morning I instantly fell in love with the concept of the backstory of a little mechanical feud in Frontiertown. Then it broke the airtime record. Then they were putting it in Planet Coaster. And then Fred Grubb, the man who started the company that sparked my interest in manufacturing, walked out on stage and I LOST IT. Emily told me she could actually hear Brandon (other RMC fan I met in line for Lightning Rod who I was standing with) and I starting the "RMC! RMC RMC!" chant on the livestream since we were so close to a mic. I wanted to stick around and meet him after but he went into the saloon for media stuff but just getting to see the man responsible for this work that affected me so much was easily the best thing about this season. Jarrett Fun Fact of the Day: I really look up to both of them but I actually like Fred a bit more than Alan just because he was more responsible for the stuff that really drew me into RMC. So in August I was supposed to go to New York City with Emily because she had gotten us tickets to see Dear Evan Hansen on Broadway but it was becoming too hard for me to get there since you really can't have a car in NYC without paying an arm and a leg so she instead went with one of her Hershey friends who was just as interested in the show as she was. This left me with time off work to cram another trip in so I did something small that I've been wanting to do for a while in a city with such bad infrastructure it's become a running joke among several of my friends, Six Flags St. Louis! I made a small overnight trip there alone just to knock out the creds and finally get that 300th in the form of little American Thunder. This GCI, while possibly small enough to fit in my side yard, packs a serious punch and after hearing several comparisons to it at Mystic Timbers media day ("I can't put it above a GCI with a double down), I decided it was an appropriate 300th credit. This was my favorite in the park but it was augmented by two major surprises in the form of Boss and Mr. Freeze! The staff at this park is also great, right on par with Valleyfair. After camping at Boss as the sun went down and shooting around those dark woods and diving off those high turns into the shadows in the warm summer evening air, I made my way back down the hill to American Thunder for my last ride of the night and when it dispatched, "Hit Me With Your Best Shot" by Pat Benatar came on and the ride ops got the whole train clapping with the beat as we dispatched. My phone also died and I needed an Uber back to the hotel unexpectedly (I had planned to walk but then realized that "1 Mile" on Hotels.com can also mean "1 Mile through a sketchy field full of snakes where you'll probably trip over a murder victim or be murdered yourself") but luckily, I ran into a CP employee I knew that was working at SFSL as an area supervisor that managed to loan me his phone cord so I could juice up and Uber back. The next day was the only culture day of the season, set aside to do two historical things in the area I'd wanted to do. The first was Route 66 State Park which had a somewhat interesting museum with artifacts from when the road was in service and you had to actually drive on what was left of it to get to the guest center so that was cool, but it paled it comparison to the second thing I had planned. I'm a fan of the Sid Meier's Civilization game franchise and when reading a list of the real city-states in Civ V, I came across one with Native American architecture called Cahokia that was one of just a few places in the list I hadn't heard of. Turns out it was named after what was the largest Native American city ever built north of Mexico and largest archaeological site in the US, which is in what is now Illinois across the river from St. Louis. Built by the long extinct Mississippian culture, the city died off long before Europeans were settling the Americas and there was never any contact with them, nobody knows exactly what the people who lived there called themselves or the city, everything we know we found out through archaeological digs. Today if you drive through a sketchy suburb of St. Louis, you'll come across a large expanse home to a museum, several small remains of mounds and a perimeter palisade, and the iconic 100 foot-tall Monk's Mound which is the largest prehistoric earthwork in the world and has a base 4x as big as the Great Pyramid at Giza. After seeing all the artifacts and dioramas in the museum about how the Mississippian people used to live, you can easily tell there used to be a huge city there. Both the amount of stuff I learned at that museum combined with the lack of knowledge we have about this extinct culture made the climb to the top amazing yet mysterious at the same time, plus you can see the Gateway Arch of the great city on the Mississippi that's now active from the top. I was also a bit salty that we couldn't climb the Mayan pyramid in Mexico (you can't at Tulum anymore because of some idiot archaeology student that vandalized some 700 year-old stucco with a glass bottle) so getting to actually climb this one more than made up for that, even if it's not as structurally as impressive. Pictures don't do it justice, it's perfectly shaped like two flat topped pyramids stuck next to each other and when you learn what little they had to work with, it's impressive they were able to craft it. This is easily the coolest non-coaster thing I did in 2017 and I really wish it was more well known than it is. The next weekend was Labour Day which I spent with my friend Andrew at Holiday World again, but on the way I swung by Kings Island to meet up with @Mysterious Sue and @Error! I didn't stick around long because we had somewhere to be (I was with a local friend who had never been) but getting to ride Firehawk with them was awesome! Later that month I found out that my friend Ryan had never been to Kentucky Kingdom so we managed to make it closing day! Storm Chaser is the only other RMC I rode in 2017 and it was a repeat (it's like my "home" RMC) but it was awesome as always. Got several laps on this and even better, I was with someone who needed credits and T3 was down so I lucked out and didn't have to endure it! After that, I spent the rest of 2017 at Kings Island! I'd go every weekend after I got off work Sunday, the park is usually dead, and Mystic had broken in nicely and was great in the changing leaves! Here's me hanging out with my best friend Andrew, other major KI nerd Jennifer, and her boyfriend Jacob! The end of the main operating season was...interesting. My phone had been having a really bad battery issue that would cause something as simple as opening a text to drain hours of charge right out of it. So I got in, tried to text Melissa knowing she was on her way out, and my phone literally died right then and I couldn't find a power source with enough current to turn it back on until I was home. So meeting up with people was hard but I managed to do it. Got the last ride of the season on both Banshee (it was no longer part of Last Rides since they can now just do it all in Rivertown) and Beast! A large truck full of wood was also found out in the parking lot and photographed. Afterwards I went out for IHOP with Nick, Kat, and their friend Shawn. In 2016 I was able to attend an announcement that was scheduled for a morning after a night I didn't work, so I loaded up in the car and went. Turns out that this announcement, in line with speculation started by the park's Christmas in July event on a super hot day earlier that year, was the introduction of a Christmas event, the return of the Paramount era's Winterfest! After a rough weekend working retail around Thanksgiving, I drove down and met up with my friend Ben and his family to experience the magic of this event for the first time! The park looked beautiful, Mystic Timbers was absolutely flying in the cold, but my favorite part was the tree lighting ceremony because of the special way they lit it. They turned our Eiffel Tower into a 300 foot-tall string light Christmas tree (so big I actually thought the iconic one strung onto Carillon Park's belltower back in Dayton looked small driving home past it) and instead of just flicking it on, they have the lights flicker on in succession going from the ground up and then when they reach the top, start the LED patterns as snow starts blowing from the snow machines in probably the most emotion-invoking thing my home park has ever done. The event as a whole blew me away right away and after seeing the mass success it had, from their insane profits on opening day to having to extend operating hours, I know Kings Island will be a winter destination for me for years to come. We had another phone incident on my second trip to Winterfest! After getting my battery fixed from the troubles it was having earlier (just an old battery nothing coaster related) I was at KI during the Supermoon with some more friends. Well I pocketed my phone and took it on Mystic, which is pretty standard for me. When I got off, my phone just suddenly stopped working and I could hear something the size of a battery rattling around inside my phone when I shook it, Mystic Timbers knocked the battery in my phone out of its spot and broke the connection! Like it wouldn't charge or anything it was just done. So I had to take it back to the shop and explained to the phone tech what had happened and had him fix it. He put it back in and when I told him I was into coasters he elected to put some special battery tape on it to hold it in place so this wouldn't happen again. My final visit there was with Matt again to do some work on his Facebook page that I also work for. He did a lot of the YouTubing stuff and I focused (no pun intended) on stills, as is our usual battle plan. Got this photo of what's in store for 2018, which looks to be a restaurant! Kat, Nick, Jason, and their friends Jonny and Isaac were also there that day and Matt met up with fellow ride op Brayden, so all of us kind of grouped up for one last ride on Mystic Timbers in the freezing cold. It was absolutely flying but I had no idea it would be my last time on a coaster in 2017, though it was booking it to a point that I don't even care. I'll gladly end my season on that, but what Kat got me at IAAPA made it even sweeter... That IS Alan Schilke's autograph, that IS an RMC product catalog, and he DID misspell my name! I literally SHRIEKED in the Kings Island parking lot when she gave this to me and everyone else had a good laugh at my expense. Currently it sits in my important papers drawer but I do want to eventually put it in a frame and display it along with some of my other RMC swag (Goliath media day lanyard, drink coasters, Steel Vengeance announcement hat, stuff of the nature) on my wall proudly. (I know it's a real autograph from a real engineer because it's so illegible I asked Kat if it was Fred or Alan's signature, haha) I was supposed to go one more time that year but weather prevented me from making it down, sadly. It was too cold to run anything to begin with, which wouldn't bother me since half the fun is just appreciating the magic that is this event, but considering how a lot of what I take to get to KI is back roads and it was snowy, I knew I would have to deal with a lot of unplowed roads, so that put an unfortunate premature stop to my season. However, it really ended when I got off Mystic Timbers for the last time that night, and that was a moment I'd love to appreciate as the finale to 2017. 2017 was a great year for me in terms of coasters, despite a bit of calm before the storm that will be the New for 2018 additions. Got a very solid 60 credits, one new RMC, saw two more being constructed, and got to see one of my manufacturing idols speak in person! And getting Alan's autograph was the perfect end to it! I got to share it with several great people I had known from the past like Ben, Connor, Emily, Celia, Nick, Kat, Andrew, and Jennifer, and also got to meet several great new people like GWAS, Sue, Travis, Steve, and Jonny. Here's to great coasters, great friends, and overall a season for the books! 2018 should be interesting in that it'll be a pretty tumultuous time in my life as I get closer and closer to graduating, but I'm honestly ready for it. For starters, I know I'm getting at least one new RMC in the form of Steel Vengeance. But the real number will be closer to four or higher, as Ben and I will be making my annual region trip to Texas next year. Iron Rattler, New Texas Giant, the all new Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster, and Switchback make up the backbone of a pretty good trip spreadsheet that'll be spread out over three days in arguably the mecca of the RMC fandom. Virginia is also a region that largely interests me simply due to missing half of BGW's creds and the new RMC going up there, though Georgia isn't out of the question either if I can squeeze it in. I'd like to do Florida to do Mine Blower and maybe catch a SpaceX launch but that might have to wait. I don't know when my season will start, or where, but when it does I guarantee that it will be another one to remember as always!