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Calirado: Summary & Final Score.


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We're currently about 12 days into this trip, with 6 more left to go. Well, I say 6, it might be a few more, what with Thomas Cook going tits-up and all that, our current status is officially 'stranded in the USA', but we're not gonna worry about that for the time being. There's worse places to be stranded, right?
Today is a rest day, and right now I'm chilling in The View Hotel, Monument Valley and this is the view from our window:


Not too shabby, right?

But I'm getting ahead of myself. You can't start a trip report from 12 days in can you? So let's go back to the beginning...
We flew into San Francisco on Sept 12th and got a transfer to our home for next 3 nights, which was this little guy right here:


Mrs Howie was worried about earthquakes see, and didn't want to stay in a high rise building so that's how the boat came about. Apparently, @pvnks has stayed on this exact same boat on a previous trip. Small world, huh?
It was a bit cramped to be honest, but it was nice to sit and chill on the top deck in the evenings with beer, Dominoes pizza and some other stuff that I picked up from the Harborside Dispensary, conveniently located just across the street. ?


Day 2 was all about getting the basic, San Fran' touristy stuff done, so we hopped onto a ferry over to the city:


And wandered up the seafront to Pier 39 and Fisherman's wharf:



We had clam chowder in a sourdough bowl. We saw the sealions:


Have you ever heard of city Go Cards? Dead good they are, it's like a multi-attraction ticket that gives you free or reduced entry to virtually any tourist attraction in a given area. Linky:

We had the San Francisco one, mainly because it covers entry into Six Flags Discovery Kingdom AND California's Great America, but since we were here we also used it to have a go on a 7D dark-ride shooter thing on the pier, which was actually pretty good:


... the Aquarium and the San Francisco Flyer - a flying theatre attraction similar to Epcot's Soarin', which was also pretty good:


... and the Exploratorium, which is a huge science museum with hundreds of hands-on exhibits and curiosities that kept us happily entertained for several hours. So entertained, in fact, that neither of us took any pictures of it, inside or out. But trust me, it's fab!

As evening approached, it was time for the highlight of the day - the souped up, night time tour of Alcatraz, with added adult content, grizzly tales, sound effects and creepy lighting. On to another ferry then for some more great views of the city and the Golden Gate Bridge at sunset:



Meh. It's just like the Humber Bridge back home... only smaller. ;)




Couple of Mrs Howie's 'arty' shots:




Where I belong, finally:

I tell you what, this place is creepy as hell at night. If you get the chance, you should definitely try to get on one of the night time tours. Even better if you can get it on Friday 13th, with a full moon overhead. Highly recommended.


Coming up in the next installment.... creddddssss! :)
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Well-Known Member
oooh you be Thomas Cook refugees ; that could be interesting! ;)

Good luck with that then!


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I fully expect to see you both at either an airport check-in counter (or outside a closed Thomas Cook shop when you get back), pointing and looking angry while complaining about your "holiday from Hell".
I would expect nothing less.

Wow, Alcatraz at night looks awesome! That'll definitely have to be one we do next time we go to San Fran'. Excellent! Can't wait for the geographic content. <3


Active Member
Got back home a couple of days ago... finally. Thanks to our friends at Thomas Cook we had to spend an extra 3 nights in Las Vegas, so you can imagine how awful that was. Got to see a Rod Stewart gig and everything. Bummer.

But anyway, back to day 3 - the cred day. Due to Mrs Howie rearranging our schedule at the last minute, we were forced to attempt Six Flags Discovery Kingdom AND California's Great America in one day. A sunny Saturday, no less. Should be fun. But before we could do any of that, we needed a set of wheels.
This'll do nicely...

Yesss, it's the fast one. :)

Had a bit of a ball ache getting it though. The nice lady at Thrifty tried palming me off with a crappy little Chevrolet Cruze to start with, despite the booking confirmation clearly stating 'Dodge Challenger or similar'.
"Sorry sir, we don't even have a Challenger".
"How about something similar then? Charger? Mustang? Camaro?"
"Sorry sir, a Chevrolet Cruze is the nicest car we have at the moment".
"Gimme the god-damn Cruze" I said.
So I gets the keys to the Cruze, go downstairs to the underground garage and what do I see in the first parking bay? Yes, that burgundy bad boy in the picture. So back up the stairs we go, Mrs Howie in full-on dissatisfied customer mode; "Hey you, you said you didn't have any Challengers, but there's one downstairs in the first bay".
Long story short - we got our Challenger, and we headed off to SFDK for the first batch of today's creds.

To be fair, I wasn't expecting great things from this park and first impressions didn't really help change that. First of all, the car park is about a mile away from the park and you have to catch a tram to the entrance. The layout of the park is unusual to say the least, somehow the entrance manages to be slap bang in the middle of the park. Like, you're surrounded by coasters before you've even entered the place. Weird. Makes for a lot of to-ing and fro-ing if you don't know your way around.
The largest and most imposing coaster here is Medusa, a B&M floorless coaster, so that's where we headed first. No queue so we had 2 goes, front and back. It's not bad, decent size, good roar and it does have the sea-serpent roll, a fairly rare element and unique on a floorless coaster. Second half is a bit rough compared to the first, but overall a fairly solid coaster.



They've got an SLC. It's called Kong. It was nearby as you exit Medusa, there was no queue, so we had a rip. Meh.
Not the worst one I've been on, but still pretty bad.


In the foreground there you can also see a Tivoli type family coaster. Didn't bother with that one. To the right you can a see a bit of the Larson loop, didn't bother with that either, had an RMC to get to, see.
Joker, then. Had to queue for about 30 mins for this one, was a hot day, no shelter, crowds slowly building up, first stages of cred anxiety setting in.
This was the only picture I took of Joker:


It's good. Really good. Easily the best coaster at SFDK. But is it RMC good? Is it one of the better ones? Hmm... sadly not. I mean, it's fast, forceful, got some good airtime and a decent stall, but... compared to some of the newer ones it feels kinda generic. I dunno, maybe I'm starting to get RMC fatigue? If this had been my first RMC I'd probably be raving about it, but after things like SteVe, Untamed and Wildfire, Joker doesn't quite stack up. It's just not as wild as some of the others.

Now then, I was against the clock, so the rest of the park had to be treated as a cred run and nothing more. I decided to get Batman out of the way first, the parks S&S 4D Freefly. I wasn't too thrilled about it to be honest, I'd ridden the one at Six Flags Great America last year and pretty much hated it, but given that these things can give a different ride experience every time I thought I'd give it another chance.
Nope. Still rubbish. In their pathetically short ride time, 4D freefly's veer from dull and boring to gross, spinny and vom inducing, to downright painful and back to dull and boring again within about 30 seconds. Next time I see one of these things I'm just gonna walk right on by.


Next up was a new ride type for me, the Premier Sky Rocket, confusingly named Superman: Ultimate Flight at this park. Again, not a ride type I was particularly excited about. I'm not a fan of this forwards-backwards-forwards triple launch nonsense, it just feels far too gimmicky for my liking. I'd much prefer the launch to be powerful enough to complete the course first time round. And I'm not a fan of slow hangtime either, especially 150ft up in the air. 40 minute queue time didn't help.
As it turned out, I was right. The launches felt gimmicky and the slow, upside downy hang time was gross, so overall I didn't like it very much. Not in a rush to ride another one.


Also in the area was Harley Quinn; Crazy Coaster. Awful name, and not even a coaster - it's one of those new fangled skywarp things. Looked quite interesting in concept, but in the flesh they are loud, clunky looking and appear to have disgusting amounts of slow, upside downy hangtime, so no thanks, I'll pass.

Final coaster in the area was Flash, one of those Intamin twisted impulse coasters. I quite liked the ones at CP and SFGAm, but this one is a bit different cos the forwards spike has been dropped down to an angle of about 30 - 35° instead of the usual 90°. Unfortunately, this results in, yes you've guessed it, lots of disgusting upside downy hangtime, so this ended up being my least favourite twisted impulse coaster.
It's the red and yellow one to the left of this picture;


All in all, neither of us were really feeling this park. Apart from Medusa and Joker, the creds here are decidedly mediocre. We decided to go for one more ride and head off to California's Great America in search of something more exciting.
But which ride should we go for? We could either traipse all the way to the top end of the park to ride their Vekoma boomerang, or we could have another lap on Joker which was right there next to us. Bit of a no brainer, really, so another lap on Joker it was and we both enjoyed it very much. Pre lift hill section is hilarious!
It was a nice way to finish the park, but neither of us were that impressed with the place overall and besides, I was keen to have another go in my lovely Dodge, so we made the 90 minute drive south to SFDK's Cedar Fair rival, which I'll write about in the next installment...


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The drive to CGA was uneventful. In fact, it was lovely, did I mention the Dodge? Just in case, here is another picture of my Dodge:


I loved my Dodge. I miss my Dodge. :(

Anyways, we rocked up at California's Great America at about half 3. It was open til 8pm that day so I figured we'd be able to get everything done. I won't keep you in suspense - we did get everything done, with rerides. It was easy, place was really quiet:




As you can see, it's also rather pretty. Much prettier than the Six Flags park we'd just left. Fairly typical Cedar Fair park entrance, which is certainly not a bad thing:

And lots of Halloween decorations dotted around:


I know this isn't exactly a bucket-list park for most people, but Mrs Howie and I were both pleasantly surprised by how nice this place is. Plenty of space, lots of greenery, a layout that makes sense and is easy to follow, just... nice.
My original plan of attack was based on us arriving first thing and having all day here, but seeing as that plan went out of the window with Mrs Howie's tinkering, we just decided to hit things up as and when we came to them. First one was Goldstriker, a big GCI woodie. Quite highly rated by some and yeah, quite highly rated by me too. It's a bit brutal, but the twisty layout is intense, action packed and fab. Loved how they made the first drop into a double-down, and the tunnels/half tunnels really add to the sensation of speed.
Great ride, on a par with Troy I'd say.

We minced over to Railblazer next, undoubtedly my most anticipated coaster of the trip. Looks quite imposing as you approach:


I've mentioned this already in the 'Last Cred Review' thread, but Railblazer is a blisteringly good coaster. As a ride concept it needs some fine tuning, there's a couple of issues that need addressing before I declare the single rail coaster the Next Big Thing, but I'm very excited to see where this technology takes us in future. An insanely fast ride, can't wait to see more of them cropping up.

Flight Deck was ok. It's a compact B&M inverter, quite punchy and forceful but very short and not particularly memorable. One of the weaker B&M inverters out there, but it's in decent nick, it rides ok and it works well as a solid filler attraction. Didn't get any pictures of it though, sorry. :(

CGA has 2 B&M's, the other one is Patriot, a former stand-up coaster converted to a floorless model, but...

First time I've ever been spited by a B&M! Thankfully, not one of the high end, premium, bucket list B&M's, but still a bit of a downer. :(

We then rode the remaining three filler coasters which are: Grizzly, a crappy old woodie off of the 80's. Much like its namesake at Kings Dominion, it's slow, bouncy and not very memorable.
There's also a mouse coaster called Psycho Mouse, which I rode merely because it's a fairly rare Arrow model which I hadn't been on before. Meh. Slightly different to Mack Mice, but still very much mouse-like in design and experience, and Demon, which is a crappy old Arrow looper off of the 80's. Meh. Standard double loop + double corkscrew + helix layout, bit rough around the edges and once again, very unmemorable.

Apparently they've also got 2 kiddie coasters here too - Lucy's Crabbie Cabbies and Woodstock Express, but I don't recall even seeing those, let alone riding them. Bad goon.
They do have an Intamin 2nd gen drop tower though and they're always good for a quick adrenaline fix so I had a blast on that, and then it was back to the only 2 coasters in the park that are actually worth visiting for really - Railblazer and Goldstriker, for rerides until closing time.
Saw some hummingbirds while queueing for Goldstriker, so that was kinda cool:


To be fair, after 2 laps the roughness started to take a toll on my head and I quickly decided that Railblazer would be the one to finish on. And what an amazing ride it is! Despite the massive g forces it subjects you to - and I'm talking the kind of extreme laterals normally reserved for the craziest, vom inducing, spin-n-spew flat rides - Railblazer still manages to be fun, thrilling and rerideable. Quite the achievement. I had 4 more goes! Woulda been more, but Mrs Howie was giving me the evils, clearly it was time to go. Besides, I'd promised her we could have a go on their lovely carousel near the entrance before we left. Not as exciting as another lap on Railblazer, but look how happy it made her. :)


All in all, not a bad day then. I mean, I didn't get all the creds - we skipped 2 creds at Six Flags (the Boomerang and the Tivoli) and skipped the 2 kiddie creds at CGA, plus got spited by Patriot, so from a cred-whore point of view this could be viewed as an epic fail, but we got the creds that really mattered (namely the 2 RMC's and Goldstriker) and we both had a reasonably enjoyable day, which is the main thing. Like I said, neither of these parks were bucket list destinations for me, and they shouldn't be for you either, but if you treat them both as bonus cred runs as part of a bigger trip then yeah, they're well worth visiting.

Ok, time for a small confession: despite the title, that's pretty much it for the creds on this trip. Well... not completely, there'll be the Adventuredome creds in Las Vegas, and there'll be Glenwood Caverns coming up later on, but the rest of this trip is made up largely of canyons, caverns, caves and cliffs and stuff - the much dreaded geo-graphic content alluded to in the warning - so the remainder of this report is likely to be more of a giant photo dump than anything else.

Coming up next then, Mariposa Grove and Yosemite National Park.
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Active Member
That car hire situation sounds very similar to mine with them blatantly lying to you about what they had available, even though you get to just walk out there and choose anyway. Clearly you did better out of it though. Did you like your Dodge? ;)

Next time I see one of these things I'm just gonna walk right on by.
I demand that you make an exception to this rule if you ever find yourself walking past Arashi.

Mrs Howie and I were both pleasantly surprised by how nice this place is.
Same, the bad reputation seems unjustified, even if it spawned in the dark ages (pre-Railblazer).

I didn't get all the creds - we skipped 2 creds at Six Flags (the Boomerang and the Tivoli)
I'm afraid I've got some bad news...


Well-Known Member
Meh. Kiddie cred. Don't do kiddie creds, me. Not unless @DelPiero is there to con me onto them. ;)
No conning required, don't act all high and mighty, you begged me to go on the one at Worlds of Fun with you ffs.

Edit - Trip report is good so far, i mean, there's no fudge yet, so could be better.


Active Member
Edit - Trip report is good so far, I mean, there's no fudge yet, so could be better.

Be patient, dear boy. There will be fudge.

Day 4 was a travelling day, no major activities planned, just a scenic drive through Yosemite National Park with a quick stop off at Mariposa Grove to see the giant redwood trees, plus a whole bunch of photo stops en route.
So we jumped in the Dodge nice and early... did I mention the Dodge?
Here is another picture of my Dodge, just in case:

Headed out of San Francisco...

...and hit the open road. Time to see what the Dodge can really do. Quite a lot, as it turns out. :)

It was about a 3 hour drive to the sequoia trees. Just under 200 miles, no biggie.


Scenery becomes more interesting as you start gaining some altitude:



After about 3 hours driving we'd climbed about 7000ft and arrived at Mariposa Grove, home of some of the largest sequoia trees in California.
Here is some tree porn:



This one has a vag'.



'The Fallen Monarch'.







We minced about hugging the big ass trees for about an hour, taking pictures and doing the silly poses with all the other basics, before jumping back in the Dodge and driving through Yosemite via the legendary Tioga Pass. Distance wise it wasn't too far, about 110 miles, but it was still a 3 and a half hour drive due to it being a windy mountain road full of hairpin bends, cliff edges and steep drops. And that's if you're not stopping every few miles to take pictures, which of course we did.
Here is the route:

Apparently this road is only open for about 4 - 5 months a year. It usually closes in October because of snow, ice and high winds and doesn't open again until May or June, sometimes July. When it is closed, you're looking at a 5 hour detour around the top end of Yosemite. Good job it was September then!
Scenery is limited for a while as you're surrounded by trees...

It's a cool drive, very twisty, turny, up and downy but nothing too spectacular until you go through this looong tunnel, and then when you come out the other end the tunnel, Bam! You're confronted by THAT view of Yosemite Valley:


El Capitan, with the Half Dome in the distance.



Saw lots of amazing scenery on this trip, but for me this was one of the finest views of the lot. Stunning.

Bit more Dodge porn:


Apparently, according to a little message that just popped up, I can only attach 30 pictures per post, so that'll have to do for now. Hope you like 'em. Will upload another batch when the server allows it. :)


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Cor, Yosemite is something special isn't it?

Nearly as special as that car, actually. :p


Active Member
Now then, where was I?
Oh yes, Yosemite. Dead good it is, you should definitely try and go there some day.
Road elevation on the Tioga Pass peaks at around 11,000ft. Some good views at this altitude:

Lots of photo stops en route:

And of course, Dodge stops:

Eventually, after a long and rather spectacular day's driving, we arrived at our destination, a place called June Lake, where we'd be spending a couple of nights. Nice place, very pretty.
View from our hotel:

We were fairly tired so had a quiet evening, Mexican food, coupla beers and watched Dodgeball on the telly before crashing out.

Day 5: Bodie (Ghost town)

About 30 miles north of June Lake is the town of Bodie, a genuine Wild West ghost town from back in the day.
I realise ghost towns are soooo last week, old hat, yesterday's news etc... but unlike @witchfinder 's crappy, fake, touristy ghost town that still has people living in it, Bodie is authentic, bleak, completely abandoned and very remote. It's about 12 miles off the main highway, a sign said 'Warning: Very Rough Road Ahead'.
Wasn't that bad to start with:

But after a couple of miles the road got bumpier, narrower and twistier which wasn't doing my precious Dodge any good.
"Maybe we should turn back?" said Mrs Howie.
"Nah we'll be reet. It might get better in a bit". Famous last words.
It didn't get any better, it got worse and worse to the point where I conceded that Mrs Howie was right and we should've turned round when we had the chance but it was too late. By this point we were winding our way up this hillside on a very narrow road made of jagged rocks, there was nowhere to turn round, and I certainly couldn't reverse the 3 miles back down to the flat bit. We were committed. Anyways, it took us about half an hour to cover the last 2 miles, it was literally walking pace, but eventually the road levelled out and we saw Bodie ahead.

It was a gold mining town apparently, and was notorious for being one of the most violent, lawless towns in the west. 10,000 people lived here at one point, but the gold ran out, the population dwindled and when a fire destroyed the majority of the town everybody else left. What's left is now a Historic State Park and is maintained in a state of 'preserved decay'. Fascinating stuff.
Photo dump, then:








Quite literally a photo dump: :D

Although it might look nice and warm and sunny in the pictures, it was f-r-e-e-z-i-n-g up here and very windy. Mrs Howie took a few arty pictures and touched them up a bit to reflect how cold and bleak the place really was:




So that's enough ghost town I reckon. We were cold and hungry. Luckily the road going out the other side of Bodie was a lot smoother than the one we came in on and despite it being a longer way round we were back at our lodge in June Lake about an hour later.
Now then, what did we do that afternoon? Can't quite remember, I'm sure it was something pretty cool....

Oh yes, that was it. We got married. :eek::eek:

Yep, after 14 years together it was time for Mrs Howie to actually become Mrs Howie for real. It was hilarious! First of all, shortly after we got back from the ghost town and were about to get ready, the power went off. Apparently, when the weather gets a bit breezy round these parts, they shut the power down to avoid the risk of wild fires, so that meant no light, no hairdrying, no hair straightening, no clothes ironing, nothing. Brilliant! Secondly, by the time we were ready, the wind had picked up to gale force levels and was whipping up a right old storm. Made for a very interesting photo shoot, that's for sure. Unfortunately we haven't had the full set of pictures yet, just that teaser shot above, but when we get them back I'll stick a couple on the end of the report.
In the meantime, there's a short, 3 second clip here that gives you an idea of how windy it was:

So yeah, visited a ghost town, nearly got the Dodge stuck on a dirt road, got married in a hurricane - not a bad day overall.

Next stop, Vegas. :)


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Congratulations both! Memorable is all it has to be, and that sounds like just the ticket!


but unlike @witchfinder 's crappy, fake, touristy ghost town that still has people living in it, Bodie is authentic, bleak, completely abandoned and very remote.
OK, I'll give you this one - your Ghost Town definitely has more quality than my quantity ;)

Also, congrats on the marriage :)

Coaster Hipster

Active Member
Saw the warning, clicked anyway. I do not regret at all, some really fab pictures!
As a grow older, I enjoy more a mixture of creds + sightseeing. Feels like a more complete experience.

Congrats to you and Mrs. Howie on making it official :D


Active Member
Congratulations both!

OK, I'll give you this one - your Ghost Town definitely has more quality than my quantity ;)

Also, congrats on the marriage :)

Congrats to you and Mrs. Howie on making it official :D

Thank you very much you lovely, lovely people. :)

Fun fact: after the marriage & photo shoot malarkey, the power in June Lake still hadn't come back on so dinner on our wedding day consisted of cold sandwiches, Pringles and Budweiser, and that was only because the local shop had a generator to power the till.
We iz ded posh, init.
The following morning, still no power and this is where it started to become an issue because we had a 300 mile drive to Las Vegas to do that day and we needed fuel, but with no electricity for miles around none of the pumps were working. Dilemma then, stick around and wait for the power to come back on, or hit the road and hope that 1/4 tank gets us far enough to find somewhere that has got power?
Despite Mrs Howie suggesting otherwise I knew better, went for option B and we set off on a seemingly endless road to nowhere. Yeah, bad move. As is always the case in these situations, the fuel had been lasting fairly well up until now but just when you start depending on it to last that little bit further, the needle starts dropping like a stone. Pretty soon the fuel light came on; 35 miles left in tank. Oh sh*t.
"How far to the next town hon?" I said.
"Dunno bab."
"Well Google it, dumbass."
"Can't, no signal. Nothing. Zip. Squat. Nada. Twat."
Long story short, I conceded that Mrs Howie was right... again, but this time I turned round while I still had the chance and drove back to June Lake and waited for the power to come back on. Just in the nick of time too - as we pulled into the petrol station the mileage-left-in-tank clicked on to '0'. ?

Power did eventually did come back on about lunchtime and, fuelled up to the brim, we hit the road. Again.

Was a cool drive, lots of this going on:

Then there'd be a high, twisty road over some mountains, followed by another endless straight line as far as the eye can see. Do that 3 or 4 times and before you know it you've covered 200 miles!

Stripey mountains. What's that about?

We passed the Area 51 Alien Centre on the way, gotta stop there for a picture or 2 because, y'know, it's been in fillums.


When in doubt, get the missus to pose with a comedy cardboard cutout:

Didn't know they had a brothel here too. If I hadn't just gotten married the day before I may have been tempted to go in for a browse. ;)

Arrived in Vegas early evening and checked into the Rio All Suites hotel. Quite a nice hotel to be fair, very clean and shiny, massive rooms with massive windows etc. It's situated one block away from the Strip so it's a bit quieter than some of the others, doesn't have quite as much 'through traffic' wandering in and out. Nice. Would recommend.
View from our room, bit different to the view back at June Lake:

The Rio is also the home of the Penn & Teller theatre and seeing as we had front row tickets to their show that night, it made sense to stay on site. We'd both wanted to see Penn & Teller's live show for years, ever since the first time we came to Vegas in fact, which was waaay back in 2010.
It was fab!

After the show we got to meet Penn...

...and Teller, so that was kinda cool:

A steak dinner in one of the hotel restaurants and 2 beers later and it was time for bed.
Day 2 in Vegas would involve getting some creds. Only 2 of 'em mind you, and not very good ones, but still, yay... creds!
Didn't need the Manhatten Express/Big Apple coaster as I rode it last time I was here. It was gross then, it would still be gross now and no amount of VR f**kwittery would make me wanna ride it again, especially not at 20 bucks a pop.
But the Adventuredome was new to me, as was most of Downtown Las Vegas so after a lazy morning, that's where we went.
It wasn't very nice.
The Adventuredome is hot, ugly and smelly and the hotel it's attached to (Circus Circus) is grotty, old and has sticky carpets. No wonder it's one of the cheapest hotels on the strip.
Bought enough tokens to ride the 2 creds once each and got to business, first up was Canyon Blaster, your standard double loop/double corkscrew Arrow coaster with added rockwork theming.


Meh. The drop and the vertical loops were actually ok but it all went to sh*t when you asked it to go round a corner. Rough, shuffly and earbashing aplenty. 1 and done.
Next up was El Loco, an S&S... erm, El Loco (bit like Mumbo Jumbo at Mingo).


Meh. It was alright. Rode a bit like Mumbo Jumbo at Mingo, funnily enough. On a par with your average Eurofighter I'd say.
And that was that, +2. Boom. Apparently they have a kiddie cred called Miner Mike too, but that was closed.
With nothing else of note here, we quickly decided we'd had enough of this hole and jumped into an Uber down to Fremont Street and downtown.
Fremont Street is the one with all those overhead neon lights, which are pretty cool.

Tell you wot, it's a bit rowdy down this end of town innit? Street performers everywhere, loud music pumping out from the bars, lots of street food, fat birds with their tits out walking around, the smell of weed permeating the air. It also has cheaper prices and better gambling odds apparently, but to be honest, neither of us liked it very much. Bit grimy, bit dirty, not very friendly etc. When people talk about Blackpool being the 'Vegas of the North', clearly they mean Downtown Vegas.
I was tempted to try out this place though:

God bless America!

Common sense prevailed though and we decided to ditch this place and get an Uber back up to the posh end.


We didn't do anything specific, just minced about the strip taking in all the glitz and glamour. Saw the fountains at the Bellagio, watched the pirate show at Treasure Island, spent a few bucks in the arcade at the Excalibur, all the basic stuff.






And that's about it from Vegas... for now anyway. The next day we were flying to Denver to start the second half of our holiday.
In the next installment then, Cave of the Winds Mountain Park and the awesome, yes awesome, Glenwood Caverns Adventure Park. :)
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Of course, the one major downside to having an internal flight in the middle of the trip was, <sob> that I had to give back the Dodge. Sad times, man, sad times.
Let's have one more picture of the Dodge, just for old times sake:

So long, old friend. :'(
But it's ok, when we got to Denver we'd be picking up another car, yay! Now then, as you can probably tell, I really loved my Dodge and had been banging on about it for the last week or so on Facetube, but our very own @daviddoc , aka Mr "Hakugei-is-better" himself, sent me a message saying, and I quote: "Yeah the Challenger is good, but the Mustang is where it's at."
And again at the airport, another message saying "Go for the Mustang this time."
Sure enough, at the Thrifty office in Denver, they had a Mustang:

Note the Challenger parked next to it, which I could have had. But the Mustang looked nice, it's an American tradition I suppose and I'd never driven one before, it was a convertible and it was the fast one so...


...so yeah, I thought I'd give the Mustang a go. Hefty upgrade fee but whatever. If Dr Dave says it's worth it, it'll be worth it.
What an idiot!
Dave for suggesting that the Mustang is better than the Dodge, and me for listening to him. Shoulda known better. Anyone who says that Hakugei is better than SteVe is clearly deluded anyway. ;)
Yeah, the Mustang was horrible. Hated it. Such a different beast to the Challenger. Where the Dodge is roomy, smooth, comfortable, easy to drive - a proper big lazyboy cruiser, the Mustang is hard, angry, low down and very shouty. The seats were hard, the ride was hard, the steering was sharp and jittery, it was cramped, no no no this isn't right at all.
I mean yeah, it was fast, it was better equipped than the Dodge and it looked good on the Facetube posts, plenty of likes from all the plebs back home etc...

But no. Didn't like it all. After the first drive to Manitou Springs I was stiff, tired, had a headache and was very grumpy. Even on the smoothest of roads the 'Stang was jiggling about all over the place. I'm not entirely convinced the suspension wasn't knackered to be honest. Maybe the last renter had driven it up to Bodie or sumat but either way, I knew that I couldn't live with this thing for the next 1500 miles so on the second day of having it I Googled the nearest Thrifty office (there was one en route) and I took it back. Hopefully I could swap it for another Dodge.
They didn't have any Dodges. :(
"Best thing I've got at the moment Sir is a medium sized SUV, but I will refund the upgrade fee for you if you like?"
"You know what mate? I'll take it." I said.
So yeah, for the rest of holiday we had a Hyundai Tucson. ?
It was grey, dull, boring and it wasn't very powerful but at least it was smooth, quiet, comfy and had enough room for all of our luggage. Call me a sad old man if you like, but I was much happier with my sensible SUV.
So there you go, 2 bits of useful consumer advice for you there: a) if you have a choice between a Challenger/Charger or a Mustang when on a US road trip, always go for the Dodge and b) never listen to anything Dr Dave says.
Hakugei is better my ass.
But enough about cars, where was I? Oh yes, we got to Denver, picked up the crappy Mustang and drove to Cave of the Winds Mountain Park in Manitou Springs, Colorado. Wasn't far, about 80 miles:

There's only one reason why you'd come to this place really, and that's the Terror Dactyl canyon swing, one of Stan Checketts' infamous creations.20191017_090654.jpg

You've probably seen it on those travel vlog/clickbait articles that get shared on Facebox all the time. 'Hit like if you'd ride this', sorta thing. Like this one:

Well, I rode it. It's good, pretty scary to start with, but... I dunno, slightly underwhelming maybe? Walking out towards it on that platform certainly sets the nerves going, and that bit where the floor swings away to reveal the drop is a bit of an 'Oh sh*t' moment, but once it let's you go it's... well, it's just a swing. Yeah it might be very big swing in a rather splendid location, but at the end of the day it's just like the rope swings you used to hang from big trees when you were a kid. Definitely one of those things where the anticipation of the ride is much worse than the ride itself, but still, it's a cool experience and I'm glad I did it.
Here is a shaky, out of focus clip that Mrs Howie filmed of me riding the Terror Dactyl Canyon Swing (I don't know how to embed a video clip from my phone into a thread, so a link to the FB post will have to do. Sorry!)

Fun fact: The guy operating the canyon swing had The Smiler logo tattooed on his collarbone. No, really!
I got chatting to him while waiting for the wind to die down before my swing, young lad, early 20's I'd say.
'Where y'all from?' he said.
'England mate.'
'Oh you'll be fine, this is just like Oblivion on a string.'
'You've been on Oblivion??' I said.
'Oh hell yeah, last year.'
'No way? That's my home park, I was there, like, 2 weeks ago for my stag do!'
'Aw dude, I loved Alton Towers, you guys are so lucky to have a park like that.'
'Huh?' :oops:
'Yeah' he said 'John Wardley, what a legend. Let's build a coaster with 14 loops. Crazy. Best ride ever!' At which point the guy showed me his Smiler tattoo.
I didn't have my phone on me - Mrs Howie was using it to video my swing - so I don't have a photo to prove it.
I know what you're thinking; is this like the donkey in a hat thing? Did this really happen, or have you just been smoking that funny stuff again Howie? But I swear down, it's true. Every word. :)

So apart from canyon swings and guys with Smiler tattoos, what else does this place have to offer? Well, truth is, not loads. This isn't a theme park don't forget, it's a cave-based tourist attraction that has a handful of supplementary activities there to pad things out a bit. Half a day, tops. There's a short zipline that traverses a section of the canyon. Don't ask me why the seat rests at that funny angle cos I don't know.

Had rip. It was alright.

They've also got a 4D simulator ride, depicting your typical, out of control, mountain-top coaster type thing. Had a rip. It was alright.



Park entrance:

And of course, being on the side of a mountain in Colorado it has some fantastic views:





Further up the mountain they also have another network of zipwires which you can do for an upcharge, plus rock climbing & abseiling walls, hiking tours, there's a high ropes/climbing challenge thingy that hangs over the edge of a cliff - all good, outdoorsy, goony stuff.
And let's not forget how this place got started to begin with - the cave tours. They have several miles of cave network here and there's a number of different tours you can do of varying lengths and difficulty. We did the basic one which lasts about 40 mins. It was pretty cool:






Seriously, this is a cool little place. You'll like it. If and when you finally decide to visit Glenwood Caverns (and anyone reading this absolutely has to visit Glenwood Caverns someday), then this is the perfect little warm-up attraction on the way to get you in the mountain mood. Check it out, website here:

Accommodation that night was a nondescript Airbnb nearby. We'd been up since 5am that morning to catch our flight from Vegas so we had a quiet night, quick mooch in Manitou Springs and a lil drinkie, followed by takeaway pizza which we took back to the room. The next day was Glenwood Caverns day, exciting times!
I know I said I'd review Glenwood Caverns in this post but I've almost used up my picture allowance for this one, so I'll start again later with a fresh post.
I mean, I should be working anyway... this trip report nonsense really saps your productivity levels...

Laters guys.


Active Member
Congrats on the wedding, you know I do love a good hurricane/typhoon myself. Sounds perfect.

Totally believe your Smiler bloke story. Grass is always greener comes up a lot on my travels.

Glad we didn't push for the Mustang outside our last car hire. ;) I'll let you know if SteVe is better next year.
You're an old man ?

Maybe the suspension on yours was knackered for some reason, as that's totally not the experience I've had driving Mustangs. I've never had an issue with the seats and found them perfectly comfy, and the in-seat air conditioning was rather nice too. Maybe things have changed with this year's model, but I found it more responsive, better equipped and even more practical than other muscle cars, with a usable amount of space in the boot even with the roof down. Plus the thing is gorgeous to look at and driving a Mustang through the desert with the roof down and some classic rock on the stereo is still one of the best driving experience I've had.



See now I'll give you the ghost town, fair enough, but those aren't bears. THESE are bears :D

(This guy says Hi)