Category Archives: Travel

Operational Thoughts on Fast Pass

fast pass

Businesses like to make money. Amusement parks are a business. I get those two premises. However, I observed a lot of operational issues with Fast Passes/Fast Track/Fast Lane tickets at the amusement parks on our trip.

Fast Passes/Tracks are upgrade purchases that guests can make at a park. The Fast Pass allows you to skip some or all of the line on some or all of the rides, depending on the park and the specific version of the upgrade that you buy. We saw prices that ranged from $50 at Michigan’s Adventure to $120 at Cedar Point.

1. Some implementations of the Fast Pass idea had two lines that merged into one prior to the ride. Presumably, the Fast Pass line is always shorter than the normal line. However, this implementation requires an employee to act as traffic cop when the lines merge, a job with little added value. Other implementations keep the distinct lines all the way up to the ride itself, whereby the typical ride employees can officiate how many Fast Pass riders to allow and how many normal riders to allow. I think the second option makes more sense. First, you don’t need the extra employee. Second, normal customers feel jealousy/aggravation when their line is stopped so that Fast Pass customers can literally line jump in front of them. There’s less aggravation if the merge occurs more seamlessly at the ride itself and normal customers do not have to wait with Fast Pass customers for an extended period.

2. Some rides were saving seats for Fast Pass riders, with the Fast Pass line coming up the exit ramp to the ride. All of the rides that did this were saving too much capacity for Fast Lane. Magnum XL-200 at Cedar Point (built in 1989) was saving 4 seats for Fast Pass riders on each train. Storm Runner at Hersheypark was saving close to half the train for Fast Pass riders. In my brief wait for each ride, I didn’t see anyone come up the Fast Pass line for either ride. As such, that capacity was being left empty on the train, to the annoyance of normal waiting customers. You should only save capacity that you can routinely fill. For older rides with little Fast Pass interest, I don’t see the point in saving any capacity.

3. From a customer point of view, I would rarely decide that it was worthwhile to purchase a Fast Pass. I routinely get on every ride (that interests me) at parks in a single day. Yes, occasionally a Fast Pass will save you a one-hour wait, but you can typically get on every ride without a Fast Pass. The exception would be if you are silly enough to goto a popular park on a Saturday in the summer. Then it is crowded, and you may need a Fast Pass to ride every ride.

I think strategic thinking in terms of park dynamics is almost as valuable as a Fast Pass, and it is free. If you want to minimize your wait for rides, do the opposite of what other guests are doing. Most guests work their way from the front of the park to the back. So if it’s early in the day, the rides in the back of the park will have shorter lines. Go there first. Many rides will have shorter waits during dinner time as customers stop for food and a break. If a park has a water park, it will become crowded in the mid-afternoon, taking riders away from normal coasters.

4. Are Fast Passes fair? It’s always frustrating when a person willing to pay for extra privileges gets to do something ahead of you, after you have been waiting. I am of the opinion that everyone should wait the same duration for the same ride (and I miss days gone by when Fast Passes didn’t exist). Having said that, I understand why parks offer them. They are a means of price discrimination, getting richer customers to pay more for a slightly better experience. If I were running a park, I would get rid of Fast Passes and make up the lost revenue by moving some concession stands to the longer queues of popular rides. Concessions are price-discriminatory as well, as richer customers are more likely to buy. I would think concessions would sell well in a line where customers don’t have much else to do but wait. Concessions are less attractive in the park at large, where customers can bypass them to get to the next attraction, game, or ride. Moving concessions to the queues of long lines will more than make up for the lost revenue from eliminating Fast Passes, and “normal” customers will not be as frustrated by the presence of concessions as they are by being jumped in line by wealthy park patrons with Fast Passes. After all, line jumping is cause for ejection from the park.

This discussion has been specific to the Fast Pass concepts I saw at the Cedar Fair parks and Hersheypark. I understand that Disney has a form of this as well, but it is free to everyone. I have never experienced Disney’s system myself, but from what I understand, it simply rewards strategic customers over non-strategic ones. Perhaps this is valuable to Disney because strategic customers like to game the line-skipping system and non-strategic customers don’t notice the ruse.

Hersheypark Rides


The third stop on our whirlwind amusement park tour was Hersheypark, in Hershey, PA, on Tuesday, July 19, 2016. We bought half-priced “sunset” (arrive after 5pm) tickets, after driving from Niagara Falls earlier in the day. We arrived at 6pm. We happened to be there on the same day that Paul McCartney was performing, so getting into the park was a challenge with traffic. Hersheypark is the only park we did that was not owned by Cedar Fair, and it had some unique rides. And chocolate. 76 rides, with 13 roller coasters. Park map (click to expand. It’s comically hard to read):

Hersheypark Map

1. Skyrush
Huge steel, non-looping coaster. 212 ft, 76 mph, 85 degree first drop. Cool seat design where it feels like you are not surrounded by the rest of the train. Seats on the outside feel like they will hit other parts of the ride at certain points. Very smooth. Very impressive. The first ride we rode at Hersheypark, and then we revisited for our last ride of the night. One rating from each ride:
Eric: 10/10, 9/10
Maria: 10/10, 9/10

2. sooperdooperLooper
Steel, one loop. Big let down after Skyrush. I don’t think it made me move in my seat or change my expression at all. 75 ft, 45 mph. Interesting that there was only a lap bar for a looping coaster. Smooth.
Eric: 2/10
Maria: 5/10

3. Great Bear
Steel, looping. Legs free, suspended. 124 ft, 58 mph. I wrote in my notes that there was cool side-to-side aspect toward the end of the ride, though I don’t remember what that means. Track was intertwined with other rides. Smooth
Eric: 7/10
Maria: 6/10

4. Fahrenheit
Steel. Lift hill takes you straight up (literally, you are facing directly upward). 97 degree drop after the hill (more than straight down). 121 ft, 58 mph. Ride was cool, but not as long as we would have liked. With such a unique hill, we weren’t expecting much after the hill. We were pleasantly surprised, as the subsequent loops and side-to-side action was cool. Smooth.
Eric: 8/10
Maria: 9/10

5. The Wildcat
Wooden, with good views of this side of the park. 106 ft, 50 mph. Track went over itself in a cool way. Super bumpy and fried Maria’s brain. The camera is toward the end of the ride and Maria just looks miserable in the picture.
Eric: 6/10
Maria: 2/10


6. Laff Track
Queue snakes by lots of funhouse mirrors. 4 person car, 2 facing foward, 2 backward. Track is really interesting, with lots of corners and spinning. Scenery inside ride is full of clowns, tarot cards, and florescent colors. A lot of fun.
Eric: 7/10
Maria: 8/10

7. Lightning Racer
Wooden racer with two simultaneous trains. Cool interlacing tracks that make you feel like your car is winning/losing at different points on the track. Lots of hills; good ride. Pretty smooth.
Eric: 8/10, 8/10
Maria: 8/10

8. Storm Runner
Steel coaster that launches you at 72 mph into a 150 ft hill. You drop 180 ft out of the hill, hitting 75 mph. Some twists and loops afterward. Ride is only 34 seconds long, though.
Eric: 8/10
Maria: 8/10

9. Comet
Wooden, with lots of hills. Compact, double out and back track design. Very near Skyrush. 84 ft, 50 mph, build in 1946.
Eric: 5/10


10. Kissing Tower
Observation elevator ride with rotating top. Good view of park. We did it at night. Windows shaped like Hershey kisses. 4 minutes total.
Eric: 3/10
Maria: 5/10

11. Hershey Chocolate World Tour Ride
After 10pm, Hersheypark closed. Chocolate World, next door, stays open until 11pm. We went over there and did their free tour, which has a bit of a ride at the end. The floor rotates at the loading area (similar to White Water Canyon at Kings Island) and each boat probably fits 4 people. The tour takes you through the chocolate making process with some cool visuals. You get a piece of chocolate at the end. Singing cows.
Eric: 5/10
Maria: 6/10

We left Hersheypark at 10pm after arriving at 6pm, so everything above was quite rushed. It’d be worth spending more time at the park. Very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the park and the rides.

Cedar Fair Empire

Cedar Fair has 11 roller coaster parks:
California’s Great America, located in Santa Clara, CA
Canada’s Wonderland, located in Vaughan, ON, Canada
Carowinds, located in Charlotte, NC
Cedar Point, located in Sandusky, OH
Dorney Park, located in Allentown, PA
Kings Dominion, located in Doswell, VA
Kings Island, located in Kings Mills, OH
Knott’s Berry Farm, located in Buena Park, CA
Michigan’s Adventure, located in Muskegon, MI
Valleyfair, located in Shakopee, MN
Worlds of Fun, located in Kansas City, MO

My mom is now the group sales manager at Cedar Point, having previously had similar jobs at Kings Island and Dollywood (not a Cedar Fair park). Cedar Point is, nearly without question, the best roller coaster park in the US, probably the world. Through her position, Maria and I were able to get discounted platinum season passes, which get us into all the parks owned by Cedar Fair. We used the passes at Michigan’s Adventure, Canada’s Wonderland, Dorney Park, Wildwater Kingdom (in Aurora, OH, waterpark owned by Cedar Fair), and Cedar Point. We also tried to goto Kings Island, but it was raining. The passes also get us free parking and a discount on food and merchandise. If you’re in California or the Midwest or Mid-Atlantic, the Cedar Fair season pass for multiple parks could be a good option if interested in a roller coaster road trip:

cedar fair

I’ve been to Kings Island (many, many times, having grown up 2 miles away) and Kings Dominion before. Surprisingly, I don’t think I’ve been to Carowinds. We wanted to add Valleyfair to this trip, but didn’t have time to make it work. I don’t know much about Worlds of Fun or the California parks.

Canada’s Wonderland Rides


The second stop on our whirlwind amusement park tour was Canada’s Wonderland, in Vaughan, Ontario, on Monday, July 18, 2016. We arrived at the park around 11:15am, after driving into Toronto the previous night and sleeping late. Canada’s Wonderland is a large, well-kept park with 69 total rides and 16 roller coasters, which is a lot. Like other former Paramount parks (Kings Island, Kings Dominion, etc), it has a large fountain at the entrance, headlined by a large monument. In Kings Island and Kings Dominion, this is the Eiffel Tower (1/3 scale). In Canada’s Wonderland, it is Wonder Mountain with a huge waterfall (Victoria Falls). Multiple coasters surround and enter the mountain.

Here is the park map (click to expand):
Canada's Wonderland Park Map

Ride ratings:
1. Behemoth
Canada’s Wonderland is anchored by two huge coasters, Behemoth and Leviathan, on opposite sides of the park. Steel, non-looping. 230 ft, 78 mph. Cool V-shaped seating. Big first hill with a view of Toronto and the park. Very smooth.
Eric: 8/10
Maria: 8/10

2. Back Lot Stunt Coaster
Was the Italian Job Coaster when Paramount still owned the park. Steel with train designed like 3 Mini Coopers. Quick turns and hills. None of the typical effects (fire, gunshot fire from helicopter) were running. Surprise dip at end. Maria hated how bumpy it was.
Eric: 6/10
Maria: 1/10

3. Orbiter
Not a roller coaster. Looked like a cool ride, with a near vertical centrifuge. Maria doesn’t ride such things, as they make her dizzy. Very smooth ride, but a long load time because they have to clip every person in by hand. Better than expected. The WindSeeker ride in the background of the picture was not running all day due to high winds.
Eric: 6/10

4. Wonder Mountain’s Guardian
Ride inside Wonder Mountain. I hesitate to call it a coaster. There is an extensive story, and you have a gun/laser on your seat, which you use to shoot 3D monsters. Train goes forward/backward/sideways. Surprise drop at end. I got the lowest score of the train for shooting monsters poorly.
Eric: 4/10
Maria: 6/10

5. Thunder Run
Steel coaster that runs the same track through Wonder Mountain twice. The ride uses a drive motor with a rubber wheel in the front of the train to drive it around the track, rather than a traditional lift. Flat, smooth, but had a long wait due to only one train (runs same track twice). Prototyping a virtual reality experience, but we didn’t try it.
Eric: 2/10
Maria: 4/10

6. Wild Beast
One of the original coasters of the park, it was formerly at Coney Island in Cincinnati. Wooden, bumpy. Track runs out and back twice.
Eric: 4/10
Maria: 3/10

7. Skyhawk
Not a roller coaster, but Wonderland’s new ride for 2016. You control wings that allow you to rock back and forth. If you exert some effort, you can get going back and forth enough to start spinning laterally. I spun 7 times. How do I know that? There was screen at the end of the ride with a picture of each passenger and a tally of how many times they flipped (camera photo of screen above, I’m in the 2nd row, 2nd column from the right). Only 3/24 passengers decided to flip on our ride, and I was second with 7 flips. Would have had more, but I was seeing if I could stop and get spinning the other way before the ride ended. Nope. Relatively short ride.
Eric: 7/10
Maria: 6/10

8. Vortex
Steel, but pretty bumpy. Hanging coaster near Wonder Mountain. If you are familiar with Kings Island, it is similar to Top Gun/Flight Deck/The Bat (stupid name changes), not at all similar to The Vortex.
Eric: 4/10
Maria: 4/10

9. The Bat
A Boomerang coaster. Seems like almost every park has one of these. You run the same track, once forward, once backward. This one was kind of cool because the line wound between the lifts, as shown above. Not at all similar to The Bat at Kings Island.
Eric: 5/10
Maria: 6/10

10. Leviathan
Giant steel non-looping coaster. 5486 ft long, 306 ft tall, 92 mph. 8th tallest/fastest coaster in the world (3rd tallest with a traditional lift hill). Very smooth. Good first drop with lots of air-time in seat. Line moves quickly and ride loads quickly. We rode it twice, back to back.
Eric: 9/10, 9/10
Maria: 9/10, 9/10

11. Dragon Fire
Steel, looping. First drop is lousy. 2 loops are slow. Bumpy. No good. No knee room. Only redeeming fact was its cool location with the track intertwining Leviathan a bit. Maria wisely did not ride. That is my hand sticking up in the back car above, taken by Maria.
Eric: 2/10

12. Flight Deck
Steel, hanging. Bumpy. Cool corkscrew. However, the shoulder pads were so painful that it was hard to enjoy.
Eric: 3/10
Maria: 3/10

13. Time Warp
Interesting idea: you lay on your stomach and fly on a track that doesn’t really have hills or drops, just turns as you go down. Loading/unloading seemed hectic and dangerous. Headrests lead to a lot of brain rattling, and both Maria and I felt ill after this ride (though that may have been the cumulative effect of so many coasters in one day).
Eric: 4/10
Maria: 4/10

We left the park at 8pm after almost 9 hours in the park. Lots of rides, but really only Leviathan stands out.

Thoughts on Planning a Roller Coaster Trip

(waiting for Laff Track at Hersheypark)

We just did 5 parks in 5 days (and 6 in 9). So I feel qualified to give some advice related to theme park road trips. Hopefully this will help keep you sane and not too stretched out:

1. See what parks are out there. Here is a Wiki page of all the parks in North America.

2. Filter out parks that aren’t worth it. If a park doesn’t have at least 8 roller coasters, be skeptical of its value. The exception to this is if the park has a highly regarded coaster (see here for Coaster Buzz’s list, though there are many such lists).

3. Think about combo-deals. As I will discuss tomorrow, we focused on Cedar Fair owned parks, and our single season pass got us into 5 different parks on our trip. Six Flags will also have combo deals. Going to an amusement park without a combo deal is expensive. Without special discounts (via season pass or other special pricing), expect to pay $10-20 for parking and $40-80 for entry (per person, perhaps more for Disney parks). That adds up quickly if you are doing multiple parks. With our Cedar Fair Season Passes, we probably avoided about $600 in out-of-pocket expenses (ballparking $20 for parking and 2 $50 entries per 5 parks). The downside of focusing on combo deals like Cedar Fair or Six Flags is that you are liable to see many of the same rides repeated in different parks. Spice up your ride diversity by adding in a park not included in your combo deal, like we did with Hersheypark.

4. Think about your stamina. It takes all day to properly enjoy big parks like Cedar Point, Canada’s Wonderland, Six Flags Magic Mountain, etc. If you spend a large portion of the day doing one park, you’ll still need to drive to the next park. Most of the time, this will be a long drive. We only managed to do 5 parks in 5 days because 3 of those parks were, at best, half-day parks.

Here is a maps of our trip (we didn’t go in to Kings Island because it was pouring as we drove through Cincinnati), ignoring the many detours we took:
coaster road trip

Besides the time it takes to drive to the next park, you have to remember that roller coasters will bounce you up and possibly fry your brain in excess. If you don’t think you’ll be up for back-to-back days, schedule other activities on your trip as well (national parks, monuments, museums, city tours, etc).

5. What to bring into a park: as little as possible. The good roller coasters are designed to make you drop things, so keep your pockets as empty as possible. Even if the pockets zip closed, you are liable to break your phone and especially your camera on a ride.

When Maria and I entered a park, we carried these things: one phone to have internet access and take pictures, 2 season passes or tickets, 2 IDs if we were planning on having alcohol, 1 credit card (probably Visa, so we’re sure that the park will take it), a pen and notepad for taking notes after rides so I can make these posts, car keys, and eye drops. That’s it. We put on sun screen before leaving the car. Note that I didn’t even bring my full wallet, instead opting for 3-5 easily replaceable cards in case of disasters.

The exception to the above plan is if you want to bring in a backpack. Put ALL of your things in the backpack, and then store the backpack in one of the bins the roller coaster provides while you ride. Don’t forget it after you finish the ride. With a backpack, I would suggest adding sunscreen, towels and bathing suits if there is a water park, and a water bottle. The backpack idea will not work if the park doesn’t give you room to leave stuff while you ride. Cedar Point makes you purchase a locker, “conveniently” located next to the entrance to many of their rides. Lockers are expensive and annoying and not suggested.

6. Summers are hot. Roller coasters are outside, in the heat. If you want to make it through your trip, be sure to drink lots of water throughout the day. You will get dehydrated and be miserable if you don’t. Most food vendors will give you a free cup for water if you ask (though they rarely advertise this, wanting you to spend $5+ on bottled water. Don’t buy bottled water.).

7. It’s rare that I get dizzy or have my stomach upset, so I have no issues with coasters. However, Maria and others do. Here is Maria’s description of the nausea medicine that she takes prior to (and sometimes after) rides, which seems to help:

As I’ve gotten older, my stomach has been less friendly to me when riding coasters, despite my brain and rest of my body really enjoying them… So I picked up a box of chewable Nauzene tablets that are supposed to settle upset stomachs. I hadn’t used them before (I actually wanted to get Dramamine but even the non-drowsy kind seemed like it was not really non-drowsy according to the reviews) and now I am not going to go to amusement parks without them. They worked quickly and saved me… from upset stomachs the whole day. [I] took two before this ride and after a couple of others throughout the day and were able to feel great and didn’t have any problems.

8. Parks will stamp your hand if you exit and want to re-enter. This is a good option to take advantage of for a few reasons:
-Leaving the park to get food. Food is cheaper outside than inside.
-Going to your car to re-apply sun screen.
-Going to your car to get swim suits and towels and flip flops when you switch to water park mode in one of the parks that also has a water park.

Michigan’s Adventure Rides


The first stop on our whirlwind tour was Michigan’s Adventure, in Muskegon, MI, on Sunday, July 17, 2016. We arrived around noon, after spending the morning with Professor Tim Pennings in Holland, MI. Michigan’s Adventure is a relatively small park (though it is Michigan’s largest), with 53 total rides, including 7 roller coaster. It does have a nice lake in the middle:

But there is not a circular path around the park. In fact, the two roller coasters above have the longest walk between them. Here is the park map (click to expand):

Michigan's Adventure Park Map

For my ride reviews this week, I’ll be sharing the rides we rode, in order. I’ll give a brief description of the ride, along with thoughts from Maria and me. Then we’ll finish with a rating out of 10. All pictures shown were taken by Maria on one of our phone’s cameras.

1. Shivering Timbers
Wooden coaster with a decent hill (125 ft). 65 mph. Out and back coaster (not many turns). Supposed to be the only coaster in the world with a ‘trick track’ that throws riders to the left then right all of a sudden when going straight. I wasn’t as impressed by the trick as I was hoping. Overall, not too bumpy for a wooden ride.
Eric: 6/10
Maria: 7/10

2. Wolverine Wildcat
Wooden coaster with a bizarre name (I get Wolverine, we’re in Michigan. But why Wildcat too?). 85 ft tall, 55 mph. Has an early tunnel. Very bumpy. Not interesting and few redeeming qualities. Only running one train while we were there.
Eric: 2/10
Maria: 2/10

3. Corkscrew
Old steel coaster with 2 corkscrews. 70 ft, 45 mph. Only running 1 train. We timed it: 1 minute, 24 seconds from the time the train started moving to the time it was back stopped in the station. Really only 1 minute of actual movement. Has a hard stop with whiplash at the end.
Eric: 2/10
Maria: 2/10

4. Mad Mouse
Steel wild mouse coaster. Follows the same track design as rides at Canada’s Wonderland and Hersheypark. Each train is only 4 people, allowing for fast turns and drops. Kind of a kid ride.
Eric: 4/10
Maria: 5/10

5. Thunderhawk
Steel suspended coaster. 120 ft, 50 mph. Previously operated at Geauga Lake. Interlacing corkscrews in the middle of the ride; otherwise forgettable. Whiplash at the end.
Eric: 5/10
Maria: 5/10

6. Zach’s Zoomer
Wooden kid ride with tiny seats. Maria and I couldn’t fit in the same car (due to my long legs). My knees banged throughout the ride. “Family friendly”. Boring.
Eric: 1/10
Maria: 3/10

And… that’s all folks. Not a big park. We didn’t do the water park. Probably the shortest I’ve ever spent in an amusement park; we were out at 2:30pm after 2.5 hours.

It’s Roller Coaster Week!


Maria and I recently returned from a three-part “vacation”:
1. We went to the Behavioral Operations Conference in Madison, WI July 14-16. I presented my delay announcements paper on Friday the 15th. Conference went well. Madison was pretty.
2. From the conference, we left on a roller coaster road trip. Details below.
3. Over the weekend of July 22-24, we helped my mom set up her new house in Huron, OH.

Here are the stops on our crazy roller coaster trip:
1. Michigan’s Adventure, in Muskegon, MI on Sunday, July 17.
2. Canada’s Wonderland, in Vaughan, ON on Monday, July 18.
3. Hersheypark, in Hershey, PA, on Tuesday, July 19.
4. Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, in Allentown, PA, on Wednesday, July 20.
5. Wildwater Kingdom, in Aurora, OH, on Thursday, July 21.
6. Cedar Point, in Sandusky, OH, on Monday, July 25.

Yes, that’s 5 parks in 5 days and 6 in 9. We also wanted to goto Kings Island, in Mason, OH, on Tuesday, July 26 on the way back to Bloomington, but it was pouring when we drove through.

I’ll be breaking down the coasters and parks on our trip this week. Here’s the schedule:
Monday AM: Michigan’s Adventure Rides
Monday PM: Thoughts on Planning a Roller Coaster Road Trip
Tuesday AM: Canada’s Wonderland Rides
Tuesday PM: Cedar Fair Empire
Wednesday AM: Hersheypark Rides
Wednesday PM: Operational Thoughts on Fast Pass
Thursday AM: Dorney Park Rides
Thursday PM: Comparing Wildwater Kingdom Water Parks
Friday AM: Cedar Point Rides (the flagship post)
Friday PM: Park Rankings


Vegas pre-Christmas

Alisa Boguslavskaya, Crisson Jno-Charles, Maria, and I took a pre-Christmas holiday in Las Vegas last week. We stayed at Bally’s, mostly for its location in the middle of the strip (a fact which made life slightly difficult when this happened). We wandered both The Strip and Old town Vegas, went to three shows (Cirque de Soleil Ka, Vegas! The Show, and Nathan Burton’s Comedy Magic), ate a lot of food, saw the new Star Wars, and didn’t get arrested for card counting.

I was able to put some of my NFL betting model into practice. I familiarized myself with both Bally’s and Bellagio’s sports books, betting at the casino with the more favorable line for each game. Using these predictions, I bet on the 15 non-Monday night games of week 15. Unfortunately, with the lines offered at the times of betting, I ended up with 7 wins, 7 losses, and 1 push. With the casino’s built in edge (usually bet $110 to win $100), I ended up losing a little money. Could have easily ended up way up if the Sunday afternoon games hadn’t gone to hell in the second halves. Had I bet on the Monday night game, I would have won. I didn’t want to have to mail in a winning ticket (our flight out was during the game), however, so I didn’t bet. I also wanted to bet on the 5 or 6 college bowl games that were happening while we were there, but I didn’t get the data for the model together in time.

After the trip, Maria and I spent a few days with family for Christmas. We’re finally back in Bloomington today, after 12 days away. We will be having a New Year’s Eve party on Thursday at 8pm, so stop by!

To Montana and Back

Iceberg Lake

Maria and I just returned from a long vacation. Here is a brief synopsis of our epic journey (6148 miles driven):
July 4: Hosted a 4th of July party at our place.
July 5: Drove to Chicago. Watched Women’s World Cup Final with Maria’s brother Raphael and his girlfriend Mikala. Stayed overnight with them.
July 6: Watched Raphael’s Mad Science show. Wanted to goto the Field of Dreams in Iowa, but thunderstorms diverted us. Traveled to Milwaukee to goto a Brewers game.
July 7: Drove to Minneapolis. Went to the Mall of America. Went to dinner and a Twins game with Mike Petro.
July 8: Went to Roger Maris Museum in a mall in Fargo. Went to National Buffalo Museum and Frontier Village in Jamestown, ND. Spent night in Bismarck, ND.
July 9: Went to North Dakota State Capitol Building. Went to North Dakota Heritage Center. Went to Beulah, ND and took a tour of the Dakota Gasification Company (the only U.S. location that turns coal into natural gas). Drove to Theodore Roosevelt National Park (ND Badlands) and camped in the South Unit of the park.
July 10: Drove through the North Unit of Theordore Roosevelt National Park. Went to Fort Union Trading Post National Historic Site. Went to the Valley Pioneer Museum in Glasgow, MT. Spent the night in Havre, MT.
July 11: Maria went to the Wahkpa Chu’gn Buffalo Jump and Archaeological Site and Havre Beneath the Streets while Eric did some reading. Went to the Lewis and Clark Interpretive Center, Giant Springs State Park, and various waterfalls (Black Eagle, Rainbow, and Great Falls) in Great Falls, MT. Stayed the night in Missoula, MT (stumbling into the Missoula marathon and finding almost no hotel rooms available).
July 12: Went to Smokejumpers Museum in Missoula. Had brunch with Mike Druschel. Went to the Museum of the Americas in Polson, MT. Traveled to Lakeside, MT, where we were spending the week with Mike, Kalina, and Fiona (11 mo. old) Druschel. Drove up Black Tail Mountain in Lakeside. Visited Flathead Lake.
July 13: Went to Glacier National Park. Went to the Lake McDonald Lodge and hiked the Trail of the Cedars and Avalanche Lake.
July 14: Went to Waterton Lakes National Park in Canada. Hiked Lower Bertha Falls. Saw a bear at the Price of Wales Hotel. Drove to Many Glacier in Glacier National Park and hiked the Apikuni Falls trail.
July 15: Got a campsite at Apgar campground in Glacier. Did the Johns Lake hike with Kalina and Fiona. Hiked to Hidden Lake Overlook. Watched the sunset at Lake McDonald. Camped.
July 16: Went on a photo hike and saw St. Mary, Virginia, and Bering Falls. Saw Sunrift Gorge. Drove to Two Medicine and hiked to Running Eagle/Trick Falls. Stopped at Marias Pass.
July 17: Hung around the Druschel’s apartment with Kalina. Played with Fiona. Walked to Flathead Lake.
July 18: Got a campsite at Two Medicine in Glacier, camping with the Druschels. Took boatride to Twin Falls and hiked to waterfall. Saw a moose. Cooked dinner at the campground. Watched the sunset at Two Medicine Lake. Camped.
July 19: Woke up and drove to Many Glacier in Glacier National Park. Hiked to Iceberg Lake (10 miles roundtrip) with the Druschels. Walked into a lake filled with icebergs (picture above; it was cold). Saw another moose. While driving back to the Druschels on Going to the Sun Road, drove in a big-horned sheep stampede.
July 20: Left the Druschels and Glacier (Right before a fire broke out in Glacier on July 21 and closed half of the Going to the Sun road. Crazy). Went to the American Computer Museum in Bozeman, MT. Went to Yellowstone National Park, going to Gibbon Falls and Artist Paintpots. Camped in West Yellowstone, outside Yellowstone National Park.
July 21: Spent the day in Yellowstone. Went on Firehole Lake Drive (saw Great Fountain Geyser and White Dome Geyser spewing). Saw Firehole Lake. Saw Steady Geyser spewing. Drove to Midway Geyser Basin. Saw Grand Prismatic Spring and hiked nearby hill off of Fairy Falls Trail to get overhead picture of the spring. Went to Biscuit Basin, saw Sapphire Pool and Jewel Geyser spewing. Saw Old Faithful and Lion Geyser spewing. Maria took a tour of Old Faithful Inn. Eric went to see Riverside Geyser spewing. Drove to Grand Teton National Park. Camped in the Gros Ventre campsite.
July 22: Drove through the Grand Tetons. Re-entered Yellowstone. Went to Mud Volcano area, saw a buffalo sitting right next to a hot spring. Saw the Dragon’s Mouth Spring. Drove to Artist Point in Canyon Village and saw overlook of the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone and Lower Falls. Drove to Tower Falls. Saw the Upper Terraces in Mammoth Hot Springs. The town of Mammoth Hot Springs was overrun with mule deer. Drove to see Roosevelt Arch and waded into the Boiling River (big juxtaposition to Iceberg Lake). Exited Yellowstone via the Northeast Entrance after being stopped by a bison crossing. Drove along the Beartooth Highway and had phenomenal views. Stayed in Red Lodge, MT.
July 23: Drove to and saw Devil’s Tower National Monument. Got a flat tire and had to get a new one. Drove to Deadwood, SD and had dinner with Jessica Michak and friends. Went to Mt. Rushmore evening ceremony.
July 24: Went to the Minuteman Missile National Historic Site and saw the visitor center (getting tickets for tour of Delta-9 Launch Facility in the afternoon). Went to Wall, SD. Went to the Delta-1 missile silo and saw missile in ground and then did Delta-9 tour. Drove through Badlands National Park (and were going to camp, but it was like a desert: 90+ degrees with no shade). Drove to Mitchell, SD for the night.
July 25: Went to Corn Palace. Lunched in Omaha, NE. Went to Council Bluffs, IA. Were going to goto the Kansas City Royals game, but it looked like rain, so decided to drive back to Bloomington instead.