The only thing more exciting than riding a new ride is learning about a new ride. The end of August has been Six Flags’ time as they typically lump all of their future plans into one giant announcement. For the most part, they followed that format, well within a 24 hour period. To add to the excitement, Carowinds jumped on the day as well and between the huge amounts of info and the range of emotions in response, it is fair to say some of you have lost your shit. So let me take a moment to help you; roller coasters are fun and that is our starting point.
It is only natural to rank or compare these rides to each other, and that is fun too (don't forget to put your money where your mouth is in the Ride Warrior Choice Awards). However, I feel like I need to point out that one ride being more exciting than another doesn't make the second ride less fun. Could you imagine how crazy someone would have sounded last year if they said Twisted Timbers would have been better if Steel Vengeance didn't exist? If that is how you feel, then stay home, shorter lines for me.
I am not going to explore the entire announcement for all Six Flags Parks but just focus on the roller coasters. There is a lot to look forward to with this new round of announcements, and I want to weigh in on some things that jumped out to me, as well as things I have heard from friends and on social media. First, hats off to California, for the second year in a row the west coast will receive two new roller coasters. West Coast Racers for Magic Mountain - don’t worry I’ll take a second lap on this one, and Batman: The Ride at Discovery Kingdom.
I think Six Flags Great America won the day with an exciting ride that fits well within their collection and adds something that is sure to be a hit. The biggest feature that sets Maxx Force apart from the other two launch coasters we just learned about is that the launch will be the focus. Marketing a new ride often comes up with silly records, but Maxx Force will be the fastest accelerating coaster in North America, and that is a significant record. It also highlights the focus, the launch. I personally love the hydraulic launch coasters, so I have high hopes for the pneumatically launch, too. These rides have a catapult feel to them because of the catch car, while LSM/LIM feel like a motorized acceleration and generally don’t have the same impact, but have the added flexibility of multiple launches.
Copperhead Strike, the highly anticipated Mack multi launch, jumped in the water with Six Flags this year and pushed many enthusiasts into information overload. The comparison between Copperhead Strike and West Coast Racers was inevitable. Two flagship parks on opposite coasts both introducing multi launch coasters on the same day, the keyboards were aflame! The talk immediately turned to speed; I think the expectation for both rides was high, maybe too high to overcome the desire for something that would become a landmark. I feel both rides will need to prove themselves, and they aren’t built to fulfill that larger than life role that Superman: Escape From Krypton & Fury 325 were able to achieve.
The speed argument is laughably not being applied equally, as is to be expected, but I’m not concerned about speed for these two rides. On Copperhead Strike, the elements are jam packed in there, so no matter what speed the ride launches with, it is constantly losing and gaining energy as it winds around the corse. I also feel slow inversions lead to great hangtime; this is a personal feel, and when I watched the announcement that was my first thought. I expect Copperhead Strike to hang riders on the roll out of the station, the two vertical loops and the cutback. The expectation was that North America was getting a Bluefire or a Helix, so I am not surprised that many were left scratching their heads. Bluefire does have a faster launch, but it only has one to make it around a similar length track. Helix has the second launch, but it has about an extra quarter mile to cover and taller elements.
Speaking of quarter miles, that brings us back to West Coast Racers, the other ride that left many scratching their heads. I think the reason that I am not worried about speed on this ride is that I am expecting the launches to be closer together. Magic Mountain did not give a full circuit length, but it is safe to say it isn’t going to be 6500 feet. This ride focuses on longer drawn out elements that I think will make the speed feel more present, and maybe even fool riders into thinking that the are going faster than they actually are. The elephant in the park is that Twisted Colossus has a dueling mobius layout with the same signature elements. Was this coaster made too similar? I’m seeing the argument, but I feel like they are different enough to give different experiences. While West Coast Racers features some of the same elements, it appears to deliver them in a different way drawn out and graceful, while Twisted Colossus has those snappy, crazy, RMC changes in direction and airtime. Copperhead Strike is going into a park full of roller coasters with loops and corkscrews, but that isn’t a reason to not enjoy it.
The reality is we really don’t know what to expect until we give them all a shot. How many times have you been surprised by the difference between the reality and the expectation of a new ride? That, my friends, is the fun part, so take a breath, and don’t declare a winner or a loser. Just figure out where you are going to go visit first.
You have been patiently waiting, staring at the challenge in front of you studying every inch that you can get a vantage point of. Your pulse quickens as you climb the stairs and enter the station, time to choose your row. It is finally your turn you take your seat pull down the restraints, the staff checks the train and they all give you the thumbs up. You smile and breathe deeply as the train drops out of the station and brings you to the lift. Click, click, click comes the familiar sound of the anti-roll-back and you feel the excitement and anticipation come rushing forward. Your mind races, but the ascent seems to slow, almost purposefully to tease you. You reach the top, and the chain dog releases. There is nothing else to do or think about, no worries, no obligations, and also no turning back.
Happy national roller coaster day! Not that we need a day to remember there are multi-million dollar machines created for the silliest reason possible...for fun. This day is about you though not the machine, today is your day to rally with others who have the same desire to fling themselves around as many laps as possible on as many different roller coasters as possible. Have you been watching POV videos all winter, have you been following local news stories about amusement parks that you are not a local of, have you been on the internet screaming into the void, “I TOLD YOU KING’S ISLAND WAS GETTING A GIGA”? Then this day is for you!
I have been doing a bit of reflection recently and I started to think about my early influences, so here is a first 20. These are not my favorite rides, but they set me on my way and some hold a major bit of sentimental affection, in some cases only viewed through rose colored glasses. I am going to omit all kiddy coasters, and I will be combining some into a single category just so we have more variety of interesting roller coasters to talk about:
20. Galaxy at Adventureland: This will be the placeholder for all Galaxi models many parks I visited as a kid had one, they were like the wild mouse of the 70’s. Adventureland was my first park and Galaxi was my first, from my point of view as probably a five or six year old, big coaster.
19. Hurricane at Adventureland: This roller coaster replaced the Galaxi and was the first and only roller coaster I road with my little sister, I was only able to get her to go on one other thrill ride with me, a log flume, both rides produced a lot of tears.
18. Big Thunder Mountain at Disney World: I am going to use this as a stand in for all mine trains. This is the first time I saw a themed ride where the roller coaster interacted with scenery, and really took you on a journey. It was so much fun I didn’t even mind the three lift hills. Even as an adult I appreciated the nice ride that is designed for literally everyone, perfect roller coaster for a full family to enjoy together.
17. Space Mountain at Disney World: This was probably the first time I waited a seriously long amount of time for a roller coaster, not really a surprise at Disney, this was such an anticipated ride my level of excitement was off the chart and I freaked out over it. This ride was revisited as an adult and was such a let down I wish I had only rode it as a young child.
16. Steamin’ Demon at The Great Escape: This was my first Arrow, the first roller coaster I saw get stuck, and the first time I went on a roller coaster with inversions. I think this is probably also the first roller coaster I went on by myself. On family vacations for a while my Dad was the one who would ride with me, but at the time I didn’t know he was scared to death of heights.
15. The Comet at The Great Escape: This was my first wooden roller coaster, and what a fun one. This was really my best introduction to airtime and I remember being really excited by this coaster.
14. The Great American Scream Machine at Great Adventure: Holy Shit, this was a whole new level of roller coaster, a former record holder. This was a rite of passage for many kids from my area because it was such a dynamic and iconic ride at the time. I still remember my first ride on it, with my Dad, when we went over that main drop and started to curve and drop I heard my Dad scream and curse for the first time in my life and I just laughed and laughed the whole time. That was one of the last roller coaster rides he ever went on and I think his only ride on The Great American Scream Machine.
13. Lightning Loops at Great Adventure: This was after the interlocking loop was removed, so maybe it should have been named Lightning Loop. This ride was one of two Arrow shuttle loops that I got a chance to ride, the other would come later at Riverside Park called Black Widow. This was before launched coasters so the push you got off the edge was the first roller coaster I rode where it got energy from more than simply gravity and what a cool sensation. Since it was a shuttle coaster, this was also my first chance to go backwards on a roller coaster too.
12. Stuntman’s Freefall at Great Adventure: This might be controversial, but in 1991 when I first went to Great Adventure I considered it a roller coaster. At that point a drop tower wasn’t really a thing so for this purpose we will call it a roller coaster, if you don’t like that then we can discuss it on a Larson Loop or a Disco. This ride was another rite of passage ride, and part of the ritual was to place a penny on your knee at the top before the car was released and to watch it hover for a moment as you drop. I would have never done that every time I ever rode the thing since it was against park rules, and safety for myself and other riders was a top concern. At least that is how I’m remembering it.
11. Rolling Thunder at Great Adventure: Well after the Great American Scream Machine this was a big let down and left me saying, “Wood coasters suck!” At least until the following summer. I gave Rolling Thunder many chances over the years, and it was generally a boring ride and it never delivered airtime, the way I expected after riding The Comet.
10. Shockwave at Great Adventure: The first coaster I ever hated, nuf said.
9. Laser at Dorney Park: My first Schwarzkof, I remember the double loop on this thing being just pure fun. I really appreciate how well the other Schwarzkof coaster I have ridden just feel well put together and thoughtfully designed. I wish I could get another shot a Laser, and even though back at the begining of my coaster riding GASM was the big boy, I can admit while I also miss it it did not give good rides at the end of its useful life.
8.Thunderhawk at Dorney Park: This might not be a big coaster but it is really fun. If anyone thinks redoing a ride’s layout is a new trend I always point at Thunderhawk a very old survivor in a state littered with fun wooden roller coasters. It was originally designed as an out and back, but it was turned into a figure eight with a twister section. The layout is fun, the ride feels faster than it really is going, and it had buzz bars. What else could you ask for?
7. Hercules at Dorney Park: My faith in wooden roller coasters had been restored! I am the last fan of Hercules, the main drop was so good and the turn ripped out over the lake and was just so fast and crazy at the time. This is the ride that I know I am viewing through rose colored glasses, since it was nicknamed by many, “Hurt-Your-Knees” . It had the record for the longest drop on a wooden roller coaster at a time when hypers didn’t exist and it went 65, a fast speed for a modern wooden roller coaster. I have to admit I never rode this coaster towards the end before it was dismantled, so my memory of this ride was while it was on top. Dorney became the goto park in the 90s for me because of Hercules and I took countless laps on this larger than life coaster.
6. Batman at Great Adventure: This was such a dynamic shift it was totally insane. I remember the line was over two hours long and when I stepped off I got right back on line, I probably spent most of my time on this visit back in the summer of 1993 on line for Batman. This was my introduction to B&M and first invert. If you are reading this you have most likely ridden a Batman no matter where you live. The ride quality was so different from everything else, and the ROAR! That sound that the box beam under the track and ride vehicle created was shocking and different. Before I road it waiting in the highly themed queue that sound was dare I say it, intimidating. Unfortunately most of the queue scenery has been removed, but thankfully the ride quality has really maintained for so many years. I can hop on that ride 25 years later and have a great time.
5. The Comet at Hershypark: I remember that on my first trip to Hersheypark this was the first coaster I went on, it is also the first coaster you pass when entering the park. It was the last coaster I went on, and the star of the trip. At this point my Dad would typically keep me company in the queue and then send me off on the coaster solo, but on one of the many rides I took I convinced him to ride it, I still didn’t know he was scared of heights. I think this ride still holds up as a classic coaster, while it isn’t a favorite it is a fun ride. I have never been to Hersheypark and skipped this ride.
4. Sidewinder at Hersheypark: Did you think we could make it through this without a boomerang? While I don’t look forward to hopping on a boomerang, and I typically do skip Sidewinder when I visit Hersheypark one of my favorite places to go, this was a thrill and a half the first time I was confronted with it. I was about 13 or 14 when we first visited and I remember going home and telling my friends about how cool Sidewinder was, times have changed.
3. Sooperdooperlooper at Hersheypark: This ride is a fun ride but my first impressions of it were a bit of a let down. In my mind I was thinking about Great American Scream Machine & Laser and this didn’t have the same first impression as those two. I have come to appreciate Sooperdooperlooper as a landmark for the park and region, and it is also another ride I never skip when I visit Hersheypark.
2. Thunderbolt at Riverside Park: This ride has the best ride entrance sign, an awesome neon giant throwback to the past. Unfortunately the sign is actually the best part of the ride, when I was a kid I remember thinking it was boring, and as an adult I find it surprisingly rough.
1. Riverside Cyclone at Riverside Park: I am ashamed to admit as a proud NY’er I rode this cyclone before I rode THE cyclone as in the Coney Island Cyclone. This ride was great, on my first visit to Riverside park I went with a summer camp group, and it steadily rained starting a few hours after the park opened. The park promptly emptied and our group of barely supervised kids went nuts riding everything in the rain. It was a blast and I think the poor weather made it even more exciting! I remember doing laps between Black Widow and Cyclone and just having a such a great time totally soaked to the bone. We had such a run of the place the staff let us go on waterslides fully clothed wearing sneakers! I am happy that I still have a very similar game plan when I visit now Six Flags New England. I typically do laps trying to get as many rides as possible on now Wicked Cyclone, and the big steel coaster, now Superman: The Ride.
If you are still reading take a walk down memory lane and tell COASTER-net what your early influences were in the forums or on Facebook.
Let’s start with a gift! We have created a desktop wallpaper to celebrate COASTER-net’s 20th Anniversary. Our Patreons get regular digital gifts like desktop and mobile wallpapers, but this month we wanted the whole community to share in the fun. The ride that we picked to use is Volcano: The Blast Coaster at Kings Dominion, the staff considers this ride as our launching point or blast off. Why? Well, keep reading.
On August 1st, 1998, what you know as COASTER-net began as a text only website. This humble attempt by site founder Devin Olsen was inspired by a ride on his home park’s newest and most intense record breaking roller coaster. The site launched with a basic ride gallery, that would expand to cover major attractions worldwide. The site had a trivia section as the sole means of interaction; we now have forums & a social media presence on Facebook, Patreon, Twitter, YouTube, and Discord. But the most forward looking section of the site was construction photos for 1999 attractions. This combo of history, news, interaction, and enthusiasm was the winning formula that has made this community grow. It has been a meeting place for enthusiasts, where I have been able to learn about new parks and be an ambassador for my own. Over time as the site grew and expanded both in content and membership, it naturally created a great place for like-minded people to share their common interest in new ways. We have reached out to everyone from every group who loves roller coasters to let their voices be heard in our Ride Warrior Choice Awards. They have a part in discovering the results during The Thrilling 32, you can’t help but actually root and cheer for your favorite roller coasters. And every year El Toro doesn’t win, I’m sad.
The site’s founder originally drew me in with his From Dreams to Screams documentary series. It was different than just stock footage of the ride - it helped create a story and gave both the ride and riders a voice, and the great production value didn’t hurt either. I checked out the site and joined the forum just as COASTER-net TV started on YouTube. I did not listen to coasterradio, and was not aware of COASTER-net alumni Clint Novak’s In The Loop yet, so Uncut became my introduction to a coaster podcast/VLOG. Listening to Danny and Andy spar over different ideas, and gush over their favorite coasters and parks was a new fun experience. I was suddenly like, there are tons of nerds out there (I mean that in the best possible way) that go crazy over roller coasters just like me. Eventually, I joined the staff and contributed where I could and dove into the hobby deeper and deeper. A big heartfelt thank you to all current and past staff for keeping this place running and improving it with your unique skills. Also to all members who post on the forums, comment sections, and on social media without you we would not have a growing community that makes COASTER-net feel special. So grab a seat, pull down that restraint, and hold on… 3, 2, 1 BLAST OFF!
Safety in the amusement industry is an ever moving target. There are many factors at play like rides pushing new thrilling boundaries, new technologies, and guests behavior. Last year parks like Universal and Six Flags started requiring locker rentals for lose articles on select rides and enforced it in their own ways. In the past it was up to the rider's discretion on how to store loose articles. These new policies were met with sarcasm and many people acted as though it was an annoyance, with little regard for the goal of these rules. Recently Cedar Fair has joined in with similar rules on select rides and this time the reaction was anger. Many people’s initial reaction was to call this policy a way to increase guest spending, and sarcastically called these attractions up charges because of the locker policy. But there is a hint of truth to this complaint.
Before I discuss the merits and pitfalls of these new safety rules I wanted to go back for perspective. First if theme parks weren't safe they couldn't remain fun. No one is going to say this would be more fun if it were less safe. However I was thinking about how parks have changed over my lifetime and many things I experienced in the past would not fly today, but at the time they didn't trigger a warning for me.
I am going to try and not sound like old man roller coaster here, but I recall a time before air gates that separated guests from the boarding area. The safety device at the time was a line painted on the floor and for the most part guest obeyed the line without instructions. This is a foreign concept today, but it's addition didn't really impact my experience as a guest. I also remember ride ops hyping up the train by running past it giving high fives while the train was moving. Again this would be crazy today, and ride ops have specific places they need to stand, with foot pedals or buttons to ensure they are following safety procedures. Again this just disappeared and didn't really affect me. Then there is Action Park, what would they have said about safety back in the day?, hold my beer. They were the actual case study in safety vs. fun, and was extremely popular almost a right of passage at the time. How was safety implemented at Action Park? Where to begin; attractions that were controlled by guests, designed by amateurs, and allowed people to bring in their own alcohol. This place would have made any insurance adjuster have a panic attack. And there is the real driving force, insurance premiums.
That brings us full circle back to lockers and loose articles. If state regulations don't keep up with safety or change as fast as needed the fear of liability is a driving force. And here is where the disconnect between the parks goal of safety and the guests perception of being squeezed for more money come together. The parks want to add safety procedures, but have not invested in making the experience safer, and at the same time added a cost for their guests. But the most important issue would be that it is doomed to fail. It actually encourages guests to not comply with a safety rules and could negativity impact other park rules. If a guest is trained to ignore or circumvent one rule it probably will trickle down to others.
The main issue here is implementation, in the future it might seem as crazy to ride a roller coaster with something in your pocket as it would be for ride ops running next to moving trains high fiving guests. The problem is everyone is in love with their phone, and lines are long. Ironically parks are making Wi-Fi free and have good coverage, but they are taking the device away to help you use it to pass the time. There is another motivation for guests to not comply that needs to be addressed by the park. There are many groups of kids/teens from; school groups, camps, and locals who are dropped off. Typically unaccompanied minors don't have credit cards, and the ride locker systems are increasingly cashless. I know responsible teen is an oxymoron, but if one was in line with me they might not have the ability to use the required lockers. They have probably also been instructed by their parents or supervision to keep their phone on them to check in. This is a major demographic of roller coaster riders. This policy of no loose articles is designed for my safety, but since it isn't implemented in away that guests like it will frustrate many and be ignored by others. This just leaves guest in danger of being struck by falling objects, as I know firsthand, and frustrated. So who wins? Right now the parks as they will get more revenue from locker rentals, and lower insurance premiums. How can we all win? Many suggestions are swirling around, and I have heard many good ideas. I won't weigh in on the best solution, but I know the only way parks are going to get guests on board is to share in the solution not just point us to a pay service they already have. Please find a way to work in changes in infrastructure with these new policies to make guest want to follow safety rules, and don't take away my phone while waiting, just while riding.
I've been seeing a lot of angry people the last couple days over the new "no phones in the queue line" policy for Steel Vengeance. There are similar policies for some other really popular rides as well and most of the discussion has been around money (the parks' potential loss of a lawsuit versus their potential profits from locker rentals).
Let's put aside that particular topic for a minute and have a conversation about having a "queue line conversation." This is something that those of us that grew up without cell phones (especially smart phones) are probably used to. In fact, it's often how I made new friends in the park and found my "riding buddy" for the day or at least for a couple hours.
For some backstory, I grew up in the 80's and was the youngest of three kids. My parents were older when I was going to Cedar Point and Geauga Lake and other random parks as we traveled the country. Most of this time, my parents had issues with arthritic knees or back issues and didn't want to ride many of the more extreme coasters, so if my sisters didn't want to ride with me, I'd have to ride as a "single rider" and hope to meet someone in the queue line that was also a single rider and wanted to ride together.
It can sometimes be tricky to start a conversation with a random stranger, so start with something you have in common...you're both there to ride the ride that you're in line for. Start by asking the person if they've ever ridden the ride before. If they have not, don't ruin anything for them or scare them to death or lie to them, but assure them that there's nothing to worry about and that it's perfectly safe if you've ridden it before. If neither of you have ridden it before, then you already instantly have a bond and you can say something like, It's my first time too, I'd love to hear what you think about it after we've ridden it."
If you find that the person is knowledgeable about the current ride, you may want to start talking to them about the park that you're in and see how much of an "expert" they are (you never know, you may have just run into someone like Andy or Danny, or even Devin Olson, the founder of COASTER-net and Devin Olson Media). From there you may be able to start a conversation about how well-traveled they are and compare and contrast favorites...this might be a great time to invite such a person to our COASTER-net Poll and Thrilling 32 Bracket Challenge. More information about this can be found at ridewarriorchoiceawards.weebly.com.
The conversation then may switch to what communities you are a part of. Exchange information about what clubs or forums you are a part of and encourage them to check out our YouTube channel, Facebook, and/or Twitter to connect with us. I know this is usually easier if they can have their phone with them. As an admin for the site, I usually carry business cards around with me that have this information on them to easily share with people in the queue line. We also sell T-shirts with some of this information on them and these too are great conversation starters, especially if people are already familiar with the site or our YouTube shows.
Now, if you're already in a group of friends, you may not be extremely interested in meeting new friends, but you still may need some ideas on how to pass the time. Hopefully you feel comfortable enough to talk to your friends in person, but sometimes it may be the first time meeting someone in-person--especially if you're at some kind of meet-up or club event. Here are some ideas on "ice breakers" that work in theme parks just as well as they work at any party:
1) Ask everyone to tell their name and something about themselves that they think people don't know. Be careful to not "over-share" here.
2) Play a game like "Never Have I Ever" or "Two Truths and a Lie" where you have to guess from what you know about the person whether the person is telling the truth or faking it.
3) If you're really bored in a line because of something like a mechanical failure, you might want to try a game with the people around you like getting people to name a coaster that starts with the letter 'A,' then the next person has to pick a coaster starting with the letter 'B' and so on. People will learn of how many coasters the other people know about that they don't even know.. It's not a bad idea to say where the coaster is located in case it's one you've never been on. I try to stick with coasters that are operational when I play this game because I feel like the point of it is to encourage people to go new places and try out rides they've never experienced, not to tell people how much more I know about coaster history.
These are just a few ideas that I've learned from my friend Devin Olson who was the founder of COASTER-net.com and my best friend while I was at college at Liberty University. I hope some of these ideas are valuable to you as you visit your favorite amusement parks, theme parks, and water parks, and maybe even some of your favorite theme park haunts this fall (I hear the lines for the houses can get pretty long there too). If you have other ideas that you'd like to share with others, feel free to look for this post on our Facebook or Twitter pages and share your thoughts there.
Hello coaster friends,
We are deep in the heart of speculation season. Parks have all been open for awhile, the new for 2018 rides have been unveiled, and a lot of energy and imagination switched gears towards the future. Enthusiasts are watching for teaser campaigns, survey markers, construction fences, and other rumblings that may foreshadow something to come. Is that spray paint dot that wasn’t here last week a mark for a new roller coaster, or a water fountain? And if you are at Kings Island, no it is 100% not for a giga coaster!
The next part of that speculation turns to what type of coaster is going to be built and by whom? When I was a kid Arrow was the go to answer for getting people's’ excitement level up. They were promptly replaced by B&M. Premier Rides had a moment in the sun, but then Intamin started getting the contracts for some really serious rides. For a long time it was all Intamin or B&M and those were the only two flavors out there. Then Intamin faded away and a new kid on the street RMC stepped forward and became the flavor of the day.
Now as enthusiasts focus on the 2019 season and beyond what is the flavor that is making people drool? It seems to be Mack, according to people I talk to, social media, comment sections, and message boards, Mack has got to be working on the *insert your favorite park here* project. That is quite a bit of work for a company that is just starting to develop a foothold in the North American market. There are already seven confirmed projects being built in North America and several more speculated to be announced in the coming months. So how many Mack coasters do you want?
One thing that has fueled this desire is that we, coaster enthusiasts, want a new experience. We have been watching from afar as Mack rides have been gaining praise in Europe and Asia. Let’s just admit it… We are jealous! We want to taste the Mack flavors! If you comment Wild Mouse we aren’t friends any more! But before you get disappointed that Mack isn’t announced to be working the project you have been speculating on don’t forget about what else is out there. B&M is sweet and always pleases. Gerstlauer has become an acquired taste that gets more and more praise for their newer projects. Vekoma is new and improved now with a new formula. RMC is like sriracha just put it on anything and it makes it better. Intamin is spicy, it is bound to surprise and leave you trying to catch your breath. My point is if everything is just one thing we lose the variety that we all say we like.
The cold and snow of early spring was not going to stop Twisted Timbers from making an impact this year. I arrived nice and early at Kings Dominion in Doswell, Virginia with our fearless leader Daniel Westfall to register with the park and be escorted to the Media/VIP Event. There was an eager crowd gathered, despite the cold weather and travel disruptions, that were all talking and excited for this unveiling, the first RMC Iron Horse Conversion in the Cedar Fair chain. The park opened the gates and guided us down to the Candy Apple Grove Section of the park. A stage with projection screen was set up in front of Windseeker, and Snoopy and Charlie Brown were on hand to dance and get the group warmed up for the opening ceremony. The ceremony started with a greeting from Maggie Sellers, the park’s PR/Communications Manager. We also heard from the park’s new GM Tony Johnson and Cedar Fair’s VP of Design and Planning Rob Decker. The final word was from Scott Clemons, the park’s Director of Marketing. As part of the presentation we were treated to some behind the scenes production movies that included a timelapse of the demolition of Hurler and transformation into Twisted Timbers and a closer look from the RMC team about how their technology was being applied to create a new dynamic ride experience for guests at Kings Dominion.
After the presentation, the ride was opened up for the preview. This gave riders a first hand look at the ride layout up close, along with some of the scenery that helps explain the story of the Hanover Hills Orchard and this mysterious force that afflicted the area and caused it to become off limits. When thrill seekers approach the ride, you will see a large brick and iron gate with the Twisted Timbers logo on top off an old Hanover Hills Orchard sign. However, the bolder symbol of the ride is a large leafless twisted tree, complete with track wrapped around it by some powerful force. Once you enter the queue you pass underneath the track and enter the infield of the ride. Most of the layout is hidden from view in the plaza outside, so this will be your first glimpse of the ride’s elements. There is a grove of apple trees at the far side of the layout, and there is other evidence of a working orchard as well. There are work trucks, tractors, and covered areas that are labeled as orchard sheds. There are also some mysterious scenes; there is an object that appears to be a meteor that glows in the dark, a tractor that has been lifted and is stuck in the structure of the station, and the station itself seems to have been damaged by this mysterious force. While riders explore this area and wait for their turn, the coaster is darting around them and roaring by adding to the anticipation and excitement.
I was able to ride this coaster about a dozen times over the two days I was there, and I tried to ride in as many different areas on the train as possible. I did find that the experience can change based on where you sit, but you will have a great experience no matter where you sit. Riders board either a blue or green train themed to a fifties style pickup truck. The trains are really nice looking and have the patina of being used for work many years ago. The restraints are familiar to other RMC trains but they have added a handle grip on each side for guests who feel they need to hang on to something.
The ride begins with a gentle right hand turn out of the station to line the train up with the 111 foot tall lift hill. The lift chain grabs the train and the loud clang of the chain and the anti roll back give this the familiar feel of a traditional wooden coaster. At the top of the hill, there is a quick dip and banked turnaround to gain a bit of momentum, followed by the barrel roll drop. At this moment, it is clear there is nothing traditional about this ride. The barrel roll drop is a great way to kick off the action; you hang out of your seat and then drop straight down to the ground. At the bottom there is a small bunny hill that jolts you up before soaring past the station in a high banked turn at 54 MPH. At the exit of the turn there is another small hop that jolts you up again. The next section is all about airtime, and this ride delivers. They built up three camelback airtime hills that offer a traditional sequence you would get on a wooden coaster, but then you get flipped upside down in a cutback turnaround, and you are back into RMC country. This is where the ride becomes unhinged and twisted. The next series of airtime hills are twisted to give you lateral airtime back and forth, then a trick track pitching the train first to the right and then to the left. Then, without warning, the track suddenly drops out from under you all the way to the ground. It jumps back up into an airtime hill thought the lift structure providing a great head chopper. The track rises through the structure and pitches left, but makes a sudden right hand turn and drops. The train bounds over another bunny hop to get you out of your seat and then into the final inversion, a zero-G roll. As you exit you hit an over banked turn that puts you on your side, and one more to turn you back towards the station. There are two more pops of airtime, and you are up on the brake run.
After riding the ride many time and in different seats, I will say there is no bad seat on these trains. I enjoyed my front seat and back seat rides more than the middle but you would expect that. I was also surprised to find I did have a left vs right preference. This ride only makes right hand turns since it follows Hurlers triple out and back footprint, so I found the left seat more enjoyable as you get a bit of extra whip around some elements. Because both rides have a barrel roll drop there is a desire by many to compare the ride to Storm Chaser, but they have different profile and feel. According to ride designer Alan Schilke, the barrel roll drop is steeper on Twisted Timber than on Storm Chaser. Twisted Timbers is more focused on straight airtime than turning and laterals, as he intended for Storm Chaser. Twisted Timbers is very well planned to have the sensation of speed and to maintain excitement throughout. All of the instances where the ride cuts though supports or structure are towards the end of the ride when it is carrying less energy, but these near misses enhance that feeling of speed and keep riders on their toes. The two overbanked turns at the end to me are not the finale. To me, the zero-G roll is the finale; you storm into the first over bank, and it controls a lot of the leftover speed and inertia. I see this final sequence as part of the brakes, a way to control the ride and get it under control in a fun way. It still hits the brakes with some speed and feels fast throughout the whole ride. So I know the long and the short of it...Is it a must ride? Well yeah it is, unless you don’t like fun. Because it is a fun ride. Based on my rides on Wicked Cyclone and Twisted Timbers, I think that all of the work RMC has been doing is probably worth checking out. So is it now the best ride in the park?
Nope … GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINE!
Author: Dwain Sponseller
As I was perusing social media this afternoon, I came across someone who asked a question to a group of coaster enthusiasts. The questions read: “Does Mystic Timbers have the worst ending to a coaster in all of the American parks?” After reading the comments of those who answered the question and the sheer fact that the original author of the post completely agreed that the answer is yes, I decided that I cannot take any more of the nonsense and write a blog about the situation. The title of this blog might surprise you because it might seem as though I agree, but let me tell you that is the farthest thing from the truth.
As Mystic Timbers was announced last year and we had the instant marketing of #whatsintheshed? The coaster universe began to speculate about what exactly could be in the shed. Animations of the ride came out and ride renderings that showed the shed and what it looked like allowed for a plethora of ideas to surface about what could be in there. There were extreme ideas like a drop track similar to Verbolten, but if anyone was following the news closely, GCI had mentioned they had nothing to do with the shed, therefore nothing could be done with track because the design team and manufacturer would have to know about it. Another wild idea was that there would be a barrel roll in the shed and once again, anything with track would be far-fetched. Please understand that any and all ideas were good ones when the shed was being built and people were speculating. Every one of us who considers themselves an enthusiast had an opinion of what was in there. Looking at the theme, I was convinced we were going to have an animatronic saw blade that was going to come down and look as though it was going to cut the train in half. Other administrators on this site had similar ideas such as an animatronic tree to something reminiscent of a haunted room.
This past week, the public found out exactly what was in the shed, and immediately the backlash started. There has been a constant barrage of idiocy on the internet amongst everyone about how disappointed they are about what is in the shed. Everyone had expectations way too high and the way that people are bashing the park and the designers is absolutely absurd. The use of the video screens and the images and animations that are used is a perfect way to end the story line that begins when you hit the entrance. Seeing the truck that is wrecked against the entrance pole just begins an immersive story which you do not typically get with a Cedar Fair roller coaster. The train is supposed to signify the truck as it busts out of the shed because of what is in the shed. The train takes you on a wild ride through the woods only to get back to the shed where you are warned not to enter. Inside of the shed you have the music and the video screens that showcase multiple scenes which makes multiple rides on the coaster a must.
After riding the coaster a few times and seeing the animations on the screens, it dawned on us that the images are paying homage to one of two things. They are using current roller coasters and their symbols in the park in the scenes or it could even be coasters that are now extinct from the park. One of the scenes shows a snake which could be for Diamondback or King Cobra. Another scene shows bats and of course we had the old Bat and the new Bat. The third scene is of course the tree that represents Mystic Timbers and then my favorite of course is the very rare Beast scene.
The more I looked at the question that was on social media the more absurd it looked. They were comparing this ending to Adventure Express and saying that it was a worse ending. The idea of putting this shed where it is located is brilliant. One of the worst things about roller coasters especially at a park like Kings Island is sitting on the transfer track and the brake run waiting on trains to unload in front of you. The park took this into account and must have said something like, "What can we do to make the worst part of a ride something that still allows for some suspense and thrill?" The shed delivers exactly as it is supposed to. After taking a ride on one of the best wooden coasters in the country, you then get the anticipation of what is going to be in the shed. With the fact that the animations can change at any time, your experience on the ride will be different every time. I do not know many coasters that can say that. Most of the time I find myself enjoying the roller coaster and then dreading the pressure of restraints while sitting on the transfer track. With the shed, it allows me one more thrill on the worst part of a coaster.
In closing I want to say that for everyone who is complaining about how disappointed they are in the shed, I think you fell into the trap of marketing and never really thought it through what could really be in the shed. The shed is exactly what it is meant to be and I believe that it is something that we can enjoy for years to come. Besides, the shed is just icing as the ride itself is out of this world!
May The Queue Lines Be Ever In Your Favor
by Andrew Rybarczyk
It's no secret that Dick Kinzel is by far my favorite person in the amusement industry. I can remember clearly the first time I met him at the 2009 First Rider Auction of Shoot the Rapids. Since then I've become fascinated with not only his history with Cedar Fair but also with his leadership style and pivotal decisions. When I discovered that there was an official biography written about his life, it was with great enthusiasm I purchased the book.
If you are looking for a quick look into his life, Dick Kinzel: Roller Coaster King of Cedar Point Amusement Park provides the reader with that and more. Everything from his coaster creations, to his career in the industry, through his life after retirement is chronicled. Each focal point is highlighted by a number of quotes and recollections from Dick himself. Too see his perspective on many of the stories I had already known was insightful to say the least.
The book has a number of major themes but the one that comes through the most is Dick's love of Cedar Point and amusement parks. His philosophy is made abundantly clear through these pages: bring the guests in with huge steel thrill rides and do whatever you can to keep them happy from the time they enter the park until the time they leave. It is this belief that I believe has made Cedar Point into the greatest amusement park in the world. The constant innovation and creation of the biggest and best rides on the planet drew me to Cedar Point each season, but it is the customer service that makes me want to go back multiple times each year. The book also delivers some information that hasn't been widely known. First, the revelation that he had planned another Giga coaster for Cedar Point floored me. In numerous conversations with friends and during episodes of Uncut, I always asked "where's Dicks big goodbye to Cedar Point?" Maverick was great when opened in 2007, but I always thought there was to be one more. This revelation at least put my mind to rest on that question if also being a bit disheartening.
The book also chronicles Dick's dark last few years. It was also a surprise of how much a toll a number of situations took on Mr. Kinzel. I understand business is business, but after dedicating his entire life to the park and chain, it seemed that his last few years were a bit much for anyone to bear. At the very least, the park gave him a huge send off in the classic grand dance hall of the Coliseum in the place he had become so connected to.
It was fun to get insight into Dick's personality and life. The author does a fine job of capturing the many facets of his life including his personality, his work ethic and his commitment to God. It was also fun to find out that he had an obsession with finding the perfect trash can, which we all know are quite ubiquitous at Cedar Fair parks. In all, this book solidified my belief that there will never be another CEO of Cedar Fair like Dick Kinzel. His impact on all of our lives is unquestionable and in fact none of us would be reading this article if not for his vision and desire to push the limits of roller coasters. He is also responsible for so many good memories of friends and family that I have. I greatly enjoyed reading about his successes and troubles and I'm sure you will as well.