ACE Preservation Con, 8/1 (SFEG & Lakeside)

Associated parks:

The ACE Preservation Con found its way to Denver this year, at Lakeside and Six Flags Elitch Gardens. Since both these parks would be new to me, AND good friends of mine I hadn't seen in 4 years live in Denver, I decided I had to attend.

The nutshell: One of the best mini-vacations I've ever taken.

The Con was Friday evening through Sunday. I flew out Thursday morning, to allow myself time with my friends Pete and Terra. It's always wonderful hooking up with old friends, especially ones that significant, and even moreso when they have an adorable (and frighteningly intelligent and outgoing) 2-year-old daughter that I'd never met. This brief reunion would set the tone for the rest of the weekend -- FUN.

On Friday I hooked up with the gang I would be spending the rest of the weekend with. We kicked off things with a quick trip to SFEV on Friday afternoon to "knock off some credits" before the Con started.

Elitch is an odd place. It's completely landlocked, which is both good and bad for the park. The location is interesting and provides for some spectacular views (especially from the observation tower, which was actually open on Friday and again on Sunday), yet being wedged between a railroad, an interstate, and downtown Denver, the park as NO real room for expansion. Nada. Zip. Unless it starts going the way of Blackpool or Indiana Beach, we're not likely to see much in the way of major additions without removals. We knocked off four of the coasters, plus the observation tower, saving the wooden Twister II for Saturday night's (or Sunday morning's for some people) ERT.

First we hit The Flying Coaster, aka the Zamperla experiment gone awry. This little coaster is almost a flying mouse. Neat concept, and some of the ideas are pretty cool. I like the system for raising and lowering the cars -- as the car rolls through the station, it goes along a ramp that forces it into the flying position. At the far end of the station, another ramp triggers a release and allows the car to return to the standing position. Loading is actually fairly efficient. The lifthill is incredibly simple and clever -- a large rotating arm just pushes the cars up the spiral.

However, the ride itself is somewhat painful. Conceptually it's interesting, but it's just crammed into too tight a space. The result is bruised shoulders and a potential headache. The cars are somewhat claustrophobic, as well. Still, I rode the silly thing three times over the weekend (once on the Friday afternoon), in part because I really did kind of like it (or at least didn't HATE it), and in part because I was trying to figure out if there were some way to "ride it correctly".

The second coaster we rode was Sidewinder, an old Arrow shuttle loop. It's unfortunate that this one wasn't on our ERT schedule, because I really like these, StairMaster line and all. (Of course, those stairs could very well be WHY that ride wasn't on the ERT schedule -- imagine 250 ACE members climing up all those steps...)

For our ride on Friday, the girl at the controls was clearly bored but trying to have a good time. She asked our train if we wanted to "Take the water challenge" -- she'd give someone a cup of water, and if none of it had spilled we'd get a double ride. The girl behind me got to hold the cup, and the op said "Now, the only rule is, you can't hold your hand over the cup." Naturally the air pop on the first drop caused the water to slosh all over the place. When we returned, the op asked "Welcome back riders, how did you like our newest water ride?" Cute.

Next, we headed on over to the Boomerang. Yes, they're everywhere, but what the heck. This one turned out to be the smoothest boomerang I've seen. Maybe it had something to do with the molded headrests that actually kept your head from banging, or maybe it was just because it's fairly new, but either way, it was fun.

The same can't really be said for Mind Eraser, their SLC. I found this one to be rather brutal, even for the breed. Score the credit.

By this point, it was time to head out for dinner. We'd arranged ahead of time for the extended gang to meet up at Wynkoop Brewery at 4pm, giving us time to eat, drink, and be merry before heading over to Lakeside for the Con registration. To start dinner I ordered 3 5-ounce $1 samplers -- their ESB, Stout, and a "chile beer", which was indeed a light beer that had chili peppers added during the brewing process. I was originally thinking about getting a few more of the samplers, but the chile beer was so good, and so different from what I can get at the brewpubs back east, that I ended up ordering a pint of this with my dinner instead. I really liked this brewpub and especially this beer. Oh yeah, the food was excellent as well. They even had a decent list of scotches to follow up after dinner. Highly recommended.

So, with full stomachs (and buzzes on the part of at least one of us, darn that Dalmore ;-) ) we made our way over to Lakeside.

This park completely blew me away. It's small, it's a bit rough around the edges (although apparently the park had spent the last month painting and tidying up for the ACE event!), but it is BEAUTIFUL, especially all lit up at night. This is THE prettiest park I've ever seen at night. Lots of bright neon lights all over the place, reflecting off the water. Simply breathtaking. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

First, we had to register for the Con. The park had a really nice spread of snack food -- veggie trays, cheese cubes, nachos, and the like. Full from dinner, I only nibbled a bit, but took advantage of the fresh iced tea (wish more parks had this). The park also had shirts for sale, which is apparently not the norm. I bought a tshirt for $10, and they also had polo shirts for sale.

A quick trip around the park before it got dark (did I mention how pretty the park got at that point?) showed some wonderful classic rides, plus three coasters. I had never seen all 3 -o-planes (roll-, loop-, and rock-) in one place before. Also available were a whip (apparently not functional for a long time, but it was running this weekend), a Gravitron (woohoo!), an apparently-fairly-new dark ride called "Flight to Mars" (with some very good shocking scenes inside that had nothing to do with the scifi theme, but were effective enough to make me jump the first time), bumper cars, bumper boats, a spider, flyers that I couldn't get the hang of but some people were smacking tree branches with, a cool little train that went all the way around the lake, affording GREAT views of the park at night.

And, of course, coasters. The Wild Chipmunk is an old steel Miler mouse with some absolutely insane clearances. This is indeed a "wild" ride, more like rabid rat than wild chipmunk. Well worth riding.

Lakeside's second coaster is a small Miler kiddie coaster called, well, Coaster. This one is normally not open to adults, but it was available to ACE members during the ERT. My group hit it first thing, before any of the crowd had wandered that way, scoring the credit with no line.

Lakeside's gem, though, is their Cyclone. This newly-repainted woodie is an incredible sight to see. The classic station is spectacularly lit, and the trains are true classics. Thickly padded leather seats, 2 benches per car, with a fixed grab bar and a leather strap.

Now, I had been led to believe that this Cyclone was a fun, but fairly tame woodie. Well, "fun" certainly applies, but this little demon was anything but "tame". The bone-crushing laterals at the bottom of the first drop made you grab on and take notice. The ride provided some airtime, as well. I took several solo rides in the back seat over the course of the weekend, and I was still feeling them on the flight home on Monday evening. The front seat would elude me on the first night, but we still had a whole weekend of coasterdom to enjoy.

By the end of ERT, we were all pretty much drained. We made our way back to the hotel, knowing that we had another morning ERT at Lakeside on Saturday, complete with breakfast. Little did we know what "breakfast" had in store for us...

--Greg, aka Oat Boy
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"What do you want, you moon-faced assassin of joy?" -- Londo Mollari, Babylon 5
*** This post was edited by GregLeg 8/7/2003 11:55:57 PM ***

Mamoosh's avatar
Great TR, Greg! Glad you and so many others got to discover Denver's hidden treasure, Lakeside. Yes, folks...there *is* a reason to visit Denver.


It's coming Aug 18th, and your 2004 will never be the same!

It's nice to hear that Lakeside finally re-opened the Whip. On my visit a few weeks ago it was still under construction.

Well, it sounds like you had a great time. Lakeside truely is worth a visit to Denver!

"Here's my ten cence, my two cence is free"-Eminem

Nice TR, I enjoyed reading it. Glad to see SF employees trying to have fun. I'd try the challenge.

It appears that the Preservation Conferences are very fun. I went to the one last year at Canobie/Funtown and had a blast.

I lost my hat on Poison Ivy. How pathetic.

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