Saturday May 1st ( Larson Manufacturing & Wonderland Park)
This day was to be the longest driving portion of the trip. We were to start out in Lubbock and drive to Plainview. From Plainview it was off to Amarillo. From Amarillo, it was a nice 4 and a half hour drive to Albuquerque. Luckily for us, we got plenty of sleep the night before and were ready to move on to our next destination.
After leaving our hotel on the south side of Lubbock, we stopped at a gas station to fuel up. As we were leaving, we made a wrong turn that put us heading the way we didn’t want to go on the outer belt. We didn’t realize this at first but just a few minutes later we noticed we didn’t see any familiar sights as we saw as we were driving to the hotel. No biggie. Lubbock is small enough that we thought it wouldn’t take long to reach the north side of the outer belt. Sure enough, it only took about 8 minutes. Since we were staying on the south side of the outer belt, it didn’t really matter which way we were heading as all we needed to do was find a way to the north end. We had just printed some directions in advance and they were pretty useless as we found our own way.
Our first destination of the day was one that Kevin and I were really looking forward to. Larson Manufacturing. Larson is a company that is famous for their Super Loop and Ring of Fire rides among other things like their recent updated designs of the Flying Scooter rides. The drive to Plainview only took about 40 minutes. One the way, we passed through Happy, Texas. As with most of the towns we had passed through in Texas, the highest objects in sight were, you guessed it, a series of grain elevators. As if we hadn’t seen enough of these already.
Once we found our exit, we noticed something unusual to us. The exit ramp merged into a two lane road. Normally this wouldn’t be that big of a deal but there weren’t any signs telling us that one of the two lanes was for oncoming traffic. Kevin got into the correct lane and drove to a stop light. We looked to the left and saw someone else sitting in the lane next to us. They didn’t realize they were sitting in the wrong lane until the light changed.
Within a minute or two, we could see two large loops towering over a few smaller buildings. We had found Larson. We grabbed a parking space and met up with others before walking inside the waiting area. Inside was a very detailed model of the Ring of Fire. A woman came out to welcome us and took us inside one area of the factory. Larson went all out and provided us with a breakfast burritos. During this time, everyone just sat around and chatted for a bit before the first of many tours began. Kevin and I were in the first group to go. Mike “Propellerhead” Thompson was also in our group.
The first part of the tour consisted of us walking outside to another building. As we walked outside, we noticed how cold it was. It was in the low 40’s and we were doing everything to try and warm up even though most of the tour took place outside. I forgot the name of our tour guide (and most people from Larson for that matter. Sorry.) but he was full of information. As we were walking outside, we got to catch a glimpse of the two versions of the looping rides they have to offer. One was a standard Ring of Fire while the other was a much larger prototype with test seats installed. These seats sit outside the track area, similar to Six Flags Magic Mountain’s X, but one side of the ring has static seats that keep riders upside at the top, just like the Ring of Fire, but the other side had seats that are free to move like a Ferris wheel. According to our guide, one park has purchased this new design but it’s in Lebanon or somewhere like that. He also hinted around to a couple of park chains coming out to check this out.
Once inside, we got to see many different areas that each offer in putting together a ride. The first area was where they created ride vehicles. Sitting in front of us was a brand new topless train for the Ring of Fire rides. It looked very similar to a coaster train complete with OTSR.
The next area we went to was the painting and construction area. Larson was in the process of painting a trailer for a Ring of Fire ride that is heading to a park in California. Larson also constructs all the trailers for their rides and follow very strict guidelines to make sure their trailers are road legal and pass many vehicle inspection tests.
We then entered the largest room of the tour. This room consisted of a lot of different areas that make many different aspects of the rides. Mike, being the comedian he usually is, made some jokes upon the way. When our guide started talking about the new Flying Scooters, I asked him if Larson recommends snapping. I had heard the rumor that Larson doesn’t recommend it and wanted to find out once and for all. It was explained to us that Larson doesn’t recommend it and even mentions what snapping is in the ride manual and how to let guests know it’s not recommended. So, for those of you that want to snap on a Larson version, please remember that they don’t recommend it and please don’t get bent out of shape if a operator asks you to stop. The ride wasn’t designed to do that unlike some of the older models.
We got to check out a large machine that basically cuts a desired shape out of a big section of steel. They can program the machine to cut any shape they want. It was pretty cool seeing some of the things they cut out from that machine.
In the middle of the room was large structure. Our guide told us this part of a 120-foot free fall tower that will eventually end up in a park in Florida. We also were told that every bit of work done on each ride is cataloged very carefully. For example, if they want to see who actually welded one specific weld 10 years down the line, they can look back and see who actually did it. We then were walked into the machine shop area of the facility where we got to see where they store parts and made them.
We then walked upstairs to the planning offices and were shown in detail what goes into making a ride a reality. They had blueprints of their Flying Scooter rides set out for us to check out. One woman showed us the computer program she uses to help design the ride. It was all very educational and we learned quite a bit this day.
The last part of our tour consisted of ride time! We were to get to sample two rides today. While the cold weather would normally scare off a lot of people, most of us took advantage of this rare chance and walked over to our first ride. A Techno Jump.
Normally, this ride is manufactured by Satori, but Larson had one set up for us to ride. I have only ridden two versions of this. One in Blackpool, England, and the other being at IAAPA the past two years. Every time I have taken a ride on one of these, I have enjoyed them quite a bit. This ride can best be described as a “Flying Kangaroo” gone mad Instead of a single ramp for the cars to jump on; they jump with the help of compressed air and hydraulics. Kevin had never been on one and was eager to try.
Just as with the other version, this ride provided quite a bit of airtime while rotating around in a circle. We even got a backwards ride. Going backwards while bouncing provided a different feeling. I think Kevin was quite impressed with this ride as everyone else.
Our next ride was the Ring of Fire. I had only ridden one of these many years ago and was eager for another ride. Mike Thompson must have been eager as well as he began to sing Johnny Cash’s “Ring of Fire” before he rode. The seats for this ride are pretty comfortable although I could see them causing a problem for people that are clausterphobic as they lock you in snug thanks to a very large and padded lap bar.
To best describe the sensation to those that have never ridden one before can be described as a coaster that doesn’t quite make a loop or one that does nothing but loops. Looking sideways provided a cool view, especially while looking over at the adjacent, larger loop that was not in operation.
After our ride time, Kevin and I decided to get a head start to Amarillo. We said our goodbyes to the kind people at Larson then hopped back into the truck for our next destination. Wonderland Park.
======== INTERMISSION – Please take this time to go get something to eat or watch a movie, do some laundry, or just drop the kids off at the pool. Whatever meets your fancy.=======
The drive to Amarillo didn’t take all that long. Maybe an hour or so. Kevin and I were excited to get to another park we haven’t been to. As with Lubbock, Amarillo was another small town but felt more like a larger city. It didn’t take long before we could see the Texas Tornado coaster coming into view. As we pulled into the parking lot, we were welcomed by a nice view of The Big Coaster. Since we arrived earlier than expected, we decided to take a quick ride or two before the official welcome the park had planned for us was to begin.
----The Big Coaster---- (#538)
This was the second Jumbo Zyklon I have ridden. The only other one I have ridden used to reside at Delgrosso’s in Pennsylvania. Kevin had never ridden a larger model. Looks can be deceiving with this ride as back seats ride can provide a lot of airtime so that’s where we chose to ride. True to the other version I had ridden, The Big Coaster offered a lot of airtime on the drops. The rest of the ride was pretty tame, but still fun. The ending was strange as it seemed as if this model had a modified layout with a weird finish that took place high about the ground, complete with a downhill chain brake.
As soon as we were done riding, we walked over to where we had just entered the park to watch the opening remarks. During the ceremony, the park’s GM and other industry officials spoke briefly about the park and rides. People such as Gary Slade, Carole Sanderson, Tom Rebbie, and Fred Miler were in attendance to unveil a special ACE plaque celebrating the unique nature of the Texas Tornado. The National Anthem was then played and our day at Joyland officially started with ERT on the Tornado.
I have wanted to ride this coaster since I first saw a picture of it 10 years ago. I love unique rides and this coaster definitely looked unique. This O.D. Hopkins design has a lot of history behind it. The deal for this coaster was made on a napkin and no computers were used in the actual design for the ride. The ride now operates with the only PTC steel coaster train in existence.
Once sitting in the comfortable PTC trains, we were dispatched and made a left hand curve towards the lift. We made our way up the lift. Near the top, the car we were sitting in started to bounce slightly. At first we didn’t know what was going on but later found out it wass due to the drive wheels at the top. The first drop leads into the first or two inversions. This vertical loop starts out like a normal loop, but has a high pull out. This provides a very strange positive g sensation. There is a similar loop found on O.D. Hopkins’s Desert Storm coaster in Arizona.
The coaster then heads up into a small double up before dropping into a very tight, left hand drop that goes all the way down to the ground. For some reason, the turn feels very much like something Schwarzkopf would have designed with strong positive gs. The next hill is taken pretty slowly but the nice drop leads into another strange vertical loop. Originally this loop was larger but the train had trouble getting through it, so the park modified it to make it tighter and stronger feeling. Once through this strange loop, we dove right into a tunnel and up into the brake run.
Finally, I got a ride on this coaster. It was better than I expected it to be. With only one train and 140 others riding, the line got a bit long, but Kevin and I suspected the line would go down later so we decided to go see what the park had to offer.
We began with a ride on the dark ride in the park, Fantastic Journey. This reminded me of one of the dark rides at Waldameer Park. Fantastic Journey also has to be one of the longest dark rides I have been on. The illusion at the very start of the ride was a good one.
This was the last coaster on the trip that was new to me. This Miler mouse is similar to other versions like the one found at Lakeside in Denver. Kevin and I looked for block brakes or some sort of braking area but we didn’t see any despite multiple cars running on the course. Fred Miler later informed us that there is a braking mechanism on the bottom of each car that can stop the car with the operator hits an e-stop. The coaster was very heavy on the laterals. I don’t think I have ever felt laterals like that on a coaster of that size. Very strong indeed.
I believe it was Tim Baldwin who suggested we go onto the other side of the park to give Riptide a ride. Kevin and I were willing to give it a ride. I mean, how bad could it be? As we walked up to it, we could tell why the local enthusiasts call it “Oblivion on a cookie sheet” as this water sled attraction was much steeper than the one found at Joyland.
From top of the tower, the drop looked incredibly steep. This picture doesn’t do it justice. Tim dropped first and made it to the end fine. The ride operator told us to lean forward as we dropped to help aid our ride to the end. I was next. I was actually nervous about riding this thing as it looked too steep. I hopped onto my sled and started my steep descent into the unknown, or just a lane of water. Whatever.
This ride is so steep that the sleds actually float off the metal slide until they hit the pullout. It’s pretty creepy to feel floatage on a ride like this but it is to be had. Once I left the slide, I skipped across the lane of water to the end without getting all that wet. That drop provides an incredible rush and I would be willing to ride again but I wanted to watch Kevin ride. Kevin was so impressed with the ride he got on the less-steep version at Joyland just 24 hours before.
Just as Kevin was getting ready to ride, I had just remembered something. When I was visiting Oakwood park in Wales in 2002, I was standing in front of their version of this ride (once again, not as steep as Riptide) video taping some friends riding. Tim Baldwin and Jeffrey Siefert were mentioning to me the steeper version found at Wonderland park. Just as they were mentioning this, a girl flipped over in the water lane and got drenched. All this was caught on video including the conversation I had with Tim and Jeff.
Well, what do you know? Here I was looking at Riptide, the ride same ride Jeff and Tim had told me about while in Wales, and Tim and Jeff just happened to be standing right next to me once again, and all while I was video taping.
Can you guess where I am going with this?
I don’t know what happened. Kevin began his steep descent into the unknown, or just a lane of water. Whatever.
His landing looked to be good.
However, it looked like he was in trouble after the landing.
Kevin and his sled went sideways and turned over. What are the chances?
As Kevin walked up to us, drenched as all could be, he claims he didn’t lean forward enough. Whatever the case may be, he was in need of a change of clothes. He went back to his truck to change while I played back the footage I shot to some people. Everyone’s reaction was the same. “Oooooo!”
So, if there is a lesson to all of this, it would be to not ride one of these things if Tim, Jeff, and I are watching as you will probably lose it.
Once Kevin got back into the park, we checked out the rest of the park. Near Riptide was a strange water ride called Jet Racer. This short ride consisted of riders hopping into sleds similar to those found on Riptide. There are two covered lanes. Each sled is lifted up on an angle and released into a water jet stream lane where they race until the end, some feet later. We didn’t ride this as it looked like people were getting soaked.
Kevin and I then took the sky ride to get an aerial view of the park. We also used this chance to plan out what we wanted to ride for the rest of the day. After a quick lunch, we took a couple more rides on the Texas Tornado with Eric Sakowski and Jo Jo Cortez. Both of them are great to hang out with. Jo Jo speaks his mind freely and doesn’t hold back on anything. It’s quite funny. We all decided to give the monorail a ride.
This monorail has individual cars that hold up to three people. As we were waiting in line, we saw Don Tuttle and Carol Feeble riding. Both of them were on my coach during the ECO tour. I don’t get to see them often but when I do, we usually have a great time hanging out. Plus, they are into skydiving which is always a plus!
Just as we were getting into our car, we saw a rather humor incident regarding the Tornado. I won’t go into details but I will say I wish I would have been riding during that time. Perhaps Kevin will go into more details.
The monorail doesn’t go around the park much. It does circle the Cyclone coaster and the log ride, but as far as views go, it doesn’t offer much. It is a nice relaxing ride to take when your feet are tired. While we were riding, we saw Joe Schwartz down below and yelled his name pretty loud. He couldn’t figure out where we were at and started looking around. Once he saw us, he just kind of smiled and went back to taking his pictures. He has a new digital camera. If you know Joe, you know that he hasn’t been a big fan of digital photography. He told me a couple of years ago that he was waiting for digital cameras to reach 6 mega pixels before he would even consider getting one. Well, now he has one. I am certain he will put it to good use.
After our ride, we met up with Greg Legowski and rode some insane bumper cars. These things were brutal. Lost of violent bouncing going on. The ride cycle lasted long also. A ride on the Ferris wheel was next. Perhaps it was just for balancing purposes, but the loading on this wheel was strange. One side would load, then it would rotate back to load a couple of cars on the other side, then back to the side it started to load a couple of more. We got a long ride but we all were kind of puzzled by the ride we got. We also took a ride on the train.
We took a look at the Tornado again and decided to get a few more rides in. Due to the lack of people riding it at the time. We didn’t have to leave our seats if we didn’t want to. We did want to ride the very front at least once. The only thing was there were two riders waiting for the front, and one rider waiting for the second row. It was strange seeing all those empty rows waiting to be filled while the only people wanting to ride were waiting for the front. The ride operator told us they need a minimum of 15 people in the train before they could dispatch it.
We decided to wait it out Just as we were waiting, the girl that was waiting for the second row decided she wanted to ride the front seat and rudely pushed her way in front of Greg and I. Greg spoke up and said, “ Um, I don’t think so!” rather loudly. This stunned the girl and her friends. They just kind of looked at Greg in a strange way. It worked though as the girl went back to the second row. Kevin and I were laughing as the girl clearly looked upset because of this. Even when she came back into the station she still had a frown on her face. That’s what she gets for messing with Greg.
We ended up riding this coaster 5 more times or so before moving on to the other side of the park once again. From on top Riptide, a good view of Texas Tornado can be seen. Greg and I went up there to video tape. We were hoping there would be a couple of people riding Riptide so we could get a shot of them dropping down the drop. As I was taping the coaster, my battery died so I went back to Kevin’s truck to drop it off.
Once I was back in, we went back to Riptide where Scott Connor said he was going to ride it. I wanted to watch this from on top of the tower so I walked up with Scott. To my amazement, Kevin decided to ride once more. He was confident he could ride and not get soaked like he did before. Oh, and did I mention that I Tim and Jeff were watching as well?
Scott went down the ramp, and did exactly what Kevin did. He wiped out and was soaked to the bone. This didn’t give Kevin much confidence but he ended up riding it anyway. This time he made it all the way down and didn’t get wet. Woo hoo!
Soon, our picnic was to begin. Carole Sanderson and I talked about various things as we were waiting to be let in to the picnic area. There was a delay involving the caterers so we just took this time to chat about a few things. One of them being coaster accidents.
Just as we were talking about this topic, Bill Linkenhiemer walks over to me and asks me to listen to a message that our friend Chris Trotter left on his voice mail. Since I couldn’t get any service in Texas, I had to listen to this message. In the message, Chris mentioned the accident at Six Flags New England. At first, I thought this was some sort of joke as Carole and I had been talking about this just a minute or so before, but as we all know, it wasn’t a joke.
I asked Greg and a few others to see if they could check up to see if this actually happened as a lot of people still could not get service. Near the end of the picnic, we had conformation from many different folks that something did happen but no one knew how. To be honest, those that had heard about the news were bummed but overall, things were quite.
Halfway though the picnic, Kevin and I decided to leave as we were going to make the 4 and a half hour drive to Albuquerque tonight instead of the morning. We were already tired but we felt it was the best thing to do considering we already had a room booked in New Mexico. We really enjoyed ourselves at Wonderland. The park treated us great and I would love to go back someday.
The drive to New Mexico wasn’t all that bad. At one point, we passed a large farm field which had a strange cloud hovering over it. I had no idea what it was but Kevin explained it was a cattle field and due to the weather, the cloud was produced by, well, use your imagination. Let’s just say it wasn’t pleasant smelling. As we crossed into New Mexico, my phone service suddenly came back, and I had a few messages after all.
I am glad we filled up before we left Amarillo as there were very few exits. The first gas exit was saw looked like the place was closed to we continued on. Lucky for us, we found a gas station just in time as we were down to less than a gallon and we still had a ways to go.
Once we arrived in Albuquerque, we found our hotel and turned on the TV to see if there was any news about the accident. The only thing we saw was a small scroll at the bottom of a CNN newscast. As soon as we saw this, Kevin checked Coasterbuzz and a few other sites on his laptop and we got more info. Soon after, we were crashed out waiting to begin our next day. Tomorrow would bring better weather. Finally!
Cliff’s and the amazing Sandia Peak
Thanks for reading,
*** Edited 5/17/2004 1:03:03 AM UTC by Sean Flaharty***
Great write up, still can't stop watching the video of me flipping on the 'cookie sheet'. Buddy even got a little photo recognition in there.
The incident with Greg was hilarious, later on in the park when we saw her she still hadn't regained her composure.
Now I'm looking forward to the Cliffs installment.
by the way, I was downtown yesterday afternoon and saw halfpipe finally testing. Looks as if they need to put the canvas tent on it and it should hopefully open this coming weekend.
I felt a bit bad afterwards, but I'll bet she never tries to cut in front of someone again.
My exact words to her in line were, "Excuse me, NO!" The no came out a bit harsher than I'd intended. Oh well...
"You seem healthy. So much for voodoo."
Just be glad I don't have a website where I can share the actual video of you flipping. Hmmm. the crystal ball says "perhaps sometime soon in the near future."
Sorry about misquoting you. I knew it was something like that. That girl is probably still upset.
Wyandot Lake used to have those slides for years and I never saw anyone flip over. Not until the ECO trip. Ever since then I was a bit nervous when I rode as I thougth I would do the same thing.
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