Monday, May 14, 2001 7:51 AM
Stark Raven Mad
May 11, 2001
"You'll have to forgive me. I lost my cough drop on the last turn."
This past Friday I experienced something that I never thought possible. I sit here now, typing this report, and am still not quite sure just what happened. My body aches three days later and my memories of that night are a blur, but the one thing I know for sure is that I *will* be at SRM again next year even if it means lopping my leg off.
The voyage to Holiday World began with a trip to the Dayton International Airport so as to pick up Jeff Tolotti. A few hours later, and a state border crossed, we had dinner at the first Steak 'n Shake of the trip (two more to come later). While in Louisville we made a trip around SFKK (6KK) and I got to see the park for the first time. I must admit, I was a bit let down by what I saw and I don't really have any desire to go back just for that park. Perhaps I will get to ride the rides there next year en route to SRM. We arrived in Santa Clause around 11:00 and, after driving by Holiday World, checked in to our hotel.
Friday was spent in the park 'warming up' for the event that night. The park was quite busy at the beginning of the day, as there were many schools there on field trips. Jeff and I started with Legend and my first reaction after riding was that of incoherent nonsense. I was blown away and the ride was nowhere near at its peak performance yet. Apparently the ride has improved significantly since last year as there is no longer any spot on the course where it slows down, not even at the top of the fifth hill as it did before. We took a few more rides and then decided to walk over to Raven. With Legend already firmly seated as my new number one woodie I was a bit nervous about how Raven would stack up against it. Although it too wasn't at its peak yet either, this insane craftsmanship of wood easily took number two right behind Legend. We spent the rest of the day walking back and forth between the two coasters and at some point ran into Dave Johnson. He stuck around to ride with us and we had quite a few rides on each coaster by the time 5:00 came around. The entrance was littered with coaster enthusiasts when we got back up there and it was obvious that it was to be a crowded night. It was at this point that I was finally able to meet Mark McKenzie, as well as Cindy Stout. I had a blast with them throughout the night as we continually ran into each other and took some rides together.
"What do you mean you haven't gone all day?"
STARK RAVEN MAD
The event started with all of us being herded into the theater for a presentation and talk from the Koch family. Will Koch began by explaining what was new this year and what work had been performed on the coasters over the winter. He then showed everyone Holiday World's three new commercials for this season and everyone seemed to enjoy them. I found them to be quite humorous and think that the park did an excellent job. This was followed by Paula auctioning off some HW items for charity, including all of the old lapbars from Legend's first season. They went for $50 a piece and 18 of the 23 were sold last I heard. The group ended their presentation by singing their HW/Legend song and received tons of applause from the crowd. At this point the weather had intervened and, rather than going straight to ERT, we were moved to the dinning hall for our pizza and fudge. It was all very delicious and the price and company couldn't have been beat. While I was at dinner I was able to meet the Chicago bunch (Joe Campanella, Jack Wlezien, Scott Schaffer, and Clayton Hauck) and later on got a few rides in with them all.
After this the ERT began and it was off to Raven for our first ride. I recorded some POV video (to appear online with time) and found the ride to be running a bit faster than it was earlier in the day. I told myself that if this was any sign of what was to come it was going to be an insane night. We then walked over to Legend and saw that quite a line had formed at this point. We waited maybe a half an hour and then took our first ERT ride. I shot some more POV (which will definitely appear soon) and found this ride to be running much faster as well. The rain that had come through earlier while we listened to the Kochs definitely was having an affect as the train flew through the course. I wasn't positive yet, but Legend was very close to taking my overall favorite rollercoaster spot. After this we took a walk out to the car to drop off our cameras and grab a few other things.
"You need to take a nerve pill!"
It was starting to get darker out at this point and the rides were getting better and better. Another ride on Raven and I was beginning to wonder if this ride might even be better than Legend. As soon as the train took that big drop it was as if all hell broke loose and the ride TORE through the woods faster than ever. I stumbled off the train and we made our way back to Legend, where I ran into Todd Long and a few others. We talked about the good times and the bad that Rec.Roller-Coaster has seen over the past seven years now. The long line went quickly as we were all in good company and the conversations flowed easily. I ran into the always-present Sean Flaharty and his posse that included Jon Smith, Chris Trotter, and a few others. By the time we boarded it was almost as dark out as it was going to get that night and this was the most breathtaking ride of the night up to that point. After the second hill I forgot what ride I was on and what came next. I had no idea what was coming for the rest of the ride and just could not believe how insane the whole experience was. When the train finally came into the station it took my a minute just to stand up and get off of the ride.
While standing near the exit, recovering from the ride, there was this strange, almost sick noise that came from Legend's station. Mark, Jeff, and I all looked over to see the bell from the tower come out of it's stand and begin to roll down the roof. The rope attached to it caught in the station and the bell hung over the edge of the roof...just left of the track. The train that had been dispatched already wasn't stopped in time on the lift and soon it would come racing into the brakes and stop just before the bell. The scene grew tense as it rounded the last curve, but it stopped and the bell was still hanging and so the riders were walked into the station. Eventually the bell was cut down and riding resumed, but we had already left for Raven.
My first night ride on Raven proved just as breathtaking as that on Legend and it took effort just to stand up after the ride. The second half of that ride was sheer madness and cannot be described with words. The train showed no mercy as it rounded the course and, at one point, I honestly wondered if I was going to make it through the ride...it was that intense. After that ride we again made our way back to Legend as we could hear it running again. Just as we got to the bottom of the steps it began to rain lightly. By the time we reached the top of the stairs, though, it was pouring and there had been a few cracks of lightning. The crew stopped the ride for maybe five or ten minutes and then cycled one empty train before allowed riders back on.
Imagine standing in the station and watching a train overshoot a set of trim breaks...to the point that the first car is almost completely in the station. Everyone's mouth dropped at the sight and those on the train couldn't have had wider eyes. The crew stared for a minute, then reset the controls and brought the train in. The station had erupted into applause at this point at what had just happened. When the next train overshot even farther Paula grabbed a piece of chalk and drew a line on the platform to indicate the front of the train. Jeff rode on the next train and this time it overshot a car and a half into the station, warranting a new mark that beat the old one. I was on the next train out and, although we didn't beat the last train's distance, we overshot a decent amount as well.
"It's like a wooden Jesus."
That ride was *the most insane* ride I have ever had on a rollercoaster. It was as if you could feel the structure groaning in pain as the train screamed through the course. Every last hill had airtime and the turns pinned me into the sides of the cars to the point that I couldn't move. The helix went fast enough that I was beginning to feel dizzy by the time it was over and the last two turns were downright, all out madness. I doubt I will ever find something to match that ride. Once off the train I had to sit down on the steps of the exit and stop shaking before being able to get in line again. The rain and darkness had mixed to create something that can only be described as an enthusiast's dream.
We rode Raven once more and spent the rest of the night at Legend. Dave Johnson and I grabbed a seat near the back on what we thought was to be the second last train of the night, in hopes of getting a re-ride on the last train. As insane as ever, we found ourselves being thrown into each other and taking abuse left and right. When the train entered the station we found every queue full again and wondered what the heck had happened while we were gone. And so we exited the trains, slowly, and waiting around at the exit for the last train to come back. While waiting we were told we could take one more ride and so everyone got back in line and we grabbed the first row of the second train. Another ride down and as we came in there were a few stragglers left on the platform. We had no choice but to re-ride and so at 1:30 in the morning we took the last ride of the night. It was fast and furious, as always, and afterwards everyone slowly made their way out of the park.
"Would you like to take something from my store?"
We eventually made it out to the parking lot and began to say our good-byes. The Chicago group all took off for somewhere that escapes my memory and I watched as Sean and his group piled into a van covered in coaster decals. They even had a map of the parks they were going to visit on the back. Jeff, Mark, and I got in my Jeep and headed back to the hotel for the night. We stopped off at Mark's room to see 'the store' and it was off to bed. Not a bad day if you ask me...not a bad day at all.
I just want to thank anyone and everyone who helped make SRM what it was. Especially, I think that the coaster enthusiast community will be forever in debt to the Koch family for putting on this event each year. Even with the bad weather that attempted to thwart the night, the falling of the Legend's bell, and other assorted issues, the park still delivered well more than they needed to. Extending ERT and all of that was such a generous move on their part and I cannot thank them enough. This park definitely deserves its award of 'most friendly staff' and it now has my vote as well! You can bet I will be back next year for more of this...madness.
I also want to apologize for anyone I met and forgot to mention in my report. I don't always do well with names most of the time. Even that aside, the night is a complete blur to me and it took quite a bit of effort to remember as much as I have in here. I'm sure I have a few things out of order and such, but that's what you get for spending a whole day at Holiday World and then doing SRM on top of it. I had a blast and cannot think of anything that would have made the day any better. I enjoyed meeting so many new people and riding with all of you. It truly was a night to remember forever.
"Legend is a wooden Jesus"