Sunday, August 12, 2001 5:04 PM
TR: Frontier City, Bell’s Amusement Park, Silver Dollar City, Branson USA, Magic Springs. Jeremy Ross randomly IMed me a few weeks ago asking if I wanted to go on a coaster trip. Never the one to decline one, I said yes and a few weeks later we’re on our way to five new theme parks!
Frontier City :: 8-8-01
Arrived at the park around 10 AM and waited until the park opened at 10:30. With a Six Flags season pass you can get your ticket for half the normal price of $25.99. I had visited Frontier City once before last year, and was not impressed in the least. This year the park had seemed to improve slightly, however. For the most part, Frontier City was clean and is well-themed, however the rides seemed mediocre and many were closed. The new Chance freefall ride Hang Man was closed, unfortunately. It also seemed like the shortest (height-wise) freefall ride I’ve ever seen (until I saw Magic Springs’ new S&S Tower that is).
The park’s indoor coaster “The Nightmare” was closed, as I hear it has been for a while now. I had ridden it last year, however, so I knew I wasn’t missing anything. We rode the Silver Bullet, a Schwarzkopf single-looper a few times, as it was a walk-on. Diamond Back, an early Arrow Shuttle Loop was painful as always. Normally airtime is a good thing, but as this somewhat launched (it’s really more of a forced push than a launch) rolls over the hill down to the loop, ejector airtime + Arrow’s older horrible OTSR’s = not a good experience. The park’s classic woodie (or it was?) Wildcat was running well, much better than my last year ride where it screeched around turns. Perhaps the park learned what grease was for? I enjoyed the park’s Tomahawk ride however (Vekoma Air Jumper), but I must ask what Vekoma was thinking when designing the restraints with hard ridges protruding into your collar bone. Overall, it was an OK day at Frontier City. You would think with Premier’s/Six Flags Inc’s headquarters being a few feet away they could take care of their home park a bit better. FC could definitely use some TLC, and the park has room to expand. From Silver Bullet’s lift hill, you can see Excalibur rusting away in pieces near the back of the park. Is there a reason why FC never installed it?
>> Park Rating: 2/5
Bell’s Amusement Park :: 8-8-01
For some odd reason, Bell’s opens at 6 PM and closes at 10 PM (Zingo closes at 9PM so there’s really not a reason to stay beyond that). Nevertheless, we arrived at Bell’s in time for opening, purchased a ride pass for $7 because of a special deal happening that day, and entered the park. Jeremy and I met up with Glenn Dobbs at Bell’s and now it was time for Zingo! The classic wooden out-and-back was partly damaged in a somewhat-recent fire, which also destroyed the classic trains. The new PTC’s aren’t too bad either, however. Even with one train Zingo was a walk-on all evening, making for a good 6 or 7 rides… Glenn told us that Zingo was not running all that well, but I still thought Zingo was an outstanding woodie. The drop into the Joker’s, err, the CLOWN’S mouth (tunnel) seems to never end, and the laterals on the turns are quite strong. The airtime in the back seats is pretty good on the drop and other airtime hills. Oddly enough, the ride operators don’t check the lap bars. Instead they seem to visually look at a few making for some VERY loose and free rides on Zingo. It seems that they trust the riders to do the work and have some common sense. Most of my rides were on three clicks down but I could have gone looser if I had wanted to. Overall, Zingo was a fantastic woodie and if Glenn truly means it when he said it was running just OK, I can imagine what a “good” ride would be like.
As for other attractions, Bell’s falls pretty short. The cable cars seem pretty quirky with a leg chopper effect over the Tilt-A-Whirl. The park reminded me of a carnival with a nice wooden coaster and a collection of smaller flats. Most of the rides are resting on complex footer systems of pieces of wood blocks and only a few are actually permanently on the ground… The car ride was surprisingly long and was pretty fun. The log flume was interesting to say the least, with a considerably large drop. Overall I’d say Bell’s is also an OK park, but if it weren’t for Zingo it would be nothing.
>> Park Rating: 2/5
Silver Dollar City :: 8-9-01
Our first visit ever to the park known as Silver Dollar City was mainly for one reason: Wildfire. Before I begin, I must say that Silver Dollar City blew me away. Deeply tucked away into wooded areas of the Ozarks, Silver Dollar City offered an array of rides that truly was for the entire family. I noticed several interesting things when entering the park; one was the astonishing amount of elderly and older people entering the park along with the families. The traffic jam for cars entering the park took about 20 minutes and the park was quite crowded on Thursday, however most of the rides were still walk-ons. I never saw one piece of trash, nor did I see one bit of graffiti. I was amazed at the upkeep of the park. Nearly every section of the park is shaded by massive pine trees and immersed by themeing. The employees weren’t rude teenagers, but kind older people who cared! Never before have I been asked how I was doing as a sweeper passed us. A huge variety of rides, food places, and overall attractions waits at Silver Dollar City.
The first ride of the day was Wildfire, and along with the park, the ride surprised me. You can’t help but be amazed at the amount of themeing that went into Wildfire. The station is themed to an old inventor’s house/laboratory. If you hadn’t known better, it could easily fool you to be an actual place of residency. Passing through the queue are mazes of pipes and general mad-scientist clutter. As Wildfire’s sit-down trains leave the station, mist from four huge pipes spray down as lights make it appear colored. A soundtrack with varied sounds adds to the mood. A separate single rider line can make your wait shorter, however it didn’t really make a difference since Wildfire was a walk-on all day anyways. B&M’s comfy sitdown trains have raised seats and are reclined. Few peoples’ feet actually touch the train floor, much like a floorless. As the trains exit the highly-themed station, a dip to the right brings us to the 155-foot lift hill. Instead of a more standard curving drop, Wildfire features a straight drop. The question that lingered after riding Wildfire was, “Why the heck doesn’t B&M do more straight drops!”
At the top of the lift the train dips down and a turn to the left introduces the 32-passenger train to possible the most incredible element on Wildfire, the drop. In the back row of the coaster, the floating airtime down the entire drop is in one word, incredible. Even with the over-the-shoulder restraints, powerful negative G’s push riders out of their seat and keep them there until the train drops 15 stories. The only drop I can compare it do thus far would be Millennium Force. Although not quite as powerful, Wildfire’s drop did remind me of the sheer attitude that MF pushed riders out of their seats with. Even the front seat receives a good deal of airtime. After the powerful first drop, the train enters an immelman that leads to the massive vertical loop. A short turn to the left lead us to a giant cobra roll. I’m not a big fan of cobra rolls, however the size seemed to make Wildfire’s a bit better. A highly banked turn to the right led us to the last inversion, a large corkscrew. What follows is a tight helix to the left into the brake run. After riding a total of 10 or 11 times, I realized that B&M’s transitions are amazing. Every turn, element, or drop, perfect. After my first ride the coaster quickly raced into my top 5, where I don’t know yet…
Other than Wildfire, Silver Dollar City offers a wide variety of other rides as well. An Arrow mine train that seemed to be built in the newer generation of Arrow mines (like Roadrunner Express at SFFT) surprised Jeremy and me both. Every other car on Thunderation is turned in reverse making for an interesting ride. Unknowingly, we sat in the reverse car for the first ride. Silver Dollar City’s unique landscape of hills and ravines allowed Thunderation to begin thrilling from the very beginning. The lift hill is in fact at the end of the ride. Out of the station a big swooping drop to the right is rider’s treats. Many more blind turns around hills and thousands of trees makes Thunderation a surprise around every corner. Unknowingly riding in reverse, we had thought our ride was over when the train slowed to a halt in a station of sorts… Instead it was actually the bottom of an 80-foot lift hill, quite the largeness for an Arrow mine train. One more large drop in which the train hits 50 M.P.H. signals the end of the ride. Being a walk-on, we rode a few more times facing forward then reverse again. Thunderation currently resides as my favorite mine train. Fire in the Hole is mainly a dark ride with three drops. The setting is you are in a car or something traveling through a city that is on fire. Yep, that’s about it. Confusing? You betcha, but it was enjoyable nonetheless. Buzzsaw Falls was also a unique ride. It certainly is odd to be floating through a canal one second and racing around a roller coaster turn the next. It was a little short, but a fun ride. Definitely an interesting design by Premier Rides! Overall, I thought Silver Dollar City was an incredible park. The hospitality of the employees, the general feeling of the park gave SDC the highest rating of the trip… With a few more thrill rides and coasters, SDC would be the perfect park, and I really don’t think that they’re having land issues… (The view from Buzzsaw Falls and Wildfire shows miles of land around the park.)
>> Park Rating: 4.5/5
Branson USA :: 8-10-01
A new park in the Branson, Missouri area, Branson USA reminded me of a carnival as well. Although the rides seemed newer than Bell’s, many of the same kinds were in play. A Zyklon MD-40 (I think that was the model as the ride operator/carney told us) roller coaster was a surprisingly fun ride as I got some pops of air down the first drop. Branson USA was one of those literally scary parks, where you sometimes wouldn’t know if you would come back alive or not. As we were waiting for the rides to open at 11 AM, the ride operator was training another person on when and how to dispatch… Instead of doing it with normal empty cars, Jeremy and I became the test subjects as the trainer told us to, “Hop on in and let me show him how it’s done!” A near-clone layout of SFoT’s indoor coaster Runaway Mountain was also at the park known as ‘Firestorm’. However, instead of being built by Premier rides it was manufactured by S&MC. The ride was considerably rougher and less fun. On a side note the ride’s brakes failed a few weeks ago and one train hit another one.
Another fun ride was Fireball, which is basically an inverted Frisbee ride. I’ve since forgotten the manufacturer, but according to the website is one of only 4 in the US. The ride seemed to be holding it back at first, going about 30 degrees on each side… When the ride did get in motion at the end and swung past 90 degrees, the forces were great and the ride was fun. Park admission to Branson USA is free, and operates on a coupon system unless you buy the ride pass.
>> Park Rating: 2.5/5
Magic Springs :: 8-11-01
The disappointment of the trip came as we visited Magic Springs in Arkansas. A discounted ticket was available at the hotel for $24 and we were off to the park at 10. Magic Springs was another one of those odd parks that opens at 10, but the rides don’t begin operating until 11. Right from the beginning Magic Springs began to aggravate us. Looking at the map, we had to walk halfway around the park to get to a walkway to get to the woodie Arkansas Twister, which was located at the entrance. At 11 we walked to the area to get to the walkway to get to AT… Joy, it was blocked off by a gate and truck, hmmm. We ask an employee who tells us that the map is actually wrong and we were supposed to get there from a some what hidden walkway near the gate. Wonderful, we walked halfway around the park to get nowhere. While we were there, we might as well ride the Wild Mouse. Oh wait, it’s closed. Onto the “Wild Thang” which is what I believe is a Zamperla Power Surge. Overall it was a boring ride, nothing special. We were near the new S&S ride there, “Dr. Dean’s Rocket Machine.” It was the shortest S&S tower I’ve ever seen, a measly 100 feet. Overall another boring ride, I wasn’t impressed so far. We found a family coaster called “Diamond Mine Run Coaster.” No one had made it this far to the park yet it seemed, so we rode a few times around. A typical family coaster with a few nice turns and dips, it had some nice themeing here and there. A Zamperla “Hawk” ride was also in the area so we rode it as well. A nice ride but it seemed that Tomahawk at Frontier City was a bit better, albeit the restraints on the Zamperla model were better.
We headed back to the entrance and down the almost hidden walkway to the Arkansas Twister. I had heard very good reviews of the relocated and reopened woodie from people in the area. The trains were newer Gerstlauers but I looked past it and took a back seat ride as my first… The lift is 100 feet tall, but truly I saw nothing special about the ride. It was a very mediocre ride with a very weak push of airtime in a few places. It was a fast out-and-back and the Gerstlaurer trains ran beautifully. I was surprised I was riding a woodie they were so smooth in fact… However they didn’t make up for a middling wooden coaster. I had a ho-hum attitude after the first ride in the back seat, but I decided to give it another try in the front seat. Slightly better but still nothing special, I gave up on the Twister. We ate overpriced pizza at a pizza stall in the park ($3.25 for a small slice of cheese pizza) and ate a tasteless snow cone. I did notice what looked like Arrow mine train pieces of track in various locations visible from the S&S and the Arkansas Twister… Was this a former coaster that was recently removed? Overall I thought Magic Springs sucked. Plain and simple.
>> Park Rating: 1/5
Overall the trip was pretty fun! I added quite a chunk of coasters to my track record, and even have some rearranging to do on the old Top 10. Until next time… See you at the Flags!
.:| Brandon Rodriguez |:. http://www.coasters2k.com