A horrendous thunderstorm hit as we passed through Jasper but by the time we reached the park, the clouds parted and the sun was out. Of course, that meant the heat and humidity were also back, but I wasn’t going to complain. There before me was the Raven- a coaster that I dreamed of riding ever since I saw pictures of the ride in ACE News almost a decade ago. For me, this evening was a dream finally coming true.
Linette, Jon and I entered the park for half price with our ACE membership cards (the rest of our group went to do their own things after the Sunday ERT at Indiana Beach) and made a beeline for the Raven. The first shock: Holiday World was small. A lot smaller than I thought it would be. I had long thought that Raven was at the very back of the park but it turns out it sits right alongside the entrance to the park and the parking lot. It remains hidden by trees, but more of the coaster was exposed than I thought. Still, it is hard to take pictures of the coaster. Now I know why everyone takes a picture of the first drop- it’s just about the only thing you can take a good picture of.
Raven is a little powerhouse of a ride that delivers from start to finish. The first drop is fantastic for its size and features the added thrill of shooting into a tunnel. I liked the pop of airtime at the top of the next hill that was immediately followed by a flat curve towards the lake. The curve over Lake Rudolph was smooth and fast- why can’t all banked turns be like this one? The airtime at the top of the fifth hill was as incredible as I have been led to believe, but it was after that when all hell truly broke loose. The rest of the ride is an orgy of sweeping, lateral-filled curves that leave you breathless- it’s only after the lap bars are released that you finally feel yourself coming to your senses. The ride is short- no doubt about that and no doubt it ultimately affects my feelings for the ride- but the track that is there is truly exceptional. All action, no filler.
We took two rides- front and back- and made our way down to the Legend where we met Holiday World’s master of wood coaster maintenance, Jeff Hammersly and his wife Dana. Two wonderfully nice people, they were a lot of fun to spend time and chat with. Jeff is a true genius when it comes to wood coasters and is the kind of guy that any enthusiast could talk to for hours on end. He is amongst a rare breed of park employees that care as much about wood coasters as some enthusiasts do!
Legend. Ahhhh, Legend. A coaster so powerful and so forceful that a few rides in rapid succession can really make you feel physically exhausted. The layout, nice and long, throws at you just about every kind of gravitational force you can think of and then some. Like Raven, there are a few moments of airtime, but the coaster’s specialty is laterals. Lots and lots of laterals. Laterals on the first drop. Laterals on the spiral drop. Laterals in the double helix. I can’t imagine riding this coaster in the Gerstlauer train- I think it would have been on par with being dragged behind a moving truck.
The last thousand or so feet of track on this coaster comprise what may be the ultimate out-of-control wood coaster experience. The severe laterals in the second half of the helix give way to a stretch of track that zig-zags its way back underneath the lift hill before turning away from the station for an airtime-filled fan curve. This is the only coaster that has ever made my arms feel weak from holding them up throughout the ride. Pulling into the brake run for the first time, it’s almost as if I just got jumped by a gang in a dark alley! Feeling bruised, battered and breathless, I also felt accepted by the ride. It was like the initiation procedure was now complete. Too bad that a slight hiccup with a proximity sensor shut down the ride and forced us to wait until later than evening for another go.
In many ways, the Legend is like a very big Raven. They both have rather traditional out-and-back first halves. They both have extreme moments of airtime halfway through the ride (the Raven has its fifth drop and the Legend has its straight hill following the spiral drop.) And they both have lateral-filled endings that provide an out-of-control feeling unlike any other coasters manage to do. With that said, the Legend gets my nod as the better of the two only because it does what the Raven does but on a much grander scale.
Holiday World is a family park and the collection of rather standard flat rides supports that. There is a Spider called Paul Revere’s Midnight Ride and a Tilt-a-Whirl called the Virginia Reel. The only one we took the time to ride were the HallowSwings- a new Zamperla Flying Trapeze with an adorable cartoon-ish “haunted” theme. Like the version of this ride at Knoebels, this machine is beautiful. The ride cycle was extremely short, but since there was no line whatsoever on Sunday night, the ride op allowed us to ride again and probably would have let us ride all night if we wanted. A few words of warning: Make sure you sit in the larger seats. I had no idea that there were small seats and large seats, and you can imagine my dismay when I tried unsuccessfully to sit down in a seat that was two inches narrower than my posterior.
The park is known for its hospitality, and it shined through in every employee. Ride ops were more than happy to take your loose articles and set them aside until after your ride. Free drinks are provided in nice, bug-free buildings and there are at least a dozen drink choices at any given “filling” station. We met an off-duty Paula Werne at Kringle’s Kafe (after eating some very good thick-crust pizza) and Pat Koch while getting in line for the Raven. She seemed absolutely thrilled to see us after we told her how far we traveled to visit the park! Unlike many parks, the staff goes out of their way to make you feel as if you are welcome at the park instead of there just to see how quickly they can get you to empty your wallet.
While our time at the park was limited (four hours on Sunday night and three hours on Monday before our flight back home out of Louisville), Holiday World proved itself to be a very special place, very much worthy of all the accolades it receives. The two coasters are outrageous and the work that Jeff does is remarkable. The idea of a Jeff Hammersly at every amusement park builds an extremely good case for moving forward with the idea of human cloning. And the wonderful employees, flawless landscaping and solid collection of rides don’t hurt things, either. In all honesty, the park could probably stand to add a few more thrill-oriented rides like a Zamperla Power Surge or a Huss Frisbee, but the ride collection they currently have is nice, even if it’s somewhat generic.
Safe to say we’ll be coming back. I waited nine years to go ride the Raven and I’m not waiting nearly that long again!
*** Edited 5/26/2004 8:03:22 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***
Great set of TRs!
Last year, we took a journey around Shafer without the aid of the "Queen". Quaint is the perfect word.
BTW: Great TR, Rob. *** Edited 5/27/2004 2:49:30 PM UTC by Woody***
My son went to HW with me last year and he enjoyed HW enough to want to make the 7 hour drive back this year. Considering his age (17) and the fact our home park is Cedar Point, I was happily surprised that he found a small family park so enjoyable.
I'm SO looking forward to riding my all time favorite woodie, The Legend, again.
I'd rather die living than live like I'm dead
Indiana; I love Indiana. :)
"Want to be upside down, maybe thrown from side to side" - The New Pornographers, The Fake Headlines
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