Marriott's Great America/ Chicago parks 6/29 & 30

Associated parks:

First off, I rarely do TRs, so bear with me as I make this as entertaining as possible! I'll begin by saying that I received more of the Whizzer news from numerous individuals (Mechanics, Security, Ride Ops). August 11th is supposedly Whizzer’s last day, according to SFGAm staff. They really pushed the info, and said an announcement should be made soon. Whether this holds true or not, this coaster won't last forever. Please make an effort to ride it this year, in case it is its last. It is only one of two remaining Schwarzkopfs of its kind (the other in South America, I believe). GAm has to machine everything when a part breaks, and it has become a maintenance headache. There has been talk of its removal for the last couple years, and I hope that everyone who visits this year will pay tribute to one of the park’s two original coasters. I’ll remember it for its sleek, space-like vehicles, loud rumble, spiral lift, minimal restraints, and great hand/headchopper effects. It was one of my first large coasters, and I owe a lot to it. As for the continuous removal of family attractions in favor of biggest and best, I was told it won’t last long. They want another ferris wheel, though it won’t be of the triple arm variety. :( I can only hope they continue to add attractions that appeal to all ages. Looks like IB's Tig'rr will become the closest coaster from the Whizzer Jet Star family.

This year’s voyage to my home park included a visit to the other Chicago area parks, which I had never been to. An attempt was made to hit Kiddieland last year, but thanks to Labor Day traffic, horrible storms and a drive back from Dells and Little A-M-A, I arrived about 3 minutes after they had closed the ticket booth. Ugh! So this year I got revenge. My brother Troy (SFGAManiac, who hasn’t posted in eons, sporting his Walley World shirt) from South Bend, and john peck joined me for the weekend. We were also joined by Melissa (mitch48) on Sunday afternoon at GAm.

Saturday began with my drive to South Bend (well, Goshen) at 2am. I arrived at home, and after a 3 hour “nap”, collected Troy and we headed west towards the Windy City. I’m not a stickler for details, so I won’t bore you with number of laps and all that stuff. But I’ll briefly cover each park we hit, and I’m sure the others who were there will chime in with their own 2 cents. After numerous tolls and some stopped traffic, we arrived at the Jeepers in Lansing IL. No coaster, even though I was told they had one over the phone! It was 2 seconds from I-80 and wanted to check anyways. It was a neat little setup, with mostly games and a couple kiddie flats (what else should have I expected!?!). Anywho, the real fun was about to begin.

We made our way to Santa’s Village since they opened early. My brother got in free thanks to their wheelchair policy. A nice surprise! We rode most of the attractions, including the peaceful, relaxing Skyride that seems to never end. I love that particular style, which is similar to the ones at Americana (GAAPALL, LL, etc) and Camden Park. The Amtrak themed train was having trouble (go figure!), so that was one I didn’t get on. Typhoon is perhaps the most painful coaster made Sonny look good! Seriously, there were lots of jerks, bumps, jolts, slams, and bams. And I don’t mean the Arrow kind! The restraints just didn't feel right. This ride left me begging for someone on a High Striker to pound out the kinks in my spine! The model railroad exhibit was amazing (OK what RR display isn’t to me?!), but the main attraction has yet to be assembled. This consists of many, many pre-built scenes in what appeared to be H.O. scale (1/87). When assembled it will certainly take up most of that building. The level of detail the creator achieved is unreal. Truly an inspiration to me. As for the buildings themselves, the park has some really great looking structures that mimic elf houses and North Pole-ish shacks. The most impressive, however, was the huge circular ice rink in the center, which is used in winter months. A ride was taken on their version of the teacups, but it didn’t hold a candle to that ride I got on MIA’s Drummer Boy. Though ST Chick was in the Chicago area over the weekend, she didn’t show up at SV to put me through that again! The gates actually stayed closed on these tubs! We also did the Yo Yo, which ran so slow that you were face down for 5 seconds, then flat on your back for 5 seconds! Not too enjoyable. I'm also spoiled from riding IB's, and missed the water below me. :) After piling into the park’s Dragon Coaster, and chalking up 2 whopping coasters for the day so far, we headed to Bolingbrook. A quick stop at Arby’s was made. Mmmmmm Jamocha shake......

Having visited Old Chicago as a kid, I remember the dark, smoky building filled with music and food. Oh, and a looping coaster that I did not dare go on. Seeing that OC closed before I rode my first looper in ‘82, I never got on the Chicago Loop (a quick trip to Canobie will fix that!). Since Hillcrest Park was spitting distance from OC, I decided to drive past the OC property, which is now a huge (enter loud, echoing voice) auto sales extravaganza! I did take a pic of the street sign, which still bears OC’s name. I called Hillcrest last week to see if we could ride their classic wooden junior coaster. They were more than friendly, and gave me a time to stop by. The park is sort of a Stricker’s Grove, though highly secluded. You can’t see a thing from Joliet Road! We wound around in the woods, alongside the park’s massive wooden railroad trestle, and eventually found the parking lot. Once I found a ride supervisor, we were told to go ahead and board. They let us ride as much as we wanted, but since we were on a schedule, 2 laps did just fine. The coaster runs great and has the typical 2 bench, 4 car PTC train. How nice it was to ride a junior without seatbelts! the park was filled to capacity with picnickers and it was nice to see a variety of games being played like soccer, volleyball and horseshoes. The only attraction not operating was the dunk tank! We got some photos of the other rides, and made our way back to civilization.

After nearly losing my front bumper to one of the many Chicago 500 entrants, I managed to fly on over to Kiddieland, which was also bustling with activity. It was nice to arrive well before the park closed! LOL....I arranged for us to have at least 2 hours here, and we made the stop well worth it. My brother got in free again, and we were there after 5 so we got our ride passes for $15-ish. The park has the most beautiful miniature train I have seen. It is just large enough for riders to sit in, and resembles a sleek, diesel powered express from the Southern Pacific’s Daylight era. It would look good in my backyard! We took a couple rides on the LIT LE D PPER (don’t ask me how to pronounce it). This coaster is a mirror image of Hillcrest’s, and runs even smoother. The train features a beautiful constellation paint job, and the station had the good old manual brakes. We zipped along the course, while the sun began to set and lights on the midway began popping up all over. They (as I mentioned earlier) have a killer bumper cars, great Scrambler, and good Log Flume. Other rides included a Tilt-N-Hurl, auto ride, viking ship and an Eli wheel, plus some great kids rides. Our attention was soon drawn to one of the most unique children’s rides I have seen. It looked like life size die-cast metal toys, with incredible details and functioning parts. They were arranged in a circle and had a really sharp centerpiece. The trolley was my favorite, since the door really opened and kids could climb in and play Motorman for a minute! One hidden surprise awaited us: free drinks! This is the 4th park that I know of to offer that (Holiday World, Lake Compounce, and Stricker's Grove). We left about 9, and headed for the Jeepers in Harwood Heights. Now, I knew this one had a coaster, but even the kindest manager in the world couldn’t go against company policy! We apparently need a kid just to enter the building! I was allowed to view the coaster, but we couldn’t “borrow” kids. I told him I’d be back in 9 months (of course that means I need a wife, and FAST!). LOL. Though I credit John with that line (originally used at Fun Spot), I can’t say if the ride ops believed him. Not sure why.....

I am now 150% sure that the Walley World shirts available at Kohls and other retail outlets around the country are cursed. Very cursed. Troy found his last week and brought it along to wear at GAm, and even though he didn’t wear it Saturday, we could feel its presence. The Griswold’s fate was passed on to us shortly after our denial at Jeepers. I missed an exit, but that wasn’t too bad cause we got to see a nice carnival set up at 290 & 294. My Celica continued to prove that it was a wee bit small for luggage, CDs, food, a wheelchair, and 2 people (and John LOL). I just had the A/C fixed, and since then, the battery light came on periodically. I kept an eye on it, but noticed no change in my electrical/dash components. Upon arriving at the hotel, I checked in as normal. When I came back to the car, all hell broke loose. In approximately 5 seconds time, the following transpired:

John: We are on the second floor and there’s no elevator.
Troy: Has anyone seen my cellphone?
Brad: @%#*! My baby won’t start!

It took us a few seconds to realize the horror that was cast upon us. My brother had arthritis at an early age, and it’s hard for him to walk far, not to mention up lots of steps. IB’s Hurricane station is about all he can take (that elevator never works)! The hotel couldn’t arrange for a different room. He had also brought his cellphone along in case of emergency, and though he doesn’t use it on rides like some lunatics I have seen, he does keep it secure in a zipped pocket (or so we thought!). It apparently came out during one of our bumper car rides at Kiddleland. They are brutal, and some hit with a force similar to Knoebels’ cars. They aren’t as big, and don’t slide 20 feet, but they are powerful! We called the park and they had it, but couldn’t mail it. Fortunately for us Kiddieland was on the way home. However, Melissa joined up with us around 2, and later on kindly went and retrieved it (Thank you again!) while we stayed back and rode. John went with her, since he apparently needed the company of a woman and was looking deathly ill from the heat. As for my car, I ended up getting a jump from a very helpful hotel employee, and it was enough to start it the next morning. I still ended up getting a new battery, but that still doesn’t seem to be the problem. All I know is, I may leave my WW shirt at home during my Magic Mountain visit next week! LOL. Time to get some sporting goods.....heh heh heh.

We somehow escaped further damage and made it to Great America right as the rides were opening. Once again I must thank parks for being courteous enough to those who are handicapped. Getting to enter rides through exits is not only a kind gesture, but it helps my brother have an enjoyable day, where otherwise he would not be able to get on half of the attractions. Amusement parks are for everyone, and its great to see them work hard to give each guest a great day. About 2, the four of us piled into my Toyota and took a half hour break at Coney Island Frozen Custard. Chris Brewer, another coaster modeler, has a wonderful operating coaster model inside. It loops twice, features several 2 car trains, and flawless craftsmanship. The store, which has great ice cream, is about 5 minutes west of GAm on Grand Ave. I will quickly give a rundown of some of the day’s rides: far the hidden secret of Great America right now. It is my favorite of the coasters, and each ride gets better and better. Though the crawl over the lift kills the first drop, the front car is still out of this world throughout the rest of the ride. It felt like a CCI, and for all the right reasons.

American Eagle.........backwards! Should that be “elgaE”? Peeps, you have gotta fly this one. Granted, it doesn’t scream through the helix and final loop like it used to, and paint is needed in areas where newer wood has been added, but it is still a majestic sight to behold. It could be let free, but a day’s worth of begging and pleading to the mechanics did nothing. WHY are parks afraid to operate their coasters? I am tired of having to remember when a coaster ran at full throttle. If it was designed to run that way, and did for a significant amount of time, then continue it, PLEASE! Eagle remains among my top woodies for its design, logo, memories, and sheer gracefulness. Then comes a chance to ride it in a way like never before (except in ‘91, but I missed that!). Backwards was brother and I rode it 4 times, and took the last seat (trailing car) each time. I approached it for the first time expecting KI’s recaR on crack. I was wrong. The leg out was recaR gone insane. Racer may win with the number of hills, but I never expected the incredible air I got on elgaE. And if that wasn’t enough, they were racing! All day we saw the twin trains battle it out, and if they didn’t brake blue so heavily, red would have had some competition! We did not ride forward, since that can be done any other year. I was told by maintenance that elgaE will probably go back to normal next year. BOO!

Demon was running the black and red trains, and was playing clips from the soundtrack in the station/ tunnel! Woo hoo, it was almost 1983 again! If I could do anything to the ride, I would bring back that great drain pipe with glowing eyes at the entrance, and restore the flames on the station and cars. I would also raise the light tunnel so the top rows of strobe lights can be restored without danger of guests hitting them. I assume someone had a stuffed animal and hit them. The ride has lost some of its seclusion thanks to Southwest Territory, but you can still get a devilish scare at night, when the theming can be experienced at its best. the other thing that bothers me is the restraints. I hate the “arch” bars, and the seat padding seems to give you less room at the shoulders. Vortex and TT are comfier, though I’m sure you’ll all agree that all Arrow loopers hurt when you bang yourself against the bare fiberglass! It’s bound to get you! Why they don't all have Double Loop's side panel padding is beyond me.

Tidal Wave wasn’t anywhere to be found. :(

Raging Bullwinkle. Again, a very friendly crew. Flung out of my seat on the first drop, I hurtled towards that tunnel with nothing but a single bar keeping me from instant death. I love those trains! It was as good as ever. Then we hit the uphill trim. Then we hit the final trim. It wasn’t devastating, but Bull was missing some punch.

Shockwave was really making use of the heat. I don't know if anyone else noticed besides us, but the trains just scorched the rails. The first third was incredible, and I swear I felt air between the first and second loop. Sure, that Satan's work of a curve was bad as ever, but that was the only uncomfortable spot. I just can't believe how forceful that ride still is. As always, I sat in back where it won't hit the transitions as hard. Blue and red trains were doing the honors (must have been something against yellow Arrows that day!).

Flat rides we hit: Lobster (running in ludicrous mode), Whirligig, Ricochet (Big Top), River Rocker, Giant Drop, and Sky Trek Tower (which is sporting a gigantic flag this year).

This TR wouldn’t be complete without mentioning the 96 degrees we suffered through! Much of the day was spent indoors or sitting, and after the tragic event last week at Geauga, I didn’t take any chances! The best thing was the fireman on stilts, who spent the day dousing the midway peeps! I loved it. Funny thing was, we just got off Logger’s Run, and I realized that if it weren’t for the great double dip, I might as well have stayed in front of him! Speaking of water rides, its been awhile since I’ve seen Yankee Clipper run (yes, I DO use original ride names.....I can’t stand “Powerade Plunge” or “Ice Mountain Canyon” or whatever they name things now). So we took a trip on the lil’ orange boats, and much to my surprise, got just as drenched as we did on Logger’s! I don’t remember these being so great years ago......maybe its cause I spent my time riding a different “wave” there. LOL. Something else that caught my eye was the old Great America logo on the logs! Very cool (literally). Melissa returned with a phone and only half of a corpse. John was slightly better, and we hit Whizzer and Bull one last time. A visit to the gift shop yielded a hat for Troy. After my car started fine, we parted ways. Many more tolls and lots of dozing off followed. Soon I pulled into the drive on CR 32 in Nowhere, IN. Success once again!

And after all of my Great America visits, I think this was the first without rain. ;) Thanks for reading, and I'll see everyone after California!
Brad Sherman
BuzzCon Frequent Flyer, responsible for guests fleeing the queue in horror!
Model coasters and rides

Brad - nice TR. I almost went to SFGAm Sunday, but stayed home and drank beer instead.:)

That's cool that you guys got to go to Hillcrest. I've always wanted to do that. Did they charge you guys to ride the coaster there?

"drop rides, not bombs."

*** This post was edited by chris on 7/2/2002. ***

Kick The Sky's avatar


I wish I would have checked the meeting calender before I went so that I could have met up with you guys. Despite the heat this was still one of the better days I have had at the park in years. The lines were short for once and most of the park seemed to be working their arses off so that everyone could have a great day. Maybe I will see you at SFGAm in the future.


Bob Hansen

A proud CoasterBuzz Member

"So you think your'e really brave, gonna see the DEMONS cave.
You silly dude, your'e only food, for the DEMON"

stoogemanmoe's avatar
Cool trip report Brad! Did you happen to notice the "sound" in the light tunnel? It was the "eee eee eee" sound form the movie "Psycho"! I was loving it!

Beer, my soon to be wife, coasters, and the FREEDOM OF SPEECH. Is this a great country or what!!
stoogemanmoe and places to get discount Six Flags Great America tickets!

Nice TR Brad. Viper is indeed running excellent, but if they add 1 more trim to Bull I will go insane! It's like they turned on that last trim just for fun, it dosen't even slow the train down all that much.

Can't believe it's the last few months for Whizzer, hope everyone gets a trip there to ride this truly unique family ride

Six Flags: Proud of our tons of coasters, and even prouder of our millions of trim brakes

Chris, we got to ride for free, but I'm not sure if that holds true for all the ACEers that have been on it. I do not know what it normally costs, but since the park is rented out, they probably don't charge per ride. I didn't take time to check at a ticket booth, because there were none! Barry, I did hear the sound! And Troy, glad to have you back on the buzz! Nice sig.......LOL.
Brad Sherman
BuzzCon Frequent Flyer, responsible for guests fleeing the queue in horror!
Model coasters and rides
Great TR!

Good Times!! Good Times!!

Let's just hope that this new coaster will run well, as I'm sure since it's a B&M. But removing Sky Whirl for a coaster that took 4 months to run and still only runs half the time ticked me off.
Brad, Nice TR, and thanks for the AE lifthill pick. I'll cherish it when that little hellion convinces the judges to turn the blue side back "as it was intended to be". :(

Formally Known as Ozzyhead.

Nice TR Brad!

-Sean Newman
84 coasters in Track Record!! Hypersonic XLC # 100 in July. Waiting for the 305 foot drop tower in 2003. Thank you PKD.

Great TR. Very entertaining.

SFGAm: 1)DV 2)V2 3)AE Blue 4)Viper 5)Bull

Very entertaining TR Brad, and awesome pics as well! I was THIS close to hitting Santa's Village last Sunday to ride Typhoon, so it doesn't upset me as much that I didn't get to go, now I know it's pretty rough.

Leaving for Cali soon?

Kara (car-uh)
665 Laps
252 in '02
BuzzCon Frequent Flyer
Proud Co-Founder of the CoasterBuzz Street Team

*** This post was edited by ST chick on 7/5/2002. ***

I would rather continue to call it Marriott's as well...damn I miss Tidal wave... :( Have fun in Cali man...keep Kara there as long as you can...oh she going at the same time as you?

315 laps on ST
My worst day fishing is better than my best day at work....
my worst day coastering is better than my best day fishing.

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