September 3, 2007
Minnesota State Fair, Falcoln Heights, MN
T-Shirt of the day: Dark blue shirt with American Flag and bald eagle design.
Photo Gallery Link:
"Lights! Sounds! Motion!"
Well, so I haven't been the most timely person in writing these reports. Better late than never, I suppose. Anyway, this particular report represents my last full day in Minnesota for the 2007 trip. As has become our tradition, we spend Labor Day at the Minnesota State Fair. We left Jerry's house pretty early, on the order of 7:15-7:30, despite the fact the midway doesen't open until 10, and its only an hours drive to the fair. Jerry has long impressed on me the fact that Labor Day attracts a large crowd to the fair, and there just aren't enough parking spaces on the fairgrounds. Something like 9,000 parking spaces for 150,000 people, and the fair acknowledges this fact, and has implemented an extensive park and ride program, as well as a hefty $10 parking charge for on site parking. We opt to park on site, and Jerry being a self proclaimed morning person, I think he just likes arriving early.
As predicted, arriving around 8:20 or so we had no trouble finding a parking space and at that time there was nobody waiting at the entrance gate so we quickly entered the fair and soon found ourselves standing in a still mostly closed fair. Sure, the livestock area was a buzz with activity, but the exhibit areas don't open till 9, and a good number of the food stands aren't quite ready yet.
To kill some time , we walk down Judson Ave and watch them get the Rapids Ride ready. You see, this fair has a bunch of rides outside of the midways. They have not one but two sky rides, and the usual giant slide, but they also have a Space Tower observation tower ride, an Old Mill, a haunted house, go-karts, and a rapids ride. All of these rides come at extra cost of course, usually around $3-$4.
We continued around the front where the Bazar section, where you can enjoy food, crafts and culture from around the world was not open yet, and I noted several past exhibits such as the MN DoT, and the aviation exhibit were not present this year. As we walked around the space tower, there was a booth setup where they were selling decorative lawn ornaments made out of bundles up grass. We walked past some administrative office type buildings, and returned via Dan Patch Ave. It's sort of fun watching the fair wake up, as vendors are just getting their stands open and slowly the fair springs to life.
Right around 9 we headed to the DNR park, which has a bunch of natural resources exhibits, including a fire tower. By fire tower, I mean the elevated platforms you would find in rural, wooded areas or state parks where a fire spotter is posted watching out for the first sign of forest fire. According to the signs, sometime in the 1960's a full size fire tower was built at the state fair as an interactive exhibit where fairgoers could climb to the top of the fire tower and enjoy the view. Sometime in the late 1970's the firetower was closed to the public, and could only be looked at from the ground. More recently, in 2006, the firetower was reopened as an observation tower.
Jerry informed me that the fire tower is a very low capacity attraction, and that while they do offer a virtual queuing system, my best chance of seeing it would be to go first thing. When we arrived the towers small queue area was already half full, and they were not yet offering the virtual queue. It became apparent that the bottleneck is that they only allow about 6 people or so into the Fire Tower area at a time, once they have those people in, they admit one person to go up only once a person comes down. Even at this early time it still took about 15 minutes or so in line. We were then admitted to the fenced in tower area. The first flight of stairs is a fairly normal grade and starts some distance away from the tower and the first flight ends when you get within the main tower structure being mindful of a low beam. They do have bright yellow padding around that beam, from then on the stairway seems to get tighter and steeper with each landing. From the base of the stairs to about halfway up there is a railing separating the up and down sides, as you near the top, the center rail goes away on the landings as the landings become about 1 person wide. There are some more padded low beams as you near the last turn in the stairs before you go up through the trap door and into the room at the top of the tower.
Now, most know that last year, I spent Labor Day tackling a different climbing project, as a I climbed over the top of the Purple People Bridge, as a part of the short lived, and now defunct Purple People Bridge Climb. The top half of the fire tower stairs are every bit as steep as the stairs to the top of the bridge, and unlike the bridge, fire tower climbers are NOT issued fall prevention harnesses, or training or anything like that. To be fair, the stairway is fenced in, so I suppose the theory is that even if you should slip you might have a nasty spill down one flight, but it won't be life threatening. At the top of the tower, is a small room, and when I saw small room, I mean the trap door for the stairs is the most dominant feature of the room, circling the trapdoor is a narrow platform from which you can stand next to the windows and take a look out. Pictures under the windows give you an idea of what you can see on a clear day and how far the object is. You can't walk all the way around, as one corner has a rangers chair and table where an attendant is there to answer questions. So as you can see there isn't a whole lot of room up top for people to gather. They ask you to please limit your visit at the top of the tower to 5 minutes. After our time, we started the decent. I took the stairs down very gingerly, basically sliding one foot ahead till it hit the end of the tread them stepping down. It might have taken me awhile but I did make it back to the ground.
Once on the ground,it looked to be about 9:30 or so, so we started to head over to the Mighty Midway. We spent the time watching ride and game operators get their attractions ready for the day, and were happy to see the Tornado cars getting a nice fresh application of lube. We must have circled the midway 3 or 4 times waiting for the rides to open. I was going to start the day on Space Roller, I knew I had trouble fitting on it, so I figured in the morning before the crowds arrived would be my best chance at getting a crew willing to be patient enough to take the time to shove the shoulder bar into submission. It did not look like there were quite ready at 10am, so we decided to walk next door to Avalanche.
Avalanche is a Pinfari Zyklon coaster. Its your standard fairground coaster full of lots of helices and very few real drops. The ride was a walk on, and capacity is always on the crews mind. Instead of letting the two of take an entire car, one per bench, they loaded another pair into the seat behind us, despite the ride being a walk on. To be honest Jerry and I didn't mind as our take is the more weight you can cram into one of those tiny cars the better. We didn't have any hard encounters with trim brakes, and we also did not get the feeling like we were going to crash land into the car ahead of us like we have had on previous rides. All in all it was a fun ride, and while riding it, we noted the Space Roller had opened. We walked back to the Space Roller.
Those who have read my past fair TR's know that the Space Roller is one of my favorite rides, so why am I dreading it. Well, the story goes that Space Roller went in for some extensive rehab work this year, part of that rehab work is all new seats and shoulder harnesses. Anecdotal comments from those who have ridden, and those who have tried to ride this year, is that it is a tighter fit than it used to be. I walk up to the ride, and I do note that the part about new seats is true, the older seats were yellow, and the new seats are a baby blue color. I also note crotch belts have been added to the front center of the seats that fasten into the shoulder harness. I have also been told those belts are a non-issue. Well, may as well get it over wiht, find out if I can ride the thing or not anymore. I head up the entry area, where I note a new fence has been added narrowing the entrance to about 1 person wide. Wonder if they had trouble at another spot. I turn in 5 tickets, and head up to the top of the waiting area. Soon the current cycle ends, and I am admitted to the ride area. I am shown a seat, and sit down, the bars automatically lower, but of course fails to lock. This is not cause for immediate alarm as I have always needed a slight helping push. The loader fastens the seatbelt, then goes to work on pushing the bar. He tells me he has to push, I say "Okay" he pushes, no luck, he asks if he can push harder, I say okay, he pushes, no luck, he says he will give it one more try, but he has to really push hard. I say okay, he pushes HARD on the bar, it locks. It is a really tight fit, he makes sure I am alright before he leaves me to give the all clear. The ride starts, and what a glorious ride it was! This is all the goodness of Space Roller that I remember, and I will tell you something, being stapled that tight into the seat is actually a benefit, it is even more rideable than it was before, now that I am essentially one with the ride, with no room to slide or bounce around. I think I am given a slightly longer than average program, then the ride ends, and the loader comes around to let me out. One of the downsides of the new belts is that it is very hard to reach the end release buckle (with the red button on the bottom) while seated in the seat. I thank the guy for his patience and return to the midway. Jerry and I agreed that my morning ride today was better and longer than the ride I was givenon Thursday. Oh, the obligatory ride description: A Top Scan consistts of a lifting boom, attached to the lifting boom is the main boom. At one end of the main boom is the counterweight, at the other end is the ride vehicle. The ride vehicle end consists of 6 5-seat spokes set in a windmill like arangement. All 5 seats on a spoke face the same way. So first the lifting boom lifts the main boom up into the air, then the main boom starts spinning, and when it spins it is set at an angle so it is also raising and lowering the ride arm. Then the windmill with its 6 spokes starts rotating, then each spoke is mounted on a swivel so it can roll backards and forwards as inertia dictates. If a very impressive ride which turns you every which way but loose, and the inertia mounted spokes help ensure no two rides are the same. It is still, very much on of my favorite midway rides.
We head back up the midway, and our next stop is at the Techno Power. The Techno Power is the 'extreme' version of the popular Orbiter ride. It was developed during the craze was to reduce the big bulky ride tubs of the past down to bare essentials, basically a seat, with legs dangling free. The downside to this, is that while the Orbiter has rather loose non adjustable lap bars, the Techno Power has much more restrictive adjustable shoulder bars. I had heard an anecdote that the Orbiter was developed with no passenger restraints, and that they are added when they come to the United States, but a review of a German rides video, shot in Germany reveals the Orbiter had the lap bars in their video.
The ride consists of the main center tower, at the top of which extends seversal sweeps, the sweeps are L shaped so in the load poasition the ends of the sweeps are hanging straight down. At the end of each sweep are mounted three stub arms, each stub arm having 2 seats. The ride starts by lifting up from the load position to the run position, then the main tower starts spinning, then the sweep ends start spinning, then the seeps pivot up so that instead of hanging down, at their peak they are sticking almost straight out perpendicular to the ground. The ride spins around awhile at very high speed, then the sweeps pivot back down, then the ride stops spinning and lowers back into the load postion.
Jerry and I board the Techno Power, and the bars come down, and hit the locking position all on their own. The ride starts and when the sweeps are hanging down, the lateral forces push you towards the outside, but when the sweeps are in the upright position, the forces push you down into your seat. The upright position is also hard on your legs. All in all, its a great little spin ride. After spinning for a bit, the ride ends and we head on up the midway.
We start on lap 2 around the midway and wind up on the Magnum. The ride is the Magnum, which is a Breakdance on serious drugs. The ride looks like a Breakdance at first glance, you have the huge main turntable, and on the turntable are mounted 5 turrets, mounted on top of each turret is a set of crossbars, at the ends of the crossbars, are mounted tubs, so 4 tubs per turret, 20 tubs on the ride. Like on the Breakdance, the tubs are mounted on a swivel so thet can spin by inertia, but instead of the car being mounted directly to the swivel, the key difference is the swivel ends in a set of uprights, from which the ride car is hung. This means that the cars can not only spin bi inertia, but they can also roll forwards and backwards by inertia. The main table spins, then the turrets start spinning, and from that point on, who knows what your individual tub might do, and yes rocking the car is perfectly allowed.
Jerry and I have ridden this before, and we also know they like to pair single riders. The problem with the two of us paired into the same tub is that the tub gets too heavy to get any good action. This time we get more aring and enter the ride with a few riders in between us, and amazingly they let both of us ride single. I wind up in Tub 20, which Jerry has proclaimed the best on the ride, and Jerry is in second best (#18), and I'm off on a chaotic exciting ride. During the ride I had several ulti flip sequences going, and I also had some interesting moments where I had the tub stuck upside down and still spinning around, once it even held for a complete rotation of the main turntable. In short, it was a great ride, but not for amateurs, and maybe not even for us, as while we didn't get sick or anything like that, it did mess with our equilibrium to the point where we wound up chatting with Justin for quite some time socializing and recovering.
After chatting with Justin, Jerry and I follow it up with another spin on Techno Power. Smooth, fast, powerful as always. After the second Techno Power ride, we head to the Coca Cola booth, and $2.50 later we each have a cold drink. We then go over and all at once wind up finding Paul Miller, Cameron, Loren, and Bill. We do that weird ride nut behavior where we are on a midway talking about rides instead of riding rides. After chatting, Paul, Cameron, Jerry and I wind up taking a ride on the Fighter.
The Fighter is a Mondial Swinger, as is Mondial's take on the circle swing ride. The ride has a lot of characteristics similar to a circle swing ride. It is big and round, with a stairway all the way around the ride, and in the center of the ride a main tower, where the top of the tower rises up from the load position to the ride position. The big difference is that at the top of the tower, instead or a large round cap that contains a multitude of swings on chains, the Swinger is different. The cap on top of the Swinger main pole is a large square shaped affair, on each corner of the square an arm hangs down, at the end of the arm is a cluster of 5 sweeps in a circular arangement. When the ride starts, the ride lifts up, then the main boom starts to rotate, then each of the four arms starts spinning its set of 5 sweeps. To make life even more interesting each arm is mounted with a hydraulic arm that is capeable of pushing the arm out from a vertical position to about 30-45 degrees off center.
Of course, I would be remiss not to mention the theming, that of a female ninja. On the top piece, in the center on all four sides, is a female ninjas face mounted above body armour clad boobs. The four arms coming down from the ride in effect are the ninja fighters arms, and you can clearly see her hands, and at the end of each hand the 5 armed sweep is meant to resemble some martial arts weapon. From theme, looks, sound system and entire package, its a stunning piece, and Minnesota recognized that fact by putting the ride in the "Spot of Honor" the front center ride on the midway.
We board the ride, with the very open chairs, and refreshingly for a big European super spectacular, the ride does NOT have shoulder bars. The ride instead has very simple non-adjustable loose fitting lap bars. We sit down, and lower the lapbars so that the flat metal plate at the end fits into the locking mechanism where a deadbolt type arrangement secures the bar. I have ridden this ride in the past, and now the ride can deliver a variety of ride experiences from mild to intense. For this particular ride, was needle was unlike Thursday, instead the needle was more towards the Wild side, as we were given a demonstration of the rides thrill ability. Jerry even looked over at me and said "What's with this hanging on stuff??"
From the Fighter, we intended to go to Tornado. Unfortunately no matter how persuasive we tried to be, we just could not get Cameron on the Tornado at this point in time. Paul had to go off towards the livestock area, which was his real main purpose for going to the fair to begin with, and Cameron headed to the Coca Cola booth. After Cameron got his drink, we headed to some television stations booth, where they had an exhibit about tornados going on. I got the impression they went through it to show me how cheesey it was. Bookended by some expository areas with photos, text and video clips is the show room. The main feature of the show room ae some high powered fans and some water misters which are meant to give you the feeling of what it would feel like to be inside a funnel cloud. We dubbed it Air Conditioning: The Ride, which is actually quite an attraction on a fairground on a hot day. We next went to another television stations booth to get their goodie bag, the main feature in the bag we were interested in was a FREE Park at Mall of America ticket. The catch is you don't know if the ticket is a free ride, a free day of rides, or a free year of rides until you go to the amusement park. Later review with a barcode scanner revealed that we had four tickets all with the same barcode, I'm not sure what it was, but I know that common sense would say they were all 1 free ride.
Enough visting exhibitor booths. We next headed to the Corn Roast. Its the main corn roast booth at the fair, and its a mass production operation with a gigantic corn roaster, vats of melted butter and all. To speed things up, the people passing out the corn don't deal in cash, instead the booth has ticket kiosks located out front, where you buy your $3 yellow Corn Roast ticket, then take the ticket into the booth and trade that for your ear of corn,. If a bucanneer is a terrible price to pay for corn, I don't want to hear about $3. We noted the main ticket booth had three long lines, but then the person manning a ticket booth off to the side was just standing there unnoticed, we went over to the side booth, bought tickets and soon were enjoying our ears of corn while walking through the fair, and conveniently finished up the corn right as we were arriving at the 1919 Root Beer Stand. Oh, and I regret the absence of Lemon Pepper at the corn booth.
I then visited the 1919 Root Beer Stand and most of wound up with $3 cups of gourmet root beer, well at least thats a 33oz. serving (no ice in root beer purist tradition). We enjoyed our root beers while we watched Cameron play some shoot-em-up game in the arcade. From the arcade, we headed to, you won't believe this, the SPAM booth. Loren and I decided to try the Deep Fried Spam Curds. Yup, deep fried mounds of Spam, instead of cheese, served with ranch dressing. I want to say I gave $4 for them. "Officially eating my way through the fair!" In all honestly, the Spam curds were rather bland and lifeless.
From the SPAM booth, we decided to take a walk through the main exposition hall underneath the Grandstand seating area. Once inside, I realized that fair expo halls are pretty much the same place all over. Cameron pointed out one booth that sells stationery, cards, books and other things entirely made of paper made from elephant droppings. After walking down a few aisles we left the expo hall. Cameron announced he had a need to see Machinery Hill, and it was clear he was putting off as long as possible getting back to the rides.
So we parted ways, Jerry and I started back towards the midway when Jerry mentioned to me that he remembered I wanted to get some photos, and that right now might be the best time, sky conditions wise. We headed out to the parking lot. On the way out, we had our inside lower arms stamped with readmission stamps that used the flimsiest,most water vulnerable ink they could possibly find. This stuff is so bad, that by the time we walked to our relatively close parking space, got our cameras, drank a bottle of water, and walked back to the gate, the stamps more resembled a smudge.
We started our photo safari with the exterior of the livestock buildings, and hey I did get some horse pictures as a group was marshaling for a show in the Colisseum. We then spent a LOT of time taking photos of the rides midway, From the rides midway we toured the Heritage Square area. This is more of a historical area, you can visit the blacksmith shop, the newspaper museum, see some classic cars and more. We went to the train. The train itself is from Royal American Shows, which was an old train based carnival that had the fair midway before they went indepedent. Outside the train car they have some old ride cars, like a car from a Herschell kiddie coaster, a very vintage tilt a whirl car, an old kiddie carousel, a Pretzel dark ride car, and some old sideshow canvas that looks remarkably similar to the canvas being used by the sideshow that is on the midway this year.
Inside the train, the first few cars are full of carnival lore, posters, photos, memorabilla, including an old gaming wheel, some sideshow props including a blade box, just like the one being used this year in the sideshow, the second half of the train is full of railroad exhibits. At least this year, I remembered that the watch your step sign is mounted right above the step, not an advance warning for the step. After the train, we went through the Minnesota State Fair History Museum, which has a lot of photos and artifacts from the history of the fair. A popular exhibit is a 1928 sale model of the fairground. There is a whole section on the hipprodrome and the old ice shows they used to have. Also in there are grandstand searchlights that have a military history behind them, old mascot outfits and more. A more disturbing artifact is a length of bungee cord from the 1992 bungee jump. The good news is I have now felt a bungee cord, the bad news is it did nothing to reassure me.
From the museum, we left Heritage Square, I saw a gourmet soft drinks stand, but no birch beer. Jerry and I continued our photo safari, making our way past the grandstand, through the arcade, and then up Machinery Hill. We opted NOT to take photos on the Kidway due to problems others have had with that related to parents seeing men without children taking photos of kiddie rides (and by connection kiddies). We did stop in a hardware store booth to get a photo of a t-shirt making fun of the whole Fair on a Stick craze "We also sell things on a stick, they are called Sledgehammers", and a dining hall "Absolutely nothing served on a stick". We got some photos of some farm and home implements like tractors, mowers, snow blowers, etc.
We continued around Machinery Hill, got some photos of trick skateboarding in the skatepark like area, noted the baseball exhibit is looking a little worse for wear after its run of the fair. I did stop at Giggles for some watermelon sherbert but the were out, so I setled for raspberry sherbert. I was eating my sherbert right when the lumberjacks climbed the two flag capped telephone pole likethings at the lumberjack show. This area has some rustic buildings like Giggles, a kettle corn stand, a bbq rib pit, the lumberjack show, and the Minnesota Bound store which is flanked out front by both American and Canadian flags.
We then took a break for a slice of Green Mill pizza each with soft drink. It was actually pretty good pizza, with some unique seasonings. We then took photos of some of the WPA era buildings. The Fine Arts building, Creative Activities Buildings, 4H building, and more were all provided when the fairgrounds were build courtesy the WPA. They are classic art deco buildings that are now architectural gems. The 4H building also has the military recruiting display, and a snowmobile display. Man those things have spedometers calibrated to 200MPH !!! I saw a booth featuring Beer Pizza. Jerry assured me they were two seperate products. We walked through another expo hall, and at about the same time my camera batteries died. My photo safari is over.
We finsihed up our circle tour stopping at the Empire to see the butter heads (they do popular Minnesotans heads in butter), we also stopped past Playworld Arcade to get photos of me playing Turret Tower. From there, we finished our lap, and Jerry offered to return cameras to car while I partook of the Dairy Farmers booth,. This booth features fresh milk for only $1, with free refills. It's the "All You Can Drink Milk" booth. I must have had like 6 or 7 cups, 12 oz. each. I do like fresh milk, and I have a tip for you. The milk flows from the refigerated tank and down nearest the windows facing Clough St. It is noticeably warmer by the time it hits the windows facng Judson Ave, and the windows on the other side were closed. I also noted several people turning the milk booth into the All-The-Milk-You-Can-Dunk-Cookies-In booth. Great idea, that. For my last cup I tried the chocolate, it had a nice rich chocolate flavor.
Jerry and I returned to the midway ready to ride. We have ride ticket sheets left, and only about 2.5 hours to use them. We took an educated guess, and were able to locate Cameron and Loren,however we never did see Paul again. Sorry Paul, I meant to ride more with you.
We took Cameron over for our much hyped Tornado ride. This time Cameron was willing to ride. The Tornado somewhat resembles a Paratrooper, except I don't think it tips up near as high. The key different is that instead of the Paratrooper seats, the ride consists of 8 sweeps that hang down, each ending in a spherical shaped ride tub. Each ride tub has 4 chairs facing inward, and no other siding which again helps with the wide open feeling that many newer rides wish to instill. Riders are secured to the seats with T shaped lap bars.The key feature of the tub, however, is the Wheel of Delight (or the Wheel of Doom, depending on your point of view) in the center of the tub. This allows each ride group to spin or not spin the ride as fast or as slowly as they see fit. This particular unit is equipped with a modification I had not yet seen. Essentially the center pole between the wheel and the top of the tub has been covered with a red sleeve. The sleeve is not rigidly connected to the ride, and therefore can free spin. The idea, which apparently stemmed from an incident that occurred a couple years ago, is designed so that if you should grab hold of the center pole during the ride, instead of causing bodily injury, it will safely spin with you. I would expect this unit to have all the modifications, as I believe it is Wisdom Rides show model, that they themselves are exhibiting,
We board the Tornado and grab Tub 6. The ride starts, and as soon as the tub brakes release we have the tub spinning at a nice clip, however we got one of the tighter models, so we didn't get it spinning as fast as we know we are capable of.. During most of the ride, the outside world is a blur, and all I can see clearly are Jerry, Cameron and the wheel. To be sure, it is tiring to keep the tub spinning, but its worth it.
From Tornado, we got to Techno Power and Jerry, Cameron and I ride. It was mostly the same as usual except at the end of the ride, after the sweeps lowered, but before the ride center lowered, the unit poles stopped spinning. Not a bad feeling just different.
After Techno Power, Cameron and I were going to ride Space Roller until we saw the line. Yeah, it was probably at most a 1 or 2 cycle wait, but hey we are spoiled by walk on rides at the fair, plus a line probably means less effort into getting me onto the ride. Instead, Cameron and I walk over to Extreme.
It is Extreme, a KMG Afterburner. The afterburner is a pendulum ride where the pendulum ends in a 6 sided claw. The floor drops away, then the pendulum swings back and forth, then the claw starts spinning, At the peak of its swing the arm is swingng up well above 90 degrees. I say the ride would be the real test is I tried to ride a similar ride at the Florida State Fair, and could not fit, later last year, I tried to ride another ride just like it at the Ohio State Fair, and could not fit. I board the ride, take a seat, and the bars drop. Of course, it doesn't lock by itself, but it I got a tighter seat than Thursday as it took a lot harder push on the part of the loader to lock the bar. I like the spinning pendulum rides, the problem is my home park has Delirium, which is a massively large swinging pendlum ride. The small KMG ride just doesn't seem to do it anymore. The program they run on Extreme is prett mild except for the final 10 or 15 seconds, when it starts swinging back and forth with gusto, as the ride starts spinning at maniac speed. The problem is the intense part of the ride is much too short.
After Extreme, all four of us go for a ride on the Crazy Mouse. We walk up to the loading area, turn in our tickets (5) and the ticket taker assigns us a car. We step into the assigned car, we put Cameron, the lightest of us by far on one end, and pull down the lapbars as the car continues to roll forward. We reach the end of the station area, and a visual check of the restraints is performed, then we roll out onto the course. The operator also makes special note of how obviously unbalanced we have the tub with the heaviest people together. There was a time when I thought the Crazy Mouse was a neat ride, then I saw the Gerstlauer version. The Crazy Mouse very much keeps to its Wild Mouse roots. We roll out of the station, make a left turn, and on every turn I think it was Loren and I that shouted "OPA!" in tribute to the Mt. Olympus ride, roll across the front of the ride, another left turn, then climb the lift, another left turn. We go around the ride marquee as we enter the top level switchbacks. At this point the ride is a normal Wild Mouse, as the cars are not free to spin yet. At the end of the switchbacks, you go down a short dip and rise, then make another left turn to again go across the front of the ride, this time on the mid course brake. The next left turn is the big one, as you go down the big drop, then up into a weird long extended uphill that flattens for a little bit towards the top, before climbing again for the final short hop. The bump adds an interesting experience to the ride, often accompanied by a wonder if you are going to make it to the top of the hill, to make that next left turn. Before the first switchback turn, you pass the mechanism which unlocks your car, for the second set of switchbacks you are free to spin, You make a few switchbacks, before heading straight towards the front of the ride, a drop, rise, and turnaorund at the front, then a drop, and you cut diagonally through the ride structure on mostly flat track that does have a bunny hop in the center. You then make one final turnaround and its into the brakes, then the mechanism that realigns your car to face forward, then lock it back into stationary mode. For all the things the Crazy Mouse does right getting you onto the ride, we must talk about how they get you off of the ride. The Crazy Mouse does not stop in unload. An unloader unlocks the lapbars, which you then raise. He then walks along side your car telling you to get out. He has a knack at telling you to jump out right as you pass a support column. He also probably means well, standing nearby to help people exit the tubs, but if you decide to instead jump out of the tub, it is quite easy to lland near or on his feet. . We then exit the ride, making sure to take care on the extra large last step, then walk down the exit path, dutifully ignoring the on ride photo booth.
Cameron and Loren are out of ride tickets, but they watch while Jerry and I show off on Magnum. Yes, we got good tubs, no we weren't paired up, yes we put on pretty good shows. At this point Cameron needed to go meet a friend over at the Haunted House. Jerry and I head over to the Spin Out.
The ride consists of a claw shaped passenger car with 6 'fingers' each holding 4 riders facing in. It sounds a bit like the Afterburner, but instead of being connected to a pendulum, the claw is connected to the end of a robotic arm. The arm is capable of turning the claw completely upside down, or anywhere in between, and is often the bearing that controls this rotation is constantly turning. The claw itself also spins, and the base that holds the robot arm is mounted on a turntable which is constantly spinning. You might see why its called the Spin Out. We hand in our tickets, and with just a slight press by the loader, we are cleared to ride. Jerry and I feel the lapbars click into place when the operator pressed in on them, we saw the alert lights go off. The ride starts. The claw makes it first big twist where it turns the claw upside down and spins it. Well, that's what it does normally this time I flipped upside down, then quickly righted itself, then the ride stopped in midair. What? Thats not supposed to happen. We stayed stuck up in the ai r for a few moments until a crew member started working with the mechanism at the base of the arm that holds the claw. Once he did that the ride returned to the load position.
As you can expect, there were a lot of cries of "Is that it?". Well that was it for Jerry and I as a crew member came up on the ride deck, opened our lapbars, gave us some ride tickets and sent us away. We didn't catch what happened due to the fact we could not really understand the attendant. All we could catch is that there was a problem with the safety bar. Of great, just what we want to hear. Now, if I had to venture a guess, I would say the safety bar was locked the entire time and was not the main cause for alarm, we suspec we had seats with finicky sensors and the first time we went upside down and all our weight was on the safety bar, it send a false positive to the console that it thought there was a lapbar malfunction. Which means, in the end, that everyone and everything responded appropriately to the alarm, and so it was all a big non-incident really.
So we take the walk of shame, and head right on over to Techno Power for one last ride on it. Now, Extreme, Spin Out and Techno Power have basically the same seat design, but they don't act the same.
After the Techno Power ride, we go take one last ride on Roc N Rol. You heard that right, a Chance Rok-N-Rol. (user cues up a medly of "Rock and Roll is Here to Stay", "Old Time Rock and Roll", and "Rock and Roll Music") From what I understand, a state ride inspector commented that he had not seen one of these in at least 20 years. The ride consists of a center spindle which has a large round frame around the outside, mounted to the frame are 10 cylindrical cars mounted on edge. The cars resembles the tubs of a spin dryer, and as you are about to find out, that is quite the valid analogy. The tubs are closed in with a metal mesh on the inner side and on top, only the outer side of the car is open. The tub has two seats facing inwards, and in the middle of the two seats is a U shaped grab bar mounted to the inside wall of the tub.
So the ride starts, and the 10 tubs start spinning around the center pole, then the tubs unlock, and as the name suggests, you can Rock the tubs, and if you are sucessful, the tub will start rolling. Yes, in a refreshing blast from the past, it is a ride where the rider gets to control the ride experience. I recall that a couple years ago, a major local newspaper for the Twin Cities wrote a midway review panning the Tornado becuase it required the rider to exert real work to get their ride. However, with the Rok N Rol, sedentary riders need not worry, as there is a mechanism in the center of the ride, that when activated will automatically roll the tubs as they go past it. You have to watch these interactive attractions. This Rok N Rol has a skilled crew that likes to play with the flipping mechanism so that as the ride spins you can't always be sure if its going to flip you or not. They also like to act like your ride is coming to and en, slow it down, then speed it right back up. Oh and how do they hold the riders into the car. No shoulder bars, no lapbars, just seatbelts. Of course, they are not normal seatbelts, they are special extra wide seatbelts, and instead of a buckle, the ends of the belt are fed into a special camlock mechanism. The belt is fed into the camlock, then the cam is clamped shut. Once this happens it can be pulled tighter, but not looser. From early photos of the ride at the fair, it started the fair run, with not only a "No Single Riders", but also a "4 Riders per Tub" sign. I note both of those signs had been removed.
By this time, we were recognized by the crew and given the VIP escort to the tub with the longest seatbelts. Unfortunately, we did not return the favor with a good performance, I think both of us were starting to get tired out and we just couldn't seem to muster up the energy to hit spin dryer mode.
After Roc N Rol, we crossed over to the Zero Gravity, the Zero Gravity being Darton's take on modernizing their classic round up ride. They manged to do lots of things, they gave the ride a bit ore midway flash, they souped up the engine so it gets up to speed and slows down a lot faster, allowing for more actual ride time. The filled in the seldom used back exit with some more berths, they removed the potential hazard of a ride being hit by an unfastened chain, by replacing them with belts that don't even have buckles. A loop in the belt fitts over a peg to secure it. They improved access by having a nice wide stairway, and the secured the ride exit against premature exiting while the ride slows down. Now the stairway folds up and complete blocks the exit. All in all its a real nice update on the classic stick to the walls as the ride tips up to a steep angle while spinning ride. .
From the Zero Gravity, we try another of Darton's updates, the Downdraft. The Downdraft is an attempt to give their famous Hurricane ride the more open floorless cars. It wins points for using an overhead lapbar, and not shoulder bars, but it loses points for haing a no to comfortable seat mold, particularly once the ride starts spinning at full speed. Of course the cars do still bounce in and out, controlled by compressed air. For the Downdraft they have you exit out the back stairs, then have fences which force you to walk around the ride and make your final exit at the front of the ride.
From Downdraft, we took a ride on the Skywheel, commonly reffered to as the double ferris wheel. This ride set out to solve the ferris wheel problem, by having one wheel always in motion while the other one was going through its load/unload cycle. This culminates in the main ride cycle where both wheels start going around in a giant circle, as both small wheels are still spinning away. There was a bit of a line to ride the Skywheel but it was well worth it to ride such a well maintained example of this piece of history.
From the Skywheel, Jerry went to ride Magnum, and I went to ride Space Roller. The line for Space Roller had died down, and to make things better I foun a slightly bigger seat that took a bit less force on the part of the operator. What's more I think I manged to get my best ride on it yet, fo the 2007 season. From the Space Roller I went back to the Magnum and Jerry and I finished up MNSF 2007 with our final ride being on the Magnum.
We both managed to get great cars, he got 20 and I got 18, which meant we got a lot of flips and spins with little effort on our part. What made this ride particularly special was that the ride ran about as long at it usuall does, and the ride had then almost come back to a full stop when I noticed the song Ride Spinners start on the sound system. Sure its a song about spinning hubcaps but it fits the crazed spin ride fanatic as well. "We ride spinners, ride spinners, they don't stop" In fact someone else took a clip from that song and made a YTMND out of it. Check it out for yourself: http://monsterspinnaz.ytmnd.com/
Anyway, right when the chorus of that song started up, the ride went back into high gear for another cycle, that would make it a double ride on Magnum in a great tub. What a way to end the fair! Jerry reports that the fair had a television commercial where they show somebody on the midway, and he is chanting "Lights!, Sounds! Motion!" over and over except each time through he starts sounding a bit more woozy, and it ends with "Lights! Sounds! Motion?, I'm getting too old for this"
Our version would end "Lights! Sounds! Motion? We're getting too tired for this!"
So we checked in with all our various friends along the midway, before heading out of the Mighty Midway. I did make a stop for some hot out of the oven Sweet Martha's chocolate chip cookies on my way out of the fair. Hmm, some of the best chocolate chip cookies you will ever eat!
We then headed back to the parking lot, and headed back home for the night.
One more day to come, stay tuned for the Park at Mall of America TR. (Posting that any day now, what it took my a month to get this one out????) *** Edited 11/15/2007 2:24:17 AM UTC by Coasterville Dave***
My Blog -> http://coasterville.blogspot.com
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