August 13, 2006
Today is one of the two or three times of year that a small private picnic grove known as Stricker's Grove opens its grounds to the public. This particular grove is unusual in that in addition to group picnic facilities, it also has a small amusement midway complete with two wooden roller coasters. This trip report is most unusual because unlike my other visits to Stricker's Grove, I am not beginning my day in Cincinnati, OH, instead I am waking up in Pittsburgh, PA.
We had a hard time waking up after two long nights of amusement rides, and so we barely woke some clothes on in time to take advantage of the hotel's courtesy breakfast. After that we still had to get cleaned up, so we just barely made check out time at 11AM. We then proceeded along the drive to Cincinnati, OH, and after a couple gas and comfort stops, we found ourselves arriving at the park, starving, right around 4:45.
Stricker's Grove has an unusual way of doing things. Today the park was open from 1PM-9PM, but the rides are only open for a part of that time, the first ride session is from 2PM-5PM, and the second ride session is from 6PM-9PM. All the ride operators essentially take their break at the same time. We pulled into the park and parked in the free parking lot and scored a space that was quite close to the gate. We walked up to the admission gate where we each handed over $9 to enter the park. I noted at the admission gate they have a big sign laying on a table that has all the obligatory ride safety information, as well as the height requirements for all the rides.
We entered the park, and first headed for a comfort stop in their one and only, but thankfully recently renovated restroom building, then headed to the free Pepsi stand. With the park only open 2 or 3 days a year the coaster enthusiast community makes a strong showing when the park is open so we met several people by the soft drink stand. We then decided that instead of trying to squeeze I one ride before the 5pm cutoff, that we would instead go and position ourselves to be at the front of the cookhouse line.
The food line opened and soon I was handing over $4 for which I was handed a plate with a nice sized cheeseburger, hot off the grill, a hot roasted ear of corn, hot off the grill, as well as a scoop of potato salad, and a bag of potato chips. That has got to be one of the least expensive amusement park meals ever. I carried my plate over to the nearby toppings bar where they have a wide variety of burger toppings laid out At the end of the toppings bar they have a couple large garbage cans for you to shuck the husk off you own ear of corn, then a vat of melted butter with what looks like paint brushes sitting in it, so that you can 'paint' the butter all over your ear of corn. I made a detour past the beer booth, where I added a draft beer for a $1.75 fee. We soon gathered in the main picnic shelter and sat down to enjoy dinner as a coaster enthusiast group. The park had a steel drum band proving entertainment in the shelter during dinner, and while the music was nice it made it harder to carry on a conversation so after we ate, we moved to the field next to the miniature golf course. We did go back to the soft drink booth, and then headed to the rides area at the appointed time.
We passed the carousel, and then we stopped and looked at a construction site. There is clearly the frame for a ride sitting here, and it looks like it might be for a Sellner spin ride, but instead of the usual 4 sweeps,, this one has 6 sweeps. A bit later in the evening we got confirmation that it is a Sellner Spin the Apple, but the rare 6 tub park mount version. We passed by the path back to the train ride, and then we decided to ride the Ferris Wheel. Its an Eli Hy-5 wheel, and after a reasonable wait, Rideman and his partner were being loaded into one tub, and I was being loaded into the next. It was a nice ride on the Eli wheel, even if the wheel does face away from the coasters. The Eli Wheel ride got interesting at the end, right after they unloaded Rideman/Partner, they managed to get the wheel so out of balance that it wouldn't turn and they had to get a ride mechanic out to fix it. Did I mention I was still on said wheel. So the Ferris Wheel ride was a bit longer than we had bargained for.
We then decided to head back to the Tornado, not the spin ride. In this case the Tornado is the parks full size wood coaster. The line for the Tornado had spilled out of the queue and was back to just about the ids helicopter ride. We stood in the queue for some time before we realized we had not seen a train run the course, nor had the line advanced. The line eventually did start advancing as people gave up on it, and by the time things started to happen we were right up by the Tornado's ticket booth, which had a sign proclaiming that the Tornado is FREE today. After a long time we see two police officers head up the coaster exit ramp, this is not too strange as the park does hire off duty cops as security at these events. We still don't know what happened, but some time later the cops left the ride, and then the ride started running. The first train was near empty leading to comments like "If that's all the seats they are filling…" We were happier to see the second train out was a full load. After things got running smoothly, it was not too much longer before we were admitted to the station. I grabbed the back seat, fastened the individual belt, lowered the traditional double bar, and we were set to go.
The ride has a classic profile, you do a right turnaround out of the station, up the lift, down the first drop, up the second hill, second turnaround to left, second drop, then over a series of speed hills to the third turnaround to the right, then the ride gets interesting, there is an unusual series of hills and valleys, including a part that acts like a double dip even though it really isn't. The spot kind of rides like a mistake on an otherwise very smooth coaster. At that spot, if you are in the back car, you are launched up into the lap bar with some force. A hill takes you up into the final turnaround to the left, then a couple more dips including one more good airtime spot and you are on the brakes. You can be assured the coaster fans ride the ride just for "the mistake".
With a coaster ride under our belts, we head to the Flying Skooters. Since PKI heartlessly ripped out the Flying Eagles a couple years ago, the Stricker's Grove Flying Skooters is the only place left in town to practice the fine craft of Flyer flying in Cincinnati. Their Flyers aren't near as good as PKI's were, and the especially don't give that nice satisfying loud KERCHUNK when you snap. That didn't stop us from taking several rides on the Flyers.
Eventually I need a flyer break, so I mosey over to the Teddy Bear. The Teddy Bear is the parks junior wood coaster. It does feature nice plushly padded PTC cars with openings on only one side. These cars have also not received seatbelts like almost all other PTC cars. The ride is a classic junior coaster. Leave the station, turnaround to the right, up the lift hill, then turnaround to the left before going down the first drop which passes under the lift hill to create a fine headchopper visual effect. You then travel along a series of mild speed hills around the perimeter of the coaster before heading back to the station.
From the Teddy Bear, I headed to the Tip Top, which is a spin the tub ride where as the tubs go around the whole platform bounces up and down. Unfortunately I got a tub whose tub brake did not release, so I could not actually spin the tub, which led to a rather dull Tip Top ride.
When the Tip Top ride ended I wound up with the rest of the crowd. We saw the train arriving, and since it is usually interesting to take the train ride here, we went for it. We boarded the Chance CP Huntington train which takes you on a lap around the complete perimeter of the park. We headed behind some service buildings where the center canvas for the parks new Round Up ride can be seen, then we headed into a filed in back of the park where parts for a Mack Hully Gully the park purchased but then decided not to assemble lie abandoned. In the far back of field we saw the parts for the new Round Up ride. We circled around the parking lot, then went through an impossibly small tunnel underneath the park entrance driveway, around the coasters then back into the station.
After the train ride we headed to the soft drink stand for some refreshments. I grab a hot pretzel at this time for $1.50, but was disappointed that the funnel cake stand was already closed. We did peer into the skeeball building and the games building. The games building has some arcade games, but no pinball. We rentered the rides area. The park has one long midway, on the left hand side you have: Carousel, future site of Spin the Apple, train ride, ferris wheel, Tip Top, Scrambler, helicopters, Flying Skooter, and ending up at the Tornado. On the right hand side you have a games building then a pavilion with three kids rides inside (a wet boats, a car ride, and a little circle swing type ride that could pass as airplanes), then a kids Whip ride, a kid's Turtle, then the Teddy Bear coaster, then the future site of the Round Up, Tilt-A-Whirl and again ending at the Tornado. We headed back the midway and took another ride on the Teddy Bear, then we took a ride on the Scrambler.
After the Scrambler, most of the group headed for more Flyer rides, and I took a Tornado ride. I was lucky to get somewhere in the back car for all my Tornado rides. I then learned that the park was giving double rides on the Tornado now, so every ride consisted of two times around the course. I could get used to that!
After my Tornado double ride, I looked at the future site of the Round Up. It seems the park purchased the Electric Rainbow (Round-Up) from the now defunct LeSourdsville Lake (user grabs a tissue). They have built a nice brick work front of the ride, some loading ramps, and the rides main sign is there as well as the center and main boom. So work appears to be progressing nicely on this ride. I then join the Flyer crew for a flyer ride.
Then we all head over to the Tornado, and were able to get in two more Tornado rides (so 4 laps total) before the line for the Tornado was cut. We slinked back to the Flying Skooters and were able to get in 2 more Flyer rides before the park closed. We were some of the last to leave the park, as security was walking out behind us. We did stop at the games building and picked up a flyer advertising the next public day. There was a lot of talking in the parking lot before we decided to all depart and head our separate ways. For us, that included a stop by Steak N Shake before Rideman graciously dropped me back off at Coasterville, OH.
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