TR: Coney Island (California, Ohio) 7/4 & 7/6

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Trip Report: Coney Island
July 4 and July 6, 2003

“A change of pace”

This report actually covers two short visits to Coney Island over the holiday weekend. The first visit was Friday evening, and the second was Sunday morning.

Friday, July 4

On Independence Day, the Cincinnati Pops has a tradition of a patriotic themed concert followed by a fireworks display at Riverbend. Riverbend in Coney Island’s concert shed and is one of several uses for the park, and it was actually mid-afternoon before Mom and I decided to buy tickets for the evening show.

My main reason for visiting the park was to see the concert, but being the ride person I am, I had to leave time to ride the rollercoaster, accordingly we arrived at the park around 6:15 for the 8:00 concert.

There was virtually no traffic on the way to Coney Island, and we soon entered the main paring area without paying the parking fee at the tollbooth. One of the perks of going to Riverbend is that the ticket price includes parking, or more specifically, each ticket includes a $2.00 service fee for parking. A nice touch that speeds up entry to the parking area for concerts.

One of the elements Coney Island has retained from its glory days is the Auto Gate. It is a fancy front gate similar to those seem at other amusement parks of the era. I’m not sure if the single tollbooth under the gate is original equipment but the whole front entrance looks classic.

After indicating that we were going to Riverbend, we were admitted to the parking area and we soon headed to the midway area. I didn’t have a lot of time before the concert but I was still able to ride a few rides.

After a quick stop I purchased a rides wristband at a table set up in front of the old Administration building, in fact I arrived late enough to get the “Happy Hour” special which brings the cost of a wristband down to $5.95.

Wristband applied to arm, it was off to the Tempest.

Tempest – by Watkins. The Tempest was I believe the only ride Park River West took with them when they closed Americana. It’s understandable that they would take it as it is a unique ride piece, one that was once a carnival staple.

A Tempest for the uninitiated is an old carnival ride. First imagine a long narrow ride platform that is banked at about 45 degrees. At the end of the platform you mount the center of the main boom, on each end of the main boom, you attach a shorter boom, at each end of the shorter booms, you attach a ride tub. Each octagonal tub seats 7 people facing inward who are secured with lap belts. The ride starts and the main boom spins, while each of the two shorter booms spins, and then each tub is mounted on a swivel, so it is free to spin as the forces of physics dictate. Properly balanced, it can be a spin ride fanatics dream.

I walked up the loading ramp and was able to snag the last seat of the tub being loaded. There was a brief pause in loading as all the seatbelts still are not equal, and I happened to get a short belt seat. It took a little “Seat Belt Roulette” as I call it, but soon the riders were reconfigured in a manner that all riders were secure. The ride starts, and the spin ride does its thing. Last fall I compared this to a modern fair ride, the Wisdom Storm. Today I realize there are some key differences as the Storm offers a much more controlled ride, in fact while the Storm may spin faster, it spins at a constant rate of speed, and in the same direction. It is geared to do that. The Tempest has the tubs mounted on swivels so the ride action is a bit less predictable, and can actually cause some more intense sudden G-Forces tossing the rider around. In short I think I could take a much longer Storm ride than a Tempest ride.

After a reasonable length ride on the Tempest, things became interesting when it was time to unload. You see they had placed all the heavy riders on one side of the tub. It wasn’t that way originally but in order to get everybody properly strapped in, that’s how it worked out. Therefore when the ride came to rest, it rested with the 4 heavy riders (me included) on the bottom side of the tub, with the door facing away from the loading platform. It took some fancy maneuvering, but eventually, they got the tub turned around and were able to unload us.

After the Tempest ride, I took a spin on the Scrambler, not much to report here. We then walked around by the Games in Moonlight Square, and had some ice cream while watching the little kids play town. Coney offers in addition to soft serve, some prepackaged real ice cream. The ice cream came in half pints for $2.50 each, and the super cold freezer, combined with the ultra wimpy spoon made eating the ice cream a real project.

We continues our walking tour, I looked at the Carousel and the new Frog Hopper, and then we continued on until we found a bench. Coney has long plots of midway with no benches. We finished our ice cream, then I took a ride on the Trabant, before finishing up that days ride session on the Pepsi Python, a Galaxi coaster.

By this time it was 7:20 so we proceeded to Riverbend to watch the concert. I just barely made good on the wristband, having gotten $6.50 worth of rides for $5.95.

The concert was great, and was a great patriotic tribute both to the United States, and with some songs to celebrate Ohio’s bicentennial. That was up till intermission. After intermission the wind started picking up, and according to the weather folks we had tornado like conditions with 60mph winds. Loose articles went flying around the pavilion and shed, the large screens for the projection screen video boards were banging noisily against the shed roof, microphone booms were swinging violently, stage hands jumped into place to secure the flags that were on either side of the stage. In short the weather turned really lousy really quick. The concert came to an abrupt end with 2.5 selections to go.

At that time everybody was asked to move to the Lawn, and a lot of us proceeded straight to our cars, because even though the wind had died down, the rain was still quite hard. As we reached our car we heard the fireworks show go off as scheduled. Why they held a fireworks show when getting out of there and under cover was on most people’s minds was beyond me. We sat and waited for the clowns to get out of the parking lot before attempting to leave.

Sunday July 6

Today, Rideman and I were winding down from a long day at PKI. Coney Island seemed like the right way to spend the morning. Accordingly we headed out to Coney and proceeded to reach the parking lot shortly after 11AM. We paid an almost reasonable $5 to park, then headed to the ride ticket office. Today we would have to pay the Ride All Day price of $8.50 each.

Wristbands on, we first headed down to the Pepsi Python, but it was not open yet. Therefore our first ride became the Flying Bobs. Coney has a peculiar way of running the Flying Bobs (and their Trabant for that matter). The park first gives an all-forwards cycle, then cycles through new riders, then gives an all-backwards cycle. In effect, you have to ride each of these rides twice to get the full ride experience. As there was hardly anybody on the Flying Bobs, we were able to take two straight rides without leaving our tubs. Flying Bobs here is the Chance version, and it seemed to be running slow as the tubs did not have to swing out like they are capable of doing. With two rides down we had already spent 6 virtual tickets, and only needed to spend 11 more virtual tickets to break even.

By this time the Pepsi Python was open, and with no wait. The park was running both trains, but with the back seat closed on each. It’s an intense Galaxi, with a gut-wrench on the first drop that is as strong as most full size coasters. Watch that very hard abrupt stop at the end of the ride. We exited the Python, 4 more virtual tickets spent, only 7 more to break even.

We continued down the midway, and came to the Trabant. As I mentioned earlier, two cycles are needed for the full experience, and we were allowed to take two back-to-back cycles without having to walk around. That was 6 more virtual tickets, only 1 more to go.

We walked next door to the Super Round Up. Numerous signs at the parking toll booth, and all ride ticket booths indicated the Super Round Up was closed, and indeed it is, sitting there in pieces in fact.

We turned around and headed along the back path, behind Moonlight Pavilion to the Tilt-A-Whirl. The first half of our ride really tilted and whirled then it sort of petered out. Having ridden the Tilt we were now 2 virtual tickets ahead on our wristband, and therefore do not need to worry about keeping track of that anymore.

We walked past the parks new Frog Hopper, its one of the new fiercely yellow and lime green themed models. I noted the ride has a very big Big Boy seat, and proceeded to inquire about riding it. While there is no height limit posted, I was informed that riders had to be under 13 years of age. We skipped the Carousel, not a vintage unit but a portable carnival model.

We were about to head through the picnic grove to see the flood-o-meter when Rideman suffered a Shoe Breakdown. A trip back to the parking lot was in order, where luckily Dave did have a second pair of shoes, and we were able to continue riding. This time we started with the Tempest. We took one ride on the Tempest, with only the two of us on the ride. We arranged our seating so that we would be exactly opposite each other in the tub. Dave and I are about the same weight, so what ensued was a perfectly balanced Spin-o-Mania. We got a chuckle while waiting to board as the riders on the prior ride were so out of balance they were hardly spinning, and they were coming off saying how intense the ride was, and they needed to ‘sit down’. The Tempest ride was fun and put us 5 tickets to the good.

We skipped the Scrambler, due to me needing to experience Xlerator, the forgot to go back to it. We looked at the midway games where Rideman said “I am NOT paying $250 to play a game” Puzzled, I looked at the mini high-striker game, where the sign read, “$1 Per Pound” We continued around past the rest of the games, past the “Boiled Chicken” version of the old Frog Bog game. We noted they must have an electric range as there was no faux charcoal under the turntable. We looked at the arcade, where I spotted something that looked like a pinball machine.

I approached the pinball machine, and found it was a bit lower than most, okay maybe it was intended for children. It wasn’t till I looked at the playfield when I noticed something very different. Sure it had an outhole in the center, two flippers about where you would expect to find them, but the playfield was totally empty except for a layout of rollovers in an arrangement to match the animated bowling pins above. Behind the rollovers was a big chasm into which shot balls fell into. A giant gobble hole to use pinball parlance. Apparently this was a bowling game, the ball came out, you used the flippers to ‘bowl’ it up to the top where it runs over some rollovers, the pins score, the ball falls into the chasm at the top and that ball then ends.

Since it was only a quarter to play, I decided to play, then Rideman joined in. We pushed the credit button twice, chose “Regulation” off the game selector, then the game started. It must be noted the instruction cards were missing, so after trying to find a plunger or ball launch button, it took a while to realize that I have a choice. On either side of the playfield is a ramp themed to a ball-return. By pressing a flipper button, the kickout saucer on that side of the field will serve a ball to the flipper, which I can then flip up towards the pins. It’s a cool concept I just don’t know why the game has 12 balls sitting in it. Our first game we both did ‘Pathetic’, by the end of the second game I had discovered the ‘sweet spot’ exactly which ball release to use, and when to flip to get a strike every time. I ended the game with 5 strikes in a row. Rideman played again, solo, and towards the end of the game, he had found ‘the spot’. We played a few more arcade games then took a walk around.

We walked down by the Picnic Grove. Not much action today, and we were able to see the big Flood-O-Meter, which is also a giant flagpole. 80’ of water covered this park in 1937. It’s not till you stand next to the flood-meter that you realize how tall that was.

We continued our scenic walk around, and eventually came back to the Dodgems. We took two rides on the Dodgems, putting us each 11 tickets to the good. The Coney Dodgems actually run quite nice, and hit with a reasonable amount of force. They were even more fun when we learned that most of Coney’s guests can’t control their cars. It was easy pickings. What fun.

We skipped the Giant Slide (just a carnival model) and took a ride on the Python. The rollercoaster is always a nice way to end the session. 15 tickets to the good, or $7.50 to the good, or we each got $15.00 of rides for $8.50 My two day total was $21.00 of rides for $14.45.

Before leaving we took a trip through the gift shop. The shops gift selection is now quite limited, but it now serves at the parks museum. It was a very interesting exhibit. After looking in the combination Gift Shop/Museum/Ride Ticket Office/ Guest Relations area, we walked through a live entertainment area with some pretty bad talent, took a look at the Ferris Wheel, and then decided it was getting way too hot to enjoy, and headed out.

David Bowers
Mayor, Coasterville

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