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Ride Review: California’s Great America – The Grizzly

When I attended a construction tour and park preview at California’s Great America this past winter, it was announced that the Grizzly (the park’s perennially basement dwelling wooden coaster) was completely overhauled and had, in fact, been sped up by nearly 12 seconds.

Understandably, there were grumbles and guffaws from the audience. After all, this was a coaster that had finished DEAD LAST in many coaster polls for DECADES. At one point, you have to think the park should have thrown a faux celebration at that dubious honor, right?

Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry.

Really?!? Grizzly is so boring you can text while on it? I disagree.

However, I am happy to report that the Grizzly, at the mid point to it’s operating season – is running smoother, faster and better than I can ever remember. (And I remember RIDING it in the 1980’s!)

But wait – there’s more!

It’s also moving so fast (from what it was before) that it’s actually placing some nice g-forces on riders in the lower turnarounds.

You read right – Grizzly, a coaster that was smoothed out from it’s original design to be more “family friendly” in the 1980’s – is becoming more and more forceful with every day she’s running. (And that’s a GOOD thing!)

Photo (c) 2013 Kris Rowberry

Smiles, not grimaces now adorn riders of the Grizzly.

Will it ever compete with Gold Striker on thrills? Absolutely not – even with extensive re-profiling to match more closely to the ORIGINAL Grizzly design at Kings Dominion in Virginia – to compare Gold Striker and the Grizzly is unfair.

However, with two very re-rideable wooden coasters now in the park, the Grizzly makes for a perfect “starter” coaster for the enthusiast in training, who’s not quite ready yet to “strike gold.”

Now, if only the park could speed up dispatches by doing away with those unnecessary second and THIRD seat belts…

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