Throwback Thursday – My First Roller Coaster
This may well be the very first roller coaster I ever rode…
As you can tell – it was a terrible experience that ruined me for the rest of my life 🙂
Throwback Thursday – Triple Wheel at Great America
If this photo doesn’t capture my love of amusement and theme parks, then I’m not sure what photo could…
Yours truly on the venerable (and sorely missed) Triple Wheel at Great America in Santa Clara, CA. Here’s hoping it brings as much joy to you as it did to me finding it in an old photo album.
For those wondering what the ride looked like that I’m pictured on, this great video from GreatAmericaParks.com should help you out – the sound ALONE should spark your memory:
The Arrow Dynamics Pipeline Coaster – This Week’s Throwback Thursday
Today’s Throwback Thursday is a rare gem!
Presenting the Arrow pipeline concept – a roller coaster that stood for many years in Arrow’s Clearfield, UT plant. However, it never made it into a park (although Intamin would make a similar design in Asia several years later).
This video shows the process of testing and some rare POV of the ride as well – anyone want to get in line to be the first riders? Don’t forget to check out our documentary project on Arrow Development by following American Coaster Enthusiasts on Facebook!
Five Ways To Be Arrested in an Amusement Park
Nobody’s perfect – we are all human, after all. But there are several ways you can mess up BIG TIME at your local amusement or theme park and end up in the county jail. If you think those rules at parks are for chumps, you better read on and start taking copious notes.
Here’s five ways you can get carted away to jail for misbehaving at an amusement or theme park:
The quintessential bad adolescent behavior! In addition to being a serious health hazard, spitting off of a ride (such as a sky ride) and hitting another person can be prosecuted as assault. Plus, the park can revoke your ticket or season pass as well.
In many places around the country, smoking is being banned in all public places, including parks. Many have set up so called “Cancer Corners” to keep people from smoking directly on the midway. But in some places, you can be cited for illegally smoking – and it can carry jail time in some of the more strict interpretations of the law, especially here in California.
Disobeying Ride Operators:
Much like a Flight Attendant, a Ride Operator knows much more about the attraction you’re about to ride, despite their age or attentiveness. Purposely disobeying an order from them can not only land you in the hospital from injuries, but can also get you in the slammer for failing to heed posted rules and regulations.
Ah, the scourge of park attendees worldwide. But did you know that California has a specific Penal Code dedicated to line jumping? California Penal Code 490.6 gives parks’ the ability to detain you for jumping the line, until the police show up. That’s one way to make your wait times much LONGER, rather than shorter.
This should be a no brainer, but amazingly, you’re not allowed to write on things that aren’t yours – especially private property. Of interest lately is people tagging their Instagram or Twitter accounts…because nothing makes the police happier than you telling them exactly how to find you to prosecute you.
By now, you must be asking yourselves: “Wait, you cannot possibly be serious in saying or implying that people get prosecuted for these, can you?”
Well, hate to break it to you, but I am serious – and I’ve seen it happen. Working for several parks in my career, I’ve seen everything from spitters being arrested, to taggers being tased. In fact, more people than you think are removed from parks every day, and some of them end up making the trip wayyy downtown. Remember that parks are supposed to keep out the “outside world” and keeping up that illusion is part of the services the park offers. Trust me, just follow the rules and you’ll make everyone’s day better!
What do you think? Which person behaving badly would YOU like to see removed from a park for one of these offenses? Tell us on social media or comment below!
What’s the Difference Between an “Amusement Park” and a “Theme Park?”
You hear the phrases “amusement park” and “theme park” thrown around all the time. But what exactly makes a park one or the other? It seems like the two terms are interchangeable at times – but in reality, they’re two completely different experiences.
This week, Six Flags Magic Mountain was named by USA Today as “America’s #1 Theme Park” – but is it really themed like a Disney park is? (And it should be noted, that the “contest” was a user poll) Heck, there’s even parks that called themselves “Themed Amusement Parks” – we’re looking at you, California’s Great America.
So then, let’s define exactly what makes an amusement park and theme park – and start using the phrases correctly, shall we?
FAIR / CARNIVAL – Any non-permanent installation of a group of rides and attractions that typically travels in a geographic area.
Examples: County Fair, State Fair, Circus
AMUSEMENT PARK – Any permanent installation of a group of rides, with or without a gated entry. Single rides may be themed to specific topics, areas or storylines, but a cohesive theme(s) is/are not seen in the park as a whole. Rides tend to be judged based on statistics and “thrill factor” over immersiveness of the experience.
Examples: Six Flags Magic Mountain, Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, Six Flags Great America, Cedar Point
THEME PARK – Any permanent installation of a group of rides and attractions themed after specific topics, areas or storylines. At no time is the illusion of theme dropped while inside the park gates (I.E. everything must have a cohesive theme, not just one ride). Rides are about immersing guests in an experience, not necessarily as thrilling from a statistics standpoint.
Examples: Walt Disney World, Disneyland, Disney California Adventure, Busch Gardens, Universal Islands of Adventure
What are your thoughts on my definitions? I’d love to hear from you!
Leave a comment below or write to me on social media – let’s keep the conversation going!
Tsunami Soaker a Watery Blast of Fun
Each amusement or theme park is different. They each “need” attractions based on their audience and climate.
Many park fans (and even general public guests) have argued that one ride Six Flags Discovery Kingdom was desperately missing was another water ride. The park had two Intamin water rides (both debuted in 1999), a standard 20-person splashwater and rapids flume. But that was it. With temperatures easily pushing above 90 during the summer heat waves, the park needed something more – something new.
For many years, a rumored “log flume” was on the books, designed to interact with the animal exhibits already in the park. Consider it a “Water Safari,” but for whatever reason, the ride never materialized.
So, it was with great anticipation that I rolled up to the park last week to test drive the new Tsumani Soaker – a Mack built “Aqua Twist.”
The ride is deceptively simple: Four turntables (one large, three small) sink down into water when the ride begins and slowly rotate. Riders are seated in “barrels” that actually float, as they “battle” other riders, those waiting in line and would be passerby’s with water guns attached to their barrels.
As soon as the ride cycle starts, the entire platform sinks, revealing the water though the grated platform. From there – the best I can describe it is this: ALL HELL BREAKS LOOSE. Water is flying literally everywhere – even the ride operator’s booth isn’t out of the firing line.
Part of the cool interactivity of the ride is the fact that you can still cool off – even if you never go on the ride. Five water guns are stationed outside of the ride’s fence, allowing non-riders to soak those on the ride. Just remember, you’re in range of the guns on the ride, too. You can even nail people waiting in line – which should be interesting to watch if people begin stampeding to try and stay dry.
And don’t let the small streams of water fool you – you will get soaked on this ride, there is no “wet.”
That being said, there are some minor flaws. All of the Great American Thrills team that day noticed a lack of a “long enough” queue line for the ride, which is bound to spill would-be riders into the midway.
I also imagine it’s a matter of time before the ride is modified, to include some form of seatbelt or restraint. Many riders on Media Day were seen standing up or switching seats to avoid the watery blasts. While riders were always safe and secure inside their barrels – most parks would rather you be COMPLETELY secured…in your seat.
The ride cycle is also quite long (this is a complaint?!?) but there’s a reason why this point ends up here. You see, all of the ride’s “guns” are built for right-handed people. We found that we had tired out from the one arm firing about halfway through the cycle (as did many of the other riders).
That being said, the long ride time also ensures no one will leave the ride dry. Scratch that – the ride’s cycle length ensures no one leaves the ride that isn’t drenched. Even with only one-fourth of the seats occupied, the entire Great American Thrills team was soaked to the bone. I can’t imagine how quickly you’ll be drenched when this ride is operating at full capacity.
Despite my qualms (and I’m a picky person), Tsunami Soaker is the perfect “family flat ride” that Discovery Kingdom desperately needed. It will be a welcome relief during the summer and if you bring an extra set of clothes. (You can always use the air dryer that’s now conveniently located at the ride exit too – though it’ll cost you $5.00 for three minutes).
WORD OF WARNING: Get a locker before going on this ride. Any electronic device is NOT safe from the inevitable drenching in your pocket, or in a backpack or other bay lying on the side of the ride.
Man Allegedly Loses $2600 at Carnival Game
If there were a dumb guy Olympics, this dude just ran away with all the medals…
Henry Gribbohm claims that at a recent carnival he attended, he lost $2,600 playing a game called “Tubs of Fun.”
And you thought carnival barkers were good at stretching the truth.
In the game, contestants attempt to toss balls into a tub. Apparently, Gribbohm had been practicing the game at home for weeks before the fair – but when it was game time – the results weren’t so good.
Considering the game offers one of the largest prizes at the fair, it should have been fair warning that this wasn’t going to be a cake walk. Predictably, all of Gribbohm’s attempts failed.
But that didn’t stop him, no sir. According to Gribbohm, he kept trying to win back his money by going double or nothing, something that even a carnie wouldn’t dare try (Especially considering that’s gambling!) He also claimed that because he was causing such a large scene and drawing in people, the operator of the game, “…promised me a Xbox.”
“He dropped $300 in just a few minutes and said he went home to get $2,300 more and soon lost all of that as well,” according to a local TV station.
“It’s not possible that it wasn’t rigged,” he said. “For once in my life, I happened to become that sucker.”
Understatement of the century there. You think they just give these quality items away?
Apparently, Gribbohm went back the next day to complain and the man running the game gave him back $600 – which at least validated his claim that he did spend wayyy too much money on a giant banana. Despite getting back $600 that he never should have, he still filed a report with the police.
Gribbohm said that he’s considering a lawsuit. I wonder if he realizes that he can’t win there, either.
Kim Jong Un – Amusement Park Expert?
Set your foam guns to “master blaster,” amusement park fanboys! Looks like you’ve got some new competition for stingiest park visitor. And this one plays for keeps, what, being a Dictator and all…
Yes, it’s everyone’s favorite twenty-something “threatening to nuke the U.S.” ruler, Kim Jong Un. From the sound of it, he knows quality amusement park traits.
Un was at a North Korean amusement park last year, where he took in the rides, the scenery and the crowds that were carefully staged to be there (probably at gunpoint).
But, he also lambasted the park for potential safety issues with their water slides, poorly maintained showering facilities, weeds growing out of the asphalt and even peeling paint on the rides.
First of all – who would have thought North Korea would even HAVE an amusement park. For most people living there, just getting food is a daily chore, let alone having FUN in the process.
Secondly – is this the first time we’ve seen a Head of State actually partaking in a thrill ride in front of the media? Who knows – maybe that’s why Mitt Romney lost the election – we didn’t see him on a coaster.
So, the inevitable question comes up – can we send Kim Jong Un to (INSERT ANY USA PARK HERE) to fix up some of our lesser maintained parks? Maybe we can call it a “goodwill” mission…
Featured Post on BorrowLenses Blog
I was just featured on the BorrowLenses.com blog, giving away some of my Top Ten Amusement Park Photo Tips. (Hint – use a nice camera and have tons of patience!)
You can find the link to the blog post by clicking here:
Or using this hyperlink:
It’s a Small, Litigious World After All!
It’s a world of laughter, a world of tears; Its a world of hopes, its a world of fear; There’s so much that we share, that its time we’re aware…
“…its a small world after all!”
You might want to add, “It’s a world of lawsuits” to that refrain as well.
Late last week, Disney got an early Easter present, in the form of an $8,000 judgement against them for not being able to evacuate a man off the ride for over 30 minutes. (The ride itself is anywhere from 12-15 minutes long normally).
Considering how much other Disney lawsuits have been settled for, this one just might feel like a present to settle so low.
So, how did we get here? Well, back in 2009, Jose Martinez, found himself stuck in the final “room” of the attraction the day after Thanksgiving. As per standard operating procedure, Disneyland employees were able to evacuate all the passengers from the ride…except Martinez – who is confined to a wheelchair due to paralysis.
According to Martinez’s attorney, he suffers from panic attacks and high blood pressure, “…both of which became issues as he sat in the boat (with the song) playing over and over and over.” He added, “(Martinez) He was half in the cave of the ride and half out,” Geffen said. “The music was blaring. They couldn’t get it to go off.”
Apparently, Disneyland employes were unable to evacuate the wheelchair-bound Martinez and opted to try and fix the ride to get him back to the ride platform.
Now this is where I get to the litigious point of my article…
Martinez’s attorney continued, “This is a really important ruling not just for (Martinez), but for anyone that rides the rides at Disneyland — because they do break down often and they do not tell people.” Anyone who’s ever visited Disney Parks know that the ride operators are some of the best in the business. As SOON as a ride breaks down, announcements are made and cast members generally walk out to the attraction (when they can) to speak with guests and re-assure them that everything is okay.
The next quote finally broke me: “The court’s saying that this kind of injury is foreseeable and that (Disneyland) has a duty to warn people,” Geffen said.
Now, this ruling is significant – as you’ll remember previously that just a few weeks ago, I wrote about a similar lawsuit that was thrown out AND became part of case law. You can find that post here: “Ride at your own Risk!”
Ironically, the attraction – which was added in 1960, after the World’s Fair – was created in the hopes of spreading world peace via the youth of the world.
Apparently, it now should incite fear.
And really, Disney itself has played on this fear, which has made it more of a cult attraction that ever before. Remember these scenes from “The Lion King” trilogy? (Yes, they made three of them under Eisner’s rule)
And legally, we have to state that these clips of copyrighted material are being used under the “Fair use Doctrine” of copyright law, for discussion, criticism, education or parody. In this case, we’re using them as examples of Disney making fun of itself to educate the readers of this blog. We’ve even shortened the clip playtime to the smallest possible to make our point.
So beware, small world riders – you could find yourself in court the next time a ride song traumatizes you!
KGO 810 AM here in the Bay Area interviewed me this past Friday on the “Lost Parks” series. Hopefully, it’s the start of people discovering my little series!
For those who missed it – check it out!
Lost Parks, Episode 1 – San Mateo’s “Pacific City”
Ladies and Gentlemen, may I present to you, episode one of, “The Lost Parks of Northern California,” featuring San Mateo’s “Pacific City.”
Be sure to like our video, comment on it, subscribe to our channel and share with your friends! We’re on Facebook, Google+ and Twitter!
You can also follow the American Coaster Enthusiasts (my partner on this journey) at www.ACEonline.org or www.ACEnorcal.org
Why Buy New – When You Can Buy USED?
Fans of the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk should recognize this coaster “under construction.”
Yep, it’s the former Hurricane, with a new coat of paint and in a MUCH LESS salty environment (Not to mention drier, too!)
When old roller coaster or thrill ride eventually gets retired (Woodies are the lone exception – as they’re constantly being replaced) many of them are actually sold to smaller, “mom and pop” parks where they’re appreciated for many years after their first installation.
There’s even websites, such as this one, which could be considered the “Craiglist” of the Coaster – where all sorts of new and used rides are bought, sold and traded between parks.
So unless your favorite ride was completely torn down…
…there’s a good possibility that it was just “re-located.”
Now, the thrill of the chase is on!
The art of the on-ride photo
In a way, they’ve become more than just part of the amusement park experience – they have become attractions in their own right…
The on-ride photo – a way for parks to make more money off you – and a way to prove to Grandma and your friends that you really did ride “The Comet” after all…
The magnum opus of these cameras is surely mounted upon Disney’s Splash Mountain. Just about everyone has heard of “Flash Mountain” a place where fans (and even Disney employees) would post photos of ladies showing off their “Zip a Dee Doo Dahs” during the climactic final plunge on the flume.
Sadly, showing your “Briar Patches,” – while hilarious – can get you kicked out of the park. And the photo it took? Deleted forever before anyone could see or print it.
Unfortunately, some of these stunts (as funny as they can be) are also quite dangerous. Loose objects in the past decade have contributed to significant injuries or even malfunctions of rides. Plus, parks’ aren’t huge fans of saddling more liability insurance because you and your dumb little buddies decided to sneak a RAZOR aboard the ride…
So, here now are some of the best (SAFE) on-ride photos from around the web:
Why not get the whole family involved?
Space Mountain never looked so…interesting?
Ah yes – the singular “group” pose – always a classic!
The eyes tell the story!
Now if only they were on Ghostrider – this would be totally in theme with the ride!
I really don’t know where to start with this one – it’s perfect in every way! DeNiro battles the Russians on his namesake, with press and fans behind them! (Even the ref has GLOVES on!)
Don’t you wish your girlfriend was as awesome as her?
No, this is NOT photoshopped – talk about timing!
Well, the Beast IS the longest roller coaster in the US – over 30 years after it opened. Is it really that boring, though?
(I certainly don’t think so!)
Continuing with the “boring” theme – here’s my good pals the LaPutka’s doing their best on-ride pose via Splash Mountain!
“Dad, whatever you do – please don’t embarrass me in front of my friends!”
“Just catching up on the news while we plummet down to the Briar patch…”
And finally – what better way to finish this post than with a Tebow Tower of Terror!
If you’ve gone around the site lately, you’ve noticed our new, spruced up banners.
Which one is your favorite? Be sure to comment below!
Special thanks to my employer, BorrowLenses for allowing us to take awesome camera equipment out on the weekends! All the photos you see below (except for the second to last one) were shot using BL equipment!
Official Trailer – “The Lost Parks of Northern California”
The wait is over – no more screen captures – this is the OFFICIAL trailer to the “Lost Parks” series! Look for the debut episode, featuring San Mateo’s “Pacific City Resort” to debut right here on March 29th, 2013!
“Won’t You Come and Play With Us?”
Longtime residents of the South Bay remember this park by a much different theme.
Howdy, partner! Can you name this ‘dem here lost amusement park of San Jose, CA?
We’re hoping to have the video completed for this park by July (fingers crossed!)
Rough Cut is Complete!
It’s been a long time coming, but I’m happy to announce that our first episode has made it to the “rough cut” stage!
Folks, it almost looks like a proper television program!
Stay tuned for announcements on when the episode will debut…for now, here’s a behind-the-scenes screenshot of me describing why this lost park disappeared. (Hint – guests eventually POO-POOED the idea of ever coming back…)
Dissecting the Ride – Lift Hill
Ever wonder why rides make certain sounds? Wonder why it takes a mechanic to “clear” a ride and restart it? In the next few posts, I’ll be highlighting questions people always ask me at parks – so you’ll be an educated park guest!
In it’s essence, the lift hill is the engine of the roller coaster. It give the cars the potential energy they need in order to complete the circuit. The greater the height of the lift, the more potential energy the ride has (I.E. the longer the ride can go)
Traditionally, the lift hill is at the start to the ride, angled at about a 20-25 degree pitch, and has a chain that runs along a trough built into the track.
Once you’re on the lift, you’ll hear the familiar click-click sound – that’s actually a brilliant safety device called an anti-rollback strip. Simply put, if the ride stops suddenly, or heaven forbid) the chain breaks – the car will simply rest in the position it was last in. It’s a similar principle to those common “zip ties” you might have laying around your home. They, just like a coaster – only roll on one direction.
These devices may also be placed at other key areas of the ride, where the chance of a rollback is higher (usually in a slower section of the ride – at the top of a hill)
There are some rides that either do no or cannot have these devices, usually because the action of the ride requires forwards and backwards motion.
So, the next time you’re on a ride – know that a century-old safety device is right under (or above you), making sure your train safely makes it up the lift and subsequent hills time and time again.
A Little Extra Excitement in Your Life
There’s something about danger that makes our stories better, don’t you agree?
Case in point – Producer Nick and I were heading out to the SF Zoo this past Sunday to film a segment about the 1922 Dentzel Carousel. (It happens to be the only operating piece of the short-lived Pacific City Amusement Park at Coyote Point.)
Unfortunately, the park was beyond capacity, both in parking and general space, as they were celebrating Chinese New Year. With the weather as spectacular as it was, we should have known the park would be crowded.
We parked on Herbst Way, which turned out to be smack dab in the back of the park. Sadly, we were unaware of this, so…like sheep in a herd, we followed the pack of people who purported to know where the entrance to the zoo was.
Turns out, it was the entrance to the Great Highway and Skyline Blvd. (CA-35).
This is the result…
Braving the Great Highway to get to the S.F. Zoo!
Now Producer Nick and I are all for excitement – when it’s in the controlled and safe confines of an amusement park. But when you have cars whizzing by at 55 mph and you’re carrying upwards of $6,000 worth of camera and video equipment – it makes for a hairy situation.
But it got me to thinking – even if this was a lame day to shoot video, it would still be memorable – almost legendary. And while we DID end up making it into the zoo without any problems, and filming went along smoothly – the one thing we’re probably going to take away from today was that crazy walk.
Funny how things work out in the end, huh?
Stay tuned for the ACTUAL video we were shooting for – the Lost Amusement Parks of Northern California…coming soon!
Celebrating George Ferris’ 154th Birthday
For most people, today is a holiday about love. For others, it’s about the over commercialization of a natural human emotion.
For me, it’s cause to celebrate – to hold my hat up high and say, happy 154th birthday to George Washington Gale Ferris, Jr.!
One of the most recognizable names in the amusement industry – maybe only behind Walt Disney – Ferris is responsible for the engineering and building of his namesake, the Ferris wheel.
Debuting at the 1893 World’s Columbian Exposition in Chicago, Ferris’ wheel was steam driven and used 36 cars the size of train cars to take 60 passengers EACH as moving observation decks.
The ride was never designed to be thrilling (the ride lasted about 30 minutes with loading) but rather, to be an observation attraction. The wheel was beefy in construction and simply dwarfed all other structures at the fair. It was meant to be an answer to the Eiffel Tower – and it delivered. The construction methods and engineering is strikingly familiar to the Parisian icon.
Even by modern standards – Ferris’ first wheel was massive. While most wheels today are transported via trailer and rarely break the 100-foot mark, Ferris’ observation wheel in Chicago was 264 feet tall. (That’s over 25 stories!) To this day, only a small number of wheels have eclipsed this number.
Sans the occasional upgrade to the passenger compartments, or the frightening concept of the eccentric wheel (Mickey’s Fun Wheel, Wonder Wheel) or the ultramodern spoke-less wheel (Big O) the general concept of the ride has not changed much in over 100 years.
It’s a true blast from the past that is in quite the renaissance – and we’re not talking carnival wheels, here. You see, the large wheel is making a huge comeback that would make Ferris proud.
Attractions such as the London Eye and Singapore Flyer have brought back the original concept – large, observation attractions. Four, count ‘em FOUR wheels over 500’ tall are either under construction or currently proposed in the United States alone, including a proposed 625’ wheel on Staten Island. Makes you wonder why no one out here in the Bay Area has called to build one yet. (Talk about scenery to see!)
Sadly, Ferris’ legacy is somewhat tainted these days – it’s become more fashionable to call them “observation wheels,” rather than the name which was connected to them. A “Ferris Wheel” it would seem, should only be found at a fair – an “observation wheel” is more likely to be found in a trendy metropolis.
His wheel met an unfortunate end as well. After being packed and shipped to the St. Louis Exposition of 1904, it was simply blown up – not popular enough to turn a profit. Ferris met an equally untimely death – he died of
tuberculosis at age 37.
So the next time you’re at your local amusement park and see a Ferris wheel, look skyward, and thank Mr. Ferris – for creating one of the most prolific amusement attractions in human history.
And maybe, just maybe – it IS appropriate that Ferris was born on what would become Valentines Day – what other ride allows you to make out with your sweetie in public – without almost anyone knowing?*
*Except the person sitting behind you…
A wonderful video collage of the Great Wheel while in Chicago:
The BEST Great America site on the planet, featuring the Sky Whirl triple Ferris wheel:
Test Footage from our new Opening!
Anyone up to see some test footage from our latest shoot? Look forward to the final product to debut soon on our YouTube channel as well as here!