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Posts tagged “roller coasters

Inaugural #CoasterChat TONIGHT on Twitter!

Join the creator and host of Great American Thrills®, along with the creator of CoasterAddict.com, for the first ever #CoasterChat tweetup!

Many of us love roller coasters and the amusement parks that build them. Similarly, many of us also tweet…all of the time. Now, we hope to merge the two together on a weekly basis, discussing the latest news and topics surrounding the amusement park industry. We look forward to hearing all of your great ideas and enthusiastic candor!

So, how can YOU participate? It’s easy! Just log into Twitter around 6:00pm TONIGHT, and search for / follow the #CoasterChat hashtag – it’s that easy to join in on the fun – see you there, coaster fans!

Logo by: CoasterAddict.com

Logo by: CoasterAddict.com


Week of Big Announcements!

This week, Great American Thrills® is proud to announce not one, but TWO major initiatives regarding the brand and television concept that are sure to rock your socks off!

Major Announcement #1 –Codename: Showbiz”

Some of you have heard rumblings that “Lost Parks” wasn’t the only project we were working on – and I’m happy today to confirm that this is absolutely true.

We will be premiering an entirely new travelogue / roller coaster / amusement park show concept in the next few weeks. And while we’ll need YOUR help to get it to as many eyeballs as you can – we’ll get into that once it arrives. Oh, did we mention this project is ALREADY trademarked, copyrighted AND registered with the Writer’s Guild of America – so don’t even think about stealing it.

 

Major Announcement #2 – “Project Neptune”

Over the past two years, I’ve seen this website go from a simple WordPress blog, to a significantly more complex “destination” on the web – and the web traffic proves. it. As a result – the site isn’t working as well as it should – and changes will have to be done far more than just cosmetic.

While the timeframe for “Neptune” is not set in stone, expect major changes to the website (in terms of design and interface) to begin showing up over the next few months.

So, why the name “Neptune?” Honestly – it sounded cool – so don’t read into it too much!

This February will be the 4th official year of work (on and off) on this project. It’s amazing to watch it all coming together – slowly, but surely – we’re inching closer to our goal of bringing Great American Thrills® to the masses. We’re so glad to have you along for the ride!


What are YOU thankful for this Thanksgiving?

There are many things us coaster and park fans should be thankful for this holiday season, so I’ve attempted to narrow it down to the top five:

5.) A stabilized, improving U.S. economy:

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The economy always dictates just how much “fun” we can have…

While the economy continues to trudge around, improving slowly – we’re starting to see parks re-invest in themselves once again, with larger, more ornate attractions. While it’s true – you can’t (and shouldn’t) add a coaster each and every year – it’s great to see parks and chains aren’t scared off to build by credit crunches, slumping attendance or instability in the market.

Speaking of re-investment…

4.) The remarkable turnaround of California’s Great America:

Carousel Columbia at California's Great America. Photo (c) copyright 2013 - Great American Thrills and Kris Rowberry

Still the tallest carousel in the world, Carousel Columbia makes for a stunning subject at night. Photo by Kris Rowberry, all rights reserved.

If you were to tell me five years ago that California’s Great America would still be open, let alone THRIVING in this new decade, I would have probably wagered a hefty sum against you. But, here we are in the ‘teens, and I couldn’t be happier to be wrong.

What once appeared to be a contentious relationship between Cedar Fair, the City of Santa Clara and the San Francisco 49ers (and subsequent de-investment in the park) finally improved. Even a minor spat over noise levels this past summer with neighbors couldn’t derail this parks’ epic climb back from it’s dark abyss of only a few years ago.

I have a confession to make: I have always had a soft spot for this park – my family took me there every summer for my Grandma’s company picnic. I unlocked my love of the thrill ride on a fateful launch of the Tidal Wave there in 1993 – to see a place I grew up in becoming healthy again; it should warm the soul of any long-time south bay resident.

For the first time in many years, the park has personnel in positions of power, who truly care about the direction of park and more importantly, what it means to the local community (and economy). From new paint and roofs, the return of themed park sound, upgraded shows and a truly stunning Haunt presentation – CGA has shown it’s fans and employees not only what it wants to be, but what it CAN be.

3.) The movement back to lap bars

Coaster Expert Kris Rowberry gets his thrill on

Getting my thrill on with the lap bar only “Superman: Ultimate Flight” at Six Flags Discovery Kingdom

Throughout the 1980’s and 1990’s, park fans saw an incredible amount of new inversions and combinations of ways to throw yourself upside down. However, it came at a caveat – riders had to be locked into restrictive OTSR (over the shoulder restraints).

But towards the latter end of the 1990’s, the industry began a switch – away from the sometimes painful “headbanging” OTSR restraints and into more advanced, sculpted lap bar restraints.

By immobilizing the entire leg – designers could now perform aerial stunts once thought unheard of without OTSR’s – and our heads and chests are still thanking designers for it!

2.) “@FakeThemePark” on Twitter

CaptureTweets

Let’s face it – we all need a good laugh every now and then. This Twitter account does it’s best to pretend to be a an actual park, but with situations that would make any good park spokesperson have a heart attack.

1.) Camaraderie amongst park fans:

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Hanging out with “The Coaster Guy” at California’s Great America – best time I’ve had at the park in AGES! Photo by: The Coaster Guy

Despite the efforts of an isolated few in the amusement park fan community – I’ve found that our common love of parks and rides (not affiliation to specific sites) is still what bonds us together…and that the bond is stronger than ever.

After more than a year of working on growing this brand, I’ve been blessed to meet so many new acquaintances that I now can call friends. And isn’t that the point of having a hobby…to meet others that also share in your interests, and to in turn enjoy that hobby with them?

That is the sign of a true enthusiast community – and the mark of a thriving one. So when you sit down and enjoy your turkey and gravy with friends and family – know we’ve got a ton to be thankful for this year and for the upcoming year as well!


Architect Envisioned Massive Coasters for Golden Gate, Bay Bridge

Golden Gate Bridge Roller Coaster

From the people who brought you the massive Hangar One at Moffett Field, The Empire State Building and Hoover Dam, comes arguably the grandest, most scenic (and most insane) roller coaster idea of ALL TIME!

Golden Gate Bridge Roller Coaster

The proposed “Bridge Coasters” would not only break current coaster records – they would obliterate them – 75 years before the records were even set! Photo from the California State Archive

The stats for this proposed duo of coasters are simply staggering. 1,000 feet tall – 750 foot drops – a 190 mph top speed. Even by today’s standards, these two coasters would have easily kept their records for height and speed.

By comparison, the Transamerica Pyramid – which was built in 1972 and is the tallest building in San Francisco – is 850 feet tall.

The tallest roller coaster in the world currently is Kingda Ka at Six Flags Great Adventure. It tops out at a measly 456 feet high. Formula Rossa in the UAE is the fastest in the world, at a yawn inducing 149 mph. Heck, even the “bunny hills” on these coasters were proposed to do 40 mph over them…at 1,000 feet in the air!

Photo copyright 2007, Kris Rowberry. All rights reserved

Double the height of Kingda Ka, and it still wouldn’t be as tall as the proposed “Golden Gate Thunderbolt” roller coaster!

Where do I line up?

The folks in the Depression sure thought bigger than we do today, and it’s understandable. It was a dark time for America – and people needed something – anything – in order to lift their spirits. What better way than to build something that was (and may never be) seen by human eyes?

I’m not exactly sure how they would have propelled the ride at such speeds, or how to get it up there to begin with – I know for a fact that Cal OSHA would laugh the proposal right out the door in today’s litigious world…not to mention it’s pretty clear the physics of a ride with that much wind resistance would never be able to complete its circuit!

Ironically, two identical roller coasters WERE built at each of the 1939 Expositions in New York and San Francisco. After the fair ended in New York, the ride was eventually moved…to Riverside Park in Massachusetts, eventually becoming Six Flags New England – where it still runs today as – you guessed it – “Thunderbolt,” the same name proposed for the rides on the bridges.

Thunderbolt at the 1939 SF Exposition

This exact coaster layout, which ran at both 1939 Expositions in New York and San Francisco still runs at Six Flags New England, as “Thunderbolt,” an ACE Coaster Classic. (Shot from SF Exposition)

Photo by Kris Rowberry, all rights reserved.

Thunderbolt at Six Flags New England. Photo by Kris Rowberry, all rights reserved.

And yes, you can expect this and many other amazing nuggets of coaster knowledge and “what if” history to appear in an upcoming episode of the “Lost Parks of Northern California” series!

Read the whole article, from KPIX-5 in San Francisco, here, or just copy and paste the link below:

http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2013/11/22/designer-once-envisioned-massive-coasters-on-golden-gate-bay-bridges/


Featured on BBC News!

Yes, you read that correctly – I had the honor of being featured in a BBC News video released today about roller coaster technology and the  “plateau” some say we’ve reached. (I don’t think we have, by the way).

BBC Capture

You can view the whole video by clicking here.

Or, you can copy and paste this link:

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/technology-24553630

The backstory behind this interview is just as intriguing –

I had already planned to attend Six Flags Discovery Kingdom’s “Ghoulish Gathering” VIP event last Friday. When the tram dropped us off at the front entrance, I noticed a OMB (One Man Band) setup, with a man struggling to cope with the sound of the many rides in the area. In hindsight, I should have gone over to offer my assistance – but I digress…

When I asked the Public Relations person at the event about the cameraman, she immediately said, “Oh, he’s with the BBC…I should introduce you to him!”

Pinch me.

After we grabbed a bite to eat at the event, I got to talking with Richard, who quickly found out (and said), “I should interview you…”

You had to ask?

Careful to make sure I didn’t step on any known “land mines” when you do interviews like this, Richard slapped a lav mic on me, and into the sun he pointed me!

Now, it should be noted, that short of begging, I did my best to convince the segment producer to stay longer, so my Lost Parks Producer, American Coaster Enthusiasts Asst. Regional Rep AND all-around quality news source on all things coasters, Nicholas Laschkewitsch could arrive to be interviewed as well – but sadly, Richard had to leave before Nicholas could arrive. Thanks, BART Strike…

But, for now, it’s yet another milestone in my journey to be in the world of television. “Great American Thrills” has officially jumped the pond and gone international…WOW.


Are Inversions Overrated?

Inversions (or loops) on rides have been around almost as long as the roller coaster itself. But, have they lost their appeal and marketability recently?
First, a brief history lesson – inversions have been around for over a century. Sadly, not enough was known about physics and engineering back then to safely (and comfortably) take passengers through them.
The "Flip Flap Railway" punished riders with high, uneven g-forces.

The “Flip Flap Railway” punished riders with high, uneven g-forces.

Fast forward to 1975, and technology had evolved to the point that inversions were once again on the table, only this time – they were much more than just vertical loops; corkscrews (which are basically stretched out loops) made their debut at Knott’s Berry Farm with the aptly named “Corkscrew.” The ride still runs today at Silverwood Theme Park in Idaho.
Photo from the Orange County Archives.

Photo from the Orange County Archives.

Soon, many other elements, such as pretzel loops, barrel rolls and Immelmans were being performed on a regular basis. The stakes kept getting raised at parks, with more and more inversions going into rides.  Currently, the record stands at 14 inversions on one ride.
With so many coasters with inversions – why are so few of them represented in national top ten lists? There are several possibilities:
1.) People are genuinely freaked out by loops – 
There’s something about being tossed head over heels that hits at the psyche of the human brain. I would know – I refused to do anything that looped until 1993…
2.) Pre-1995 inversions had some rough transitions – 
Turns out, it was quite difficult to engineer track to specifications that were ideal for inversions AND for regular track. While most companies managed, you can still tell when the computer didn’t quite “get it right” when the roughness gets a bit out of control.
3.) The restraint system used on many looping rides can feel restrictive – 
Coaster enthusiasts and regular park guests love the freedom to move around. Who doesn’t want more legroom on a flight, right? Because most multi-loopers have what’s called an over the shoulder restraint (OTSR) or “horse collar” restraint, our bodies are restricted from any movement in the upper body.
Unfortunately, this leads to the ubiquitous “head banging” on many older looping rides with this style of restraint. Even older B&M coasters, lauded for their incredible levels of precision, can have headbanging moments with these types of restraints.
There is some credence to this theory – the Steel Phantom at Kennywood, which used to feature inversions when it debuted, was altered to remove them in favor of airtime hills and a simple, lap bar restraint system. The ride subsequently saw a resurgence in popularity.
What do you think? Are inversions over-rated or just misunderstood?

Featured in TIME Magazine!

It’s both an honor and humbling to see your work in print – but to see it in the prestigious TIME Magazine – well, that’s just awesome!

Not only was I quoted several times in the piece, but two of my photos (El Toro and Bizzaro) were featured as the top two images! (I’m a little excited if you can tell)

You can read the full article here: http://techland.time.com/2013/09/19/the-top-10-roller-coasters-in-the-u-s/

Looks like there’s a new roller coaster expert in town – and this one can photograph AND write well, too! Another great milestone on my journey…

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