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Kris Rowberry Returns to Great American Thrills

Kris Rowberry

Hey everyone! It’s been awhile since we last talked. Two and a half years, to be precise.

No, it wasn’t you – it was me. A necessary hiatus what with me taking a position in the Communications Department of a major theme park here in the south.

But as of this week, that restriction have been lifted, so you’ll be able to expect hearing from me on a semi-regular basis once again.

I’m so sorry.

You’ll also be seeing some changes to the site over the next few months, with some new features as well as a new look. I’ll be sure to keep you all up to speed as we transition back into regular programming.

It’s been a long two and a half years – we’ve got a lot to catch up on.

But, just to be safe, let’s not wait that long to talk to one another ever again – okay?

– KR

Kris Rowberry

Kris Rowberry is back at Great American Thrills!


Bolliger and Mabillard the Cadillac of Roller Coasters

There are many different coaster manufacturers, some build small rides, others build massive ones. But none have the mystique and prestige of Bolliger & Mabillard. Their factory in Ohio is shrouded in secrecy – it’s practically the “Willy Wonka Chocolate Factory” of the coaster world:

B&M Logo

Even their logo is simple – just like how they design their rides, with simplicity in mind.

So, why are their rides always so much more expensive than others? And why all the prestige? Three words: quality, reliability and safety.

1.) Quality –

A B&M coaster is unmistakable, even from a distance. Their trademark “roar” grabs your attention – and their boxy track looks beefier than other manufacturers – because quite simply, it is!

By hugging the outside of the rails, B&M was able to tighten the tolerances of their wheels, making their rides incredibly smooth. Photo © Kris Rowberry

By hugging the outside of the rails, B&M was able to tighten the tolerances of their wheels, making their rides incredibly smooth. Photo © Kris Rowberry

It is said that the tolerance, or distance between the rails and the wheels is never more than the thickness of a sheet of paper. Most other manufacturers have noticeable gaps in their wheels, or which spin after the ride stops. Not a B&M. That’s why they’re so much smoother than other steel coasters – they’re simply built better…now that’s Swiss precision!

 

2.) Reliability –

When a B&M coaster stops operating – never get out of line. 99% of the time, it’s a simple computer error that needs to be cleared. Even if it’s a minor mechanical issue – it doesn’t take long to fix. That’s because unlike other manufacturers who are overly reliant on electrical and hydraulic restraint systems – B&M continues to use the tried and true ratchet system – a system that is highly reliable and easy to repair. That’s why these stations are traditionally louder than others – it’s metal on metal contact.

 

3.) Safety –

B&M has always prided itself on efficiency – the four across seating model moved twice as many people as comparable coasters – but they did it with without sacrificing safety, in fact – they increased it.

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Before B&M – no coaster had the ability to sit four people across a single row. This design innovation effectively doubled the capacity of other rides, while shortening the train. This decrease in forces allowed for tighter twists in the track. Photo © Kris Rowberry

This commitment to “getting it right the first time” has earned it’s most important asset: a flawless safety record.

You read right. B&M has never had a catastrophic failure or death on any of their coasters…EVER. (There have been three incidents involving people being hit by trains, but these were a result of guests trespassing on the infield, not a result of the ride or it’s manufacture.

B&M’s were one of the first to feature a redundant seat belt to backup their restraints – all without sacrificing the efficiency of the dispatches.

It is that sterling record that makes parks who choose B&M some of the safest in the world – and which commands such a higher price. Quite simply, you get what you pay for. This rings true not only in real life, but in the amusement world as well. A B&M coaster is like a new appliance – you can get the cheap-o model and save on the front end – or get the high-end model, and have it save you throughout it’s life.

A B&M is one of the best investments a park can make – so the next time track appears outside the factory in Ohio, cross your fingers it’s being delivered to your favorite park.


The Top Five Most Insane Carnival Rides

They’ll spin until you puke – flash lights and blast music. It’s the carnival thrill ride – and they’ve become quite the art form in an dof themselves. But which one’s are the most intense…the most INSANE? Read on, thrill seekers!

You’ll notice some of these rides reside beyond the United States – since most rides here are in “automatic mode” they can’t change their length or intensity, unlike their European (awesome) counterparts.

5. Funtime “Giant Star Flyer”

What looks like an innocuous swing ride takes on a whole new meaning when you’re 400 feet in the air. Because the wind patters are so much different at that height, expect to be twisted (and terrified!).

 

4. “Hard Rock”

Pretty rare in the U.S., this ride has a great start and finish, with the floor literally right in your face as the ride starts up and then again when it slows down – NOT for the faint of heart!

 

3. KMG “Tango”

You’ll find a few of these on the U.S. fair and carnival circuit – be sure to wear an athletic supporter if your model doesn’t come with the foot holds!

 

2. Chance Rides “Zipper”

It’s a ride so steeped in lore – it has a SOUND all it’s own. The constant banging of metal on mesh – the screams of the uninitiated – it makes for a pretty terrifying experience.

The ride has been around since the 1960’s (when it used to be TWICE as fast as it runs today) – and outside of the Ferris Wheel, can you name another specific model of ride that’s kept that sort of tenure? I didn’t think so…

Bonus fun fact: It’s one of the only rides in the U.S. that runs exclusively on manual mode, so if you happen to get an experienced operator – have that dramamine ready.

 

1. Flying Circus

There are no words – just watch the video!

What do you think – which rides did we miss? Leave us a comment with your most intense flat ride!


Gold Striker Closed Only Temporarily for Modifications

After two weeks of soft testing, a lavish grand opening ceremony and over a month of regular operation, the Gold Striker wooden roller coaster at California’s Great America is closed temporarily to allow for additional sound mitigation to be placed on the ride. But don’t hit your panic buttons – published news reports say the ride is expected to be back up and running by the July 4th holiday – NOT an extended, unknown period.

According to the City of Santa Clara’s “Smart Permit” website, Gold Striker had several criteria to meet in order for it to open permanently, the biggest of which states: “Should the additional testing reveal that the coaster is not in compliance with Condition 23 (amount of sound coming from the ride) or any applicable City ordinances, Cedar Fair shall undertake Remedial Measures, as defined in the Settlement Agt Agreement.” Apparently, the ride was just shy of making all those criteria.

Many industry watchers and local boosters see this addition to the park (and the subsequent work to ensure everyone is satisfied) as a serious commitment from corporate owner Cedar Fair, LP to both the park and the local economy.

“Cedar Fair elected to close the ride to install additional sound mitigation upgrades,” said Santa Clara Mayor, Jamie Matthews. “Those upgrades should bring the ride into full compliance with the previous settlement. I’m hoping to see it open here for the 4th of July.”

He added, “I am very happy with the way this is situation is working out – it shows responsible citizenship – that we can all work together and come to a solution.”

Noise Tests at California's Great America. Photo (C) 2013, Kris Rowberry and Great American Thrills. All rights reserved.

A man with recording equipment and headphones monitors the noise coming from Gold Striker from one of Prudential’s buildings.

Since “soft-opening” in May, Gold Striker has seen major additions, most notably the addition of plywood walls and white foam along the sides and underside of the track. By coincidence, these spots pass closest to or face the buildings located on Great America Parkway. During initial construction, the park added what was dubbed an, “initial descent tunnel” onto the first drop of the ride. This feature was presumably added to mitigate the sound from the first drop of the ride.

Trying to build this ride has been quite the roller coaster ride in and of itself – the plans go back to 2007, when the park first began the permitting process. In addition to the standard permits, three hearings were held on potential noise levels – all of which were initiated by appeals from the owners of the buildings closest to the proposed ride.

Billy D’Anjou, a local roller coaster enthusiast, has logged 80 circuits on the coaster since it opened in May and is hoping to hit his 100th ride in July.

“I personally don’t mind more enhancements (to the ride) but I think the whole noise mitigation issue has gotten out out of control,” he said. “In the end it makes me worry what limitations Great America will have in the future. (Prudential) should expect noise from a theme park. It’s not a library or fine art museum.”

Gold Striker at California's Great America. Photo (C) 2013 Kris Rowberry & Great American Thrills. All rights reserved.

Gold Striker thrills riders on a recent operating day.

Gold Striker is the first wooden roller coaster built in Northern California since 1999. It boasts the tallest and fastest drop in Northern California and is the largest capital investment in the park in over a decade. The ride was built partially on the footprint of another ride, Willard’s Whizzer – a steel coaster that operated from 1976 to 1988.

The land that Prudential’s buildings sit on was originally an auxiliary parking lot for Great America. The land was sold in the late 90’s during the dot com boom. Prudential acquired the buildings in early 2002, according to a press release on their website.

Marriott’s Great America opened in 1976, as a celebration of America’s bi-centennial. The concept was to create a chain of parks to become an answer to Disney’s theme park empire.


Video

Gold Striker Video – Rider Reactions

With Gold Striker now officially open to the public at California’s Great America – enjoy this on-ride video of myself and “Lost Parks” Producer, Nicholas Laschkewitsch (who is also the ACE NorCal Asst. Regional Rep) taking in a ride.


Gold Striker NOW OPEN at California’s Great America

Yes, it’s official. As of this afternoon, the Gold Rush has officially met your adrenaline rush – GOLD STRIKER at California’s Great America is now offically OPEN TO THE PUBLIC!

Look for a full media review in the next few days – but for now, get out and enjoy Gold Striker at California’s Great America!

Gold Striker at California's Great America

Gold Striker is officially open to the public!

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Gold Striker *ACTUAL REVIEW* at California’s Great America

Gold Striker - www.greatamericanthrills.net

“Wow.”

That’s the word most people were saying after they got off Gold Striker this evening. While not open to the public yet, California’s Great America invited people, including yours truly, to come out and participate in a promo shoot for commercials and still advertising.

Gold Striker - www.greatamericanthrills.net

Gold Striker looms large over Carousel Plaza and the front entrance to the park.

Folks, this ride is the REAL DEAL and is setting up to be a real “sleeper hit” across the country. Most people know Great America as a park that seems to enjoy removing rides rather than building them. Gold Striker might just make you forgive them (maybe).

The fun starts before you get to the lift hill (that’s right, BEFORE you get to the lift hill!) Folks in the rear seats will appreciate the incredible whip of the turnaround out of the station, which could be the tightest I’ve ever seen taken at speed before on a woodie) and those in the front seat will appreciate the airtime (yes, I said AIRTIME) on the bunny hill before the lift.

After ascending the lift, riders enter the “initial descent tunnel” and that’s where all hell breaks loose. The ride is fast, noisy and the effect of blasting out fo the tunnel is impossible to describe.

From there the ride does a VERY close flyby of the station stairs, giving wonderful photo / video opportunities. A floater hill and a few head choppers later, the ride finds it’s speed…and keeps it until the brake run.

I don’t want to completely ruin the ride for you, but know that there are many “pops” of air on this ride, usually to set you up for another element. Call it a “tag team coaster” because they work perfectly together.

Coming into the final turn, you hit the magnetic (it’s Silicon Valley, gotta have some technology) and then back to the station. Pictorium fans will be saddened to learn that two of the entrances have been demolished, but the building itself still stands.

Gold Striker - www.greatamericanthrills.net

“Millennium Flyer” trains harken back to the “Golden Age” of coaster design. The trains are Gold / Red, Red Gold – in 49ers shades.

To quote my ride mate for this marathon session, “Airtime is back with GCI.”

We squeezed in nine (9) rides before the park shut down the line. Average wait times were 15 minutes, shrinking as more and more of the general public left. This ride is NOT EASY to marathon, but for all the RIGHT reasons. It is INTENSE, BREAKNECK PACED and to be quite honest, many of us in attendance were pinching ourselves, wondering how we got this ride to come here in the first place.

So, in conclusion…

This is a winner all-around for a park more recently known for REMOVING rides than ADDING them. Be prepared for sharp transitions, “set up” surprises and well-timed elements. The ride is smooth with little attitude. This is not an, “airtime machine” but it has well over 8-10 (I kept losing count) pop airtimes. There are moments when you’re riding only on up-stops.

Now, you can take your kids on Grizzly as a warm up and test their (and your) mettle on Gold Striker.

In my opinion, this coaster could EASILY take on El Toro in national polls and in many cases it should WIN.

The ONLY thing missing from this ride…is YOU!

To learn more about Gold Striker or to purchase tickets to the park, visit www.cagreatamerica.com

Gold Striker logo