"Go right on back..."
Stricker's Grove is a private picnic park operated by coaster enthusiast Ralph Stricker. You can tell that he is a coaster enthusiast just by looking at his park. You enter the well-kept picnic grounds and wander past the game building and the picnic shelters to the midway. At first, this looks like a well-maintained kiddieland, with several kiddie rides and an Allan Herschell merry-go-round. A few steps further, though, and you find the Eli wheel, the Tilt-A-Whirl, the Scrambler, the PTC Crazy Daisy, and the long-awaited Flying Scooter. Anchoring the back end of the midway is Stricker's hand-built wooden masterpiece, Tornado (1993) and the companion junior woodie, the brand-new Teddy Bear (1996).
Tornado (Collins/Stricker, 1993):
Every park that owns a wood coaster should come and see this one. Everything is nice and tight. The track is nicely oiled. The train is a beautiful 4-car 3-bench PTC train; the only thing about that isn't classic is the seat divider. The front of the train even has the metal lettering with the word "Tornado" and the little chevron. The coaster itself was completed in 1993, and is based on the Rocky Glen Comet (Mighty Lightnin', John Allen, 1958), which was demolished on December 7, 1994. Tornado is a real gem. With a push of a button, the train glides smoothly out of the station and up the lift. Down the first drop, there is a bit of airtime especially in the back seat. Up to the first turnaround, then down a nice drop. I wonder if Stricker's has done some work on this transition because I remember the second car binding and slamming around just before the second drop when I rode the coaster before, but this time it was glass-smooth. The second drop is followed by a return run through the structure and over a pair of perfectly parabolic high-speed hills which provide not airtime, but rather nearly perfect weightlessness, followed by the rise to the "front end" turnaround. The exit from the turnaround is a remarkable sudden airtime-filled drop, which catapults back-seat riders firmly into the lap bar. Another turnaround is followed by a hill profiled so that the up-stops routinely strike sparks against the track, and riders bounce around giddily before coming to a smooth stop on the manually-operated pneumatic fin brake...so smooth, in fact, that one finds himself searching in vain for the Big 'Ol Brake Lever. Tornado is the smoothest-running wood coaster I have ridden in a long time...I've been on steel coasters that are rougher.
Teddy Bear (Collins/Stricker, 1996):
Just steps from the Tornado is the Teddy Bear, patterned after Herbert Schmeck's 1935 coaster of the same name at Coney Island on the opposite side of Cincinnati. Teddy Bear is a modern classic. Okay, so it has pneumatic fin brakes, and the lap bars on the brand-new PTC junior coaster train are electrically released. This is still a new classic coaster. If the ACE web site is to be believed, this coaster ought to be eligible for the Coaster Classic award. The flanged-wheel train has cars which, like NAD cars, are closed and nicely padded on the right-hand side. Each car has two comfortable seats, but they are a bit small. They could easily accommodate an adult and a child, but two adults would have a tight fit. The lap bars are the same style as on the Beastie, Scooby Doo, and Sea Dragon. But the ride is considerably smaller than those three rides, and is a much milder ride. Or at least the profile suggests that it would be, except for this one spot where the track dives through an impossibly small opening with possibly the best head-chopper effect since the fourth drop on Gemini. Strangely enough, the ride is actually noisier than Tornado, due to the flanged wheels, but it is every bit as smooth-running. Yet another Perfect First Coaster operates in Southwest Ohio.
After riding the coasters, we could not pass up an opportunity to ride Stricker's Flying Scooter. It has taken a very long time for him to get this one together, but it is now fully operational and running with untethered sails. Now we just need to get Todd Long to come up here and give lessons.
Many thanks to Mr. Stricker and to the group that had rented his park for graciously allowing us to invade for a couple of coaster rides. The park will be open on the second Sunday in August; I believe that is August 10 this year. I plan to be there!
Next trip: Americana
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--Dave Althoff, Jr.