"Do you know what time it is?"
Sunday was Family Day at Stricker's Grove, which means the place was open to the public for a $3.50 P-O-P ride session. I had planned my weekend around this event, which is why I failed to attend the event at the other "Grove". It turns out I wasn't the only one; at one point there were at least a half-dozen of us coaster nuts standing around in the middle of the midway.
The rides opened at 2:00pm, but I was running about an hour late because I had been checking out a Ferris wheel and carousel at a couple of sites in Florence, Kentucky. Anyway, I paid my $3.50 and got about half-way down the midway before being spotted by my fellow coaster nuts. We stood around in the middle of the midway for a while, as Dave Bowers observed, engaging in typical coaster-nut behavior: standing twenty feet from a coaster chatting instead of riding the darned thing. So we all climbed aboard the Teddy Bear.
The Teddy Bear is the noisiest wood coaster I have encountered in a long time. I expect this is largely due to the flanged-wheel train. The Teddy Bear track is a little like that of the Conneaut Lake Blue Streak, with a board running along the inside edge of the track (in this case, I think it is actually the third track board from the top) serving as an up-stop rail. This would indicate that the up-stops are well inboard of the road wheels. I couldn't tell for certain, but I suspect that the wheel flange is rubbing against the top of the up-stop board, resulting in a lot of noise. But then, the track on Wyandot Lake's Sea Dragon is the same way, and it is not nearly so noisy.
(Did you say flanged wheels?!)
Yes, flanged wheels. The train is a brand-new PTC kiddie/junior coaster train, open only on the left-hand side. It is nicely cushioned, with the traditional junior lap bars (these are the ones with the big loops on the ends). The only concessions to modern train technology are the electric lap-bar release system and the fin brakes.
The blue train (with its highly decorated front panel) glides noisily out of the station and smoothly engages the lift. At the top, there is a turnaround, and the first major drop. This goes right through the lift hill, with what appears to be very little clearance. This is followed by another turnaround, then a quick ride around the oval to the station brakes. The train is unloaded and reloaded in a single stop, but all the action takes place on one side of the train. Although this coaster opened in 1996, it meets all of the requirements listed on the ACE web page for Coaster Classic status, though, to the best of my knowledge, it has not been so listed.
We then proceeded to the Tornado. It is hard to believe this has been running since 1993. Typical wait all day was just a couple of trainloads. Platform procedures only allow 18 riders onto the platform at a time, but the platform lacks chutes, PA system, gates, and even yellow lines. The one train is a 3-car PTC running 3-bench cars. While the nicely upholstered seats do have seat dividers, they also have traditional double-bars. And because it is a fairly new train, it has the wide car body so that even with the dividers, the seats are adequate for most riders.
Tornado is a lot quieter than Teddy Bear, with its standard 3-wheel axle sets. The train cruises out of the station and up the lift. There is a drop, a rise, and a well-tracked turnaround. This drop is followed by two perfectly profiled speed hills, the second of which is followed by a sudden pull-out that subjects front-car riders to significant G forces. After this second turnaround, there is a pair of hills. Well, not really...though it looks like a drop, rise, and second drop, it behaves like a potent double-dip, yanking the train forcefully down the hill as back-seat riders struggle to catch up. The final turnaround leads to a pair of rabbit-hops loaded with airtime as the train cruises to the station brakes. It really is a very good coaster, though, in the style of the great masters, it delivers its elements in brief doses...not at all like the continuous high-velocity won't-slow-down-for-anything action of, say, CCI's Raven.
Speaking of the great masters, I noticed something interesting on Tornado. At various points along the course, the track-ties are positioned according to a very specific pattern, in terms of the positions of the track ties relative to each other and relative to the ledgers.
I have seen that pattern before, specifically on Cedar Point's Blue Streak and on the Wyandot Sea Dragon. I'm beginning to wonder if this might not be a John Allen signature.
(But Allen didn't design the Tornado...)
No, Allen didn't design the Tornado (in fact, he died in 1979; Tornado opened in 1993. It took a long time to build, but it wasn't THAT long...). But he did design the Rocky Glen Comet (Mighty Lightnin' if you prefer), and the Tornado is essentially the same plan. So if Stricker's engineer was faithful to the original ride, then Tornado should look for all intents and purposes like a John Allen ride.
The remainder of the day was spent enjoying all of the rides Stricker's Grove had to offer, including a small Herschell merry-go-round, a Chance C.P. Huntington train, a PTC Crazy Daisy, a Sellner Tilt-A-Whirl, an Eli Scrambler and Aristocrat wheel, and a set of Flying Scooters with untethered sails. And of course we continued to take lots of rides on the two coasters.
Stricker's Grove is a really relaxed park. All of the rides shut down for an hour at dinner time, which gave us coaster nuts a good opportunity to talk coasters without missing out on potential rides. It also gave us a chance to sample the culinary delights of Stricker's Grove, including a massive burger and brat barbecue, and a selection of popcorn, cotton candy, soft-serve ice cream, Sno Cones, and Coke...all at prices which are reasonable, but unexpectedly low for an amusement park. Our conversation was interrupted periodically by young boys wondering how much longer before the rides started up again, and when the midway gate was finally opened, the kids rushed through like a flood. And no one told them to "WALK!!!" or to "DON'T RUN" or to "SLOW DOWN". The children raced to the rides, and the rides were waiting. The park feels like it can't possibly be operating today, more like the kind of thing that Dwayne Allen sometimes tells us about. And yet, it is alive and well, and operating in Southwest Ohio.
Next trip: Kennywood (#2)
1997 Trip Report index
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--Dave Althoff, Jr.