What happens when two guys from Mississippi want to ride lots of roller coasters, but there are no roller coasters in Mississippi? Road trip! And not just any road trip. Four days. Thirty roller coasters. Plus they live to tell the tale.
With all the books written about Disney and Universal theme parks, you'd think there weren't any others. But there are lots of regional parks scattered across the United States, and many of them are best-known for their roller coasters: steel, wood, and screams. Coaster connoisseurs Bryce and Zach, school teachers by day, put up their chalk and pull down their lap bars for a wild trek to ride more roller coasters than you'll probably ride in your life.
Bryce and Zach's tales from their coaster crusade include:
JOIN BRYCE AND ZACH ON THEIR ROLLER COASTER ROAD TRIP!
Chapter 1: Why Crusade for Coasters?
Chapter 2: Battle Plans
Part One: Busch Gardens Williamsburg
Chapter 3: Tempestos
Chapter 4: Apollo’s Chariot
Chapter 5: The Worst Theme Park Day of My Life
Chapter 6: Verbolten
Chapter 7: Scotch, Maple, and Festivals
Chapter 8: Alpengeist
Chapter 9: Griffon
Chapter 10: Loch Ness Monster
Chapter 11: The Best and Worst of the Rest of Busch Gardens
Chapter 12: VIP Coaster Tour
Part Two: King's Dominion
Chapter 13: Volcano: The Blast Coaster
Chapter 14: Intimidator 305
Chapter 15: Dominator
Chapter 16: Backlot Stunt Coaster
Chapter 17: Flight of Fear
Chapter 18: Avalanche
Chapter 19: Anaconda
Chapter 20: Shockwave
Chapter 21: Rebel Yell
Chapter 22: Ricochet
Chapter 23: Hurler and Grizzly
Chapter 24: The Rest of King’s Dominion
Chapter 25: Goodbye Virginia, Hello Carolina
Part Three: Carowinds
Chapter 26: Fury 325
Chapter 27: Hurler and Ricochet
Chapter 28: Carolina Cyclone
Chapter 29: Carolina Goldrusher
Chapter 30: Carolina Cobra
Chapter 31: After Burn
Chapter 32: Vortex
Chapter 33: Nighthawk
Chapter 34: Intimidator
Chapter 35: The Final Two
Chapter 36: The Rest of Carowinds
Appendix A: Roller-Coaster Roster
Coaster Crusade would absolutely not be possible without the support of Theme Park Press and Bob McLain. Thanks to him for believing in this little book about roller coasters. On a similar note, my wife, Carly, has been my biggest cheerleader and supporter throughout the entire process of writing Coaster Crusade. I also have to give credit to my good friend and fellow coaster enthusiast, Zach Osborn, who not only traveled on the coaster crusade with me, but also helped with the memorization of facts, stats, and experiences that we encountered on the trip. He answered many texts and read drafts without complaint, and for that I am thankful.
I would be remiss if I did not thank Busch Gardens, King’s Dominion, and Carowinds for their hospitality and overall experience of visiting each park. Even though the parks did not know I was writing a book about their rides, food, and my experience at each, I enjoyed the parks in a different way as you will see as the pages turn. I do hope that this book sheds a light on the great things that are happening in each of these regional parks. All of my comments and experiences are those of a regular guest visiting in late May. Hotel fare, food, parking and entrance fees, front-of-the-line passes, and the VIP coaster tour of Busch Gardens were all paid for by me.
Many of the facts written in this book are direct from park websites, attraction signage, tour guides, and ride attendants. I know as a fellow coaster enthusiast our community becomes frustrated when stats are incorrect. Coaster Crusade is not meant to be a fact bible, but instead a narrative of visiting great regional parks as a coaster lover. The purpose of this book is to encourage and entice readers to tour the great regional and national parks around the country. I hope that Coaster Crusade is read and enjoyed as a fun ride, with some history and facts as the cherry on top.
Thanks for reading and enjoy the ride!
Bryce Yelverton is a math teacher turned government relations consultant. His love of theme parks, roller coasters, and especially the Walt Disney Company began many years ago. Bryce and his wife are members of Calvary Baptist Church in Jackson, Mississippi, where Bryce has worked for ten years with the inner-city, non-profit ministry, His Heart, Inc.
He is a two-year survivor of Hodgkin Lymphoma and ran the 2015 WDW Half Marathon in support of the Leukemia and Lymphoma Society. He shares his journey with cancer through public speaking events around the state of Mississippi.
Bryce is a graduate of Mississippi College and holds an MBA from Mississippi State University. He loves to eat, travel, and podcast, but not necessarily in that order. Bryce, his wife, Carly, and their dog, Walter, reside in Clinton, Mississippi.
Bryce’s personal website can be found at www.bryceyelverton.com.
Bryce and Zach wrap themselves into the steel coils of Anaconda at King's Dominion.
Anaconda, named for the large South American snake, resides directly over (and under) a lake on the edge of Safari Village. Anaconda uses this lake to the benefit of the rider and onlooker. Anaconda, the snake, lives in and around water-filled areas. This coaster twists, turns, and loops all over the lake separating Safari Village from Soak City, the water park embedded inside King’s Dominion. Arrow Dynamics, the firm that designed the great Loch Ness Monster at Busch Gardens Williamsburg, also planned the track and design for Anaconda. This river beast was built and opened in 1991 in the midst of the great steel coaster battles of the nineties. Anaconda would be labeled as a steel looping coaster, or a “steel looper”. The focus of the attraction is inversions, not speed or height. Even though loops and flips are not my favorite elements of a roller coaster, Anaconda would prove to be a fun and interesting experience.
The entrance to Anaconda features the same African-style signage as Avalanche. The entire attraction and surrounding lake fit directly between the entrance to Intimidator 305 and the Backlot Stunt Coaster. It is moves like this that separate amusement parks from theme parks. Anaconda almost feels out of place here, even though it is the only one that matches the theme of Safari Village. The queue line begins close to the entrance of Backlot Stunt Coaster. The pathway is dirt and the sides of the walkway are wooden barriers. To the left and right of the walkway are big bushes, trees, and other plants that attempt to make guests feel as if they are walking through the Amazon, at least from the waist down. The queue is very narrow like the one for Avalanche, but it makes for a speedy walk up to the loading station. The walkway weaves along the shoreline of the lake with Anaconda perched high above it on big green supports. The red and yellow tracks look similar to a brightly colored snake floating over the peaceful water.
The line of Anaconda offers the best views of the main elements of the coaster. The first drop seems to dive down under the water and back out again. This illusion gives Anaconda a great photo op, because not only does the train dive under the water, but when the it does spray launches up in the air to simulate a splash. Then the train emerges from another part of the lake and into the first loop. Anaconda inverts riders four times, with the last two being connecting corkscrews one after the other. They are not interlocking like Dominator; instead, at the end of one corkscrew you are immediately put through the next one. These last two elements are the closest in proximity to the queue walkway. Zach and I stood here for a ride-through to get some pictures of the corkscrews, since the vantage point out of the queue line was nowhere as good as right there on the shore.
After being pushed along by the other riders in line, Zach and I walked into the load station to yet another empty platform. Very few guests were waiting in line due to the time of year. We were there the day after Memorial Day and school groups were everywhere, but once the temperature began heating up, they were heading to the water park. Since admission to the water park was included in amusement park admission, it was easy for visitors to walk back and forth between them. We could see the water park on the other side of Anaconda’s lake and amidst the supports of one of the wooden roller coasters, Rebel Yell. No water action for us, except for the first dive of Anaconda, which was coming up in our future.
The seats and coaster train for Anaconda looked exactly like the ones from Loch Ness, except with a different color scheme. Each car held four riders with two for each row. Zach and I waited again for the front row and pulled the shoulder harnesses down around us. We were in bucket seats down inside of the cars. Rides like this make it difficult for guests to raise their arms up and out, but we did our best. Usually, with tight, stubborn shoulder restraints, my head pops out the top and I have no headrest, while Zach’s head sits down in between the harness. This is where the true head banging happens when a ride gets bumpy. Anaconda was at the time almost a quarter-of-a-century old, so we knew we were in for a rough ride. With harnesses checked and all attendants out of the way, we gradually rolled out of the station and onto the chain lift.
The lift hill, just like Loch Ness Monster, was loud and clanky. We rode slowly up the hill. taking in the view. To our left sat Intimidator 305 and we could fully appreciate the height of the mighty giga coaster. The first drop of Anaconda, a mere 144 feet, was less than half of that of Intimidator 305, but the chain lift took more than twice as long as Intimidator 305’s speedy lift hill. This extra time let Zach and I think and talk about coaster technology and how much it has changed through the years. Supports were one thing. The supports here at Anaconda looked like painters scaffolding under the chain lift, just like most of the supports for Loch Ness Monster. Anaconda differed in supports once the ride began. They became thick cylinders instead of the mass of steel scaffolding. Lift hill speed was another topic we talked about, but once we neared the top we were more worried about the pain the old coaster would give us in the form of jarring and banging of our heads against the shoulder restraints.
Continued in "Coaster Crusade"!
Bryce and Zach find themselves sucked into Vortex at Carowinds.
Zach and I passed by Vortex early in the morning and looked at it with dread. Another stand-up coaster would have to be ridden today. Vortex sat in the Carolina Showplace area. This area was small and featured a covered walkway entrance and lots of trees in planters. It felt more like a quiet city park than an amusement park. The whole area featured two attractions and a theatre. Vortex was obviously the major ride in this part of the park. The other ride was a Scrambler that you could find at any county fair. Vortex rose up next to this area and I am sure at one time was a massive twist of steel next to this quiet, tucked-away corner of the park. However, the bright yellow track of Nighthawk hovered tall behind the red steel of Vortex.
The entrance to the queue for Vortex started way out in the middle of the park-like setting. The signage matched what looked like an eighties science-fiction film. The queue walkway immediately had a flat-screen television pointed at incoming riders. The queue should be a nice walk through some trees and eventually up into the load station; instead, there are TVs with music videos playing on them. I still don’t get this mentality with the TV sets; maybe someone enjoys them on a packed middle-of-the-summer day. I hadn’t noticed these too much at Carowinds, but here at Vortex there was no denying their presence.
The queue line ended with a walk up into the load station. Here the black supports and red track color scheme was included in the load station. Vortex opened in 1992 as one of Bolliger and Mabillard’s first coasters. The track and the way the elements were laid out definitely gave the B&M vibe, but we were shocked to learn how old this stand-up coaster was. We thought stand-up coasters came onto the scene in the mid-nineties, but here we were on an early nineties coaster built by B&M, no doubt. This just goes to show that I do not claim to know everything about coasters; in fact, I learn more every day. “Coaster Boys” are named for their intense recall of facts and stats almost like those crazed baseball fans that can spout off any stat that you ask for. Zach and I loved coasters from an early age, but we are still learning. Vortex was an anomaly, a ride that existed in a time when we thought it didn’t, built by a company we thought hadn’t started making coasters of the stand-up variety yet.
The ride vehicle featured six rows of four riders for a total of twenty-four guests per circuit. The ride restraints worked better than those on the TOGO-built Shockwave at King’s Dominion, but they were still uncomfortable. The bicycle-style seat was there and could be moved up and down due to height. Zach and I situated our seats at a height to allow for a slight bending of the knees. The shoulder restraints were then pulled down over you and locked in. The shoulder restraints looked just like the ones on After Burn, but they were a bright red to match the coaster track. We stood in the ride vehicle and I made a last-minute check of my belongings. On a stand-up coaster, the fear of something falling out of my pocket is greater due to my legs not being bent completely while sitting down. My visor was again locked in the seat-belt strap that connected to the shoulder restraints.
The queue line was not long and our train actually had some empty seats in it when we left the station. Zach and I shared a row with a girl who seemed terrified of the experience. We talked casually about the ride and reassured her that the coaster would not be too bad. We also aided in how to get in the seat correctly and cautioned her about locking her knees before the coaster locked the seats in position. She actually locked her seat too high and was struggling to feel the floor of the vehicle. So the ride attendants unlocked the seat restraints and she re-adjusted. This is common on a stand-up coaster, and the process was repeated a few times before we were ready to go. Once everyone had been checked, it was time to ride.
Continued in "Coaster Crusade"!