WEATHER: Sunny, high 70s, beautiful.
ABOUT ME: Male, age 37. Coaster rider since 1977 and fanatic since 1986. I have more than 330 adult coasters on my "track record". I generally prefer wooden coasters to steel because airtime is one of my big criteria. Also, I don't mind a little headbanging on coasters.
RATING SYSTEM: I subscribe to the ubiquitous Griswold scale, which rates coasters and parks on a scale from -3 to +5. Zero indicates a mildly positive rating.
THE PARK: +3
What a way to be introduced to the park - my very first Timbers Fest. Park staff set the tone for the day by quickly locating our preregistration and sending us on our way with admission and meal tickets for the day and a quick overview of the day's agenda. With four hours to enjoy the park before the catered lunch and photo walkback, we immediately headed for the park's four adult coasters. Despite the perfect amusement park weather, the parking lot (and, by corollary, the park itself) had been virtually empty as we arrived around 11am. Rides throughout the day ranged from walk-ons to 1 or 2 train waits.
Michigan's Adventure, while set on an enormous 250-acre tract of park-owned land, isn't particularly big today. I suspect that it was positively tiny just four years ago, prior to Shivering Timbers, Mad Mouse, and the recent development of a waterpark and shoot-the-chutes ride across two sides of the park's main retention pond (stocked with fish!) as well as brand new ticketing booths/entrance plaza/shops/gaming areas at the main entrance. Shivering Timbers dominates your view as you enter the park, primarily because you have to drive along its entire half-mile length to reach the parking lot!
The gift shops carried mostly straightforward park-logo merchandise. Nothing particularly unique, but the Church Of Shivering Timbers t-shirts were pretty cool.
Some benchmarks I use to compare how expensive parks are: 20 oz. pop at vending machines, $2; Hi-Striker, $2; ice cream cone, $1.50; locker rental, $3 plus $7 refundable deposit; medium pop at concession stands, $1.95, parking, $5.
The soil at Michigan's Adventure is very, very sandy. I get the feeling that the Indiana Dunes region extends all the way up the Lake Michigan side of Michigan's Lower Peninsula, because every exposed piece of ground was sand. The entire photo walkback was through sandy soil that squishes under your feet. You easily sink a couple of inches into the soft sand just walking around. I wonder what extra measures this makes the park go through when sinking footers for a roller coaster?
Michigan's Adventure has a reasonable selection of flat rides, including a Music Express, a Trabant, a Scrambler, a Tilt-A-Whirl, a Wave Swinger, a Carousel, a Sea Dragon, and a Chaos. The park also has a log flume (Logger's Run) and a Giant Wheel.
None open at this point. Mid-June, the Royal Hanneford Circus will be taking up residence under a yet-to-be-erected big top that will be situated between Wolverine Wildcat and Shivering Timbers.
Since Timbers Fest attendees get to pig out at a catered picnic lunch, we really didn't have an opportunity to sample the food served at the park's handful of restaurants, but the fare is pretty typical - pizza, hot dogs, hamburgers. Our lunch consisted of hot dogs, hamburgers, and BBQ chicken, all of which were cooked on-site at the picnic pavilion on large outdoor grills. In addition, beans, potato salad, veggies, and a fruit salad were offered. The meal was excellent, even though the lines for food outlasted any of the ride queues!
The park is still in its pre-corporate pristine state. As I walked around the carefully maintained, always-swept Michigan's Adventure, I couldn't help but remember and compare it to what Geauga Lake was like in 1997 in its pre-Six Flags days. You know, when you could walk right up to the lake. You could relax in a quiet gazebo at water's edge or sit on a peaceful park bench enjoying your meal, just like Michigan's Adventure is today. I hope Cedar Fair is able to maintain the quaintness of this great, peaceful, relaxing park. I don't want to have a redux of the overbuilding that's happened at Geauga Lake (now Six Flags Worlds of Adventure), since all that's created there is an amazing feeling of claustrophobia -- and in a park that used to have wide open views from one end of the property to the other.
Since there is ALWAYS time for mini golf, we took an early-evening break to putt our way around Michigan's Adventure's $3 18-hole Rocky Point mini golf course. This beautifully designed and intricately laid out course, immediately adjacent to the Corkscrew and across the pond from the Wolverine Wildcat, was the hardest mini golf course I've ever set foot on. In many cases, it's inevitable that no matter how careful you are, you will send your ball off the course on at least a third to a half of the holes. The brick edging does not go around every part of the green -- and as such, it's very easy for balls to roll right off the greens at these deliberately placed exit points. It places players who often take advantage of ricochet shots or who don't effectively limit their stroke power at a significant disadvantage. Most of the holes abut water - either in the form of the park's main pond, or the decorative waterfall central to the course, or the rocky water cascades and creeks that wiggle around the course. Some holes actually employ these water hazards as part and parcel of the game. The water on this course isn't moving slowly, either. Most of it, while not particularly deep, runs like a raging rapids downhill. This course needs a sign at its entrance that says, "You WILL get wet!"
As with the park itself, they were spotless and tidy despite being probably one of the oldest parts of the park!
ON THE 'TIMBERS FEST' EXPERIENCE:
Park management was already set up at a table, waiting and smiling as we arrived bright and early Saturday morning. They had envelopes with our admission and meal tickets ready to go, and within minutes we were on our way into the park.
At 3PM, Timbers Fest attendees mustered forces at the Carousel Pavilion. While waiting for lunch to be served, the Jourdens (former park owners) and representatives from new owners Cedar Fair warmed up the crowd, gave out some door prizes, and assured us that Richard Kinzel (CEO of Cedar Fair) personally guaranteed after riding Shivering Timbers they had no intentions of messing with it by adding trim brakes anywhere.
At 4:30PM, about 60-70 enthusiasts followed park staff on a 90-minute walkback from the end of the park's new section near the shoot-the-chutes ride, across the back side of Wolverine Wildcat, across the left side of Shivering Timbers, around Timbers' turnaround, back the entire length of the right side of Shivering Timbers, and around the helix. Several folks located and retrieved coaster booty (discarded construction and maintenance materials left on the ground adjacent to, and in some cases underneath, the coaster). Some folks were a little aggressive and stuck their cameras at arm's length into the coaster's structure to take nearly head-on photos of approaching trains, but nothing quite as crazy as the Strickers Grove Tornado first drop photos I've seen around the Internet.
Other than a sudden invasion of mosquitoes around 8-9PM who began to eat people alive, ERT was pretty uneventful. The park extended ERT somewhat since the sky was still quite light at 10PM. Michigan, while in the Eastern Time Zone, is on the very western edge of that time zone and as such does not get dark until an hour after you'd expect (at least, based on what I'm used to, living smack in the middle of the Central Time Zone). Kings Island has the same problem, though Indiana Beach and Holiday World don't (due to the fact that most of Indiana doesn't observe Daylight Savings, making their clocks equal to Central Daylight Time).
Shivering Timbers continued to increase in intensity (ejector air, slammer drops) as the night progressed. While it would have been very cool to have another hour of ERT (to see what riding ST completely blind is like), management finally roped off the ride around 10:30 PM.
The ride ops at Shivering Timbers were a really fun bunch, led by 1995 Cedar Point Blue Streak ride op John (aka Jay) Mihelich. John's offbeat schtick and outgoing personality entertained the crowds all night, while ride supervisor Kris played her serious role off John's comedic one. All ride ops at Shivering Timbers made a point of checking lap bars by pulling UP, even when some crazies went for one- or two-click rides. While the ST ops swear their lapbar checking routines are what differentiate them from the Wolverine Wildcat ops, both in fact pulled UP on the bars all day long.
Corkscrew (1979 Arrow corkscrew) 0
This Corkscrew is an early model lacking a vertical loop. You merely exit the station, make a 180-degree turn onto the lift, make a trademark Arrow dip off the lift into another 180-degree turn, drop, ascend into another 180-degree turn that twists directly into the corkscrew, and then do another 180-degree turnaround into the brake run and station. The layout is a mirror image of Six Flags Worlds of Adventure's Double Loop, which features two vertical loops instead of a corkscrew and has a pre-lift tunnel. As r.r-c discussion has indicated, the Corkscrew station -- a bizarre concrete block monstrosity -- is an amusing, homely, yet eerily kitschy part of this park. It's the first thing that enters your frame of view after getting past the entrance plaza, and you have to see it to believe it (I took photos). This is something I'd expect to see at Williams Grove!
Wolverine Wildcat (1988 Summers/Dinn double out-and-back) +2
This Summers/Dinn coaster was a lot better than most of the trip reports I'd read previously gave credit. It's very much like its younger brother, the thoroughly enjoyable Thunder Run at Kentucky Kingdom, which is two years its junior, and in certain ways was very reminiscent of the Great Escape Comet. All have fun fan turns, strong airtime (sometimes unexpected), several sharp lateral bends, and combination elements where you're launched skyward and then slammed to one side while airborne. Wildcat's compact, double out-and-back layout includes a Phoenix-like pre-lift tunnel, a double up, and a double down (perhaps the single finest shot of air time on the ride, surprising since it comes very close to the end). I rode the coaster in both the front and back cars, and while the ejector seat (1.3) was by all accounts a fun ride, I still have to give the edge easily to 4.1 and 4.3.
A picturesque setting on the edge of a pond serves as a perfect backdrop for this gracefully designed coaster. It really is too bad that the coolest angle from which to view this coaster -- the "back" side facing Michigan's Adventure's open land -- is not normally accessible to the general public. I took quite a few photos from this otherwise unseen perspective during the photo walkback.
It was really nice to find another enjoyable Summers/Dinn coaster, especially since most of their late-80s/early-90s work really turned out terrible in the long run (PGA Grizzly, Raging Wolf Bobs, Hercules, Mean Streak, Psyclone). This midsize woodie and the aforementioned Thunder Run are eminently more enjoyable than the "big wood" projects that never really achieved their lofty goals.
Wolverine Wildcat runs a single 4-car, 3-bench PTC train with stiff individually ratcheting lap bars, individual seat belts, and seat dividers.
Shivering Timbers (1998 C.C.I. single out-and-back) +5
C.C.I. just keeps throwing my woodie rankings into disarray. After three years of stable Top 5 wood rankings, Villain stole the #2 woodie spot after a day's worth of absolutely insane rides in August 2000. Days later on the same trip, Boulder Dash rocketed to the #2 spot. Then, Ghostrider vaulted to #3 after my January 2001 visit to Knott's Berry Farm. Now, just a month after suddenly having new #1 and #2 woodies (Raven and Legend), I must confess at the altar of the Church of Shivering Timbers: I have a new #3.
Shivering Timbers inspires more awe than any other coaster I've ever ridden. Its massive frame dominates the landscape. Ignoring Magnum's midcourse dog leg, in profile this coaster looks like a wooden Magnum. It just keeps going, and going, and going. Shivering Timbers begins with twelve hills (five out, one turnaround, six back) which each deliver insane, over-the-top air time, and finishes with a bone-crushing 630-degree helix before slamming into the brake run.
Middle seats give a quite bouncy ride. Front car rides, especially the ejector seat (1.2), provide exceptional, strong, but shorter jolts of air than my favorite seats, 6.1 and 6.2. That's where the supreme action is, especially on the gigantic twisting left-hand drop after the turnaround, which has to be my favorite moment of the entire ride. You see it coming, and you think to yourself, "Bye!" You fly up and to the right with such extreme force - shades of Holiday World's Legend.
One notable experience you get in the ejector seat that you don't seem to get in any other seat happens during entry to the helix. Following the ejector 12th hill and drop, the train ascends at lightning speed what looks like a straight stretch of track, just before the left-turning helix. However, during that straight stretch, you're immediately ejected again, and while you're in mid-air you're slammed hard right as the train turns left. The pacing of the whole sequence is phenomenal.
Shivering Timbers runs two 6-car, two-bench PTC trains (blue and green) with individually ratcheting lap bars, individual seat belts, and seat dividers. I'd have to say the green train was running noticeably faster than the blue one. The lap bars always seemed to ratchet down one click (passable) or two clicks (stapled) beyond my usual three-click starting point unless I jammed my leg into the bar throughout the ride, especially on the return run. By the end of the evening, I was alternating sides of the train to balance the bruising and mitigate the pain in my legs.
Mad Mouse (1999 Arrow mad mouse) 0
An uneventful first ride on my first Arrow Mouse. It's not particularly big, doesn't have exceptional power, and is lightly braked, but it's colorful and the clever stadium seating on the cars gives rear-seat riders much better sight lines. There are a couple very brief pops of air, but this is really more a warm-up ride for folks still too spooked to go on Shivering Timbers or for the younger set.