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Matt SR
Staff member
Social Media Team
I had the chance to do a week's long trip last week, which took me to three parks across two states and thousands of miles. Pre-Covid, this was supposed to be a regularly occurring affair, as travel expectations have been growing for my work (I work for a national non-profit that works in electrifying transportation, which often requires a lot of site visit/in-person meetings), but Covid sidelined this aspiration for 2020. So it was exciting to get back to the vision of picking up coaster credits while hitting the road for work!

So, let's jump on that jet from Columbus, and head out to Long Beach for a weeklong conference!

First and foremost, upon landing, the rental agency ended up not having my small-sized sedan available. They "apologized" for only have this available in orange - despite working in EVs for a living, it was a hilarious dream come true to drive a Challenger down the LA freeway!

Knott's Berry Farm
Alright, arrival time. The mission last go round was simple - ride as many coasters as possible, with specific focus on new-cred Hangtime. So for this trip, I sought to ride coasters that weren't ridden during my last visit. And first on that list, the only Accelerator I will have ridden this year (ironically); Xcelerator.

Ride Experience
It has been literal ages since I last rode this coaster - a genuine 15 year gap. Wowzers did I forget about that acceleration! Technically quicker off the line than TTD, the pull on the launch is phenomenal, leading to a hilarious gasping-for-air-while-screaming scenario as I rapidly shot up the right-handed top hat, and careened through the turns. A genuinely great ride.

Also, I had totally forgot the ratchet station design/setup on this coaster. For instance, each queue gate loads the entire car, not row, leading to great confusion on who sits in which seat. And while I had remembered Xcel's trains to be a smidge shorter on leg room than other Accelerators, it is still quite the squeeze.

Right, next stop on the whirlwind tour takes us to Fiesta Village


Queue Experience/General Ambience
Oh to be a fly on the wall when they were designing this coaster. "So we're going to build a large-scale, Montezuma-style pyramid, with high-detailed queue and presence. And then we're going to drape Zierer track anywhere possible!" It really is a sight to behold, these Zierer family coasters have a unique quality (apparently) of being able to build track anywhere. So even as Knott's continues to be heavily space-bound, Jaguar!'s sprawling, squirrely layout remains the ultimate irony, from a quite long, very dark queue to weaving/bobbing across half the park.

Ride Experience
I made it a point to ride in the back row, on the chance the 2.5 mile long train generate some funky forces over hills. And it actually kinda did! Or at least, had some good tug action. Again, because this is a Tivoli-coaster train design, probably meant for a bit slower speeds, you have hilarious, (relatively) high-speed transitions that cause you to slide around the coaster train. I ended up just sitting dead middle, and bracing myself with both hands against the train seat. This isn't a coaster you ride for high thrills, it's really just something to experience; and helps if you have a good sense of humor for how weirdly wild a contraption it is.

Onto the next door neighbor:

Montezooma's Revenge

Ride Experience
I'll be honest, I was probably most excited for this, if only because I forgot how the ride experience felt, and Schwarzkopf launched coasters being so relatively rare nowadays. To add to the fun, I ended up sitting next to a surfer-bro-of-a-dad, who proceeded to talk to me, very calmly, throughout the entire ride unphased. The actual ride is awesome; having the more-natural feeling acceleration of the fly wheel, great high-g Schwarzkopf loop, etc. just made for fun pacing and ride experience. It's really remarkable that Knott's still has two fine classic steel specimen in this day and age, which are the "grand-daddy" coasters to staple the park.

Moving onto bigger and better things

Silver Bullet

Ride Experience
I will say it again for the people in the back; yes, Silver Bullet is a great B&M invert, when ridden in the back row. I was pleasantly surprised when I rode it two years ago, and reaffirmed that it's otherwise less-aggressive pace benefits from some healthy, tugging airtime when ridden all the way in the back. It's still one of the lower B&M inverts to be sure, but passable.


Overall Thoughts
It's really something when a formerly second-tier CCI is the new crown-jewel to a park... without being RMCed! GCI's masterful work on this coaster cannot be understated - the combo of Millennium Flyers and smoothing (but not killing) of elements makes for a simply awesome ride; even with the finale helix being pretty unbanked. Consider me part of team #PTCDleete, as I feel so many wooden coasters would benefit from a similar GCI upfit.

All in, a solid tour of the park in ~3 hours! Hoping to have similar, recurring chance to pop into the park for work travel down the road.

Once the week's conference was over, it was onto Denver for @Antinos' bachelor party, which was equal parks drinking at breweries and coasters, and the chance to tag on two new parks worth of creds!

Elitch Gardens

Overall Impression
If you're to take away one thing: Elitch Gardens has navigated the doldrums of being a former Six Flags park quite well, and has plenty of genuine charm. Too many other cast-off Six Flags parks (I'm looking at you Kentucky Kingdom) have struggled with adapting post-Six Flags, but Elitch brings a very positive, inner-urban park charm (probably because Six Flags didn't really invest too much :p ). Was genuinely surprised at how well kept and organized the park was.

With that out of the way, let's do a round-up of coasters:

Ride Experience
One of only two Arrow shuttle loops in North America, it (like Diamond Back) has a hilariously fun ride experience. While there is the dreaded Arrow multi-looper airtime and high-positive g loop; the ride comfort is actually ok, using the same updated OTSR design from Viper (SFMM) that makes for more comfortable riding than the traditional OTSR. Also helped that @tomahawk and I rode it in the very back, and were getting yelled "Oh yeah!" reactions from ride ops on both ends of the ride. 😅

Twister II

Ride Experience
Once upon a time, John Pierce convinced the world the future was wooden, picking up where Curtis Summers left off in designing large footprint wooden coasters that featured altering variations of meandering figure-8 layouts. ... There's a reason so many of these have received the RMC axe. ;) Twister II has been tinkered and toyed with throughout the years; now sporting "reprofiled" track and a 3-car set that should allow trains to smoothly navigate the course by shedding weight. It's just a very bland, sleepy coaster akin to Raging Wolf Bobs, both in speed and train shuffle in the turns. The best thing of note, as @Antinos rightfully observed, is what could arguably be the weakest double-up known to man. So much of this coaster's layout is weirdly drawn out, it really begs the question if RCT was used for the CAD rendering.

Ride Experience
You can only avoid the Six Flags additions for so long. Upshot of this "yet another" Boomerang; it has newer Vekoma trains that make it smoother than others. Also have this lovely reaction video of @Snoo. :p

Mind Eraser

Ride Experience
Again, more flags more fun. Compared to the last Mind Eraser I rode (SFA), this one is far more smooth, which I was grateful for as the entire group rode in the back.

Again, the parting thought - Elitch Gardens aint half bad.

... oh, and this wasn't open either.

Lakeside Amusement Park
As night began to descend on our group, and as we descended into our beers, @Antinos quickly exclaimed "But wait! We need to get to Lakeside!" around 7:30 PM. Recognizing we were already liters of beer in (see reference photo below), I booked a quick Lyft, and shouted anyone and everyone wanting to go to Lakeside needed to be out-front pronto.

@Snoo, @Antinos, and I made it. @tomahawk had to go die a little after drinking a boot of beer.

Overall Vibe
Lakeside is best described as a park stuck in time. Like other older, turn of the century trolley parks, Lakeside started as a simple park stop, that gradually built out amusements and attractions along a nice lake overlook. But unlike other trolley parks, Lakeside was neither developed into the modern era, nor torn down for development. It just, stayed. The individual ride ticket booths, the manual braking operations on coasters, the rickety kiddie rides, the lack of properly lit incandescent light-bulbs but TONS of neon - it is all still there. Maintained, upkept, but never updated nor removed.

Our mission was simple, jump a ride on the elusive Cyclone and Wild Chipmunk coasters - something I had failed to do as I had been kicked out of the park for taking pictures 10 years ago (almost to the day), as apparently modern photography is also forbade in the park.

Let's just say, it gets weird here.


Ride Experience
There is nothing like a stock 1940 Vettel woodie to help you appreciate both the romance and danger of wooden coasters during the Golden Era. Gorgeous art deco roller coaster station (I'd posit one of the most gorgeous stations, period), wooden paneled coaster train, utter lack of any safety mechanism or protocol, save the very seatbelt you strap on. Again, it's all there, as it was, opening day 1940.

As we all drunkly clamored on, it's fair to say we were all pleasantly surprised as how much this coaster still had to give. Healthly laterals in the opening helix bowl, some fun pops of airtime (further accentuated by completely undoing our seatbelts), it was a very cool experience to "get a ride" on something our grandparents would have been riding. Ironic, having ridden Twister II, which was meant to be the spiritual successor to such rides, yet a shred of what the original glory holds.

Wild Chipmunk

Ride Experience
In a word: woke. No lapbars nor safety restraints, just the legs of your riding buddy holding you into place (or, as it was on a second lap, smushing @Antinos fetal position into the nose cone, like stubborn luggage not going underneath the seat in front of you), and the awareness that some teenager was your saving grace for being sure the manual brakes would be applied as you roared back to station. Otherwise, it's you, erector set-style track, and some fun intricate turns and airtime hills. These Miler Wild Mice are something to behold, both in their simplicity and absolute danger. Again, something you can uniquely find at Lakeside.

Oh yeah, we also saw the Zyklon. It's built, and just... not open?



Staff member
Social Media Team
Awesome stuff - sounds like an absolute riot!


Slut for Spinners
It gets better and better the more you read it! Man...Lakeside was a night to remember for sure!

I love how the rental car place even left the splitter guards on your Challenger ;)