TR: Beech Bend Park

TR: Rumblefest - Beech Bend Park, Bowling Green, KY (USA)

May 28, 2006

We awake, and we are pushing the hotel check out time to the limit. We clean out our room, get dressed and don't really have time to adequately enjoy the hotel courtesy breakfast. Soon we are on the road.

We are heading to Beech Bend Park, its a park that we have often talked about visiting, but in the past it was just too far out of the way for what it offered. This year, Beech Bend upped the ante in two major ways, first they introduced theirnew-for-2006 wooden coaster, the GCII Kentucky Rumbler, then added a coaster event the day after Holiwood Nights. With this new information we headed to the Commonwealth of Kentucky.

We were dutifully following the GPS monitor, but in the sunlight the state line looked just like the purple line, and we were driving past the Casino Aztar before we realized something is wrong. We pulled off onto a side street, recalibrated our course, and were soon headed the correct way to Bowling Green, KY. We found a turnpike we could use to gofrom Evansville to Owensborro for just 50 cents. Geez, we go from the park that gives free soft drinks and sunscreen to the Comonwealth that chrages to use its parkways. We make a fueling stop before we get on the turnpike from Owens that also involves sime minor automotive maintenance as well as a stop at G.D. Ritzys for a wonderful double cheeseburger basket and an even better giant dip of Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip ice cream, complete with a huge chunk of solid chocolate. Hmm, was that good,

So get on the turnpike from Owensboro to Bowling Green, and $1.50 and some minor construction later we arrive at Bowling Green. We attempt to check into our hotel, but the hotel would not budge on their check in time, So it looks like we will be checking in at 1am. We head to the park. Beech Bend is one of those parks that sits far, far, far, off the main road. You drive down a two lane road with trees lining the center of it. It looks more like you are heading to a country club or city park than an amusement park. You see the big fancy campground gate but right before the campground gate is the one lane exit to the amusement park parking area.

We park in what we thought was a fantastic parking space, until we realized where the front gate was, then the sapce was downgraded to merely a good parking space. We admitted we could all use the walk anyway. We headed up to the front gate where we are greeted "Here for Rumblefest? Sign in right over there!" Gee, was it the coaster shirts that gave it away? We enter the queue for group sales and there are just about 3 people ahead of us in line. We check infor the event. I recieve the t-shirt I had preordered as well asa nambadge. The park mispelled my name on the name badge, but I told themnot to worry about it, besides from the looks of I won't be wearing the thing for too long anyway. The name badge holder also contained a card with a schedule of the days events, and even more importantly our meal ticket. They also apply a yellow ride all day armband to my wrist.

The name badge holder came with a length of string to put around our necks sort of likea lanyard. The aranagement looked like it would fly off the first time we tried to take it on a ride, or worse the namebadge could get jammed in some ride part and cause a choking hazard. These may be fin name badge holders for convention credentials, but they don't look like the right kind of name badge holders for riding thrill rides. So I put the meal ticket in my wallet for safe keeping, and I put the name badge in my pokcet. Hey if I am asked to show it, I'll pull the thing out. Oh and if you saw a David Bowes at the event, that was me.

Oh, and of course we have to run the t-shirts out to the car. I examine my nice blue t-shirt. It has a small Rumblefest logo on the front, and a Kentucky Rumbler logo on the back. It also has a top ten list.

"Top Ten reasons to attend Rumblefest '06"

Okay we head to the front gate, they use the Hersheypark approach where you pay the gate admission as you enter the gate in a one step process. The regular admission lanes to the left, the group sales area to the right and the exit and re-entry lanes in the center.

A wristband is all that is needed to re-eter, but no one was manning the reentry gate so we headed on in. We go through another little gate where we pick up park maps. The park map here s most unusual, it shows the path layout of the park, then has little pictures of the rides located where the ride would be in real life. A novel and interesting idea.

It looks lke the park is laid out in a big figure 8, and the entrance is located right next to the center crosspath off the eight. Eyeing the map the waterpark is to the right, it looks like kiddie rides straight ahead, so we veer to the left.

We first pass the Go-Kaart attraction. The go-karts are not included in the POP so we passed them up. At first we started walking the park without riding. We turned left at the Wisdom Torndo and headed along that loop of the park. Along the way we passed Wisdom Sizzler, Chance Flying Bobs, Hampton Combo, a kids teacup ride, a couple of game joints, a Zamperla Power Surge (closed all day) and took the next right to walk along side the lake, passing by the portable log flume. When we hit the entrance for Kentucky Rumbler we decided to take a ride. I'm glad I have this wristband, as the Rumbler is priced at 10 tickets ($5) per ride.

The queue maze was unused so we headed straight and to the right, then headed left under ths trackworkwhere we came to the stairs up to the station. The line was just about halfway down the stairs. Not bad at all. Ah, I do like the looks of an all wood woodie. GCI's wood coasters scream instant timless classic. Whether it be the all wood structure, the graaceful curves, the twisted trackplan, or the very classic trains. We were not picky about seats and found somethng towards the back.

Kentucky Rumbler - Coaster Credit #257

We got seated in the classic red Flyer train, fastened the shared seatbelt, and lowered the lapbar to the first notch. Soon we were off, we exit the station and make a right turn as we parade past the ride exit ramp, a little dip and we do a swooping turnround to the right to go up the lift. At the top of the lift, I note the Kentucky Rumbler flags already look to be in bad shape, perhaps they got hit by the storm. At the top of the lift you make a totally odd turnaround to the right, the train gains speed even though you have not really been down the twisting first drop yet The drop drops and twists you to the right. From hereon out I haven't a clue. The second drop has a nice headchopper under another piece of track, then you do the station fly by where you are even with the station, where you can look in at the people waiting, and they can look out to see you waitng, you do a figure 8 ish manuever around the lift hill structureto set you up for the next station fly by that goes over the roof of the station and down the other side. More twisted track ensued on the other side including a liitle bump of maybe 5' that provides a nice airtime jolt. The ride is an instant classic. Its not a top rollercoaster like Voyage, but it is an instant classic. So many twists and turns I was disoriented by the time the train rolled back into the station. Initial thoughts were its a neat layout, has classic looks, has trains that are way cooler looking and a whole lot more comfortable than anything PTC has come up with, but so far the ride isn't really doing it for me, of course it is awfully unfair to the ride that it has to overcome two nights of Voyage ERT.

Ride Ticket Equivilants used: 10

We exit the ride down the obnoxiosuly long series of exit ramps, which spill out into a fenced walkway that forces you to enter the Kentucky Rumlber gift shop. Boo, I hate exit through retail. The Rumbler gift shop contains the ride on-ride photo booth, gift shop, fudge shop, ice cream stand, and the Rumbler Cafe snack bar, oh along with a set of retrooms. The outside of the gift shop kind of reminds me of a Cracker Barrel with its front porch lined with rocking chairs. The gift shop building is a sign of how much money went into ride accesories and really makes for a classy entire package for the new addition. We take the next right turn past a kids ride area with a Mangels kiddie whip, Zamperla Convoy, Zamperla Jumping Star and Zamplera Crazy Bus. We then pass the new petting farm and head to the Looping Star.

Looping Star is the coaster your mother warned you about. We had not heard good things about it, but of course we had to ride and find out for ourselves. Worse yet, we could not even get a coaster credit as we had all ridden this ride when it traveled wih Amusements of America. We did hear it recieved a new train this year, and at first glance that was confirmed.

We had a one train wait, which was delayed as the crew was insisting the trains went out full. I sat down in row 2, and ack the seat is like maybe 6 inches off the floor of the car tops. It ake be the first coaster where my knees were literally even with my head as I crammed myself into the entirely too small coaster car. I had to lower the shoulder bar very carefully and very gingerly slide my head through it. This is not going to be fun. I do get the bar to lock in maybe the loosest setting I have ever ridden a ride with a shoulder bar, It looks like one sudden stop will be enough to cuase death by shoulder bar. Still I remain seated as the ride starts.

In other words this is one of those coasters that is screaming "Run like hell" yet the coaster enthusiast gene demands you ride. As we exit the station the ride safety sign has a very distinctive picture of an animated firecracker character. Why I do beleive thise maybe a relic that came from Holiday World's Firecracker rollercoater, though this was not the Firecracker, but another coaster Amusements of America carries around was the Firecracker.

The ride starts up the lift and so far so good, we make the turaround again so far so good, down the first drop, okay, around the next turnaround and OUCH as I get slammed into the side of the shoulder bar, through the loop, not too bad, then into the helix, and OUCHOUCHOUCH back accross the ride,around the next turn OUCH around the perimiter of the ride and one more OUCH then we head into the station. We hit the unload area, and without warning the shoulder bars pop open as if jet propelled. You may recall how gingerly I lowered the thing, well it wqas wrenched up and gave e a good whacking on the chin. It was a good thing my mouth was closed or that would have hurt like hell worse than it already did, We exited the ride making comments like "That ride demands we create a whole new category for rides where SUCK is too good an adjective for them" I pull down the shoulders of my shirt and there are two nice bright red splotches on top of my shoulder blades that hurt with the lightest touch.

Ride ticket equivilants used: 14

We continue our tour of the park and hit the bumper car pavilion. The park has placed both their kiddie bumper cars and their adult bumper cars side by side in the same pavilion. Yes there is a barrier sperating the two rides. Its only a one cycle wait, and se are on, Ah finally, bumper cars that hae some speed to them, and with lapbars. This may be one of the best bumper car rides I have seen in awhile, Nicely done.

Ride ticket equivilants used: 16

We exit the bumper cars and head to the kiddie coaster, a Wisdom Dragon, Due the number of adults ridin ghtey were only loading 3 people per ride, and giving 2 cicruits per ride, so the line took a little bit. Soon though I was getting into car two, where I pulled the bar down and had more room than than I get in many adult coasters.

Dragon Coaster - Credit #258

We head up the tire drive lift and head down the first spiral, then we head over to the upwards spiral and the train almost xomes to a complete stop, just barely making it over the top to let us finish the ride, then we did it all over again. We exited the ride, and rentered the midway.

Ride ticket equivilants used: 18

We skipped the Eli Bridge Ferris Wheel and the Wisdom Starship 3000 and headed to the ARM Supershot (they call it Shock Drop) Just a one ride wait for Shock Drop which was enough to learn there is aqbsolutely no pause at the top, as soon as the carriage his the top, WHAM it comes on its fast decent. We are loaded on the side of the ride facing the campground. Ba rs down, belts fastened, up we go. I realize there is literally nothing to hold onto which heigtens the open vulnerable feeling. We were talking about if we were near the top when rightqas it was going up, with no hesitation it just dropped. Wow that was an exciting fall. We exit the ride.

Ride ticket equivilants used: 22

We pass a food grab joint called the Rockin Raceway Diner, and I wonder if it came from the failed Pigeon Forge attraction. We continue along the outer perimter of the park where we see them setting up the picnic grove for tongihts meal and pass a few kiddie rides, like the Happy Pond, Bumble Bee, Jitterbug and Super Slide.

We make our way to the Haunted House. I thought this was a true vintage Haunted Pretzel, but after reading the nice article about Beech Bend Park on the "Dark Ride and Funhouse Enthusiasts"(DAFE) website, I learned the original darkride was gutted when Beech Bend Park closed in the early 1980's, and since its reopening they have built a new darkride using vintage Pretzel cars and ride system, along with a collection of Funni Frite and home brew stunts. So yes, the ride used vintage darkride hardware, although the ride itself is not a vintage ride. The line for the hanted house was stretched clear accross the front of the attraction, andwe would soon figure out they had 3 two seater cars working. The outside of the house has a white brick facade with several rahter startling figured painted on it, as well as some poor guy getting a big shock out of an electric chair. They had a 4th car pushed off the track, the cars themselves have high backs that look sort of like hearts. After quite a while Rideman and I are ushered in.

Rideman makes a crack about how the ride probably won't be air conditioned, when the operator overhears him and comments, "Normally you'd be right, but today you'd be wrong" She explained that she decided to air condition the place up today for her special guests. As I would soon discover the ride operators at Beech Bend are everybit as friendly and personable as those at Holiday World, and maybe even moreso.

We enter the Haunted House, and aw "Old House Smell" Yep its got that musty smell you associte with old houses. Hey, its a haunted house, that shoudl add to the effect. Its your classic haunted house dark ride, to sets of crash doors followed by a very curvy track, around each curve some stunt either lights us, a buzer sounds, or some animation starts, or a combination. Stuff like the falling barrels, or a giant rat for example. I do think the stunts mat not be timed exactly right, case in point would be the giant coffin towards the end of the ride, as we turn to face it it slams shut, then as we are just about passed it it starts to open again. Two more creash doors, and we are back outside. That was nice and nostalgic, a piece of americana, the old traditonal style dark ride,

Ride ticket equivilants used: 24

Okay, now its time for an intestinal fortitude test. Next to the Hauntd House is a rare ride piece called a Scat II. To the uninitiated it loooks like a stand up Tempest. We baord the Scat.

Unlike the Tempest instead of 4 octagon shaped cars, you have 2 long rectangular cars, each with about 6 bays on each of the narrow ends. This means up to 24 per load. I take my place in one of the bays, and secure the seatbelt accross my body. Pick your bay carefully, they have the backrests at different heights and they are secured by cable ties so they are not adjustable. There is also a ridge along the floor to suggest where to keep your feet. The ride starts and first the two big cars start going around, then the individual cars start spinning. It's more like a Storm than a Tempest in that the spin of the individual cars seems to be very controlled, and thus very smooth and very fast. Its a real neat ride, but I must say it's bark is worse than its bite.

Ride ticket equivilantes used: 27

We skipped past the carousel, Dizzy Dragon, Tilt-A-Whirl (but I like the classic paint job on the Tilt), noted they still have one of those Water Wars water baloon games, and then we slid past Moby Dick.

Our next stop is the Wild Mouse. The Wild Mouse isa Zamperla Crazy Mouse. he queue area has 2 switchbacks full, so thats 4 trips along the entire frontage of the ride. We note despite the long line several cars are going out with just 1 or 2 riders. We eventually make it up to the station. I really like the Reverchon cars for this ride better. The Reverchon cars have two bench seats with nice well padded overhead lapbars. In fact both lapbars are usually chained together so its one size fits all. One of the first things Zamperla must have done is totally change the car style. I kind of like the high backrest on a spinning mouse, but I hate the individual molded hard seats, with the seat divider molds and the seat horns. These are all of course made necesary becuase the ride has individual T-shape lap bars for everybody. The lap bar support arm has a big triangular grab loop. We leave the station and head up to the top. Man,I don't think I have seen a crazy mouse braked quite this much. All in all its a reliable Crazy Mouse ride with more braking and less spin. Oh one positive is the park stops the cars for load and unload,no needed to jump into and out of moving cars.

Oh, and almost forgot:

Crazy Mouse - Credit #259

Ride ticket equivilants used: 31

We next meet up with Wolf and his party. Wolf's party wished to challenge my cast iron rides stomach to a duel. I tell Wolf to name his battlefield. Wolf tells me he has something special picked out. I pick up the gauntlet that has been thrown at me,

We first walk past a shelterhouse cotaining small kids rides and a Jumbos that has a lot shorter line than I have seen for the Jumbos rides at a chain of very famous theme parks. We take the time to walk through the arcade. One pinball machine, out of order. We also walk around past the small waterpark. Let's see pool, interactive sprayground and a handful of water slides. This returns us to the front of the park.

I suspect Wolfis leading meto the Tornado, but we walk past the Tornado and the Hampton Combo. I find myself looking at what Rideman dubbed the Demitasse Cup Ride. Yep, this is clearly a teacup ride that is intended for small children. Wolf fails to notice ita a kiddie ride,and actually acts shocked when the operator won't let us ride. I TOLD you so!

We backtrack to the Tornado, where Rideman, John Peck, Wolf and myself all crowd into one tub and lower the lap bars. You know you are with a group of geeks when as the ride is being loaded they start discussin which series of rotations will cause the greatest amount of force. Several years ago Rideman tried to shake me to my core on a King Frolic, he did come close, but no puke, no foul.

This time all three juys tried the same manuever, that is to spin the tub as faste as you can one way, then when your stomach is getting the hang of things, suddenly reverse the rotation. Sorry guys, I have the Cast iron Stomach V.2 with me today. In fact I got the last laugh as I had taken my hands off the wheel right before the end of the ride, so the three of them got to experience the full effects of having the wheel ripped out of their hands as the tub brake activated bringing us to an instantaneous stop. Tee Hee.

Ride ticket equivilants used: 34

Okay we have now walked the perimeter of the park,, so we next headed for the center cross over walkway. It contains the entrance to the waterpark, some food joints, a Rockin Tug, Rainbow Rock, Eli Wheel, Jalopy Junction, and the miniature golf course.

Rideman and I go take a ride on the Starship 3000. Here something odd happened, they had speakers outside the Starship blasting loud music as is common on Starship rides, but the speakers inside the ride were turned off, and you could not hear the music inside. A quick poppy Starship 3000 ride ensued and soon we were back on the midway.

Ride ticket equivilenats used: 38

We all took another fun filled spin on the Bumper carss.

Ride ticket equivilants useed: 40

We then headed back to the Kentucky Rumbler. The line was just barely out of the station, so Rideman and I waited for a front seat ride. Folks, the front seat is the best spot to ride the Kentucky Rumbler, much better airtime. And with that, we are officially late for dinner.

Ride ticket equivilents used: 50

Value book of 50 tickets = $20

Plus Gate Admission $10

So we got $30 worth of rides at pay per ride + dinner + all the ERT rides at night for $20. Shoot that even beats the parks standard POP price ($24). Its not often a park offers you admission, POP , dinner and ERT for LESS than the normal days admission.

We made our way to the picnic grove. I decided to actually wear my name badge during dinner, and retreived the lunch ticket from my wallet. It was merely a red generic two part raffle ticket. I turned in one half as I startede into the buffet line. Baked Beans, Corn on the Cob, cole slaw hot dogs, pull pork, BBQ Chicken, the sauce it yourself station, banana pudding, rich fudgy brownies, and icetea/lemonade/water to drink.

I filled up a plate, piled high, balaning both a brownie and a bowl of banana pudding on top of it while clutchin some sweet tea and headed out of the shelter where Wolf was and where I saw Rideman heading. Rideman disapeared so it was dinner with Wolf. I liked the BBQ sauce, and though dinner overall was excellent, the brownie was nice and rich, the banana pudding was alright. I think Beech Bend got a rude awakening into the eating habits of coaster enthusiasts as the group collectively gave that buffet a workout.

After dinner I found Rideman in the shelterhouse and found a seat for the presentations. We got the opening remarks from the park PR person, and the big Beech Bend welcome. They stated that it is their very first coaster event, and they were hopng to get 200, but they were amazed they attracted 480 people to their first event. They talked a little bit about Kentucky Rumbler which was the seque into Jeff and Chris's presentation. Clair could not make it. Jeff and Chris toolk some questions from the floor, many of which they could not answer, like "What is your next project?" and "Will somebody build a corkscrew on a wooden coaster? they did get the "Will you ever sell MF trains for someone elses ride" Yeah, right they are going to take their very unique and superior coaster trans and just sell them off to their competitors, Yeah right. They gracefully answered much that it is a branding issue. You buy a GCII coaster and you get the looks, the solid engineering, the tight curves, and yes those trains. It's all part of a package. Jeff and Clair excused themselves saying they had to get the headlights on the trai ready. I thought they were joking about the headlights.

The park then gave away many many many door prizes, and if they didn't have the shirt in your size, no poblem you can exchange it in the gift shop. I tell you the park is seriouslyh bending over backwards for their first coaster event, they may give Holiday World a run for the title of friendliest park. They also announce that members of park management, the maintenance team, and Jeff and Chris will be around Kentucky Rumbler all night to answer questions.

The group adjourns to the coasters. As it is not quite dark yet, the headlights aren't turned on right away. We proceed to ride the coaster numerous times in various seats, and right after nightfall, the headlights are turned on. They are two bright LED lights mounted at the very botom of the car chassis. It lights the track ahead but little else. I think its great the gimmick of headlights has returned to coasters, and maybe the low draw of LED lights will mean the batteries will last all night, not that Beech Bend has many night time hours on their schedule.

The ride does start to get better and better, with nice gentle airtime. Its a very rerideable ride, easily marathonable. The park also kept the gift shop, photo booth and snack bar open throughout ERT which was a nice touch. Also permitted hand slapping along the first turn out of the station that runs alongside the exit ramp. As this sort of behavior was banned at HoliWood Nights, it was rebelliously refreshing.

We took numerous rides on the coaster, the line never growing much further than just the bottom of the stairs. What happened to the long insane lines we had all feared? At around 8:45 we went to Looping Star to meet somebody, they weren't there but we did meetup with Wolf, who talked us into a in-the-dark ride on Looping Star. I mustered my best c3po voice "I'm going to regret this" I took a seat in the back of the train, and the operateorsknow their ride, andwere quite willing to joke along with how painful the ride is. I must admit that due to improved defensive riding posture the second ride wasn't near as bad as the first, and I remembered to hold down the shoulder bar at the end of the ride to thwart the automatic release.

We did meet April who apparently had not obtained any of the Beech Bend coaster credits yet. Hmm Looping Star and Wild Mouse are scheduled to close in 10 minutes. We tell her that Wild Mouse is the better ride, but Looping Star is the rarer ride. We opt for a ride on Looping Star. Man, I am almost getting to be old hat at this,then we make the dash accrosspark to Wild Mouse. They did keep the lights on at the dark ride building to help guide us, We found Wild Mouse to have one half of a switchback full of line, They did keep the ride open until all had ridden, and maybe then some. No strict ride closing times here, no sireee, not when you have VIP guests to entertain, We took another ride on Wild Mouse before heading back to Kentucky Rumber.

The rest of the evening from about 9:20 to 12:30 was a cycle of ride Rumber, ride Rumber, ride Rumber, ride Rumber, etc. We did take about a 20 minute break to chat up one of the maintenance men, and between two of the rides I went to the snack bar. They had run out of ice, but that did not stop them from charging full price for drinks. That will be $1.75 for a lukewarm Pepsi. That warm soft drink may be my only compaint about the park.

We kept riding, and riding, and riding, and riding,until as you know All Good Things Must Come to an End, and they had cut the line. We made our way out of the park before the park owners had formed their recieving line.

On the way out Power Surge and Rocking Tug were performing well as light pieces to help guide the way out to the parking lot.

Many Thanks to Dallas Jones and family and staff for having us, and congratulations on your first very succesful coaster event.

We made our way back to our hotel where we did get checked in on the second try, made our way up to our room. Futzed around on the internet and prepared for bed.


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