Trip Report: Indiana Beach
August 5, 2009
Indiana Beach, IN (near Monticello, IN) (on beautiful Lake Shaffer)
I am much delighted to bring you, after a 5 year hiatus, a report of Coasterville Con. I'm back with my friend Eric and we are back on the road doing what else, riding coasters, eating food, and seeing the sights.
I hadn't seen Eric in a few years, so I was much delighted when I met him after work on August 4. We went down that night to see the Reds take on the Cubs. Well, that didn't go over to well, as the Reds rolled over and played dead, and the fans made Great American Ball Park feel like Wrigley Field South.
But enough of that, around 9AM Wednesday, August 5th we are on the road with Miss Garmin navigating. This set us up to get to Shapiro's in Indianapolis right around 11AM for some nice corned beef sandwiches for lunch. I think Eric might have been a bit shocked at the size of his lunch. After lunch we take time to take photos of Lucas Oil Stadium, and then head up to Indiana Beach.
Okay, its like 2PM when we arrive on the scene at Indiana Beach. On the way to the park we pass a billboard that is both very true and misleading. It has a big full color picture of Cornball Express with the word "FREE" next to it in large friendly letters. In not so large letters under the word FREE are the words "General Admission" This is part of the new park managements changes to the park, in this case eliminating the general admission fee. We pull into the South parking lot and note that it might be a bit crowded today, we decline the opportunity to pay $5 to park in the first two rows of the South lot, opting to park in the third row for Free, and then walking through the empty first two rows. We were a bit of a ways away from the gate, so much so that we walked through a cluster of picnic shelters that proudly bore the sign: "NO PICNICS!" Huh?
We made our way to the front gate, and noticed the disused roto-gates at the exit. There are ticket windows at the top of the walkway into the park, but they had lines and we decided to take a chance on getting wristbands inside the park. So we walk right past those booths, head down a hillside and come to a new gatehouse built at the parking lot side of the suspension bridge. At some point in time, I think this is going to be a gated park. Right now this gatehouse has turnstiles on both sides, and a tensabelt barrier in the center for strollers and wheelchairs. An attendant is there enforcing dress code, I suppose, as they said nothing as we carried soft drinks right into the park. At the current time they have some turnstiles labeled "ENTER HERE YOUR FIRST TIME ONLY" and the others labeled "RE-ENTER ONLY" It all seems rather pointless, as there is no enforcement mechanism, so its just as easy to enter through whichever turnstile has the shortest wait. Hope they weren't trying to get any real usage stats out of that gate.
We then walked across the suspension bridge, and I tell you this is one of the greatest amusement park entrances, big classic rollercoaster lining the lakeside, with a sky ride and giant wheel visible. We get to the other side of the bridge where the general admission booth is boarded up, we proceed to walk down the steep ramp into the park.
We start walking down the main midway, and as Eric pointed out, the park exudes an atmopshere of Fun with oldies music and a boardwalk that looks like it is stuck in the 60's. We passed by a lot of classic rides and noted the parks new Splash Battle attraction, but we'll come back to that. We get about halfway downt the midway, to about where the Shafer Queen dock is and we come to a ride ticket booth with a shorter line. We pulled out a Walgreen's receipt and managed to get two ride all day wristbands for $30, total. What a deal! Another policy change is eliminating the early and late ride sessions, if you buy a rides wristband its good all day. In fact whereas the old owners seemed to try to shorten your stay as much as possible with 7 hour wristbands, the new owners are going for 2 and 3 day packages. We recieved our bright yellow wristbands featuring a park logo and a barcode that wraps almost all the way around the band. Before we could use the wristbands the cahsier activated them at the ticket booth.
We then headed for the rides, we had noted Lost Coaster had a full queue, so we headed to Steel Hawg. Steel Hawg is definietely a parking lot coaster. You head as if you were going to the north exit, in fact I think it is out further than the old northen general admission gate. They have constructed a new stretch of midway with games and the like so you don't feel quite out there.
Steel Hawg is the park's newest coaster, and "the only custom steel coaster in Indiana" It's main gimick is that the lift hill is not straight down, its actually something like 111 degrees, yup it is steeper than straight down, so you get a little inversion on the first drop, later on you go through a longer section of track into a turnaround upside down, and then towards the end there is my favorite element, something akin to a corkscrew or barell roll that is part of a drop. The rest of the ride is your standard compact trackplan steel coaster. The queue area is about 1/2 to 3/4 full when we join, and we are all smiles and making time out here in the unshaded hot sun, owing to efficient three car operation, when we get about halfway up the stairs to the boarding station and the ride goes down. Luckily it is down only about 15 minutes and we wait it out.
So, all in all about 45 minutes later we are beng welcomed into the station. What interests me is that the ride is designed for two stop loading, yet they routed the queue up into the unload end of the station, and put the exit ramp at the load end of the station, so oncoming and outgoing riders have to criss cross each other. So they group us lead us to the wristband scanner, then we head to the car. The ride has several 4 seat cars, of which they were running three today, made by S&S. Therefore its not too surprising they used seats that are pretty similar to their popular Screamin Swing rides, a real acute angle seat and a nifty lapbar that folds down from the side, and then can move up/down/forward and back to get a custom fit, I found the system to be pretty acommodating, then shoulder fingers lower down much like a TOGO train.
Once in the train, we make a quick turnaround out of the station, and the ride wastes no time getting you to the top of the lift hill. A turnaround at the top, then a freaky first drop, round a couple more traditional turns, excpet the banking all seems to be the wrong way leading to some pretty interesting ride forces. Halfway through the ride, the rides puts your car upside down and holds it there as for a good 3-5 seconds as you go through a turnaround. All in all it was a really good ride, nowhere near as bad as some would have you believe. I was most surprised with how smooh the ride was, and with little to no head banging. This coaster concept is a definite winner.
After trying out Steel Hawg, we start to make our way through the park, with our next stop at Hoosier Hurricane. Hoosier Hurricane is the parks oldest wooden rollercoaster. You board in a station two stories above the midway. You first go up one flight of stairs to a bridge that runs from the stairway, past the stairs down to the log flume station, then a bit further you have stairs that go up further to the Hoosier Hurricane station. The bridge is divided into three lanes by railings, and one outer lane feeds the log flume entrance, the other feeds the coaster entrance and the middle is the exit lane for both rides. You are expected to exit all the way to the bottom after either ride, and it seems like they have reinforced the railings to make this point clear.
We get up to the Hoosier Hurricane station, and the line is halfway down the second flight of stairs. When you get to the top, you go up a third flight to cross over the track, then you go back down to station level, get your wristband scanned and then choose a seat queue. I suppose they are supposed to admit riders from the line to the station between every cycle while the train is out on the course, but they were only admitting riders every 4 or 5 cycles, so the line would stand still and grow quite long, then they would seemingly admit everybody to cram into the station. We got lucky and got back car rides. We noted they were only running one train, and noted the train was in rough shape with several parts of the upholstery damaged, and the advertising logos on the sides had been removed. Lucky for us the ride still has the older style lap bars and no head rests. Its about as close to classic as your are going to get on a newer ride. We are soon dispatched and handslapping with those waiting in line is at least tolerated. You go up the lift hill, do a little S turn to the right then its a classic out and back layout all the way to the end of the peninsula and back. It's not a ride that's going to win any awards, it's a family ride that fills the role of "Classic amusement park roller coaster" We exit the ride and continue on.
Our walk next takes us through some games areas where I note that Cool Cash is now required to play arcade games. Cool Cash is the parks new cashless midway system, its a fairly agressive looking cash control system. At first blush I think its overkill for this type park, and a big waste of resources, but then I haven't seen the books to know if cash control is a big problem for the park.
We came to an alcove where we were saddened to discover the Air Crow (Flying Skooters) was closed, and Tigrr (Jet Star) had a pretty scary looking line, out in the unshaded heat. Cornball Express is in the area and its line is halfway down its long stairway. We were 'entertained' in the Cornball Express line by a pair of young kids who were having a spitting for distance contest, I kid you not. At the top of the stairs, we just missed the cutoff for the next train, and I looked at the wristband scanner, which is also setup to honor Cool Cash Cards as payment for the ride. I was shocked to learn the cash price of a ride on Cornball Express was $8.00! I think the wood coasters are $8, steel coasters are $6, major flat rides are $5. It would be a very expensive park to visit if you were paying per ride. At $30, one trip on all the parks coasters would break you even, even faster if you were using a two-for-1 special, like we were.
We settle into the back seat, I get recognized in the station, but I never did get to meet up with the person because by the time we exited the ride, they were out of sight. I'm happy to see Cornball still has the traditional style lap bars. Cornball is much more agressive than Hoosier Hurricane and is the parks twister style rollercoaster, seemingly built in mid air above the kiddieland section of the park, it is anything but a kiddie ride. This ride has nice potent airtime moments and everything.
We then decide to bite the bullet and go ride Lost Coaster (of Superstition Mountain) hereafter shortened to LoCoSuMo. It's a full queue, its running one train, and its a slow loader at best. I think I clocked this thing at 96-120 PPH. So what you have is a popular low capacity ride. The queue is right next to their famous taco stand, and I think they pump the smell from the kitchens into the ride waiting area. They also feel the need to paint directional arrows about every 5' or less through the queue, nevermind the fact you don't have much choice with the railing and all.
This ride uses one stop loading, the train pulls in, people get unloaded, the next group gets counted off, has wristbands scanned and enters. The trains are unlike anythign else you have ever seen. The trains consist of two cars, both shaped like clasic mine cars. Each car has two benches the front bench faces backwards, the back bench faces forwards, so you are looking at each other Face/Off style, and nobody has a good look at the trackwork ahead. You sit down in a plush overstuffed cushioned seat, and fasten lapbelts. The two riders furthest from the car door have to slide in under the lapbar, like on classic trains of old. After you are loaded the operator lowers the other half of the lapbar, covering the other two riders, then they close and lock the car door, this action checks the lapbar so it can't come back up. A real simple mechanical system. The cars also have roll cages, and netting has been fitted to the rollcages and is secured to the car sides all the way around, so you can't stick anything outside the car, when the lapbar is lowered, the net flap for the doorway is fastened to the lapbar, so when the bar comes down, the gap above the door is filled in. They then tell you to keep your hands inside the car, as if I had a choice.
The train then rolls off the station area and around to the elevator. You get a dark ride scene and an introduction about how rickety the elevator is and how you shouldn't trust it. When you get to the top get ready for the wildest ride. It's a wooden coaster, but it is tunneled for at least half of the time, which means you can class it as a scenic railway, but the layout is all impossibly tight turns, including many hairpin turns, so its also a wooden wild mouse. But its not content to leave you with just sharp turns, it also likes to pepper the ride with several short but sudden drops, even in the corners. The coaster took the place of a dark ride though a mountain, and it sitll has some dark ride stunts, sound effects, and all, but the insanely tight twisitng ride is the main feature. It's got laterals, it's got airtime, and I think the people who say its overly rough are wimps. For some reason, I don't think we'll ever see another coaster quite like this one. There is one part where you come out of the mountain and you are on fairly level track and slow down. You think you are at the end of the ride until you realize you are in back of the mountain. Just when you realize this you go down a tight twisting drop and the ride gives you one last dose before it lets you go. Wow! We have a winner!
After LoCoSuMo we walk the midway and realize the park is indeed quite crowded. Most of the flat rides have good size lines, you can't even get near Den of Lost Theives, which is no big loss beacuse I rode it at least a dozen times last visit when I was trying to wait out a rain shower. We headed all the way to the end of the midway, where I waited throgh a three cycle wait to ride Double Shot. At first it was almost a no-go as I was not even close to geting the buckle fastened on the seat I was originally assigned to, but the operator took one look at it and immediately moved me to another seat that had a much longer belt. (End seat, nearest the queue on the side looking right out at the lake) I am pleased to report the Double Shot still packs quite a mean punch here at Indiana Beach.
We then started walking back the other way on the boardwalk, and were heading to our car when the dive and jetski shows took our interest. I like how the dive tower is done up to look like a pirate ship. Hmm, two major amusement parks in Indiana, and both have high dive shows, is that a state law or something. The guy who did the high high dive wearing a flaming suit was a bit over the top, and the jetski guy was entertaing the fans down below doing all kinds of acrobatic stunts in the water. Rolls and flips on a jetski, no problem.
We took a break to get refreshed and get refreshments, then we re entered the park, after upgrading our parking space to almost right across from the gate, still three rows back of course. Back in the park, and the Water Swings were open, they were closed earlier. We took a ride on the Water Swings, its a Chance Yo-Yo built with a pier just big enough to load the ride, once the ride is loaded and the ride is at full speed, the chairs swing out well past the edge of the pier to great effect, particualrly since the Yo-Yo mechanism works very well on this particular example.
Next up was Splash Battle - its queue area was about half full. Unfortunatley they only had two boats on. Each boat does seat four riders, two facing front, and the other two facing back. Riders get secured merely by a seatbelt and a small door across the opening of the boat. To make life interesting each rider has a water cannon, its a manually operated cannon, meaning the harder you crank, the more water pressure you get. The layout is prety basic, you go out of the station, make a right, go to the other end ot the ride, do a hairpin turn comee back to make a turn around right next to the station, on its second trip out you do a S- curve and go through a short tunnel complete with water curtain, you then travel a nice striaght path past the midway, where people can pay a quarter for access to a water canon for a minute or so. Its also pretty simple, its basically a dark ride ride system, something that is time tested. Looking back behind the ride, the park must have 6 or 7 boats for the thing, which may be too many owing to how short the ride is, but clearly two boats is too few. Basically one is loading while the other is out on the course, so we never got the chance to interact with the other boat, and no one was interested in taking up battle stations on the land, so its a real neat idea, but it just didn't deliver.
Next stop, we noticed Air Crow (Flying Skooter) was running so we high tailed it over there. We are extremly glad the line was only a one cycle wait becuase of how poorly the ride is operated. I kid you not, the ride coms to a stop. Owing to the way the ride is designed, the seatbelts in the 10 birds have to be opened one at a time with a tool. So after taking his own sweet time unloading the ride, the operator goes to the gate. He then admits the riders for car 1, walks them out to the ride, gets them belted in, then comes back to the gate, gets the riders for car 2, walks them out to the ride, gets them belted in, and repeats for all ten tubs. It is an excruciatingly painful process. Then the ride starts, it last maybe 60 seconds, and snapping is forbidden, which is a shame becuase I really had to hold back or I would have been putting on an air show.
After Air Crow, we take another spin on Cornball Express, then head to Frankenstien's Castle. The Castle is a pay extra haunted house, it's $4 and worth every dime. We were about to go in when we realized we would be in the same group as a little kid who was clearly upset at just the mild frights in the lobby. We deicded to hang back in the arcade next door for about ten minutes, then came back. We bought tickets, and did learn the kid didn't make it into the castle, which is probably for the best. You are led into a waiting area where there are some coffins, one even says it has a vacancy. Every so often a group is admitted to the house where you start in one of those falling elevator illusions, this one seems particularly weak. You do get the rules about not touching the props, keep walking forward, and no backtracking. They have done a lot to discourage backtracking by putting several one way doors throughout the castle. I recall Sally modernized this a few years ago, and the tabluex through the house really bears that out. There are no live actors, but there are several tablueax as you walk through the haunted house. That isn't to say it's lost its fun house charm. Its got a moving foor, a shakerboard, a tilt room, a hall of doors (can you find the right one?), a falling balcony, a suspension bridge, a fat mans misery where both walls come closer and closer together until they leave a narrow passageway, a darkened area with rat sound effects complete with 'mousetails' that swat at your legs. At one point you do go out on a balcony overlooking the midway, all the better to mess up the dialation of your eyes after you have gotten used to the dark. As I said its a real neat haunt. They have a Frankenstein animatronic out front doing bally for the haunt, and during part of the spiel he acts like he is tipping his hat, but his head comes off with his hat. If that image you see for free outside the haunt upsets your children, forget about going inside.
From Frankenstien, we go to the roof of Dogs and Suds to wait a good 20-30 minutes to ride Tigrr, your standard Scwarzkopf Jet Star. They had two trains running, each with two cars. They were designed to seat two each, but almost every car goes out with a solo rider, folks just don't like riding in somebody else's crotch anymore. This year the park added automotive style retracting belts to the cars, which larger riders should not fear, remember they are supposed to be able to wrap around two riders. It's a fun old rare ride.
We then finished the coaster collection with a ride on Galaxi. Galaxi is neatly placed under a water slide complex, we got real lucky on timing arriving at this one, so we only had to wait 10-15 minutes, again 2 trains, each seating up to 8 people. She tried to put Eric and I in the same seat, but that just wasnt happening. That said, its pretty much your standard Galaxi except for the setting. At this point its starting to get dark, we head back to Steel Hawg but decide we only have time for either Steel Hawg or LoCoSuMo.
We make a big mistake and chose LoCoSuMo. We do stop in the big gift shop on the way to LoCoSuMo, where we look around, and I settle on a DVD about the park as well as an IB Crow talking bobblehead. Its a neat promotion item, the box credits William Robinson. When you bobble the crow he recites a short commercial for the park ending with the famous tag line "Proving once again, There IS more than corn in Indiana!" It was marked down from $13.99 for $5.
We then joined a long full LoCoSuMo queue, at this time an older man in a maintenance uniform was running the ride. This is not a good thing, as he was even slower than the crew that was here earlier, not only that he was more concerned with yelling at people to get off rails, no running etc, instead of running the ride. I mean he could have done this in the dead time while the train was out on the course, but nope he would wait until the train was sitting their empty to go all Law Enforcer. That took entirely too long, at one point the whole queue of people were contemplating all standing on the handrails en masse just to totally tick the guy off, or send him over the edge. Then he got you into the car and he was real particular about where you put your feet, how you held onto the lap bar, don't turn your head to side, dont have fun," Ride starts. He was the perfect example of how one worker with a bad attitude can bring your entire attitude about a park crashing down.
From what I gathered from chatting up workers, the park is not having a great season at all. "You came on the only busy day we have had all season!", they are spendng lots of money on infrastrcture like the cash control system that I think is a waste of resources, while trying to run the park on as few staff members as they can get away with. What that meant was that today, when the park WAS crowded, they were in no way prepared to handle the crowds.
Such is life, we relax and finish our park visit by having a nice relaxing gourmet meal in the Skyroom. Seriously, what is a gourmet restaraunt doing in a park like this. Veal eaters are used to being lucky to find one veal entree on a menu, they had like five. And its great food at that, I had a Veal Picatta dinner (entree, salad, veg, potato, rolls w/ apple butter, and a coke all for around $20). Not bad for in park dining.
After our dinner we headed back to our car, much later than we had scheduled to leve the park, but it just took that long to do everything with the crowds and poor park operations. What's worse? We have about a three hour drive to our hotel just outside of Louisville, KY. So we pulled into our hotel just around 1AM, grabbed the keys (they had them setting out all ready to go what with us being the last people to check in and all)
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