Rock n Roller 16: Michele Leaves and Holiday World

I dropped Michele off at O’Hare early in the morning. I was surprised how easy it was to get in and out of one the busiest airports in the country. Aside from being cut off a few times by taxis and frazzled moms dropping off their Jos. A Banks suit-decked husbands traveling to conventions in Des Moines to hawk their wares and sell insurance it was a quick in and out and back on the freeway heading south. My trip would take me through rural Illinois and Indiana on the way to Holiday World in all places, Santa Claus, Indiana.

Holiday World is a park I wanted to visited since I saw it on the Discovery Channel a few years ago. It has a bunch of coasters and one that knocks you back into your seat as it blasts you right out of the gate.

The drive took me about six hours and I arrived about 1 pm. The park is literally in the middle of nowhere, set close to farms and ranches about 15 miles off the Interstate. As soon as you walk up to the gate you know you are in a different type of theme park. A big part of recreation planning is a concept called ‘animation.’ This is a process that the designers use to make the visitors experience a “great” experience. You know what I am talking about when you think of Disney World or even a state fair. A lot of planning goes into this. The parks that we visited where on two basic animation themes, Six Flags with its DC Comics connections and Cedar Fair’s parks with Snoopy and the Peanuts gang. Holiday World was like you were experiencing a honest to goodness holiday as you worked your way through the park.

The park is divided up into Halloween, Christmas, Thanksgiving, and the 4th of July. How cool is that! I just wished my friend and coaster buddy Michele was here to check this out with me. This was the first park that I would visit by myself on this tour and although it was a lot of fun, it just wasn’t the same with out Michele. The first section I visited was Halloween. In this part of the park everything is decked out in scary pumpkins and frightful decorations. There were two amazing coasters, The Raven and The Legend.

The Raven is one of the top wooden roller coasters in the world. Here is some info from the Holiday World website:

The Raven wooden roller coaster flies wildly through the thickly wooded hillside of Holiday World’s Halloween section. Although it’s not the tallest or longest coaster at Holiday World, it is a fan favorite for its low swoop over Lake Rudolph, surprise fifth drop and extreme finish. The Raven features a 120-foot tunnel, drops of 85 and 61 feet, sharp turn over Lake Rudolph and a double-banked “s” curve at the bottom of fifth hill. Just like a good book, The Raven leaves riders wanting more…

This coaster was a blast. It was super fast and one that gets your blood pumping right from the start. Since I was by myself and the park was pretty empty I jumped at the chance to ride in the front seat!

I then headed quickly over to The Legend. I wasn’t expecting how wild this ride was. It was amazing. More from their website:

The theme of The Legend wooden roller coaster is The Legend of Sleepy Hollow, as riders race through the woods as if chased in terror by the relentless Headless Horseman. New in 2016: experience Legend reborn, with nearly 1,400 feet of new track (all eight layers!) and the addition of a fifth tunnel plus a new double-down element! This season, ride Legend again for the first time!

The most dramatic drops on The Legend measure 113 feet, 77 feet, and 64 feet (the 77-foot drop features the world’s first spiral drop). The double helix throws riders from side to side and the disorienting finish (with a new double-down feature added in 2016!) sends Legend riders back to Ichabod Crane’s one-room schoolhouse to study up on just how extreme a coaster can be!

I quickly headed to the back of the park to the Thanksgiving section for the coaster that I saw on TV. It was the mighty Thunderbird! This is what is called a launch coaster, it is not quite like Storm Runner that we rode at Hersheypark, which is more an out and back so fast you will miss it if you close your eyes, right Michele?

From the Holiday World website:

Now serving launch: Thunderbird, the nation’s first launched wing coaster!

What? No lift hill? That’s right! Thunderbird launches riders from zero to 60 miles per hour in 3.5 seconds. Then multiple loops, rolls, twists and turns begin: including a 14-story Immelmann loop, Zero-g roll, barrel roll, and the tallest vertical loop on any wing coaster!

Continuing Holiday World’s tradition of sending roller coasters through thickly wooded and hilly terrain, Thunderbird steel roller coaster at first soars and loops high in the air and then hugs the ground, surprising riders with rapid-fire “near misses” such as chimneys, a windmill, other rides, trees, and even <gulp!> a barn.

After trying to contain my smile and recover from a heart attack I headed right down the road to The Voyage. This is by far the granddaddy of them all in this park. You can see its hill from the parking lot with the colorful flags flapping in the wind. From the website:

In 2013, TIME magazine named The Voyage the top wooden roller coaster in the nation! The Voyage is an air-time machine, with riders experiencing a feeling of weightlessness for a total of 24.3 seconds. This extreme ride takes the traditional out-and-back layout to the edge of insanity, with one of the steepest drops on any wooden roller coaster in the world. The Voyage is 1.2 miles long, placing it among the planet’s top three longest and fastest wooden coasters. The Voyage also has three sections of extreme, 90-degree banking. We carved out five underground tunnels for The Voyage, which is a world record. And some of those tunnels are wide enough that we roar through them twice, creating a total of eight “underground moments,” one of which includes an unforgettable “triple-down” feature. The Pilgrims never had it so good!

Who would have thought that this little park in the middle of nowhere would be this awesome. I was so happy I made it a part of the tour. Not only did it have three amazing woodie coasters that rival any of the huge theme parks like Cedar Point or even Kings Island or Busch Gardens but this park was just special. It was intimate. It was brilliantly laid out and just fun! I hope someday soon we will be able to visit again.

My hotel was about 45 minutes to the north in a little community, Jasper, that makes you think of rural Americana. There were tractor dealers, farm supply companies and feed stores. There were mom and pop groceries and little community banks. So much different than the big city of Chicago that I left earlier this morning. My stay would be at a Super 8. I would swim in the pool and eat at Shoney’s. If you have never been to Shoney’s make sure you take a minute to stop. I highly recommend the triple decker hot fudge cake. I haven’t had one of these since I was a little kid and boy did it bring back memories.

Later that night I would speak to Michele. She would be back home in Alaska and I would see her in about a week. But the phone call ended up being a rather frothy one! It was Michele’s job to check the beehives when she got home. They hadn’t been checked on in almost two weeks and if you don’t know anything about bees, if you don’t check on them in the middle of the summer they will swarm. We have six beehives and Michele had never checked them before by herself. It ended up being quite the night with our daughter first calling in a panic with Michele screaming in the background! “THERE IS A BEE IN MY EARRRRRRRRR!”, screamed Michele. Evidently, a bunch of feisty bees got in her bee suit and gave new meaning to ‘bee in your bonnet’. With me on the phone, 3000 miles a way Nicole in a panic, our friend and sled dog handler Vanessa running home because bees somehow got down her pants, I tried to calm the crew down. After it was all said and done Michele got about a dozen stings and a vow that she would never check the hives again. I guess this might mean that the 2017 roller coaster tour will be in the colder months? As I am writing this in January I think next year we will do our tour during the week between Christmas and New Years. We will head to Florida and not only ride coasters at parks like Disney and Universal but also catch some of college football’s biggest games; the Orange Bowl, Outback Bowl, and Citrus Bowl. We will christen it The Coaster and Bowls Tour 2017 whatcha think, Michele? (Add-in: Michele here: love the name of the tour but we gotta add in a rock concert. Eh-Um but no joking at all, I will NEVER be a head beekeeper and I will NOT check the hives again! It was by far the most frightening event I have ever endured.)

Until then I would spend a lot of time in the truck heading toward Texas. Tomorrow I visit my aunt Linda and cousin Lauren. I haven’t seen them in years. It will be fun to catch up!

Tomorrow: Family Time and Storm Chaser  

Coasters to date on the tour: 72

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