I spent the night in Chattanooga and visited Rock City in the morning before my drive down to Alabama. If you are ever in this neck of the woods I highly recommend you at least stop and check out Rock City. It is a really cool place with a lot of local history.
I made it down to the deep south in the early afternoon and checked into my hotel. I was still really sore for my mishaps the weekend before at the swift water rescue training in California. My left thigh had a deep bone bruise and a rib on my left side was cracked pretty good. It made it difficult to walk and even worse to sleep since I had a real hard time getting comfortable. With all that being said, I grabbed a quick meal at Cracker Barrel. Who doesn’t eat at Cracker Barrel on road trips. I love checking out all of the stuff in the gift shop and can’t help but buy a handful of those candy sticks. I went to bed early as I knew it was going to be a long weekend with a lot of coaster ridding as part of the conference.
Check-in for the ACE Preservation Conference was set to open at 2:00pm at Alabama Splash Adventure which is located just a few miles from Birmingham and if you had a chance to listen to the podcast, S-Town earlier this spring, the little town of Woodstock was not too far away either. I was one of the first in line and got my creds. We waited for a long time in the sweltering Alabama heat, of course this is the Alaska guy whining here, before they let us into the big meeting hall to start the festivities. There were lots of people here! This being my first event with ACE, I had no idea what to expect but I sat down and started talking to my fellow coaster junkies at my table. I met a nice couple that have been on coasters all over the world and I loved hearing about their multi-week trip to Europe with ACE a few years ago.
Soon after we went on a behind the scenes tour of Rampage, the wooden coaster that was recently restored and it looked great! Splash Adventure was not open to the public yet for the season and we had the park all to ourselves. It was cool to get underneath the track and learn the history behind it. I love that stuff.
Afterwards we posed for a group picture. There has to be a least a hundred of us here, and then they opened up the kiddie coaster, Centipede. I rode it a couple times. For my non-coaster geek friends, there is a thing called coaster counts or coaster credits. It is the number of times you have been on roller coasters. Some have been on hundreds and a few have been on thousands. A lot of people ride the same coaster over and over again and rack up credits–I guess that’s the way they do it. For Michele and I we just started getting coaster fever three years ago on our first Rock n Roller coaster tour when we visited parks on the East Coast. To date have over 200 coaster credits but, at least for me, I only count one ride as a credit.
A little more coaster vocabulary. There is what is called ERT or Exclusive Ride Time. This is the most coveted part of any conference like this. ERT means your group and only your group has access to the rides during that time. That means no lines and unabashed coaster thrills! Usually it as a couple hours, sometimes it is ride times when the park isn’t even open or maybe in the dark.
After our rides on the Centipede and a couple other rides that were open, we headed back to the meeting hall for dinner and announcements. At this conference it was all about history and preservation of the old coasters. Over the coming days plaques will be given to some cool old school coasters and ACE will give recognition to the history of these great thrill rides. We heard from Dan and his mom, Pat who they affectionately call The General. They are the owners of the park and it is truly a family affair. The Koch family has a long history in the theme park business and took over this park in 2014 with hopes of making it great again. Pat is awesome. She runs around the park on a golf cart and can often be seen with a walkie-talkie on her hip. During the festivities Pat and Dan–who for some reason was dressed up like Gilligan from the old 60s tv show, told stories about how they came to be as the new owners and their plans for the future which included first, to restore the Rampage coaster.
After dinner we all headed for ERT on Rampage. It was awesome. It was fast. It had great air time and just enough whip in your seat to keep you on your toes. I rode it a few times, once in the front row, once in the very back and once somewhere in the middle. Again, for those that may not know much about roller coasters, it can be a very different experience in different cars on the track and the most coveted are the first and last cars.
From their website:
Rampage will take you 120 feet off the ground and send you back to Earth at 56 MPH. Hold on as you ride through unforgettable turns and drops on this wild, fast ride!
I know some of my fellow ACE’ers stayed well into the night riding the coaster but I was back on the road at dusk. I was heading back up toward Chattanooga and for day two of the conference that would start at Lake Winnie, another small, family owned park that did not disappoint. I arrived at the hotel around midnight and pretty sore but being the only one from Alaska at the conference gave me a few bragging rights and it was fun to tell stories about my home to my new coaster friends.
Up Next: Lake Winnie and Six Flags Over Georgia with ACE
Coasters to date on the tour: 15
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