Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Pirate's Cove - Mega Post!

Darkride designer Bill Tracy built many walkthrough funhouses in the 1960s and 70s, but only two remain. Both are named Pirate's Cove and are located 500 miles apart, at Waldameer (home to the Bill Tracy Whacky Shack) in Erie, Pennsylvania, and Trimper's in Ocean City, Maryland (also home to the 1964 Tracy ride-through Haunted House). Trimper's built theirs in 1971 and Waldameer's Cove opened in 1972.  I wanted to do a photo walkthrough of both rides and also show the similarities and differences between them. This will be a long post, so I'll be happy if you stick through to the end!

The first pic is of one of the entrances to Trimper's. The crow's nest with the terrified pirate used to be at Waldameer as well, but it was removed years ago.

Note that Waldameer has an apostrophe on the sign, and Trimper's doesn't. I know you care.
Here's the more detailed Trimper's facade. The "barker" parrot animatronics at the center were added within the past 30 years to give the front some extra ballyhoo. They run through a spiel and move a little.
Both rides have spooky skulls on the exterior. Waldameer has the bonus of the mouths opening and closing!

Along with the skulls on the wall that faces the midway, Trimper's has a nice mural.

When you enter the Trimper's version, you cross a rope bridge and navigate a tilting floor of a ship before arriving at the first interior stunt, the moving floorboards. Waldameer has an identical setup, minus the exterior stunts. If you take the "easy way," you'll be blown by multiple air jets.
Practically every Bill Tracy attraction has a diminishing corridor, and both Pirate's Coves have an example. It's a different sensation to walk than ride through one.
The next two stunts are identical between the two attractions. A shark diorama is followed by a circular room with a disco ball that you wind around several times.
The following room that you navigate is a "Mystery Spot"in both attractions. Trimper's has the better one, with a tableau that's supposed to show water running uphill into a drunken pirate's mug.                                            
Compared to Trimper's, Waldameer's tilt room is barer:
There is a flashing diorama on one side of a dog with some bones, though. Right after this in Waldameer's walkthrough is a scene of a monster that is not a Tracy creation. Trimper's and Waldameer's attractions are pretty different from here, so let's finish up Trimper's first.
This is a revolving barrel with a spinning disk at the end. It's hard to take a picture of it!
The drunken skeleton is a Tracy classic and is very similar to one at Waldameer that we will see in a second.
The skull waterfall is found in Trimper's Haunted House and the Waldameer Whacky Shack, the latter of which is seen below. Waldameer still has the water pouring out of the eyes!
Following a rubbery floor, you see this head in an outhouse hole, yet another classic gag.
The next scene is this skeleton captain, with clear influence taken from Disney's Pirates of the Caribbean. He's supposed spin the wheel, but that feature was MIA last year.
Tracy ghouls always have a certain look, and Trimper's has some of my favorites!
After this pop-up that doesn't work anymore, you navigate a maze of bars with a flashing strobe light (when it works...) and leave the attraction. Now let's take a look at the remainder of what you will see at Waldameer!
First off is this barrel maze, which shines in its new paint here. The barrels are real, and they make a hollow sound if you knock against one.
Here's a Tracy water effect that actually works, which is remarkable given that these props are nearing 50 years old and are made of chicken wire and paper mache. 
The skeletal captain is placed in a more elaborate setting at Waldameer, complete with rotating "quicksand" hands and a waterfall along the rear wall. You're also crossing a suspension bridge when viewing this scene.
This scene is another pop-up that no longer functions, but take a quick look at the face of the ghost in the back? Does it look familiar? If not, take a close look at the crow's nest figure at the beginning of the article.
Here's Waldameer's drunken skeleton, but this one is better since it has a "Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum" soundtrack and a rotating coil that makes it look like he's drinking!
Waldameer has a "jail maze" like Trimper's...
This is one of the best Tracy gags ever because of the humorous accompanying soundtrack. These heads seemingly "float" up and down while they each exclaim in different tones of voice, "I ain't got no body!"
A Tracy "Last Drop" gag completes the walkthrough! You have to love the toilet paper roll, and water trickles out from under the toilet seat.
Whew! I'm sure that was much more info that you ever wanted or needed to know, but I enjoyed piecing it together all the same. Trimper's apparently opened their walkthrough this year and gave every person that walked through a pair of rubber gloves, which is definitely a commitment on their part, but Waldameer chose to keep theirs shut. Hopefully, it will come back next year. Thanks for reading!

Wednesday, September 9, 2020

Ravine Flyer II

Located at Waldameer Park in Erie, Pennsylvania, Ravine Flyer II is my second favorite roller coaster. It features a unique and intense layout with extreme banking. A modern wooden coaster using a steel structure, RFII opened in 2008, although park management had been planning its construction since 1995.

                                                                                                                                                                                           The original Ravine Flyer lasted for 16 years in the 1920s and 30s, but it was closed following a fatal accident when a rider fell off the structure after attempting to leave a train that didn't make it up the next hill. One of the only known photographs of the original coaster is the one on this sign.

However, the station of the original Ravine Flyer was left and is still utilized as a picnic grove. The picture below depicts a good comparison of the original station at top alongside the present station.
Beyond being an awesome coaster designed by the Gravity Group (my favorite coaster manufacturer), Ravine Flyer II has several quirks that make it a one-of-a-kind experience. 
Waldameer is right on Lake Erie (like Cedar Point), so you get great views from the top of the lift hill before descending down the first drop.
One of the ride's features is the namesake ravine that it drops into. This makes it hard to get photos or video of its initial plunge.

After that surprise 118-foot drop, you do something even more surprising - you fly over the road that parallels the park, twist up into another hill, then fly back across the bridge. (Here's a Google Street View link of the bridge)
Erie is home to a coastal state park called Presque Isle, and that's the peninsula that you jutting out in the distance below. (Peninsulas always jut.) The blue covering over the bridge is to screen noise from reaching the adjacent trailer park. Those residents and the challenges of spanning a state highway created many difficulties in building Ravine Flyer II. It didn't help that the manufacturer that was to build the coaster went out of business midway through the planning process!
 Just as the ride starts to slow down, it goes through a 90 degree banked turn (permitted by the steel structure) at a speed that allows you to enjoy it before diving into the ravine one more time and returning to the station.
In 2019, I got to walk into the ride's "infield," close to the 90-degree turn, as part of a Great Ohio Coaster Club event. It was fun to watch the trains circle around you!