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Mitch Hawker 2011 Wood Coaster Poll!

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My list shuffles around a lot each year. While some folks will leave a poorly-performing ride at a higher rank based on rides in years past ("It ran like crap this year, but it's a really good ride"), I have a system of ranking when I do the poll that weighs heavily on how well it ran the last time I rode it.

Basically, I take each coaster and start it at the bottom of the list (I use the drag-n-drop helper) and think to myself, "if this coaster and the next one on the list were side-by-side and I could only ride one of them, which would I rather ride?" I keep moving up the list and asking that question until it reaches a point where the next coaster on the list is the favored one, then I stop and go to the next coaster and do the same thing.

That tends to help me get past the problem of trying to compare wildly different kinds of coasters and deciding which is "better" - a white-knuckle twister like Boardwalk Bullet vs a classic, nostalgia-laden out&back like Screechin' Eagle for instance - I just imagine them both and pick which one I'd rather ride.


That tends to give a lot of weight to how well the coaster was running the last time I rode it, which is OK. This explains why Legend broke my top 10 this year.

One of these days I may go back and see how different my list would be if I were to base it on my "best ever ride" on each coaster. I can easily do the top five in my head:

[1] Texas Giant during a November Texas Giant Fest with ERT on frozen, icy tracks. ZOMG (early 90s)

[2] Voyage during nighttime ERT at CoasterCon

[3] 1978 Texas Cyclone (first year I was tall enough to ride in the back seat)

[4] Opening night on Boardwalk Bullet - the infamous "rain rides" at the very end of the night after being closed due to weather for about an hour

[5] Screechin' Eagle by myself in pouring rain with several inches of water in the floor of the car

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I think I'm going to try the Drag and Drop method even though I have ridden most to them. Does anyone have any insight into how the coasters are ordered before you drag and drop. I just expected them to be in the same order as the normal method.

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While some folks will leave a poorly-performing ride at a higher rank based on rides in years past ("It ran like crap this year, but it's a really good ride")


That approach seems to reward a poorly maintained ride with a higher ranking than it deserves.

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Personally, I rank based on my average rides I've had. And I may change my ranks slightly based on how long ago I've ridden it last. For example, I haven't ridden Tremors in about ten years. It was really good last time I rode it, but recent reports I've heard say its gotten rougher, and it's needed topper track. So I will usually rank it down a few points until I can get out there to ride it again.

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I'm planning to submit my ballot shortly after Christmas. I don't think my standings will change much, except for Phoenix jumping up a few places in the top ten and the addition of those crazy Wild Mouse rides in Australia.

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^^How is The Boss at #2 on your list?!

I'm a little late to this one, but I thought the rides I had on Boss on Halloween night 2009 were AMAZING. Right now, it ranks at #12 out of 74 currently ranked woodies. The three big drops and the double helix of death were completely insane! I think if it had better rolling stock than the G-trains, it would rank even higher. But that's just me.

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Andddddddddd here is my poll!


The Voyage Holiday World IN,y,n,1

Boulder Dash Lake Compounce CT,y,y,2

El Toro SFGAd NJ,y,y,3

Ravine Flyer II Waldameer PA,y,y,4

Evel Knievel Six Flags St Louis MO,y,n,5

Prowler Worlds of Fun MO,y,n,6

Thunderhead Dollywood TN,y,n,7

Phoenix Knoebel's PA,y,y,8

Rampage Alabama Adventure AL,y,n,9

Lightning Racer - T Hersheypark PA,y,y,10

Lightning Racer - L Hersheypark PA,y,y,11

GhostRider Knott's Berry Farm CA,y,n,12

The Boss Six Flags St Louis MO,y,n,13

Kentucky Rumbler Beech Bend KY,y,n,14

The Legend Holiday World IN,y,n,15

Raven Holiday World IN,y,n,16

Wooden Warrior Quassy CT,y,y,17

Twister Knoebel's PA,y,y,18

The Beast Kings Island OH,y,n,19

Apocalypse S. F. Magic Mountain CA,y,n,20

Dania Bch Hurricane Dania Beach FL,y,y,21

Boardwalk Bullet Kemah Boardwalk TX,y,n,22

Jack Rabbit Kennywood PA,y,n,23

Thunderbolt Kennywood PA,y,n,24

Comet Great Escape NY,y,y,25

The Grizzly Kings Dominion VA,y,y,26

Excalibur Funtown USA ME,y,y,27

Blue Streak Cedar Point OH,y,y,28

Wild One SF America MD,y,y,29

Cyclone Astroland NY,y,y,30

Wildcat Hersheypark PA,y,y,31

Gwazi-Tiger Busch Gardens-Tampa FL,y,y,32

Gwazi-Lion Busch Gardens-Tampa FL,y,y,33

Big Dipper (SBNO) Geauga Lake OH,y,n,34

Giant Dipper Belmont Park CA,y,n,35

Thunder Road Carowinds NC,y,n,36

Screamin' Eagle Six Flags St Louis MO,y,n,37

Grt Am Scrm Mach SFoG GA,y,n,38

Roar SF America MD,y,y,39

Rebel Yell Kings Dominion VA,y,y,40

Great White Wild Wheels Pier NJ,y,y,41

Racer Kings Island OH,y,n,42

Cyclone SF New England MA,y,y,43

Hell Cat Clementon Lake NJ,y,y,44

Cannonball Lake Winnepesaukah GA,y,n,45

Comet Hersheypark PA,y,y,46

Racer Kennywood PA,y,n,47

Colossus S.F. Magic Mountain CA,y,n,48

Le Monstre La Ronde QU,y,y,49

Judge Roy Scream SFoT TX,y,n,50

Cheetah Wild Adventures GA,y,n,51

Skyliner Lakemont PA,y,n,52

Kingdom Coaster Dutch Wonderland PA,y,y,53

Yankee Cannonball Canobie Lake Park NH,y,y,54

Leap the Dips Lakemont PA,y,n,55

Georgia Cyclone SFoG GA,y,n,56

Thunderbolt SF New England MA,y,y,57

Wildcat Lake Compounce CT,y,y,58

Hurler Carowinds NC,y,n,59

Hurler Kings Dominion VA,y,n,60

Timber Wolf Worlds of Fun MO,y,n,61

Rolling Thunder SFGAd NJ,y,y,62

Thunder Run Kentucky Kingdom KY,y,n,63

Comet Waldameer PA,y,n,64

Son of Beast (SBNO) Kings Island OH,y,n,65

Mean Streak Cedar Point OH,y,y,66

Blue Streak Conneaut Lake Park PA,y,n,67

Thunderhawk Dorney Park PA,y,y,68

Big Dipper Camden Park WV,y,y,69

Woodstock Express Carowinds NC,y,n,70

Ghoster Coaster Kings Dominion VA,y,n,71

Woodstock Express Kings Island OH,y,n,72

Sea Dragon Jungle Jacks Landing OH,y,y,73

Lil' Dipper Camden Park WV,y,y,74

Rattler Fiesta Texas TX,y,n,75

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Finally done. Here's how things worked out:


1. Boulder Dash

2. Ravine Flyer II

3. (Millennium Force)

4. The Legend

5. El Toro

6. Shivering Timbers

7. The Voyage

8. GhostRider

9. Prowler

10. Renegade

11. Thunderhead


79. Little Dipper (SFGAm)

80. Mean Streak

81. Lil' Dipper (Camden Park)

82. Son of Beast

83. Hurler (Kings Dominion)


Yes that is Legend at #4, I really love the ride. Fantastic first drop, enough airtime that I can't complain about a lack-of, relentless speed, and quality pain-free laterals. And it isn't a coincidence that three GCIs finish off the group in a row. They're all quite good and very similar, but since I enjoy a more rough around the edges wooden coaster I'm not sure I can rank a GCI higher without them changing their designs.


The last ride that worked out to be considered a "coaster I generally like" was Lake Winnie's Cannonball at #61. The first ride that's a "coaster I don't care for" is Hershey's Comet, #62. Out of 82, I'm not quite sure what that means.


Basically, I take each coaster and start it at the bottom of the list (I use the drag-n-drop helper) and think to myself, "if this coaster and the next one on the list were side-by-side and I could only ride one of them, which would I rather ride?

Glad I'm not the only one who does it this way. Though I do add some historical weight to my ranking. For example, on my last time to Indiana Beach (2010) Cornball wasn't running the best I've seen it. Based off those rides it'd probably go somewhere around #25-30. But on my two visits to the park before that (08, 09) it was fantastic with crazy ejector air on every crest. So I figured that in and the ride ended up at #12, a ranking that better reflects my opinion of the ride.

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^Looking at my rankings, I'd say I "generally like" about 52-54 of my 72 woodies. I guess I'm just agreeable.


I keep pretty good track of my ratings out of 10 thanks to CoasterFanatics, so I might as well check those out:


10/10: 3 (I've gotten as stingy with wood ratings as I am with steel)

09/10: 6 (mostly for rides I consider near-perfect, and generally have ridden enough times to feel confident in this)

08/10: 16 (some are clearly lacking something, some could go higher with further evaluation)

07/10: 16 (most have clear shortcomings, some have aged poorly, some just don't stand out despite their quality)

06/10: 24 (these range from good rides that were just too generic, to rides with only the slightest redeeming value)

05/10: 3 (mostly adult rides I disliked entirely)

04/10: 4 (my go-to rating for woodies in the "kiddie" and "family" categories, good or bad for what they are)

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My first time voting!

I've ridden 69 wooden coasters.


Here are my top 10:

1. Thunderhead at Dollywood

2. Phoenix at Knoebel's

3. Dragon Coaster at Playland

4. The Beast at Kings Island

5. Raven at Holiday World

6. Lightning Racer at T Hersheypark (tie)

7. Lightning Racer at L Hersheypark (tie)

8. The Voyage at Holiday World

9. El Toro at SFGAd

10. Cornball Express at Indiana Beach

11. Comet at Great Escape


Bottom 5:

Thunderhawk at Dorney Park

Thunder Run at Kentucky Kingdom

Hell Cat at Clementon Lake

White Canyon at Yomiuriland

Timber Wolf at Worlds of Fun

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Just submitted mine!


El Toro SFGAd NJ,y,n,1

Ravine Flyer II Waldameer PA,y,n,2

The Voyage Holiday World IN,y,n,3

Boulder Dash Lake Compounce CT,y,n,4

Raven Holiday World IN,y,n,5

Thunderhead Dollywood TN,y,n,6

Tonnerre de Zeus Parc Asterix FR,y,n,7

Kentucky Rumbler Beech Bend KY,y,n,8

Apocalypse S. F. Magic Mountain CA,y,n,9

Evel Knievel Six Flags St Louis MO,y,n,10

Prowler Worlds of Fun MO,y,n,11

The Legend Holiday World IN,y,n,12

Jack Rabbit Kennywood PA,y,n,13

Thunderbolt Kennywood PA,y,n,14

Twister Knoebel's PA,y,n,16

Lightning Racer - L Hersheypark PA,y,n,17

Lightning Racer - T Hersheypark PA,y,n,17

Racer Kennywood PA,y,n,19

Phoenix Knoebel's PA,y,n,20

Grt Am Scrm Mach SFoG GA,y,y,21

Cannonball Lake Winnepesaukah GA,y,n,22

Dania Bch Hurricane Dania Beach FL,y,n,23

Comet Hersheypark PA,y,n,24

Jupiter Kijima Korakuen JP,y,y,24

Swamp Fox Family Kingdom SC,y,n,25

Wildcat Frontier City OK,y,n,25




The Grizzly Kings Dominion VA,y,n,53

Gwazi-Tiger Busch Gardens-Tampa FL,y,y,55

Gwazi-Lion Busch Gardens-Tampa FL,y,y,55

Mean Streak Cedar Point OH,y,y,57

Boardwalk Bullet Kemah Boardwalk TX,y,n,58

Son of Beast (SBNO) Kings Island OH,y,n,59

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I just voted. Very little changes to my ballot this year because I did not ride all that many wooden coasters. My top 10:


1) Balder - Liseberg

2) Phoenix - Knoebel's

3) Boulder Dash - Lake Compounce

4) El Toro - SFGAd

5) Colossos - Heide Park

6) Ravine Flyer II - Waldameer

7) HellCat - Timber Falls

8) Cornball Express - Indiana Beach

9) Raven - Holiday World

10) Prowler - Worlds of Fun

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I decided to do my ballot today! Thought it was my duty as a coaster enthusiast to turn one in


Out of 68 wooden coasters, I'll give you my Top 20, and my bottom 5


Top 20

1. Boulder Dash – Lake Compounce

2. El Toro- Six Flags Great Adventure

3. Balder- Liseberg

4. American Eagle Red- Six Flags Great America

5. Lightning Racers Thunder- Hersheypark

6. Lightning Racers Lightning- Hersheypark

7. Hades – Mt. Olympus

8. Hellcat – Timber Falls

9. Kentucky Rumbler – Beech Bend

10. Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain – Indiana Beach

11. Evel Kneivel Six Flags St. Louis

12. Boss- Six Flags St. Louis

13. Shivering Timbers- Michigan's Adventure

14. New Mexico Rattler – Cliff’s Amusement Park

15. Timber Wolf – Worlds of Fun

16. Voyage – Holiday World

17. Le Monstre – La Ronde

18. Wooden Warrior – Quassy Amusement Park

19. Hoosier Hurricane – Indiana Beach

20. Cyclone- Six Flags New England


Bottom 5 (count Gwazi as my least favorite)

63. Excalibur – Funtown Splashtown

64. Predator- Darien Lake

65. Gwazi Lion Yellow-Busch Gardens Africa

66. Great American Scream Machine- Six Flags Over Georgia

67. Grizzly- Kings Dominion

68. Gwazi Tiger Blue- Busch Gardens Africa

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Mission accomplished, ballot submitted. Didn’t have too many changes for 2011 – not a lot of Ys in the “rode this year” column, and only two new additions.


The Champions:


(1. Fave steel – Expedition GeForce)


1. Balder

2. El Toro (SFGA)

3. Boulder Dash

4. Ravine Flyer II

5. Colossos

6. Troy

7. Thunderhead

8. El Toro (Freizeitpark Plohn)

9. Twister (Gröna Lund)

10. The Beast


And… the five woodies I like even less than Anaconda at Walygator:


117. Mean Streak

118. Grizzly (CGA)

119. Antelope (Still can’t believe kids are allowed to ride this – flagrant child abuse.)

120. Son Of Beast (How is this one not firewood yet?)

121. Bandit (I still suffer posttraumatic stress from the pummeling I took on this one. Wowch!)

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This was difficult after my top 5:


1. El Toro (SFGAdv)

2. Phoenix (Knoebel's)

3. Lightning Racer - Thunder (Hershey)

4. Lightning Racer - Lightning (Hershey)

5. Twister (Knoebel's)

6. Wildcat (Hershey)

7. Gwazi Lion (Busch Gardens Tampa)

8. Skyliner (Lakemont)

9. Rebel Yell (Kings Dominion)

10. Gwazi Tiger (Busch Gardens Tampa)

11. Blue Streak (Cedar Point)

12. Comet (Hershey)

13. Mean Streak (Cedar Point)

14. Rolling Thunder (SFGAdv)

15. Thunderhawk (Dorney)

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Was finally able to submit after getting back to the office to call up last year's ballot:


Top 20

Phoenix, Knoebel's PA,y,y,1

Coaster Playland BC,y,n,2

HellCat Timber Falls WI,y,n,3

El Toro SFGAd NJ,y,y,4

Balder Liseberg SE,y,n,5

Colossos Heide Park DE,y,n,6

Prowler Worlds of Fun MO,y,n,7

Thunderhead Dollywood TN,y,n,8

Thunderbird PowerPark FI,y,n,9

Shivering Timbers Michigan's Adventure MI,y,n,10

Rampage Alabama Adventure AL,y,n,11

Boulder Dash Lake Compounce CT,y,y,12

The Voyage Holiday World IN,y,n,13

Timber Terror Silverwood ID,y,n,14

My Favorite Steel Anypark Anywhere **,y,n,15

Troy Toverland NL,y,n,16

Ravine Flyer II Waldameer PA,y,n,17

Silver Comet Martin's Fantasy Is. NY,y,n,18

Wooden Warrior Quassy CT,y,y,19

Tremors Silverwood ID,y,n,20


Bottom 10

Lil' Dipper Camden Park WV,y,n,143

Tomahawk Port Aventura ES,y,n,144

Twisted Twins-L (S) Kentucky Kingdom KY,y,n,145

Wild Beast Canada's Wonderland ON,y,n,146

Rolling Thunder SFGAd NJ,y,n,147

Predator Darien Lake NY,y,n,148

The Grizzly Great America CA,y,n,149

White Canyon Yomiuriland JP,y,y,150

The Bandit Movie Park DE,y,n,151

Anaconda Walygator Parc FR,y,n,152


Tremors Silverwood ID,y,n,20

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Finally sent in my ballot!


Top 25

01. Boulder Dash

02. Coaster

03. Voyage

04. Phoenix

05. Giant Dipper (SCBB)

06. American Thunder

07. Timber Terror

08. El Toro (SFGAdv)

09. Tremors

10. Prowler

11. Hades

12. The Beast

13. Twister (Knoebels)

14. The Legend (HW)

15. Cyclops

16. Tornado (Adventureland)

17. HellCat (Timber Falls)

18. Renegade

19. Lightning Racer: Lightning

19. Lightning Racer: Thunder

21. Comet (Great Escape)

22. Wooden Warrior

23. Yankee Cannonball

24. Racer (KI)

25. Cyclone (Coney Island)


As you can see, I did opt to rank Cyclone fairly highly (a little out of my top 1/3) despite my disdain for its over-the-top roughness. The airtime it offers is fairly hard to come by, and airtime can forgive a lot in my book.


The Naughty List

55. Rolling Thunder

56. Mean Streak

57. Rattler

58. Hoosier Hurricane

59. Comet (Hersheypark)

60. High Roller

61. Thunderhawk

62. Wildcat (Lake Compounce)

63. Underground

64. American Eagle

65. The Grizzly (CGA)

66. Sea Dragon

67. Woodstock Express (KI)

68. Pegasus

69. Little Dipper

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I had Coaster ranked as my #12 wooden coaster (between CP's Blue Streak and the Beast - I had fantastic airtime on Blue Streak this summer). Because of it's loose restraints it provides a violent experience (not rough) pretty much unlike any other coaster. I'd compare it to Phoenix if it had ejector air and killer laterals instead of those comparatively gentle pops of airtime. I spent my first few rides on it just trying to keep from flying up and hitting the lapbar during the drops.


And it isn't anything like the wood coaster in Puyallup - that one is fairly tame.

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^Blue Streak lost its airtime too early in the course for me, so it's just about halfway down in my rankings.


As for Coaster, there was little I found tame about it. I agree that it's just about perfectly smooth, but can still hurt people with its ridiculous slams. I also appreciated that apart from the very beginning and end, I found no dead sections of any note. Throughout the rest of the course it would provide any of several often-uncommon kinds of airtime: floating, normal ejector, sustained stand-up ejector, insane fold-over ejector, even "diagonal" lateral/negative hybrid pops on the turns. I just can't get over it!


I still struggle to describe Coaster Thrill Ride as tame, because after only three years, I have developed a sentimental attachment towards it. But it does seem to be on a gradual decline. In 2009, if you rode in the back seat, at one point you'd be forced to a standing position as your ribcage was violently shoved into your partner, but I fear that drop has become tamer. In 2011, I found the front seat provided some satisfying, moderate pops of air at surprising moments. But overall, the airtime is pretty mild. I can't help but be disappointed about the individual seatbelts and the light covering added to the lap bars, but I'm still thankful they don't seem to detract from the ride experience.

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I just e-mailed my ballot to Mitch Hawker. Here's my top ten for 2011. I know you're all terribly excited!


1. Balder (Liseberg)

2. Phoenix (Knoebels: This one moved up a few spots in my top ten after my last visit--what an amazing old ride!)

3. El Toro (Six Flags Great Adventure)

4. Colossos (Heide Park, Germany)

5. My Favorite Steel (Expedition GeForce at Holiday Park, Germany)

6. Viper (Six Flags Great America)

7. Raven (Holiday World)

8. HellCat (Timberfalls)

9. Lightning Racer - Thunder (Hersheypark)

10. Lightning Racer - Lightning (Hersheypark)


And the infamous bottom five:


88. Hades (Mount Olympus )

89. GhostRider (Knott's Berry Farm)

90. Son of Beast (SBNO--Kings Island)

91. The Bandit (Movie Park, Germany)

92. Anaconda (Walygator Parc, France)


There were only three additions to my wooden-coaster ballot this year:


34. Wild Mouse (Aussie World)

35. Wild Mouse (Luna Park Sydney)

63. Scenic Railway (Luna Park Melbourne)


There were 92 wooden coasters total on my ballot. My Club TPR banner says 94, but that count includes two defunct rides: the Wild Mouse at Santa Cruz and the Starliner at Cypress Gardens.

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