Adventureland, Des Moines, Iowa, June 24th, 2019. My first time at the park since 1990! How exciting. Back then, I was a young teenage coaster geek in a car with another teenage coaster geek and an adult of driving age. We were so excited to trek all the way to Texas and back, riding coasters all along the way. Many of the rides we rode are now gone (Astroworld, Bell's, Libertyland) or altered to the hilt (hi Timberwolf. You were once my #1!) Adventureland proved to still be a great park that is taking good care of everything, including it's classic wood coaster Tornado.
After cancelling a trip to the park last summer, I was happy to drive the 5.5 hours from Chicago to meet another park/coaster friend who was on a more extensive park trip from Toronto.
Walking into the park, everything pretty much seemed the same. A lower-key park, no blaring POP music or attempts to sell you anything. No advertisements at the urinals.
Being a full (or partially, at least) adult now, I view things slightly differently than I did when I was a kid. Coasters are still very important, but the whole park experience is paramount (no pun) to me. Adventureland is a beautiful park, I wish I'd gotten some pictures of the various flower beds. And the carefree baby bunny jumping across the path as we walked down one of the curving walkways. Everything looks great; the rides are clean and taken care.
The BIG surprise was the employees. Like some of the best run parks, there are many senior adults working in the park. They seem happy, practical, patient... and most of all, know what they are doing. There is a connection there; something that really doesn't happen much at some big parks (well... mostly the one chain, you know). How these senior-aged folks manage to give such great AND lightning fast service is beyond me. Ok, it's not beyond me. Having worked at parks during college, I know it comes from good training. They are given a good example of what to do and are treated with respect. The non-senior employees were dynamite as well!
The new spinning coaster Phoenix was testing while we were there. These are great designs and they'll eat it up at Adventureland. There used to be a Galaxy/Zyklon coaster called Super Screamer on that side of the park. We rode the ferris wheel, and I was commenting to a senior ride op that I remember the Flitzer coaster being right around there. Turns out it was on that very spot!
The 1978 Bill Cobb designed Tornado. Classic, simple and family-friendly. Love this view through the farmy-green.
This sign might look simple and dated, but being that and meticulously maintained, it really works. Even charming.
Disneyland-like entrance. I read somewhere they wanted a "midwest Disneyland" when building the park.
The skyride is something I couldn't be bothered with as a teenager. Well... except for a single trip to take pictures of the coasters. These days I consider myself a big skyride fan and take extra time to enjoy them. This one is especially nice, hovering right over the middle of the park and through a coaster! We took about 5 trips on this.
Note: not my picture, found online. The Adventureland Skyride in the 70s. Plunk down some rides in farmland and they will come! "We have to build it, we know they're coming!" - Will Koch of Holiday World.
The sun-tunnel (is there a formal name?) Again, looks a bit dated but being in such great condition, it works. It has an 80s charm to it. We used to have a vine-covered version of this at my home park, SF Great America. Love stuff like this!
Hurricane! The ride operator was an awesome and friendly dude of 71. Very excited to ride this carnival ride as I haven't been on this model since the early 80s. Hurricanes always seemed to be painted this same blue/gold color scheme. With flat seats (no seat divider, yippee!), you get maximum crush time against the side of the car. Very powerful laterals! I have a thing for rides with NO seat dividers.
Proving once more a carnival ride when taken care of can stand heads and tails above many modern rides. They don't make em like they used to.
Lady Luck is a classic Trabant. Same theme as the one in the Brady Bunch? I think so. Here we go again with an older ride that is taken care of and makes the perfect family ride. Looks great with a simple and well-manicured area around it.
There is a giant arcade building that has a Huss Break Dance called "G-Force." The arms do not have the ability to ride up on this, but it still looked fun. My buddy rode this, but I wasn't in a spin mode myself.
I was excited to ride The Underground as I've developed a thing for dark rides over the years. This is a Custom Coasters ride with a custom designed and built Custom Coasters train. It seemed like the chassis could be PTC and then Custom up from there, can anyone confirm that detail? Clearly a favorite of locals, the train meanders through a long tunnel, nothing fast. There seemed to be one 18-inch dip, barely noticeable. As a HUGE fan of Black Diamond at Knoebels, I think this ride could benefit tremendously with a few gags, lights, surprises... anything along the way. It seemed very popular as-is, so what do I know. Just think it could be much better! Either way, I'll be back on it.
A green Monster is wrapping around the skyride! New high-tech rides fit in great and give a nice contrast to the classics here at Adventureland; all are taken care of equally! Monster was great; the lift seemed very high looking back down. Great views, fun ride and a great overall presentation of the coaster. All that and only a few seconds to "get back to the midway" after getting off the ride. That's another gripe I have about my home SF park; they purposely design long and winding walkways "back to the park" after getting off coasters. It's what they do; gotta keep you busy and working up a thirst/appetite. It's not a spacial issue, it's intentional. Adventureland knows how to respect their guests and their time.
My only complaint was not being able to ride at night to see the light show embedded in Monster's tracks. The days are long this time of year!
Another new coaster for me on this trip, Outlaw. A Custom Coaster ride with a nice and steep twisting first drop. The ride is in good condition, with the exception of a couple pothole jabs particularly felt in the back seat. A geeky detail I thoroughly love about the design of Outlaw: 2 short straight track sections. One at the bottom of the 2nd drop, and another shorter section at the top of the 3rd to last hill. Straight track is totally underused and it's certainly not badass enough for some coaster fans. Flat track is a great place to get a moment of variety; a contrast section where speed feels different and visuals change. (And before anyone brings it up, YES, the flat sections of The Beast were awesome when taken at near to full speed in the 80s!)
The Dragon designed by O.D. Hopkins. During my first visit to Adventureland in 1990, Dragon was new and every bit as head rattling as it is now. Another Hopkins coaster, Desert Storm at Castles n' Coasters in Phoenix Arizona has the exact same train but with lap bars; there are even holes in the headrests where shoulder bars could have went, but the park wanted lap bars.
Dragon would benefit tremendously if the park changed to lap bars. The view from the lift is excellent and the layout could be fun with lap bars, but as is it's a rattling mess. The first helix after the loop is especially powerful, almost taken from the school of Schwarzkopf. The track has been painted over several times and the once glimmering white track now looks like dried up cottage cheese (or the lid on a bottle of White-Out, anyone remember that stuff?) This was the only place I saw what didn't look as cosmetically pretty as the rest of the park.
As a huge fan of pre-lift sections, I appreciate them trying here. But it's racket right out of the gate culminating to what sounds and feels like a car crash when you get to that tight curve. On a related note, I interviewed with Hopkins when I was an engineering student way back.
How about those nice trains Gerstlauer built for sooperdooperLooper at Hersheypark? They'd probably feel great on Dragon.
Storm Chaser by Mondial. I've been on 3 of the largest Wind Seekers (same make but higher) at the CF parks and I'm glad to report they still scare the heck out of me. Even this shorter model. For my first ride, I was wrapped around the restraint and scared stiff. At the end of the day, my friend took a couple extra rides on Monster while I rode this again. Then he waited patiently on a bench while I rode this 4 more times until the park closed. By that time, I was all arms & legs out, happy as ever.
The simple 'round' (as opposed to parabolic) Bill Cobb breakover on the first drop of Tornado. This gives you a good kick of what I like to call real air time in the back seat. I call it real air time as you actually get to leave the seat a bit, in contrast to some modern rides where you are stapled in from the get go. I'll take fun and moderate forces with basic restraints over extreme forces with extreme restraints any day. It's more fun to me.
Tornado is in relatively good condition. There is a little grind at the bottom of the first and third drops, and a bit after the turn-around. Most of that is pronounced in the back seat. They could use a little track work from Gravity Group, but it's nothing that I would classify as overly rough (B&M/RMC fanboys might disagree haha!) With all do respect to Great Coasters International and the awesome new coasters they build (and rehab: holy cow Ghost Rider!), please do not let them near this first drop. They have a thing for taking the kick out of first drops.
The ride is just as awesome as I remember, plus some. We don't have many woodies that have the higher buzz-bars anymore. Ratchet bars that have replaced many of them have much heavier locking mechanisms under the train: more weight -> more and faster wear and tear -> rougher ride. I've watched so many coasters changed over to ratcheting bars that simply loose their fun spirit soon after. Still popular, sure, but not as fun as they once were. As Tom Rebbie from PTC told me himself a couple years ago "we can give the park what they want."
Congratulations to Adventureland for keeping their wood coaster as classic as possible. I wish more parks would follow suit; maybe a restore trend will happen some day - never say never!
When I drove by the park the night before, blue train was in operation. It's nice to rotate trains. Even at the busiest time of the day, there was never more than a little over a train full of people in the station. Tornado is clearly loved by Adventureland regulars.
Heaven to me: a classic-ish PTC train that looks new. I say classic-ish, as there are seat dividers - which I think opened with the ride in 1978. Compared to all the ratcheting bar madness we had taking over our former classic wood coasters, this is a true treasure. How do they keep it in such great shape!? Adventureland takes such good care of their stuff. If it aint' broke, don't fix it!
The simple and classic Tornado logo on an impeccably maintained coaster train.
The "clearly a Cobb" turn-around of Tornado. The entrance and exit are partially fanned, while the bulk of the turn is flat. This is great stuff; you get tossed up a bit (especially in the front), slam to the right a little, level out to enjoy the view, then another little slam and down. There is a progression there that is part of the design. Another design element that isn't in these days. Being faster or having a huge dip in the middle wouldn't make it better.
The classic post card view of the classic Tornado. Great hair time in back!
Flood lights on the first hill at night quickly change colors.
The 2nd hill of Tornado is classic Bill Cobb; give them a kickin' first drop then almost stop them at the top of the next hill to show them what's coming. Another hallmark of his designs that many new coaster people don't get. Texas Cyclone, Riverside Cyclone, Judge Roy Scream and Tornado here all had that design feature.
The whole ride is visually in great shape; the paint is chipped here and there but you can tell they used high quality wood to build these wood coasters back then. Not much sagging or warping to be seen.
One last night view of Tornado. Next time, I won't wait so long to get back to Adventureland. Probably 2020!
We also rode the classic Tea Cups and train. The water rides looked great, but I opted out due to being tired. This trip solidified my decision to spend more time at well-run parks. Good service and a relaxed, care-free day run circles around a park that might have more coasters and cheap season passes. After this mini-trip, I don't even feel like going to my home park to ride the new coaster. If the whole experience is continuously sub-par, why bother? I know there is better quality.
I'm sure I'll jet up to my local park to meet friends for a couple hours (4 hours in 2 visits spent on my 'membership' this year so far) or to take a quick spin on my favorite rides. But more than that, I'm ready to take more of these short 2 day trips to what I consider higher-quality parks/experiences (Knoebels needs 4 days!) Thank you Adventureland for taking such great care of your park, the employees and your guests. You should be proud!
Great report...I'm an hour and a half away and I'm guilty of not visiting here enough. Like you I have the SF Membership and go to SFGAm a few times a year and Cedar Point a couple times a year. Granted they are two different animals but SF is really starting to irritate me with poor operations and service. Your report has inspired me to hit adventureland a couple times before the season is over I'll choose quality over quantity of rides.
I enjoyed your trip report. We recently discovered this park is close enough for us to do in a weekend trip. Iowa just seems like its a whole different world and never popped up on our radar before. Were hoping to hit this park up next summer! I hear a lot how great Monster is. Did it live up to hype for you?
After riding Lightning Run I can not understand why parks are not lining up to buy some Hyper GTX models. That little ride rocks
Canobie Coaster wrote:I'm really intrigued to experience just how bad Dragon's pre-lift is. It's incredible something so innocent looking can be so universally panned.
Don't let my words color your experience. My friend from Toronto had no problem with Dragon. But then again he's a fan of Canada's Wonderland SLC and there is no way I'd get on that again. Different opinions are a good thing.
grsupercity wrote:I hear a lot how great Monster is. Did it live up to hype for you?
The design itself is ok - it's mainly loop to loop to loop... but still fun. The flat loop is a hoot and fun to watch. The drop is great too! Being at such a nice, clean and well-run park with great ride operations makes it even more fun. Oh yeah - the presentation of the ride is top-notch; the sky ride through the middle really knocks it out of the park.
Fun! Adventureland really is great. I enjoyed your Holiday World comparison; I think that really is appropriate. Both parks look kind of average on paper, but once you get there and experience the hospitality, you get what makes them special.
Great TR of a park I've never visited despite growing up in the MW...and I could not agree more on your flat track comments (re: the Beast in the day)...but I do sometimes wonder if that is just an age perspective and we only remember it differently than it was in the day.
brneff99 wrote:(re: the Beast in the day)...but I do sometimes wonder if that is just an age perspective and we only remember it differently than it was in the day.
The in-depth Beast discussion comes up on another coaster forum every couple years; someone links to the 1979 breaking-in/construction video of the Beast to prove it wasn't very fast.
Thing is, that video was taken with empty trains; a freshly-built ride that was no where near being broken in. The speed we experienced in the 80s was real, I'm sure it's not the age thing. A few know it alls on that forum (who were not there) always say "that is just how you remember it."
But for those of us lucky enough to ride it back then, those memories are golden and real. I had 3 VERY fast rides on Beast from 87-88 where it was alarmingly faster than it usually was; these were the rare and much-coveted brakeless or near brakeless rides. I never had a fast ride on Beast after 1989. I mean sure, the ride is still fast, but not fast like back then. During a fast Beast ride (not possible now due to mag brakes) you got air time on that 2nd drop and the trains would run more than 1/2 way up the 2nd lift. I knew that ride so well. Starting in the 90s, it had a couple major step-downs in speed culminating with the addition of the magnetic brakes a few years after. They had to slow it down with all that extra train gear that had been added over the years (extra weight tears up track faster).
Geez did I get off topic, haha! Someday a POV of a fast Beast of long ago will pop up.
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