John Ivers Backyard / Blue Flash
I’m sure we’ve all dreamed of having a coaster in our backyard. Practically, that isn’t an option for most of us due to cost or land. However, John Ivers made it a reality. He has made not one, but two backyard coasters.
Most backyard coasters are junior coasters at best. But the Blue Flash is a bonafide thrill ride. In fact, that aggressive first drop and ridiculously compact loop made Blue Flash one of the most imposing coasters I’ve ever seen.
I think this goes without saying, but it needs to be said, DO NOT JUST SHOW UP AT HIS HOUSE! Believe it or not, this has been a problem for John. Every so often an enthusiast will show up unannounced or even creepier, they’ll come by to take photos in the middle of the night. Seriously WTF?!?
And as a safety measure John locks the rides out when he’s not there. Blue Flash has a padlock literally fastened to the rail that prevents the car from moving. Blue Too is a little fancier with a traditional control panel requiring a key.
The process to ride the Blue Flash began months (yes months) in advance. After booking my Holiwood Nights tickets, I started looking into riding the Blue Flash. The biggest question was how to contact him.
Not surprisingly, John’s phone number and email address are unlisted. So I had to think outside the box. More specifically, I had to think retro. I went with a letter. I think it was the first letter I had mailed in years.
And about a week later, John got back to me!
Flash forward to the Friday before Holiwood Nights. John Ivers lives about 1.5 hours north of Holiday World literally right off a highway. Add in the fact that the coaster is tucked beneath trees, and I’m sure many enthusiasts have unknowingly blown right past it.
As I pulled into their long driveway, Ms. Ivers greeted me from their porch swing. Moments later, the engineer himself came out of the house and introduced himself. Both John and his wife couldn’t have been nicer. You’d think they worked at Holiday World.
I felt like I had a VIP tour. John gave an overview how both the Blue Flash and Blue Too came to be. Even though Blue Flash is the far more ambitious coaster, you can see all John’s learnings applied to Blue Too. As an engineer, it was fascinating to see how these rides ticked.
And then it was time to ride the Blue Flash. The car looks like a wagon with a car seat slapped on top of it. John tightly secured the (former bullbozer) seatbelt and fired up his creation. There was no turning back now.
The first drop is wicked. It may only be 20-25 feet tall, but it packed a serious punch. It felt like a mirrored, more compact version of the first drop on Phantom’s Revenge. And the visual of the car clearing the shed is a sight to behold on its own.
Then came the pullout, which is arguably the most intense part of the ride. Whereas Phantom’s Revenge is refined and graceful on the pullout, Blue Flash is raw and untamed. As the Blue Flash uncorked, I was whipped to the side. Had I not been holding on, who knows where my upper body would have gone.
That’s followed by the signature loop. This has to be the smallest vertical loop in existence. Not only does it pack on the Gs, but it feels undeniably weird. It felt like I was performing a backflip. I’m pretty sure your head stays at the same place during the inversion and your body rotates around it.
Keep in mind the sequence I described is about 3 seconds in length. And it’s arguably three of the most intense seconds of any coaster. Blue Flash then felt like it was going to stall out on the helix finale, but I barely completed it each time.
John gave me three consecutive rides. Unlike most coasters which have a legit brake run, John “brakes” the ride by simply turning off the lift hill.
There are bigger, taller, and longer coasters out there, but there’s just something special about Blue Flash. Make no mistake, this is undoubtedly one of the most intense coasters out there. 8 out of 10
And like any good credit whore, I snatched a ride on Blue Too as well. Unlike Blue Flash, Blue Too is unquestionably a junior coaster. But in some regards, it’s a bit fancier than the Blue Flash.
For one, it has a two car train closer to what you’d find at a traditional amusement park. In addition, this coaster has an actual braking system. There’s a skid brake in the station that engages the back car.
Most of the course was an uneventful loop, but the first drop had some very surprising yank to it. There wasn’t any airtime, but I definitely was whipped forwards. 4 out of 10
So my visit was over in (if you will) a flash, but it was absolutely priceless to ride two of the most unique coasters out there and pick the brain of the designer and builder.
I am very thankful for John and his wife to take time out of their day to grant the wish of a crazy coaster enthusiast. Riding the Blue Flash (and Blue Too) is something I never thought I’d do. I may never get my own backyard coaster, but at least I can now said I’ve ridden one
Some other logistical notes. The Blue Flash currently has a weight limit of 180 lbs. John was very open about that from the moment I reached out to him.
There is no waiver, although John did say his home insurance went up once they learned of the coaster (go figure
There is no fee; however, John accepts donations. Considering many of us won’t even bat an eye as we hand over $10 for a stupid wacky worm, please be generous and support the man’s painting and maintenance fund. Riding these coasters is a priceless experience.