Tuesday, June 22, 1999

Brits fly 5,000 miles to brave 'glorious' Beast




BY JIM KNIPPENBERG
The Cincinnati Enquirer

        Let's spend the day at Paramount's Kings Island.

        OK? Say, with 92 Brits from the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain (RCCGB). They were here Friday and Saturday on the Woodiestock '99 tour, a 16-day, 14-city Midwest roller coaster frenzy.

        They spent Friday on the Beast and its coaster cousins, Saturday at Americana on the Screechin' Eagle and Sunday busing to Cedar Point on Lake Erie.

        Why Kings Island? “There's a handful of really famous coasters in the world,” said RCCGB president Andy Hine, “and your Beast is one of the best.”

        These riders are the lucky ones: The 92 here, said Sylvia Bloor, were selected by lottery from hundreds who tried to sign up (92 was the cut-off because of limited plane and bus seats.)

        A diverse group, this: Professionals, blue collar, big city, rural, young, old — “Oh, we're 18 to 60 thereabout. Rather cheeky of you to ask, Love,” said one rider.

        They're also deadly serious, said Hine, a free-lance writer here on his sixth Kings Island trip. “I told them this is a coaster tour only. Even if we pass something like Niagara Falls, wave to it out the window. This is a serious coaster tour.”

        How serious? Consider:

        • “I have “been waiting 20 years to ride the Beast,” said Ryan Hackett of Milford Haven, Wales. “Ever since it opened when I was 19, I've followed it. I memorized the video and studied the track; I know every turn and dip.”

        Hackett had one problem: “I've never been on a plane before, and I was terrified, but I said OK, if there's no other way. I went in to hypnotherapy for the fear. I was still terrified. But I'm here.”

        • Michael Colao and Morag McBride are so serious they used the trip to celebrate their third wedding anniversary. “Funny way to do it, 'eh? Falling out of the sky on a little train,” Colao said.

        • Kemal and Sunny Jung went one better: They were honeymooning. “Odd, isn't it? Honeymooning with 90 people you don't know, charging down hills,” McBride said.

        • So serious that by the time the tour ends Wednesday, they will have ridden 69 coasters (16 parks) and spent a bundle. The tour was $2,000 for air, hotels, bus and a few meals. Most food, souvenirs and incidentals were extra. “People think we're nuts,” Hackett understated.

        • So serious that even in a group of 92, “We only have 17 Beast virgins,” Hine said. “Even 5,000 miles away, they get here.”

        And the verdict? After 8-10 rides between 9:15 and 10 a.m., before the park opened:

        “Awesome is the first word that comes to mind. The speed, the height, the helix, that's the best, that double helix,” Hackett said. “Worth every minute of terror on the plane.”

        “I rode 15 years ago, so I've forgotten some,” Colao said, “but it's still glorious. My only regret is that trim brakes were on,” (trim brakes slow the train down at key points.)

        “Oh yes. I'd like to have one in my back garden,” McBride said. “We'll come back, if we get a chance.”

        Next chance? 2001: “I guess that's more hypnotherapy for me,” Hackett moaned.

        Knip's Eye View appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.

        Psst! appears Sunday, Tuesday and Thursday. Have an item to report? Call Jim Knippenberg at 768-8513; fax: 768-8330.

KNIPPENBERG ARCHIVE