Indiana Beach
August, 2001

After a six-hour trip, we arrived at Indiana Beach Camp Resort on Thursday, August 9. I think the name "Resort" was intended as an ironic joke. Our small site abutted a go-cart track. The ground was rocky and sloped severely downward. And this was the "deluxe" site! I went back to the office and asked for a different site. They gave us a tiny rocky plot of land abutting the bathhouse. So I went back again, and this time they gave us a larger spot that was level and shaded by trees. It was still opposite the go-carts, but at least the ground was nicer. Well...sort of.... There was trash everywhere. It was as if an overloaded garbage truck had taken a joy ride through the campground. We were the only campers in our area, so at least we didn't feel cramped. I was told we had a fire ring, but we didn't. So I took one from an empty site and placed it near us. Then we headed off for the boardwalk. The camp provided a ferry to shuttle its guests around the lake to the pier. It was a pleasant ride except for the stench of gasoline from the boat.

The ferry dropped us off underneath the Tig'rr Coaster. It was breathtaking seeing the long profile of the Hoosier Hurricane for the first time. The midway was densely packed with rides and concessions all intertwined with each other. We purchased our tickets for the evening session. (There were different pricing plans for different times of day.) There was a Water Wars game nearby. We were all drenched with sweat from the heat, so we cooled ourselves down with this water balloon game. Then we walked across the midway to the Hoosier Hurricane.

We couldn't avoid this ride on the pier: it hovered ten feet above almost everything. The tall structure dominated the midway. It was a long climb up the steel staircases to the station. We lined up for the front and in little time were seated in the comfortable PTC trains. The train sped out of the station and engaged the lift. The view from the top was impressive. I was surprised at how small Lake Shafer actually was. The ride itself was pretty rough. It felt like some retracking was needed. There was a great double-up. The dive under the bridge was really effective. Overall, there was less airtime than I expected. The view of the lake and the midway was what made this a good family coaster. In its current condition, though, I didn't want to take a chance on a back seat ride. Karen really enjoyed it, mostly for the ambience and the view. She felt it was the heart of Indiana Beach.

After that we went next door to the flume ride. It was a peculiar little thing that meandered through small tunnels and brush, eventually rising up a short lift and plunging steeply down to a moderate splash.

Then we decided to cross over the train tracks in kiddieland and try out the Beach's newest addition, Cornball Express. We climbed up a seemingly never-ending flight of stairs to get to the station of this little coaster. The track was all tangled up with the Hurricane. The only way to tell them apart was that the supports for Cornball were galvanized steel and the track looked new. The Hurricane supports were white and the track had weathered to a greyish brown. Cornball certainly didn't look like much. It was packed into a tiny area, all knotted up. The press I'd heard on this coaster was that it was a good ride, and was intended as more of a kiddie coaster. The big publicity gimmick of how it was the only coaster built into the structure of another coaster was a bit overstated. Only one small stretch of track (perhaps less than 100 feet) ran inside the Hurricane's lift structure.

So our son Mike and I climbed into the front seat of the standard PTC cars with individual ratcheting lap bars. The train pulled out of the station and dropped slightly, picking up an unexpected amount of speed. The track curved sharply right and banked--toward the outside! I was pressed hard against the right side of the train and then we engaged the lift, which ran alongside but opposite to the Hurricane lift. Upon cresting the top, I think I swore: the track disappeared from under me, steeply and sharply turning left. We plunged down the first twisting drop, running parallel with the Hurricane station and rising into an insanely twisted left turn. And what was that? Strong, catapulting airtime! We dove down and rose up again--and again there was ejector air that was sustained. Another sharp left-hand turn was followed by a great head-chopper drop through some buttresses. Then we rose up into the lift of the Hurricane with more airtime. Another quick left turn dropped us down through the structure. We circled around and climbed to the top of a tight clockwise helix, then barreled through it with intense speed and killer laterals rivaling The Beast and Legend. Then another hop and we were into the brakes. The train then followed a peculiar zigzag to line back up with the station. The whole course was refreshingly smooth.

If Hurricane was the heart of Indiana Beach, Cornball was the muscle. This coaster was an absolute joy and jumped into my top 5 list. Karen called it a baby Boulder Dash. We rode it several more times during our stay. I was amazed once again at how much power can be packed into a tiny wood coaster. This put Raven and Legend to shame. If there was anything I'd do differently, it would be to find some other way to get up to the station. That climb was pretty daunting. There was an elevator for handicapped use. I wasn't that desperate, but perhaps a series of ramps (like on Darien Lake's Predator) would make the long climb a little easier to take. I was glad that we rode this coaster when we did. I wouldn't be surprised that when word got out about Cornball, there will be really long lines....

The Tig'rr Coaster was located opposite Cornball. I didn't understand where the name came from. There was a Tig'rr concession next to this ride, so maybe that was it. It was a standard Schwartzkopf Jet Star, much like Great Escape's Nightmare at Crackaxle Canyon but without the building. It featured a couple of good drops and mean turns, and those bobsled-like trains. But the end of the ride sort of petered out, wandering about trying to find the station. A tunnel there would have helped. The setting was nice, right next to the water.

I coaxed the family into entering Frankenstein's Castle. I'd heard that this was a good walk-thru funhouse, but I knew little about it. There was a great ballyhoo, with an animatronic ghoul on a balcony and elaborate theming. The ride was an extra $3.00, but it was well worth it. We paid for our ticket and sat on benches behind the ticket booth. Then a stone-faced, monotone attendant emerged and beckoned us in. We were with a couple of teenage girls, who were in front of us. (That's the best way to experience a walk-thru -- they scream at anything!) The attendant took us into a tiny unlit room and closed the door. A spiel played, purportedly Dr. Frankenstein welcoming us to his castle. Then the room jostled a bit and lights flashed by like an elevator going down. The voice carried on in a sinister tone hinting that we wouldn't get back alive. The elevator stopped. The attendant opened another door and told us to enter.

The teen girls went first, followed by my wife and our daughters, then lastly Mike and myself. About every ten feet or so, the girls would stop in terror and let out blood-curdling screams, which in turn got my wife and our daughters screaming. They finally called for our son to pioneer the way for them. He was quite chivalrous, obliging them and every so often saying things like, "Be careful here. There are rats crawling all over the floor."

There were lots of simple yet effective stunts, lots of twisting dark corridors, a tilty room, a balcony looking out onto the midway, a very disturbing moving room that did nasty things to my equilibrium and a huge room with a spectacular ghoul rock band. That room contained one of the most effective gags I've ever encountered. It nearly stopped my heart. (I won't spoil it for readers haven't experienced it.) The exit was very effective as well. Overall, it was one of the best walk-thru fun houses I've ever experienced. My son and I went through it again the next day. I actually got lost the second time in the room of doors. (The entire complex had many well-labeled emergency exits and "coward" exits if needed.)

We next took a ride on Superstition Mountain. I wondered whether this qualified as a coaster. It ran on an elevated steel track. it had a couple of lift hills; there were portions of the ride powered by gravity alone. But generally, it probably qualified as a dark ride (or perhaps scenic railway). The four-person cars had two large rubber tires in the back and guide wheels in the front. The track wound its way through a large artificial mountain complete with a waterfall. The drops and turns produced pretty strong laterals. At times I thought the car would rip itself off the track. The stunts were definitely family-oriented: there were illuminated scenes of threatening wildlife (a cougar, a bear, etc...). The finale of the ride was fun, in the tradition of Knoebel's: a large train came barreling out at us.

I'm not sure what the midwest's fascination was with Falling Stars; every park we stopped at had one of those huge rides. The midway was packed with all sorts of other flat rides. I think Knoebel’s had the only antique car ride I'd ever been on that was as long as the one here. It was all tangled up with Superstition Mountain and traveled alongside the Hurricane. It was so long, in fact, that Karen fell asleep on it.

At the opposite end of the midway stood the S&S Double Shot tower. It looked so tiny, at only eighty feet high. There weren't many people in line, so we checked it out. OOOF! What a gut-wrenching experience! We were blasted up hard and then abruptly yanked down with such force I thought my head was going to separate from my shoulders. Then just as quickly the sequence was repeated and then the ride ended. I staggered off a bit dazed. The girls took a ride on a Tilt-a-Whirl and then we went for a long bumper car ride.

We hopped on the precarious-looking sky ride (precarious because just two small spring-loaded bars held us onto our skimpy seats) and got a wonderful tour of the whole midway. Back at the other end, we headed for the mini-golf course that was encircled by the Hurricane turnaround. What was it with Indiana Beach? There were more mini-golf courses per square acre than anyplace else on the face of the earth! (Which was fine by me. There were also lots of Easter Island faces all over the place and I don't know why.) There were signs everywhere warning parents to watch their children, because the edges of the course simply dropped off into the lake. There were no fences or barriers of any kind.

There was lots of food to be had. I got some terrific Italian Ice at Luigi's. I went to get a waffle cone at the ice cream stand. The girl behind the counter must have been having a bad day. There was a woman in front of me who asked for a drink, and the girl nastily said "Sure" under her breath, then began slamming things down all over the place and mumbling to herself. I walked out without getting anything.

We had a decent and inexpensive meal at Beachers Restaurant. On the way out of the park, we saw a peculiar concession. You could pay money to have a short ride on a small mechanical plush dinosaur. It didn't look like there were many takers. The lone employee was riding the thing around in a slow lumbering circle. We also stopped to play a game like Skee-Ball, except it was played with air cannons. We won some tickets we could trade in at the gift shop. We headed back to our camp to rejuvenate ourselves. Traveling on the ferry at night, the boardwalk looked like a glistening jewel on the lake. Our campsite was still peaceful and isolated. The go-cart track had shut down early. The air was finally cooling down and we had a good sleep.

The next day we got an early start and walked down the street to the boardwalk. The gatekeepers were giving away huge souvenir maps of Indiana Beach -- from 1996. We had a good breakfast at Beachers and got in line for our day session ticket. Some people there told us that if we had any Coke product, we'd get $3 off. So Karen hunted around and finally found a machine that sold Coke. She spent $5 on the cans and when she returned to the line, one of the ticket women was giving away empty cans.

We headed to Cornball and got a couple more great rides in. Then we went on the Den of Lost Thieves, a Sally shooting gallery dark ride. I liked this more than Lake Compounce's Ghost Hunt because the stunts (targets) were more three- dimensional. But those targets didn't function nearly as well. Overall, though, the ride was a lot of fun.

We took a ride on the bumper boats. They gave a fast, long and fun ride, much better than the ones at Holiday World. Mike and I tried out the Tank Battle game. I'd seen them at other parks but had never been on one. We both were seating in a single floating tank in the big pool. I took the controls at the bottom of the tank and Mike sat above in the turret. We had buckets of rubber balls. We could stuff balls into a compressed air gun in front of us and randomly shoot things while we rode around in the pool. We had a long claustrophobic ride. Our daughters manned guns outside the tank and fired at us. A direct hit would deactivate our gun for a few seconds.

It was so nice to not feel rushed at this park. There were a lot of people along the boardwalk, but the lines for the rides were never that long. So I didn't feel the need to stand in line for hours hoping to get my money's worth.

We walked toward the edge of the boardwalk near the Galaxi, where a crowd of people had gathered. There were little animal food dispensers there. We looked down into the water, and there was one of the strangest sights I'd ever seen: carp. Not a handful, not dozens, but hundreds of huge carp crowding each other out for a chance to catch a morsel of food. It was as if the lake was bubbling with masses of scales. It was both incredibly gross and fascinating. Karen couldn't get over it, all those fish with their mouths pointed skyward, opening and closing.

We took a ride on the Galaxi mainly because I'd never ridden one with tandem cars. I liked the funky atom-like structure in the middle of the far helix. It was also beautifully positioned, sitting over the water at the middle of the boardwalk. I noticed that the front got a hint of air time. But Mike nearly hemorrhaged in the back car. It was an okay ride, but I liked Canobie Lake's Galaxi better, which seemed smoother and wilder.

We spent the day in relaxed fun, wandering the boardwalk. We bought an enormous number of souvenirs at the gift shop. There were some of the best souvenirs I'd ever seen: great T-shirts, glasses, banners, magnets. Karen got a shirt that read, "I fed the carp at Indiana Beach."

To finish off our stay, we had a fancy dinner at the Sky Room restaurant, overlooking the pier. It was one of the best meals I've ever had--pasta primavera with Alfredo sauce, quesadillas and great french onion soup. We met Dave Wayne there, another coaster enthusiast, who extolled the joys of Shivering Timbers.

We went back on the ferry full and happy. For me, Indiana Beach represented what amusement parks are all about: a great time, great rides and great food. We were tired, but not exhausted. It was sad to see the pier disappear behind the trees as we glided away.

We returned to our campsite and at first thought we got off at the wrong stop: it looked more like a refugee camp. Tents were packed together like the carp in the water. We found our once-spacious site and discovered we were completely surrounded. In fact, the tents were set up so close that one of our neighbors started their own fire in our fire ring. Behind us was a large family with eight tents on two sites (!). They were running a drink mixer and blasting music. The go cart track was going full tilt. So we all went to play mini-golf at the camp's elaborate course. A cool wind was blowing in and we were all shivering (and I don’t mean "timbers"). It was a shock to the system to go from the suffocating heat of Holiday World to near autumn-like conditions. The course was a lot of fun, with bridges going out onto island holes and lots of interesting layouts. There was even a kids' "Paddy on the Railroad" ride at one end. But by 11:00 we were freezing. We walked back to our tent. Eleven o'clock was supposed to be curfew time, but the noise was still going full tilt. So I went to the office to report it. The office sent a security officer over and as he arrived the family immediately shut off the music. When he left, the music went back on, though slightly quieter. The go-cart track kept on until after midnight.

So to sum it all up, the camp sucked dead roaches. I would never stay there again. But Indiana Beach itself was incredible and I strongly recommend it. There was a wide variety of rides for every taste, but most importantly a truly wonderful atmosphere. There sure is more than corn in Indiana!

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