Roller coaster shopping is a tad more complex than clicking the “Add to Cart” button on Amazon Prime. It involves test riding, traveling overseas and, in some cases, struggling to communicate to a Russiancab driver who speaks five languages (none of them English) that you need to find an ATM because you neglected to exchange your cash for Euros at the airport.
At least, that’s the experience 2nd generation partner Jack Morey, along with COO Geoff Rogers, had during a recent, whirlwind trek through Europe. The mission: Investigate potential new trains (aka, the vehicles in which you sit) for our wooden Great White coaster, which reaches just over 100 feet.
Our intrepid duo started the six-day trip at Ireland’s Tayto Park, named for a company that invented the first flavored potato chip. In 2015, this theme park installed the largest wooden roller coaster in Europe, the Cu Chulainn. Inspired by an Irish mythological hero similar to Hercules, it’s reminiscent of the Great White in size and speed. But the front wheels of the Cu Chulainn trains —arguably the most technologically advanced of their kind in the world —exist on a separate axle and steering mechanism, meaning less banging around at every turn and way less wear-and-tear on the tracks. In other words: A potential win-win for both Morey’s Piers and our guests.
“The measure of a thrilling ride used to be how much it beat you up,” says hotel operations manager Zack Morey, Jack’s son. He wasn’t on this trip, but he did travel to Denmark and Sweden last year for the three-day, six-park, 16-roller-coaster crusade that resulted in the buying of our newest coaster, the Runaway Tram.“Today, that measure is how smooth the ride is.
”We already know we like the manufacturer of these trains, the Cincinnati-based Gravity Group —it’s a company comprised of “smoothing technology” engineers. And we also know Jack and Geoff enjoyed their experience aboard the Cu Chulainn—they rode twice just to be sure. The next step will be a trip to the city of Wisconsin Dells for another test ride, to see how the trains perform on a coaster with a more similar construction to ours. If all goes well, we may pull the ($1 million plus) trigger for a Great White upgrade in 2021.
Typically, these purchases are made at conventions hosted by IAAPA, the International Association of Amusement Parks and Attractions. (“They’re such a great mix between the sophisticated Europeans dressed in business suits, carnival operators and even clowns,” says Jack, who’s attended about 50 of these conventions and counting.) Sometimes, you can buy an entire coaster off the showroom floor, but more often than not the purchase of a major new coaster can take years. (There’s a ton of research and design involved, and only a handful ofhigh-quality manufacturers that serve six continents.) In Paris, another leg of Jack and Geoff’s trip, the guys did attend an IAPPA convention, but that was largely for top-secret business we can’t reveal... yet.
But roller coaster shopping trips are never just about buying. They’re also about getting inspired to bring new ideas and new energy back to the piers. For this reason, Geoff and Jack took a detour to Cologne, Germany. Here, they continued the comedy of errors that involved more failed attempts at exchanging their money (apologies to that cabbie!). But, more importantly, they visited Phantasialand, a favorite park of Jack’s father, Will Morey, Sr.
Will knew a thing or two about inspiration through travel, first during his honeymoon when he and his wife, Jackye, spotted a fancy hotel called the Americana in Mexico, which led to the development of Wildwood’s Pan American Hotel. Or, more recently in 1968, when he spotted a giant slide in the parking lot of a Florida shopping mall that he thought might be a hit on the Wildwood boardwalk, marking Moreys entrée into the amusement business.
The desire to travel for inspiration only grew from there. For this process, Will coined a word: Wildwoodize. In short, it means to see or be inspired by something so fantastic, it could never be afforded, then figuring out how to do it on a Wildwood, summer-season-only budget. It’s a mentality that’s stuck through each generation of Morey men.
So, what Phantasialand ethos might you expect to see Wildwoodized in the near future?
“The fantasy,” Jack says. “It’s mesmerizing, like being inside a children’s book. I always say: Think of that six-month old baby looking up in his crib, smiling at one of those mobiles. That’s how I want adults to feel when they step foot on the pier. The goal is to bring out the inner child in all of us.”
We’ll keep you posted on plans for upping our fantasy game. In the meantime —just trust us on this —get your money exchanged before traveling abroad.
ytterbiumanalyst wrote:Oooh I like the sound of that.
Took the words right out of my mouth. I don't think Great White is that rough of a woodie but if they're looking into making it even better who am I to complain? And if there's even more coming like they're alluding to, I can't wait!
That coaster dad  and that coaster kiddo .Road trip buddies for life. Dad's faves: Fury 325. Phantom's Revenge. Twisted Timbers. Intimidator 305. El Toro. Kiddo's faves: Talon. Alpengeist. Raptor. TMNT Shellraiser. Fury 325.
While the maintenance employees of Morey’s Piers are big and strong and — in some cases — hairy, the grizzly-bear comparisons end there.
“A lot of people think we hibernate all winter,” says Pat Smith, head honcho of the department. “But we are actually busier now than during the summer months.” (And that’s saying something, because our maintenance team is pretty busy during peak season, too, when they start doing daily ride-safety inspections as early as 6am.)
In October, things kick into hyperdrive, because with the parks closed, we’re “really able to look into the guts of every ride,” Pat says. We’ve already given you the skinny on our off season drone-inspection program, but that’s just the tip of the Curly Fry.
As soon as the final patron of the season has tilted her last whirl or wopped his last doo, 34 technicians on our maintenance crew begin working together in small teams to examine the mechanical and structural components of all 64 rides. The track of the Great Nor’Easter? That takes two guys about two weeks to inspect (while hooked into harnesses, naturally) so that no weld goes unprobed.
Our rides also need to be disassembled for further inspection, which means individual pieces are moved, sometimes by forklift, to a warehouse on the central maintenance pier, located on the beach between Juniper and Poplar Avenues. (This takes some doing, considering the carts of the Great Nor’Easter alone — i.e., the things in which you sit — each weigh approximately 1,200 pounds, or the equivalent of nearly six baby elephants.)
Inside the warehouse as we type this, three technicians are busy lifting the 44 steel wheel carriers of these carts —one at a time — onto a hydraulic press, a machine that will remove the spindle in order to replace their bearings. (The new ones will come from a parts room where we store 7,200 backup parts at any given time, each of them barcoded so we know if we’re running low.) The techs will also measure every wheel-carrying apparatus to make sure it hasn’t been worn down (even by a millimeter) over the summer. Each one weighs upwards of 150 pounds.
“We don’t need to go to the gym,” jokes technician Alberto Gerena. “At least not this time of year.”
If the guys spot anything in need of fixing, they’ll put in a work order so that an in-house team of ride technicians and welders can work their magic. But if the parts pass this phase of quality control (or, as we like to say in the biz, “QC”), they’ll be passed onto a third-party team for non-destructive testing. In other words: the super sci-fi procedures that identify wear-and-tear undetectable to the naked eye.
In some cases, this means employing roller coaster x-ray technology. In other cases, it involves magnetic particle testing, or applying a special liquid to a piece of metal before hitting that metal with a magnet. This move draws the metal particles in the liquid into any hairline or subsurface cracks. Translation: The invisible becomes visible.
These disembodied ride pieces also need power washing (we can’t have any Jumbo’s pizza grease seeping into our lap bars over the winter). And some will be sandblasted (with various materials, including crushed walnut shell, depending on the desired finish) and repainted.
It’s a job that Pat calls “voluminous,” both in workload and responsibility. These rides, after all, need to be 100-percent safe, which means our forensic offseason inspections have to be exacting.
“I sleep soundly at night, because I know we’ve followed every procedure to a T,” Pat says. “This is not a company that cuts corners.”
And the view isn't so bad, either, he adds: “I try never to forget I can look at the ocean every day I come to work.”
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