As someone who has had the pleasure to experience over four hundred roller coasters, it is rare that a park announces a ride that truly wows me, at least among the North American parks. Yes, I look forward to trying the latest and greatest creations, and even rides that may not look particularly impressive on paper can wind up delivering a much bigger punch than expected. However, most of the time I'll see a new ride, say something along the lines of "It looks pretty good," then add that park to my revisit list for the next time I'm in the area. 2018, therefore, differed from the norm, as a certain park in the Midwest unveiled what looked to be a serious contender for the title of best roller coaster ever built. What was that ride? Steel Vengeance.
Immediately upon returning from my inaugural visit to the Sunshine State, I set to work planning an epic summer adventure for 2018. Looking at parks I either had not visited or wanted to return to, the original plan was to start in Philadelphia and head west across the state of Pennsylvania, making stops at every decently-sized park along the way. From Cincinnati, the trip would turn northward, trekking all the way up to Michigan's Adventure before doubling back and ending at America's Roller Coast on the shores of Lake Erie. It was to be a grand two-week adventure, with an outstanding variety of parks and a few other interesting activities. Unfortunately, due to a complicated set of circumstances, a massive change in the itinerary was required. What resulted ended up becoming known as the Keystone, Timbers, and Vengeance tour...a trek through Ohio and Pennsylvania featuring stops at a dozen theme parks of various sizes and designs, culminating with a celebration of our nation's independence in the place where it was born. Even better, this time I wouldn't be traveling alone. In addition to myself, four friends who you may or may not recognize joined me on this adventure:
-Joshua, my younger brother who currently lives in North Carolina and provided the use of his car for the trip.
-Douglas, a well-known poster here on TPI (DHindley) and over at WDW Magic, where you can view his trip report: Visions of Steel & Wood.
-Evan, a friend I met on one of the Theme Park Review trips and who joined me on last year's adventure to Florida.
-Kevin, another coaster enthusiast friend of mine who joined me on the Silverwood/Lagoon trip last year. His trip report will be featured on his own site, Incrediblecoasters, as the Mini Midwest Tour.
Several other friends of mine also met up with us for one or two days of the tour, so they will be mentioned when relevant.
One last thing to note before we begin...unlike my previous trip reports, this trip mostly covers parks I have visited previously, and as such will be more of a story and less of a review. I will include links to past reports I have done on this site for those who want more of an analysis of the parks. Yes, I'll still include rankings where appropriate, but the overall report will be more about my experience than about the parks themselves.
Now, it is time for us to begin. Get ready, because the 10 part adventure begins now.
The Keystone, Timbers, and Vengeance Tour
Part 1: The Henry Ford & Greenfield Village
As has become a tradition on my trips, we begin this tour at Los Angeles International Airport late on Saturday, June 23rd, as I wait at the gate with Kevin and Evan for our overnight flight to Detroit. Despite less than stellar reviews, for this trip I opted to give Spirit Airlines a try, as it was less than half the price of the competition. Fortunately, other than a small delay the flight was pretty uneventful, with nothing worth complaining about that isn't an issue among all budget airlines.
The next morning, we were met at the curb by Joshua, and after a brief rest at his hotel room and a breakfast at McDonalds we headed off to the Henry Ford. There, we met up with Douglas and another well-known TPI member, James Koehl, for a tour of the Henry Ford museum. Douglas and James had spent the previous day at Greenfield Village, an attraction accompanying the museum, so unfortunately their tickets were restricted to the museum only on this day. At James's suggestion, we decided to start with Greenfield Village, then join them in the museum after lunch. Therefore, after transferring Douglas's luggage to Joshua's car, we split off and each went our separate ways for the morning.
Located adjacent to the museum itself, Greenfield Village is the first outdoor living history museum ever opened to the public. Dating back to 1933, the complex features a large number of historically significant buildings, most of which have been relocated from their original locations and preserved here in the state they were in at the time of maximum historical significance. Visitors are free to roam the village and enter most of the buildings, where they are often greeted by an interpreter from the appropriate time period to give them a tour. The sizable grounds can be toured on foot, or visitors can take a train around the property or a guided tour in an authentic Model T.
With only about three hours to explore the village, we opted to bypass the upcharges and explore the village on foot. During the tour, we made stops at several notable buildings, including:
The Wright Cycle Shop and home, where the invention of the airplane first began.
Thomas Edison's Menlo Park Complex, the location of his laboratory and where most of his research was conducted. This was one of the more interesting stops, with working examples of equipment Edison had available to himself at the time he invented the lightbulb.
The Ford Family Home, where Henry Ford was born. This house was furnished exactly as it was when Henry Ford was a child.
Firestone Farm, which is still a working sheep farm in the village.
The Logan County Courthouse, the place that Abraham Lincoln began his law career.
Ackley Covered Bridge, a historic bridge built in the 1800s for horse-drawn wagons.
The Farris Windmill, dating back to 1633 and often claimed as the oldest standing windmill in the United States.
In addition to touring the buildings, we also spent time strolling through the village and interacting with performers. This is not a place that is best seen by rushing through to check out the highlights. Rather, it is all about taking in the atmosphere and imagining that you're back at the turn of the 19th century. For those who have followed the Theme Park Apprentice competition, this is James Koehl's Americana 1900 park brought to life...well, the park minus all the thrill rides.
By noon, we had completed a reasonably complete tour of the village, so we grabbed lunch at "A Taste of History," Greenfield Village's food court. Here, a variety of different food options were available, all based on old recipes from the 1800s. Soups, sandwiches, and potatoes dominate the menu, with a few other things (like sausages) thrown in for good measure. The food wasn't bad, though I wasn't overly impressed by it either. It definitely was an interesting meal that is slightly adventurous but still a fairly safe option for those on the more conservative side.
With a plan to meet up with Douglas and James around 1 P.M., we took a few photos as we made our way back to the entrance and then crossed over to the main part of the Henry Ford complex.
Henry Ford Museum of American Innovation
Celebrating innovation throughout the history of the United States, the Museum of American Innovation began as Henry Ford's personal collection of historic artifacts. Today, it contains a vast assortment of historic machinery, vehicles, and pop culture relics dating from the early 1900s to today. The sizable museum is arranged into several galleries, each with a specific focus.
Heroes of the Sky is a section dedicated to aircraft. As expected, this section contains a large display on the Wright brothers, as well as the prototype helicopter and the first airplane to fly over the north pole. There is also an exhibit simulating the experience of air travel throughout the decades.
Driving Across America is a showcase of not only classic and record breaking cars, but also many of the items typically associated with a cross-country road trip. Old travel literature, neon motel signage, and a recreation of a roadside diner can all be found here.
Two large steam locomotives stand at one end of the museum, with a gigantic model railway nearby to depict the evolution in rail travel across the United States.
A fairly sizable section of the museum was dedicated to heavy machinery, with a focus on power generation. Several of the items in here were still in working order, with demonstrations occurring throughout the day.
One corner of the museum was full of farming equipment.
Another section housed miscellaneous oddities, largely things you would find in a house.
The last section focused on US History, with a number of historical artifacts on display. Some of the most important were the bus on which Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat and the chair in which Abraham Lincoln was assassinated. Unfortunately, I didn't think to get a picture of this area.
As Douglas and James had already spent the morning in here, we did a quick lap with them to get an idea of the highlights, then James departed to head back home (he would be joining us for the next couple days as well). We toured the museum for about an hour, then at 2:30 we all reconvened in the central hall. With a consensus that we'd all seen everything, it was time to head out and begin the drive to our first theme park of the tour...Cedar Point. It was time to return to one of the best amusement parks in the country, and this time we were coming with a vengeance.
Overall, the Henry Ford was a very interesting place to check out, and a great way to ease into the trip after a sleepless night on the plane. While I'm not sure I would say it's worth a special trip up to Detroit just to experience it, should you find yourself in the region it is well worth a day to check it out. Greenfield Village requires a little more time than we had for a comprehensive tour (I'd probably say 4-5 hours), while the Museum of American Innovation can be toured pretty easily in an hour and a half, making the two a great combination for a day out in Detroit.
Next Week: Seeking (Steel) Vengeance at American's Roller CoastTweet
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