If you've been keeping up so far, you know that we've covered Credit Whoring and what exactly determines whether you can even count a particular ride as a credit. So with all of this Creho talk, let's just round out the trilogy with Creho: The Road Trip.
The starting point is Palm Springs, California. There are friends in Phoenix, around four hours east of here, and Phoenix has a miniature golf complex with a couple of coasters. By all accounts, both of those coasters are ho-hum at best, but they are credits, so it was a done deal that the trip should be made. A quick check of the park's operating schedule indicates that rides will be running. Sweet.
Then a check on rcdb.com to see what, if anything, is nearby that can also be added. It turns out that there's a place called Schnepf Farm in Queen Creek, which only adds 41 extra minutes to the drive. They have a junior-sized coaster. Score!
A check of the farm's website indicates that they will be open, but it seems that the coaster only runs during festival days. Of course, the festival days are completely incompatible with our travel plans and also fall on days when the park in Phoenix doesn't run their rides. Still, the website isn't entirely clear about when/if the coaster will run, so I sent off a quick tweet to find out for sure.
Woo Hoo! This doesn't suck AT ALL. So now it's set. The trip will start off at Schnepf Farms, then backtrack to Phoenix for the visit with friends and the other two coasters. I'll go ahead and mention now that the park in Phoenix got rescheduled for another trip (likely next year) after arriving and finding that the main coaster was down, apparently waiting for a part to come in. So the little coaster at the Farm was the sole credit in a 700 mile round trip. All aboard the Creho Express!
Turns out that Arizona looks just like California, just with a different state flag. At least the desert portions do. It wasn't long before the vegetation changed up a bit and saguaro cactus began popping up all over the landscape. These are the cactus that I refer to as "Looney Tunes cactus" because reasons.
One thing I noticed: Phoenix/Scottsdale/Tempe/Glendale (which are all really one big city with no real divisions between them) was super-clean and all the roads looked like they had been freshly paved. It wasn't until later that I realized the Super Bowl would be held there the very next weekend, so suddenly it all made sense. Still, it was nice. Around 45 minutes southeast of town, the Farm appeared and we were greeted with a nondescript entry gate:
I'll fess up right now. If not for the coaster, I wouldn't have ever considered going to a farm for fun, let alone doing a 700 mile round-trip drive for one. Even with the "$1.50/lb for organic veggies you pick from the gardens" fresh produce angle, that's a hell of a drive for some carrots and such. Wouldn't even cross my mind - but they have a coaster, so here I am.
FYI: If any owner of any attraction, be it a flea market, farm, zoo, kiddieland, picnic grounds, whatever, is reading this right now, please understand this: you can add one small coaster, even a used one, to your place and it will attract visitors who would have never come to your place otherwise. Ask around, it's true.
Anyway, back to the farm.
Yep. That's a farm, all right. It's also not very crowded, mostly because it's January and there isn't much in season right now for people to come and pick. I'm betting that when the trees and vines are heavy with fresh produce, this place is hopping. I'm off to find the store, though, as I've been told that's where my contact person will be for the coaster. I should point out that the Farm was unaware that this ElloCoaster site exists when they offered to run the coaster for me, so it wasn't some sort of "hay (spelling intentional), maybe we can get some publicity out of this" move, they're just Really Nice People.
I found the store.
I should mention that while the thought of traipsing around a farm wouldn't have gotten me to visit, this store/bakery would've been worth the drive. In addition to a bakery cranking out fudge, cookies, pies, and such, they have jars and jars of preserves, cobblers, pickles, salad dressings, marinades, etc etc etc. All of them promising to be unique and delicious, none of them the sort of thing you'll find at your local Piggly Wiggly. Sure, there's apple butter, but there's also pumpkin butter and sweet potato butter. Garlic jelly, jalapeño jelly, marionberry jelly... seriously, just look at this! And this is only one little corner of the store.
Oh yeah, we're coming back in here before we leave. For now, though, it's time to find the lady who will hook me up for the coaster. Sadly, the names of everyone I met completely escape me as I type this - one of the things about myself that aggravates me is my inability to recall names - but the lady was young and friendly and introduced me to the guy who would run the coaster. On the way to the rides section, he mentioned that he was from Up North and while he loved the warm winters in Arizona, he was not looking forward to the blistering heat of summer.
The coaster is in the back of the farm and along the way, we got a chance to see the place. Of course, there were some animals for the kids to see...
...and this unexpected surprise. A 1912 Parker carousel that was purchased from an individual in 1999, refurbished over the course of three months, and is listed on the National Registry of Historic Carousels.
Any park who is willing to put the time, effort, and expense into salvaging an antique or historically significant ride so that future generations can enjoy it automatically becomes near and dear to my heart. Preservation is important, dammit. Sure, the latest tech with the biggest thrills and the craziest gimmicks are exciting and I love a giga coaster as much as the next guy, but in my book you don't get to label yourself an "enthusiast" unless you have an appreciation and respect for the history.
It's like movies... movie fans will flock to the latest Michael Bay movie or the next Twilight flick, but a true film buff will also delight in Casablanca and Citizen Kane.
So Schnepf Farms got a double-dose of respect from me for not only saving the carousel, but also this:
The Miler coaster company is still in business and making some really snappy medium-sized fairground coasters that travel the fair circuits. Portable coasters are their specialty, so if you want to ride one (and you do!), you usually have to chase one down at a fair - or find one of their kiddie coasters at some small mom-n-pop park somewhere. I love Milers because the flat steel (not pipes) track makes them a bit bumpy like a wood coaster. The portable structure, not bolted to cement footings like permanent installations would be, rattles and vibrates and makes the whole thing seem rickety. Lastly, they nearly always give you a much more exciting ride than you expect from a coaster their size.
This particular model was brought to the Farm in 2007 and is ultra-rare in that only three of these were ever built and this is the last one still surviving. It's much larger than their kiddie coasters and the model was called "The World's Largest Portable Coaster." Let that sink in for a minute. Yep. When this was new, coaster tech was so primitive that this was the largest portable coaster. Holy cow, this thing is OLD for a steel coaster. In fact, it is 62 years old in 2015, making it one of the oldest operating steelies in the world. It pre-dates the invention of tubular steel track- that now-standard technology design would debut with Disneyland's Matterhorn Bobsleds three years later.
My host says that he's going to go turn the ride on and run it a few times before I can get in. This is when I get the first glimpse of the trains. Oh my.
CHROME. FREAKING. TRAINS.
Gleaming, shiny, beautifully-restored, CHROME FREAKING TRAINS. Instantly, the 4.5 hour drive down here was totally worth it. Not only has Schnepf Farms saved this coaster from extinction, but they're maintaining it better than some parks who spend more each year on advertising than the Farm budgets for their entire operation. It's immediately obvious that this isn't just a bargain-priced used coaster that they've plopped down here for a few years until it falls apart, this is a piece of history that they're genuinely caring for and keeping in pristine condition. The chrome trains reflect the desert sun in spectacular fashion.
Now it's time to ride!
The first drop is barely tall enough to get the entire 7-car train entirely on downhill track, but it does. It's a pretty speedy descent for a family coaster and front-seat riders get a hefty dose of laterals going into the first turn.
The turn is slow, giving kids a chance to recoup after the "big drop". It's also a nice setup for the string of bunny hops on the back side.
After a couple of trips up front, I headed for the back seat. Any fan of Milers knows that no matter how small the coaster, the front and back of the train give markedly different rides. One more reason to love Miler coasters!
The back seat is actually pretty damn good. The first drop has a nice "yank" over the top and the bunny hops are full of punch. The best part, though, is getting the view of that absolutely gorgeous chrome train snaking around the layout in front of you.
Look at how well-maintained they are! Nothing is frayed, the upholstery is perfect, the chrome shines like a mirror. I sincerely hope that the locals appreciate what a genuine treasure they have right in their back yards and I also hope that they will be able to grow up and take the next generation for a spin on it as well.
So once again, being a Creho pays off in spades. A "let's go add another kiddie coaster to the list" trip becomes a surprise hit with the discovery of a last-of-its-kind coaster being in better shape and better cared for than most steel coasters a third its age. Kudos upon kudos to the fine folks at Schnepf Farms for the obvious love and care they give to it.
Speaking of the folks there, I should also point out that every single employee I encountered there was genuinely friendly - not that "fake friendly" you get from Walmart greeters or the waitress in the all-night diner at 3am, but the kind of friendly you get from people who are genuinely glad that you've visited and want you to have a good time. That sort of thing is almost as rare as their coaster.
Oh, and we did stop back at the little store on the way out and load up on stuff, most notably some peach pancake syrup and some peach/onion hot sauce. Nice.
The show-stopper, though, came from the bakery:
This is where I should probably just stop typing, because there aren't any words in any language that are adequate to describe how unbelievably freaking delicious this peanut butter cookie is. Or was. It's a really good thing that we didn't taste it until we were already on the road, because one bite of this thing while still in the store would've ended up with us buying out the rest of their stock and eating every single one ourselves. They're that good.
So if you're within a day's drive of Phoenix, a trip down to the Farm is a worthy diversion. Friendly folks, a spectacularly-maintained antique coaster and carousel, and the Best. Peanut butter. Cookie. Ever.
Thanks to Carrie, Connor, and the rest of the folks at Schnepf Farms for a great day and for keeping history alive for generations to come.