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This Date in 1979: The first time Don Helbig Road The Beast Roller Coaster at Kings Island

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This Date in 1979: The first time I came face-to-face with The Beast 

Don Helbig

Area Manager Digital Marketing - Kings Island

Twitter: @DonHelbig 

  

August 2 is a day I will always remember. It’s a special day – the anniversary of my first-ever ride on The Beast roller coaster in 1979.

Although I had been anticipating riding The Beast since the previous summer when Kings Island announced it was building the world’s longest wooden roller coaster, it wasn’t the first ride I headed to when I arrived at the park in the morning. I started the day by riding some of my favorites from previous visits to Kings Island since the park had opened in 1972, like The Racer, Enchanted Voyage, Grand Carousel, Flying Eagles, Antique Cars and K.I. & Miami Valley Railroad. And there was a ride up to the top of the Eiffel Tower to see if I could get a look at The Beast before riding. Only the two lift hills were visible.

A little after 2 p.m., the time had come to head to the southeast corner of Kings Island in Rivertown, get in line with a couple thousand others and come face-to-face with The Beast. There were drink stations in the queue and I still remember the songs from the playlist as I made my way toward the station: Ring My Bell by Anita Ward; Hot Stuff by Donna Summer; Knock on Wood by Amy Stewart; My Sharona by The Knack. (All of these songs remind me of my first Beast ride whenever I hear them on the radio or my Spotify Playlist.)

Finally, after a wait of approximately 80 minutes it was my turn to ride. Train 3, Car 3, Row 3. (The Beast had four-bench cars back then.)

As the train left the station, I admit I was a little nervous as it went out over a small lake and then up the lift where I heard that familiar clack, clack, clack of the motor beneath as I began to rise above the park and above the trees. I had no idea what to expect as the train reached the top of the lift hill and then I was off, plummeting down a first drop of 135 feet at a 45-degree angle into a menacing dark hole. This was not like anything I had experienced before as the train roared through the 125-foot-long underground tunnel.

As the train was coming out of the tunnel and I saw the light of day, there was a turn to the left and then down a steep ravine at a 32-degree angle and up a hill. Then a right turn. Finally, a chance to catch my breath. 

After going through a 350-foot stretch flanked by rotating tires on each side of the train and braking slowly, there was a sudden whip into a hard right turn and down into another ravine.

From there, it was into a tunnel for 83 feet where the course made a complete 180-degree turn, quickly outdoors for just a couple of seconds and then dropping down to the right into another tunnel. This one was below the surface and a little longer than the other, just over 100 feet, and starting a wide right turn.

After exiting the tunnel I was amidst the trees again as I continued the wide right turn, looking every step of the way as if the train was going to zoom off the edge to the bottom of the ravine to my left. Then it was down to the bottom of a hill and time for my second breather and the start of the third phase of the ride.

I was on a second lift hill with its familiar clack, clack, clack, through the trees, from the bottom of the ravine more than 540 feet of track, and 107 feet above the ground at the top of the hill. All I could think about at that moment was what have I gotten myself into? 

As the train crested the top of the lift, I caught a glimpse of the Eiffel Tower before the train made a sharp turn to the left and without warning, I was speeding down a 141 drop at an 18-degree angle, through the tree line and down the hill like a runaway train.

It looked and felt like I was going to crash into the trees, but the track entered a big roundhouse and the train went through a complete 360-degree circle, then another 180-degree circle – more than 600 feet altogether – the length of two football fields if straightened out. The helix wasn’t enclosed at that time, so it looked like all this wood was flying at me.

After completing that exhilarating part of the ride, I was riding back through the trees, along the lake and headed back home to the station. 

As I exited the ride, I couldn't believe I had just conquered The Beast! I immediately knew what I had to do: Get back in line and ride it again! 

Simply put, that visit to Kings Island was one of the Beast days of my life! 

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Don Helbig

Area Manager Digital Marketing - Kings Island

Twitter: @DonHelbig 

  

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