Aric Davis is a working writer, body piercer, and the author of From Ashes Rise. He rarely updates his website, www.aricdavis.com, but plans to someday. When not writing, Aric can be found riding rollercoasters, playing hockey, listening to punk rock and knocking holes in people. If you’re at a park in the Midwest and see a guy covered in tattoos with really big ear piercings, it’s probably him.
Shivering Timbers, a hundred and twenty foot tall pile of well stacked timber, could well be the reason that Michigan’s Adventure still exists. On a more dire note, had the Custom Coaster’s International wonder not been built in 1998, it is highly unlikely that Michigan would have any coasters at all!
When Shivering Timbers was constructed, CCI was a respected maker of wooden coasters, run in part by the daughter of the late Charles Dinn, Denise Dinn Larrick. CCI was one of the greats as far as woodies go, and members of their now broken team have gone on to build wondrous woodies for both The Gravity Group and Great Coasters International. What does that mean for us coaster-philes? Think of Shivering Timbers as the penultimate creation of a rock and roll supergroup. As far as coaster creation goes, the personalities may have been greater than the sum of their parts, but for Shivering Timbers, everything came together quite nicely.
A ride on Shivering Timbers starts before some people might like, namely my wife. Her introduction to coaster parks as an adult came at my hands, and her eyes and ears reacted violently as we pulled into Michigan’s Adventure a year after we’d begun dating. “What is that?”, she said, and I knew what she meant before she’d finished the statement.
One of my personal favorite things about coaster going is the part in the drive where you can see the hills and towers and supports and ellipses and everything just goes so Christmas morning on you…honestly, my coaster trip last year with the wife, five year old daughter and ever present neighbor, enthusiast and fourteen year old Lukas, was wonderful. A big part of that is seeing the thrill rides from afar, feeling that pit open in your belly, part fear, all excitement. Michigan’s Adventure, shrouded in woods, has no such moment of anticipation.
You pull in the parking lot and before you can even pay the attendant to park, kaboom, there she is. Shivering Timbers lies parallel to the edge of the parking lot, not ten feet from the fence dividing the park from the outside world. In your car, you can go from are we there yet to seeing a beautiful woodie done in the old style run nearly its full course.
The trains don’t stop as you park, walk to the gate or pay admission. Such is the presentation that I doubt that anyone has ever walked into the park without knowing whether or not they were going to ride the wooden beast, I’m sure it makes for an easier wait for quite a few of us.
A hundred and twenty feet is no big shakes for us enthusiasts, I’ve certainly ridden taller rides, but when a hundred and twenty feet is the tallest ride in the park, and the fastest, and the longest, that height seems a lot more relative, especially when it’s a wood coaster. Think of King’s Island as an example, I rode Diamondback more than I rode The Beast on my last visit, but The Beast still sticks out to me months later as THE ride there.
The ride ops, que and loading station of Shivering Timbers have all functioned immaculately on every trip I’ve taken to Michigan’s Adventure. The que is long, but when I go, the line never is, part of the trick is that Michigan’s Adventure rarely runs one train.
The lift hill is a classic, with a loud chain, a louder ratcheting beneath your feet and just big enough cars with just loose enough restraints. The anticipation up that hill is not like waiting for a launch coaster to go, but is just as good as waiting for a B&M or Arrow hyper to ascend the mountain. The first drop sucks you into your seat as the train buffets back and forth, not uncomfortably, but with a great deal of force.
As the valley bottoms out, the second hill looms and then attacks, Shivering Timber’s second hump provides airtime by the bucket load, certainly the most pleasurably intense moment after the drop and no matter the seat, is quite a pop. The third hill provides a similar lift, though not as forceful and the fourth hill nearly equals the second. Video of these hills is deceiving, the riders non mounted cameras may be rattling, and the ride is by no means butter smooth, but Shivering Timbers is much more comfortable than youtube.com may indicate, a few exceptions we’ll get to later trump this caveat.
The fifth hill has a short drop and then whips into the banked turn that makes the ride live up to its out and back format. That turn, lightly banked to the right and at least eighty feet above the trees, is a little harsh. Not as rough as what is to come, but still, it reminds you that you are riding a wooden coaster made in the old style.
The turn finishes with a near half hammerhead and then a short piece of flat track as the train is sucked into the “out” part of out and back. Realigned, the train dives down the treated wood with a pop of negative energy and then over three quick bunny hills, the first two provide a nice little bounce, the third with a bit of pain from roughness and exuberance.
The section after the third hill is my least favorite part of the ride, a rough and stylistically ancient trick-track section which is a bit too short and a lot too forceful for my liking. The trick-track, violent even on youtube, is a killer if you’re not prepared, I hazard a guess it’s something to do with the center of gravity of the rider versus that of the train, but that element knocks a point off of the review immediately.
After that tricky bit of work, a couple more polite bunnies with excellent head-choppers, and then a much shorter than The Beast’s, but still wonderfully wild upward bound helix that leads to the brake blocks. Even on a slow day, those brake blocks are met with gleeful screams.
Based on the standard established by The Coaster Critic, I would give Shivering Timbers an 8.5 out of 10. Much like his personal favorite coaster, Kumba, my favorite woodie is by no means the best coaster I’ve ever ridden. It is however, along with Magnum XL-200, which I rode in its inaugural season, one of those true moment coasters. It is one of the ultimate coasters, a woodie whose roots supplied the model for the steel hypers so wonderfully prevalent today. This ride kept Michigan’s Adventure on the map long enough for Cedar Fair to rescue it, and even though that group has yet to top it in my peninsula, they have kept it beautifully maintained, and trains still roll with smiling riders aboard from May to October. Final Rating – 8.5 (Great Approaching Excellent)
Shivering Timbers is rated ‘TR’ for Traditional. It’s a 2 out of 5 on my Thrill Scale.
What’s Your Take?
Have you ridden Shivering Timbers? What’d you think? Leave a comment below. Thanks to Judy from Pgh for the images. See more Michigan’s Adventures images.