Arghhh Matey, September 19th be the international Talk like a Pirate day. Celebrate ye Pirate toungue by renting a boat at Granville Island Boat rentals. Theyz gots lots of Pirate gear thar too Matey. Ya, ok, I'm having a bugger of a time keeping that one up. Check out GIBR, the westcoast pirate at and TALK LIKE A PIRATE IN VANCOUVER

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Wooden Rollercoaster at the PNE

Depending on when you visit, be sure to check out this classic Vancouver Attraction.

The first drop is the best - or the worst, depending on how you look at it.

One of a few remaining wooden roller-coasters still in working order, Vancouver's classic coaster celebrated its 50th anniversary Tuesday.

The old-fashioned scream machine reaches speeds of more than 70 kilometres per hour after dipping over its first hill, prompting shrill cries from riders as they plummet down the track and bounce around in their seats.

"It's my favourite ride," Ariana Louwe, 16, said after taking a free ride as the Pacific National Exhibition celebrated the anniversary.

"The first hill is the best, definitely, it's really fast. It's not so much scary, just exciting."

The ride - simply named The Coaster - was built in 1958, and now sees half a million riders each year.

It's made from Douglas fir wood and stands 23 metres tall at its highest point.

The 90-second ride is mostly powered by gravity. The trains are pulled by a chain on a motor up each slope, allowing momentum to carry forward to the base of the next big climb.

As the trains twist through the track, riders are held in only by a lap bar, compared with the seatbelts and snug shoulder restraints on modern-day roller-coasters.

And while Vancouver's wooden coaster doesn't go upside-down or travel at the same break-neck speeds as its modern-day steel cousins, riders say it still provides a thrill.

"It's got great hills and it's got great curves," said Paul Kool, 47. "Growing up here, I remember wanting to ride it ever since I was not tall enough to ride it."

Ulyana Yordan, a 31-year-old Ukrainian currently studying in Vancouver, rode the roller-coaster more than two dozen times Tuesday.

"I love it - we don't have such roller-coasters in Ukraine," she said. "I like how you fly around, because in other ones you are fully fixed, you don't feel it as much."

The ride was designed by Carl Phare and built by Walker LeRoy. It's now the only standing roller-coaster built and designed by Phare and LeRoy, who are legendary in the coaster world.

Phare's daughter, Nina Faley, and granddaughter, Jennifer Juelich, attended the anniversary ceremony.

Faley rode her first roller-coaster when she was just two years old, one of Phare's creations at his own amusement park, Seattle's Playland, which closed more than 40 years ago. She said she was happy to see one of his coasters still standing.

"I can't tell you how glad I am," said Faley, before taking a ride herself.

"And we're really glad that it's going to last another 50 years, hopefully," added Juelich. "Because he might not be here physically, but his spirit is making hundreds of thousands of people really happy."

A few years ago, the city talked about relocating the amusement park, leaving some worried that a move could mean the end.

American Coaster Enthusiasts, a U.S.-based group devoted to the rides, listed The Coaster as "endangered."

But the relocation plans have since fizzled away, and the city's deputy mayor, Suzanne Anton, said it isn't going anywhere.

"This historic roller-coaster, with all its creaks and groans and stomach-stopping excitement - it has to stay here for another 50 years," said Anton.

Steve Gzesh of American Coaster Enthusiasts said Vancouver's wooden roller-coaster is one of the best in the world.

"It doesn't look like much from the street, but let me tell you, it delivers every time you ride it," he said.

"One of the things that many coaster enthusiasts really adore is air time, that sensation that you're lifted up out of your seat, and this coaster does it on every single drop. It's just phenomenal."