Bert the Conqueror is a new show on the Travel Channel where comedian Bert Kreischer faces all kinds of extreme challenges from crazy home-grown thrills and local traditions to modern thrill machines at the Nation’s largest and smallest amusement parks. We enthusiasts get a taste of roller coasters every summer on a cable channel or two. But usually it’s via some kind of 1 hour program like “Top 10 Thrill Rides”. Thanks to Bert the Conqueror we’ll get a weekly dose of roller coaster action. Even better, Bert does a great job of bringing these experiences to life with his humor and personality.
Check back here every week for episode recaps and discussions in the comment area below.
Bert the Conqueror Season 1 Episode Recaps
Episode 1 – Utah
In the series debut, Bert visited Utah. He takes Lagoon’s Wicked for a spin. He also rides one of those cool Alpine coasters that I wrote about last winter. The little two-seaters probably feel a lot faster than they look and you get to control how fast they go.
Highlight: Bert shows some real bravery on the very first episode. The third part of the Utah episode involved a backyard thrill ride in the ATV-powered human slingshot. It looks pretty insane, but adding to the drama was Bert’s weight. The creators of the ride weren’t sure if someone around 220 pounds would ‘make it’. It sounded like TV shtick, but apparently they really were concerned that he was too heavy.
Pilot Episode – Cedar Point
Bert finds himself at Cedar Point, the Coaster Capital of the World. He warms up with the huge swinging thrill ride, maXair (I love how Cedar Point capitalizes the ‘X’. In 20 years people will laugh at the ‘X’ and ‘I’ fads). Then he takes the Fearsome Foursome Challenge. What’s that you ask? In order to complete the fearsome foursome riders must brave Top Thrill Dragster, Wicked Twister, Magnum XL-200, & Millennium Force in an hour. Unlikely in the real world, but in TV land anything is possible.
Highlight: Bert’s lucky enough to experience a roll back on Top Thrill Dragster. He didn’t seem as gracious as he should’ve been. Maybe he didn’t know that coaster enthusiasts would give an arm for this rare event.
Episode 2 – Las Vegas
In the Las Vegas episode, Bert rode the three extreme rides at the Stratosphere. Over 100 stories up, he rode the Big Shot, was hung out over the edge of the Stratosphere on Insanity and X-Scream, and then he took the 800′ plunge on Sky Jump. For the record, I wouldn’t do any of these rides. Well, maybe Big Shot, but I don’t have enough trust in the designers of the other three. Nothing against them, that just might be my personal limit.
Highlight: It was cool seeing how they constructed the rides some 1,000 feet above the ground. Obviously, cranes couldn’t reach so they used helicopters to bring in the pieces.
Episode 3 – New Hampshire
Bert opened the New Hampshire episode at Canobie Lake Park, one of the oldest amusement parks in the U.S. He helped a coaster newbie get over her fear on the classic woodie, the Yankee Cannonball. To wrap up the episode, Bert faced the Slush Cup at Mount Sunapee. Sounds harmless enough, right? The Slush Cup is a pool of cold water at the bottom of a ski hill. To welcome Spring, locals ski down the hill and attempt to ski right across the pool or win the best fall award.
Highlight: Right before this challenge Bert admits that he hasn’t skied since he was ten. His second fall looked insanely painful. I was able to ask him about the fall at the Carowinds filiming and he said that it was the kind of fall that hurt more days later. Props to you Bert, that was a sick fall.
Episode 4 – Tennessee
Bert’s off to Tennessee where he rides the acclaimed Thunderhead at Dollywood. It was good to see Dolly and Dollywood on TV. It’s a nice park with some picturesque surroundings. As Prof. BAM pointed out (in the comments below), Thunderhead was chosen over Mystery Mine as the featured roller coaster. This was likely because they were looking for the more notable ride. Thunderhead’s Golden Ticket Award made it stand out. I will say that it would have been nice to see some footage of the other rides like Mystery Mine and Tennessee Tornado.
He visits a few other Pigeon Forge attractions and then he tries his hand at Catfish grabblin’. That’s where people fish barehanded. And by fish, I mean reach their hands into mudholes where they could be greeted by massive 50 lb. catfish that chomp down on their arms! After watching this challenge, the Stratosphere rides are looking pretty good. The catfish were monstrous. Not to mention the fact that there could be something worse waiting for you in those mudholes, like snakes.
Highlight: I found out from the production staff that Thunderhead was so fierce that it broke the rigging system that they use to attach the video camera to the train for reverse POVs. So, they had to duct tape a camera to the camera man’s arm for the few shots they used of Bert riding it. Considering the ride’s twisting course and lateral g’s the camera did a pretty solid job.
Episode 5 – Florida
I was glad to see that Bert the Conqueror steered clear of the obvious choice of Orlando for the Florida episode. They were likely drawn to Busch Gardens Tampa because it’s home to the tallest roller coaster in Florida in SheiKra and one of the highest rated coasters in Montu. It was great to see one of my favorite theme parks in HD! This episode made me all the more excited about Busch Gardens Tampa’s 2011 coaster.
Bert joked with a park official about reflecting on his life while being held at the edge of the ride’s opening 90-degree drop.One thing to note about this that I learned on the Busch Gardens Williamsburg Coaster Tour is that riders aren’t actually completely stopped for that four seconds while they hang over the edge of the first drop. On sister ride Griffon (and SheiKra I assume) The train’s are actually inching forward at a rate so small that you only feel as though your completely stopped. I’ve seen Montu in TV specials many times and it looked as good as ever.
Bert finished off the episode with the mud belly flop competition at the Red Neck Yacht Club in Punta Gorda, Florida. Again, Bert’s a performer. Like the fall he took into the Slush Cup in the New Hampshire episode, he didn’t hold back. He pulled out an impressively athletic tuck & release belly flop. He was edged out by the defending champion, but he could be proud of his effort.
Highlight: The roller coasters were great too see. Seeing my personal favorite (not the best I’ve ridden, just favorite) Kumba for those brief clips was great. I’ll never get tired of seeing that coaster in action. Read my full Kumba review.
Episode 6 – Wisconsin
The show visited the Wisconsin Dells area for this week’s episode. Their trip began with the largest and best roller coaster in the area, Hades at Mt. Olympus Theme Park. The intense Gravity Group-designed wooden coaster comes pretty close to perfect and it sits at 9 on my Top 10 List. Bert braved the back seat with a woman that wouldn’t stop giggling. The video was pretty heavily edited and unfortunately the lights were on as they passed through the hellish tunnel. It probably made more sense logistically to have the lights on, but I wish that they could have switched to night vision for the subterranean journey. The darkness is kind of the point. The pre-lift hill section is insane on Hades as well and they glossed over that too.
Next, Bert rode Extreme World’s Terminal Velocity. It’s the only ride in the World with a completely unattached, controlled free fall. My palms were actually sweating a bit watching people fall 150′ with no ropes or bungee cords. It’s a pretty ingenious little ride. Bert completed the episode by conquering America’s only looping water slide, Scorpion’s Tail at Noah’s Ark. The show referenced the infamous Cannonball Loop at Action Park and how it was closed due to injuries. The fact that Scorpion’s Tail is nearly vertical and not completely vertical (like Cannonball Loop was) makes it safer. Bert got to be the first public rider. I’m not expert on water slides, but the stats (40 mph and 3 g’s) seemed a bit staggering.
Highlight: The free falls on Terminal Velocity were the highlight for me on this episode. It was good seeing Hades and it was cool learning about Scorpion’s Tail, but like I said those crazy free falls were pretty unnerving to watch. It makes those swing ‘sky coasters’ at parks all over the country look like nothing.
Episode 7 – Texas
In the first and only roller coaster-less episode of the season, Bert visited Southern Texas. He started at the highest rated and one of the largest water parks in the World in Schlitterbahn. He took on Master Blaster, a six-story tall uphill water coaster. It uses water jets to propel rafts up several hills. It was pretty neat to see and looked more fun than intense. Next, Bert took a turn at mud dragging. It’s exactly what it sounds like drag racing in the mud. It was kind of ho-hum compared to some of the other things he’s done, but I’m sure that it was exhilarating for him.
Highlight: The highlight was the third challenge. It was a blobbing competition at a summer camp. It involved getting catapulted off of a huge bag of air with the assistance of another participant jumping on the bag. It looked like a lot of fun. And I think for the first time this season Bert beat the local champion.
Episode 8 – Massachusetts
I’d been waiting for the Massachusetts episode for weeks. I knew that during this episode, Bert was going to face the roller coaster that’s widely considered the World’s Best, Bizarro at Six Flags New England. Unfortunately, Six Flags was the focus of the two earlier challenges and they didn’t show the whole ride. At least they played up the ride’s status in the enthusiast community. And I I liked the explanation of airtime as that is Bizarro’s best feature. When the train returned to the station, Bert called it “the best steel coaster he’d ever been on.” I can’t remember if he ever said it on camera, but Bert revised that statement the following week when he rode Intimidator at Carowinds. We’ll see that in next week’s episode (8/11 – 10PM).
Want some behind-the-scenes info? The production company was curious about what else Bert should ride at Six Flags New England. None of the other roller coasters were really noteworthy enough to satisfy their need for a rare, famous, or record-breaking ride. So, they found Catapult and touted its uniqueness as the only one in the U.S. Catapult looked pretty intense. I’d probably try it once even though I’m more of a roller coaster guy.
Bert wrapped up the episode with the greasy pole competition in Gloucester. The falls were insane. Almost everyone slammed into the pole, before falling twenty feet into the water below. I have to say it looked like Bert kind of mailed this one in. It looked like he just fell off and away from pole so that he didn’t injure himself. I can’t say that I blame him though. He could’ve gotten seriously injured and he already had a minor injury from the Texas episode.
Highlight: I loved the slow motion footage of Bizarro. It looked amazing in High Def!
Episode 9 – South Carolina
For the season finale Bert headed to South Carolina for Carowinds’ new hyper coaster, Intimidator, top-rated inverted coaster Afterburn, and Redneck Water Skiing in Saluda, SC. Carowinds is my home park and I was there for the filming so I was really looking forward to this episode. It began with some background information on the park that focused on the fact that it and several of its coasters actually straddles two states (North Carolina & South Carolina). The park looked amazing on TV. And I was glad that they included some footage of Nighthawk and some of the park’s other coasters.
Intimidator came off great as they explained the NASCAR/Dale Earnhardt Jr. theming well. I forgot that Intimidator’s ride time was 3:33 in honor of Dale Earnhardt’s #3 race car. Bert pointed out the B&M-designed open trains and during my interview I described those great moments of airtime. I don’t know if it was the fact that I watching it in High Def or that the weather was perfect that day, but Afterburn looked so good on TV. They didn’t take as much time setting Afterburn up, but they did mention the ride’s many loops and the fact that the underground batwing was one of the only like it in the World. I helped them dig up that fact as they were looking for things that help set the ride apart. I’ll give more behind-the-scenes insights in an upcoming post about filming. Stay tuned.
The episode finished off with Redneck Water Skiing in Saluda, SC. It was good to see another completely home grown thrill ride like the premiere episode’s ATV-powered human slingshot in Utah. I’ve never water skiied before, but it looked pretty hard to do while circling. I’ve got to give Bert credit for getting up even though it was only for a short while.
Highlight: Again, the Afterburn footage was ridiculous. For that reason, this episode will be on my DVR indefinitely. Okay, so my sound bites about Intimidator were alright too.
I’ll be adding a poll tonight so that you can vote on your favorite episode of the seaon. To support the show and let the Travel Channel know that you’d like to see a Season 2, go here: We Need a Season 2
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What’s Your Take?
Are you watching Bert the Conqueror? What do you think? Do you have a favorite episode or challenge? Leave a comment below. All images courtesy of the Travel Channel.
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