With her favorite theme park closed due to Covid-19, Sean LaRochelle, a graduate student who received his Masters in Architecture from Clemson University, decided to bring a bit of Disneyland right into her yard.
LaRochelle, his wife, and their three children were quarantined with his parents and siblings at their Napa Valley, California home when he decided on a whim to build a coaster.
“I went to my dad and thought we were going to build a roller coaster in the back yard. And he says,” Oh yeah, that’s fine. Do not worry. “I don’t think he realized how big it was going to be, but he was super supportive,” LaRochelle told CNN.
The coaster was about 400 feet long. Only one driver drives at a time, but it takes 50 seconds to drive from start to finish.
LaRochelle used the talents of 30 friends to not only create the roller coaster herself, but also bring it to life. It is based on the Matterhorn, a roller coaster in Disneyland, Anaheim. The Matterhorn simulates an alpine sledge racing down a mountain trying to avoid a yeti trying to conquer the sled. The ride is named after the 14,692 foot high summit in the Alps near the border between Italy and Switzerland.
“We have, you know, rock formations and waterfalls and an animatronic yeti. And you do a couple of loops around the mountain and try to escape its clutches,” he said.
LaRochelle has fond memories of the legendary drive and trips to the park with his family, so attention to detail was key for him.
“I wanted to do it really well. I wanted to be very detailed. I thought I was an imagineer and I was trying to put the same care and quality into the product. And for me, that was it.” most important, “he said.
He started construction in March and finished it in July. LaRochelle said it was basically a full-time job for him and his brother Michael, in addition to the full-time jobs they already had.
“Basically it was every day after work, we worked until it got dark. And then we woke up early in the morning, we worked until we had to go to work. And then on the weekends it was pretty much around the clock,” he said.
“We’re not mechanical engineers. We’re not craftsmen, we’re just human. And I think it shows that anyone can do this stuff.”
LaRochelle said he and his brother made use of many resources they found on the internet in addition to engaging their friends and family. In the end, all the work was worth it.
He had no estimate of how much it would cost to build. “The joke was it was the Trump Stimulus Check Coaster. We ended up spending a little more,” LaRochelle said.
Lots of hard work to spread a little joy
“Really, it was just positive feedback. And I think we’re living in such a tumultuous time right now and have someone or even see a collaborative group of people putting something creative together that tries to bring something joy to people, me think this is really only helping, mostly because of what is going on, “he said.
Although the ride will survive for a while, LaRochelle said it is meant to be temporary and they will eventually knock her down, but for now the intent is to keep spreading just a little bit of joy.
“I hope the future of the ride is for people to see it as something that has inspired other people, you know, and maybe we’ll do another ride who knows,” he said.