Spring Pinquest 2009

Posted: February 27th, 2009 by BounceBack


A week on the road, and so far I’ve managed to track down pins in a few locations. Our first night in Eugene, Danny B, Superloops and I nosed out a filthy, but fully working Spiderman (nicely done Ms. Loops,) and I managed to almost get hero mode on my first game, GC’d it, then followed it up with a totally shit game and went back to work. It was nice to see a choice recent game in a downtown that, like most of America, seems pretty barren on the pinball front. Still, just a few hours outside Portland, Eugene seems as pinball-blind as most of the rest of the world has become.

I’m busier than I’ve been in the past, and working on small stages, have less time than usual to cruise around and browse for machines. I typically have two hours at most, all day, and we’ve played few venues that were close enough to businesses that I could go hunt things out. Inspired by our random walking quest, I’ve been deciding to go analog and word of mouth during this trip, rather than wasting precious time on broken and out dated pinball links on the interweb.

The pic at the top is the inside of this bizarre, massive burger bar called the bear barn or something– yes, it sounds like a good place for hairy hot-tubbin, but in reality it’s a kind of fast food joint covered floor to ceiling in bizarre bric-a-brac, like a more western and over-the-top max & erma’s, or a junkyard hard rock cafe run by schizophrenics. It’s three stories tall, brick, full of winding overlapping rooms, and has little league scoreboard bolted to a fence out back along with pieces of cars and trains and shit. I thought I was out of luck as I wandered through, a little hung over, with a cup of coffee, but saw some old school video games scattered between a few of the rooms, so I kept hunting, and finally spied this:


That’s right– A LOTR side by side with Monopoly. I threw some quarters into the lord, and quickly found that although it felt sort of ok, before I’d plunged my first ball it was apparent that the Balrog was toast and permanently stuck out blocking the center ramp. Goodbye fellowship multiball and all modes. There was a huge lean, which I tried to work with. High scores were all defaults and I did my best to crack the board, but the condition of the game was really frustrating. A pin or something about the entrance to the path of the dead was fucked up, so balls rarely got diverted in; it was very difficult to get anything at all running. I put up a little over 30 million but couldn’t get it to 40, tried a couple of different strategies on my replay, and gave it up. I managed to make those two games last an hour, with that low of a score, and I had to get back to unload the truck. I notified the manager on duty about the balrog situation, and he said (guess what? guess guess guess!) they almost never see the operator, but he would be sure to let him know (wink wink) that there was a problem with the pin. I will say that the one good side of the whole thing was impressing the shit out of a 10 year old kid who got up from his food to watch me, and had to be dragged off by his folks when it was time to go.


That was Chico, and at least I was 2 for 2 on *finding* pinball. I didn’t have such luck in Visalia. We played a cool, weird little theater. The locals did tell me there’s a nickel arcade they thought might have some super old school games, but nothing in walking distance from the venue; there’s a decent little strip of downtown businesses you’d expect to have something, but I walked all over and asked around, only to get weird looks.

In LA, despite the best efforts of our friend Eric to hook me up with some locations to play, I was trapped all day at the Palladium in Hollywood and had family out to the show as guests, so I couldn’t go on the hunt. That’s sad because our next stops were in the pin-bereft southwestern towns of Tempe and Albuquerque. Surely, with ASU in town, there are some pins hiding out in Tempe, but I couldn’t get further than a couple of miles from the show on foot, and there was nothing there.

In ‘burque I asked the local production runner after the show where I could find a bar with some pinball, and she said “pinball? really?” with an incredulous look on her face. Our merch manager said “that’s a good question,” even though he knew better than to encourage her. I said “fuck you both” to their faces and walked up the street to a divey punk joint called Atomic, which I instantly remembered from my last trip. It has seemingly the only pin in town, a highly distressed Simpsons P.P. ALL the general illumination was out, backglass AND playfield– only a few flashers were working, and in a dark corner of a dark bar, it was almost like playing blind. Weak flippers, a thick layer of dirt, I managed to get a couple of multiballs out of about 6 games. Unfortunately, in the middle of my best game, a bar fight broke out right behind me between a huge mexican in a zoot suit and some methy white skater kid. They both had posses, and there was a bit of a full on melee. thankfully everyone stuck to throwing punches instead of glasses. I cradled my ball on my right flipper and stepped to the side of the machine, out of the way, so people could brawl past me. A couple of bartenders managed to get the whole dogpile out the door to finish it in the street while the cops came, and I didn’t even spill my drink. Unfortunately it did throw off my flow and I fell short of reaching the board on that game too before last call.

Luckily we got the fuck out of dodge, rather than being stuck in NM for another day. I’ve had most of the afternoon in Boulder, where there’s actually at least one operator, Lyons Classic Pinball, with two locations of their pins posted on their website. Better yet they donate half their proceeds to charity. One was out of my range, but I played a Tommy machine at their other spot. It was fun and mostly working, but I don’t know the game that well, and it leaned right far enough that the ball comes away from the wall off the right loop shot, screwing with your set up for the right ramp (double jackpot) shot. I found a Decently working No Fear in the basement of the Pearl Pub, and put up 4th place. This one had a right lean too, but it was lenient enough on tilt that I could give the right corner a good pop off the rubber and send the ball back into play occasionally. Place was packed and loud, and after I finished up my free games I split, since I was getting bumped into constantly. I rolled over to a place called Smoky Joes that had a champ pub and a monster bash the last time I was here. Champ Pub was gone, and Monster Bash had been moved into the corner of the kiddie game room in the basement, along with air hockey and area 51 and so on. No backglass, no ball save, incredibly sensitive tilt, and the right flipper was doing that thing where it sticks up and you have to repeatedly slap it, or the opposite flipper, to get it to drop back down. I put together a couple of decent games, 1st and 2nd place scores, and a monster bash champ of 81 mil, but although I was close to monsters of rock on my best game, gave it a rest after it switched from *sometimes* kicking SDTM from the scoop to *always* (over 90%) kicking SDTM, hard and fast. Incredibly frustrating, given that I felt ready to gut that machine if I could just be allowed to finish a few balls without that fucked up kickout.

And that folks, is where I am now. That’s your glimpse into the world of pinball outside pinball mecca, Portland Oregon. It’s bad. It truly is.

I will remain undeterred in my search, and will give you an update again when I can. As we know, the dude abides.

Don’t forget to go out and play a little extra appreciative ball for me this week, and to count your blessings.

Categories: CFF

Comments: 8 comments


8 Responses to 'Spring Pinquest 2009'

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  1. BounceBack   27 Feb 09 at 11:26 pm

    dude, that was way too long

  2. replay   28 Feb 09 at 10:02 am

    Maybe you can post where you are headed to in case any of us have any leads for you. Take it easy out there man it’s a wild world.

  3. LaughingOtter   1 Mar 09 at 7:13 am


    First, someone needs to adjust the CSS so that the text in these forms can actually be read…

    Second, in Los Angeles, you need to visit the Family Amusement Company on Vermont, south of Santa Monica Blvd. and just across from LA Community College, and the College Arcade just a couple of doors south of there. You were about five miles away from there if you were at the Palladium. These guys have always had pinball machines (you’ll see about a dozen games between the two places).
    Northwest of there is Castle Golf north of Sepulveda and Ventura and just past the freeway underpass.
    UCLA Ackerman Student Union (2nd floor) has always had pinball machines.
    Santa Monica Pier might have a few, but I wouldn’t be too trusting of their conditions…
    If the pool hall east of Hollywood and Bronson is still there, they had a few tables in the game room.

    Most of the other places I knew in LA have vanished…

  4. ROM   1 Mar 09 at 5:51 pm

    CSS fixed, mostly. Since the style in the comment boxes is also used elsewhere, I made it dark gray.

  5. Orbit   1 Mar 09 at 9:14 pm

    Holy crap, I think I played an equally shatty pinball machine in that bar five years ago. Always check the laudromats and bowling alleys.

  6. DDT   3 Mar 09 at 12:48 pm

    Your probably way out of colorado now? If not we have a member out there! Do start letting us know where your going to be in advance. itinerary!!
    We have friends, friend.

  7. Jank   8 Mar 09 at 9:55 am

    If you’re coming anywhere near pittsburgh, check out our locator on the site. And if you want to get on machines that work 100% of the time, join the site and get invited to a party. Many of our members have 4+ machines, and we also have access to the Silverball Country Club (100+ machines). Other than that, I’m sure a few of you will be in town for PAPA tourney in August…


  8. Hunt   18 Mar 09 at 3:30 pm

    I wanted to comment and thank the author, good stuff


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