USA 06/23 – ZDT’s Amusement Park
We’ve been hitting the States pretty hard over the past few years, rough patch aside. By far the largest black hole left was big ol’ Texas, which was destined to form the foundation of a visit this year. Though it has many a bucket list park and coaster to its name, it was clear in the earlier planning stages that the Lone Star State simply wouldn’t be enough to satiate the needs of my style of road trip alone, and the question soon became; East or West?
Both directions had their draws and drawbacks, but both were also relying upon fresh openings for this season to really give them some bite. In the end it was a certain combination of these newbies that swung the decision. Let’s see how far the road takes us this time.
Fortunately or unfortunately, there is no epic tale of travel to tell on this occasion. Contrary to what I had come to expect in recent years, it turns out flights and hotel bookings can all run smoothly, sometimes. A simple plane journey from Heathrow to Austin passed without incident, where we were soon allocated our Canyonero-style vehicle in order to help us blend into the landscape. Though massive and with blind spots the size of the state itself, it had comfort. form and function over the El Toro-inspired Kia Souls we’d become accustomed to and, most amusingly of all, it had better fuel economy than those too.
Having arrived late afternoon, there was time only for a quick warm-up session to kick the trip off. Not too far down the road, in the humble town of Seguin, lives a certain little wooden coaster.
Day 1 – ZDT’s Amusement Park
Z(ee)DT’s (try not to say it like you’re British) is a tiny establishment, consisting of an arcade, a restaurant, some go-karts, a couple of micro-footprint flat rides and of course #1 Switchback, itself spanning what feels like more than half the square-footage of the park. You can either wristband up for everything, or just the coaster. Of course we opted for the latter and headed in under the structure.
The baby Wood Express trains were a welcome sight, along with the cute little execution of the switch track prior to the station.
These miniature Gravity Group creations have developed a bit of a reputation for being beasts, was this one about to punch above its weight as well?
Yes it was. While not quite carrying the sheer violence of a Mine Blower (RIP no thanks to RMC), or perhaps the relentless pacing of the aforementioned Wood Express, Switchback delivers a series of highlights amongst a fun-fuelled layout. The tightest of turns out of the station and again at the crest of the lift hill show off the manoeuvrability and compact nature of the hardware before a punchy, slightly twisted right-then-left first drop lines you up alongside the lift structure.
Passing through the long straight that forms the switch track feels a little silly, but it ends with a momentous little pop of a first hill, diving around the side of the restaurant. Another twisted downwards lurch leads into a heavily overbanked hairpin turn, a sheltered hill and couple more minor airtime moments turning back towards the station and into the signature vertical spike.
87 degrees, or so they claim, the train stalls with a simple energy and begins the return journey back through the entire layout. While the speed has been lessened, the lack of anticipation while moving backwards lends itself to keeping this half just as entertaining as the start. There’s a respectable amount of ride duration for the size. A bite of the brakes hits as you pass back through the switch track, leaving only the slightest of rollbacks up the first drop, before you trickle forward and come to a full stop and a quick slide of the track lines you back up with the station.
A world’s only, no less.
Through only sharing the park with a number of guests that you could count on both hands, we enjoyed several back to back laps of satisfying coastering. It’s the perfect kind of ‘solid’ experience that would do wonders to so many locations across the globe, over the likes of, say, a monkey-laden B&M. They remained operational until reasonably late in the evening, allowing us to pop out for a quick bite to eat down the road, and then return for another handful of rides before hitting the highway to the hotel and catching up on some well earned sleep.