Within a single decade, Rocky Mountain Construction have established themselves as the boys to beat when it comes to making the best rollercoasters money can buy. Their rides are seemingly tailored to what enthusiasts like myself enjoy the most – a blend of powerful airtime, interesting elements and minimal gimmicks. They began their days by converting and revitalising older wooden rollercoasters in certain parks – removing the track, leaving the structures intact and using their unique steel rails to create a brand new and vastly more experimental experience. Since then, several ‘ground up’ installations have been built, which tend to use the same system, though also having a layer of wood underneath the rails in order to replicate the classification of a wooden rollercoaster, just ones like you’ve never seen before. While they haven’t really branched out into specific ride types other than the recent single rail Raptor model, the label ‘RMC’ itself is by far the most consistently rewarding in the world right now. I believe they have also played an important role in demonstrating to more casual guests how the most fun coaster in the park doesn’t have to be the biggest and fastest. It should be something repeatedly enjoyable rather than just a scary experience to try once for a laugh, and I’ve already witnessed dedicated followings and numerous marathons first hand. As of this 2022 update I’ve now experienced 17 out of a total 23 operating RMCs, with half of the remainder being cloned layouts, so there’s only really three left out there for me now – a harrowing thought.
#17 Jersey Devil Coaster (Six Flags Great Adventure, USA) – We begin with the aforementioned Raptor model. Admittedly I’ve only done the two of these, but that does encompass both of the layouts that exist in the world right now, which is enough to know that I’m not a fan of sophomore design. The prototype was a marvel for the industry, I’d never seen anything quite like it before and it brought a completely fresh style to the table. Taking the hardware and then running with nothing but a remit of ‘taller, longer, faster’ led to a ride that lost the spirit of the single rail. There’s no reason this couldn’t just have been a regular two rail RMC other than for a bit of short term marketing. It also rode poorly and had restraint issues. It’s the worst RMC, but it’s still world class.
#16 Goliath (Six Flags Great America, USA) – More records were up for grabs here, with an early installation of the ground-up wooden coaster design. Goliath was huge, as the name suggests, but for all that height it doesn’t do a whole lot to back it up. It’s a compact and succinct layout that introduces a lot of RMCs early hits, most notably the stall element, and this makes it a quintessential experience that just doesn’t have enough going for it when stacked up against the rest.
#15 Outlaw Run (Silver Dollar City, USA) – It was on this trip that I learnt that ‘wooden coasters like you’ve never seen before’ might not stand the test of time for RMC, in their current form. The most aggressive of the bunch has already received extensive re-tracking to the point at which it can no longer be classified as a wooden rollercoaster. Outlaw Run, the very first of these, is suffering from similar issues. The wheel seats were a dud for me, due some rather headache-inducing tracking and the front of each car was definitely the place to be. There are some amazing elements in this layout and the setting is to die for, but it’s once again very short and I don’t really rate any of the inversions, particularly the final two, which are a rare miss.
#14 Wildfire (Kolmården, Sweden) – Talking of wooden rollercoasters like you’ve never seen before, how about this monster? This was the first RMC in Europe and the first one I rode (eventually). I was already aware of the hype surrounding the manufacturer at the time and though an amazing ride in its own right, it didn’t quite live up to the exceedingly high reputation. At the time of riding, I couldn’t pinpoint the spark that was missing from Wildfire but having since ridden other RMCs it’s blantantly obvious – other than the first drop it lacks any of the characteristic airtime moments that punctuate the other special elements on offer. The combination of the two is the literal definition of these rides for me and if you only have one half of that, you’re going to come up short. The other nitpick I have is though it is marketed as the greatest wooden rollercoaster in the world (and it isn’t), I didn’t think it rode like a woodie at all and I have since confirmed (further down the list) that RMC are capable of generating this feeling in a good way, and (further up the list) a bad way.
#13 Joker (Six Flags Discovery Kingdom, USA) – I struggled to get the most out this comparatively baby RMC due to poor operations on the day. It has all the classic fun elements throughout along with airtime in greater quantities than Wildfire, but no definitive moments that stand out quite as much.
#12 Railblazer (California’s Great America, USA) – This (almost) unique looking attraction is nothing short of ridiculous. As we’ve already seen, the Raptor model uses just one rail and trains that straddle the track with single file seating. Railblazer takes the whole layout from start to finish at a ridiculous pace and contains several intense airtime moments. The downfall is that it’s just really short and it may have been slightly elevated for me by being both a completely fresh experience and only riding in the back row at night for every lap.
#11 Twisted Cyclone (Six Flags Over Georgia, USA) – This is where we hit RMC’s true mix of elements at its prime. What this ride does is as good as its wicked and timber brothers, only the layout feels half the length and leaves you wanting more. My favourite part is the immensely intense hill out of this magical element that you don’t even see coming from the back row.
#10 Untamed (Walibi Holland, Netherlands) – Europe’s 2nd RMC after what felt like a very long wait. I didn’t find it to be the most intense of their creations and it contains noticeably weaker sections than any of the below. Untamed still gives an amazing, lengthy ride that delivers a lot of incredible moments. My head says it’s objectively better than the next ride in the list, but my heart just won’t let that happen at this point in time. It lacked a little character.
#9 Lightning Rod(Dollywood, USA) – Aww. I wanted this ride to be the best thing ever, but it wasn’t. Expectations may have let me down slightly as I thought it was going to be one of the bigger RMCs feat. quad down, but it’s actually short and the legendary quad down is 50% of the ride. I have been led to believe that the initial launched lift has been toned down and that I may not have experienced the rod in all it’s glory. If true, I sincerely hope there comes a day where this can happen. As I found it, the first half is a little too underwhelming for what follows and then just when it gets absolutely amazing, it ends.
#8 Wicked Cyclone (Six Flags New England, USA) – This was another case of not getting as much time to appreciate the ride as I would have liked (thanks again Six Flags), so it’s harder to big it up. Contrary to the above, Wicked Cyclone feels like just the right amount of length and the way it flows and bounces between the mixture of inversions and airtime is simply beautiful. In particular, the surprise wonky hills hidden inside the structure are some of the best in the business.
#7 Storm Chaser (Kentucky Kingdom, USA) – Somehow Storm Chaser almost manages to be forgettable in such a lineup. By no means is it to be underestimated though, even with the understated grungy look, it has big bad airtime and a satisfying raw power to the other key moments of the layout. I found it to be the best of the weather related ones by the tiniest margin and that’s all down to personal preference really – more aggressive airtime.
#6 Zadra (Energylandia, Poland) – The first RMC in Europe to go over 200ft and earn classification as one of the ‘big boys’ that get rated the world over as the absolute best of the best. It’s not hard to see why, this monster has a piece of everything that makes these rides so special, is insanely fast paced and delivers amazingly throughout a satisfying length of layout.
#5 Steel Vengeance (Cedar Point, USA) – And here’s the OG ‘big boy’, literally regarded the best rollercoaster on the planet by an overwhelming majority. I agree that it’s just so damn good, but Steel Vengeance didn’t have that killer instinct I was hoping for, to tip it over the edge. Chuck in a handful of moments that try to hurt me, make the inversions more interesting and you’ve got the best in the business. For now, this is as far as it goes.
#4 Twisted Timbers (Kings Dominion, USA) – As we enter the top tier, things get truly intense. I had Twisted Timbers down as a variable performer after our first visit, but more recently it seemed to be out to prove a point and was holding absolutely nothing back. Mere days after the revelations on Steel Vengeance, this one definitively demonstrated to me that it’s just more my cup of tea. It’s insane, it hurts and it has all of that killer instinct. And that’s exactly what I’m looking for in my RMCs.
#3 Iron Gwazi (Busch Gardens Tampa, USA) – God Damn Iron Gwazi. The new American monster is so wild and full of extremities at every level. Unlike the above, and it’s biggest rival over at Cedar Point, it’s not the biggest airtime machine but it makes the best use of the fast paced approach by being packed full of killer manoeuvres. Several of these elements stepped up the manufacturer’s creativity and range of sensations another notch. As if that was even possible.
#2 Hakugei(Nagashima Spa Land, Japan) – This is nothing short of a beautiful creation. It was never quite as wild as some of those that came before, but it was a consistently incredible ride at all times of day in all parts of the train, even in the direst of situations. Hakugei has perhaps the most to offer, of all RMCs, in its combination of both length and power. The resultant layout probably has the closest to perfect mix of elements, from someone who over-analyses these things to the point of detraction. It did lack character for me and maybe has one zero-G too many so that, combined with not being the most intense, holds it back from the top spot.
#1 Twisted Colossus (Six Flags Magic Mountain, USA) – Still the king and I’m as much surprised as you probably are. Using pain as the measure for intensity (in a good way), no other RMC has come close to hurting my legs (and neck?!) with airtime as much as Twisted Colossus did. The out of control feeling exiting the high-five element hasnt been matched either, in a ride type that starts to feel a little calculated and clinical the more you delve into it. In a list where several coasters suffer from the feeling of hitting the brakes and wanting more, you hit the brakes on this ride, then you get more. The easy way. In a list where several coasters just didn’t quite hit the mark with everything they could throw at me, every single moment counts on this ride, to the point of physical duress. The simple knowledge that there’s more fun to come while creeping up the second lift hill is easily enough to keep me happy, but the interaction between the two trains during the layout adds an extra special layer to this mind blowing experience, truly setting it apart from the rest.
Bolliger & Mabillard are great at gifting me list topics. With a narrow portfolio of ride types that almost all happen to be large thrill coasters they become instantly relatable, comparable and it’s easy to know where you stand with them. I’d better pace myself before I run out of posts on such things.
Characterised in their own words by ‘the straight vertical drop with riders facing down’, the Dive Coaster has had an interesting presence in the industry over the years. It began life at Alton Towers in 1998 with the highly famous Oblivion and has since taken form in various different shapes and sizes, both larger and smaller. Within a couple of years a mirrored clone of the original was bizarrely built on the side of a cliff in Taiwan, but it took a full 7 years for the product to start shifting more seriously when the Busch Gardens parks decided to change the style somewhat – from intimidating and mysterious to imposing crowdpleasers with inversions, splashdowns and even bigger track and trains.
China, much as I love it, wasn’t one for setting any industry trends in those days and soon said “we’ll have a couple of those cloned as well”, but the 2010s found new ground in the birth of the mini version. Europe put fear and theming back on the agenda in conjunction with tighter manoeuvres and the smaller trains, suddenly the order book for Dive Coasters was more full than it had ever been. It felt like Cedar Point marked a turning point in how enthusiasts (or perhaps just me) viewed these creations, with Valravn making silly boasts about the tallest, fastest and longest (of a specific manufacturer and model), only breaking those statistics by miniscule amounts and clearly just for the sake of easy marketing, while not doing anything more interesting with the design or layout. Suddenly the attitude became “oh no, not another dive” and though the last 5 years has seen the population of these double, the spark of excitement for them seems to be fizzling out.
Again that could just be me, I’m up to 12 out of 16 on the checklist with only 3 unique layouts left to try and feel like I’ve already seen everything that they have to offer. Hopefully Cedar Fair can still surprise me, but in the meantime let’s have a look at how the rest stack up.
And here we are, the turning point itself. Valravn was a massive let down in all regards. The cars being a narrower eight-across rather than the usual ten for a Dive coaster that’s well in excess of 200ft tall had me believing, for a brief moment, that it would be nippier than other North American brethren. It was not, combining all of the worst aspects of the relative sluggishness that comes with a coaster of such scale with a jarringly unpleasant rattle that also made it the roughest and least entertaining of it’s type.
Hmmm.. apologies to all the Oblivion fans still out there, the original just doesn’t do it for me any more. Part of the blame can be laid on the park, who have managed to strip the attraction of all its atmosphere over the years. We can’t play the audio any more, we can’t show the queueline videos any more and we can’t use the holding brake as much. All that’s left is a big drop, which is admittedly still one of the best for doing what it does, and then the brake run. I like it enough, but it’s almost at flat ride status.
While I admire the aesthetic here, the layout leaves a lot to be desired. It borrows nearly all the features from the bigger brothers including the mid-course brake run, but this in particular seems entirely unjustified against both the pacing and the reduction in height (plus Happy Valley one train operations) to then just enter some uninteresting corners, the not overly spectator friendly water feature and end.
Similar issues on a different scale. I absolutely love the theming, preshow and presentation package of this coaster and I would have thought the short layout would lend itself to being potent and pacy. It somehow doesn’t though (space saving helix?) and the actual ride just isn’t punchy enough to seal the deal for me.
At the risk of sounding like a broken record (the predictability of the ride type is beginning to kick in), the forces weren’t strong enough on this mid-sized installation. The theming didn’t land very well with me either, but overall it looks great, the views were spectacular and I admire the attempted airtime hill.
The first of the giants in the list. Truth be told there’s very little separating these few, and even the ones that came before. If there’s one word I’d use for these Dive Coasters it’s ‘solid’. As a Happy Valley resident this one was again plagued with operational issues that bothered me. The big drop is serious business, but the mid-course brakes were biting a little too hard (on the only train on track) for the second half to deliver in equal measure. Hold that thought.
It’s fine, absolutely fine. Nothing more than that though. I think the only thing that puts this one above the previous clone in the list is the presentation of the splashdown area, which is particularly gorgeous. It’s amazing how much the Chinese park missed the mark on that feature when plonking it down in their own space and a true testament to how lazy cloning attractions can be.
It’s fine, absolutely fine. Nothing more than that though. I think the only thing that puts this one below the following clone in the list is the fact that the restraint put grease on my jeans. A mark that still remains today as a memory of better times.
Oh, and the queue. This Korean cousin had a really nice exterior buliding, queueline and even a bit of storyline. It was also an absolute mission to get a ride on this one at all, making the reward feel all the greater.
Still holding that thought? Good. My original experience with the big boy edition remains my favourite. It didn’t stop at all on the mid course brakes and therefore had a much more powerful second drop, which was further enhanced by a tunnel and misters. Chimelong did a really good job of integrating this layout into the surroundings and operate it surprisingly well, two things I can’t say for that other Chinese one with the lazy name.
This sea monster taught me that these rides could have pace. While the larger versions have an impressive sustain in their drops, that’s the only real trick up their sleeve and they spend the rest of the time wandering around in a cumbersome fashion. Even with the risky use of an early splashdown, this one still delivers effectively in each subsequent element (however few there may be) and that airtime hill is the best of the bunch. Even though it’s amongst the smallest, Krake was also another long overdue masterclass in intimidation factor – just look at it (granted, that sky helps). Heide Park surpassed all my expections with this one and raised the standard by which I measured the genre. Oh, and it has a great soundtrack too.
This marked the second time the Dive Coaster game changed for me. With a much more significant layout (and no pause for thought on any brake runs) Valkyria absolutely blasts its way through the course, providing several forces along the way that I previously believed these rides weren’t even capable of producing. Construction began at the aforementioned time when I thought I was over them and foolishly I didn’t even have faith in my own favourite park to pull off anything special with the hardware. They did of course, in spectacular fashion. I now love Liseberg even more for it. And no, I won’t hear a word against the vests. We can save that discussion for the Wing Coasters.
No more new coasters today, I’m afraid we’ve peaked. There were far too many insignificant options on the table to pad out the return leg of the journey with, to the point that I was still making decisions the night before while I should have been sleeping. Tweestryd sounded like a good idea at the time, zoo, a +2 and 40% off with a Plopsa pass. Local knowledge led me to believe that they rarely, if ever, run both sides however due to a lack of popularity and the sheer China-ness of that fact took the wind out of the sails.
Located near the heart of Utrecht in the Netherlands, this is more than just your average train museum. It’s home to a number of themed attractions and is simply one of those places that would always otherwise be skipped because they don’t have an rollercoaster. I found it to be well worth the time, reasonably priced and a refreshing experience. Think I need to vow to do at least one thing like this a year that isn’t based on upping the coaster count. For health reasons.
The star attraction, for me, is a dark ride by the name of Stalen Monsters. It’s a home-brew design that has you sitting in a little pair of railway carts on a powered track system (made by Kumbak no less, of other random train fame). It takes you around various varieties of the namesake Steel Monsters, a.k.a. big old trains, which doesn’t, on the surface, sound that great to anyone but a train buff.
It’s really well done however, very well paced, maintains a good level of intrigue and there’s something highly satisfying about having all the real life props forming the ‘theming’ of a dark ride system as opposed to just theming ‘theming’. On top of that the system itself is pretty special, with elevation, speed and directional changes all being woven into the journey and even managing to add a certain level of thrills where you might not expect.
Before the ride itself there’s a highly detailed queue of exhibits as well as a little preshow room with video that was entirely unmanned. With the place being basically empty on a weekday this added a good deal more to the adventure. Well worth the visit alone.
In the outside section there’s a simulator by the name of Trial by Fire.
Plenty going on in here too, before a preshow that starts off historic and ends by setting up something slightly more fantastical. An engineer character gives us briefing that can best be likened to Smuggler’s Run. Teams of 6 have different tasks to perform on one of the three simulators, though the catch here was that there was only the two of us in the entire room.
It’s slightly less evenly spread on the interactivity. The front row of 3 has a variety of levers and buttons to play with while those in the back only get to man the ‘dead man switch’. We were running up a million things at once like a ‘70s keyboardist although it doesn’t really appear to do anything to the sequence.
The sequence itself was a little bizarre, but entertaining. Once again things have to get a little ‘runaway rollercoaster’ down some ridiculous and unrealistic track but before long we’re doing Back to the Future 3 style jumps to different places in order to keep things interesting and/or perilous. Again I loved the distinct lack of staff presence here, adds to the mystery a bit and the vehicles themselves looked pretty fantastic.
The last of the big things I was into was this themed walkthrough, The Great Discovery, which involves time travel of the more subtle variety. You board a little elevator which takes you back to the days of Robert Stephenson, where you’re unleashed into this intricate world replicating the old town and his workshop.
I’m led to believe you’re usually presented with an audio guide for this to explain the details but this wasn’t happening on this occasion so it was all taken in on visuals. Of which there are many great ones, but also fun little tricks like a mouse moving in the rafters.
The second major area contains De Arend, one of the first two locomotives in the Netherlands, situated in a station from back in 1839. Trees and all. Pretty cool.
Other stuff around the museum includes the usual displays, along with miniatures and the like.
A mini game simulator that actually is responsive to what you’re doing.
And plenty more real live locomotives in their natural habitat which you can mostly just freely wander around.
They also have a show, for kids, but it’s all in Dutch, and a set of the famed Dutch snack machines – but they were all empty! A real trip ruiner.
In all seriousness though, a great place to stop off for a few hours.
And then things went wrong. I had wanted to get to Plopsa Station in Antwerp next for some more dark ride action and to get one final, final use out of that pass, but the roads were having none of it. Catastrophic traffic on the attempt to escape the Netherlands. Catastrophic traffic on the attempt to get in/around Antwerp. Absolute carnage.
In the end it transpired that I couldn’t have arrived until 15 mins before close which, given it wasn’t just a Wickie Coaster and something I had a modicum of interest in, wouldn’t have really worked. Even at the point that this idea was bailed upon, my backup plan then ended up being cut very fine as well.
Plopsaland de Panne
Oh yes, one last hurrah on the new sensation for the season.
To make matters worse in the massively faffy ending to the trip, they were only running one train on it and therefore I queued the longest I ever have for Happiness by a significant margin, picking up just a single lap in my hour on park.
Worth it though, gleaning perhaps one of the best rides, of many, experienced on it. It worked up one hell of a spin and I had that golden top hat exit moment in the back row, rotating from sideways to backwards as it takes the plunge in a literal heart in mouth, stomach wrenching terror of a drop. It was at least double the magnitude of the Time Traveller version and that one’s already beyond insane. Scary thoughts seeped their way into my brain on the brake run after all that wait. If it rode like that time, every time, it could well be a number 1.
The chunnel was trying to be a bit more spitey on the way back, with tons of aggressive warnings all the way along the French motorway saying ‘severe delays into the UK, expect to queue for several days’. This didn’t happen, instead we got automatically booked on a slot an hour earlier due to turning up in good time. Even inside the place all the signs were apologising for the devastating disruptions and yet, beyond a little slower than usual passport queue, nothing was actually wrong. I’ll take it.
Short and sweet, but quite the map. They’re always fun.
Total countries – 5 New coasters – 18 Total coasters – 23 New dark rides – 5 Total dark rides – 8 New parks – 5 Total parks – 10 Zierers – 7 Best new coaster – Fønix of course Distance travelled – 2000 Miles-ish Spites – –1/17 (-5.88%)
2015, Copenhagen. It’s hard to imagine a time when I took this stuff way less seriously. Less than 50 coasters to my name, Helix wouldn’t be a part of my life for another few days yet. Sightseeing was at the forefront of the agenda and I remember it was a faff. So this time it was quite refreshing to have another crack at it, a city tour, early morning, in the comforts of your own vehicle. Great fun.
One of the stops was the famous Nyhavn, or ‘that colourful street’. Colourful it was, also feat. boats.
And seven years ago, almost to the day, this had been so crowded with tourists we could barely even see it. Now it was a case of rock up, basically touch it. Tick.
We were here for creds of course though, a certain lovely little place by the name of Day 4 – Tivoli Gardens
Had a +1 to offer. It should have been a 2, but worldwide delays on parts meant the new-ish powered coaster was listed as closed on the website up until the day of the visit. We wanted to park directly under Dæmonen for the day but someone beat us to it and we ended up a street behind. Still pretty surreal.
Wait a second. It’s back!
#1 Mælkevejen was refreshing for a number of reasons. It was open when it shouldn’t have been. It rode way better than the old version it replaced. The theme was space.
You know when you just get a vibe from a park. You take a second to survey your surroundings. I’m in <insert park here>. Everything just feels right, it’s welcomed you home. There’s not many of them, but they’re out there. This is one for me and I was reminded of that as soon as our first ride was over.
Next up was the replacement #2 Kamelen, for the old Karavanen (which we rode just a few weeks ago again in France, accidentally). Look at that face. It’s so inviting, with the little lights on the hat and everything. Love it.
We came armed with plastic bottles, hoping to turn a profit at the recycling machines they have on park but sadly they’ve been modified to take only the cups that the stalls serve up now.
Oh well, dark ride time. The Flying Trunk is always a classic, I love the parts when this omnimover passes over itself, it’s an odd sight. The thing I didn’t quite remember was all the Hans Christian Andersen stories they squeeze into this one being rather ‘rushed’ in the voiceover. The narrator basically admits it himself in one of the scenes, that tale is too long to tell today.
We also did Minen while in the mood. I stand by the fact that this well themed indoor boat ride didn’t need guns. The scenery is gorgeous and fine without it, plus the targets don’t even have anything to do with anything. Why would you want to shoot the moles that are cleaning a dragon? Damn kids.
Dæmonen still kicks ass and I was proud to be wearing it’s shirt. Learnt that it’s totally not me getting bored of B&Ms, just that those formulaic layouts in particular do nothing for me. Here, however, I really enjoy the anticipation build in the first section. The big drop has a great kick with the gained momentum and the 3 choice inversions all hit in a single sequence in a satisfying way. They aren’t the focus of the ride. They complement it. It looks damn good too.
Rutschebanen though, Is this even better than I thought before? Because I absolutely adored it before. The mood in the station, the brakemen operators are just so chill and good at what they do. It’s infectious. One of them is wearing a million sunglasses, they’ve kept some of the knuffelbeers from covid era in the trains and then placed the rest in various scenes throughout the ride. They’re riding polar bears, they’re up on a mountain, everyone’s having a good time.
They run this ancient woodie hard, that restraint does nothing, you fear for your life on those drops. The laterals are crazy, it’s dark, it’s light, you’re waving at people. Then we finally mustered up the courage to join in with the locals and exit the ride while it’s still moving. It’s such a fun feeling, pushing against that bar as you roll into the station, just waiting for it to pop and then leaping into action at several miles per hour. Don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Thoroughly back in love with the place we whiled away the afternoon on all the old fond memories it provided. Monsunen, the evil flat ride, tasty and offensively cheap pizza, the little rabbit lawnmower doing his thing out in front of the Nimb restaurant. I could spend all day here and not even need to ride. That’s the measure of a good park and I miss it already.
I’ve always treated the two sides of Denmark as separate entities when visiting in the past so crossing between them the next morning was quite a novel experience.
Our weapon of choice was the Storebæltsbroen, I do admire a good bridge and this one is absolutely massive. Love how it was inside the cloud, it’s even tall enough for the world’s biggest cruise ships to just pass under. A tad pricey though.
Day 3 – Sommerland Sjælland
Talking of pricey, the first park of the day definitely suffers from coast2coaster syndrome somewhat. One look at their uninteresting +3 lineup certainly had us exclaiming how can they justify charging more than Fårup? For tarmac and an SBF Visa spinner. There is more to the place than it would appear though.
Entry is the same procedure, with the admissions booths being a drive-thru. You can then head down the car park and stroll through the entrance uninhibited by the staff-less presence.
It all began with said SBF Visa on tarmac, which shares both the name and look of the Beech Bend equivalent – #1 Spinning Out. Ignore those two in the back.
The major rides here can operate on time slots or rotation during the ‘low’ season which it already was by this point, so although we saw an engineer sign off the biggest coaster for the day, it was a case of come back later for it. Sommer is over.
Heading off into more of the park, we stumbled across the amusingly named Simulator Inator, the entrance of which is shared with an eatery.
Didn’t know what sort of hardware to expect, but this TV screen in the tiniest of queuelines gave it away. What’s unusual about this picture?
The active film was called Great Wall of China and began with an over-enthusiastic rickshaw driver taking us for a spin along said wall. Full marks for realism. Before long we look down to notice he’s attached a couple of fireworks to our transportation and, once lit, things get a little wild. Before long we’re mechanically separated from the driver.
It all boils down to that age old simulator styling of making every situation into a fantasy, physics-defying rollercoaster, but also not very good. It did go on for quite a significant amount of time, day turned to night, summer turned to winter and it ended on the big visuals of a massive fireworks festival, during which our lost driver makes another appearance by shooting over the moon and into the ocean. Full marks for continuity.
I fully believe the entrance price is justified by this nightmare fuel alone. I do love a good custom Wacky Worm face, particularly when they aim for the more weird and grotesque, essentially mocking our very hobby. #2 Vildbassen was a standout in more than one way, by also not having any form of restraint for adults and just a seatbelt for the kids. This meant I was getting fully Skyrushed sideways out of the train on the turn after the station for 8 of the 9, 9 laps. Which had me wondering what the clearance envelope is.
We’d heard tales of a boat ride at the park that contained ‘indoor scenes’ and wanted to verify for ourselves whether it could obtain ‘dark ride status’ or not. Subsequently we got very lost in the park for a good while trying to find it, which is when we found out how many other things the place has to offer.
Alright, let’s take a closer look at these spitey things. The blue one is ready to go as far as I can tell but this rain-soaked piece of paper says we have to wait for the grand opening next year. Construction, get excited.
You can get scared by hanging out with goats and Black Phillip.
You can feel like a giant, roaming freely amongst these miniatures.
Better than Silver Dollar City. And Gold Rush. And Bakken.
After much searching and time killing we found what we were looking for. Amazonas.
It was very impressively themed, they clearly went all out on this thing. The ride lasts for over 7 minutes as well, with various jungle exploration escapades going on. Sadly, by definition of the database, it only goes into a cave once with just the one scene, so is decidedly not dark enough. Good though.
All that wandering meant we arrived back at the Pinfari to see the SBF operator shut shop and head on over to run the #3 Vildkatten. While hell on earth for us coaster folk, it’s a highly popular ride here. Everyone else on our train did a Rollercoaster Tycoon and jumped for joy at the exit before heading straight back round for another lap. We, on the other hand, nursed a couple of bruises and thought ‘I want to go home’, heading straight for the park exit.
The other park for the day was BonBon Land, a place that I’ve previously declared the largest park left in Europe that I hadn’t yet visited. I’m sure there’s various different ways of measuring it, but I’m not even sure who that title falls to now. Maybe that Italian place who can’t spell Eurofighter.
Let’s talk about BonBon land though, or perhaps not, because I don’t think words can do this park justice. Pictures speak a thousand of them. Vildbassen was being outdone at every turn and the charm of this place was through the roof. I loved every second of it.
#4 Hundeprutten, the dog fart coaster, cracked me up. I usually like to consider myself above toilet humour but just the terror on the face of this train paints a picture of it being a serious medical condition and his desperate plea for us to stop taking advantage of it. Every lap, without fail, the non-descript speaker inside the dog house makes that sound and the comedic timing is nothing short of genius. Best Zierer Force One in the world.
World’s first Eurofighter, the #5 Vildsnivet. Wild Boar coaster. Why?
Because he’s a racing driver, and straddling the back of the car like a madman. That’s why.
I actually rather enjoyed the ride too. It’s a good little layout and rides surprisingly elegantly considering it’s the first and how bad some of the next few ones were. The whippy banked turn out of the first drop is done really well and the loop is solid.
#6 Han-Katten was a bit of a let-down (that brake run though). There’s some rather superlative reviews knocking around the internet from over a decade ago. Claims of this being the most intense spinner in existence, of some of the biggest names in our hobby being unable to stand after riding. It was as decidedly meh as with all my early experiences with Gerstlauer spinners, don’t tell me it never gets better than Six Flags.
#7 Viktor Vandorm brought it all back to reality with a quirky custom Zierer Tivoli layout that was originally designed for a specific piece of land, in a park in Germany. It even had wooden supports back then. Hybrid.
One of those evil tilting forwards drop towers.
Can never say no to a Fabbri tower either, even with weird sketchy seating.
I got excited here, thinking the ‘new for 2022’ attraction Prærie Expressen was another potential database entry. They used to have an old Alterface interactive theatre in this spot, have they gone and got a new one?
Alas, no, no ride system. Just sitting on stumps (or standing) and shooting cowboys on a new film on the screen. Got the best score of the day though.
Bon-Bio 4D was unhinged.
There’s a bizarre utilitarian shift inside, unlike anything else in the park.
It was playing both Moby Dick and Aladdin back to back, but not as we know them, in films that were more than a little off in many aspects.
I can’t really do the situation justice but the language kept changing, which synced up parody-poorly with the characters mouth movements. A whale is captured by an evil scientist in a mechanical octopus contraption and we pursue in an attempt to save it. Various peril occurs but there’s this crab channelling One Punch Man who just, with no physical or audio effect, casually sends characters flying off the horizon with a single touch. Yet strangely he’s not the hero of our story as, entirely unrelated to what has been happening, the parent whales show up out of nowhere at the end and save the day. Damn you, Moby Dick, I’ll get you next time, hahahahahaha. Punch.
Before we had time to recover from that one, the developer logo played twice and Aladdin was on his smart phone, having a picnic. Jasmine video calls and is thoroughly pissed off. He wakes up the genie, who is also scared by this, they need to get home now. Various peril occurs but it makes even less sense. Random 3D slow-mo cuts happen in the wrong places with no impact, creatures behave in very strange ways, it’s like all of the developers were locked away in separate dungeons, and also have no concept of what actually makes things good. We finally get to, wherever his home is, and spend an age flying through and near-missing a ton of towers while (another) massive firework display is going off. He lands on his balcony, is dragged into the bedroom by the ear and the doors slam shut, while genie adopts a bodyguard outfit in front of it and shakes his head at us. End.
Enough waffle, don’t even know where to start on this boat ride.
I had naively believed that our hotel woes were behind us, but on arrival at our stop off in Germany for the night we found that I had received an email saying my credit card details were out of date… not this again.
I’ve no idea what’s going on at this point, this particular trip was booked several months after the previous card had expired. The hotel for the following night had already confirmed that they had taken the money up front on that day, straight off of the same card details I provided. There’s no trace of the old details still on my account and yet still the system is out to spite me.
The staff decided to make a huge deal out of this matter for some reason, with two different people repeating at least 6 times between them that my card details had expired, why didn’t I check my emails?! (in the last few hours, while driving, and on holiday) and that 6pm was the cut-off point so they had cancelled our rooms.
That was all well and good, but I’m standing here right now with the credit card in hand, what are we going to do about this? The point just didn’t seem to sink in.
Eventually they just checked us in anyway, with no issue at all, so the completely unjustified berating was a total waste of life. Guess you still can’t go anywhere any more.
An early morning run on the autobahn had us making good time into Denmark the next day. We had successfully completed the 2sommer run before and of course were confident that we could do it again with just a +2 to pick up from each this time. For fun, and the sake of the relative significance of the new coasters, the order was switched up this time.
Day 2 – Djurs Sommerland
I’ve always got on really well with this park before. It’s such a lovely place to be and they’ve had a cracking lineup for a good while now. Slight technical hitch upon arrival this time (again), we had booked our tickets online but never received a confirmation email. It transpires that they ‘hadn’t turned the machine [computer] on’ though strangely the guest services and ticket counter were unable to do much about the problem. Instead they asked us to buy another set of tickets up front and send an email asking for a refund at a later date, which seemed a less than ideal solution.
Faff out of the way, we stood ready for the rope drop at the now slightly more signficant looking entrance to Wild Asia (insert Chessington joke here) and then, once let in, hopped straight onto #1 Jungle Rally.
It’s a cute little Zierer (there’s a lot of those on this trip) and really nicely presented. They’ve definitely fleshed this area out a lot since it was just the signature attraction, mud and concrete and I’m very impressed.
We took a token lap on Drage Kongen to see if much had changed over the years. Wasn’t too bothered about it before, though I believe it was a victim of hype at the time – I can still recall the bold statements bouncing about from ‘could be as good as Nemesis Inferno’ to ‘might ride like an inverted Megalite’. No.
The ride still rattles around and is essentially a weaker version of the larger Vekoma model, which makes little financial sense at the very least. It’s not a bad attraction by any means, it looks really nice, the little trick at the start is a good spectacle from the air gates and the layout goes on for a surprisingly long time. What had improved on this occasion for me was the atmosphere in the station, with some good music and lightning effects that I don’t particular remember from opening year.
They’ve been so busy at this park, the new and massive Tigeren has replaced the old Topple Tower that we were lucky enough to catch operating once. This ride had me at ‘bigger Loke’ and it’s rather spectacular in the forces that it pulls. Lap bar freedom, massive beyond vertical swing, big amounts of weightlessness and crushing positives. I’m no flat ride connoisseur but these are totally my bag.
Headed into the new, new area next to see some dinosaurs. I don’t really remember what was here before, if anything, but it’s quite the transformation. Dino Xpedition is a fun little jeep ride along the lines of many others of this ilk. I’ve since been led to believe that not everything was working properly inside the cave, the projections were broken and even technology like the queue signs were out of action, which is unfortunate on something so recent.
#2 T-Rex Family Coaster was rather great. I’ve now been given more hope for this rebirth of modern Mack & Moritz powered coasters as this one provides so much more of a ‘ride’ experience. The layout has some pretty funky moments and the build up of speed into a significantly faster second lap is particularly satisfying, making it a much more well rounded experience.
Having finished with everything on the hit list we jumped on Juvelen for a back row ride. It still kicks a surprising amount of ass when it wrenches you through that second launch and into a very potent set of twists, turns and near miss interaction. Love it.
Last up was the old favourite Piraten. It actually had a queue, which I’ve never really seen before, so we weren’t quite able to get as reacquainted with it as we had hoped. I think this hurt the reputation of the ride somewhat, it’s definitely something you want to marathon to get the most out of. It remains a fantastic ride, with a near grey-out inducing first turn, several moments of powerful airtime and the satisfaction of those violently twisty hills. Half hour waits for such a short, cloned layout just didn’t quite hit the spot this time and I’m far less confident about the whole ‘Piraten is better than the other Megalites’ thing now than I used to be. It may be much more circumstantial than I previously believed. Still, we’ll always have 2017.
On that note it was time to hit the road to the main event and inspiration for the whole trip, though there was even time for a leisurely lunch on route because we wanted to be cheeky and take advantage of the reduced rate afternoon tickets.
We arrived 5 minutes early and enquired about the deal at the signature drive-thru ticket booths. Sadly it’s entirely down to the whims of a computer system so there’s no opportunity for the admissions staff to be lenient in this case. They recommended we back up and park for a couple of minutes until the time ticket over and then we were waved through once again to seal the deal.
The park was much busier and, more surprisingly, much larger than I remember from before. We of course wanted to get to Fønix first and the walk through the pleasant greenery seemed to take forever, it just kept going and going along the very long and thin layout that spreads either side of the main entrance.
At last we were greeted with the sight of fresh Vekoma track and stumbled into a 20 minute queue not knowing what to expect.
God damn Iron Gwazi, they’ve finally done it.
#3 Fønix is the Vekoma we’ve all been banging on about for years, the new generation has finally arrived and is ready to play with the big boys. I absolutely adored this thing and we couldn’t get enough of it. Essentially to the point where all notions of courtesy rerides on the other coasters went out the window rather quickly.
No more underwhelming profiling, no more bland forces, no more pointless inversions. Almost every single moment hits hard and fast and, under the guise of what has already become their established style, it’s unbelievably refreshing.
The first drop was punching harder than Piraten and leads into a forceful pullout of positives. Instead of dwelling on this for too long you’re immediately up into the weirdly floaty stall and flopping out of your seat in a gorgeous moment of contrast.
I love the insanely tight and twisted exit of this element, it doesn’t even look real from off-ride and I guess totally justifies why the trains are a little shorter.
Perhaps the one piece of the puzzle that doesn’t quite land is the subsequent big hill. It feels just a little too high, there’s no significant airtime or even sustain on it and then it rides like it has to turn into that turnaround slightly prematurely. Basically the single thing Lech and Abyssus do better.
All is immediately forgiven as it throws you into an outrageous second inversion that tries to hurl you outwards – up there with the classic Blue Fire and the more recent Mosasaurus. A double down follows into a twisted hill, this is definitely riffing off of some other greats as well.
Of course next is the point dance, the station inversion. It’s currently a little obnoxious offride as everyone has taken it upon themselves to scream really loudly through it, though this was a bonus contrast with the Lech equivalent not even letting you in the station and not having people on it. Onride however it’s another powerful snap of an element, perhaps only faltering in not being as good as the one before it.
Another moment of strong positives breaks the flow in the next turnaround and then we hit a finale of no less than six bouncy, twisty, joyous airtime moments. Some wonky, others straight, one popping out sideways like an RMC, it does it all and it does it well. Well done.
Best Vekoma in the world by an almost immeasurable margin for me and, somehow, the new best coaster in Denmark. I’m excited for these again now and can’t wait to see what they do next. That’s dangerous.
Of course there’s one other Vekoma to tick off round the corner. #4 Saven looks great in it’s natural habitat, not to say they didn’t do a nice job with the clone at Energylandia but this one fits in the space for a reason. I really like the water splash effect, it’s very convincing from around the middle of the train.
The outbound trip is solid with it’s satisfying sequence of hills, just it loses a bit of oomph on the return run from being purely gravity driven. Couldn’t help but think a little boost on the spike would help spice it up a bit.
As stated, we never got round to revisiting the rest of the park, save for after the queuelines had closed for a quick photo lap. 2017 me was very lazy and basically missed pictures of half the rides so at least that’s solved now. In terms of lineup, things are looking pretty great for Farup now.
Orkanen wasn’t needed, I’ve lost count of how many others I’ve ridden since, but is still a remarkably good piece of hardware for what it is.
We found Falken to be solid, if unremarkable in the past and that was with far less experience. Having just come off the back of what, 60 mostly unremarkable woodies in the last couple of months I’m not sure a reride would have done anything but harm it slightly, though it’s undoubtably fine at filling it’s niche here.
Lynet was smooth before, offensively smooth. The clear standout of the type and surprisingly good given the hardware. I worry that it isn’t any more, so leave the memories alone. Still, solid launcher for the park.
Fønix is an obviously massive step up though, and I bet the park is even seeing that themselves. Everyone was just lapping it again and again, with the queue remaining a consistent and popular length all the way up until close, with guests desperate for that one last ride. I can’t imagine that this level of attention is anything but new ground here given the attractions that preceded it. Our final lap was treated to a rendition from the entire train of “EKSTRA TUR, EKSTRA TUR, EKSTRA TUR” on the brake run. Sadly we weren’t going to get our Steel Vengeance moment as I could still see a queue snaking down the station stairs. A sly shake of the head from the operator confirmed this as we pulled back into the station, but I admire them for trying.
It was a little depressing to walk away from something with such strong emotion and yet at the same time thinking it’ll struggle to even crack a personal top 50, but this is the fate I’ve chosen for myself. Fønix is nothing short of incredible though, and I don’t say that lightly.
It’s been many a year since I last dusted off Denmark and they’ve certainly been pretty busy since then. In the absence of any real need for yet more Eurodemption, along with the fact that it feels like I’ve pretty much cleaned the continent out, it was time to head out to one of my favourite European nations before Sommer came to a close. But first we need to get there.
Our morning chunnel came and went without a hitch, besides the hideously early start, so it turns out you can go somewhere, sometimes. With several countries to pass through and a reasonably significant distance to drive, the first day of the long weekender was filled with a sporadic selection of creddities.
Day 1 – Plopsa Indoor Hasselt
With just a week left on our old Plopsa season pass it felt like as good a moment as any to mop up the remaining offerings at no additional cost. Hasselt was the initial stop on the journey and the family entertainment centre is located in what very much felt like an industrial estate, which was very unassuming and slightly confusing to navigate.
They do have a nice vibe these places, especially when they’re quiet, even though we’re clearly not the target audience.
In fact we were in and out in easily under 10 minutes. #1 Wickie Coaster was a solid stock Zierer and had disturbingly similar visuals to the one in Poland. As is the intention.
Next up was one of the many parks in the Netherlands that has often been considered, but never committed to, while we planned various escapades throughout the region. Thanks to geography and a deal on Belgian website Tripper.be (do check it out if you ever have plans in Europe, it’s pretty solid), today was the day to make it happen.
The place begins as an indoor play area, again one in which the average adult would feel vastly out of place. Luckily there’s a welcoming sight just outside.
it’s not often you get a Wacky Worm with a mine train aesthetic, but I’m all for diversity. The Loch Ness Monster in the middle of #2 Dolle Pier is also an added bonus.
#3 Tyfoon is slightly more substantial and rides rather unusually for its style, though it’s the only Zierer ‘Comet’ to have existed. It’s full of relatively aggressive turns and block sections banked at 30° angles which wouldn’t feel out of place on a coaster manufactured by Pax. Not sure what they were up to when making this ride for Tivoli Gardens in 1989, but I’m all for uniqueness.
2022, Hellendoorn Acquiring our complimentary tickets was straight forward and immediately the park atmosphere was off to a better start. Damn kids.
Most importantly though, #4 Balagos – Flying Flame was open, so a courtesy visit brought the fruits of a +1. Soon to be the only one of two Vekoma ‘Tornado’s in the world, it rides pretty damn good with the new rolling stock made by Sunkid. For what it is anyway. There’s some unnerving laterals in the first drop while the unforgiving metal lap bar digs into your skin and I even caught some air on the big turnaround between inversions. Better than Loopen, though the memories of guests faces on that one still make me laugh.
Can’t have it all though, a delay in parts has left this relocated Mexican spinner out of action for the season. Don’t think we can get away with coming back a third time.
Something else that was unfortunately missed before, due to crowd related reasons, was Jungle Expedition. A quaint little boat ride with an interactive puzzle, some animal action and a surprise cave scene to finish.
We also gave Discovery Club another courtesy lap and it fared much better when experienced in a lighter mood. The simple act of walking down the queueline stairs uninhibited was incredibly cathartic and we had great fun setting off the many effects on this quirky dark ride.
Satisfied with the park’s redemption arc, there was time for one more freebie before the day was out.
Plopsa Indoor Coevorden
It all looked somewhat familiar on the outside, though this one is located in a field on the outskirts of town.
And then it was just plain creepy on the inside. You’d barely know we had travelled several hundred miles since the morning at all, save for this being called a #5 Wickiebaan instead of a Wickie Coaster.
All in all a highly successful +5 for the count. Onwards!
I was impressed with how solid the rollercoaster selection is at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. A common trend among larger amusement parks is having a glaringly disparate gap in quality between the one or two headline attractions and the large quantities of what I would call ‘filler’ for an enthusiast. You’re more than likely in this hobby to come across a lot of clones and experiences that aren’t unique to a park, so it’s refreshing to experience a lineup such as the following.
#9 Grover’s Alpine Express Due to its location, the smallest coaster in this park is often the first ride to open for the day, making it easy pickings for adding +1 to the count. While it is twinned with a ride at the other Busch Gardens park, at least the Zierer Force 190 is reasonably hard to come by.
#8 Tempesto The number of Premier Sky Rocket IIs in the world is growing at quite a rate and this is one of the newer installations, so it was a little disappointing to see it built here. It filled a very limited niche in the lineup when it was built, now nullified, by having both forwards and backwards direction of travel, and now multiple launches are already covered better multiple times elsewhere in the park. The main reason it’s a popular ride type to buy is most likely the tiny footprint and compact layout that still provides a high thrill level to the average guest. Sadly Tempesto has the worst restraints available for this model of ride the form of ‘comfort collars’. The restricting nature of these shoulder straps make the experience more of a chore, rather than something to enjoy.
#7 Loch Ness Monster Though it has somewhat legendary status as a classic ride of an earlier era, in todays terms Nessie isn’t a coaster I would describe as exciting. Arrow loopers can often lean towards being rough and ready due to their interestingly shaped track transitions and older technology, but this particular installation posed no issues to me whatsoever. In fact it was a rather amusing experience with a big square helix in a shed and a smaller second lift that seemed rather out of place. The interlocking loops are a great off-ride spectacle, it’s just that the layout itself has very little to offer.
#6 Griffon The other clone in the park comes in the form of this B&M dive coaster. It isn’t Busch Gardens fault however, as the other version arrived much later at a park in Korea, nor is it their fault that I happened to ride that version first. These are always solid fun, with a ride experience that generally centres around their one or two massive vertical drops. The drops themselves provide a well sustained out of the seat moment but due to the sheer size of the track and trains the remainder of the layout can often feel a little slow and meandering. Griffon is no exception to this, but it is a good looking ride – the well positioned splashdown section provides an impressive off-ride experience as well.
#5 Invadr I’ve found that GCI are at their best when their rides are huge so that they can really make the most of the relentless sensations they are capable of creating. Invadr is small for its type and yet still manages to pack a certain punch, though perhaps nothing on the scale of an equivalent sized Gravity Group, but it still means that Invadr is worth several laps of good fun. One of the features I enjoy most about these rides is the unpredictable forces that come out of their unusually shaped corner transitions. On certain GCIs these have been nowhere to be found, but they were back and in plentiful supply within the layout here. The ride looks great from outside the entrance, but leaves a little to be desired in the barren landscape that surrounds the majority of the track.
#4 Alpengeist B&M inverts used to be one of my favourite ride types. The first few that I encountered were all smooth, stupidly intense and offered well varied layouts so I was firmly of the belief that you could’t go wrong with one of these. I did eventually stumble upon a few that didn’t meet any of the above criteria. It turns out it is possible for some to ride rather poorly, lack intensity or have the monotony of repeating the same elements, in order. Alpengeist suffered mainly from the first of these. On the day I experienced it, this did ride poorly, particularly towards the back of the train and in the outside seats (usually the most enjoyable positions) with an unpleasant rattle that, although perfectly tolerable, detracted from the performance somewhat. The layout is very refreshing, with the huge swooping downwards spiral that turns far more than your average first drop and the following unique inversion sequence. After the mid course brake run however, the ride ran out of steam to the point of hilarity. We couldn’t help but laugh when Alpengeist was almost travelling at a walking pace through the final turns that dangle your feet over the fake snow trenches carved into the landscape. Speaking of the landscape, the attention to detail in the theming of this ride is wonderful and I really did appreciate the overall aesthetic it provides. It’s a shame the hardware couldn’t match that standard on this occasion.
#3 Apollo’s Chariot The main aim of most hyper coasters is to provide you with a plentiful supply of large hills and a great deal of speed with which to experience them. In an ideal world, these hills will be trying to kick you up out of your seat and the B&M train design for these rides has an almost unrivalled sense of openness and freedom which can only enhance that sensation. Apollo’s Chariot pulls this off a fair few times, but sadly not quite every hill is a hit. The strongest moment of the ride turned out to be the exit of the mid course brake run which angles back to a steep drop much faster than any of the camelback sections of track and provides a great surprise moment of ejection for riders.
Another challenge in designing rides of this scale is keeping things interesting in between the signature hills, finding a good way to transition from one element to another. Most notable in this layout is the turnaround, which is a very long, flat, banked corner that offers nothing to riders other than a means to get them and the train facing in the right direction to head back to the station. Moments like this always bug me as it feels like wasted potential and one of my most sought after characteristics of a ride is that it doesn’t give you any time to stop and think. That corner aside, Apollo’s Chariot is one of the better B&Ms hypers that I have ridden and although the frequency is just a little too low for my liking, in the moments it does deliver, it delivers well.
#2 Verbolten I have to admit that I was surprised to walk away from Busch Gardens Williamsburg in 2019 with Verbolten as my favourite ride in the park. This attraction is usually billed as somewhat more of a family-thrill adventure as opposed to the many taller and faster offerings that surround it, but the ride experience contains a good number of factors that set it apart from the rest of the lineup for me. The queueline, station and overall theming is on the same level as the strongest examples in the park with particular little details like the number plates on the trains all having unique references to elements of the current ride and in one case, the retired ride that once operated where Verbolten stands today.
Beyond the station, the ride has the most extensively themed coaster section of any in the park with a large show building containing the most significant portion of the layout. The train initially takes you wandering into the forest before hitting the first launch, which thrusts you into this building with a surprising amount of gusto. It’s completely dark inside to begin with and you cannot see that the launch track ends in a hill and corner transition that provided me with wickedly fierce and out of control airtime moment before it navigates some tight corners with strong positive forces. The building begins to light up with various themed effects around you as the train continues its journey into an apparent dead end!? Verbolten is one of few rides in the world with a section of drop track. The train comes to a complete stop and one of (I believe) three sequences begins with the lighting and scenery again, one of which, pays homage to the ride’s predecessor ‘Big Bad Wolf’. The train and track section drop together in unison with a gleefully powerful moment of surprise airtime, usually only enhanced by the anticipation and reaction of unsuspecting riders around you – a real crowd pleasing scare element.
The ride picks up a pace again as you leave the building from here and enter a second launch track. My main gripe with the layout comes here in that it doesn’t use this multi launch aspect (usually one of my absolute favourite elements on any ride) to any significant effect. All the energy is immediately sapped from the train again by a single uphill section into the next trick. The trick itself involves crossing a bridge that appears to be collapsing beneath you and a significant drop follows, leading you into some final turns back towards the station, unfortunately again with somewhat less vigour than the immensely strong first half of the ride. Overall I loved Verbolten. It’s a very special attraction and it stands out as the most complete ride experience package in the park and is certainly, so far, the best ride Zierer have ever made.
New for the 2022 season, after a particularly agonising series of delays, Busch Gardens Williamsburg finally opened their Intamin multi-launch coaster. We had known this was coming ever since the previous visit in 2019 and, for various obvious reasons, it took 3 years both for us to visit again and for the park to be able to construct and sign off the attraction. It was wholly worth the wait as by sheer merit of the ride type alone, Pantheon slots comfortably into position as best coaster in the park, the headliner. The comfort of the trains, the modern quirky elements and the moments of serious airtime all blend together into a world class coaster experience, and one that is exactly the sort of thing that keeps me on my travels.
The ride was full of pleasant surprises, but also had its fair share of minor flaws. The very existence of the initial launch and inversion had managed to escape my knowledge and gave Pantheon a very strong start, reminiscent of another world-beating Intamin. From this moment it does get a little messy and convoluted however, with a very abrupt change of pace followed by the signature triple launch section. This segment undoubtedly provides some fantastic moments, the bursts of acceleration over what is essentially a speed bump and the weightlessness of that intimidating vertical spike, but I find it’s hard to gel with the flow of the overall experience with all this starting and stopping going on. This also comes at the price that once the ride does get fully going and takes all the biggest, hardest hitting elements, it then hits the final brakes very suddenly. None of that can take away from the power of the top hat, beyond vertical drop and banked airtime hill however, which all seal the deal on a spectacular package. My surprise favourite moment in fact came from the backwards launch when seated in the front row. The violent nature with which this chucks you over the mid-launch hill is very special and unlike anything else I’ve experienced.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg already had a very impressive lineup, but it just got even better.
In order to maintain a degree of significance on both days, we opted for a revisit to one of the nicest parks in France in lieu of a lot more cred running, with the added bonus of a healthy +2. Nigloland already had a cracking lineup for its size, along with a very pleasant atmosphere. This remains, mostly, but what’s new?
#1 Krampus Expedition, that’s what. This one strikes me as a weird concept, I get that the folklore fits into the Alpine theme of the area and nearby other attractions, but why a water coaster? To fill a gap in the lineup? Probably.
Whatever the reason, they’ve done a fantastic job with it. The lift looks surprisingly hefty and intimidating in the context of the park. The queueline has some great theming, including wrapping around a massive, spooky skeleton of Krampus himself. There’s also a collection of posters depicting other famous water rides around the world, which seems cheeky.
I’m glad they went for a custom layout of course, would have been too easy to order a Skatteøen and be done with it, but instead we get a more fast paced and fun pre-splash section that even includes an extra little floaty hill. I’m also kinda liking the new track style with the regular Mack track hemmed in by the older water coaster rails. Hopefully it’ll stop it riding like Poseidon and Journey to Atlantis in a few years.
Alpina Blitz, the original Alpine themed coaster here sits pretty just next door. Sadly it was only running one train so we didn’t get to spend much time with the Mack Megalite on this occasion. Comfortable, powerful, it’s an all-round good time coaster from start to finish. I still prefer it to the more poorly run Intamin equivalents but it hasn’t yet found that killer instinct like Piraten.
I’m still worried about what they’ve done to my poor Eurosat, but the essence lives on in Spatiale Expérience (and my car playlist). It was particularly amusing on this occasion, with the French getting really hyped up during the extended spiral lift hill and counting down to the first drop, before proceeding to sit in stark silence, perhaps boredom, for the entirety of the actual layout. I don’t quite know how they manage it with this track but it’s so jerky, yet smooth. The train pumps around all over the place in quite an intense manner though it’s all from strange shaping and not roughness as far as I can tell.
The other new coaster was #2 Noisette Express which somehow manages to be rougher, in a fun, kiddy kinda way.
I’m enjoying the current rise of these ART engineering projects though, they all have a great aesthetic and seem to end up being a cut above your average plonked family coaster. The profiling of that first drop amuses me for a start.
The squirrel character on the back of the train is great, he also has a little story throughout the queue. It’s a tad inconsistent as it declares he was born on the same day the ride opened, along with the contradictory fact that he’s been doing forest conservation engineering projects for years before this. It’s like Duplo Dino all over again with these details.
Hoping this is an homage to the Wacky Worm that is no more at this park, having been replaced by a circus tent opposite the new ride.
Cheat shot. Le Donjon de l’Extrême kicked more ass than before, which is saying something. A combination of not being stapled and being able to see properly led to a world class drop tower experience. Love it.
I don’t remember Maison Hanté hauling so much either. The open-benched seating is still so much fun in the ghost train environment and it was spinning so hard through the downhill slalom graveyard section at the end that I could barely walk straight upon exiting. Still irks me that the spooky building always seems to be framed poorly against the sunlight, though it’s probably just a summer month problem.
Highly satisfied with another half day visit we snacked on some great value crêpes on park, continuing to prove that this place has lots of great food, then headed out on a bit of a mission.
Plopsaland de Panne
Not a cred mission though, a labour of love you might say. I’ve still got that season pass and I’ll find any excuse to use it. What’s a 5 hour drive between parks?
Yup, Ride to Happiness is still the second best rollercoaster on the planet. It’s ridiculous and I can’t get enough.
It was hard to tear ourselves away and head for that ferry, but all in all a joyful little jaunt of a weekend with something to offer on both extremes of the spectrum. A +7 for the coaster count and a +1 for morale.
Right back at it again. This was originally billed to be a little birthday weekender to treat myself to some Gravity Group wood but it ended up being deferred for a Kpop festival in London no less – about the only thing in the world that can trump coasters these days. This all worked out for the best in the end, not least as one of us was still missing a renewed passport by the time the original dates rolled around, along with the fact that the outbound journey process was far less ruined than it could have ended up being, though still not without issue.
Turns out you can’t go anywhere any more, by any method of transport. We arrived at Dover, bleary-eyed and far too early before the new recommended time allowance and proceeded to get stuck in a 90 minute queue for passport control. Just like Heathrow this didn’t really make sense, as it was running at a higher capacity than ever before, but still, we ended up getting pushed back to the next ferry, which was then half an hour late itself.
As always, there was an overly ambitious plan afoot and some quick calculations during the crossing soon made it clear that an Alpine coaster at Parc D’Olhain was immediately gone, along with a +1 at another park, which I had already forgotten existed by the time the trip rolled around.
We were also slightly fearful of how the fastrack/back row system worked at Parc Astérix, particularly regarding whether it had the ability to sell out or not and, after failing to find any details online, booked ourselves a slot on the app as soon as the park opened. This went wrong straight away however, as it immediately counted us down through a 15 minute cooldown period and then insisted that we had to be on the ride between 10:15 and 11:15. This would be just a little tricky while still being on the ferry. Oh well, no time to worry about it now.
Instead it was straight to
Day 1 – Le Fleury
We were amused and confused to arrive at the car park only to be greeted by a road-side banner that stated Le Fleurby. Have we even come to the right place? Turns out it’s the name of the mascot.
Started strong on this beast. #1 Aircraft is not your average SBF Visa creation and the only one operating in the world apparently. I’ll take that.
Lazy research on my part had me believing Bayou Express was the next +1, but we’ve sadly since discovered that I’d already ridden it in Tivoli Gardens. At least the rest of the party needed it.
Yet another relocation operates here under the guise of #2 Rhaegal. This one found infamy fairly recently after derailing in Scotland and subsequently helped my tradition of picking up all the Scottish coasters after they’ve emigrated away. Like the near identical Pinfaris of late, it rode unnervingly smoothly and was even half decent. On a day like this.
Mer de Sable
I remember us looking at this park online while standing in a queue at Parc Saint Paul several years ago, before performing a cost-benefit analysis and deeming it unworthy of our time. It was wise to hold off as there’s a bit more going for it now, plus maybe my standards are a little lower.
After immediately getting lost and trudging through one of the many sand dunes that make up the park’s pathways, we stumbled across their dark ride first, Jungle des Chikapas. *insert Chiapas song here*
It’s a fun little theme, lots of puppeteered animals playing dress up, doing a whole dose of dancing and being their own civilisations. Very solid.
I hadn’t expected any themes beyond Wild West at this park, but we next wound up in an Asian sort of area. #3 Tiger Express was running like an absolute maniac on-ride with not a single block engaging and what would have been a 90 minute queue courtesy of Cedar Fair took a mere 20.
Up the top of a hill is the nicely rethemed and relocated Vekoma junior, #4 Silver Mountain, that once resided at Ratanga Junction in South Africa. This lands me two out of three coasters from the deceased park in as many months, though I’ll have to visit Chile sometime if I ever wish to complete that particular collection. The ride had great views of the surrounding countryside, a fear inducing water effect and even a bit of mist. Very solid.
It all went a bit grim to finish as we ended up in the longest queue of the day for #5 Bandidos, just another SBF spinner. The ride was twice as popular as it had been when we passed it earlier for some reason and we found ourselves in the midst of a group of about 20 children throwing sand around with their shoes.
Park complete though.
They were just the entrées, time for the main dish. Signs were positive as we powered towards the entrance gate, in that a lot more people were heading out rather than in for the day. The machine gun wielding guards of the past were no longer at security to greet us and, already having the measure of the place from our very amateur visit in 2017, we headed straight to the new for 2022 refurbished Tonnere deux Zeus and found the fastrack gate.
Once again the system was confusing, splitting into two rows up some stairs which I immediately assumed were for forwards or backwards, though neither sign made it clear that this was the case. We later surmised that the separation was in fact for ‘one-shot’ fastrack holders and multi-fastrack pass holders. Nevertheless we bowled up with our own backwards seat one-shot that had now been expired for a good 5 hours and in our already predicted French fashion, the host who was working hard and doing about three jobs at once didn’t even have the time for the discussion as to what went wrong, and let us straight into the back row.
Which was the plan all along, you can’t beat a good backwards ride when you simply have no clue what’s coming next. I wasn’t overly fussed about the old Zeus, we only managed to ride it the once and spent most of that worrying about our bag flying all over the place as it wobbled my thighs around some corners in amusing fashion. Coming into this experience I knew nothing of what the mad lads at Gravity had done to the ride for the refurb, trains aside, so it was quite the unnerving experience heading up that lift hill with all the wrong views.
First off, it was amazing. There’s something I find so joyous about the not knowing what’s coming, it just results in nervous and/or excited laughter whenever something significant happens, which in this case happened a lot. The first drop was a little shaky but it really found itself after that and just kept on giving. It felt like it went on for an absolute age, with endless little bursts of airtime which, with the direction of travel, provided an unusual accentuation in how the exit of each hill was lower than the entrance. It really drags you through it all in those seats.
As a counter point it was almost a little exhausting and mildly stressful. I’ve never done wood backwards before and that extra fear of being murdered by roughness at some point led to me never fully letting myself relax and be in the moment, always slightly on edge and braced for the worst. Fantastic fun though, one of a kind experience (right now) and highly recommended.
Buzzing with the eventual success, after the anxieties of the day, we headed over to the only other coaster we were specifically interested in revisiting. On route we skipped past old Goudurix and decided it was best left alone, having treated us kindly in the past.
Something that didn’t treat me so kindly was Ozlris, a ride that 5 years ago punched me in the head on the first drop, rode subsequently about as poorly as the Vekoma and was my first real taste of B&M, and inverts specifically, not being all that consistently good any more. I went in hoping for another Nemesis or Black Mamba, and it wasn’t even close. Since that day this one has sat dead last on my invert rankings, which I’ve always felt a little uncertain about as I’ve literally piled another 20 rides onto that list since, shunting it further and further down. Was it really that bad, baffes aside?
Yes and no. That pronounced, violent jerk was still present on the first drop in the back row, though I was ready for it this time. I suppose it could be considered a good thing to start off that boldly and then immediately be contrasted with the unusually floaty first inversion. Contrast hits again and it’s more forceful through the next part and into the loop than I previously experienced. That weird jarring lurch in the exit is still there and on closer inspection it’s a trim brake, which I find very odd (and funny). Is there also a bump in the track or is it purely the friction that gives it that strange feeling?
The ride loses pace a bit from there (I wonder why), which is one of the main issues I took from before as it does several sluggish turns over unlandscaped land, only diving in and out of the ground for some fun inbetweeny sections parallel to the station. One of the zero Gs was especially glorious and overall I much preferred it to how I found it before. It definitely isn’t the worst one but is also quite a step down from the best. Very solid.
Having completed what we had set out to do in surprisingly quick fashion, the plan was now up in the air. Their madhouse, Le Défi de César, had been a highlight of our last visit and so we checked it out again. Sadly it wasn’t operating either of the preshows, from which I remember nothing but fountain peril, although it was rather interesting to walk straight into the ride system from the exit doors with absolutely no context as to what was going on.
This one has always stood out to me as being the one that gets a little inventive with screens rather than just the usual physical decorations. It ain’t no Hex, but it sets it above your average, confusing story fest. The effect wasn’t quite as pronounced as before, though not especially helped by the fact that at least one of the screens was losing signal and cutting out throughout the ride. We went though our army test, got attacked by a giant squid and came out the other side in one piece. Very solid.
Another semi-dark ride that I hadn’t realised existed and subsequently missed before was Epidemaïs Croisières. For some reason we had great trouble even finding it this time, with the park app indicating it to be in the rocks under the Grand Splatch. Somehow we managed to walk straight past it at least once, staring insistently and completely 180° in the wrong direction of where we thought it was supposed to be.
Boats happen, a large man happens, countries happen and then it goes into a cave for some more happenings. The story was more than a little lost on me, in the end it could all be a dream/imagination as the bloke is playing with his toys in the bath, including our boat. That’s my best guess anyway. Supposedly I’m meant to know this stuff.
We weren’t sure what to do with Tonnere deux Zeus other than knowing it demanded some further rerides, but by this time the question had been answered for us. The backwards seats were no longer available to book and so we queued up for some back to back forwards laps through an impressively efficient regular queue to close the day out in style. Without doing it one more time and trying to really relax, I’d say it’s essentially as good in vanilla mode as it is in the special seats, with a far less pronounced difference in intensity between the two when compared with legends such as DC Rivals and Hollywood Dream.
Gravity have done wonders with it as far as I’m concerned, the still shaky first drop and leads into the satisfying CCI-style turnaround and it’s already hauling by this point. Fresh wood hits in the form of the new sideways airtime hill which packs a powerful punch that I’m all too familiar with and is a real highlight of the new design. I like the homage touch of the old train and some track sticking out above the turnaround at the far end, although it’s a shame you can’t really see it that often.
The next two straight sections remain chock full of airtimey speed hills, which amusingly are half retracked and half as-was, leading to a very special sequence of float and crunch as it bounces between the two. This segment ends with a wicked lateral jerk to the side as you’re still out of your seat from the last hill and thus begins the helices of doom.
They’re alright, the thigh wobble is sadly a thing of the past but there’s still enough of my preferred level of rattle to keep things interesting and then the new deafening tunnel full of lightning effects is hilarious. Yes it’s loud, but when you’ve done Hades 360 you can put up with just about anything. The finale is a little weak, as we’ve found with many recent woodies of this scale, a couple of slower hills, one wonky, on a piece of structure that has a rather impressive sway to it. The Voyage corner to finish is even a bit of a damper but it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable entity and a well earned revitalisation. Very solid.
Can’t wait for the one-two punch it’ll form with Toutatis. France are kicking our ass.