USA 06/23 – Dollywood

Something else opened up recently right?

Yes, a mere 9 hours away by car was our old friend Dollywood, with the added convenience of pointing ourselves back in the direction of Texas. We’ve strayed as far as we dare on this adventure.

Sadly Dolly doesn’t offer any form of sweet start, and in order to have made the most out of a 2-day visit we would have had to have pushed stupidly hard on the journey. Not worth it.

And so, on arrival in Pigeon Forge after yet another long and uneventful drive, the only thing to do was pick up a cred of some, any description. Ideally the cheapest possible.

There’s a wide range of Alpine-based activity on offer, but most are ridiculously priced. Goats on the Roof has always been an entertaining name and, being one of the older of these establishments by now, presented itself as the most stomachable option.

Day 9 – Goats on the Roof


Not quite what I imagined if I’m honest. Turns out they’re building a new dinosaur mini golf in order to try and one-up the local competition. As if having goats on a roof didn’t already do that.


They have goats on a rock too, and the #1 alpine coaster of course, which was par for the course. An old country store, a swinging bench, everything really.

That night as we ate our food in the car, engine on in a now perpetual fear of a dead battery, a strange sound started coming through the speakers. An emergency warning system was kicking in, speaking of storms, high winds, tornados, hailstones the size of golf balls, death, destruction, loss of trailers and RVs. This was all delivered in a robotic voice which named a long list of locations, none of which made much sense to us. Comfort was taken in the fact that a) we didn’t hear ‘Pigeon Forge’ and b) no one else seemed to be doing anything about it.

Headed to the hotel and thought nothing more of it.

Day 10 – Dollywood

It’s been too long. The infectious manner in which the car parking area is described as C for Cotton Candy in a southern accent is enough to take the sting out of the $25 and remind us that, much like Hershey, Dolly’s would have our back if the car should die again. We parked in a comfortably shaded area by a small creek and took in the magnificence of the Smoky Mountains feat. rollercoasters once more. Unlike Silver Dollar City, the tram stops here are conveniently located and have shelter. As such, we got to enjoy the on-board shenanigans of the announcer telling us about our day ahead.


We already had things planned out and headed left at the entrance, straight up to the back of the park where all the newness is.

Not wanting to queue anything at all really for my 8th one of these, though they are good, we hit #1 Dragonflier up first.

At official ride opening time, guests moved forward into the queue as staff were doing their final checks and then a technical delay was announced. Oops. Looking across the plaza, the Big Bear wasn’t ready for us yet either and with most of the queue immediately turning heel and leaving in front of us, it seemed best to stick it out rather than chasing our tails.

Tactics worked, 15 minutes or so later we were beckoned onto the first public train, most importantly skipping ahead of even the reasonably significant fast track queue that had already formed. Ride was alright, I’ve done better examples by this point and there’s better things to do here. Oh and the queue remained hideous and stewing for the remainder of the day.


Over at #2 Big Bear Mountain there was even more stewing going on. The latest and greatest was still down for now, a single train was being tested and parking itself in the wrong place – it was much appreciated how open the staff were about the situation rather than the usual wafty nonsense you get from most places.

The quantity of people in front, that was also slowly dwindling, and the fact that they hadn’t opened the main queue at all meant things again didn’t look too bleak if they did manage to get the ride fixed in a reasonable time. We waited, admiring that big logo, watching test trains fly past, picking up on fun little details like the fact that the entrance board has a fast track logo with ‘coming soon’ already plastered over it. It’s a minor detail, but I can picture so many parks not planning ahead with that type of thing and then having to shoehorn in some signage in future.


Soon a second train was added and both were testing successfully, seems the ride system simply doesn’t like being low capacity. Staff were given a final test lap and then threw some big thumbs up to the crowd. We were in.

By the time we filed through the full queue there was barely any wait time until we were seated. It contained some nice posters and storytelling, from a passing glance, but action came quickly. A Pegase Express style station launch kicks things off with a bang, over a hill and straight into the first actual launch track.


A very lengthy sequence of hills and turns of varying potency (weak to notable) takes you out along a hillside, mostly muddied and with not a huge amount going on. The above water feature and rockwork punctuates an otherwise featureless landscape as you reach the furthest point and head back in the other direction. I swear this thing was supposed to have on-board audio.

Much like Taron, though also nothing like Taron, the amped up final launch is parallel with the other, taking you up into the highest point and back over the ride plaza area.


Again this leads to another lengthy sequence of hills and turns of varying potency (notable to decent), picking up the pace into this final drop under a path where the noise of a bear hits from a speaker and you hit the brakes reasonably hard.

There’s something very modern Vekoma about it all, and not the Fønix type, it feels extremely fine-tuned both to the point of respecting the hell out of it, but with that also comes a lack of excitement. I wasn’t expecting minds to be blown by a family coaster, though I did think from a park with Firechaser Express that I might come away saying it was a very good one of those. Instead it all just sort of happened.

Hardware aside, I think the most glaringly obvious omission is the storytelling. We’re meant to be hunting a bear, but should we really be out in the open over some mud? And then back where we started but over some landscape gardening. The sound effect at the end feels like an afterthought and surely a romp through the forest would have been far more effective. Sure, lots of new creds open up in mud and get better over time, so there’s scope for improvement but is that really what’s going to happen here when there were already trees available, and now the other half sits alongside service roads? I hope so.

Oh well, with the +1s out of the way it was time to enjoy what made the park great in the first place. It was roddin’ time.


They’ve killed Lightning Rod.

It’s gone.

RIP rodness.

Well it was broken upon our arrival, making 3 for 3 on that front. Staff were present, but had recently evacuated a 50-minute queue, then shut up shop and closed the main doors so that they didn’t have to stand there and turn guests away any more. We sat on a bench and waited, cheesing it once again as it re-opened rather promptly and we walked straight onto it. Almost.

A single train was all that was on offer, with the decorated zero car seemingly gone for good now. Water was gushing over the base of the launch at all times, rusting away everything below it and making a mess of the road that runs underneath. Queue line videos continue to play factually incorrect information, such as wood, and the number of seconds of airtime on offer (we’ll get to that, don’t you worry).

The layout of the queue has changed to accommodate a complicated batching procedure where, as promised several days ago, a man with a clipboard who cannot see the station or the air gates assigns guests their rows. Immediately I spotted the problem here, but was interested to see where it was headed.

We ended up in row 1 to start, a double edged sword, and ascended the final stairs into the most atmosphere-less station imaginable. No sound or music, no friendly smiles, staff looking embarrassed by the experience they were about to offer. Amusingly, and as predicted, four guests that had followed us up now had nowhere to sit. The clipboard guy had come too and was getting visibly upset about the mess up – disabled/exit pass guests were on the opposing platform and being assigned to some of the back rows by a separate member of staff.

It’s time to bring back the good old quote of the day I think – I wasn’t made aware of this
Well, obviously…

The air gates opened and no word was spoken. Being the first train after recovering from a breakdown, and with all the bars down, guests (and us) were left unsure as to whether to proceed through them or not. A stalemate occurred, in silence, for a good 10-15 seconds, before one ride host plucked up the courage to timidly invite us on board.

With that debacle out of the way it was time to get excited. It may not be wooden any more, but we were peeling out on a top 25 coaster (with no despatch announcement) – a machine of madness and mayhem.

The launch itself still feels wild, but coming from someone who believes they already had the slightly ‘neutered’ version, the ease off into the humps is now comically prominent. The train barely clears either, with little to no sensation at all and then the first drop felt exactly like the last two pedestrian ones we’ve just had, from a chain lift, so what’s the point?

I’m sure someone will be pleased to hear that the pothole is gone, but the first big turn thing, which is shaped to produce exactly the same effect as those on Wildcat – a pop at the top, was taken at another crawl, leading to weird leaning sideways out of the train feeling while staring at more mud. This bit is actually wood, and the next element rides poor, very poor. So by what measure was this retrack performed exactly?
I was never overly enthralled with the first half of Lightning Rod to begin with, things kicked up to the level of ‘amazing’ at the twist ‘n’ shout for me, though today I wasn’t even sure at what moment this began. Oh, it was… those hills we already did? Ahh, quad down now.

It’s gone.

It’s dead.

Maybe it’s the ArieForce talking, but the quad down was taken at a measured pace that you could count out in a functional fashion. 1. Bit of float. 2. Bit of float. 3 bit more float. 4. Bit more float. 5. That’s a speed hill right? What used to be HAULING into the brakes with what I previously described as the blue ball effect now just plops down some hill and says you’re done mate. Hot rods!

No whooping or hollering in the station, nobody’s pumped. “Welcome back, how was your ride?” met mostly with awkward silence. And it was with exactly that with which we left the ride area.

To get things back on track we had some cinnamon bread, promptly spilling apple butter all over myself while sitting in one of those legendary rocking chairs. Have to suffer for your art.


Barnstormer was walk on, but had a cycle so short it would make Rush blush, and felt a bit underwhelming after the massive Sea World one.


Further up the way is Blazing Fury, a classic for sure, but sad to see it’s been tamed down a bit by removing things like the splash effect. Extending the longevity of these rides at what cost?


Tennessee Tornado was decidedly quiet too. It rides well for what it is, but is over in a flash.

Wild Eagle was a good little sit down, also bagged a good quote from the queue. “I don’t know what it does, I only saw the angle.” Then it was immediately spoiled to them by a queue line video. I hate ones that use POVs.


Firechaser was the most popular of the day, and probably rightly so, so we kept moving to Mystery Mine. I dunno, I feel like they’ve removed a bit of the charm by redoing that little bit of the outdoor portion. It rides so poorly for something barely moving in that section that it’s hilarious. Fire didn’t go off, end is uncomfortable, job done.

Drop Line the Drop Tower is excellent.


Thunderhead rose in my estimation. It’s far from a standout GCI with all them record breaking corners, but it had a lot more gusto in the transitions than I had experienced before so Lightning Racer down, this one up.


Not much left but to suck up the queue for this little gem, thankfully Firechaser Express had quietened a little. The first section has developed some rather amusing roughness to make up for lack Mystery Mine comedy, though it still hits hard where it matters. All the show effects were working perfectly, unlike the rest of the park too. Family fun at its best.


Rode the big black train, which unfortunately did not feature the big black train song. Had some other railroad related stuff that didn’t hit as hard, but the commentary, like the tram ride, is always good and the history of the locomotive is rather impressive. It’s a war veteran don’t you know.


With attractions not at their best, it was the better idea to slow down and soak the place up more. Had to remind myself that that’s what it was all about before, rides are secondary to rocking chairs and country music.


It’s been a negative sounding report for sure, but that’s only because I care about the direction in which the park heads. We still had a fantastic time of it and yes it holds a special place in my heart too. Hurry up and get that Mack launch/Xtreme spinner now.

We wanted to give the Rod its best chance to redeem itself, so wrapped up the day on it, as far back in the train as stupid seating assignment luck would allow. It was a marked improvement though still a shell of its former self. I can no longer recommend this as a world class attraction and that saddens me, as did making it through the day without a single staff member taking note of my Dollywood attire.
Could be worse. Could be Silver Dollar City.

The tram ride out cheered us up, they had great banter and showed interest in what rides people had done that day, encouraging plenty of interaction and keeping the smiles going all the way to the car. It was interesting seeing which ones got the greatest reaction – not the rod and not the bear. The tram itself won hands down of course.

Day 11

USA 06/23 – Hersheypark

ArieForce had of course been a major draw, but we did want just one more thing to sweeten the deal for heading this way. There’s another RMC that just opened, right?

Yes, a mere 11 hours away by car was our old friend Hersheypark. There hasn’t been a road trip without it so far and why break that tradition when they’ve been treating us so well.

The entire day was dedicated to driving there, with the only light at the end of the tunnel being that the park offers a ‘sweet start’ on the night before your main ticket – a 2 hour window in which to preview some of the attractions.

After a comfortable start and a hearty breakfast, there wasn’t a whole lot to it. Driving, lots of driving, some more food, fuel. As the destination grew closer, things got a little tense as an accident up ahead was pushing our arrival time back an inconsiderate amount. Thankfully it had all cleared by the time we reached it and we rolled into the car park (free, as it was so late) with pretty much the perfect amount of time on the clock.

Day 7 – Hersheypark

The obvious move and only clear motive was to get Wildcat’s Revenge under our belt as soon as possible to alleviate any forms of the old cred anxiety. Couldn’t resist a cheeky lap on Skyrush first though as we passed it.


Felt like I was back home in the most terrifying coaster seat on the planet. It was riding with a slightly more pronounced shuffle than ever before, one which managed to take the edge off of that first drop slam (unless that was done by their tinkering up there), but also made the corners and speed more intense than ever. The airtime was brutally sublime and those special sideways moments in my back left seat were as unexpected and hardhitting as ever. This ride can do no wrong.


Enough nostalgia though, time for the main event. #1 Wildcat’s Revenge was so fresh that the locals were all talking about it like it was the hot topic. The brake run sits just above the final stages of the queue line and the ride was garnering many an extreme reaction upon guests hitting it, just like big Arie had the night before, only far more frequent. On 3 trains, this thing hauls pretty well and an almost full queue for the night took us around 40-60 minutes to clear.


Lockers are provided for loose articles just before the station stairs, in a Steve and Twisted Timbers style, only worse. The system they’ve put in place requires guests to memorise not only which of the 4 banks of lockers they selected, but the number of their designated locker. At no point is this made abundantly clear, hence after the ride has blown their mind, most people can’t remember where their stuff is.

No such faff on the way in though, that’s a problem for future us. The station has an ominous rocking soundtrack and murals of 3 big cats on the far wall, mirroring those that can be found on the front of each train, which we inexplicably named Frosty, Gimpy and Blue. We were assigned somewhere towards the middle and soon strapped in, intrigued to notice that the seatbelts are made of a soft plastic for a change, one that you wouldn’t have to worry so much about should it become trapped between your leg and the restraint on such an airtime machine. Also present on the restraints were the Lightning Rod handles, great for peeling out on the ex-world’s fastest wooden rollercoaster, not sure what use they had here, but fun.

And fun is the name of the game, the ride begins with a rather more unorthodox terrain-based pre-lift section that joyously bounces down and down the hill, tactically pushing the beginnings of the lift further left, relative to the station. It’s a steep one, one that catches rather unnervingly and then begins with the slightest of crawls, making sure train 3 has sufficiently cleared the end brakes before letting you ramp up to the top.


I’m almost getting tired of saying it, but the first drop is fine and functional, basically exactly the same thing as the previous day, but no Rattler. The pull out feels a little tighter, up into the yet another world’s largest inversion that has a silly name. It’s interesting that this part of the ride mimics the crest of the original lift hill and curved drop of the old GCI.


Jolly good show as you follow that turnaround and then head into a decent, but not overwhelming, airtime hill. This is followed up by more double up shenanigans into a large overbank with a clever and very defined outwards pop at the top of it. The structure supporting all this is a mess of black tubing at all angles, contrasted by it riding with a very clinical efficiency while a spotlight follows the train around it.

Here comes a stall, we must have a stall. I can’t knock it from the perspective of the average rider, but nor can I praise a very average example of that which I’ve seemingly done countless times by now. Another overbank with another outwards pop follows, in a moment of symmetry back the other way, and then things step up a gear. I’m starting to notice a two act trend here.


What looked like Joker‘s trick airtime hill here, where it flattens out at the top and then kicks up again into the actual drop, has an unbanked slight left turn running through the whole thing. The result is fabulous, lifting you up, pinning you to the side of the train for several seconds while wobbling about, and then lurching back down again.


As the pacing has picked up, another inversion hits with a lot more vigour. There’s a particularly unusual entry into it, which creates an almost airtime moment before flipping you over in a more compromised position. There is time to recover from here however, as it reaches the lowest part at the base of the hill, the least remarkable sequence (of just two small moments) takes you through some turns and a quick overbank that does not much of anything.

One more low roll through the structure leads to moments that you can’t prepare for. Wickedly twisted airtime hills that throw you to one side, then the other, then back again as you peel into the brakes with one final violent whip. It’ll tenderise your sides good and proper in this last section if you give it half a chance, and these final blows are the best at defining the character of the ride for me. God damn Joe Draves.


There was a tough act to follow from the previous day and this thing held its own. It’s firmly mid-pack in terms of global RMCs (read as; a personal top 25), which goes well with its firmly mid-size stature. The strengths are abundant, yet again there were moments that caught me by surprise, things that haven’t been done before, or were simply executed beautifully. While it wasn’t a whirlwind pace of life altering insanity for me, it certainly was for most, if not everyone around us. They ain’t never had anything like this before at the Hersheypark.

We rounded out the sweet start with a final lap as the queue began to die down for the night, and then of course got stuck in that locker nonsense because, when someone forgets their number, a massive line forms behind them all trying to get to the same screen on the same bank while they either:
a) stare into space while trying to recall that which feels like a lifetime ago, or
b) have a staff member hack the back end of the system and go through every locker in turn

The short term solution seems to be drill it into people’s heads. There’s a member of staff that lets you into the pen to put your stuff away, who has the usual spiel about no loose items. Remember your number! Remember your number! should be added to this spiel, along with the screen that gives you the number, maybe a sign or two, station announcements, a sticker in the train, a banner over the crest of the lift…

The long term solution, use pictures of cats like Steve. Better systems are clearly available.

We had problems of our own once we got back to the car. It wouldn’t start. A vicious ticking sound and nothing doing, the most obvious assumption was the battery. A nearby guest kindly offered to help out, but no one had leads, so we headed back to the park entrance to track down a staff member and see if they could assist. The parking and security team at the tram stop are legends and golf buggied us back to the car where we were met by a man with a battery pack and a waiver. The jump start worked, Hersheypark is amazing, but tense moments followed.

Now that we had power, the car also decided to throw up a warning about loss of tyre pressure, oh and in our haste to arrive at the park after all that driving, we had cruised it in with a mere 10 miles left in the tank. Having had a jump start, it’s best to leave the car running for a good half an hour so that you can recharge properly. But we also need the engine off to fuel it.

The staff had recommended a garage just around the corner and we limped along, dealing with the tyres first. The car hire had graced us with a very slow puncture, but balance was temporarily restored, sufficient enough to continue the madness. Then, after leaving it running as long as we dared, and doing a few laps of the forecourt to spook any passers-by, the nerves built. After fuelling, it started again, just. And now we can live in fear of a dodgy battery or a flat tyre at any point in the trip. Good.

Day 8 – Hersheypark


The following morning saw the Hershey’s Chocolate World dark ride I’d always wanted to do, but always been distracted by Skyrush, being open before the main park. A perfect opportunity.


It starts off amazing, with singing farmyard animals.


Then gets very scientific.

I like the whole illusion of what’s real and what’s not running through it and there’s certainly a good length to the attraction. Plus, a gift of chocolate at the end. And it’s free, parking costs aside.


We then hid in some shade while the crowds gathered in front of the main entrance. Picture this, but busy. A DJ was attempting to hype the crowd (and get people to download the app), there were trainee jugglers roaming the path, good times were had by all in the sun.

It’s another revisit of a revisit from here, so I’ll summarise as best I can.

Wildcat’s Revenge kicked ass again.

Lightning Racer has deteriorated horribly, what little excitement there was before is burnt out by the rumbles and rolls of a GCI that wants to be the next Gwazi. Then it broke down, leaving us stuck on the brakes for an age.


Candymonium has improved. Opted for what I’d call the magic Mako seat (row 2) and was very pleasantly surprised with the result. Rather than sunglasses on, not caring, it gave glimmers of the comparisons between the two I’d heard about in the earlier days. The first hill was pretty sweet, the first trim felt non-existent. Far less meandering overall and a solid performance from the big brown.

Comet is still solid, was sad to have missed it last time and it didn’t disappoint on this occasion. Carries so much momentum into the final brakes for something that isn’t very big, is very old, and goes on very long.


Storm Runner has a nicely shaded queue, a welcome respite on the busiest visit we’ve ever had. The ride still packs a punch, but does feel just a little too short of an experience on a day with significant queues.

Skyrush never gets a queue, so it was weird to not be able to immediately walk up the stairs. Worth it regardless, this remains my favourite in the park because it’s just so ridiculous and unlike anything else. Inevitably they’ve just landed themselves the best one-two punch in the world for me, goodbye Energylandia, so the dilemma is now real at Hershey – what do you close out your night on? Head said Wildcat, heart said Skyrush. We went with the head, but started at Skyrush anyway, then ended up cycling a few more times. Just one more go. Just one more go. So hard to resist.

Highlights on this occasion include getting reacquainted with the back right seat because I always go left, and then subsequently taking a nasty friction burn to one leg from the restraint as I slid sideways with ridiculous force. Gotta love it.

The consequences of that addiction left us with only a single lap to finish on the RMC, but walk-ons of the best ride on park probably beat back to back 40-60 minute queues of the second best, plus more locker shenanigans. The heart knows better.

Day 9

USA 06/23 – Six Flags Over Georgia + Fun Spot America Atlanta

“I’ll never go back to Georgia, not at least ‘til I have to.”


Having missed out on two B&Ms during our trip in 2019, taken ownership of Six Flags passes once more and with a little certain something now operating elsewhere within the city limits, a revisit to Atlanta was inevitable.

Day 6 – Six Flags Over Georgia

Turns out the passes were not only processed properly, but gave us access to silly little perks like the VIP entrance at each park. Here, this was a bored man on a chair hiding inside a tiny shelled out building/corridor adjacent to where the masses (and not that many of them) were queuing at the turnstiles. May as well make the most of it.

The above paint job was entirely to blame for the first missing B&M, the excellently named #1 Georgia Scorcher had needed some TLC and it was still looking rather good to be fair to it. No time like the present, time to put our feet to the flame.


Ever since the first had the capacity to box my ears, I always approach B&M standups with trepidation. We were caught off guard anyway, being batched into the back row and then immediately skipping ahead one train and before knowing it, attempting to work out the awkward contraption that is the seating and restraint system.

My tactically chosen inner seat had already been locked in the vertical plane, leaving things somewhat compromised. Thankfully this was rectified when restraint check finally arrived and, feeling relatively comfortable given the circumstances, the train headed up the lift hill.

You’re alright, Georgia Scorcher, you’re alright – my immediate sentiment upon hitting the brakes. Whether the stars were aligned and I had the absolute ideal circumstances, or it really is just running that well for a 24 year old machine of mayhem, no damage was sustained whatsoever. In fact, I found myself rather impressed with what I had just experienced.

Inversions aside, the layout was filled with a stronger than usual mix of forceful, whippy turns, some of which almost rode like GCI transitions. On more than one occasion my feet were popped off of the floor as I hit these directional changes with perfect precision, my head never once colliding with that which was in such ominously close quarters. While not having quite the same exposed feeling, this is exactly what Togo does best for the genre, putting you out of your comfort zone.

Turns out I’ve now ridden them all, ergo, this was the best one.


Following on from that success, we went to check out Goliath again. It was limping along on only a single train and staff were being rather ruthless with the clamshells. I hadn’t been overly smitten with this one before and my feelings were justified once more. Something about that first drop just doesn’t happen, it’s almost like time skips for me. I’m at the top of the lift, and now I’m at the bottom.

Whether there’s some visual trickery going on with the ever heightened valleys over pathways, roads, other rides, terrain, it doesn’t quite have the grace and speed of other counterparts. It rode worse than the B&M below it, there’s still a weird snappy crunch at the end of every hill in the last section, though Steel Eel had taken the sting out of that sensation this time. All in all it’s the perfect attraction to be sunglasses on, not caring.


Which is a shame, because I can’t relate to this one so much.


Something that does stand out in the Georgia park is their old dark ride Monster Mansion. It’s about the most non-corporate thing they own and had recently undergone a bit of TLC itself. Other than one new TV screen showing windows errors, this appears to have done well for the attraction – a characterful romp through a flooded mansion, a cute monster picnic and the marsh we are continuously advised not to enter. Love this thing.


On the other end of the spectrum you’ve got the highly cloned Justice League on park, though I do always enjoy an opportunity to experience these too. Though a staple, once again I don’t really feel like I’m at a Six Flags park once on board. A highly impressive interactive experience with a solid blend of physical scenery feels almost out of place within a chain that’ll slap a Freespin down, name it whatever DC character doesn’t have a ride in the park yet, and call it a job well done.

Talking of which, this park had also not yet managed to build their new 10ft coaster for the ‘summer season’. In fact, there wasn’t even evidence of where this one was going. At least Fiesta Texas had hired a digger. Can’t excite you with some construction today.


Nor can I excite myself with one of these any more. The other B&M that eluded us before was this, and it had no excuse for itself. As of riding, I’ve now also done every flyer installation in the world. That could have been a celebration, but, #2 Superman – Ultimate Flight clone. S’alright. +1.


The only other ride we were even remotely interested to get back on was of course the little pocket rocket that is Twisted Cyclone. The contrast to 90 minute queues and a hornet infestation was heavenly, as we managed to simply walk onto it on numerous occasions this time around.

They’ve redone something on the trains it seems, given the sides a bit more detail, changed one from black to blue and fitted some sleeker looking brushed metal restraints on one, while the other has half of its ‘pull up’ straps ripped out at the screws. On board it’s pretty much exactly how I remembered it to be, a low tier RMC that still has the power to blow minds.

Size is its only real shortcoming, though the pre-lift section is great fun and makes the experience feel a little longer. It’s the double inversion sequence up, turn and down that does the least for me and things only amp up through the wave turn, which is ridiculously good, kicking you out of the seat and pinning you there, putting all these other manufacturers ‘sideways hills’ to shame, though they’re all trying to capitalise on the trend.

Powerful airtime moments round out the rest of the sequence, hitting hard and one after another as you bounce around what’s left of the old cyclone wood. It whips into the brakes at an excessive pace, becoming somewhat of a signature move for this trip. Fantastic stuff.


We interluded a small marathon on that by riding the Joker Funhouse Coaster, for some reason. I guess Chance family coasters are hard to come by. It’s an intriguing one, though I don’t remember it crossing every kicker wheel along the route with the grace of a Zamperla Thunderbolt trim brake last time around.

Back to TwiCy once more it was a matter of tactically warming up the thigh bruises with the correct number of laps as opposed to wearing ourselves down too much, for what was to come.

As such our time at Six Flags came to an end. Yes, we missed half the other rides, but they ain’t all that.

Fun Spot Atlanta


And they certainly ain’t this. God damn Iron Gwazi, Jesus Christ on a cracker (R.I.P. Mine Blower), let’s get all of the superlatives out of the way because I’ve just sat here staring at this photo for 5 minutes not knowing how to move my fingers across a keyboard any more.

In fact, let’s get the other creds out of the way, out of sequence. This Fun Spot, as with the other two, was plenty quiet, allowing free reign of pretty much anything at all times.


To the point where the smaller rides were on rotation. We had to make our presence known at Iron Rattler’s young cousin #4 Sea Serpent in order to experience some classic E&F Miler.


And again over at #5 Hurricane Coaster, but bigger. Some kids wanted to do the adjacent slides about 10 times over, while an operator had to supervise before they could run this for us. As you scale up their rides they get pretty wild, the wicked laterals in the wild mouse turns contrasting nicely with clunky airtime. I think we peaked at the Kissimmee one of these though.


Here it is again, and the same can’t be said for the star attraction, #3 ArieForce One. Of course this is now the best Fun Spot, how ridiculous that this RMC even exists here, with no one riding it, by the side of a road in what feels like nowhere, looking like a Colgate advert.

To be fair, there were people riding it. 10-20 at most, and all the same faces, many of which showed off the wide range of enthusiast life. It ran a single train continuously throughout the night, every few minutes or so. There was one particular legend who was on every single one of those laps from the moment we arrived until he bade farewell to the ride staff a couple of cycles before closing, seemingly unphased by the entire experience. In fact you couldn’t tell that he was enjoying it at all, it was purely ritualistic. The moment the restraints unlocked he, having always chosen the seat nearest the exit stairs, performed exactly the same run towards them, out the exit, in the entrance, up the stairs and into the same air gates before they could open them again.

While he was clearly no conversationalist, we got chatting to another guy who had just taken the same route as us, from Six Flags and, with an even more impressive level of dedication, had just come from Wildcat’s Revenge, and was flying out to Carowinds next, this same night. His intense screams of “OH MY GOD!” added a third superlative to proceedings, punctuating many a brake run moment and the word Tylenol was thrown around a lot in that station.

Point is I’m still distracting myself from talking about the ride in an attempt to find the words to describe it, so… theming. The small queue area at the base of the shed has a few props that gear you up to the idea that this is about simulated space flight. In the station there’s some rather cool despatch announcements led by screens to describe that you’re all buckled up and ready to take off. The back of the front of the train looks like an aircraft console. Being somewhat impacted by the experience, the details have faded on me.


So, how was the ride? A sharp drop out of the station precedes a short pre-lift section of straight hops before an ascent up the not overly massive lift hill. This is a medium boy.

As with most RMCs of this nature, the near vertical first drop signifies the start of the layout proper. Almost hugging the floor, the train pulls up into a reasonably high inversion that acts as a change of direction, flipping you round to head back towards the station. This journey is made through a low, speed hill, a zero-g stall alongside the lift structure.


Having now reached the station, a large, outerbanked hill passes you right over the top of it and signifies the beginning of the second out and back sequence.


A double up of hills follows immediately after.


Leading into the first of two high-speed barrel roll-style inversions, which are separated by a single wonky hill and an also high-speed low turnaround.


Having exited the final inversion, the ride is lined up with and concludes by hitting six back to back airtime moments of varying shapes and sizes before coming to a stop on the brake run.

Day 7


Nah, let’s do that again. This thing hurt me from the off. That drop out of the station towards the back of the train was so vicious that, stomach full of Firehouse Sub for at least half of the evening, I could do nothing but groan like I was slowly dying inside. The pumpy little hills after are emphasised to the point of flopping around all over the place like a rag doll before you’ve even begun.

There’s never usually a huge amount to say about a lift hill, but there are very few rides in the world that, when I’m on the lift for the umpteenth time, there’s this inner monologue of screaming, yes yes yes, this is what it’s all about, magical moments and all that. If I had to come up with a visual comparison for this feeling, it would likely be the poster for the film Smile.

The drop is the most pedestrian moment of the whole thing. It’s no slouch by any means, just very par for the course for anyone who’s done, say, 20 RMCs. It’s straight, it’s powerful. It doesn’t have the extra momentum into it like a Wildfire or a Whale, but it’s serviceable.

The pull out felt a little stronger as the day progressed, likely as my body weakened, with some semi-decent positives before flopping up into the, whatever it’s called, it’s got a silly name. This perfectly and gently lifts you out of your seat as the track rotates around you and then drops out from under you in a well-executed manner that any engineer should be proud of. It’s all very ‘jolly good show’ so far.

Speed hill has some punch to it, it’s more impactful than, say, the silly little ones at the base of the drops on Steve or Zadra. This is the first real high speed lurch that, if you have problems with the restraints, is going to start causing some issues. Stall is standard fare, it’s the longest in the U.S. don’t you know, which I’m guessing means something in Europe beats it.

Amusingly the length of it was perfectly demonstrated by some kids in front on one lap who had a little rock, paper, scissors, secret handshake-style manoeuvre, perfectly planned out to take place within the allotted time frame. It has some pop either in, or out, depending on where you sit, but it’s still not an inversion that blows me away like it used to. Let’s blame Intamin for that one.


In my boring rendition, this thing marked the second half. It also marks the point at which lives are changed. If there’s an allotted time frame in the stall, then the sustained ejection on the outer banked hill provides enough time to drink a cup of tea. I struggle to recall anything quite like it. There’s very few rides in the world that give you this moment where you can essentially close your eyes and stop and think about the blissful sensation of being strongly flung outwards towards the sky, held down by nothing but the thigh, as it’s happening. And it’s at some ridiculous angle to boot.


Violence in the first hill, another ridiculous sustain in the second. This brings out the feels of the Twisted Timbers big hills, ones that are probably up there in coming close to what I described above. Lengthy and powerful, the best of both worlds.


The speed of this inversion is ridiculous, it hits so hard that you don’t even really know what hit you. There’s something slightly off-kilter to it, not your average straight line affair as it forms part of a direction change immediately after. If anything this manoeuvre feels like the most accurate portrayal of the ‘theme’ on the ride.

After that is a little off-axis moment which restores some balance to those who got the outside seat on the bliss-hill. A brutal pop that on occasion put me out of sorts into the most positive-heavy moment I’ve encountered on any RMC. It has a silly name that describes the exact force, but it’s certainly a hard hitter, bringing life to what has always appeared to be my least favourite part about rollercoasters – corners. Let us take a moment to appreciate that there’s only one corner on this ride, and it tried to break my neck.

Having not recovered from that, a counter-inversion restores balance to the previous one in an insanely fast whip back in the other direction, also unconventionally shaped and, if possible, even more incomprehensible. The exit simply leaves you thinking ‘whoa, what just happened?’


Or it would do, because, having not recovered from that, the ending sequence of hills is like nothing else. The rate and pace at which they are taken and the fact that no two are the same provides the most out of control sequence I’ve ever experienced on a steel coaster, perhaps any. There simply isn’t time between each one to react to anything, such that any notion of defensive riding goes out the window. Thighs are hammered, stomachs are battered and bruised, the rag doll effect of the start has been amplified by a factor of 10 and before you know it, the brake run finishes you off.

The one thing I knew about this ride beforehand was to brace for the brakes. If you’re in the back of each car, you can push against the seat in front to alleviate some of the force. In the front of each, there’s nothing to be done. You’re going 100-0 through whatever part of your body happens to be caressing the restraint at that time. Such was the chaos, I failed to time the brace properly in the first few laps. In the hysterical laughter and screaming, it was never even clear which was the final moment. Again, there’s nothing else like that out there.

It took just two laps for me to definitively declare that this was my new favourite RMC. It’s been a long time coming. Pain, welcome pain to be specific, had been the deciding factor beforehand and this ride simply destroyed me and everyone else around us (except that one guy who had become one with it). If you don’t like intense RMCs, if you have any issues with the trains and restraints, this is not the one for you.

It’s exactly the one for me. Not only the intensity, but the fact it provided several standout and varied sensations that I simply haven’t found elsewhere before makes it the perfect candidate for a top ten. A top five. A top three.

Do I stop there?

When it’s my day, put me in that clay and remember what I told ya. When I die, bury me in Georgia.

Day 7

USA 06/23 – Biloxi + Tropic Falls

Time to hit the road proper. We passed though many States on our travels the next day and ideally would have liked to pick up a little something from each. Louisiana immediately put a stopper to that plan, as their one ‘significant park’ with a Boomerang had opted only to open their water park in 2023, a narrow escape I’m sure. The only currently operating coaster up for grabs in the entire state runs on weekends only, of which this was not.


Mississippi then. Specifically, Biloxi. A good looking, up and coming seaside resort by the appearance of all things cred related at the very least. First stop here was

Day 5 – Big Play Entertainment Center

They’ve got all sorts going on here, but naturally we just wanted the coasters. Having arrived a little before anything was running we scoped them out and then acquired a piece of plastic from the ticket desk with enough value to score these.


#1 Biloxi Beach Hurricane, a fairly fresh SBF Visa Cyclon, from which the operator asked us to recall the events of Final Destination 3.


And the cold, hard steel of #2 Tornado.

Too easy. Further up the coast is

Paradise Pier Fun Park


Didn’t realise until now that this entire place was brand new this year. It certainly looked fresh.


The draw, if you can call it that, is one of those half-hamster SBF spinners, by the name of #3 Rolling Thunder. I’d not encountered one on this track layout before, which was simply their regular ‘two loop’ but scaled up in all dimensions. The hamster wheels were of course declined. +1

Next along was Alabama, the most significant contributor to the day.

Tropic Falls


A.k.a. the Park at OWA, this place is nestled in a shopping district hub, with other such leisure things on offer. We headed to the main event first, only for it to break down immediately.


And so it was dark ride time. Though generic looking on the outside Mystic Mansion was actually really good.


If you’re familiar with the Boo Blaster rides found elsewhere in the country, this is the self-claimed version 2.0 of those. It runs off of the same Boocifer theme but is enhanced with some impressively neat special effects as well as an amped up ending sequence with intimidating boss battles. A class act all round.


Back outside was #4 Crazy Mouse. It happened.


Then we had another attempt at the second coaster named Rollin’ Thunder of the day. It was only running a single 9-seater car and progress was slow even though the park was mostly empty. It broke down, again.


Meanwhile, dusting off the rest of the park – another classic from the Zamperla catalogue by the name of #5 Southern Express.


Now, broken or otherwise, all that was left to do was camp out my first ever Thunderbolt until it happened. I was intrigued. Eventually, it did.

I’m not entirely sure what’s going on with the restraint design on #6 Rollin’ Thunder. They’ve combined the collar bone crushing vests of an S&S Free Spin with a bulky lap bar that comes down overhead towards your knees first, and then hinges from that point down the remainder of your thighs.


And that’s where the main issue with the ride lies. It’s the comfort of the trains, rather than the track, which let it down. Not sure why but I was expecting the opposite. It has moments of hilarity, in that the opening vertical drop has a trim on it. The car responds to this in a somewhat awkward car crash fashion, jolting you forward like a bad Skyrush.


It does some cool stuff, I can’t deny the flow of the layout, which is a fun linear mix of inversions and airtime. The former ride rather well, but the latter again are killed by the restraints as you get quite a violent rather than controlled burst of upwards motion through each, taken directly to the knee and clavicle.


I’d even go so far as to say I’m rather taken by the look of it all. That’s a nice piece of track that. On-board it’s mainly comedy however, another trim delivers the most ungracious sensation just after the crest of one of the airtime hills too, one that really makes you think ‘why there?’
Nevertheless there’s an unrefined charm to the ride and it’s comforting to know things can always be worse – I could well have hated it. But I didn’t.

The remainder of our journey skimmed us through the very end of Florida’s panhandle and back up into the depths of Alabama. We had considered going harder and picking up another couple of SBFs down that way that were open until 11pm, but sense got the better of us. There was a much more important day ahead and a time zone border that wasn’t working in our favour. Creds before breads for sure, but creds before beds is getting more questionable over the years.

Day 6

USA 06/23 – Houston

Over in Houston the coaster situation is a little more relaxed (RIP Six Flags AstroWorld), so first things first we decided to hit up the Space centre for… research purposes.

Day 4 – Official Visitor Center of NASA Johnson Space Center


The research ended in about 2 seconds. They’ve got a bottom of the barrel motion simulator pod, which was known. It’s in the main hall, also upcharge and wasn’t running, less known. To the next destination!


Nah though, there was stuff to do. We jumped on one of the tram tours first that takes you out to this hangar, complete with rocket. Saw some longhorn cattle along the way – all the culture rolled into one.


As promised, this was inside. Huge.


I enjoyed all the different logos they came up with for each Apollo mission, particularly the 17th century ship in space.


Once done there, the tram dropped us back off outside where this real Boeing 747 carries a fake shuttle, which used to be its job. You can go inside both and explore.


Or you can admire this fan with a donkey on it.


Back inside the main building there’s a man floating.


And you can walk on the moon.

All of this was fine, but then it got a little disappointing. There was a second tram tour out to an astronaut training center, but it required a free reservation and they had already run out.
At no point during the online booking process, scanning of tickets at the entrance, being greeted by a greeter who asked
“Is there anything we would like to know?”
“I don’t know yet, you tell us”
“Have a map”
or walking past and interacting with 5 or 6 staff members at a desk in front of the tram tours, to get to the other tram tour, was anything made abundantly clear that a reservation was required. Which I feel is an oversight. Next.

We drove to Kemah Boardwalk next, wanting to get the more important cred under our belt. Boardwalk Bullet wasn’t in operation however and we enquired at the ticket desk, while getting sunburnt, to be told that a storm was coming, and we best be ready when she does. Maybe.

The internet corroborated this and also revealed that the same could not be said for Galveston, just down the road. Well isn’t that convenient..

Down in Galveston town lies a Rainforest Café that just so happens to contain a dark ride.


River Adventure Ride used to have its own fancy ticket booths, but now it just hides in the corner of the gift shop and you buy admission from in there.


It’s got boats. Moves slowly and magically stops itself every so often.


Animals and stuff too. Temples and fire at the end. Solid.

Galveston Pier


Also in Galveston town is the less important coaster, on an apparently historic pier.


It’s pricey to get in (on), even just for one ride, and so foolishly we opted for a wristband, assuming the Gerstlauer was worth at least a few courtesy laps to get our moneys worth. We like Vertika, I reasoned.


I did not like #1 Iron Shark. Sure, it has lap bars, but that doesn’t help when it rides like arse. Sure it’s compact, but all that leads to is unpleasant brain shaking mixed with positive Gs. Headache material.

We put up with it for a few goes, mostly because the operator was entertaining and we were in no hurry, and then left in a hurry.

Kemah Boardwalk


Back in Kemah the #2 Boardwalk Bullet was back in action. Or for the first time, it probably hadn’t run at all earlier.
Again a wristband was obtained in anticipation of great things and, while the queue line music was just that, the ride was… OK.


I don’t want to keep falling back on this last hurrah thing, because it scares me, but this was the last chance for a wooden coaster by Gravity in the U.S. to impress me. And it failed to do so.

The starting sequence can be all kinds of wild. We soon discovered that exclusively back row, with a large man at the front of the train, was entirely essential for the full effect. A violent drop through the structure into a low pop, a wicked one-two of left-right twists before a big turnaround that, from the station, had some of the most immense flex and sway I’ve ever seen from a woodie. It was marvellous.


After this though the ride just never really gets going again. It’s another victim of ‘look how impressively long this coaster is, we’ve packed so much into a tight space’, while not managing to do a whole lot with it. Corners, corners, corners, hills over other bits of track taken at too slow a pace. Is there any bigger crime than when a ride starts off so excitingly, but by the halfway point you’re just kinda sitting there waiting for it to end?

Yes, but the point stands. Early days Gravity Group simply ain’t my cup of tea.

Day 5

USA 06/23 – Sea World San Antonio

Next on the agenda in San Antonio was of course Sea World. The car park sting hit harder than even Six Flags would have here, at an eye-watering $32, for the privilege of some unshaded misery half a mile from the park entrance.


The entrance itself is rather striking, giving the place a unique character amongst the chain for that alone I guess. After many years of waiting for it, we finally bore witness here to a full-on national anthem park opening. Hats were removed and hearts were held. The day couldn’t start without it. More respect here than Cedar Point.

Day 3 – Sea World San Antonio


With tickets scanned we wandered forwards through the trees, immediately spotting the first and most important coaster. #1 Super Grover’s Box Car Derby was all manners of faff. They hadn’t opened the queue properly, leaving a number of guests stuck in various switchbacks trying to find a clear route to the station.

The most cumbersome of policies however, was that they refused to allow any loose items to be placed on the sufficiently empty far platform. The solution to this, which wasn’t presented to anyone until having already taken seats in the train, was to place them in an unsecure cubby hole storage area (pictured above) located entirely outside of the ride area. To access these at this point involved leaving the train back through the air gates and pushing past a crowd of people on a set of stairs that was already holding a full queue of disabled access guests. Once the items were stored, it was necessary to push back past said guests, up the stairs, back into the station and onto the train while the 5! staff members all stood gormlessly there waiting for that to happen.

Got the cred, now let us never speak of it again. A strong start.


The day immediately came to a halt again due to some undisclosed staggered openings. Access to areas beyond Sesame Street, which was already hell on earth after a mere 15 minutes, was blocked by staff members that didn’t understand the question ‘is this area opening later?’

Assuming it would be a round number, we patiently waited until the start of the next hour and sure enough the masses were unleashed once more. Not wanting to queue for it, and wanting to get the wetness out of the way, we made a beeline for Journey to Atlantis, which we saw had already been testing. It wasn’t ready, and there was no indication of when it would be.


Tidal Surge is just over the way then. An astonishingly massive S&S Screamin’ Swing. What’s not to love? The out of seat moments at the extremities, the face down view of nothing but water below, the forceful and fast wind from the sheer speed of the swings. Spoiler: best ride in the park.


Bailing on Journey for now, we continued anti-clockwise to the coaster that had the most potential for keeping us here. I’m swiftly running out of GCIs to play with and #2 Texas Stingray was the only of the ones remaining that had been given personal recommendation, by someone we met at SFGA, as being ‘better than Mystic Timbers’. And I love me some Mystic Timbers.


Well it sure as hell ain’t that for me. I’ve reached the conclusion a while ago that I like GCI best when they’re being un-GCI. If you like the Thunderheads of the world, with their record-breaking 22 banked corners then this is a GCI for you. It rides like one of those, with a few more poppy hills chucked in for good measure. If you like low to the ground, out of control feeling, fast-paced killing machines that tear themselves apart, and a shed, this one is a hard sell.
I didn’t dislike it by any means, it’s perfectly serviceable, but it didn’t get me excited at any point and didn’t make us want to stick around. I’d struggle to give you any key moments or highlights from the layout and thus it’s firmly in the middle of the pack.


Next on the journey was #3 Great White, the second Batman invert within a 15 mile radius. It was being run just about as badly, but only with one train as the other was in pieces. Other guests were suffering with an inconsistent ‘fanny pack policy’, having been instructed to keep it on, and then, once seated and restraints locked, take it off. Then the staff struggled to unlock said restraints while watching a man struggle with some contortionism of his own, I guess proving how difficult it would be for it to have fallen off, but rules are rules, sometimes, for some.

Oh, yeah, Batman again. S’alright. +1.

We were noticing a distinct lack of animals in this park by this point. There was a big building with sharks painted onto it next to the cred, which one might have expected to contain some fish, instead it held a sketchy carnival arcade being staffed by a teenager on their phone. I understand Sea World are leaning on the rides a bit more these days but assume the USP is still that you can do a bit of both. Otherwise Six Flags is kicking their ass.


Round the next corner was the construction site that is Infinity Falls. The next in a long line of rides coming ‘this summer’, though I’m really not sure what the definition of summer is any more, while getting scorched. The more annoying part about this one is that they’ve heavily advertised the ride on billboards throughout the city and, as we would later find out, the entire state. New ride! Infinity falls! Worlds steepest log flume or something (not bigging up the launch, which is the bit I was most interested about). Imagine seeing that, driving a couple of hundred miles and then finding a crane and some mud. Oh but don’t worry, you can touch look at the boat.

Moving on though, at least #4 Wave Breaker: The Rescue Coaster lets you know what’s what when it comes to articles. None. Paid lockers outside. We acquired one and entered the queue which weirdly had assigned seating allocated at the base of the stairs, by a staff member who couldn’t see the station itself. This phenomenon will come up again on this trip.


I’m not sure if I like the Jet Ski trains over the usual quadbikey ones I was expecting. The back is the most solid, straight and unforgiving thing ever, but it was otherwise roomy and it didn’t matter anyway. After rolling into a shed and being told which of the many animals we would be saving (rerideability), an overly long countdown is initiated and then what everyone imagines a Mack launch to be like happens.


Truth be told there’s very little of any force going on with this ride, it’s a very family friendly affair, which is fine if that’s what they were going for I guess. Well no, that’s a weak excuse that Chessington use, It’s not like Intamin haven’t made much better ones of these that aren’t also family friendly too, so really it’s just a bit meh. The one thing that could have saved it was a bit of train interaction with Steel Eel, but they were running that so slow that it never happened.


So, #5 Steel Eel. I’ve always enjoyed the name. In my head this was a trend-bucking Morgan hyper, but from where I was sitting it’s basically the same – hills, corners, hills. The float and crunch effect was back in full force, and sadly too much so on this occasion. Sure, the up was fun, but the crashing back down into the seat was jarring to the point of what felt like nerve damage at the base of the neck. Thus, a one and done. Mamba remains the most refined.


Found some animals nearby – penguins. They had a bit of an exhibition at least. Then we realised it was probably best to get #6 Journey to Atlantis out of the way before the locker expired.


Took the walk over there, via Alligator Alley, which was far from an alley. The Mack Supersplash was playing a rather epic theme while no one rode it and it did an extra rotation on the turntables at the top, which I didn’t know was a thing, so that’s something. Splash. Park complete.

After crossing the park once more and emptying the locker, it was decided that we should at least look in on the shows, see how those were doing these days. Filled the time until then by reaffirming that Texas Stingray still wasn’t my bag and then took a seat in the dry area to see what they had to say for themselves.


There’s a lot of pre-recorded video packages about Sea Worlds conservation efforts that dictate the pace of the Orca show. When the action does begin it’s all heavily emphasised that everything we see is natural behaviour, or at least that which is useful for medical checkups. Not my bag either, but let us not forget how ridiculously expensive Sea World tickets are.

As such, the Belugas had a similar story too, though without video packages and any semblance of microphones through which you could understand what the presenters were saying.

It was time to leave. I didn’t vibe with the place at all, it represents incredibly poor value for money, though San Diego is probably still worse, no personal standout attractions, not a whole deal else to do, rather go Six Flags mate.

So we did.

Six Flags Fiesta Texas


Can’t forget about that #7 Boomerang now, can we? Redemption. +1.

Spiteliner was still spiting.
Kid spite still hadn’t been built.

Somehow talked myself into riding Dr. D again. The 7-wide cars intrigued me once more – if you get the middle seat you’re sitting dead centre of the track, which is very rare experience on any major coaster. It’ll be perfectly heartlined, a masterpiece of engineering, just like a No Limits POV I thought. I bagged the centre seat and it still sucked.

Superman got a courtesy nod, for fame reasons.
Wonder Woman was probably having that tyre looked at.
Had another glorious evening on the Iron Rattler.

Day 4

USA 06/23 – Six Flags Fiesta Texas

Having crashed in San Antonio for the night, our first major park of the trip was just a quick drive down the road. As a self-proclaimed Texas’ next big up-and-coming city, there was construction and roadworks absolutely everywhere in the vicinity, but these thankfully failed to hamper proceedings. Things continued to run smoothly when we arrived at what would otherwise be a $30 sting for parking. A wave of the papers indicating that we would be picking up season passes got us through without a hitch and, astonishingly for an establishment of this nature, we were able to park up mere metres from the main entrance just before opening.

Day 2 – Six Flags Fiesta Texas


Initial impressions from the outside are that this is easily one of the nicest looking parks in the chain. An out of character cliff, waterfall and signage greets drivers before entering the car park and, once inside, the ‘quarry’ element of the surroundings is on full display. A well-painted car park B&M catches the eye, alongside a nicely styled entrance plaza through which we headed in order to process said passes. Having flashbacks to that fateful day in St. Louis, where we were issued the wrong pieces of plastic, the procedure this time could not have been simpler. No queue, papers, (Diamond, Platinum, VIP? I’m not even sure) passes that worked. They may have changed the options since the old days, and it may well be killing the popularity of the parks, but it suited us just fine.

Onwards and inwards, the turnstiles were open prior to commencement, allowing us to take a walk through the main street until just past the freshly painted (and newly trained and braked) Boomerang that lurks on the far side of the front plaza. While waiting at a rope drop area that would lead off towards a certain star attraction, we were offered the chance to enter a competition and win a picnic cooler. Not having a sufficient plan to transport said prize home on a plane in the event of winning, I declined and continued to wait in the shade. Yes, Texas was going to be hot of course, and vampire mode was already kicking in.

At the allotted time, the reasonably sparse masses were unleashed into the remainder of the park and we hot-footed it to the entrance of #1 Iron Rattler. Here we were held once again, forming a small queueline under the sign and past the test seat, ending up waiting another 15 minutes or so past ‘park opening’ before the ride itself was ready. This appeared to be happening on the majority of attractions we could see from the vantage point. A certain buzz filled the air as we headed up towards the station, one that tends to occur in the presence of an RMC. I appreciated the little back-story plaque in the queue, along with the ‘world’s largest painting of a rattlesnake’, both of which gave off a certain air of self-awareness. Appreciated less was the endless uphill zigzag of the queue line, given the temperature, but at least it’s shaded and about 1% as bad as The Boss.


We boarded one of the first trains at the back, and first experience with the Gerstlauer rolling stock (no, that’s an Arrow pictured above) was positive. The restraint is a little more simplistic than the usual RMC faff, easier to operate and with far less lower leg impedance. The surroundings and seat itself lend themselves to a rather more ‘exposed’ feeling as well, which is always a plus for me too. Soon, the snake was off. A simple downhill corner kicks things off before the lift hill, demonstrating that company designs hadn’t yet gone full wacky by this earlier point in time. This start however is highlighted by a pleasant interaction with the neighbouring mine train which, on several occasions, managed to line up its own train thundering around and under us, while we prepared for the climb.


And what a climb, the steady pace allows for plenty of appreciation of views out over the rest of the park, aided by the as yet unnoticed terrain aspect of the lift structure. While distracted and not really yet fully contemplating that I was back on holiday riding world class coasters, the train plummeted from under me. And what a drop, it definitely hits hard even for an RMC. There’s a slight left kink to the entry and then a pull out to the right that give it that extra edge of insanity. The speed at the bottom, enhanced by a corrugated metal shelter, is quite something too.


A ton of momentum throws you up onto the cliff in a great surprise double-up type airtime moment that culminates in a poppy overbanked turn. As you accelerate back downwards and sideways out of this, the speed builds once more through another, faster banked turn, eventually plunging back down to the ground at immense pace. The base of the dip here delivered a significant amount of positives, an amount I’m not entirely accustomed to on such hardware and it was a very welcome difference in style. From there, the one and only inversion hits, executed to perfection as it gently flops you headfirst over the top of the cliff once more.

The terrain of course is the Iron Rattler’s signature move. After the large, fast paced elements, you suddenly find yourself going through some motions as if you were in the dying moments of a layout, with some short and punchy airtime hills straddling another couple of small sideways twisty bits, all low to the ground while still 100ft in the air. If I were to take any issue with this ride, and I’ve always got to find something, it’s that these sideways elements in particular felt a little pedestrian to the more seasoned RMC experiencer in me. Maybe in 2013 they were as-yet-unseen and kicking all types of ass, but of everything in this layout they did the least for me.


Not to worry, the airtime is smooth and powerful out of this section and into what my limited, spoiler-free knowledge led me to believe is the legendary cliff drop. Moments like these are always a luxury in a coaster, the sudden discovery of more potential energy than you had before, a ramping up of pace in the midst of the inevitable ramping down of resistance. A big, stonking ejection out of your seat off the side of the rock and back towards station level leads into another low, fast turn and a surprise tunnel through said rock. I had no idea that this existed and loved it. Rushing through the dark and cooling temperatures in hardware like this is entirely unlike anything else in the world and while it’s just another simple corner in itself that doesn’t do much, what happens next is rather epic too.


Violent, sideways and skywards ejector into the brake run. There’s a ton of energy that the snake has left to give as it all comes to an end, but it goes out with a bang and perhaps the most vicious moment of the entire layout. I can’t really argue with that. Overall Iron Rattler went down an instant classic. It’s only really mid-tier RMC, but of course whenever we talk about these things that’s still some ridiculous praise in the grand scheme of worldwide rollercoasters.

The ride has bags of character and I love the many unique aspects it manages to bring to the table. Even though I’ve done a stupid amount of them by now, the fact that their third-ever creation delivers such special moments is testament to how game-changing this stuff was at the time, and still remains to this day. God damn Iron Rattler.

Our first mistake was going round for a second lap, with still just a 10-15 minute queue. After another long walk up to the station, it was announced that ‘essential cleaning’ was required while procedures were already under way and some guests in front of us left immediately. The snake had already kicked someone’s ass this early into the day, also impressive. Through fear of having a ‘Six Flags day’, or rather the Rattler going down at any other time during our visit, knowing we definitely wanted more goes on it, we opted to wait this one out.

The waiting was painful, endlessly torn between leaving and hitting up the rest of the park, understanding there were a lot of creds ahead of us, yet being a mere couple of trains away from another cheeky lap on what was undoubtedly the highlight of the lineup, and one of the primary reasons we were here in the first place. The process was more painful. While I’ll never criticise the meticulousness of the actual cleaning we witnessed, the lack of visible progress became frustrating when the entire ride team would stop wiping, pack everything up, begin cycling the train again, only to then get all the kit out once more and start the routine again, several times over.

I estimate that around an hour passed before we finally got back on it again. By no means too long of a wait for such an attraction, but at the same time most likely entirely unnecessary. The ride delivered once more as it had before, but now it was definitely time to rack up the ol’ coaster count, via the gift shop.


Where I took a liking to this imagery in particular.


Over the way, having been screaming “louder, LOUDER, AHAHAHAHA” at us all morning, was #2 Dr. Diabolical’s Cliffhanger, the parks latest addition, and a B&M described by many as a sign that the company were finally getting a bit more fruity again in their old age. I was intrigued, I think that’s certainly needed in order to keep myself entertained at this point. Heading straight into the indoor section had us queuing in a dimly lit corridor with some artistic shots of the ride itself, a small window to the outside world in very close proximity to some coaster track, for some intimidation, and a perky little tune on the speakers.

The doors at the far end opened and preshow #1 began, with a staff member awkwardly standing in the midst of the scene in a lab coat. While it’s certainly nice to see Six Flags going down a more theatrical route, the show itself felt dated and redundant, which is impressive given the age of the attraction. Apparently we were there to sample a new youth-retaining elixir but, as the good Dr. is a bit of a D, this is a lie.


As we move through a hidden entrance in a bookcase (not seen that one before), we hit preshow #2, in which we learn that we were actually there to have our fear extracted in order to raise an army of creatures. The nature of these creatures is never revealed and while I somewhat appreciate this being left to the imagination, I feel the environment probably warranted some visual indicator as to what the end goal was.

The reality is that some loud, annoying noises go off and we head back outside into concrete, sunlight, lockers and a big B&M. All semblance of theming vanishes and you’re completely detached from the story aside from a single piece of station audio, muted by the open air aspect of a barren loading area and standard ‘enjoy your ride on the Dr. D’ Six Flags operations.

Never mind though, maybe the coaster will be a highlight of the genre? I thought to myself as I boarded the outer back seat of the highly unusual 3×7-seater row cars. Sad to say it was baaaaad. I’m no ride engineer, but something’s happening with B&M. This coaster rode incredibly poorly, and it’s not the first brand new B&M this year to display signs of this. The flexing in the outer rows is jarring and uncomfortable as it bounces and lurches you through what would traditionally be smooth and forceful track elements.


If I had to guess, and it’s only a guess, this is part of some stress-relieving, life-enhancing endeavour (oh look, that fits the ride theme!) to make the hardware last longer, to help make a sale. Whatever it is, it makes things less rigid, perhaps there’s less wear and tear on the track and the trains, but instead those flexing forces are transferred through the riders and it quite simply isn’t a pleasant experience.

I found no redeeming features whatsoever on this 150ft chunk of steel, other than how it looks, you can’t deny the sexy curves of their track design. The drop is marred by juddering about uncomfortably, the inversions are marred by jolting around uncomfortably. The audio is abrasive and annoying, especially as it can be heard park-wide.


The second half of the layout is Boring and Mild at best, with the only evidence of that aforementioned fruitiness of B&Ms latest and greatest designs being a steeper than usual airtime hill which, to be blunt, rides like a bad Gerstlauer. The attraction was about as unpopular as the 23-year old B&M on the other side of the park, not good for the new girl. Let us never speak of it again.


Speaking of the 23-year old B&M on the other side of the park, that’s where we headed next, via more waterfalls.

#3 Superman Krypton Coaster here has another bit of a legendary status for quarry related antics. I’ve become rather jaded to the whole multi-looper ride type over the years, but was excited to see if what was basically the last hurrah of this particular ride type for me could deliver anything special.


Yes and no. While visually I liked what was going on, it doesn’t quite use the terrain in the way I had imagined it might. Unlike the Rattler, it just drops from the top of the cliff and you’re done with that aspect (it’s also quite weird to see just normal civilisation at the top of this particular cliff, rather than some wild frontier).

It’s an unusual, big curvy drop that is rather fun. There’s a bit of a rattle going on at the higher speeds as you power into the massive loop under Superman’s ass, which is par for the course. Things do get a little wild in the mid-section, with some semblance of that old school violence that can be found in certain transitions. A snappy inversion here, an airy lurch out of a mid-course there, it delivers the cookie cutter element sequence once more but goes about doing so in a slightly unorthodox way. I guess I kinda liked it, one of the better of its type for sure.

Speaking of the better of its type, Wonder Woman was last on our major hit list and I was intrigued to remind myself about the insanity of that OG Raptor layout after the hilarious disappointment that was the Jersey Devil. The ride had other plans however, it appears to be destroying itself rather quickly and was only able to run one out of three trains, the others undergoing repair, with constant downtime. Arrival at the queue saw what would have become the most significant wait of the day (essential cleaning aside) had we sucked up the single train operations and just gone with it. However we decided that this was the best opportunity to play the ace up our sleeve, the season pass we had earlier acquired came with 4 free line skips per customer.

How to use these was a different matter however, the online portal for the pass gave no answers. We headed back to the centre of the park and found the flash pass kiosk, asking the guy outside how it worked. A different, convoluted website was involved that needed bar code scanners and the registering of multiple passes onto a single login. Once that was dealt with, a simple selection of the ride was needed and a QR code was generated, which could be shown at the ride at any time that day. Spoiler: it never was.


For geographical reasons we took the opportunity to break for lunch here before heading into the park again. The wrong #4 Goliath, or Batman as it’s more commonly known, sticking out like a big, blue, sore thumb just around the corner, became the obvious next tick off along route. The queueline was hideous, though mercifully empty, consisting of endless uphill switchbacks with not a drop of shade in sight. That new holiday heat was really starting to get to me already.

Flashbacks to Dorney Park in the station, they were running this Invert like absolute trash too. Meandering about between restraint checks and other procedures, arguing with guests over shoes on, shoes off, fanny packs on, fanny packs off, all while train #2 was sitting uselessly on the brake run getting everyone else sunburnt and annoyed. Let’s just get this over with – standard Batman fare, a little rip on the feet in the heat, but otherwise I’m over it.


#5 Poltergeist was next on route in the clockwise direction and we sidled up to the decent looking haunted house façade and pleasant spooky station decoration. Now don’t get me wrong, I love what they’ve done with the place, I just wish it wasn’t just another Premier spaghetti bowl.


A little bit of thrilling and fun in the sun, but otherwise I’m over it.


Things went bad again upon re-arrival at Wonder Woman, it had ceased operation. The queue had mostly dispersed, beyond the point of the fast track merge at the very least, though they were still allowing guests to head in and wait it out, sitting forlorn on the floor. Two engineers were at the front of the station faffing around with the drive tyre that takes the train up onto the chain lift. The tyre was clearly on its last legs, frayed, cracked, split and bare. A measurement was made with a gauge. Apparently it still met the specs and was still good to go in that state. The coverings were re-covered and the operator was given the all clear. Except that it was too late.

Phase 1 of ride shut down for inclement weather had begun. There were now storms in the area. Wonder Woman should have been back in action, but could no longer operate, nor could anything with a height above 25ft until the storm had passed, according to the staff there. It was time to bail.

Taking the 25ft rule to heart, we assumed the next necessary course of action was to hit the smallest cred in the park – a miniature Vekoma Junior by the name of Streamspiter. It was blocked off by a cleaning bucket, which we initially believed to be a blatant disrespecting of the weather rules, but it later appeared that the stupid thing never operated at all during our time on park.


Talking of stupid spites, they were supposed to build these kiddie coasters across the chain for the ‘summer season’, but haven’t even started yet. Construction, get excited, I guess.


Now, the only thing worth riding that was also still open was Pirates of the Deep Sea. This dark ride was great, containing a lovely, cooling queue line with some really nice details. The first scenes of the ride itself with all the rain effects and storms brewing (just like outside) was really atmospheric. It got a little more cliché as the sections went on, with many ghost train throwbacks to other, similar attractions and obvious hints of the old Scooby Doo theme it used to have still shining through, but otherwise solid fun and a welcome change from the usual Six Flags fiasco.

Gave that a couple of goes before ending up on bench: the ride for a couple of hours, waiting out a storm that never truly hit the park that hard. The threat of lightning was such a tease, having killed the operations.

With the opening hours dwindling, eventually some signs of life were seen from a few nearby coasters. A lot of guests had already retired by this point in the day, so all credit to the park for not pulling a New England. They actually bothered to get things going again.

Well, they were trying to at least, we rocked up to Pandemonium only to find that they had immediately broken it. Come back later.


Time to get the dread out of the way, of yet another S&S Freespin, the actual #6 Batman The Ride of the park. It seems my love- (Arashi) hate (Dragon Slayer) relationship with these has reached both extremes and this one fell squarely in the middle – inoffensive.

We wasted sooo much time in these dying moments. Went to the Boomerang for a double dose of bad clones, only for it to break down the moment we reached the station. Not another one.


#7 Road Runner Express was doing fine and was a welcome break from the mess. A punchy little custom layout with some good speed, wild turns, two lifts and the previously mentioned bonus interaction with the Rattler.


Boomerang was still spiting, so it was back to #8 Pandemonium. We witnessed an engineer jump in a car for a final test run before giving it the thumbs up and then managing to complete our own lap. In the hurry, I forgot to care that this is the almost-best Gerstlauer spinner layout.


#9 Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster was accepting guests again, and then went down immediately AGAIN as we batched ourselves into the station. It sounded like an absolute wreck from off-ride, I know the track shouldn’t be that noisy. We sat it out, again, they looked at the front drive tyre, again, they gave it a thumbs up, again. Finally, finally I hopped into the back seat, ready to see if it lived up to old Railblazer.

Upon departing the station it begin juddering violently, and slipping on that front drive tyre, barely, barely making it up onto the chain lift, all while the operator was giving a nervous glance to the engineers still present, his hand hovering dangerously close to the E-stop. We sooo very nearly didn’t get this lap, it was a total miracle. Should probably take another look at that tyre.


And the result? It rode about as badly as it sounded, and kinda like Jersey Devil did after 5 minutes. These things clearly don’t age well, or the parks are very bad at looking after them. But crucially, it completely affirmed my feelings for Railblazer. The evidence of the ridiculously killer ejector moments from that back seat was all still there and it still managed to absolutely haul through the wonderfully Raptor-specific stylings of the layout. A candle in the wind, perhaps.

With only minutes left on the clock we ran back to the other side of the park to close out on the Rattler. In a very satisfying manner, we saw Wonder Woman now stuck on the lift hill, from our own lift hill, before enjoying yet more snake-based elation.

In a very unsatisfying manner, they had to go and Six Flags the day right at the very end though. We entered the still-open queue one final time for the night, making it all the way up into the station only to be shouted at by ride staff that “IT’S CLOSED!” A train full of riders was yet to be despatched, along with half a trains worth also waiting in the air gates. I half attempted to point out that there would still be seats free anyway on their next load, but it was met with another instant rebuttal of “IT’S CLOSED!” Perhaps, most annoyingly of all, some of the other guests in those air gates began to back him up by also shouting “IT’S CLOSED!” at us. Why did they care?

Our only option was to walk the long way back down the queue, to eventually find that they had chained off the entrance behind us.


Day 3

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.

Day 2

France 05/23 – Disneyland Paris

A revisit to Disney has been on the cards forever by now, as I had still never completed the creds. It’s been 8 years since I had last visited, which is ridiculous given what’s been done in the interim. Given the distinct lack of other major things to do since our last minute change of plans, this seemed like a suitable opportunity. It also marked the last in the worldwide set for the wife, which was another bonus.

It probably seems like everyone’s worst nightmare to book a visit to Disneyland a mere two days in advance, on a public holiday weekend. As we’ve learnt though, it’s only as hard as you make it. One of the ‘perks’ of the Paris property is that the way their hotels are priced vs. park tickets, we pretty much got a free nights stay out of it, along with the extra park hours that come with being a guest. I do wish a lot of other places around the world used this strategy, it’s always surprising to me how many ‘on-site hotels’ don’t even get you into their respective parks.

They’ve spruced up the Santa Fe accomodation since we last saw it, and it was perfectly serviceable as the lowest of the low options. Somewhere clean to lay your head for 7 hours, with a few Cars on the walls, all you really need. The staff were friendly and early-morning check-in was smooth and efficient, picking up our magic passes, being able to park right outside the room, even dump the luggage inside and take the shuttle bus to the park, all before the 08:30 magic hour for hotel guests began.

Days 3 & 4 – Disneyland Paris


And here it is. It’s been a while.


This is the sort of Disney crowding I can get behind.


First on the to-do list was Space Mountain, or #1 Star Wars Hyperspace Mountain: Rebel Mission as it is now more catchily known. This cred has eluded me since January 2007, not that I would have been brave enough to try it back then. It was closed to, eventually make it worse(?), last time and when it reopened, other actually decent things closed and it was just never that much of a priority. Why?

Because it’s just some old Vekoma looper in fancy dress (and not the only one of those on resort). And the dress isn’t even that fancy any more. It seemed a shame that it ploughs into the launched lift at some pace, only to stop on it instead of keeping that exciting momentum going. Once out of the tube, the new Star Wars overlay is… poor. The new vests restraints were appreciated. It was a thing, that happened in the dark. Went upside down a couple times, including the world’s only ‘tongue’ inversion (tick) that I couldn’t tell you what it is, turned left a lot.

I believe it used to be cool, with the old theme and music, but sadly can’t confirm. +1.

With new experiences already out of the way for this park, I’ve hit that revisit wall again. It’s going to get a bit rambly.

Buzz Lightyear. They have one of those. In fact is this the only ride that’s in every single resort in the world? S’alright.


Star Tours always intrigues me because of the seemingly endless possibilities of sequences. We gave It a couple of goes and had both a pod race on Tatooine and the legendary flight across salty old Crait that I have, for some reason, been obsessing about for many years now. Oh, and that water planet from that film I don’t like. It really has it all. Quite violent in the corner seats too, I hit my head on the rear panel at one point, which made a great noise.


Leaving Discovery Land behind it was time to rekindle with some old favourites. This was, traditionally, my favourite Big Thunder Mountain. It had some work done in the interim, but I’m pleased to report that it remains the best.


It tracks the most vigorously and therefore is the most runaway. The tunnels under the lake are insane and genius. The wildest ride in the wilderness you could say.


I think you can tell by the photos that this was a two-day visit. They’ve done a little something to Phantom Manor too. Notably to me, the pre-show is less obvious about its graphic nature and they changed the mirror scene at the end to feature a creepy ‘will you marry me [creepy laugh]’ from Emily Alton. Please exit the vehicle.

I’ve always thought this one finishes a little strangely, but is otherwise rather incredible. As with its neighbour, it haunts the most vigorously and is therefore the best haunted mansion.


It’s been so long that I’ve forgotten how different this version of Pirates of the Caribbean is, in terms of layout at least. The lift hill sequence is far more intimidating and epic looking and, in general, I’m in love with this ride too, even if Jack Sparrow now has to feature everywhere.


That’s the top 3 on park out of the way, all downhill from here. I didn’t take any other pictures besides the legendary dragon under the best castle, so that sums that up.

Casey Jr. is sweet, Indiana Jones was skipped. Peter Pan is disproportionately short for the queues it gets, therefore Pinocchio and Snow White are better. Small World had just come out of refurb and was looking pretty fresh. Philharmagic is fab. I think that’s about it. Next.

Walt Disney Studios Park


There was one new thing for me over at the other park, famed for once having a lack of things to do. I was there then, it was bad.


Marvel stuff. As one of the more forgiving fans of the MCU these days it seems, this area was a bit something and nothing to me. I guess it’s hard for a theme park, how can you sum up 50 films with a centralised, recognisable location, though it would have been cool to go for something a bit more niche than… this.

It’s a testament to the strength of something like Star Wars land I suppose. Something about that galaxy far, far away just feels so unique and lived in. This looks generic and uninteresting, with very little visual cue to tell you what it actually is.


I deplored Avengers Assemble: Flight Force. I don’t like Rock’n’Rollercoaster at the best of times, but this rode like absolute trash. Left turn, the ride, again, but far worse. I don’t know what was going on inside, just that it wasn’t impressive. The presence of Iron Man bugged me and then something about aliens, and rocks, and Captain Marvel being unnecessarily sassy.


Oh look, Spider-Man. He has a ride too, you know.


This thing is actually new, and not a rehash. The queue was pretty lame for new Disney. Pre-show room was great, loved how much was going on in there, loads of little details. Feels like most of the heart of the attraction went into this.

I can’t think of one redeeming feature about the ride itself. It was bad. Kinda expected better from nu-Ninjago tech but from my experience it created exactly the same issue. I can’t tell what the hell I’m doing. Flailing arms around didn’t seem to produce any precision or meaning. The action on screen is a blurry mess of nonsense that you can’t follow, so it wouldn’t matter if you were accurate anyway. If you’re going for the chaotic approach, I think it’s visually much better suited to something more fantasy and cartoony, which this wasn’t. Dingy warehouses and metal spiders.

They big up that you can do clever, advanced motions, but none of us could make that work, so what’s the point? I didn’t realise it would be just screen, flail, screen, flail, screen, flail end and even that was tiring, while also being disproportionately short of a ride experience for the popularity, again. And it’s not like you’d want to wait that long again to try and get better at it.

We left the area and never looked back.


From the worst Disney dark ride, to the best. God damn scary door. I was getting slightly worked up there while writing and now I’ve got the chills. I already absolutely adored Tower of Terror. They’ve made it even better.

Atmosphere of the queue and lobby is legendary as always and the French seem to have the best staff for this type of experience. One thing I noticed is that getting the pre-show in French is suboptimal, not having THE narrator voice just doesn’t quite hit as right. We ended up with English just the once though, somehow. Perfect.


it took the very first moment of the very first go to realise something was different. It dropped violently downwards immediately, which killed me. Didn’t even know that was possible.
Since that, we looked it up to learn that there are three possible sequences currently. The Malevolent Machine, The Shaft Creatures and The 5th Dimension. They all feature Emily Alton again and just make it that little more creepy and special than it was before. New projections of her floating about in hallways, increased potency of jump scares in both visual and audio effects, each one ending with her skipping off while absent-mindedly humming the twilight zone tune. Little things, big difference.

Oh, and the hardware itself is still second to none. That wonderful drop tower butterfly sensation that I simply don’t get on coasters any more, hits again and again. It’s so playful, yet so vicious. The new sequences seem to toy around with it even more, teasing at the doors not opening sometimes, bouncing around unexpectedly. Extra, bonus motions like shaking, wobbling or juddering as if you’re being attacked.
Yes, yes, a thousand times yes. This is why I do Disney parks.


Crush’s Coaster isn’t, but we sucked up the queue once as a reminder. Such poor capacity for such a major park, why. Ride itself was slightly better than I remember. Didn’t really recall it having actual scenes, and then it expressed a modicum of vigour in the actual layout, where some of these Maurers can otherwise be surprisingly lacking. Such a varied coaster type.


I remember not being impressed with the Ratatouille ride at all, and that was with very little experience. Considering it’s amongst my absolute favourite Pixar films, I wondered why. Fact is, it’s just not conducive to a ride experience. I enjoy these movies for their emotional beats, not the skidding around a kitchen floor. It’s overly screen heavy, from someone who is usually more forgiving about those things.
It doesn’t use the trackless tech to any real effect, from someone who is very unforgiving about that.
It doesn’t make sense as a story – you start in the kitchen with the short, angry guy and end up in Remy’s own kitchen. Curly hair and his love interest are working in both of them, simultaneously. Nothing happens in between these two locations to change things narratively. Why?


Talking of why, Cars. They’ve made the tram tour about it. It’s fine on the surface, some onboard video screens about driving route 66 and seeing the sights, and then seeing some sights. What doesn’t really work is the catastrophe scene with the fire and the water and the oil tanker falling off a cliff. Without context from a film I’ve never seen, the oil tanker character is enjoying what is essentially a sequence of him dying. And then you laugh and wave and say your goodbyes.

Damn, I wanted to end on a positive note, but having run out of attractions, all we have left is the night time spectacular. They started out with a lite version, using drones and stuff. It was ok.

Then the 30th anniversary, soon to end, whatever it was, simply didn’t pack the punch of the 2015 equivalent. Partially personal preference, the film representation and song choice was just a bit mediocre, with a ridiculous amount of overlap with Philharmagic. The overarching theme was Peter Pan’s shadow for some reason and there’s only so many times you want to hear Be Our Guest, Lion King and the Genie in your day. Hunchback was a curveball, but hey, France I guess. No newer stuff beyond the highlight that was Tangled and, just like Tokyo I imagined most guests left thinking ‘where was Encanto’. I don’t believe there was any appluase, which usually says it all.
It also really missed having a dragon catch on fire.

Tower of Terror though. God damn.

Thus ends our long weekend in France. +9 for the count, including a new top ten in Toutatis and a Chance Toboggan. Didn’t expect either of those things. I’ll take it.

France 05/23 – Parc d’Olhain, Cita-Parc, Loos Parc + Ch’ti Parc

Under the last minute change of plans, the following day was purely dedicated to the pursuit of nearby creds. A number of these parks were casualties of some ferry delays last year, it’s always good to get that closure.

Day 2 – Parc d’Olhain


As such, d’Olhain was no longer gone. We arrived in the vague vicinity first; it’s a very outdoorsy place with other stuff going on, in the region of France’s weird pyramid things. It took a long walk through a forest to reach the alpine coaster on the far side.



There’s nothing remarkable about #1 Luge 4 saisons other than perhaps the deep levels of organic growth attached to the rails and the accompanying brush attachments, but a solid start to any day in the higher pursuit.


POV: you’ve just got the cred.


In the nearby city of Lille, things were cooking up a treat. Nestled within the boundaries of a moat, in the inner greenery, between zoo and castle, lies one of the many Requins in the region.



#2 Requin Express’ was on the usual French lunch break upon arrival but quickly opened up again to customers.


This donkey has no hat, but otherwise a solid performance from Cita-Parc.


Construction, get excited.


Looming over in the distance from here was a certain ride type that has been eluding me for a while now. The funfair was in town, and look what delights they had brought with them.

Wisconsin, 2021. The spite of Monster at Adventureland meant we never took in a planned visit to Little Amerricka in order to pick up one of the only known permanently operating Chance Toboggans.

Southampton, 2022. One was in town and I took the drive down, only to sit in front of it and see the whole operation closed for weather. Evil looking things, aren’t they?

Lille Funfair


Here’s a better question – why do we ride coasters that cause us pain? From someone who had landed the Southampton one, #3 Toboggan had been bigged up to be one of the worst coaster experiences ever. And so it was with trepidation that we boarded, two abreast on the operators insistence – more momentum, less room for movement.

Concerning sounds and the smell of grease fill the claustrophobic vertical lift hill, as the clunky little car inches its way up the inside of the tower. The ladder here is a novel feature, I can’t quite bring myself to picture an evacuation on one of these.


The spiral is the killer, the builder of both speed and suspense. It goes on for an age and yet is over in a flash, while you best figure out a way to brace for what’s to come. The track levels out and then immediately hits the poorly profiled drop at such a pace that bodies fly, and then come back down with a sickening crunch at the base. The landing was the worst part, but I’ve had far worse. From there it car crashes its way back to the station while you’re likely still processing the earlier parts of the circuit. Tick.

It’s rides like these that often worry me more, after the fact. Preparing for the worst and coming out relatively unscathed is a danger that can lull one into a false sense of security. Perhaps next time I will be riding alone, the car will be less padded, it may still yet be a true horror show.


#4 1001 Pattes though, can’t go wrong with those. A bonus travelling +2 was a welcome addition to the trip.

Loos Parc

Down the road is a slightly more unusual setup. Loos Parc is located within an industrial estate/retail park, round the back of an Aldi (more parts of the world need creds like this) and contains another delightful one-two punch.


#5 Requin for a dream.


And the cold steel of #6 Train de la Mine.

Both are of Turkish origin, bringing me a couple of steps closer to that highly sought out Kılıç Lunapark set. It’s their Wacky Worm with spinning cars that intrigues me the most though.

Ch’ti Parc

With the afternoon whittling on, there was just one more establishment to go. To me pronounced ‘Chitty Park’, this one is within the grounds of a larger communal green space including baseball field and canoe club (more parts of the world need creds like this).


Only a single #7 Nessi is on offer, but what a Nessi this is. The track is in invitingly good condition and it rides like the beast it so accurately portrays.


A fitting close out to a successful day. Who needs Intamin anyway?

Day 3