USA 06/22 – Dorney Park + Summary

Let’s get this over with, it’s a highly anti-climactic finish. All the good stuff had been and gone and we were left with half a day to perform a courtesy mop up of one more park on the platinum pass.
But the bucket was dry.

Day 19 – Dorney Park

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For some reason this had the longest queue of any park to even get inside the entrance. Everyone and their dog had turned up for what appeared to be the water park and security were being particularly slow and thorough. Not kicking Hershey’s ass so far are we?

Our original plan was to hit the stupid low capacity mouse fresh and early, but by the time we had reached it there was already a disgusting queue. Thinking it was only going to get worse we joined anyway and then it failed to move for a solid 5 minutes.

Nah.

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#1 Hydra The Revenge was a walk-on however so, you know, these mice at Cedar Fair parks are just plain awful.

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And the ride ain’t half bad all things considered. Silly jojo roll is silly and then I greatly appreciate the non-conforming layout thereafter. It doesn’t drop into an inversion, it’s a little terrain inspired, the shaping of that cobra looks hilariously off and Hydra is an all round good time. Like the B&M I used to know and love.

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This being an ancient woodie (and also a walk on) was a complete surprise, I didn’t even know what #2 Thunderhawk #2 was. At least it isn’t another SLC.

In fact it was an even bigger learning experience as it also taught me that this park is well over 100 years old and yet you’d never know it. There’s not a single trace of vintage about the place. A sign in the station proudly proclaims that they used to have dark rides, so what happened there? Incidentally we don’t have any of these listed in the DRDb archive yet – if you have any information to share then please do.

The ride was entirely forgettable at this point. Good, but I don’t even know.

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#3 Steel Force was next along the path and yet another coaster with no queue. This one landed squarely in the middle of Mamba and Wild One in terms of float and crunch in the final sequence of hills, which is the only part that really separates them all.

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The first half of clunky fun drop and big hill of nothingness, followed by moderately Forceful corners, Steel feels exactly the same. Pretty good.

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Oh no, not another Impulse. Lessons thoroughly now learnt it was back row all the way on #4 Possessed for that rear spike goodness. Is this the one that pinched the brakes at the top? It might be.

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#5 Woodstock Express isn’t so good here either, just another Zamperla. It was being operated by a child though, so bonus points for intrigue.

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Sure enough the Mouse had got even worse by this point so we headed over to the last coaster of significance, #6 Talon, the Grip of Fear. The attraction staff didn’t have the grip of how to operate a ride properly however and it may well have been one of the most arduous ordeals I’ve ever witnessed in an amusement park. What could have easily been 5 minutes on two trains took almost an hour, with the second train consistently spending several cycle times with guests stuck and visibly disgruntled in the burning sun on the final brakes. There was zero hustle, there was barely even comprehension or understanding. It was the final piece of the puzzle in learning what we has all known all along. Dorney Park was kicking nobody’s ass.

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As for the coaster, meh, not a fan. Yes it breaks a few moulds but it does nothing with that and ends up very meandery in the moments that aren’t standard fare.

After that fiasco the decision had been made for us. There was no time to suffer the mouse queue and it was off to the airport. It all went far too quickly.

As for Dorney, well, it’s a half day park and we didn’t even complete it. There were obvious issues but it’s not a bad lineup at all, when analysed on a global stage. You could quite easily put it on par with the likes of Thorpe Park and that specific part of the world would do very well out of something like Steel Force or even Thunderhawk. The problem is the area of America this happens to be in. There’s literally world class attractions in every direction, just up the road from Dorney. It clearly doesn’t cope well with the slightest crowd levels and, as the place has no soul at all, may well remain relegated forever as the joke park of the region. Why would you come here?

But no doubt I’ll be back here for the +1 if I ever get another platinum pass. It’s always inevitable that one of the many other parks will build something that will kick Dorney’s ass once more, in the near future.


Summary

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Total states – 15
New creds – 160
New dark rides – 12
New parks – 28
New wacky worms – 2
Best new coaster – Steel Vengeance
Best coaster – Skyrush
Best dark ride – Volkanu
Best park – Kenny Knoebels
Distance travelled – 7000 Miles-ish
Spites – 14/174 (8%)

This trip kinda broke me. So many years of build up and so many creds, I’ve never quite hit that saturation point before and it hadn’t really hit me until I totted it all up.
160 coasters. I’ve obviously done a lot over the years, but never cracked 100 in a single month, let alone 160. Then we consciously skipped 6 by the end of it.

Have you ever stared at your coaster list and thought ‘I don’t even know what that is?’ I don’t expect a yes, but it’s happening to me more and more. It has also been over a month now and I still haven’t properly sat down and readjusted my rankings in any semblance of a sensible manner (Phoenix <3). It’s definitely getting harder to do that, but I’m determined to keep that part up no matter how deep into this I get. It always needs context, searching for that new best thing is a huge part of the appeal for me and the search goes on.

I may have moaned a lot here but it’s more fun that way and it’s still kinda my thing. On reflection there was a perfectly healthy balance of pleasant surprises vs disappointments, I just think the biggest shock was not walking away with a single new entry to the top ten after all of that. As planned I’ve now hit all of the CF top 25 and honestly I struggle to count beyond fingers the number of genuine contender coasters I feel are still out there operating. Which terrifies me on a weekly basis, but I’m undeterred.

Nevertheless, amazing, incredible, trip of a lifetime, loved it, what it’s all about, great stuff, good job, god damn Twisted Timbers.

Thanks for reading.

Until next time.


USA 06/22 – Six Flags Great Adventure, Casino Pier, Playland’s Castaway Cove, Gillian’s Wonderland Pier + Morey’s Piers

We had finally received an email from Six Flags St. Louis by the time we came to visit their last park of the trip. For the sake of ease on both parties it came down to a simple case of abandoning the pass and receiving a refund on the whole thing (still waiting on a cheque in the post). Which basically boiled down to our first two visits being free, before the other two on the spot ticket costs made it slightly more expensive anyway overall. You win some, you lose some.

Day 18 – Six Flags Great Adventure

Except it wasn’t quite that easy, as unlike Great America they didn’t want to sell us tickets on the door and the web page was full of all kinds of minor clerical issues like not letting you put personal details in the right format so that your bank then rejects you for being suspicious.

We so nearly cheesed our way in when a friendly staff member approached at speed and offered to get us through for free on his ‘bring a friend pass’, while we standing around the entrance looking confused and frustated at a phone. It wasn’t to be however, as he was then informed at the gate that ‘it doesn’t work on a day you’re working’. Nice try though.

After far too long we were in the hard way, with only one ride on our mind.

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The #1 Jersey Devil Coaster. This thing amuses me, still feels like it came out of nowhere and the face on the train is so silly. I had a good feeling about it as we walked straight onto the platform with no queue and hopped on the highly efficient conveyor system they’ve developed to sort out the capacity issues of the original.

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So it’s a shame it’s nothing like the originals in any other aspect either. I take issue with the fact that it rides really poorly across most of the seats I sampled. Unlike Railblazer clattering around in the station and then being butter smooth on track, the Devil clangs around on every joint and it just feels bizarre and unnecessary. What did they do wrong?

I take issue with the restraint design, where I didn’t before. There was no happy medium, it was either biting into my shoulders and restricting movement, or loose to the point of continually slipping off one side with me having to focus on putting it back in place rather than on the ride experience itself. I also don’t remember the straddle situation being quite so jarring in the way that it’s a slightly awkward leg position for receiving the best of the forces the ride has to offer.

I also take issue with the layout having lost the spirit of the ride type. By stretching everything out it loses that sheer ridiculousness factor of it whipping around the track at a million miles an hour to the point where I think it’s not real. This could easily have just been any old two-rail RMC and I can almost taste the world’s longest, tallest, fastest of it’s kind marketing wearing through the very design.

All that being said it’s still really good, obviously, it’s an RMC. There are some cracking airtime moments in there and the inversions are at least 50% graceful, in the right seat. Back row served me best, as always and it’s an easy top 3 in the park for me at least, which makes it no slouch.

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So let’s knock out that top 3 one more time. Nitro was still full of the good stuff, when we finally found the entrance, reminding me that it’s still the best one around this particular part of the world. It’s really long, but less tiresome in the elements somehow and with a wider than usual range of forces throughout.

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It’s all about the bull though, so glad they managed to get El Toro back in action after it had such an immense attempt at tearing itself apart. That says it all about this ride really, aggression by the bucket load. If it makes it 90% of the way around the course whilst destroying track in the process, you know there’s no holding back here.

That airtime. That airtime again. And again. It’s unearthly until that middle section and then it just hits you with purposeful speed and rumble before trying to do damage once more. The rolling thunder is back and better than ever, with extra bonus crunch at the bottom of the dip, just to bring you down to size after some of the most severe ejection around. The bronco adds so much flavour to the finale and yup, it’s the best prefab. Still got it.

We stayed with El Toro until the heat got the better of us, honouring it with the back to back laps it deserved, but couldn’t have, on our last visit due to such terrible operations. It brought back all the classic memories of this part of the park though. ‘It used to be my favourite ride’ and ‘I don’t like riiiiides’ are still some of the greatest lines ever spoken by park guests.

Time to hit the shores.


Casino Pier

The main draw of Hydrus, if you can call it that, was spiting for no good reason, so this park became a pure tick box exercise.

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Starting with the unpainted one in the middle, #2 Hot Tamales, which was a thing. Ignore the big green track in the background, just like we did at the last park.

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Then the SBF spinner, #3 Xolo Loca, that isn’t a figure of eight for a change. A real highlight.
And no, I’m not doing one of those hamster wheels.

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Finishing up with the jank machine that is #4 Pirates Hideaway. The inside holds no secrets, but it’s humorous to behold.

Next.


Playland’s Castaway Cove

The biggest incentive for doing all of these was the crazy looking GaleForce which had always given off the aura of a bit of a sleeper hit to me. Wild, compact, S&S multi launch goodness eh?

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Oh, how wrong I was. We had some let downs this trip but #5 GaleForce was in a league of it’s own. It was nothing short of awful. The lumpy, awkward forces of a Sky Rocket II combined with riding like a Eurofighter from 2004. Sprinkle in some disgusting restraints and you’ve got yourself an endurance-fest.

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The unpainted one in the middle, #6 Wild Waves, was better. E&F Miler showing up the big boys.

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#7 Whirlwind also took us back to the SBF spinners of old here with the classic and familiar layout.

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And the park ended in style with yet more Miler, this time with #8 Pirates Gold Rush trying to remove my kneecap. Better than Galeforce though.

All in all, just a hot, sweaty and overcrowded day at the office.


Gillian’s Wonderland

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5 minutes up the road there was a #9 Wacky Worm. A pricey one too.
I rescued a man’s pass that had fallen into a road from a Larson Loop and then we had some meter jeopardy by running out of quarters and having to put up with a whole two train wait for the coaster.


Moreys Piers

But nothing had prepared us (including researching the exact cost several times) for how pricey the last place on the coast was. Our quarter crisis was averted by doing laps around the town and then sneaking into an arcade for a change machine, which was explicitly stated to be against the rules. Needs must.

We parked nearest to the pier with the woodie and the realisation hit hard when we quickly learnt that one lap on #10 Great White was $15+tax.

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Being a big and unique CCI this wasn’t a problem. There was quite a queue for it and it was eventually dark by the time we boarded. It had all the makings of a classic, the wild tunnel start and some nice big powerful drops. The stacked turnarounds were pretty cool, the back to back hill section was a highlight and the setting was great fun.

It had dawned on us in the queue however that this was by far the standout ride of ‘the park’, staring over at yet another Boomerang on the next pier in the distance. Every other ride here is a clone, and a poor one at that. Awful coasters we had ridden multiple times throughout the trip would cost the same as the woodie and even the kid’s stuff was priced well over the odds. The only conceivable way of ‘saving’ money on any of the rest of it was a pass costing in excess of $200. Queues were busy, time was pressing on, the fatigue of the coaster counting had truly set in for one day.

Nah.

Day 19


USA 06/22 – Busch Gardens Williamsburg + Kings Dominion

This was the most recent addition to the already overly stacked roster, thanks to the long-awaited opening of a certain Intamin. It was a park I had already thoroughly enjoyed before, although it was at the time lacking that killer instinct. Have they found it?

Day 17 – Busch Gardens Williamsburg

Got to ride the car park tram this time, which was an indicator that it must have been at least slightly busier than before, when we had wandered straight into England on foot. They weren’t doing any of the staggered ride opening business either so we immediately headed towards Pantheon to find that it was attracting a crowd by doing some test laps but also being closed.

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Rather than immediately start the day in a stewing queue, we took a reride on Apollo’s Chariot to start the morning fresh. It remains one of the better B&M hypers for me, there’s a bit of character to it with the old style drop again, some decent and varied airtime moments, a bit of terrain action and an overall more rugged feel. I really like the camelback that curves off to one side as it drops away, which doesn’t appear to be something they’ve tried much of since. The turnaround is still the dumbest thing ever, but overall I’ll take it over the Candy.

Obviously not wanting to suffer Tempesto unnecessarily, though we overhead an unfortunate number of guests singing its praises throughout the day, the best option at this point was to rejoin the now slightly more orderly line outside the entrance to the Pantheon section. A staff member was trying to get the queue to disperse or shift out of the way of certain lesser attractions but this was once more met with amusing defiance. One man pointed out that there was plenty of space if they would at least let us wait up and over the bridge into the new area, to which he didn’t quite know how to respond and promptly walked off.

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Eventually they got their act together and after a longer external wait than actual queueline we were able to experience some new blood. Must say I expected more when it comes to presentation, especially with all the extra time they’ve had to prepare this attraction. Short of a few signs in the walk to the station that name some elements, there’s very little to indicate that you’re supposed to be riding the gods and all that.

It all begins on #1 Pantheon with a little slither out of the station and into a satisfying mini-launch with Taiga-style first inversion. This flops you out well into a low turnaround before some kinda slow wobbly bits reminiscent of an RMC pre-lift section. Dare I say it feels a bit faffy at this point before you’ve even reached the triple launch part.

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I had no idea this had one of those humps in the middle of an LSM launch that are becoming a bit of a popular thing now. It’s by far the best execution of one however and contributes to what is probably the most standout part of the ride. The first (second?) launch is a decent surprise, shunting you forward over said hump and most of the way up into the top hat. A moment of contemplation before rolling back and hoping the switch track has done its job.

The power with which the backwards launch hits was familiar to me, but I didn’t expect how violently it would take the hump in reverse, particularly from the front row. It’s a proper can’t see it coming, chuck you out of your seat moment that really threw something special into the sequence. Vertical spikes are usually pretty glorious, except when in Impulse trains, and this one goes up nice and high for the first real overview of what’s to come. The final launch is again weird and satisfying as it hurls you over the speed bump one last time and up into what’s basically Velocicoaster’s top hat again.

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From there you dive nice and low to the ground, with a decent first drop style kick if taken from the back row and then out into the big Kondaa style wonky hill. This is suitably spectacular in any seat really and takes you into a reasonably forceful turn before what’s basically Velocicoaster’s stall again. I didn’t love it there and I didn’t particularly here either. It’s very much just a thing that happens in the layout, there’s a certain clinical rigidity to the transitions both in and out that are quite hard to describe. Here comes stall, stall, stall ends. Are we overdoing them at this point?

The ride gets a little fruity after that, as if to compensate, with a much more whippy slither, then a sideways airtime hill that doesn’t do much happens and you hit the brakes.

Hmm.

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While dwelling on what had just transpired we took a lap round the park to reride the classics, starting with Verbolten, Busch Gardens previous best coaster. I still love this thing, the detail, vibe and theme are all spot on and it’s a real adventure of an attraction. Something I did notice this time is that the train had developed the distinct Zierer ESC rattle that they all seem to be getting around the 10 year mark, which didn’t hurt the ride experience on this occasion but definitely could do if it goes unchecked.

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Alpengeist was looking mighty fresh after some TLC and a lick of paint. I still want to like this one more than I actually do. The massive swooping spiral of a drop and unconventional initial element order is really spectacular, but it’s still a little unpleasantly jerky in one or two spots of the first half and then dies way too hard into the second half. Crawling through the fake snow at the end is not a good look.

Griffon was gone, Invadr was disproportionately busy, the wolves were hiding and their Irish dark ride has dropped off the radar presumably due to covid, so there wasn’t a whole lot left for us to do except for Escape from Pompeii. This was also new to us after spiting the previous visit, though for some reason my phone camera decided to fail me at this point in time.

Having been sceptical about the significance of the ‘dark ride section’ and worried that the wetness wouldn’t justify the experience, we were proved entirely wrong.

The copious amounts of fire effects used was the main appeal of course, but several moments of collapsing scenery, including one hilariously unconvincing one with a statue gently laying its head down to rest, also added to the charm. If anything it just needed a crowd of Italians to pull an Etnaland and all scream ‘eyyyyyyyyy’ down the drop, which turned out to be just comfortably wet given the weather.

And then it was time for as many re-rides on Pantheon as we wanted to queue for, simultaneously drying off and getting more of a measure of the coaster.

For a multi-launch Intamin, these days, it’s not quite as good as I had hoped/expected. There’s some truly killer moments in there but the pacing is all off for me. The highlight of the ride being in the middle of the triple launch can’t help but make me see it as more of a gimmick coaster than a full blown, non-stop, kick your ass package. After all the many build up sequences it feels like as soon as you finally get into that end game high speed, high thrill coaster section it just ends unsatisfyingly quickly.

It’s Soaring with Dragon kinda territory – I wanted a top 25 and got a probable top 50.
But that’s all good, we had another fun half day out at Busch, which is still a lovely place to be. The trouble always is that there’s a special something not too far up the road, which also happens to be free with this platinum pass.


Kings Dominion

Ah yes, back amongst the much preferred Paramount Park experiences of the Cedar Fair chain, I really do get on with these King parks better than most of the others.

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They’re both all about their Timbers and we were immediately back to remind ourselves what the ‘best RMC of the last big US road trip’, Twisted Timbers, was really all about.

God damn Iron Gwazi, it’s better than Steel Vengeance, the very first thought that popped into my head as we hit the brakes after a single lap. It’s relentless, it’s ridiculous, it ‘urts me. I’d almost forgotten how good it was and now I love absolutely everything about it.

The nitpicks are gone, the first drop is amazing with that little lurch out of the seat as the world twists around your head. The many little overbanks are great fun.

The best bits are back and better than ever, those three consecutive hills remain up there with the absolute pinnacle of RMC airtime sequences, the violent yank through the structure is unrelenting and the inversions serve to spare you from the otherwise endless assault from start to finish.

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I guess we need that +1 to calm down. Of course I now dread the sight of these after my last concussion-based experience but thankfully #2 Tumbili was riding in tame, Six Flags mode. It actually looks rather nice and is refreshing to have a bit of a different theme on one, they’ve done a decent job on the whole area especially in making it less concrete and rides. Bring on Volcano 2.0 next.

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Courtesy was thrown to the beast that is Intimidator 305 of course. Even when it doesn’t particularly interest me, you can’t come to Kings Dominion and not damage your health in some capacity.
What did I learn this time? Eh, it might have been riding the best it’s ever been at for us, but that still doesn’t do a whole lot for me. The sun had been cooking it all day and we took multiple laps in the back row of a full train, which hadn’t even been filling on the last visit.
It might sound weird but I found myself thinking that 305 provides the ‘most comfortable grey-out’ in the world. I don’t have a huge amount of comparisons to draw on but let’s say something like Lech Coaster thrusts me uncomfortably into and back out that sensation in unwelcome fashion whereas Intrimidator eases you into it, holds it there for a good few seconds and then gently lifts off again. I wouldn’t call it pleasant but I have to respect it. The rest of the ride doesn’t really justify it, failed airtime and a couple of fun, high speed, left to right snaps. I’ll be in a right conundrum if they ever do make a ride that backs it up.
Oh and the ‘start your engines!’ announcement was turned off. That’s no good at all.

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Never found the time to ride Boo Blasters on Boo Hill here before, so gave that a go. Another Sally special, it’s pretty good for what it is, colourful and fun.

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Felt generous in giving Dominator an unwarranted courtesy lap, something about the awfulness of Rougarou made us want to prove that they do make better ones, right?
Nah, not for me. It just rattles around and does stuff. Either all these B&Ms have hit a certain deterioration threshold, or I have.

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Just put me back on this thing all night. Forgot to say they’ve added the Steel Vengeance style lockers and metal detectors here too, which was a novelty. It ended up being walk on so we just left the stuff in there and lapped it until it closed. Nothing short of incredible, the ride threw me around so much it scraped the skin off my shins like I was pulling deadlifts. The others don’t do that.
It’s not often I find myself having a re-awakening about coasters I’ve done before but Twisted Timbers is getting an upgrade, if that’s even possible.

Day 18


USA 06/22 – Lakemont Park, DelGrosso’s + Hersheypark

It felt like Lakemont was another park we came close to losing over the years we had been planning the trip, so even though it was closed the very day we drove straight past it, we figured it was worth the effort of doubling back yet again in order to try and catch those dips.

Day 16 – Lakemont Park

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Except it wasn’t, because Leap the Dips was closed. Apparently it was particularly unfortunate timing as the ride had been operating within the last few days but was now currently awaiting some ‘new wood’, which was on order, so at least it wasn’t another Flying Turns situation. Sadly there was nothing we could do to make it work this time around, might as well mop up the other creds though.

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Things didn’t look too promising for #1 Skyliner either initially, as by opening time no one had shown up to run the ride. Eventually some saviours arrived to fire up the old beast.

Wait, this opened in 1960? I could have sworn it was more like 1860, and it looks it too, in a fun kind of way. Shake, rattle and roll happened. A +1 was obtained.

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Perhaps as compensation for Leap the Dips we had also been granted permission to ride the only recently abbreviated #2 Lil’ Dipper, which comes up with one of those fun warnings on Coaster Count – are you suuure you rode this?

Allan Herschell doing us proud once again, with a ride on which every lap feels like it could be its last.

With that lil’ victory under our belt it was time to pop up the road for more cheap creds.


DelGrosso’s Amusement Park

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It’s rare that you’ll find me going out of my way for such insignificance in the States, for now, but this place is a mere 5 minutes up the road, so it would be rude not to.

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By the very specific number of ride tickets requested, or perhaps our accent and attire, the ticket office knew exactly why we were here, and the Wacky Worm was up first. Felt like we’ve been apart for too long.

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Already had one of these, though no breakdowns this time.

The highlight of the park was the pizza, which was fabled to be even better than Knoebels. Sure enough it was popular enough to attract as big a crowd as the rides, was good value and tasted even better, for American pizza anyway. Should expect nothing less from a park that’s owned by a sauce company.

Places to be.


Hersheypark

A revisit to Hersheypark had always been on the cards since we last visited, more specifically whilst having a conversation with a local man, mid-lap on Skyrush.
“Are you guys coming back for the hyper?”
Between screams of joy and terror, “yes”.

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True to our word we had returned, and the new entrance area looked so much better than it had as mud and wood. Finally we were able to take some decent photos of Skyrush and, though we had several new things to ride, we couldn’t resist starting the visit on an old pal.

Or is it a pal? I’d almost dared to forget how brutal and insane this contraption is, it’s not here to make friends, it’s out to utterly destroy you. The giddy contemplation of what was to come hit me hard and fast as we were wrenched up that cable lift hard and fast once more, now professionals in our golden winged seats of choice. God damn Skyrush, you’re still better than anything on the trip so far. And that was only the taster.

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Fear of repeat Intamin spite took us to #5 Fahrenheit next, which was another solid factor in our returning.
2019, Hershey, it had been ‘too cold’ to run this while we stood outside a broken Storm Runner getting sunburnt.
Today it literally was ‘97° and falling fast’, as the tag line proclaims, so there was no excuse. It was also looking rather vibrant in a new paint job.

I liked it a lot more than I had expected to. Just another Intamin with clunky old trains I had thought, but they ride more like a Maverick than a Kanonen, allowing some powerful forces to come into play. It’s reasonably standard multi-looper affair after the Norwegian Loop, an element I’ll always love (set complete). I could give or take the Cobra but the double corkscrew is quite hard hitting, then they managed to squeeze in one good pop of air for good luck before the brakes. Soild.

Took a courtesy lap on Storm Runner from there, which I believe remains my favourite hydraulic/accelerator. The stuff it does with it is so cool, even if it’s almost as short as the rest of them, though on this particular occasion it wasn’t quite delivering that lung-crushing quality I had previously admired from it. As a slight bonus it was running dual stations this time, which was fun to watch.

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Sadly this was a thing that needed to happen. The ride previously known as Spitewinder had become #6 Jolly Rancher Remix, which made it more of a laugh at least, I guess. The rectangular headed mascot, although never seen, was laying down some tunes in the station, complete with random flashing light selector package. There was some fresh smoke in the tunnel, it rode in an acceptable fashion and that was that.

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One more slightly more important coaster to pick up though, big #7 Candymonium was running far too many trains for its general lack of queue and causing some immense stacking. S’alright.

Mako brought some new hope to this genre for me, but I found that this newest installation pales in comparison. It had the makings of the same genius in that first drop and first hill, which are rather sublime, though the first trimmed hill was just a bit too sappy, beyond the point of regular amusement. Corners happen, it attempts that sideways moment which looks far funkier than it actually is and then it kills the speed even more into the visual turnaround and ends on the Shambhala double brake run. I just got the feeling it’s all about aesthetic over ride experience.

Probably doesn’t help that you can literally see Skyrush while riding it, either, thinking why am I on this?

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After personal recommendation from the project manager himself, we of course had to check out Reese’s Cupfusion this time. I don’t even remember it existing during the previous visit. At best it didn’t have any of the frontage that it does now and was just a mystery metal shed, or it was still undergoing the retheme.

The wonky elevation changes in the track as you go round and shoot sweets are a little distracting but it appears to be a significant upgrade over what they had before in terms of theming, interactivity and media. Shenanigans happen, we got an embarrassingly low score for some reason and in our minds at least that was now park complete, again.

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Which meant it was time for only one thing. Another evening Skyrush marathon, though shorter than we were hoping for. This reminded me exactly what the majority of my top ten rides are all about, a combination of physical abuse and things you don’t get anywhere else. I had spent our last visit honing the technique as to how not to get your thighs crushed (scoot forward and get it in that hip joint, if possible). This time I decided to use the time testing the waters around how much I actually wanted to get bruised. It hadn’t been happening enough on this trip.

There’s a fine line, the silly shape of the first drop always gives that terrifying shunt forwards that tries to pitch you out and over the bar, adjusting the position slightly anyway if there’s any room for it and then any duration of straight airtime feels like the more the better. The real pain comes in those exclusive wing seat moments when extreme ejection combines with lateral forces and you fly up 10ft by means of a single leg. Yikes. I think my favourite part of the whole thing, and why I’m a back left man, remains the third turnaround in which I get entirely folded in half, sideways, around a 2 inch diameter piece of metal, in a wild attempt to fully leave the train. You just don’t get that anywhere else in the world.

And that’s why I love it.

We spent our moments leaving the park in relative frustation at the lack of purchasable merch on offer. They’ve got some strange new designer shops that have nothing to do with the place at all, which obviously didn’t contain anything related to one of the all time greats. In the big new main shop the story was no better, where nearly all of the other attractions were represented. If only my favourite ride was the Sooper Dooper Looper…

Day 17


USA 06/22 – Sesame Place + Knoebels

Courtesy of the awkward operational calendar from a certain park who shall go unnamed for today, this day was somewhat of a silly detour once more, even though we were finally (and sadly) heading back in the direction of Philadelphia. Ish. The second factor at play was a weak attempt on our part to not pay the absolute maximum possible price for what feels like one of the most expensive creds ever. But it had to be done.

Day 15 – Sesame Place

The place in question was this. Yes it’s on the Busch/Sea World season pass and yes I visited both of those this year as well, but fear not, I did the rather intensive maths and due to other Orlando deals being at play we still wouldn’t have been better off.

Sesame Place is cheapest in offpeak season, but this was now peak season. We could have directly swapped it with Kennywood and made it offpeak, but the price of Kennywood would have increased to matchit.

It’s also cheaper on weekdays as opposed to weekends, so that was the best we could achieve.

Oh and then there’s the usual ridiculously priced parking.

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It was a slightly murky weekday, finally, so I can’t judge the popularity of the park but it seemed very low on crowds. I knew there wasn’t much in the way of an attraction lineup though I was still surprised at how tiny the place felt.

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Nevertheless we only had one thing on the menu, another Gravity Group woodie. More specifically a baby one with a bit of a reputation. #1 Oscar’s Wacky Taxi kicks an extraordinary amount of ass from just a 39ft drop. The classic turnaround and first drop combo works a charm in the back and it just keeps on popping from there in an exciting and varied manner. Dare I say the best paced Gravity of the trip, but it’s tiny.

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It’s well presented too. Love the look of those trains, the detail on the zero car and the little worm character. The station has good announcements, though they drag a little when it has no queue and the staff were suitable grumpy to match the theme. Nevertheless we had our fill and soon the price for the package didn’t sting so bad.

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Plus there’s a second cred to be had, a custom(!) Vekoma Junior by the name of #2 Vapor Trail. Solid stuff.

Anything weather related gets us paranoid these days, so we hit the road pretty soon in order to maximise chances at the more important park of the day. The journey was spent inventing endless contingency plans for when it all went inevitably wrong and we stopped off at a small store to get a special discount on ride tickets. Sadly ‘their printer wasn’t working’, so it was no deal for us, though we were at least moments away from one of the most critically acclaimed parks of all the internet.


Knoebels

First stop was a little info counter to scout out whether everything was open. They had a TV screen with the status of most attractions but Flying Turns didn’t even exist on it. The question was asked to a member of staff. Oh, no, we don’t do that.

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#3 Impulse then. It’s not often I get to experience a new ride type these days and so I had had my eye on the Zierer Tower coaster for a good while now. Clearly going for the Eurofighter market, is it better? Generally, yes. The lap bars are a huge headstart and it rides rather well. There’s some interesting little tweaks and kinks inbetween certain elements which added a bit of character and it has some decent forces throughout. S’alright.

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#4 Kozmo’s Kurves is a worthy ride for the park mascot, being an even more aggressive version of our E&F Miler from the previous day.

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It was surprisingly easy to get lost in the woodland and rides here, thinking I just wanna ride the wooden one. We eventually stumbled upon #5 Twister after perhaps crossing a road and wandering through several houses. The ride was a hit, definitely one of the more memorable mid-tier woodies of the trip mainly thanks to the crazy lateral forces it plays to so well. The big double spiral provides some good visuals and is quite different from the standard layout fare we had become overly used to by this point.

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The joke about the fact they put all the effort and pride into rebuilding it and then not to run it has already been made, but here’s the sign again for posterity.

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More wood was round the corner however, bold claims and all. #6 Phoenix, best in the world eh? The last ride to claim that didn’t do so well in my book.
Ahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh!
It’s good.
It’s very, very good.

Buzz bars, the hype is real. I’ve always loved the freedom of movement these ‘restraints’ provide but it’s never been accompanied by legitimately terrifying airtime before. The ride starts off with a false sense of security by means of a middling first drop that could be any old woodie. I wasn’t ready for the ensuing combination of double up and double down which created a strange sequence of vicious moments that had me all over the place, out of the seat, knees colliding with the train and landing awkwardly on something solid. The Phoenix doesn’t stop there. While each turnaround provides a brief moment of hilarious contemplation, every straight section of hills is full of surprises and numerous airtime experiences like no other.

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No time to contemplate it yet though, the creds weren’t done. #7 Black Diamond provided some solid dark ride fun, in the guise of coaster hardware. Can’t complain about that. It gave off similar vibes to the other mining themed rides of the trip, only drier and with less wood.

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Last on my personal hit list was the park’s notorious Haunted Mansion. It was so refreshing to have a ‘ghost train’ experience that wasn’t taken at a million miles an hour and full of obnoxious noises, feels like forever since that has happened. This thing has class, it takes time over the scares, it has rooms with atmosphere and is overall worthy of any praise it gets.

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All the praise was going in the direction of Phoenix though as we splashed out on another handful of laps. Infectious, joyous, ridiculous, there’s a whole range of words I could use for it. One in particular that sprang to mind at the time was list-wrecker. Even now I simply don’t know what to do with it. The heart says it was my favourite ride of the trip, yet the head says don’t be silly. All I know for sure is that it came the closest to offering that fabled head in hands moment on the final brakes, not least on more than one occasion as it just kept on surprising.

Well if that hype was real, we supposed it was wise to check out the dining options here before heading out. I’m never one to pay a huge amount of attention to park food but I was once again aware of the reputation here. After a pretzel, a slice of pizza and a hugely generous serving of that dole whip stuff, all for less than the price of one subpar snack at any other park, we had thoroughly fallen for everything this place stood for.

Knoebels, the hype is real.

Day 16


USA 06/22 – Cedar Point + Waldameer

Forgot to end day 13 on some hotel comedy, so I’ll fill the gap now. We arrived, wrecked from 14 hours of Cedar Point to a man at the reception desk who was barely functioning himself. He was staring into the middle distance at all times and taking long pauses between the most basic of tasks. While vaguely going on about the fact that they didn’t have any rooms left, he kept muttering “house full”, without ever directly asking us to leave. Well that’s no use to us, we’ve been booked for months. Suddenly a radical idea came to him. “I have one room!” Not liking where this is headed, but go on…

For some reason this room came with the feature that we were not allowed to keep the key, but we could lock it from the inside. He assured us that “no crime happens in this area” and bade us good night. The room wasn’t exactly clean, in fact the indentations in the pillows and bedsheets made it look like they had been recently slept on and not changed since. Half a box of fancy chocolates from the 1980s was abandoned on a table and the bathroom was, in a word, compromised. Had there been an ounce of energy left in us, particularly when it came to our ongoing fight with hotels, we probably would have bailed at this point, but dare I say it wasn’t the worst place we stayed during the trip.

Having cleaned up the best we could and barricaded the door from the inside with a combination of luggage and tables, to give us the longest possible reaction time should the area experience its first crime, sleep came all too easily and that’s all you really need from a place. He was still there the following morning, and in no better state. At least we were.

Day 14 – Cedar Point

Day 2 here began much the same. Coaster con was still a thing and ACE were getting their fill of Maverick, which was unfortunate as it provided more opportunities for it to break down. As we had once again failed to complete another mega park in a single day, the absent #1 Valravn was the first target for our platinum pass early ride time, as originally planned.

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So we joined the other early risers in a small line outside the entrance and then proceeded to walk the queue and straight onto it.

Oh dear. I was slightly more optimistic about this one, realising that it has less substantial trains and expecting something a bit more whippy like my preferred dive coasters. Instead it had the worst combination of all. The sluggishness of the biggest of these and the roughness of I don’t know what, an early ‘90s B&M mixed with the wobble in the outside row of a wing coaster. Whatever it was it wasn’t pleasant and turned the ride into nothing more than an endurance, which to be fair to the rest of these, they’re usually a good little sit down. Worst dive in the world then, Rougarou has company.

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To make the most of the ERT we fancied one more lap on Millennium Force, more out of respect than anything else. It didn’t want our respect however as the train two before we were due to board shut itself down at the bottom of the cable lift.

They were pulling the same Maverick nonsense straight away though, pressing two sequential breakdown announcement buttons that said to the station ‘shouldn’t be too long folks, hang on tight’ and to the train on the lift ‘an attendant will be with you shortly, hang on tight’.

Fun fact, this ride doesn’t have the traditional stairs of a lift hill and instead has a little purpose built stair lift, so evacuation/assistance is decidedly not quick. So, which of those two is it? The actual staff advice was just as general and misleading, so we ended up bailing through the secret stairs at the other end of the station. From here we got to witness an engineer staring at an Intamin cable, cursing their very name and the early beginnings of a 36 person, 1 at a time, fully harnessed evacuation. Spoiler – it didn’t reopen for several hours, not that they thought that this would be useful information for their guests.

Oh, and we then got shouted at by more staff saying we shouldn’t be where we were, having just been told to be where we were by the ride staff. Back to this vibe then are we?

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Following that failure it was time to line up outside Maverick as it clearly needed some more of our attention. It had built up quite a bit by this point, but any queue was going to be better than what we had experienced before. Even first thing in the morning, without the cover of darkness, it confirmed my suspicions. It kicks ass.

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Speaking of which, Steel Vengeance. It’s so good, but I promised some further thoughts so I’ll see if I can make sense of it in this format.

Pros:
Goes on for days
Great variety of elements
Layout is hard to read
Full of surprises

Cons:
Lacks a real good standout moment
None of the inversions are particularly special
Never overly intense

It’s that last one that really seals the deal for me in terms of this not being my favourite RMC to date. The best of what I like in those that I prefer offer some moments of ridiculous intensity to the point of discomfort, and that’s one of the things I personally look for in my RMCs. It’s especially prominent in the mornings but even on those nighttime rides the airtime moments have this consistent joyous level of impact that never quite border on the absurd.

All the big boys are easily amongst the best in the world however, with basically nothing between them. Steel Vengeance will be landing comfortably in amongst the pack.

On the subject of comfort, there was nothing comfortable about having to walk all the way back through the concrete and rides over to #4 Raptor in order to finish the park, even with Maverick and Magnum earning another courtesy lap to break up the flow.

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But at least it was running. How was the ride? Meh. Walygator was always going to win this one. Park complete.

Perhaps in knowing that we had to leave at some point, the magic of Cedar Point was lost again on the second day. When everything is said and done I can boil the place down to 2 rides I really care about, and as they’re the ones that consistently attract a 90 minute queue it’s a struggle for me to stick that out for too long without some sort of end game in sight. The lack of variety in the lineup really hurts this as well. The setting had less of an impact on me than I had expected to, all the rides are just a bit plonked apart from each other so there’s not much in the way of notable interaction going on and I figure I’ll take a magic mountain over a lake any day.

Time to hit the road.


Waldameer

For some reason this place doesn’t appear to push the fact that it’s anything more than a water park on arrival. I was expecting #3 Ravine Flyer II + some other things and instead couldn’t even tell if we were in the right place had we not accidentally driven under the legendary rollercoaster bridge.

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There it is. We jumped straight on the main event in the hopes that it could finally break the Gravity based curse of this trip. Well it was the strongest yet, a finer balance of intensity, aggression and pacing, but not quite the gamechanger I was looking for.

The first drop had a great kick, at last, along with some accompanying twist and surprising positives, making it a much stronger start than we had grown accustomed to. This is backed up immediately by the first hill over the bridge, which gives some serious and sustained airtime. We’re out of the gate hot.

Things stay pretty wild into the turnaround, which gives you another quick view of the madness before chucking you back over the bridge with equally amazing force. Two more hills hit hard immediately after, bouncing in and out of tunnels with all the bluster I wanted out of the Voyage.

Sadly from here it again becomes a victim of it’s own terrain and enters a sequence that’s simply good, not great, and never lives up to that which came before. I like the fast laterals in the turn as it drops off the side of the hill one more time, but the remaining airtime moments just don’t land the same. I’m a fan but, already being a fan, I wanted more.

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Creds. I haven’t talked about the weather for a long time. It was too hot for this sort of thing, especially riding #4 Whirlwind.

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And #5 Steel Dragon, complete with dreaded Adventureland flashbacks.

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Finally got our fill of E&F Miler on #6 Ravine Flyer 3 though, been turned down for far too long.

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The wrong #7 Comet was a fun little thing. I tried the Zach’s Zoomer side saddle technique again, with entertaining results. Better than the Boss.

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Time to see how long we can last on Ravine Flyer II. Well, thanks to slow, one train operations and a certain ‘incident’, not long enough. The staffing here was at times questionable and stories need to be told.
While standing at the station turnstyle prior to our third lap, a child decided to push past in an attempt to not throw up over anyone and then proceeded to make said mess just off to the side of the platform. The near-side attendant reacted with huge incredulity, apparently this had already happened once today and there was no way they were dealing with it again, threatening to walk out on the job. After making a right hash of not checking whether the child was ok, failing to then let him out of the station in the quickest way possible and subsequently not unloading the train properly, this overplayed work attitude led to both fits of laughter from the other attendant and stark silence from the operator.

All guest presence was entirely ignored for the following 10-15 minutes while the drama played out and it was decided amongst themselves that they would call for backup. A lone recorded announcement was initiated at this point, the standard ‘stand back from the air gates’ spiel. Hearing this, having not been told a thing, with the mess not being in the ride area, us being at the very front of the queue and seeing that only 1 of the 12 air gates were filled by a man and his daughter, who were also being ignored, I figured it was fine to take matters into my own hands and fill some air gates.

“NOOOOOOOOOOOOOOO! YOU CAN’T DO THAT”, the aggressive screams come from the guy who wants to quit his job. It appeared that the turnstyle should have been locked at this point in the procedure, but wasn’t, and I had just highlighted that fact. As the cleanup team arrived (it was literally written on their shirts), he attempted to discretely wander over and lock the turnstyle again without anyone noticing. The cleanup team weren’t impressed at the various protests of this particular job not being in the attendant’s job description, as no doubt it was.

Well they were here now, and rather than soak this up, they were just going to jet wash it into the rest of the queue below, so they indicated that he’d better evacuate the line for us. The attendant comes over to the front of the queue and starts shouting again that we all need to leave, with no explanation. This was hilariously met with overwhelming defiance and/or confusion. Only the first half dozen of us had even seen what was going on in the first place, after half an hour of not moving, so a scattering of simple ‘why?’s and ‘no’s were of course the only appropriate response. No one wanted to leave.

Eventually word got around by means of the guests themselves, not the staff, and we all shuffled out in despair at the situation, with many a colourful phrase being thrown back at the station by some older gentlemen. The poor man and his daughter were still in the station, being ignored, of course. Not wanting to fully leave the queue and lose our place for when they inevitably reopened, we camped out in a safe spot far from the impending jet wash and waited it out.

Some time later, with the only announcement being the guy and his daughter waving at us to indicate that all was well, we finally made it into those air gates. The legendary attendant was gone, I assume never to be seen again, and we were collectively called heroes for ‘putting up with that’, as we boarded.

And you’ve probably put up with enough tales for one day.

Day 15


USA 06/22 – Cedar Point

Well this was it, the big one. You don’t need me to play up Cedar Point, being the supposed rollercoaster mecca and all that. It’s not something I’d ever consider doing for any other park, but I used to sit and watch the live webcams of this place, mesmerised by those views from the drop tower of legendary coasters and ridiculous operations. Still can’t quite believe that I managed to get over 1300 coasters without yet visiting, but here we are.
We inadvertently ended up visiting during Coaster Con, though thankfully it didn’t appear to have much of an impact beyond comedy.

Day 13 – Cedar Point

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But what about British ones?

We used our platinum passes to gain the extra hour of exclusive morning ride time. Certain rides were already up and running for additional extra exclusive time for the thoosies, but you needed a badge rather than just ‘a look’ to get on those.

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We went straight to #1 Millennium Force which was available to all. As soon as I head the theme tune in the station it suddenly hit me where we were and what we were doing. My Cedar Point moment had arrived and there was a great vibe and buzz around the ride. Staff were making jokes at the expense of Kings Island at the point of each dispatch and in a flash we were heading up the insanely huge lift hill.

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You leave Orion alone, it’s better than this.
While I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing this iconic coaster, it confirmed my sneaking suspicions that it just isn’t my cup of tea. Speed and corners. The first big hill was hilariously on point at being ‘see hill, nothing happens’ and the parallel return version was identical in its lack of sensation. The speed hump past the station is the true highlight of the ride for me, after a particularly long and satisfying dose of zooming around trees with that unified, hands up coaster feeling and we were now at least sufficiently broken in.

Our plan was to get one more ‘major’ ride under our belt during the magic hour and then get to the ‘main event’ well before it opened, but having already walked past Valravn and seeing that it already would have put us beyond official park opening, the only real option was the nearby #2 Iron Dragon.

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A perfectly pleasant sit down. It looks good, but I’m not sure these old suspended coasters work particularly well without the terrain to back it up. I much prefer the build up on Ninja.

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Oh they have donkeys, no hats, here? Now I see the appeal of this place more than ever.

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We didn’t come to Cedar Point for a perfectly pleasant sit down though. We came to experience the inescapably hyped up coaster that is #3 Steel Vengeance, the last of the big boy RMC set. Our camping out plan was successful, putting us reasonably near the front of a queue that grew and grew behind us, snaking around all over the place and confusing everyone who turned up as to where it began. Endless test laps were cycled to tease us and build that anticipation while I tried and failed to not spoiler some of the layout for myself.

After a tense wait, the line was unleashed and once the Velocicoaster style mandatory locker deal was out of the way, we were quickly up the stairs and batched into Wyatt Gold Digger Dempsey’s train. I loved the themed announcements that each train gets, along with the accompanying acknowledgments and hype from the staff. The Cedar Point vibe continued in true style and we were off. Oh no.

Initial impressions then. The little pre-lift section is short, but sweet. It’s not winning that particular battle.
The massive first drop and subsequently tiny hill felt very par for the course to someone who has experienced everything in the wrong order, but that’s not to say it isn’t amazing, world class, etc. It’s just not winning that particular battle.

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The two stonkingly huge hills that act as the world’s biggest turnaround are stupidly sublime, I loved the sensation of flying over that mess of structure and being pinned out of the seat at weird angles for an obscene amount of time. It may well win that battle.

There’s a satisfying double up style hop up into the first inversion which is of course executed very well. High up turning occurs and you get the unusual counter-inversion to that on the way back out, which I didn’t mind, it’s a thing. One of the most notable moments of airtime occurs out of that double down, though it’s cut a little short as you climb again into the mid course brake run.

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It’s nothing short of weird to me to experience a mid course on one of these, though it’s far less intrusive to the flow than I had perhaps anticipated. A brief moment of contemplation before plunging through some structure, where the ride gets a whole lot more difficult to comprehend.

Countless airtime moments, overbanks, inversions, wave turns all happen seemingly simultaneously, many of which are completely hidden within the supports to the point where you can’t see them coming. The unpredictability here is simply wild, something I always particularly love from a coaster and it all sadly comes to an end after four characteristically silly little RMC hops into the final brakes.

Conscious of how much of a mammoth task still lay ahead of us in this park, we went round again for an immediate re-ride just in case things went terribly wrong. The queue was eating through the initial rush rather well and we got to read some of the back story signage throughout the earlier line during a comfortable half hour wait. Our second lap aboard Chess Wild One Watkins confirmed that it wasn’t instant, smash hit, best thing ever status. But it was already better, and god damn Iron Gwazi is it good.

Fear got the better of us and we decided to suck up a 90 minute queue for Maverick next, which we considered the second most unmissable ride in the park. It was during this time that the Cedar Point vibe was slain. Unlike SteVe it moved awfully slowly and, as we approached the top of the stairs after a particularly excruciating wait, it broke down.

The most bizarre set of mixed messages were delivered by the staff at this point. Engineers arrived at the scene, but not in a fun Steel Curtain way and a series of announcements were made ranging from ‘shouldn’t be too long, thanks for your patience’ to ‘we’ve got other rides, go check them out’. To have come so close and yet not got on it, we were of course placed in the worst dilemma. We need all those other rides, but we’d also be loathed to come back later and queue another hour and a half, or worse, for this again.

We fruitlessly stuck it out over the next hour or so, expecting some sort of indication on how things were going, a useful piece of advice or perhaps some minor compensation. Instead the staff milled around going on lunch breaks or into what remained of the queue to have a chat and make the vaguest possible statements. Eventually we extracted the three pieces of information we didn’t want to hear:
1) ‘The problem could take 5 minutes, it could take all day.’ (perfect)
2) ‘Oh, no, we don’t do that’, in response to ‘we’ve lost a huge chunk of our day here, can we get something to avoid queuing again if we come back later?’ (ouch)
3) ‘Get the app, that will tell you when the ride reopens.’ (hold that thought)

Disheartened and now heavily on the back foot, we left the queue and plunged into operation mop up. The next nearest thing, the mine train, was posting some ridiculous wait times out front, so we kept on walking and downloaded the app.

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#4 Gemini seemed manageable at around 30 minutes. Big, tall Arrow, not very good. It ain’t no Excalibur and the factor that should work in it’s favour, namely racing, loses all impact when the ride is so heavily trimmed in places. They’re frequent to the point that any victory doesn’t really feel earned, plus the fact it appeared to guarantee the same winner without fail. While it sucks the fun out of the race, it also reduces the surprising amount of roughness, which was more than prominent.

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Getting the app taught us that either it, or the entrance signs were lying to us and we went back to #5 Cedar Creek Mine Train to confirm which of those it was. Just ignore the 400ft piece of steel in the background please. For now, the app was right and this one wasn’t a bad wait at all. Little, small Arrow, not very good.

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We hit the other side of #6 Gemini for the sake of completion and then popped over to the most unremarkable #7 Woodstock Express yet. After a mercifully cloudy morning, the insane heat returned to us once more and this queue brought out the worst of it. Why are we doing this again?

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For stuff like #8 Magnum XL-200 of course. Bigger, taller Arrow, very good. There’s another magical retro aura to this triangular-shaped station and we made an immediate beeline for the ‘magic row’. From here, the first drop loses a bit of an edge over the similarly shaped Morgans we had been experiencing and the initial half is a bit Big One-esque, a fairly brutal rattling around, not doing much. As soon as the return leg begins though, it turns fully brutal and makes up for all the lost time with a ridiculous sequence of hills that are all the wrong shapes, tunnels that confuse and confound and finally the sheer fear that the train may stop itself from 60-0 instantly if they haven’t dispatched the next one quickly enough.

Raptor appeared to be the next sensible target but it turned out to have also broken down. It was at this time we recognised how stupidly far certain parts of the park are from each other and how gruelling it can be to navigate the concrete and rides. After using that phrase for several years now, it may well have peaked here.

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#9 Blue Streak was one of the rides ACE had been hogging in the morning, but we were allowed on it now (I just wanna ride the wooden one). They had a little stall set up on park advertising memberships and such and it was tempting to rock up and ask ‘how much to get us on Wilderness Run?’ though the attendants didn’t look like they’d appreciate the humour.

I’ve always admired the appearance of this blue woodie for some reason and it was solid, delivered some unexpected forces and was a good little sit down.

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#10 Corkscrew was just another inverting Arrow, not very good. The fact that this one was down for an hour of ERT later still baffles me. Surely it’s purely ornamental at this point.

This only left us with the four big B&Ms and the spiting Maverick left to do, which the app said was still down. Not really wanting to queue 75(!) or 90 for Rougarou(!) or Valravn at this point and not really wanting to walk 75 to 90 over to Gatekeeper either, we were at a loss as to what to do next. Surely #11 Rougarou, a three train B&M and a ride no one likes, can’t have that sort of queue.

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Turns out the app was now lying to us and the entrance signs were more respectable. A ride host confirmed that it was in fact 20 mins. It was in fact 5.

The station for this ride was the most obnoxious thing ever, with ever increasingly loud announcements screaming instructions at everyone as to how to have the most efficient operations. I’d usually appreciate the sentiment, but not at that volume and with a queue line (and ride) that made it entirely unjustifiable. I was the victim of a particular spate of shouting for daring to have glasses on at this point, even though we’d been sunglasses on, not caring for the majority of the park including, most amusingly, Millennium Force.
“PUT THEM INSIDE YOUR SHIRT.”
Having never heard those words before in my illustrious career I barely knew how to react beyond the bemused words “I can’t”. I took them off and held them in my hand like the ridiculous Ice Breaker compromise.
“PUT THEM INSIDE YOUR SHIRT.”
Having thought about the implications once again and not wanting to lose vision for the rest of the trip, thanks to Rougarou of all things, “I’m not doing that.”
Dispatch.

Riding defensively against comfort collars and silly airtime moments while holding a ‘loose article’ in a looser position was never ideal. Riding defensively against an awful B&M with over the shoulder restraints was ten times worse. It happened, these conversions are poor, now let us never speak of it again.

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The simple inclusion of a small storage bin in the station for #12 Gatekeeper solves all such potential issues. I rather liked the sprawling layout on this one, the surprisingly intense wing-over drop straight into the second inversion, the huge hill and of course the signature keyhole moments. It’s got a bit of a Shambhala ending with that late game mid course brake run but it was probably my preferred wing of the trip, even though they’re all sooo close together.

With the Valravn queue being unrelenting and the knowledge that we could simply walk onto it first thing the following morning, along with the remaining two coasters being down for the count, it was time to get some vengeance.

Oh wait, never mind, Maverick had actually opened again and the app never even bothered to register it. Of course, yet again, it was an advertised 90 minute queue and in reality it turned out to be far worse than that still. The line for fastlane was out of its own entrance and spilling into the pathways beyond. As such the capacity of the ride, which was never ideal in the first place, was easily split in half again to cater for this grossly disproportionate system.

The wait was nothing short of agonising, not least for how long it was but for the dilemma it had placed us in. It had seemed like a no-brainer to just walk in that queue and guarantee a ride on Maverick that day in case it broke down again (and assuming it wouldn’t right there and then), but as time wore on it got dangerously close to simply being the end of our day. Was it worth losing our only opportunity for night rides on Steel Vengeance? On principal it had to be, as it had now set an all time record for the longest single wait I’ve had before any coaster. Four and a half hours, albeit split into two.
It felt so wrong.

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And yet, by the time we hit the final brakes, it felt so right. Amongst all that stress it had always been lingering in my mind that I didn’t honestly expect #13 Maverick to be that good. Restraints, restraints, restraints.

Well it is that good. I never thought I’d be putting it up there with the likes of Taron after one lap, and yet I was, sitting there stunned. The beyond vertical drop at that initial velocity is silly, with some violent vest-based ejector, but the terrain hugging speed of the twists and turns after that, while I had no idea what was coming, in the almost dark, was infectious.

There’s two ridiculously powerful airtime hills in the layout that have no right being that good, more intense than the RMC round the corner. And the second launch, even though it pauses and faffs, which I didn’t think I’d like, it works so well. It builds the suspense with the lights in the shed and then comes at you so hard. The visual speed feels off the charts as you hit a very intense corner and then have to be trimmed immediately, in rather amusing fashion. One of the most pleasant surprises was that there’s none of that clunky Intamin restraint to the side of the neck snap in the transitions, the high levels of aggression feel perfectly tuned.

Case in point with the Stengel thing. It’s a shame they can’t duel the two trains at this point as was intended, for fear of breaking the ride again, but the way that thing rides, so forceful yet unobtrusive, god damn Iron Gwazi. I’m a fan.

We brought some intensity of our own to the table as there were less than 5 minutes before park close as we disembarked. A full on sprint to the SteVe was the only acceptable course of action, made all the funnier by the train crossing being shut and surrounded by a crowd, all ready to come straight towards us, mere metres from the ride entrance.

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Our arrival was met with ‘there’s no need to run’, but they were wrong and we had made it. That’s all that matters. I was terrified of this night ride, not because of the hardware in any way, but due to the literal horror movie scenes that were the spotlights for the structure. Each and every one was covered in a dense mass of a thousand bugs just sitting there, plotting our demise.

Thankfully they do just sit there and plot, preferring the light to being splatted by riders hands and faces and although screaming is not recommended in any way, you just have to sort of interally shout like a slight hum in response to all of the amazing forces, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Zadra getting insects under my eyelids.

And what a ride it was. The cedar point vibe was finally back, a full 12 hours after it so cruelly abandoned us. The views from that ominous lift structure, building up to the most lengthy of RMC experience ever conceived with everyone on the Wyatt Gold Digger Dempsey train having their lives changed. To the point that every single one of them was screaming “ONE MORE TIME, ONE MORE TIME, ONE MORE TIME!” as we pulled back into the station. The staff were on fire, playing to the crowd, joining in and firing the energy right back at us. The restraints were unlocked. The restraints were locked. “YOU’RE SADDLED UP, YOU’RE SADDLED UP, YOU’RE SADDLED UP!”

How can a mood change so much over the span of a single day? I know it’s entirely unreasonable to expect that level of heightened atmosphere over the entire course of operation but there were times in this visit where I was stood there thinking the best of this hobby is behind me. I was fulfilling a lifelong dream at what is considered the pinnacle of amusement parks and it was doing nothing for me. And then those last two laps on Steel Vengeance happen and it basically brings me to tears of joy simply thinking back on the experience now.

The best of this hobby was right there all along.

Day 14


USA 06/22 – Michigan’s Adventure + Indiana Beach

Actually heading back in the right direction now, our next stop was everyone’s favourite park.

Day 12 – Michigan’s Adventure

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I’d forgotten what it was like to have a pass that actually works again (mostly).

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And we soon found ourselves at the main event for this park, #1 Shivering Timbers. S’alright.

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I do really appreciate the layout on this one, nothing but straight lines and airtime hills over a ridiculous length. In terms of what each one has to offer though it’s nothing to really write home about. It provides an above average happy fun time of just ‘being’ on a wooden rollercoaster (seems the US is great for this) and the way it just keeps on going is the best part of that.

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Titan Track #2 Wolverine Wildcat was a laugh. We were sat in front of a guy who kept proclaiming that it was his favourite ride, trying to impress either his date or daughter (it was a weird dynamic), and then proceeded to make some hilarious noises throughout the entire course, as though he was being destroyed by it. Which I don’t get, it ran well. I like the fast wonky hills and trick-track stuff or whatever you call it. There’s not much of a sample size, but probably the best Dinn still out there.

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They may not get new investments here, but they do like to paint things. #3 Corkscrew was looking rather fresh, though the same couldn’t be said for the ride experience.

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I high-fived Snoopy on the way into the queue for #4 Woodstock Express, which was probably the highlight moment of the visit. As a weird little Chance coaster it broke the mould somewhat.

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Zach’s Zoomer then proceeded to break down on us, so we took an excruciatingly long and hot walk over to the SLC, which was also looking rather fresh. Was #5 Thunderhawk worth it? Of course not. There was one very questionable moment of roughness into the first inversion which didn’t inspire much confidence, but thankfully it never surpassed that. Nor have any of these managed to surpass T3 at this stage.

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That’s pretty much the only ride the other side of the massive lake, so it was all the way back again to find #6 Zach’s Zoomer was fixed. Having been sunglasses on, not caring for most of the park, getting told the only option was to ‘hold onto them’ here brought back fond memories of Ice Breaker. It was somehow the roughest woodie of the park for only being 40ft tall, though I found if you sit sort of side-saddle as the only adult in a row it was reasonably different and entertaining.

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I’d half been hoping that yet another example of the Arrow #7 Mad Mouse was going to remain closed as it had been all morning, but it was back. Once again it was awful, the queue was hugely disproportionate to every other in the park and full of sunburn. Worldwide set complete though, now let’s never speak of it again.

We took another courtesy lap on the Shiver, to see if anything had changed. It (or the staff, accidentally) decided to e-stop on the lift hill and thus we had an even lengthier than usual lap courtesy of 10-15 stationary minutes of silence. Through that, opinions were confirmed rather than changed and it was deemed as not worth risking another mishap – we had places to be.

It was time to hit the road.


Indiana Beach

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We found Indiana, but not the beach, rather a field in which to park the car and a big, wobbly bridge to cross. The view was welcoming, the admissions staff less so.

Lets get the bad news out of the way first, Lost Coaster of Super-spite-tion Mountain was out of action. Oh and Spiter Looping is still in bits after far too long. Over the years we’ve had this trip planned the park threatened to not exist at all, so we were more than happy to take what we could get.

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First thing we got was #8 Cornball Express and I adored it. I couldn’t tell which wood was which in this tangled mess off goodness, nor did I know which one was supposed to be ‘the good one’. What it was was CCI at it’s finest. Just look at that drop.

Thanks to the freedom of the buzz bar restraints it had several moments of scary, standing airtime in remarkable places. The layout is mostly left turns and drops, ending on a bunch of silly corners but it works oh so well and I couldn’t get enough of it.

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There were other things to try though, #9 Tig’rr Coaster was pretty vicious and reminded me of the rawness that these old Schwarzkopfs can (should) sometimes have.

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#10 Hoosier Hurricane was a bit bigger, a bit rougher and a little less fun than it’s nutty neighbour, but still solid and with great views.
I keep meaning to look up what Hoosier means, as it clearly wasn’t just a silly ride name and was plastered on signs around the state of Indiana.

The answer is less interesting than I had hoped for.

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The staff were bigging up #11 Steel Hawg rather well, though it was somewhat lost on us. Got all the clones now, just need the other layout, but I’m happy to speak of them again. I rather like the funkier moments El Locos have to offer and this thing hurled itself into that first drop in a very unnerving fashion.

In an attempt to make up for a lack of big new coaster, the park also have a brand new second hand Zyklon Galaxi, #12 Cyclone, complete with an amusingly questionable clearance envelope, which it appears I forgot to photograph. We spent the duration of the lap trying to spot the dark ride.

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And spot we did, Den of Lost Thieves was another Sally classic, perhaps not quite in the same league as the previous day, but I like the sheer simplicity of those cars. It’s a solo affair for adults and my gun didn’t work. Good in parts though, and changes in elevation are always fun.

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In the absence of being able to complete the park beyond that, we got our fill of corn to see out the day in style. I loved the visuals here, one of those classic piles of rides on top of each other and there were some great opportunities for interaction, just a shame it was a little too quiet to capitalise on that, even on a weekend. Get those loops open.

Day 13


USA 06/22 – Adventureland + Lost Island Theme Park

Unfinished business really eats away at the soul and our only logical course of action at this point was to ditch both a well needed lie-in and a visit to Little Amerricka to go and solve a problem. The ‘striking distance’ I had alluded to in my calculations on that fateful bench in Adventureland was a mere 5 and a half hour drive that morning, all because, as proclaimed, we wanted to ride the monster.

Day 11 – Adventureland (the Iowa one, again)

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Mercifully there were no wind related mishaps, we rushed straight to said #1 Monster and sure enough it was open, with a brimming queueline that only took about 20 minutes. It was a bit of a novelty to be able to wear glasses on a Gerstlauer, they usually seem to have extra strict things in the rulebook about that, I wonder what caused it.

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On the scale of Infinities, it wasn’t wholly remarkable. It’s a joy to watch, feels super long and is packed with tons of interesting elements, which is great, though none of them are especially hard hitting. Unlike something like Mystic or Junker, they don’t ride as crazy as they look.

Hangtime (the sensation, not the ride) is the predominant force and it works well in the super free seating, but it would have been nice for the attempted airtime moments to punctuate the flow a little more. The trim near the end that forces the last two elements to be extra ‘hangy’ also amused me. +1 though.

A surprise bonus +1 came in the fact that #2 Dragon Slayer had been fixed and was back in operation too. I won’t dignify it with another photo because it was by far the worst ride of the trip. They label the two different sides as having varying intensities and, perhaps foolishly, we opted for the gentler side just to get the ordeal over with.

Somewhere on the first turnaround I received the most vicious punch to the head I’ve ever had on a rollercoaster (taking the crown from Battle of Jungle King), courtesy of some horrible lurchy half-spinning and the rock hard seating. I immediately went into super-defensive survival mode but the worst part was I couldn’t even find a way to prevent this from happening again, short of using my own hand as a cushion between the two. Thankfully it didn’t, but it was such an endurance and I proceeded to feel nauseous for the remainder of the day so, mild head trauma, that’s nice.

The standard “welcome back guys, how was your ride?” was met with the word horrible, but as it’s scripted of course no one actually cares enough to press for details. It feels most appropriate to recount a comment heard in the Monster queue a few minutes prior – ‘they got rid of the Dragon for that ****?!’ As it’s now my second worst coaster of all time, I’m inclined to agree.

Success comes at a price I guess. It was time to leave and never look back, as we had a date with Sally, several more hours away.


Lost Island Theme Park

The primary reason we had bothered to stick around and backtrack to Iowa at all was for the ‘grand’ opening of this place, generally most famous around the theme park corner of the internet for being where Kanonen ended up. I don’t need Kanonen of course and to go out of your way for an SLC and Wacky Worm in the midst of an epic US road trip seems more than a little insulting, even at this stage of my adventuring. What did very much interest me was their dark ride, Volkanu, which had some great early teasers at the exhibition stage and then fell off the radar pretty quickly.

I’d been keeping an eye on the park website for some time and attempting to factor it into this trip somehow. Based on their original schedule we would have been able to hit it late night on a weekend shortly just a few days into operation. Things got complicated, they suffered further teething troubles and silently offered refunds to those who had pre-booked, removing certain dates from the calendar, shortening opening hours and preventing any further online ticket sales. Not the best of signs.

The DRdb team decided to reach out to Sally Dark Rides to see if they had any inside info on when their latest project was billed to open and it wasn’t until we were already on the trip that the final answer came back. As luck would have it, the one day I could actually visit was now the official inauguration. The park themselves appeared to do very little in the end to advertise, perhaps as they were still short a couple of major attractions and also as they seemed to thrive under the opportunity for more of a ‘technical rehearsal/soft-opening’ approach to kick things off.

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As such it was more than a little quiet for opening day. We had been scheduled to meet up with the Lead Designer of the project who had wanted to be on park to see initial guest reactions first hand. Sadly he couldn’t make it due to travel issues of his own, but we were still booked to have a chat with Sally’s Project Manager, which was equal parts exciting and nerve-wracking as I’ve never really done anything like that before.

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But first things first, to settle the nerves, creds. Even #3 Lokolo, the brand new Wacky Worm, was suffering from some technical issues and I believe, from a bit of Coaster Count stalking, had spited some guests who had visited first thing in the morning and then sacked it off early. As such we were particularly smug when they managed to get it open for our afternoon lap. Good face that.

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#4 Nopuko Air Coaster, the not brand new SLC, was looking rather fetching in mud and that colour scheme, with those fancy vest trains and all. Had Dragon Slayer not just happened, this would have earned the title of worst ride of the trip because oh yes, it was bad. No, the layout isn’t good if you’re not having your ears bashed. Yes, they can still ride awfully.

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With business out of the way it was time for the fun. The whole outside area for the dark ride looks really nice and has some bonus interactive elements built into the theming. We took our first lap on Volkanu: Quest for the Golden Idol and came off thoroughly impressed, before meeting up with Chris from Sally. He was super easy-going and fun to chat to both on and off the mic and, unsurprisingly, has a great taste in dark rides. I sent all the necessaries (on park wifi, which was extremely hot – as good a reason as any to visit) back to the rest of the team and they turned it into this write-up while we were still out on holiday – click here to check it out.

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Oh and a shameless plug of the POV we took as well, also a first.

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We took a few more laps for both business and pleasure and personal opinion is it’s really good, particularly for a park of this size. I was pleasantly surprised by all the more old-school physical set pieces going on in there and though it’s also a screen-based shooter it shares a little of the brilliance of Challenge of Tutankhamon (best shooter ever) with these impressive monsters and some other clever tricks along the way.

As for the park, good luck to them. It seems bizarrely located out in the cornfields away from civilisation, though I don’t really know what type of numbers the adjacent water park pulls in. It’s family run, which is always nice to see but I hope they push the marketing a bit more once they’re settled in and everything (Kanonen) is up and running properly. I’m no expert but they certainly didn’t turn a profit that day.

Day 12


USA 06/22 – Six Flags Great America

Having racked up double digits in failed phone calls to Six Flags St. Louis over the previous evening (the alternative number we had been given went to exactly the same place), there was no option but to turn up again and see what Great America could do for us about these useless passes. Failing that we’d just buy some tickets off them.

In similar fashion to St. Louis, we rocked up bright and early and ended up in a small queue of cars that were halted pre-parking booth. How can we blag our way past paying $35 today? The wait was far less significant as they didn’t really have room for stacking too many cars and obviously actually wanted to allow guests to sort their stuff before park opening.

Armed with my best/most confusing script, we pulled up to the window. The guy completely blanked the conversation, saw the useless pass in my hand, said “always use your season pass”, didn’t read the screen and let us in. That works.

After repeating the entire saga to the guest services window again, along with telling them how awful St. Louis are at communicating, we seemingly inched ever closer to getting what we wanted. They took our passes away into a back room somewhere and, after a nervous wait, came back negative. Nothing we can do. Two day tickets then please, which were surprisingly cheap, even on the door. The one good thing about Six Flags.

Day 10 – Six Flags Great America

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We were still early enough to be in before rides opened, so opted to join the queue outside something that was popular, important and poor capacity. Otherwise known as #1 Maxx Force.

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Usually I’d be especially excited about S&S air launch coasters but I knew this was more Dodonpa than OCT Thrust. I was surprised to learn that it was in fact the slowest of the lot, having not realised that they pretty much only opted for fastest acceleration in the US (and fastest inversion). In my head this thing should have been doing at least 90.

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It is what it is, this was never going to be a gamechanger for me. 18 seconds of launch and some weirdly shaped inversions is just too short to compete. I thought the fastest one would be a bit more brutal and have some significant snap to it, but it’s surprisingly refined, to it’s detriment. The token kicker wheel in the ‘Dog Tongue’ amused me, I do respect what’s basically the opposite of a trim brake – we got our calculations wrong, here’s some more speed.

I’d have liked to given it another go but it was so poorly run, so overly popular and was classically unavilable for more than 50% of the day. It had been broken the previous evening too, so it was a miracle to get it at all.

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Something we had no desire to queue for was #2 Dark Knight, the indoor wild mouse, the only ride that had managed to retain any significant wait time at all by the end of the night before. The plan worked, barely anyone had showed up to it yet and they weren’t bothering to run the preshow, so that was a quick tick.

Here are the quick ticks from the previous night, in case you needed the visuals.

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Joker.

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Flash.

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Little Dipper.

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I had a silly milestone looming, so we went a bit out of order from here and ended up at #3 American Eagle. They were doing a China and only running one side, slowly, so we spent the queue drafting an extensive message to Six Flags St. Loius as we had now racked up over 20 unanswered phonecalls.

The ride was awful, Intamin did not start strong on these. Endless helices of doom while regularly slowing to a crawl. It really did miss that racing spectacle at the very least.

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Milestone coaster number thirteen-hunge, became #4 X-Flight (#1300), cos it’s a B&M I guess. I had a different wing, Raptor, at 900, so there’s a bit of a synergy there. This one’s better.

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They were operating it awfully slowly and most of the effects were turned off. Main highlight was learning it’s not the same layout as the one in Colourful Yunnan Paradise, though they share some similarities. Good little sit down.

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The dishonour could just as easily have gone to #5 Raging Bull, which also would have had synergy with Shambhala. This one is long and has an unusual ratio of corners to hills for a B&M hyper and I’m not convinced it was a good thing, or any better.

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Best part was probably the first drop, because it’s an early boy and has the little pre-drop like Apollo’s Chariot, with a surprise kick to it. Even the first actual hill has that fun-sapping trim right in the wrong place though there’s also one basically on the floor later on that made me laugh. Good little sit down.

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Actually found #6 Viper this time, hiding out back in the Wild West area. One thing I noticed about this park is a that a lot of the exit pathways are ridiculously long. In terms of Coney Island layouts, this was more fun than Bandit. Better trains, better corners, better airtime. It’s good.

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We’d walked past the #7 Demon earlier and clocked that it had a jaunty little theme tune about itself. This instantly became addictive and a surprise hit because the lyrics are so on the nose and it’s so out of another time. I love it almost too much.

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Well we’ve seen him now and he is what he seems, an Arrow looper with janky transitions and a hilarious face carved into a rock as you get beaten up by some corkscrews. Up there with the best rides on park.

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Out of respect we hit the Justice League: Battle for Metropolis dark ride as they’re way better than you’d expect from Six Flags and up there with the genuine best rides on park. This one wasn’t 3Ding, which made it even better than Magic Mountain’s for me as the screen based high speed chases weren’t a blurry mess of confusion. It also wasn’t running a pre-show, instead just telling the story throughout the regular queue, which came off far less obnoxious. Really appreciate the wilder motion aspects and the physical sets most of all.

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#8 Sprocket Rockets had been closed the previous day and was worrying us by being silent all morning. Mercifully it sprang to life at some point and we got our fill.

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The end was now in sight and it was time for #9 Batman the Ride clone vs. #10 Superman – Ultimate Flight clone.

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Batman wins, though they both earned the title of sunglasses on, not caring. Which I find particularly insulting to a flying coaster.

If it weren’t for the stupid Georgia version spiting I’d have every B&M flyer in the world now. At least Fun Spot is giving me a legitimate reason to return there one day.

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Last and maybe least was #11 Whizzer. It took too long, but had some characters in the queue. An old guy in an Orion shirt was boasting about having ridden coasters for 50 years and was all fired up to brag once again when someone complimented his meteor-based attire, assuming they knew it was a rollercoaster. The follow up question however was “is that Star Wars?” which quickly shot down any notion of shared enthusiasm, in amusing fashion.

As for the ride, I found the French fair versions of single file seated Schwarzkopfs were far more wild and impressive. This one was just trees.

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And so the park was complete, American Eagle spite aside, in a timely fashion. We bounced around a few of the majors for some courtesy laps but most of our focus was pinned on Goliath once more. This resulted in a particularly glorious evening, getting that golden extra lap without leaving the seat from being on the last train of the day.

You’re alright Great America, you’re alright.

Day 11