2015, Copenhagen. It’s hard to imagine a time when I took this stuff way less seriously. Less than 50 coasters to my name, Helix wouldn’t be a part of my life for another few days yet. Sightseeing was at the forefront of the agenda and I remember it was a faff. So this time it was quite refreshing to have another crack at it, a city tour, early morning, in the comforts of your own vehicle. Great fun.
One of the stops was the famous Nyhavn, or ‘that colourful street’. Colourful it was, also feat. boats.
And seven years ago, almost to the day, this had been so crowded with tourists we could barely even see it. Now it was a case of rock up, basically touch it. Tick.
We were here for creds of course though, a certain lovely little place by the name of Day 4 – Tivoli Gardens
Had a +1 to offer. It should have been a 2, but worldwide delays on parts meant the new-ish powered coaster was listed as closed on the website up until the day of the visit. We wanted to park directly under Dæmonen for the day but someone beat us to it and we ended up a street behind. Still pretty surreal.
Wait a second. It’s back!
#1 Mælkevejen was refreshing for a number of reasons. It was open when it shouldn’t have been. It rode way better than the old version it replaced. The theme was space.
You know when you just get a vibe from a park. You take a second to survey your surroundings. I’m in <insert park here>. Everything just feels right, it’s welcomed you home. There’s not many of them, but they’re out there. This is one for me and I was reminded of that as soon as our first ride was over.
Next up was the replacement #2 Kamelen, for the old Karavanen (which we rode just a few weeks ago again in France, accidentally). Look at that face. It’s so inviting, with the little lights on the hat and everything. Love it.
We came armed with plastic bottles, hoping to turn a profit at the recycling machines they have on park but sadly they’ve been modified to take only the cups that the stalls serve up now.
Oh well, dark ride time. The Flying Trunk is always a classic, I love the parts when this omnimover passes over itself, it’s an odd sight. The thing I didn’t quite remember was all the Hans Christian Andersen stories they squeeze into this one being rather ‘rushed’ in the voiceover. The narrator basically admits it himself in one of the scenes, that tale is too long to tell today.
We also did Minen while in the mood. I stand by the fact that this well themed indoor boat ride didn’t need guns. The scenery is gorgeous and fine without it, plus the targets don’t even have anything to do with anything. Why would you want to shoot the moles that are cleaning a dragon? Damn kids.
Dæmonen still kicks ass and I was proud to be wearing it’s shirt. Learnt that it’s totally not me getting bored of B&Ms, just that those formulaic layouts in particular do nothing for me. Here, however, I really enjoy the anticipation build in the first section. The big drop has a great kick with the gained momentum and the 3 choice inversions all hit in a single sequence in a satisfying way. They aren’t the focus of the ride. They complement it. It looks damn good too.
Rutschebanen though, Is this even better than I thought before? Because I absolutely adored it before. The mood in the station, the brakemen operators are just so chill and good at what they do. It’s infectious. One of them is wearing a million sunglasses, they’ve kept some of the knuffelbeers from covid era in the trains and then placed the rest in various scenes throughout the ride. They’re riding polar bears, they’re up on a mountain, everyone’s having a good time.
They run this ancient woodie hard, that restraint does nothing, you fear for your life on those drops. The laterals are crazy, it’s dark, it’s light, you’re waving at people. Then we finally mustered up the courage to join in with the locals and exit the ride while it’s still moving. It’s such a fun feeling, pushing against that bar as you roll into the station, just waiting for it to pop and then leaping into action at several miles per hour. Don’t make ‘em like they used to.
Thoroughly back in love with the place we whiled away the afternoon on all the old fond memories it provided. Monsunen, the evil flat ride, tasty and offensively cheap pizza, the little rabbit lawnmower doing his thing out in front of the Nimb restaurant. I could spend all day here and not even need to ride. That’s the measure of a good park and I miss it already.
I’ve always treated the two sides of Denmark as separate entities when visiting in the past so crossing between them the next morning was quite a novel experience.
Our weapon of choice was the Storebæltsbroen, I do admire a good bridge and this one is absolutely massive. Love how it was inside the cloud, it’s even tall enough for the world’s biggest cruise ships to just pass under. A tad pricey though.
Day 3 – Sommerland Sjælland
Talking of pricey, the first park of the day definitely suffers from coast2coaster syndrome somewhat. One look at their uninteresting +3 lineup certainly had us exclaiming how can they justify charging more than Fårup? For tarmac and an SBF Visa spinner. There is more to the place than it would appear though.
Entry is the same procedure, with the admissions booths being a drive-thru. You can then head down the car park and stroll through the entrance uninhibited by the staff-less presence.
It all began with said SBF Visa on tarmac, which shares both the name and look of the Beech Bend equivalent – #1 Spinning Out. Ignore those two in the back.
The major rides here can operate on time slots or rotation during the ‘low’ season which it already was by this point, so although we saw an engineer sign off the biggest coaster for the day, it was a case of come back later for it. Sommer is over.
Heading off into more of the park, we stumbled across the amusingly named Simulator Inator, the entrance of which is shared with an eatery.
Didn’t know what sort of hardware to expect, but this TV screen in the tiniest of queuelines gave it away. What’s unusual about this picture?
The active film was called Great Wall of China and began with an over-enthusiastic rickshaw driver taking us for a spin along said wall. Full marks for realism. Before long we look down to notice he’s attached a couple of fireworks to our transportation and, once lit, things get a little wild. Before long we’re mechanically separated from the driver.
It all boils down to that age old simulator styling of making every situation into a fantasy, physics-defying rollercoaster, but also not very good. It did go on for quite a significant amount of time, day turned to night, summer turned to winter and it ended on the big visuals of a massive fireworks festival, during which our lost driver makes another appearance by shooting over the moon and into the ocean. Full marks for continuity.
I fully believe the entrance price is justified by this nightmare fuel alone. I do love a good custom Wacky Worm face, particularly when they aim for the more weird and grotesque, essentially mocking our very hobby. #2 Vildbassen was a standout in more than one way, by also not having any form of restraint for adults and just a seatbelt for the kids. This meant I was getting fully Skyrushed sideways out of the train on the turn after the station for 8 of the 9, 9 laps. Which had me wondering what the clearance envelope is.
We’d heard tales of a boat ride at the park that contained ‘indoor scenes’ and wanted to verify for ourselves whether it could obtain ‘dark ride status’ or not. Subsequently we got very lost in the park for a good while trying to find it, which is when we found out how many other things the place has to offer.
Alright, let’s take a closer look at these spitey things. The blue one is ready to go as far as I can tell but this rain-soaked piece of paper says we have to wait for the grand opening next year. Construction, get excited.
You can get scared by hanging out with goats and Black Phillip.
You can feel like a giant, roaming freely amongst these miniatures.
Better than Silver Dollar City. And Gold Rush. And Bakken.
After much searching and time killing we found what we were looking for. Amazonas.
It was very impressively themed, they clearly went all out on this thing. The ride lasts for over 7 minutes as well, with various jungle exploration escapades going on. Sadly, by definition of the database, it only goes into a cave once with just the one scene, so is decidedly not dark enough. Good though.
All that wandering meant we arrived back at the Pinfari to see the SBF operator shut shop and head on over to run the #3 Vildkatten. While hell on earth for us coaster folk, it’s a highly popular ride here. Everyone else on our train did a Rollercoaster Tycoon and jumped for joy at the exit before heading straight back round for another lap. We, on the other hand, nursed a couple of bruises and thought ‘I want to go home’, heading straight for the park exit.
The other park for the day was BonBon Land, a place that I’ve previously declared the largest park left in Europe that I hadn’t yet visited. I’m sure there’s various different ways of measuring it, but I’m not even sure who that title falls to now. Maybe that Italian place who can’t spell Eurofighter.
Let’s talk about BonBon land though, or perhaps not, because I don’t think words can do this park justice. Pictures speak a thousand of them. Vildbassen was being outdone at every turn and the charm of this place was through the roof. I loved every second of it.
#4 Hundeprutten, the dog fart coaster, cracked me up. I usually like to consider myself above toilet humour but just the terror on the face of this train paints a picture of it being a serious medical condition and his desperate plea for us to stop taking advantage of it. Every lap, without fail, the non-descript speaker inside the dog house makes that sound and the comedic timing is nothing short of genius. Best Zierer Force One in the world.
World’s first Eurofighter, the #5 Vildsnivet. Wild Boar coaster. Why?
Because he’s a racing driver, and straddling the back of the car like a madman. That’s why.
I actually rather enjoyed the ride too. It’s a good little layout and rides surprisingly elegantly considering it’s the first and how bad some of the next few ones were. The whippy banked turn out of the first drop is done really well and the loop is solid.
#6 Han-Katten was a bit of a let-down (that brake run though). There’s some rather superlative reviews knocking around the internet from over a decade ago. Claims of this being the most intense spinner in existence, of some of the biggest names in our hobby being unable to stand after riding. It was as decidedly meh as with all my early experiences with Gerstlauer spinners, don’t tell me it never gets better than Six Flags.
#7 Viktor Vandorm brought it all back to reality with a quirky custom Zierer Tivoli layout that was originally designed for a specific piece of land, in a park in Germany. It even had wooden supports back then. Hybrid.
One of those evil tilting forwards drop towers.
Can never say no to a Fabbri tower either, even with weird sketchy seating.
I got excited here, thinking the ‘new for 2022’ attraction Prærie Expressen was another potential database entry. They used to have an old Alterface interactive theatre in this spot, have they gone and got a new one?
Alas, no, no ride system. Just sitting on stumps (or standing) and shooting cowboys on a new film on the screen. Got the best score of the day though.
Bon-Bio 4D was unhinged.
There’s a bizarre utilitarian shift inside, unlike anything else in the park.
It was playing both Moby Dick and Aladdin back to back, but not as we know them, in films that were more than a little off in many aspects.
I can’t really do the situation justice but the language kept changing, which synced up parody-poorly with the characters mouth movements. A whale is captured by an evil scientist in a mechanical octopus contraption and we pursue in an attempt to save it. Various peril occurs but there’s this crab channelling One Punch Man who just, with no physical or audio effect, casually sends characters flying off the horizon with a single touch. Yet strangely he’s not the hero of our story as, entirely unrelated to what has been happening, the parent whales show up out of nowhere at the end and save the day. Damn you, Moby Dick, I’ll get you next time, hahahahahaha. Punch.
Before we had time to recover from that one, the developer logo played twice and Aladdin was on his smart phone, having a picnic. Jasmine video calls and is thoroughly pissed off. He wakes up the genie, who is also scared by this, they need to get home now. Various peril occurs but it makes even less sense. Random 3D slow-mo cuts happen in the wrong places with no impact, creatures behave in very strange ways, it’s like all of the developers were locked away in separate dungeons, and also have no concept of what actually makes things good. We finally get to, wherever his home is, and spend an age flying through and near-missing a ton of towers while (another) massive firework display is going off. He lands on his balcony, is dragged into the bedroom by the ear and the doors slam shut, while genie adopts a bodyguard outfit in front of it and shakes his head at us. End.
Enough waffle, don’t even know where to start on this boat ride.
I had naively believed that our hotel woes were behind us, but on arrival at our stop off in Germany for the night we found that I had received an email saying my credit card details were out of date… not this again.
I’ve no idea what’s going on at this point, this particular trip was booked several months after the previous card had expired. The hotel for the following night had already confirmed that they had taken the money up front on that day, straight off of the same card details I provided. There’s no trace of the old details still on my account and yet still the system is out to spite me.
The staff decided to make a huge deal out of this matter for some reason, with two different people repeating at least 6 times between them that my card details had expired, why didn’t I check my emails?! (in the last few hours, while driving, and on holiday) and that 6pm was the cut-off point so they had cancelled our rooms.
That was all well and good, but I’m standing here right now with the credit card in hand, what are we going to do about this? The point just didn’t seem to sink in.
Eventually they just checked us in anyway, with no issue at all, so the completely unjustified berating was a total waste of life. Guess you still can’t go anywhere any more.
An early morning run on the autobahn had us making good time into Denmark the next day. We had successfully completed the 2sommer run before and of course were confident that we could do it again with just a +2 to pick up from each this time. For fun, and the sake of the relative significance of the new coasters, the order was switched up this time.
Day 2 – Djurs Sommerland
I’ve always got on really well with this park before. It’s such a lovely place to be and they’ve had a cracking lineup for a good while now. Slight technical hitch upon arrival this time (again), we had booked our tickets online but never received a confirmation email. It transpires that they ‘hadn’t turned the machine [computer] on’ though strangely the guest services and ticket counter were unable to do much about the problem. Instead they asked us to buy another set of tickets up front and send an email asking for a refund at a later date, which seemed a less than ideal solution.
Faff out of the way, we stood ready for the rope drop at the now slightly more signficant looking entrance to Wild Asia (insert Chessington joke here) and then, once let in, hopped straight onto #1 Jungle Rally.
It’s a cute little Zierer (there’s a lot of those on this trip) and really nicely presented. They’ve definitely fleshed this area out a lot since it was just the signature attraction, mud and concrete and I’m very impressed.
We took a token lap on Drage Kongen to see if much had changed over the years. Wasn’t too bothered about it before, though I believe it was a victim of hype at the time – I can still recall the bold statements bouncing about from ‘could be as good as Nemesis Inferno’ to ‘might ride like an inverted Megalite’. No.
The ride still rattles around and is essentially a weaker version of the larger Vekoma model, which makes little financial sense at the very least. It’s not a bad attraction by any means, it looks really nice, the little trick at the start is a good spectacle from the air gates and the layout goes on for a surprisingly long time. What had improved on this occasion for me was the atmosphere in the station, with some good music and lightning effects that I don’t particular remember from opening year.
They’ve been so busy at this park, the new and massive Tigeren has replaced the old Topple Tower that we were lucky enough to catch operating once. This ride had me at ‘bigger Loke’ and it’s rather spectacular in the forces that it pulls. Lap bar freedom, massive beyond vertical swing, big amounts of weightlessness and crushing positives. I’m no flat ride connoisseur but these are totally my bag.
Headed into the new, new area next to see some dinosaurs. I don’t really remember what was here before, if anything, but it’s quite the transformation. Dino Xpedition is a fun little jeep ride along the lines of many others of this ilk. I’ve since been led to believe that not everything was working properly inside the cave, the projections were broken and even technology like the queue signs were out of action, which is unfortunate on something so recent.
#2 T-Rex Family Coaster was rather great. I’ve now been given more hope for this rebirth of modern Mack & Moritz powered coasters as this one provides so much more of a ‘ride’ experience. The layout has some pretty funky moments and the build up of speed into a significantly faster second lap is particularly satisfying, making it a much more well rounded experience.
Having finished with everything on the hit list we jumped on Juvelen for a back row ride. It still kicks a surprising amount of ass when it wrenches you through that second launch and into a very potent set of twists, turns and near miss interaction. Love it.
Last up was the old favourite Piraten. It actually had a queue, which I’ve never really seen before, so we weren’t quite able to get as reacquainted with it as we had hoped. I think this hurt the reputation of the ride somewhat, it’s definitely something you want to marathon to get the most out of. It remains a fantastic ride, with a near grey-out inducing first turn, several moments of powerful airtime and the satisfaction of those violently twisty hills. Half hour waits for such a short, cloned layout just didn’t quite hit the spot this time and I’m far less confident about the whole ‘Piraten is better than the other Megalites’ thing now than I used to be. It may be much more circumstantial than I previously believed. Still, we’ll always have 2017.
On that note it was time to hit the road to the main event and inspiration for the whole trip, though there was even time for a leisurely lunch on route because we wanted to be cheeky and take advantage of the reduced rate afternoon tickets.
We arrived 5 minutes early and enquired about the deal at the signature drive-thru ticket booths. Sadly it’s entirely down to the whims of a computer system so there’s no opportunity for the admissions staff to be lenient in this case. They recommended we back up and park for a couple of minutes until the time ticket over and then we were waved through once again to seal the deal.
The park was much busier and, more surprisingly, much larger than I remember from before. We of course wanted to get to Fønix first and the walk through the pleasant greenery seemed to take forever, it just kept going and going along the very long and thin layout that spreads either side of the main entrance.
At last we were greeted with the sight of fresh Vekoma track and stumbled into a 20 minute queue not knowing what to expect.
God damn Iron Gwazi, they’ve finally done it.
#3 Fønix is the Vekoma we’ve all been banging on about for years, the new generation has finally arrived and is ready to play with the big boys. I absolutely adored this thing and we couldn’t get enough of it. Essentially to the point where all notions of courtesy rerides on the other coasters went out the window rather quickly.
No more underwhelming profiling, no more bland forces, no more pointless inversions. Almost every single moment hits hard and fast and, under the guise of what has already become their established style, it’s unbelievably refreshing.
The first drop was punching harder than Piraten and leads into a forceful pullout of positives. Instead of dwelling on this for too long you’re immediately up into the weirdly floaty stall and flopping out of your seat in a gorgeous moment of contrast.
I love the insanely tight and twisted exit of this element, it doesn’t even look real from off-ride and I guess totally justifies why the trains are a little shorter.
Perhaps the one piece of the puzzle that doesn’t quite land is the subsequent big hill. It feels just a little too high, there’s no significant airtime or even sustain on it and then it rides like it has to turn into that turnaround slightly prematurely. Basically the single thing Lech and Abyssus do better.
All is immediately forgiven as it throws you into an outrageous second inversion that tries to hurl you outwards – up there with the classic Blue Fire and the more recent Mosasaurus. A double down follows into a twisted hill, this is definitely riffing off of some other greats as well.
Of course next is the point dance, the station inversion. It’s currently a little obnoxious offride as everyone has taken it upon themselves to scream really loudly through it, though this was a bonus contrast with the Lech equivalent not even letting you in the station and not having people on it. Onride however it’s another powerful snap of an element, perhaps only faltering in not being as good as the one before it.
Another moment of strong positives breaks the flow in the next turnaround and then we hit a finale of no less than six bouncy, twisty, joyous airtime moments. Some wonky, others straight, one popping out sideways like an RMC, it does it all and it does it well. Well done.
Best Vekoma in the world by an almost immeasurable margin for me and, somehow, the new best coaster in Denmark. I’m excited for these again now and can’t wait to see what they do next. That’s dangerous.
Of course there’s one other Vekoma to tick off round the corner. #4 Saven looks great in it’s natural habitat, not to say they didn’t do a nice job with the clone at Energylandia but this one fits in the space for a reason. I really like the water splash effect, it’s very convincing from around the middle of the train.
The outbound trip is solid with it’s satisfying sequence of hills, just it loses a bit of oomph on the return run from being purely gravity driven. Couldn’t help but think a little boost on the spike would help spice it up a bit.
As stated, we never got round to revisiting the rest of the park, save for after the queuelines had closed for a quick photo lap. 2017 me was very lazy and basically missed pictures of half the rides so at least that’s solved now. In terms of lineup, things are looking pretty great for Farup now.
Orkanen wasn’t needed, I’ve lost count of how many others I’ve ridden since, but is still a remarkably good piece of hardware for what it is.
We found Falken to be solid, if unremarkable in the past and that was with far less experience. Having just come off the back of what, 60 mostly unremarkable woodies in the last couple of months I’m not sure a reride would have done anything but harm it slightly, though it’s undoubtably fine at filling it’s niche here.
Lynet was smooth before, offensively smooth. The clear standout of the type and surprisingly good given the hardware. I worry that it isn’t any more, so leave the memories alone. Still, solid launcher for the park.
Fønix is an obviously massive step up though, and I bet the park is even seeing that themselves. Everyone was just lapping it again and again, with the queue remaining a consistent and popular length all the way up until close, with guests desperate for that one last ride. I can’t imagine that this level of attention is anything but new ground here given the attractions that preceded it. Our final lap was treated to a rendition from the entire train of “EKSTRA TUR, EKSTRA TUR, EKSTRA TUR” on the brake run. Sadly we weren’t going to get our Steel Vengeance moment as I could still see a queue snaking down the station stairs. A sly shake of the head from the operator confirmed this as we pulled back into the station, but I admire them for trying.
It was a little depressing to walk away from something with such strong emotion and yet at the same time thinking it’ll struggle to even crack a personal top 50, but this is the fate I’ve chosen for myself. Fønix is nothing short of incredible though, and I don’t say that lightly.
It’s been many a year since I last dusted off Denmark and they’ve certainly been pretty busy since then. In the absence of any real need for yet more Eurodemption, along with the fact that it feels like I’ve pretty much cleaned the continent out, it was time to head out to one of my favourite European nations before Sommer came to a close. But first we need to get there.
Our morning chunnel came and went without a hitch, besides the hideously early start, so it turns out you can go somewhere, sometimes. With several countries to pass through and a reasonably significant distance to drive, the first day of the long weekender was filled with a sporadic selection of creddities.
Day 1 – Plopsa Indoor Hasselt
With just a week left on our old Plopsa season pass it felt like as good a moment as any to mop up the remaining offerings at no additional cost. Hasselt was the initial stop on the journey and the family entertainment centre is located in what very much felt like an industrial estate, which was very unassuming and slightly confusing to navigate.
They do have a nice vibe these places, especially when they’re quiet, even though we’re clearly not the target audience.
In fact we were in and out in easily under 10 minutes. #1 Wickie Coaster was a solid stock Zierer and had disturbingly similar visuals to the one in Poland. As is the intention.
Next up was one of the many parks in the Netherlands that has often been considered, but never committed to, while we planned various escapades throughout the region. Thanks to geography and a deal on Belgian website Tripper.be (do check it out if you ever have plans in Europe, it’s pretty solid), today was the day to make it happen.
The place begins as an indoor play area, again one in which the average adult would feel vastly out of place. Luckily there’s a welcoming sight just outside.
it’s not often you get a Wacky Worm with a mine train aesthetic, but I’m all for diversity. The Loch Ness Monster in the middle of #2 Dolle Pier is also an added bonus.
#3 Tyfoon is slightly more substantial and rides rather unusually for its style, though it’s the only Zierer ‘Comet’ to have existed. It’s full of relatively aggressive turns and block sections banked at 30° angles which wouldn’t feel out of place on a coaster manufactured by Pax. Not sure what they were up to when making this ride for Tivoli Gardens in 1989, but I’m all for uniqueness.
2022, Hellendoorn Acquiring our complimentary tickets was straight forward and immediately the park atmosphere was off to a better start. Damn kids.
Most importantly though, #4 Balagos – Flying Flame was open, so a courtesy visit brought the fruits of a +1. Soon to be the only one of two Vekoma ‘Tornado’s in the world, it rides pretty damn good with the new rolling stock made by Sunkid. For what it is anyway. There’s some unnerving laterals in the first drop while the unforgiving metal lap bar digs into your skin and I even caught some air on the big turnaround between inversions. Better than Loopen, though the memories of guests faces on that one still make me laugh.
Can’t have it all though, a delay in parts has left this relocated Mexican spinner out of action for the season. Don’t think we can get away with coming back a third time.
Something else that was unfortunately missed before, due to crowd related reasons, was Jungle Expedition. A quaint little boat ride with an interactive puzzle, some animal action and a surprise cave scene to finish.
We also gave Discovery Club another courtesy lap and it fared much better when experienced in a lighter mood. The simple act of walking down the queueline stairs uninhibited was incredibly cathartic and we had great fun setting off the many effects on this quirky dark ride.
Satisfied with the park’s redemption arc, there was time for one more freebie before the day was out.
Plopsa Indoor Coevorden
It all looked somewhat familiar on the outside, though this one is located in a field on the outskirts of town.
And then it was just plain creepy on the inside. You’d barely know we had travelled several hundred miles since the morning at all, save for this being called a #5 Wickiebaan instead of a Wickie Coaster.
All in all a highly successful +5 for the count. Onwards!
I was impressed with how solid the rollercoaster selection is at Busch Gardens Williamsburg. A common trend among larger amusement parks is having a glaringly disparate gap in quality between the one or two headline attractions and the large quantities of what I would call ‘filler’ for an enthusiast. You’re more than likely in this hobby to come across a lot of clones and experiences that aren’t unique to a park, so it’s refreshing to experience a lineup such as the following.
#9 Grover’s Alpine Express Due to its location, the smallest coaster in this park is often the first ride to open for the day, making it easy pickings for adding +1 to the count. While it is twinned with a ride at the other Busch Gardens park, at least the Zierer Force 190 is reasonably hard to come by.
#8 Tempesto The number of Premier Sky Rocket IIs in the world is growing at quite a rate and this is one of the newer installations, so it was a little disappointing to see it built here. It filled a very limited niche in the lineup when it was built, now nullified, by having both forwards and backwards direction of travel, and now multiple launches are already covered better multiple times elsewhere in the park. The main reason it’s a popular ride type to buy is most likely the tiny footprint and compact layout that still provides a high thrill level to the average guest. Sadly Tempesto has the worst restraints available for this model of ride the form of ‘comfort collars’. The restricting nature of these shoulder straps make the experience more of a chore, rather than something to enjoy.
#7 Loch Ness Monster Though it has somewhat legendary status as a classic ride of an earlier era, in todays terms Nessie isn’t a coaster I would describe as exciting. Arrow loopers can often lean towards being rough and ready due to their interestingly shaped track transitions and older technology, but this particular installation posed no issues to me whatsoever. In fact it was a rather amusing experience with a big square helix in a shed and a smaller second lift that seemed rather out of place. The interlocking loops are a great off-ride spectacle, it’s just that the layout itself has very little to offer.
#6 Griffon The other clone in the park comes in the form of this B&M dive coaster. It isn’t Busch Gardens fault however, as the other version arrived much later at a park in Korea, nor is it their fault that I happened to ride that version first. These are always solid fun, with a ride experience that generally centres around their one or two massive vertical drops. The drops themselves provide a well sustained out of the seat moment but due to the sheer size of the track and trains the remainder of the layout can often feel a little slow and meandering. Griffon is no exception to this, but it is a good looking ride – the well positioned splashdown section provides an impressive off-ride experience as well.
#5 Invadr I’ve found that GCI are at their best when their rides are huge so that they can really make the most of the relentless sensations they are capable of creating. Invadr is small for its type and yet still manages to pack a certain punch, though perhaps nothing on the scale of an equivalent sized Gravity Group, but it still means that Invadr is worth several laps of good fun. One of the features I enjoy most about these rides is the unpredictable forces that come out of their unusually shaped corner transitions. On certain GCIs these have been nowhere to be found, but they were back and in plentiful supply within the layout here. The ride looks great from outside the entrance, but leaves a little to be desired in the barren landscape that surrounds the majority of the track.
#4 Alpengeist B&M inverts used to be one of my favourite ride types. The first few that I encountered were all smooth, stupidly intense and offered well varied layouts so I was firmly of the belief that you could’t go wrong with one of these. I did eventually stumble upon a few that didn’t meet any of the above criteria. It turns out it is possible for some to ride rather poorly, lack intensity or have the monotony of repeating the same elements, in order. Alpengeist suffered mainly from the first of these. On the day I experienced it, this did ride poorly, particularly towards the back of the train and in the outside seats (usually the most enjoyable positions) with an unpleasant rattle that, although perfectly tolerable, detracted from the performance somewhat. The layout is very refreshing, with the huge swooping downwards spiral that turns far more than your average first drop and the following unique inversion sequence. After the mid course brake run however, the ride ran out of steam to the point of hilarity. We couldn’t help but laugh when Alpengeist was almost travelling at a walking pace through the final turns that dangle your feet over the fake snow trenches carved into the landscape. Speaking of the landscape, the attention to detail in the theming of this ride is wonderful and I really did appreciate the overall aesthetic it provides. It’s a shame the hardware couldn’t match that standard on this occasion.
#3 Apollo’s Chariot The main aim of most hyper coasters is to provide you with a plentiful supply of large hills and a great deal of speed with which to experience them. In an ideal world, these hills will be trying to kick you up out of your seat and the B&M train design for these rides has an almost unrivalled sense of openness and freedom which can only enhance that sensation. Apollo’s Chariot pulls this off a fair few times, but sadly not quite every hill is a hit. The strongest moment of the ride turned out to be the exit of the mid course brake run which angles back to a steep drop much faster than any of the camelback sections of track and provides a great surprise moment of ejection for riders.
Another challenge in designing rides of this scale is keeping things interesting in between the signature hills, finding a good way to transition from one element to another. Most notable in this layout is the turnaround, which is a very long, flat, banked corner that offers nothing to riders other than a means to get them and the train facing in the right direction to head back to the station. Moments like this always bug me as it feels like wasted potential and one of my most sought after characteristics of a ride is that it doesn’t give you any time to stop and think. That corner aside, Apollo’s Chariot is one of the better B&Ms hypers that I have ridden and although the frequency is just a little too low for my liking, in the moments it does deliver, it delivers well.
#2 Verbolten I have to admit that I was surprised to walk away from Busch Gardens Williamsburg in 2019 with Verbolten as my favourite ride in the park. This attraction is usually billed as somewhat more of a family-thrill adventure as opposed to the many taller and faster offerings that surround it, but the ride experience contains a good number of factors that set it apart from the rest of the lineup for me. The queueline, station and overall theming is on the same level as the strongest examples in the park with particular little details like the number plates on the trains all having unique references to elements of the current ride and in one case, the retired ride that once operated where Verbolten stands today.
Beyond the station, the ride has the most extensively themed coaster section of any in the park with a large show building containing the most significant portion of the layout. The train initially takes you wandering into the forest before hitting the first launch, which thrusts you into this building with a surprising amount of gusto. It’s completely dark inside to begin with and you cannot see that the launch track ends in a hill and corner transition that provided me with wickedly fierce and out of control airtime moment before it navigates some tight corners with strong positive forces. The building begins to light up with various themed effects around you as the train continues its journey into an apparent dead end!? Verbolten is one of few rides in the world with a section of drop track. The train comes to a complete stop and one of (I believe) three sequences begins with the lighting and scenery again, one of which, pays homage to the ride’s predecessor ‘Big Bad Wolf’. The train and track section drop together in unison with a gleefully powerful moment of surprise airtime, usually only enhanced by the anticipation and reaction of unsuspecting riders around you – a real crowd pleasing scare element.
The ride picks up a pace again as you leave the building from here and enter a second launch track. My main gripe with the layout comes here in that it doesn’t use this multi launch aspect (usually one of my absolute favourite elements on any ride) to any significant effect. All the energy is immediately sapped from the train again by a single uphill section into the next trick. The trick itself involves crossing a bridge that appears to be collapsing beneath you and a significant drop follows, leading you into some final turns back towards the station, unfortunately again with somewhat less vigour than the immensely strong first half of the ride. Overall I loved Verbolten. It’s a very special attraction and it stands out as the most complete ride experience package in the park and is certainly, so far, the best ride Zierer have ever made.
New for the 2022 season, after a particularly agonising series of delays, Busch Gardens Williamsburg finally opened their Intamin multi-launch coaster. We had known this was coming ever since the previous visit in 2019 and, for various obvious reasons, it took 3 years both for us to visit again and for the park to be able to construct and sign off the attraction. It was wholly worth the wait as by sheer merit of the ride type alone, Pantheon slots comfortably into position as best coaster in the park, the headliner. The comfort of the trains, the modern quirky elements and the moments of serious airtime all blend together into a world class coaster experience, and one that is exactly the sort of thing that keeps me on my travels.
The ride was full of pleasant surprises, but also had its fair share of minor flaws. The very existence of the initial launch and inversion had managed to escape my knowledge and gave Pantheon a very strong start, reminiscent of another world-beating Intamin. From this moment it does get a little messy and convoluted however, with a very abrupt change of pace followed by the signature triple launch section. This segment undoubtedly provides some fantastic moments, the bursts of acceleration over what is essentially a speed bump and the weightlessness of that intimidating vertical spike, but I find it’s hard to gel with the flow of the overall experience with all this starting and stopping going on. This also comes at the price that once the ride does get fully going and takes all the biggest, hardest hitting elements, it then hits the final brakes very suddenly. None of that can take away from the power of the top hat, beyond vertical drop and banked airtime hill however, which all seal the deal on a spectacular package. My surprise favourite moment in fact came from the backwards launch when seated in the front row. The violent nature with which this chucks you over the mid-launch hill is very special and unlike anything else I’ve experienced.
Busch Gardens Williamsburg already had a very impressive lineup, but it just got even better.
In order to maintain a degree of significance on both days, we opted for a revisit to one of the nicest parks in France in lieu of a lot more cred running, with the added bonus of a healthy +2. Nigloland already had a cracking lineup for its size, along with a very pleasant atmosphere. This remains, mostly, but what’s new?
#1 Krampus Expedition, that’s what. This one strikes me as a weird concept, I get that the folklore fits into the Alpine theme of the area and nearby other attractions, but why a water coaster? To fill a gap in the lineup? Probably.
Whatever the reason, they’ve done a fantastic job with it. The lift looks surprisingly hefty and intimidating in the context of the park. The queueline has some great theming, including wrapping around a massive, spooky skeleton of Krampus himself. There’s also a collection of posters depicting other famous water rides around the world, which seems cheeky.
I’m glad they went for a custom layout of course, would have been too easy to order a Skatteøen and be done with it, but instead we get a more fast paced and fun pre-splash section that even includes an extra little floaty hill. I’m also kinda liking the new track style with the regular Mack track hemmed in by the older water coaster rails. Hopefully it’ll stop it riding like Poseidon and Journey to Atlantis in a few years.
Alpina Blitz, the original Alpine themed coaster here sits pretty just next door. Sadly it was only running one train so we didn’t get to spend much time with the Mack Megalite on this occasion. Comfortable, powerful, it’s an all-round good time coaster from start to finish. I still prefer it to the more poorly run Intamin equivalents but it hasn’t yet found that killer instinct like Piraten.
I’m still worried about what they’ve done to my poor Eurosat, but the essence lives on in Spatiale Expérience (and my car playlist). It was particularly amusing on this occasion, with the French getting really hyped up during the extended spiral lift hill and counting down to the first drop, before proceeding to sit in stark silence, perhaps boredom, for the entirety of the actual layout. I don’t quite know how they manage it with this track but it’s so jerky, yet smooth. The train pumps around all over the place in quite an intense manner though it’s all from strange shaping and not roughness as far as I can tell.
The other new coaster was #2 Noisette Express which somehow manages to be rougher, in a fun, kiddy kinda way.
I’m enjoying the current rise of these ART engineering projects though, they all have a great aesthetic and seem to end up being a cut above your average plonked family coaster. The profiling of that first drop amuses me for a start.
The squirrel character on the back of the train is great, he also has a little story throughout the queue. It’s a tad inconsistent as it declares he was born on the same day the ride opened, along with the contradictory fact that he’s been doing forest conservation engineering projects for years before this. It’s like Duplo Dino all over again with these details.
Hoping this is an homage to the Wacky Worm that is no more at this park, having been replaced by a circus tent opposite the new ride.
Cheat shot. Le Donjon de l’Extrême kicked more ass than before, which is saying something. A combination of not being stapled and being able to see properly led to a world class drop tower experience. Love it.
I don’t remember Maison Hanté hauling so much either. The open-benched seating is still so much fun in the ghost train environment and it was spinning so hard through the downhill slalom graveyard section at the end that I could barely walk straight upon exiting. Still irks me that the spooky building always seems to be framed poorly against the sunlight, though it’s probably just a summer month problem.
Highly satisfied with another half day visit we snacked on some great value crêpes on park, continuing to prove that this place has lots of great food, then headed out on a bit of a mission.
Plopsaland de Panne
Not a cred mission though, a labour of love you might say. I’ve still got that season pass and I’ll find any excuse to use it. What’s a 5 hour drive between parks?
Yup, Ride to Happiness is still the second best rollercoaster on the planet. It’s ridiculous and I can’t get enough.
It was hard to tear ourselves away and head for that ferry, but all in all a joyful little jaunt of a weekend with something to offer on both extremes of the spectrum. A +7 for the coaster count and a +1 for morale.
Right back at it again. This was originally billed to be a little birthday weekender to treat myself to some Gravity Group wood but it ended up being deferred for a Kpop festival in London no less – about the only thing in the world that can trump coasters these days. This all worked out for the best in the end, not least as one of us was still missing a renewed passport by the time the original dates rolled around, along with the fact that the outbound journey process was far less ruined than it could have ended up being, though still not without issue.
Turns out you can’t go anywhere any more, by any method of transport. We arrived at Dover, bleary-eyed and far too early before the new recommended time allowance and proceeded to get stuck in a 90 minute queue for passport control. Just like Heathrow this didn’t really make sense, as it was running at a higher capacity than ever before, but still, we ended up getting pushed back to the next ferry, which was then half an hour late itself.
As always, there was an overly ambitious plan afoot and some quick calculations during the crossing soon made it clear that an Alpine coaster at Parc D’Olhain was immediately gone, along with a +1 at another park, which I had already forgotten existed by the time the trip rolled around.
We were also slightly fearful of how the fastrack/back row system worked at Parc Astérix, particularly regarding whether it had the ability to sell out or not and, after failing to find any details online, booked ourselves a slot on the app as soon as the park opened. This went wrong straight away however, as it immediately counted us down through a 15 minute cooldown period and then insisted that we had to be on the ride between 10:15 and 11:15. This would be just a little tricky while still being on the ferry. Oh well, no time to worry about it now.
Instead it was straight to
Day 1 – Le Fleury
We were amused and confused to arrive at the car park only to be greeted by a road-side banner that stated Le Fleurby. Have we even come to the right place? Turns out it’s the name of the mascot.
Started strong on this beast. #1 Aircraft is not your average SBF Visa creation and the only one operating in the world apparently. I’ll take that.
Lazy research on my part had me believing Bayou Express was the next +1, but we’ve sadly since discovered that I’d already ridden it in Tivoli Gardens. At least the rest of the party needed it.
Yet another relocation operates here under the guise of #2 Rhaegal. This one found infamy fairly recently after derailing in Scotland and subsequently helped my tradition of picking up all the Scottish coasters after they’ve emigrated away. Like the near identical Pinfaris of late, it rode unnervingly smoothly and was even half decent. On a day like this.
Mer de Sable
I remember us looking at this park online while standing in a queue at Parc Saint Paul several years ago, before performing a cost-benefit analysis and deeming it unworthy of our time. It was wise to hold off as there’s a bit more going for it now, plus maybe my standards are a little lower.
After immediately getting lost and trudging through one of the many sand dunes that make up the park’s pathways, we stumbled across their dark ride first, Jungle des Chikapas. *insert Chiapas song here*
It’s a fun little theme, lots of puppeteered animals playing dress up, doing a whole dose of dancing and being their own civilisations. Very solid.
I hadn’t expected any themes beyond Wild West at this park, but we next wound up in an Asian sort of area. #3 Tiger Express was running like an absolute maniac on-ride with not a single block engaging and what would have been a 90 minute queue courtesy of Cedar Fair took a mere 20.
Up the top of a hill is the nicely rethemed and relocated Vekoma junior, #4 Silver Mountain, that once resided at Ratanga Junction in South Africa. This lands me two out of three coasters from the deceased park in as many months, though I’ll have to visit Chile sometime if I ever wish to complete that particular collection. The ride had great views of the surrounding countryside, a fear inducing water effect and even a bit of mist. Very solid.
It all went a bit grim to finish as we ended up in the longest queue of the day for #5 Bandidos, just another SBF spinner. The ride was twice as popular as it had been when we passed it earlier for some reason and we found ourselves in the midst of a group of about 20 children throwing sand around with their shoes.
Park complete though.
They were just the entrées, time for the main dish. Signs were positive as we powered towards the entrance gate, in that a lot more people were heading out rather than in for the day. The machine gun wielding guards of the past were no longer at security to greet us and, already having the measure of the place from our very amateur visit in 2017, we headed straight to the new for 2022 refurbished Tonnere deux Zeus and found the fastrack gate.
Once again the system was confusing, splitting into two rows up some stairs which I immediately assumed were for forwards or backwards, though neither sign made it clear that this was the case. We later surmised that the separation was in fact for ‘one-shot’ fastrack holders and multi-fastrack pass holders. Nevertheless we bowled up with our own backwards seat one-shot that had now been expired for a good 5 hours and in our already predicted French fashion, the host who was working hard and doing about three jobs at once didn’t even have the time for the discussion as to what went wrong, and let us straight into the back row.
Which was the plan all along, you can’t beat a good backwards ride when you simply have no clue what’s coming next. I wasn’t overly fussed about the old Zeus, we only managed to ride it the once and spent most of that worrying about our bag flying all over the place as it wobbled my thighs around some corners in amusing fashion. Coming into this experience I knew nothing of what the mad lads at Gravity had done to the ride for the refurb, trains aside, so it was quite the unnerving experience heading up that lift hill with all the wrong views.
First off, it was amazing. There’s something I find so joyous about the not knowing what’s coming, it just results in nervous and/or excited laughter whenever something significant happens, which in this case happened a lot. The first drop was a little shaky but it really found itself after that and just kept on giving. It felt like it went on for an absolute age, with endless little bursts of airtime which, with the direction of travel, provided an unusual accentuation in how the exit of each hill was lower than the entrance. It really drags you through it all in those seats.
As a counter point it was almost a little exhausting and mildly stressful. I’ve never done wood backwards before and that extra fear of being murdered by roughness at some point led to me never fully letting myself relax and be in the moment, always slightly on edge and braced for the worst. Fantastic fun though, one of a kind experience (right now) and highly recommended.
Buzzing with the eventual success, after the anxieties of the day, we headed over to the only other coaster we were specifically interested in revisiting. On route we skipped past old Goudurix and decided it was best left alone, having treated us kindly in the past.
Something that didn’t treat me so kindly was Ozlris, a ride that 5 years ago punched me in the head on the first drop, rode subsequently about as poorly as the Vekoma and was my first real taste of B&M, and inverts specifically, not being all that consistently good any more. I went in hoping for another Nemesis or Black Mamba, and it wasn’t even close. Since that day this one has sat dead last on my invert rankings, which I’ve always felt a little uncertain about as I’ve literally piled another 20 rides onto that list since, shunting it further and further down. Was it really that bad, baffes aside?
Yes and no. That pronounced, violent jerk was still present on the first drop in the back row, though I was ready for it this time. I suppose it could be considered a good thing to start off that boldly and then immediately be contrasted with the unusually floaty first inversion. Contrast hits again and it’s more forceful through the next part and into the loop than I previously experienced. That weird jarring lurch in the exit is still there and on closer inspection it’s a trim brake, which I find very odd (and funny). Is there also a bump in the track or is it purely the friction that gives it that strange feeling?
The ride loses pace a bit from there (I wonder why), which is one of the main issues I took from before as it does several sluggish turns over unlandscaped land, only diving in and out of the ground for some fun inbetweeny sections parallel to the station. One of the zero Gs was especially glorious and overall I much preferred it to how I found it before. It definitely isn’t the worst one but is also quite a step down from the best. Very solid.
Having completed what we had set out to do in surprisingly quick fashion, the plan was now up in the air. Their madhouse, Le Défi de César, had been a highlight of our last visit and so we checked it out again. Sadly it wasn’t operating either of the preshows, from which I remember nothing but fountain peril, although it was rather interesting to walk straight into the ride system from the exit doors with absolutely no context as to what was going on.
This one has always stood out to me as being the one that gets a little inventive with screens rather than just the usual physical decorations. It ain’t no Hex, but it sets it above your average, confusing story fest. The effect wasn’t quite as pronounced as before, though not especially helped by the fact that at least one of the screens was losing signal and cutting out throughout the ride. We went though our army test, got attacked by a giant squid and came out the other side in one piece. Very solid.
Another semi-dark ride that I hadn’t realised existed and subsequently missed before was Epidemaïs Croisières. For some reason we had great trouble even finding it this time, with the park app indicating it to be in the rocks under the Grand Splatch. Somehow we managed to walk straight past it at least once, staring insistently and completely 180° in the wrong direction of where we thought it was supposed to be.
Boats happen, a large man happens, countries happen and then it goes into a cave for some more happenings. The story was more than a little lost on me, in the end it could all be a dream/imagination as the bloke is playing with his toys in the bath, including our boat. That’s my best guess anyway. Supposedly I’m meant to know this stuff.
We weren’t sure what to do with Tonnere deux Zeus other than knowing it demanded some further rerides, but by this time the question had been answered for us. The backwards seats were no longer available to book and so we queued up for some back to back forwards laps through an impressively efficient regular queue to close the day out in style. Without doing it one more time and trying to really relax, I’d say it’s essentially as good in vanilla mode as it is in the special seats, with a far less pronounced difference in intensity between the two when compared with legends such as DC Rivals and Hollywood Dream.
Gravity have done wonders with it as far as I’m concerned, the still shaky first drop and leads into the satisfying CCI-style turnaround and it’s already hauling by this point. Fresh wood hits in the form of the new sideways airtime hill which packs a powerful punch that I’m all too familiar with and is a real highlight of the new design. I like the homage touch of the old train and some track sticking out above the turnaround at the far end, although it’s a shame you can’t really see it that often.
The next two straight sections remain chock full of airtimey speed hills, which amusingly are half retracked and half as-was, leading to a very special sequence of float and crunch as it bounces between the two. This segment ends with a wicked lateral jerk to the side as you’re still out of your seat from the last hill and thus begins the helices of doom.
They’re alright, the thigh wobble is sadly a thing of the past but there’s still enough of my preferred level of rattle to keep things interesting and then the new deafening tunnel full of lightning effects is hilarious. Yes it’s loud, but when you’ve done Hades 360 you can put up with just about anything. The finale is a little weak, as we’ve found with many recent woodies of this scale, a couple of slower hills, one wonky, on a piece of structure that has a rather impressive sway to it. The Voyage corner to finish is even a bit of a damper but it’s still a thoroughly enjoyable entity and a well earned revitalisation. Very solid.
Can’t wait for the one-two punch it’ll form with Toutatis. France are kicking our ass.
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
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.
#1 Hydra The Revenge was a walk-on however so, you know, these mice at Cedar Fair parks are just plain awful.
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.
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.
#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.
The first half of clunky fun drop and big hill of nothingness, followed by moderately Forceful corners, Steel feels exactly the same. Pretty good.
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.
#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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Finishing up with the jank machine that is #4 Pirates Hideaway. The inside holds no secrets, but it’s humorous to behold.
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?
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.
The unpainted one in the middle, #6 Wild Waves, was better. E&F Miler showing up the big boys.
#7 Whirlwind also took us back to the SBF spinners of old here with the classic and familiar layout.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Courtesy was thrown to the beast that is Intimidator305 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.
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.
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.
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.