Florida 03/22 – Animal Kingdom + Epcot

Day 4

It felt so great to be back in the car again today. Two days of public transportation had made us miss the comfort and convenience that only comes with having your own 4 wheels.

Animal Kingdom

This made it easier to part with $30 for Disney parking, as did the fact that you can park hop with the same ticket all day. I mean $30 isn’t all that bad for all day parking (8am-midnight) on Disney property, I’ve seen more offensive parking prices for much less return.

What you do have to contend with though, if you bring the car, is the massive walks from the parking lots to the park entrances. It was a long and hot walk at Animal Kingdom, but it would be far worse later.

Soon though we arrived at the entrance, and it was far more impressive than the one at Hollywood Studios.

Also more impressive than Hollywood Studios was the park’s centre point, the beautiful Tree of Life. Both these photos also show how green and pretty the park is, for the most part at least.

It’s Tough to be a Bug

Speaking of the Tree of Life, that’s where we headed first to check out It’s Tough to be a Bug.

This 4D cinema, inspired by A Bug’s Life, was great fun, but I think I prefer it the least out of all the 4D cinemas at the resort, Disney World has a strong 4D cinema game.

It was really funny watching half the audience launch out of fire exits after Hopper showed up and things got intense though.

DINOSAUR

Then it was my turn to get scared on the amazing Dinosaur.

I love everything about this ride.

The entrance building full of bones, the wonderful cheesy information videos, the intense loading area that got me even more nervous than I already was. I really am a big baby when it comes to getting jump scared in the dark.

Then the main ride itself, damn! Dinosaur sits right on the limit of being too much for me but never crossed that line. I had such a great time aggressively bouncing around, shouting “that’s not our dino!” and laughing until it hurt.

Best ride at the park (Everest was closed) and probably one of the best at the Resort (Everest was closed).

Kali River Rapids

Because ‘(Everest was closed)’ we walked past it with a tear in our eye and headed to Kali River Rapids.

While visually very impressive, Kali was neither all that wet (it was hot) or all that impressive as an actual rapids ride.

After Kali we took a long walk, almost back to the park entrance, to visit Pandora – The World of Avatar.

I know even less about Avatar than I did about Star Wars, but once again first impressions are very strong, how does this even work?!

Avatar Flight of Passage

We ended up at Flight of Passage first and not wanting to get lost in Pandora, it’s a bit of a maze, it was time to check out the land’s star attraction.

Well not before queueing over 2 hours for it…

At least there’s lots of interesting things to look at, while you’re outside at least.

The ride itself though, it was pretty cool, but certainly, in my opinion, not worth queueing over 40 minutes for. Flight of Passage is essentially a very high tech and fancy flying theatre attraction and no matter how much tech you throw at it or what film is being shown that style of attraction will never really do much for me.

It’s a must ride for sure, but easily a one and done attraction and one that would be best to catch when the queues are low, if they ever are.

Na’vi River Journey

Then it was time to check out Pandora’s other ride offering, Na’vi River Journey.

After a much shorter queue, around 45 minutes, we took our seats on this boat ride around a Na’vi rainforest.

It was alright, I think Heartline summed it up perfectly with the statement “a sit down and some blue”, because it was a nice way to rest our legs, and the Na’vi are blue.

Nothing really happens, it’s very short, there’s not all that much to look at and there’s only 1 animatronic, she’s very impressive though. Once again a one and done, probably not worth queueing more than half an hour for.

With that, with Everest being closed and us not being all the interested in doing the animal stuff, our time at Animal Kingdom had come to an end. Opinions?

A half day park indeed, a beautiful one though, with an insane dark ride I wish we could have ridden again.

Thanks to being ahead of schedule, we treated ourselves with a quick trip to Disney Springs to grab an Earl of Sandwich. I remember really enjoying the one I had at Disneyland Paris, and this one was even better, certainly worth the speed run of Disney Springs.

Epcot

It turned out we really needed those calories too, because the walk from the Epcot parking lot to the park entrance was insane. A solid 10 minutes of brisk walking on unshaded concrete, not the greatest of starts.

Admittedly all was immediately forgiven once we entered the park though, because damn, Epcot visually might just be my favourite out of any Disney park.

Spaceship Earth’s gigantic geodesic sphere surrounded by all the other funky retro futuristic buildings in the distance is just an incredible first impression and I’m happy to say this level of visual quality continues throughout the park.

Spaceship Earth

Speaking of Spaceship Earth, we are here, let’s ride it.

I loved it. I couldn’t shut off the part of my brain that was saying, “you’re riding Disney history in a massive sphere, holy crap.”

Then when I thought it was over, I was shown a picture of my sweaty face superimposed onto a crude vision of the future and that’s exactly how this ride got escalated from fantastic to iconic.

Mission: SPACE (Intense/Orange)

Then it was time to experience one of the most physically intense attractions Disney have ever built, and it was awesome.

I’d watched many Disney YouTubers say that they can’t ride Mission: SPACE any more because it makes them unwell. I just dismissed them as being weak, but now I can see how if you weren’t used to high G forces this might end you.

Mission: SPACE is a 4 person interactive motion simulator attraction, but not your standard boring motion simulator. No, this one puts you in a centrifuge, puts screens an inch from your face and places controls inches from your chest, so it really feels like you’re in a cramped space craft.

Then it applies sustained strong positive Gs (up to 2.5) during key parts of the experience. These moments sync up perfectly with the screens to create an incredibly realistic and intense ride.

I loved it and if we had enough time I would have certainly ridden it again.

Journey Into Imagination With Figment

Next up we journeyed into imagination with Figment.

I’m quite torn on my opinion of this ride.

On one hand it’s (for better or worse) an iconic part of Disney and Epcot. But on the other hand in its current state the ride is pretty unpleasant. I’m not able to prioritise one over the other so in short it’s alright.

Living with the Land

You’d think that sitting down in a boat for 15 minutes to go float around some greenhouses would be a waste of time, but you’d be wrong.

Firstly, Living with the Land feels very Epcot, with its emphases on innovation in the farming industry. Secondly, the dark ride sections are fun. Lastly, a 15 minute sit down after standing all day is amazing.

The Seas with Nemo & Friends

I would however let you say that The Seas with Nemo & Friends is a waste of time.

The only thing I can remember about this omnimover attraction is that it wasn’t good.

Gran Fiesta Tour Starring The Three Caballeros

Keeping the trend of disappointment going, we headed to Mexico to ride Gran Fiesta Tour.

After having to power through an overcrowded building to find the entrance, and after queueing in an extremly cramped queueline, we finally took our seats on what can best be described as Mexican Small World, but it’s worse, and Donald Duck’s there. I can’t recommend it.

Frozen Ever After

Next we headed over to Norway to go see Elsa, but her ride was currently experiencing a delay in operations and the castle gates were closed.

We spoke to a cast member outside who was both friendly and helpful. She told us that they were working hard to get the ride open again shortly and in her opinion it wouldn’t be that long of a wait. A very refreshing answer in an era of every single park not wanting to give out any helpful responses in case they are wrong and they get fired or something.

This delay gave us a reason to stroll around the Norway section of the World Showcase, which I thought looked great.

Not that long later the queue reopened and we were 3 of the first people to head through the gates.

While there certainly are issues with the ride – I don’t really like the face projected animatronics, you can tell it was held back by having to reuse the layout of Maelstrom and there’s no clear progressive story to the ride, I still loved it anyway.

I’m a huge fan of Frozen, its songs and its characters, so to see the franchise with its own ride, even if it’s a bit flawed, made me happy.

Test Track

We had fully accepted that we both didn’t need to ride Test Track, nor would we have time to ride it. Thanks to the queue being exactly the right amount of time that we needed to kill before the night-time though, we figured what the hell.

This ended up being the best decision ever because Test Track is awesome.

The create your car bit, which I didn’t even know was thing, was tears of laughter levels of funny.

Then the main ride itself was far more intense than I was expecting, with the indoor section being far longer than I was expecting. All the while our created car kept popping up on screens to make everything even funnier.

Test Track kicks ass and was the perfect way to end our day at Epcot.

We ended up missing a little of the night-time show, but it wasn’t all that great anyway so it was nothing to get upset about.

I really enjoyed my visit to Epcot and unlike Animal Kingdom I really could see myself spending a whole day there.

Thanks for reading, click here for day 5 of my Florida trip report, where we visit Busch Gardens Tampa and ride the incredible Iron Gwazi.


Florida 03/22 – Hollywood Studios

Day 3

After a decent night’s sleep, which you’d expect after doing 12 hours of the Magic Kingdom running on fumes, it was time to visit a park that had a certain amount of stress attached to it, Disney’s Hollywood Studios.

Hollywood Studios

The stress obviously came in the form of would or wouldn’t we get to ride Rise of the Resistance today? and this led to us making a slightly silly mistake in regards to our shady hotel shuttle bus.

Much like yesterday the bus dropped us off at the transport hub outside Magic Kingdom. Not knowing how connections worked from here to Hollywood Studios we asked our bus driver. His reply was something along the lines of, ‘Disney’s internal transport is screwed because of Covid, it will be a major faff and will take almost 2 hours. But… I can drive you straight there for a tip!’

I think deep down all 3 of us knew he was lying to our faces but in the stress of the moment and honestly not knowing how we’d even think about getting there we opted to pay the man.

About 5 minutes later and after several near misses (he was driving like a madman so this extra bit of money making wouldn’t affect his schedule) we arrived at Hollywood Studios.

MuppetVision 3D

Where we tactically decided to tick off MuppetVision 3D as we walked past it.

I’ve wanted to watch this show ever since I first heard of it many years ago, and it didn’t disappoint! The main show was great, as you’d expect from The Muppets, and the surprises and 3D elements only helped to enhance it.

Then it was time to get serious and venture into Galaxy’s Edge.

Confession time, I have not seen a single Star Wars movie, nor am I attached to the franchise in any way whatsoever. Did this stop Galaxy’s Edge from absolutely blowing my mind? It most certainly did not!

I can only imagine the joy Heartline (he’s a huge fan of Star Wars) must have been feeling because I was completely awestruck by the detail and scale of this land.

Millennium Falcon: Smugglers Run

Enough about how great the land is, let’s go fly a spaceship.

The insane levels of detail from Galaxy’s Edge continue into the interior queueline of Smugglers Run, the land’s lesser but still amazing ride. And don’t even get me started on how amazing the animatronic is for Hondo Ohnaka.

The ride itself, the best kind of motion simulator, is great fun, with the interactive elements and complete immersion making it feel so real and epic. Oh and yeah remember, this is the lesser of the Star Wars rides…

Star Wars: Rise of the Resistance

So let’s go ride the main event!

Yes, Rise of the Resistance was open and could be experienced from a stand-by queue, which wasn’t 9 hours long.

It was almost 3 hours long however, but needs must, I reckon this one will be worth it.

And oh man was it!

I’ll say the absolute minimum that I can in order to convey my thoughts but not spoil anything because RotR is so much better when you know nothing.

First off, it’s so much more than just the main ride part.

The moments from being batched into the first preshow section until you board the official ride vehicle are ridiculous. Awe, intense excitment, legitimate tension and fear, wonder, it’s so good, I was beyond buzzing by the time that it came to take my seat in the actual ride.

Then things got even better!

Rise might be the best dark ride in the World and I promise you that I’m not saying that lightly or without experience.

Breathtaking in more ways than one, a technological marvel from start to finish and an ending that I promise will blow your mind.

The three of us left Rise shaking with excitement and spent the next 20 minutes talking about what we’d just experienced, the sign of a fantastic dark ride.

After a bite to eat, which turned out to be a fatal mistake, it was time for another fantastic dark ride.

Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway

With a trip to the Chinese theatre to ride Mickey & Minnie’s Runaway Railway.

This massive trackless dark ride, with many surprises, was amazing, and that’s coming from someone who stepped off RotR an hour ago.

The animated styling is adorable, the use of screens and projections are handled in a way that doesn’t distract from the experience, the surprises the trackless system throws at you are pretty special and I don’t know if it’s just me but I found the whole ride really funny.

I just wish I wasn’t dealing with stomach issues from the previously mentioned fatal mistake because I’m sure I would have enjoyed it even more.

We only got one ride on Runaway Railway throughout the entire trip, due to it always having a queue and sharing the same park as RotR, which is a shame because I’d have to loved to have ridden it again.

After dealing with said stomach issues, getting some water and doing a stock take. We came to the conclusion that due to Hollywood Studios having the longest queues in the whole resort that it would be impossible to finish the park today. This caused us to fall back on an old favourite technique of just doing the shortest queues first and seeing how the cards fall.

Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster

This technique led us to Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, which technically was the shortest queue on park (of things we needed) but was still almost 2 hours…

We spent the queue researching how we were going to get to Epcot later for our bus pick up.

While there was no way it would take 2 hours to get from the transport hub to Hollywood Studios, our shady bus driver was correct in saying that transport between the Disney parks was a faff.

Oh yeah, Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster, it was fine, not as good as the Paris one was. Only in the respect that I prefer the rock show theming more than cardboard cutouts of signs.

Upon leaving Rock ‘n’ Roller Coaster we concluded we had just enough time to ride Slinky, if the stated queue time was correct.

Slinky Dog Dash

It wasn’t, it was even shorter.

Which meant it was now time to ride a Mack multi-launch at a Disney park.

Slinky Dog Dash is great fun and honestly far more impressive than I was expecting.

Disney and Mack have found the perfect medium between family friendly Toy Story coaster and probably the best coaster hardware on the planet to create something special.

Slinky has decent airtime moments, fun laterals, some positives and the launches are quite punchy too.

I liked it, and if it wasn’t pegged at 3 hour queues from opening to almost close every day I would have loved to have ridden it again.

Hollywood Studios then…

As a park, other than Galaxy’s Edge, there’s almost no atmosphere other than it’s busy and too hot.

As a ride line up though, in my opinion, it’s the best on resort, in terms of both numbers and quality.

Now let the faff begin.

We left Hollywood Studios and spoke to a cast member about the plan we’d seen online about getting from here to Epcot and if he agreed with it. He did, because quote, “there are no buses to Epcot”.

With that we jumped on the Skyliner and took far too long, via several hotels, to arrive at Epcot’s World Showcase.

We arrived at park kicking out time, so in order to know which stampede to join the back of to get to the bus park out the front, we asked a cast member. Her reply was something along the lines of, you shouldn’t have travelled here on the Skyliner, you’re not allowed to walk through Epcot to get to the front at this time, you’ll have to beg security at this check point to let you through.

Her opinion wouldn’t change even after we explained we were told to come this way, so we walked over to the security lady to beg.

“Come straight on through guys, have a good night!”

Well that was easy, not really sure what the issue was…

After a slightly hurried walk through Epcot (spoilers!) we got to the bus park with enough time to ask a transport cast member about our plans for tomorrow.

We needed to be at Animal Kingdom for opening in order to make the most of our day, yet our shady shuttle bus wouldn’t be able to get us there any time near opening.

Can we easily and quickly get from the transport hub to Animal Kingdom?

After a few seconds of thinking and several stutters the reply was no. Let’s just take the car.

Thank you for reading, click here for day 4 of my trip report where we visit the beautiful Animal Kingdom and the fantastic Epcot.


Florida 03/22 – Magic Kingdom by Mega-Lite

I think it’s fair to say that many coaster enthusiasts, become said enthusiasts, after visiting Florida at a young age on a once in a lifetime family holiday. If not, Florida is usually the first real port of call for any up and coming enthusiast. What is not so common is making your first trip to Florida when you’ve already ridden nearly 1000 coasters and have already travelled most of the coasting World.

In other words what I’m trying to say is, once again, me and Heartline have done things against the grain. Would this tactic end up dampening our opinion of Florida? Or would tackling it with experience make things more rewarding? Let’s find out…

Day 1

In a continuation of our sentiment from our last trip, where it appeared that everything was out to get us, our travel to the US wasn’t without issue.

It started with me, Heartline, and his wife meeting at a very reasonable time to get to Heathrow and get our business sorted before our 11ish flight.

But then, there was traffic on roads that in 10 years of driving I have never seen traffic on. Followed by the M25 and M4 barely moving, leading to us being much later than we planned for.

This was an issue because you had to have a negative covid test before they’d even let you check in for your flight. Thinking we’d have all the time in the World, we planned this for this morning, now however this wasn’t ideal. After much faff we left the test centre with not much time to spare, but then had to wait 40 tense minutes for our results.

When we finally got our results we were the last 3 to check in for our flight and then had a stressful 20 minute walk to the gate, where thankfully boarding had been delayed 15 minutes.

The flight itself (American) was fine and soon we landed in Miami.

Yes, Miami. Heartline could probably write articles about how to save money when booking trips and this was his latest tactic.

Did it save money on a trip that normally costs many thousands? Certainly. Do I ever question his ways? No. Did the drive from Miami to Orlando suck? Oh God yeah.

We’d be staying in one of those do it yourself fully kitted out holiday apartments for the duration of our trip. Yes it was pretty dated, yes I broke the aircon on the last night, but I thought it was pretty cool how it had everything you’d ever need contained within its walls.

Day 2

After barely sleeping, which I put down to excitement crossed with time zone differences, it was time for our first day in Florida, and we were starting with the big one, Magic Kingdom.

Magic Kingdom

The resort we were staying at had a very limited (and pretty shady) bus service that ran to a very limited number of stops. Magic Kingdom was one of them and not wanting to pay the insane money Disney wants for parking we opted to give it a try.

Thankfully the bus was mostly empty (which was unexpected) and in the back row offered more airtime than most B&M Hypers.

What would be an issue several times though was the limited bus service combined with the overly complicated and mostly useless internal Disney transport systems. We will get onto the issues we had later, because this morning at least things were quite easy.

The bus dropped us off at the transport hub and then we boarded the monorail to the Magic Kingdom.

While it has taken me almost 1000 coasters and many other trips to make it to Disney World, I have been interested in the Florida parks for years, so this monorail ride felt rather special.

As was seeing this for the first time in person…

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Awful picture, but it doesn’t matter, we’ve made it to the Magic Kingdom.

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Apparently I’m not jaded enough yet because this view still hit me pretty hard.

Wanting to get away from the castle crush, we completely accidentally found ourselves entering Tomorrowland. Where we stumbled onto the first attraction we could understand where the entrance was…

Walt Disney’s Carousel of Progress

The Carousel of Progress.

20 minutes of Disney history and animatronics, not much more I can say really, I thought it was awesome.

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Upon leaving the Carousel of Progress we were presented with one of Florida’s legendary rain storms. Thankfully this would be the only one that would happen while on this trip, well while we were in parks at least…

Not really knowing how to react to the rain storm we scrambled over to Space Mountain.

Where apparently everyone else had the same idea, leading to 40 minutes of dodging warm rain outside and 15 minutes of being soggy inside.

Space Mountain

This kicked way more ass than I’m still prepared to accept.

The extremely lacklustre Japanese Space Mountain had me set up for a gentle and uneventful coaster in the dark. Only for Magic Kingdom’s example to absolutely wreck my World.

This thing throws you around all over the place and was honestly so much fun, and that’s coming from somone who’s ridden most of the World’s most intense coasters.

If I had to be picky though, which I do, it’s Disney, it was a bit of a shame that the very impressive theming from the lift hills didn’t continue throughout the entire experience.

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PeopleMover

Yeah we spent our entire morning in the land of tomorrow and next up was the rather awesome PeopleMover.

Disney history mixed with linear induction motors, what is not to love?

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Not to throw shade on anyone who plans their Disney vacation down to when you’re allowed to go to the bathroom next, but our plan was a bit less structured.

We left Tomorrowland, with no clear plan on where we’d end up next, enjoyed the walk, commented on how stunning the park looks and next thing we knew we were standing outside the Haunted Mansion.

Haunted Mansion

It would seem our plan of not having a plan sometimes pays off, as we somehow walked straight onto the Haunted Mansion despite the queue being listed as something hefty.

Thanks to Tokyo Disney putting their Haunted Mansion into its Holiday flavour in early September, this would be my first time experiencing the real Haunted Mansion, and my God was it fantastic.

Sitting on my own really soaking in the atmosphere of this Disney legend I felt the hairs raising on my arms. I don’t think I was scared, just in absolute awe of what I was experiencing. I don’t think it was quite as impressive as Phantom Manor though.

I would have loved to have ridden it a second time but we had other rides to experience and we’d never find ourselves lucky enough to stroll right onto it again.

No picture? No, the Haunted Mansion broke my phone and I wouldn’t resolve the issue until we were most of the way through the queueline of…

Big Thunder Mountain

Thunder Mountain.

Damn you Paris Big Thunder for making all future Big Thunders seems unimpressive in comparison.

Credit where it’s due, Florida Big Thunder is better than the Japanese one, but neither come close to the French version.

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Country Bear Jamboree

Wanting a sit down and some air con we next headed over to the Country Bear Jamboree.

Much like the Carousel of Progress it was great fun to take in some Disney history and watch the animatronics. Unlike the Carousel of Progress though, the audience were absolutely losing their minds watching the gang of animatronic bears, adding an extra layer of entertainment to the experience.

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Under the Sea – Journey of The Little Mermaid

As great as it was meeting the bears, I think it’s about time we go and meet a Disney Princess. Sadly none of my favourites have rides at the Magic Kingdom, so we settled for Ariel.

Journey of The Little Mermaid is an omnimover dark ride and if I’m honest I wasn’t all that impressed with it myself.

The queue was pretty impresssive (I’ve read somewhere there’s a hidden Mickey that only shows for a couple of hours 1 day a year in there too), but the ride itself felt a little basic.

I guess if you compare it to the old school Fantasyland dark rides it stands out, but with how modern it is I kind of expected more from it.

Mickey’s PhilharMagic

I knew exactly what to expect from PhilharMagic though (after seeing it in Japan) and yet it still managed to blow my mind. Seriously this show is an absolute must watch for any Disney fan.

The Barnstormer

I guess we can’t put it off any longer, we better go ride The Barnstormer.

This seriously ranks up there in the list of bad decisions I’ve made in order to boost my coaster count.

Queueing far too long for a poorly themed and badly riding Vekoma Junior at one of the most impressive parks on Earth felt wrong at the time and doesn’t feel much better now.

Seven Dwarfs Mine Train

But you can’t argue with success, and upon entering the very long queue for Seven Dwarfs Mine Train we were but 1 credit short of completing the park.

The queue for this coaster sucked, it was barely moving (got even worse near the end), had ginger teens making a scene and had almost nothing interesting to distract you.

As for the coaster itself though, visually, my God this thing looks impressive, the level of theming and detail is ridiculous. As a piece of ride hardware though, it does almost nothing, the swinging cars add almost nothing and I wasn’t the only one coming away thinking “was that it?”

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Pirates of the Caribbean

Running out of time now before we needed to get our place for the night time castle show we were missing 2 attractions that we wanted to ride, Pirates and the Jungle Cruise.

With that in mind we adopted a tactic that worked for us in Japan. Sprint to Pirates 30 minutes before the show starts, assume the listed queue is a scare tactic, experience the attraction, feel smug and then make it back with time to spare to watch the show.

It worked before and it worked again.

No matter how many impressive dark rides I experience, Pirates never fails to leave me speechless. The sheer scale of some of the sets is ridiculous, making it so easy to believe you have been transported to another World and aren’t just floating around in some warehouse.

Talking of the scale of things.

When we made it back to the castle area for the show, there was more people than I think I’ve ever seen in my life already waiting and even more flowing in.

All the credit in the World to the Disney staff for keeping this organised and safe, I’ll come back to praising them again in a bit too.

Hilariously the show ran into technical issues at the end of the big countdown, leading to confusion but good spirits.

Once it restarted (10 minutes later) though it was incredibly good and at times was as impressive as Disney Dreams in Paris.

Yes that’s right, Paris Disney has/had a more spectacular castle show than even the big boy in Florida. We won’t even mention the Tokyo one…

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Back to praising the Disney staff now. How do you get many thousands of people out of the park in an orderly manner? Extremly quickly apparently.

This was good news for us because it’s time to reference back to our stupid hotel shuttle bus.

Tonight’s only pick up was not long after the castle show finished, in the Epcot bus park…

This meant getting out of Magic Kingdom as quickly as we could in a sea of bodies, then switching monorails at the transport hub, then sprinting from the Epcot monorail station to the bus park with seconds to spare. Stressful, but I won’t lie, quite fun.

And that was our day at Magic Kingdom, did it live up to my high expectations? Yes, I think it did.

Thanks for reading, click here for day 3 of my trip report, where we visit Hollywood Studios and ride the insanity that is Rise of the Resistance.


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