Sunday, March 24, 2019

100 Roller Coasters for 2018 (A Year In Review)

After the 2017 calendar year, I did the first annual "100 Coasters" retrospective. I had a banner year for myself, and discussing/reviewing 100 different roller coasters that I rode seemed like an interesting way to go about doing a review of the entire year in a nice, neat format. I didn't expect to have that kind of year in 2018 again: I started the year on the unemployment line, for starters. By the time it was over, I had actually surpassed my huge year with a monster 72 new coasters riden. Getting 70 coasters is super tough; it takes real effort. I was frequently at parks from March all the way through New Year's Eve. I visited 19 states, 2 Canadian provinces, and 5 European countries. From RMCs to Mountain Coasters to the ubiquitous SBF Visa Spinning Coasters that reproduce like rabbits, I saw a lot of stuff and I rode it too.

THE NEW:

Family Roller Coaster, Wildlife World Zoo (Surprise, AZ): Coaster #1 for 2018 required more effort than I wanted to put in - I bought my ticket, visited the zoo, walked all the way to the far, far back where it was located, and discovered it closed. It would, I was promised, reopen later. But not now. For those who don't get a wristband for rides, you pay for attractions in cash at the ride station itself. Since there was no riding to be done immediately, I got in the car and drove to the Burrito Barn, a small taco truck establishment on the opposite side of Rt. 303. And then I went back to my Dad's, and I took a short nap. When I woke up, I called- the coaster was open! And I rushed back with my hand stamp and receipt to get in.

So much adventure for this: It's a really big Chance Big Dipper coaster, and those are rides that are prototypically built for children. Not just big either - it passes through the Alligator exhibit, so you can see them through a plexiglass window. Then, as you ascend the lift, llamas are grazing below you. Wildlife World is non-AZA accredited, and takes some liberties with the likes of log flumes that run through acryllic tubes in aquariums. This is no different. One of the most expensive "credits" I've ever gotten, since entry to the zoo is around $40/head. Honestly, Phoenix Zoo is the better zoo, but this has rides.



El Bandido, Western Playland
Hurricane, Western Playland
Miner Coaster, Western Playland
Spinning Coaster, Western Playland

There's not a single unique roller coasters at Western Playland of Sunland Park, New Mexico. There's not really a unique ride either. Everything there is off the shelf. But it's a compelling park for a lot of the hardcore park enthusiasts to get to because it's just so far away. Out by El Paso, there isn't another park for 200 miles in any direction other than due south into Mexico.

Incredible Spin Coaster, Incredible Pizza Company St Louis

The first SBF Visa spinning coaster of 2018. Am I proud of this? In so much as I dragged Joe here, yes.

The Branson Coaster

I will never stop missing Cool Off Water Chute, which this mountain coaster replaces. There's two lift hills, and it's plenty fun. But it isn't Cool Off Water Chute.

Runaway, Branson Mountain Adventure Park

This ride is one of two separate Aquatic Development Group mountain coasters I rode in 2018, and this was so, so good and wow is it dramatically better than the other one I did. I might even be so bold as to say that this was my favorite I've done. Lots of fun drops and a really good length.



Time Traveler, Silver Dollar City

I never planned or expected to wind up in Branson last year, much less wind up in Branson twice over the course of 2018. But that's precisely what happened, and I snagged several rides both on the proper opening day and then later in the fall. Time Traveler took ideas that Mack Rides had about combining their launched coaster platform and a powered spinning aspect.

New Texas Giant, Six Flags Over Texas

The first true RMC coaster, Giant is not as intense or extreme as Steel Vengeance, but it is a really, really exciting and fun ride that merits re-rides galore. Also notable that we are almost 8 years removed from it opening, and it is still "New Texas Giant" officially. It doesn't end quite as hot as the RMCs of today do, but that's almost appealing in a way. It isn't as relentless, but it is intense. It is still very much an experience. Grabbing last rides with Joe was one of those perfect road trip things that makes this hobby so good.

Pandemonium, Six Flags Over Texas

Gerstlauer off-the-shelf spinning coaster that - hey, we got QBots, OK?



Little Dipper, Sandy Lake Amusement Park

Usually, a Herschell kiddie coaster wouldn't merit a lot of discussion, but Sandy Lake's announcement that it was closing at the end of 2018 and the rides dispersed to the four winds is sad. It was a cute kiddie park with a classic Pretzel dark ride (one of very, very, very few left). Now it's gone and to be commercial storage space.

Cruiser Coaster, Craig's Cruisers

Craig's Cruisers is actually a chain of FECs in West Michigan, and one of their locations near US-131 got a big ol' expansion with a coaster. And guess what? It's an SBF Visa spinning coaster!



Wild Cat, Rockwell Amusements (I-X Center)
Back Spin, Swikas Amusements (I-X Center)
Orient Express, Poor Jack Amusements (I-X Center)

I-X Indoor Amusement Park was covered in a podcast we did earlier this year because, well, we went together. Back Spin was the most interesing of the rides we encountered that was a new one to me. It was actually new to everyone: this was it's first appearance, and it is a wacky, wacky ride system from Majestic that looked kinda unfinished. During the winter though, what's a better relief than banging out ride after ride?

Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point

It's pretty good.



Toboggan Nordique, La Ronde
Super Manege, La Ronde
Boomerang, La Ronde
Dragon, La Ronde

La Ronde is a theme park under the Six Flags banner that is generally accepted as being hot garbage. I too have reinforced this belief, having had two prior trips to this park that were utterly miserable. I returned in 2018 in a breakneck trip (one of many, if I gotta be honest). I managed to ride all of these coasters in the first 90 minutes at La Ronde, which was a shocking victory built in pre-planning and being alone at the park. Only Dragon is really unique of this group, and none is particularly good, but none are really bad either.

Goliath, La Ronde

Stupendously underrated B&M "mini" hyper that has a phenomenal return run and no time killing helix. Just airtime with a few fun changes of direction. Didn't pick up a line until well into the operating day either, so I was able to get multiple re-rides in.

Viking, Mont Saint-Saveur

With a successful trip to La Ronde finished early, I made my way north to Mont Saint-Saveur to ride their Wiegland mountain coaster. Like almost all the Wieglands I've been on, it pretty much has their standard issue tiny drops (sometimes in repetition), helixes that seem identical in radius, swoopy drops at shallow angles, things like that. It is, however, quite long.

Crazy 8, Fun Haven

You'll never believe it: an indoor family entertainment center with an SBF Visa Spinning Coaster! It's Ottawa, Ontario's only permanent coaster, so it has that going for it.



Tantrum, Darien Lake

I know why Tantrum exists. I think it is a good ride; the lapbar only restraints are comfortable and the layout, stock as it may be, is totally good and does good things even if it is short. The ride also just doesn't fit at this park. Darien Lake already has a 5 inversion sit down coaster - it's been there for 3 decades, in fact. Darien Lake has a mile long hyper coaster from Intamin that was a first of its kind with a super steep drop. Mind Eraser is 10 feet taller than this and noticeably larger since it is in close-ish proximity. The Boomerang is almost 20 feet taller. Tantrum just doesn't fit. It doesn't appeal to families, it is smaller and shorter than the signature coasters. Why not buy a Larson Loop?

Python Pit, Jeepers (Sterling Heights, MI)

The last permanent coaster in Michigan I had to ride. I got on for free because I promised to Instagram it. I did. It is not good, for what it is worth, even on a "for what it is" basis.

Crazy Mouse, NAME (Illinois State Fair)

NAME's other big Crazy Mouse - there's two models, and this is the longer one that most people encounter like at Animal Kingdom. It was the fair's lone new credit for me, as I'd already gone on the Wacky Worm elsewhere two years prior.

Bullet Train, NAME (Indiana State Fair)
Wacky Worm, NAME (Indiana State Fair)
Dragon Express, NAME (Indiana State Fair)

Indiana State Fair wound up with three coasters for me to ride - two were kiddie coasters not worth writing home about. The third is only slightly more notable in that it is a new for 2018 Galaxi-style coaster. NAME has over 200 rides now and probably 8-10-15 units or something running on any given weekend in the summer, so they need things like this.

RC Racer, Disney Studios Paris

I don't get into the negativity with Disney that much. I think ultimately they put together the most consistently high quality product out there. Their service is usually outstanding. They slapped as much lipstick as they could on this pig of a shuttle coaster from Intamin. The slot car track queuing, the station buildings, the ride vehicle, you go down the list. Disney spent real money here. I can see the detail. I can see the effort. It isn't "low budget" in that way.

Now then - the coaster is dogshit in every way. Call it "Food is terrible and the portions so small!" if you want, but the ride has lousy capacity which leads to long waiting even when the crew is booking it. The ride itself doesn't do enough to possibly be rendered as "good" in judgment. It goes back and forth, powered by LIMs. It doesn't even have spinning cars like the model at Mall of America. Cycle time is short, presumably because a long cycle time and more than a couple trips up and down the spikes would make the already super long wait longer yet.

It wouldn't matter what regional park this was at: Six Flags St. Louis, Valleyfair, Canobie Lake, Wild Adventures, whatever. Doesn't matter. It would get shit on there because the ride sucks. Wouldn't matter one iota how much effort was put into it. Everyone who knows anything about the industry has heard the tales of how the Dark Knight coasters the Shapiro regime at Six Flags installed were built to be super impressive and well themed and wound up with the lowest guest satisfaction ratings at their respective parks. That's because ultimately, no matter how much money and time and effort you put into dressing up a crappy, off the shelf, nothingburger of a ride system and layout, you still have that nothing burger.

Anaconda, Walygator Parc

I think this is the only standing Bill Cobb wood coaster left that I hadn't been on - it's also an original to Walygator from when it was still Big Bang Schrompf and all Smurfed out. It's not bad. It doesn't do a damn thing. It isn't rough. The trains are Morgans, but the lap bars were OK.  It looks very impressive. But nothing. Nothing happens to riders. No vertical or lateral forces imparted to them at all. You just kinda ride along.



Monster, Walygator Parc
Family Coaster, Walygator Parc
Comet, Walygator Parc

Monster is literally Raptor at Cedar Point, except with views of a junkyard instead of Lake Erie and a redesigned transition from the helix into the brake run so that there's no longer a serious lateral jolt to riders. Oh, and this ride only runs one train, so they just never installed the brakes in the block, and the trains coast right through. Like everything at Walygator, there aren't any lines, so you can ride the hell out of Monster if you want. The other two rides aren't anything to write home about; Walygator as a whole isn't "good" in any traditional sense, but it is certainly fascinating.

Spinning Coaster, Bruch (Scherberfouer)
Wild Mouse, Bufkens (Scherberfouer)

Fairgrounds coasters, except in Europe where they have much more impressive signage. Spinning Coaster is a Mauher-Sohne that's basically identical in layout to Crush's Coaster at Disney Paris.

Raik, Phantasialand
Taron, Phantasialand

Phantasialand opened a new section called Klugheim in 2017 to rave reviews. While not a giant area of the park, it was well designed and sunk down into the ground, allowing those inside of it to basically not be able to see out and to other attractions. Taron was the first to be announced of the section's two rides, and it was actually a major surprise when Raik was announced somewhat quietly months later. Raik is a fairly low capacity family coaster - it's a fairly complex shuttle coaster with an impressive queue line and lift structure, but the ride itself isn't anything too exciting, if I have to be honest.



Taron, on the other hand, has basically become the park's signature attraction since opening. With multiple launches and tons of twisty bits held into a fairly small footprint by digging out a the entirety of the Klugheim section, Phantasialand and Intamin built a total winner of a ride in every sense. Aesthetically appealing and thrilling without being obscenely intense; that's Taron.

Troy, Toverland

My first ride on Troy made me think that it was, in fact, grossly overrated. The Kentucky Rumbler of Holland, effectively. Subsequent rides gave me a greater appreciation for it. It's among my favorite GCIs; good mix of forces and speed.

Booster Bike, Bike Toverland
Dwervelwind, Toverland
Toos-Express, Toverland

Nothing too innovative here, though each of these has some nice theming pieces. Dwervelwind (a large Mack spinning coaster) has on-board audio that's pretty nice. Booster Bike uses the same ride system as Disney's Tron and features enough elements to actually be fun. Toos-Express is a junior coaster with some some above average forces in Toverland's expansive indoor sections.



Fenix, Toverland

The queue is basically a smaller version of Harry Potter and The Forbidden Journey, leading to a really excellent, if smaller, B&M Wing Coaster. Layout doesn't have anything wildly innovative perhaps, but definitely gets the job done. Toverland's 2018 expansions hit it out of the park and are really laudable.

Joris En De Draak, Efteling

GCI wooden racing coasters that are really, really good! I actually liked both sides more than Troy, which is surprising since I never hear this ride spoken about in that fashion. Compared to Lightning Racer, it's a dramatically more interesting attraction from a "coaster" standpoint, and the theming touches in the queue and entrance are, as expected for Efteling, much more involved. Winning trains receive cheers and a banner drop. Losing trains get boos. Unfortunately, one side consistently wins, so there's not much joy for the Blue track.

Baron 1898, Efteling

Not the biggest or craziest of B&M dive machine coasters, but it does have the coolest of stations and stories. In this ride, you're joining a mining operation when the ghosts of the mine appear telling you to not go; the mine operator is a scumbag not interested in your safety and mining is bad, you see. Who doesn't enjoy a radical message in their themed attractions? I know I do. The ride itself is pretty standard fare for this type of attraction, which if it isn't something you've done most of the existing versions of means it'll probably be really exciting to you!



Vliegende Hollander, Efteling

Big winner of the weekend: mixed media of physical sets and projections in big dark ride sections mixed with outdoor coaster/water ride elements in one heckuva ride. Kumbak doesn't build a lot of stuff, and this seemed to have some downtime issues while we were there. Queue line is really awesome; reminiscent of Frozen/Maelstrom at EPCOT.

Tiki-Waka, Walibi Belgium

Gerstlauer's Bobsled coasters take elements of wild mouse rides and mix them up with more aggressive design ideas, which leads to them primarily being winners. In a few years, when there's more new coasters in this park to get the attention of guests, Tiki Waka will probably start to have a shrinking line. As is being new, the queue is lengthy and not all that fast due to the limited capacity of the vehicles. Buying a 25 Euro fast pass gives you one run past the line, which unfortunately is all we had here. Layout is more aking to an out-and-back than a twisted and compact layout, and that means there's solid airtime on this ride.



Pulsar, Walibi Belgium

What a blast this was - Mack built this ride, a first of its kind water attraction, at Walibi Belgium to rave reviews. We second these: the turntable station allows for two cars to load simultaneously, helping out capacity in a big way. We ran around the line again to get a second go-round immediately after the first.

Huracan, Bellewaerde



This is a ride I much would have preferred to have seen in it's original format of a Pirates of the Caribbean knockoff. It was turned into an indoor/outdoor coaster with a vaguely Mexican theme in 2013 that's actually not bad at all. Not a lot of effects were carried over to my surprise based on the POV footage of the original ride - I gotta say, it's pretty good!

Boomerang, Bellewaerde

The original Boomerang. Our expectations for this 30+ year old looper were low, but we were surprised to see that the ride is in fact in really excellent shape and quite smooth and fun.

Keverbaan, Bellewaerde

Zierer junior coaster with a fairly common layout. It's a big ride that focuses on helixes, and if you've been to Six Flags Great Adventure or Six Flags New England, you have a general idea of what is going to happen.

Dawson Duel, Bellewaerde

Independently controlled racing "alpine coaster" which should theoretically race/duel but rarely is dispatched to do so. Without a mountain in the park, you climb a long ways up stairs to a platform to board. The downhill portion is below average fare for the ride type made worse by the fact that you don't brake at all, so speeds are pretty low.

Goulis, Coppier (Foire de Lille)
Crazy Mouse, DeGousse (Foire de Lille)



The last stop of our European trip, this fair in France had a Wacky Worm style coaster in Goulis and a Reverchon spinning mouse that weren't particularly spectacular.

Rollin' Thunder, Park at OWA
Southern Express, Park at OWA
Crazy Mouse, Park at OWA



OWA, I hear, is getting a dark ride this season. Small miracle that they're getting an indoor attraction in this clean, not abysmal, but not particularly interesting small park in Southern Alabama. Rollin' Thunder is pretty crappy; bad restraints, tracks terribly, bizarre transitions between elements. The other two coasters are fairly common production model rides (spinning mouse, junior coaster) which aren't bad but also don't do anything.

Cannonball Run, Waterville USA



I flew to Panama City, Florida just 3 days after returning to the US because I wanted this coaster badly. Andrew Hyde and I rode front and back seat; as you'd expect for a wood coaster on its last legs, didn't track perfectly. It wasn't hideous either though, and the single lap bars were comfortable to ride with. A perfectly "OK" wood coaster that represented the early efforts of Custom Coasters International, it had a mid-size (50-60ft tall, 1500ish feet long) design that might have been much improved a couple years later with a little more knowledge under their belts.

Emerald Coaster, Sam's Fun City

Sam's Fun City isn't really good, but it is a more compelling and interesting place than the somewhat generic OWA for a nerd like me. Emerald Coaster kind of reflects this: it is clearly worse than the rides at the more modern theme park. A horrendous Zyklon with overhead restraints that was moved from a UK seaside park to Pensacola for the 2018 season. At it's old location, this ride's Tom and Jerry paint scheme made sense: here with the name "Emerald Coaster," and lots of increasingly decrepit Rocky & Bullwinkle items elsewhere in the park from it's own decidedly sub par past as a licensed park.

Mine Blower, Fun Spot Orlando

The potential highlight of the trip wasn't quite what I dreamed. Yes, its nonstop, the layout is good, the inversions are cool, but the way the ride tracks is...not good? Lots and lots of vibration coming through to riders.

Mako, Sea World Orlando

The best coaster in Orlando and it isn't even close. That second hill is bliss.

Barnyard Dance, Bengston's Pumpkin Farm



Bengston's is far better than anyone could have explained to us, featuring multiple walk through attractions and lots of cool detail (and a pumpkin cannon). This SBF Visa Spinner is a very upscale option for a park of this sort.

Miner Mike, Haunted Trails

My ass barely fits in the seat, and I'm probably a couple inches taller than the lift. On the upside, I was able to win enough tickets here to exchange them for Rap Snacks.

Full Throttle, Six Flags Magic Mountain



It had been quite awhile since my last visit to Magic Mountain, and this was one sort of "mandatory" ride I had to do. I suppose the main complaint is that it is short, but I think the pacing and layout of the elements leads to this being an appreciably more interesting ride than Xcelerator at Knott's (the closest competitor. The backwards "momentum" launch is actually effective in building more out of this attraction, and I like that it ends with the top hat. Cool ride!

Twisted Colossus, Six Flags Magic Mountain

It didn't duel. That part is unfortunate. That I rode it at all given that I was in town for a matter of only a few hours is incredible, and it required me entering the line at about 10 to 1AM. I rate this as my least favorite RMC - without the dueling element, it rides like two really short RMCs stitched together with a weird and boring lift hill element in the middle of it. On the upside, it is an RMC, and that means explosive airtime and thrilling elements. I can't possibly dislike it.

Grand Exposition Coaster, Silver Dollar City

Off the shelf kids coaster. Sad coaster of December #1.

Incredible Spinning Roller Coaster, Incredible Pizza Company (Cordova, TN)

Off the shelf kids coaster. Sad coaster of December #2. Also an SBF Visa Spinner, 5th of the year.

Whistle Punk Chaser, Dollywood

Off the shelf kids coaster identical to Grand Exposition Coaster. Turns out that it has a higher minimum temperature to operate than Wild Eagle, which is why I didn't ride it the prior December.  Sad coaster of December #3.

Rocky Top Mountain Coaster, Rocky Top

4 (!) lift hill mountain coaster placed just a short hop from Dollywood. I wouldn't say this is my favorite in the area, but the experience is worth the money, and they've actually installed some theming elements along the way. Pretty good!

Rail Runner, Anakeesta



Single rail mountain coaster, and my first ever ridden. These, I've always heard, blow away the more common Wiegland models in terms of intensity and thrills and dear god is that true. I actually pulled up on the brake at one point because I was terrified. I am almost never terrified.

Spinning Parrots, Island at Pigeon Forge

Off the shelf kids coaster. Sad coaster of December #4. And the 6th and last SBF Visa Spinner for 2019. Should have been #7, but The Track in Gulf Shores' ride was down for the count when we were there.

Ski Mountain, Coaster Ober Gatlinburg

The last (sad) coaster of the year and, by a huge measure, the most hideous, awful, no good such alpine coaster I've ever done. The ride is slow, feeling as though if one chooses to utilize the brakes, they may come to a full stop. The track is poorly aligned, leading to it having a "wavy" appearance and leading to loud "thunk" sounds every time it passes over a connection in the track. I waited well over an hour for this, but did so because twice before I've arrived to Ober and found the ride not operating for whatever ridiculous reason they had. Come hell or high water, I was riding the Ski Mountain Coaster. Now I never ever need to return.

THE NOT NEW

Outlaw Run, Silver Dollar City

The first ground up RMC is still a spectacular ride with elements that while they've been increasingly copied have yet to come to feel "old" or "formulaic". The barrel roll losing momentum as it goes up hill and then turns the opposite direction of the inversions is perhaps my favorite part of the whole thing. It's just so damn well done.

Powder Keg, Silver Dollar City



What a totally crazy ride; from the launch to the lift to the big drops and airtime, Powder Keg is the best mixed machine of the modern era, and possibly better even than Kennywood's venerable Thunderbolt (the only comparable ride around).

Mr. Freeze, Six Flags Over Texas
Mr. Freeze, Six Flags St. Louis

Riding both of these in their "Reverse Blast" configurations this year, I can affirmatively say that they are really superb thrillers. The visuals are tremendous, the elements work well, the boost up the tower is even a good surprise. Both celebrated 20 years in operation this past year, and yet feel surprisingly timeless.

Titan, Six Flags Over Texas

Not many rides have had me flip my take on them like Titan. With Texas Giant in the same park providing the airtime, Titan now with it's bonus helix is a really excellent counterpoint. It felt very much like a complete ride from start to finish; it does positive Gs and it does them well.

Shock Wave, Six Flags Over Texas



Shockwave is actually the best Schwarzkopf coaster built in North America, and possibly the best ever (haven't done Olympia Looping, Alpinabahn, or Thriller, but have expectations of each). You get it all; airtime, positive Gs, a strong layout, no wasted motion.

G-Force, IX Indoor Amusement Park

The strangest wing coaster of all time wound up generating repeated rides as we ogled it's perverse nature. This is, if you don't know, the ARM constructed portable shuttle wing coaster that has been running in Ohio, Pennsylvania, and West Virginia (maybe some other spots too, not 100% sure) for the last decade or so. You can see the solutions that were devised on a shoestring, like the Craftsman air compressor for the restraint system. There's no reinventing the wheel on any individual part of it, but the totality is that of what was kinda a groundbreaking ride.

Leviathan, Canada's Wonderland

Canada's Wonderland has two B&M hyper coasters, and this, the bigger of the two (to the point where it is a "giga") really pushed the park as a whole into being a top tier thrill destination rather than what it had been for quite some time (a popular collection of poor capacity production models). Riding it in 2018, I feel the same as always about it. It does everything it is supposed to well, though it does to some degree suffer a little from the length of the ride.

Wild(e?) Beast, Canada's Wonderland

I have never previously had a noteworthy ride on Wild/Wilde Beast until this year-  lots of fresh wood on the structure suggested that maybe I'd see an improved experience. And I did! There were solid pops of airtime and it generally tracked well.

Phoenix, Knoebels

The best of the single lap bar coasters in the world, hands down. 1.3 is a necessary thing that anyone who claims to be about the hobby of outdoor amusements needs to have; a religious, freeing experience in which one's earthly bounds fade away.

Twister, Knoebels

I love Twister more and more every time I go. One of the few rides I can say has unequivocally gotten much better over the 20 years since I rode it opening day in 1999. The whole second half of the ride has "activity" in forces, and the speed through the double helix that is the signature of the attraction is unbeatable in aesthetics.

Impulse, Knoebels



I wound up riding this alone as everyone in our party shrugged at the modern invader to the park. Not too much of a line either for what is a really solid steel coaster.

Le Monstre, La Ronde

The first dueling coaster I rode this year of the Six Flags variety that didn't bother to (and in fact is apparently programmed to never do so), Le Monstre is both a shadow of its former self in that sense and also likely improved by the switch of rolling stock to PTCs from Morgan trains. The latter were lighter, which perhaps reduced maintenance, but the fiberglass bodies and steel lap bars were less comforting. The new PTC trains are padded and are a lot heavier, picking up several seconds. That doesn't necessarily lead to any kind of additional thrills; the ride was never engineered for many in the first place. There's small oscillating dips placed 60-70 feet off the ground that I must assume exist to increase the cost to the park when it was sold more than anything else.

Ride of Steel, Darien Lake

I've written extensively on my own blog about this ride, but to summarize: Ride of Steel was the #1 steel coaster in the world when it opened in 1999, and doesn't even regularly figure into the top 50 now. It was the first extreme airtime machine of the modern era, and is influential, but also threw multiple people out of it, showing the dangerous of that kind of force with improper restraint. Today, the endlessly long helices and the "straight track" element are hopelessly out of touch with what people expect from modern coasters.

Predator, Darien Lake

Waiting about 45 minutes to specifically get a front seat ride on this, the newly "regular" PTCed Predator, was a wise move. It's actually a really outstanding ride these days at least from the cat bird seat after spending 2 decades-plus in the Negative Zone as a horrible ride. It has some flaws, especially with the desperately bad ending, but the layout is almost certainly the best of the Dinn/Summers rides not called Texas Giant, and the only one worth keeping by the time the RMC gods got to the rest of them.

Blue Streak, Cedar Point

The day the power went out at Cedar Point this year, I stopped in and wound up cranking off like 6 rides on this in 45 minutes, and then left. The hard foam seats Cedar Point opted for make this a less comfortable ride than it should be, but I'm not that bothered by it. There's a lot of airtime on this thing, and while I prefer not to think about how long ago 1964 is now compared to when I got into the scene (and this wasn't considered a "true classic), I know today it is a bit of a fogey.

Shivering Timbers, Michigan's Adventure



Still kickin; Michigan's sole worthwhile coaster to travel for at a park that is such a redheaded stepchild, it usually winds up with second billing for promotion within it's own state. There's some funky track at the bottom of a couple hills, but the airtime is still very solid even if stuff like the trimming of the helix has reduced a lot of the ride's overall bite.

Big Thunder Mountain, Disneyland Paris

My recollection is that this was a strong contender for the best mine train coaster in the world, if not the front runner. Yup, recollection is correct. That last drop under the water is absolutely the best moment of any Disney coaster I've seen.

Black Mamba, Phantasialand



Why isn't this ride loved again? Because it doesn't feel like someone was sucking on my feet for the whole ride, just like half of it? The theming is better than Nemesis, and frankly better than almost any large outdoor steel coaster, including mine trains. It seems crazy fast because of the tight clearances. It's at a really good park too, and it's run competently as all get out. What am I missing? Mid 2000s B&M burnout?

Vogel Rok, Efteling

You're like a bird and there's eggs and this is indoors. Stories are dumb, this is just like weird and stupid and fun and has a good soundtrack.

Loup-Garou, Walibi Belgium
Psyke Underground, (formerly Turbine) Walibi Belgium



So if I must be honest: Walibi Belgium looks like shit compared to Six Flags Belgium (its prior branding) circa 2002 when I first went. Just empty dirt spaces in spots, landscaping has taken a nose dive, the train tracks are 85% still there but the train has been removed and in other very public areas, the track is just all twisted up. They have an outrageous shooting dark ride with trackless vehicles, a Mad House, and then things like Psyke Underground. It's a fully enclosed Schwarzkopf Shuttle, but they replaced the launch mechanism with LSMs and it is themed to a nightclub featuring the park's cartoon mascot. Loup Garou, the last remaining Vekoma wood coaster in the world, was always better than Robin Hood at Walibi Holland (anyone claiming otherwise is a liar). Even though the trains are beat to hell, it still delivers a totally comfortable ride IMO with some decent airtime.

White Lightning, Fun Spot Orlando

Sometimes I hear people say that a wood coaster in Florida can't work. #1 - The Dania Beach Hurricane never stopped being good. It was actually in awesome shape the whole damn time. #2 White Lightning exists. Having steel supports doesn't make it a "hybrid" coaster any more than the Coney Island Cyclone is, so please do me a favor and disregard anyone who has that take as being about as wrong as some yoga mom promoting essential oils to cure AIDS. This ride is seriously in amazing shape. I would just ride the hell out of this forever if I lived in Florida. This and Mako.

New Revolution, Six Flags Magic Mountain

Predator's success at being good in 2018 has nothing on the biggest mover, New Revolution. It still has some trim brakes here and there, but overall this ride (which isn't an airtime machine by any stretch nor could be, let's be clear) is a million billion times better without OTSRs. Just having this not suck is like a brand new great mid level thrill/family coaster at SFMM.

Riddler's Revenge, Six Flags Magic Mountain

The last two times I've been, I say 'This is my favorite standup" and I ride it and go "Oh, this is not my favorite standup, I hope I remember next time." We shall see.

Viper, Six Flags Great America

I rode this in November and it was like 38 degrees and it was awesome. It ran so well. Viper is so goddamned good. It's not an elite wood coaster; the beginning of the ride is a bit rampy and it only picks up steam in the second half, but it's such a fun and good one anyways.

American Thunder, Six Flags St. Louis



I rode this in November and it was like 38 degrees and it was awesome. It ran so well. American Thunder is so goddamned good. It's not an elite wood coaster, but it's such a fun and good one anyways.

Thunderhead, Dollywood

Its got this rattle to it that is not terrible but also not wonderful. Like it may be a train thing more than a track thing? The ride itself is flying still but I think we may be losing some good visuals as Wildwood Grove just caused all the surrounding woods to get mowed down.

Thursday, March 21, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #165 - Teenage Wasteland



Joe is joined by David Daut to talk about Stranger Things at Halloween Horror Nights(?), Star Wars: Galaxy's Edge news and rumors, David's report from Evermore in Utah, Disney's acquisition of Fox and the theme park implications including Simpsons and Spider-Man at DCA, and then finally closing out with talk about theme park preservation with an eye towards Muppet-vision 3-D.

Monday, February 25, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #164 - Bachelorscope Weekend



Joe, Nick, and Sean talk about Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure, Epcot's new entrance, and Wonders of Life's 'Play Pavilion' replacement. Then we dive into Sean's bachelory party to talk about the "3 great rides" theory, Magic Kingdom, Homecomin', Trader Sam's, Universal, and more.

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Potter Coaster Announced! Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure Opening June 13, 2019

We've seen the arial photos. We've seen Alicia's leaks. We've speculated and discussed this ride to death. Finally we have the name and official concept art to the Potter coaster.



Hagrid's Magical Creatures Motorbike Adventure coaster is an innovative, family thrill ride that combines a launched coaster like Cheetah Hunt, the scenery of Big Thunder Mountain, a wild indoor drop like Tower of Terror and Verbolten, and audio animatronic figures like Pirates of the Caribbean. Guests will follow Hagrid as we see the magical creatures we've read and seen in the films.

Hagrid's Care of Magical Creatures coaster will open June 13, 2019 at Universal's Islands of Adventure.

Sunday, February 17, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #163 - Flight of the Na'vi-gator



Alan and Joe talk about Cedar Fair's earnings call, their plans for their parks, mistakes with smaller parks, and the removal of Volcano: The Blast Coaster. Then we dive into our recent trips to Orlando! Joe talks about his adventure to SeaWorld, Jiko, Animal Kingdom After Hours, and Universal. Alan discusses his long weekend at Epcot, Animal Kingdom, and Hollywood Studios. Then we give our final reviews of Pandora - World of Avatar, the price of theming, the importance of good rides, and more random thoughts.

Tuesday, January 22, 2019

Parkscope Unprofessional Podcast Hour #162 - Secret Fudge and Failed Communist Tomorrowland



Joe, Alan, and Alex are freezing their asses off! This week's topics:


  • Jurassic Park coaster update
  • Gwazi RMC rumors
  • Hersheypark's Chocolate Town updates
  • Kings Island's International Street Updates
  • Kings Dominion and Volcano
  • Complain about Disneyland's Tomorrowland
  • SeaWorld San Diego and Orlando rumors
  • Trip Reports
    • Alex goes to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, Kings Dominion, and Six Flags Over America then some alpine coasters
    • Alan visits Graceland and Dollywood

Friday, January 18, 2019

Jurassic Park Coaster Layout (Project 791)

Chip Skambis from WFTV has provided the first layout of the Jurassic Park coaster.


The coaster's first show scene is light blue and on the left, the load/queue will be the red shape. At this point we expect the coaster to launch south and enter the "spaghetti bowl" of inversions and tight turns. The coaster will then hit a second launch over the red shape and in front of the Discovery Center. There the coaster will wrap around near Hogsmeade and return, over the water, to the old Triceratops Encounter plot.

What is interesting is the coaster will go around the queue in what could be an extended show scene to close out the ride. We are not as clear with this part of the ride.

Chip also reports the construction and building timeline for the ride is 18 months, placing the ride in a summer or fall 2020 opening timeframe.

The coaster is expected to be built by Intamin or Mack Rides and will be the fastest ride in Florida (pending the final speed of Gwazi's RMC make over).