Friday, January 3, 2020

100 Coasters for 2019 (A Year In Review)

Every year since starting to post here on Parkscope, I've transitioned away from doing trip reports to doing year end reviews of all the coasters I rode in any given year. It saved me a lot of time so I could do other things, but also because I grew tired of writing them. Once the pace increases, the challenge increases with it, after all.

2019 was not projected to be another epic year as the prior two had. Then I had some expendable income, and that's what it became. 76 coasters later, 2019 became my second most productive year in terms of coaster count. I wound up visiting 30 states & the District of Columbia, 8 countries on 4 continents. There were 45 parks/FECs/etc (46 if you count the Helen Mountain Coaster I was denied due to weather) along with 12 fairs or carnivals (10 of which had coasters, 4 classified as state fairs).

2017 100 Coasters
2018 100 Coasters


Twist-N-Shout, Malibu Jack's (Lexington, KY)
SBF Visa Spinning Coaster #1 for the year. Rode this bad boy on New Year's Day.

Slinky Dog Dash, Disney's Hollywood Studios
My general opinion prior to riding this was "I sure wish Disney had done a bit more to build an interesting family coaster". I suppose the consequence of having no height requirement was that they couldn't produce a ride that had airtime or lateral Gs, but the launches and overall theme of the ride is actually pretty solid. I certainly don't hate this ride and think it is as good as it can be given the circumstances, but still wish we could have seen a 36" requirement that would have led to a substantially more exciting attraction.

Tickler, Luna Park
Circus Coaster, Luna Park
Soarin' Eagle, Luna Park
Steeplechase, Luna Park
Thunderbolt, Luna Park
Back in 2010, the folks at Zamperla started a second company (Central Amusements) and obtained the operating contracts on space in New York City on the prior site of Astroland, along with operating contracts for the Cyclone. In subsequent years, the park has become the showplace for new rides from the Italian manufacturer, with successful new spinning ride models moving elsewhere and being replaced with new attractions frequently. Having not been since I moved from New England, this was all new stuff to me, even if some of it was actually anything but new (like Soarin' Eagle, a used Volare flying coaster previously located at Elitch Gardens). Thunderbolt is basically identical to the coaster I loathed at OWA last year, but I found the restraint system better here and never felt any brakes slowing the ride. Circus Coaster is an above average family ride. Steeplechase with it's one train ops on this day was...subpar. I was also very impressed with the way in which the park dealt with loose articles to prevent loss - riders for Thunderbolt left their items with an attendant before entering the station and were given a tag to return with to collect them. Smart!

Turbulence, Long Island Adventureland
Gerstlauer was tasked with replacing a very compact thrill machine in the Hurricane here using the same exact footprint in wee-sized Long Island Adventureland. They did an admirable job of it, producing this custom spinning coaster with onboard audio. Not a long ride, but a fun one.

Freedom Rider, iPlay America
SBF Visa Spinning Coaster #2 at this above average and surprisingly well themed indoor FEC.

Joker, Six Flags Great Adventure
S&S has sold 7 of these rides to the folks at Six Flags since the model rolled out in 2015, and I've now been on 3 (a 4th at Six Flags over Texas was down for my visit in 2018). They're all pretty much the same thing; it feels like a flat ride, it doesn't necessarily have a huge line now, it's better than the comparable Intamin product, I still don't care for them much.

Spinning Coaster, CJ Barrymore's
SBF Visa Spinning Coaster #3, located here in the state of Michigan.

Half Pipe, Elitch Gardens
In the 19 years since I had last visited Elitch Gardens, much had changed. Owners and landscaping being clear examples. Half Pipe, meanwhile, was the only new-to-me coaster available to ride at the park. It's an Intamin product which is very similar to the Avatar: The Last Airbender inside Mall of America. Unlike that one, we picked up noticeable vibration and roughness on this, a coaster with a layout that consists of a completely straight line. The seats are mounted to a spinning mechanism which is powered throughout while the train is shot forwards and backwards up the spike. It exists. The line was not too miserable, in part because of our investment in a queue line skipping system at the park.

Wacky Worm, (Crabtree Amusements) Denver Coliseum
Wacky Worm/Big Apple #1 for the year didn't appear until June. The hope here wasn't to ride this, but rather Crabtree's Fabbri Spinning Mouse. It wasn't present. This had a no single rider rule in spite of there being no way whatsoever two adults could fit in the same seat.

Dragon Coaster, Mile High Flea Market
A larger than usual Wisdom kiddie coaster is still a Wisdom kiddie coaster. The Flea Market is enormous and full of all the knockoff colognes and shoes along with power tools possibly lifted from people's garages when they aren't home which you might want.

Kentucky Flyer, Kentucky Kingdom
The Gravity Group has found a niche - building small wooden coasters that have lots of "umpf" to them. Kentucky Flyer is the 4th in America and I think the 6th in the Western world to fall into this categorization - fundamentally it seems to basically do the things Oscar's at Sesame Place or Wooden Warrior at Quassy does with regards to sharp pops of airtime in repetition. These rides are winners. If they were built 30 years ago, they'd have had a huge cult following in coaster fan circles. Now in this era, they're almost lost in national conversation. Very good ride, and great to hit right at opening where you can easily get 3-4-5 rides off in very short order.

Twist N Shout, Fun Land Of Fredricksburg
SBF Visa Spinning Coaster #4. This is a huge indoor family entertainment center with a new and unique for the area multi-level go kart track.

Twisted Timbers, Kings Dominion
The tenth RMC I've been on, Twisted Timbers was part of the Class of 2018 along with Steel Vengeance and Twisted Cyclone, and generally was considered the middle of that pack. For my money, the ride's layout (based on the Hurler, who's structure it used components of) is just too linear for what I want from RMC. There's a lot of components we've seen elsewhere now like the barrel roll first drop mixed in, and so it feels...samey for the other rides. There's great airtime and it's a very, very good ride. It just isn't as weird of a layout as the terrain rides or the much larger Dinn based coasters (Giant, Vengeance).

Intimidator 305, Kings Dominion
This is a ride where I hadn't gone for years, finally went after all the hype and such had well died down, and you're left with just the attraction in it's uncut/raw form. I305 is about speed and positive G forces. If the latter is not something you're down with, you need to probably do something else other than expect riding this multiple times. When I say "fast" I mean "fast" too - sharp direction changes at near ground level while doing 60-70 miles per hour. You come for airtime? Nah, wrong ride. There's barely any on this coaster. Personally, I like it, but I also like it least of any Giga coaster out there because I don't think blacking out on rides is good for me or even enjoyable.

Wild Mouse, Arnold's Park
The Legend, Arnold's Park
There's a few parks out there for which I've been coveting going to for a very long time. Arnold's is just outside driving range to be convenient for almost anything but a trip to Minneapolis, and it just so happened I had the opportunity to go to the Twin Cities this past July. I swung down for a few hours to experience it and I'm glad I did. Wild Mouse (a classic and very rare Herschell) literally opened the day before I arrived - it had been moved from Texas and been refurbished to hopefully keep it running for years. Legend is a 1930 wood coaster that I've been pumped to ride forever, but depressingly found had been robbed of all it's airtime by a GCI retracking a couple of years ago. It practically encircles the park and dives from station to lift through the tilt house; there's character there for certain, but it's lost in the actual attraction. Shame about that. Fun to see a boardwalk park though in Northern Iowa.

Renegade, Valleyfair
Valleyfair is not my favorite park - I don't hate it either but it's hard to classify it as "good" in any objective sense. Renegade was built a decade prior and I had never found the motivation to head there until this year. I got it in the morning, but it was running pretty darn hot, and also a bit on the rougher side. Just a lot of vibration, which seems like frequently how the GCIs go bad. Having said that, the layout is fantastic. Something about the mid-late 2000s GCI layouts is really really good, with this, Apocalypse, Troy, American Thunder, and Thunderhead all bringing something great to the table.

Tiger Trax, Como Park
This place is a zoo - a zoo where you donate what you think your visit is worth, and for me and the 15 minutes I had, I rated it at $5. Rides are extra, and that's fine. The coaster is an Interpark Zyklon which is just a duplicate of a decades-old design. It's nothing special to me, but it is to the kids that get to ride it.

Roller Coaster, Paul Bunyan Land
Lil Dipper, Sluggers & Putters
Pair of kiddie coasters; one a Molina and Son's, one a Herschell. The surroundings at both are the more interesting part; Sluggers & Putters is a fantastic fun center with really cool mini golf, whereas Paul Bunyan land is an interesting small park featuring a smattering of strange attractions like the last permanent swinging gym in the world.

Fiesta Express, Fun Fore All
Zamperla's Mini Mouse model is the most embarrassing production model coaster to ride, and for that reason, I dragged my feet to get to Fun Fore All and do it. ACE (The American Coaster Enthusiasts) wound up doing something there that day, so they'd seen plenty of adults ride it before me.

Steel Curtain, Kennywood
Kennywood's 9 inversion, 200 ft plus coaster with a Ride Centerline layout opened late, but at least it opened and stayed open unlike the S&S Sansei coaster that was slated to open in Ocean City New Jersey back in 2017. I didn't get a prime front or back seat ride, but I got as close as I could for either given the limitations of their cycle time and crowds, along with it's own maintenance issues. The ride is shockingly smooth at points; yes, when the coaster is in it's high G sections there can be some vibration, but the train as a whole negotiates everything otherwise somewhat flawlessly. That said, the ride itself is not terribly forceful: not ejector air or crushing sustained positives, just more about floating/flying through the elements. It's an incredibly impressive ride for the footprint, and with Kennywood somewhat penned in by the terrain, about the best we can expect from them now or ever. Also, the use of a local IP like the Steelers is somewhat revolutionary.

Lil Phantom, Kennywood
Roller Coaster, Howard's Apples Farm Market
Orient Express, (Skerbeck Entertainment) Fowlerville Fair
A trilogy of kiddie coasters spanning the gamut of typical domestic manufacturers (Molina & Son's, Herschell, Wisdom).

Crazy Mouse, (SJ Entertainment) Ohio State Fair
I chased this thing down because it is a pain to ride (usually does Iowa, Minnesota, and Texas and rarely anything else) and represents one of the last Zamperla/Reverchon spinning mice in the country I'd yet to ride. You know what? It spun like crazy. Really good!

Wacky Worm, (Kissel Entertainment) Ohio State Fair
Orient Express, (Talley Amusements) Ohio State Fair
Wacky Worm/Big Apple #2 and Wisdom Kiddie Coaster #3 for the year. It's, well, you know. They're rides. Roll. Coast. Etc.

Iron Dragon, (Talley Amusements) Ohio State Fair
One of *TWO* Iron Dragon coasters I rode in 2019 that weren't the Cedar Point Arrow Suspended ride. This is an Interpark Zyklon/Galaxi much like all the others I did in the year.

Wild Mouse, Funtown U.S.A.
I don't really have much to say about this Maurer Sohne mouse other than it is at Funtown, and Funtown has the Astrophere, and the Astrophere is possibly the best ride in New England.

Sea Viper, Palace Playland
Preston & Barbieri made this production model coaster for Palace Playland that's mighty rare stateside. Lots of positive Gs. Looks cool. Effectively custom to me since I can scarcely fathom riding the other example in Romania any time soon or ever.

Wipeout, Palace Playland
SBF Visa Spinning Coaster #5.

Untamed, Canobie Lake Park
Identical to Predator at IMG, I've been on this model before and enjoyed it there. I enjoyed it here too, where Canobie put in the effort to, as an example, paint the supports and make them look like birch trees. Great station too.

Wacky Wurm, (World's Finest Shows) Sutton Fair
Wacky Worm/Big Apple #3. I recall eating some sort of apple fritter with ice cream at this fair. That was the most noteworthy aspect of this 20 minute stop.

Orient Express, (Albion Amusements) Alliston Potato Festival
Standard Wisdom kiddie coaster, but it counts all the same.

Yukon Striker, Canada's Wonderland
2019 saw this, the largest B&M dive coaster yet, brought to the North American continent. Striker suffers from the issue that often plagues B&M's bigger record seeking rides - the layout prior to the block brake is solid, but the block itself basically is followed by nothing great but time killing. The integration of multiple elements before the block separates this ride from preceding brethren and it's a more complete experience as a result than a lot of the other "trick" based dive machines. That being said, the dive machine thing is one helluva trick.

Maxx Force, Six Flags Great America
Speaking of one trick rides, we have Maxx Force. The first pneumatic launch coaster built in the US since Kings Dominion had the doomed Hypersonic XLC, Maxx Force needs only a couple seconds to get you up to 80+ miles an hour for the 15 second or so layout. Is it a bad ride? Absolutely not. Is it a great ride? Absolutely not. The launch isn't bad, but there's nothing there to build up anticipation for it. No count down, no christmas tree lights a la Dragster, nothing. The inversions are fine and dandy, but again, they don't really exemplify the speed of the ride well.

Flounder's Flying Fish Coaster, Tokyo Disneysea
Raging Spirits, Tokyo Disneysea
Gadget's Go Coaster, Tokyo Disneyland
Space Mountain, Tokyo Disneyland
Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, Tokyo Disneyland
I'm going to level with you here, should you have not listened to my podcast about my Japan trip: the coasters at Disneysea are dogshit. Big Thunder, which is more or less like the "original" version of the WDW mine train, is the star of the lame show. Space Mountain is a single track, without on board audio, and in a building that is horribly dated. Gadget and Flounder are middling junior coasters. Raging Spirits is actively terrible.

Roller Coaster, Hanayashiki Amusement Park
The oldest coaster in the country, it has no leg room for tall westerners and one good airtime pop as it circulates around the tiny urban park it's in.

Cyclone, Toshimaen
Corkscrew, Toshimaen
Mini Cyclone, Toshimaen
The revelation of the trip was Toshimaen, with it's legitimately creepy dark ride, amazing carousel, and Cyclone, a long "jet coaster" style attraction. Japanese people have historically not been seeking giant thrill machines, but rides more akin to the John Pierce wood coasters of the 80s: forceless, some sustained speed, lots of ramps. 38 rides have shared the name Jet Coaster in Japan and it is eponymous with the ride genre. Cyclone is 1960s era Jet Coaster famed for its velveteen seats. What's more interesting to me was the complete and total lack of restraints. Most coasters in Japan are outfitted with multiple systems and OTSRs. While Europe was famous for its lack of consideration to liability law, Japan is full of it and inarguably worse than the US in this regard. Cyclone? Has merely a seatbelt. The long layout has legitimate airtime and a really cool tunneled helix.

Thunder Dolphin, Tokyo Dome City
I don't actually think this ride sucks or hate it. However, I will tell you that it sucks and I will explain my reason for doing so.
From the perspective of what it is - a hyper coaster - it does few of the things you would desire and many you don't want out of anything. There's a couple very big drops here, but there's only sustained airtime on two very small hills (both floater). There's a sequence atop a building in which the coaster navigates trick track (undulating track first used by Harry Traver in his violent cyclone coasters) at a crawl. But nothing prepares you for the endless bullshit at load. Cycle times regularly exceed 10 minutes due to the pathological demand to search pockets and place anything at all into a bin.
Anyone who ranks this above pretty much any and every B&M hyper is full of shit. Completely full of shit.

Panic Coaster- Back Daaan, Tokyo Dome City
This is a weird ride in which you launch forwards and backwards through an indoor course. There's bombs and flashing lights and cartoons. Here you can take everything with you provided you place it in a beach bag first and then take the beach bag with your stuff on the coaster.

Bandit, Yomiuriland
Among the most disappointing coasters I've ever been on is Bandit - it kicked off the hyper coaster boom of the 90s by taking the "jet coaster" idea to the extreme. 200+ feet of elevation changes on this ride allow it to go fast and stay fast while it navigates hills, turns, and helices. The problem is that the combination of over the shoulder restraints and rough transitions lead to some jerky and suddenly painful moments. This isn't nearly a beatdown, but it's not what I was hoping for either.

Wan Wan Coaster Bandit, Yomiuriland
Momonga Standing and Loop Coaster, Yomiuriland
The less interesting coasters at Yomiuriland are a junior coaster and the Momonga S/L Coaster in which the station allows riders to opt for stand up or sit down trains. It's a very short layout, but intense in the standup.

Runway Spin, Yomiuriland
What a completely insane ride. The first spinning coaster of this specific day, Runway Spin features a Flappy Bird sort of game which you do using buttons on your you ascend the spiral lift hill, after a series of dark ride scenes with the dog mascot of the park learning fashion designing. You heard me right. Fashion designing, interactive video game play, dark ride scenes, and then an insane spinning coaster layout that left us closing our eyes and wishing it would end.

Gekion Live Coaster, Joypolis
Speaking of closing our eyes and wishing for it to end due to insane spinning, Gekion Live Coaster at Joypolis! Unlike Runway Spin, the game here is a rhythm game played to the songs of a Japanese boy band, after which we are launched and inverted while also being in a spinning Gerstlauer coaster. This is intensely "japanese" I suppose.

Diamond Back, Frontier City
Frankie's Mine Train, Frontier City
Steel Lasso, Frontier City
Silver Bullet, Frontier City
Wildcat, Frontier City
Frontier City is back in the Six Flags chain these days, which meant I could make the effort to go here and not have to pay to get in. Listen, these things matter! The collection of rides here is basically that of production model coasters, none of which is actively bad, along with a wooden coaster that was saved from the wrecking ball only to be retracked and reshaped into one of the worst such rides in the world. The highlight of the park's coaster collection is in the eye of the beholder: Frankie's Mine Train brilliantly uses parts of the old Herschell Kiddie Coaster as theming. Diamond Back is an exceedingly rare Arrow Shuttle Loop in fine working order. Silver Bullet is a lapbar only Schwarzkopf Looping Star full of positive G forces.

Iron Dragon, (North American Midway Entertainment) Kansas State Fair
Wacky Mouse, (North American Midway Entertainment) Kansas State Fair
This isn't a mouse coaster, but rather a Wacky Worm/Big Apple #4 for the year with a Speedy Gonzalez-inspired front car. Nor is there an Arrow Suspended in this mix: that's just a Wisdom kiddie coaster that even managed to cause injuries in a derailment a couple months prior in Midlothian, IL.

Cosmic Coaster, Worlds of Fun
The only credit for me at Worlds of Fun was Wacky Worm/Big Apple #5. The operator was initially dubious of our intentions but no biggie. There was a limit on the number of adults allowed to ride which led to really long wait times.

Twisted Cyclone, Six Flags Over Georgia
When RMC built three coasters for the 2018 season, Twisted Cyclone got the shaft as far as most coaster enthusiasts thought given the length of the ride. Allow me to be the voice of dissention: Twisted Cyclone is actually a better ride than Twisted Timbers at Kings Dominion specifically because of that brevity. It ends much hotter, and the elements being so well integrated into the tight layout allow it to feel more "out of control" rather than the more linear Twisted Timbers. This was a really big surprise for me in 2019.

Wildcat, North Georgia State Fair
Schwarzkopf Wildcat coaster that used to run with Conklin Shows where I could have enjoyed it 16 years prior if it wasn't for a single rider rule. It also has a single rider rule here at this fair, but I managed to somehow glom onto a group and circumvent it via riding the second car of the day. It's kept in phenomenal shape with company logos and cars representing different nationalities like was often the case on bobsled coasters or Bayern Kurves.

Scream'n Eagle, Fun Spot America Atlanta
Kiddie Coaster, Fun Spot America Atlanta
Fun Spot Atlanta has had a ton of names over the years, but I can confidently say after being purchased by Fun Spot that the park has probably never looked worse. It looks half abandoned with stuff like the antique cars just being dead and the track dying suddenly when you see the multilevel kart track. Scream'n Eagle was presumed to be moving to Florida, but then that didn't happen and it wound up staying in place instead. It's a big Miler coaster which means wild airtime and tons of fun. Kiddie Coaster is a former Jeepers Python Pit that found a home here in the middle of an empty grass pad.

Crazy 8, FunXcess
SBF Visa Spinning Coaster #6. One of a million indoor family entertainment centers in what is probably old retail space with foam pits and arcade redemption games.

Dragon Flyer, (Modern Midways) Gainesville Fall Carnival
Fun Rides Tech is a company you are not likely to have ever heard of - they got their start building attractions in the Czech Republic and didn't attempt to export until this year. They made immediate sales at the Outdoor Amusement expo in Gibsonton earlier in the year, and this was one of those sales. What is Dragon Flyer? Well, it's a fairly basic coaster layout, but has the weird distinction of being one of the first launched coasters to be seen in a portable setting. It's an electric powered tire launch that probably kicks the train to a whopping 6-7 mph, but it's there and it's real.

Copperhead Strike, Carowinds
When the new for 2019 slate was announced, there wasn't much hype around it given the big rides which had been seen the year before. Probably the single most noteworthy coaster was this one - Mack's first multi inversion coaster in the US with an attempt at theming from Cedar Fair. Indeed, they did a reasonably solid job of it (though the action that is shown to the left side of the train by screen has almost indecipherable audio for much of the riders). The coaster experience itself is strong: good airtime pops along with loop hangtime (a signature of Mack's rides) and a few other solid inversions with good visual elements. I think it's being perhaps a tinge underrated by the people who went opening year; I have a really tough time thinking of appreciably better launched coasters in the US: I'd even consider this generally a better all together ride than Hulk among big theme park attractions.

Fury 325, Carowinds
I'm late to the party on Fury 325, but I think the general consensus is indeed fair. It does just about everything and it does it well. Big airtime, good positive G forces, a layout that really exemplified the speed of the attraction, comfortable restraints and trains; ignoring the lack of theming for a moment, it has everything else you could want in a coaster. Inarguably one of the top steel rides in the world unless someone is paying you to say otherwise.

Orient Express (Rockwell Amusements) Santa's Enchanted Forest, Miami
Wacky Worm (Rockwell Amusements) Santa's Enchanted Forest, Miami
Windstorm (SJ Amusements) Santa's Enchanted Forest, Miami
A last second addition: the two kiddie coasters were nothing special, but SJ Entertainment's Windsorm was. I ran across the coaster in a closed state back in 2004 after the season closed on Fun Forest. Now in 2019, I see it open as a portable attraction which has, like the Crazy Mouse elsewhere at Tropical Park for this winter funfair, has shown up in Texas, Minnesota, and Florida state fair (and few other locales) over the last decade. The layout of these rides with their incredible dive mid-coaster is a favorite of mine in the field of portable style attractions.


Coney Island Cyclone, Luna Park (NY)
The venerable ol' gal - heading towards a century of operation, the Cyclone is maintained in ways no other ride on the planet it. The retracking took a lot of bite out of the ride, but also made it significantly more rider friendly too by reducing the number of severely painful angles at which the train pulled out from drops. I'll miss the days when I first came to Astroland and was able to get rerides where I'd stay on time and time again for a crisp $20, but I also like the new version where an attendant watches my loose articles.

El Toro, Six Flags Great Adventure
Open now for over 10 years, El Toro certainly feels like a wood coaster. Yes, there's polyurethane wheels for a smoother and quieter ride over the traditional steel like there's always been, but the track itself has some

Wooden Warrior, Quassy Amusement Park
We visited New England to hang out with family and friends and wound up skipping a lot of parks we had initially talked about going to and just visiting Wooden Warrior for a couple rides instead. What a great coaster: anyone from about age 4 up can ride and it's thrilling for literally everyone.

Steel Vengeance, Cedar Point
Magnum, Cedar Point
This was the least I've ever been to Cedar Point since relocating to the midwest: Just two weekend visits in 2019. But that's OK - I got rides on the things I wanted to ride and often multiple times. In the case of Magnum and Steel Vengeance, it was with my wife, best friend, and his wife, at night, the day after Coastermania when the trims on Magnum were still off as it roared into the helix. I finally had my first night ride on Steel Vengeance as well, which was as mind blowing as I had been told. With that, it soared deep into the top slot of steel and among the best all time coaster or ride experiences I've ever had.

Twister 2, Elitch Gardens
In all the ways that Twister at Knoebels has managed to keep alive the spirit of the original Elitch’s Twister, this ride has failed miserably and shamefully. It embodies all the worst tendencies of John Pierce’s designs - ongulating helices, ramp like drops, the single worst double up in the history of roller coaster, a tunnel section that does little but further the path to deafness: Twister 2 is complete garbage. Total, complete garbage.

Lakeside Cyclone, Lakeside Amusement Park
Wild Chipmunk, Lakeside Amusement Park
It had been 20 years or so since I last visited Lakeside, and in the time that had passed, I will readily admit that it has fallen into a state of disrepair. The entire park looks as if it has been owned and operated by a hoarder; arcade machines, food service equipment, seating, fountains, you name it, you imagine it, you picture it in an amusement park. It’s there, rotting in full view in the midway. The Cyclone and Chipmunk are hands down the best coasters in Colorado, but this is almost faint praise with Elitch’s anemic collection of attractions and the overall condition of the park they’re in. Chipmunk is a Miler wild mouse; truly a dying breed, with major airtime and terrifying headchoppers galore. Cyclone has seatbelts now to keep you more or less tightly confined in the otherwise classic trains. It isn’t a bad ride or anything - the first turnaround provides a massive dose of airtime stille - but it is fairly sedate aside from that single moment.

Mystic Timbers, Kings Island
Now with a little more time having passed and the hype on Mystic Timbers fading a bit, I think it’s easier to assess the ride fairly for what it is without referring back to said hype or exaggeration. The shed is a great element; one of the best on any regional park coaster in existence as far as themeing goes. The layout is “marred”, and I use that loosely, by the two distinct sections of ride (the one on “the island” and the one by the lift) having a connection point that is weak. The airtime hills between these two simply never grew into the type of sustained thrill they could or should have, and that kinda brings the ride down as a whole from where it could be to a sort of “good but an also ran” wood coaster in the global rankings wars.

Storm Chaser, Kentucky Kingdom
Lightning Run, Kentucky Kingdom
Kentucky Kingdom is a park that I’ve come to appreciate more and more these days: it has an interesting layout, most of the junkier parts have been tossed out and replaced, and there’s really great airtime machines. Nothing giant and tall, just thrilling. Along with Kentucky Flyer and Thunder Run, Lightning Run and Storm Chaser especially rachet up the extreme thrills in a way few midsize parks have or can. They’ve done a tremendous job in their comeback and on the weekend my wife and I attended, we saw a record crowd descend on the park.

Grizzly, Kings Dominion
Wood coasters are what has brought me to the game of theme parks, not animatronic bear shows (though I have seen plenty of animatronic bears, very likely more than you in fact). As such, they are the thing I emotionally am most attached to and care for. Grizzly and Racer at Kings Dominion are it’s remaining adult wood coasters, and tragically neither is very good. Grizzly has a great layout and in the past has been that stellar ride, but in this go-around, I found the motions of it simply too jarring to be fun. It’s rough, and I say this as someone capable of tolerating a lot of roughness if there’s something of value there. As of right now, Wilde Beast at Canada’s Wonderland is the better ride using this footprint.

High Roller, Valleyfair
Another wood coaster, but this one was a shocker for me. I remember nothing interesting about it before and haven’t heard anything good in years, but found a couple really substantial airtime moments even with the existing trim brakes and lacking ending. A fun ride!

Phantom's Revenge, Kennywood
Kennywood’s best steel coaster is still Phantom’s Revenge; the Raven of Hyper Coasters kicks your ass from the time it plunges off the curving first drop through the wonderfully violent airtime hills and double up/downs of the finale. The plunging second dive through the Thunderbolt is a high point in the hobby. Along with Sky Rocket and Steel Curtain, Kennywood is cemented again as a coaster capital of sorts.

Excalibur, Funtown/Splashtown USA
Speaking of wood coasters: Excalibur is a mid-era CCI coaster which has always been known as having a strong start and petering out towards the end. Nothing has changed in that respect; it’s a front seat/car ride primarily, with the back pretty much being nothing but laterals after the first drop’s ejector air. The strongest moment of the ride is one of my favorites - after flying by the station, the train rises into a turnaround with the track dropping out from under it, leading to a massive stand-up moment in the front. Unfortunately, the ride also needs some extensive trackwork IMO, with a lot of side-to-side “seeking” by the PTCs looking for track. Axel seats are not comfortable.

Yankee Cannonball, Canobie Lake Park
Speaking of trackwork, this is a ride that had extensive retracking and reshaping of hills to turn what was once an underrated classic woodie with outstanding standup air rivaling the likes of Phoenix to a completely boring and useless attraction barely worth time. It’s smooth; sure. It also does nothing physically to riders. The hills are simply there. And since the control system hasn’t been upgraded since a minor collision over a decade ago, the ride is a perpetual half hour wait with one train though two are cycled in and out throughout the season. The final word then in “The food is so bad, and the portions so small!”

Black Diamond, Knoebels
We somehow managed to make time to go to parks without new-to-us coasters too like Knoebels in Elysburg. I’ve decided to single out Black Diamond this go around as it is such a phenomenally underrated themed attraction. Just a crazy trip through the burning mine of Centralia encountering ghosts, dinosaurs, and all sorts of other things: like a more apolitical version of a coaster to appear further down this same list.

RC-48, (Wade Shows) Oklahoma State Fair
Having last encountered the RC-48 in 2002 on the Jersey Shore, I was shocked to find the ride tolerable. In fact, it was downright fun! A serious competitor to Windstorm as the most compelling portable coaster in North America, RC-48 has some thrilling drops and good positive Gs, and the constant tear down/put up of the ride likely contributes to it being in better shape from town to town than it did in a seaside location.

Timber Wolf, Worlds of Fun
Prowler, Worlds of Fun
A tale of two coasters: Timber Wolf received a lot of work in recent years to try and take it from what it was - a lowly ranked 80s Dinn/Summers ride with a hideous layout and bad tracking - to something pallatable for newer audiences. Removing a helix and installing a highly banked turn is not a bad idea per se, but not the sole solution needed. The final return run on this ride is still miserable and jerky, though at least the first portions of it occasionally show glimpses of a reasonably fun attraction. Prowler, on the other hand, was a coaster I felt to be grossly overrated when I first rode in 2014, but on this 90 degree September Sunday, it hauled ass. My friend Josh who had come along on this insane roadtrip and I rode it 13-14 times in a matter of a couple hours.

Patriot, Worlds of Fun
Afterburn, Carowinds
Another tale of two coasters: Afterburn came first in terms of when it was constructed, opening at the turn of the 21st century. Patriot took several more years before its installation, during which fandom in the coaster scene had to some degree turned against B&M as feeling “forceless” and Patriot became a target. In truth, the two rides are closer to each other in respective quality than farther apart. Dick Kinzel revealed in the biography of him written in 2015 that he and the team at Cedar Fair had gone to Six Flags Great Adventure to ride Batman opening year and found the coaster too intense. They wanted one for themselves, but one with elements more spread out (and taller), which led to Raptor. This same design philosophy was followed in the construction of both Afterburn and Patriot, and perhaps you can make an argument that Raptor’s enormous success led to a change in design philosophy for B&M, Werner Stengel, et al. Perhaps. You’d need to actually make those connections with the living people first though.

Joris en de Draak, Efteling
Baron 1898, Efteling
Finally, we come to Efteling, where I wound up on a long weekend over the Thanksgiving holiday. These two coasters are not it’s most obscenely well themed attractions, but they are the best examples I can think of globally of how one can integrate experiential theming with a coaster experience. There’s some narrative/back story provided, there’s some show scenes, there’s certainly theming, and the rides themselves are a total blast. Jors en de Draak, specifically, I think is the most underrated wood coaster in all of Europe.

No comments:

Post a Comment