Our morning began with a two and a half hour flight from Minneapolis to Salt Lake City, a necessary evil to recover from yesterday's slight detour. As with seemingly all air travel in this country the plane was late, though we were kept informed as to the assorted reasons as they developed. With apologies to all the good people of Detroit, our pilot, based in that area, had an accent that might have come straight out of a gangster movie. I was just waiting for him to demand protection money from air traffic control.
On landing in SLC airport (yes, really) we followed the signs to baggage reclaim only to discover that there was no clue as to which belt our bags would be made available on. Our flight showed briefly on the screen as having landed, then vanished. The reclaim area indicated belts one through seven, an intriguing oddity given that we could only see one through four where we were. Eventually we tracked down a Northwest representative who advised us that our bags were probably already on belt four, and sure enough, they were.
13th August 2007
The net result of this was an arrival at Lagoon some ninety minutes later than my planned worst case scenario. With a park open until ten this might not have been a problem had our hotel not been six hundred miles away. We decided that the battle plan would be one ride on each coaster and leave, and our planned evening stop at Celebration Centre was scrapped. This was unfortunate but necessary, as even with this change we still arrived into the hotel well after two in the morning, not real smart when the day had started twenty hours earlier. We did contemplate moving the hotel in the late stages of planning our Valleyfair detour but elected not to on grounds of cost. This is not a mistake that we'll make again.
There was a sign in the entrance ramp to Roller Coaster (#1035) explaining why some parts of the ride are painted and others are not. The reason is quite interesting; apparently in the past the best way to preserve wood was to paint it, hence the reason so many classic wooden coasters are painted white. Wood added in the last year or two has been treated so that this is no longer necessary. Presumably over the next few years the whole ride will revert to a natural colour, something which generallylooksfantastic. As for the ride, it is clear the carpenters working on this ride know their business; it runs very well indeed, to the point that those not in the know would never guess it is almost ninety years old.
It was on the Wild Mouse (#1036) that we first heard the audio announcement that appears to be common throughout the park; riders on coasters are asked to refrain from raising their arms into the air. To be completely honest I'm surprised I've not heard this before somewhere else; as a regular coaster rider I very rarely raise my hands, and generally only on rides I know well. The reason is simple; I prefer to brace myself against being thrown around too much. One can only presume that the park insurers have strict requirements, as there are notice boards on all the coasters warning about areas where a potential emergency stop may occur.
George scored his one thousandth coaster on Colossus the Fire Dragon (#1037), becoming one of just a handful of people to reach the magic four digits. This ride has aged very well, delivering forces that actually blurred my vision between the two loops, something rarely experienced on a coaster. It was a real treat to discover a classic Schwarzkopf in the United States that hasn't been vandalised with retrofitted restraints, even if the operators are a bit over-aggressive with closing lap bars; was it really necessary to punch me in the stomach?
Another ride that might have been on a German fair circuit was Spider (#1038), a fixed installation of the Maurer SC2000 better known to European audiences as Spinning Racer. This one has a massive animatronic creature over the entrance that sprays water from time to time, something which might also be found in a german fair; I can't help but remember the massive robot in front of Star World. In reality the only thing that separated this ride from one of its portable brethren was the loading speed; I'd say the fair operators get three times the number of cars through the circuit, but then each additional car is more revenue.
The Jet Star 2 (#1039) was an example of how this sort of coaster should be run, a sharp contrast from the one in Eskilstuna. Five trains were in use, and the operators were insisting on a full compliment of six people in each; no single riders were permitted. Based on the dispatch intervals we estimated a capacity improvement of the order of eight hundred percent, which could possibly have been doubled again with a little more urgency on the part of the operations crew. Unfortunately, the final brake on this ride was equivalent to a car crash, the impact throwing my knees forward into an unforgiving metal bar. My resulting exclamation was probably worthy of a ten year jail sentence in Utah, though the people in front of us found it pretty amusing.
On approaching Bat (#1040) we initially thought the ride might have broken down, given that we didn't see a train go by for what seemed an eternity. In fact the ride was entirely functional, just being run at a woefully slow interval of a train about every five minutes. Fortunately the line was short enough that we only had about a twenty five minute wait. It never ceases to amaze me how rough Vekoma managed to make their early family coasters so rough; it'll be interesting to see if this ride gets retrofitted with the new traindesign.
There were no issues at all with credit whoring on Puff the Little Fire Dragon (#1041). The Russian ride operator did insist on us fastening the seatbelt, which seemed just a tiny bit over the top given that we'd only just managed to shoehorn ourselves into the train without the lap bar down, but safety rules are there for a reason I guess. We were mentally prepared to be told we couldn't ride, so it was a nice surprise to have no problems in that area.
With the other seven coasters done, it was time to enter the queue for the star new ride, Wicked (#1042). As with any quality new attraction this one was clearly popular, with the queue extending quite a way out of the cattle grid. Fortunately the wait turned out to be only half an hour. The first launched coaster from Zierer has garnered quite a bit of attention from the enthusiast community, and not without reason; it brings a new twist to the genre by featuring a second launch segment mounted vertically which accelerates the eight seater train up the side of a one hundred and ten foot tower.
This launch, and indeed the whole ride is, in a word, excellent; the uphill launch is a considerable improvement on the tedium that is the lifthill on the Gerstlauer equivalent, and the rest of the ride is well paced and fun. We certainly enjoyed it, although a local child sitting behind it was crying his eyes out as the train returned to the station. It looked like his mother had made him ride against his will, never a good plan; a bad experience is a sure way to put a child off thrill rides for life.
As the first of a new genre of ride there are bound to be teething problems, and Wicked is no exception. It was widely reported in the enthusiast media that parts of this ride had to be disassembled again following initial completion due to a failed inspection of some sort. The rebuilt version, assuming that's what it is, has some pretty nasty jolts in the track where segments have been bolted together; it is as if the fabrication or welding wasn't quite right and there wasn't time to resolve for this season. With a little bit of smoothing this ride would be a ten out of ten attraction for me. This is a design which deserves to show up in other parks in the future. I hope it will.
We were on our way out of the park when we passed one of the two dark rides in the place, this one called Terroride. If there had been a queue we would have skipped it, but the wait was evidently no more than two minutes making it irresistible. First impression was that this attraction might have been homespun, featuring as it does unusually large cars which would comfortably seat three adults. Whatever the case, the scenery inside is certainly detailed but not anything that'd fall into the category of frightening, at least not for anyone over the age of five.