The amusement park at the centre of the Mall of America has gone through a number of identities over the years, with the latest rebrand launching early last year. This brought with it two new roller coasters, and thus an ideal excuse for this foreign tourist to return to downtown Minneapolis. On a slightly off topic note, the largest shopping mall in the United States does not have anywhere that sells duct tape. Go figure.
The bigger of the two new coasters is the elaborately named SpongeBob SquarePants Rock Bottom Plunge (#1374), the second Gerstlauer Eurofighter to be installed the United States. One has to admire the engineering that has allowed a full size ride to be squeezed into an impossibly small space next to the Ferris Wheel (we were correct) while still featuring two inversions. As might be expected the tight turns deliver a particularly intense experience, to the point that I needed a break after each of my circuits. It was impossible not to wonder whether the park has misjudged their audience with this ride, as the queue never exceeded one or two cars throughout the evening in sharp contrast to just about everything else in the park.
The real surprise of the day proved to be Avatar Airbender (#1375). I've been fortunate enough to ride two other Intamin Halfpipe coasters, but neither comes close to matching the visual impact of this one. Better yet the ride length struck exactly the right balance between thrill and nausea; one more full height launch would have left me the worse for wear!
With the credits cleared, I finished my evening with one quick lap on the Pepsi Orange Streak which, despite its age, remains a definite candidate for the best coaster in the park. The wait time for the Fairly Odd Coaster was prohibitive thanks to single car operation.