My first coaster rides this year took place during a trip to France with Saint Bartholomew's Choir, and compiling trip reports fell by the wayside amid my unaccustomed role of responsible adult. This particular responsible adult brought several teenagers to the Foire du Trône, helping them to conquer their fear of heights with the Huss Shot'n'Drop and the Fabbri Booster. It was also nice to finally visit a Disney park and experience Space Mountain in the flesh.
My first dedicated coaster trip of the year began in much the same fashion as the last one ended, with several hours to wait in an airport. One has to be very motivated to even contemplate getting out of bed before four in the morning, but the thought of my first trip to Scandinavia was sufficient. The ridiculously early hour was emphasised even more when I cleared security at the airport to find all the shops still closed. The seat next to me on my flight was occupied by Mairead, a former colleague from eircom.net who now works in the software industry. She was making a day trip to London to pick up a visa needed for a (work) trip to Jakarta. The idea of heading somewhere so exotic on a business trip appeals greatly to me; with luck I'll get to present my FPGA research somewhere interesting!
30th April 2004
George had offered to bring me to two small parks in the greater London area prior to flying on to Denmark. The weather was not in our favour to put it mildly, but we decided not to alter plans. We arrived at Legoland minutes before opening. It was immediately obvious that those with a choice had elected to pospone their visits; the car park was almost completely deserted. It is a measure of the appeal of the famous brand that a park targeted at under twelves can be exciting for all ages. While unaccompanied adults were in the minority there were still plenty of them in the park.
Legoland added its third roller coaster earlier this year, a Mack-built wild mouse coaster. Jungle Coaster was the sixth installation of this particular design, and the fourth in a Lego park. Unfortunately for us this model was closed all day due to technical difficulties.
WGH Transportation is not a name particularly associated with amusement rides, with just four operating coasters and a fifth under construction at the time of writing. Two of these can be found in Legoland Windsor, named the Dragon's Apprentice (#226) and the Dragon (#227).
The former is quite clearly a kiddie coaster, but it has a unique layout and some rather neat theming which makes up for the lack of speed. The latter opens with a lengthy dark ride section filled with animated figures that blow mist, heat, and air at you. This is without question the highlight of the whole experience, as the coaster section is too short to be thrilling. Each of the two lift hills leads to a single drop and a helix, and that is all there is. The location of the second lift hill suggests that friction caused more energy to be lost than the designers expected; it is a shame, as the overall experience would have been significantly better were it not needed.
With the coasters out of the way, we decided to explore. The highlight for us was the Creation Centre Hall of Fame, a collection of detailed models and portraits made entirely out of Lego. This alone was worth the price of park entrance for me, and I can't wait to see more of the same in Billund next week. Next to this was the Lego Rocket Racers, a computer game in the mould of Mario Kart. It had a lot of potential, though it was let down badly by a very imprecise steering wheel.
30th April 2004
Adventure Island is in Southend, a commuter town to the north-east of London. Many years ago the town was supposed to be put on the map with an eighty metre high coaster called The Swine. Needless to say this never happened; the tallest coaster in the area remains the brown-coloured Green Scream (#228). This ride has what can only be described as a stupidly long train, with twenty carriages seating a maximum of forty people. The train will get stuck if the front cars are not loaded, and as we were the only people in the park we didn't get to try anywhere other than the front seat. The experience from there wasn't even remotely thrilling, with the train never building up much speed.
The Barnstormer (#229) was somewhat better, thanks to some noticeable forces as the train traversed corners. However, the real gem proved to be the Pinfari built Mighty Mini Mega (#230). Though small, this design proved surprisingly good fun, not least due to a startling burst of speed mid way through the course. The ride operator gave me permission to film with my camera at my own risk (always ask permission to use a camera on a ride), so I've made a low resolution video which shows what I mean. It can be downloaded here.
With the coasters out of the way, it was time to look into some of the flat rides. Zamperla introduced a new ride design called the Disk-O last November, and Adventure Island was one of the first parks to buy one. Ramba Zamba is a rotating disc with outward facing seats that slides back and forth on a U-shaped piece of track. The result works brilliantly, even if it possibly not the best idea on a full stomach. The Gold Mine seemed to be a better plan for that eventually, though we discovered far too late that the cars spun quite a bit.
We chose to recover on Beelzee Bob's Trail, one of the best dark rides I've ever seen. One could think of it in the simplest terms as a ghost train, but this does an injustice to the theming within. On exiting, I noticed that the two tower rides were now up and running; both had been closed earlier in the day. Sky Drop was the bigger of the two, coming in at around fifty feet. It used compressed air tanks to shoot the gondola up and down. Following this we decided to try the (really) small drop tower, the Drop'n'Smile. This ride, at around ten feet tall, presented something of a challenge for us to fit in the seats, though we managed okay in the end.
We finished up the day with a trip on the Raging River flume and a quick walk through the Crooked House.