Anybody who looks at this ten day trip through the United States might raise an eyebrow over a routing which goes north-east from Denver before jumping in what is almost the complete opposite direction. As with all crazy routings on these pages, this one was brought on by a late change of plan, namely the desire to ride a certain new wooden coaster in Valleyfair. Arnolds Park is arguably on the route from Denver to Minneapolis, hence our decision to make a brief stop.
12th August 2007
Arnolds Park is located in a town of the same name, which presumably grew up around the place. The road in front of the park itself was absolutely crammed with Corvettes of all ages. It turned out that we'd timed our visit at the same time as a show put on by the Lake Okoboji Corvette Club (seriously), with over fifty examples of the famous car with information sheets available for visitors to ooh and aah at. It was evident that some people are seriously in love with their vehicles, given that many had raised bonnets showing off the spotlessly clean engine compartments. I've never personally seen the need to polish the outside of my car engine, but I assure you if I do I'll seek professional help immediately. Having said that, as a coaster enthusiast I'm probably in no position to criticise other people with esoteric hobbies!
The park itself is a traditional one, geared predominantly but not exclusively at a younger audience. While many of the rides including the smaller coaster operate with a 48" height limit the place is circled by a decidedly non-juvenile attraction, the Legend (#1034). Eighty years ago was just a bit before the advent of computer aided design, which probably accounts for the extreme airtime that occurs in places on this ride. Unfortunately, many of the weightless moments are followed by a bone-crushing landing, thanks to some nasty potholes in places. In brief, the experience can be summarised by alternating two words; float and crunch. A little bit of track work could eliminate the latter, and with that change the ride might potentially be a top ten coaster.
12th August 2007
The drive from Arnolds Park to Valleyfair took a little less than three hours. Our intrepid navigation computer had a bad afternoon trying to work its way around the back roads of Iowa, as their locations in the map data were misplaced by a considerable distance, resulting in numerous recitations of that most irritating of computer remarks; recalculating. The air in the car was steaming with invective by the time we hit the outer reaches of Minneapolis, and it was a relief to finally arrive at the park.
On our last visit to the park the then star attraction, Wild Thing (#1035), had been closed following an accident. Seeing a big coaster out of action is always a disappointment, and it was a big motivator to see it running as we drove into the car park. From the ground it looks like a really great ride; unfortunately, appearances can be deceptive. It felt like the car I was in might have had a loose wheel; the train bounced horribly as it went around corners, with the train car rocking very slightly which I'm sure it isn't supposed to do. On the plus side the wait was less than ten minutes thanks to the crew running two trains efficiently.
The wait was likely short for an altogether separate reason, namely the new-for-2007 coaster, Renegade (#1036). This ride is buried all the way at the back of the park, and there is no way to photograph any of it other than the lift hill from within the public areas, but this is the sole negative point of what is easily GCI's best coaster to date. Unlike the somewhat lacklustre Troy, this ride has the relentless pacing that I associate with a top class wooden coaster. The twisting first drop was more of a gimmick for me than anything else, but one that had novelty value and made a good start for what proved to be a top class attraction overall.
Nickelodeon Universe MN
12th August 2007
This park was known as The Park at Mall of America at the time this trip report was written. The ride names from that time have been left in place in this report.
We decided to leave Valleyfair early in order to get a decent meal, something with is often absent in theme parks. The knock-on effect of this decision was a much earlier than expected arrival at our hotel, which happened to be across the road from the Mall of America. With that in mind, we decided to make a brief trip there to ride the two coasters once again. Poor balancing of the car meant only limited spinning on Timberland Twister, but this was probably just as well given that we were riding less than two hours after a big meal. The Pepsi Ripsaw was running better than I remembered, providing a scenic tour of the entire park at a fairly decent speed. We spent most of the trip trying to figure out where the new coaster for next year is supposed to go, and it'll be interesting to see if our prediction (beside the Ferris Wheel) turns out to be correct.
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