My first long haul trip this year was planned as a Valentine's Day getaway with my girlfriend. She badly needed the break, having taken the difficult decision to return to college after a hiatus of several years, but it wasn't to be; on the day of our travel the east coast of the United States was gripped by a severe winter storm which resulted in thousands of cancelled flights, including hers. The news reached me while my plane was taxiing to the gate at Orlando International Airport, leaving me little choice but to proceed with our joint plans on my own.
Getting out of the airport took an eternity, due to me arriving on a flight without pre-clearance at the same time as several other international services. The worst bit of the nearly two hour wait, beyond the obvious realisation that Megan would not be there, was being both hungry and thirsty; I'd decided against eating airline silage in the full knowledge that America does fast food very well, but there were no options at all until after customs.
13th February 2014
I made an overdue meal stop immediately upon leaving the airport, and from there it took me just over an hour to drive to Daytona Beach, a resort city roughly fifty miles north-east of Orlando best known for being a mecca for motor sport enthusiasts. On a longer trip I'd have made time for a visit to the famous speedway, but with only an hour to play with I went straight to Boardwalk Amusements, a small fairground with half a dozen rides located right next to the waterfront. The weather for my visit was t-shirt friendly for an Irish visitor while still being extremely cold by Floridian standards; I was the only non-employee in sight.
My target was Sand Blaster (#1994), a relatively rare example of a Pinfari Z64 that previously operated in four other parks in various parts of the United States. The four-seat cars were surprisingly spacious and comfortable for this style of coaster, with the sole restraint being an adjustable seatbelt that was almost certainly a retrofit to meet local insurance requirements. Best of all, the ride was smooth, and while I didn't notice any airtime, there was a definite sense that it would have been there if the wheels had had time to warm up. It's also worth noting that the braking system at the end of the ride brought the car to a gentle stop, a definite improvement over the norm.
Before returning to my car I decided to investigate the nearby Daytona Lagoon arcade and water park to see if there was any sign of the family coaster allegedly sold to the park at IAAPA in November. While the outdoor area of the park was closed for the day, a friendly member of staff confirmed that there was no roller coaster on site.
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