Travel Note

23rd February 2019

My weekend began with a visit to the Titan Missile Museum, a preserved cold war silo located just south of Tucson in Arizona. I'd driven within a few miles of the site six months before, but decided against planning a stop at the time due to the temperature, which was just shy of 110°F. The weather today was far more suitable for someone accustomed to the Irish climate, being only a few degrees above freezing, and it had apparently been even colder a day earlier as the vestiges of a snowman could be seen next to the museum building. Only the basic hour-long tour was available today, but I enjoyed it very much; at some stage I'd like to return for the full top-to-bottom experience, which apparently takes around five hours to complete.


Afterwards I drove to Schnepf Farms, which was open for special event called the Peach Blossom Celebration. The official web site said that the festival would run from February 7th to 28th, and that "All Amusement Rides will be open & operating each Saturday from 9am to 3pm". Unfortunately this information was not accurate, as there was no sign of activity at any of the rides when I arrived at 1:30pm. There were no members of staff that I could find, and a polite inquiry sent to the Facebook page elicited no response. I took some close-up photos of the coaster, muttered a few choice words under my breath, and returned to my car.


Wildlife World

23rd February 2019

I'd expected a one hour drive to Wildlife World, and was rather taken aback when my trusty GPS predicted triple that due to roadworks on the interstate. Under ordinary circumstances this would have been a mild irritation, but today it was a major embuggerance because it meant that I wouldn't arrive at the park until after it had closed for the day. Rather than accept defeat I sought out a second opinion from Google Maps, which came up with an abstruse seventy-five minute alternative using back roads that no sensible human would ever attempt in a reasonably sized car, let alone in a Yank Tank with the turning circle of a cruise ship and a blind spot the size of a continent. It was that or miss out, however, so I decided to throw caution to the wind.

The park is an enormous zoo that diversified a few years ago with the addition of a selection of up-charge amusement rides. A list of those available today was on display at the ticket desk window, and I confirmed that the coaster was on it before handing over my admission fee. My target was at the south-western corner of the six million square foot facility, a brisk ten minute walk from the entrance past a wide variety of unusual creatures indigenous to the area, many of whom were pushing their children in strollers. There were representatives from the animal kingdom along the route too, including a camel, several kangaroos, a meerkat whose facial expression screamed the words "not guilty", and a pair of warthogs.

In due course I arrived at the imaginatively named Family Roller Coaster (#2578), a custom layout Chance creation using the track and train system developed in the late nineties for the Big Dipper. The design is best described as clunky, and this is particularly obvious on the lift hill which uses two different sizes of tyre, causing the train to bump from side to side on its way to the apex. The main drop is fine, but it's pretty much all the layout does; the brake comes just seventeen seconds later, after a 180° turn, a no-airtime hill, and a 360° turn. Though it was nice to try something different two $6 laps were enough for me; I'd advise any park owners contemplating their own purchase to go for one of the infinitely superior Vekoma designs instead.

Family Roller Coaster

There were two somewhat unexpected aspects to the ride experience today. The first was an extremely harsh stop on the brake run, broadly akin to a collision with a concrete wall; after the brake released the train took of the order of half a minute to coast the short distance back to the station. The second was a odd issue with unlocking the restraints; after the train parked it was necessary to rock the cars from side to side before the lap bars released. My guess is that electrical contacts underneath the train were not quite where they were supposed to be.

I was rather more impressed with the Soaring Eagle Zip Line, a recent invention from Stan Checketts of S&S Worldwide fame. The $15 ride uses a two seat car with an onboard sound system that is winched backwards at speed to a launch point one hundred feet in the air. After a brief pause to admire the view riders are sent forward along the 650 foot line. The journey in each direction takes around fifteen seconds, which equates to a top speed of around thirty miles per hour. The operator on duty today was a sprightly retiree who seemed thrilled at someone my age riding; apparently adult visitors rarely participate, which (as he put it) is their loss!

I decided to ride the $6 Idearc Media Skyride as a lazy way of seeing some of the animal exhibits. The fifteen minute journey was relaxing, though limited by the fact that it followed the same route in both directions. On the plus side that gave me two opportunities for each photograph; on the return journey I caught a particularly good snap of a bemused camel. After disembarking I continued exploring on foot until closing time. I covered around one third of the facility at a moderate pace; those who are interested in animals should probably allow themsleves an entire day to appreciate the park in full.