After a marathon seventeen hour Saturday I decided in the interests of self-preservation to treat myself to a lie-in this morning. I set my alarm clock for a thoroughly blissful 9:00am, though I need not have bothered as I woke up naturally a few minutes before the bell. I enjoyed a leisurely breakfast then drove to OK Corral, arriving shortly before 11:00am. That gave me a little over two hours to play with before my planned departure, which I figured would be ample for a park that I'd explored fairly thoroughly back in 2016.
The primary reason for my visit today was Pioneer (#2726), a custom family coaster from Zierer added to the park last year. The hardware is a variant of the ESC family that would have been unworthy of special mention were it not for the trains, which are themed to look like stagecoaches from the old west. Rows one through three feature fiberglass horses, while rows four through six feature traditional seats with a wire ring cover. The ride has two separate queues, as well as two sets of height requirements; smaller riders are limited to the wagon seats, while taller riders can choose which experience they prefer.
The idea of putting two styles of seat on the same coaster is not a new one. In the late seventies Japanese manufacturer Togo offered stand-up trains as a refit for existing sit down coasters, resulting in three different installations where both train styles were offered. Arrow Dynamics also got in on the act, with a stand-up train that ran for a few seasons on the Extremeroller at Worlds of Fun. More recently Intamin introduced sidecars on their motorbike trains, and Vekoma added a few special seats on their equivalent for those not flexible enough to ride in standard seats. Nevertheless this ride represents the first time that different seating has been done in a truly deliberate way, and it must be said that it works very well indeed.
There are two separate sirens that sound on every dispatch. The first plays as the doors in front of the train are moved out of the way, and the second follows two seconds later as the train starts to move. The duplication felt a little bit excessive to me: I found myself thinking back to announcements made by the airline I love to hate asking passengers to make one final check of their seatbelts no more than half a minute after the crew have been through the cabin to prepare it for landing. It was impossible not to feel a little sorry for the operators who have to listen to them all day long.
The restraint design for the horses is quite interesting, and very different to that seen on earlier rides. The back support is a fixed position semi-circular cushion; passengers are held in place by a padded restraint attached to the horse heads that rests on the thighs. This is comfortable, though it is important not to pull on the hand grips as doing so can cause the bar to tighten mid-ride. The experience from these seats was for the most part very good, and on the whole I preferred them to the wagon seats. Having said that, readers should be aware that rows two and three suffer from quite a bit of vibration; it is definitely worth waiting a few extra minutes for the front.
The station exit is via a narrow and somewhat rickety spiral staircase that terminates not on a path but on uneven ground, and while this is arguably appropriate for the corral theming it is nevertheless an accident waiting to happen. Those of a more corpulent disposition and indeed those with limited flexibility will likely find it easier to disembark the ride via the entrance queue. It was quite a surprise to see something so inaccessible on a nearly new attraction; it seems that French law has yet to catch up with other countries' approaches to visitors with special needs.
My second stop was at Gold Rush, where I completed a pair of laps: one in the back then one in the front. The ride was running very well today, delivering superbly at both ends of the train. The ride cycle was satisfyingly lengthy, stretching to almost two and a half minutes: a reverse lift, two forward laps, then a final reverse lap. It was interesting to see and hear the chain lift being run while the train was completing its initial forward lap; perhaps it has to be in a certain position for the train to roll over it without stopping?
The only other attractions on my hit list today were the Mysteres de L'Ouest dark ride and the Serpent Hopi, an ageing but still eminently respectable Zierer Tivoli. With both complete I caught a quick lunch before departing for Marseille Airport for my flight home.