My initial plan for this weekend was to call into Bjørneparken Wildlife Zoo en route to the parks in Lillehammer on Saturday. Regular readers will be aware that animal exhibits do nothing for me, and as such I scheduled a one hour stop, which I figured would be enough for a lap on the coaster and a quick look around. I mentioned my idea to some Norwegian friends at the ECC event at Gulliver's Warrington, and in doing so dodged a major bullet; they warned me that the ride in question did not operate when bear feeding was in progress, which apparently happened throughout the day. Sure enough close inspection of the web site revealed a published window of 12:45-14:30, which represented a major embuggerance; it would have been just about possible to do all the coasters on my original schedule even with that time constraint, but the resulting death march would not have been fun. After some contemplation I decided that the best way to recover my trip was to dedicate my Monday to the zoo even though that meant dropping a planned stop at TusenFryd.
It was shortly after 11:00 when I arrived at the park, and as ever I made a beeline to the coaster. Signage at the entrance indicated a 12:15 start, thirty minutes earlier than expected, and that information set cogwheels spinning in my brain. My flight back to Ireland required me to be at Oslo Airport no later than 17:00, and the drive there via the park I'd already decided to skip needed no more than three hours. If I could have wheels rolling by 12:30 then there was enough time for me to do a ninety minute hit and run, which I figured would enable two or three coaster laps. Though a detour of this type was both expensive and fiendishly stupid it was nevertheless an infinitely more appealing option than getting to the airport four hours before my flight.
I spent the better part of an hour wandering the zoo before making my way to Gyldenklo (#2728) ten minutes before the appointed time. There were operators on the ride platform, though they were apparently waiting for an adjacent feeding session to complete before doing anything. Once the crowd began to disperse the ride compressor was started up, followed shortly afterwards by a single lap test dispatch. The queue had built significantly by the time the gate was opened, but that wasn't a problem; I took a seat about half way back for an enjoyable three lap cycle then made a rapid exit.
29th July 2019
Two hours and change later I arrived at TusenFryd, where I took advantage of the European Coaster Club discount to gain admission for 280 NOK (~€28.69). Though expensive for a ninety minute stop it was actually rather cheap in a country where one can easily spend €15 on a meal for one in McDonald's. Over the course of my three day adventure I drove a little over a thousand kilometres on Norwegian roads, and in doing so ran up a road toll bill of 846 NOK (~€86.35), somewhat more than I spent on fuel to cover the same distance.
My first hit was always going to be the Vekoma junior coaster added to the park for the 2012 season. Western-Expressen is located at the southern boundary of the park, about five minutes walk from the main entrance. The ride spent the first eleven years of its life in Italy, though all traces of its former home have been thoroughly expunged. Nowadays it operates two trains, one of which has been retrofitted with VR hardware for an experience named Steampunk Hunters. The queue for that was longer than I felt like dealing with, but the unadorned experience was walk on. Soon after I'd enjoyed a respectable if not particularly memorable lap.
My route across the park took me past Thunder Coaster, and though I hadn't intended to ride I decided to take advantage of the non-existent queue. The original three-bench trains were replaced with Timberliners in 2015, and though my memories of the old experience are hazy there is no doubt that articulated rolling stock has improved the experience no end. Today the ride was actively wild, but not what I'd describe as rough; from the middle of the train the comfort level was for the most part fine. The cars were visibly bouncing over the peak of each hill, but the twists and turns were handled effortlessly. I'd have gone back for a second lap given more time.
It was thirty minutes before my hard cut off time when I arrived at Speed Monster, a coaster that was number one thousand for me back in 2007. There were six guests in a dedicated queue for the front, and I figured that I might as well wait with them. Once again this was the right call; from that location the ride was excellent, being every bit as thrilling as I remembered. The experience would have been slightly better without the neck chopping restraints, but after the first impact I repositioned my hands and that did the trick.