On 3rd July this year a boat capsized on the Intamin-built Raging River at Adventureland Iowa, resulting in the death of an eleven-year-old boy and serious injuries to his sixteen-year-old brother. While the ride in question was shut down immediately, it was otherwise business as usual; the park reopened the next morning as if nothing untoward had happened. The investigation remains underway as of this writing, but a number of early reports have revealed significant failings, not least an emergency access gate that was chained shut. In a sensible world this fact alone would have been enough to warrant a temporary closure for safety reasons, but the Hawkeye State apparently doesn't believe in accountability. (The local citizenry voted to re-elect Trump in 2020, which tells you all you need to know about the place.)
The park wasn't particularly busy when I arrived shortly after opening, but business picked up rapidly over the morning and by lunch time it was too crowded for comfort – proving the old adage that there's no such thing as bad publicity. All of the major rides had built up significant queues by 2:00pm, leading me to cut my visit ninety minutes earlier than originally intended.
My morning began with a lap on Phoenix (#2924), a Maurer Rides SC2000 Spinning Coaster. Nine examples of this production model design were produced between 2003 and 2019, and all remain in service as of this writing: six in the United States, and one apiece in Germany, Indonesia, and Saudi Arabia – though the latter travels with the Mellors Group and spent the summer in England. All examples operate with four-seat vehicles equipped with simple lap bar restraints. Enthusiasts who've been to China will appreciate what a treat it is to see these unencumbered by bonus seatbelts and chains; locally-built copies of the cars (including almost one hundred produced by Jinma Rides) have completely failed to replicate the precise engineering of the originals.
The installation at Adventureland Iowa is the newest example of the type, though the only obvious difference between it and its predecessors is the fact that it operates with a fleet of five cars rather than the more typical seven or eight. I'd been expecting a decent enough ride, and that is entirely what I got. My car was balanced in such a way that I covered the first third facing backwards before any spinning actually happened, but when things did get moving they did so in style, to the point that I disembarked slightly dizzy. Readers can safely ignore the signage at the ride entrance claiming no storage on the ride platform; there is a small area near the boarding platform that was being used today to store backpacks and water bottles.
Next up was Dragon Slayer (#2925), the second S&S Free Spin of the trip. This model is unique in that the two sides of the track are configured with different dampers, allowing a choice between an intense and a mild experience. Today the former had a queue and the latter was walk-on, and that was absolutely fine with me. The “mild” ride still had more than enough flipping in it for my taste, and though I could have stayed on for a second lap I chose not to. The only real negative was the fact that the operators were pushing hard on the lap bars when checking them with no regard for guest comfort; I was stapled uncomfortably tightly with no wiggle room whatsoever.
The credit I’d been looking forward to the most was Monster (#2926), a highly regarded Gerstlauer Infinity Coaster – and I’m pleased to report that it didn’t disappoint. The ride operates with eight-seat trains, comprising two rows of four with a dramatic figurehead on each. It starts with a beyond-vertical drop leading into a compact five inversion layout that routes over and under the park’s Sky Ride. One interesting feature is a trim brake right before the final two inversions, and – in contrast to my usual comments on trims – this one actually aids the experience, in that it results in quite a bit of hang time that would otherwise be absent. Both my laps were in the back right seat, which was perfectly smooth; perhaps I’ll get to do a front on a future trip.
I was brought back to earth abruptly with an exceptionally unpleasant lap on Tornado, the oldest of the park’s three wood coasters. It was almost as if management wanted to compensate for the recent removal of their worst coaster, and let this one deteriorate in its place. From my seat in row three the base of each drop was on the far side of brutal, sending a violent jolt through my spine that I could have done without. The only slight mercy was the buzz bar restraints, which at least meant that I didn’t have lap bar bruises too. Once was more than enough.
Rather than go for another coaster right away I decided to ride Storm Chaser, a 260ft high Mondial Wind Seeker. I hadn’t ridden one of these in over five years and it was nice to try one again, though I have to say that I really prefer the freedom of the Starflyer and its clones. The (mostly) rigid arms on the Mondial product generate an experience that is a little too sterile for my taste, though I do appreciate that guests with acrophobia might not consider it in quite the same terms.
I took a ride on the Sky Ride for photography, then headed towards Outlaw, a Custom Coasters creation added to the park in 1993. This was in somewhat better shape than Tornado, but as ever this is a relative statement. The operator warned guests prior to dispatch that the ride was rough, and indeed it was; I could not have ridden more than once, though I might have been able to in my twenties. It’s a pity that the park hasn't maintained its wooden coasters properly; both are in need of new track, or for preference steel conversions by Rocky Mountain.
The longest wait of the day was a full hour for Underground, a dark ride built using a wood coaster system for transport. In hindsight I’m not sure why I bothered. There was an animatronic in the boarding station (pictured above) with mechanical teeth chattering as he “spoke”, though the audio track was coming from a speaker at the other end of the station; perhaps he was a ventriloquist? The main portion of the ride was well themed, though the train moved through it a little too fast for guests to appreciate what they were looking at. RCDB states that the ride has two trains, though only one was being used today despite the queue.