Day twelve of my trip started at Detroit Metro Airport, one of the only airports in the United States to have a hotel located physically inside a terminal building. The Westin even offers its own private TSA screening lane for those travelling with hand luggage only, and while I couldn’t take advantage of this I figured I’d be safe enough leaving my room ninety minutes before the scheduled departure of my flight to Kansas City. This was just about okay, but far tighter than it should have been thanks to a combination of broken self-checkin machines and an exceptionally slow TSA PreCheck line; readers retracing my steps are advised to allow two hours for safety.
Worlds of Fun
11th July 2023
Worlds of Fun officially opens at 11:00am, but I learned on arrival that early entry is normally offered to those with Cedar Fair Platinum Passes. Today it wasn’t available, however; a friendly operator apologetically told me that “we’re not doing early entry today, but I don’t know why.” In all honesty I doubt it would have made any difference; crowds were extremely light for my visit (apparently normal for a Tuesday) and none of the rides were ready to operate at opening time anyway.
The main reason for my visit (and indeed for my flight to Kansas City) was Zambezi Zinger (#3090), one of just three new coasters this year to feature wood track – and the only one outside of China. The ride was doing morning tests when I arrived at the entrance, and though an operator said it’d be a while I decided that I might as well stay put as it was my main target today. My decision was validated when the ride opened at 11:40am with one train in use, resulting in the longest queue in the park by a factor of (at least) ten.
The ride is marketed as a wood coaster, and much of the track is indeed made of wood, but there are a few sections made from steel: the compact spiral lift hill, the first drop, and a climbing turn parallel to the lift. These portions are flawlessly smooth, and engineered perfection, and – to be frank – feel wrong. A wood coaster should have shake, rattle, and roll, and having this disappear for portions of the layout is the coaster equivalent of putting a few bars of Mozart string quartet in the middle of a furious Beethoven symphony, or for those who prefer more modern music, a few bars of Enya in the middle of Eminem. I can sort of understand using steel track to rebuild an old wood coaster in stages, as I saw on Predator a few days ago, but to create a brand new ride this way makes no sense to me; it's wrong in every conceivable way, much like mixing Guinness and Pineapple Juice.
The ride operates with redesigned trains that the manufacturer has dubbed Infinity Flyers. These allow for more compact turns and tighter elements than the previous generation Millennium Flyers, though from a guest comfort perspective they feel like a step backward, primarily because the lap bar has a tendency to disembowel when closed firmly. Furthermore, the experience in the rear car on Zambezi Zinger was far more violent than it should have been, and while that might been the track rather than the rolling stock it’s definitely not something that should be happening on a brand new ride. (The front was considerably better, though operators assign seats so you need to be lucky and/or charming with a sexy Irish accent if you want to sit there.)
The layout begins with a spiral lift hill made almost exclusively from steel. This is a novelty, if not a particularly elegant one, especially up close; the structure looks utilitarian and boxy, lacking the visual appeal of the classic Schwarzkopf design it seeks to emulate. The steel track continues to the base of the first drop, after which riders enjoy almost nine seconds of respectable wood coaster, comprising a climb, a banked turnaround, and a left turn. Six or seven seconds of steel turnaround follow before the wood coaster resumes, staying close to the ground for the remainder of the course.
The experience isn't terrible by any means, but the only top ten list it's ever likely to feature in is the best coasters in Kansas City. Prowler is a better ride by a huge margin; it's taller, longer, faster, better paced, and considerably more interesting. It also delivers a good experience everywhere in the train. The second half of Zambezi Zinger is fast and furious, and that'll certainly appeal to the thrill seeker demographic, but for me at least the overall package doesn't live up to its promise. I hold out some hope that the next ride with Infinity Flyers will be better; time will tell on that front.
The park was having some maintenance challenges today. Spinning Dragons was closed for the duration of my visit, and Mamba was down for a good chunk of it, but in fairness to those in charge, the open rides (new coaster notwithstanding) were all running two trains even though the crowds really didn’t justify them. Patriot and Prowler were both walk-on, and great; if the weather had been a little cooler I would have completed far more laps than I did.
Once Mamba was up and running I queued for a front seat. The ride had great airtime in places, though the experience was degraded considerably by a few potholes, the most severe of which was a gut punch towards the end of the layout among the series of airtime hills. This was enough to prevent me doing a second lap. Instead, I decided to wrap up my day with a few more gentle attractions. I was denied access to the Skyliner Ferris Wheel due to a no single rider policy, but I was able to enjoy a quick refreshing flight on Steel Hawk, a Mondial Wind Seeker
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