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  1. In light of the upcoming Steel Taipan at Dreamworld, thought sharing my recent experience on another thrill spinning coaster by Mack Rides could shed some insight. A few years ago, Plopsaland de Panne surprised many European fans when announcing The Ride to Happiness. The first Mack Xtreme Spinning Coaster on the Old Continent is also only the second model produced by Mack after Time Traveler. Plopsaland is usually visited by a crowd of familes and young children. To see the park invest in such a daring attraction, partnering with an "adult" IP (electronic music festival Tomorrowland) to boot it up, seems to indicate a desire to target teens and young adults this time. In short, I really enjoyed The Ride to Happiness. The spinning motion offers unique sensations, although I find it a bit too disorienting to re-ride. Let's describe the ride experience a little more in detail. The layout begins straight out of the station with a very funky curved barrel roll. I've never been a huge fan of such pre-launch slow inversions (Copperhead Strike's roll feels sluggish to me), but with Ride to Happiness I found the spinning dynamics help compensate for the lack of speed through the element. The train momentarily stops afterwards on the first launch section. You may notice magnet fins on the left side of the track. Those create extra spinning motion when each car traverse the launch track. Getting launched sideways and/or while your vehicle spins really compensates for the relatively tame acceleration of the Mack LSM boosters! The Top Hat offers great airtime, especially at the front and back seats. It is cut in the middle by an outerbank turn - another funky manoeuvre which takes advantage of the free spinning. Each ride can feel quite different from the other depending on how you spin. The cars could push you outwards through this element for an exhilarating effect. I find the Banana Roll to truly be a perfect inversion for this kind of ride. This inversion type first appeared on Takabisha, and its continuous curving shape gracefully matches with the spinning movement of the cars. This section of three consecutive inversions also delivers substantial G+. Unfortunately, I also consistently experienced vibrations through those elements. Having ridden a fair amount of thrill Mack coasters over the past 4 years, I found the German manufacturer has an uneven track record when it comes to smoothness. Some coasters feel perfectly fine to me (Icon, Helix, Star Trek) while others appear to feature a slight but noticeable rattle (Hyper Coaster at Land of Legends, Copperhead Strike, Lost Gravity). It's a nit pick though, and it says more about how much the standard for coaster smoothness has risen over the past decade. The twisted hill into the second launch delivers the only real dead spot through the ride. No airtime, no whip, similar to Alpina Blitz's first hill after the drop. Honestly given the sheer intensity of the coaster, I could happily use a respite. I suspect this s-hill purposely has an elevated height in the event of a rollback on the second launch. This way, the train can operate a backward then forward launch procedure if it ever gets stuck on the second LSM track section. Speaking of the second launch, it offers the lateral boost excitement of the first launch, and adds further speed and a surprising pop of airtime. Many coasters lose steam during the second half. The Ride to Happiness does the exact opposite. The second LSM section leads you right into a double inverting roll + dive loop combo. What a way to ramp up the intensity! The train twists and twists some more while you keep spinning. It is SO disorienting. With a little bit of luck, you may end up plunging down sideways while the track continues twisting (see car n°2 above). I've never experienced something like that on a coaster before, and I love it! The layout concludes with a strong airtime hops finale. The G- are arguably some of the strongest on a Mack coaster, and add welcome variety to a ride experience filled with disorienting inversions. The ride re-uses Silver Dollar City's Time Traveler trains. The Steampunk design fits well the Tomorrowland theme. Sadly the on-board audio did not work every time I rode the coaster, but when the music blasts, it very much adds to the insanity that RTH offers. After riding The Ride to Happiness 11 times, I would argue this attraction really push the boundaries of what roller coasters can do. I would compare it to the extreme experience of X² at Six Flags Magic Mountain, but with the rotation on a different axis. Most often, I find most inversions unexciting compared to airtime hills or snappy banking changes, but not on THRH! It appears Mack and Plopsaland decided not to restraint the spinning motion (as opposed to Time Traveler which moderates the spin with a magnet) for trial on opening year. The free spin creates very unique, breathtaking dynamics through each inversion. It also means the ride experience can be uneven depending on how your car spin - sometimes, the spinning movement work against the G-force profile of the layout. I found myself unable to re-ride Ride to Happiness in quick succession as I experienced motion sickness - something I rarely ever feel on coasters. While many enthusiasts present with me that day did not mind the intense spinning (quite the contrary in fact), some did find the free spin to be too much. The general public seem to enjoy the coaster though, as I heard no complaint going out the station, and the line remained consistently long enough for a 15 to 30 minute wait with 2 train operations. The Xtreme Spinning Coaster fill very nicely Mack Rides' attraction portfolio. It's not my favourite kind of sensations (I much prefer classic launchers or airtime-focused hypers) and at moments the intensity becomes too extreme for me to fully enjoy the ride. But the ride type certainly is very promising, and shows Mack Rides can deliver very, very forceful coasters! On-ride screenshots taken with a GoPro Hero 6, chest-mounted with the permission of the park.
  2. Traveling and crossing borders in Mainland Europe isn't too bad, so I took the opportunity to visit again two parks in nearby countries north of France! Part 1: Efteling As I moved on from simply visiting and credding to filming videos at parks. I started appreciating places that actually care about theming and landscaping a bit more. I had visited Efteling 2 years ago, and while I thoroughly enjoyed that trip, I felt I needed to go again sometime to fully enjoy the merits of the park. That's why to my surprise, I did not need a new coaster, as the addition of Symbolica and night opening were attractive enough to get me back there! I arrived shortly after the 10 am opening. The entrance must be one of the most distincive and majestic among theme parks. I went against my instincts by strolling along the lake to take some pictures. Efteling is a really large park, and the distance covered by the lake is only a fraction of it! I had surprisingly pleasant memories of Bob, one rare surviving iteration of the Intamin Swiss Bob model. My ride this time was not as enjoyable - the fun swinging and relatively steep drops couldn't make up for what was some noticable bouncing in the train. I waited 45 minutes, completely forgetting about the single rider line nearby. Oh well... Went for the second row on Baron 1898 and got right wing seat. It was a bit underwhelming. The drop didn't feel as floaty and impressive as I remembered, and I felt a couple of minor headbanging during the inversions. Nothing too serious of course, but still surprising. Hopefully I got a couple of rerides afterwards, but that's for a another paragraph (Ugh, my camera sometimes fails to get a non-blurred picture. Frustrating!) Joris ended that run of (slight) disappointment as it happily matched my expectations. Went for Vuur first, and it was running pretty well! Good pace and a lot of fun laterals. Ever since my Poland trip, I have the unreasonable curiosity in (re)riding any old Vekoma to put to the test my recent love for the Dutch manufacturer. Equipped with vest restraints, Python turned out only slightly uncomfortable. There was some notable rattle during the drop and vertical loops, but the ride as a whole felt more uneventful than really horrible. The Pagoda is the only ride (to my knowledge) which provides great overviews of the park and where you can bring your camera. It's really valuable since the views from up in the air are quite impressive! Symbolica was another eye-drawer from outside. Really like this type of architecture as I find it fitting for the carefree atmosphere of a theme park, and here it is implemented really well! This dark ride was the 2017 and it shows its infant age. Really sophisticated and enjoyable addition. The scenery is appealing except for the stairs leading down to the station which lack some details. Loved the atmosphere and wish I could have done it more if it weren't for the substantial queue wait... Wanting to give Baron another try, I was rewarded with a fun lap at the front! It eliminated the (minor) jolts issue and provided a much more impressive drop! At this point I went across all the park to take more pictures. I also wanted to buy some merch before the crowds flood the stores right before closure. Went back to Joris only to find it temporarily closed for some minor technical problem. The issue was quickly solved however, which meant I ended up waiting a little less for my lap on the Water side! That one is certainly my favourite of the two. Some really good hops in quick succession here (That picture was taken hours before) Vliegende Hollander never impressed me in videos or on-ride. Not a single exciting layout element and the boat section is almost completely in the dark. Too bad for a ride with such a fab queueline and building Night ride on Baron was undoubtedly the best I've had. I even got a small pop of airtime of the final hill, which was really cool I then wasted too much time on taking (yet more) pictures, and it ended up costing me a final ride on Joris. Unfortunate, but Baron was still an excellent way to end the day on a high note! Next in Part 2 will be Plopsaland with another night opening!
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