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  1. Busch Gardens Tampa - 12/11/23 https://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/busch-gardens-tampa (Plenty of photos) 3rd time back to this park, which remains one of the best rounded in the US, with pretty decent theming, impressive coasters and a good collection of Animal exhibits too. Perhaps the one thing that has gone backwards is the operations. Previously Busch parks were usually pretty rock solid with operations, but this time around you'd encounter one train ops and sluggish speeds which kind of surprised me! Arriving at the Moroccan themed entrance: Its right there next to the entrance, so of course I started off with Iron Gwazi Wow, what to say, this ride is crazy. More intense than my previous favourite, Hakugei, but IMO more imaginative than Steel Vengeance. Pretty wild how they have made a hypercoaster out of what was once a pair of 28m high dueling coasters, and it almost looks bodgy how they have added extra steel tubes to hold up the ride. Once the muck around of the loading is done, a steel drop and turn out of the station leads to the huge lift. The first drop is out of control, being slightly steeper than vertical, a true freefall. From there you come up and up onto a huge outward banked hill, down and around an up to another apex, followed by a roll that spirals towards the ground. The pace continues with a quick flick into an overbanked turn, and then an element I wasn't really aware of, a drawn wave turn that crosses over the front of the station. The rest of the ride is a bit lower (relatively), banking and dipping around, really throwing you out of your seat. Frequently you look at the messed up looking track ahead and wonder how on earth the train is going to get through it with the speed it is carrying, but somehow does. The finale really shines, with a zero g stall, and then an airtime hill where it has double humps at the top, perhaps the most agressive airtime in the ride. A couple of turns later and you hit the brakes with plenty of speed. So there you have it, its neck and neck between this and Velocicoaster. Continuing around the park, I grabbed a ride on Tigris, another one of those Premier SkyRocket coasters. Turns out I've been on half of the ones operating worldwide, Ill recycle my review from the one at Sarkanniemi: A punchy launch, really fast vertical twist, good pop of airtime as you transition at the top, then a fun heartline roll. The 2nd half rapidly picks up speed as you dive down again, with more air in the non inverted loop. So despite looking quite simplistic from the outside, it's quite forceful and varied. I disagree that it is anything like Buzzsaw. Continuing around, it was time for Falcons Fury Along with Ikaros, would be my favourite dark ride. There's nothing like being slowly rotated to face the ground, and then freefalling, seeing it rush up towards you. It was telling though that it was virtually a walk on all day. They probably overbuilt the thing, with capacity for 32 people, so would take time to actually get enough passengers to cycle it. I had hoped to ride the new Serengeti Flyer, but every time I went by it was closed, and I don't recall seeing it operate all day. The other new coaster I had to ride was Cobras Curse, a unique Mack Spinning coaster with short little 2 car trains where everyone faces the same way. Also had a nifty conveyor belt loading system (Wouldn't it be great if Scooby got this!) The queue goes through a well themed queue with an archeological exploration theme. The ride has a vertical lift like scooby in front of a giant cobra statue, with some cringe audio, but what was interesting was they figured out a way to keep the platform level as it ascends (though it does shake a bit as a result). It's a ride of 3 parts. The first third is forwards with a first drop and couple of quick turns. The next third is backwards around a couple of helices, and the final 3rd has actual spinning, through 3 horseshoe turns in a row. I think it must have the energy efficiency of a brick though, its a large drop, but it seems to run out of momentum after a few turns. There's a 2nd lift to give it a bit more height, but even after that its slowing down by the end. The ride does look great, and integrates well with the theming, but perhaps a bit mid overall. By that point I was just about around the park so it was time for a few re-rides on some old favourites, starting with Montu Get out there and ride some of these older B&Ms, they really keep their pace up, and alternate between hard pulling inversion and hard pulling turns. Montu is extra interesting, with a few elements sunk into trenches, themed like Egyptian ruins. Cheetah Hunt So it wasn't until it was pointed out to me that the first element is supposed to be like a giant tree that a cheetah is jumping in and out of. I think maybe at the early stages it was meant to be an actual themed tree, but of course the reality of budgets means it is what it is. A decent launch coaster, but perhaps a bit more drawn out and less intense than the others, since a lot of the ride is this big long run with shallow drops in and out of trenches, though there is a slalom, barrell roll and airtime hill towards the back of the layout that amp it up a bit.. I think the likes of Taiga, Toutatis, and even our Superman Escape eclipse it. SheiKra Was my favourite in the park last time, and probably still is, with its huge scale, hang time through the elements, and just the sense of fun with such a large group of riders screaming together in the front row, with kids on the ground being soaked by the water splash. Kumba Still holds up, with its non stop elements perfectly sequenced to flow into each other, and runs pretty well still. Scorpion Another ride type you should get out and see while you can are these old schwarzkopf looping coasters. They were ahead of their time, with fun well designed layout and lots of intensity. Always wondered why Arrow sold more rides than these guys. There are plenty of bad arrows, but no bad Schwarzkopfs. Serengeti Express Train One thing I have never done until now. It's quite a long ride, and the only way to really see the animals on the open range section up close (Rhino Rally is long gone, and I wasn't gonna fork out for one of the safari tour feeding experiences) As the day wound to a close I checked out a few of the Animal exhibits, wish I had allowed more time for them, since they are genuinely excellent, and typically slightly off the main paths which makes them a quiet escape. And a couple of night rides on Iron Gwazi, fully warmed up. Wahooo! And a few more photos....
  2. Six Flags Magic Mountain https://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/six-flags-magic-mountain Flight schedules from LA to Australia usually have you leaving in the evening, so it's somewhat of a tradition for me to do one of the parks there for a last hurrah before jumping on a plane back to Aus. I hadn't been here since 2019, and my last visit was kind of shit because my wallet was stolen. This visit was much better, with cool autumn weather making for a quiet park where most rides had short waits. The rides are good, but man they know how to be irritating. Parking at the park now costs a whopping $40 USD, which is just taking the piss. As has been publicised, the park has several ride closures at the moment. Superman, Ninja, X2 all closed and Scream didn't open in the time I was there. I wasn't too miffed since I was here to ride the new stuff and wasn't going to be at the park long enough to do everything anyhow, but still, wouldn't have minded doing Superman before it goes the way of TOT2. The new stuff I was interested in was West Coast Racers, which missed its 2019 opening date last time I was there, and then proceeded to be further delayed by Covid. There's also Wonder Woman Flight of Courage, which to be honest was the main reason I was visiting because I was really keen to get on one of these Raptor coasters and all the others are less convenient to visit..... Got there at opening and headed to Wonder Woman. Closed for technical difficulties with a guy out the front, so it was off to West Coast Racers instead. The queue line is supposed to look like the Workshop of West Coast Customs but I think maybe the theming was too light on, so you lost that vibe of a bustling workshop, but the ride certainly makes up for it. Once you contort yourself into the Premier trains, a launch sends you into a high 5 element, which was surprisingly snappy and maybe borderline uncomfortable. You then bank around into a zero g stall, with the other track doing a little hump underneath. For the best views of these dueling moments, definitley sit in the back. There's another launch following the stall, where you do an enormous corkscrew in parallel with the the other track. The next section of the ride is probably the most true to theme, with two helices in a figure 8 configuration allowing you to look across at the other train. The tracks cross over from outside to inside, so you get to see the other train seemingly pull ahead then fall behind. A couple more turns and the track goes back into the ride building, where you stop for a moment while they dick around and load the other train. There's a screen next to you where a guy says "we are just doing some adjustments to your car right now" , with associated sound effects of rattle guns and tools coming from below. The train then launches, and its the same layout again, though right at the end you do one extra corkscrew over the other track. Overall, it's a great ride. Well paced, interesting elements, very good dueling, and at leas you are guarunteed to get it unlike on Twisted Collossus, where it really comes down to the speed of the crews. At that point Wonder Woman still wasn't open, so I went around and rode a few other favourites, some of which I haven't done in years since it seems every visit I do to SFMM is only a part day. Apocalypse was running very well, having clearly been retracked in many sections. A real beast of a wooden coaster, and decently long too. The layout ducks and weaves constantly, giving it a real elment of surprise. Tatsu is as good and intense as ever, but the less said about the new colour scheme the better. Haven't done Riddlers Revenge in a while, and yeah the old stand up seats are nothing on the new surf coaster seats, but that all said, I forgot how bloody long this coaster was. After the mid course brakes its just endless turns, and quite a bit of track between the two corkscrews. Still a solid ride, and the station music is "unforgettable" Batman surprisingly felt less intense than usual. Cold weather? Kept checking back on Wonder Woman. You could see maintenance staff working on the transfer track, so at least it was looking like it would open at some point. Justice League has 2d on the screens now instead of 3d, so 3d glasses are no longer given out. A double edged sword since it means everything is a bit brighter and easier to see, but a shame they couldn't keep the 3d going. During my run it kind of crapped out halfway through the cycle and stopped, so a couple of scenes were just frozen with the car wiggling away, but it did get itself back in sync for the final scene. Also did Lex Luthor Drop of Doom. The lap bar type harnesses make this one feel a little more exposed than GD. Finally, trains started cycling on Wonder Woman, so I parked myself near the ride. In a true Six Flags moment, they wouldn't let people form a line outside the ride, they would tell people "oh you cant wait here", so instead it became a bit of a rabble of people just waiting everywhere, which of course became a bit of a stampede when it finally did open. Why on earth was this preferable for them? The queue is themed like a museum about the Amazonians. Had to laugh at the random kangaroos on the map of Thermyscira Fortunately I got on quite quickly first time around and ended up in the very back seat. First impressions, solid coaster, but perhaps lacks the "WTF holy crap this is wild" sensation you get on the flagship RMCs. It was a bit more intense than Big Dipper but not that much moreso. I would put it on par with something like a good Gerst Infinity coaster. Less shaky than Big Dipper too, but it still shakes a bit, so it must be an unavoidable aspect of these little single person car coasters. The first drop genuinley kicks ass, as does that cool dive loop element with a twist at the top. (Reminded me a bit of the way you are flicked around on the non inverting loop on Rivals) The rest of the ride is stuff like zero g rolls and airtime hills all in a long line, which sounds good on paper, but perhaps lacks a little personality since its a bit formulatic and you can see it all coming up in a row. The elevated turnaround was something I had been wondering about since it looks crazy fast on videos and I was thinking you'd be thrown around like a ragdoll, but it was perfectly comfortable. I went around for a 2nd lap, and by that point the queue had expanded to an hour, so waited it out and got a seat in row 4. Up front the first drop isn't as good but the other elements seem to work bettter, so swings and roundabouts. Final impressions, decent ride, but imo the visual appearance of the ride is it's gimmick and the ride experience was really no better/worse than an equivalent coaster of similar size. Perhaps the linear layout doesn't really give the ride a chance to shine....If my experience on Big Dipper taught me anything, it is that weaving and quick transitions is what makes these single rail things most interesting I would be interested to try RailBlazer or the Wonder Woman at SF Fiesta Texas since apparently the prototype raptors are more intense.
  3. In some big news, RMC and Larson International are merging to form a single operating identity, with the promise to create a "powerhouse in the amusement industry". The new organization will make a portfolio of family and thrill rides. Both companies will combine their engineering R&D efforts to further drive innovations for both companies. Additional operating synergies will be derived through leveraging manufacturing capacity and streamlining back-office operations including benefits, accounting, software licensing etc. After 30+ years with Larson, President Jeff Novotny has elected to retire, however his son Hunter will be a key part of the new company. All existing staff and management will be retained at the new company. The new company will be lead by Darren Toor (president of RMC) who will serve as president and CEO. RMC is committed to "building dreams" by consistently delivering award winning rides. Going forward, RMC will continue building existing ride platforms as well as develop new and differentiated rides. "I am excited to bring together these two incredible organizations," stated Toor. "Our values are closely aligned, and I look forward to future success by putting out incredible rides, providing a great value, and treating our customers and crew members like family." Both companies have collaborated for several years on many projects. The merger provides current Larson International customers with the same quality rides and service that they have known for years and provides the Larson International staff the opportunity to grow, learn and contribute to a different side of the industry. Adding the proven product line from Larson gives RMC additional diversity and allows RMC to deliver rides to any size of operator.
  4. This is a bit of a shorter trip report for Kolmården Zoo. https://www.parkz.com.au/attraction/kolmarden It's an interesting place. Primarily a zoo, but it has a couple of bona fide theme park style areas in a couple of patches. It makes for an interesting mix, sort of like a Busch Gardens Tampa with smaller rides area. The mix is more like 75% animals 25% rides, but the rides part has a couple of stand outs that make it worth the trip. It's about 115km from Stockholm, (near the city of Norrkoping) and via public transport it took about 90 mins to get there. You have a couple of options, get an express train, and then a longer bus trip backtracking to Kolmarden Zoo. Alternatively, you can take a slower local train which stops at the village of Kolmarden itself, and then have a shorter bus trip to the park. The park is quite spread out and hilly, it's more like an open range zoo, but about half the size of the one at Dubbo, so its walkable, but it can take a while. The day was quite sunny for Sweden, which made the walks a bit sweaty, but the reward was Wildfire was running very fast. Wildfire is at the back of the park, but I first made a detour into Bamse Varld (A popular swedish bear character that gets superpowers when he eats a special type of honey) The area is quite cute, with fairly standard flat rides given quite a bit of polish with good theming. The target here was a lap on Godistaget (Lolly train) before the crowds got to it. With that out of the way I continued to Wildfire, passing the Aparium and Savannah enclosures. The ride was only ever a 1 to 3 train wait for most of the day, so the single train operation didn't really harm things much. I rode about 9 times so definitely got my money's worth! The ride is awesome, and damn fast, and aggressive in parts (But never rough). One of the best settings for a coaster, perched on a steep hillside with views over the forest to a bay. From the station you head up the lift hill, make a panoramic turn at the top before a small hump and a huge steep drop that lifts you out of your seat. It's all a blur as you make your way into a zero g stall, curving upside down with the structure whizzing past you. Another steep dive and incline and then one of RMCs signature wave turns, a sort of airtime hill that banks sideways suddenly at the top. It then heads uphill with a couple of camel backs, before a corkscrew that has you diving back off the hill. The remainder of the ride is more of a blur, with heaps of hills, twists and even a corkscrew as the layout winds back and forth on itself at the base of the hill. It's a level of confusion in a layout not seen since thunderhead at Dollywood. I've heard people complain the layout is slightly too long for the height of the drop and loses speed, but I didn't feel that at all. It's fast from start to finish, and the warm wheel bearings no doubt helped. One of the best in the world, and very close to the likes of Steel Vengeance and Hakugei, and pretty much on par with Lighting Rod (But I mean, overall RMCs as a cohort are quite close ) The other must do attraction is the Safari. Was probably a 35 min wait for this one, since it gets popular. You ride in a gondola over the main open range exhibits, with the cable following an irregular route that zig zags over the area. At some points the cable runs low to the ground, with water underneath to prevent animals getting to close, so you do get some great views. On the way you see Bears, Lions, Giraffe, Elk etc, though in particular the lions were difficult to spot. A solid 30 min ride, so again you get your moneys worth. The other coaster in the park is Delfinexpressen, a standard Vekoma roadrunner clone, but with Dolphin themed cars. The pirate ship was the sole 'big' flat ride. Grabbed lunch in the area too, a very nice open kebab with pickled cabbage etc. This is the sort of food I wish was available more widely at parks in Aus. The park is apparently getting rid of its dolphin show Hope. It was unusual because it was held indoors, with a big screen that would show spectacular imagery of reefs, waterfalls. As for the show, nothing that we haven't seen at Sea World before. There's also a normal exhibit type area a the back in a separate part of the building. The park is laid out in a bit of a loop, so it's easy to see everything. Seals and sea lions... Tiger world was enormous. Other nice areas included a large field with south American animals like Capybaras. The obligatory animal nursery, themed like a traditional Swedish farm. And much much more. Overall, it's hard to fault the park. As a zoo, it has plenty to offer, with large natural looking exhibits, the rides are just a bonus. Glad that wildfire exists, but it seems the rides and their themes can clash a bit with the park. I mean you can understand Delfinexpressen, but then why have they got the sawmill themed Wildfire (There wasn't really any education about wildfires in the queue, it literally was just Buzzsaw type theming) If they are going down the rides route, it would be good if it was balanced out with a few more family and thrill type stuff to make that aspect of the park strong enough to stand on its feet (The Bamses Varld area felt quite complete on the other hand) Overall, if you are a coaster fan, Wildfire is worth the trip alone, and the zoo itself is high quality, so you won't be bored from just the coaster. Park photos: https://www.parkz.com.au/search/photos/location/kolmarden
  5. https://www.usatoday.com/story/trav...s-single-rail-wonder-woman-coaster/534583001/ Exclusive: Six Flags to debut single-rail Wonder Woman coaster Six Flags announced today that Wonder Woman Golden Lasso Coaster will open next spring at its Fiesta Texas location in San Antonio. The park says the new attraction won't look or behave like any thrill machine that preceded it. That's because instead of riding a set of two rails like traditional coasters, its narrow trains would soar along one 15.5-inch-wide steel track. It will be the world's first single-rail coaster. "I expect it to be crazy smooth," says Larry Chickola, Six Flags VP and chief corporate engineer. "And crazy fun. There will be extremely quick twists and turns – quicker and smoother than regular coasters." Before settling on "single-rail" to describe the new genre of ride, the engineer referred to it as a "monorail" coaster. But Chickola said the designation might conjure thoughts of the slow and poky vehicles used to transport passengers at airports and elsewhere. Wonder Woman, he insists, will be the opposite of poky: a "high-thrill and edgy experience." Above all, however, he emphasizes that it should be velvety smooth. Why is Chickola forecasting a super-smooth ride? Traditional wooden coasters are known for knocking passengers around. Their rickety, rough-and-tumble ride experience is part of their charm. Steel-tracked coasters can mitigate some of the roughness, but even they have an inherent problem: Because they ride on two rails, the slightest misalignment between the left and right sides can result in moments of roughness. With Wonder Woman's single rail, nothing could get out of sync. The coaster will be "visually stunning," says Jeffrey Siebert, president of Six Flags Fiesta Texas. It will be set against the multi-hued quarry wall that surrounds the park. Visitors may be surprised when they first encounter the ride. "It's just going to look wrong, but in a nice way," Siebert adds. Instead of a wooden coaster's lattice-like timber structure, Wonder Woman will have steel supports. But its ultra-thin track won't require as many supports as a typical steel coaster. Chickola says it will look like a thin ribbon of track suspended in the sky. The eight passengers aboard the coaster's trains will have unique views as well. Each car will have a single seat. There won't be anybody sitting to the left or right. And when they look to either side, riders won't see any track either. The single rail, a scant few inches wider than a foot-long sub, will be underneath the train. If passengers lean over the cars, they'll see straight down to the ground. "You're going to feel like your gliding through the air," says Chickola. Wonder Woman will climb a 113-foot hill, drop about 100 feet straight down at 90-degrees, and hit a top speed of 52 mph. It will include overbanked turns and the free-floating sensation known as airtime. Among its three inversions will be a "180-degree stall," in which the train will roll halfway over and suspend riders for a few agonizing moments before it unrolls and returns them right-side-up. Siebert says that it is going to be "odd to go upside down on such a tiny track. It will feel like you're riding Wonder Woman's whip." The ride's queue will include a crashed airplane, Greco-Greek architecture, and other references to the comic book world of the female superhero, whose popularity surged after the huge success of the recent Wonder Woman movie. The stall inversion is a signature element of the coaster's designer and manufacturer, Rocky Mountain Construction (RMC). The innovative ride company has developed its own take on coaster rails, which it calls "IBox" track. Instead of the tubular steel track that is used on traditional steel coasters, IBox track is flat on top and configured like the letter "I." The trains' side friction wheels, which help tether the cars to the rails, fit into the track's I-shaped channels. The unique track may account for the especially smooth rides that RMC coasters deliver. The New Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas was the first coaster to feature IBox track. The park chain followed that with Iron Rattler at Fiesta Texas. Both of the rides were traditional wooden coasters that had not aged well and were notoriously rough. RMC left the wooden structures intact, but removed the original tracks and replaced them with IBox tracks. Known as hybrid wooden-steel coasters, the two repurposed Six Flags rides are now gloriously smooth. RMC's designers took the basic concepts of their IBox track and developed the single-rail system, which the ride company refers to as "raptor track." Using the next evolution of the breakthrough IBox track, Wonder Woman may whip its park mate, Iron Rattler, for slithery smoothness.
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