Kings Dominion

22nd August 2003

Kings Dominion is a park that has been on my personal hit list since I first became interested in coasters, and thus it was a great feeling to step through the gate for the first time. The thrill of finally being here served to compensate at least in part for a badly behaving stomach which was doing its best to spoil my morning. Nevertheless it still seemed prudent to start the morning off on some of the smaller attractions, rather than going straight for the big tickets.

Kings Dominion

Scooby Doo's Ghoster Coaster (#176) is a direct clone of the successful Woodstock Express junior wooden coaster installed three years earlier at Kings Island. The staff did not appear to have mastered the art of moving patrons through their ride, but in due course we were able to shoehorn ourselves on board. Though the layout was a lot of fun it did suffer from being overly cramped; it would clearly be impossible for some of the more rotund in this country to shoehorn themselves on board.

From there we made our way to Volcano (#177), one of just a handful of full circuit inverted coasters built by Intamin. This one has two sections of launch track, one at the start of the ride and one roughly half way through the course. The latter accelerates the train to the point that it comes flying out the top of an artificial volcano, complete with a blast of flame. My only regret is my decision to sit in the back seat, which suffered from substantial vibration, uncomfortable enough to dislodge fillings. Friends have told me that this is completely absent in the front, but there wasn't enough time for a second go; perhaps on my next visit.

One of my favourite genres of coasters is the bobsled, built predominantly but not exclusively by Mack in Germany. Less than a dozen of these rides have been built worldwide, but one of those is here. Avalanche (#178) was not up to the standard of the ride of the same name at Blackpool Pleasure Beach, but it was still a lot of fun, in sharp contrast to the rather tired Anaconda (#179).

We were pleasantly surprised by the wait time for Flight of Fear (#180), which was less than fifteen minutes; it is not unusual for its sister ride at Kings Island to attract queues of more than an hour. Better yet, this model was just as smooth as the version at Kings Island had been, suggesting that I'd caught the latter on a bad day.

Certain members of the enthusiast community have retrofitted an acronym to the name of the Japanese coaster manufacturer TOGO. This description of try once get off is hardly an endorsement, and as such it wasn't a huge surprise to discover that Shockwave (#181) was on the far side of brutal. The idea of airtime on a stand-up coaster is of debatable merit for anyone with male anatomy, especially when combined with turning ability similar to a shopping trolley. Though the coaster enthusiast in me laments the idea of any rides closing, it has to be said that the removal of Shockwave would allow its replacement with something much more fun, such as a few park benches.

At this stage we decided to make a whirlwind tour through the lesser coasters in the park, knocking off Grizzly (#182), Ricochet (#183), Hurler (#184) and Rebel Yell (#185) in the space of an hour. The three wooden coasters in this mix didn't make much of an impression on me, but they did at least qualify as new credits. Apparently one should ride them at night for maximum effect, but by that stage we'd found somewhere else to spend our evening.

It was on the way out from Rebel Yell that I heard the three blasts of a horn indicating the imminent dispatch of Hypersonic XLC (#186), a ride that had spent much of the day closed for maintenance. Forgetting any sense of dignity I put on a rapid spring to the entrance, while frantically trying to indicate to James and Andrew what I'd heard. We made it into the queue with no more than fifty people in front of us, meaning a blessedly short wait for the front row queue.

Kings Dominion

The second fastest launched coaster in the world features very heavy and well padded lap bar restraints. Once the restraint is closed riders really can barely move, making any chance of escape utterly impossible. The train rolls almost painfully slowly out of the station into a pre-launch staging area, where a safety recording is played. This is the usual deal; keep your head back against the headrest; arms down, especially during launch, et al. While this is important anywhere it particularly matters here, as being accelerated to eighty miles per hour in less than two seconds would be quite an effective way to dislocate ones shoulder.

The launchpad itself features a drag-race style starting light. There is a mechanical clunk as the train rolls backwards onto the launch mechanism. The three blasts of the horn only partially drown out the sound of an air compressor charging up, while at the same time the recorded safety announcement is repeated again. By this stage passengers even experienced passengers are staring straight ahead and gripping their restraint handles for dear life. The wait seems to go on for ever, but before you know it, the light turns green.

There are some moments in life one never forgets, such as the first day at school, the first date, and so on. My first launch on Hypersonic XLC falls firmly into this category for me, instantly relegating all other launched coasters to second class citizens. The power of the acceleration has to be felt to be believed; words simply do not do it justice. James and myself immediately went round for a second ride, which was just as amazing as the first.

Andrew had had enough for one day, and decided that he wanted to return to our hotel, conveniently located just across the road. Before he departed we took advantage of his youthful status to score our credit on Taxi Jam (#187), which had somehow been forgotten. With that out of the way, James and I returned to Hypersonic XLC, where we remained until park closing.