Legoland may theoretically be less than an hour by road from Luton Airport, but heavy traffic put that idea neatly to bed. A late flight had already ensured that we'd have less time in the park than planned, so it was with considerable annoyance that we made our way through the gate just an hour before our planned departure time. The purpose of our visit was to ride the Mack wild mouse, branded here as the Jungle Coaster (#370). We'd attempted to ride this earlier in the season, but it had been closed all day. One might question the sanity of making a fourth visit to a Legoland park in one year, and this isn't something I'm overly proud of, but what can I say? I wanted the credit.
The queue for the ride was unusually lengthy for this sort of coaster, but after a while it became apparent that it was due to loading speed. The cars have been retrofitted with seat belts, and the limited space ensures that those who forget to pick them up before sitting down will have to get out and try again. Additionally, the belt was tight; I'm not a large person, and it was bordering on the uncomfortable for me. Restraints aside, however, the coaster was running well, and the brakes (other than the final one) were notably less agressive than other rides of this type.
25th September 2004
Coney Beach is a park that I'd never have bothered with were it not about to close down. It presented a dreary and depressing appearance that hinted at what might have been in the past; faded and peeling paint was very much in evidence. Several buildings that were once home to major rides were now idle and derelict. Pieces of broken wood supports could still be seen attached to the roof of one, the last evidence of a shoot-the-chutes ride that was demolished in the early nineties after a fatal accident. All the remaining rides today were fairground level portable models that could easily be relocated.
Our first stop was the sole adult roller coaster, a Pinfari design branded as Megablitz (#371). Given the right set of circumstances this ride might actually have been fun, but it was quite painful thanks to two things; the over the shoulder restraint, and a set of keys in my coat pocket. I made a brave attempt to resolve the latter problem but the restraint was too tight to do anything about it. Chalk that one up to experience.
As we were disembarking, Tom showed up. I had mentioned to him last weekend that we were planning to be here, and as he lives in Cardiff he said he'd try to join us. It's always nice to visit a park with somebody who knows it well, though in this case it was impossible not to wonder why anyone who'd been there would choose to go back of their own free will. He took us on a tour of the park, taking time to point out where some of the better rides had once been located. Coney Beach was once home to a number of impressive attractions, but declining attendance, and probably a certain amount of mismanagement had brought that day to a close. Tom knew quite a bit about the park history, including information on the shoot-the-chutes accident that I had not been able to find out myself; "decapitating people is not good!".
Tom is far too sensible to count coasters, and consequentially was quite happy to watch us embarrassing ourselves on the junior coaster, Nessi (#372). This was my third encounter with this particular model of junior coaster, and the second time in as many months. Following on from that, we concluded our visit with another lap on Megablitz. After my previous experience I was quite careful with my pockets, and the lack of a key digging into my chest made for a much more pleasant experience. The trains were still tracking awkwardly in a few places, but this is arguably par for the course for a Pinfari coaster.
Barry Island Pleasure Park
25th September 2004
Our first impression of Barry Island was that we'd found a duplicate of the park we'd just left. As with Coney Beach it is located in a small town in Wales that has no other major attractions. However, the difference became evident the moment we walked through the gate; the management here clearly take pride in what they have, with fresh paint on a number of rides gleaming in the afternoon sun. The overpowering impression was of a small but confident park, and with luck it'll keep going for years to come. Our decision to stop there was based on the presence of the Viper (#373) credit, but as always we decided to walk through the place to see what else we might find.
The what else turned out to be an otherwise unassuming dark ride by the name of Haunted Mine. This ride was the first to be designed by John Wardley, who later made himself famous for an assortment of attractions in Alton Towers, not least the legendary Nemesis. Though the cars were stopping and starting in an arbitrary fashion today thanks to a dodgy power rail it was still an interesting piece of nostalgia.
25th September 2004
After fifty four different parks, one hundred and fifty three new coasters, three new countries, and seven new airports, the coaster season for me is now over. I don't honestly know how I became so addicted to amusement parks, but through the hobby I made lots of good friends and had some real fun. I hope to do quite a number of the trips planned by the European Coaster Club next year, time (and money!) permitting. Until next time!