Wild Adventures is a nine coaster park that turned out to be almost completely deserted. One of the ride operators reminded us why; it was a Sunday, and as such the crowds would only build up after church. Welcome to the Deep South. Both George and I purchased season passes, as they could also be used at Cypress Gardens, and the combined price was slightly cheaper than two sets of park admission. The cashiers provided us with a voucher which could be used to get into the park and redeemed inside for a photo ID. Unfortunately, the staff member at the gate didn't notice that I had handed him a pass voucher, and he tore it in half like any other ticket. George and I, accompanied by the rather embarrassed staff member, spent a few minutes searching the garbage box for the pieces, but were ultimately unsuccessful. In the end, the supervisor on duty produced passes for us both, and we entered the park.
The newest attraction at Wild Adventures is the Gauntlet, a double installation of the S&S Screaming Swing ride. Though I hadn't been particularly impressed with the ride experience at Knott's Berry Farm, the version here was included with park admission instead of having an extra charge, making me happy to give it another try. Perhaps it was the lack of cost, or maybe it was listening to George exploring various forms of invective in the seat beside me, but whatever it was, I thought the ride to be much more fun than my first impression had suggested. Maybe S&S do have another hit on their hands, though the ride cycle is really too short for an upcharge attraction.
The nine coasters in the park are for the most part production designs, and indeed most of those are family coasters. Ant Farm Express (#412) and Bug Out (#413) were both standard fare, no different to the other models of their kind. The SLC, however, was a bit different to the norm. Hangman (#414) featured relatively soft padding on the restraints. Though it did not smell particularly pleasant, it nonetheless managed to absorb the worst jolts on the ride. The end result was a moderately pleasant experience, and as regular readers here will know this is high praise indeed.
Gold Rush (#415) was our second Chance-built coaster in two days, which in itself is unusual given that there are not all that many to choose from. It is the same model as that installed at Michigan's Adventure.
Cheetah (#416) was one of the last coasters to be built by Custom Coasters International before they went out of business, and has a thrilling and exciting layout. Unfortunately, while most of the ride is fine, there are some places where the track really does need maintenance, notably the crest of the second hill. We nevertheless took a second ride, which was just as much fun as the first. While I only tried the front seat on both circuits, George moved to the middle of the train for his second go. He commented that "it was a lot wilder back there, but quite interesting nonetheless because it was possible to see the rest of the train shuddering around the track". I couldn't help but wonder whether the ride would track better with PTC trains instead of the Gerstlauer rolling stock that operates on it at the moment.
Tiger Terror (#417) is the first non-shuttle coaster I've seen to use the lift hill to assist the braking of the ride. The train is slowed partially in the station, then rolls back off the lift to be stopped.
Swamp Thing (#418) has a 6'2" height limit, though fortunately for us the operators were not enforcing it. One of them did, however, raise an issue regarding our glasses, which as always were secured with coaster straps. Though she was overruled by a supervisor it was still a somewhat silly situation; if they had been okay on the much larger Hangman, why on earth would they be a problem here? While the ride doesn't pass directly over it, a pool with an alligator in it is visible from the lift hill, which is probably where the ride got its name.
Boomerang was not operating. A cursory enquiry at guest services indicated that it was not scheduled to open all day. As such, the final coaster operational coaster in the park turned out to be Fiesta Express (#419). This was my second encounter with a Zamperla Mini Mouse, the other being at Parc Saint Paul last year. While these coaster are nominally eight feet tall, the total height differential between top and bottom is closer to four feet, putting them firmly into the "cute" category. Though adults do look silly on board such a small ride this did not stop either of us from getting in the credit.
8th May 2005
This park was known as Cypress Gardens at the time this report was written.
The decision to visit Cypress Gardens today was a late one, made at about 4:00pm when were just outside of Orlando. A visit there had been planned for later in the week, but was jammed into the same day as other parks. Since we had the time now it would be no harm to get it in. It would also be an interesting challenge to hit both of Kent Buescher's parks in one day.
The park brochure carried the helpful information that "closing times vary throughout the season", along with a phone number for more information. Though making calls on my mobile in this country is not cheap at all, I decided it was the best idea. Two minutes later, I was ready to kill somebody. A recording about the wonderful new rides at the park was followed by an IVR, telling me to press two for park opening hours. This proceeded to repeat the same message as in the brochure, but no specific information. Pressing the zero key, which on every other phone system in the world gets you a human operator just gave me a "Sorry, that code is not valid in this menu".
It is times like this that I am glad I own shares in Vodafone, as the call was long enough to have had an effect on their stock price. I finally managed to get through to a human after what seemed like an eternity. They were able to answer my question immediately; 7:00pm. Allowing for an hour to get there, we would have two hours in the park, which both of us figured would be enough. Traffic got in the way of this ambition, but we nevertheless managed to arrive ninety minutes before closing.
The first ride you see on entering the park is the Okeechobee Rampage (#420), the larger Vekoma junior coaster and a clone of the one we had ridden four weeks ago in Ratanga Junction. While a production model and as such nothing new to us, it was only the second coaster I've seen to be fitted with the manufacturer's reengineered lap bar system, a snug design that works far better than the plain bars it replaced.
The Martin and Vleminckx group has been involved in the coaster business for years, though behind the scenes. They have been involved with reprofiling and retracking various wooden coasters, and have assembled many well known rides, notably Top Thrill Dragster. The Triple Hurricane (#421) was the first coaster actually designed and built by the group, but based on how it rides it will almost certainly not be the last. The junior PTC train was not ideal for adults with long legs, but with one person to a car it worked well. George immediately promoted it to his third favourite wooden coaster, behind Tonnerre de Zeus and Cornball Express, with his only criticism being that it was a little on the short side.
There was one very odd thing about the braking system on the ride which neither of us had ever seen before. As each car passes over the brake the back section of it bounces about three or four inches above the rail. This happens in sequence from the front car to the back and looks like it cannot be doing the cars any good. This is, incidentally, the only major bump on the ride; the tracking is extremely smooth with only the expected shake, rattle, and roll as found on any wooden coaster.
Riding two Zamperla Mini Mouse rides in one day is something that only coaster enthusiasts could do. Fiesta Express (#422) was nevertheless unique among all the coasters I have ever seen in that the track had not been painted. I discovered later that this model had in fact been my 350th steel coaster.
We were the only two guests in the queue for Swamp Thing (#423). George headed towards the back of the train; I chose instead to go for the front. As a result, I overheard one of the ride operators saying that George looked too tall for the ride, which, according to the sign at least, he is. Sensing impending disaster, I piped up by saying that he had been okay on the one in Wild Adventures that morning. This comment was greeted with an incredulous "you went to Wild Adventures today?!", followed in short order by a "how long did the drive take?" and then a "which park is better?". The latter is not an easy question to answer, as the parks are quite different, but having thought about it now I think Cypress Gardens has the edge due to its landscaping.
With all four coasters cleared in just under three quarters of an hour, we gravitated over to the obligatory Ferris Wheel, followed in short order by the Storm Surge spinning rapids ride. There was nothing else either of us thought looked particularly interesting, so we went back over to Triple Hurricane and clocked up nine consecutive rides before park closing time. The last three rides were due to the enthusiastic ride operators, who were happy to dispatch the same passengers repeatedly as nobody was waiting in the station.
On the way out we had a look in the merchandise shop. I was about to purchase a Cypress Gardens t-shirt when I noticed, much to my amusement, that it showed a Boomerang and a SLC, neither of which exist at Cypress Gardens. One can only assume that it was a rebranded design previously used at Wild Adventures; whatever it was, I elected to give it a miss.