A little over two years ago now the world's longest coaster lost a wheel during operation, seriously injuring a guest in the nearby water park, and the ride has stood idle ever since. That was how I found myself standing in front of a closed coaster on my bucket list for the second time this year. Though I'd known that Steel Dragon 2000 would be unavailable ahead of time, it was still enormously vexing to stare from the ground at the impressive spectacle of a 318 foot high lift hill and nearly two miles of inaccessible track. It seems remarkable to me that such an expensive piece of engineering has been left inoperative for all this time; hopefully it'll reopen some day.
We began our morning with Ultra Twister (#647), a standard layout ultratwister and coaster number one hundred for John. The ride began with the standard vertical lift mechanism, and the entertainment factor of this was boosted immeasurably by the two screaming Japanese girls in the back of our car. The rest of the ride wasn't exactly smooth, to put it mildly, but it did at least have novelty value, unlike the Arrow-built Corkscrew (#648). The latter was one of four installations of the same layout to open in Japan in 1979, and all remain operational today some twenty-six years later.
George celebrated his five hundredth coaster on White Cyclone (#649), the longest wooden coaster in Japan, and the only one in the country we had yet to ride. Our tour guide had helped him imprint what we believe to be his name and the number five hundred in Kanji, giving him a nice alternative ton-up sign. It was probably the most worthy coaster in the park for the landmark, and a respectable ride, though not a top one by any means; the designers relied a little too much on helices, which the train wasn't the best at negotiating.
The park is one of a few in the world to operate two wild mice side by side. Only the right hand Wild Mouse (#650) was running today, though to be fair the number of guests in the park was far too low to justify the cost of running both tracks. This presented a conundrum for the coaster counters that I managed to side-step, having decided long ago that I don't need to pad my count by listing separate tracks. One of our group suggested to me that my policy meant that I could only claim half a credit, which is arguably true but more trouble than its worth to implement.
Our next stop was at a twin-track Wiegand Bobkart. These rides are among my favourite thing to do in parks when you take coasters out of the equation, and it is very hard to put my finger on why. For those who are not familiar, consider an electrically powered sled in a trough not unlike that from an old playground slide. This motors along at a decent speed, not as fast as a coaster enthusiast might travel but quick enough for riders to feel what's going on. With that done, we decided to brave the first generation Intamin built Freefall, which may well be on borrowed time given that those owned by Cedar Fair are up for sale at the moment. As predicted the free fall sensation was superb, but the landing was pretty sore.
The best ride of the day ended up being the Looping Star (#651), a Schwarzkopf classic in excellent condition that was running as good as it would have done when it first left the factory in Münsterhausen in the early eighties. Tim remarked that this was due to the precision German engineering, but as our very vocal representative from that locale it was noted that he would say that! On disembarking we took a quick break for rehydration, despite the soft drink prices exceeding the price of a pint back home, then headed to the other Schwarzkopf coaster. Shuttle Loop (#652) was also in top shape, with only the vague odour of axle grease hinting at the age of the launch mechanism.
From there we went to the Japanese Haunted House, a walkthrough in local style that was quite different to anything that might be seen in a western park. The scenery within wasn't overly detailed, but the effects were interesting enough to justify a few minutes. With that complete we went to tick off our final credits. Jet Coaster (#653) proved to be a rather strange ride, in that it had three good drops breaking up some extremely slow turns negotiated at a speed that could not have been more than five miles per hour. It was scarcely more exciting than Children Coaster (#654), a medium size Tivoli .
By this stage we had done just about everything that we wanted to do, and on John's suggestion we made our way back for a repeat of White Cyclone. Our second ride was not a happy one, as our seat towards the back of the train was brutally rough, the only saving grace being a little back support through the corners courtesy of my position on the left hand side of the train. Instead of going back for a third lap I talked John into riding the Frisbee with me, a Huss-built giant model identical to those at Kings Island, Bobbejaanland, and from this year, Cedar Point. I really like these rides for some reason; my stomach will not allow me to ride repeatedly without ill effects, but once every half an hour or so works just fine. This one felt more powerful than the others I've experienced, with a slightly longer programme giving a few more full height swings.
We took a second lap on Looping Star before trying out the Space Shot, a triple tower attraction, though only one was operational. The launch felt very weak; suggesting a worn-out air compressor or a deliberate choice to save power. It was on disembarking from the ride that I noticed a very odd policy I later realised had been in place on every ride in the park: guests were not allowed to vacate the boarding platforms until everyone had congregated around the exit. I had almost got the gate open here when my hand was gently but forcibly removed from the mechanism and the operator held it shut. Ten seconds later, when a queue had formed behind me, it was opened again. Despite my best efforts I couldn't think up any logical reason for this policy; if anyone from the park is reading this please do enlighten me.
We were making our way back towards the main entrance when I spotted people on the platform of Viking, an extra large pirate ship that had been closed all day. Power walking over there showed that the ride had in fact opened, and we were able to get in a quick ride. The enormous ships (yes, there are two of them) seat about one hundred and fifty apiece, and rise to about one hundred feet in the air, but bizarrely the experience feels no different to a standard pirate ship; the huge size has no real effect except as regards capacity, which I calculated to be around six thousand riders per hour.