Tuesday, March 1

We went to three theme parks in the first three days of our holiday. A storm was brewing out in the Pacific and big rain was predicted for later that week so we took no chances. And we were blessed with three cracking, sunny warm days. First park was Magic Mountain. This park, along with Cedar Point, is the Big Daddy of rollercoaster parks. There are over 10 A-list coasters at this baby and we did 'em all. I was quite surprised to see Darren directing us towards X as we entered the park and then channeling us into the queue line (only there was no queue! the parks were empty and we walked onto every ride over those three days). I had ridden X alone last time we visited and Darren regretted this so he was looking to make amends this time. We were on the first train to leave the station that day so it was all over quite quickly. Some rides make you want to get right back on (Ghostrider) and some make you think that once every two years is enough. X falls under the latter category for me. It's enormous and heavy and fast and discombobulating and a marvel of engineering but it's an experience (a great one mind you) rather than a pleasure. We ambled around the park riding on this and that then had big red apples on sticks dipped in caramel and rolled in nuts.

The next day we headed for Disney's California Adventure. We were lodging over the road from the park so we just strolled there (here's a pic of the view from our room overlooking Califorina Adventure). This park is only a few years old and neither of us had been before so were pretty excited. Strangely enough, the theme of the park is the celebration of California and it's, er, California-ness. The main draw here is the California Screaming! rollercoaster. We weren't expecting much as it's a Disney park but we were surprised by the ferocity of that thing. We were catapulted out of the station at 70mph and into some steep hills and tight helix's then into a huge loop disguised as Mickey's ears. The ride lasted longer than the average rollercoaster, was very smooth and made us want to go straight back on. Delightful. California Adventure is a beautiful park with immaculate themeing (this huge mountain dominates the park and from various vantage points the shape of a Californian bear can be seen) and lots of great stuff to do. Our faves were the Hollywood Tower Of Terror (stuck in an elevator which plummets 20 storeys to the ground then does it again), Soarin' Over California (the nearest thing to actually flying on the back of an eagle) and Mulholland Madness (a great wild mouse type thingy). We toured the animation studios , drank gourmet coffee in the lounge on an 'old' silver Zephyr train, and rode on a very strange ferris wheel with cars that roll from the centre to the outer rim of the wheel while it rotates.

The following day we headed for Knott's Berry Farm. The park was practically deserted all day so again everything was a walk-on. We headed straight for Xcelerator and it scared the pants of us three times in a row. Silver Bullet only opened last month and was very fast and smooth and had a great 'near black-out' final helix (fainting at high speeds with painfull positive G forces is highly prized among coaster anoraks). The best coaster of the whole trip for me was at Knott's - Ghostrider. This five year old wooden beauty is out of control and relentless from leaving the station to returning. On our first ride Darren was convinced it was defective and we were speeding towards a horrendous death ("it's broken, we're going to die" he screamed at me after the first drop). It's a high speed, twisting, evil ride with steep hills and more 'out-of-seat' experiences than anything I've ridden in years. Loved it. We had lunch in one of the best 50's themed diners I've seen (I was Potsie and Darren was Ralph Malph) and bought some Knott's Berry Farm jam. This park's origins go back to jam as the park began it's life as a road side jam stall started by the farmer to make a bit more money during the depression. As his jam became more popular his wife started to sell fried chicken dinners and then a merry go round was added to keep the kids happy. The original recipe chicken dinners are still sold in a lovely restaurant in the park and Knott's Berry Farm jam's are now on the shelves of every supermarket in the country (we bought the 100% fruit jam, boysenberry, no sugar, no additives just quality Californian fruit). Our day at Knott's was my favourite of the whole trip.

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