by Paul Ruben
Did you know that most Americans don’t have passports? Only about 6% do. That’s probably a good thing, so we don’t visit and annoy the rest of the world more than we already do.
But as a result, the traffic line on the bridge into Canada, where we now need passports to enter, was much shorter than in past years. Actually, we don’t need passports to enter Canada, but we need them to return to the US and since the Canadians don’t want us stranded after our money has been spent there, they ask to see our passports when we arrive.
I was on my way to Canada’s Wonderland to ride and report on its new attraction last season, WindSeeker. It’s a towering chair swing by Mondial. Four were installed at Cedar Fair-owned parks in 2011, with a further two to follow this coming season.
Canada’s Wonderland was my closest. Located outside Toronto, it is the fastest growing park in the Cedar Fair chain. Toronto’s population is exploding, thanks primarily to immigration, and the park’s attendance is a beneficiary. Under vice-president and general manager Norm Pirtovshek’s guidance, it continues to add more high capacity rides. WindSeeker will be followed this year by the 306ft-tall Leviathan coaster.
On WindSeeker, as many as 64 riders sit in open two-passenger swings with their feet dangling in the breeze. The swings rotate around the 30-storey centre column as you slowly ascend the tower. At the top, you are treated to dramatic views of the surrounding landscape as you take a 60-second flight at a 45-degree angle at a speed of 25 to 30 mph (40 to 50kmh).
I climbed aboard, floated upwards, and began to circle as in the photo above. It felt as if I was soaring quietly in a glider, except the same damn scene came around every seven and a half seconds. It was a hot day, but 300ft (91m) in the air, with the wind brushing your face, it felt cool.
WindSeeker is promoted as a thrill ride, but unless you have a fear of heights to generate an adrenaline rush, it is not. Rather, it was smooth with none of the bumps and lurching turns of many of the rides below. It was serene. I could have remained aloft all day if they had let me. I could see and identify the landmark rides in the park. I marvelled at the ever expanding rows of nearby housing where, when the park first opened 30 years earlier, there had been only cow pastures. To the south I could see downtown Toronto, Lake Ontario beyond, and even the US. What a view!
Mondial offers several shorter and lower capacity versions, and of course we mustn’t forget the similar rides offered by other manufacturers, notably Funtime with its pioneering Star Flyer. It got me thinking. If the classic chair swing can be rejuvenated by lifting it skyward, are there other flat rides that would benefit from the tower treatment? Like riding prone on your stomach, arms outstretched, alongside the gulls? Or on twirling tea cups? The mind races. And then gets dizzy …ewww.