Updated: Jun 15
I will always remember riding my first roller coaster.....circa 1988 in Kansas City, MO. My family made several trips to KC in the late 80's and early 90's. It was usually a good middle point for stopping on our way to Branson, MO. We'd hit Worlds of Fun during the day, catch a Royals game at night (George Brett and Bo Jackson both played for KC at the time). Then the next morning continue on down the road to Missouri.
During our family WoF visits, I loved the water rides... Viking Voyager was my first log flume ride experience and Fury of the Nile was a blast in the heyday of white water rafting rides. But one thing I was always happy to walk on by were the big, scary roller coasters. The newly constructed Timber Wolf and the interlocking loops of the Orient Express towered over the park.... and absolutely terrified me.
But nestled on the opposite side of the park was another coaster, hidden well within the trees, with a very unique spiral lift hill that was far less intimidating than the ones that took you straight up and dropped you straight down. The Zambezi Zinger it was called. After a little coaxing, my Dad convinced me to ride it...... and I was immediately hooked.
The coaster was just pure fun: it seemed faster than it actually was because it darted in and out of trees, ran low to the ground, and even dove underground through a tunnel towards the end. A couple of details that had escaped my memory over the years, but I was reminded of researching the old ride on the internet:
It had no restraints
It had bobsled style seating
Of course, to a young boy, bobsled style seating with a parent behind securing me was the ideal situation. But I laugh now at the thought of random strangers being asking to basically sit in each other's laps. And no restraints?? Wow!! What a different world it was back then. Of course with no inversions and not of a lot of intense, high-G turns, the restraints weren't really necessary. But you better believe the new Zinger will have restraints!
The original Zambezi Zinger was removed from the park in 1997, later replaced by the Boomerang, a short, bi-directional coaster that appeared in many parks in the early 2000s. But the tale of the original ZZ did not end there. It ended up at a park in Latin America.
To this day, the original steel Zambezi Zinger can be found in Montenegro, Quindio, Colombia, at a park called Parque del Café. It now goes by the name Montaña Rusa and is painted yellow and blue, but there is no mistaking it is still the Zambezi in disguise!
So now, over 30 years after my first Zambezi Zinger ride, and 25 years after the original Zambezi Zinger went away, I'll head to Worlds of Fun next weekend to ride the Zinger once again. No, its not exactly the same, but you can tell the designers tried hard to provide the same feel as the original. And a new roller coaster at WoF for the first time in 14 years is definitely something to get excited about!
Who knows, maybe I will even convince my daughter, who is deathly afraid of big roller coasters, to give it a try...