by Jim Winslett

Note: the review below was written when MegaZeph was still an operating coaster. Hurricane Katrina closed the coaster and the park, which has yet to reopen, and it might never do so. Still, I leave it intact, refusing to change the present-tense verbs to past tense, hoping beyond all hope that this coaster might someday be bought and resurrected by someone who wants a badass ride for their park without having to start from scratch. The longer it sits, however...

Full layout as seen from the road

Here stands an unimposing, medium-sized coaster in a small park in New Orleans, a city known the world over for practically everything but its amusement park rides. Its steel structure sits in a marsh and isn't really that attractive. Its layout doesn't have the graceful curves of the Texas Giant or the outrageous camelback hills of Shivering Timbers. It is, for lack of a better term, a coaster-next-door sort of look. To see it run doesn't help, either. It makes its way around the course just exactly as you'd expect it to. Or so it seems. Looks can be deceiving... because as you get closer to the coaster and enter the queue, you can hear the riders. As the queue moves into the center of the layout, the trains pass close enough for you to see the riders' faces. It is only then that you begin to wonder if this just might be something special...

Screaming peeps!

 Notice that there are two basic reactions on the train above: [1] unbridled joy with arms raised to the heavens [2] sheer determination and survival instincts with a death grip on the bar. 
If you love coasters that toss you around, rattle your nerves, and attempt to send you flying into space, then this is nirvana.
If you love smooth, precisely engineered layouts that are designed to flow effortlessly over the hills and turns, then this is going to be your worst nightmare.

Going up!

It all begins so simply: A lift hill right out of the station, a pretty decent first drop, and good speed up the next incline. So far, so good. So far, average. So far, just what you expected from it.

Going down!

Then comes the first turn. The turn sits so high that you expect to barely get up to it. Not so. Front seat riders are launched into the air as the train crests the top of the incline and begin the left-hand swoop turn. The swoop maintains the speed as the car heads toward what just may be the best wooden coaster drop in the world. A slight rise just before the drop ensures that back seat riders get air even before the whole train just disappears from under them. It's as if the train just leaves the track and falls to earth. 

I wonder what's after that underpass?

The pic that follows shows what happens right after that delicious drop. Notice that the track there is low to the ground, curved, and practically unbanked... Imagine flying over that at 60mph!

You don't even have time to get your butt back in its proper place in the seat before you are hurtled skyward twice on the first of three double-ups. Yes, I said three double-ups.

Even after multiple rides, you aren't prepared for this part.

This one leads to a big, flat turnaround that saps the speed and gives you a moment to catch your breath. You'll need it. You might also want to check out the rest of the layout from here (see pic below). You might as well memorize it, because it will all be a blur soon enough.

Whew. Surely the worst is over.

A long, shallow dive to the ground somehow gets all the train's speed back and you hit the second double-up. It's not nearly as brutal as the first one, and paired with the gentle slope of the drop before it, you may think that the ride is easy from here on. Um.... no.

The train makes a slight jog to the left and dives into the trick-track, a section of seemingly flat track that tosses the train from side to side. This track is totally hidden from any view, so most folks don't expect it, no matter how much they study the ride before boarding. Rising from this, there is a swoop turnaround over the lake with lots of laterals. If you don't know the person riding in the seat with you, you will after this turn.

You won't even notice the water.

Rocketing out of this, you find yourself on the back side of the layout, staring at a string of bunny hops and thinking that you are going way, WAY too fast to navigate them. Too bad.

Most of the bunny hops are hidden. That's just evil.

Riders who began the ride with hands in the air often yank them down here and hang on. This is the coaster equivalent of a bull ride at a backwoods rodeo. The train bucks and kicks as it screams over the little hills, trying desperately to toss its riders off its back. Somewhere in the midst of the mayhem exists the third and final double-up. All this is leading up to the finale: a rather innocent-looking helix.

Round and round

You enter the helix without losing much speed at all. In fact, you will probably find yourself becoming well-acquainted with the side of the car if you don't see it coming. As the train roars through the circular track, the banking decreases, becoming nearly unbanked at the end. This serves to pin the riders to the side of the car and hold them there for the entire helix. It works. When the train finally hits the brake run, the upstop wheels are still spinning with an angry-bee buzz--- but with all the laughing, cheering, and OMIGODs coming from the riders in the train, you probably won't hear it.

The bottom line is that I consider the average-looking little Mega Zeph to be one of the world's best wooden coasters, and on my list of favorite wooden coasters of all time. I've been told that it has its occasional "off" day when it runs sluggishly, but that's true of any wooden coaster. Luckily, I've never had anything other than amazing rides on Mega Zeph, and I hope to have many more.

Would someone PLEASE buy and resurrect this coaster somewhere?

Not sure why MegaZeph came with seats... you hardly ever stayed in them.