If you'..ve ever been lucky enough to experience the rare but wonderful phenomenon of a "..perfect day,".. then you may be able to grasp more intuitively why the Phoenix is considered in a class of its own. In a perfect day, nothing spectacular happens, but the quotidian elements of existence nevertheless merge in seamless harmony. All those little tipping points that could send the day off track fall in your favor. Nothing happens to detract from your sense of well-being. You find yourself appreciating the company that you keep, the wind on your face, the sun on your back, the food that you eat. You feel optimistic and energized. You'..re living in the moment, neither regretting the past nor dreading the future. When it'..s over, the days again become a blur, and because nothing extraordinary happened, your perfect day will take its place in the continuum of life, barely a memory, neither a revelation nor a turning point. But you'..ll be saner, wiser, and kinder for having had it.
That'..s how the Phoenix affects me. It doesn'..t have any moments of extraordinary power, but at no moment when I'..m experiencing it do I wish it to be anything but what it is. The Phoenix has been exhaustively analyzed on this board, and the most extraordinary trait that emerges is its ability to appeal to critics of almost every conceivable roller coaster ideology. It is as close to a common denominator as we have in the subculture of the coaster-obsessed. We can argue about the one-trick ponies, the trophy coasters, the brilliance of brutality, rideability versus intensity, sublimity versus sterility, new versus old, wood versus steel. Our touchstone, however, is the Phoenix. Even if we all love it for different reasons, we all, by and large, still love it.
As for me, I favor the extreme. The signature moments in my roller coaster journey have tended to be those that leave their categories so far behind that they essentially create a new category of their own. Thus, I remember and celebrate Top Thrill Dragster'..s speed, Cyclops'..s airtime, Voyage'..s audacity, Son of Beast'..s aggression, Avalanche'..s intensity, Millennium Force'..s height, El Toro'..s steepness, Beast'..s organicity, Steel Phantom'..s scariness. Yet in all these instances, each ride'..s mastery of a certain indispensible roller coaster attribute only makes its shortcomings that much more pronounced. Each is a link in roller coaster evolution, but even as they advanced the species, their flaws doomed them to a certain marginal existence. Not so the Phoenix. It succeeds not because it pushes the characteristics of its genus into new territory but because it harmonizes them to a degree that may be unmatched by any other contemporary roller coaster. Nothing is missing, and no one atrribute exerts itself at the expense of anything else. Every serious consideration of traditional roller coaster design should begin and end with the Phoenix.
I'..m a tough grader, but I don'..t require perfection before I bestow a "..10.".. On almost any other ride, this would be the paragraph in which I would mark down Phoenix for having seat dividers in its otherwise pristine, buzzbar-equipped PTCs. Nevertheless, and I may never say this again, seat dividers do some honest work on this coaster, at least for single riders. Were things otherwise, the solo passenger might have to spend so much time bracing for balance or for impact as to detract from the otherwise effortless, unselfconscious joy that Phoenix has to offer. I almost landed on the seat divider twice during my most recent rides in Phoenix'..s back seat, moreover, so I can hardly claim this feature neuters the ride'..s forces.
The Phoenix is not the only, or maybe even the greatest, ride of modest proportions still operating today. It is, however, the most unassuming. It exists to please, not to impress. After you have traveled the world and sampled the array of modern coaster marvels you may find yourself jaded or even nonplussed. If any love for the roller coaster still beats in your breast, however, a few rides on the Phoenix will reveal it.