I will never forget my one and only ride on Desperado if only because I had to work so hard to get it. This steel hypercoaster is constructed around Buffalo Bill’s hotel in Primm, Nevada which is not somewhere I ever happen to be passing! The coaster is, however, just a short drive south of Las Vegas and so shortly after it was opened I made a pilgrimage to experience what was the world’s tallest roller coaster at the time. Unfortunately Desperado was closed and I had a wasted journey.

It is not the first time that I have travelled in vain to ride a coaster. Anyone who visits Merlin parks will undoubtedly have had that experience! This occasion seemed much worse however as being 6,000 miles from home I was not sure if I would ever get another chance to visit. Luckily I did but that trip almost backfired too!

I found myself in Las Vegas again in 2002. By this time Desperado had been overtaken in the size stakes but still looked well worth a visit for the novelty of seeing a single coaster towering up from the dessert floor in the small settlement of Primm. This time I checked that the ride was open before I set off and arrived full of excitement and ready to roll.

I reported to the ticket booth to be told that the ride was running but that 14 guests were required before they would operate the attraction. I asked how many they had and was shocked to hear that my partner and I were the only customers. To make matters worse the Casino was very quiet. I was determined that I was not going to have a second wasted visit and resolved to find the 12 additional riders myself. I took off on a tour of the hotel, wending my way around the casino, restaurants and boutique clothing stores basically accosting every tourist and asking them to take a ride on Desperado. It took me 20 minutes but I managed to persuade enough people to pay and report to the station. Poor sods! Half of them looked terrified and the rest were clearly wondering how they ended up in their seats but hey!

Finally Desperado left the station inside the hotel and hit the great outdoors. As the train climbed the massive first lift hill I had the opportunity to admire the magnificent view across the dessert. The coaster then plunged down the first drop into a tunnel before emerging into the bright sunlight and careering around the rest of the lengthy circuit. The scale of the ride combined with the unique setting make for a thrilling and entertaining experience. It is not the smoothest machine in the world but is perfectly tolerable and it maintains a good speed for the duration of the ride. All in all, Desperado is a very good coaster in a brilliant location.

Sadly on my return to the station there were still no other visitors waiting to ride and I got the distinct impression that the hotel did not want me to accost any more guests in the hotel so I was forced to leave without a second go and have not had the opportunity to return. If you want to try the ride make sure you take a coach load of people with you or you may not get the chance!


Article by Sally Stacey