A SECOND NOTE: This is long. I will go into extensive narrative detail, and 'Playa will probably wish I hadn't mentioned how good that Comfort Inn Maingate's coffee was (the answer: surprisingly good!), but tough, I like doing it like that. :)
* * *
Ahh, the college experience. Throughout my junior and senior years, I'd dreamed of being able to use my GPA and extensive activities sheet as a first-class ticket out of New Jersey. Naturally, since Murphy's Law is the guiding impetus of 95% of my life, I happened to find myself at a Central Jersey institution (albeit a prestigious one) while many of my other friends found themselves living the dream and taking in the sights and sounds of Pennsylvania, Washington D.C., Boston, Michigan, and Virginia, just to name a few.
One in particular -- my best friend, Jeff -- had accomplished a lifelong goal and been accepted to the University of Notre Dame in South Bend, IN...and subsequently remained out there, coming home one weekend per semester. Excluding Christmas break, I'd seen him two days since August 7, 2003. So naturally, when his parents asked me to accompany them on a road trip out there to pack up his stuff and bring him home for the semester, I jumped at the chance to see both another beautiful university and my good buddy.
THEN they dropped the bombshell: on the way home from Notre Dame, we'd be making a side-trip to Sandusky, OH, and surprising Jeff by taking him to Cedar Point on Mother's Day! The days leading up to the trip suddenly began dragging ever so slowly...but like all good things, the wait came to an end, and after a seemingly interminable 12-hour drive, two days in South Bend, and 3 hours back east, I asked him to grab the white envelope out of my backpack and open it, discovering the Cedar Point brochure inside.
We stayed at the Comfort Inn Maingate that night. The toilet leaked, the room was cold, the beds were hard, Jeff snored like a mofo, the breakfast pastries sucked, and the coffee was surprisingly good. Alright, enough pregame exposition. Finally, the drive to that ever-famous causeway. And, for the second consecutive time, I'd be approaching the isle with a new record-breaking coaster breaking higher through the skyline. It was pretty surreal to realize that I'd be looking in awe, admiration, and anticipation at pictures and videos of TTD for about a year, but now was looking at it in person. Absolutely insane -- in the immortal words of Dante Hicks, I wasn't even supposed to be there today!
We parked in the relatively empty parking lot and I let Jeff's family get their Funday tickets while I processed my season pass. A little criticism: while I definitely like the idea of having the Season Pass Center open before the park is open (perhaps Six Flags Great Adventure could take a hint, cough cough...), the three-step approach was really confusing, especially when the girl told me to go right from window one to the picture line (I skipped the part where they took the ticket that I'd bought online). I thought I was gonna have to wait again, but they jumped me to the front of the line, and after about a half-hour -- 10:05am EST (because South Bend and their half-Eastern/half-Central time zone sucks!) we were walking up the main midway.
Although my first instinct was to drag everyone to TTD, Jeff couldn't resist passing Raptor with a 5-minute line, so we hopped on. I'd remembered it being incredibly rough-and-tumble two years ago, but this time around, it was fast, smooth, and incredibly fun. Maybe I'd just gotten a bad ride last time out, but Raptor felt pretty sweet this time. A fitting start to the day.
We continued up the main midway and veered right, leading us to the imposing steel tower of TTD...only to find a closed line and no trains launching. The problem: mechanical difficulties (which would be the bane of the entire day). We took advantage of the open FreeWay and got myself, Jeff, and Jeff's dad stamped for a 6-7 Thrill. We then agreed to give Jeff's mom, a non-coaster-rider, a break and take her to the more tame red-and-yellow ride, the Iron Dragon. It's still no Big Bad Wolf (and probably never will be), but with the mist on over the big finale, it too was better than I remembered it. And with a walk-on, it was even better!
TTD still wasn't firing by the time we got off the Dragon, so we let Jeff's mom ride to Cedar Point & Lake Erie railroad while the men jumped onto the 30-minute line for Millennium Force. I let the novice have the lakeside seat (the last time he was at CP, they were still building MF) and ended up getting assigned midtrain seats. The drop, despite being eclipsed by its phallic brother across the island, is still breathtaking. I think design-wise, it still could've benefitted from some more air, but who am I to question? It's smooth, it's fast, it delivers.
Coming off of MF, we met up with Jeff's mom and decided to take in lunch while waiting for TTD to start firing up. We ate at the tasty (though ridiculously overpriced) Coasters drive-in -- since I'd been at school, I'd never parted ways with that much money (almost $15) for food (a burger, fries, and shake). As we sat and ate, we noticed some trains consistently launching, so after the seemingly interminable wait, we finally trekked to the grandstand, waited to be let through the queue entrance, and finally stepped into the main queue in the middle of the ride. Surreal is once again the only way to describe it. After a year of waiting, here I finally was, staring at it, and about to ride it. Top Thrill Dragster.
Jeff and I insisted on a front-seat ride for our first lap. We waited in the main queue for about a half-hour before finally reaching the split-queue before the station. Between the split and the actual station, the ride broke down so much that it took us over a half-hour. Then we waited on the extra-long front-row line, which, after numerous additional breakdowns (seven in total), caused the total wait until we were strapped into the car to top out at 2 hours and 10 minutes -- a very entertaining 2 hours and 10 minutes, due to the colorful company joining us, but 2 hours and 10 minutes nonetheless.
Suddenly came the onset of something I've never experienced on a roller coaster before: sheer, unadulterated fear. Not the little wimpy "I'm scared and I don't want to go on the ride" feeling that most people call fear...this was entirely too genuine. It didn't help that the car rolled up to the first block, then paused for a while before rolling up to the launch position. After what felt like an interminable, foot-tapping, heart-pounding wait, I noticed the brake fins descend with a hiss of air. I looked over to the Christmas Tree...yellow, yellow, yellow, GREEN.
Not gonna lie to ya -- I don't remember exactly what happened, though the picture tells it all too clearly. The acceleration is, quite literally, breathtaking, and I could barely keep my eyes open as we passed the first camera and approached the insanely massive hill. Up we climbed, then a twist, higher and higher, and then, as gravity slowed the train, we gently rolled over the apex, sitting now 420 obscene feet over the Point. The moment I realized that "that coaster all the way down there" was Millennium Force, the screams kicked in. And how.
Before long, the train screamed down the vertical drop, twisting and falling, and then finally pulling out of the drop, sweat pouring down my forehead and adrenaline coursing through my body. After giving the second camera The Shocker, the train finally stopped -- though neither Jeff nor I caught our breath for a good five minutes afterwards.
My immediate and subsequent thoughts were the same: riding Top Thrill Dragster is the most terrifying thing I've ever done in my life. As a roller coaster, it severely lacks -- obviously, it's a one-trick pony. I haven't really considered it all that high on a list of my favorite coasters. But...as a roller coaster EXPERIENCE (I feel there's a difference, you may beg to differ), there is no other ride that can prepare you for it and no other ride that even comes close to it. It's absolutely incredible, and one hell of a 90th coaster (only ten more to go...:))
Meanwhile, back to our narrative...
After taking on the beast, Jeff's mom and dad were getting a bit cold and ventured toward the front of the park to get the sweatshirts from the locker while Jeff and I had free reign in the north end of the park. We started walking up the Gemini midway and basically hit each major ride as we met them. First stop: Corkscrew. This ride surprised me this time for two reasons: 1) the shockingly nice pop of airtime that comes at the first hill, and 2) it's smoothness and lack of beat-the-crap-out-of-yability. And when it's a literal walk-on, why complain?
We traveled further up the midway and took our next stop at Magnum XL-200, which I had previously pegged as my favorite ride in the park. One lap with Jeff in the ejector seat was more than enough to convince me that I was right the first time. It had its trademark ruggedness, monstrous air throughout the track, and the turnaround still freaked the hell out of me. Good times.
Next stop along the Gemini trail was, appropriately, Gemini. Once again, the ride perfectly lived up to my expectations from last time, so really no need to go back into much detail. I will, however, editorialize and whine about how the blue train had a seriously unfair advantage...it just wasn't right, damn it!
For our final ride before meeting back up with Jeff's parents, we dared to venture a trip on the Mean Streak. Both he and I seriously had our doubts, but for the fourth consecutive time, it was a walk-on and, therefore, irresistable. Now, it may have just been me, but it didn't seem like the trims were on at all during the first drop, and while the ride still lacks severely in the negative Gs I so very much crave, it was not nearly as rough or backbreaking as I remember...and, dare I say, enjoyable? Lots of people seem to agree with me, so here's hoping CP finally saved the Streak!
Four rides in under a half hour was a pretty sweet exchange, so we ventured down back towards TTD and met up with the 'rents again. This time, we decided to tackle a thrill that didn't involve rails -- my first trip on the Power Tower. we selected the green side, and after a brief 15-minute wait, we were gliding up the tower. At the top, Jeff and I both looked down and he commented, "Wow...it's a long way down." I replied, "Yeah it is." After a short pause, he asked, "So, I wonder when it's going to drop?" and I answered, "Oh, I don't kn--" The sudden plummet sucked the last word out in a loud scream. After about a second though, we were both laughing hysterically. Clearly, the tower did its job!
From there, we made our way down to the other end of the park via a pleasant ride on the Skyway. Upon arriving at the lower end, I was disheartened to see and then have it confirmed that Wicked Twister was, in fact, down for the day. We made up for it, however, by taking Jeff's mom with us onto Disaster Transport. Diss this ride all you want -- I think it's a hell of a lot of fun! Especially when you're the only ones in the line and can blatantly make fun of the crappy theming ("Oh, I could totally tell we're in Alaska!"). It was fun in the giddy, childish sort of way, so we rerode, only to find that behind us formed a huge line -- we're trendsetters!
Two rides on DT and our party split once more: Jeff's mom and dad headed up towards Frontierland for a ride on the Paddlewheel Excursions while Jeff and I tackled Blue Streak. Again, not much to say that I haven't already said: a great little ride with some wicked airtime and great pacing. Definitely one of the park's most underrated gems.
Then Jeff and I -- alone, I might add, as no one else was on the ride -- took a spin on the Calypso just for the hell of it. Nothing to say there really...and besides, at that point, it was almost 6:00pm, meaning almost time to redeem the TTD FreeWay!
But first, having neglected Jeff's mom, we took her back into Frontierland and tested her coaster merit on the Cedar Creek Mine Ride. I'll leave the comments strictly to her verbatim reaction: "God, this ride is lame!"
At last, the time had come once more. Jeff and I ventured back to Top Thrill Dragster (Jeff's dad opted out of his FreeWay ride) and entered the line at the merge. This time, we were going to settle for whichever row had the shortest line -- and wouldn't you know it, it was the back! We only waited two trains after getting into the station (a total wait of about 20 minutes) and after a little mishap with the seatbelt, finally rolled up to the launch position. Once again, the launch was insane, and as we crested the top of the tower, we were going so slow that we almost rolled back, and I got to take a nice look at the Point from a great height -- damn gorgeous.
Our final adrenaline rush over, the family and I walked back down the main midway, grabbed our stuff from the lockers, and ventured out into the parking lot. As we pulled down the causeway, I couldn't help but look back once more, the way I did last time. Only this time, it wasn't so bittersweet. It was an amazing day, we had a great time, and besides -- I'll be back in six short weeks!
* * *
All in all, despite some mechanical problems on TTD (which could be forgiven) and a couple other small problems throughout the day that weren't terribly bad, Cedar Point still lived up to the standards it has earned as the best amusement park in the world, at least in my eyes...and I can't wait for the return trip! :)
I enjoyed reading your trip report. Very thorough, albeit very long.
**I live in Mishawaka/SouthBend IN *** Edited 5/12/2004 3:46:08 AM UTC by Kyle Fobe***
You must be logged in to post