From Miler To Millennium, and Back Again: Part I

Friday, August 14, 2009 12:42 AM

Back a few days from my recent trip, which was not strictly a coaster event, but included visits to Waldameer, Cedar Point and Knoebels. I’ll (try to) keep the non-coaster parts of the trip to a minimum.

I left Monday morning headed toward Erie, and since my route took me within 3 miles of Knoebels, I figured it would be the perfect opportunity to pick up the credit for Kozmo’s Kurves. I arrived at the Parkway around 11:30 along with a decent number of cars. As I approached the new coaster’s location, I saw… nothing moving. At that time of the morning, the traffic crew was still directing people into the parking lot, so I got a parking space around 6 or 7 rows back. I maneuvered through a few other entering cars and headed to the park.

It turned out the ride wasn’t operating, and there were several maintenance people on and under the platform with welding equipment and other tools in hand. Looks like I won’t be getting this credit today. At least I didn’t go too far out of the way. Grabbed a frozen tea for the road and headed back across the parking lot. Now I know how a salmon feels swimming against the current! I was fueled and heading across Interstate 80 by noon.

Even with numerous work areas (road construction is the official summer sport of PA), and dealing with vehicles who insisted on riding in the passing lane at the same speed as vehicles in the other lane, I arrived in Erie around 4:45. I had booked a room at the Clarion on West 8th St. which put me close to both Presque Isle and Waldameer. Nice accommodations at a decent price.

The park didn’t open until 1:00, so Tuesday morning, I decided to explore the Isle. I noticed an employee walking the track of Ravine Flyer on the overpass. I hopped on one of the boat tours, even though I had second thoughts due to the forecast of T-storms, plus it was windy, making for a choppy lake. Our boat, the Lady Kate, headed through the channel and out into the lake. The wind was blowing waves across the lake and toward the shore, so soon we started hitting 1-2 foot waves, followed by 4-5 footers. Airtime on a boat! The captain decided to run the boat around and head back into the calmer bay for the remainder of the 90-minute tour. Still a fun time—I’d recommend it to anyone visiting the Erie area.

I decided to drive the rest of the way around the peninsula to take pictures of the lighthouse and the lake surf before heading to the park. My pics look just like water hitting sand. Amazing! I finally turned into the parking lot from of Peninsula Drive a little after 2:00. I entered near the turnaround for Comet, and since I was holding a pre-purchased ticket-- $19.00 for a combo through PA Recreation and Parks, I wondered what to do with the darn thing. I finally turned the corner and found the ticket booth. I asked the young guy who was attaching my wristband if he had a park map. He pointed and told me to go over there somewhere, where I realized there were no foldable park maps, just a few of the billboard types placed throughout the park. Luckily, the park isn’t that large, and it isn’t difficult to find one’s way around. Still, I’m an avid map collector and would have appreciated the souvenir.

Although in general, I don’t go for the marquee attractions in a park first, I decided to head for Ravine Flyer 2, because the skies looked dark. I would kick myself if I drove all this way and missed riding because of bad weather. The line extended only as far as the bottom of the downhill section, and the interior queues weren’t being used (if that makes sense). In other words, the line was short, and that was as long as I would see it all day. Even with them only running one train. As a single rider, I was paired up with another guy near the middle of the train. This guy managed to really confuse things when he went into the wrong row because the train wasn’t exactly matched up with the lines. After a mini Chinese fire drill on the platform, everyone managed to find a seat and we were headed up the lift hill. What a great view of the lake from the lift! It was a really good ride. I’d give it an 8.5 at this point.

Next I rode the Sky Ride just to get an idea of everything that was in the park, and how to get there. After that was the Whacky Shack. The line didn’t look all that long, but it took at least half an hour to finally board. Saw lots of tilt-a-whirl and X-scream cycles while waiting. I prefer these old fashioned funhouses to the newer interactives. I don’t think it’s as good as Knoebel’s, but I liked the elevation changes, and the outside pass-through.

Since the line for Steel Dragon didn’t look too long, I decided to go for it. This was a fun ride, although our car didn’t seem to rotate as much as others I saw. I rode mostly facing frontwards, only briefly turning sideways. A cool variation on the Wild Mouse and Spinning Mouse idea.

After that, I figured another RF lap was in order. This time I was in Row 10, and had another single rider behind me. The op on the platform asked her to move up with me, but instead I volunteered to move back, since her friends were in the last row—and I did want to move closer to the back. Now where the ride in the middle was pretty good, this ride was un-freaking-believable! That drop heading back across Peninsula Drive was ridiculous with airtime. Now I see where the rave reviews come from.

Despite the warnings I read here, I decided to try some park food. I had a cheeseburger meal at the Potato Patch stand. I paid nearly $9.00 for the burger, fries and soda without lid or straw. Oh well, live and learn. After that was a spin on Comet. I liked the manual controls that reminded me of Rollo Coaster. This was a one man operation though, as the op alternated between dispatch and brakes. I was pleasantly surprised at how roomy the cars were. I thought I’d be riding with my knees up to my chin. The ride wasn’t bad; nothing too exciting, but not boring either.

For full turning action, I decided to try Mega-Vortex. One thing I noticed right away that I didn’t like was that seats aren’t assigned. I sort of don’t understand why the first person in line would have to run two thirds of the way around to sit in seat 14. As a result, there were a lot of single seats left here and there that weren’t filled each cycle. When it came our turn to ride, we sat down; the butt clenchers came up behind us and locked in, and we sat. And sat. And sat some more. Two ops were in the booth looking at the board. After a few minutes, someone from maintenance came up the ramp and went in the booth. He got on the mike, and told us all to remain seated. The restraints went down and came back up again. Problem solved. Not sure why the ops couldn’t or wouldn’t try that. If nothing else, it gave me an extra 5 minutes for my cheeseburger to digest. Anyway, this is an awesome little ride. I love how the sliding and spinning combine to create these brief moments of feeling suspended.

On my way back across the park, I decided to try the flume. Very excellent ride; seems nearly impossible to avoid getting a good drenching between the two drops and the other elements. I really liked the misters and the tunnel. The twice-around layout is really different too. It has a very nice station, which unfortunately you don’t really get to see unless you’re in line for the ride itself.

I decided to head back to my car to retrieve my camera to snap some photos, but first I thought I’d take a train ride to see where it went. Well, this has to be the slowest train I’ve ever been on. I think the granny from the life-alert commercials could outrun this. Actually, it wasn’t a bad ride, and presented lots of photo opportunities. So I rode it first on my way back in from the lot. You certainly couldn’t say you missed a great shot because you were moving too fast. Nice station and nice train too.

Since I had the camera, I just walked around the park getting photos of the different attractions and trying to be artistic. Another sky ride was in order to get some bird’s eye view shots. This time around, there was only one op in the station, and every second car was being loaded. The op would unload one car, then walk over to the loading side and put people in the same car that was just unloaded. I don’t know if this is SOP for a weekday at the park, or they just happened to be short on labor this night. But it did result in the line for the ride extending out beyond the station.

After once again returning the camera to the car, I closed out my visit with two more rides on RF2, rows 9 and 4. By now the lines were only as far as the first landing below the platform so I did an immediate re-ride. This has definitely cracked the upper echelon of my favorite wooden coasters, if not all coasters. Overall, I had a great time here and think this is a fine park. I’m definitely looking forward to another visit.

End of Part I

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Friday, August 14, 2009 8:42 AM

Glad you had a great day at Waldameer. RFII is pretty freakin' amazing. It is in my top 5 woodies and just in my top 10. When we were there we never had more then a 1 train cycle and often ran around and got back on the next train.

Did you get your lap on RF3?

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Friday, August 14, 2009 4:41 PM

The sign at the entrance said nobody over 54" at all-- even to ride with a child. I ended up riding the purple version back east.

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Friday, August 14, 2009 5:28 PM

Hmm, when we went last month all 3 of us rode. While my kids are not the tallest, they are over 54" and I am 6'. I also saw several other adults on it.

Last edited by DaveStroem, Friday, August 14, 2009 5:28 PM
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