This was my first trip to the park since 2002 when it was still operating under Six Flags management. Three previous visits had shaped a very poor opinion of the park in my mind. I thought the collection of coasters was very weak and the supporting cast was not much better. The park operations and customer service were among the worst I'd ever seen. I recognized that the park had some potential, but after the third strike, I had little desire to ever return.
With the park now under new ownership, and a good group of friends to spend the evening with, I decided to give it another try. What I found is that some things had indeed changed in the past three years. On the other hand, some things were, unfortunately, still the same.
I picked up my friend Craig (IggyAce) and his kids Caitlyn & Gage around noon on Friday. After driving about 5 hours and a time zone change, we were closing in on Aurora, Ohio just in time for park opening. The night started with a sour note as I was the lucky recipient of a speeding ticket on I-80 about a mile from our exit. Craig thought it was hilarious. Me… not so much.
We arrived just shortly after the park opened. The park was decorated for it's Halloween Haunt event and the decoration was actually pretty well done. Overall, the park looked cleaner and better cared for than I remembered. The employees we encountered were, for the most part, very friendly.
One thing that annoys me about Cedar Fair is that their admission scanner system does not recognize season passes from the other parks in the chain. Therefore, we had to make a stop at guest relations to sign in before entering the park. In addition, once at the turnstiles they older gentleman taking tickets told me I couldn't use the pass at the park because it was not a Geauga Lake season pass. After explaining how it works to him and getting confirmation from the other ticket taker, I was allowed to entry.
The rest of our group had not yet arrived so we began our evening with a ride on X-Flight (Vekoma flyer, 2002). This was one of two new "credits" for Craig's daughter Caitlyn as she has just reached the all important 54 inch height mark. X-Flight was running only a single train but there was only a minimal wait. I wasn't a big fan of this Vekoma flyer previously. I thought the flying gimmick wasn't very effective as you spend far too much time on your back and I found the restraints rather uncomfortable. Perhaps my tastes have changes as I enjoyed Batwing earlier this year and I also enjoyed X-Flight on this particular evening. After a second ride later in the evening, I realized that while not great, X-Flight was better than I remembered and better than I expected. In particular, I rather enjoyed the beginning of the ride, starting with the sudden flip into the flying position through horseshoe turn and the loop.
We walked over to Superm... err, Steel Venom only to find it closed with a misfired train, half filled with passengers, hanging half out of the station. Instead, we moved on to Big Dipper (John Miller, 1926) which, like X-Flight, was running only a single train. While I've always enjoyed Big Dipper and consider it the best of the parks three wooden roller coasters, I never found it to be the outstanding ride that some people rave about. Our ride from the middle row in the first car was really smooth, but still rather uneventful. The "airtime" that the ride supposedly has was weak and infrequent. I enjoyed the ride and it runs well considering it was built almost 80 years ago, but I still don't understand all the hype. On the other hand, the ride was fun enough that we walked right around for an immediate re-ride.
Afterwards, we noticed that Steel Venom (Intamin Impulse, 2000) was once again running. We walked into the station to find no less than 5 rows completely closed off in addition to one of the front seats. With only 17 of the 28 seats available, we were glad the park was not crowded. After a few cycles (man do I love the sound of those LIMs firing), we took a ride from somewhere in the middle of the train. The holding brake on the straight spike was not working either which takes a little bit away from the ride IMO. It seems like this particular ride is well overdue for some off-season maintenance. I still enjoy impulse coasters and this one was my first five years ago, but the novelty has worn off a little.
A phone call reveled that the rest of our group had arrived. We had expected to see Lori (loriu) and Steve Uhing, along with their daughter Jordan at the park but were informed that native Ohioans Danny, Kristin, Jeff, and Zack would also be joining us. We headed over to Big Dipper to meet up with the group where we found that Lisa (Addicted2TTD) and her son Jake had also decided to secretly surprise us by showing up without notice. After exchanging greetings for a few moments, we decided it would be best to knock out one of the haunted houses while we were in the area. Lori & Steve took the younger kids to ride Head Spin (Vekoma Boomerang, 1996) and X-Flight as they were weary about the haunts.
Phobia was the larger of the park's two haunts and it was by far the better of the two. The pathway leading back to the attraction was very well done with an errie atmosphere created by rays of light shining through the wooden fence and across the thick layers of fog. The haunted house was a fairly long walk through and rather well done. I thought it was much better than any of the three we did the next day at Cedar Point and far better than anything I've ever seen at a Six Flags park.
The split group met up again at X-Flight where we took our second ride. Afterwards, our numbers grew once again as local enthusiast Vic DiAngelo decided to drive over and join us for the remainder of the evening. We decided to make our way towards the other end of the park. Apparently, the fog machines were working better than expected as the entire middle of the park was engulfed with a layer of fog so thick that you could hardly see two feet in front of you. It was so excessive that some of the rides had to be shut down including the haunted car ride, Serial Thr... err, Thunderhawk, and Double Loop. We were assured that they were working on the "problem" although we though it was pretty cool. We blindly made our way through the fog and through the fright zone to our next ride.
Villain (CCI, 2000) is a fantastic looking wooden coaster that runs like roller skates on gravel. It's very rough and towards the back, it borders on being painful. The layout looks like it could deliver the goods but the track work on this thing is absolute crap. I've yet to have a single decent ride on this coaster. This night was no different although the thick fog did make for some amazing visuals off the lift and made for a slightly less nauseating ride. We had a bit of a wait since the park was (surprise) running a single train and had two rows closed off. Villain continues to reside near the bottom of my wooden coaster rankings and is by far the most disappointing of the twenty CCI coasters that I've experienced.
We followed that up with a spin on Haybaler (Mack Matterhorn) which, unfortunately, ran only forwards. Since Double Loop (Arrow, 1977) was still closed, we moved on and took a ride on the Roadrunn.... err, Beaver Land Mine Ride (Zierer, 2000). The coaster has a fairly large footprint and a nice layout for a family ride. It's certainly not a thriller, but it's more enjoyable than a lot of other small coasters. The ride also has a single massive train consisting of, I believe, 20 cars.
Moving back towards the lake, we stopped to check out the park's other haunted house. This one was themed to scary clowns and wasn't nearly as good as Phobia. All the kids went with this time so it was at least fun seeing their reactions. I also noticed that the park had used their bumper car building to house a Halloween attraction for the kids. This was a major bummer as I LOVE bumper cars and was hoping to check out Geauga's set. Lately, I've heard some really positive reviews of them and I don't think I've ever ridden them. At least, if I had, they were not remarkable enough that I had any memory of it.
A few of us stopped for a quick ride on Texas Twister (Huss Top Spin) which is another ride that I've heard great things about. Unfortunately, it seems that Cedar Fair no longer runs the insane program that Six Flags reportedly used to. I guess I shouldn't complain, as it's the first time I've personally seen the ride operating at all. But still, our cycle consisted of two or three flips to start followed by a whole bunch of mild rocking. It was an extremely weak program. I know what these rides are capable of and it pisses me off when the parks run them like kiddie rides.
We made our way to Batman... err, Dominator (B&M floorless, 2000) which was the one coaster that I really enjoyed on my past visits to the park. Despite the fact that there was nobody at the park, it still had a line since the park was, once again, running a single train. After a short wait, we rode towards the back of the train. Dominator was a little sluggish, perhaps due to the cold weather, but still provided a pretty good ride. I like the unique layout including the station fly-by and the nice drop off the mid-course brakes. Non-Inverted looping coasters in general have been falling out of favor with me lately and Dominator wasn't quite as good as I remembered it. But, I could still recognize that it's a good ride and probably still the star of this particular park.
Finally, we made our way down to Raging Wolf Bobs (Summers/Dinn, 1998) which has had the distinction of the only coaster that has been in my bottom three every year in the Internet Wooden Coaster Poll. Based on my previous rides, this coaster had absolutely no redeeming qualities whatsoever. Fortunately, there has been some extensive track work over the last couple years and the result is a coaster that is not only ridable, but actually kind of fun. The ride is also running the old Legend Gerstlauer train which tracks rather well. I was absolutely shocked at how smooth the beginning and end of the ride was. The layout still leaves a lot to be desired but it's easily the biggest improvement I've ever seen from a re-tracking job. There's still one section that hasn't been re-tracked and it's painfully obvious when you cross the boundary from new track to old. Now, THERE is the ride that I remember except it used to be like that from beginning to end. We actually ended up taking three rides on RWB while trying out different seats. Even the very back row was really smooth through the new sections. Supposedly, the remainder of the ride will be fixed this off-season which should make the ride even better. Kudos to whoever is doing the re- tracking on this ride. I'll stop short of calling it a good ride, but I have a feeling that it will at least creep out of the basement of my wooden coaster rankings this year.
As we worked our way back across the park, I stopped to buy a magnet and shot glass for my collection while a few members of the group took another ride on Dominator. Afterwards, it was getting close to closing time and most of the group wanted to check out the haunted car ride. Vic and I instead opted for another ride on Big Dipper before meeting back up with the group. Then, we headed right back to the same coaster for yet another ride to end the day.
I guess my opinion of the park has improved a little. I certainly had a much better time at the park this time but I think that has to do more with the great company I kept for the evening than anything else. I see some improvements in the park since CF took over but there's still work to be done. The single train operation was annoying and the ride ops were certainly in no hurry to keep the lines moving. In that respect, the park hasn't changed much since the SF days. Then again, perhaps that can be chalked up to it being closing weekend and to the lack of crowds. Lets only hope.
For me, the park is a decent property with an overall mediocre collection of coasters. There's just nothing in the park that's good enough that I would consider going out of my way to visit. I'll probably visit again if I'm in the area or once they add something new. Until then, I hope the park continues to improve under the Cedar Fair management.
The Villain truly, frankly, in the nicest way possible- sucked. It may go from a top 15 woodie to the very bottom spot of my ballot on Mitch's poll. I was totally pissed and it was annoyingly painful. Raging Wolf Bobs was a very pleasant surprise. One-train op overall was sort of pathetic with the waits we did have on X-Flight, Villain, and Dominator.
Loved, loved, loved Phobia! That's probably my fave haunted house I went in this year at any park.
Nice to hang out with you again Kyle! Very nice report! :)
Danny the only thing that made Villian come close to being any good was all the foog and not being able to see much in front of you. Was kinda spooky to ride it that way.
Beside the cold GL was a great time mostly due to the company we had!
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