Northwest Trip/Road to 500 Pt 1 - Valleyfair!

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Northwest Trip/Road to 500 Pt.1: Wednesday, July 30, 2003

*Flight to Milwaukee, Valleyfair!, drive to Yellowstone National Park

SIDE NOTE: As usual for my TR’s, they are very detailed and long. These trip reports will not be just about coasters and amusement parks, but I like to include the drives getting there, and there will be a lot of other stuff included. Hopefully you don’t get too bored! :)

So to begin the trip, I had to fly out of Atlanta’s Hartsfield International Airport into Milwaukee to get picked up by Keith. Flight was on time (8am) and arrived right on time as well (8:53am CST). It was weird to me to think that I would be starting my day in Atlanta, GA, but ending it somewhere in Montana and I wasn’t flying anywhere near Montana.

So I get my bags (for a 12 day trip I had one big ass bag and one smallish bag, not too bad) and finally met up with Keith, whom I hadn’t seen in four long weeks! After we said our hellos and threw my bags in the back we were off to our very first destination, Valleyfair! in Shakopee, MN.

Now I had been to Valleyfair! way back in 2000 and had a fun time with some great friends, but it was more of the people who I was with than the park that impressed me. The rides there are just not my cup of tea I guess - Wild Thing is my least favorite hyper coaster, and basically their only notable coaster. I remember really enjoying Power Tower’s turbo drop however.

We had planned on arriving to Valleyfair! at 2pm and heading out at 5pm to get a start on the enormous drive ahead of us. Some background information - Keith and I both have Cedar Fair annual passes so admission was free and since this wasn’t a huge park and I had been there before, I figured the three hours allotted would be plenty.

We didn’t arrive to the park until 3pm because of some unexpected traffic around the city. Also, we were in Keith’s 1996 Saturn SL1 Coupe which is manual. Now, the first time I have EVER driven stick was about two months prior to this trip, and while it’s not extremely hard, it does take some getting used to! So with me driving in this traffic, I got a "crash course" in how to downshift, start from second gear and all that other fun stuff associated with driving stick. By the end of the trip, I was very comfortable with it, even though I still wasn’t a pro. :)

Anyway back to the park. We entered the gates and met up with Chris Trotter and Phillip Reuss right away. They were on part of their own semi-mega trip that was around seven days long and hit a lot of parks that Chris hadn’t been to yet (he is now at about 527 coasters I believe). Since they had ridden everything already before we arrived, they let us decide what to hit. Of course, with both Keith and I not having ridden Steel Venom yet, we headed in that direction.

First off, I REALLY love impulse coasters. That back spike float is incredible and the constant launches just make me giddy. I thought the way VF! fit in this coaster was very nicely done! I adored the color scheme of yellow and periwinkle. From the parking lot we could tell the line was shortish and of course when we got there, it still was. I estimated about a five or six cycle wait, and with the very consistently quick dispatching (thanks to what, five or six operators on the platform? I love that about Cedar Fair!) the wait was about fifteen minutes or so.

While in the Steel Venom queue you are positioned right underneath the back straight spike. You can REALLY tell how much it sways from here! We jokingly asked some of the people waiting in line if it was supposed to shake like that and one responded "Yeah, I hope so!" and his dad said it should, because if it didn’t, it would snap. Not bad, score one for the GP. :)

After some more comedy in line, we queue up for the second to last row for our ride. VF only allows one trainload of guests in at a time, which I like because I HATE waiting in stations. I got to do my patented "Hey do you know what time it is?" trick to the girls in the last row (it worked!) much to Keith’s dismay ("It’s so old now!"). Ah well, it still makes me laugh seeing their heads whip back. I’m such a jerk lol.

Our ride was great as usual - very smooth, very powerful, very fast. I wouldn’t mind if every park in the country got an impulse, they are extremely fun rides. Steel Venom was coaster #471 for me!
We bid adieu to Venom and headed out to hit Wild Thing, the parks 1996 Morgan hyper coaster. You can tell while on the midway that this coaster doesn’t have what it takes to be anything special - the way it meanders to the block brakes and gets halted just makes me cringe. But alas, Keith hadn’t tried it and I wanted to ride it again so we queued up.


We get to the station (after being linejumped by four teeny boppers who just had to get their damn Dippin’ Dots! They didn’t even bother the guy for info on any upcoming attractions, how weak) and the grouper sees my camcorder out. She says I can’t take it on, but then tells me I can’t leave it in the station either. Well okay, that sucks. I asked if it was in the bag if that was ok. She said she wasn’t sure and to ask another op when I got on the ride. Well screw that, I’m not going to make a big deal out of it so I just put it down on the floor and wasn’t bothered with it. Why does it matter if there’s a camcorder in the bag? Everyone else has to bring their stuff aboard anyway. Well that was just the beginning to this asinine policy, it gets better.

About the coaster, it was ho-hum as usual. Even the GP behind me commented how slow it was on the block brakes. Oh well, it was Morgan’s first try and they DEFINITELY got it right with Mamba and Phantom’s Revenge.

Next up on our whirlwind tour of the park was Excalibur. This is where Trotter and Phillip decided they were parting ways with us to get a head start on their drive to the Dells the next day. So now it was just Keith and I in the one-train-operating line for the Arrow Mine Ride (basically). Why they had only one train on, I have no idea, but it created a line that didn’t need to be there. I believe we waited about twenty minutes or so (not that that is extremely long mind you, but I guess I just assumed Cedar Fair parks tried to have their guests wait in as short of lines as possible. I guess not) for one row toward the back, but not before I got more crap from the grouper about my camera and bag. He said no articles are allowed to stay on the platform (ok, but there’s one train, wtf? Is some invisible person going to steal it?) and that since it was a camera, I couldn’t take it on board. So I said fine, I’ll throw the bag behind the fence and get it after my ride (since it was just Keith and I). He then told me something VERY strange – that I couldn’t do that because it has to be out of his sight? WTF? This guy was being cool about it, and I KNOW he doesn’t make the policies but that just struck me as very strange. So I finally decided that I would hand my bag to the first guest in line for the next train after ours. This was acceptable to the operator so that’s what we did. But then we get on the train and notice it says on a sign "Secure all loose cameras..." and some other articles like cell phones and the like. Well, if they aren’t allowed on the ride, how the hell can you secure them? So I asked the ride attendant when she came by to check my restraint and she replied "Oh that’s just smaller cameras." Um, it doesn’t say what kind of cameras, it says cameras! My Canon ZR-40 is about as small as any 35mm camera I own, why is it suddenly different? Rather than get upset about it though, Keith and I got a good laugh when we were exiting the station and asked the op "Wait, that means only Kodak cameras right? Only Kodak cameras are allowed to be secured?" She didn’t get it.:)

Enough about that crap policy (for now) and on to the ride. It was just as I remembered it, short, trim-braked to hell on the first drop, and one very good hill mid-ride which pops you out of your seat nicely. I like how the first turn is kinda overbanked – reminds me of MF for some reason.

After that ordeal we left in search of our next ride, which turned out to be Mad Mouse. This Arrow mouse was added in 2000 (right?) when they took out another coaster. Arrow mice are fun, but are usually on the lowest rung of my mouse "rankings" (I don’t rank them lol). The wait was again about twenty minutes and moved pretty well. I got some decent footage in the queue and decided I wouldn’t even let them see my camera so to have it as a non-issue. As I boarded the car, I was asked if there was a camera in the bag. I, of course, said yes there was and she said I couldn’t bring it on or leave it there. By now I was getting extremely annoyed with this policy (and I’m NOT getting a rip off locker as I don’t feel it has any worth to me because I want to film continuously, not go in and out of a locker), so I got out of the car and said I am going to place it past the emergency exit gate in the bushes. She said I couldn’t do that, and I responded with "You’re telling me I can’t leave my camcorder bag in the midway if I want to?" She had nothing to say to that and I placed it in the bushes, which I know is obviously not secure, but it was where no one could see it and I’d be off the Mouse in about 1.5mins. Not to mention I could see it the entire ride. So whatever, the ride was typical Arrow mouse but seemed a little less braked than normal.

After the ride I picked up my camcorder from the bushes and we went off to the next coaster which was their only wooden coaster in the park, High Roller. I remember this coaster being very rough in the back and not much in the way of airtime. Well, after riding in the very back again, It was smoother than I remember and had one decent spot of airtime this go around, but still absolutely nothing to write home about. Of note though, I was not harassed about my camera bag on this coaster which was a nice surprise. However again, they were running with one train on the course and had a line that extended to the entrance almost (straight there though, no queues fact I can’t even remember if it had queues or not).

I started videotaping some of the park, as there are some good shots of Corkscrew since it goes over the midway, and since we weren’t going to ride Power Tower (too long of a line), I got some nice shots of that as well. There was a nice band playing in the midway which I got a kick out of, because the last time I was there, my friend (Flabby Lips on Cbuzz) was pushed by a band member because he was dancing inside of their "circle of benches." It was absolutely hilarious, and if you’ve seen Coaster Mayhem 2000, you’ve seen it. I was much luckier though, as I wasn’t pushed. :)

Well it took a while to find the damn Corkscrew entrance since the sign saying "corkscrew entrance" is about 1 ft by 8 inches big. But we finally got there and they had two trains running...guess what, there was no line! What a shock. We ended up somewhere in the second car and it was actually a *very* smooth coaster. I enjoy the helix at the end since it’s different too. Still, absolutely nothing to write home about, which is pretty much the theme of this park.

Since that was the last coaster of the park and we didn’t run across anymore interesting looking flat rides, I filmed some more (that splash on the Shoot the Chutes is f’n HUGE!!!) and we left the park at 6pm.

This was the beginning of the long ass drive to Yellowstone, and we needed all the time we had to get there for the next morning.

After stopping at Target Supercenter for some food for the cooler, we were off on I-94 to North Dakota. Keith was driving and listening to Paul Oakenfold’s "Tranceport" CD (which he listened to about thirty times throughout the trip, but I can’t complain, it’s an AMAZING CD!) as I got some sleep so I could drive later.

I woke up at about 10PM CST or so in Fargo, ND. Keith absolutely HAD to stop here to get some postcards to say he has been to Fargo since there was a movie about it. I didn’t share the same passion, but hey, when the hell is the next time I’d be up this way, so why not? We searched far and wide for these damn postcards, I swear we checked about six places! When asked if they had any, Keith was given a strange look like "why the hell would you want a Fargo postcard?" I thought it was pretty damn funny, but Keith was severely disappointed with his Fargo experience. Ah well, we spent a good 45mins of doing absolutely nothing in that damn city, and finally were on our way again.

I fell asleep as he drove throughout the night. I woke up at some ungodly hour (Tranceport was playing again, yay! J) and looked up at the sky – it was SO BEAUTIFUL! I have never seen so many stars in all my life. I swear it was brighter when you looked to the north too, but Keith just thought that was the moon. I was in awe and tried unsuccessfully to tape the stars (I am extremely stoopid, by the way lol) but of course nothing came out. I stared at them for a good hour and just thought how amazing this trip has already been, and how good it was going to get!

After that, Keith got tired sometime around Bismarck I believe, and now it was my turn to drive. Lots and lots of nothingness greeted me as I chugged down many Mountain Dew Code Reds. When we entered Montana, I of course had to stop on the side of the road and wake Keith up to take some shots of the "Welcome to Montana" sign and all that stuff. I also noticed the speed limit was going to be raise to 75mph – woohoo!! That is like, almost unlimited speeding for me then. :)

As I was getting tired now, it was about 2am, and there were SO MANY DEER on the side of the road! I don’t know about all of you but I get freaked when I see that because I just envision those dumbasses jumping out in front of the car as I’m going over 75mph...not fun, so I dropped the speed down to 70mph and started honking the (annoying) horn once every three seconds or so. This seemed to startle the deer so I guess it was working. After about the thirtieth time I saw them, I got fed up so we pulled off an exit and found a hotel parking lot to stay at for a few hours (it was about 3:45am now). Montana was *so* scary to drive in because literally it was you on the road and no one else! My mind just kept running wild with thoughts of those damn deer jumping out in front of me and us crashing and no one being around to help at all. So instead of going craze, I just pulled over. :)

So far this trip was going pretty close to plan and I was getting to see (although it was dark) a lot of stuff I can’t see back home. Little did I know tomorrow my jaw would drop more than I could imagine at the beauty of the northwest!

Thanks for reading, look forward to pt 2 (Yellowstone National Park) sometime soon!

You suck big time.

Robocoaster's avatar
Great beginning! I look forward to reading the rest *sometime soon*. I sure will miss the granduer of the NW when I move next year.:(

And had I known you were new to manual transmissions, I would've thought twice about the pace we we're doing to get to Mt. Hood; still you drove like a professional racer, so kudos!
remember guys, it's forward...

Joe... You *slowed* to 70mph when you saw all those deer?!?! When you woke me up and told me you slowed down because of the deer, I thought you meant something like 30-40mph! Good thing I was passed out the entire time or I would have been freakin out! I can't believe how much detail you remember... makes it fun to read since I forget everything.. can't wait to read what we did next!!

-Keith "Badnitrus" McVeen

Dood, thanks for the callback about the Top Star Tour?? I think Heather kinda wanted to ride it, but after the Catwoman's Whip debacle, I knew my role and passed on the carnie ride.

That's funny about the post cards... You got off the phone with me right before getting them. You said something like "Dood, I gotta get off'a here. Keith wants to buy some damn postcards or something!"

LOL to kinda ;)

MORE than 50% of people like me.
*** This post was edited by Homey G. 8/15/2003 9:50:51 AM ***

nasai's avatar
So far so good! Nice start to the TR. When are you gonna talk about me? ;) Seriously, though, I can't wait to hear about the rest of your trip.

Robo, since when are you moving?
Rob - Jerk/Loser Standing up for the unfunny and unattractive. - Click here for details

I have a ZR-40 too. You should have put in your pocket and said there was nothing in the camcorder bag. Trying to tape stars eh? The night shot is horrible just to begin with. Nice TR, btw.

-Sean Newman

Great TR!

Since this trip covers the Northwest, I assume that Silverwood is part of it? If you tell me you didn't go through Glacier National Park via Going to the Sun Road on your way into Idaho, I will tell you that you missed the most magical ride you'll ever experience. OK, a bit overstated, but it is one of the most scenic drives in the world. Add to it that the glaciers are quickly disappearing, the opportunity won't exist much longer.

I'm looking forward to reading about the rest of the adventure.

Great TR Joe! It's nice to see such a detailed TR about a part of the country we rarely hear much about! Reading this makes me want to go there very badly! :)

Can't wait to read part 2!

"Theme Park Critic Extreme" :)

Hey joe, Nice TR!! that was excellent! I can't wait to hear the rest about your awesome trip to the northwest! I wish i cold remember a lot of detatils from my trips.. :-)

If you hate rollercoaster, I hate you!

The Northwest was awesome, and from our experience there, Silverwood has the opportunity to be the Holiday World of the northwest. Except the day we went, they were needlessly slow at dispatching trains, and both their woodies only have one train each, so it made the waits more excrutiating. But I'll save all the awesome reviews of that park until Joe's next TR :).

-Keith "Badnitrus" McVeen

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