Place: Cedar Point (Sandusky, Ohio)
Date: Wednesday May 12, 2004
Time Spent: 11:00 AM to 5:30 PM
Weather: sunny, muggy and unusually warm- temps in the high 80's
Reason for going: For me, it's an annual tradition since 1980!
If there's one day each spring I look forward to the most, it's my annual trip to my other Cedar Fair-owned home park, Cedar Point. Call me a fanboy, but I grew up with this place as well as Geauga Lake and as far as I'm concerned, Cedar Point truly IS one of the best amusement parks on the planet. With its beautiful setting on Lake Erie, its stunning collection of roller coasters, and the strange mix of old buildings and modern hi-tech thrillers, Cedar Point is definitely in a league of its own.
The day started off on a bad note as I was travelling to the west side of Cleveland to pick up my friend Stuart. A 6-mile long, bumper-to-bumper traffic jam greeted me on Interstate 480 as there was apparently a 7-car pile up on the infamous Valley View Bridge, which caused me to be an hour late getting to my Stuart's house. Anyone that knows me can attest that if I am off schedule by even the slightest amount when it comes to amusement parks, I am not a pleasant person to be around. I had my "Archetype" Fear Factory CD blaring, was smoking like a fiend, and was ready to put my fist through a windshield... and I wonder why I have high blood pressure! ;) Add in a stop at the Sandusky Meijer store for discounted CP tickets and sunscreen and our eventual arrival time at the park was 11:00- one hour later than scheduled. All my panicking was for nothing though as the crowds were relatively light, which is strange considering the very un-May-like weather we had today. It was almost a little too warm for my liking (I'm a 70's sort of guy!), but we managed to survive 6 and a half hours at the Point and got on quite a bit. The exact order of things may not be accurate as my brain is pretty fried, but I'll do my best.
Upon entering the park, I started pointing out changes to Stu, who must think of me as some sort of "Rain Man" character as I rattle them off. "Hey, the Sky Ride station got a coat of paint!" "Hey, they re-positioned Raptor's entrance!" "Hey, that Donut Shop looks nice!" Stu just rolls his eyes and keeps on walking. That's really all you can do when I'm around! Anyhow, our traditional first stop has always been Power Tower, but today, we threw caution to the wind and headed down the strangely uncrowded midway towards our first ride of the day- Millennium Force.
What more can I say about Millenium Force (2000, Intamin giga-coaster)? This ride is just one of the greatest coasters I have ever been on and is back in the #1 overall spot on my chart. With only the blue and yellow trains running (the red one was being worked on by a maintenance crew- looked like they were drilling something on the lap bars), the rather short-looking line was actually a 35-minute wait (which ironically is my shortest wait ever for this ride!). We rode in seat 4.2 of the blue train on our first trip and experienced one of the best MF rides I have ever had. The climb up the 310-foot lift is still amazing even after 4 years. The 300-foot drop, in my opinion, is the single greatest drop on any coaster anywhere. As you plummet down the 80-degree drop, you really feel like you are falling out of the train, which is kind of scary in light of the recent SFNE accident. But, the tight restraints and seat belt keep you firmly in your seat as you top out at 93 mph and climb into the first overbanked turn. Some people have said this is a rather uneventful element, but I always have a slight "grey-out" sensation through this. The train was REALLY flying here. We continue on along a banked section of low-to-the-ground flat track that leads into a brief tunnel before hurtling over the rides second hill. The middle of the train provided some serious floating airtime as we peaked at 183 feet and then dropped into the twisted island turnaround. Two more overbanked turns lead into the rides third hill where we were still hauling some serious butt. More massive floating air greeted us on this hill. We're talking a good 3 to 4 seconds worth. Absolutely amazing. Another tunnel leads to a small rabbit hill where we were swiftly lifted out of our seat and slammed back down before we whipped around the final overbanked turn and hit the brakes. As riders applauded and hollered (amazing for a 4-year old ride), we too were suddenly 100 times happier than we were when we got to the park. We got a FreeWay stamp for a 4 to 5 time slot, so we knew we'd be coming back! MF is just an absolutely awesome ride in every possible way. It's kind of a mixed bag when it comes to enthusiasts, but to me, no other ride at any park (CP included) can match the overall adrenaline rush of MF.
Our next stop was going to be Top Thrill Dragster, but it was "closed for mechanical reasons and we do not know when it will re-open". So instead, we opted for a quick trip on Power Tower (1998, S&S tower complex). Neither the Space Shot side or Turbo Drop side had a line at all, so we picked the drop side and walked right on. Stuart and I were assigned to the seats on the south tower facing Millennium Force and what a beautiful view you get from the top. The ride caught us off guard this time as we usually hear some sort of "click" before we drop. Not this time! We plummeted back down to earth and bounced up and down a few times before the ride was over. We decided against riding the Space Shot side, despite the lack of any line.
With Dragster still down, we took a ride on another ride that most enthusiasts either love or hate- Magnum XL-200 (1989, Arrow Dynamics hypercoaster). Magnum was a virtual walk-on as all three trains were in operation, so we rode in seat 1.3, the so-called "ejector seat". The first drop was great as always, the second drop into a tunnel was awesome, the third hill still floats the train and riders off the track for what seems like 3 seconds, and from the pretzel-knot turnaround to the brakes, your rear end is off the seat more than it is actually on it. We rode again later in the day in a middle seat somewhere (can't remember which, but it too was a walk-on even with 2-train operation) and it seemed smoother than our ride in seat 1.3. I really enjoy Magnum as it gives you time to appreciate how high up you are, the view out over Lake Erie is unmatched, and the layout is pretty good. But my souvenir bruises may take a few days to clear up! :)
Growing hungry, we ate at the Happy Friar french fry stand. Good fries as always.
Woodstock Express (1999, Vekoma Roller Skater) was calling our names, and since there was again no wait, we took a ride. This family coaster is an absolute blast. It's smooth, has some excellent laterals in the turns, and picks up some serious speed for a so-called kids ride. The on-ride photos here are a nice touch as it gives kids a chance to take home a memory of a fun ride. Stuart cracks me up every time we ride this as he makes a face that looks like he's literally terrified. Funny stuff- I guess you had to be there!
With Gemini (1978, Arrow steel-track/wood-framed racing coaster) right across the way from Camp Snoopy, and with no line in sight, that would be our next stop. Only the blue side was operating (red trains were being sent through empty and separate from the blue trains), but that is fine by me as there is one nasty headchopper about midway through the ride that can't be beat. Even after 26 years, Gemini still ranks as one of my favorite "fun" rides. On a side note, I believe air gates were installed on the platform this season as I do not remember them being there last summer.
Mean Streak (1991, Dinn/Summers wooden coaster) would be our next stop. With only a one-train wait (there were 2 trains in operation), we hopped into seat 2.1 and began our ride on this beautiful to look at woodien coaster. As we crested the top of the 161 foot lift, we felt the two trim brakes grab the train before we were sent down the first drop. The train flew through the first turnaround and then went careening down the next major drop (where they take the on-ride photo). The amount of speed we maintained, even after being trimmed on the first drop, was pretty impressive and surprised me quite a bit. And, if I'm not mistaken, there was even a hint of airtime before we rolled through the mid-course brake. The mid-course grabbed the train 3 times, but not too hard... so the second half of the ride was pretty crazy as well. Mean Streak is certainly an enjoyable ride, just not one that I can marathon ride!
As we were on the MS platform, we saw several full Dragster trains blasting over the top of the mammoth 420-foot hill, so like flies drawn to a pile of dog doodie, we hightailed it over to the world's tallest and fastest roller coaster.
Top Thrill Dragster (2003, Intamin rocket coaster) had many ups and downs on this visit. The ride had numerous breakdowns, but also ran very well and was eating up the rather short line. We were in line for the ride three times (each time starting near the ramp leading to the station so you know the park wasn't very busy) and got to ride Dragster only once. On two separate occasions, two trains would roll out to the launch position, the pre-recorded "Arms down, head back..." announcement would play and the engine revving noises could be heard. Then, the sounds stopped and the whole ride shut down. Maintenance came and could be seen replacing one of the magnetic plates along the launch track. I'd say the estimated time it took to fix the problem was a half hour. On our lone ride (which we waited only 25 minutes for), we laughed and yelled like little kids though. Just sitting in the launch area is a frightening feeling as you stare straight ahead at the imposing 420-foot tower. You feel a slight roll backwards and then the lights go yellow, yellow, green... and you are shot out of the launch area at mind-blowing speeds. I have never ridden Hypersonic or Xcelerator or Storm Runner, so I cannot compare the launches... but of all the launched rides I have done, none can compare to this. It just feels like you are constantly going faster and faster and faster, and the forces exerted on you are just unreal. The train finally begins to ascend the giant hill, twisting 90 degrees to the right on the way up and then we slowly crested the peak. Last year, we rode at night, so we couldn't get a good view of the park. This time, all of Cedar Point looked very small from the top, but you can't appreciate the view for long as you are then sent plummeting 400 feet down, twisting 270-degrees along the way before hitting the brakes. The twist features some wicked headchoppers and when the train slows to a stop 17 seconds later, you just can't help but smile. Riders were still cheering and yelling. The riders in front of us said "That never gets old!" and I have to agree. I have only ridden TTD twice since it opened, but both times I have come off feeling like I just conquered the world.
Wicked Twister (2002, Intamin double-twisting Impulse) was next. It was my first Impulse coaster of the season as Steel Venom at Geauga Lake was down on Opening Weekend. WT was a walk-on, but somehow we got assigned to seat 9, which is pretty much in the center of the train. Sitting here you really don't get much twisting action on either spike, but nonetheless we enjoyed our ride.
Disaster Transport (1990, Intamin enclosed bobsled) followed our ride on Wicked Twister. We needed some time to cool off, and the DT queue area is the perfect place for that. The queue was VERY dark, and it almost felt like we were walking through the HalloWeekends haunted house that occupies this space. No line greeted us as we walked right on to a sled. It's a shame the ride building isn't air conditioned. When the "Overheating" prop lights up before climbing the lift, it really wasn't kidding. :) It was freaking hot in there! We noticed a strobe light was installed in the first tube. The satellite room was painted in psychedelic colors for the guests who bought the 3-D glasses. And the "I'm Losing Control" voice over is still missing from the finale. DT is a silly and very cheesy ride... yet for some reason, we always find ourselves laughing when we come off. I guess we could group this into the "fun" coaster category as well!
We had to take a trip on Raptor (1994, B&M inverted), and with absolutely no wait and three train operation, we made that our next stop. We rode in Row 7. The speed was maintained beautifully throughout, and the mid-course brake was not used, so the ride was running fast and furious.
Our only flat ride of the day would be Cedar Downs (Prior and Church racing derby carousel). I did not ride this last season, so it was on my "must ride" list today. I'm not quite sure if it was just me, but it seems like Cedar Downs has been slowed down even more than it was a few seasons ago. The ride didn't seem to whirl at a very fast rate (as a matter of fact, GL's Carousel seemed to run as fast as the Cedar Downs did), but again, it's a CP classic and a very rare find that is enjoyable any time of day.
With our 4-5 timeslot on Millennium Force fast approaching, we headed there to take our second ride of the day. We arrived with about 8 other FreeWay guests. Now, the line for MF was only three rows of queue mazes past the merge point, so we really only saved about 10 minutes with our hand stamps. But, we really upset the people who were in line already as the ride host let all 8 of us into the line at the same time. We were getting dirty looks from everyone behind us. I wanted to say "you could have got a stamp too", but not wanting to spoil a good day, I kept my mouth shut. We rode in seat 6.2 of the blue train on this ride and again were treated to the outstanding first drop, TONS of airtime on the three subsequent hills, and lots and lots of unrelenting speed. Millennium Force was truly flying today and as I mentioned earlier, has overthrown Knoebels Twister for my #1 spot. Absolutely amazing in every way... in my opinion. I have never been on SFNE's Superman or many other highly regarded rides like Legend or Raven, but of the 131 coasters I have been on, MF outshines them all.
After our second awesome MF ride, we decided to give the newly repained Iron Dragon (1987, Arrow Dynamics suspended) a try. ID was a walk-on and we ended up riding in the last seat. This ride is a little slow through the first half, so that new paint job didn't give the ride any added speed! ;) The second half of the ride has gets things going a little quicker. You start to swing, you actually gain some speed as you travel a twisted pretzel turn over the mist-covered lagoon, and the ride seems a bit "out-of-control". Iron Dragon is a good starter coaster and is also a good "ride for fun" coaster.
And finally, we took a spin on the Wildcat (1979, Schwarzkopf Wildcat). Somehow, I can see GL's Head Spin getting a similar paint job next season. Anyhow, we waited about 3 minutes to ride and it is well worth every minute! The 4-passenger cars zip smoothly around the course, diving all the way to the ground on the dives and generating some strong forces through the helices. The sudden stop at the end always gets me and I end up feeling dizzy walking down the exit ramp.
Other items of note include the new Donut Time stand at the front of the park. During the afternoon, we were approached twice by a Donut Time employee and offered a free mini-donut. I have to say that they were very good... and you could tell they were fresh. I have a feeling Donut Time is going to do a good business this year! Also, there were really no new souvenirs, so I guess I can spend my money at GL on tons of new Geauga Lake merchandise! CP had some identical items that GL had also. It's still kind of strange having both of my home parks owned by Cedar Fair, but I'm sure I'll get used to it.
Overall, a fantastic day at one of my favorite parks. Like Millennium Force, Cedar Point isn't everyone's cup of tea. Some people love it, some think it stinks, and others have to start CP vs. SFMM debates. But when all is said and done, Cedar Point is just a very well-run operation that really seems to care about guest service and making sure guests have a good time. The great rides just add to the total package. If you read this far, thanks for reading.
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