Twelve Park Tour - Part 6 (GL)

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Part 6 Geauga Lake

Let me preface this report by saying that Tim & I were one of the few that actually had a good time when Six Flags operated the park. We were very impressed with the park both when it was SFO and SFWOA. I do understand however from trip reports and talking to other enthusiasts that this was unfortunately not the norm.

I should also say that I like the way my home park, SFOT operates. I think the employees are friendly and efficient and I think they know how to accommodate customers’ needs much better than the typical Cedar Fair Park. That said, again, I know that this is not the norm for Six Flags, but it does show that they do know how to run a park properly.

We arrived Thursday evening shortly before the opening reception. It was cloudy and the skies were threatening, the weather turned unseasonably cool. The food was somewhat interesting, they had chips and salsa along with mashed potatoes with all the toppings you would normally use to top a baked potato. I liked the selection although I did hear a few unfavorable comments, and of course they were no options for someone on a low-carb diet.

ERT was on Dominator (B&M floorless), Thunderhawk (Vekoma SLC), Texas Twister (Huss top spin), and Pepsi Plunge (Arrow flume). Villain (CCI woodie) was substituted for Raging Wolf Bobs (Dinn/Summers woodie) that had not yet opened to the public. We quickly learned that under the new Cedar Fair policies, no hand-held items were allowed to be brought into the line, this created a problem as quite a few attendees had umbrellas with them. Fortunately mine fit in my pocket, I don’t know what everyone else did with their items. Lockers are available but are not very convenient. Dominator is one of my favorite floorless coasters. I especially like the unique layout. They had a crew of seven working the station, and much to my amazement they were running all three trains and dispatching trains without stacking, something I’d never seen on any floorless coaster. Now granted this is the longest one of all, but the crew’s speed was amazing. I noticed before sitting down that the Batman logo that was molded into the seat backs had been sanded away with what looked like a circular sander. Villain was pretty rough, and I deliberately avoided the wheel seats. It was really flying that night, but with the rough track and the Gerstlauer trains I could only put up with a few rides. I rode Thunderhawk once, as I don’t really care for SLCs, even though some claim this one to be smoother than most, they’re just not fun to me. The flume had the most disgusting water I’d ever seen. It was brown, with plenty of floating green slime. I had never seen it this bad when Six Flags owned the park, and I was very surprised that CF let it get to this condition. I had no intention of riding anyhow because it was cold, but there were a few brave souls / fools who did ride, and there were plenty of people just waiting to soak them via coin operated water cannons. I didn’t ride Texas Twister but it was obviously a big hit, and it looked like they were running a good program. We spent most of the night riding Dominator; as the evening wore on they hardly had anyone riding, but of course, in true CF fashion, everyone was required to walk around.

The next morning it was cold and rainy. Not wanting to ride in the rain, we spent most of the ERT session under a picnic shelter. They had juices, pastries and hot coffee. Near the end of the session the rain was starting to let up. We headed over to Steel Venom but just as we got to the start of the line the ride attendant put his bar across the entrance and informed us the ride would be closing. We watched as the ride continued to operate (with the back spike hold) for at least ten minutes more. It never opened the rest of the day. We later discovered that they were having problems with the LIMS and opened it just for ACE. While we appreciate the gesture, we wish they had informed us the night before, as we would have made certain to get on it during ERT even in the rain. Without it we missed our chance to ride all 27 coasters during Coaster Con 27.

The rain stopped but the rest of the day was cloudy and cool. We rode all the other coasters at least once, and took several spins on the always-enjoyable Big Dipper. There was some new track for this year on the turnaround and although it was badly needed, I kind of miss being bounced around the turn. A new speaker in the station was too close to the waiting area for the front of the train. The constant Cedar Fair babble at horrendous volumes made for an unpleasant wait for the front. I saw several guests covering their ears. I noticed the train is brought to a complete stop before the unloading area, and the ride ops must give the all clear signal and the driver yells “clear” before they bring the train in to the station. I also noticed they changed the release mechanism on the side of the train. The lap bars are no longer released when each car rolls over the release mechanism but instead a newly installed hydraulically operated board raises up to release the bars only after the train comes to a complete and final stop. The announcer also advises everyone to exit to their left, even though it is pretty much impossible to exit any other way. Thank God CF instituted these new policies as I’m sure it was terribly unsafe during its previous 78 years of operation.

The park wasn’t crowded and we got plenty of rides in on everything we wanted (or could). We kept going over to RWB, but were told it wasn’t ready to open. I was hoping to be able to do the water park but it was much too cold. When we rode the monorail I think we saw one single guest in the wave pool, and no one on the slides, although everything was fully staffed. Given the weather situation I think they should have closed the water park and sent the employees home, but I understand that it is CF policy to never reduce staff even when they are not needed.

For lunch they had several food service lines open simultaneously. This was the most efficient food service operation I had ever seen. At first it didn’t look too appealing with hot dogs up front. But at the very end of the line they had baked boneless chicken breasts with lemon slices. Had I seen those I wouldn’t have taken the hot dog, which I ended up throwing away. During the lunch, the GM Bill Spehn answered questions from the group. There were a few interesting questions but mostly just suggestions on what the park needs next, anything from a Sally dark ride to an Intamin Hyper. It kind of made me laugh, do enthusiasts really think the park needs our advice on what to purchase next? Do we think they haven’t heard of these things? It was during this session that one of our well-known ACEers mentioned the umbrella dilemma. Given the weather situation he brought his umbrella into the park, it was a long umbrella and it didn’t fit into a locker, and of course he was not allowed to leave it on the ride platform. He asked Mr. Spehn what he was supposed to do. Mr. Spehn replied that he was glad he pointed out this guest problem, and that he would look into the matter. It was extremely nice and polite of the GM to take the comments so seriously, but it is sort of a surprise that he would have to do so with all the years of expertise operating parks. Did they really not foresee the need for ride guests to bring articles to the platform and the need for the park to provide an area to hold such items? I should mention that someone also asked why there was a sign at the log flume indicating no single riders. Mr. Spehn said he didn’t know why that sign was there and he would look into it. I never did ride the flume, but someone said the sign was gone a few hours later. Apparently they do need our advice. During this time they announced they would also try to get Steel Venom running again for the morning ERT. They really seemed to be going out of their way for the group.

I would have been ready to go after lunch, but we made plans to meet some friends we hadn’t seen in a while for dinner just outside the park. As it turns out they cancelled on us, but we had an enjoyable dinner anyhow. We went back into the park with the hopes of getting on RWB. It never did come up the rest of the operating day, but the attendants did tell us it would operate for ERT. I really didn’t want to stick around that long but we did, and so did several hundred other attendees. We took in a show, and wandered around the park looking for things to do. I’m sure GL thought they were doing us a favor by opening the coaster for ERT, but I think all but the die-hards would have gladly caught a ride near the end of the day, and then headed home. When ERT finally did begin, several hundred people all rushed to the Bobs with its one train operation. The comical thing was there was a huge rush of a crowd that suddenly had to confront a river overflowing the path. We assumed it was leaking from the nearby Rapids ride for some reason. It was about a foot deep in parts and took the crowd by surprise. We were near the front of the pack, and not being picky about seats got on the third train out. It took forever to dispatch the first train. After everyone was seated and everything checked, the driver realized she was supposed to read the ride spiel, and did so from a piece of paper, stumbling over the words as if she had never seen the text before in her life. It was painful to watch. I feared that with this kind of operation the ride session would be over before everyone got a chance to ride. Fortunately they got a little better with each train and although I didn’t stick around, I do believe they got everyone through within the hour, and some people got to ride again. Heading back to the front, the high water was still covering the path.

Even with the possibility of Steel Venom opening in the morning, we just couldn’t justify getting out of bed the next morning and making the 45 minute drive to the park. Friday night was it for us. It was an unfortunate way to end the convention and I left the park with mixed feelings that night.

Cedar Fair has made some improvements to the park, but they still have a long way to go. They’ve added lots more trash cans, but I still found a very messy bathroom during the middle of the day. I reported it to someone with a badge and he got on his radio and called it in, so I assume it was probably taken care of. If you couldn’t already tell, the new Cedar Fair policies annoy me. I particularly dislike the continual announcements that concluded with “Geauga Lake where the fun is baaaack.” I asked an attendant were the fun had been and he said Six Flags took it away. I don’t think it’s appropriate for CF to imply that the park wasn’t fun when Six Flags was running it. Six Flags were the ones who installed five new coasters, and dramatically improved the infrastructure of the park.

Although the Dominator crew was very efficient, I didn’t find that to be true throughout the whole park. As matter of fact that efficient Dominator crew was only there for ERT. During normal park hours the crew was down to five, and trains were stacking (but not for long). The operators on Villain were particularly inattentive and at one point an operator hung on the queue gates preventing them from closing and caused the ride to shut down. It took 15 minutes for maintenance to get there to restart the ride.

We had fun at Geauga Lake, but I had fun when it was Six Flags too. I for one did not see that big of an improvement. I did see a very sorry looking abandoned wildlife side that I think the greater Cleveland area is really going to miss. I do believe that management went out of its way to make sure we had a good time and I appreciate their efforts.

Like its big brother to the West, this too is not a very camera friendly park. I have no photos to share with you.

Next stop Knoebels.

 *** Edited 7/29/2004 4:13:45 PM UTC by Jeffrey Seifert***

I wasn't sure if I would notice the change that Cedar Fair brought to the area. It took a whole 5 minutes to realize the improvments that are currently going on. While we have different opinions on what was improved, I left the park on Friday afternoon being very impressed. I couldn't believe how different things were.

The operation of Dominator on Thursday evening blew me away. Never have I been in a train, going up the lift, and seeing a train fly past me in the mid-course block area. The crew was racing to get the trains dispatched. I did ride it on Friday and thought they were just as fast.

I have never been the largest fan of Villian other than the first few weeks it opened in 2000. Since then, I have never had one of those mind blowing rides that everyone else seems to be getting. I was told to ride it at night. I had never gotten a night ride until the ERT on Thursday night. While it did seem much more out of control, I didn't have a good ride. It was way too rough for my liking. I wasn't the only one that felt that way either.

Texas Twister was running both of the two programs they are allowed to run. At one point, our gondola rapidly flipped 8 times in a row. Not shabby at all.

Oh, and I fully agree with you in regards to those fools that were riding the log flume during night ERT. What were they thinking?

Had I known the water was that nasty looking, I probably wouldn't have ridden it. =:^)


I forgot to mention the carousel, which brings up another problem I had with policies and ride attendants.

I was very pleased to see that the wonderful Illions carousel was running just as fast as usual. The band organ was also running and sounded magnificent, although I don’t think we have Cedar Fair to thank for that. I understand it is maintained by DeBence Music World.

Three of us boarded horses next to each other and we all noticed the seatbelts but didn’t think they were required. An attendant walked around to check and he looked at us but never said anything about fastening the seatbelt. Then that attendant left and walked over to the haybaler across the midway. We all looked at each other kind of puzzled, but the ride started. Apparently another ride op had taken his place at the control console out of our view. As the carousel is moving this replacement ride op started announcing that all riders must wear their seatbelts, and then he specifically said, “you three gentlemen must fasten your seatbelts.” The ride is moving at a pretty good pace right now and it seems rather foolish to let go of the pole in order to fasten our seatbelts, but in Ohio the law mandates that we must follow all operator instructions. If he had demanded that we stand on our heads and juggle knives, we would be required by Ohio law to comply (or at least make the attempt). I should also mention there are no foot supports on these horses so the only thing you really have to stabilize yourself is the pole. We managed to fasten our seatbelts but I think the ride op put us in a dangerous situation.

I think seatbelts on carousels are foolish to begin with. The seatbelt isn’t going to keep a rider from falling off the horse, it will however prevent the rider from clearing the horse should they fall--instead they’re likely to be caught upside down dangling from a horse which is moving up down.

I wish I had gotten the name of the operator, because I should have reported the incident to guest services. He’s obviously not one of CF’s finest. *** Edited 7/16/2004 3:44:21 PM UTC by Jeffrey Seifert***

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