Whirlwind '04 - 19 Parks in 7 days (Day 4 - La Ronde)

Associated parks:
None

Monday, September 20, 2004 6:45 PM
The Whirlwind Tour ’04 (Day 4 of 7)

Sunday, August 8th.

La Ronde

“Um….English anyone?”

After getting a great night of sleep, Jeff Johnson and I headed back on the road to the second country of our trip. Canada. I have been to Canada a few times but never to Montreal. I was looking forward to seeing the city as well as visiting the park that resides near downtown.

Our drive to the border was pretty uneventful but the scenery was awesome. The sky was beautiful. Today looked to be a great weather day. Once we reached the border, we were stopped in a line of traffic. There was only one lane open out of 10 or so. This made our wait longer than we expected. With only 14 cars in front of us, it took almost an hour to get up to the booth. By the time we got up there, a second booth was opened.

As we approached the booth, we thought everything was going to go smoothly. What follows is the conversation we had with the border checker.

Checker: “What country are you from?”

Jeff and Sean: “United States.”

Checker: “How do you know each other and where are both of you from?”

Jeff: “I am from California and Sean is from Ohio. We are friends.”

Checker: “Why do you want to come into Canada?”

Jeff: “We are here to ride roller coasters at a few parks.”

Checker: (pauses) “WHY DO YOU WANT TO COME INTO CANADA??!!”

For whatever reason, she didn’t believe Jeff and me. She gave us a pink piece of paper and told us to pull over and enter a building and wait for more instructions. Once we walked in, we were told to proceed to a large window where a guard was sitting on the other side. With a very strong French accent, he asked for our passports. We handed them to him. He then asked us a series of questions very similar to what the checker had asked.

When asked if we had any convictions, both Jeff and I told him no. He asked again and we answered the same. He stared at us for a few seconds and then said something that sounded like, “Freese az a meet?”

I asked him to repeat what he was saying. He ended up saying the same thing in the same way. I didn’t answer the man as I had no idea what to say to that. Jeff couldn’t understand it either. The man said it one more time before I realized what he was saying.

Sean: “Oh. You mean fresh as a mint?”

The man nodded. I have never heard that saying before. I am guessing it means your record is clean. I told them man that I couldn’t understand him because of his thick accent. This didn’t set well with the man as all his co-workers sitting behind him busted out laughing. At first I thought this was the moment where I was going to be probed or something, but I could tell he got a bit of a laugh out of it as well. He told us to sit down and wait for more instructions.

Jeff and I sat down and waited for about 15 minutes before the man returned asking for more information from us. As he asked the questions, he looked right into our eyes and wrote down everything without taking his eyes off us. It was pretty strange looking but I am betting he is trained to do that. He went back into his office area and came back out a few minutes later with our passports. We then had to move down to another area and give some more info to another guard. A few seconds later, another guard showed up and walked with us to our car so he could search it thoroughly. It only took a few minutes but he went through everything. Once we got the all clear, we were allowed to leave.

While it may have seem like a hassle for that to happen. I really am glad they searched us as it shows they really are trying to prevent something from happening. After we crossed the border, we continued our drive to Montreal. Within a mile of being in Canada, we saw one cop with a radar gun clocking us. We weren’t going to be doing any fast driving this day as we weren’t sure exactly how serious they are about it. I noticed the scenery changed once again as soon as we crossed over. It was more flat than anything but it did look very different that what we were looking at in New York.


It wasn’t very long before we started to see the beautiful skyline of Montreal. I had no idea the city was that large. It really surprised me. We carefully paid attention to the maps we had so we wouldn’t get lost as we have heard horror stories about trying to find the park we were going to. A lot of people claim its one of those parks you can clearly see, but can’t reach.

When we saw the skyline of the park come into view, we paid attention to the signs pointing us in the right direction. We drove onto a HUGE bridge before exiting in the middle of it, taking us to an island where the park sits. It was just a matter of driving down a few curvy roads before we reached it.

===La Ronde===

From the look of the park when we went over the bridge, it didn’t look to be very crowded. My opinion changed as we reached the nearly full parking lot. We were going to make the best out our visit despite the possibility of long waits. After all, we were at a Six Flags park and getting people through doesn’t seem to be a top priority of a lot of the Six Flags parks I have been to.

After I purchased my ticket, we walked into the park. The whole front plaza was quite different and didn’t have a Six Flags feel to it. We decided to head for the lower capacity rides first. A sign out front of the park told us that Boomerang was closed. We headed over to the stand-up and were greeted by a pretty long line. With only one train running, we knew it was going to be a while before we rode.

Just as we made it to the station, the sky grew dark and it started to pour. It rained and rained, very hard for a long while. There were large amounts of water pouring off the large bridge that loomed overheard. We couldn’t even see downtown because of the heavy rain. We heard one clap of thunder. Soon, an announcement was made in French over the P.A. in the station and everyone started to walk away. Since neither Jeff nor I speak any French, we had to ask a ride attendant what the announcement was. She told us that whenever there is lightning, the park evacuates the loading stations.

We walked back into the rain and found some shelter while we watched it pour. Once it would die down, it would come back with a vengeance. It didn’t look good. We weren’t planning on staying until close but at this rate, we would have to if we wanted to ride anything if the rain would stop.

After about an hour and a half, the rain finally stopped enough to walk around. Jeff and I decided to eat lunch in a food court. The only problem was we sat directly under a section of the roof that was leaking. No wonder no one wanted to sit there. Once again, the sky grew dark and it poured. At this point, I was actually considering walking out to the car to take a nap. The car was a loooooong walk away so I decided to wait it out and see what happened.

Jeff and I took this time to walk around the entire park. The layout of the park is a strange one. It’s shaped like a ‘C’. From one area, you can get a good view of the city and the rest of the park. Jeff and I waited about another half hour when we realized the rain had totally stopped. The sky above the park was weird looking. To one side, it was dark. The other side was light. It took about a half hour before rides started running.

Jeff suggested we purchase Fast Lane tickets so we could make the most out of day. I wasn’t about to spend any money so I could get on the rides faster considering every coaster in the park was running one train with an over two hour wait. I just can’t justify spending money for that. Jeff and I discussed it some more. I told him I would be perfectly happy riding a couple of things and waiting instead of giving this park anymore money.

Jeff ended up buying me a Fast Lane. I still wasn’t sure if I wanted to use the tickets or not but Jeff had a way of making it sound legit. We planned out the rest of our day. We could only use the Fast Lane tickets on three of the coasters. We decided to ride them first then wait it out for the rest.

----Super Manège---(#566)

Just as we were walking up to it, the ride began testing. This Vekoma looper was very similar to the many versions I rode in Europe. Some of them were pretty bad. A couple of them were actually fun to ride. This one wasn’t all that bad. It wasn’t very rough and the locals seemed to love the ride.

---- Le Cobra----(#567)

Both Jeff and I kind of knew what to expect from this Intamin stand-up. With the same layout as Batman The Escape at Six Flags Astroworld, we weren’t expecting a whole lot. The line for this ride grew to over an hour due to one train operation so Jeff and I used our FL tickets. We got right on and rode in a middle row. The ride itself was not very enjoyable for us. We were thrown around quite a bit. Needless to say, we were glad when our ride came to an end. We both hoped our next ride would have been much smoother.

----Vampire----(#568)

This coaster is a clone of the mirror image Batman coasters found at Six Flags St. Louis and Six Flags New Orleans. However, the version we were about to ride only had seven rows. The normal wait for the ride was well over two hours. With only a one train wait (see a pattern developing?), we bypassed most of the line but were welcomed by another line. It seemed that a lot of other people purchased FL tickets and wanted to use them for this ride. Since they were only loading 4 of the FL people at a time, we estimated our wait to be around 45 minutes. Hardly a bargain if you ask me, but then again, it could be worse.

Since there were so many people waiting, the operators decided to let two full train loads of FL ticket holders fill the train. Because of the one train operation, this didn’t set to well with all those folks that were waiting in the longer line. This is the reason I am not a fan of this system. It simply doesn’t work well and causes more bad than good. I honestly felt bad for those waiting in the longer line as I have been on that side of the system many times and seen the same exact thing happen. To add insult to injury, the train was being dispatched every 5 minutes or so as the ride operators took their time.

We sat somewhere near the middle of the train. We climbed up the lift and flew down the first drop. From there, I couldn’t see where we were going as the forces started to grey me out. Perhaps this was because the train was lacking an 8th row, or because Jeff and I had sleep deprivation. Who knows? All I remember is the ride being very intense. I finally could see again as we hit the last half of the ride. Every Batman I have ridden has been quite intense but this seemed to be on a whole new level. What a surprise!

Since we had one more ticket left to use. Jeff and I decided to ride the Orbite. This was a single Mark I S&S Space Shot. The line for this one had to been over 2 hours as well. We passed the line and were on in a matter of a few minutes. The ride sits on a small pier that jets out into the lake the park surrounds. The launch was pretty good as the float at the top. I couldn’t see waiting 2 hours for the ride but it was fun.

----Petites Montagnes Russes----(#569)

This is one of Arrow’s smallest coasters. This junior mine ride had a nice long line. It was very clear the ride is popular with families as that is who packed the line. While we were waiting, we saw a small ground hog or something similar, pop up and walk around the crowd. It didn’t seem scared by all the people around.

The layout of the coaster takes riders up a short lift and around a tree before dropping down under a walkway, then around a large rock before turning back into the station. One ride consists of two laps. We waited around a half hour for this one. From what I have heard, sometimes they don’t allow adults to ride so I am glad we got our ride when we did.

----Toboggan Nordique----(#570)

This was our longest wait of the day. This Zamperla mouse was almost identical to the version we rode at Playland Park the day before. The only difference was the La Ronde version was themed to bobsleds. With only three cars running, we waited over an hour to ride. While we were waiting, we watched as a family argued for 10 minutes with a ride operator. The operator refused to let their small child ride so the ride was stopped and no one was allowed to load.

Once we got on the ride, we were more than ready to see if this thing ran well as it looked quick from the line. Braking was non-existent which meant the turns and drops on the ride were pretty wicked. Our day seemed to be getting better.


----Dragon----(#571)

We had to search for this coaster as it was indoors. We passed it once before finding it. It sits in the very back of the park. We had no clue what it did or who made it. Luckily, there was only a one train wait for the ride. As we hopped into the train, we could tell this was an Intamin coaster similar to Skull Mountain at Six Flags Great Adventure. While the loading station is outside, the majority of the ride takes place inside a very dark building. There weren’t many drops but a lot of turns. Every once in a while something would light up as we would pass it. It was a pretty odd ride but I thought it was cool. I am sucker for unique rides.

---- Le Monstre----(#572)

I didn’t have high expectations for this coaster. It just didn’t look like my type of ride. The coaster is capable of running 4 trains at one time. Of course the park didn’t do this. They were running one train on one side. This was the last coaster at the park we had to ride so we waited it out.

The wait took about 45 minutes. While Jeff and I were waiting for the front seat, we looked up at one of the safety signs and got a laugh. We also had to laugh at the fact the ride operator sitting at the controls would take a nap after dispatching the train. You have to love the operations at this park.

Finally, it was our turn to ride. We left the station (the side closest to the park) and made our way up the lift hill. We knew the first drop was pretty shallow but we didn’t have any idea what was in store for the rest of the ride. I couldn’t tell you a play-by-play because everything was zooming by. There were a couple of moments that really surprised the heck out of us including the ending. I thought the coaster was going to be rough but was pleasantly surprised at how smooth and how well it tracked. What a big surprise! Had the line not been as long as it was, we would have gotten back in line.

Once we were off the ride, Jeff decided to walk around and grab a few pictures while I played a quick game of Dance Dance Revolution in a nearby arcade. After meeting back up with Jeff, we decided to ride the observation tower. The park looked pretty cool from up there. It’s just a shame the park is run the way it us. It has so much potential but can’t shine due to the bad operations, at least from what we could tell. While there were a few good rides, I really have no desire to come back unless something is changed.


Jeff and I left La Ronde and headed into downtown. We were going to take a shortcut but ended up missing our turnoff so we decided to take a drive around and see what the city was like. The whole downtown area was very nice. As we continued our drive, we reached an area that wasn’t so nice. The more we drove, the more things started looking nasty. Finally, we reached the highway we needed to take just as we thought we were lost.

We had to drive 3 hours to our next destination. While we wouldn’t be going to any parks this day, our day was far from over. As soon as we crossed into Ontario, it was nice seeing signs in English once more. I got to talk with Joe Campnella on the phone as well as Kevin Smallhorn. Both were asking about the trip and made our drive much easier. Thanks guys.

We reached our hotel in Kingston at around midnight. We had another 3 hour drive the next morning. It was nice to stay mid-point rather than drive 6 hours to Toronto. We could catch up on sleep and didn’t have to wake up very early the next morning. Even though we only did one park this day, we both were very tired. Hopefully we would have better luck with the next park we were going to.

Next up….

Land of the insane flats

Thanks for reading,

-Sean

. *** Edited 9/20/2004 10:53:46 PM UTC by Sean Flaharty***

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Monday, September 20, 2004 7:12 PM
OH my word that crowded on a rainy day! The fact that it was poorly run didn't help.

Yeah I crossed the border once in August of 2001 after my first trip to CP. We where taking a side trip to Niagra Falls. The security was not that good. We just said where we where going to Niagara falls and they said have fun. Niagara falls was a disapointment too, especially after MF.

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Monday, September 20, 2004 7:17 PM
Great TR,

Glad you liked the park, too bad it rained. The park is run poorly, but as the years go by, SF makes it better than the neglect the city of Montreal had given it. I TOTALLY aggree with you about the Monster and The Vampire, both great rides. About the French, alot of people speak English, and if you ask politely, they won't mind to help. Once again, great TR of my home park!

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Monday, September 20, 2004 10:45 PM
Regarding operations at the park, I've seen both good and bad this summer.

Good? Vampire and Cobra running 2 trains without stacking. Monstre running all 4 trains. Toboggan Nordique running 4 cars, loading 2 at once, basically pulling the most PPH they can out of that capacity nightmare.

If you're asking why maintenance (regarding number of trains running) and ops can vary so much... blame the unions and employee scheduling...

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004 6:18 PM
Canadian Dude,

I have heard the park used to be run even worse than what it is now. I guess I just caught the park on a bad day. We did find a few people that spoke English and they were nice about it.

Absimillard,

I am sure the park can run better than what it did when I was there. I do think the lousy weather played a part in why people were just kind of lazy that day.

GIGAFORCE01,

When I went to Vancouver from Seattle ( and vice versa) a couple of weeks ago, the security was much more relaxed, and this was on September 11th. That kind of surprised me as we were told in advance the securty would be nightmarish.

-Sean

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Tuesday, September 21, 2004 7:34 PM
LOL! Man, reading your experiences with the border was almost exactly what I went through when I went up to Canada's Wonderland a few weeks ago.

The "I am here to ride roller coasters" apparently sends up a TON of red flags. LOL! That's what I found out.

The put me through the same spiel, and asked me more questions than I could ever imagine, as well as searched through my car, my belongings, etc.

I guess being that I was alone, driving all the way from WV to Canada's Wonderland with no friends or family or any other business in Canada, with a rental car and on single black backpack with this "I am only here to ride coasters" story was pretty odd now that I think about it.

On the way BACK into the usa I got the same questions, without my car being searched again. The dude asked me if I had "proof" that I went to Canada's Wonderland and I gave him a game token. LOL!

Hey, but I was totally honest and had nothing to hide like you guys, but it's funny now that I think about it.

I have never been in Montreal but have heard VERY nice things about the city.

Awesome Sean!

-Tina

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Thursday, September 23, 2004 10:42 AM
Saying that you're there to ride coasters must definitley send up a red flag ;) After crossing over into Vancouver for the recent ACE summer con, we talked to some other ACEers that had been given a hard time by the border guard (not like what you guys had to undergo though). We personally didn't have any problems, as by the time we wen't through, our guy must have allready dealt with a bunch of us as he just said "Oh you're with the roller coasters thing" and let us pass.
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Sunday, September 26, 2004 10:50 AM
Pale Rider,

I didn't even know you were a part of the ACE event. I thought it was weird that I didn't see more than a couple C-Buzzers at the event as quite a lot of people that post on here do attend ACE events.

-Sean

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Sunday, September 26, 2004 3:39 PM
Going back to the states the guard said he had never heard the "I am here to ride roller coasters" story.

After I told him I was there to visit Darien Lake and Martin's as well and gave him the game token to "prove" I was at PCW I guess he assumed I was telling the truth. LOL! He started drilling me on Martin's as well, since I was there that morning.

It was quite an experience.

-Tina

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Monday, September 27, 2004 10:23 AM
Sean,

Yep, we were at the event and had a great time. It was our first time in the Pacific Northwest and we loved it. I saw you a couple of times during the event but never got a chance to introduce myself. I'll make sure and say hi next time I see you at an event. So, are you going to eventually get to some TRs for the con? It seems like you have quite a backlog to do ;)

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Monday, September 27, 2004 10:37 AM
Heath,

I am not sure if I am going to do trip reports for Summer Con or not. It was really a good trip but I didn't shoot any video or take any pictures. I usually like to include pictures in my reports. I also didn't do a trip report for a south trip I did a few weeks ago.

Perhaps I will write something in the next few weeks. Be on the lookout. =:^)

-Sean

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Monday, September 27, 2004 6:18 PM
Now the southern trip sounds interesting because you were down in my neck of the woods (an hour from Myrtle Beach). Did you try and get the mouse credit at Pedroland?
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Monday, September 27, 2004 11:36 PM

Pale Rider said:
Now the southern trip sounds interesting because you were down in my neck of the woods (an hour from Myrtle Beach). Did you try and get the mouse credit at Pedroland?

We were going to, but we had found out that Pedroland (and the mouse) were SBNO. It was on the agenda. As it was, we ended up doing 7 parks in 3 states in 2-1/2 days. We eveb got rained out of SFoG, or it would have been 8!

Jeff

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Tuesday, September 28, 2004 12:11 AM
Jeff,

The reason that I was asking (and I should probably just start a seperate thread) is that while everyone is under the assumption that it is SNBO, I've heard from some people that if you go there and find a operator, they will supposedly run it for you on a individual basis. Now I haven't been able to try this myself yet as I just heard of this a couple of weeks ago but I will going past it a couple of times next month and would like to try and find out if it's true. The only reason I really care at all (besides being a credit) is that technically it's the coaster closest to where I live and I think that it would be neat to have ridden it.

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Thursday, September 30, 2004 10:37 AM
Good TR. Too bad about the crowds and rain. Unfortunately one-train operation and uncaring ride-ops is the norm at La Ronde. Monstre and Vampire can both move tons of people if the staff ever use multiple trains.

One thing to note is that on rainy days, many coasters have to run single train operation because their braking systems are not as reliable when wet. Coaster brakes are just like the brakes on a mountain bike -- they slip when wet. (I've hit trees on my bike. I've also had re-runs on Hersheypark coasters when trains stopped two car-lengths past their normal possitions.) If ride-ops have any concerns about whether a train will stop on cue, they eliminate any possibility of collisions between trains in the station. (I've seen them pull trains of S:ROS at SFDL when it started to rain.)

Still, Monstre is a racing coaster with two tracks. There's no reason they couldn't have operated one train on each track.

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Thursday, September 30, 2004 8:08 PM
greatwhite,

I am not sure about La Ronde's policies but most of the coasters they have at the park can be found at other parks that run them in the rain. The one coaster I could see not running well in the rain is Cobra as it uses drive wheels to bring the train back into the station. The wheels slip and don't do a good job. Doesn't the mouse use drive wheels as well?

I think the rides were closed more due to the storm than the actual rain, although I couldn't really understand much that was being said so what do I know. =:^)

-Sean

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Friday, October 1, 2004 5:32 AM
There's a mouse @ Pedro Land? Dang, I wish I would have known. It seems to be the norm down there, or atlest it was @ Grand Prix, that you have to find an operator to run the ride for you;).

Proof is in my last weeks beach TRs for Family Kingdom, Grand Prix, and Pavilion.

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Tuesday, October 5, 2004 7:03 PM
Hey Sean, its Bill

-From my experiences at La Ronde, your report is similar. Usually I see one train running on every ride except Le Monstre and the ride ops tend to be laid back too. The last time I was there was in June, for the Formula 1 race (which is on the next island over and a combination of park and race = awesome day/weekend) it was actually not packed at all, even though it was a Sunday and there had just been a race of the world's most watched sport.

--That indoor coaster is actally a Vekoma, like the one in Efteling (I think I might have mentioned that to you at the G.E.).

--About the ground hogs, they are EVERYWHERE! That is the only place in the whole city that I have seen them around. If anybody knows anything about how/why there are so many there, share the wealth please!

--For some reason unknown to me, Vampire always has been very intense, on both wet and dry days. Even though it's a clone, it is still one of my favorite inverteds.

--Le Monstre is underrated. It is not one of my favorites, but the double-down is awesome when you ride on a good day. The only thing I don't like is the helixes at the station end of the ride.

Later

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Tuesday, October 5, 2004 7:42 PM
Bill,

Nice to hear from you.

According to rcdb.com, Dragon is a Intamin coaster. I know it was very similar in nature to Vogel Rox but the track design was different and looked just like the track found on Skull Mountain.

-Sean

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Friday, October 8, 2004 9:40 AM
eurpomir84,

Groundhogs love manicured lawns, freshly watered and trimmed just right. The island (Ile Ste-Hélène) has La Ronde and some municipal parks that are perfect habitat. As for the rest of Montreal, it's a concrete jungle - did you notice that virtually no house within 5 km of downtown has a front lawn?

There could be other less scientific explanations. ;-)

* Groundhogs love the smell of cigarette smoke and hand around La Ronde just to inbibe the blue haze atmosphere.

* There are no groundhogs within 20 blocks of Rue St. Denis or Boulevard St. Laurant, yet those streets host more donair, schwarma and smoked meat restaurants than any other city in North America. It might not be a coincidence.

[spelling] *** Edited 10/8/2004 1:43:20 PM UTC by greatwhitenorth***

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