|When Karen and I began our second day at Cedar Point, dozens of buses had already deposited tourists and school groups all over the midway. So we headed for the Frontier Trail area. That was my favorite section of the park, and it was virtually deserted. It was like walking through another world. The rest of the park seemed to disappear (except for sections of Millennium Force). There was lots of shade. The buildings looked as if they'd been there since before the Civil War. Unfortunately, since we were there before the big Memorial Day weekend, most of the buildings were shuttered. There was a leather shop open. We wandered in. The guy there seemed so lonely and desperate for someone to talk to. He said that on Memorial Day weekend, he'll be mobbed with customers lined up outside his shop. We stopped inside an old grist mill. A recorded narration described how the mill was used to grind grain as the huge old water wheel outside created a relaxing rhythmic splashing.
The first ride of the day for us was White Water Landing, the old Arrow log flume. The ride was nearly empty. The huge circular loading area slowly spun, gently releasing the canoe-like boats in widely-spaced intervals. The ride was mostly standard flume fare: a trip down a speedy trough led to a small lift hill. Off of the lift, we splashed into another trough and meandered around through the woods. We came to a long lift, rising up about fifty feet. We then drifted through a winding trough up in the air, eventually plunging to a splashdown. I forgot, though, that this ride was one of the few Arrow speed flumes. The trough at the bottom of the drop had a little speed bump that sent the canoe slightly into the air for another splashdown, skimming rapidly along the water until the trough turned back toward the station. The drop was divided into two troughs. I'm not sure why, since only one boat went down at a time. Perhaps it was in case a canoe got stuck on the speed bump, so an oncoming boat could be diverted to avoid a collision.
We wandered toward the north end of the park and discovered another cheese-on-a-stick stand. Sadly, this one also was shuttered. Towering over us was the clanking, shaking, squealing pile of wood and steel known as Mean Streak. Karen and I headed into the maelstrom. I remember when this ride first opened. The massive queue line was completely filled. I waited three hours to ride it, and I was fairly impressed. But that was over a decade ago, and the years have not been kind to this ride. To Cedar Point's credit, I'm amazed that it's still running. It must cost a ton of money to maintain. There's just so much lumber...
The ride was a walk-on. There were two trains running. We headed for the front. The day before, I saw a train going around that had the front car roped off. Evidently, that problem was fixed. We were quickly seated and off we went up the long lift. The train jerked violently as it engaged the chain. When we crested the top of the hill, the two brakes on the first drop were readily visible. They also were working hard to hold the train back as it descended the 157-foot drop. I could feel the brakes pulling us. As we rolled up the steep second hill, I had a really weird sensation. The hill was pretty steep and severely banked to the right. But the brakes killed so much of the train's momentum that the banking didn't serve its original purpose (to take all the lateral forces out of the turn). Instead Karen and I began to slide over to the right of the train. The banking was now creating severe lateral Gs because there was no longer adequate force to keep us in our seats. This happened on all of the banked turns. The train slowly crested the second hill (which it used to fly through at high speed) and began its second descent. That's when the shuffling and hunting began. The train just didn't seem to know how to follow the track. It was bouncing up and down and from side to side. It wasn't painful, as on some other problematic wooden coasters (R.I.P. Hercules), but it was very noticeable. Rides like that give wooden coasters a bad name. The general public ends up thinking that wooden coasters are supposed to knock your teeth out.
Anyway, we slammed around through the rest of the circuit. I noticed that on nearly all of the turns, metal ledgers had been added in between the wooden ones. They looked like giant gray C-clamps squeezing the outsides of the track. There were a couple of brief hints of airtime here and there. But overall it was so sad to see what had become of this once powerful ride. I never cared much for the design, a pale imitation of the Texas Giant. But originally it at least overcame you with its sheer monstrous power. After our ride, I pictured an aged lion in a circus, de-clawed and de-fanged, waiting out its time, impressing the crowds with its size alone.
We then walked over to the Cedar Creek Mine Ride. On the way, we passed by the Antique Cars, the third set in the park. I don't know any other park that has three antique car rides -- and at CP they were all popular. The old Arrow mine train was a big one for its time. The trains were typical cramped Arrow stock. The ride was really smooth but jerky. I marveled at how Arrow never really figured out how to properly design transitions. There were many moments of "Oooof!" as the train suddenly changed direction. In retrospect, it makes perfect sense to me that Arrow pretty much ended its career designing new Mad Mouse coasters. That was really all that Ron Toomer knew how to do....
We stopped in the Town Hall Museum to admire all the old photos, equipment and models. It was a wonderful historical collection, and I was glad that Cedar Point maintained it so well. I liked the old arcade machines. The day before, we walked through the massive, cavernous arcade underneath the old ballroom. I was thrilled to see so many arcade machines from my youth: Berzerk, Defender, Missile Command. Plus there was a whole wall lined with antique pinball machines, including two of the rare Hercules. It reminded me of Canobie Lake, another park that preserves its history well.
We next walked toward Gemini, Arrow's racing coaster masterpiece. We were getting a bit hungry, so we stopped by Happy Friar. Lo and behold! there was a food concession actually selling cheese-on-a-stick. It was like finding a long-lost friend. So naturally we each ordered one. It was quite tasty. Then we headed for Gemini. Next to Blue Streak, this was probably my favorite coaster in the park. The station looked great, the trains were fun, the layout was simple yet very effective. With the highest capacity of any coaster in the world, there was still a wait to ride it. That said a lot about its popularity. I loved the smooth hills and turns, the headchopper drops, the whole look and feel of the ride. It was still an impressive sight, and delivered a smooth and airtime-filled ride. The helix ending, a reminder of the ride's mine train roots, still packed a punch. This was probably the best coaster Arrow ever built.
All invigorated from our ride, we walked across the midway and into Camp Snoopy, Cedar Point's children's section. I liked the big waterfall at the entrance, with Snoopy and three birds in a canoe at the top, precariously teetering back and forth on the edge. There were standard kiddie rides, like a kiddie swing and a Zamperla Crazy Bus, but they were nicely themed to Schultz's Peanuts characters. The Crazy Bus, for example, had camping gear piled on top of it, and the articles looked just like they had been taken from the pages of Shultz's drawings. I was a huge Peanuts fan when I was a kid, and I know I would have been completely enchanted by this area of the park. The gift shop had lots of great T-Shirts (including fun one of the Peanuts gang riding the Power Tower) but they were only available in kid sizes.
Around the corner was the Paddlewheel Excursions. We climbed on board the old boat and took a leisurely trip around the pond listening to Captain Bob's amusing banter and bad puns. Then we headed back across the midway and queued up for the ride that consistently get top-rated in Amusement Today, Magnum XL-200. I'm still amazed at how Arrow simply modified their mine train concept for this ride, when clearly it was such a different beast. The trains are mine train stock, just with a different skin. And as has been discussed here before, the trains originally came with upstop plates instead of upstop wheels, a fact that still amazes me. I also was amused by the standard little Arrow drop just out of the station. It really served no purpose other than to remind people that it was an Arrow mine train. Ron Toomer has said that it was to give the train a speed boost before the lift, but there was enough of a grade to the track that a "boost" was unnecessary. I guess that's all part of Arrow's charm.
The typically noisy Arrow lift still offered a splendid view of the park's north end and Lake Erie. After riding Millennium Force, Magnum's 60-degree drop seemed so tame. It was difficult to appreciate how steep that drop felt when the ride opened so long ago. The second and third hills were wonderful, smooth and graceful. The train began vibrating when it entered the pretzel turn. That was where Toomer's trademark rough transitions began appearing as the train jerked around the corners. The return trip, once the Holy Grail for coaster enthusiasts, now seemed like a bad joke. The track was bent up and down in a series of triangular hills that sent us colliding violently with the lap bar over and over. Just like on the mine train, we kept gasping "Oooof!" on every hill. The tunnels were very effective and well-placed. The train then meandered around in a sort of half-hearted mine train helix. We returned to the station with bruised thighs.
Why was the outward trip on that ride so well designed, but the return trip was such a mistake? Arrow obviously knew how to bend track; the second hill was a beautiful parabola. They made a parabola on the Corkscrew. If the return trip had been designed in the same way, Magnum would still be king of the steel coasters. (Maybe Toomer could have kept one triangular hill at the end just as a kicker.) It would have been just as good as Six Flags New England's Superman. I don't know what was going through Toomer's head. Maybe he should have ridden his own coasters....
We headed back to the south end of the park and walked through the Snoopy Boutique. It used to be themed to the Brownstain Bears. Now it sold more Peanuts merchandise, and there was a section that was like a little trip through a Peanuts forest, with cartoon trees and cutout characters. There was a pumpkin patch with Linus and Sally waiting for the Great Pumpkin. There was the group of ghosts from "It's the Great Pumpkin Charlie Brown" including Charlie Brown's hole-riddled costume. A small theater-like area played Peanuts cartoons on a small television. Again, if I were a little kid I would have been completely enchanted by that area. A bright yellow tunnel led out to the old Brownstain Bears play area. This too was successfully re-themed with Peanuts characters.
I decided to give Millennium Force one more try. Karen patiently waited for me while I queued up. The line wasn't that long, but the operators were stacking trains and generally moving pretty slowly. After a half hour, I hadn't moved very far in the line, so I left. I figured I'd return later in the day when the crowd thinned.
Karen and I then went on the shopping ride. We had been scoping out the gift shops all along. I was really impressed with the variety and quality of Cedar Point's offerings. They bested Lake Compounce in the number of unique gifts. There were charming snow globes sporting the Point's skyline. There were drink coasters of the coasters. There were some spectacular T-shirts. There were books, videos, pins, magnets, puzzles, even a "Cedar Point-o-poly" game. There was a working model roller coaster for $119. The only thing missing was a good selection of hats. So we stocked up on various items. Then we brought it all back to our car.
We re-entered the park and headed to Macaroni's for dinner. That restaurant was really colorful with bright pink and blue neon running along the top of the walls. Everything in there matched the neon, even the pink and blue translucent glasses. We each ordered the cheese tortellini and garlic bread, which came with a trip to the salad bar. It was quite delicious.
We left Macaroni's and wandered over to the Ocean Motion pool. I liked the giant windows that looked into the pool. They glowed an eerie bright blue underneath the stadium seats. The performers were rehearsing their routines; the show hadn't opened yet. There was an exit out onto the beach, so Karen and I walked into the soft warm sand and stared at the rolling waves of Lake Erie. Wicked Twister was going through its paces next to us, so I decided to take a ride on it.
I've never seen so much coaster packed into so tiny a space. The train was ridiculously long. The 200-foot twisted spires at both ends wobbled perceptibly in the steady wind off of the lake. I rode Vertical Velocity at Six Flags Great Adventure and really liked it. That coaster was a bit smaller and had only one twisted spire; the other pulled you straight back and held you there facing straight down. That was my favorite part of the ride.
The line for Wicked Twister moved quickly. The train held so many people and the ride was so short that capacity didn't seem to be a problem. I headed for the back of the train. In a short time, we were launched forward with that signature scream of Intamin's powerful linear induction system. The train rolled back toward the station and was blasted backward. We twisted gently part-way up the back spire. Then we rolled forward and were shot up the front spire. This see-saw motion repeated a few more times, gradually slowing and bringing us backwards to a stop in the station. The whole ride was probably about a minute long. I didn't enjoy it as much as Vertical Velocity. As I mentioned, the best part of that ride for me was being suspended in the air facing straight down. That really heightened my sense of peril. On Wicked Twister, I enjoyed the strongest backward push when the train made it nearly to the top of the back spire. But that happened only once, very briefly. Other than that, I really didn't see the point. I guess it was an inexpensive way for the Point to add to its coaster count. Maybe they got a deal on it since they had purchased two other big Intamin rides. Sure, it broke a height record for that particular kind of coaster. But again, size isn't everything. I guess one advantage was how little real estate it occupies. And the setting right on the beach was wonderful.
I queued up for Top Thrill Dragster one more time to see if maybe I missed something. Once again, this had the longest line in the park. The ride had been operating four trains all day without a problem. I waited about 45 minutes for the front seat of the back train. I wanted to watch the train in front of me get blasted up that hill. I sat with a guy from Toledo who seemed pretty mellow and had ridden the ride many times. He said TTD was his favorite ride. The train in front of us disappeared in a flash up the hill, then we rolled slowly into the launch area. I was amazed at how much water sprayed up out of the track when the train was launched. The recorded sound is a bit odd. When a train took off, there was a loud deep sound like a nuclear reactor powering down. I expected a sound that ramped up, increasing the excitement. Maybe what they were going for was the sound of a doppler shift as a speeding car races by you. The sound could be heard all over the park, so I knew when a train was launched.
We raced forward on the green light, up the 90-degree incline, over the top and then back to the brakes. The experience wasn't much different in the front, except I felt the pressure of the wind on my face. When we hit the brakes, the formerly passive guy next to me (maybe in his early 20s), broke out into whoops and screams of delight, laughing and shaking his head. I was the one sitting there passively. I guess I'm just getting old....
When I looked in the photo booth at my picture, I saw the main difference of sitting in the front seat: all the skin on my face and neck was stretched back toward my headrest. It looked like that photo circulating on the Internet shortly after the ride opened, of a large man whose face looked horribly distorted. Evidently, it wasn't altered on a computer. That's what a 120 mph wind will do to loose skin.
I got my video camera. Karen and I spent the rest of our day walking around the park recording the sights. We met up with our girls, who had finished up their orientation. We got another cheese-on-a-stick. Sadly, it would be the last one I'd have for a long time. (I may have to open a Corn Dog 7 franchise in New England...) The guy at the counter was surprised that he was the only cheese-on-a-stick vendor open. There were actually three others in the park! Somehow the guy gave me one that had two or three blocks of cheese all stuck together, so it was really fat. Maybe he thought it would hold me over until we returned...
We walked back through the Frontier Trail. The line for Millennium Force had dwindled, so I took a ride in the third seat. That lift hill and first drop again impressed me. At least I could see what was happening. But again, the rest of the ride didn't do much for me. I thought, as on Superman, the third seat would deliver more powerful airtime. But there are only three hills during the entire ride. And they really didn't produce much floating. I guess if you get excited by speed, then MF and TTD would be a thrill. But speed is relative. All it did in this case was get me back to the station in a hurry.
I ended my day with a ride on the Space Spiral, admiring the huge park from 300 feet up. I met up with Karen and the girls, who had mysteriously disappeared after my ride on MF. Karen had gone back into the Frontier Trail to get a large wooden plaque carved with our names and a roller coaster. It was a wonderful finish to our trip. Overall, I really enjoyed our stay at The Point. The hotel was fine, the park was immaculate and beautifully landscaped, the people were extremely friendly, the food was really good and the weather turned out to be perfect. I was surprised that we didn't even ride the carousels, Cedar Downs or two of the three antique cars. But that's a testament to how great the park is: there was always so much to do that I never missed them until later on. Even though there were 16 coasters in the park, there were only three that I really liked: Blue Streak, Gemini and Raptor. I could have stayed on Blue Streak all day, but there was so much else to do. And for me, that's what an amusement park is all about -- making me forget about my everyday cares and distracting me from life's problems. Cedar Point was the perfect getaway.
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