Cedar Point
May 2005
(Part 2)

Tuesday brought another cool, damp day. We took our time getting to the park, hoping the air would warm up a bit. The temperature hovered in the mid-50s and sunshine was nowhere to be found.

We got to the park about 11:00 and were surprised that not even the second row in the parking lot was filled. The first thing we did was stop by Park Plaza to check in with our girls. We only saw one of them. I bought myself a Snoopy sweatshirt and immediately put it on. Then we headed to the gourmet pretzel stand for our "breakfast." I tried one with cream cheese. It was okay, but the hot cheddar sauce was better. They just gave me a pretzel and a little container of hard cream cheese. I had to ask for a knife so I could spread it on the pretzel. I'm not sure what they expected me to do with the cream cheese without a knife. I'm assuming that little details like that will be worked out as the employees get more experience over the summer.

I found it interesting that the music playing along the main midway hadn't changed since the previous season. It was still a curious mix of popular tunes from the '70s and '80s, including "Funky Town," "Stray Cat Strut" and various Bee Gees tunes. The music did shift as you went from one section of the park to another. But the main midway was the first area most guests encountered. Disco retreads didn't seem to set the appropriate mood....

We passed by Johnny Rocket's Diner. The wait staff came out and began half-heartedly lip-synching to the song "Respect." I guess that's a tradition for that diner; last year we saw a different crew do a great job with "Staying Alive." But since the diner is themed to the 1950s, it would seem more appropriate for them to lip synch to Chuck Berry or Jerry Lee Lewis.

After that Karen suggested we take a ride on MaxAir, since it was running. We were both a bit apprehensive, not knowing what to expect from the ride. The swinging of the pendulum seemed quite graceful given the ride's bulk. The ring of seats would almost swing upside down at the end of the pendulum's arc as the ring slowly rotated counter-clockwise. I thought that like Huss' smaller Frisbee, the seats would eventually rotate in the other direction as well. But the ride cycle was fairly short. Once the pendulum reached its highest arc, it gradually slowed to a stop. The ring was lined with small bright green lights that must have looked great at night.

The queue line for the ride was small by Cedar Point standards. Even though it was filled, we only waited two quick cycles to board. As we were waiting, two guys in front of us discussed the merits of the Bee Gees and Billy Joel. The ride attendant split up guests into two more queues at the entrance. One was directed to the left of the ride (where we were). The other went to the right. The attendant counted off each guest aloud, giving each a number. That was your assigned seat. We got seats 10 and 11, facing Disaster Transport. I noticed that when the ride came to a stop, the seats always faced the exact point where they had begun. There were bins for storing loose articles, bright steel cylinders that looked like spotlights for a Hollywood premiere. The ride's molded plastic seats were quite comfortable. The over-the-shoulder harnesses were a bit odd, though. The shoulder area was so high that I couldn't see anything to my left or right. Like so many similar restraints, a seat belt clipped from under the seat onto the bottom of the shoulder harness as a precaution.

The floor under the loading area was comprised of a set of large steel parallelograms, like truncated pie slices. They gracefully tipped downward at the center when the ride was about to start, revealing a set of spotlights pointing up from a concrete "cellar" under the ride. The cycle began imperceptibly with the ring rotation. It was a surprisingly smooth start. Then we felt the ride gently begin to swing. The sensation was like swinging on a tire hanging from a tree. It was really quite pleasant. Then we felt the muscle of the ride. The spinning motion remained fairly mild, but the swinging motion kicked into high gear. We felt ourselves yanked backward and hurled up toward the sky. We rarely reached the crest of each swing in the same position. Sometimes we were facing sideways, sometimes forward and sometimes backward. But the sensation wasn't dizzying at all.

At the ride's peak, we were suspended nearly upside-down. Staring up into the sky didn't help to get my bearings, because the clouds provided a uniform dull grey view. But when I faced down, it became obvious how extreme the ride's arc was. The force of the swing by that point was pretty intense. I could feel the strong G forces as we were yanked down. At the crest of the arc there was briefly sustained airtime.

The ride felt a lot longer while we were on it, compared with when we were spectators. Gradually the arc decreased and we slowed to an upright position. The ring stopped spinning and we ended up exactly where we started. The floor quietly rose up and we disembarked. I was walking amazingly straight. I thought I'd be staggeringly disoriented. Karen felt pretty good too.

Overall, I liked MaxAir. I thought it would be like Six Flags New England's Time Warp. But it produced a much different sensation. The only ride I could compare it to would be a Skycoaster but where instead of simply freefalling, you were yanked downward. We both agreed that once was enough for us, but we were glad we got a chance to ride it. Karen said one of the guys in line who was talking about the Bee Gees sat next to her and was nearly hyperventilating with excitement, screaming, "I'm ready for this! This is great!" When he got off the ride, his friend asked him how he liked it, and he replied, "I had my eyes closed the whole time!"

We walked across the midway and under Raptor and had another great ride on Blue Streak. That coaster rose into the top ten of my all-time favorites. I had a rough ride on it once, many years ago. But since then it performed beautifully. Kudos to Cedar Point for keeping their classic in good shape. Obviously, I could do without the train's headrests (and they probably cause more problems than they solve). But at least ride still had the 3-bench PTC trains, and the seat belts weren't too intrusive.

That section of the park was nearly empty. No one was on the Cadillac Cars. We walked over to the nearby Burger Patio and got a slice of cheese pizza. It was adequate, if a bit lukewarm. Then we headed for the warmth of the cavernous Main Arcade underneath the old ballroom. We walked to the back of the building where there was a line of old pinball machines. We played a few, including the classic Atari machine Hercules. Its playfield was so big, we had to spread our arms wide to reach the flippers. The ball was basically a billiards cue ball. The park had two of those machines. The one we played was in great condition and was a lot of fun.

We hesitantly stepped back outside. The wind was whipping. It felt more like late autumn. We took a stroll through the Frontier Trail section. It was one of the most relaxing sections of the park, the closest Cedar Point came to a "theme park" feeling. Many of the buildings were authentic structures that the park reassembled. We stopped in a small shop that sold Austrian jewelry. We chatted with the pleasant elderly woman there, who told us the shop had been there 36 years! Karen bought a pretty jeweled necklace.

There was a winding trail around the small petting farm. We had never walked down it before. It offered a great view of Millennium Force's first drop and turn. The petting farm had an assortment of small sheep, goats and pigs.

Near that was the observation deck for the Thunder Canyon rapids ride. We watched the violently rushing water carry nearly empty rafts under four drenching waterfalls. We got plenty soaked on that ride last year during a torrential rain. We passed on it this time.

Across from the observation deck was the J. W. Addington Mill, an authentic gristmill. Inside the building, a recording told the story of the mill, its reconstruction and how grain was ground by the intricate wood and stone machinery.

The walkways throughout the Frontier Trail area were nearly deserted. Snake River Falls amazingly had some customers willing to be drenched by the giant wall of water the boats produced. We walked on by it and instead took a ride on the Frontier Trail Antique Cars. It was a short pleasant ride around a small green. But did the park really need three different car rides? It seems like that area could have been used for something that better fit the Frontier Trail theme. How about a mine-themed dark ride, like the Mine of the Lost Souls at Canobie Lake? Or a western-themed kiddie section? They could probably recycle that Antique Car ride at another one of their parks.

We hadn't ridden White Water Landing in a long time, so we queued up for that old flume ride. The Point used to have three Arrow flumes. Just this one remained. But this was the one to keep. It gave a long, pleasant ride through a densely forested area. It was also a rare "speed flume," with unique canoe-shaped boats. The ride had a fairly standard Arrow layout. Out of the station, the trough meandered low to the ground until it reached a small lift that rose up into a sort of big wooden shed. The boat splashed down outside the shed and curved through a winding ground-level course until it came to the big lift. At the top of that hill, the boat was deposited in a trough raised about 50 feet off the ground. That gave us a nice view of Lake Erie and the nearby Mean Streak coaster. The trough eventually split, making two separate drops. That way the ride could cycle more boats through. We ended up in the left trough. The drop was steep and quick. At the bottom we sped over speed flume's little bunny hop, then we swiftly splashed down and skimmed across the water, gradually slowing and joining back up with a single trough. We were only mildly spotted with water, and were glad for that.

Our favorite treat, cheese-on-a-stick, was calling to us. So we headed over to the Happy Friar and ordered two. The girl placed one from the warming tray onto the counter in front of us and said, "It'll be a few minutes for the other one." I asked if we could have two fresh ones, so that we didn't end up with one of them being cold. "Oh," said the girl, "I'll just stick this one back under the warming light." So much for customer serviceā€¦. She spent an inordinate amount of time with the one that was being cooked. She would pull it out of the Fry-o-lator, poke the stick in and out to see if the cheese was done, then dunk it back into the grease. She repeated that procedure for about five minutes and then apparently gave up and handed us our food. We sat down at a table to eat it. Karen took the one from the warming light. Mine, for all the dunking the girl had done, turned out to be a partially cooked grease ball.

We wandered through the Camp Snoopy children's area. It was almost deserted. The Peanuts characters and their handlers were idly standing around the Camp Snoopy stage as music played. No one was in the audience. They excitedly waved to us as we passed by. We waved back, snapped a picture and kept walking. Then it began to rain. It was about 3:00 and we decided to call it a day. We went to Pagoda Gifts and got a poster and a few other souvenirs. Then we stopped by Park Plaza to say goodbye to our girls.

As we got in our car, the rain came down hard. We drove back to the Breaker's Express. We weren't in our room more than a few minutes when the fire alarm went off for the second day in a row. I sighed heavily. This time we bundled up and I took my car keys with me. We walked into the hotel lobby. A hotel employee stopped us and told us we didn't have to evacuate. The alarm was malfunctioning because of trapped air in the system. "It'll do this off and on for a while until all the air gets out." What I found annoying though was that other than that one employee, there was no one to advise us what to do. We were basically left to fend for ourselves.

Rather than go back and listen to the alarm go off, we decided to drive down Route 250 and check out the Meijer's Superstore. On the way, we stopped into an Amish craft store near Cedar Point's causeway. The sign outside advertised "3-4-6 foot lighthouses." It was a homey sort of shop with lots of handmade items. Karen got some cream cheese flavoring mix and I bought a humorous golfer windmill.

The exterior of Meijer's was a bizarre combination of different architectural styles and colors. The interior was just too bloody huge. It had to be at least the length of two football fields. I didn't particularly get inspired to shop in that store. I instead got a rather gloomy feeling of overwhelm. There was simply too much stuff. We left there and stopped at a nearby Subway for dinner. Then we drove back to the hotel.

We were exhausted. We climbed into bed and heard an odd scratching and clicking at our door. I wearily got up and looked out the peephole. A hotel employee was there. The door locks operated with magnetic striped cards. We had placed a special "Do Not Disturb" card into our lock. So I pulled the door open. The girl was startled. She had taken the "Do Not Disturb" card out.

"Oh, excuse me," she said meekly, "I'm just deactivating these cards." She was holding a handful of various keycards. Was our door lock the only thing in the hotel that could deactivate the cards? The idea seemed preposterous but I was so tired that I didn't want to inquire further. I just closed the door in her face and bolted it.

We awoke at 3:30 the next morning and began the long trip home. We stopped for breakfast at Bob Evans, one of our favorite eateries, in Erie, Pennsylvania. It sat right next to yet another brand new huge hotel and indoor waterpark complex. I was glad we left early in the morning. We beat the rush hour traffic and had the highways mostly to ourselves. It made for a relaxing, if exhausting, drive.

Overall, we had a good time at Cedar Point. That says a lot for the park, considering the poor weather, iffy food and less-than-stellar hotel experience. Our cost for getting in the park was certainly reasonable, as was the hotel rate. The parking fee had gone up to nine dollars, which I thought was getting a little pricey (and there was no discount on that for hotel guests). But overall the Point provided a unique experience, a sort of total immersion amusement facility on a scale not seen since the golden days of the White Cities and Luna Parks of the 1920s. Though we no longer go on as many rides as we used to, what we loved was simply basking in the carefree carnival atmosphere at one of the most amazing amusement facilities ever created.

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