Trip Report: Geauga Lake
Aurora, Ohio - 07/07/1996
Never go to a picnic park on Sunday. Never.
I got a late start on Sunday, but I did make the 150-mile drive to Geauga Lake.
Geauga Lake is in Aurora, Ohio, across the lake from Sea World, more generally
right between Cleveland and Akron.
Geauga is not the easiest park in the state to get to. It isn't that it is particularly
complicated, but while there are at least three Interstate-grade highways in the
vicinity, none of them go where you need them to go. All of the major roads in
the Cleveland area run parallel. Most important, there is no exit from IR-271N
to OH-82E...you have to get off at OH-8N and take OH-8 to OH-82. Rand McNally
doesn't show this little problem, and it cost me going about 10 miles out of my
Parking is $4, but at least the lot is mostly paved. They took my Wyandot Lake
season pass at the Season Pass entrance...very streamlined--no guest-book to
sign, or any similar such nonsense. Adult admission is about $20 these days,
and includes the waterpark, which I completely skipped. The weather was very
hot and very humid.
Everyone knows that it is usually a mistake to visit a popular amusement park
on a Saturday. And at the big parks like Cedar Point and Kings Island, the crowds
are generally noticeably smaller on Sunday. But the story is different for parks
that handle a lot of company picnics, because those picnics are often held on
Sunday, in an effort to avoid the Saturday crowd. Yesterday, it was the Chrysler
Corporation. As usual, the crowd is a bit crude, a little rough around the edges,
though not as bad as PKI. Watch where you step (LOTS of spitting!), watch where
you lean (gum stuck all over), and be aware that while the park tries hard to
keep up, this crowd is really sloppy, leaving trails of garbage throughout the
park. Ugh! Also, you're never more than 25 feet from a burning cigarette
Interesting, though...Geauga Lake really is not structured very well to handle
a large crowd. The park doesn't look so much like it was laid out as that it
just sort of happened. The narrow walkways lead to lots of other narrow walkways,
and there are enough indecision points that you get large groups of people who
are unsure where they really want to be, trying to get past each other. Of course,
the fact that it was a picnic crowd adds another dynamic to it as well...three
groups of twenty people meet on a path, and the groups start switching members
because they all know each other. It's almost enough to make one feel like a
real outsider! 8-)
I'll take these in order by age.
BIG DIPPER - John Miller, 1925
This is a fantastic dogleg out-and-back coaster. Unlike another Northern Ohio
coaster, it is still a genuine ACE Coaster Classic. The trains are scratch-built
replicas of the original NAD train, with heavily cushioned interiors. Interesting...the
sidewalls of the NAD-style train are higher than those on a PTC, and the seat
is lower, so the seat-back is really quite high. The single-position lap bar is
padded. And it is a good thing, too. I got two rides on this coaster (missed out
on a third), in the front seat and in the back seat. In the back, I was actually
disappointed with the suprising lack of air-time and with the exceptionally rough
ride. In that seat, this coaster suffers from an extreme case of wheel-hop. Closer
inspection seems to indicate that the real problem is with excessive motion either
in the track, or in the lamination of the first two layers. This coaster could
use some track-work. The front-seat ride, on the other hand, provided better air
than the back seat, and much less of the wheel-hop, though its effect could still
be felt. I expect Seat #3 (back of first car) in the four-car train is probably
the best, and that is where I was headed when Mother Nature put an end to my fun.
While it has its problems, Big Dipper is still a fun, and quite suprising,
ride. It is also particularly annoying, as the layout of the park makes it virtually
impossible to photograph. Did I see recently that there is a shortage of Geauga
photos on the FTP site? Well, there's not much you can do with Big Dipper
unless you are on-board, where cameras are verboten. Minimum wait with
single-train operation (grrrr...there's a beautiful green train sitting in the
station...) was about 30 minutes.
DOUBLE LOOP - Arrow Development Corp., 1977
Like the Big Dipper, this coaster has two trains. Also like the Big
Dipper, they were only running one. Unlike the Big Dipper, the wait
was still fairly short, about 18 minutes. This is one of the smoothest running
Arrow loopers I have ridden. It's a 90' drop, then up a shallow ramp into a turnaround
carefully banked to avoid lateral forces, then through two vertical loops. This
is followed by a helix, also carefully constructed to avoid lateral forces, and
a quick rise into the station. The absence of lateral forces means an almost total
absence of headbanging on this ride. Quite good, and seemingly overlooked by the
teeming throngs. Which is interesting, considering that most of it is built right
over the picnic area, making it one of the most accessible coasters around. Very
photogenic, even though the track is painted black.
RAGING WOLF BOBS - Summers/Dinn, 1988
This is a much-maligned coaster. It is loosely based on the 1924 Bobs
at Riverview Park (Traver/Church/Prior); in fact, the trackplan changes are extremely
minor...the approach to the lift is different, and the first crossover is reversed.
But photos indicate that the changes in curve banking and radius are significant.
So it isn't a reconstruction by any means. Anyway, it is a fairly good ride with
a lot of potential, and some big problems. There is some airtime throughout the
train, but watch out for those wheel seats (I avoided them)! Like the Big Dipper,
this coaster suffers from a rhythmic wheel-hop; I suspect it is a problem with
the track lamination...it looks like it's all original track. But those problems
are exacerbated by the shuffle caused by the trailered PTC trains, which in turn
are probably tearing up the track. Question: Does any other coaster still use
the trailered trains? I know Hercules and Thunder Run have both
switched over to the articulated trains. It is worth noting that both of Geauga's
wood coasters have low-back seats and traditional lap bars; Raging Wolf Bobs
has low seat dividers. And while the Riverview Bobs ran three 22-passenger
trains, RWB has two 24-passenger trains, but they were only running one. Not that
they couldn't run two...the platform operation was very efficient with a 2:40
dispatch interval for a 2:00 ride!
I'd like to see this coaster get some track work, and some train chassis improvements.
I wonder if it would be possible to move those rear axles backward about 18"...
MIND ERASER - Vekoma International b.v., 1996
Wow! This is my second Vekoma Boomerang (my first was Kentucky Kingdom's
Vampire), and I think my 80th coaster. This is the only coaster at Geauga
Lake with platform gates, and when the train comes flying through the station
at 50+ mph, that's not a feature to complain about. I sat in the front of the
last car for my one ride, and I was pleasantly suprised by how smooth the ride
was. This thing was actually fun! Almost no headbanging on the forward
run, minimal on the return. This ride is a real winner, and the local crowd loved
Geauga's other new ride this year is Grizzly Run, a rapid river ride.
I didn't ride it. It is located where the picnic grove used to be on the path
to the Raging Wolf Bobs. I've complained in the past about that long, uphill
stretch of midway with nothing on it; it looks like it isn't going to get any
better...the one side now sports a (as yet incomplete) gunite wall; the other
side is Federally protected wetland. In-park peak-season construction seems to
be a trademark for Premier Parks. I noticed it at Geauga and at Wyandot this season,
and at Adventure World last year. From a distance, I was suprised to notice that
Grizzly Run does not have headrests. In the "shame on you"
department, the Traver Rocket Ships are dismantled and sitting behind the
Raging Wolf Bobs tri-level helix. Rumor has it that they will be returning
next season; I hope that is true. BRING BACK THE ROCKET SHIPS!!!
Geauga Lake's collection of other rides includes the following:
- Intamin Gyro-Tower
- Eli Bridge 16-tub Ferris wheel
- Log Flume (Arrow?)
- Arrow Antique Cars
- Majestic Muzik Express (Himalaya)
- Eyerly Spider
- Sellner Tilt-A-Whirl
- Chance Rotor (Yes, Whirlwind, they still have a Rotor!)
- Chance Yo-Yo
- Chance Casino
- Mack (?) Matterhorn
- Huss 1,001 Nacht (Flying Carpet on a Rainbow/Ranger frame)
- Mangels/Ilions Carousel
- Huss Enterprise
- Bish-Rocco Flying Scooters
- Eli Bridge Scrambler
- Huss Top-Spin
Most of the rides are in top shape, running very well. Also of note: For only
$1.50, Geauga Lake sells a fantastic Belgian Waffle. Okay, so it looks like
a hot-dog bun. It really is a waffle, and it is topped with fresh fruit, soft-serve,
and whipped topping. Yum!
Okay, so I've blathered on enough. In spite of the huge crowd and their apparent
inability to run more than one train on any coaster, I had a wonderful time
at Geauga Lake. It's well worth a visit. Ride a true classic, a classic coaster
wannabe, and a pair of really good steel loopers. Go check it out! But check
the picnic schedule first.
Next trip: Kennywood
1996 Trip Report index
Back to Dave's page
--Dave Althoff, Jr.