"If you click it, does it quack?"
I am fortunate that I live a mere two hours away from Cedar Point. This has its advantages mostly in terms of the number of times I can visit that park. Sometimes there are other advantages to that logistic benefit. For instance I can go to CoasterMania on Thursday night and take advantage of the diminutive crowds.
So on Thursday night I pulled into Cedar Point and took lots of rides on the Magnum XL-200. It was gratifying to see that last season's scenario (in which Magnum was down mechanical until very few hours before the evening ERT) was not repeated. This night, Magnum's trim brake was turned completely off, but that was because with the strong wind blowing in off of the lake, it felt almost like the train hit a wall in the middle of the turnaround. Still...it's Magnum. How better to start a CoasterMania weekend? Besides, the Magnum platform is a good place to meet up with r.r-c'ers for that other CoasterMania/r.r-c tradition...DINNER.
This year a fair number of us ended up at the new Steak 'n Shake out on Milan Rd., where we experienced standard North Coast customer service. If you have been reading r.r-c for a while, you may know exactly what that means [Footnote 1]. But the food was good and the conversation was even better. Far into the night we talked coasters, ate, and drank, but finally it was time to get some sleep. I found a room not far away at a motel for a reasonable price. Of course, this was one of the last nights this season when any room could be had for a reasonable price. CoasterMania usually coincides with the start of the high season.
Morning came quickly and I was off to CoasterMania. The festivities began with two-hour ERT sessions on Raptor and Mantis: The Coaster Formerly Known as Banshee. I started with Raptor. A couple of spins on this green monster, and suddenly I was very happy that Cedar Point ha decided to sell juice and pastries form the adjacent Midway Market. Refreshed with a doughnut and juice, it was back to the coaster queue for even more rides on Raptor. Raptor, Raptor, Raptor. Vertical loop, inline twist, boomerang, corkscrew, helix. Loop, loop, loop, loop, loop, loop. Isn't it about time for the park to open?
It was barely 8:00. Mantis: TCFKAB was running for ERT, so I hiked over there. Three trains, no waiting. I climbed aboard the waiting train, shoving the seat pillar down as far as it would go. I grab the shoulder bar in one hand, the safety belt in the other, and struggle to get them to connect. The belt is stretched to its limit, but the seat is digging hard into my thighs and the shoulder bar is crushing my shoulders. Why is it that the one dimension that is always wrong on a stand-up coaster...the distance between the seat and the top of the shoulder bar...is never adjustable? I'm not exceptionally tall (darned close to 6'0"), and I'm not too big around, but my thighs are large, which prevents me from getting the seat much higher than my knees unless I can get my feet much further apart than the B&M floor pan will allow. It was barely acceptable to me, and it hurt, but I was ready to go.
"Wait a minute..." said the platform attendant as she attempted to lower my shoulder bar some more. Naturally it wouldn't go, so she released the seat pillar, which, because it was jammed tight against my thighs, didn't move. She lifted it a bit, which allowed the shoulder bar to come down another notch. Now I really hurt. "Is that comfortable for you?" she asked.
"No!" I replied. "What I need is for the seat to go down about another foot!". A little more fiddling put things back more or less where I had put them in the first place, though something was still screwed up because it hurt like hell. And the train hadn't even left the station. The attendant shot a nervous look at ride ops boss (?) Bob Wozniak, who indicated that, yes, it was OK. I think he must have seen this problem before.
The trouble with all this, of course is that by the time i got halfway up the lift hill, I wanted out of that damned train. I don't recall ever being this uncomfortable on this coaster. Have my dimensions changed or something? My shoulders were getting really sore, my thighs hurt like crazy, and...omigod, here come the ride forces. Down the hills, through the inversions, and around possibly the best, most 'coaster-like' layout B&M have ever created. Quite frankly, I didn't care. I wanted OFF, and i wanted off NOW. Back in the empty station, bruised and battered, I practically fell off the ride and limped down the exit ramp. It would be a fun ride if they would just take the seats off, but at the moment it just is too unaccommodating. I waddled back to Raptor, sore thighs and all. Mantis was almost as unpleasant at Fun Spot's Zyklon.
<Yawn.> How many more Raptor rides can I take? It's a good ride, but I was becoming terribly bored with it. Funny, this never happened with Twisted Sisters and I took a lot more laps on that one. Isn't it 9:00 yet?
No, it isn't. More rides on Raptor, I guess...i really wish there was another coaster open for morning ERT. Fortunately, the lines were getting longer. I never thought I could get tired of riding a coaster!
Finally, with the park open, I caught up with Pete Babic so that I could get him connected with his CoasterMania credentials. I also unpacked a broadcast camcorder from my car, and we headed into the park and to the Ballroom. I set up my camera and prepared for the big show.
The big show, of course, was the Magnum XL-200 celebration. We were greeted by park GM Don Miears, we saw a lengthy videotape celebrating Magnum's first decade including lots of news clips and bits from TV specials. Of particular interest was the tape of the first run. We see the train head up the lift. We see it fly down the first drop. We see it head up the second hill. We see it clear the second hill. We hear an enormous cheer from everybody present 8-) [Footnote 2]. The tape also included the first run with people and showed them all cheering as the train comes out of the last tunnel. Then between-the-rails POV of one of those runs; we can hear the up-stops crashing into the rails and see that there are no trim brakes anywhere on the course. I had never seen that tape before; the earliest POV I had ever seen showed the trim brakes at the top [Footnote 3] of the third hill.
I was gratified and relieved when Ron Toomer was greeted at the lectern with applause and a standing ovation. I had been worried about some of my fellow enthusiasts, but this time my fears were unfounded. Toomer told us about himself, about how he got into the crazy business, and about the process of designing a coaster. He talked about some of the challenges in building coasters, and he noted unequivocally that Cedar Point does not have enough space for the runout curve that would be required for a 300' coaster. Naturally that immediately provoked speculation that CP's next coaster would DEFINITELY be a 300-footer. Toomer then entertained questions, many of which, unfortunately, would have been more easily answered by a park representative. But he did seem to be rather irritated by the whole Drachen Fire situation, he explained why Arrow couldn't afford to finish up the Pipeline project, and he covered some other interesting stories. I think most people would have been happy if he'd been able to talk longer, but with the second session scheduled soon, the talk had to come to an end. We filed out and I stowed the camera in the car.
The park was crowded, but not unbearably so, and the day's ERT sessions were scheduled on Raptor, Mantis, Magnum XL-200, and Mean Streak. That left eight other coasters to ride, a feat which was not difficult to accomplish...but not until after lunch. Cedar Point provided us with a nice spread including hot dogs, chicken, beans, potato salad, ice cream, cookies, chips, and drinks. Quite a picnic, really with just a few Muffleheads thrown in for good measure. CoasterMania this year was at the height of the Mufflehead season. All day long I joked that the Mean Streak ERT was going to include dinner, and by the end of morning ERT on Raptor, my shirt and glasses had borne the brunt of several Mufflehead collisions. Never before have I seen these bugs so thick on the Point. I mean, there were zillions of the things. I wonder if the seagulls eat them.
The afternoon was another day at the Point. Do I really need to go into detail? Groups of CoasterManiacs roamed the midways, rode rides, and talked coasters...rode coasters, too, with Woodstock Express a favorite target. A partcularly interesting observation was in Kiddy Kingdom, across from Disaster Transport. Cedar Point has a Venture kiddie boat ride with round tubs floating in it; I guess it was supposed to be the kiddie ride answer to Thunder Canyon. Anyway, since it is fairly calm water, a duck had decided to join in the fun. He was spending his afternoon dodging the boats, and leading the RCT players to speculate on whether or not he would quack if clicked on. Then it became a discussion of how one might click on this duck to find out, at which point it was decided that the conversation had gone too far.
At the end of the day, it was time for the main event. Exclusive Coastermania ride time on Magnum XL-200. Even after ten years it is still an amazing coaster. The front of the train was coated black with the carcasses of crushed muffleheads, but nobody seemed to care...although a lot of people pointed it out. I had the distinct pleasure of meeting Paul Drabek in person for the first time and introducing yet another person to the amazing Ejector Seat at the back of the lead car.
Then I made my mistake. I headed over to Mean Streak. When I learned that Mean Streak was to be a part of CoasterMania once again, I thought that maybe Cedar Point had corrected some of the big ride's problems and wanted to show it off for the CoasterManiacs.
When the day began, I thought maybe the drop trim would be off for a change during ERT.
Mean Streak fought its way down the first drop, shimmied, shuffled, bounced, and squealed like crazy. It was slow. It was rough. It was dull. Quite frankly, it stunk. Cedar Point should be ashamed to present such a ride to anybody, particularly a bunch of coaster nuts. sigh. I had such high hopes for Mean Streak this year, but instead of being a great ride as it should, it is vying for the title of "Worst Wooden Coaster in the Country." It is shameful, deplorable, and Cedar Point should be doing better than this because Mean Streak does not live up to the park's standards. The ride needs help, desperately.
I rode once. Then I went back to Magnum. Brakeless? No. Fantastic? Absolutely. It was fast and furious. It was bruising thighs left and right. Magnum XL-200 was GREAT! We rode and rode and rode. I rode and rode and rode. Then I rode some more. Heedless of the two and a half hours it would take me to get home, I rode as long as I could. I didn't want to leave. For I knew that Summer had finally arrived. And that means next time I will have to wait in a long line. But it was time, and I had a long, boring drive home.
--Dave Althoff, Jr.
Note: Complete ride list and coaster capacity statistics will be provided in a future trip report.
Footnote 1: For more information, look here (Breakfast at Gulliver's). Or for a funnier example, try here (Dinner with Todd). Hmmm...that's a Mark McKenzie story, which means you can also read it in glorious HTML off of his site, The Trip Report. [Return to text]
Footnote 2: "They said it would need a chain lift to get up the second hill. It doesn't." --Arrow Dynamics marketing videotape, referring to the Magnum XL-200. [Return to text]
Footnote 3: They are now at the bottom of the third
drop. [Return to text]
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