"It's RUNNING?! In THIS?!"
I had a plan for the weekend. Saturday I would visit Kings Island, then Sunday return to Cedar Point for my last visit of the season. Fortunately, when I got up on Saturday morning I noticed the white spot on the Kings Island schedule. I called the park to make sure. "Are you open to ordinary garden-variety season-pass holders today?" I asked.
"No, we have a buy-out today," replied the friendly operator.
So much for the best laid plans. I considered my options. I do need to repair the basement window, organize my files, clean up the house, and update the Roller Coaster Almanac. So there was plenty for me to do.
Or I could go to Cedar Point.
Decisions, decisions! Either busy myself with admittedly mundane household duties, or spend the afternoon at Cedar Point. I grabbed the computer and my camera, jumped into the car, and headed North. Two and a half hours later, I was being waved through the toll booth at Cedar Point. The broken window can wait.
I drove around the Perimeter Road to the back parking lot. There are still pallets stacked on the railroad tracks, and I spotted one place where the ends of the rails simply do not line up anymore. Whoops! I passed a little white sign with a "W" on it, and since my Taurus has no whistle, I blew the horn.
When I got to the Gemini parking lot, I first had to carefully maneuver around the fifteen blue B&M-designed coaster cars parked there [Footnote 1]. Finding that lot entirely full, I proceeded to the designated Challenge Park parking lot. It wasn't quite full, but half of it was roped off to make room for the growing Steel Roller Coaster kit. By itself the kit is impressive. Insert Tab A into Slot B and fasten flanges with fastening means HB, torque to a couple hundred foot-pounds. Repeat a few thousand times. I made a mental note to come back out for a closer look.
For the moment, I headed into the park. The terribly crowded park. Magnum XL-200, for instance, had a full (45 minute) queue. I went over to Gemini and found out that Gemini was punishing Cedar Point for taking the blue trains off: One of the red trains was malfunctioning, leaving only two working trains, a full queue, and about a 60-minute wait. When I saw that the wait for Mean Streak extended halfway around the queue structure, I decided to go elsewhere. Mine Ride had a full platform and people spilling all the way out to the entrance...whatever it is Cedar Point needs to do to give this ride back its third train, they need to get off their collective keysters and do it. This looked like a crowd from a Sunday in August. Yikes!
I proceeded through the park and for the first time all season, managed to scribble down a complete ride list. I counted a total of 66 rides, as follows--
|Ride Name||Manufacturer||Common Name|
|Magnum XL-200||Arrow Dynamics||Steel Coaster|
|Dodgem I||Jhle Bros.||Dodgem|
|Monster||Eyerly Aircraft Co.||Monster|
|Corkscrew||Arrow Development||Custom looping coaster|
|Super Himalaya||Mack||Musik Express|
|Power Tower||S&S||Space Shot/Turbo Drop|
|Dodgem II||Soli||Bumper Cars|
|Scrambler||Eli Bridge Co.||Scrambler|
|Sky Ride||Von Roll||Detachable Tramway|
|Cadillac Cars||Arrow Development||Antique Cars|
|Cedar Downs||Prior & Church||Racing Derby|
|Turnpike Cars||Arrow Development||Sport Cars|
|Blue Streak||Philadelphia Toboggan||Wood Coaster|
|Raptor||Bolliger & Mabillard||Inverted Coaster|
|Midway Carousel||Daniel Mueller||Carousel|
|Space Spiral||Von Roll||Observation Tower|
|Iron Dragon||Arrow Dynamics||Suspended Coaster|
|Wildcat||Anton Schwarzkopf||Wildcat coaster|
|CP & LE Railroad||Cedar Point||Railroad|
|Mantis||Bolliger & Mabillard||Stand-up coaster|
|Giant Wheel||Anton Schwarzkopf||45m Wheel|
|Snake River Falls||Arrow Dynamics||Shoot-The-Chutes|
|Thunder Canyon||Intamin||Rapid River Ride/12|
|Swan Boats||Amitelli Products?||Swan Boats|
|Wave Swinger||Zierer||Wave Swinger|
|White Water Landing||Arrow/Huss||Hydro-Flume|
|Mean Streak||Summers/Dinn||Wood Coaster|
|Antique Cars||Arrow Development||Antique Cars|
|Cedar Creek Mine Ride||Arrow Development||Runaway Train|
|Paddlewheel Excursions||Cedar Pont||Paddlewheel Excursions|
|Kiddy Kingdom Carousel||Dentzel||Menagerie Carousel|
|Tilt-A-Whirl||Sellner||P/M Electric Tilt-A-Whirl|
|Woodstock Express||Vekoma||700J Junior Coaster|
|Sir Rub A Dub's Tubs||Venture||Raft Ride|
|Camp Bus||Zamperla||Crazy Bus|
|Lolli Swing||Zamperla||Lolli Swing|
|Balloon Race||Zamperla||Samba Balloon|
|Jr. Gemini||Intamin||Kid coaster|
|(kiddie train)||?||Kiddie Train|
|Old Timers||Hampton||Umbrella Ride|
|Police Cars||Hampton||Umbrella Ride|
|Hot Rods||Hampton||Umbrella Ride|
|Sky Fighters||Allan Herschell||Sky Fighters|
|Dune Buggies||Hampton||Umbrella Ride|
|Krazy Kars||Barbieri||Kiddie Bumper Cars|
|Red Baron||Zamperla||Mini Jet/6|
|Sir Bumpalot's Boats||?||Kid bumper boats|
|Frog Hopper||S&S||Frog Hopper|
|Rock Spin Turn||Hampton||Rock, Spin, Turn|
|Space Age||Hampton||Space Age|
Hmmm...the Marketing department must be counting Kid Arthur's Court. That, or they are putting in another ride next year to come up with the 68-count.
Having completed my ride list, I decided to obtain my '00 season pass. Folks, there are many things that Cedar Point does very well. Selling season passes is not one of them. Cedar Point's system or selling season passes is probably one of the most cumbersome and backwards procedures used in the entire industry. I can renew my driver's license in about half the time it takes to pay for a Cedar Point season pass. When I arrived at the Season Pass Center, the tiny room where passes are sold was completely filled, with a line extending out the front door. People gathered around and swapped implausible tales of connections to the park's upper management (if you're that close, why are you standing in this line?), the brake added to Blue Streak (there isn't one), the sale of Magnum (there isn't one) because it is sinking (it isn't), the sinking Mean Streak (it isn't either), the Demon Drop riders who ended up in the parking lot (not until they were ready to go home...) and the people who were crushed when the Iron Dragon hit a tree (only half true...the train was empty at the time). The queue is entirely unsheltered, and though the line was not particularly long, it took more than an hour to reach the building. There, two very nice elderly ladies were doing their best to speed the process, which required manually logging each pass certificate on a register with the name of the purchaser, method of payment, and certificate number. Then the record stubs from the certificates are stapled to the form the purchaser filled out while waiting. Then the credit card is run through the validator machine thingy. The purchase is rung up on the cash register, more documentation is filled out (by hand), and the certificates are distributed. There is one improvement this season, in that those of us who already have 1999 passes can have a sticker added so that next Spring we don't have to stand in this ridiculous line again to get a photograph taken. Thank goodness for small favors, I guess. Now if we could just get them to abandon those awful windshield stickers that they use for the parking passes...
Okay, so I had gotten my pass and my ride list. Considering that I hadn't even planned to visit Cedar Point on this October Saturday, I had accomplished everything I had intended to do. Now, it was time to ride some rides. Knowing I would return the next day, I conscientiously avoided long lines, which netted me rides on Corkscrew, Mine Ride, Blue Streak, Disaster Transport, and a bunch of flat rides. As night fell and the temperature dropped, the park got downright dark because of the HalloWeekends preparations, which included eerie colored filters on many of the midway lights. Halloween decorations are all over the park, especially lots of tombstones. A couple of hay-bale mazes have been set up for the under-54" crowd (green candycanes; I think that's 54"...[Footnote 2]). The black-painted Sky Ride gondola #13 sits in the flower bed filled with skeletons. A ghoul bus from the Eerie County School for Ghouls (complete with Ghoulyear tires) is parked on the main midway, and a flying saucer has crashed on the midway in front of the Wildcat. A Mobile Alien Surgical Hospital van, marked as coming from Area 51, is parked nearby. Someone should remind CP's theming folks that Area 51 doesn't really exist...8-) [Footnote 3]. Along the Frontier Trail, moss and cobwebs are hanging from the trees, and additional mystery is added to the scene because the barn at the Petting Farm has mysteriously moved some 30' in the past couple of weeks. Okay, so it isn't that mysterious, it's just Millennium Force construction. Across from that location is the Addington Mill, which is the scene of a grisly accident. I didn't see the whole show, but I did see that a performer had apparently been literally cut in half at the waist, her body sitting on top of a painted 4x4. I won't give away the secret here except to say that Skippy's teleportation in the Alien Encounter pre-show at Walt Disney World is done the same way. 8-)
All in all, Cedar Point has done a surprisingly good job of building a Halloween theme around the park. Which is interesting...a few costumes and props and a little creativity, and they do a nice job. Several million dollars tossed to an outside creative consultant, and they end up with Disaster Transport. I mention that because there has been a change in that ride...the lights in the first part of the ride past the chain lift have either burned out or been turned off. Either way, the first part of the ride feels faster (though it isn't) and far more disorienting than ever. It's a good change.
There are several haunted houses set up in the park, I ignored them all. A number of costumed ghouls are now wandering the park, including (but not limited to) a space alien or two, a buzzard, a couple of basic horror-movie type monsters, and a few others. On Sunday when the hard rain hit, most of these took shelter in the Coliseum arcade. One of the more clever things I saw was the invisible man holding and petting one of those invisible dogs.
I rode flat rides, I took photos of the Millennium Force coaster kit and the dismounted Gemini trains, but I didn't last all the way to midnight. Instead, I headed home at around 10:00pm.
Sunday was different. It was colder, for one thing, and rain was predicted. Saturday night, John Peck had talked me into taking him along for Sunday, my last Cedar Point trip of the season. Okay, but picking him up meant that I didn't arrive at the park until about 12:30. Even so, we headed straight for Magnum XL-200 for four consecutive walk-on rides, three of them in the company of Dan Haverlock and Jeff "Guide to the Point" Putz. Dan and Jeff would ride Magnum all day long, but John and I wanted a broader view of the park. Magnum was running well, more or less being Magnum, so we headed for Gemini. With the smaller crowd, this time Gemini was actually running three trains. Okay, so they were only half-full, and later in the day one of them was taken off, but we rode a few times while the line was short before heading over to Woodstock Express.
A note for riding Woodstock...since the seat belts were added, two adults do not fit into one seat. One ride, resist buying the photo, and on to the Cedar Creek Mine Ride. John noticed the bumper on the front of the train which prompted me to explain how the shock absorber on that train works. Telling the story almost got me into trouble with one of the crew members, but it's a story I won't tell on Usenet [or on the Web]. 8-) Rain began to sprinkle, and we headed for Mean Streak.
New operational directive: Operate Mean Streak only during periods of rain.
The first drop brakes on Mean Streak were as tight as ever, and we nearly stopped on the mid-course brake. This is because the braking on that ride is dynamic, and one of the things that happens when the track is wet is that the wheels can slide sideways. This means that energy which is normally expended in shaking the train mercilessly and generating an ear-splitting squeal is instead able to carry the train around the track (what a concept!). We sat near the back of the train (the front of Car #6, in fact) where I could see how much the cars were not shaking about. In spite of the tight brakes, Mean Streak gave the fastest and smoothest ride I've had on it all season. You know, a little heavyweight oil on the curves would do wonders for this ride. That, or a fully-articulated train. Okay, I'll shut up about Mean Streak now. It's just that if the ride's biggest rideability problems are so obvious to me, why not to the (supposed) experts who own the thing?
Let me think...We rode most of the flat rides, and all of the coasters except Jr. Gemini (well, I didn't ride Mantis:TCFKAB) and Disaster Transport before the rain got heavy. John decided to buy a 2000 Season Pass, so while he was standing in the Season Pass line (in the rain), I met up with Pete Babic, then bumped into a former co-worker. We swapped some office gossip, and Pete and I scoped out the new Giant Wheel location. Cedar Point has cut an outline in the concrete where the wheel is going to be located. It looks like a huge H-shaped footprint; you can clearly see where the ballast tanks are going to sit. I think it will look good there. The toy shoppe and frozen dessert stand has been stripped and is clearly not long for this midway. It seems likely that Kid Arthur's Court may be going away, but there are no obvious indicators of such a plan. Not yet, anyway.
The temperature was dropping fast and the coasters weren't running. We took a ride on the Space Spiral and felt the whole tower swaying in the wind. We participated in a double ride on the pendulum boat as the rain stopped and the wind picked up. It was about 7:00pm, and the park was nearly desserted. Suddenly we saw a Raptor train go by, though the wind was blowing so hard we could barely hear it. We walked on to Raptor.
Raptor was running only one train, and the attendants wanted it completely full. This isn't the way Cedar Point normally operates. But usually, in these kinds of weather conditions the ride wouldn't be running at all. In fact, with the wind coming off of the lake side of the peninsula, Raptor actually felt faster than most of the rides I have had on it.
This wasn't the case for Magnum. We finished the night with rides on Magnum XL-200, which was running, with only one train, in extreme winds, with all seats full. We arrived on the platform just in time to join a very special celebration: in the seat I was about to occupy, Dan Haverlock had just completed his 1,000th Magnum ride in three seasons. The evening rides were nothing like the morning rides. Airtime? What airtime? In the high wind conditions, Magnum was barely crawling over the second hill. When it turned to face the wind halfway through the turnaround, it was as though the train had hit a brick wall. These were the slowest Magnum rides I think I have ever taken...and that is with the trim brake turned completely off. The collective wisdom of the assembled coaster nuts (including but not limited to myself, John, Pete, Dan, Scott Short, and Jeff) was that Magnum probably shouldn't have been running at all. But Cedar Point has experience and confidence with these rides, so they rewarded the thousand or so of us who actually stayed through the storm until closing. Those rides, by Magnum's standard, were awful. Dead. They stunk. Nothing like the way Magnum is supposed to perform. But in a strange way, that tremendous wind made for some of the most singularly memorable rides I've ever taken on Magnum. It was a neat way to end my Cedar Point season. Cedar Point has one more weekend left, but due to a cruel calendar quirk I shall miss closing weekend this year so that I can attend the Phabulous Phoenix Phall Phun Phest at Knoebel's.
It's going to be a long, cold winter. Only 215 days until next season starts.
--Dave Althoff, Jr.
Footnote 1: Bacon & Morgan, of course. 8-) Refer to this page for details. [Return to text]
Footnote 2: Candycanes: Striped height sticks. Cedar Point's are color-coded...blue for 46", red for 48", yellow for 52", green for 54", and black for 60". [Return to text]
Footnote 3: Sorry, I just watched a documentary about "Area 51" last night...[Return to text]
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