Thursday, June 28, 2007

Cedar Point : A Day of Ups and Downs

Monique and I returned to Cedar Point on Monday, and what a day it was. Like the many rides we enjoyed, it was a day of ups and downs.

We departed Columbus at 7 AM for the long drive northward, stopping only twice - once for a restroom break in Bucyrus, and later to wait on a train at a rural crossing. We checked into our hotel room in Sandusky and by 9:45 were waiting for the ten o'clock shuttle to Cedar Point.

The 10:00 shuttle for Cedar Point arrived about 10:30, and had a few other hotels to stop at along the way, so we probably weren't actually in the park until 11 AM. We quickly got a map, a locker, and Monique called her mom to let her know we had arrived safely.

Finally, it was time to ride. We choose, as we did in 2005, the Raptor to start out our day. It was a hot day, and the long queue line winded in and out of the shade. Early on in our wait, the Raptor broke down for a few minutes, with empty test cars running. It was only a few minutes before it was running again and the line was moving along.

But damn it was slow. And hot. We finally got to the stairs up to the loading area when the damn thing broke down again. We could see a crew of maintenance guys working on it, but we had no idea how long it would take. Most people were waiting, but as the minutes ticked by some were leaving the line. Monique finally pleaded with me for us to leave, too, citing an earlier year's experience with another roller coaster which took three hours to fix.

We left the Raptor line and got in line with the next closest coaster, the classic Blue Streak. Just as I suspected would happen, while we were in line for the Blue Streak the Raptor started running again. Ah, the anguish. After about a twenty minute wait for the Blue Streak, we finally rode our first ride at 1:20 PM. The day was not off to a good start.

I wanted to head to one of the bigger coasters next, but Monique wanted to ride everything in the part of the park we were in before moving on to other areas. So next we rode MaXair, a wild swinging ride that scares the crap out of me from its sheer height. It's awesome, but I still wasn't feeling good about the day.

Next was Wicked Twister, a short accelerated coaster that sends one up a twisted dead end rail and back down again a few times. It's kind of weak compared to the other rides in the park, but a quick thrill nonetheless. And there's a great view of the lake from the line.

Next we finally got to one of the good ones - Iron Dragon. The wait for this one was about ten minutes, which was nice. After riding that I was starting to feel better about the day. This put us within striking distance of the big daddy of all these roller coasters - the Millenium Force.

The line was about an hour long, and most of it was sheltered. This ride is just amazing - so tall, so fast. So much fun. After we got off, I purchased the souvenir picture:

By now, I was feeling much better about how the day was going.

Next, we put the picture in a second locker, and Monique surprised me by saying she wanted to ride Thunder Canyon, which is a water ride where you are guaranteed to get soaked. Usually she avoids water because of concerns about her hair, but she said that since she had a hair appointment scheduled for Wednesday that it would not matter. So we took the plunge and yes, we got soaked head to toe.

It was quite refreshing on such a hot day. We wandered further into Frontier Town and came up on the entrance to the Maverick, the newest ride, and one we were particularly looking forward to riding.

It was shut down. There were a few dozen people camped out in line, just in case it opened, and they said that it's been on and off all morning (just like the Raptor, I thought). Again I felt a pang of anguish after coming all this way and paying so much money to ride Cedar Point's newest ride. My heart sank, but right next to it was the entrance to the Mean Streak, an enormous and long - riding wooden roller coaster, so we got in line for that. Here's a picture of Monique, still soaked from Thunder Canyon while we waited in line for the Mean Streak:

Mean Streak was a blast. It's everything a wooden roller coaster should be - rickety and creaky, with a tendency to toss the rider around a bit. And damn, is it a long ride, with some breathtaking curves and sloping turns. This is the only ride where I do the whole raised hands thing for the entire ride. I'm not sure why.

I was in need of some food after the Mean Streak, so I stopped at a pretzel stand nearby. As I was purchasing my snack, Monique began hooting about something behind me. I turned to see a test car running on the Maverick, the people in line stirring, and Monique running to get us a place.

I joined her in the line, as more people were rushing toward it, and did not even have time to finish my pretzel before the line opened up and the crowd began pouring in. The first people in line were high-fiving the attendant as they entered. It was only a minute or so before Monique and I were loaded in the car and set up for the accelerated launch.

Maverick sends the car speeding up a hill with a straight - down drop, followed by a series of wrenching twists and turns, ending up in a tunnel, where the car slows down for a second before another set of accelerators shoots the car out the tunnel and to the left. It has to be seen to be believed, so check it out here.

I was so psyched after the Maverick, and gave some serious credit to Monique for noticing its re-opening. My day, from that point was completely salvaged from the earlier setbacks. Talk about being in the right place at the right time. When we left the Maverick, the line had become the standard one-hour behemoth and more people, no doubt noticing the cars on it now running, were headed toward it.

Monique and I decided to head back to the start of the Frontier Trail to get some kettle corn and put it in the locker where we had stashed the Millenium Force picture. We took the classic train ride, which to this day still has all the wild west skeleton towns along the route. They are quite funny, and date back decades. Along the way, though, I encountered another minor setback - my camera was full. I had forgotten to put the memory card back into it the last time I used it so the internal camera memory was what was full. Oh well.

I stashed the camera along with the kettle corn in the locker and we waited for the return train. Once back in Frontier Town, we hit the classic Mine Ride, followed by the Gemini. Back in 2005, we went to Cedar Point late in the season, so when I saw that the twin - railed Gemini was only running one car instead of two at a time (it's a two-car side-by-side racing roller coaster), I let it slide. This time, my heart sank to see that the once-mighty Gemini was only running the blue car again.

This coaster was king back in my youth. And the fun of two cars racing along the track side-by-side was a big part of the attraction. Now, the whole thing seemed sad. Nonetheless it is still a great roller coaster and I will ride it every time I go to Cedar Point. I feel a little fear about it's future, though, if they are only running one of the two cars during the peak season. Perhaps they run both on the weekends still, I cannot say since we went on a Monday.

Our next coaster was one of the big ones - the Magnum XL 200. Still a towering colossus of steel and speed, the slow crawl up the first hill always gives the acrophobic part of me the jitters. Monique in particular loved the three dark tunnels that the car goes rocketing through during the course of the ride.

Once again, we approached what we thought was going to be our next ride only to find it shut down. The Top Thrill Dragster has a long reputation of breaking down, so it was not that surprising, just disappointing. But we both knew that perhaps later the ride would be opened. So then it was time for a ride on the Corkscrew, another classic from my youth. Always a good time.

We were not only back on schedule, we were actually ahead. Our goal to ride every major ride (except the Mantis, a stand - up coaster which we both got a headache on back in 2005 due to its need to bang our brains against the head harness), and we had done that except for the Raptor and the Dragster. We decided to get our things out of locker #2 and consolidate them with locker #1, which would put us back in the area of the Raptor again.

We trekked back there and got in line for the Raptor. It was a smaller line this time, about a 45 minute wait. As we approached our previous position on the steps, it looked as if the ride had stopped again. It was just a short - lived delay, though, and soon we were riding one of the most unique coaster rides in the park. Raptor is a hanging coaster, so our feet dangled in the air below as we were pulled along. Simply awesome.

Now I felt really good about the day. All that remained was the Top Thrill Dragster. We decided to head back that way, and if the Dragster was still down, we'd just hit the nearby Magnum again. As we appraoched, though, our timing was once again on the mark as the Dragster opened up with very few people in line ahead of us. In fact, something that had been happening all day occured again in the Top Thrill Dragster line. People trying to queue up with their friends let us ahead so they could all ride together.

The Dragster is what it is. It shoots you off at 120 miles per hour, then straight up in a twisty track to the top of the tower 420 feet off the ground, where you linger long enough to see across Lake Erie and into Canada (and on a good day you have to duck to avoid low-orbit satellites), then straight down 400 feet and out where you brake. Short, but so very sweet.

So there we were, at 8:20 PM, having completed our goal to ride all the roller coasters that we wanted to ride, with time to spare. Monique was feeling brave, so we rode in the front seat of the Magnum, which was also incredible. What a rush it was to just hang over that hill waiting for the rest of the car behind us to clear.

With some more time to kill, I suggested that we check on the Maverick and see if we could get on again, but alas the line was huge. So we rode the Mean Streak again, at just the right moment to catch a beautiful sunset over Sandusky Bay and Lake Erie. Afterwards, we slowly made our way back to the front of the park, stopping at a few souvenir places along the way.

We left the park at 8:45 PM and caught our shuttle bus right away. Back at our hotel room, a hot shower and some chicken wings and onion rings refreshed us as we took in the whole amazing day. Although it had gotten off to a bad start, and had a few bumps along the way, our day at Cedar Point was as fun and as memorable as any that I had had in the past. It just gets better every year.

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