USA 06/22 – Cedar Point

Well this was it, the big one. You don’t need me to play up Cedar Point, being the supposed rollercoaster mecca and all that. It’s not something I’d ever consider doing for any other park, but I used to sit and watch the live webcams of this place, mesmerised by those views from the drop tower of legendary coasters and ridiculous operations. Still can’t quite believe that I managed to get over 1300 coasters without yet visiting, but here we are.
We inadvertently ended up visiting during Coaster Con, though thankfully it didn’t appear to have much of an impact beyond comedy.

Day 13 – Cedar Point

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But what about British ones?

We used our platinum passes to gain the extra hour of exclusive morning ride time. Certain rides were already up and running for additional extra exclusive time for the thoosies, but you needed a badge rather than just ‘a look’ to get on those.

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We went straight to #1 Millennium Force which was available to all. As soon as I head the theme tune in the station it suddenly hit me where we were and what we were doing. My Cedar Point moment had arrived and there was a great vibe and buzz around the ride. Staff were making jokes at the expense of Kings Island at the point of each dispatch and in a flash we were heading up the insanely huge lift hill.

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You leave Orion alone, it’s better than this.
While I thoroughly enjoyed experiencing this iconic coaster, it confirmed my sneaking suspicions that it just isn’t my cup of tea. Speed and corners. The first big hill was hilariously on point at being ‘see hill, nothing happens’ and the parallel return version was identical in its lack of sensation. The speed hump past the station is the true highlight of the ride for me, after a particularly long and satisfying dose of zooming around trees with that unified, hands up coaster feeling and we were now at least sufficiently broken in.

Our plan was to get one more ‘major’ ride under our belt during the magic hour and then get to the ‘main event’ well before it opened, but having already walked past Valravn and seeing that it already would have put us beyond official park opening, the only real option was the nearby #2 Iron Dragon.

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A perfectly pleasant sit down. It looks good, but I’m not sure these old suspended coasters work particularly well without the terrain to back it up. I much prefer the build up on Ninja.

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Oh they have donkeys, no hats, here? Now I see the appeal of this place more than ever.

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We didn’t come to Cedar Point for a perfectly pleasant sit down though. We came to experience the inescapably hyped up coaster that is #3 Steel Vengeance, the last of the big boy RMC set. Our camping out plan was successful, putting us reasonably near the front of a queue that grew and grew behind us, snaking around all over the place and confusing everyone who turned up as to where it began. Endless test laps were cycled to tease us and build that anticipation while I tried and failed to not spoiler some of the layout for myself.

After a tense wait, the line was unleashed and once the Velocicoaster style mandatory locker deal was out of the way, we were quickly up the stairs and batched into Wyatt Gold Digger Dempsey’s train. I loved the themed announcements that each train gets, along with the accompanying acknowledgments and hype from the staff. The Cedar Point vibe continued in true style and we were off. Oh no.

Initial impressions then. The little pre-lift section is short, but sweet. It’s not winning that particular battle.
The massive first drop and subsequently tiny hill felt very par for the course to someone who has experienced everything in the wrong order, but that’s not to say it isn’t amazing, world class, etc. It’s just not winning that particular battle.

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The two stonkingly huge hills that act as the world’s biggest turnaround are stupidly sublime, I loved the sensation of flying over that mess of structure and being pinned out of the seat at weird angles for an obscene amount of time. It may well win that battle.

There’s a satisfying double up style hop up into the first inversion which is of course executed very well. High up turning occurs and you get the unusual counter-inversion to that on the way back out, which I didn’t mind, it’s a thing. One of the most notable moments of airtime occurs out of that double down, though it’s cut a little short as you climb again into the mid course brake run.

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It’s nothing short of weird to me to experience a mid course on one of these, though it’s far less intrusive to the flow than I had perhaps anticipated. A brief moment of contemplation before plunging through some structure, where the ride gets a whole lot more difficult to comprehend.

Countless airtime moments, overbanks, inversions, wave turns all happen seemingly simultaneously, many of which are completely hidden within the supports to the point where you can’t see them coming. The unpredictability here is simply wild, something I always particularly love from a coaster and it all sadly comes to an end after four characteristically silly little RMC hops into the final brakes.

Conscious of how much of a mammoth task still lay ahead of us in this park, we went round again for an immediate re-ride just in case things went terribly wrong. The queue was eating through the initial rush rather well and we got to read some of the back story signage throughout the earlier line during a comfortable half hour wait. Our second lap aboard Chess Wild One Watkins confirmed that it wasn’t instant, smash hit, best thing ever status. But it was already better, and god damn Iron Gwazi is it good.

Fear got the better of us and we decided to suck up a 90 minute queue for Maverick next, which we considered the second most unmissable ride in the park. It was during this time that the Cedar Point vibe was slain. Unlike SteVe it moved awfully slowly and, as we approached the top of the stairs after a particularly excruciating wait, it broke down.

The most bizarre set of mixed messages were delivered by the staff at this point. Engineers arrived at the scene, but not in a fun Steel Curtain way and a series of announcements were made ranging from ‘shouldn’t be too long, thanks for your patience’ to ‘we’ve got other rides, go check them out’. To have come so close and yet not got on it, we were of course placed in the worst dilemma. We need all those other rides, but we’d also be loathed to come back later and queue another hour and a half, or worse, for this again.

We fruitlessly stuck it out over the next hour or so, expecting some sort of indication on how things were going, a useful piece of advice or perhaps some minor compensation. Instead the staff milled around going on lunch breaks or into what remained of the queue to have a chat and make the vaguest possible statements. Eventually we extracted the three pieces of information we didn’t want to hear:
1) ‘The problem could take 5 minutes, it could take all day.’ (perfect)
2) ‘Oh, no, we don’t do that’, in response to ‘we’ve lost a huge chunk of our day here, can we get something to avoid queuing again if we come back later?’ (ouch)
3) ‘Get the app, that will tell you when the ride reopens.’ (hold that thought)

Disheartened and now heavily on the back foot, we left the queue and plunged into operation mop up. The next nearest thing, the mine train, was posting some ridiculous wait times out front, so we kept on walking and downloaded the app.

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#4 Gemini seemed manageable at around 30 minutes. Big, tall Arrow, not very good. It ain’t no Excalibur and the factor that should work in it’s favour, namely racing, loses all impact when the ride is so heavily trimmed in places. They’re frequent to the point that any victory doesn’t really feel earned, plus the fact it appeared to guarantee the same winner without fail. While it sucks the fun out of the race, it also reduces the surprising amount of roughness, which was more than prominent.

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Getting the app taught us that either it, or the entrance signs were lying to us and we went back to #5 Cedar Creek Mine Train to confirm which of those it was. Just ignore the 400ft piece of steel in the background please. For now, the app was right and this one wasn’t a bad wait at all. Little, small Arrow, not very good.

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We hit the other side of #6 Gemini for the sake of completion and then popped over to the most unremarkable #7 Woodstock Express yet. After a mercifully cloudy morning, the insane heat returned to us once more and this queue brought out the worst of it. Why are we doing this again?

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For stuff like #8 Magnum XL-200 of course. Bigger, taller Arrow, very good. There’s another magical retro aura to this triangular-shaped station and we made an immediate beeline for the ‘magic row’. From here, the first drop loses a bit of an edge over the similarly shaped Morgans we had been experiencing and the initial half is a bit Big One-esque, a fairly brutal rattling around, not doing much. As soon as the return leg begins though, it turns fully brutal and makes up for all the lost time with a ridiculous sequence of hills that are all the wrong shapes, tunnels that confuse and confound and finally the sheer fear that the train may stop itself from 60-0 instantly if they haven’t dispatched the next one quickly enough.

Raptor appeared to be the next sensible target but it turned out to have also broken down. It was at this time we recognised how stupidly far certain parts of the park are from each other and how gruelling it can be to navigate the concrete and rides. After using that phrase for several years now, it may well have peaked here.

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#9 Blue Streak was one of the rides ACE had been hogging in the morning, but we were allowed on it now (I just wanna ride the wooden one). They had a little stall set up on park advertising memberships and such and it was tempting to rock up and ask ‘how much to get us on Wilderness Run?’ though the attendants didn’t look like they’d appreciate the humour.

I’ve always admired the appearance of this blue woodie for some reason and it was solid, delivered some unexpected forces and was a good little sit down.

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#10 Corkscrew was just another inverting Arrow, not very good. The fact that this one was down for an hour of ERT later still baffles me. Surely it’s purely ornamental at this point.

This only left us with the four big B&Ms and the spiting Maverick left to do, which the app said was still down. Not really wanting to queue 75(!) or 90 for Rougarou(!) or Valravn at this point and not really wanting to walk 75 to 90 over to Gatekeeper either, we were at a loss as to what to do next. Surely #11 Rougarou, a three train B&M and a ride no one likes, can’t have that sort of queue.

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Turns out the app was now lying to us and the entrance signs were more respectable. A ride host confirmed that it was in fact 20 mins. It was in fact 5.

The station for this ride was the most obnoxious thing ever, with ever increasingly loud announcements screaming instructions at everyone as to how to have the most efficient operations. I’d usually appreciate the sentiment, but not at that volume and with a queue line (and ride) that made it entirely unjustifiable. I was the victim of a particular spate of shouting for daring to have glasses on at this point, even though we’d been sunglasses on, not caring for the majority of the park including, most amusingly, Millennium Force.
“PUT THEM INSIDE YOUR SHIRT.”
Having never heard those words before in my illustrious career I barely knew how to react beyond the bemused words “I can’t”. I took them off and held them in my hand like the ridiculous Ice Breaker compromise.
“PUT THEM INSIDE YOUR SHIRT.”
Having thought about the implications once again and not wanting to lose vision for the rest of the trip, thanks to Rougarou of all things, “I’m not doing that.”
Dispatch.

Riding defensively against comfort collars and silly airtime moments while holding a ‘loose article’ in a looser position was never ideal. Riding defensively against an awful B&M with over the shoulder restraints was ten times worse. It happened, these conversions are poor, now let us never speak of it again.

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The simple inclusion of a small storage bin in the station for #12 Gatekeeper solves all such potential issues. I rather liked the sprawling layout on this one, the surprisingly intense wing-over drop straight into the second inversion, the huge hill and of course the signature keyhole moments. It’s got a bit of a Shambhala ending with that late game mid course brake run but it was probably my preferred wing of the trip, even though they’re all sooo close together.

With the Valravn queue being unrelenting and the knowledge that we could simply walk onto it first thing the following morning, along with the remaining two coasters being down for the count, it was time to get some vengeance.

Oh wait, never mind, Maverick had actually opened again and the app never even bothered to register it. Of course, yet again, it was an advertised 90 minute queue and in reality it turned out to be far worse than that still. The line for fastlane was out of its own entrance and spilling into the pathways beyond. As such the capacity of the ride, which was never ideal in the first place, was easily split in half again to cater for this grossly disproportionate system.

The wait was nothing short of agonising, not least for how long it was but for the dilemma it had placed us in. It had seemed like a no-brainer to just walk in that queue and guarantee a ride on Maverick that day in case it broke down again (and assuming it wouldn’t right there and then), but as time wore on it got dangerously close to simply being the end of our day. Was it worth losing our only opportunity for night rides on Steel Vengeance? On principal it had to be, as it had now set an all time record for the longest single wait I’ve had before any coaster. Four and a half hours, albeit split into two.
It felt so wrong.

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And yet, by the time we hit the final brakes, it felt so right. Amongst all that stress it had always been lingering in my mind that I didn’t honestly expect #13 Maverick to be that good. Restraints, restraints, restraints.

Well it is that good. I never thought I’d be putting it up there with the likes of Taron after one lap, and yet I was, sitting there stunned. The beyond vertical drop at that initial velocity is silly, with some violent vest-based ejector, but the terrain hugging speed of the twists and turns after that, while I had no idea what was coming, in the almost dark, was infectious.

There’s two ridiculously powerful airtime hills in the layout that have no right being that good, more intense than the RMC round the corner. And the second launch, even though it pauses and faffs, which I didn’t think I’d like, it works so well. It builds the suspense with the lights in the shed and then comes at you so hard. The visual speed feels off the charts as you hit a very intense corner and then have to be trimmed immediately, in rather amusing fashion. One of the most pleasant surprises was that there’s none of that clunky Intamin restraint to the side of the neck snap in the transitions, the high levels of aggression feel perfectly tuned.

Case in point with the Stengel thing. It’s a shame they can’t duel the two trains at this point as was intended, for fear of breaking the ride again, but the way that thing rides, so forceful yet unobtrusive, god damn Iron Gwazi. I’m a fan.

We brought some intensity of our own to the table as there were less than 5 minutes before park close as we disembarked. A full on sprint to the SteVe was the only acceptable course of action, made all the funnier by the train crossing being shut and surrounded by a crowd, all ready to come straight towards us, mere metres from the ride entrance.

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Our arrival was met with ‘there’s no need to run’, but they were wrong and we had made it. That’s all that matters. I was terrified of this night ride, not because of the hardware in any way, but due to the literal horror movie scenes that were the spotlights for the structure. Each and every one was covered in a dense mass of a thousand bugs just sitting there, plotting our demise.

Thankfully they do just sit there and plot, preferring the light to being splatted by riders hands and faces and although screaming is not recommended in any way, you just have to sort of interally shout like a slight hum in response to all of the amazing forces, it wasn’t anywhere near as bad as Zadra getting insects under my eyelids.

And what a ride it was. The cedar point vibe was finally back, a full 12 hours after it so cruelly abandoned us. The views from that ominous lift structure, building up to the most lengthy of RMC experience ever conceived with everyone on the Wyatt Gold Digger Dempsey train having their lives changed. To the point that every single one of them was screaming “ONE MORE TIME, ONE MORE TIME, ONE MORE TIME!” as we pulled back into the station. The staff were on fire, playing to the crowd, joining in and firing the energy right back at us. The restraints were unlocked. The restraints were locked. “YOU’RE SADDLED UP, YOU’RE SADDLED UP, YOU’RE SADDLED UP!”

How can a mood change so much over the span of a single day? I know it’s entirely unreasonable to expect that level of heightened atmosphere over the entire course of operation but there were times in this visit where I was stood there thinking the best of this hobby is behind me. I was fulfilling a lifelong dream at what is considered the pinnacle of amusement parks and it was doing nothing for me. And then those last two laps on Steel Vengeance happen and it basically brings me to tears of joy simply thinking back on the experience now.

The best of this hobby was right there all along.

Day 14

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