A lengthy tailback on the recently renamed Richard L. Kinzel Causeway made it immediately obvious that we'd chosen a sub-optimal day to visit Cedar Point. It took us almost thirty minutes from the point of arrival to get a parking space, and given that, I decided the best plan of action was to buy Fast Lane Plus wristbands. This was definitely the right decision, as the park was far too crowded to have a good day without them, but it did blow the budget for the day quite a long way out of the water.
Gatekeeper (#1958) is the fifth installation of a Wing Coaster from Bolliger & Mabillard, and the tallest, longest, and fastest of its type (for now!). The layout includes six inversions, two of which are built into an imposing new main entrance for the park, and it has to be said, the result looks absolutely fantastic, especially after dark when the white lighting on the side of the trains comes on. One cannot help but wonder why no park has tried to integrate a roller coaster into their entrance gate before; it seems such an obvious thing to do.
Though there are many good things about the new ride, it is difficult to shake the idea that it was designed to take statistical records rather than to be imaginative; with the notable exception of the near miss element over the park gate, the whole ride felt to me like an off-the-shelf layout (even though it obviously isn't) and there were not enough near miss moments for the ride to be truly thrilling. One only need look at the elaborate theming on the other four wing coasters to see what can be achieved. Furthermore, there was a pronounced rattle in the back seats, which is almost unforgivable on a brand new B&M. One has to wonder what the ride will be like in a decade or two.
Be that as it may, the crew on duty today were operating three thirty-two seat trains with almost no stacking, which is exactly what is needed at a park like Cedar Point. The front seats were particularly good, as in that location the extreme statistics worked for the ride thanks to the sensation of speed, the rush of wind past the train, and so on. Furthermore, it was obvious that the vast majority of the guests riding absolutely loved it, indicating that the park has a winner on their hands despite what this jaded enthusiast might say.
It is worth noting, just briefly, that the regular queue for this ride was advertised as ninety minutes. This was almost certainly optimistic given the full cattle pens and the large number of people using Fast Lane. Furthermore, there was an up-charge game of Plinko available, whose winners would receive a pass to skip the main queue. I'm not sure I approve of that one, but the park wouldn't offer the game if it didn't make money. For purposes of comparison, Fast Lane let us ride three times in the space of an hour, and we'd have managed more if we hadn't decided to wait for the front.
Wicked Twister has gotten a lot rougher over the years, and while it is still a good ride, it's a bit too shaky now to repeat more than once. Instead, we went over to Windseeker, Mondial's version of the Funtime Star Flyer ride. Rumour has it that Cedar Fair was originally going to purchase the Funtime version, but the deal fell through. Whatever the case, the resulting rides have been unreliable, and are often closed due to high winds (seek and you shall find?). I'd not ridden one of the Mondial versions before, and to be honest it didn't do much for me as the cars felt far more secure than the open swings on the original version.
We managed two rides on Top Thrill Dragster in about thirty minutes, again thanks to Fast Lane as the regular queue was in excess of two hours, before heading over to Corkscrew. I've previously written that this ride is now past its prime, and I stand by that, though on the plus side, it didn't seem to hurt me as much as it did in 2010.
It was at this point that we had a fifteen minute spell of extremely light rain, in this case defined as one droplet every few seconds. This was enough to close down the vast majority of the roller coasters completely. This policy is on the far side of anal; if the concern is brake failure (and what else could it be?) then why not simply reduce the number of trains in use until the weather passes? Alton Towers does that on Sonic Spinball to great effect. You can't have a collision when only one train is in use!
Once the weather cleared, we headed over to Millennium Force, where we clocked up two rides, one in the back and one towards the front. I've always liked this coaster, and today was no exception, though for me it has never been close to the number one position that it keeps getting in a certain worthless amusement industry poll. Its key (and arguably only) selling point is the sensation of speed, which it does very well indeed. Seasoned riders can also use it as a way of viewing the park's up-charge dinosaur exhibit free of charge!
From there, we went to Maverick. Three years ago I wrote about how the restraint design on this ride hurt my neck. Today, in addition to this, the restraint became progressively tighter as the ride progressed, to the point that my thighs were being crushed painfully by the time we reached the brake run. With better restraints this ride could easily be a top five coaster, but at the moment it's arguably the least comfortable in the entire park.
Mean Streak hurt less. Far from the brutal beating I'd anticipated, Cedar Point's largest wood coaster was running well today, with the only ouch moment being as the train engaged the lift hill. The park has obviously spent some money on retracking the ride, and while the result wasn't exactly thrilling (given that half the first drop was a trim brake) it was pleasant enough, and given more time I'd have happily repeated it.
It was at this point that rain stopped play for the second time, giving us an ideal opportunity to grab some dinner. Park food is rarely cheap, but even still some of the prices at Cedar Point were bordering on the ridiculous. I thought I'd found a sensible deal at a stand next to the Cedar Creek Mine Ride, but it turned out that the promotional price for a hot dog and soft drink combo only included certain drink choices. In the end we gave up and went to Johnny Rockets.
We went directly from our meal break to Raptor, where we ran into fellow enthusiast David Cornell. I'd not seen David in several years and it was good to catch up, albeit briefly. From there, we headed over to Blue Streak, where we took a wheel seat towards the back of the train. This turned out to be a mistake; the ride was quite rough in that location, which wasn't exactly ideal on a full stomach.
As night was falling we decided to take the Skyride across the park in the hope of getting a few twilight photographs. The operator on the loading platform noticed I was wearing an Intamin polo shirt, and remarked loudly that it's all about the B&Ms as our car moved out, which gave us both a good laugh. On disembarking, we rode the drop side of Power Tower, which was disappointingly weak, but having said that, it is fifteen years old.
We finished off the night with a lap on Magnum XL-200, two laps on Millennium Force (including a front seat), and one lap Iron Dragon, the latter only because there was no queue at all. The ride was quite shaky, but still fun. Perhaps some day another manufacturer will bring out a modern swinging coaster.