Travel Note

10th August 2021

My overnight hotel was not cheap due to what was advertised as an all-inclusive buffet breakfast. Unfortunately for my visit this had been suspended because of COVID restrictions; today guests were offered a three-way choice between a Cheese Omelette, a Cheese Omelette, or a Cheese Omelette – none of which were an option for a long-term turophobe. A polite enquiry to one of the catering staff produced a single processed fruit cup roughly one third of the size of a standard coffee, delivered with a vaguely apologetic “that’s the only one we have left”. There was no point in apportioning blame; instead I set my GPS to a nearby McDonald’s for an emergency top-up.

 

Cedar Point

10th August 2021

The detour and some unplanned traffic delays combined to cost me a little over half of the platinum pass early entry time at Cedar Point. I’d probably still have managed a lap or two on something before the multitudes entered the park, but I decided upon reflection that it would make much more sense to get as close as possible to the entrance of Steel Vengeance (#2913), a Rocky Mountain Construction steel coaster built on the skeleton of the late and not-even-remotely-lamented Mean Streak.

Steel Vengeance

The ride in question has a no-loose-items policy enforced using metal detectors. Free lockers are available in the queue, but they’re small and have to be emptied after each lap, and rather than deal with that I elected to splash out $10 on all-day equivalent. There’ve been some interesting debates on loose items in parks of late, with one well-known enthusiast opining the only things required are a phone and car keys. That may be true for him, but not for me; I typically carry a standalone camera, a spare battery, a power bank, a wallet, and glasses – after all sunglasses will do me no good at all indoors and it is nice to be able to see.

While waiting for the advertised 10:00am opening I found myself contemplating a display box filled with smashed mobile phones. Did all of them get through the security theatre? If so, does that mean that the park recognises that metal detection misses things? It seems unlikely that all phones smuggled through the checks would later end up in pieces thanks to the magic of zip pockets, so is it safe to assume that some get through on a daily basis? Should I ask less awkward questions?

At about 10:20am I was assigned to row two. Previous enthusiast trip reports and their comments on intensity were fresh in my mind as the train rolled gently out of the station, round a corner, and onto a pair of airtime bumps that were surprisingly lively given a height differential of no more than five feet. As we approached the top of the lift I decided to play things safe by bracing against the row in front in order to avoid being thrown around too much. This precaution proved unnecessary for the first half of the layout, which was intense without being stupid: a brilliant initial drop followed by a series of manoeuvres that were thrilling yet entirely comfortable. The difference from the original Mean Streak could not have been more pronounced.

The second half started out well too, and I was just beginning to wonder what all the fuss was about when the ride reached its finale: five ridiculously violent airtime bumps in succession that were as painful as they were unnecessary. What had until that point been a top notch coaster abruptly turned into something politely described either with a row of symbols or a well-known brown-coloured emoji. As the train came to a stop the elation that had been etched on my face just ten seconds earlier was gone as I massaged what was left of my shins and thighs. Soon after my mood turned to one of irritation; why on earth did the designers feel the need to defecate on a masterpiece in this way?

Despite my misgivings I figured I should do a second lap to coalesce my thoughts, but standing in line for two hours seemed like a poor use of time given that everything else in the park was showing at fifteen minutes or less. I therefore headed over to Millennium Force, arguably the best kiddie coaster in the world. I had fond memories of this ride from my last encounter with it, but in hindsight I fear that I might have been seeing it with rose-tinted spectacles when compared against other more recent Giga coasters (not least Orion, despite its brevity). After the first drop and turnaround the ride really does nothing at all; the turns are forceless, the hills are devoid of airtime, and while the speed is thrilling I can experience faster on the Autobahn. There was nothing wrong with the ride experience other than the fact that it was, frankly, a bit dull; it’s telling that I decided against a second lap despite there being virtually no wait.

Iron Dragon

Instead I went over to Iron Dragon, the oldest of the five remaining Arrow Suspended coasters. I’d had a vague plan to try its younger brother at Kings Island on Saturday but ran out of (potential?) energy. Today the ride was running well; there was a little clatter in places but nothing unmanageable, and the final section over water was pure bliss. It's a pity that the ride type is so rare. Earlier this year I attended a talk given by a professional coaster designer who felt that today’s safety regulations would make it impossible to produce a coaster with swinging trains, which is a huge shame; I’d love to see a modern take on this design with smoother tracking than the Arrow coat hangers of yore.

My other must-do today was Wicked Twister, an Intamin Impulse that will close in a few weeks after twenty seasons of thrilling guests. I rode this in its first season as a much younger enthusiast, and I’m very glad to have been able to ride it again in its last. There has been considerable speculation about whether the ride will end up elsewhere; I’d love to see it happen, but my gut feeling is that the hardware may not have much life left in it especially given the early demise of Linear Gale. Regardless as to its future however the ride was delivering in style today, with the train reaching almost all the way to the top of both spikes.

A quick check of the park app indicated that Steel Vengeance was down to a sixty minute wait, so I power-walked back there for a second lap. Once again I was assigned to row two. As there was nobody riding with me I took the opportunity to sit on the right rather than the left, though I can’t say I noticed any difference. A few hours of running had sped the train up a bit, making it even more aggressive than it had been earlier and cementing my opinion: a top ten ride from the start up until the final ten seconds, which were marginally less comfortable than Chinese knock-off loop screws.

At this point I’d done everything that I wanted to do and the heat was beginning to get to me, so I decided to call it a day. However, as I walked towards the front of the park I noticed a five minute wait on Magnum XL-200, and decided that it’d be rude not to make a brief stop. I managed to avoid a wheel seat and in so doing enjoyed a pleasant lap with only a slight amount of bounce. Though it’s sacrilege to say such a thing, I’m coming around to the view that the three decade old Arrow creation is a better ride than Millennium Force as it actually does something with its height. Do I need to turn in my enthusiast card now?

 

CJ Barrymore's

10th August 2021

My second stop today was at CJ Barrymore's, a FEC to the north-east of Detroit. I’d never been to the Motor City before though I'd heard about its reputation, and as such it wasn't all that much of a surprise to find the park entrance protected by a full airport-style scan attended by visibly armed security guards. CCTV was also in evidence inside the building; a camera wall vaguely reminiscent of one of the Batman movies was being closely monitored by a focused-looking member of staff.

That being said, intense security notwithstanding I found the facility to be very pleasant and well-maintained, with polite and friendly operators. Rides were individually priced via a reloadable card, and I put $22 on mine, which was enough to do one lap on each coaster and the Ferris wheel for some overview photographs. Readers retracing my steps may want to allow time for a new generation tower ride configured with a drop on one side and a Saddle Sling on the other; I was tempted to try this but decided to forego based on the length of the queue and my fatigue; the wait looked to have been at least an hour and I didn’t think I’d be safe to drive at the end of that.

CJ Barrymores

My first hit was Loop Roller Coaster, the former Python from Playland’s Castaway Cove. ZL42s are not known for their comfort, and a twenty-five year old model was never going to be stunning (except possibly in the knock-you-out sense of the word). Nevertheless, I can report that my front seat ride was respectable enough with only a few minor bumps en route. The ride looked to have been recently repainted, and looked great as a result; the average visitor would never realise just how old it was.

With that out of the way I completed my planned ride on the Ferris wheel and headed across to the Spinning Coaster (#2914), my sixth figure eight spinner of the trip so far. This one was running a programme that was just too long; I didn’t think to count laps ahead of time, but I was given at least ten and there could easily have been twice that.