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I'm back from an extended weekend trip along with Nashville Mike up to Wisconsin and Minnesota. While Renegade at Valleyfair was the motivation to make the trip, Hades at Mt. Olympus stole the show.

 

Mike drove from Nashville and picked me up at the Madison airport on Friday morning. We headed up to Wisconsin Dells with the mandatory stop at a Culver's along the way. We've been to the Dells the last three years though without the opening of Renegade up north I doubt I'd have visited this year. I may not need another credit to decide to return next year as you will soon read.

 

Our first stop was Mt. Olympus Theme Park and once inside our first coaster was Hades. My first impressions were that overall the ride was slightly rougher in spots but nothing unexpected for year three. The "jackhammer turn" near the end of the ride was still rough but not nearly as nasty as it was last year. The tunnel seemed good as new and overall the ride was moving quite well around 1 PM or so. So we were relieved that Hades was doing fine even with its new, hard backrests.

 

We caught a ride on Zeus and it was interesting. I'd rather not get into specifics with the ride ops but the mostly international staff operates a little bit differently than a typical park crew. If you've been there you know what I mean. It makes for some interesting moments. I'll leave it at that. Also interesting was the amount of foliage growing through the Zeus tracks. William's Grove didn't have that many weeds growing through the tracks of the Cyclone. But Zeus was running quite well and I would have taken a few more laps if Hades wasn't right next door. It was much smoother than the last few years and it had some nice airtime in spots.

 

Cyclops was also interesting. The oddity about Cyclops was that the train was in shambles. It was literally falling apart. But the ride was running fast and still dishing out the scary ejector airtime it's known for.

 

Back to Hades, we took a ride at 2:30 PM and we were stunned. The big "dead hill" which is the entrance to the ending run of the ride was hardly dead. It had some airtime. The next curved hill by the station was ridiculous. The train roared over that curve and gave solid ejection and a slam to the left. The last two hills had very nice airtime as the train tore through the ending section of track. Voila, we had a very complete ride and top five rankings were falling quickly.

 

I really did not expect Hades to get that much better. But the guys at The Gravity Group must have known what they were doing with that big "dead hill" because it now is very much alive which allows the rest of the ride to work amazingly well. Hades used to be a ride with a funky beginning, a hellacious tunnel section and an ending that was just there. Now, the ending rocks and it improves as the day goes on.

 

Oh, I forgot to mention some other improved areas of Hades. The hill at the exit of the out run of the tunnel is really aggressive and effective with very solid airtime. The turnaround isn't as slow and the "column hill" before going back into the tunnel has four full seconds of big time floater air. The last two bumps in the tunnel are really working well together. The first of the two bumps turns you to the right while the oddly angled second bump slams you back to the left. The rest of the tunnel is your regularly scheduled insanity that the ride has had for three years.

 

We ended up with nine Hades rides on Friday, including a ride in the front during the fireworks. Speaking of the front, that's definitely now the seat to ride in. The first year it was back but the last two years it's been the front. As for rankings, Hades moved ahead of Tremors and Boulder Dash for me. Moving ahead of Tremors was something I was not expecting but it took Hades becoming a complete ride to bump Tremors down a spot. Hades simply has a lot of that Voyage type insanity that only The Gravity Group can deliver. They're now 2 for 2 in my book, 1-2 in my wood rankings. Amazing.

 

Down the street at Timber Falls, Mike and I stopped by for a late afternoon Avalanche session. Avalanche really exceeded my 2005 rides in 2006 but this year was a different story. The first quarter of the ride was on par with 2005 but once the ride went past the station it slowed down. I don't know if its new track but the slow down is very obvious. It didn't ruin the ride but it wasn't the totally crazy ride it was before. The airtime was there but it was more floater after that point. The ride was much smoother this year but in general it's still a fairly rough track. Staying off the wheels was a must. I still enjoyed Avalanche quite a bit but it was disappointing that it was running slower for much of the ride.

 

We played a round of mini golf on the wooded course across the street from Avalanche before we headed back to Mt. Olympus but we had time to come back before 11 PM for another round on our wristbands. They have some very nice courses by the river and in the trees. I won the first match, Mike won the rematch.

 

The next day we took our time getting to Minneapolis. It was horribly hot and humid outside. We ended up getting to the park just before 5 PM and we headed directly to Renegade. Our hopes weren't too high for this ride and I was hoping for something nice, maybe like Kentucky Rumbler. WRONG. In the end we were debating whether or not GCIs weakest, Lightning Racer, was better. Renegade is a weak ride. I'd have to guess the blame should be put on the park, home of many tamed rides, rather than GCI who has proven they can do much better than this. We joked that The Gravity Group should take clients up to Valleyfair to ride GCIs newest creation before blowing them away with Hades four hours down the road.

 

We rode Renegade at 5 PM and later at 7:30 PM and just after 8 PM. While the ride did warm up a bit speed wise, it didn't translate into much action at all. We could see on our first ride that the design was tame. The first drop was interesting in the back with a little kick. After that I found one hill had a little thrill in it and one turn had a little slam but that's it. Some sections were so vanilla plain it was ridiculous. In particular one section with some side to side action is probably the weakest section of GCI track I've encountered. The ride slows towards the end and limps to the finish. Even a promising looking station flyby hill is useless. This ride is mostly a dud with very little thrill. Front or back, didn't matter too much where you rode. I'd much rather ride Roar at SFA at opening than Renegade at 8 PM and that's not saying too much. Maybe Renegade is a little more fun in the dark and a little faster but I couldn't see it improving that much. A dinner at nearby Famous Dave's was much more interesting to us than waiting around another four hours in hope that a miracle would occur with Renegade.

 

The rest of Valleyfair is unfortunately very mild as well. It could be a reasonably nice park but it's mostly a bore. High Roller has a great looking layout that is killed by trim brakes. The IAD train looks great and the layout has so much potential but the trimmed ride is mild. Wild Thing should turn the W upside down. The beginning section is reasonable but the huge helix section is really drawn out and the brakes absolutely kill the ending of the ride. Excalibur would have a great first drop but this ride seemed very tame compared to the last time I rode it. Mildness all around.

 

Our trip concluded with a quick credit run into the Mall of America on Sunday. I picked up the Timberland Twister at the park formerly known as Camp Snoopy. I was surprised by how good this ride was. It's clearly better than Pandemonium at SFNE. It beats anything at Valleyfair.

 

I called Little Amerricka but they said the Meteor coaster is a few weeks away. I'm not sure if I believe that or not. I think they told me the same thing last year.

 

Despite a mild trip to Minnesota, Hades gave us some serious return on our trip investment. We left the Dells wanting more. More Hades, Zeus, Cyclops and even more Avalanche. I'll have to return sooner rather than later.

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Wow!...I must say that you are the first person that I have heard of who didn't enjoy their ride on Renegade. I do prefer Hades slighty more, but I would hardly call Renegade "weak." I'm a local, and for me, every ride I have had has been better than before. You are certainly entitled to your opinion, but I must say that reading about your experience on it surprises me greatly.

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Good TR Tim. I read Mike's TR and was disappointed to hear about Renegade, as I seem to have very similar taste to him (and you, it looks like). Both of you tend to have a much more objective analysis in your write ups than others, so I'm always interested to hear your thoughts.

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I too am surprised about your review of Renegade. I have never felt that it limps back into the station. I prefer Renegade and Avalanche to Hades, but that's just me.

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For anyone who thinks that Renegade is better than Hades or Avalanche, could you explain why you have that opinion? I am very curious as to why because I see that some people have that opinion. Help me understand your preferences.

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The more I ride Renegade the less I like it. There are several spots with air but it is all just technically there. None of it is that strong or good with the exception of the second hill. There are two spots with the potential for a good air/lateral combination but that ride has not evolved into anything special in those spots yet. I am still trying to get a rain ride to see what potential it really has, but as of yet I've had no luck. On a positive note, the ride seems to be a hit with the GP so maybe that is good news for CF's future. The mild action that it does have is nonstop and while it does not compare to the great woodies we love, it is a lot better than what most VF patrons are familiar with.

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