I love Phoenix, but yeah last year I didn't feel like I was getting as much air as years past. HOWEVER, part of that was definitely that I've, uh, gotten larger in the belly area, and so I'm not as able to fly around. I still love it anyway. Last year I really didn't like Twister much. It was super ROUGH, but I'm anxious to give it another go this year since all the work they did on it in the offseason.
I’m not an ACE member, though I was for a couple of years as a teenager so I could attend Coaster Mania once. And yeah, people joke about ACErs from time to time on here, but in my experience we enthusiasts tend to be pretty similar wherever you go. I’ve met plenty of ACE members (and TPR) on my travels over the years and most of them were just fine. I even ran into several at KD that I’ve had good conversations with at other parks. But there are also ACErs like the guy with a Millennium Force ankle tattoo I met at Six Flags St. Louis, who on learning I was a TPR guy, said, “Not on your life…” then crossed his arms and proceeded to literally do a 180 and face away from me while still standing in the same spot.
LOL. This kind of brings me back to elementary school when in my school you could only be a Green Day fan or an Offspring fan, but not both, at least publicly. But in JR high it started to come out that everyone, including myself, who was a public fan of one was a closet fan of the other.
So is it really a similar situation with TPR and ACE? And if so, why?
The 4-hour drive from Danville to Erie had me racing against the clock to beat an incoming storm. So I did just what you’d expect a California driver to do around all the Pennsylvania slow pokes and matched the speed of traffic while getting lost in my thoughts listening to the Joe Rogan Experience. This meant I walked through the entrance at Waldameer at the exact time the rain started POURING.
But this time I was prepared with a waterproof jacket and my feet were already taped up and practically mummified in gauze, so I avoided a repeat of my Kings Dominion experience. That “Good Eating Outside Theme Parks” thread actually came in handy big time as I simply got back in the car and made the drive down the hill under Ravine Flyer to Sarah’s where I dined on chili dogs and chicken strips surrounded by about three or four kids’ soccer teams. And the food was great! I figured I’d probably be there for a while, but almost as soon as I had eaten, the sky opened back up and I saw a train soar over RFII’s bridge, so back I went. I also went across the street to Shickalay’s for some IPAs later on. I think Philrad or somebody mentioned that one. Good advice!
It doesn't look like it from these pics, but we had major rain here early in the day.
Waldameer is like a smaller Knoebels in some ways. Similar in scope and as far away from “corporate” as you can get, but it lacks the remoteness, ambience, good food, and quantity of attractions. You know, that’s really not a flattering description at all and it sells the park short. I had a great time when I went last in 2014 and made Ravine Flyer my 199th coaster, and I did again this year just the same. There's a few worthwhile non-coaster attractions like the ARM-Larson drop tower, a Music Express, and the skyride, plus a few others I didn't do this time. It’s still no Knoebels, but what they do have is an incredible Gravity Group that was easily the best wooden coaster on the trip (I had to get in just one more jab at Phoenix )!
Ravine Flyer II If this woodie were anywhere else, there’s a pretty good chance it would run like crap. This layout asks those clunky PTC trains to do things they just shouldn’t be able to. It’s much like Voyage in this regard, only half as long. The park apparently still takes great care of it because it runs like a dream. You start out with one of the all-time great lifthill views and from there on its either long, sustained airtime moments or sudden directional changes all the way. One of my favorite parts actually comes right after the first camelback in the form of a sharp left-right transition that pretends its airtime. You get another great lake view on the crest of the far turnaround, then three more hills with strong floater air before climbing back up out of the ravine. It’s here where I find my biggest criticism.
RFII is a very front-loaded coaster. The first half is as good as you’ll find on anything, but the second half ranges from “still pretty good” in the front car to almost kind of “ho-hum” in the back. It spends much of the second half making banked turns over flat land on the main park level, and only dives into the ravine once more, but without any airtime. Instead, you plunge down after a 90-degree banked turn. I see why this element seemed very cool when it was built in 2008. Wooden coasters in general just weren’t doing all the crazy banking stuff yet. But now it’s just kind of there. Others may disagree, but if Waldameer ever decides to reprofile any parts of this, that turn is what I’d zero-in on. Tweak it to rise up a little higher and bank it slightly less with a sharp pull-over to give one more pop of air on the way down before the ride ends. Or we could just forget all that because Ravine Flyer II is still a top 5 U.S. wooden coaster. 9/10
Steel Dragon I don’t know what it is about these Maurer spinners people like, because every time I ride one, I don’t spin a lick. I totally forgot to write about Laff Trakk at Hersheypark and it was the same story there. And on Undertow at SCBB. Be it by myself or in a full, evenly balanced car, I might as well be on a wild mouse given the type of ride experience I always get. And I find this true for all Maurer spinners, not just these SC2000 clones. It took me 3 or 4 rides just to get friggin’ Winjas to spin better than an empty playground carousel in a light breeze. Whatever, I already had the credit so one lap just to remind myself was enough. 4/10
Comet Don’t let the seemingly paltry rating dissuade you, this right here is the king, the granddaddy, the apex predator of kiddie wooden coasters. I don’t know if it’s the “biggest” one at all, I just know that it has these weird, fun little airtime pops with buzz bars and it all takes place under a nice canopy of trees. It’s actually a lot of fun and worth re-riding to try out different seats. This isn’t your average Woodstock Express. 5.5/10
Excellent report, and so glad to hear that RFII is still running well. It was one of my top wooden coasters when I first rode it in 2010, but after hearing how poorly some other GG woodies have held up with age, I was becoming skeptical that it was still worth anything apart from the great view. Would love to get back up to Erie sometime to give it another ride.
Also, totally agree with you about Comet. I know my good memories of it must be greatly exaggerated, but I swear I remember it feeling more akin to Phoenix than to something like Woodstock Express/Ghoster Coaster/etc.
I went on a tour of Germany and the Netherlands last summer that included all of the major theme parks you’d expect. This was my first time visiting any parks outside North America and as tends to happen when you experience something from a new culture for the first time, the way you look at things you once thought you had a clear idea about can change. Cedar Point had been my favorite park for as long as I could remember, but some of these new parks had me questioning that.
It was fascinating to see how a place like Europa Park manages to bundle a vast coaster lineup with detailed theming, great food and beverage offerings, resort hotels, numerous flat and dark rides, and operations so efficient the average SFMM ride op could probably yawn and miss an entire Wodan dispatch. Then a stop at Phantasialand took the blend of immersive world building and thrills to an even higher level and Efteling had its own approach too. Was Cedar Point still my favorite park? I still said yes if anyone asked, but privately, I wasn’t so sure anymore.
Well I went back and guess what? It still is, dammit. As much as I loved those great German and Dutch parks, if I could only visit one park for the rest of my life, I would still choose The Point. I go once about every two or three years and while CP’s coaster collection still remains unequalled, over my last few visits the improvements to F&B, landscaping, and the overall presentation of the park (plus events like Brew and BBQ!) have left me feeling that the absence of a Euro-style theming/thrills blend doesn’t even matter. It turns out you don’t need elaborately constructed environments when you have a Great Friggin Lake all around, staff keeps pumping trains out of stations quickly, and you up your flower and shrubbery budget just a little where it really counts. Oh, and having 5 of my top 20 coasters all in one place will always be kind of cool too. So with all of that, and especially now with the king-kaiju itself, Steel Vengeance, lording over the coaster collection, my favorite parks are Cedar Point, Phantasialand, and Europa Park in that order.
I stayed at Breakers on my last two visits, but decided on the Express Hotel this time given the cost of a longer road trip (I know, that's not very ostentatious of me. Sometimes I disappoint even myself). Seeing that I don’t go back to my hotel room during the day anyway, staying off the peninsula didn’t matter at all.
This was also the nicest 48 hours of weather I’ve ever had at CP. I don’t think the temperature got above 72F the entire time and it didn’t rain a drop. On one hand, that’s exactly what you pray for when you go here, but on another more obsessive (perhaps even slightly masochistic?) level I kind of wish it had been about 15-20 degrees hotter. The coasters didn’t feel quite as intense in the mild weather as they usually do in summer. Maverick usually leaves me feeling wiped out in the best way possible after two consecutive rides, but I could marathon it no problem this time. Likewise I didn’t gray out in MF’s big overbank, nor did Raptor feel like it tugged quite as hard at my feet. Then when you consider that I was riding I305 and Twisted Timbers in 102-degree heat just a few days prior, you might understand why the more demented side of me was yearning for CP’s coasters to run just a tick faster.
I took the boardwalk from the main lot up to the Magnum gate for early entry both days, but perhaps not surprisingly managed only a single ride on Steel Vengeance between the two. It was down until about 9:45am the first day and didn’t open until a few hours after that the second day. But it hardly mattered. With careful use of Fastlane Plus I managed twelve rides on it over my two days including four night rides. I’ll do a proper review below, but for now I’ll say that as hard as I tried to remain realistic, I came in with expectations higher than I’ve had going into any coaster before and somehow it actually managed to meet them. My 67 year old “mild enthusiast” father joined up with me for CP. His favorite coaster has been Millennium Force for the last seventeen years and nothing else has come close for him. Now he has a new favorite.
Maverick Are there any two better coasters in closer proximity to each other than Maverick and Steel Vengeance? Unless Hersheypark goes full-Schilke one day and we get Skyrush literally on top of RMC Comet, I don’t think we’ll ever see CP’s new duo one-upped. Most people won’t consider Maverick Cedar Point’s headliner anymore, but it’s still a quality top 5 steel coaster in every way. It’s still the park’s most g-force positive coaster and the variety of things it does well is unmatched. The only thing I dislike about Maverick is how the trim brakes after the launch stifle any possibility of airtime on the hill that follows. The train obviously needs to slow down before entering the turns, but in an ideal world there would be some way to trim it over the water following the hill in question. It doesn’t matter much though. Maverick still beats 99.5% of all coasters out there. 9.5/10
Millennium Force No coaster adds up to something greater than the sum of its parts more than Millennium Force. My dad and I reminisced about our first rides on it in 2001, how it took me so long to build up courage to ride in the front, and how it took both of us even longer to finally put our hands up on the first drop. The intimidation factor is long gone now almost two decades later, but this will always be our “father-son bonding coaster” and we still have just as much fun riding it as we always have. Random observation – does anyone else miss those metal “Intamin giga-roller coaster” plaques that used to adorn the sides of the trains before they switched to fiberglass bodies several years ago? 9/10
Top Thrill Dragster Fastlane works much better on this now that it takes you right up to the station. TTD was also oddly reliable during my visit. I rode this four times over two days and not once was it already down when I showed up, nor did it break down while we were in line. Weird. I actually remember looking down at Steel Vengeance from the tophat and having the clarity of mind to observe a train and think, “oh, good, SV is running again, we should go there next,” before dropping down the other side. I’m such a purist for pacing, length, and well-rounded layouts that I had honestly forgotten how much I liked this coaster. 8/10
“Big” Intamin rankings (i.e. no impulses, old bobsleds, etc.) 1. Skyrush 2. Expedition GeForce 3. Maverick 4. El Toro 5. Superman the Ride 6. Intimidator 305 7. Millennium Force 8. Taron 9. Cheetah Hunt 10. Fahrenheit 11. Storm Runner 12. Top Thrill Dragster 13. Xcelerator 14. Kingda Ka 15. California Screamin’ 16. Volcano 17. Superman: Escape From Krypton
Steel Vengeance Where do I even begin? It lives up to the hype in every way. The airtime over that first curving camelback is a sensation unlike anything I have ever felt. At first it’s a similar feeling to what you get on the big ejector camelbacks on El Toro, then at some point your enthusiast mind tells you it’s time for your body to come back down into its seat, but SV just keeps pulling you up into that lapbar for longer and longer. I couldn’t stop laughing the first few times I rode it because of how truly alien the sheer duration of airtime on this one element was. Then you feel it all over again on the outward-banked camelback. Those two hills plus the first inversion provide the longest, sustained negative-g experiences I’ve ever felt. Even after 12 rides on this thing I still wasn’t used to it.
A word about the MCBR. I had two rides where it didn’t grab at all, one ride where it bit hard, and the rest had only mild trimming. The two untrimmed rides made the second half simply astonishing. But the difference between the heavily-trimmed train and the more “typical” experience was noticeable only on the drop off the MCBR itself. After that they felt exactly the same. Yeah, I wish it was a pure block section and nothing more, but overall I don’t think it’s a big deal.
If I have one “gripe” about Steel Vengeance, it’s the ending. It suffers from a bit of Voyage syndrome where the last stretch of track (on Voyage it’s the final tunnel and last set of turns) feels a little repetitive and redundant. There’s just so much airtime on this thing that the final set of bunny hops isn’t the kind of satisfying finale it might be on another coaster. Ending with an elongated, Medusa Steel Coaster-style heartline roll past the queue line or a set of sharp s-curves might have been more interesting and given you a moment to celebrate and reflect before hitting the brakes. I want to put this into perspective. When your only critique is that the designer should have replaced one kind of awesome with a different kind of awesome just for the sake of variety and “narrative” then you know that designer has made a masterpiece.
Is Steel Vengeance my #1 now? At least for now I’ll say not quite. It doesn’t have the borderline violent intensity that puts Skyrush on another level for me. Even Twisted Timbers had a pair of holy sh*t violent moments that Steel Vengeance didn’t even though SV still beats TT overall. But then again, I rode TT when it was a full 30 degrees hotter, so who knows how SV might feel on a day like that. And as for Skyrush, riding it 23 times with no wait is the kind of experience that will simply never be possible on SV and it really cemented Skyrush for me. So SV is a close #2, but I could see that changing one day. 10/10
Valravn Man I’m glad I skipped coming back for Valravn the last two years and waited for Steel Vengeance. I didn’t like this ride at all. I don’t like the new B&M vests and they hamper the ride experience on dive coasters in a way they just don’t on inverts or wing coasters. If your chest and shoulder dimensions are even a little larger than average, there’s simply no way to get any airtime at all on this thing. It’s got a great layout and offers epic panoramic views, but I wasn’t able to fully enjoy it. And it was nothing painful, but I thought Valravn tracked somewhat rougher than other dive coasters too. Give me Sheikra, Baron 1898, or Krake any day. 6/10
Gatekeeper My second favorite Cedar Point B&M and second favorite wing coaster. If I’ve been away from it for a couple of years, I seem to talk myself into believing it’s a lesser coaster than it actually is. Gatekeeper is far from the forceless lawn ornament some would have you believe. The first set of elements all the way through the keyhole section are all very good and the whole thing is about as much pure fun as you’ll have on anything else at this park. Too bad B&M clearly made no effort to end it on a high-note (read the next review for why this matters so much). 8/10
Raptor My favorite CP B&M and unless Katun or Nemesis finds a way to really knock my socks off one day, Raptor will always be my favorite inverted coaster too. I’m a screenwriter (nothing produced yet, so don’t ask) and I naturally look for the kinds of narrative patterns seen in film in other things as well. Coasters are a perfect example and Raptor has one of the best linear plot structures I’ve ever seen. Now no coaster follows a 3-act structure perfectly (except Kennywood’s Thunderbolt – now that coaster follows it perfectly), but I’ll make an attempt with Raptor.
You have an inciting incident to kick off Act 1 (quick little dip out of the station) followed by a steady build delivering the exposition you’ll need to appreciate what follows (the lift hill with views of the lake, Gatekeeper, and the midway), followed by Plot Point 1 where we, the riders/protagonists are forced into a dramatic new direction (the first drop with a kick out above the midway). Act 2 contains the bulk of the character conflict (the inversions) and is interrupted at the Midpoint with a false sense of security (MCBR) bookended by a rising and falling action mirroring what started the conflict (the counter-clockwise spiral up, and clockwise spiral down mirroring the loop). Then comes a new type of rising and falling action (two corkscrews on either end of a brief straightaway) followed by the Act 3 climax that takes what we have learned to now overcome the old conflict in a new way (the helix – it’s a loop turned on its side!) before a return to the status-quo in the station.
A lot of older B&Ms do this narrative thing well. But none of them have the kind of nuanced symmetry and compelling Act 3 climax that Raptor has. For a lot of people, this might mean absolutely nothing, but to me, it means everything and marks the difference between a good invert and the best invert. 9/10
Rougarou It’s not hard to see why it gets overlooked at this park, but I think Rougarou is CP’s underrated gem. B&M used to create some very nice, dynamic layouts that were less inversion-obsessed back in the day and this is one of them. My favorite part is the quick left-right slalom after the inclined loop. It really tries to throw you out of the train there. This has also become quite the intense little experience once the floorless trains allowed them to deactivate the trim on the first drop. 8/10
Magnum XL-200 If I loved Skyrush, you just had to know I’d be a Magnum die-hard too right? “Ol’ Iron Thighs” they used to call me. Okay fine, maybe nobody ever said that, but I do wish more enthusiasts could appreciate this coaster. I’ll say it again – ride in the middle row of any car and it won’t be rough – you will not get hurt. If the airtime and lapbars are still painful for you, then I don’t know what to say anymore. What did you expect? The Phoenix or something? (I couldn’t help myself…) 9/10
Gemini I remember marathoning this coaster for an hour straight with little-to-no wait back in the years when you could always count on MF’s line to be 2 hours and Raptor and Mantis were consistently 90 minutes. Crowds are so much more spread out now that setting up camp at Gemini is no longer the draw it once was, but it’s still one of the most fun, most re-ridable coasters out there. Over time it’s become the perfect super-size family coaster than so many parks lack. 7/10
Blue Streak I really wish I got to ride this in its original incarnation with buzz bars and no head rests. I have a feeling those who did might be romanticizing the experience a little, but what do I know? Today’s Blue Streak is the only Blue Streak I’ve ever ridden. Maybe the airtime was actually pretty good? You can see the potential all over this thing, but alas, it now fills pretty much the same niche Gemini does. Always worth a ride. 6/10
Last edited by Condor on Sun Aug 05, 2018 6:53 pm.
I know what you mean about Waldameer. It definitely has some Knoebels vibes, but it just doesn't have the breadth of attractions Knoebels has. But what they do have is quality and they have a true anchor in Ravine Flyer II. I wasn't sure how well it would hold up for my rides, but like you said, it tracks an extremely aggressive layout far better than you'd expect.
I really liked that last shot of Millennium in the day. I've never seen that angle before. Was that from Dinosaur's Alive?
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