Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Racing the Dragster – Roller Coaster Thrills part 2

Top Thrill Dragster
Power Tower and Top Thrill Dragster
In the morning it was 48° but the sun was out and Lake Erie was beautiful. We strolled down the beach to the next hotel and then drove over to the marina to a restaurant that served breakfast. The park didn’t open till 11:00, so we explored the Breakers (built in 1905) and strolled up the beach. Bob was brave enough to put his feet in the ice cold waters of Lake Erie. Once the park opened we headed straight for the Top Thrill Dragster. We had been watching them test it all morning, half the time it didn’t make it over the top.  The line was already long. They loaded the first car only ½ full and it didn’t go over. They backed it up and tried again and it made it. Same thing happened with the second car and they announced the ride would be closing. About half the people left the line, but we decided to wait it out. After a few successful runs it opened up again. Lots of people were hoping that their car wouldn’t go over, but not me. Our turn finally came. I was doing deep breathing waiting for the lights that indicate the launch. The take off is wicked fast and a sign indicates the speed 120 MPH as you start vertical. It was the fastest I’ve ever moved in anything other than a plane. It is so exhilarating. It was mercifully fast. You really don’t have time to be scared.  Something malfunctioned after our ride and we had to wait in the car about 20 minutes before we could get out. One of the guys working the ride was telling us that the problem was the high winds, about 25mph. It was closed on and off the rest of the day, so we were glad we held our spot in the beginning.
Mean Streak

It was already 1:30 and we had 8 coasters still to conquer. We planned for the Raptor and the Mantis. Millenium Force was next to Mantis and the sign estimated a ½ hour wait, so it was time to try it in the daylight, this time I even raised my hands (not on the first drop though).  We then headed down to the Mean Streak. I think one of the largest wooden coasters around. We took the back seat on Mean Streak. It was a very bumpy ride and our brains got rattled around, but it had some really good drops. We then ran across the park to Mantis. Mantis is a standing coaster, first time for both of us on that kind. Similar to Raptor in that you loop, spiral and flip all over, but trying to stay in that standing position is very tough on the legs. You get off and your legs are sore, then you have to walk down stairs, a bit shaky. Pretty cool ride though. We then went next door to the Wild Cat, what looks like a variation on the old Wild Mouse that was outlawed but not with quite those sharp turns (that was my favorite ride as a kid). Didn’t look like much, but was actually a lot of fun, lots of ups and downs. We then headed to the Corkscrew, which spirals all across the midway.  We had walked under it many times. From the lines at other coasters I had watched it and it seemed slow, I told Bob it was a kiddy coaster.  Proved me wrong, lots of fun, but still much tamer than the biggies. We then headed to Blue Streak, built in, 1964, a classic up and back wood coaster. It was a very pleasant nostalgic ride. We decided to stay at the front end of the park & ride what was there before the Raptor. We went to Disaster Transport, an indoor coaster. It’s mostly dark and boring and topped Iron Dragon as our least favorite. We then noticed that they had opened the Sky Ride, what a nice overview of the park and gave our sore feet a rest. Then a return to the Raptor, what a blast. It was now starting to get dark, so we decided to break for dinner. The sun was setting and the sky was beautiful, so Bob got his camera & took a few shots. We didn’t carry it around the park while going on rides because you can’t take anything on the big coasters. Even your glasses need to be strapped on. After dinner, we stopped at Magnum XL-200 again.  It’s an excellent coaster. Since they close Sunday at 6:00PM, it was our last night to get into Werewolf Canyon. There were a few animatronic wolves with glowing eyes than were neat, they sent up one cloud of fog that was so thick I couldn’t move, I was afraid I’d run into something, couldn’t see an inch in front of me. We headed through the Fright Zone again, many more spooks than the night before and it was more fun than the canyon. We needed somewhere to rest, so we got on the Giant Wheel. It was now around 10 or 11 and the temp was dropping again, down to the 40’s. It was really cold up there at the top, but at least we were off our feet. We then went up in the Space Spiral, enclosed & much warmer, but too short a ride. It was now approaching midnight and closing time. Ready for another hot bath. We should have taken advantage of the  indoor heated pool or hot tub, but by the time we climbed the stairs to our room, we didn’t want to move again.

travel date Oct. 2003

Thursday, May 26, 2011

To the Point – Roller Coasters at Cedar Point

we had waited long enough; it was time to do our roller coaster trip. We had talked about it for years, both of us loved coasters, my love started at an early age when my dad took me on an huge coaster at about the age of 5. A friend had told us about Cedar Point and we had been receiving their newsletter for quite some time. Bob had been anxious to ride Millennium Force, which had been the tallest coaster when it opened in 2000. We knew they had lots of world record coasters at Cedar Point, and with that year’s opening of the tallest and fastest coaster in the world, the Top Trill Dragster, that made our decision.  Cedar Point was past their summer season and only open for “Halloweekends”. 

Friday (10-3-03) around noon we left hot sunny (90’s) Florida and flew to Cleveland. We arrived around 4:00 PM. It was in the mid 50’s and the guys at the rental car agency said there had been light snow the night before & that it was about ten degrees lower than normal for the time of year. Definitely different for us. We hopped on the Ohio Turnpike to Sanduskey as the park was due to open at 5:30 for resort guest As soon as we arrived at the gate, it started to sprinkle rain. We followed the signs to the Breakers Hotel.  The hotel was nicely decorated for Halloween and Dracula was standing on a balcony.  We parked at the closest entrance to our room, took up our luggage, put on raincoats and headed out. As soon as we got outside it was raining steadily and I saw a wall of water approaching. The sun was going down and so was the temperature, but we were determined to enjoy ourselves.  The first coaster we came to was the Magnum XL-200. Built in 1989, 205’ tall with a 60° drop.  Tallest in the world when it was built, it was voted the #3 steel coaster in the world a few years ago. We got in line, due to the weather it was quite short. As we churned slowly up the hill I began to question my actions. Cold rain hitting our faces, we went into our first plunge. A thrill I haven’t experienced in quite a few years and it was probably the tallest coaster I’d ever been on. By the time we got off my hands were vibrating and frozen from holding on through a whipping ride. I was now even less sure I could handle Millennium Force, which scared me just to look at. The 80° straight down drop it takes from 315 feet is so frightening.  My strategy had been to ride the Top Thrill Dragster first, even though it was taller, it drops down in a spiral and at 120mph the ride is over in about 27 seconds.  I figured I’d warm up to Millennium on that one. Not all of the rides were scheduled to be open on Friday night, but the weather conditions ended up closing even more. Top Trill Dragster doesn’t run in the rain, so we weren’t going to ride that. We rode another open coaster, the Iron Dragon, it has cars that swing from a rail above. It was rather wimpy for us. We were now very wet and cold, so we decided to stop at Johnny Rockets for dinner, burgers and shakes. It was entertaining and we got to dry out and warm back up a little. Not far from the diner, we found the Raptor open.  It’s another coaster where the track is above you. Bob wanted to do the front seat, but I was too chicken, so we took the next seat back. Big mistake; as soon as we left the platform ice cold rain that had gathered on top of the car in front of us dumped straight in our laps, we were already soaked again. It turned, twisted and flipped us every was possible, one of my favorite rides, but they all have such different qualities it’s hard to say.
We ducked into an Arcade to get out of the rain and wind for awhile. New video games, old pinball machines, pac man, even antique fortunetellers and love meters. We then walked over to Millennium Force. Since only a hand full of coaster were open and the line was short, I swallowed hard and said OK. I wouldn’t even watch it go up the hill as the cars loaded for the rides before ours. But with kids ¼ my age waiting in line I tried to tell myself it was nothing. Half way up the hill I was freaking out, Bob was in heaven. As soon as we went over the top, the drop was so steep we couldn’t see the track and I felt the back end would tumble past me. I was practically catatonic the rest of the ride, couldn’t move or scream. Definitely the scariest coaster in the world to me. Bob was thrilled beyond belief, and said that he had known all along that I would ride it. We then walked though the Fright Zone, a dark area of the park where they were sending out fog and had bizarre colored lights swirling though the fog. Scary characters would jump out form the dark and scream and rattle things at you. It was too cool. We got in line for Werewolf Canyon, a Spook Tour attraction, but it was closing, so we walked back to the Power Tower which was open. We did the Space Shot side which shoots you up & you free fall down, we had never done this type of ride before, but it seemed milder than we expected, probably from doing those coasters first. It did help dry out our pants though. We then headed to the only other coaster we saw was open, Wicked Twister.  And it is wicked, excellent fast take off and you shoot forwards and backwards on twisting tracks, never knowing how far up the momentum will take you. We went for the front seat again.
It was now approaching closing time, but we saw them running the Dragster, so we went over. They were running it empty and it wasn’t making it over the top. It was so cool to watch how fast the takeoff was and to see all the hydraulics involved in moving it back along the track to the starting position.  They announced it would not open unless the rain stopped completely, so we decided it was time to warm up in a hot bath.
Breakers Hotel

Magnum XL


Millennium Force

Wicked Twister
travel date Oct. 2003
More roller coaster fun coming up in part 2.