Coasterville Commentary

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Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Sunday, May 13, 2012

TR: Kings Island - May 6, 2012

Trip: Kings Island May 6, 2012 Mason, OH “I take back some of the good things I said last time” The second weekend of Kings Island’s season looked a whole lot better than the first. Instead of 50’s and rain, we are looking at 80’s and sun. With that bright outlook, Dave Althoff and I headed back up to the park on Sunday May 6, and arrived shortly after noon. This is our usual arrival time anymore, and it has worked out great as we usually get there just before the church crowd, but after the morning “quick in quick out” crowd has left. This has had the unusual benefit of offering us a close in parking space more often than not. I noted parking is $12 this year, and they handed us a receipt even though we used a parking pass, and the toll collector noted we should hang on to the receipt in case we wanted to leave and return, and to keep it out of the sun. In other words, unlike what most venues want you to do with the parking ticket, and slide it up on your dash. We entered the lot and a sign announced that there would be traffic assistance ahead. Wow, I thought, Kings Island is returning to the day of parking attendants. Well, there was one guy that directed us to use the road that runs along the outer perimeter of the lot instead of the road that goes down the center of the lot, and that was where the traffic assistance ended. A row of cones encouraged us to proceed to the north lot, and we tried our usual tactics of searching the first few rows of general parking for that freshly vacated parking space. Saw a few people heading to their cars for tailgating, but no one leaving, and the lot looked to be pretty busy with a swarm of cars doing much the same thing we are. We head back to the center row, and head to the former Gold Pass parking area, which is no more, and has been returned to general parking. Shame the same thing didn’t happen to the Premium $20 parking lot. The South lot was looing just as bad, but on the outer edge there is a little strip that has been added on where they put tiny 3-4 space wide rows over where the tram path and stops used to be. Not much interest in this tiny lot add on, but with the very faint striping people may not have realized they are spaces, so in the end, yes we scored another decently close parking space. We headed to the front gate, this time coming from the south, so instead of the more congested north side, which contains the ticket office, season pass center, pet kennel, and picnic area (such as it is), the South side is apparently where they allow outside vendors to set up county fair type booths. In the past I gave the park grief for having these kinds of vendors setup inside the park, and when I once again noted how tacky I felt it was for a first class theme park to lower itself to this, Dave did remind me that they aren’t inside the park, so I guess that’s something. It didn’t help that this week’s vendor was Smart Travel, whose reputation on the web is astoundingly bad as a shady time share broker that loves to run dubious contests, such as the one they were running at the park. I ask, this is the kind of organization Cedar Fair would like to associate itself with? We headed into the park, avoided the photo ambush, and soon found our way back to Diamondback. Ugh, let’s see perfect weather day, it should come as no surprise Diamondback had a full queue. The week started off much like last week, where instead of riding rides, we spent time trying to find a ride, any ride that had a short line. Beast, Backlot Stunt Coaster both were sporting long lines, Vortex didn’t look too bad, just a bit longer than the week before, but we weren’t felling it at the moment. Windseeker still isn’t quite ready to run, but it looked in better shape than last week when it had a bunch of tool chests surrounding the ride. We noted the Dinosaur’s Alive area has changed their marketing plan from last year. Last year, the 3D movie component was marketing as an add con companion film to the walk through, and signs dotted the walk through encouraging you to add the movie to your walk through experience for just $2 more. ($4 if purchased separately). This year the 3D movie is free, and is being used to market the walk through. A sign at the top of the path back to the theatre advertised the free 10 minute film, and if you like it, you may want to try the walk through for just $5. Heading up Coney, we noted Dinosaur Alive is still there as well as its themed party area on the pad where Flight Commander once stood. What is missing is the ticket seller for the walk through. A sign directs you to a bank of vending machines to get the tickets for the walk through, or if you prefer the human touch, the Dinosaurs Alive gift shop can sell you the tickets. No interest in the walk through, we headed down the mall and took the obligatory walk back to X-Base, so we could honestly say the rides had long lines, on the order of 90-120 minutes each. The park is clever in the regard and has stocked the photo booths for both Firehawk and Flight of Fear with a supply of Fast Lane wristbands, and if you get up to the main ride entrance and complain about the long line, they direct you to the photo booth at the ride exit where you too can purchase the Fast Lane ticket and skip the regular line for this and many other park attractions. It’s somewhere between marking genius and a blatantly tacky money grab. We opted to not upgrade to Fast Lane but noted the booths seemed to be doing a brisk business in selling the wristbands. We continued around the park until we found ourselves in Oktoberfest. The Coca cola Market has been slightly upgraded with fruit stand looking displays rather than putting the iced produce in repurposed soft drink coolers, and the stand seemed to be doing a good business. We also parked ourselves at the exit of Outer Hank’s Burrito Shack, and noted the serving sizes looked to be quite large. (It’s a Chipotle imitation for $7.50, and may turn out to be a great new food stand for the park. I may even try it some time) We finally headed for our first ride of the day, Adventure Express. It has the benefits of having a short queue area, that is also well shaded. We clocked the wait at about 15 minutes and were soon boarding the front seat of the back car. The ride is seemingly getting some care this year, as the final show lift is the best it has been in years, with them finally fixing that door that never seemed to be closed, letting all the light in. As we headed to the platform, a quick glance caught a look at the log they are using to keep stats on the Fast Lane program. Up until 1 PM – the ride had hosted 16 Fast Lane riders. One of the operational changes Fast Lane has brought to the rides, is the addition of a merge point between the Fast and Main lanes. A side effect of this is they are keeping the platforms mostly clear, letting maybe a train or two worth of riders onto the platform at a time. They have also made the merge staff position a value added position as they also check for rider eligibility, and group riders. All that is missing is a turnstile at the entrance to the station and you would have your typical legacy Cedar Fair park operations. In the case of Adventure Express, Fast Lane riders enter via a new path at the bottom of the exit ramp, which cuts over to the entrance ramp and runs alongside the main entrance for the entire covered section of the queue. The merge is at the station platform where the main line used what was the :Back of train” lane, and Fast Lane uses what was “front of train” From Adventure Express we headed toward Action Zone, where we noted Delirum had a full queue, but Drop Tower had an empty queue, as in the ride was closed. We took the long walk back to Flight Deck, and found the line to be backed up to just about where the original reride gate is. In other words, longer than you would like to wait in, but you’ve come so far you don’t want to turn back. We waited it out, and some time later were passing by the old lower level queue area, and noted the stair chair that was on the stairs from unload to the long disused themed portion of the queue has been removed, and that some minor theming has returned in the form of the model jet fighters that had disappeared a few years ago, leaving an empty mounting stand in the queue area The model jet fighters are flanked by some model warheads, and the model base and fencing behind the display is camouflaged in well camouflage netting. A United States flag completes the scene and serves as a backdrop. Up on the upper level, aircraft carrier style landing stripes have been applied to both the brake run and station areas. Who would think that Cedar Fair is doing a better job with the theming of this ride than Paramount did in their later years. A ride in the front seat of the back car soon followed, and we received the usual fun but short ride. One oddity is that it did not get the Fast Lane treatment. The other Action Zone rides were, for the most part, part of the former Gold Pass Speed Lane, which means the second line was already there for Delirum and Drop Tower. Delirium Fast Lane path runs right alongside the main path, except it doesn’t go through the switchbacks, and merges at the seat assigner. Drop Tower has a short entry lane next to the main entrance that leads to a second gate just before the main line goes into the main queue house. I’m not sure what they did for Congo Falls, and Invertigo got a brand new path that cuts through the yard underneath the rides cobra roll through a fabric covered tunnel to join up right at the boarding platform., Then we had the long walk back to International Street. On the way, Dave spotted something interesting at the Ice Cream Zone Recall, in last week’s trip report we told the story of wanting to try their new upgraded hot pretzel product, Bavarian Pretzels, and we concluded that they may indeed by great pretzels if not for the fact they were served not only merely warm, but tending towards cold. The Bavarian pretzel is actually made by the same people that make the more common Super Pretzel. The difference is that instead of the all too perfect tubular cross section of the super pretzel that makes it look like a machine made pretzel, the Bavarian Pretzel claims to look and taste more like what one would get in Bavaria. To that end the bottom is much mulkier in terms of being more solid and it looks more homemade, even if it isn’t. As we said, it may be a great pretzel if they start to serve it hot, or at least give us access to a microwave. Of course, we are being nice, in that both of us have had the privilege of going to Bavaria, and enjoying pretzels in Bavaria, and knowing exactly what they should be like. While these, serving temperature aside, come close, they still aren’t quite there. It’s something about the dough, texture and the salt that differ from the genuine article. You may have noticed me commenting a lot on the food, and that is with great reason as the park is embarking on a campaign to improve food service. It seems that, as of late, the parks answer to new food product had been to either bring in an outside vendor, or obtain the franchise rights for either a local or national chain restaurant. While this is good in that people pretty much know what they are going to get, and with the local flair options (LaRosas, Skyline, and Graeters) tourists can sample some of the local favorites. (Though for the first two, they would do better to find a location outside the park), its bad in that people know pretty much what these products should cost, which makes the usual park markups stand out that much more. This year they are rolling out several food initiatives, some of which I have already mentioned in this report. The big news is the Outer Hanks Burrito Shack, which is the park’s take on the trendy and popular Chipotle concept. We haven’t tried it yet, but it looks great. Right across from that stand is the new Coca Cola Market, which as I may have already said is a fruit and salad stand much like those seen at those big Florida theme parks. This I have tried, and it seems to be a big hit. Upgrading to the Bavarian Pretzel, and be assured they have put a Bavarian pretzel stand anywhere they could fit a display case, is another example, as is going to another trendy item, the “Fresh never frozen” hamburger, which along with ‘gourmet’ toppings has taken over at the parks three major hamburger stands (Stunt Crew Grill, Festhaus, and Juke Box Diner) . Is it just me or has the hamburger even replaced the hot dog as the typical park meal, let alone Bratwurst and Mettwurst, which seem to sell exceedingly well at every major venue in Cincinnati except Kings Island, which is not too shocking given the towns big German heritage. Part of that is the availability of brats, we ran into a park food services director last week, and he told us they would be available at Soak City, but as of now not available in the ride park. Just this week, the park installed a Freestyle Coke machine in the Burrito Shack, and that’s only a small part of what the park has done with soft drinks. Dave mentioned to me that the park made an announcement regarding rolling back the pricing on soft drinks. Which is true, the 20 ounce bottles in the machines and shops went from $4 opening weekend to $3.50 this weekend. Not quite as low as I’d like, but it’s a step in the right direction. Looking at fountain drinks, it looks like the price on a regular may have gone down about 20-30 cents. But Dave pointed out the myriad of options available with the souvenir container program. I can’t really call it a cup, as its more of a beverage vessel, with a 44 ounce capacity, and shaped more like a thermos or giant bottle. It seems you can pay $9.99 to buy one of these, and it comes with a fountain drink. Okay, not a great deal, but you can have these refilled for $1.99, which is a great deal. Better yet, for an extra $5 on the day of purchase only, you can have unlimited refills. Now, this just may bring drinking soft drinks in the park down to a reasonable level. Take your typical family of four. One round of drinks would cost the family $14 (bottles or regular size fountain drinks), for just one dollar more, the family can buy the souvenir jug for $9.99, put a $5 refill program on it, and for $15 that family can have all the soft drinks they can stand. They only need to figure out a way to get cups into the park. OR, just get the free water cups. Sure they are small, but with 4 people involved that 44oz jug comes out to 11 oz a person, perhaps two of those tiny medicine cups full of coke each. At any rate, it caps the families expense on soft drinks to a set limit, and the get to take a souvenir home with them, all for $15. Of course, I’d still rather have the $10 wirstband drink program they offered a couple seasons ago, as then you don’t have to tote around the big jug, which is nice when you are alone, or with just one other person, both of whom are riding. We headed up to International Street, and noticed the name of the show in the Kings Island Theater, something about magic and mayhem, and we noted that sounds more like something for haunt. Speaking of Haunt our next stop was Boo Blasters, but not before noticing the park took out the big planters in the middle of International Street outside of LaRosas and Skyline which really opens up those two areas for more seating. Boo Blasters had a Gold Pass Speed Lane entry so that is used for Fast Lane and runs alongside the main line, except again, for skipping the switchbacks, and merges right before the final turn of the queue. The ride had a full queue house and the line was just past the drawbridge, the sign was posting 30 minutes, but then it should be a Scare Conditioned line. The ride safety sign claims the cars can seat 5, say what? At any rate they only have three Boo Blasters per car. The good news is most of the stunts are working, well except for the simple looking one where the skeleton is chasing the guy in circles, and the mist screen projection. The mist screen was there, just not the projection. The cars seemed to be moving slower than usual, which caused some timing issues in the skeleton rooms at the end, but did allow us to get higher than average scores. Our car didn’t have any audio from the Boo Blasters, but on the other hand they were more accurate and functionally were better than average. As Shaggy would have said, “Try to hit the targets Dead On!” From Boo Blasters we went to Woodstock Express, another coaster which did not get Fast Lane. The Express must come from the tire launch out of the station. The queue for this classic PTC junior coaster was about 2/3 full, and for reasons I won’t get into seemed to be taking longer than it should have. Still, the park seemed to have done some trackwork on its wood coasters this off season, and Woodstock Express is running great, so great, that perhaps they could consider getting rid of the mid course trim brake, which is not installed on 3 identical coasters the chain operates. From Woodstock Express, we headed to Surf Dog. Surf Dog got a new Fast Lane path that cuts right through the infield between the main queue and the loading area, via a new stairway. You may recall the ride had two loading gates, of which it only used 1 the last couple seasons. Now Fast lane goes to one gate, and the main line to the other. All told, up to now Fast Lane really hasn’t been an issue. We saw 3 or 4 families come up for Fast Lane during our wait for this ride, and maybe 1 or 2 families for Boo Blasters. We were particularly lucky that there was no one for Fast Lane when it was out turn as we were destined to the first people loaded on a cycle, which meant we got end seats in Row 1, an outer row, which means we got the best Surf Dog has to offer. When you sit here it’s a great ride, the center of rows 3 or 4, not so much. From Surf Dog, we noted the water maze was closed, and more or less skipped the area with Flying Ace, Race for your Life Charlie Brown, and the Kite Flyer, and headed back to Diamondback, Ugh, still a full queue. We’ll try again later. We did not that as part of the new food program, the Snake Pit seemed to be doing a good job at selling its new Philly Cheese Steak sandwiches. I just wonder if that stand will be too small to meet the demand. We were approached the train just as it was arriving, so we took a no wait ride on the train. We had a much better narrator this week, and I noted some work has been done on the western town scene. It’s minor work, but at least they are doing something with it. One of the new businesses in town is the mortuary “You Stab Em, We Slab Em” I did a double take when I actually saw that on the sign for the mortuary. From the train, we noted the former site of the Crypt, and that a photo booth has been placed blocking the path up to the ride. We headed towards Beast but it was sporting at least an hour wait and a full looking queue. I noted the portable merchandise cart sitting outside the ride was offering Fast Lane wristbands for sale.. We did take a walk through the arcade, and at first I commented “The prices on the games really look reasonable” Then, I noticed the price of game tokens has gone up to 50 cents. In Rivertown, Fast Lane is using the former single rider line for Diamondback, I would presume Race for Your Life is using the former Gold Pass entrance, Beast is curious as they redid the queue after discontinuing Gold Pass Speed Lane. So Beast is a real weird one, you go about halfway up the exit ramp, to just before the three wooden ramps up to the unload deck, then the signs direct you through what was a service gate, where you walk along what was a service path, which ultimately leads you to a staircase and you enter the platform through a gate by the back seat lane. Similar to what they had done at a few ERT events to shorted the walk around. Backlot still had a sizeable line, so we started lap two. I noted Three Point Challenge has been visited by Mr. Dowdell but he has only managed 13 points so far this year, then again it is only the fourth day of the season, give him time to warm up. Running alongside the back wall of the game is a hall of fame of sorts listing all his perfect games. Yeah, that’s sort of cool, to have the game do your bragging for you. As we enter Coney to finish up the Fast Lane entrance remarks, Backlot Stunt Coaster is using the former Gold Pass Speed Lane, Shake Rattle & Roll is using the ride exit, Windseeker has a new entry gate so they cut/merge into the gueue right at the seat assigner, and Vortex has a new bridge over the track at the downtrack end of the station. You enter by the exit, cross over the track, and then down into the station where you walk along the station perimeter to the middle of the back of the station, and then merge in. Vortex had a line like last week, so we got in line and waited. Last week Vortex was going out with empty seats as the station congestion caused by everybody trying to enter through one lane meant people couldn’t get through to the end seats This week they are trying to fix that problem by assigning seats. Of course, they still can’t assign the seats fast enough, so trains are still going out with empty seats. Even worse, for those with long legs this means a 50% chance of a seat that at best will be uncomfortable, and at worst you can’t ride in. Great. We are usually back car riders, but the fickle seat assigner sent us towards the front. Wow, it’s a lot smoother and more pleasant in the back. From Vortex we headed to catch the 3D Dinosaurs Alive movie. You could see the remnants of the ticket takers work station, and we had a one show wait. Inside the theater, the motion bases have been removed, and you can tell where the floor has been patched up, and along the back of each row, it looks like they fashioned some benches out of carpeting over a wood box type structure. It looks like a real cheap redo, but hey they could have just used folding chairs like Ghost Town in the Sky did. At the conclusion of the movie, we compared notes and commented that its most redeeming quality is 10 minutes in a cold, dark theatre. Nap Time, if only the movie were about 5-10 minutes longer. They were nice enough to put a loud sound effect at the end of the movie to wake you up. We made our way through the much thinner exit path now that haunt has claimed half the building. We checked in on the Goblet Toss game, you know the one, throw the wiffle ball at a table covered with goblets, get the ball to stop in the correct color goblet, win a prize. Yeah, it’s mostly a game of chance. This year they have gone all Angry Birds with it, even having Angry Birds banners, which is srtange as down the midway they have a slingshot game that all but screams Angry Birds and they are going out of their way to not make the association, They have made Goblet Toss harder by putting in a rule that the particular Angry Bird you get is based on the color of the goblet. Want the full set, you need to cover all the different colors. And no prize trading either. We checked in on X-Base, still way to long of lines here, for Firehawk the Fast Lane is also the ADA access path, and for Flight of Fear, you also pretty much use the ADA entry, at least to totally shunt the waiting area, and you get placed in line right at the seat queues. Dodgem uses the new exit they put in just last year, returning the exit to its rightful spot, Scrambler has a new gate in back of the ride, and Monster has a new gate next to the exit nearest the arcade. Racer has a new path that runs between the ride and the queue house and sends people up the former Red Racer entry. Racer actually benefits from this in that they removed part of the fence down the center of the station, so now when you get to the top of the ramp it is much less congested, and you can choose a seat on either side. Racer and Vortex in particular could both stand for a queue area redesign if they decide to make Fast Lane permanent, as both have lost as much as half of their queue area. We took a walk past Carousel, and noted they are still using recorded band organ music, instead of using the live band organ, and went to see the park from atop the Eiffel Tower. Well, we got into a conversation with a worker up top and spent way more time than we had planned on, but it was a nice time, so I’m not complaining. I did notice that on Backlot Stunt Coaster the white train was consistently much slower looking than the other two. From Tower, we noted we had about an hour left, so we headed to Diamondback, and indded the line had died down to the point where it was only using two or three switchbacks in the covered queue house, as well as both switchbacks in the second queue area. Still we waited about 30-40 minutes and were rewarded with a firm seat assignment in the worst seats on the train, dead center. “We’ve been Bucked!” And just last week, I was praising them for getting rid of the seat assigner on this ride. After that ride, Dave and Split up, he took another Diamondback ride, and I headed to Beast. By this time Beast was down to 15 minutes and the line was completely inside the top queue house. To my chagrin they were also assigning seats here, but hey at least fate shined on me, and I was the first out for my particular train, so back row for me. Beast received its lift approach flag back (it was missing opening weekend), and out on the course a lot of track work was evident between the second trim brake and the former brake shed (still a brake in there, of course), as well as the ground hugging part between the U-Tunnel and lift 2. Like Racer and Woodstock, the ride is running as best it has in a while, that said the ride still isn’t too exciting. I made my way back to Diamondback, where I think Dave was on almost the last train of the night, as I saw him in that same miserable center seat when the train pulled into the station. On our way out of the park, we decided to try another one of their food improvements, the new funnel cake recipe. We each had the a funnel cake with strawberry topping (which they said is now made in house from real strawberries), whipped cream and powdered sugar. Very good actually, and I see funnel cakes have not lost any of their luster as being end of the night park snacks. From the funnel cake stand, we headed up International Street, I noted the new overly complicated looking electronic lockers, and we headed out the gate and to Red Robin for burgers before heading home. All told, we were at the park for about 7 hours, and managed to partake in 11 attractions. I guess that’s better than last Sautrday where despite the bad weather and smaller lines, we needed 9 hours to accomplish that much.

Tuesday, May 01, 2012

TR: Kings Island - 4/28/12

Trip Report: Kings Island April 28, 2012 Mason, OH "We had a beautiful March, which explains why Opening Day was so bad" Here in Southern Ohio, we were just patting ourselves on the back for cheating Old Man Winter and getting to April without laying one layer of ice melt, or shoveling one swath of snow. Now, in the last weekend of April its cold and rainy. Just perfest for Opening Day of Kings Island. Sure, Sunday may have been better, but the park was closed for a private party on Sunday. That was the reason that we would go to the park, voluntarily, on a Saturday. I mean we went last opening day when it was a perfect day, and opening day was extremely crowded and not that pleasant. With that we waited out some bad storms, and Dave Althoff reported driving down through sleet to get to the park. With the late start, we got to the park around 2:30, but on the bright side, it would be nice and dry the rest of the night. We pulled into the lot and used our season pass to park rather than pay the obnoxious $12 parking fee, and soon discovered the Gold Pass lot has been eliminated, although "Premium Parking" remains. We managed to find a spot in row 2, almost all the way out by the main road, but 2nd row none the less. Both of us had used instant renewal, so we walked right past the season pass processing center and all the way to the turnstile. Wait, what happened to security? Ah, the entire security checkpoint has been removed. So, we dodged the photo ambush and headed right for Diamondback. Well, Diamondback had a full queue, so we walked past it for now, and noticed the Rivertown Junction Dining Hall (buffett) was closed, and hey you don't see that everyday. A bobcat, as in the construction equipment, was sitting in front of the buffet counter. Walking further around the park revealed the lines for Beast and Backlot Stunt Coaster were long, and observation noted Diamondback was only running two trains. We headed on around the park looking for a quick ride, and found one at Vortex. The line for Vortex was just to the end of the queue railing, so thats 20-30 minutes tops, probably a bit less. The big news at Vortex is the new Fast Lane entrance, Fast Lane was an experiment last year at Kings Island to sell an upcharge "Express" program that allows you to skip all queues at participating rides. This year, Cedar Fair is rolling the program out chain wide. To get Fast Lane riders to Vortex, they have built a bridge over the lift approach, so you enter next to the ride exit, climb up over the track, then back down into the queue house, then you walk around the perimeter of the queue house until you get to the center, then you merge in right before the station gates. The upshot of this is the former split between front of the train and back of the train is gone, becuase the standby line enters through the former "back of the train" lane, and Fast Lane through the front of the lane side. Vortex was running pretty good, maybe a bit faster in the second half than in prior years, but it was pretty much the typical Vortex ride. The belt was a bit snugger fitting, but then I am wearing three layers. We hang around the ride exit, and meet up with Sam. We look over at Windseeker, but it is obviously not ready as there were toolchests sitting in the ride center. We walked down Coney Mall, and ducked into X-Base and noted the two X-Base rides had their usual long line, that the park has switched to Bavarian pretzels throughout the park, and they lockers are now electronic. We continued our tour of the park, and took a look at the new Outer Hanks Burrito Shack, we didn't order one, but they looked pretty good, and may even be a good value. Also, in the area the Coca Cola zone, is now the Coca Cola market, which is a fruit stand (yeah, like those Florida parks do) Fresh fruit, veggies, salads, healtier beverage selections. I'm usre it will do great in the summer, as it was doing pretty good right now with people buying watermelon cups. I had a watermelon cup, maybe a bit pricey at $3.50, but it was refreshing. We next headed for Adventure Express which was another short line, I mean the queue area was mostly full, but on Adventure Expres, that's not bad. In this case Fast Lane enters by the exit, but then cuts over to the entrance side and runs parallel to the entrrance all the way up and into the station. Again the merge is right before the seat lanes. Adventure Express was also running about on par but the audio loop was playing in the final lift hill tunnel, which is a nice touch. After Adventure Express, we watched Sam take on the Extrmee Skyflyer using a $5 ticket he bought earlier in the day when the weather was worse. Flight Deck had closed down right before we got there, but was reopened by the time Sam finsihed his flight. Flight Deck is one of the few rides that escaped the Fast Lane treatment, not that it needed it as the ride was a walk on. The landing strip themeing they applied to the brake run a year or two back has been applied to the station. Flight Deck was, of course, its usual self. We started heading back towards civilization, and noted the haunt was still setup in Son of Beasts station, and made a stop by the Ice Scream Zone, to try that new Bavarian pretzel. Said pretzel may have been really good it wasn't served not just cool, but it felt like it wasn't long out of the refrigerator. That was $4 down the drain on that deal. We checked out Festhaus, new show and a new Yuengling bar, but not much change really. Up by Tower a Minute Maid Smoothie bar has gone in next to Starbucks. We headed to Diamondback, and met up with April. This time the line was only through the second queue maze, and it looked like all three trains were back on. In this case Fast Lane replaced the former single rider program, and the big benefit to that is they are not assigning seats. Which meant it was straight to the back seat for us. Diamindback was everything I hoped it would be after 6 months with no coasters. Good strong airtime on several hills, a nice smooth ride. Yes, this is still the best ride in the entire park. From Diamondback, we went and took a lap around on the train ride and got a glimpse into Soak City. Looks like several slides got a colorful touch up. Once back in the main park, we walked to Beast, but still throught the line was a bit long. We played a few games of Bowler Roller, and I got 2 prizes, which I traded in for a medium size prize. From there we took a spin on Backlot Stunt Coaster. Here the former Gold Pass Speed Lane entrance was an easy conversion to Fast Lane. Now the line is being held back at the merge point and they were assigning seats. We got some lousy seat assignments and too a spin. A year or so ago, most of the decoration was stripped from the trains, today the lights on the police cars weren't working, but a bunch of new LED lights were added tot he show scenee. And the flame effect still works, so its got that going for it. With that we continued on around through Coney pausing to look at Juxe Box Diner, before April got some coneys from Lunch Basket, and the stand at the top of Coney tried to sell Sam some COLD fresh cut fries. I'm noticing a trend with food being served that isn't quite ready to be served. After the snack break, Sam and I went to ride Firehawk. Here Fastlane goes through the ADA queue bypass, but it was only a 30 minute wait, so we waited it out. I'm glad we did as I had one of the better rides I have had on Firehawk. From Firehawk we took a look through the arcade and then met back with Dave and April at Racer. Here Fast Lane has a new entrance setup that runs along the perimater of the queue house, then goes up the former Backwards (or RED Racer) lane, and now the standby line all uses the Forwards or BLUE racer side. Not to matter, becuase once into the station, the center fence is GONE. You walk into a much less congested station and can select a seat on either side. What's more Racer is running better than it has in years. I think I even sensed a reasonable amount of airtime. We then ducked through Snoopy's Starlight Spectacular, which had so many lights and speakers out, we proclaimed it to be in sad shape. We then went back to Diamoindback to finish the night with three more rides on Diamondback, all in the back seat. At night the line never got past going under the lift approach, so yes almost a walk on. A great end to the night. We then proceeded to wait nearly an hour for Sam and April to get their Beast ride. All in all it was a better than average opening day, yes the park still has the usual "opening day gitters" but it seems like the start of a great season. WE then went to Red Robin for burgers, beers, and steak fries.

Saturday, February 25, 2012

TR: Florida Trip Day 2

Trip report: Florida
October 22-29, 2011

Day 2 - Sunday, October 23.

So after various amounts of sleep, we awake in the morning, get dressed, and head to the free hotel breakfast. Ok, the free hotel breakfast consists of a continental breakfast of bagels, and what we termed the "Little Debbie Buffet" Just about every kind of Little Debbie snack cake or muffin. Coffee, and juices were available, but much to my amazement, orange was not one of the juices on offer. Oh, and no tables either, you grab what you like and take it back to the room.

Today, we decide to go to Hard Rock Tampa. Hard Rock, in this case, is a Seminole indian casino. It also meant having to drive all the way back to Tampa. (Sure the beach front room is nice, if not exactly practical). The casino is basically across the highway from the state fairgrounds. Of course, the state fair is not in session. It's a modern high rise hotel located directly off Exit 6 of I-4.

We had no problems getting to the casino, had a bit more trouble navigating the confusing parking garage and headed into the casino. You enter from level three of the garage, where you can look down at the Seminole's other money maker: the Smoke Shop, selling tobacco products without the pesky sin taxes, as is their right as a sovereign Indian nation. Once inside a small lobby greats you with Hard Rock dislays before you ride an escalator down to the gaming floor. A native indian craft/gift store is tucked behind the escalator.

It's a casino, albeit one with a modern look inside. We headed right to the players club to get cards, and to redeem these coupons for $20 for new players. Gettig signed up is pretty simple, and after signing some papers, they hand us what appear to be $20 slot payout tickets. The catch is that you have to have your card in the machine for the voucher to work, and once inserted you must play through the entire $20 on that machine. No cash outs until you play the $20 through. Hopefully you nab some winnings from those $20 in free credits, but not likely.

Out on the gaming floor, penny machines are hard to find, with two cent machines far more common, along with nickles on up. Most quarter games take up to 5 quarters per spin, and you can't really sniff a seat at a table game for under $25 a hand. Wanda found a nickel Advance to Boardwalk Monopoly machine where all the bonus rounds are like carnival games, and a wooden rollercoaster animation plays during the free spins. I so much wanted to like that machine and I did win about $100 on it, so that isn't bad.

For the most part though, we didn't care much for the casino. I did find it odd that I was able to order a Yuengling Lager in the casino. I thought "No Firewater!" was the rule at Indian reservations. No free alcohol, for those keeping score.

So we all played for a few hours, and then we decided to do their Sunday Brunch up in the buffet. Timing was on our side as we arrived to the buffet right ahead of the crowd. The way they run their buffet is interesting, they hand you a credit card size plastic card on you way in, and you pay your server at the end of the meal. At this buffet they have several different "buffets" inside one larger buffet. You have your Oriental dim sum station, your raw bar, your steak bar, salad, bar, italian bar, and the traditional bar. For brunch there would be breakfast items mixed in. The reason for the plastic card? Not all items are included in the $15 buffet fee ($20 if not a slot club member) and are priced ala carte. They also handle beer the same way. We decided to restrict ourselves to the items that were included in the base fee, and had more than enough. First stop, the omlette made to order station, then some breakfast (bacon/cheese grits!), from there I experimented in the dim sum area, as well as the pasta bar. Desserts were wonderful, and as I mentioned we all ate very well.

After eating we went back to the casino, but didn't stay too long before heading out. We headed back to the hotel, where I checked out the price of the mini golf place across the street, and we rested up before taking another walk. For the readers benefit, I'm not going to detail the walks, pool, hot tub, or beach usage, for the most part, just consider that as read when I say we spent time at the hotel

We watched Amazing Race on the TV, then ran up to McDonald's for some Mango smoothies, then decided to go to bed early as we were planning on going to Universal Studios in the morning. The park opens at 9am, and GPS tells me I want to be on the road by 7AM.

Good Night!

TR: Florida Trip 2011 - Day 1

Trip Report: Florida Vacation, 2011!
October 22-29, 2011

Introduction

This year, my Uncle Rick and his wife, Aunt Wanda decided to take a trip to Flordia, and they invited Mom and I along. TO make the deal even sweeter, I convinced them to go to Islands of Adventure to see the new Harry Potter land. Oh, and my skills as travel agent are always appreciated. So, I sourced and secured airfare, hotel, rental car, theme park tickets, and with that we were on our way.

Day 1: Saturday, October 22.

"Getting there is half the fun!"

In the interest of saving $100 per person on airfare, we decided not to fly out of the Cincinnati airport, and make the hour long (if that) trek up to Dayton. We had not used the Dayton airort before, but the pessimistic Maps program on the iPhone suggested to leave 90 minutes for travel. Once I combine that with the way too pessimistic TSA guideline of arriving 2 hours before your flight, and then I factor in an over excited Rick, and we were on the road for our 10:30 flight at about 6:30. I kid you not. I think Google was pessimistic because I charted my course in advance, during rush hour.

So, as I said he picked us up around 6:30, we loaded the car, secured the house and set off for that thriving metropolis known as Dayton. Nothing too eventful on the way up, and I note the Dayton airport is signed pretty well. A quiick jaunt up I-75, then an exit on I-70 and then onto the airport access road. They make getting to the airport easy, figurig out where to park, that's a horse of a different color.

When researching parking I ruled out off site parking, as most of it appeared to be little more than hotels renting out unused spaces in their parking lots, and then you ride the hotel shuttle to the airport. I did find one competetive off site lot, but they advised they close at midnight. With a late night flight home, we may have made that deadline, but to save a mere $7 vs. the risk, not worth it.

So, it's official on site parking for me, and as I noted that's a horse of a different color, literally, as they have a myriad of color coded parking offerings, each with completely different price structures. Going from most expensive down, you have valet parking at the terminal ($20/day), then the short term parking garage acorss the street from the terminal ($15/day), then the BLUE long term parking lot, which is located directly behind the terminal, and you access the terminal by walking through the short term garage ($12/day), then the PINK long term parking, its in the remote lot, obstensibly still within walking distance ($14/day), the the RED long term lot ($12/day), the the GREEN Economy Lot ($6/day). Now the only difference between the RED and GREEN lots is a jersey barrier setup down the middle of the lot, and GREEN parking get the furthest spaces from the terminal. OK, that seems fair, but they do offer a bus to the terminal.

So, we decide to take the cheap $6 parking space, and do wind up almost at the far reaches of the lot, in the Clark Griswold parking space. But, what's this? A bus has pulled up behind us, and an attendant is out and helping us load baggage onto the bus, then he takes us directly to the terminal building, non stop. And this is the economy $6 parking? I can't imagine the higher price lots offering anything better than this. Note: Since our trip, like less than a week after our trip, the RED and GREEN long term lots were combined into one large RED lot, but at the $6 GREEN rate structure. It makes me wonder what is so great about the first few rows in the PINK section to make them worth $14.

So, we get dropped off at the terminal building. There isn't much to see, and it's a straight forward affair. I note use of the human behaviors design in the layout that I meantion every so often. When you enter the terminal, check in is on the right, then the TSA checkpoint is in the center. This means when you are arriving, the baggage claim is to the right of the TSA exit.

I go up to a bank of Delta kiosks, scan the barcode on the boarding pass I had printed the night before, and tell Delta about our bags. From there it is up to the counter to actually check the bags in, where the attendant checks ID, boarding passes, weighs, tags, and checks in bags and sends us to TSA. I'm starting to question what the big deal is with web check in if you aready have an assigned seat, and are checking bags.

We note the one set of public restrooms on the land side of the terminal are literally at the TSA checkpoint, you have to walk up near the exit to TSA (where arriving passengers leave the sterile zone), and for men you almost walk right up to the "do not cross" line. We had reserved a wheelchair for Mom as she doesn't do long walks well, and one benefit of that is you get to short circuit the queue for TSA, oh wait, there is no queue for TSA right now. In fact, we get up to the podium where they check IDs and boarding passes, and they open up a whole new line for us. So now its laptop out of bag, shoes off, coat off, belt off, and all the other things you have to do. Preparing for security is a much longer process than actually going through it, particularly when you merely go through the standard metal detector, and not the puffer or body scan machines, So, it;s like 8:15, for our 10:30 flight and we are already airside. Let's see there are a couple food places in center court, but lets go down closer to our gate.

Again, it's an easy layout, with two halls extending from the central terminal leading to a concourse at either end of the terminal. At the end of the hall, it;s up oe floor, and our gate is right at the top of the escalator. We get settled in, and start looking for breakfast. There is a bar, and a Quiznos. I guess it's breakfast subs, The 4" Steak and Egg, not bad at all. Across the hall is the gift shop. I noted no UD items, even in Dayton, They did have plenty of Ohio State items, and the usual assortment of overpriced souvenirs, candy, etc. What wasn't overpriced was the special 65 cent issue of a certain men's magazine.

So we settled in next to our gate, and we waited, and waited. There were restrooms near the gate, which was nice, even if they were small, and the person who designed the non handicap stall in the men's room (I told you it was small), has obviously never had to use it. You have to literally wedge your leg in between the toilet and the toilet paper dispenser, and then they put a hyper sensitive auto flush on it where if you move a muscle the thing flushes.

Anyway, at around 10:00 they give us the bad news that our flight won't be leaving till nearly 11:00. They had to reseat a bunch of people as the aircraft they were sending was a different type than originally intended, but that didn't effect us. We did take advantage of pre boarding, and were soon settled in for the first leg of the trip: Dayton to Atlanta. The first flight was dull and uneventful, and on one of Delta's MD's which offers no in flight entertainment, well they did outfit it for WiFi, which is nice, And you do get your half a can of soft drink, and a pack of peanuts. But, uneventful none the less.

Atlanta is one of the nations busiest airports, and a big Delta hub. I was glad a wheelchair attendant was there to meet our plane, as one benefit of that is they can guide us through the mayhem that is Atlanta airport. Oh it seems simple enough, several lettered concourses laid out side by side in a row, and a subway train to connect between them. We, of course would arrive nearly at the end of a concourse (always), have to go to the center of B, wait for and go down an elevator, get on the tain, ride to A, wait for another elevator, and then make our way to, you guessed it, almost the end of concourse A. We overheard a conversation that there was a line of 27 wheelchairs waiting for the elevator down from A to the subway, that and I was surrpsied to see the elevator doors open on one floor that was clearly a service floor. (Don't get off here, or they will put you to work)

While waiting for our next flight, I did go to Burger King to get a soft drink. As much as for the drink as to try out a Coca Cola Freestyle Machine. Freestyle is a Coca Cola fountian beverage machine that claims to offer up to 125 different drinks from one compact machine. Well Burger King had three of these, and only one was working, so I don't know about reliability. You first get your ice by pushing your cup against a lever in the usual way, then you touch the touch screen to start, then touch a base drink (Coke, Diet Coke, Sprite, Root Beer, Orange, Water, Lemonade, etc) then based on the base drink you chose, you can then select additional flavor syrups to be added to your drink. I'll have a Cherry Vanilla Diet Coke please. Then you hold your cup under the nozzle and touch the big button that appears on the screen to get your drink.

So, we enjoyed some soft drinks, then boarded the flight to Tampa. For whatever reason, this flight, while about the same length as the first flight, seemed a lot shorter and I think the reason for that was the in flgiht trivia game offered on the in seat entertainment system. I mean the flight seemed to be over in a matter fo a few minutes.

Here in Tampa we were met by another host, and taken from the airside terminal, via the monorail to the main terminal, then down the elevator to baggage claim. From there we claimed our bags, made a comfort stop, and stepped out the doors to the ground transportation area. Now, when I rented a car from EZ Rent a Car, they asked for my flight number. In mere minutes after stepping outside, a courtesy van arrived to take us to their off site rental facility.

EZ Rent a Car is one of those value rent a car companies, not a name brand, but about half the cost. The car they rented us was a very new Nissan Quest (a van, but great for vacationing in style), they didn't try to hard sell the insurance or anything like that, nice all around people. "You can buy the pre pay gas option, OR you can just stop at that 7-11 right across the street and top off before dropping it off."

So, air travel and rental car were success stories, now to find the hotel in Clearwater Beach. The rental car people gave us great directions out to the causeway. First its the long causeway to Clearwater, then drive through town, then the other long causeway out to the beach. It's a resort town, and soon to the chagrin of my GPS system, we are driving alongside the gulf road to our hotel.

For the hotel, the main priority was the price, and for that we checked into the Eccono Lodge on the Beach for $75/night. The parking lot is small and cramped, but check in was a breeze, and I soon had room keys for two rooms. The keys looked like some kind of thumb drive or memory card with a printed circuit board style connector that went into the lock, weird. Keys and a parking pass, time to move in.

Looking at reviews of this hotel, you'd be running away, very fast. And like most things, it's not as bad as the reviews say, not that its great either. It's a buget hotel.

Let's look at the positives - the rooms are a bit larger than your standard room, and they come complete with an efficency kitchen. So you get a cooktop, kitchen sink, microwave, toaster, coffee maker, dishes, silverware an other kitchen implements. So that's nice. Hairdryer in the bathroom. Safe and iron/board in the closet, and working free WiFi. Sure, it's nothing fancy, but it certainly is serviceable, a the room also has a sliding glass door and balcony with patio furniture. In terms of recreation there is a pool and a hot tub on the back patio, an it shares a "private beach" with two neighboring hotels. So that's nice, and the private beach has a parasail info booth, though my Mom was all "Don't even think about it".

We landed in what are possible the two worst rooms in the hotel, if you read the reviews. Such is the life of those looking to save money. The hotel doesn't have that large a footprint, maybe 5 floors, with 14 rooms to a floor. The first floor is largely taken up by the office, guest laundry, and public restrooms. We were on the first floor in rooms 151 and 152 I believe. The crazy numbering leads me to believe this may have been part of a larger complex at one point. Those would be the rooms right next to the Trifecta of the elevator, the one ice machine for the entire hotel (no coolers please, and placed where the desk clerk can keep an eye on it), and the restrooms. Just one door down is the end of the hall with the door to the pool and beach. Did i mention all these doors are on very strong springs, and slam quite effectively.

So we got settled in, and then went driving down the beach towards Treasure Island. One thing is for sure, the area has gone upscale. A lot of the mom and pop places, including the place we stayed 11 yeas ago, have been leveled, and most replaced with condos. In fact with the exception of a few areas, the condos have been built in such a manner that it is actually hard to see the gulf while driving. So we drove around a lot, getting the lay of the land, buying some basic supplies, and eventually wound up at a Golden Corral for dinner (Hey, it's late, we hadn't eaten since early morning) Said Golden Corral was very crowded with some of the rudest people you can imagine. Push you out of the way rude. Not a nice experience at all.

From the restaurant, we returned to the hotel, got settled in, and took the first of many walks down the street to check out the myriad off tacky 'surf shops' which all sell the usual assortment of tacky souvenir products.

From there, we decided to go back and rest up in anticipation of Day 2. Well Mom and I rested well. We were on the Quality Inn side of the hotel, Rick and Wanda were on the Shepherd's side of the property and apparently they get to "enjoy" late night musical entertainment. "It can't be as bad as all that, well, yes it can"

Sunday, January 08, 2012

Oktoberfest in Cincinnati - 2011 Edition

As many are aware, I am really into Oktoberfest. Living in Cincinnati, it's quite easy to do, the city has a strong German heritage tradition, and in general I like all the things that go into an Oktoberfest: German Food, Beer, Music/Entertainment and the like. This all culminated for me last fall when I was afforded the opportunity to take that once in a lifetime trip to THE Original Oktoberfest in Munich. (I know, some of you must be getting tired of the fact I pull that out every chance I get)

While Oktoberfest is a 2-3 week fair in Germany,in mid to late September, somehow in Cincinnati we have managed to make it run from late August to early October. Sure, the festival moves every weekend, but you can get your Oktoberfest on somewhere. This is accomplished in part by having several German heritage societies that hold their own Oktoberfest (and are smart enough to not overlap each other), as well as the major communities having their own fests. There are even events in Cincinnati this time of year that bear no resemblance to a German heritage/beer festival, but use the name.

This year - I managed to try out three such events. I'd been to two of them in the past, but decided to try out a new one (for me).

Germania Society Oktoberfest

This is the one that was new to me. I'd heard great things about it, so why not give them a try. This one is just north of the I-275 loop On Kemper Road near Hamilton Avs. in Germania Park. In other words, close enough to be considered Cincinnati, but just far enough out that public transit is not an option.

Germania Park is a picnic grove and also the grounds of the Germania Society. We arrived Sunday right around 3pm and got to the main parking lot just in time to see the FULL sign go up in our face. Parking is free in the official lot if you are lucky enough to get in, not even a handicap palcard could talk our way into the lot. It is hard to turn around, because people park along both sides of the street for at least a mile in each direction. They do set up a rope and stanchion "walking lane" to try to make this easier, and there are, as you might expect, unofficial lots that will let you park there, for a price. Even those were filling up.

We followed the directions given to us by the parking attendant to go to the Pleasant Run school on Hamilton Ave, and from there we caught a free shuttle. Hey, this isn't bad at all. We parked, a shuttle may have arrived about 10-15 minutes later, and we were off to Germania Park where they bus let us off right by the festival entrance. This may have worked out better than if they had let us in the big lot, and we had to park clear in the back.

There is a nominal general admission charge of around $3 to enter Germania Park, and once inside you can either head straight towards the festival grounds (they even name it the Wies'n, in honor of the popular shorthand name for the name of the festival grounds in Munich) or you can head to the Germania Klub Haus for a traditional German dinner. We decided to go eat first, we were hungry and the dinners close before the Wies'n. Its a short walk to the right from the admission gate past their maypole, and flagpoles sporting the United States and German flags, then a left, and down the stairs. At the base of the stairs is a Biergarten with tables, band, bier, and some food (brats/metts) available.

We headed on into the building, inside they had several long banquet tables setup, and as you might expect the room is decorated with German inspired or imported decorations. Off to one side, by the dance floor was a bar with a full line of German biers on tap, next to the bar was the food service counter, and at the other end of the hall was the desert table. There was a long line for the desert table, but surprisingly I walked right up to the food service area.

So, after I got mom seated, I made two trips to the food service area. The traditional dinner included your choice of pork loin or sauerbraten, served over spaetzle, with green beans, red cabbage, and bread - all for $10. Not a bad price for a full meal at a festival, and especially not for a GOOD meal at a festival. The festival stresses that these meals are homecooked meals, not catered in, and the pride shows in the form of a great meal. (We each took a different entree choice so that we could mix/match and taste everything) After getting the food, I walked over to the bar, and I know, I should have just bought the stoneware stein now, and been done with it. But no, I bought the plastic souvenir stein with Spaten. I was delighted that when I ordered a soft drink for Mom, the bartender said to just take the soft drink on the house. So, to recap, great food, friendly bartender, nice musicians, a room full of friendly people, and I haven't even made my way to the actual festival yet. Gemutlichkiet for sure.

After dinner, I went through the desert line in the back of the room and picked up an Apple Strudel and a Cream Puff. The attendant admitted the desert table food is mostly furnished by Servati's which is good, as now I know where to get more cream puffs. It should be noted they had a full line of deserts, for about $3-$4 each.

After finishing dinner, we headed to the Wies'n. For that, we had to backtrack our steps to the front gate, then it was up the hill. Before going up the hill I was called over to the ID check booth to get my age verification wristband, which is pretty standard practice at festivals in Cincinnati. Then right across from the ID check booth is a Warstiener booth, which is convenient as I was in need of a refill. You then pass the Kid's Area before heading up a real steep hill to the grounds themselves.

So, after climbing the hill and letting mom catch her breath, we took a look around. To the left is a huge pavilion with rows and rows of tables, and authentic german entertainment playing on a stage in the center of the pavilion. Mom is more of the "find me a place to sit and watch the band" type person, so I found her a nice seat, and then I went off to explore the festival.

So again, starting from the festival entrance, right when you enter the main grounds on top of the hill there is an information booth for the sponsoring Germania Society
to your left, and the big merchandise tent to the right. Here you can buy stuff related to this event, to the Munich Oktoberfest, to German heritage items. It's a pretty extensive merchandise tent, and I found a lot of the same stuff I carefully hauled back from the Munich Oktoberfest for sale here.

Moving right along, the outer edges of the festival grounds are lined with all sorts of food booths, featuring all your German and Festival food favorites. You want the traditional Oktoberfest Roast Chicken, you can have that, various sausages, they have you covered, pastries not problem, potato cakes, sauerkraut balls, pretzels, Limburger Cheese, all there for the asking. Not that into German food, they have all your festival food favorites as well. In the center of the front half of the grounds they have the major award tent, (you can buy tickets on a Rhine River cruise, or cash equivilant), a bar with wine, schnaps, Jagermiester, etc).

In the very center of the grounds, they have the desert booth, an ATM, and the gambling part of the festival. Instant tickets, poker, blackjack and more are there for you to try your hand at, and help raise funds for Germania Society.

The back half of the main festival area is the rides midway, nothing all that interesting for adults, but for the children, it looks to be like quite a good midway. I say main area, as off to one side, you can leave the grassy area for the gravel area of a more secluded picnic grove. Ah yes, Spaten Dunkel, just what I need, thanks. The big point of interest here is they have an unusual skill game. A Stien Hold game. Essentially, they take a 1 liter (1 Mas) glass stein (If you have been to Hofbrauhaus in Newport, you know what I am talking about) fill it with water (no need to risk spilling good German beer, right, and this way the children could play) You stand in the booth, they hand you to full stein, and you not only have to hold it, you have to hold it with one hand (it has a handle) straight out in front of you, so your arm is perfectly horizontal). That's it. You hold that posture, just like a Survivor endurance contest for as long as you can. Don't worry the men's record when I looked was around 4 minutes, and 2 minutes for the women. Whoever has the record at the end of the festival wins a prize. The clock stops when you either drop the stein, any of the water spills, or you fail to hold the required posture to the satisfaction of the judges (I think you get one warning for this one) For the record, I did not try this game, but I did watch it. Those that seemed to last the longest brought along a game partner to stand just outside the booth, and so they could attempt to carry on a conversation. I'm guessing this is to try to take the contestants mind off of the challenge at hand.

So, I walked the grounds, I tried a currywurst, I had a pretzel, I ate my way through the fair, I lost at blackjack, I won $50 on the instant game. I saw some friends there, I sat with mom some and took in the entertainment in the pavilion.

But, I really wanted to stop at that Merchandise Tent. Which, I did on the way out. I had a couple areas of focus. Event t-shirt, of course. But, while I was in Munich, I bought the traditional hat, and the hat came with a small "hat brush" (supposedly goat hair, at least traditionally), a small feather, and no pins. (The decorations are removable so you can customize your hat) I knew I wanted to better decorate the hat, as I had neglected to get the pins while in Germany, and as this was the first German event I had gone to since the Germany trip, I was feeling some 'hat envy'. So I bought a selection of pins there, sticking to my rule of "you can't have the pin unless you have been to the place it represents", as well as a larger 'hat brush' (Probably a medium size when it comes down to it, as I have seen some that are quite large). I forget prices right now, but I can tell you that in general pins go for $5-$20 depending on the pin, and the feathers and brushes can run well more than that. Yes, it was an expensive trip to the merchandise tent. I can not say, with absolute certainty that the hat decorations are worth way more than the hat itself. Particularly the sentimental value for which each pin represents.

But, I was not done yet, I had gotten into a pretty good conversation with the booth worker, and showed them some of my Munich photos and all that, and I mentioned that I got the souvenir stein. He suggested I needed to get one of their Germania Oktoberfest Steins to add to it. Their steins are made by the same company, Rastal, that makes the official steins, and look very similar in style. He also told me, that if I took it down to the Biergarten, I could probably find the artist and get the stein autographed. So, I did, and he did.

After that, it was a matter of great timing, we walked to the festival gate right as a bus was pulling up. Can't ask for better service than that.

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Mainstrasse Oktoberest - Covington, KY.

This is a street festival that takes place in Covington. The area seems German enough with the name Mainstrasse, and it consists of a street that has a wide divider in the middle with grass and a walkway down the center. At one end of the street it ends at a clock tower, which has a Glockenspiel show, sort of like the famous clock in Marienplatz, just not nearly as fancy. This one does the story of the Pied Piper.

Since I go to these festivals almost every year, I won't give the full play by play. What you need to know is this particular festival is primarily a crafts festival. The center aisle of the 'park' in the middle of the street is lined with crafts vendors. Great, if you are into that sort of thing. Along the outer edges of the street are several food vendors, German and otherwise, and there are a couple beer booths on the festival grounds, selling beer, German and otherwise. So let's get our plastic souvenier stein, a Spaten and lets look around.

Of note, in what is usually the parking lot for this quaint European style business district there is a rides midway, and in the city park next to the clock tower there are more rides, as well as the main entertainment stage. I'd have to say this is the least German of the Oktoberfests I have been to in Cincinnati being primarily a crafts festival, but it does have one big redeeming feature. The Linden Knoll Gift Haus. It's open year round, but as you might expect they have a tent right outside their store with a "Greatest Hits" selection of merchandise, and if you don't see what you want, they will even valet park your beer while you go inside the store.

The Gift Haus is literally a house, and the ground floor is mostly open to the public. Here every square inch is filled with German and other European knick knacks, steins, dolls, souveniers and much more. It is the kind of place that if you don't know exactly where something is, its better to ask. They can show you in 2 minutes what would take you half an hour to find. I was again on the quest for more hat pins. Basket at the base of the hat rack in the third room, thanks. Bring the entire basket out to the counter with my selections, sure. Another great selection of pins here.

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And entry 3

Oktoberfest Zinzinnati

This is the big one for the area. Another street festival, it is on 5th Street in Cincinnati, all the way from Race to Broadway. We have been lucky to be able to park in the garage directly under fountain square, which means its just one short elevator ride up into the heart of the festival. Fountain Square (or Platz during the festival) is the center of the festival. Here you have the main stage for entertainment, as well as the main merchandise tent. Another pin, shirt and stein run, then I ran most of the stuff down to the car. I got mom settled with a brat, soft drink and a table to watch the stage, and then took a look around.

From west to east - in the parking lot at 5th and Race, they have some of the rides midway, and a big tent featuring St. Pauli Girl and some craft beers. Fifth street is lined with food booths (German and otherwise), beer booths (German and otherwise) , sponsor booths, merchandise tents, and more. What sets this Oktoberfest aside from the others is the use of actual beer tents. Now, don't think you will mistake this for Munich. We are talking small, plain beer tents, no fancy facades, no wooden tables, no waitress service. They do feature stages and bands, and a walk up beer booth. You want food, go get it and bring it back to the tent. As such it is easier to come and go from tent to tent if you like. If you manage to get here on Opening Day, go to Fountain Square for the opening ceremonies, which will end with a parade that visits each beer tent to officially open it. In general the beer tents are on the side streets, as well as in the big plazas in front of the Procter and Gamble, the Government Square bus station and Chemed buildings. More rides can be found down by the Chiquita building.

So I thought I would be slick and I bought the official 1 Mas stoneware stein with event logo. I took it over to the Spaten booth, and yes they filled it for the refill price. I then quickly learned why that Stein game at Germania park is so hard. Do you have any idea how heavy that gets? 32 ounce curls indeed. Sure it looks cool to walk through Oktoberfest with a German hat and carrying an authentic style stein with real German bier, but not so much on the practical side.

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Newport on the Levee - had an Oktoberfest event, but I could not make it due to other plans. Shame as they were also billing theirs as "most authentic" and "Munich Style" Since they have Hoffrauhaus nearby, surely they could get some good advice on how to be authentic. Maybe next year.

TR: WEBN Fireworks "Riverfest" - Sept 4, 2011

Trip Report: Riverfest
Cincinnati, OH
September 4, 2011

As you may note from my prior blog entry, Eric dropped me off at home early on this date en route to his home in Georgia. Having lost all common sense, I decided to do something I had managed to avoid for about 20 years, the Riverfest WEBN Fireworks. I'd always avoided them due to the huge crowd and traffic, but I thought, since I am taking a bus, what do I care of the traffic nonsense? It is true also, that this year Cincinnati had the wettest year on record, and it went and made sure the record was truly remarkable. All signs pointed towards staying home, but what fun is that?

So around 2pm or so, I caught a bus from Oakley to downtown. My first clue should have been when busses were dropping lots of people off downtown, and not many were catching bus out of town. No problem, I made my way on foot along my usual route (Government Square to Main, Main to 2nd, then walk around the outside of Great American Ball Park and US Bank Arena). At this point, I decided to go over to the Hoffbrauhaus for a brat and a bier. You see, Newport, Kentucky has the first Hoffbrauhaus outside of Germany, and most of the year they brew all the HB Biers o site under the watchful eye of a Bier Master sent from Munich. But, we are entering the Oktoberfest season, and for this, they actually import HB Oktoberfest from Munich.

This slight change in plan is no hassle really, I'll just cross the Central Bridge, cut through Newport on the Levee, then cross 3rd Street and walk a block or so to Hoffbrau. I got to the restaurant and sat at the bar as I drank a couple Mas of Hoffbrau Oktoberfest while having some German food (Bratwurst, Spaetzle, Sauerkraut, and a Cream Puff) The bier, very good, thanks for asking.

I calculated me departure from the restaurant to get me back over the river in time. You see, the bridges in the area all close about an hour or so before fireworks, and don't reopen until the area has been cleared. So, for somebody taking a bus, it is vital to end up on the correct side of the river.

I headed for the Purple People Bridge, but it had already been closed, so I ducked back through Newport on the Levee to find a chain link fence blocking my way, a fence that was not there just an hour or two ago. "No Access to Riverfest" Great, guys, thanks for taking part in the festival. It would appear the Levee was using their area as a VIP area. So, it was back out onto third street to walk the long way to the Central Bridge. So I got to the bridge, and was very happy to be accross the Central Bridge before it closed. I was then going to take the stairs down from the US Bank Arena plaza to the festival area, but those stairs were blocked off. Seems I have to walk to the end of the bridge and then around the outside of the arena at ground level to get to an official entrance.

This all seemed silly but I stopped at a couple booths, one to get the event t-shirt, and the other was to get a soft drink (Riverfest is a dry event) Then the waiting game starts, I have about 2 and a half to three hours to wait. By now most of the good spots have been claimed. Duct taping a tarp of blanket to the ground is enough to stake a claim. One thing about going to the festival alone, is you can slide into small spaces between tarps/blankets that groups could not. It is still 3 hours of sheer boredom. Why am I doing this again?

People start to get excited around 8p when the fireworks barge arrives, and from then about every 15 minutes they fire off a "get you ready" charge. Then around 8:30 (30-40 minutes before fireworks) the rains came in. And did they ever come, I never knew just how many people could jam tightly together underneath the Central Bridge if they really had to.

The rain subsided just before fireworks, and I made my way out and found a space not too much worse than the one I left. The downside of this was that there were not near as many boomboxes this year, so it was hard to hear the soundtrack (not that it mattered, as word has it they played last years audio track for the first half of the show) But, worse, the heavy rain generated a huge fog curtain when the fireworks started. Those of us on the Cincinnati side were lucky in that we got to see a fireworks show, maybe not as grand as we remember, but still a nice show, and Rozzi always saves some surprises to unveil at this event. Those people in Newport with their VIP seating saw, reportedly, next to nothing with the huge fog blanketing their side. So, long hours of boredom waiting, followed by a show that wasn't as great as I remember. Maybe it can be 10 more years before I try this again.

When the fireworks were over, I made my back into town, and I do have to give Metro some credit for having a crew of dispatchers summoning busses on demand to try to get the people out of town as quickly as possible. Mother Nature gave me a final blow by having the heavy rains pick back up as I was walking from bus stop to home.

Saturday, December 31, 2011

TR: Van Wert County Fair - September 3, 2011

Trip Report: Van Wert County Fair (And More!)
Van Wert, OH
September 3, 2011

So, to catch those up who forgot about the Cedar Point TR. Eric and I had just spent two days up at Cedar Point. Eric was in the area for his high school reunion, which was Saturrday night in Van Wert. So we got up from our Sandusky, Milan actually, area Motel 6, after pushing check out time to the limit, then headed, well, not directly to Van Wert. We needed a couple diversions to kill some time. First we topped past Hermes Vineyard for some wine tastings. Their visitor center is in a rustic looking building that you access via a stone walkway from a gravel parking lot. Once inside, the tasting bar is one one side, and some comfortable furniture on the other. Big picture windows provide a view of the vineyard itself. It's a very relaxed atmosphere, and you can sample anything from the sample menu for $1 each. The $1 fee is a formality due to state law forbidding free samples of alcoholic drinks. The samples are 1 ounce each, and though I am not a big wine drinker, the wines I tasted were not bad. They had a red that was real sweet, and I also tried a honey wine, which to my surprise was not as sickly sweet as the one I had in Ireland at the Bunratty Castle Medevil dinner. Once you find out what you want, you just order it from the tasting bar, and, if you order enough of it, they will load it into your trunk for you.

After having spent some time there, we next drove around Sandusky for a bit, particularly along the lake front. Next we stopped in Phantom Fireworks. The fireworks busiess is a curious one, you are legally allowed to purchase, but you can't use the product in Ohio. I am used to seeing fireworks stores along state lines, particularly when you enter states that have no such restrictions. The best example is when you enter Tenesee from the dry counties of Kentucky, where at the first exit you will see a combination fireworks/liquor/tobacco/souvenir/gas station. Yeah, sounds like a great combination to me too. Let's get drunk, light a cigarette, get it too close to the fireworks, then ignite the fuel storage tanks below. Great!

Anyway, Phantom Fireworks is a stand alone fireworks only store. Upon entering you are advised to leave electronic devices, namely mobile phones, in your car. Or, at the the very least, to turn them off. I'll admit I haven't been in this serious a fireworks store before, and the problem is, to the total novice, its just row after row of shells of all different shapes and sizes, with no real idea to now what does what. It would be the perfect product to have those little tiny flat panel monitors showing demonstrations, but then we are back to that whole minimizing the use of electronics thing. In fairness, they do point that you can go to their website and watch product videos there, and then go to their store and pick out what you like.

While we were riding around, we noticed the proliferation of indoor water parks, just like most tourist areas and I'm sure they are even more important in northern tourist areas as they give people a reason to go to Sandusky when Cedar Point is closed. We have everything from Kalahari, which looks to the be big player in town, all the way down to a funky place called "Rain". "Rain" must be so named as that is what they are hoping happens, because I doubt anybody would choose that indoor water park otherwise. It looks tiny from the outside, with one slide tower poking up in the middle of a motel, sports bar, and off track betting parlor complex, I think they may even have a bowling alley in there somewhere. Just a strange complex all around. On the way out of town, I noted the Holiday In Holidome in town looked to have tried to add some waters lides, and they must have failed, as that hotel is out of business. Shame, really in that I think Holiday Inn may have premiered the concept way before its time with the Holidome. I remember the Holidome being a big selling point when we were hotel shopping in my youth. What they essentially did was build their hotel around a big central courtyard, which they put a massive skylight over. Under the domed skylight, you had a pool, hot tub, cocktail lounge, mini golf, putting greens, shuffleboard, pool hall, and arcade games.

Anyway, figuring we had killed enough time, we started heading down to Van Wert, with a stop at Five Guys for lunch. Upon entering Van Wert, Eric gave me the tour of the city, then we checked into our hotel, the Comfort Inn, so that he could rest up and get ready for the reunion. I, of course, would not be going to the reunion, but we discovered that the Van Wert County Fair is in town, and it will be open until 11pm tonight. Perfect. So after showing me more of the city, Eric dropped me off at the fairground, and he went to his reunion.

Eric had told me I was going to THE big event in Van Wert. He dropped me off just outside the parking lot, so I walked onto the fair grounds. General admission is $6 per person, paid to a guy sitting at a card table uder a tiny canopy. No wristband, no ticket, no audit trail Having paid the $6, I walked onto the grounds, and a short distance in I realized I was entering right next to the rides midway. This is certainly convenient.

I walked past the first section of rides, and spotted a Chance Zipper, Darton Hurricane, Maestic Skooter, a kiddie coaster, and an ARM Screamer. Then a pathway cut through the grass lot, and I spotted the ride ticket booth. Let's see, rides are by Kissel Bros, this is ironic, that I have to go this far from Cincinnati to experience Kissel Bros. when they are based in Cincinnati, OH. Anyway, onto more impotant matters, I learn ride tickets are $1 each, and most adult rides take 3 tickets, or I can go with the ride all day special for $14. Hmm, I'm here for five hours, so give me the ride all day special. I'm sure it's merely coincidence that the $6 gate admission, and the $14 rides wristband come out to $20.

I head from the ride ticket booth to a Musik Express located nearby. Unlike Musik Express rides at Oktoberfest in Munich, not only could you not stand right along the edge of the ride while it was in motion, you had to "take two giant steps back from the trailer" while the ride was running. It was a one cycle wait, and while I'm not good at identifying make and model of Musik Express rides (it sees like every self respecting carnival ride company makes one), this is the model where the lap bar release is two knobs in the center of the lap bar that you squeeze togther, instead of the various forms out locing mechanisms on the outboard side of the car seen on other models. What this model lacks in scenery details, it gains back in ride performance. They were giving a long ride time, in both directions, at a fairly good rate of speed, with good music. What more could you want from a Musik Express operation? $3 down, $11 more to go to make good on the rides bracelet. I walk past a Video Funhouse trailer, and like they seem to be, this one was not included in the ride wristband. Neither were the extreme zone things like the EuroBungee or rock wall located opposite the fun house. Coming to the other end of midway, scattered amongst some kiddie rides were a Pharaohs Phury, Big Eli (and Little Eli) Wheels, a merry go round and more. The Pharohs Phury was currently closed for repairs, and the Big Eli wheel didn't allow single riders I walked past some carnival games and found myself in the fair part of the fair.

I looked through some exhibition halls, and found the fine arts, arts and crafts, baking and cooking competition areas. You know, somebody realy ought to set up a bake sale in this area. Looking at all these cakes and pies makes one hungry. There was the building with various antiques, the building where organiztions like FFA, 4-H, Boy Scouts and more have booths. At the other end of this row of buildings was a gourmet old time soft drink vendor. His trailer looked like a beer wagon, with what looked like rows of old fashioned style wood kegs each sporting a tap handle. Knowing fais in Ohio to be dry, I checked this out, and noted selections like Root Beer, Sasparilla, Orange Sode, Grape Soda, Cream Soda, Birch Beer,, Ginger Beer, and more. Wait, did that just say Birch Beer? We have a winner! Birch Beer, while common in New England and parts of PA, is not that commonly found here in Ohio. You can buy a tin stein for $15 and that gets you unlimited drinks from this booth for the run of the fair. That's great, but I don't want to lug that around, and all that. Luckily you can buy single drinks in $2 plastic cups. I had a nice red birch beer, just avoid the bees swarming around the taps.

From there I went up the hill, whih took me past the agricultural parts of the fair, with the animal barns and so forth. Back towards the center of the grounds, past a mini golf course, and I spotted a bake sale. And they had Rhubarb Pie. Well, there goes another $2. I find myself on what muset be Food Road. Trailer after tailer of food. I look around but nothing jumps out at me yet. At the end of food road, I come upon the grandstand. They were having tractor pulls tonight. The noise should have told you. I caught a sampling looking through the fence, then moved on. Passing some more food stands I came back to the midway. Ok, now I can say I have seen the fair.

I took another ride on the Musik Express ($6 in, $8 to go), then headed across the pathway to the Hurricane. The crowds were starting to pick up, and with it the ride lines. Kissel Bros. has signs up warnng that the ride all day special does not give refunds due to weather or crowd conditions. I also like the signs that Kissel has posted at each ride stating "Scared Riders and Young Children should never be forced to ride this ride"

Hurricane is one ride that I think I am done with. Sure, I say that every time, don't I? It's that ride where a cluter of cars spin around a center powl, and then swing out, and continue to spin at a high rate of speed, what makes it interesting is the cars periodically swoop in towards the center pole, then fly back out. (Accompanied by the trademaked noises mae by the blasts of air from the air tanks that perform said dives). The spin rate, though, is so high that it pins you uncomfortably to the outboard side of the car. Like the Musik Express, I also recieved a long ride on this ride. ($9 in, $5 to go)

I walk across the midway and take a ride on the ARM Screamer. It's very similar to the Kamikazee, except that it only has one car. Another difference, is when you get inside the car, the lap bar is not there. You may recall on a Kamikazee, you first lower a shoulder bar, which is double locked by means of a safety bar that lowers down, much like a lap bar, and prevents the shoulder bar from opening, the end of the safety bar fits into a slot on the cage door, so the bar can't release if the cage door is closed. That safety bar does not exist in this model, instead the shoulder bars are fitted with a seatbelt that attaches to the front center of the seat, like on most newer OTSR designs. The ride itself is a modern take on the Loop-O-Plane, where the car goes around in vertical loops, and it just wouldn't be a proper ride if you didn't have ride operators that liked to hold you upside down for extended period of time at the top. ($12 in, $2 to go)

I next start to head to Pharoah's Phury, but I have to walk right past the Musik Express to do that, and I'm really liking the ride the Musik Express is giving tonight. Sure, it was a 20 minute wait, but it was worth it. ($15 in, rides band covered, now just $5 left to work off the gate admission) . I next headed to Pharoah's Phury and found myself in the second row from the top, so it has that going for it. Phury may not be the biggest pirate ship ride out there, but it does swing a bit higher than some of the other models. ($18 in, $2 to work off gate admission)

I take another walk around, looking at the other side of Food Road, and look in the merchandise areas and the main exhibiiton hall. There is a Dave's Dawgs. I can't convince them I should get a free Dawg since i'm Dave. There is a Deep Fried Butter stand, uhm, wouldn't that melt the butter? Buttered funnel cake batter I presume. I finally settle on a Gyro from the guy near the Grandstand. It's sort of the Chipotle of Gyro building, you order, and then a Gyro is made right in front of you to your specifications. It was getting to be around 9-9:30 and the Gyro guy looks at me and as he is about to fix my Gyro says "You hungry?" I say Yes, and I think I got the world's largest Gyro. I mean that pita shell was about to explode it was so full, and stuff was overflowing into the foil wrapper.

I take that over to a bench,and with as much sas what stuffed ino it, tried and failed to eat it without making a mess. Man, it was good though. I washed that all down with a homeade root beer out of wooden keg that was nearby. I then headed towards the Zipper, but the Man held me down with his no single riders rule. I thought I almost had it a couple times, but no such luck. I do take a ride on the Skooters. I'm not a huge fan of the trailer model Skooter becuase I often find the floor has too many dead spots where you somehow lose a good power connection, and get stuck until somebody bumps you out of the dead spot. Since most modern bumper cars don't hit that hard, that can take some work. This is not one of those Skooter rides, this one has cars that work. They are of the lap bar variety which makes the cars even better. ($21 in, now $1 up on admission and rides)

From there it is another Musik Express ride, where the operators were sulking over having just been informed their music selections must have been a bit too edgy for the fairs comfort. They were also having to deal with fair patrons that can't read or understand spoken English, I know this is a common problem at parks. Evidently the new ride safety rules, as interpreted by Kissel Bros state that the companion of a rider who does not meet the qualifications to ride alone mut be at least 18 years of age. Depsite numerous signs and operator warnings during the pre loading spiels to this effect, they had to deal with enforcing this rule many times during loading. All in all, another great ride. ($24 in rides now!)

I then head back to the Screamer. As a single rider, I am placed in the end seat. Why? becuase the other seat in this end pair s already festooned with yellow warning tape. So, it's the perffect place to stick the first single rider who boards. All goes well, until the first time we start to go upside down. At which point the shoulder bar opens up until it is, thankully, held in place by the seatbelt. So, not totally dangrous, as long as the belt holds, but a little more play to bounc around in the seat than I would like. When the ride does stop, and the operator has stepped away from the controls, I unfasten the seatbelt, and raise the bar all the way up, before he can unlock the cage and the bars. I then mention it to the operator upon exiting who already has the scared look in his face. ($27 in)

I don't want to look like I am vulturing around the ride, but I observe the operator checking out my seat as I wait lin line for the Musik Express. (Which, was fine, as always) ($30 in). I then notice the Screamer go down for repairs. I next duck into the restrooms in the main exhibition hall. The exhibition hall is closd, but the restrooms are setup so they can still be accessed. I mention this becuase it was pefectly clear skies when I went into the restroom an pouring down rain when I came out. I waited in th restrooom until the skies let up a little, then dashed over to an entertainment tent. It was disused, but it had lots of folding chiars under a big tent. As you might expect this was a popular gathering spot. The wind, the rain, it was nasty. I saw the midway and the food and game booth operators very quickly stowing their stuff. They would't need to worry about closing on time tonight. I stick around in the tent as long as I could before heading back to the same street where Eric dropped me off. We reunited, shared stories, made a McDonalds run, and went back to the hotel.

Sunday, we actually got out of the hotel early, after partaking in the hotel courtesy breakfast, becuase Eic did not get Labor Day off work, and he lives in Georgia now. So it was a no nonsense trip from Van Wert to Cincinati, where he dropped me off before heading home.

Thanks for the great coaster weekend, Eric!

Saturday, November 26, 2011

TR: Cedar Point - September 1st and 2nd, 2011

Trip Report: Cedar Point
Sandusky, OH
September 1 and 2, 2011

Those who have been reading my trip reports for a long time now, may recall the many coaster trips I took with Eric. Those became fewer after Eric moved away, and lately it seems as if there is always something stopping one of us from meeting up. This year, I received an interesting offer. It seems that Eric would be celebrating a significant high school reunion, at a school in Ohio. He also planned on stopping at Cedar Point for a few days, and had to drive right past my house on the way to and from. Would I like to come along? I think yes.

Getting time off work was at a premium, such that Eric left work, far away right at closing time, and arrived at Coasterville around 2am. He has been using a Garmin, and it is scary how accurate that thing is at predicting arrival time. He doesn't have a Cedar Fair pass anyway, so we figured we would go up for Starlight on Thursday, and all day on Friday. Consider it akin to the Hersheypark night before offer.

So after he got ample sleep, we stopped by First Watch for some breakfast, and was on the road. Remember how I said it was scary how accurate Garmin is? Well Cedar Point starts Starlight at 4pm. We left Coasterville at the time Garmin recommnded, and even with a refueling stop, and a stop to check into our hotel, we still were on the famous Cedar Point Causeway at 3:45.

We first noted the topiary bushes alongside the Causeway, then noted only one toll booth was open. Hopefully, this is a sign of the size of the crowd at the park. We start driving through the parking lot headed towards Eric's favorite section. we were not amused when this family decided to walk five abreast, in the main aisle, slowly, while giving us shit eating grins, because they know, there really isn't anything you can do about it.

We found ourselves in stride, such that we hit the ticket scanners right at 4pm, and I used a Cedar Fair pass, and Eric used a Starlight ticket. We proceeded to breath in the Cedar Point atmosphere as we walked back the main midway. We could see evidence that they were starting to set up for their Halloween event. We get back by Wildcat, and notice it has a pretty short line for Wildcat.

We start our trip with a quick peppy ride on Wildcat, sure its not the biggest, fastest, whateverest, but it does pack a lot in a tight compact package with its sharp drops and helix turns. I note a loading gate has been after the turnstile that is remote controlled by the loader.

After Wildcat, we proceed to the train station and take a quick glance at the display about the historical trains Cedar Point owns. We then proceeded to take a ride on one back to Frontier Trail. The ride back offers you a great view of Lake Erie on one side, and Intamin coaster goodness on the other.

We were seated near the front of the train, which means you exit quite near Mean Streak. We decided to get Mean Streak out of the way. We recalled a couple years ago, before riding The Boss at Six flags St Louis, a coaster that most people don't like that "Here comes the pain", and were then surprised by a ride we actually really liked. I wonder if the same trick will work here. Mean Streak was its usual walk on self, and I took a moment to look in awe at the massive queue area tucked into the middle of the ride. We took our seats in the back of the train and proceeded on the larger of Cedar Points wood coasters.

Mean Streak, the first half is actually quite decent, it doesn't really beat up up anymore, the rides problem is after the mid course brake, the ride is brought to a slow crawl and you just sort of meander through the rest of the course at a crawl. At least we got that out of the way for the trip.

Next, we headed to Maverick. This would be Eric's first time on several Cedar Point rides, and Maverick would be one of them. The signs said 15 minutes, I have me doubts as the most but not all of the covered section of queue was full and the bridge was full almost back to the first section of queue. It does move rather quickly though, and pretty soon we found ourselves at the split. I see they still have the stupid single rider line you can't even get to until after you have waited through 90% of the queue. Anyway, while waiting for our train, we note the complex system. The ride runs very short trains, only 3 cars each with 4 seats in a car. However, it has 6 of these and the ride really runs 3 pairs of trains. What do I mean? When you load, they load two trains at once, so 24 people per load, like a normal coaster. Then, both trains depart the load station, the front train goes on up the lift, the second gets held just short of the life until it gets the all clear. Both trains, now separated, now run their way through the course, and then they pull in one behind each other in a line of trains waiting on the brake run. Trains are then brought into the station from the brake run in pairs, and the next set of trains move up to just behind the station.

We would be in the middle car of the back train. Drop the OTSR, the belt fastens easily. The first gimmick hits when you realize it is a launched lift hill, the second gimmick hits when you realize the drop is at a 95 degree angle, that is to say beyond vertical. The rest of the ride features sharp turns, some nice airtime hills, corkscrew like rolls. Oh, and the mid course tunnel where the ride brings you to a near stop, only to launch you again. I think they got rid of the fire hose that used to spray down the riders, but all in all, still a great ride.

After that, we passed Snake River Falls, and Eric mentioned that he had never ridden it, nor have I, and that he didn't plan on changing that on this trip. He did, however, want to try out Skyhawk, an S&S Screaming Swing. They had the entire queue maze shunted off so you walked right up to the turnstile. This caused the line to overflow onto the midway which is atypical for Cedar Point, but I noted by the tie we had ridden, the queue maze was indeed open. Maybe the park is getting busier for starlight. At any rate, they only had one half of the ride working, and the other half showed signs of repair work in progress. Also, atypical for Cedar Point, we have a non coaster ride that gives an above average ride experience with that weird "airtime" caused by your body still wanting to go up, even after the swing has forcefully started going back down.

From Skyhawk, we went to Cedar Creek Mine Ride to experience a classic. After shoehorning ourselves into the back seat, with both the typical Arrow mine train lapbar that is too tight, and the typial Cedar Point seat belt that is too short, we managed to ride this classic mine ride.

From Cedar Creek Mine Ride, we started our way back towards the front of the park, we got almost to Gemini before we realized we forgot to check out Shoot the Rapids, and figured we would come back to it tomorrow during the day. Gemini is one of the parks other classics. It is one of those Arrow "steel tracked wood coasters" that caused much debate in coaster forums of years past. It is a steel tracked racing coaster that follows a very classical wood coaster profile. Today, only the red/orange side was running, and at least one blue train looked to be partially disassembled. Again with the way too short seat belts that barely fasten on an empty seat, let alone one with riders. We shoehorn ourselves into this one as well, and I thought the ride was running sluggish this year. It didn't seem to have near the amount of airtime that I remember, yet the final helix can still yank you into next week.

Continuing our little tour, we next came to Magnum XL-200, one of the first coasters to break the 200' height barrier. 22 years ago, that was a BIG DEAL, I know, I went to Cedar Point in 1989 to ride it, when the entire queue maze, plus the overflow that runs behind the restrooms was packed to the gills. Lately it seems to be another dependable short wait ride, such as the walk on it was today. That is one thing, except for Maverick and Skyhawk,every ride so far has pretty much been a walk on. Looks like we hit the park on a good day.

Magnum is a great coaster, you start with the 200' drop, and while you go up the lift you get a nice tour of the water park, and they claim on a clear day you an see clear into Canada. After you enjoy the view, its a classic airtime hill laden out and back masterpiece. It has the profile of a classic out and back, just exaggerated for height, with a funky little pretzel turnaround tossed in, and of course those airtime hills were carefully calculated to produce the most airtime possible. And to make sure you get to experience this all undisturbed, all the mid course block brakes are at the end of the ride. We took our ride in our favorite seat, #3, also known as The Ejector Seat. The Joy and the Pain of airtime coming right up. Yes, it is very strong ejector air, and if you don't take precautions it can do a number on your legs. You will feel it after the ride, but you'll be too caught up in excitement of having just finished an extreme airtime coaster to notice.

You may be noticing I have been dancing around some rides, rides like Raptor, Top Thrill Dragster, Wicked Twister, and Millennium Force. Well, it's just that on recent visits we have had negative experiences involving not being able to ride those, and we didn't want to ruin this trip right off the bat.

Well, now we are passing Top Thrill Dragster, a coaster I have never ridden (notice the tense, spoiler alert). I go first in the Test Chair of Doom. Over the last however many years I have really grown to hate this chair. On my last visit, two years ago, I couldn't get the belt fastened, and when I say that, it wasn't even close, like a good inch or so between buckle ends. Well, I have lost some weight since then, I have gained some back since then. Now, I can fasten the belt! Don't start celebrating yet. Cedar Point has this asinine policy I have not seen in any other amusement park. No, they aren't satisfied that the belt is fastened, they want the belt fastened and a certain amount of extra belt through the adjustor. How much extra belt? Well, that's another asinine thing, it depends on who you ask. Anywhere from a quarter inch to an inch. On Maverick, I note they have stitched in a white line, no such thing here, it is all subjective. Luckily, there is not one, but two greeters stationed less than 5' from me. Great I can get two opinions.

I would have probably been better off had their been one greeter. The problem is that the two greeters were very engrossed in a very non park related conversation. How engrossed, they wouldn't even acknowledge our presence when we were looking right at them, talking to them. When they did finally notice us, we were a big bother, obviously they wanted nothing to do with us, let alone help us. Eric tried the seat next, and he managed to get a bit more slack out of the belt than I did. Our two ever so helpful ride attendants verdict, "Maybe". Said with taking about a half a second glace over at the test seat, then right back away from us and into planning their weekend. What you want us to wait 45 minutes on a Maybe. Some help you two were.

But, I figured that if Eric is a Maybe, then I can forget about it. We decide to go and see if the Millennium Force greeter would be any more helpful. He was! It also helped that I think the belt on the MF test seat is a bit longer than that on TTD, as I had a much easier time with it. So great, now we are both cleared to ride MF, but the ride is closed.

Let's see, what areas of the park haven't we been to yet. Oh, Oceana, and it has some changes. The big chance is that Ocean Motion has been moved to the spot formerly taken up by Demon Drop. The beach gate has been moved a bit, the area that was opened up was filled in with their Windseeker.

I think their Windseeker has even less queue area than the one at Kings Island. I wonder if this is because they figure once the initial craze wears off, that its not going to be that popular a ride, particularly since it does handle 64 people a ride, as opposed to the 20 or so on most flat rides. Or, are they trying a tactic learned from Roller Coaster Tycoon, where they have gotten people used to thinking, an oveflowing line is too long. At any rate, they do have a sizeable portable queue area available under the stadium grandstands next door. Today, it was just in the permanent queues, so you walk about a third of the way around the ride, where the only thing separating you from the outside world is a tall fence with spike like points at the top, then back around to the front, where you go through the turnstile and assigned a seat. I want to say the Kings Island ride has every individual seat numbered, where at Cedar Point it is just every row. Same general concept, and same general ride. Right down to the problem with the lap bar lights not being visible.

Windseeker is one of the trendy new high altitude circle swing rides. It's essentially much like Wave Swinger, only the swings go up to just shy of 300' in the air. The height really does make the ride, and its also what makes peoples phobias get the better of them.

I think by now Zamperla, Mondial, and FunTime have versions of this ride to market, and I would not be surprised if its on the drawing boards at other manufacturers. I have not yet ridden the Zamperla version, but I have a feeling I may get that experience with Sparkler next year (see the benefit of writing these trip reports so late), but I have some experience with the Fun Time version both in Orlando at Magic Midway, as well as Oktoberfest in Munich. Kings Island has the Mondial version, and the main difference here is the seat attachment is much more rigid than on the Fun Time. Don't get me wrong the swings still swing, but the main attachment is tubular piping instead of just chains or steel cable. The Mondial also has a fantastic LED light show that gives a park that classic midway experience.

I take my seat, drop down the overhead lap bar, which is similar to the kind used on a chairlift. A safety strap connects the lap bar to the seat base, as a back up to the bar lock. I can tell you, as a larger rider, the rides computer is more demanding than the seat belt, so just because the belt is fastened, doesn't mean you are good. A rule of thumb is to look at the stub end of the lap bar, it it isn't lower than the armrest, your in trouble. Mondial did something dumb here. They mounted two lights on the outboard side of each seating unit. When the lap bar locks, the light goes out. Seems simple enough except the light is red, on a red background, and once you add the sun into the equation the loaders can't really see them. The advice from the control booth isn't much better "You've got a bar open" Gee, thanks. Warning to larger riders, even if your bar is fine, you will be the first ones they target, and will staple you in the hopes that you are the culprit. This is more annoying when they find out you weren't the problem. They really need to add some kind of box around those indicator lights so the loader can see them easier. This ride loads much faster at night than it does during the day.

So once they have spent 10 minutes playing "Which bar is loose?" the ride starts. At first the cars raise straight up for awhile, before the ride starts turning. The ride does offer on board audio by means of speakers mounted to the ride gondola, so the speakers raise and lower with you. At the top the ride spins for a while, and even speeds up. Not too fast, it just gives a slight hint of laterals. It would be a perfect family ride, if people would get over that whole 300' up thing. The Cedar Point ride scores over the Kings Island ride in three categories: Location, Location, Location. Set so half the way around you get a great view of the park, and the other half a great view of Lake Erie.

So, the ride then slows down to its slower spin setting, and then lowers down. Again once it hits some magic point, the rotation stops, and you lower straight down. That was great, in fact I rode it again. This time in the outside seat instead of the inner seat. No, it's not a thrill ride, but it scores high on the just pure fun meter.

From Windseeker, we learn that Wicked Twister is also closed, not a good day for the Intamins, but wait there is another Intamin ride back here. We make our way into the newer Disaster Transport entrance now that most of the queue has been given over to haunted houses. Now it is just the final room, which is kept just dark enough sot hey can try to sell night novelties, I suppose that was better than the 3D glasses that littered the sides of the brake run in years past.

Disaster Transport is one of those old Intamin Bobsled rides in a box. Lots of black lights, and a futuristic feel. You board a sled, go up a lift hill, then the ride is mostly turns and he car riding up a bit as it changes direction just like a real bobsled. There are some ark ride type elements you breeze past, but there are not really important. With that we exit back onto the midway and make our way to Pinks.

Pinks is a new eatery that is supposed to represent the Hollywood hot dog stand. We were going to try it, but it was already closed for the night. We then cut across the main midway to Raptor.

It was a walk on ride on Raptor. In 2009, I could not ride Raptor, but this time, no problem at all. Raptor is one of the earlier B&M inverteds, but it is still a great ride. After the ride, we finished off our night with a ride on the classic Blue Streak.

Blue Streak is the parks classic older wood coaster. The entrance looks like you are going down a service path, but the ride is a classic. In fact, they have done amazing things with it, as in certain seats, like the Schmeck seat, or the back car, it delivers some great airtime.

With that, we stopped by BW3's for wings and beer, then headed back to the hotel.

Day 2: Friday Sept 2.

We got some doughnuts and coffee at Dunkin Donuts, and got to the park right before 10. This time the parking attendants were out, and parking you where they wanted you to park, even though where they send you may not be the best parking available. On the way to the park, we noted that Sandusky, like many toursit areas is begining to have fierce competition from indoor waterpark resrots. Kalahari, Great White, Cedar Point's own resort, and I'm sure a couple more. I noted the Holiday Inn holidome looks to have tried to make the conversion into a waterpark, but has since been closed. In a way that is a shame, since I think the holidome was the forerunner of hotel indoor recreation complexes. The wierd one is the one right before you turn onto the Causeway, going with the trendy one sylable name: Rain, it looks from the road to be a tiny indoor waterpark, attached to a motel, off track betting parlor, and sports bar.

We decided to start the day at Top Thrill Dragster, and true to Cedar Point, it seems to take just under 3 hours to walk from the front gate to Dragster. Well, at this point, for reasons the reader doesn't need to know, we decide to split up, and I fall right back into "Cedar Point Ride Program 1"

Yup, I used the touring plan I usually take with Rideman. I knew better than to try TTD, so I headed to Magnum. Going up the stairs for this walk on ride, I told myself I wasn't going to ride in the Ejector Seat. But, what do you know that's right where I wound up. It's actually an easy seat to get to, because that end of the station is so cramped people can't get around the front seat line to get at it. That doesn't mean you don't have to be agressive, but still. So, I started with a Magnum ride that worked way better than the large coffee I just had at waking me up.

From there, I followed the ritual, on back to Gemini. I think the most noteworthy thing about Gemini is that this time they were running the blue side. I took about the third seat on the Blue side, noted the "Track Brake Open When Lit" sign was lit both when my train left the station and when it returned.

Continuing the pattern, I headed to Mine Ride, but Mine Ride would not open until 11. That's not that far away actually, I use up most of the time riding Skyhawk, which had just about the same line and ride experience as yesterday.

Now, its time for Mine Ride to open, so I was on the second train in the middle seat of the back car. That seat affords more room as you don't have the boxcar front, nor the wheel well behind you. Much better this time.

Now Ohio had been going through a very wet spring, followed by a sweltering hot summer, then it had cooled off the last week or so. Today, over 100 degrees. I decided to see what Snake River Falls was about. Snake River Falls was a walk on seeing as t had just opened. I took a seat in row 1, and headed up the lift, at the top you go through a tunnel, and then down the big drop. Like a lot of the early shoot the chutes rides, this one is no nonsense, also like a lot of the early shoot the chutes rides, it is very effective at getting you drenched.

Okay, now that I am drenched, lets find Shoot the Rapids. The exit for Snake River actually helped put me in the right direction, as Shoot The Rapids is alongside the frontier trail, just across from the closed for the season rapids ride. Shoot the Chutes is an Intamin, like Pilgrims Plunge, but unlike Plunge, the boats do stop in the station which I like. I do find it interesting they didn't motorize the loading gates. They are mag locked, and spring loaded. When it is your turn to board, you are supposed to push them open and board, but there is no signal they are unlocked. You know, for those of us from my era, i they would install a little buzzer that would sound when the gate was open, I bet a lot of us would have a pavlovian response to open the gate. So the boats are about like Pilgrims Plunge with the overhead lap bar and all. The ride is a whole lot more complete than Plunge, first you have a long disorienting lift approach tunnel with misters, then lift 1, then the first big drop and run out. You then go through a rapids like section (hence the name) with waterfalls that all but encourage you to rock the boat to try to avoid getting wet. Then it is up lift 2 for the big drop and run out. My word of advice? Ride BAREFOOT, your feet will thank your for it. After drop two, the floor well of the boat fills with a least a foot or more of water, and stays filled until the unload station. At this point, with the lapbar you can't raise your foot enough to get it out of the pool of water. A minute of this will lead to the squishiest shoes, and soaked socks. That is really the ride's only downside, other than that it really came out great.

After that I took a ride on Maverick. The line for Maverick was just a little longer today than yesterday, with the covered portion full, the uncovered portion closed off, but the line was starting to overflow into the midway. Cedar Point, won't have any of that, so right after I enter the line, they open some of the unshaded queue area. I remind myself that the line really isn't any longer if they open up more sections of the queue after you have entered. I did find it interesting they did not open the parts that would offer access to the vending machines. I know yesterday, I laughed at the single rider queue, but today, when I got toward the covered section of the queue, I noted no one going for single rider, so I darted up those stairs at first opportunity, and bypassed a trainload or so of people. I know, not really a big deal. They have stopped assigning seats, so alll single rider does, is when an odd number group from the main line enter the trunstile, they let one in from single rider. I think it is encouraged yoou mate up with the odd rider. We wound up in row 2 of the front train on Maverick and proceed to have another awesome filled ride of Intamin goodness.

From Maverick, I head over to get the daily Mean Streak ride out of the way. I enter the queue I get about halfway to the turnaround, where, speaking of turnarounds I note people coming my way, I look over and people are coming down the load stairs. This has all the signs of a ride closure. You know, there are some ride closures that you stand in front of the closed ride for 15 minutes sulking about life not being fair, there are some that register as a disapointment, and then some you go :Oh, well". This falls firmly in the "Oh, well" camp.

I head down the Frontier Trail, where I note them getting the old Frontier Carousel building, and Rapids Ride area ready for haunts, as well as general theming in the area. It's the last area of Cedar Point that hasn't been lined with thrill rides, and as such offers that nice relaxing, shaded walk. At the other end, you find Millennium Force. I enter a 45 minute Millennium Force queue, which is to say just the last section fo queue maze was open. I am a biit more nervous than usual, I mean the test seat says I am fine, but what about the actual train. For a short time, it looks like the ride went down to two trains, slowing things down even more. Eventually, I make it to the station and take the first available seat. I fasten the belt, pull the tail, drop the lapbar and hope for the best. I really got scared when the loader got near me, and made the upbar hand signal. Luckily, it was for the rider directly behind me. So, I am cleared for takeoff. The rider next to me asks if I am nervous, and I ansswer, no, just relieved since it has been something like 5 years or so since I could ride this. The ride starts with a very steep, very fast launched lift hill, then into an overbanked turn, before you go through the tunnel to the twisted track that is on the island. Force is 300' tall, but the airtime, while there, isn't near as violent as Magnum. A lot moe gentle floats, and showing that you can do interesting things with curved track. I am real glad I was able to ride this again. I think I did the Dance of Joy all the way down the long exit ramp out onto the midway. You may recall in RCT when the riders would stop at the end of the exit ramp of their favorite ride and jump up and down. I briefly cosidered that.

Walking across the street, I next took in Mantis. Mantis should have been a near walk on, as the line was only back to the top half of the final staircase. A train later and I was positioned to board row 8. That's when it happened, a Mantis train pulls into the station, and one of the riders is puking their guts out. Okay, this shouldn't be too bad, they will unload it, hose it down, spray some sainitizer, run the train empty a couple cycles, but still use the other train But wait, there's more! The sight of the rider in the train puking their guts out started a bad case of chain reaction puking in the load station. When all was said and done, they had to move everybody up into the front half of the load station so they could completely hose down, and wash with some kond of chemical, the back half of the load station The mic man tried to keep those of us waiting entertained. "You want to know what the best thing about working at Cedar Point is? Well, this isn't it!" Some time later, they decide to load a train, and they do something unusual, since they were concerned about people slipping on whatever they used to wash down the station floor, they loaded rows 5-8 all through the row 5 gate. As it was, I was in the back left 'seat' on Mantis. Another eay fit, and its up and away on the stand up rollercoaster. It has the usual B&M intensity, and as usual I spend the next 2-3 minutes walking off the feelings in my lower legs.

From Mantis, I again cross the street, and note that Wildcat has about the same line it had last night, so I grab a ride on the Wildcat. I follow that up with a walk on ride on Iron Dragon. Iron Dragon has not recived the belts that Cedar Fair has seemed to have put on all their other arrow multi element trains, inclding the suspended coaster at Kings Island. That may be becuase Iron Dragon is a lot tamer ride. It is a two lift suspended coaster that was considered extreme when they showed the ads for it in 1987. The part after the first lift is really lifeless, it gets better after the second lift is a bit better but theat may be due to the interation witht the lake below.

After Iron Dgraon, I really need to get a drink, or something, maybe the heat is getting to me. The pepsi cart by Coasters is like an Oasis as I graba soft drink before contining. Next up is Power Tower, and it is a walk on, so I ride both sides. Power Tower is still in Sour Tower mode as there is just no airtime force at the top. S&S makes a shorter ride called the Double Shot that does way better in the airtime department. At least the ones at Ocean City, NJ, and Indiana Beach offer good airtime. Double Shot combines the upwards thrust of the Space Shot, with the faster than frefall downwards thrust of the Turbo Drop. But, Liberty Launch at Holiday World shows that the strong airtime is not a sure product of the Double Shot, as well as Dr. Dooms Fearfall and the Big Shot showing that a Space Shot alone can produce good air, just not on Power Tower. Power Tower is a 4 tower complex, with only three open today, 2 drops, and 1 shot. Makes sense, since the Turbo Drop ride experience is longer, with the having to slowly raise the gondola to the top of the tower.

After Power Tower, I make my way to Corkscrew. Since Cedar Point is in the middle of Big Ten country, you know how Big Ten has Legends and Leaders didvisions? Well, at Cedar Point they have botht he record breaking new technology "The Leaders", mixed with some olde ride technology that was top of the line in its day "Legends". Corkscrew is a legend, and so I took a walk on ride in the back seat. Corkscrew may have been the ride that started putting the belts in the Arrow cars. I'm glad to see they replaced the original installtion with a more customer fiendly version they have used at other parks. Corkscrew is not the generic out of the box corkscrew ride from Arrow. You may recall that one was a compact coaster - turn out of the station, up the lift, turnaround, down the drop, , turnaround, through the corkscrew, then turnaround one last time onto the brakes. No, Cedar Point Corkscrew is more of an out and back. On this one you take one of the patriotic themed trains, and do a turnaround out of the station, up the lift, down the drop, through an airtime producing speedhill that would be great fun if it weren't for the shoulder bars, then a vertical loop into the turnaround. On the way back yoou have the rides signature corkscrew element which is placedsuch that you actually go over a major park walkway, then onto a very long brake run, capeable of holding all three trains.

From Corkscrew, I continue witht the Legends. For a long time, the park has offered a low key ride called the Paddlewheel Excusion. It's a slow, family ride where you ride in a faux paddlewheel boat in the lake around the big island. It seems, this year the ride is closing. Now, it usually closes after Labor Day, becuase they use the island in the middle of the lake as a haunt and use the floating bridge from Geauga to get people to the island, which blocks the route for the Paddlewheel boat. Now, when I say Paddlewheel boat, don't think of the big boat ride at Disney, instead think of Jungle Cruisse size boats. Very fitting analogy, actually becuase the cruise route is dotted with tablueax that the skipper would introduce in comedic fashion, on a pun filled ride. Yes, this was Cedar Point's Jungle Cruise. Well, next year the park is leaving the floating bridge up all season, as the island is about to become a pay extra Dinosaurs Alive attraction. Hey families, we have a new family attraction for you, at the expense of another family attration, and you have to pay extra for it. Great. I hear they just got new canvas canopies for the boats too, that figures, as at Kings Island, King Cobra had been rumoured to be removed for 5 years before it actually was. I think it was removed the season after it got a complete overhaul and paint job.

I don't have the strong nostalgia attachment to Paddlewheel Excursion that some do, but I wanted to get in my last ride on it. I head back to the dock, which is somewhat hidden behind Camp Snoopy. Doesn't this figure, usually when I ride this, I merely have to wait for the next boat. Now that the ride is closing forever in 4 days, the line is spilling out onto the midway. In the hot sun. I think Cedar Point wanted this wait to look as long and uncomfortable as possible. I think they were only running 1 boat as well. I say look, becuase when you finally did make it into the big shelter, they had the line configured to take the shortest route to the turnstiles. 30 minutes later, I was being loaded onto a boat. For the last time - the Svillians (Civilians) from the Barber Of Saville, the Lighthouse (95% lighter than other houses), the crazy inventor and his flying machine that never got off the ground, and much more. They say on these types of riders the skipper makes the show. In this case, the Skipper was doing everything right, he was telling all the right jokes, and seemed into it. it was the riders who sat there stone faced. Come on guys: "Jokes? Funny? Ha-Ha?" I think the skipper almost gave up on them. Maybe it was waiting 30 minutes to be rushed around the lake at full throttle, maybe it was the mourning of their last ride, make it was some kind of silent protest, maybe it was just total exhaustion from the heat. Whatever the case, no more pier pressure.

From Paddlewheel, I pass Dragsters, and grab a Lemon Chill. If I would have known they would have given me the just the little wood ice cream tastig spoon, I may have reconsidered. Also, why do they price their products so after tax, it comes to $5.06. Couldn't we lower the actual price just a few pennies and have a net price of $5. I suck on the Lemon Chill as I make my way towards Oceana. Yes, I've pretty much taken care of the back half of the park, time to move up front. I finish the Lemon Chill just as I am passing Matterhorn. I grab a quick walk on ride on Matterhorn before continuing on.

I head to Windseeker, which has a slightly longer line than yesterday, but nothing too terrible, so I get rewarde with another fine view of Lake Erie, and a swing ride. From Windseeker, I hea to Wicked Twister. Now, I wasn't really seriously thinking I could ride it, but I needed that confirmation. I pole vaulted myself into the test seat, lowered the bar, and just as I thought, "Not a Chance". This one still isn't even close.

By this tie, something started coming over me, and I wasn't feeling that great. I sort of stumble over to MaxAir, and get there just in time to be rider #50. MaxAir should be just like Delirium at Kings Island, except its not. For one thing, they have improved traffic flow with two exit gates as well as the two entrance gates. They have a platform deck that doesn't look lke it would tear your feet up if you rode barefooted, and the cubby holes for lose items look better than the big metal toolboxes that look like they belong on the back of a pick up truck. The queue area looks smaller, but that may be just becuase they didn't try the experiment of mainstreaming wheelchairs through the main queue on this version. Also, the on deck 'bullpen' is the final twist of the queue, which keeps riders lined up in order, instead of the holding areas Kings Island uses. Kings Island has had to resort to painting numbers on the ground, not to keep order, but to get people to keep moving in and filling up all the available space in the holding areas. Note that both parks went to the Cedar Point style bullpen for Windseker. Now, that I have gone over all the off ride imrpovements, let's talk about on ride. In a nutshell, the ride expeiene on MaxAir is much better, its more like the ride program Delirium used when it was first installed. I don't know what happened to Delirium, but the program they run on it now is a shell of its former self. It also is a plus that MaxAir is in the middle of the midway, and not situated where one side of it swings out over a service area.

MaxAir was refreshing, and while in this corner of the park, I note Space Spiral is closed, not that I had any intention of getting in that sweat box, I instead got into a different Sweat Box. Disaster Transport. I should have known I was in trouble when I walked all the way through the queue and into a waiting sled. Last night the line was down the stairs and ust starting to back up into the queue maze. Last ngiht I wasn't riding in the middle of a 100 degree day, in a metal building, with no air conditioning. Trip to Alaska? (Who remembers that stroyline anymore), try Trip to Death Valley! Trip to Hell! That building was roasting inside, which is something I guess the Cedar Point regulars know. I make my way down the exit stairs and dash over to the water fountain. That fountain used to be very cold, not anymore. I duck into the restroom building near Space Sprial.

Wow this was actually a good move, as this restroom building has an air condiitoner! I admit I hung out in the restroom, until it got crowded with 10 other guys all hanging around trying to soak in the air conditioning. Cedar Point has been criticized in the past for nasty restrooms. I do think the park is trying to fix that situations, one tell is when you go into a restroom if it has the sea green/blue walls it's likely been renovated. This one, the one my the Funway train station, Mean Streak, and Mine Ride are all in great shape. The one by Mine Ride even has changing rooms, before you get into the restroom itself, trying to solve the wet floor problem that persists in restroom buildings near water rides. The one by Magnum is still pretty bad, and the one by Raptor is still at "Avoid at all costs".

But, I' still not feeling good, almost delerious. I make a trek through Kiddy Kingdom and into the Coliseum. If it's one place you can pactically guarantee air conditioning, its in arcades and gift shops. Stnding aound in a gift shop tends to bring unwanted attention to yourself, so I duck into the Coliseum. When I see the big fans, I know, no air conditioning here. I do find a table that looks like it came fro a 1970's fast food restaurant and sit down for ahwile. It may not be air conditioned, but its better than outside. I do watch some interesting 4 player air hockey matches going on, on a true 4 sided air hockey table. Yes I know all air hockey tables have four sides, but this one is more square, and has goals on all four sides. I also take a tour of the aracde. It is really neat, its like a time machine, the games nearest the midway are generally the newest games around, and as you go to the back the games get progressilvely older. The back wall is lined with pinball machines, many from the electromechanical era, and many still operate. (When you see cyclometer scoring, you now its an old game. They also have some old shooting games and the like back there. For some even older games, check out the Town Hall Museum back by mine ride. Though, last I checked, none of those games operate anymore, they are all show pieces.

So, its blazing hot outside. If this were during the middle of July or August, I could duck into a theatre and get 30 minutes of AC while watching a show, but I think both the ice show and the show in what was the Centennial Theatre have ended for the season. At least during the wee, anyway. Someobdy suggests the Red Garter to me, but that seems far away. I do decide to venture forth and check out Cedar Downs. Cedar Downs is the park's rare Racing Derby. It's similar to a carousel, except the horses are in full speed race poses instead of parade poses, and instead of focusing on going up and down, each row has 4 horses, and they move back and forwards within their row to crete the sensation of a race, and the ever changing order of the horses. It is also perceived to spin faster than a rgular carousel, but I think somebody has shown that the actual rotational speed of the turntable is actually the same as that of the main carousel up by the front gate. The difeence is the Racing Derby has a big infield in the center, so the turntable is much larger, and the horses are much further away from the center. Which means, that even through the machanism is moving at the same speed as the regular carousel, the horse has to travel a lot farther distance in the same arount of time, which yields to a much faster ride. The ride is sentimental for me, as it is one of the rides I remember enoying together with Mom and Dad, so I try to ride it every time I go to Cedar Point.

From Cedar Downs, I take a ride on Blue Streak, and decide I didn't really enjoy it all that much. On the way back to the main midway, I spot Gameday Cafe. More importantly, I note signs of air conditioning. I'm not sure what problem I was suffering but somewhere between the 45 minutes of air conditioning, the soft drinks with free refills ("Keep Em Coming!") and what was actually a very reasonably priced, generously sized and actually quite good Chicken Ceaser Salad, I was feeling much better. From my table at Gameday, I could watch Raptor run, and right after eating, I went to take a ride on Raptor. If I thought I had a walk on last night, I was mistaken, now this is a walk on.

After Raptor, I took a ride on the sky ride. I hit it at a time when not many people wanted to ride from the front gate to the center of the park, so I esentially walked up on a waiting car and got in. They loaded me in, locked the door, and as they were dispatching the car, the loader left me with a, "Don't forget to buckle up!" I, of course, looked for the non existant seat belt. It was a nice relaxing ride over the main midway, and I recalled a favorite scene from the movie Rollercoaster. In fact, I think I'll give the signal I switched suitcases as I near the north platform. The north platform was considerably busier, with a line of eager skyride riders almost all the way down the stairs. Beore moving on, I took a ride on Dodgems, I am somewhat of a bumper car fan, and Cedar Point actually has a nice set of cars. Of course, Cedar Point is also in Ohio, where most Dodgems operations are in a competition to see which one can be the worst.

From Dodgems, I take stock in what I have accomplished. I have been on all my Tier 1 rides that I am eligible to ride, except Mean Streak. I have een accomplished many of my favorite flat rides in the park, so not really a bad day for a Labor Day Weekend friday at the park. I decide to go pick up the Mean Streak ride for the day, and in doing so decide to ride back on the train ride. As the train is pasing by Milennium Force, I think I spot Eric coming in on a Milennium Force train. Now, even though I know by the time I get back there, he will be gone to some other attraction, I decide to skip out on Mean Streak, and just ride the train round trip. While the outbound leg of the train ride is the Intamin showcase on one side and Lake Erie on the other, the return leg cuts through the center of the park, and I suppose with Milennium Force and Shoot the Rapids is also an Intamin showcase ride, but it is also dotted with animated tableaux that make it much more interesting.

I get in line for Milennium Force, and much have gotten in line just in time, as the line was taking the shortest route possible, and was only halfway back to the entrance. By the time I was halfway up the big ramp, the last part of the queue maze was completely full. I suppose this is with people rushing to get their last ride of the night on the big rollercoaster. Did I mention how happy I am I can ride Milennium Force again? B this time it is almost time to catch back up to Eric. So I go up to the prearranged meet up spot by Raptor, and take a Raptor ride. The "One Last Time" crowd is here as well, as the line is all the way down the stairs and backing up into the maze.

I finish up my ride, and get a text that Eric is running a bit late. So I go over to Blue Streak to get another classic airtime filled wood coaster ride, then I walk next door to Calypso. I like the Calypso, and they have a good example here. For theme, they do play calypso style music on the ride, and they actually give you a decent length ride that spins pretty good. Maybe not Munich Oktoberfest fast, but a good ride none the less. Speaking of Oktoberfest, as I was waiting for my ride on Calypso, I note they have you wait up on the big ride deck just outside of the area with the turntable. Unlike Oktoberfest they have a fence between you and the turntable. It was actually running so nice, I rode it twice.

I finished up with a ride on Blue Streak. This is also being hit by the "One Last Time" crowd, as the line was halfway back to the tunnel under the track. When I got up to the station I realized they had taken the ride down to a single train. After that, I met up with Eric at Ocean Motion, which is now by the main gate, and we headed out. We exchanged notes, and I learned Eric focuses his day on Dragsters and Millennium Force. He noted the actual trains on Dragster are a harder fit than the test seat, that you can't ride the Giant Wheel alone, and more. We stopped by Danny Boy's for some Italian dining before heading to the hotel.

Stay tuned: this trip report continues in a future blogisode with the Van Wert County Fair.