Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Sunday, October 21, 2007

TR: Minnesota/Wisconsin 2007 - Day 4 9/2/07

TR:Minnesota/ Wisconsin 2007 – Day 4

September 2, 2007

Valleyfair! Shakopee, MN

T-Shirt of the day: 2007 All Ohio Coaster Odysey shirt from Coastermania!

"Let's try this again"

As you may recall from the Day 3 TR, Jerry and I stopped past an insanely packed Valleyfair for a few hours last night, so today we decided to try it again. As such, we arrived at Valleyfair at about 9:30 on Sunday morning. Jerry got waved through the toll plaza with his parking sticker, and we parked in Jerry's favorite section, near Steel Venom.

We headed up to the gate, and noted the food drive was still going on with a reward of a significant admission discount coupon on offer. We headed to the front gate plaza and chatted a while until the lines started forming at the gates. Jerry had predicted the gates would open early at 9:45, so when the lines started forming I went into Guest Services. Still, a very simple procedure to use a Kings Island pass. I showed my pass, they wrote down my name, checked the Kings Island box and had me stand next to the secret panel. I thought I would impress them with a Kings Island pass, until the person behind me presented a Carrowinds pass. At 9:50, they played the national anthem, and when it ended I heard the buzzer tell me I could push in on the secret panel and enter the park through the Guest Services office.

Once inside the park, the walkway to Renegade was much lighter. There was a running of the bulls, but Jerry advised me not to worry about it, because the pathway was roped off just before the train station. We stood up near the ropes, which were sporting large rectangular purple flags not unlike the Legend lift hill flag I have. Shortly after 10:00 the rope was dropped and the bulls stared running again. Jerry told me not to worry about it, which was good advice since quite frankly there weren't enough people there to worry about, even if each and every person headed to Renegage.

Renegade was open when we arrived at it. The park has done a good job of keeping Renegade’s track plan a secret, from the park midway, all you can see is the lift hill, and the final part of the ride where you circle the station, then the queue area before heading to the final brakes. The entrance and exit sit next to each other as two cutouts in the track structure in this final pass. We enter the queue and find it to be empty. The switchback area was closed off, so we walked back the long path that runs alongside the brake run approach, then ducked under the lift approach and through the hallway underneath the transfer track. We finally caught up to the line at the bottom of the stairs up to the station. We soon realized the ride was not yet open, and when the station was opened, we wound up being on the second train of the day.

So, on the second train of the day, Within two trains, I was climbing into the back car of the milinneum flyer train. I really like GCIs rolling stock, particularly after riding PTCs the day before. The GCI trains feel like sofas on wheels. Jerry had mentioned that at first there were problems with the lap bars and larger riders, but this seems to be sorted out now. I did notice the park went with individual seatbelts, where other GCI’s I have ridden used shared belts.

So, we are seated in the train, and we leave the station a turn to the left takes up to and up the lift. We go over the lift and down the first drop, the first drop is the rides signature element, as first you make a right turn going down the drop, then a left curve to straighten the drop back out. It is an evil first drop, at the base of the drop you turn left, and go over a speed hill that produces some nice floater airtime. You then start dong the GCI typical ride of going around a series of curves while going gracefully up and down in this twister like section. John Allen said it best “Curves don’t do anything for people”. After a glass smooth twisty ride, you reemerge next to the lift hill, and then make a right turn to go around the station with a big swooping trademark GCI turnround right by the midway, the next section is so close to the midway the only thing separating you is a metal grate fence. Time for a speed hill places in just the right spot to become the rides focal point from the midway. You then go through an elongated turnaround that wraps around the queue area, and the on ride photo is taken just before the last curve. You then head into the station where they have a combination of magnetic and traditional braking to ensue a very smooth stop in the bake run/transfer area. Then when the station ahead of you is clear, there is one last turnaround into the station. It’s a neat ride, but Jerry seemed offended that I only give it a B. Sorry, I just need more airtime with my curves, that said the ride could be very reridable if the chance presented itself.

Fortunately for me, the opportunity was presenting itself. We exited the ride and headed down the series of ramps down to the ground level. There isa point where the exit and entrance paths run right alongside each other, seperated by only two railings and a yard or so of mulch. I aske if there has been abuse here, and Jerry points out the very worn patch of mulch indicating that yes, people have been making the shortcut quite often. We head around the proper way, heading back out to the midway. I note the park has strategically placed some park benches so you have to go towards the ride photo booth. Jerry was concerned that the park decided to open Renegade with both trains today, as the park is not known for adding extra trains until the crowds and lines warrant it.

On our second ride, the line was only halfway down the stairs, and on the third ride, we walked right into the station, We rode mostly in the back seat, but took a couple rides up front. We continued to ride until the line started getting long again. We rode again when the line got to the bottom of the stairs, then on our last ride the line was halfway back the hallway under the transfer track. By the time our ride ended, the line was starting back the long straight section toward the switchback area. We decided to try something else at that point.

We headed back the pathway to Excalibur. Excalibur is themed after the famous sword of King Arthur as you can tell from the flags and the front of one of the trains. (The other train has a plain front, and the big sword in the rides major sign has been missing the last few seasons). Excalibur was only running one train, but that wasn't a problem as the ridewas a walk on, maybe a 1 or two train wait in choice seats.

We took repeated rides in the back seat, walking around each time of course. Excalibur is an overgrown Arrow mine ride, that has a real tall lift hill, that leads into the usual ground hugging mine ride type course with a bunch of tight curves. As built the train takes the course way to fast for the parks comfort, so they have not one, not two, not three, but FOUR trim brakes on the first drop. Even with all four trims on, and they are all on, the train still barrels through the course generating strong laterals, and provides a wondefully intense ride in the back seat. We did take one ride up front which is much less intense but allowed me to verify that all 4 trims are on. Jerry said he would be taking a nap while we rode up front.

We rode Excalibur for awhile, then remembered we may want to try to at least finish one lap of the park before the crowds hit. We next headed to Wild Thing, along the way I noted they took away my favorite water fountains. Yes, you read it here, Cedar Fair is removing water fountains. These particular fountains are the large round barrel fountains that you had to stick your head into the large round opening in the wall, then deal with a water jet with high pressure.

When we arrived at Wild Thing, the queue was overflowing out onto the midway but with no switchbacks in use. All told it took about 20-25 minutes until we were getting into that third seat with two trains on. Seat 3 used to be the ejector seat, just like Magnum, but that has been somewhat diluted. We climbed up the lift, down the first drop, up the second hill with a nice floater airtime moment on the drop into the turnaround area. Some interesting laterals in the turnaround, then the mid course brake hits hard. I recall there used to be several strong pops of air on the camel back hills of the return run. Now there are just minor hints of floater air. So its a nice tall fast coaster that gives a purely mediocre ride. We decided to head for something else.

We entered the 1950's themed area, on past visits I noted how the High Test Arcade has signs outside advertising No Tilt Pinball Additve, but no pinball machines inside. This year they had one Whitewater pinball from Williams. I gave it a try, then we headed to Extreme Swing.

Extreme Swing wins the reward for comical safety sign. One of the items on the sign reads "The manufacturer of this ride prohibits persons with fear of heights from riding" The queue area was half full, and even at that it didn't seem to take too long to get on the ride. Cedar Fair has added a short length of strap to the lapbar grab handle that connects with a caribiner to an eyebolt next to the seat. We sit down, lower the lap bar, fasten the clips and wait. To my surprise they check the lap bar, but do not push down further on it. The S&S swing takes your standard backyard swing and makes it about 150' tall. Even better than the backyard swing, instead of going up and then floating for a split second, then come back down, on this ride you go up, and whileyour body is still going up, the swing starts going back down, generating a very weird feeling of airtime. In short its a great ride, especially with a loose lap bar. Valleyfair runs a short ride cycle on this, so I have an action packed, if short ride.

From Extreme Swing, we head to Power Tower. Jerry had told me that Power Tower had been given a pep talk and was performing better this year. We cross the bridge to Power Tower Island. The queue maze for the two Turbo Drop towers looked full, but he headed around the long trail to the single Space Shot tower. Itwas about a3-4 cycle wait to get on the Space Shot. While waiting we did notice that one of the two Turbo Drop towers wasn't running and started testing while we were waiting. We boarded Space Shot, and we rewarded with a very lifeless thrust that barely made it to the top of the tower, much less shoot you up the tower with some extra energy that caused airtime at the top. It wasn't a very noteworthy Power Tower ride, so we didn't even bother trying the Turbo Drop side with its long line.

Our next stop was Riptide. Riptide was a walk on, we just had to wait for the cycle in progress to end. Riptide is a floorless Top Spin ride with water effects. While watching the group ahead of us I noted nobody wears their shoes while riding, and that they leave them on the ends of the ride deck. So, I removed my shoes and socks while waiting, then walked up to the ride barefoot. I noted a safe dry area at the end of the ride deck to place my footwear, then went back to my seat. Jerry was I think, the one person to keep his shoes on. Jerry also noted that every rider gets their very own personal water jet. The ride starts, and it wasn't as wet as I remembered it, I mean you get some decent blasts of water but it wasn't too bad. Of course we were on the side facing away from the midway, I think the midway side gets a lot wetter. At the end of ride, which inlucded a nice flip count, and a nice 5 flip manuever to end the ride, I collected my footwear and walked barefoot back out to the midway where I took the chance to put my stuff back on.

We next headed to Seel Venom, I noted an African tribal dance show going on, it would seem that we would pass this show in action several times. On the way to Steel Venom, Jerry stops off at the Skyscraper. Jerry had purchased an upgrade for his season pass so his pass includes the upcharge rides like Skyscraper. I held Jerry's stuff, and Jerry took two rides on Skyscraper to dry off. I could have paid the $10 to ride it once, but after those two awesome Timber Falls skyscraper rides, I didn't want to spoil it with a mediocre Skyscraper ride here,

After Jerry had fun we walked to Steel Venom. I was surprised to find it a walk on. We took several rides all in the back seat. I could get the tounge almost all the way into the buckle by myself but not far enough to get it to lock. Jerry pushed down on my harness and that was enough to get it. Plus, unlike Cedar Point, here the operators will help you. So I would sit the tounge into the buckle, then assume the Wicked Twister position of putting my hands on top of the shoulder bar and pressing down. Whatever, it worked.

Steel Venom is an Intamin Impulse coaster, with bidirectional LIM's pushing you back and forth, First you launch forward, and don't go too far up the spike, then you go backwards, and get a thrust in the station, enough to make it to the top of the back spike then fall back down, and get another jolt forwards so you almost make it to the top of the twisted front spike, then back down, and a jolt backwards to the top of the back spike, where a holding brake holds you in place for afew seconds, then back down, through the station, most of the way up the front spike, then backwards and it smoothly parks you back in the station.

As I said, we took numerous rides on this until the line reached back to the ride entrance. We then took a trip to the Challenge Park clubhouse for some free ice water. We next decided to have some roasted corn. Labor Day Weekend is also Green Giant Corn Feed Day at Valleyfair. You might want to sit down for this! We are at a Cedar Fair park and are going to get FREE roast corn. They set up the distribution point between the High Test Arcade and Atomic Pizza, not far from the parks normal Corn Roast booth (which was closed). They have it down to a science, you enter the line, they hand you a plastic bag, and then you walk up to the main station, where you see roasted corn rolling down a ramp into a vat of melted butter. Attendants pick up the corn and plae it into your bag. They use the mini cobbettes which are maybe 3 inches long, but there does not seem to be a limit on how much you can have. After you get your free corn you move over to the condiment table for napkins, salt, pepper, and lemon pepper. We had tried the lemon pepper here on past visits, so this year I opened up my bag and vigourously shook some lemon pepper out of the shaker into the bag. We then found a shaded spot to sit on a seat wall outside Coasters Drive In. Time to feast on roast corn, in a Cedar Fair park, for FREE.

After enjoying the Corn Roast, we headed to High Roller. Jerry had once told me that if you ever see both trains on High Roller you probably don't want to be there. I look up and the storage track is empty. Yes, High Roller was running both trains. The queue was almost back to the entrance, but with no switchbacks in use. However, the park runs two trains very efficiently, so while it may have been the longest line I have ever waited in for High Roller, it was about the shortest wait I have ever had. We were soo headed to that back seat. High Roller was one of IAD/NAD's last coasters, so it runs IAD trains (not Century Flyers) that have been setup to allow flush loading. This means that instead of just having a lap bar control lever on the bak of each car, then a guarded channel along one side controlling all the bars for that car,each seat has its own control lever. The park has never automated the lap bars int he station, so for every ride, all 12 seats must be locked manually. We sit down in the undivided bench seat and fasten the retracting seat belt. I'm not sure if this still counts as an ACE Coaster Classic. It has retracting seatbelts but it is a shared belt. I'm not sure if retractors alone are enough to disqualify a ride, or if it gets a pass because it still uses a shared common belt.

After the belts are fastened they tell everybody to put their hands in the air, then they come alongside doing a carefully arranged routine where they hit that rows lock lever, while lowering the bar, checking the bar, then moving on to the next seat, its a nice smooth operation. Bars checked we leave the station, and the rides automatic lap bar locker makes it presence known as it noisly kicks each seats lap bar control lever making sure its in the lock position. The idea was that someone though you would not need attendants, you would sit down, lower the bar, this device would lock it as you left the station, you rode the ride, come back and another device triggers the car side lap bar release as you reenter the loading area. Most parks have either automated the entire process in the station, or have at the least removed the automatic bar unlocker. Most have also removed the locking device, but there is no harm to keeping it and it is a good double check.

In 2005, I actually got some nice floater air on this dogleg out and back wooden coaster. This time the turnaround trim brake was on heavy, and it seems like we hit a new trim brakeon the way back, the result being a pretty lackluster ride, even the one spot of ejector air on the final drop was reduced to a mild float. At the end of the ride we reenter the station, I start to lift up on the lap bar but it is still locked. Apparently the automatic unlock device has been removed here.

We exit High Roller, and head to the front of the park for Corkscrew. The line for Corkscrew was entirely inside the station, but the seat queues are real long, so it was still several trains before we were getting into that back seat. While waiting Jerry pointed out the wireless access boxes for the on ride video system. Yes, of all the coasters at the park, they chose this one for the on ride video system.

So we get into the train, lower the shoulder bars and fasten the belt from the seat front to the center of the shoulder bar. Corkscrew here is a little bit more interesting than Cedar Point's but not as good as Arrow's multi element coasters. Vertical loop, a turnaround, the corkscrew and thats about it. Short little ride, and at the end of the ride we return to the station. The bars unlock, and I raise my shoulder bar and attempt to get out of the train. I then notice there is an orange strap blcoking my way, thats the strap that is supposed to hold the shoulder bar close should the bar lock fail. Yeah, I feel reassured, now that I know the orange strap is long enough you can raise the bar alost all the way up with the belt fastened. Not only idiotic and un needed, this fix to a problem that doesn't exist doesn't even work!

We exited the ride, and I looked at the on ride video booth, the video loop they kept replaying was just the first drop into the loop. We exited the ride and decided to head back to Mad Mouse to complete the coaster collection. Unfortunately, Mad Mouse did not cooperate, as it had a full queue maze, we next headed to Renegade, but it had a full queue. I decided that since I don't have many park photos, I would go out to the car get my camera, and then take photo safari through the park. After we got out to the car, we decided to take a trip to Culvers to get some food. (Reuben, fries, root beer, and a raspberry sundae for me).

We reentered the parking lot and the attendant actually had a ticket ready to sell Jerry before noting we had a decal. We reentered the lot and parked almost right by where we left. I grabbed a camera and entered the park. We took a lap around the park taking photos, noting busy queues for the rides and having a good time. I noted the Excalibur queue ws almost back where it was Saturday, Renegade had a full queue, they were actually using all the rows on Looping Starship, and that Wheel of Fortune has card suit themed flags. I slso got some nice action shots of the rides, and after completing a lap around the park, Jerry held my camera while I took a ride on Chaos. It was only a 1 or 2 cycle wait for Chaos but it takes a long time due to fact that all the bars must now be released manually. When it came my time to ride, I did myself right, rocking the car at all the right times, and getting a nice flip filled ride. Chaos looks like an Enterprise at first glance, but after it starts to go up, the main wheel at the end of the boom tilts back, so the whelel spins at an odd angle, and the cars are free to rock back and forth, including all the way over.

After Chaos, we headed out of the park, noting that the coaster lnes were just as bad as they were Saturday. We exited the parking lot and headed to a Mystery Destination.

Soon, we arrive at the Mystery Destination, which is SS Billiards. I was a bit worried upon arrival at SS Billiards because, quite frankly, pool halls generally do not enjoy a reputation for being safe family friendly places. We walke through the front door, and standing mere feet from me is a row of about 6 pinball machines. I look to the left and there is a small selection of video games, and to the right I see some snack vending machines and the service counter. Along the side wall next to the service counter were 4 more pinball machines. I heaed past the first row of pinabll machines, where I saw one of those double ended pingames sitting on a service cart. The main part of the room was, of course, taken up by several pool tables, then along the back wall of the pool hall was a row of at least 10 maybe more pinball machines. All in all there were 23 pinball machines, just waiting for me. Yes, waiting for me as the place was totally empty. I have not seen this many pinballs in one place since maybe arcades in the 1970's.

Unfortunately, I was indeed alone, and I did not see any change machines, We waited around for a little bit, and a few minutes later the operator came out of the restroom. At first, I don't think we knew how to take each other, other than the fact he had a quick witted sense of humor. All I needed do was compliment him on his pinball machine collection, and it was like we went from total strangers to best of friends. According to him there are less than a dozen true pinball arcades with the quantity of machines he has.

I bought $5 worth of quarters and tried various machines. He has mostly new machines, but he does have a few older machines set up, like an Eight Ball Deluxe, and a Bonzai Run. All the machines were in excellent shape, and with the excellent condition comes a price. Some pin's were 50 cents, a fair number of them were 75 cents, and a couple of them were $1.00 He also has some extremely rare machines like Big Bang Bar, that he only operates on Saturdays as a way of preserving the life of this machine, I think only 3 were ever made. I may have been a good pinball player at one time, but my skills are gone. I want to assign some blame as pressure to perform, its just much harder to play when somebody is looking over your shoulder the whole time Yeah, thats the excuse I'll use. But for an hour, I was in pinball heaven. We would then return to Jerry's house, and he would introduce me to the game of Descent. Yes, I know its an older video game, but I was more of a Doom person. Descent is basically Doom played in a fighter jet. Fun game, which I'm sure is more enjoyable than Shocking Lazer Tag for instance,

Well, tomorrow is the Minnesota State Fair, all day, and we want to get an early start, so I'll be signing off now.

Link of photo album from Valleyfair! -

Next up: Minnesota State Fair - Watch for it!


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