One of our first stops on our road trip was Cedar Point Amusement Park in Sandusky, Ohio. A review of that day in the park was one of our first blog posts as well, and was really just a quick summary with a short video. A few weeks after that initial post I sat down and wrote some additional thoughts on the day so I would have a better record of the experience. The notes quickly got lost in the fray but have since resurfaced, seven months later. They offer a more detailed account of the day which turns out to be humorous at times and I thought was worth sharing. Please feel free to read on (sorry, its a bit “wordy”) as I recall how I almost bit off more than I could chew on that sunny July day in northern Ohio (if you’re interested in seeing it, the first Cedar Point post can be found here Cedar Point: A Force to Be Reckoned With)…
Cedar Point – The complete unauthorized account of the day…
As a lifelong roller coaster enthusiast, I feel the need to elaborate on my day at the park a bit further than what was shared in the first post. Think of it as some behind the scenes thoughts on the day for a coaster enthusiast who hadn’t been to a real theme park in years, and then thought it would be a good idea to engage in a thrill ride marathon of death at the roller coaster capital of the world. Yep, you can tell where this is going.
As mentioned before, I have had my eye on Cedar Point for years, especially since the installation of Millenium Force in 2000 as the first “giga” coaster in the world. A giga coaster is one that exceeds 300ft in height. Growing up near Hershey Park, I developed a love for roller coasters at an early age. I can still remember the feeling of joy that first year I was tall enough to ride on the SuperDooperLooper, and the enthusiasm for these rides just built from that point. I spent many summer evenings with my high school buddies sneaking into the park and going on the coasters over and over again, as fast as we could get back in line. The rush of the air in your face, the feeling of weightlessness, the speed. Man, what a thrill! On family vacations I would occasionally get to visit other parks that were nearby and hit some of the more extreme coasters they had to offer, fun times all around. In hindsight as I reflect on all of these joyous memories of coaster years gone by I’m reminded that all of this was done during my teens and early 20’s. If I’m being honest I would have to say the last fifteen years I’ve been more of an arm chair roller coaster enthusiast. That being the case…I was a little out of my league walking through the entrance gates at Cedar Point. But hey, I got this…right??
Let me give a little context here…I used to hop in the car with my buds, hit the local shopping mall food court for an all-star dinner combo of McDonalds and Taco Bell topped off with a slice of pizza and then roll over to the theme park for about four straight hours of flipping upside down and spinning in circles. No issues, no problems. Fast forward 15 years and at least in my ripe old age of 36 I had the foresight to know that plan wouldn’t work this time. In all my fantastic lameness, I got a good night’s sleep, woke early but not too early, had a healthy balanced breakfast including plenty of water (doubled up on my Probiotics just to be safe), and thought much longer than I should have about what the appropriate footwear might be for the day. I even threw in some stretching for good measure, don’t want to pull a hammy mid ride. Yep…rock star right here.
The anticipation had been building for weeks, as far as I was concerned this entire cross country trip built to and ended with Cedar Point. I didn’t even know what was going to happen afterwards or think about where we were going. Oregon Trail what? Yellowstone? Sure, whatever. That morning I couldn’t contain myself. The day had arrived when I would actually partake in these roller coasters for real instead of watching more stinking POV YouTube videos! I didn’t talk much on the drive over to the park, I needed to get my head right, needed time to focus. I was driving faster than I needed to because for some reason I was convinced the park wouldn’t let me in unless I was the first one there. I founf myself flying down the highway and soon we get close enough that the park comes into view. The towering coaster hills stand before me ready to be conquered. Each one more impressive than the last. This place is unreal. The only word I can think of to describe my feeling at the time is “giddy”. The middle school kids walking into the park couldn’t match my excitement. I was pretty much dragging Jen along with me because for whatever reason she didn’t feel the brisk pace I had established was necessary.
We get through the gate and fly across the park to Millenium Force (MF). With my handy “FastPass” wrist band in place I shoot up the short line. I fall in line behind a couple of younger fellows who have been on this ride many times before and ensure me it lives up to its reputation. The excitement builds. I’ve been in line for roughly 2 minutes when I start to become impatient. Living in Central PA for the last five years I have become very unaccustomed to waiting in lines or driving in traffic. This sucks, where did all these people come from? But my frustration turns into elation as the first Millennium Force train comes roaring by me at roughly 75 mph for the final banking turn before slowing down for the loading platform. That’s when it hit me, this is going to be altogether different. We got up to the loading platform and I quickly abandoned my idea of waiting for the front seat since that would mean waiting through another 10 trains at least. I positioned myself in the middle of the train to get on in a quarter of that time. My train pulls up, I hop in, and that is the first time I remember my body reminding me that I’m a little older, supposedly a little wiser, and maybe this thrill seeking thing is better talked about than actually experienced. Nah, we got this. Up the hill I go. Despite the fact that the lift hill is situated on the edge of Lake Erie and provided a spectacular view, all I could focus on was how the knot in my chest was tightening exponentially in relation to the height of this lift hill. Thankfully, the train gets pulled up the hill quickly. Had it been a slow ascent, I may have considered jumping as a more expeditious way to deal with the situation than seeing this through. We crest the hill and start down. It felt like an eternity coming over that hill and getting to the part of the descent that is straight down. The rush of the descent and the force experienced in that first overbanked turn was a feeling difficult to describe. It was awesome. At 93 mph the ride goes by quickly even though it was the third longest coaster in the country when it was installed. I hopped off the train eager for the next ride, this was going to be a good day; I still had it in me!
Rougouru was the next in line (don’t worry, I can’t pronounce it either), a coaster that had been around the park for a number of years but recently received some upgrades that turned it into a floorless coaster. Floorless you say? Why not! Front seat for this one, and plenty of loops and spins. All good. I must have gotten the jitters out on that first ride because now I’m feeling solid.
Confidence is high. It’s time for Top Thrill Dragster. Going into it I understood that this one would take me from 0-123mph in roughly four seconds and send me straight up a hill that is over 400 feet tall, and at the time I was thinking this sounds great. So, into the line I go. As I’m waiting I of course observe the many trains filled with thrill seekers getting launched out of the starting gate and sent up this hill and twirling down the other side of it. This is going to be incredible! I’m fully committed now and pretty far up in the line where everyone merges and you start to get funneled to your train…and that’s when I see it. A very official looking sign with three tidbits of information for riders, the first two involve normal information like stowing loose items and keeping your hands and legs in the train, etc. The third item stopped me in my tracks, it read “Occasionally a launched train will not clear the hill. You should not be concerned, the train will slowly return to the launch position.” WHAT?! I was somewhat prepared for this ride with the understanding that it operated correctly 100% of the time. Now all of a sudden we throw this in the mix and it appears I have a so-so chance of making it over the hill? Not concerned? Let me tell you, when the train stops three feet short of the top and starts heading back down in reverse I won’t be concerned, I’ll be in straight up panic mode. The concerned people will be those behind me getting covered in my vomit. This was a setback, and I was too far into the line to back out now without being “that guy”. Pull it together! This development would not defeat me. I mean so far everyone has cleared the hill, why wouldn’t my train? Up the platform I go, into the train, and on to the launch pad. It felt like forever sitting there waiting to get launched. But before long the little yellow and green lights so common at drag strips were lighting up and sealing my fate…here we go! Each part of this ride is so extreme that to do just one would be an accomplishment and more than enough for the human body to sustain in one sitting. String them together and by the end you’re not really sure what just happened to you. The initial acceleration is unreal, you rifle down the track so fast that before you know it you are shooting straight up into the sky 400 ft – forget that fact that your stomach is still back on the starting line. You just barely make it over the top (thank goodness we did) and then you are pointing straight down and heading back to earth. Oh yeah, and they throw a cork screw in on the decent to really mess with your head before rifling back to the starting area where you can reclaim your stomach. When I walked off of that one, it was with a feeling of accomplishment mixed with a determination to never set foot on it again.
Three rides down and I’m ready for lunch. How about a nice safe turkey sandwich or maybe even a salad? Nope, let’s hit the Chuckwagon and gorge on a football sized bean burrito and a small bucket of soda – what could possibly go wrong? Shoot, deep fry the burrito while you’re at it! Might as well up the ante and see if we can make this really interesting. Clearly the coasters have already begun to affect my decision making ability. Alright, so they didn’t deep fry the burrito but it WAS football sized!
As the afternoon wore on I continued to check the rides off of my list. Oddly enough my stomach did just fine even though it was filled with a Mexican train wreck of mammoth proportions – I would have my digestive day of reckoning with that lunch, but not this day my friends. Late afternoon I started to come up with an exit plan. There were two rides that I could hit on our way out of the park, but before we do that how about one last ride on Millennium Force. Up the hill I go, and down I come even faster. I head into that first overbanked turn and two things happen, my left contact has had enough thrill seeking for one day and starts to bail out giving me an oddly panoramic distorted view of my surroundings, and as the g-forces once again push down on me this time I start to give way a little. As though some huge hand is behind me pushing me I begin to lean forward almost to the point that my head is between my knees, and to my surprise little black dots start showing up all over my field of vision. What in the world is this? And then I thought to myself, I’ve seen this before. Flashback to a YouTube clip I once saw of some civilian doing a fly along in a fighter jet – great fun especially when the pilot takes the jet straight up and pulls about 7 G’s in the process. Those forces quickly cause the thrill-seeking passenger to pass out! Dang, I was on MY way to passing out! We come out of the turn and I rebound into a somewhat upright position, my contact has thankfully resituated itself and I’m thinking we’re good. I made it through the rest of the ride but a definite line had been crossed…Cedar Point was starting to win.
I had been waiting for this day for years. How many people had I told about these amazing rides and how I couldn’t wait to take them on. I even joked about the park getting the better of me and here I was on the precipice of that very thing happening. Oh no, not today. I need to regain focus, get these last two rides checked off the list and get the heck out of dodge without losing my lunch or being carried out on a stretcher while popping percocets from a pez dispensor. My mindset turned from one of enjoyment to one of determination. Second to the last coaster was Wicked Twister…lovely. This one launches you and sends you straight up into the air while spinning at the same time, and then you get to do the same thing backwards…and this cycle happens three times. Needless to say the tightness in the chest returned in all its glory, there was no more merry making with others that I met in the waiting line. Out of my way people and shut up while you’re at it, I’m on a mission here! I didn’t even smile during this ride – Captain Stone Face right here folks. Got on, got through it, got off. Where is the last frickin’ ride?
The final thriller was one that has the track above you, so you sit in your chair and your feet dangle freely as you rocket around the track…of course. I loaded in the back of the train just in case there was a projectile vomit scenario, only those unfortunate ones on the ground would feel the pain. I kept my head firmly planted against my headrest and my eyes fixed on the seat directly in front me. I think this ride actually had the most inversions of any that I rode that day, or perhaps it just felt that way. It felt like that entire ride was upside down. We pulled into the finish gate and I disembarked exhausted, disoriented, but victorious!
We exited the park that day knowing it gave us everything it had. It lived up to its reputation and then some. It exceeded every expectation that I had which is a wonderful feeling. I’ll return one day, when nieces and nephews are tall enough to ride the big ones, and maybe, just maybe, I’ll have another go. Until then, well played Cedar Point – in my humble opinion you are indeed The Roller Coaster Capital of the World.