Every August 16th, coaster enthusiasts celebrate National Roller Coaster Day, commemorating the day in 1878 when the first wooden roller coaster was patented. I couldn’t think of a better excuse to go coastering, so on Wednesday I flew up to Cleveland to stay with some relatives, and on Roller Coaster Day I headed to Sandusky to pay homage to Cedar Point.
A foreboding forecast
The week leading up to my planned trip, I kept an eye on the Sandusky weather forecast. For a while it looked like there would be intermittent thunderstorms that would clear up by afternoon, but just before I left town, the forecast shifted to all-day storms with a 90% chance of rain. I was left with two choices—trade out my Thursday ticket for a half-day on Friday before returning to Nashville, or brave the storm. I saved the decision for the last moment, and ultimately chose to go on Thursday. Thankfully, the weather held out the entire day and the park was nearly empty, making for very short lines. Even on the new ride…
The hyper hybrid
For years, enthusiasts have begged the park to give Mean Streak the “iron horse” treatment, and I was blown away with the design for Steel Vengeance when it was announced a year ago, naming it my number one most anticipated coaster for 2018. Rocky Mountain Construction took everything that made Mean Streak so unpopular and fashioned it into their wildest hybrid to date. Over the summer, I’ve kept the coaster’s POV on replay and craved every pop of airtime. And this week, I finally caught a ride on the IBox coaster.
Did Steel Vengeance live up to the hype? Yes, and as strange as it may seem, it even managed to exceed my expectations. The utter euphoria I experienced during the pull of the ride’s 90-degree drop made it hands down the best element of any coaster I have ridden. I’m still in such shock that I’m having to process exactly what happened in those two-and-a-half minutes. The first hills were gigantic sweeping airtime machines, the inversions were wildly smooth, and the final lap through the ride’s structure felt insanely fast. I’ll have to save my full Steel Vengeance review for another post, but be assured, this is a coaster no one should miss.
One thing I will point out now is that Cedar Point was very strict about their no phones rule on this ride. The ops at the front of the line told riders to get a locker if they had their phone on them, and one ride op said that if you were caught in the station with a phone three times, they’d call security. While I didn’t really mind getting a locker, it was disappointing to not be able to take photos from the queue, and keeping track of time became a struggle. Quick tip: If you’re ever at the park, be sure to get the all-day lockers so that you’ll be free to ride Steel Vengeance at any point during the day. I unwisely chose to buy a few hours at a time and it kept my rides restricted to those specific periods of time.
A ride in the rain
After riding Steel Vengeance a couple times and grabbing a bite to eat, I decided to head back to Millennium Force. It had begun to sprinkle and the line was so short that I was able to walk all the way onto the platform before reaching other riders. The rain increased to a full drizzle, and though I was wary of riding through it at 93 miles per hour, I decided to give it a shot.
The ride’s first hill afforded a familiar view of Cedar Point and Lake Erie before the train reached the apex and thundered over the edge. Thousands of raindrops stung my face and hands like pins and needles, forcing me to cover my face with one hand and squint through it. The ride was fun as always, zipping along with the sheer speed and power only a Giga coaster can offer. I got a couple moments of airtime and some great positive g-forces, but the drop didn’t deliver for me in the front or the back. While Millennium Force offers a thrilling and re-ridable ride, Fury 325 has a much better layout overall. Over the years, Millennium Force has gone from my number one coaster to sixth place, not because it has aged but because I have since ridden so many superior coasters.
World-class coaster or crowd-pleaser?
Next, I headed over to Valravn, another coaster that had opened since my 2015 trip. Like GateKeeper, the B&M dive coaster was very photogenic and could be seen from most of the park. Its proximity to the midway, paired with the novelty of a hanging drop, made it an extremely popular coaster among the general public.
Walking into the Valravn plaza, I was fascinated by the sweeping Immelmann directly overhead. The line, while much shorter than during regular operation, was considerably longer than my other rides of the day, but I knew it would be worth the wait to try it out. The ride ops had the trains cycling pretty fast, and upon entering the station, I was struck by the small size of the boarding area. I boarded the coaster in the front on the far left and pulled the second-generation over-the-shoulder restraint into place.
The train took a little swoop out of the station and began up the steep lift. From the top, the coaster offered an incredible view of the entire park. Valravn was my first dive coaster, so I found the hang before the drop to be unique but it didn’t trigger my fear of heights as much as I had expected. The drop was pretty good, and the inversions were incredibly smooth, even with the train rattling in a few places. My favorite part of the ride was the zero-g-roll at the end, taken slowly enough to offer a moment of hangtime.
Overall, the ride was alright, but its tame feel and short layout hardly merited the line. I think a tunnel at the bottom of the drop like Yukon Striker or a splashdown finale would have added a lot to the experience, but I understand the struggle of squeezing a whole coaster into such a tight space.
Around the park
After getting off Valravn, I continued down the midway behind Raptor. It’s great to see how Cedar Point has opened up that area and taken it all the way to Blue Streak. Raptor was a walk-on, so I rode it in the back. The layout was absolutely solid, but I found myself fighting the forces of the ride to avoid head-banging during the corkscrews.
Next, I headed to Power Tower. As a huge drop tower fan, I get a thrill out of Cedar Point’s 240-foot model every time.
After that, I got in line for Top Thrill Dragster. Normally, the ride’s line is one of the longest in the park due to frequent downtime, but the ops had all six trains running and the line was moving right along. When I was about two trains away from riding, the ops closed the ride for inclement weather. I stuck around, and when the inclement weather turned out to be a five-minute sprinkle, they reopened the ride and slowly backed the trains into their previous positions. I rode in the front seat and the launch was as thrilling as ever, reaching 120 miles per hour in just four seconds.
Never this wild
After walking by Steel Vengeance to snap some more shots of the coaster, I headed to Maverick. I’ve never seen Maverick with short lines and Thursday was no different. I had trouble justifying the wait until I got on the coaster and remembered just how good the ride is.
In the past, I’ve always ridden in the front, so decided to check out the back. And man, did it make a difference. The 95-degree drop nearly ejected me from the train and the airtime hill midway through the course was extreme. Everything I loved about Maverick before was intensified, and the way the train took on the elements reminded me of Steel Vengeance. It’s kind of fun to me how Cedar Point tied Maverick into the Steel Vengeance storyline (Maverick is Blackjack’s brother), because the rides were both similar and unique at the same time.
To make the ride even better, the effects like the flashing lights in the tunnel and the water bombs were working for the first time when I’ve ridden it. They added a nice touch and a hint of theming that I had missed before.
Overall, I loved Maverick and would’ve ridden it again had it not been for the length of the line. I moved it to fifth place in my top ten, just ahead of Millennium Force.
Finishing a great day
To end the day, I rode maXair and then lapped Steel Vengeance three times in a row. Having tried the front, middle, and back of the train, I found the back to be the best, with all the elements turned up another notch.
For my last ride on the way out of the park, I hit Iron Dragon to try out the new virtual reality experience that Cedar Point has been running after 7 pm every day. They were only running two trains, so the line was the longest of the day by far and it was amusing to see so many people stacked up for a suspended coaster.
The VR experience was phenomenal. I’ve had mixed feelings about VR on coasters but after trying it for myself, I am in full support. I think running VR for only part of the day is a good model as well. I’ll save the details on the experience for a later post, but it was well done and I completely forgot I was on a roller coaster until we pulled back into the station.
Overall, my trip to Cedar Point was one of the best park days I’ve ever had. The temperature was 70s all day, the lines were short, and Steel Vengeance was every bit as good as I had hoped. Now that the park has an RMC, their lineup is well-rounded and worthy of the title of Roller Coaster Capital of the World once more. I couldn’t have asked for a better day at Cedar Point, and I hope to return in the near future!