Sunday, August 26, 2018

Cedar Point: Steel Vengeance Review and Trip Report, August 2018

We opted to spend one of the last weekends of the summer at Cedar Point. The coaster community is abuzz about Steel Vengeance and we decided that we needed to experience it for ourselves. 
We entered through the Cedar Point Shores Water Park entrance because it gives us some stunning views of the park's coasters on the drive around the park. It also places us closer to get back to Steel Vengeance at opening. Here is the view of Steel Vengeance from the road heading to the back of the park.
A similar view from back during the Mean Streak days

And another view from the Mean Streak days...
A similar view to the last photo of Mean Streak, with the sun trying to break through the clouds behind the second hill on Steel Venom......errrrr Vengeance.
Seeing Magnum back there is also pretty exciting.
Testing, Testing, 1, 2, 3
Gemini and Top Thrill Dragster awaiting riders. 
The second and third hills of Steel Vengeance, in addition to the Mid-Course Brake Run

Naturally, our first ride had to be Steel Vengeance. After securing one of the all-day, transferrable lockers we headed into the queue line. Not being able to take photos in the queue line made me feel like a part of me was missing, but I got over it. This is one of the most action packed queues when it comes to watching the ride, at least within the switchback portion of the queue line. Once you get through the switchbacks, you crawl forward with posters every few feet telling you the details of the "theming." The theming is essentially a western themed soap opera in which some strange western characters get revenge upon Maverick, or something along those lines. Theming is not something I necessarily seek out, but I do have to give credit to the park for being ironic with their attempt at theming. The theming is hearkens back to their effort on Disaster Transport. 

The only main criticism I have for this ride is the lack of capacity. While they are only able to run two trains due to their ongoing issues with the ride, the general line essentially faces one train operations as one half of every train is filled with people that purchased the Fast Lane line jumping pass. The general admission/peasant/proletariat line crawls at half capacity. At this rate, it would take four trains to simply get to two train operations for the general line. While rides like Gatekeeper, Valravn, and Millennium Force can efficiently handle crowds, this ride is unable to. The lines are essentially twice as long as a result of the Fast Lane riders taking up half of every train. Between this and the way that Fast Lane cuts into Maverick's capacity, we were only able to get one ride one Steel Vengeance, and one on Maverick in the first three hours that the park was open. 
The sequence through the second and third drops is my favorite part of the ride, with its abundant airtime, high-flying acrobatics, and unconventional design, especially with the outward banking on the third hill. 
The first drop is filled with excellent airtime in every part of the train. Same with the second and third drops. The first half of the ride is its finest attribute, with high flying acrobatics, flawless transitions, and a mix of floater and light ejector airtime. This coaster is a huge stride forward for RMC, not having the funky transitions and huge momentum loss that is characteristic of their previous work. 
Additionally, the smooth and exciting inversions are just awesome. There are so many head-chopper elements that add so much excitement to the ride.
The circular course gives you a view of most of this massive 5740 foot layout from the queue line. Rocky Mountain Construction had so much to work with when it came to the giant structure offered by Mean Streak. I generally side with preservation when it comes to wooden roller coasters, but this was such a tremendous upgrade. The track work that they did on Mean Streak over the last few years of its life ended up creating a fun ride, but the efforts were not enough to overcome the bad reputation it had gained over the years.
The outwardly banked third hill offers both lateral forces and smooth airtime and is one of my favorite elements on the ride. 
The first two inversions are almost back to back and are really good elements. When compared to Wicked Cyclone, which feels like the inversions were just placed there with no real flow to them, these are both disorienting and forceful. 
We really enjoyed Steel Vengeance.
The first drop also offers airtime to the entire train. You feel the force pushing you away from the seat  for the entire drop.
Heading into the first inversion..
And out of the second inversion!

This is the first time that we have ridden Maverick since the hard over-the-shoulder restraints were replaced with straps, similar to Intimidator 305's. This greatly improves the ride experience. The biggest problem with this ride, even since its inception, has been the ride's low guest capacity. With only 12 seats on a train, this line has always crawled. With the Fast Lane system, each train has only six seats available per dispatch, instead of the already paltry 12 seats. This made the wait last well over an hour for a line that did not even exceed the length of the old log flume station. This is not a knock on the ride operators either, for they were dispatching them as quickly as possible. The capacity issues that Intamin designed into this ride have been further exacerbated by the Fast Lane system. Between Maverick and Steel Vengeance, I wonder if it would be more beneficial for the park to assign reserved wait times for Fast Lane riders, as opposed to just dumping them in the line. These rides do not have the throughput to be able to handle that sort of additional capacity in a way that is acceptable for anyone. The Fast Lane lines of both this and Steel Vengeance appeared to also exceed 30 minutes, with the proletariat lines running between 1 and 1.5 hours.
Gemini celebrates its 40th anniversary on the midways of Cedar Point. This Arrow Dynamics creation is so much fun and it was built to have maximum capacity, with four trains running at most times. It was originally created to have six trains running at any given time with the potential of having up to eight trains total, with two spare trains for maintenance purposes. Not only is this ride a people eater when it comes to capacity, it is also so much fun. The racing aspect is lots of fun, but that is also exceeded by seeing the excitement of the riders on the other train. This unique ride is smooth, and offers lots of great airtime. It offers a ride in which most of the family is able to ride. While more intense rides are often sought out by roller coaster fans, these sorts of rides are what bring out families to the park.
Top Thrill Dragster! This ride remains incredibly impressive and continues to dominate the Cedar Point skyline. 
Magnum! This ejector airtime machine still delivers! There is also nothing quite like looking out over Lake Erie on the slow climb up that giant lift hill. 
Brit sat this one out, so she was able to take photos while I rode.
Front seat!
Such a great ride.
Top Thrill Dragster was not operating as we approached the ride. We lingered for a little bit and took a bunch of photos then they suddenly announced over the midway loudspeaker that the ride was opening for the day. We were able to walk right into the station with no wait! Opportunities like this are an unintended upside to Intamin's reliability issues. I will never forget waiting 3.5 hours during Dragster's opening season, with every second of that wait being completely worth it. It was a great treat being able to walk right into the station on this particular visit, especially after the waits we had with both Steel Vengeance and Maverick.
This ride is still such an extreme rush. The backseat is the place to be on this, with those spectacular views at the top and then getting getting a rush of airtime down the entire drop. I do not recall having a ride on it with as much airtime as this one. This specific ride pretty much made our day at the park.
A decent line had formed in the time it took for us to get off of the ride, so we opted to move towards the front of the park.
After snagging a ride on Power Tower, the storms were really starting to roll in.
This was our first visit since the construction of Valravn. Its awesome presence on the midway and really ties it together.
We decided to head for a ride on the classic Von Roll Sky Ride when the skies began to really let loose.
There is nothing quite like experiencing a storm at Cedar Point. We ended up ducking into Starbucks and caffeinating ourselves throughout the torrential downpours. 

There was some decent flooding on the midways. Many little kids were splashing around and swimming in the ponds, with one kid actually laying down in the water, which was half a foot deep in places.
We opted to take a ride on Cedar Downs while the rain was letting up. This ride is such a treasure and easily the most historic ride/attraction at the park. It is one of only two racing carousels that remain, with the other being located at Rye Playland on Long Island in New York. Cedar Downs is a northeast Ohio favorite, having originally operated at the long lost and beloved former Euclid Beach Park where it was added in 1921. It was moved to Cedar Point in 1965.

Cedar Downs runs pretty fast though and it offers one of the most thrilling experiences that you can get on a carousel. It also serves as a nice place to duck into in the case of rain. It would be nice if the park would create some more indoor rides that people can duck into in the case of a rainstorm.

As the storms let up, the coasters slowly began to reopen. While everyone rushed to Valravn, Raptor, and Gatekeeper, I noticed that Blue Streak had just reopened. While it was still raining a bit, Brit decided to sit out from riding. Since I am the only one crazy enough to ride in the rain, I ended up getting a unique treat with a solo ride on the coaster. It seems that the park has continued with excellent maintenance on this ride since our last visit, when it rode better than I had ever experienced previously. 
Cedar Point has sent the trains for Blue Streak back to the Philadelphia Toboggan Company in Eastern Pennsylvania for full reconditioning every off-season. Additionally, the method of reinforcing the rail ties of the coaster with bracing boards that are parallel with the track seems to minimize track play and help to maintain a smooth ride. The meticulous care that the park gives to this coaster results in excellent floater and ejector airtime throughout the ride on this 1964 John Allen and Philadelphia Toboggan Coasters classic.
I can't help but be impressed with Brit's photography skills, capturing detail down to the water droplets on the front of the coaster train.
My biggest regret of the day was missing out on a Raptor ride. Between weather delays and getting in rides on everything else, it was just not in the cards for this visit. It is my second favorite inverted coaster to Afterburner at Carowinds.
Corkscrew excellence on Raptor.
Now we head over to Valravn. I really like how this opened up the Midway adjacent to Blue Streak and Raptor. Calypso and the Dodgem Bumper Cars were relocated to the midway near Wicked Twister and the Good Time Theater was demolished. The Marina Entrance was also completely rebuilt and the Turnpike Cars were removed. Does anyone know if the cars were relocated to another park or if they became donors to other car rides in the Cedar Fair chain?
Valravn's 214 foot drop is simply breathtaking. The inversions are also a ton of fun, specifically the 165 foot Immelmann inversion, one of the world's tallest inversions. This is the tallest coaster with an inversion. The best way to describe this coaster is that it is pure fun. It was also engineered to have extremely high capacity. B&M has efficiency down to a science, and that is immediately obvious when the line seldom stops, even with the Fast Lane line is also in heavy use.  
Additionally, the coaster features those awesome vest restraints that Gatekeeper has, which provide excellent comfort and are not even noticeable as you ride. 
While this is the last year that the coaster will be the world's tallest B&M Dive Machine, thanks to the construction of Yukon Striker at Canada's Wonderland, it is quite an exhilarating ride.
It is also extremely photogenic, with pathways surrounding the bulk of the ride's layout. Brit snapped hundreds of photos on my camera and was hooked to taking shots of the coaster. 
More rain!
Valravn's inversions are enormous
Valravn really ties the midway together.
This shot with the two middle seats unoccupied makes this almost look like a Wing Coaster. These trains are pretty much a hybrid between B&M's Wing and Floorless Coasters, offering the best of both worlds. I especially enjoy the wing seats on this. 

The storms picked up again for a while and we ended up ducking into the arcade, which is in the historic Coliseum building, which houses an elegant ballroom on the second floor. The building dates back to 1906. We ended up having a great time once we found machines that were actually working. The Skee-Ball Machines were out of order, along with most of the pinball machines, all of which are classics. The arcade has an excellent collection of vintage pinball machines that desperately need some service. I am not sure if they are meant to be showpieces or operational, but I would love to see them running. The park could really use some dedicated arcade mechanics with experience in the field to get their machines up and running again. 
After an hour or so, the rains let up and we headed up to GateKeeper. This is a spectacular ride that has the best placement of any coaster in the park. Seeing that view of the peninsula, the beach, and the lake is simply breathtaking, and then seeing it flip upside-down on the 170 foot Wing-Over drop is simply spectacular. I would love to see the lakefront location of the park be utilized more, like it was with Gatekeeper. Considering the continual exponential growth of the park, I would love to see them build out into the parking lot. They have more waterfront property that sits with little utilization on either side of the parking lot. 

This coaster makes you feel as if you are gliding through the air. You are only seeing one photo of the coaster because I forgot to carry an extra camera battery. It is all good though. We followed up our ride on GateKeeper with another ride on Valravn, after which there was another downpour. I decided to brave through the downpour and get a walk-on ride on Millennium Force in the rain. 
The lighting and music in Millennium Force's station still manages to look fresh and exciting after more than 18 years at the park. Our last ride on this coaster managed to have an unpleasant rattle. It did not have that this time. Even with rain drops hitting my face at 93 mph, it was still lots of fun. While this coaster no longer tops my list, it is still extremely fun and smooth. 

The rain began to let up again as we walked the Frontier Trail to the back of the park. This is one of my favorite walks within the park. It has so much character with the old western theming, in addition to the the stunning views of Millennium Force. It is also neat checking out the different animals that inhabit the area, including alpacas, horses, goats, and more. 
We opted to stop into the museum, always a favorite of ours when we visit the park. It seems like they are constantly adding different memorabilia and artifacts to the collection. It is always cool to see the old ride models, postcard collection, and other priceless artifacts. They are currently building an impressive and working scale model of Steel Vengeance. For those of you who are hardcore coaster credit counters, be sure to ask the people at the museum for tickets for height exemptions on the park's kiddie coasters.

We went out and grabbed one of my spare camera batteries and headed back out into the park. Cedar Point does an excellent job with lighting on their rides. 
We opted to get our final ride on Witches' Wheel. This classic Huss Enterprise will be removed in September. I believe that the ride will be restored and placed elsewhere in the park, or within the Cedar Fair chain. The Cedar Fair chain recently scoured Europe to find old Huss rides to restore and place throughout their parks, namely Huss Troikas and Huss Condors. If this does not happen, it will certainly become a parts donor for the other Huss Enterprises in the chain, including the ones at Dorney Park and California's Great America. We had an excellent time riding this. This section of the park, leading up through the Gemini Midway, looks great. The work from a few years ago, freshening up this midway, makes it look absolutely stunning at night. They duplicated this work with the County Fair section at Carowinds. 

We also rode the park's Eyerly Monster Ride, which was running phenomenally, about as great of a ride as we have ever experienced on this genre of ride.
This midway also offers stunning views of Dragster, which was down and out for the evening. The cable was replaced on the coaster a few days later.
A view of the recently revamped Gemini Midway.
What day at the park is complete without riding the Cedar Point and Lake Erie Railroad? This is one of my favorite attractions in the park, and is one of the finest train rides within any amusement park. Actual vintage steam locomotives run on this. Five of the locomotives date back to the early 20th century and worked on narrow gauge rails that serviced industrial uses, including mining and factory work. Two locomotives, the Judy K. and Myron H., originated with Vulcan Iron Works in Wilkes Barre, PA. The George R. locomotive was built by the historic H.K. Porter Company of Pittsburgh. The G.A. Boeckling locomotive was built by the Davenport Locomotive Company of Iowa. It was traded to Cedar Point from Walt Disney World for another Cedar Point locomotive. Another Davenport Locomotive, the Albert, is not operational and sits on display by Millennium Force. 

The park's railroad is one of the finest gems that the park has to offer. We usually ride the train a few times in a row. Riding through Boneville with its village of skeletons engaging in the timber trade, firefighting, and gun fights, is always exciting, when combined with the spectacular views of the park's coasters and wetlands that the railroad traverses. 
Now for a final ride on Steel Vengeance. It certainly gets faster as it warms up through the day. This coaster has such a relentless layout, with its seemingly endless array of high flying acrobatics and varying degrees of airtime. 
The ride's lighting package is absolutely breathtaking as well, illuminating the spectacular mass of wooden supports that made up Mean Streak. There appeared to be minimal, if any, extra supports built down to ground level when compared to other RMC conversions in which many of the previous supports appear to be simply for decoration. Summers and Dinn used an exorbitant amount of supports in the construction of Mean Streak, which certainly must have helped RMC with this conversion project.  
A view from where we started, back on Perimeter Road again. We had a great day at Cedar Point, even if it did not go as planned. Steel Vengeance is a top tier steel coaster and we cannot wait to see them work out its opening season growing pains. They have winners on their hands with this and Valravn, the two major additions since our last visit to the park.