Trip Report: Geauga Lake
June 16, 2007
Day 2 of the trip. We started out by sleeping in at a nameless hotel, and having breakfast at Speedway. Did you know you can get a 44oz. frozen Coke for only 79 cents? We were soon on the road to Geauga Lake. So we managed to miss the turnpike exit, and we did take a bit of a scenic ride around Aurora, but we did eventually arrive at the park in plenty of time. Again, using Rideman's All-Ohio Parking pass we dodged the $9 parking fee to park on the rides side of the park, where parking attendants showed us to a space in section B1. As someone else commented section B1 is just a bit closer than section BFE. it was a lengthy walk to the front gate. I noticed the six flag poles that Six Flags had installed in a planter up at the park entrance are all now American flags, and not assorted international flags. Cedar Fair has managed to get the road that separates the parking lot from the park closed during the season, eliminating the need for the crossing guards.
I must hand it to Geauga Lake, most parks that just yanked out three rides would try to be as low key about it as possible. "maybe if we don't mention it, they won't notice" Not Geauga, they put a sign up right at the front gate plaza. "As a reminder: Steel Venom, X-Flight, and Bel Air Express have been removed from Geauga Lake"
Since I had preregistered, by taking 30 seconds to visit the Coastermania site, I qualified for FREE event registration, and so I stood in line at a stick joint located before the ticketing plaza to check in with the host, recieve a lanyard just like the one I recieved yesterday, and a lunch ticket. Note, there were three people manning the table, but only one print out of the guest list. They didn't even try to split the print out up between them, so effectively you had one person checking people in. Okay, I checked in and was told to take my Maxx Pass directly to the admission gate to enter. Rideman, had to go to a designated lane in the ticket plaza, where he stood in a much shorter line to hand over $12 and showed his Maxx Pass, and was handed a lanyard, lunch ticket and a park ADMISSION ticket. Yep, per usual the people manning the registration table for the event failed to talk to the people manning the admission gate.
I proceeded directly to the turnstiles as indicated. Rideman entered using his ticket, and I was told "You have to go to the season pass lane" Okay, I go to the season pass lane to get into a mess the park could have avoided. As you may have guessed, the season pass lane person was referring us back to the guest relations booth to sign in with our MAxx Passes. The line for the guest relations booth stretched back past the ticket plaza. There was a large group of us at the season pass lane with similar situations. I think when we were blocking access to the season pass lane, a manager finally came over to figure out what was going on. Said manager tried to direct us to the LONG guest relations line. Assembled large group made it clear that the event person told us we did not have to wait in that line. Its fun pitting two departments against each other. How it eventually resolved, was said manager went to the guest relations office himself, and came back with a stack of comp tickets. All in all the whole thing took way longer than it needed to, particularly since the park knew who had preregistered and could have given that table a stack of comp tickets and saved everybody aggravation. This is one area where Six Flags kicks Cedar Fair's butt. At a Six Flags park you take any Six Flags season pass to any turnstile at any Six Flags admission gate, and it scans. You take any Six Flag parking pass to and Six Flags park that controls their parking lot, and you get free parking.
Okay, I'm finally inside the park, let's see what Cedar Fair has managed to do with the place. We head towards the Rockville area. Since my last visit (admittedly 2002), Mr. Hydes Nasty Fall, X-Flight, Steel Venom, Bel Air Express, and the Musik Express have all been removed. YEs, there is a Wipeout there now that wasn't there before but it hardly makes up for the way this area has been almost stripped of its rides. Mind Eraser ( a boomerang) has been renamed Head Spin. I noted that Cedar Fair has not fixed the queue area for it either. It still has a queue maze that feeds into a large open area, then it narrows again for the ramp up to the station. Rideman quipped "Have you ever seen the line past the bottom of the ramp?" Head Spin remains quite a forgettable Boomerang, not a particularly smooth ride, and they brake you hard on the return through the station, then stop you on a dime when you roll forwards back into the station brakes. It is quite humorous that the parks First Aid Office is found next to the Head Spin exit. I also noted the park had not added the crotch straps Cedar Fair seems to like to put on their multi element trains these days.
We proceeded towards but did not ride Big Dipper as we had met up with everybody else. It was about 15-20 minutes before lunch and we were not going to make the same mistake we did last night. I noted the waterpark that was on this side of the park has been closed off, the Skyscraper observation tower was closed, as was the Shipwreck Falls water ride. I don't know yet, my first reaction to seeing the park was "BRING BACK SIX FLAGS!" So far the park looks worse off than it was under the prior administration.
But now its time to see on of those Six Flags improvements. It seems they turned part of the water park area into a lakeside picnic grove. The picnic grove area does look really nice, and its well laid out, with a cook house and buffet tables in the center, 2 shelters on each end, and a Pepsi Oasis building complete with free Pepsi products during your catered meal on each end. We helped ourselves to some free drinks and waited for the buffet to open. Not too surprisingly the buffet was quite similar to the one at Cedar Point. They do stamp your hand here when they take your ticket to allow you to get seconds, and the buffet was fried chicken, hot dogs (in place of the brats), pasta, potato salad, baked beans, ice cream, and soft drinks. We enjoyed our lunch and the Q&A followed right after lunch in the grove, so we stuck around for it.
Some points from the Q&A:
- Skyscraper waiting parts, not known if the ride will even reopen
- Park pushing the fact that it isn't closing, it is merely right sizing the park to the attendance it pulls. Not having the operational costs of X-Flight and Steel Venom though to make up for the predicted lower revenue. Had to address a doom and gloom article that recently appeared in a local paper.
- As usual at these kind of things, people try to get them to spill the beans on upcoming new rides, and the speaker continues to stonewall them.
- Redirecting advertising dollars from billboards, TV, radio to other avenues.
- Goal the past few seasons was getting the waterpark side up and running. (On the old Sea World grounds), current goal is to restore park profitability. Sounds like lean times ahead to me. - noted he thinks the midway rides that are on the water park side really belong on the rides side. Noted those rides, as well as the motion simulator and 4D movie get underutilized, particularly when the water park is closed. (Why do I fear they will relocate those rides (Scrambler, Yo-Yo, Sea Dragon, Spider, Thriller Bees and more) to the Rockville area, and promote that as a new rides midway. I think they can't really play the shell game anymore, merely moving rides and slides around the park and calling it new each year)
- Ferry boats while Disney-esque, had too low capacity and too high an operating cost to operate.
- Noted that people are not responding to the non-discounted "Everyday Low Price" admission model.
All that said, Bill Spehn was a gracious host and stayed around in the Grove answering questions long after the scheduled time had ended.
Eventually we made our way out of the Picnic Grove and headed towards the Big Dipper. We were concerned when we noted it was sending empty trains through much of the Q&A. Big Dipper was a walk on, and we took several rides in between talking with fellow coaster nuts. Big Dipper is a living tribute to the parks of yesteryear, it keeps its classic looking profile and station, the two stop loading, the skid brakes, and it does have (albeit non functional) Big Ol Brake Levers in the station. It is also running a genuine replica NAD train, with loads of padding. Its a bit of a tight fit for two adults, so its not uncommon to see lots of single riders on Big Dipper. We tried riding in pairs once, it wasn't comfortable. The layout on this 1925 John Miller masterpiece is mainly out and back. It does have a folded lift, wherre you go out of the station, turn around, go up the lift, turnaround, down the drop and into the dogleg outbound leg. After the turnaround, and several speed hills, you do the final turnaround before hitting the brakes. I beleive the ride runs best up front, and possibly only in seat 3. Seat 3 seems to deliver the goods the best, also the back seat of each car seems to be have just a bit more legroom than the other two seats. It's an airtime feast!
Again after several rides on Big Dipper, we made our way back eventually coming to the parks other wood coaster. April's time in the park was short, so we hit the rides that were high on her wish list. I noted the haybaler ride was unfortunately closed. We then took a ride on Villain. Villain is not running smooth by any stretch of the imagination, and I was shocked to hear the way it was running is an improvement over the last few seasons. The ride has Gerstlauer trains which is the first strike against it. The ride still has great airtime, and some wicked laterals, but its also running pretty rough.
From Villain we headed to Double Loop. Double Loop is an early Arrow looper that does just what the name implies, oh along with a speed hill and a helix. Oddly enough Double Loop recieved the crotch straps while Head Spin did not. We also watched a two train operation that honestly would have been improved upon by taking a train off.
From Double Loop, April and Dave wanted to ride the Pepsi Plunge log flume, so I took the time to grab rides on Texas Tornado (the first HUSS Top Spin in the United States), the ride I received had a nice flip count and was a great Top Spin ride. At the end of the ride, the ride did not want to let go of me, it liked me so much.
I next headed to Dominator, but it was down mechanical, so I headed to the other demented carnival ride, Time Warp. Time Warp is a Chance Inverter which is an example of how not to build a looping ship ride. Way to complex and way to many moving parts to give essentially the same ride. This ride was no exception as it took a great deal of time moving riders around in the gondola to satisfy the ride computer to actually start the ride. This was a Double Inverter and not surprisingly one side of it was closed, oddly enough they kept the lakeside open and closed the midway side.
After Time Warp, I ran to catch up to the others who had signaled they were headed to Big Dipper. I took a couple Big Dipper rides but they had left the scene. I made an educated guess that Rideman was going to head to his car next, so first I stopped in the Emporium and picked up an event shirt for $15 or so. Event shirt is a rare XXL shirt, not often seen in a Cedar Fair gift shop. The shirt proclaims the 2007 Ohio Coaster Odyssey and the back of the shirt lists all the Cedar Fair owned coasters in Ohio. I note they put Avatar at Kings Island on the list. Anyway, shirt purchased I got my FUN handstamp and did in fact run into Rideman in the parking lot, quite near his car. I stowed shirt, we upgraded to a much closer parking space, and re-entered the park. We proceeded to cross the big floating bridge over to Whitewater Kingdom just in time for the water park to close. What little I got to see of the water park does look like they did a nice job with the area. We got there by going through what used to be the Looney Tunes Area, but now with some generic kids area theme. The giant carrots remain! Looking around that area there aren't many kids rides left in the park, but a niece water spreyground and climbing structure type area for the kids remains.
We noted the disused major show stadium. During the Q&A it was noted they tried putting shows there the last couple seasons, but the cost of operating the stadium plus mounting the show makes the stadium attractive but too pricey to actually use. In other words the park has been putting on the poor mouth all day, and when I loook around at the small crowd on a gorgeous Saturday, its easy to see why the park may be on hard times. It also seems that whatever Cedar Fair is doing, hasn't made any statistical inroads. It's quite easy to buy into the rumours about the park slowly dying. We passed the old Shamu's Happy Harbor area where Rideman noted that Sea World and Six Flags didn't care who romped around in the massive climbing structure back there, but Cedar Fair has restricted it to children. Shame, as it looked quite fun too.
We observed a cycle of the Thriller Bees. When this ride was at Kentucky Kingdom the cars would alternate going up and down as the ride went around, now all the cars swing up and stay up the entire ride. In other words the one thing that made that ride pieece unique has been disabled. We did take rides on the Yo-Yo and the Sea Dragon. Sea Dragon seems to be hitting something it shouldn't as it passes through the station which is scrubbing off speed, which is preventing the boat from going as high as other similar rides.
We then took the long walk around Raging Wolf Bobs to get back to the main ride park. The courtesy golf cart shuttle service along this long pathway had already closed for the night, if it operated at all, as I noted the attraction closed signs up. Raging Wolf Bobs was closed today, as it probably will be for quite some time owing to an incident on the ride earlier today that left a train on the tracks in one of the dips covered with tarps, and some broken structural members and tension cables. We chatted here for a bit before heading on towards the Carousel.
Geauga Lake runs a fairly rare carousel, a Mangles mechanism with Illions horses. What makes it interesting is that it has the fly-out horses where the carousel poles go down from the horse and instead of going to a fixed spot on the floor, the pole is set into a slot that runs from the inboard edge to the outboard edge. When the carousel speeds up, and this one does speed up quite nicely, the horses 'fly out' along this track to better manage the rides forces. Instead of being pushed out to the side the force is redirected pushing you down into the saddle. Quite a clever idea.
We then engage in more conversation, quite lenghty in fact, until we realize there is one coaster that will not be open for ERT. We head to the Beaver Land Mine Ride. Its a Zierrer family coaster and you get two circuits per ride. It runs a really long 20 car train, but don't let it full you, its actually quite a peppy ride. I note that neither Six Flags nor Cedar Fair preload the queue gates, keeping everybody back in the queue area, and doesn't admit you to the station until after the ride has stopped and the queue gates are open. Odd.
We then head to Dominator. I had been worried about B&M seats since I sometimes have trouble with those. Dominator was a tight but doable fit in a standard size seat. Dominator is a floorless coaster, but we went to the back row instead, both to get the most intense ride, and the airtime coming off the mid course brakes. Dominator exits through a gift shop, but they did leave a nice clear path through so you can bolt through it pretty easily. I had to laugh though, the first t-shirt you see after riding Dominator is one praising wood coasters.
We then tried to snag a last minute ride on Thunderhawk but it was down technical. We returned to the picnic grove as directed to wait until the park was clear. We then had 90 minutes of darn near whole park ERT: We had Villain, Dominator, Thunderhawk, and Big Dipper to keep us company.
We headed to Thunderhawk, and scored that Thunderhawk ride, in fact we scored three or four Thunderhawk rides without leaving the station. ERT rules on everything except the Big Dipper (owing to two stop loading) was that rerides were okay, and vulturing empty seats was okay. I must say, this is still the world's smoothest Vekoma SLC (Hang and Bang) It received the on ride DVD movie sales system this year.
We next headed to Dominator where there was more of a crowd. We did score a two train wait front seat ride. The front seat on a Floorless coaster really is the best in terms of view and visuals. After that we had to walk around. Rideman had to go run an errand so while he did that, I managed 6 Dominator rides in the second row from the back, left side, without leaving my seat. Eventually some others wanted that seat so I moved into Row 5 for two more rides, the last one with Rideman.
From Dominator we headed over to Villain for 3 or 4 rides on Villain, one in the back car, and the others in the middle of the train. The side bars on Gerstlauer trains help you brace yourself,. and the ride in the middle was a bit more tolerable than in the back.
Lastly we made a mad dash to end the night on Big Dipper. I managed to get 2 or 3 rides on the Dipper, with my final ride of the day being in Big Dipper's front seat. I had worn the Belmont Park Giant Dipper T-shirt that day. While I had to downgrade in name from the Giant Dipper to the Big Dipper, in terms of ride, the Big Dipper kicks butt.
After that, ERT had ended, and we made our way out to our car, and started the long ride back to Columbus, and then I had a ride back to Cincinnati the next day. We did make a late night stop at 2AM to make sure the folks at Denny's "We may doze but we never close" were actually awake.
Next up: Stricker's Grove
Watch for it!
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