Trip Report: Valleyfair! (8/30,9/1)
"Duell Loop meets Cedar Fair"
Friday morning we got up and went to Valleyfair!. It seems that I have been doing well on my tour of Cedar Fair parks. Witness that in 2000 I did Dorney, 2001 was Knott's Berry Farm and Cedar Point, in 2002 I have done Cedar Point, Valleyfair! and Knott's Camp Snoopy. All I have left are Worlds of Fun and Michigan's Adventure.
We arrived at the park about 15 minutes before opening. At the start of the driveway to Valleyfair! is one of the more stunning signs I have seen for an amusement park, it becomes even more stunning as you leave the park and realize that it involves lots of neon tubes and animation. The parks entry way is long by design and has numerous lanes running the width of one side of the parking lot leading to the Troll Gate at the other end. You may recall from mythology that Trolls were evil giants that guarded bridges and demanded exhorbitant fees to cross the bridge. The same theory applies at several of the nation's amusement park, with "Trolls" stationed at the Troll Gate or Troll Plaza demanding exhorbitant fees to drive through the gate. The exhorbitant fee at Valleyfair is a rediculous $7.00. Fortunately for us Jerry had a parking decal so we passed the Troll barely even slowing down.
We entered the parking lot and Jerry made a point of parking near Challenge Park. Since we had some time to kill, Jerry wanted to show me something unusual about the parking lot. It's a rather ordinary parking lot, except that on this date it contained 3 large "X"'s spray painted in a straight line, several yards apart from each other. By each "X" was some secret alien code. It seems to be a forgone conclusion that this will be where the new coaster is going, and why not, VF has a huge parking lot, and even with a station they will loose 3 or 4 aisles of parking, even better they already have a path from the park servicing this area. It makes perfect sense to me.
We made our way up to the front gate, and guided by my host, I proceed directly to the season pass gate even though I had a Cedar Point season pass. As I had suspected, I was turned away from the season pass gate and sent to the Guest Services building. Nothing special happened in the Guest Services building except that a secret panel was opened allowing me to enter the park without going through the admission gate. (Ok, a gate in the counter with an electic lock, but I wanted to make it sound more mysterious) I rejoined Jerry who waited just outside the Guest Services entrance from inside the park and soon we made our way to Wild Thing.
That is we would have made our way directly to Wild Thing except that that path is intentionally a lot longer than it needs to be. Instead of a straight midway they have built several curves and zig/zags into it. It's a classic Duell trick to make the park seem a lot bigger than it really is. At most parks you don't tend to notice it, but here it just seems unnaturally obvious.
Anyway, Valleyfair! follows the Cedar Fair rulebook by placing a Carousel directly inside the main gate. Its a beautfiul machine, and though I intentionally checked I forgot wether it had carousel straps about the riders waist or not. It also has a rotating roof so that in effect it resembles a big oversized Hampton Umbrella Ride. We made our way to Wild Thing passing a competent selection of flat rides: Enterprise, Scrambler, Chaos, Caterpillar (no canopies), Falling Star, Dodgems and a Casino, also in this area are two show venues, train depot and several dining options including two 50's themed stands right next to each other. One of which was the Cedar Fair mandated Coasters restaurant. (Which sports photos of Cedar Point coasters). We also bypassed the bridge to Power Tower.
Also in this area is a 50's gas station themed building that houses an arcade. Signs along the outside windows advertise "Pinball!", and there is a fake advertisement for "No Tilt Pinball Addidtive" unfortunately the arcade does not contain a single pinball machine. However the arcade does contain a large selection of video games that operate on DOLLAR COINS. Yep those golden dollars burning a hole in your pockets now have a use.
About the time we passed the arcade and waited for the train to pass by, it was about opening time. Valleyfair does play a "Welcome to Valleyfair!" song on the public address system, but unlike Cedar Point does not have a playing of the national anthem. At about this point we cross the railroad tracks and note that instead of automatic crossing gates, they have a staff member that manually closes gates across the path, when the gates are open they close over and prevent a guest from walking down the railroad tracks.
Finally after passing a Tilt-A-Whirl we arrive at Wild Thing. Wild Thing is the parks signature coaster. It is the first thing you see when you pull into the parking lot and its turnaround sits above challenge park making a bold statement. We arrived at Wild Thing to find a complete walk on with the majority of the seats going out emopty. I noted that they were using 2 of the rides 3 trains. Jerry remarked that when you see the third train come online, you probably don't want to be there. It seems that unlike Cedar Point they don't always run all rides at maximum capacity. We walked on and headed to the back seat. Just as on all Valleyfair coasters no queue gates were used. Wild Thing is a fine hypercoaster. After the 200' lift hill you drop and then rise to crest the second hill and then you enter a very odd turnaround moanuever, alomst like a figure eight, before returning the the block brake that runs parralel to the out leg. The return leg features the trademark series of bunny hills usually associated with a Morgan coaster. To add to the fun at the bottom of one of the dips the train enters a tunnel, then while in the tunnel rises and falls again. A rather neat effect is created as the on-ride photo strobes serve to light up some support structure that makes a real neat head chopper effect. We returned to the station after a ride full of nice floater airtime but nothing major, nothing like Magnum can dish out.
The line is still a walk-on, so we walk on again, and as we pass the munchkin checker we note that a parent was having a rather heated discussion about their child's ride eligibility. What made it funny was that the child looked like they didn't care if they rode or not, but the parent was going crazy. This time we rode in the Magnum Ejector Seat. Well this isn't Magnum, and while you do get some nice hangtime on the first drop, and even some real nice air on the second drop, it does NOT provide a Magnum-esque ride. Almost like Magnum-Lite. All the looks of a fine hypercoaster with none of the ejector air usually associated with one. We return and the line is still a walk-on.
Not only is it still a walk-on but the same parent and same child are at the height-check station, the rides lead has been summoned to the height check station AND an area manager has been summoned to the height check station and a big old convention has been convened to determine this child's eligibility. Valleyfair does do something I haven't seen any other park do. They had the child remove their shoes, then the places a pad on the bottom of the height check device that not only provides a soft cool surface, but simulates the typical height difference caused by children's shoes. This has now gotten to the point where all the seat queues are empty, the train is sitting empty and idle in the station, there is a line forming in the queue but no-one can get through because the candy cane is sitting blocking the turnstile as the height checker, rides lead, and area manager are holding a summit. I really give the VF! staff an A+ for patience here. Finally a loader comes over and assumes the height checkers duties so that operation can commence. Due to the way things shook out we took a trip to the front seat. Shortly before dispatch the summit at the height check station ended with the result being that the child was allowed to ride. I know it was a close call but the swinging bar on the height-scale swung over the childs head without contact. But I leave that up to the people in charge.
I believe that Wild Thing rides best in the front seat, the hangtime on the first drop is elegant, the near ejector air on the second drop is divine, the turnaround is just bizzare and crazy, and the return leg, while not ejection seat does lift you up nice and gently out of your seat on every dip. It has the looks of a hypercoaster with the ride of a conventional size coaster.
Looks, that is one key about Valleyfair. From the moment you turn into the parking lot and see the sign you realize that this park cares a great deal about how it looks aesthetically. I'm not talking about theming here, I'm talking about providing a welcomeing asthetically pleasing environment. They are masters at the use of color. By this I mean that a lot of comapnies abuse color, creating busy looking areas full of seemingly random smatterings of color, the worst offenders placing these colors is seemingly patternless designs that just look cluttered. Valleyfair instead carefully selects colors to go along with whatever key feature is in the area. As an example, Valleyfair uses a lot of pennants and solid colored flags as decoration. They are found along the peak of WT's lift hill and along its brake run. In addition more, much larger ones are found in front of its station and around the queue maze. In fact the whole park is covered with these flags. I do beleive I like the effect as it adds a lot of vivid color and pleasing motion to the midway. I did note that instead of being cheap like a lot of places and merely taking quarter inch piping with two eyelts fitted to it to attach the flag, such that someone has to climb up on a ladder to repair/replace the flag, they use real flagpoles complete with a proper halyard and gold ball on top. Since I have worked at an amusement park and for several years had the peculiar job of walking around the park with the proverbial ten-foot pole in order to untangle all manner of flags (decorative, park logo, national, and international), I may be one of the few who appreciates what doing it right from the outset, at higher cost, means. For a park that really stresses the vivid use of color, I find it almost ironic that the Valleyfair logo flag is simply the parks monochrome logo on a plain white background. Speaking of high places, I note that each of the three legs of Power Tower is topped off with an American flag.
It just so happens that Power Tower is near Wild Thing, so after riding Wild Thing until the line started forming, we headed to Power Tower. Power Tower is in a very aethetically pleasing setting. VF, following another rule from the Duell rulebook placeda large fake body of water in the middle of the park, however they also placed an island in the middle of the water. From older park maps I can see that this island used to house a kids particpatory play structure, alomst like the Tom Sawyer Island concept at that big well known park.
The only guest access to this island is on a wooden suspension style bridge, you know the kind that if someone gets rambunctious and jumps on it or walks heavy the whole thing shakes. Its a wonderful touch, and I'm sure a part of the former attraction. Traffic lanes have been painted on the bridge, evidently by someone from England. It all fits the traffic pattern concerning the entracne and exit for the ride.
We crossed the bridge to find an island. Power Tower sits off-center on the island, closer to the front of the park. Power Tower is a three leg tower, with the single leg closest to the front of the park holding a Space Shot, and the two legs in the back each holding a Turbo Drop. The back side of the island houses the control building, and the queue maze for the Turbo Drops.
We opted to do the Turbo Drop first, and soentered the empty queue maze where we found a 1 cycle wait. Due to the light crowd, they were only running one of the two Drop towers. We were assigned seats, and were soon secured by the OTSR and the safety strap. The point of a Turbo Drop is that they take you up and drop you FASTER than a natural freefall. The upshot of it is that you typically get a nice burst of ejector seat air just as the ride is starting. Drop rides typically are good for airtime, especially if you stick your arms and legs out. Unfortunately this drop ride did not read its physics book, or the folks at Valleyfair tinkered with the weight mapping so that the carriage actually falls slighty slower than natural freefall. The resulting ride feels more like a sit down elevator than a freefall/Turbodrop ride. We exited the ride, where I note that S&S has an awkward seatbetl design. Usually on rides with the crotch strap that runs from between your legs up to the shoulder bar the buckle is rigidly mounted to the harness, on this ride it is affixed to the end of the strap. Nothing wrong with that except I usually lift up on the latch and attempt to pull the tounge out of the buckle, when on on S&S you should lift the latch and pull down on the buckle itself. We exit to the center of the tower trio and follow a path that takes us to a point right next to the ride entrance, unlike the Cedar Point Tower where they intentionally made a long walk around.
We walked back in and this time opted for the Space Shot. As I said the Space Shot is at the very front of the island, and the ride entrance is at the very back of the island. Thus instead of a queue maze, a long non-adjustable queue path that winds around the perimieter of the island is employed. This queue path runs alongside and very close to Corkscrew where we noted some technicians working on the on-ride photo system. We had a 2 cycle wait, which is not bad at all. We found ourselves on one of the short sides of the 2x4 tower. Now the point of Space Shot is that it simulates a rocket launch, so much so that NASA uses a Space Shot as an educational exhibit at their Huntsville, Alabama facility. (That same facility also uses a Gravitron to demonstrate sustained G-forces, you've gotta love the use of amusement rides as educational exhibits). We take our seats and prepare for the pinacle moment of Space Shot rides, that point where the carriage has stopped going up, !
however your body continues to rise until it is rudely checked by the OTSR. However, this is Valleyfair and an underpowered launch conspires to deliver another fast sit-down elevator ride with no interesting forces. Ya know, Stan Checkets was one quoted as answering a question about a family version of his tower rides as saying something like "I could build a family version, but that would be an elevator, and it wouldn't be very thrilling or exciting" I'm sure he didn't expect Valeyfair to try it. (In Stan's defense, he did develop the Frog Hopper which has become an extremly popular kiddie tower ride, in fact Valleyfair has one). Its the VF! opeational standard: Big impressive looking ride, that operates in 'family' mode.
From Power Tower we proceeded to Corkscrew. Mercifully, the folks at Valleyfair did insert several cutovers in their Duell loop to ease getting from one point to another. Corkscrew is Valleyfair Lake's other major resident. We continued to walk around the ride till we reached its entrance, actually located close to the front of the park. The ride entrance is an unassuming break in the fence where a barely labeled path leades back to the ride. If the entrance sounds untypical for Cedar Fair, add to that the exit path runs parralel to the entrance path, about 8' from each other. I was not surprised to find the on-ride photo booth closed.
We walked up the windy walkway to Corkscrew and Jerry commented that he would prefer to wait for the front seat, citing rider comfort issues. Well there were so few people in line I don't recall if it had any queue maze or not, becuase we walked right up to the station and right into the front seat queue. A complete walk on, and hardly anybody riding. Given these conditions I could not blame them for only running one train.
When I saw the train arrive, I knew what Jerry was talking about. I am familiar with the fact that on most Arrow trains the front seats offer considerably more legroom than the back seats because usually the front off all the cars except the front car are bowed out slightly, while the front car has the decoratice nose. On this train, while the front car still has the nose, the fronts of the other cars are NOT bowed out, meaning the front seats offer just as little legroom as the back seats. I want to say I've seen this style train before, on Geauga Lake's Double Loop.
We took our seats up front, where I notices a lot more foam and padding covering the fiberglass car shell. Hey I can't knock them for padding, even the little armrests. At Valleyfair they still lock and release the OTSR's on the Corkscrew by stomping pedals. We take our seats and the ride starts. As we climb the lifthill Jerry makes special note of the headrest. That is the headrest that is positioned just below my shoulder blades. More evidence perhaps that ride sesigners design rides with smaller riders in mind, children and teens perhaps. The back foam molding has two bump outs that I presume are for your head, and as they were behind my back and not my head, they made thir presense known going up the lift hill. Ya know, I had noticed that on a couple other older Arrow's, but it took Jerry to point out the problem will I realized what it was (SFDL's Viper for example). This feeling becomes worse when the positive G's cause the shoulder bar to tighten up. Jerry claims this is a new style Arrow train, but I contend that its actually an older model.
Corkscrew is actually a Loopscrew and consists of the basic lift, drop, loop, double corkscrew ride layout except that a helix was added to the end of the ride. The Arrow Corkscrew/Loopscrew line of coasters don't particularly interest me, primarily because they seem more nostalgic than anything. "Come ride this early inverting coaster" On the other hand they are a coaster, and they don't give a bad ride, just an uninteresting one combined with that typcial arrow roughness. In any event the Valleyfair Motto of "Looks Uber Alle" applies here in that the coaster is set over the parks lake, with the two corkscrew turns directly above water. Yet another aethetically pleasing ride placement.
Exiting the Corkscrew we decided to try out a flat ride, and the Monster was located close at hand, and was just finishing up a cycle with a relatively short line. (Less than 1 cycle wait). Monster is a classic ride by Eyerly. As you may know Monster consistis of main centeral turret that spins the entire ride, connected to the turret are 6 sweeps, each sweep ending in a 4 fingered claw, at the end of each finger is a tub. The whole ride spins, the sweeps rise and fall, the 4-fingered claws spin, and the cars are free to swivel (spin) on their own. Monster also suffers from an inherent problem akin to the Ferris Wheel Problem. The entire ride cannot be loaded at one time, instead three stops are needed. At each stop the riders must be unloaded, which entails each car being unlocked and opened individually, then new riders counted off and grouped and sent to the cars, then each car closed up and locked individually. (Though some riders, like myself, close the car for them) Cedar Fair parks have added the additional step of a pin like device that is inserted into the lock release lever to prevent the lever from moving on its own.
We entered the line and when I loked at the control panel I saw something that surprised me. You see, the Monster/Spider family of rides are a calss that I still see manual lever controls used, even in parks that spent buckets of money to idiot-proof their rides with 'two button' computer consoels. ("Start"/"Stop" and if you press the wrong one, nothing happens). I looked up in the control console and saw an automated panel. So much for my theory that the ride was too complex to automate.
A bit later i am being loaded into a tub where I note the anti-slide coating had been apllied. Incidentaly, PKI also applied the anti-slide coating last season and has since removed it. Monster seems to be much more a function of luck than a Spider. A good Spider such as the one at Holiday World seems to be a guaranteed spin fest. While the Monstaer offers more interesting up/down movements, the spin factor seems dependant on luck. I have gotten everything from vigerous spin rides, to totally lifeless rides on Monsters. Luckily this ride was one of those vigorous non-stop spin rides. Partly due to the long loading process, and partly due to the CF policy on short flat ride cycles, the Monster cycle seemed especially short. Still a very fun ride, and after Monster we headed back to High Roller to continue the coaster tour.
Just as Wild Thing seems to line one side bondary of the park, the High Roller lines the other. High Roller is a classic out and back design by the good folks at IAD. As such the ride looks like the ultimate classic coaster, due in no small part to its rolling stock. The High Roller runs IAD trains, while slightly newer in vintage and looks than Century Flyers, the trains amazingly retain their classic looks.
We entered the queue for High Roller which is a small maze with a few swithcbacks, at this time the line started at the bottom of the ramp, which Jerry assured me is about the shortest I would see this line. High Roller was only running one train, and Jerry told me that I would not want to be at the park if it were crowded enough to add the second, which they seem to be very reluctant to do, and then only in big crowd situations. Today the car covers weren't even removed from the second train. The classic styled station is incredibly long as if the ride were desinged for two-stop loading, but like most of its kind, it had since been converted to flush loading,if it didn't originally start that way. The loading area seems smaller than for most coasters, and as such only one trainload is admitted from the queue to the station. Once those riders step into the train, the next group is admitted. It's kinda like the Millineum Force loading style.
We were lucky and were able to score the very back seat. Jerry had warned me that the front seat of each train was smaller and the bar came in closer to the gut, and the very front seat is real tight if you can even fit into it. We sat down, fastened the one shared belt, and per instructions did not pull down on the traditional style safety bar. We raised our hands when told to, and an atendant came down the side of the train who lowered and locked each lapbar individually. No automatic lapbar locks here, in true IAD fashion there are levers on the trainside, but since the trains permit flush loading, there is an individual lapbar lock/release lever for each row. The efficiant crew handles this completely manual operation at the same speed, if not faster than crews who merely have to check and see if the bar is locked. The trains are truly Coaster Classic status worthy. (And such a breath of fresh air for a corporate theme park) The train is loaded and we start to depart!
the station when I notice an unusual hammering noise. Valleyfair left intact IAD's version of an automatic lapbar lock. In IAD/NAD's eye the riders would lower their lapbar and the bars would lock as the seat left the loading area. I have never seen a park totally rely on the NAD/IAD automatic lapbar locker, but I have to admit I think it is a neat backup plan to double check the attendnat. The way the system works is ingennious, mounted just downtrack of the station is a box just trackside of the side of the train that has the mechanisms, an arm protruding from the device is positioned so that it kicks the lever to the locked position, the arm is fitted with some resistance spring or counterweight so that when the bar is locked the arm folds back away, put pops out again as soon as the locked lever passes. Considering the noise the device makes, it attacks the lapbar levers quite hard.
We then rolled forwards and up the lifthill, down the first drop, another rise, and then a twisting drop kinda like a mild Screechin Eagle, a third rise leads to the turnaround. The train enters the turnaround with tons of speed but the park won't hear of that as they have affixed a turnaround brake that slows the train to a speed where using the term "crawl" would be generous.
The ride sort of meanders over the return hills, yet strangely enough you can feel where there SHOULD be major air, and I can easily imagine the ride was supposed to run as wild and airtime filled as the Screechin Eagle. Instead the back seat riders are treated to one nice airtime pop on the final speed hill before the train makes the turnaround to the brake run. As you return to the station you first glide through a long unused part, then finally to the unloading dock. Upon arrival at the station, the park has left the IAD/NAD automatic lapbar release system in place. Its a rather lowtech system. Mounted on the sides of the running board is a lock release plunger, as the train enters the station platform area you there is another small arm that kicks the release plungers. The upshot of this is that the lapbar is actually unlocked as the train is being brought to a stop, which means you can raise it immediately after the train stops. (I'm told they get hostile if you raise it as the train is coming to a stop). Don't fret that the train may overshoot the station, as the automatic lapbar locker would kick the levers back to lock. In the end, the ride fits in well at Valleyfair!, the park wanted a traditional wooden coaster, and they have a woodie that looks very classic in its layout, with classic trains, and with a classic operating policy. The only thing it lacks is that classic ride experience.
From the High Roller we though about but dismissed a ride onthe Yo-Yo and isntead headed to the Wild Mouse. Valleyfair, like several parks installed a new age version of an old time classic, the Wild Mouse. This particualr mouse came from Arrow, and would be my first Arrow mouse. Jerry indicated that a line only into the first switchback was short, so we entered the line for the Mouse. Recall that while the line fora Wild Mouse is usually constantly moving, they still aren't high capacity rides. This mouse is done up in a rather unique paint shceme with a light blue and purple being the predominant colors, though I want to say it has red track. Like most modern era mice, this one uses mice that have two rows of two. Unlike most mice, the rows are arranged in a stadium seating arrangement with the back row raised slightly above the first. The mice themselves though look as if they were made by Rubbermaid or Fisher-Price or Step 2. Although they have mouse ears on the front, most of the details are merely painted on the rather boxy, plasticy lookng bodies. Jerry informed me that the queue maze for this was a holdover from Wild Rails (a Wildcat ride).
We waited through the queue line and reached an uncovered station where an assembly line process was set up, with each station on the assembly line seperated by a yellow line. As a mice enters the station they first sit in a block where they can unfasten the individual seatbelts, then they advance to a block where the lapbars open and they can exit, then it advances to a position where the new riders climb in, then it advances to a position where if you haven't gotten theseatbelts fastened you can do that, then another advnace and the lapbars can be lowered and checked, then another advance and your mice is already to go as soon as the dispatch permits. What this means is that while several mice are on the ride, most are in the station while only very few are actually out on the course. (Rumour has it they may be looking into purchasing additional mice for the ride, more than Arrow initially packaged with it).
I must admit my expectations for this ride were quite low. I had experienced modern era WIld Mice in several parks and with the exception of the one at Hersheypark had generally been disapointed in their perfoamce, secondly I had been on the Wild Mouse at Dorney Park which is braked to death beyond belief, and thirdly based on my experiences with other rides at this park seemed to send a message that the park is afraid to operate their rides agressively. I am very pleased to admit I was wrong. By some twist of fate, this mouse operated with very minimal trim braking, with the vast majority of the trim brakes not even operating. The effect being that this little ride gives an above average ride for a modern era Wild Mouse. This ride finishes just shy of the Hersheypark mouse ride. We returned to the station.
After the Mouse ride we took a restroom break. I only mention it because after visiting multiple restroom buildings at Valleyfair, a common trend is that they all have a pungent odor in them. Yes I know they are restroom buildings, but to they have to be themed to outhouses. A little air freshener or perhaps better effort put into cleaning and santizing would greatly improve the experience. Then again it may be a plot to minimize restroom usage.
From the Wild Mouse, we decided to take in a show. (Half of RRC gasps in horror) Right across from the Mouse is the I-Max Theatre, and a movie was about to begin. We entered the auditorium that is kept at a chilly 53 degrees. Now that i have had the chance to see the same movie in IMAX and Omnimax, I much prefer the Omnimax format. VF was playing Adventures in California. I had seen the movie before, but I was still surprised they chose this particular film as about halfway through it they show a big spot on Disneyland (aka the competition) including a POV ride of Big Thunder Mountain Railroad with a way overclocked film speed. It was an interesting movie, and provided a nice break from the heat.
From the I-Max we walked alongside the closed waterpark, then past a Looping Starship. Then jerry started leading me back an unmarked path that runs alongside the closed waterpark. I mean this long unmarked path goes through a tunnel that I suppose also serves as a floodgate. You see the back of VF! has been known to flood. After the tunnel, there are two rides, to the right is the Thunder Canyon raft ride, with its olive drap military looking rafts, we looked from the overlook and the ride didn't look too bad. However, we decided not to ride the raft ride now. Instead we went to the left and at the end of the unmarked path sits Excalbur: The Coaster in Exile.
Excalibur is one of Arrow's two full size coasters with a wood support structure. (Gemini is the other) Excalibur is laid out very similar to a typical Arrow Mine Train with a 100'+ lift hill attached, which means the train goes through the course WAY faster than a typical mine ride. The ride was running one train that looks very similar to a Gemini train except for the logo.
The next thing I noticed is that the park built a very short queue maze, as in if they used all of it, it is a station legnth and a half long, that's it. This all leads me to beleive that the park is hiding this coaster in exile. Its a walk on, and we climb into the back seat. Individual retracting seatbelts and all. We ascend the tall lift hill, come down one of the steepest drops ever seen on a mine ride, the train then traverses a stretch of flat spped track, then all madness breaks out, and finally we have a coaster at VF! that runs with violent reckless abandon as the train navigates the mine train layout at about twice the speed you would expect. Lateral forces like you woulnd't believe as you get tossed around like a rag doll. WOW, they have a fantastic thrilling ride lke this at Valleyfair! No wonder it is in exile "Bad Ride, you are actually thrilling, go to the back of the park to hide"
We take several rides on this wonderful coaster. While Wild Thing is a lot more rerideable and fun, this coaster is a lot more thrilling and intense. Eventually we tried a front seat. Excalibur had been laughed at for its three first drop brakes. Well, that is no longer the case, Excalibur now sports FOUR first drop brakes! This ride would be positively diabolicaly insane if those brakes were off.
After Excalibur, we thought about Thunder Canyon but the ride broke down about 2 minutes after we entered the queue. Oh well, we headed to the Looping Starship instead. The Looping Starhsip is a misleading name as they use the pirate ship theme instead of the space shuttle theme. At least the support structure is painted a nice vivid yellow. We entered the queue and realized that they were only using the 6 middle rows. Not a big deal as the ship loops. It was out turn, and I coulnd't believe when I saw seatbelts fitted to the long benches. This ride design already gets lots of grief about having an over-restrictive restraint system, VF goes to overkill by adding totally useless lapbelts.
We take our seats, fasten the useless lapbelt, lower the shoulder bar and wait for the Ball-Crushing Lapbar to lower. OUCH! The Looping Starship gives a short but nice ride cycle. I question the effectiveness of the cargo net set up above the riders. It was actually a fun ride, and then th ride came to a stop, and we are remindeed that the Ball-Crushers must tighten up in order to release. We exit the ride as we note a mainteance crew working under the ride.
We then decided to go to the car for refreshments. On our way to the car we note the Wild Mouse and High Roller queues are now full. I take a look at Mild Thing which is the parks kiddie coaster (a Herschell kiddie oval, to make SURE not one over 54" can ride, the cieling of the station on the guest side looks to be just about 54" high, and there is a real tight tunnel at the top of the lift. It is painted very similar to its bigger brother.
Valleyfair takes a page from Herhsyparks book, and instead of having a seperate kiddie ghetto, the whole one side of the park is littered with kiddie rides, starting with Half Pint Park the parks porverbail kiddie area alongside the lake by the Imax, then there are more kiddie rides by High Roller, then you go through the covered bridge. You then come acroos Berenstein Bear Country, a big interactive play area with ridea and activities for children. Wait, I though Cedar Fair canned the Bears, but considering that CF runs a Camp Snoopy park at the Mall of America, it makes sense to have a different themed kiddie area in order to not duplitcate park offerings. Berenstein Bear Land looks VERY well done and themed, except for the bouncy castle. Since this isn't Camp Snoopy they don't have the Snoopy Bounce found at the other CF parks, instead they have a plain old looking carnival style Bouncy Castle in a cage so it doesn't float or fly away.
Then there are more kiddie rides located by Corkscrew. From Corkscrew you pass the Ferris Wheel, Antique Cars, ans The Wave. The Wave is a Shoot-The-Chutes ride with water so stagnant and foul that you can smell it from clean cross the midway. EWWWWWW, no thank you. Talk about Stank. Not a good thing to have by the front gate plaza. (Then again maybe the same water is used in the restroom buildings) The Ferris Wheel and Carousel are alledged to have come from Valleyfair's predecesorm, Excelsior Park. Interstingly, just like people in Cincinnati swear that the Racer is the old Shooting Star from Coney, no matter how rediculous that is, I heard several VF! fans swear that High Roller came from Excelsior.
We got the inside of our wrists stamped then went to the car for refreshments. After refreshments we headed to Challenge Park. CF does a cool think and puts most of their pay-extra attractions outside the park so you do not have to pay admission. Challenge Park is Valleyfair's FEC as you will. It contains such typical FEC attractions as mini golf, bumper boats, go-karts, a video arcade and a snack bar. Unlike most FEC's they also have a Skycoaster.
Jerry had connections and offered me a Go-Kart ride. We went into the clubhouse to get the tickets for the Karts where we found a young associate who obviously was having great mental difficulty handling taking money and tearing tickets off of a roll. We got our Go-Kart tickets ad headed back outside to the track. VF! offers the standard layout serpentine FEC track. Not much to commeent on here except that the Karts use seatbelts with the same configuration as CP's Dodgem cars. A rather neat idea I thought. A strap that crosses the chest, coming out from just under the armpits. It keeps you from bumping head into steering wheel. A rhater uneventful Go-Kart ride, then i discovered that the clubhouse had the coldest water fountains and cleanest restroom in the park.
After the visit to Challenge Park, we re-entered the park through the Challenge Park gate, which is strictly re-entry only and leads to a narrow path fenced on both sides, with the parking lot just on the other sid eof one of the fences. I wonder how many over-the-fence admissions the park has had. The path joins up to the side of the front gate complex next to the Chaos.
We had to wait several cycles to get put into the same Chaos tub, can you say OVERLOADED. It was a very interesting ride, but not a flip-fest. I got worried when Jerry knew the Chaos operator.
We proceeded from the Chaos to take several more rides on Wild Thing, then Jerry did have the courtesy to warn me before I used the wate fountain. You see near Wild Thing there is a big brick structure with several brass water fountains. The fountains are so recessed that you have to stick your whole head in, and then figure out how to line your mouth up with the water jet. Then the fountain has two settings "Off" or "On", and "ON" has a water pressure WAY too strong. As jerry warned me, give it a test run first. From then on I decided it was just as easy to abuse the free ice water privilege. I also tried some Cheese Curds. YUMMMMMM. Fat Fried FAT,, HHMMMMMM.
After the Cheese Curds and Wild Thing rides we were walking and I saw a simple sign "- FLUME" I follwed the sign and Jerry followed me onto the Log Flume. It may ntot be a Barr, and its not as evil as LeSourdsville's but it can hold it's own. You will come off WET. Mainly due to the water curtain that does not shut off, or the water jets that are supposed to jump over the trough, but one was mis-adjusted, or was it, to get people wet. It even has a couple rapids style drops. We came off the Log Flum WET but not drenched like we would at LeSourdsville.
Jerry then got possessed and escorted me DIRECTLY to Thunder Canyon, and its 1 hour wait. Talk about a queue maze. Of 5 loading areas, there were only using three rafts, and sending the others out empty. We finally get seated and proceed to get very lucky, in fact jerry got one of the first rapids, I would have escaped dry except for the water curtain at the end of the ride, AFTER the lift hill when you think you are safe. We exit the Thunder Canyon and head to Excalibur, where GASP its entire tiny queue maze was full. Darn, thats like a 3 train wait! We rode Excalibur several times and got into a wonderful conversation with a one of the operators..
We rode Excalibur quite a bit and then decided to try to hit a couple other rides. We returned to High Roller whose line had diminished and we recieved another back seat ride, ten we tried the Flying Trapeeze. Jerry had concerns about being able to fit into the Trappeze. You see the Yo-Yo includes a chest strap in ddition to the usual crotch strap. We fastneed both, and I'm glad to report the ride was Yo-Yo-ing wondefully and gave a rather fun length cycle.
From Yo-Yo we took another ride on High Roller, another ride in the back seat, another ride where you just want to see what the ride can really do, just once. From High Roller we took some more Wild Thing Rides, then when the Wild Thing line got long, we went for more walk-on Excalibur rides, then we finished the day up with more Wild Thing rides before I discivered that the gift shops have a pretty awful selection of souvenirs. One of the things that annoys me is the lack of XXL sixe t-shirts. I left the gift shops empty handed and we went home for the night after Jerry intorudced me to the best fast food burger chain ever, Culvers. Just imagine Steak-N-Shake served fast food style, wondeful sandwhiches and their own awesome house brand root beer. Did I mention frozen custard for desert? Hey they serve burgers and frozen custard, reminds me of Sean's 1999 video: Custard N' Beef!
(Time passes, we take a trip to the Dells but you can read about that in a future report)
Day 2 - 9/1/02
Today was primarily reserved for touring the Mall of America and Camp Snoopy, but then Valleyfair is real close to the Mall, so why not have a wake up call on Wild Thing????
We arrived at the park and this time I brought my video camera. We pulled down the access road and the Troll was waving Jerry through before we even got near the booth. This time I proceeded directly to Guest Services and found a GR office CRAMMED full of Cedar Point season passholders. Just as the main gate opened, they opened the gate and we paraded through the GR office and out the back door into the park. The park looked like it was going to be more crowded than Friday, so we headed back to the Wild Mouse first, that is we were going to except they had the back half of the park roped off util 10:00. (even the ropes have colorful flags, in this case purple and white. Purple is the color I would least expect on a security fence, but at least its non threatening.
This gave me time to videotape test runs of High Roller and Corkscrew and get some footage of Berenstein Bear Country. Soon the rope was dropped and we headed back to Wild Mouse. I know CF so I knew better than to even ask about shooting video on the coasters. I stowed the camera as we walked right up and into a mouse. We fasten the seatbelts, the car advances one station when a rides area lead type person (white shirt) comes running to the ride in a panic. "Sir, is that a gasp video camera" "Yes" "I'm afriad you have to exit this ride immediately" "Can I camera swap with him? pointing to jerry, and remembering Cedar Point policy" "No, please exit now" I exit the ride, walk ALL the way around, and since there is no line they end up sending a bunch of empty mice through until Jerry's mouse cycles around and I can hand the camera to him as he unloads and I load". Now I point this out becuase I checked the Valleyfair Rider Safety Guide (big thick ride safety lawayer paranoia book) and it says "Riders that have no provisions for storing their camera equipment may ride one at a time, while the other waits at the ride exit" I mention this as this provision was not offered to us, instead he was very specific that for having a camera I forfeited that ride. It was a walk on so it wasn't that big of deal that it would be worth a trip to the operations office, but I could see that having the videocamera was going to be a liability. What really bugs me about this is the guy only seemed to care that I had a videocamera, does that mean he would have let me ride the ride with a far more dangerous item in the bag (i.e. items you would not associate with going to an amusmeent park, still don't get it, watch the moive Rollercoaster!, specifically the terrorist's ride on Revolution) . Clearly this rule is not for SAFETY, its due to camera paranoia which I suppose goes back to safety.
Anyway, our next stop is back at the car to store the camera. However we did stop by to film Wild Thing but it waqs having mechancial problems, so by the time I got to the car it waqs running test runs, so I got video footage from the parking lot.
We re-entered the park and knowing Wild Thing was down, and had a nice backup waiting for it, we instead too a ride on High Roller. The line was only halfway down the ramp, and I tried a ride in the second car. No different up there.
From High Roller, we went back to Excalbibut where I noticed the Excalibur marquee that I did not notice on Friday. We took numerous Excalibur rides.. . After having had our fill on Excalibur I abused the free ice water, and coulnd't help but notice they huge lines for Mini-Donuts both here and at the fair. I went to investigate and they are just donuts the size of the ones you get in those Hostess 6-paks from vending machines, except here they were like $3.75.
We went to Wild Thing and took several rides on wild Thing. I cemented that I prefer the front of the train better.
The time was approaching 11:30 and we had already arranged to leave to go to the Mall around Noon.
We made the walk around past Coasters and Atomic Pizza where we entered the Twilight Zone.
This is worth shouting: A CEDAR FAIR PARK GIVING AWAY FREE FOOD!!!!!!
You read that right FREE FOOD. We entered the free food line where we were handed a plastic baggie, we proceeded further to the end of a conveyor belt ending in a big vat of hot melted butter. Here attendants were giving away all the roasted sweet corn on the cob you could eat, for FREE. We exited this station and went to the condiment table for napkins, and oddly enough Lemon Pepper along with the Salt and Pepper. I kept one ear of corn plain, and douses the other in Lemon Pepper. We went to t table and proceeded to eat our free corn. Roast Corn on the Cob is wonderful to begin with, and the Lemon Pepper was a remarkably good addition. A new serving suggestion. Ironically the park has a Roast Corn booth in this part of the park. that booth was closed today for some strange reason .
We then proceeded to exit the park, you know you are exiting the park early when they gate people scream to you "Hey, You forgot to get a Stamp!!!!" One last trip to the awful smelling restrooms and then back to the car.
On the way to the Mall of America we passed the lot that used to be Family Funways, nothing there now except a big multicolored building.
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