September 2, 2005
Welcome to the second day of the fall coaster trip. I realize this year I have posted the reports slightly out of order, but you'll get used to it. Today Jerry and I went to Valleyfair!, which is Cedar Fair's traditional style park located in Shakopee, MN.
We arrived at the park at around 9:40, and since Jerry has season long parking, we were able to get in without paying the absurd $8 parking fee. We parked in what must be Jerry's favorite parking space, at least according to his GPS unit, and made our way to the front gate. When we arrived at the front gate, Jerry visited Guest Services to pre-order his 2006 season pass at "the best deal of the year" and also to purchase a $17 "bring a friend" ticket as part of a Fall, 2005 promotion the park was running. That ticket would save me about half off the posted gate admission, I could tell because the face price printed on the ticket was around $34. While Jerry was transacting business, I was raiding the Cedar Fair brochure rack, which had brochures for all of Cedar Fair's parks. Afterwards Jerry took his season pass voucher and my brochure collection to the car.
Jerry returned just as the national anthem had ended. It's a Cedar Fair tradition to open the park with the playing of the national anthem, and as soon as it ends the gates open. With the very small crowd at the park around opening time, the park did not bother with opening the admission gates early, like they have on some of my other visits. We entered the park and headed left, then took another quick left and headed towards Steel Venom. Steel Venom is a parking lot coaster, except that at Valleyfair they tried to hide this fact. It is the key element of a park expansion that took place by putting Steel Venom and a new midway in a former section of parking lot, and incorporating what used to be a separate FEC "Challenge Park" into the main park. One downside of this is that you can no longer participate in the Challenge Park attractions without obtaining admission to Vallyfair itself.
There was a small crowd at Steel Venom, so small in fact that they couldn't even fill a train. Knowing the relationship between Cedar Fair and Intamin, I first jumped up into the test seat, lowered the OTSR, and with a click the seatbelt fastened. Okay, at least the test seat says I can ride. We made our way through the empty queue area, which runs right alongside the parking lot, separated only by a fence, and into the station. We selected the back row, and jumped up into the seats. I lowered the OTSR, and uhm, well this seatbelt seems a wee bit shorter than the one on the test seat. I could get the metal tounge into the buckle but not far enough in for it to engage. Luckily, the operators here are allowed to assist so I was able to ride. Steel Venom is two rides in one. It's an inverted shuttle coaster, and if you sit up front you get to best experience the twisting front spike, and if you sit in back you get to best experience the hold-and-drop on the back spike, and if you sit in the middle you get to best experience nothing, as you get mediocre rides on both spikes. The way the ride works is after seated, you are launched forward but not at full strength as you hardly make it up the front spike, you come sailing back through the station, then you go up the rear spike but without the hold brake, so you just go up, then come back down, then you get blasted at full strength through the station so that you almost but not quite reach the top of the front spike. Front riders get to experience the twist, the back riders hardly make it into the twist. The train then goes flying back through the station to once again go up to the top of the rear spike, then something really interesting happens. Usually coaster enthusiasts deplore all use of brakes in the middle of a coaster ride, I mean once that train leaves the station, nothing should impede its way along the course. Steel Venom (West) is an exception because on the second trip up the rear spike the train 'stalls' out, I don't think its a brake so much as the train is held in place by electromagnets. You only stay held for a second or two at the most, but it is a highlight of the ride. Then rear of the train riders experience what may be the best freefall ride in the park, as you come zooming down the rear spike, back through the station, then up the front spike, before you go back down the front spike into the brakes. You are then slowly brought back into the station.
I like the ride, it may not be a favorite, but I kind of like it. Owing to the small crowd conditions, we proceeded to ride several more times, walking around every time, of course. I think the seatbelt on load side, row 2 is the shortest, where I could only ride due to the operators willingness to shove down on the OTSR. However row 2 unload side I could fasten the belt with slack in the belt. Yep, it's an Intamin ride, all the seat belts are of different lengths.
After our Steel Venom ride session came to an end, not because the line had grown, but because we wanted to see what else we could ride in "optimum" conditions, we headed across the midway into Challenge Park. Challenge Park has a collection of attractions that are standard for most any self respecting FEC: go-karts, bumper boats, mini golf, game room, snack bar, all at extra cost, of course. They also have a Skycoaster "Ripcord", as well as a Skyscraper, also both at extra cost. The Skyscraper has been located along the new midway back to Steel Venom so it sits midway between Steel Venom and the front gate, across from Chaos, Ripcord is in the Challenge Park proper. Valleyfair had an interesting season pass promotion this year, for about a $30 upcharge, season pass holders could bundle Ripcord in with their season pass. It offered season passholders unlimited Ripcord rides between 10am-Noon, on every operating day. It was still before noon, so we headed to Ripcord so that Jerry could get his free ride of the day. Owing again to the low park attendance today, the park was willing to cut deals on Ripcord, offering a half off sale. This would seemingly make a Double flight $10 for me (50% off) and free for Jerry. Well, it doesn't quite work that way, even though we flew as a tandem flight, the park said that I would have to pay Single flyer rates, and Jerry would of course get to fly for free. I don't quite agree with that line of thinking, but with the discount it's only a $2.50 difference, so I start to pay $12.50, then I notice that I can combo in the Skyscraper for only $5 more. Since most places charge $20 and up to ride Skyscraper, I jumped at the chance for a $5 ride. Man, I have to watch it on the in-park spending, I may cause the partners to get higher dividends at this rate. $17.50 later I was handed a three part blue ticket, and Jerry was handed a ticket of some sort.
We headed through the entrance to Ripcord, where we were handed little baskets in which to put all loose articles, the operator then tore tickets, and invited us into the harness shelter. Ripcord is a Skycoaster Adventure, which is an extreme ride that seeks to combine the thrills of skydiving and hang gliding into one safe short ride experience. The ride uses harnesses similar to hang gliding harnesses, so when we were invited into the harness shelter, the crew looked us over and selected two red harnesses. We went through the usual drill: "Put your feet in these two loops, then reach down and pick up the harness and pull it up like a pair of shorts, (attendant holds upper portion of harness), now clap your hands together and dive under all these straps, and stick your arms out through these two holes, now hold the front of your harness tight against your chest. (straps are tightened and secured), now hold onto this footbar and walk over to the number 1 in that box over there."
Even though there was nobody flying in front of us, the procedure must be followed to the letter, including standing in the boxes where the next people to fly stand, then the gate being opened and us being invited into the actual flight area. We proceed to climb up onto the lift, where we are asked to stand at the end opposite where the flight cables are, the lift goes up, and I think they even said "Flyers switch places" even though they were not brining anybody down. You walk over to the side directly under the flight cables, drop your foot bars, put feet into foot bars, those adjustments are made, you stand as close together as you can, and I believe at this point the harnesses are fastened to each other, then the flight cables are secured to the back of your harness. At this point we have what may be the roughest, jerkiest part of the whole experience, a part I like to refer to as the "Harness Connection check". The floor of the lift is lowered and you are in effect hung, as in once your feet can no longer touch the floor, you fall forward, and are then caught by the flight harness. The winch cable is now attached to the harnesses, with the winch cable release attached to the rightmost harness. That's what gives it the name Ripcord, because on Skycoaster you have to do it to yourself, the flight won't start until the designated flyer pulls on the orange knob located on the right side of their harness, which detaches the winch cable. Once all that is secured there is a final inspection of all components "Beeners Locked, ready to fly, lift going down" Once the lift has lowered all the way and unfolded, and the crew is out of the flight path, the winch operator starts up the winch which takes you to the top of the launch tower which is placed a certain distance away from the main tower, in this case a single wide A-frame, with an approximately 180' launch tower.
As we are being winched to the top, I note that this would be the perfect Skycoaster to pull the Todd Long Stunt on. Todd Long had once suggested loading up on a dinner of Pasta with alfredo sauce and milk, then on the way up to the top of the launch tower, taking some syrup of epicac of similar to induce vomiting, the trick being to learn how to time the taking of the syrup to the actual retching to achieve maximum benefits. In this case between the main tower and the launch tower, the flight path goes right over the midway as well as over the go-kart track. Get a busy day, and there may be several potential targets. It's a very sick stunt, but what do you expect from the CEO of LongWorld?? Jerry does manage to carry on a short conversation with some people who were walking the midway, and man this is getting high. Its interesting I could see the launch tower right in back of us, but then you start going into elevator mode and start to go almost straight up. We reach the top, wait for the countdown, then the cord gets pulled. We fall, life goes into slow motion, but for some reason it doesn't seem to phase me. I mean the first few times I flew on Skycoasters, I was the one screaming bloody murder while your life seemed to flash in front of your eyes. I think this was Flight #9 for me, and my fifth different Skycoaster. For some reason that first drop just doesn't do it for me anymore. Then you swing back and forth for awhile, then they have you reach out and grab hold of a big loop which is connected to some kind of braking mechanism with not-so-gradually slows your speed until you end up roughly on top of the lift, at which time you can drop the loop.
The lift comes back up to the top, and your asked to kick off the foot bars, grab a hold of the side of the lift and pull yourself back to a standing position. At which time the flight cables and the connections between harnesses are removed, and you switch over to the other side of the lift. Again we exchange places with invisible flyers, and once the lift touches ground, we head back to the harness shelter, the harness straps are loosened, and you duck back out from under all the straps, then let the harness drop to the ground and step out of it. The baskets containing your loose articles are returned to you so you can reclaim your stuff and head through the exit gate out onto the midway.
The Skycoaster is at one extreme end of the park, so it makes since to start describing the park now. Okay there is a mini golf, go-karts, bumper boats, and a game room located beyond the Skycoaster, tucked in the tight area bounded by the main road, the driveway into the parking lot, the park proper, and Steel Venom. We didn't venture all the way back to that dead end, but I have been there in the past and it looks about like any other FEC. We return to the path by Steel Venom, and walk alongside Steel Venom, where concessions is via a row of vending machines selling soft drinks, candy and ice cream. The midway follows the path of what used to be a pathway that allowed guests to get from Challenge Park to/from Valleyfair without having to walk though the parking lot. There is even a Steel Venom support column right in the middle of the walkway, with the column set at an angle where it would be advisable to mind your head along this path.
Passing Steel Venom, we next come to Skyscraper which is open and with no line. I have a Skyscraper ticket from my combo ticket, and Jerry buys one at the Skyscraper ticket booth for only $5. We then walk through the empty queue area for Skyscraper and go to the ride a distance off the midway on an elevated platform. The attendant opens the gate, offers us the loose article baskets, and takes tickets. The attendant opens the next gate and we are allowed onto the actual ride platform, and we hop into the seats. Pardon me as I open up my Dells TR and copy/paste the Skyscraper description from that report, with a few key changes to point up the difference between the Timber Falls Skyscraper and this one.
It takes some time to get ready to ride Skyscraper thanks to the complex harness arrangement. After the operator makes sure you are sitting all the way back in the chair, no slouching, she proceeds to strap you in. The harness system on Skyscraper is similar to but not totally like having two 3 point automotive harnesses, one located on either side of you. They key difference being the belts are not on retractors and are manually adjusted. So I sit down and the operator pulls two thick pieces of black padding out from the sides of the seat and ask me to hold them over my lap. She then reaches over my right shoulder and proceeds to cross that strap across my chest so that it fastens into to a clip/buckle mounted on the left side of the seat, this is also connected to a lap belt. She proceeds to tighten this until it is snug but not tight. She then reaches above the left shoulder and pulls out a similar looking belt that runs diagonally across your chest and fastens to a clip located on the right side of the seat. This means the two shoulder belts form a large "X" across your chest, and you effectively have double lap belts for added redundant protection. The operator proceeds to pull these belts snug but not tight. She then takes a moment to make sure everything looks to be correct with the safety harness, and then goes in and yanks on all the adjustors with all of her might to get all the belts as skin tight as she can get them. You then realize those two big black pads sit directly under the buckles and adjustors and they protect your legs from any nasty gashes from the buckles. This would also be a good reason to make sure your pockets are empty to make sure the thick straps don't crush any hard objects into your legs. The last step is to take the anti sub strap and to affix it to the front center of the lap straps. Men are thankful this belt is not tightened. She proceeded to step next chair and harness Jerry to his seat in the same manner. After all the harnessing the operator takes a step back to make one final visual inspection and runs down the list of safety rules and the standard spiel. We learn that the ride will be 4 forwards revolutions, a pause at the top, 4 backwards revolutions, then we exit. Additionally there is to be NO rocking the chair, and we are to grab a hold of the two shoulder belts and are hands are to not let go of the belts for any reason.
Well, that means I can delete the whole second paragraph about the fun we had on the Dells Skyscraper. This one was your basic non nonsense Skyscraper ride, where if you are lucky you might get 3 or 4 flips the entire ride. Very controlled, no out of control feeling. The pause at the top takes some time as she is loading other riders into the other chairs. It's a real fast ferris wheel with a couple flips. Our ride ends the belts are released, we collect our loose articles and then head down the exit ramp to the main midway.
Valleyfair is a traditional style amusement park, with almost no use for theming. The park has some coherently themed parts but no major theme. It is a collection of rides and games along midways in more or less a traditional manner. As I have mentioned before they do like to use solid colored flags all over the park as a way of adding color and motion to the park.
Coming back the annex path we next come to the Chaos. I am taken aback when I learn both that the Chaos is running, and that the line appears to be very short. From what I hear not very many Chaos rides are in service this year due to a pretty extensive redesign of the mechanicals for the passenger restraint system. We get in line for the Chaos and unfortunately due to us being the only two single riders, we get grouped into the same car. Never mind the fact that combined we FAR exceed the posted weight limit for a tub. The ride starts and we get a few more flips than usual but nothing like you can get with a lighter tub. Those differences in the restraints, well now the shoulder bar component of the restraint system ratchets down mechanically, instead of hydraulically, with the added delay caused by each and every bar having to be locked and released manually. Apparently the automatic bar release is no more.
We exit our soon to be rare ride on Chaos and head next door to Enterprise. There is a one cycle wait for Enterprise, and soon we are able to each get our individual tub. With the in-line seating and add I think most operators have abandoned the thought of pairing single riders, or making riders sit together. Valleyfair has made some modifications, it seems that they have added several more bars to the sides of the tub, the new bars running diagonally, not that escape was an issue, it probably strengthens the door. VF has also added the safety strap that secures the door and backs up the mechanical lock. They did come up with what seems to be a safer solution than taking what looks like a length of strap with a loop on the end and putting it over the door release lever such that the strap is looped around the release handle. Instead at VF the strap ends in a seatbelt buckle and the other end is mounted in the center of the back of your seat. The ride runs nice and smooth and gives a nice ride cycle for a Cedar Fair park.
After riding Enterprise we were off the annex trail and back into the main park loop. The main portion of the park is a Duell style loop with a cross through in the center of the park. We start making our way clockwise around the loop. We pass by but do not ride the Scrambler of the train. In this case the train takes you to the other side of the Duell loop close to one of the parks kids sections. We noted the amphitheatre to be disused today and headed past some food stands and the main games midway further into the park. At this time we skipped the SuperCat and the former site of the Trabant. Wow, Riptide really looks nice. Riptide is a HUSS Floorless Top Spin, Riptide also has gratuitous water effects so we decided to put it on hold for a warmer part of the day. We pass by the cut through to the other side of the park, and the bumper car arena and come to a bridge to an island in the center of the parks little stream.
From what I hear the island used to contain a children's climbing structure, it now contains a three tower S&S Combo Tower. Cedar Fair seems to have put an S&S combo tower installation into all of their parks, and they seem to have done it differently at each park. World of Fun has a two tower, all Space Shot tower, Cedar fair has the giant 4 tower model with two shots and two drops, Dorney has a triple one shot, one drop, and one unused side for further expansion, and Knott's has a triple with three drops (owing to the fact that Disney has a no-compete clause for their own setup of three shots). At VF they have one shot and two drops, which make sense because the drop has a longer cycle time owing to the slow accent to the top of the tower to start the ride. The ride is dubbed Power Tower and we first head to the Space Shot side. The queue for Space Shot is a fixed path that runs around the perimeter of the island, there is a one cycle wait and then we board. No seatbelt problems, and soon we are being launched like a rocket up to the top of the tower where there is a distinct minor moment of airtime. Jerry indicates that to get any airtime on this ride at all is unusual. You then bob up and down a few times before being lowered back to the ground. We exit, then reenter the line for the Turbo Drop. They only had one of the two Turbo Drops operating, and so there was a small wait, not long but it was several cycles. Turbo Drop has a more compact queue maze style of queue, and after a bit of a wait we were seated, then the cart slowly made its way up to the top of the tower, then it is supposedly dropped "FASTER than the speed of gravity" I don't know on regular freefall rides that simply drop the tubs without the air boost you get significant airtime, this felt more like riding a fast elevator, very controlled no airtime. We exit the ride, and cross the bridge. We pass by the Northern Lights, a Chance Falling Star which is reported to no longer be there as that is the site for their 2006 attraction. We make the next turn into what appears to be an attempt at 1950's theme. There is a theater that looks like a movie palace, Coasters Diner, Atomic Pizza, and the Hi Test Arcade which all look like they are out of the 1950's We noted they were setting up for the special event this weekend, where Green Giant offers guests free unlimited roast corn on the cob. Unfortunately that would not be offered today, but the park puts it right next to their own roast corn joint which if history repeats itself is closed during the Green Giant event for obvious reasons. We passed the Hi Test Aracde where among the other signs our front is a sign claiming they offer "Hi Test No Tilt Pinball Additive" In past visits I have noted there were no pinball machines in the arcade. It seems that that particular problem has been fixed, much to the joy of the pinball fans.
We cross the train tracks and head to the next ride area. We bypass the Tilter, a Tilt-A-Whirl, and head instead to the end of this little cul-de-sac and head to Wild Thing. Wild Thing is the park Morgan hypercoaster. The line for the ride starts at about the top of the queue maze where you make the turn to go from the queue maze to the path that leads up to the station. Further investigation reveals that only 1 train is running. Ugh. 15 minutes later we are climbing into seat three of a train. We go up the lift, back down, up hill two to drop into the weird figure 8 like turnaround that runs over the go-kart track, then back to run parallel to the outbound leg, we are slowed down at the mid course brake then proceed to go through the series of bunny hills that make up the return run, with the last couple inside a tunnel. I was expecting good things out of this ride, especially considering how fast contestants were dropping out of this summers marathon riding contest. Unfortunately the ride was worse than I remembered, the park must have talked to the ride maintenance crews at PKI (PKI: home of the remark "You may like airtime, but we don't!") That was the most lifeless Wild Thing ride I have ever gotten. Used to be you got a good float on the first drop, a nice jolt on the turnaround drop, and the usual series of pops on the return leg, this time practically nothing. What a disappointment. We exited, verified they still had only 1 train running, and we noticed the queue spilled back through the queue maze almost back to the midway. Jerry noted that this was at least a half hour wait. We decide to check out things elsewhere in the park. We head through one of the parks kids areas and we decide to not turn to go down the long walkway to the back of the park as Jerry noted the park has a habit of not opening the back part of the park till later in the day on slow days. We next come to High Roller the parks wooden coaster, which has a queue through its queue maze, almost out to the midway, with only 1 train in service. The other train was wearing its dust covers which from prior visits I know translates to "We aren't even thinking about using this train today" Prior experience with this ride told me I didn't even have to ask Jerry to estimate the wait, it would be long and slow.
See here is the difference between Valleyfair and my home park of PKI. At PKI they almost always run all rides to full capacity with all trains present, unless there is a strong reason not to. This means on slow days, rides are walk ons, but it seems at Valleyfair they take slow days to mean, we can run minimal ride units and take our time doing so. I mean I would think that when queues get to the 30 minute mark, its time to put another unit into service. We took a tour of the parks new kids area not that the Berenstien Bears have left town. I noted the use of a nautical style yardarm flagpole by the Rocking Tug, and although we didn't ride anything in the kids area, I think as a whole the renovation of the children's area seems to look very nice.
We passed the train ride, and Jerry introduced me to a high ranking Valleyfair official, who in term introduced me to the parks mascot, Col. Ohoompah, very patriotic mascot.
Pleasantries exchanged we all headed our separate ways, with Jerry and I headed to Corkscrew. We wanted to ride Corkscrew both because it is a coaster, but also to check out what they have recently done to it. Earlier this season, Cedar Point added crotch straps to their Corkscrew to safety the shoulder bar. Never mind the fact that this train style runs on countless coasters in countless parks for decades without incident. It seems that Valleyfair recently added the crotch straps to their Corkscrew. So recent in fact that Jerry had not yet had a chance to get a up close look at them. The queue was entirely within the station, and yes they only had 1 train on, and if we were not picky we probably could have ridden with a 2-3 train wait. But this Corkscrew runs one of the older car styles, which means not only is their no legroom in the back seat of each car, but there is no legroom in the front seats either, with one exception, the nose car. So we waited for the front seat, and several trains later were seated. The cars have a countered backrest which helps to make it clear that Arrow had smaller riders in mind when they designed these cars, luckily these problems went away in their more recent car styles.
At Cedar Point I am told the safety strap consists of the male end of a seatbelt strap which is wrapped around and bolted to the bottom of the shoulder bar, and fits into a lift latch buckle mounted on the front of the bottom of the seat, roughly between the riders legs. I have also heard this can make releasing the buckle a bit of a challenge. Valleyfair did not go with that solution, they went with something that seems to be an improvement. At Valleyfair there is a retracting seatbelt mounted underneath the seat, that comes up through a slot on the top of the seat bottom, again between the riders legs, and fastens to a push button buckle that is attached to the bottom of the shoulder bar with a short length of strap. I pulled on the belt and there is lots of strap that can be pulled out of the retractor, way more than anybody will ever need. So I lowered the bar, and fastened the belt, and felt the seatbelt to learn that very little belt was needed to secure my bar, in fact the part of the strap that is sewn together to hold the buckle wasn't all the way out of the retractor. The ride starts and we are on our way, a turnaround to the lift hill, down the drop, a couple vertical loops, a couple corkscrew turns and a helix. Its a small compact Vortex without the boomerang turn. Its not a bad little ride, a pretty standard early Arrow multi element. The train returned to the station, and I notice that in addition to the seatbelts they seem to have added an automatic bar release since my last visit.
We proceed down the very narrow lengthy one person wide Corkscrew exit ramp. Since this ramp I also used for special needs guests entry, it should really be widened, since there is almost no room for passing, especially passing a wheelchair about halfway down the exit path. We next head across the midway to the Monster. It was a one cycle wait for Monster. I noticed this year that at PKI the Monster can provide some neat airtime along with some spinning. VFs monster can do the same, but with a shorter ride cycle. If one were to complete the loop they would pass the Shoot the Chutes boat ride, the antique cars, ferris wheel and carousel before returning to the front gate plaza. The carousel is really neat with the rotating roof. Instead of proceeding down this way however, we decided to double back through the cut through and back to Riptide.
It was about midday, as warm as it was going to get, with still enough time to get dry before needing to get into the car. We arrived at Riptide and after watching a cycle, I decided to put all my loose articles into a locker. I needed to get change at the gift shop nearby and noted they were having a clearance sale. Nothing in my size, of course. I wish I could have put my shoes and socks in the locker and just gone barefoot over to Riptide. Riptide did not seem to be very popular with maybe 10 riders per cycle max. The first time we rode, we were sent to the side that faces away from the midway. On the Floorless version of Top Spin there are still two rows of seats, but they face opposite directions. I noticed the ground on the queue area starting to get damp and I stopped right at the water line, but Jerry insisted I proceed all the way to the gate. Soon we were admitted and took seats in the middle of the row. The floor dropped and the ride starts. As a Top Spin it runs great, with flips including a nice 5 or 6 flip finale at the end of the ride. The water effects are also nice. I expected to get my shirt drenched, but on ride one my shirt came off mostly dry, and for some reason the lower sections of my body seemed to get the wettest. Wow, that was a fun ride. We decided to ride again, this time we got shown to the side facing the midway, again in the center. The side facing the midway gets a LOT wetter. There was not a dry spot on my body, we are talking about wringing the water out of your hair and shirt, taking off your shoes and socks and pouring the water out. Then wringing the water out of your socks. And for those non riders, they have a part of the ride where the water jets are on full blast, then they bring the gondola through the water jets at top speed splashing the ground with a nice wave of water. We next went to SuperCat to spin dry. SuperCat appears to be a caterpillar ride without the car covers. It functions as the parks music ride and they have music, sirens, flashing lights and all, but no visual decoration or scenery panels. It only runs about average with about a 13rpm top speed, but them I am spoiled by the Rock N Roll at the Ohio Fair that ran at about 20rpm.
After SuperCat, I reclaimed my stuff from the locker, and we headed back to Wild Thing to learn that the situation there has not improved. We decided instead to see if the back part of the park was open. We walked past the log flume, group picnic area (I kind of like how the group picnic area is in the middle of the park), and the IMAX theatre to come to Mad Mouse. Mad Mouse is an Arrow Wild Mouse, and much to my surprise the line for it was short, not extending back into the queue maze. So after a short wait we reached the station that would have made Henry Ford proud. Its a big assembly line. From right to left, there is the stop where the mouse comes to a stop and presumably the riders can unfasten the seatbelts, then the car advances one position and the lap bars open, the car advances one position and lines up with the ride exit gate and the riders exit, the car advances one and the oncoming riders load, the car advances one and you fasten the seatbelts, the car advances one and the lap bars are lowered, the car advances and the restraints are checked, then the car advances into the 'on-deck' area clear for dispatch as soon as possible The ride has several cars but most of them are in the station, creating constant movement . I did note that they don't even bother with closing the entry and exit gates. We board and the Wild Mouse ride is your average Wild Mouse, nothing much to talk about, a lot smoother than most of the Wild Mouse rides out there, but it runs pretty well. And besides the exit for the ride puts us right on the walkway to head deeper into the back of the park.
Here the rides area of the park narrows down to one midway as you walk around the side of the included waterpark. Said waterpark is closed for the season, but the way the park is arranged one can easily look at the entire waterpark complex. Along the way to back of the park we pass the Wheel of Fortune, which is the parks relocated Trabant, and the Looping Starship. We then head back the long walkway to Exile Land. We eventually have to go through a tunnel under the parks service access road where two rides sit out in the middle of nowhere. We first passed by the parks rapids ride, but not having much interest in that, we headed clear to the back of Exile Land to Excalibur: The Coaster in Exile. Excalibur is in exile for being way too intense and fun for the Minnesota park going public. It looks like an Arrow mine ride at first glance, except that it is significantly taller than a mine ride. Like Gemini at Cedar Point, Excalibur is really a wood coaster with a steel track system, and not a mine ride. Excalibur is also a twister so it rides a lot like an overgrown extreme mine ride. There is no wait for Excalibur as we walk up the entry ramp, past the grand total on one short switchback in the queue maze they have for it, and into the station, then into the back seat.
I do want to point out that we saw a management type checking lap bars, I think it sends a good message to the line employees when managers are willing to take on the more menial tasks of running a park. Excalibur, what can you say, you exit the station, turn right, go up the tall lift hill, then you go down the first drop fighting your way through the FOUR trim brakes the park has installed on the first drop to try to bring some sanity to the ride, at the bottom of the drop is a flat speed section of track that I am told used to be an insane airtime hill that has been reprofiled out. Then despite the brakes, despite the loss of the airtime hill, the ride goes into a lateral G lovers dream as the train goes through several curves at high rates of speed. Its a very intense ride, one that lets you know you have ridden a coaster when you are done with it. It is also a very short ride. Well, this ride is so far out of the way we took lots and lots of rides on it before returning to the main park. Yes, you have to walk around each time, but its just walk down the exit ramp, walk under the track, then walk back up the entrance ramp. We took rides in the back, we took rides in the front. This is really the showpiece ride in the park right now. Somewhere along the line I noted that Excalibur's flags even have a sword pattern on them, which compensated for the fact that apparently Excalibur has been pulled from the stone in front of the ride and has not been returned.
I also noted that VF has gone safety gate crazy, I suppose while they were adding all sorts of gates and fences to Cedar Point, they decided to add them to the rest of the chain. Queue gates for all coasters (even if Mad Mouse's gate is never closed) , and exit gates for all rides, sometimes even on top of existing exit gates. Take Looping Starship for example you go through the new exit gate, walk a few feet then through the original exit gate. The new exit gates (and some ride entry gates) are equipped with magnetic locks. The neat feature is that on the exit gates, there is a pressure mat right inside the exit gate that will release the lock when stepped on, thus ensuring you can't get trapped inside the active ride area
Speaking of Looping Starship, after we have tired of mini-marathoning Excalibur we head to Looping Starship. Its a pirate ship ride that goes all the way around, as its name suggests. We enter the line and learn that the park is only using the middle two benches. Since the boat goes all the way around there is no obvious advantage to the end seats, and there are obvious advantaged to the park for using as few rows as possible, as they can keep balance and take less time to get everybody tied into the ride. We were the last two admitted for this cycle and we were each given an end seat facing each other. Neat arrangement. The ride has a net installed so that even though you face each other and are sitting mere feet from each other you cant come in contact with each other, although the shoulder bar would probably prevent that from happening anyway, The ride also has a net installed above the seating area, presumably as an attempt to catch loose articles. I'm waiting from them to install nets that will fold down from the top and cover the sides of the boat. To in effect create a net cage around the rider area kind of like on the Kamikaze ride. As it is, the park has decided to triple restrain the riders, which probably explains why they use as few rows as possible. First riders are told to fasten their lap belts and pull them as tight as they can get them while the ride operators watch. I think color coding the straps may help when you consider the fact that there are about 12 seat belt ends per seat. Then riders are told to lower the shoulder bars, then lastly hands in the air as the automatic crusher lap bars come down and auto tighten to just shy of skin tight. They didn't earn the nickname of crusher lap bars for nothing. An added element of pain is cuased when the crusher lapbar proceeds to crush the seatbelt buckle into your lap. Ouch. Having been thoroughly restrained, the ride starts. Its not a fast up and over loop like the Kamikaze, instead it is a slower more deliberate loop, and the park does run the ride for a reasonable length of time with loops in both directions. The ride then comes to a stop the bars release and we make our way back to the midway. The exit gate on this one never fails to fool somebody, It has two gates with a stationary section in the center. It never fails that you see someone struggling trying to push on the fixed center section.
We observe the worlds slowest Trabant, and then proceed back to High Roller. Well the High Roller line looks to be as short as it is going to get, and as short as I have ever seen it, which is to the bottom of the ramp up to the station. The park has made the wait even slower and duller by installing a canvas wall that in effect tunnels the entrance ramp. I'm sure the park had good intentions of blocking waiting riders from the sun, but it also blocks out all visuals of the station fly by, so you can't watch the ride running while you wait. We eventually make our way to the top of the entrance ramp. High Roller is an old school wood coaster, and they only allow one group of riders at a time into the station. We enter as single riders, and are greatly relieved that we are not paired up. While we can both fit in one seat, its not a comfortable fit. The ride runs original IAD trains that the park has managed to leave pretty much the way they were, with the exception of adding seatbelts, and they put the anchors high up in the side walls of the train, and put the belts on retractors, so the seatbelt functions more like a second lap bar than a seatbelt. These arent the Century Flyer trains so they lack a lot of the ornamental detail except the trimwork along the tops of sides of the train. Jerry warned me the front seat of each car is a tight fit so we opted for rows 2 and 3. I sit down and I also notice the lack of headrests or seat dividers. This means I can riding sitting in the middle of the bench, which is a cool rarity these days. The train has the NAD/IAD style of manual lap bars that are locked trainside, and then since the train has openings on both sides for flush loading, each seat has its own lap bar mechanism which must be manually locked. Thus on this coaster they tell you to NOT lower the lap bar, and keep those hands high in the air as the loader comes along the side of the train and drops and locks each lap bar.
We depart the station and we pass the rides automatic lap bar locker, which this park, and I think most parks that had these, is used as a redundant lap bar check. As the train passes by the locker, you hear a series of loud knocks as the device is attempting to push on the lap bar lock lever for each seat. If the attendant forgot to lock the bar, so long as its down it is locked now. We make a slight curve go up the lift, and the High Roller is your classic out and back - a series of drops, then a turnaround, then another series of hills and drops on the return leg, followed by another turnaround past the transfer table and into the station. High Roller is remembered as being mediocre with no airtime. Well something happened, as the ride had airtime today, nothing violent, but nice pops on some of the outbound hills and all the return hills, and it steel felt like the mid course brake was on. I can't explain it but High Roller gave an above average ride for High Roller. Jerry even looked back and commented on how good it was. I had always ridden High Roller in the back car before so I thought maybe the coaster is a front car ride, but Jerry informed me that it was running well above its usual self. Wow, this sort of helps counteract the disappointment caused by Wild Thing. High Roller also retains its IAD/NAD style automatic lap bar release, which is triggered as the train rolls into the station. The bars could be raised as soon as your car enters the station, but most riders can be relied upon to not even check until the train stops. This also makes it a good idea to keep the automatic lap bar locker downtrack of the station in working order as it will provide some reassurance that it the train enters the station, lapbars unlock and the train fails to stop in the station for any reason, the auto lock at the other end will relock the bars as the train leaves the station.
We exit High Roller and head back to Wild Thing. Nope, the situation here still hasn't improved. While Excalibur and Steel Venom are clearly the most intense coasters in the park, Wild Think is clearly the fan favorite ride here. Thus explains why I got several rides on Steel Venom and Excalibur but only the one on Wild Thing., and Wild Thing is more my kind of ride, but the longer than it needs to be wait combined with the lack of 'ride action' makes is an undesireable option today. While watching Wild Thing I noticed an unusual product being sold at a food cart. It's a novelty product which means "Will cost you way more than its worth", and it required labor on the park of the stand worker which means its really way more than it's worth, but I still had to try one. Its called a Cool Dog. A Cool Dog is meant to look like a hot dog, except its an ice cream sandwich. Instead of the hot dog bun, you start with a bun made out of pound cake, then instead of the hot dog, you have a hot dog shaped serving of vanilla ice cream. That part of the product comes prepackaged from the factory, to that they have some toppings you can add, I had all the toppings added which were chocolate syrup, whipped cream and rainbow sprinkles which when they got finished it looks sort of like an ice cream sundae coney. As I said it probably wasn't worth anywhere near the $3 I paid for it, but it was something different on the ice cream novelty scene.
I ate my Cool Dog as we walked back to Steel Venom. Surprisingly, while Steel Venom's line was a bit longer than it was this morning, it was still only a 2-4 train wait. We ended our day with another mini-marathon on Steel Venom.
We left the park a few hours before park close, but that was fine for three reasons. First, we still needed to get dinner, second, I wanted to get a certain coaster credit at the Mall of America before we went to the Dells so that Hades could be my 250th coaster, and third because we have a 4 hour drive to the Dells starting at 6AM tomorrow morning.
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