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Aug 17, 2010
There's been a lot in the news this weekend about SV's opening day at Cedar Point. I made the long up and back trip to Cedar Point this weekend to check it out on opening day. This marked just my second trip ever to CP, and my first in six years, so the anticipation was great. Warning: this is as long winded as you all know me to be.

We stayed Friday night at Hotel Breakers to get the all important early entry on Saturday morning. With all the problems Twisted Timbers has had, I was just hoping that Steel Vengeance would be open for the first day of the season, and I was surprised that it was actually good to go for early entry. Crowds formed deep and wide at the rope drop long before 9:00. The crowd was abuzz; people had come from all over to check out this new attraction, reported by many to be the new best roller coaster in the world. The enthusiast community was out in full force, and a nerdy electricity was in the air. As SV began to send empty trains, applause broke out among the masses; the impossible was happening - we were about to ride Steel Vengeance. The anthem played, the rope dropped, and the starting pistol must've sounded, because everyone took off in a sprint. Children and grandparents were left in the dust as full grown men sprinted toward the siren's call of Steel Vengeance. I hate getting caught up in these mad dash sprint drops myself, but it became apparent that if I didn't participate, I was going to spend the next couple of hours in line regretting it. The sprint was long one, over half a mile for many, and the run dragged on. Fortunately the coaster enthusiast community is not a notoriously fit bunch, and spirits and respiratory systems began to break left and right. Having outlasted much of the pell-mell of the hoi polloi, we reached the queue behind a rabble of only the most iron willed. Our wait was brief and the atmosphere was crazy. Everyone in the station was having fun, and each train returned its riders with a great intoxication. By the time we were boarding the Chess train in the station, we could see that the queue had already filled, and the line spilled out into the locker area. By the time we got off, the queue had filed all the way through to the entrance of Frontiertown. By the time the gates actually opened, the posted wait was four hours. It was absolute insanity.

Steel Vengeance was a lot of fun, and really lives up to the hype. The 90 degree drop is incredible, and the third hill in particular is a lot of fun. This ride really goes crazy with the outer banked turns RMC has used before, and it makes for a fun ride. This ride really makes its living inside the infrastructure of the larger hills, which makes for some good surprises if you haven't already inundated yourself with the POV. This coaster really utilizes the best RMC elements with even bigger hills and faster speeds, featuring its trademark ejector air while staying relatively smooth. There are a lot of great elements at play here, but I was honestly expecting a little more airtime. I know the ride has been praised for its massive amounts of it, but frankly, aside from being bigger, I don't think SV offers more in the way of airtime than Twisted Timbers. It's just a lot bigger. And a lot faster. This is easily one of the best roller coasters of the year, and a shoo-in for best new attraction, but I'm not willing to crown it the greatest roller coaster on Earth. It's arguably not even the best coaster at Cedar Point, but it sure does give the others a run for its money. It's a great addition to the park (although it really needs a top tier wooden coaster more than a hybrid). Obviously, many of you have read the news of the minor collision that occurred later that evening. This is really unfortunate news, and thankfully everyone was ok. My understanding near the scene was that the EMT arrived for a special needs guest who witnessed the incident and was a bit shaken as a result. RMC continues to put out stellar headlining attractions, but the continued issues with their trains and this safety incident on top of it really casts a pall on the company. Hopefully they can turn some of these issues around, because their rides really are tremendous.

Steel Vengeance was a great start to the day, but things quickly went downhill. Nary another early entry available roller coaster was found to be running after we left SV, and our plan of attack for the day was shot. As a result, and having already witnessed the throngs at SV for early entry, we went in on Fastlane+, which will be a costly but potentially necessary endeavor for guests this summer. Crowds were honestly beyond what Cedar Point was able to handle this weekend. Staffing was understandably short due to it being the beginning of the season, and many employees still being in school, but it was incredibly frustrating to find every food and drink stand with huge lines from lunch until close. Even in off times the lines were unbearable. Seeing so many restaurants and food and drink stalls closed really irked a lot of guests. This put a damper on a day that wasn't great by park opening. We headed to Gatekeeper to wait for it to open after discovering few other open rides. This was the first addition CP made since my last visit, so I wanted to make sure to ride it despite Wingriders being one of my least favorite B&M designs. It was cycling trains, so all signs pointed to it opening soon. Then they started cycling trains with water dummies. This really threw me off as I'm only used to seeing these dummies in tests for new constructs. CP was using them liberally on all their rides. It seemed like some rides were not allowed to open until they had completed a series of these tests despite being billed as available for early entry. Gatekeeper and Valravn in particular were clearly not ready for early entry, so it was frustrating that they were advertised as such. I'm still confused by these tests as I've never seen them before for normal operations. When I used to operate, we didn't even have these dummies available to us. Raptor had about three dozen on its brake run. Anyway, all told, by the time the gates opened at 10, fourteen roller coasters were closed. Ride operations were abysmal throughout the park all day, and it was extremely frustrating. I understand that things happen that can't be accounted for, and things always go wrong on opening weekend, but incomplete tests and so many closures across the park are ridiculous. Maybe some of this testing could have gone a little more to Steel Vengeance. Without dropping so much on FL+ (three times more than the price of entry), we never could've gotten everything done, and as it was, TTD broke down immediately every time they tried to bring it up, so we never got a chance to do that one. That one really bummed me out as Dragster is one of my favorite rides in the world. Valravn didn't open until nearly 8:00 that night, but we just happened to ride at the perfect time. It was sunset when we crested the lift, and the view out over the other coasters and out to sunset over the peninsula and Lake Erie was shockingly gorgeous. This was also my first ride on Valravn. I loved the restraints with the wide bars and the soft vests until we got to the drop. What I love so much about Griffon's drop is the fact that I fall out of my seat into the restraint. With the vest of Valravn, I don't get that same experience, and thus, the drop wasn't as fun. I did appreciate the varied layout and the use of a dive loop vice the second Immelmann. The other new major addition since my last visit was the conversion of Mantis into the floorless Rougarou. I enjoy this new iteration much more as I've never been a fan of standup coasters. As a floorless coaster, it has a pretty unique layout, especially with the rare oblique loop only used for standups. The quick change in direction at the bottom of the drop before coming up into the MCBR was surprisingly effective. Not too much to write home about, but a definite improvement.

On the whole, it was a fun trip, and getting a chance to ride Steel Vengeance was great. I say getting a chance as yesterday they were only allowing riders on if they had a boarding pass, and information on obtaining a boarding pass was nebulous as best. Frankly, I'm just surprised they opened it yesterday after the incident on Saturday. All this being said, I will certainly never visit Cedar Point on an opening weekend again. They seemed to have the majority of their rides up and running on Sunday morning when we left, but the amount of closures on Saturday was unacceptable. I'll come back in future years further into the season when the park is in a groove and has its shit together. I think Cedar Point is an amazing amusement park with a wonderful location (as wonderful as in Ohio can be) and so many world class thrill rides it makes your head spin (when they're open), but I hope they don't rest on those laurels. The service just wasn't there this weekend, and they rode the buzz of Steel Vengeance. With the huge waits, the collision, and the boarding pass confusion, it really blew up in their faces a bit, and I hope it humbles them despite the deservedly great press SV has gotten thus far. Cedar Point really missed the mark this weekend, which unfortunately watered down what could've been a fantastic celebratory debut weekend.
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