Day 15: Interstate Tour 2018

How often do you get to ride a dream come true?

How often do you get to ride a dream come true?

It might've been my parent's fault that I'm such a fan of theme parks.  From the rattle-clap contraptions at the Los Angeles County Fair to the southern California holy trinity of Disneyland, Knott's Berry Farm and Magic Mountain, we did it all and I learned to love everything about these fascinating places of amusement. So much so that I almost went into theme park management at one point in my life (before music noped all over that) and spent ten years working in various capacities at parks on both coasts of the United States.

I don't even have to ride anything. Just walking around with the rides roaring and people shrieking, bells ringing and carnies barking is enough for me to be in The Happiest of Places. 

Every ride is an experience, good or bad.  We remember the bad ones and avoid them while seeking out the ones that rocked our worlds for the better. Back in the day, Mean Streak was an incredible wooden roller coaster that was a fabulous ride.  Time took its toll, however, and it became one of those avoided coasters, unless you were feeling particularly masochistic (or drunk) and accidentally found yourself riding it and wondering aloud WHY AM I RIDING THIS THING? while trying to cushion your body against the blows being dealt by the thing.  Mean Streak became a bone-breaker and people stopped riding it in droves.

One day, I began thinking about Rocky Mountain Construction and how they've found a niche in the theme park industry as a company that brings coasters like Mean Streak back from the dead. Their revolutionary Iron Horse track allowed them to retrofit existing wooden coasters with steel track that could ape the previous layout while adding new, wild elements like corkscrews and overbanked turns.  The first old, rough coaster to get the treatment was The New Texas Giant at Six Flags Over Texas.  Once everyone got a taste of that madness, every park wanted a RMC "remix" of one of their flagging, sagging old beasts.

I thought, "wouldn't it be super-fabulous if Cedar Point brought in RMC to re-tool Mean Streak?  How amazing would that be?"

After awhile, on all the online coaster forums, many people began to speculate about this.  Who knows if Cedar Point was sort of listening in on the collective conversation, or if they, too, thought it would just be a great idea?  All I know is, blammo!, Your Wish Has Been Granted, Coaster-Lovers.

Steel Vengeance (acronym-fond coaster enthusiasts refer to "him" as STeVen) has been covered like the World Cup from announcement to development through construction, testing and, finally, grand opening. Enthusiastic reviews came flooding back on the forums, the park had a bona fide hit on its hands.  Then, a little speed-bump, literally.  Two trains bumped into each other in the station during operation.  It was reported as a very minor event, but big enough to warrant scrapping a three-train operation for the time being.  Wait times of 4 hours and higher are being reported for a ride on STeVen.

Well, screw that.  Platinum Pass to the rescue.

With early entry in play, I got to the Breakers entrance at 8 am - ran with the bulls at 9 am and was on the first train, THAT'S how you do it, and after 2 minutes and 30 seconds of sheer WTFJH bliss, I ran down the exit stairs and back through the entrance where a queue had begun to form. In a short 2 and a half minutes, the wait time had grown to 30 minutes, and it was totally worth it. By the time I stepped off of STeVen for the second time in a row, the wait time was up to 2 hours and the park hadn't even officially opened yet.  A third train would cut times drastically, but they've got some things to work out.  Safety first.

So, is it worth all the hype?  Hell, ya! This thing is nuts.  Tall (205'), fast (74 mph), long (5,740 feet), steep (90° drop!) smooth as Amish buttermilk with four inversions that happen in the most darndest places.  RMC has this fake-out through-line in all their creations, you'll be zipping in a way that leads you to believe you're going one direction, and then you'll end up doing something mind-bogglingly insane that defies all sense of reality and you just have to laugh at their shrill, mad genius. There's a reason that the riders break into applause at the end of each ride.  It's a fireworks display of virtuoso coaster designing.

Here's my view on the first train of the day using the Gogloo video sunglasses.  I try to not make any noise when I'm on these things recording, but you can tell where I just can't help myself towards the end - video doesn't do justice to how certifiably batshit insane that final section deep inside the support structure is:

There's more where that came from, coming soon to my Patreon Channel.

In some parks, you'd ride the best new thing and then have to sort of settle for whatever the last new thing was and maybe a couple of fun little rides, but this is CEDAR POINT - America's Roller Coast - and there is no shortage of world-class mammothry on display here.  Granted, they've added to their line-up since this video, but this is what I shot ten years ago this month at the park:


I wrote a blog in August of 2017 about the night that something went horribly wrong on an attraction that I was operating at Knott's Berry Farm. It was written during the week of the Ohio State Fair accident and the whole question of safety was back in the foreground of everyone's mind. Yesterday, a roller coaster derailed at the Daytona Beach Boardwalk in Florida, no fatalities, thankfully, but two people were ejected over 30 feet down from the ride and others were injured. 

Throughout the day, as I trusted the designers and engineers, material fabricators and construction teams, I often thought about what all goes into to ensuring that human beings are safe while being flung about by giant machines designed to inflict happy terror upon us.  Maybe that's part of the thrill.  "This could go wrong at any time.  I'll just walk next to the cliff.  I'm not touching this Bison, just pretending to touch it."

From "The Edge We Seek": 

You’re more likely to die in a car accident than in an amusement park ride, but that’s what makes the incidents so shocking. One moment, you’re having the time of your life and then, suddenly, horrifically, it’s over. Yet, when I was walking around the Columbiana County Fair yesterday in Lisbon, Ohio, the lines were massive for the midway attractions. We all take chances everyday, driving, walking, living. If we stopped doing everything that could cause us to lose life, we’ve already lost it.
Second Tallest/Fastest In The World: Top Thrill Dragster - 120 mph - 420' tall

Second Tallest/Fastest In The World: Top Thrill Dragster - 120 mph - 420' tall

So, anyway, yeah, epic day.  

Epic day.

Day 16

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