My apologies for the late arrival of this post, but earlier tonight a friend of mine injured himself in a manly fashion and needed to be taken to the hospital. The tardiness of this blog submission is dedicated to him in the hopes that he gets better.
Truly, I have lived in the shadow of giants. Not in the valley of any grand mountains, whether they be rocky, smoky, or Appalachian-y. Nor is the sun blocked out for me by skyscrapers of brick, mortar, and glass. Nay, I am beneath the towering behemoths of steel and screams known as roller coasters. And nowhere is there a better selection of roller coasters in one place than America’s Roller Coast, Cedar Point. Located in Sandusky, Ohio on a peninsula jutting out into Lake Erie, Cedar Point is a coaster-lover’s heaven. Featuring 16-17 roller coasters (depending on what you define Pipe Scream as), it is rightly called the Coaster Capital of the World. Nevermind that Six Flags Magic Mountain in Valencia, California has 18 coasters, more than any other amusement park; Cedar Point’s are better. While I’m biased, I am not the only one who feels this way. Many of Cedar Point’s roller coasters are award-winners that introduced the world to new styles of thrill rides and especially heights. Cedar Point has constructed the tallest, fastest coaster in the world four times, including the first coasters to be built taller than 200, 300, and 400 feet. All four of those rides – Gemini (125 ft), Magnum XL-200 (205 ft), Millennium Force (310 ft), and Top Thrill Dragster (420 ft) – are all still serving up screams today, alongside of other record-breaking pioneers like Corkscrew (first coaster with three inversions); Mean Streak (tallest, fastest wooden coaster in 1991); Raptor (tallest, fastest, longest inverted coaster in 1994; first inverted with a cobra roll loop); Wicked Twister (tallest, fastest inverted roller coaster today); and Gatekeeper (tallest, fastest Wing-style coaster; has the tallest inversion of any coaster). As a coaster enthusiast and frequent visitor to Cedar Point over the years, I have ridden all of these and the other coasters there, often waiting in long lines, sometimes for hours to ride for a few minutes, and feeling afterward that it was totally worth it.
As I’ve hinted at in previous posts, I’ve been lucky enough to visit some pretty cool places in the northern and western hemispheres of the world, so it’s nothing to sneeze at when I say that my favorite place I’ve yet been to in my travels is Cedar Point. Granted, there is a significant amount of sentiment factoring in here; I live an hour away and have made at least one trip to the park every summer since I was much too small (and cowardly) to ride any of the coasters I now love so dearly. Nevertheless, I’m not the only person who enjoys spending time riding CP’s awesome coasters and eating fried food that is terrible for me, yet oh so delicious.
So Cedar Point is super awesome and has award-winning rides, but who exactly hands out these awards I keep talking about? The American Coaster Enthusiasts (ACE) group and others like it made up of coaster junkies who traverse the globe to ride the best roller coasters factor in on the discussion, but mainly it is the foremost media authority of rides and roller coasters: Amusement Today. Amusement Today is a magazine that highlights amusement and theme parks throughout the world. Since 1998, they have given awards to parks for having the best of everything like food, Christmas show, and Park itself. Cedar Point has won the top spot of Amusement Today’s Best Amusement Park in the World rankings every year since they started, so Cedar Point’s executives could justifiably jump up and down joyfully and sing “I’ve got a golden ticket!” because well, they – they did. That’s what the name of the award Amusement Today gives out to the top Amusement Park is called. But while Cedar Point still lays claim to Blue and Mean Streaks, the streak atop the Golden Ticket rankings has just ended at 16 years. Europa-Park in Rust, Germany was recently awarded the new numero uno position. Hopefully their town’s name is not an indication of the state of their rides. Now Cedar Point is doing just fine; they are firmly in the second place slot and the highest rated American park, and their Giga coaster Millennium Force was once again voted the best steel coaster in the world. Many believe that Cedar Point lost its top park status because there hasn’t been a major ride or theme area development for a few years, partly due to a lack of space since they have a world-record 72 total rides, many of them large, on a, dare I say mere 364 acre plot of land. However, they are making space for new development, probably a new coaster, so we should all be excited and expect that someday in the near future Cedar Point will be a major contender for the Golden Ticket top spot once more. But at what cost, Cedar Point, at what cost?
Learning that my favorite place to visit is no longer the King of the Amusement Park Monsters is a damper on my day and pride, but it is not the most disturbing story about Cedar Point to come out in the last week. Shortly before the new rankings were released, Cedar Point revealed that they would shut down and demolish their record-setting stand-up steel coaster Mantis. Go ahead and check out that POV video because it’s pretty awesome. Plus, you’ll never see that parking lot in the distance so empty ever again – unless of course you start working/living there or run down the causeway and hop the fence in the winter.
Mantis was originally supposed to be called Banshee until some overly sensitive Cedar Point executive realized that in Irish folklore a banshee is a female spirit that often signifies the forthcoming of death and deemed that maybe this wasn’t the best thing to name an aggressive thrill ride after. They renamed it Mantis and gave it a ferocious looking insect logo and the rest is history. So you can rest assured that whatever they build in place of Mantis they probably won’t name it Skullfucker. Cedar Fair, the company that owns Cedar Point, actually reused the name “Banshee” for the newest coaster at Kings Island, their park in Cincinnati (they’ve got a lot going on in Ohio).
Now Mantis is no one’s favorite. Okay, probably somebody somewhere prefers it, but they must be a masochist because standing in line for hours to stand on a coaster and get rollicked around is not exactly the greatest experience I can think of. Of course, that was more the case during Mantis’ early years from when it first broke onto the scene in 1996 as the tallest, fastest, and steepest stand-up coaster in the world. For the past few years, Mantis’ attendance has been so noticeably down that you can literally walk up to the platform with no wait. This is obviously the biggest reason why Cedar Point is opting to squish Mantis, I mean, what’s the point of paying the cost to operate a coaster nobody’s riding? And I’ve provided a glimpse at why exactly Mantis gets so few riders, but allow me to explain in detail exactly what it’s like to enjoy, or rather endure the wrath of the tricolored metal bug.
Mantis begins, as most coasters do, in the loading station. The train that just battered its previous tenants rolls in and stops a few times too quickly and too early because some kid who’s younger than you is spending his summer working to pay his way through college and while he’s a hopeful prospect in Professor Wolfram’s Chemistry 201 he hasn’t quite mastered stopping the coaster train at the right spot so that it lines up nicely with the gates. Once it does come to a stop, the woozy, wounded riders eagerly push up on their shoulder harnesses and scurry for the exit as fast as they can (and they can’t move very fast) so that they don’t accidentally get stuck for another go. This is what you hope not to look like after riding Mantis, but deep down you know you will. Then your gates open and you work your way across an aisle of four not seats, because you’ll be standing when riding, so I’ll say “spaces”. Too vague? Let’s mix it up and call them cubicles, which they certainly are not, but what the hell? So you find your cubicle and this is when the true nightmare of Mantis is revealed, especially if you’re a young developing boy just tall enough to ride, like me when I first went onboard. The first time I rode Mantis the guy tasked with sitting at the front of the line with the measuring stick that determines if one is tall enough to ride the ride actually told me to stand still as he took a closer look at the top of my head in comparison with his green candy-striped stick. After a more thorough eyeballing , he gave an, “Uh, yeah okay,” and waved me through. Accompanying me was my older, taller cousin who had ridden the Mantis many times before and as I stepped into my cubicle he advised me to “clench”. I didn’t understand until I realized that in lieu of a seat (which would of course nix the distinction as a “stand-up” coaster) Mantis has an apparatus in place that is like a very lightly padded peg that sits between your legs with the intent to keep them as stationary as possible so that you don’t knock your knees together (it still happens) and also so you can’t just panic and run away (that has yet to happen to my knowledge). But since not everyone is the same height, the peg can be adjusted up or down accordingly. As I was barely 54” I was straddling the peg with little room as was, but then the attendants came by to fasten everyone in and I had the misfortune of getting the surly looking girl who had probably worked there without a break since that morning. She had no time to worry about the well-being of the rookie rider and only focused on doing her job as quickly as possible so that she could go home sooner. The peg went up, and my chances of ever having children went down. I was practically riding on my, ahem, sensitive sweet spot for the duration of the ride. And since the g-forces really kick in on that first big loop the peg has a tendency to click up one more inch. My feet were dangling by the time the train stopped and worked its way back into the station so that I could bowleg out down the ramp to see my wide-eyed expression of pain that the camera near the end caught on my face. I wish I’d bought it now, if only to remember Mantis by it. My next ride on the coaster came the next summer after I had had a growth spurt, but that first loop click up to the next latch got me again. Ensuing rides on Mantis were more enjoyable, but lately it has become a coaster I always look at but pass by with a, “Oh no! I enjoy not having back pain and leg cramps right now.”
Perhaps I have taken Mantis for granted. I know I didn’t fully appreciate Disaster Transport, the indoor roller coaster Cedar Point took down two years ago to build Gatekeeper, until it was too late. Fortunately I got to ride it one last time a week before its demolition. Mantis will be open until October 19th of this year, so I’ll have to make a trip over to take a final ride on it. It’s bittersweet because it is a cool looking coaster with a cool name that has been a part of the Cedar Point skyline and identity since its inception. With it dies a part of the 90s Cedar Point I first started going to and loving as a child. Yet the future will most likely bring a surely smoother, faster, and possibly taller roller coaster or similar thrill ride to where Mantis now stands, and where I once stood 145 ft in the air while riding it. Life, like a roller coaster, has its ups and downs, and usually at the end we feel banged up and move a little slower. But if we dare to get on the crazier ride that offers a different experience we can at least say we had an interesting time while it lasted. Mantis and I didn’t start on the best note, and I’m not sure we’ll leave on it either, but I wish it could last just a little bit longer anyway.
Thanks to Cedar Point for the lovely picture and the memories.
If you want to ride Mantis one last time then head to Cedar Point any Friday, Saturday, or Sunday from now until October 19th. Cedar Point is currently only open for their Halloween-themed HalloWeekends, an enjoyable experience in itself, until season’s end on November 2nd.
Got a suggestion for a future topic or an urge to shower me with praise? Leave a comment or contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org. Ride back again this way next Monday (I promise this time) for a stirring discussion of America’s favorite family and all of their friends.