Sep 13, 2021, 12:04:38 AMSep 13
Trip Report: Waldameer
September 5, 2021
“Now this is an old school park that I would be proud to have as my home park”
Continuing off of yesterday’s trip to Camden Park, we had foursome today with April and Tony joining us for a trip to Waldameer. The goal was a 9AM departure, and by group standards we did pretty well with a 9:30 departure, part of that taken up by the discovery that the ice machine didn’t make any ice overnight, which we were planning on using for the cooler. While contemplating on how to solve this problem, we first turned the ice maker on and waited a while, until we realized there is a bodega right across the street that sells ice. Bag of ice purchased, part of which went in the cooler, the rest of which went in the freezer. Then it was off, and just one comfort stop along the way we were pulling into Geneva-on-the Lake, OH.
This is a resort town right by Lake Erie, and like many resort towns, has a main drag for the tourist lined with tourist traps like arcades, mini golf, water sports equipment rentals, and more casual dining opportunities than you can shake a stick at. We were lucky to find street parking almost right across from where we were planning on eating. As I hesitated to cross the street, they said “The traffic on this street is constant, but just start to cross and it will stop” Sure, I’ve heard that one before, but in this town it really is true, just start to act like you are crossing and all traffic comes to a halt. It’s that “everybody is on vacation having a fun laid back time” mentality. On the way to our restaurant, I passed another that has taken the news of being rated “The worst breakfast ever” on Trip Advisor, as putting as listing said breakfast on the menu as “Trip Advisors Worst Breakfast Ever” proving no publicity is bad publicity. We passed what looks like a theatre converted into an arcade, but unfortunately all it had was a few crane games out front.
Next up was Eddie’s Grill. This is exactly what you think of when you think 1950’s hamburger stand, you order out front at a window from a simple menu: hot dogs, burgers, sloppy joe, fish, fries or slaw. There is a Dairy Queen in the same building for desert. Oh and craft root beer. We each got us a chili dog with assorted toppings. Cheese comes in the form of slices and is under the hot dog, then the dog, then the chili, then well they have a full toppings bar, go crazy. It’s not Cincinnati chili, so a bit sweeter than I am used to, but it satisfied, unlike the very unremarkable and overpriced fries I got to go with it. I should have known when the more experienced Eddies’ diners amongst us didn’t get any fries. Oh, and the root beer was tasty as well. We ate out on the expansive outside patio, and from where I was sitting you could look down the street and see Lake Erie. They also have a vintage jukebox with booth boxes – and their tactic seems to be they play German oom-pah-pah music unless somebody plays the jukebox, which overrides the background music. As we were finishing up lunch, and with some distance still to travel, there were calls for another type of facility. I heart how those at Eddie’s are small, primitive, and made to be just about as uncomfortable as possible. This led to a small side conversation about how this is a common problem in tourist zones like these. Nobody wants to run restrooms because of the work and cost involved, leaving travelers in a lurch.
After lunch, Dave and I took a walk down the main drag, I peeked in some arcades but I didn’t see any old school type games. Our goal though, was to show me a grass lot tucked behind some businesses. Dave showed me a building. It was a dull gray building with a nice size from porch, but more peculiarly the two single doors are set into what looked to be double doors or wider in their past life, one on each end of the porch. Looking at the concrete porch you could see remnants of a track and grooves worn into the porch. IF that didn’t give it away, looking up towards the roof line, this rather plain building had the traditional haunted house façade on the front of its roof, just painted over in gray. Yep, this was once the dark ride, at what once what Erieview park, as it sat on the lakeside. Next to the former dark ride building is a building with a bunch of service type size windows that might have been games or food, except Dave told me the park didn’t both much with food, seeing as the whole main drag has it in abundance. We walked around with a “this ride used to be here, and this ride there” A pathway marks out what was once the train ride, and at one far end a Ferris Wheel still remains as the last ride, and reminder to this park. Turns out the rest of the group found us, we walked back on the other side of the street, did find and use the public restroom building, which while most vandal proof in design, was a better offering. Lastly, a group photo in front of Eddie’s, and back on the road.
Next up, Waldameer!
We turned into one of Waldameer’s parking lots, and went right past what looked like two overflow lots and found ourselves in a lot right up behind the rides, parked roughly in back of the log flume. Waldameer is operated the old fashioned way, no parking charge, no admission charge, in fact there are gates around the park you can enter and exit through that are no-where near the ticket booths, and these gates are left open and unattended. As we walked up to the entrance gate, we noted a large sign proclaiming that there would be no on site ticket sales for labor day, all guests must buy the ride pass, and they must do it in advance, and that no tickets would be sold, even on line after 5pm. Luckily that is tomorrow, and we keep heading to the gate. Here is where the effects of the staffing shortage are showing for the park. Of 8 ticketing lanes, only 1 was open. Further signs indicated that due to staffing issues several rides were closed (luckily mostly in the water park), and that others would operate on a rotating basis throughout the day.
Lanes 1-4 are for any customer, and 5-8 are so called Express lanes, this is where people with a pre purchased ticket or season pass can go, essentially anybody that doesn’t need the cashier. As I said only 1 lane was open which meant we were in the same line as other day guests as ourselves and also season ticket holders that just needed to scan in and get their wristbands for the day. We were happy to learn the large family ahead of us were all season ticket holders, that should go quick right? I don’t know what made that so difficult, but that seemed to take forever. How long, well normally you pay the first person, they give you a ticket, then you step down to the next window turn in ticket and they put an armband on you. This group required manager intervention for something, so the manager assisted them at the second window, and we paid and got our armbands at the first window, and when we were done they were still blocking the lane ahead of us, so we backed out and went In through the closed lane ahead of us. Mind you that was with all of us paying for tickets.
(Ride-A-Rama Purhcase price $34 – Value of rides taken so for $0.00) – Note – rides are on a pay per ride basis, or you can get the Ride-A-Rama which is all the rides, or the POP which includes the water park. Rides are priced in “Wally Points” where 1 point = $1.
We get into the park and purposely turn whichever way said family was not going. This led us to the Comet, which is the parks older, smaller wood coater. About halfway between the junior woodies at the old KECO parks and the Stricker’s Grove Torndo., with a track plan that is similar but not an exact match, We get in line and after scanning in at the turnstile, find ourselves in a rather short wait, just the last twist of the queue as it winds its way up to the station. Operations are very efficient, in fact it is not uncommon to see both trains in the station at once, with one in unload and the other in load. In an interesting timing quirk it seems the incoming train is let into the unload station at the same time the lap bars are locked on the loading train. I guess the idea is, that before the trains cold possible collide the riders in the front train are properly seated. It’s a curved station, and out we go, the track is stained wood with red trim. It’s the double out and back with some gentle hills, but it does have a couple pops of air on it. At the end of the ride, the unload ramp mirrors the load ramp, just on the other side of the station, except there are two ramps on the unload side that run alongside each other, one is the exit, and the other is the ADA access ramp. At the end of the exit is one of those old fashioned 4 arm non counting turnstiles that used to be at the entry doors of every drug and discount store to make sure people didn’t back out without going through the check lanes. I guess when those fell out of favor, they were all rounded up and brought to Waldameer. The path with also narrows down where you have to sort of stuff yourself through facing sideways, then as if that isn’t enough, there is a push gate after that. Dave told me to used to this arrangement. I noted the ADA gate is blocked by a mag locked gate.
Wally Points: Ridden: 3 – Points to Break Even: 31
Enough small talk, let’s head to the main attraction. Dave detours me through the Gift House, and well, let’s just say it looks like the day after the red tag sale. I can see I’m not getting anything here either. Why is it the parks where I really WANT to get something, doesn’t have anything Behind the Gift House we find Ravine Flyer II. 2, you may ask, as well you should as the park even has a display about how the parks old coaster was the Ravine Flyer, and this new ride takes up the same park of the park, including the picnic pavilion to your left which was the original station. We enter under the sign, then the pathway goes down a winding downward ramp, under the track, and into what would today be a dis-used queue area. We take the shortest possible path, and headed right up to the turnstile. Here they were only letting one train load at a time onto the platform. Dave and I head to that back seat, no trouble with belts and bars.
Today the ride would only be running 1 train (the blue one), but with such a short line, I can’t fault the park of this, You exit straight out of the station, pass the transfer track to the left hand side, and then go you turn left under the Do not stand up sign and up the lift hill. The lift hill topper looks almost just kike Voyage, same flags, maybe even the same colors, except the park does give a nod to its closeness to Canada by having both Canadian and the US flags at the top of the lift. As you crest the lift wooded forest turns into a commanding view of Lake Erie, and just as you are about to say OH Wow, look at that Vieeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeewwwwwwwwwwww! You are being thrust down and to the right, a wooden tunnel, then a blue net tunnel as you cross over a 4 lane state highway (Supposedly the only coaster to cross a 4 lane state highway), then Spaghetti bowl one, it’s like the Voyage turnaround, lot of twists and turns, some drops, then, wham, back across the bridge into spaghetti bowl 2. I don’t know where to begin to describe this coaster other than a twisted delight of lateral goodness, with some nice drops tossed in for good measure. Then it’s back to the station, down the ramp, through the rotary, through the push gate. This time the ADA mag gate is on the main exit path just shy of the rotary. The conjecture is since this is a pay per ride park, ride ticket integrity is a big concern, so both ride entrances and exits are heavily protected to defend against stow-a-ways. Also in terms of integrity, the park has gone cashless, and both cash to card and Wally Points for rides and games can be purchased from self serve kiosks throughout the park, or from any ticket center.
Wally Points: Ridden: 7.5 – Points to Break Even: 26.5
We exit the Ravine Flyer and come across April H, who wants to ride the Ferris Wheel, but due to the parks no single riders rule on the Ferris Wheel, cannot. Our own April goes off to check on something else, so Tony, Dave and I ride the conveniently placed Chance Wipeout located right next to Ravine Flyer. I was a bit worried about this one, but I helped the automatic lap bar find its locking notch and all was good. AS it turns out we all wound up riding single, thanks, to the seatbelts the park added,. This ride combines the up and down hilly motions of the old Trabant, with some moments of high sustained laterals like a Hurricane, and what’s more you get to go both forwards and back, each compartment seats 4 with 2 benches facing towards each other, so it’s a group ride. At this ride the exit rotary was more pronounced in how it slowed down getting off the ride.
Wally Points: Ridden: 10.5 – Points to Break Even: 23.5
Speaking of slowing things down, we met up with Pete, Lee, April H and one other, was it a Steve, sorry I forgot your name. So Strange Coaster Nut Behavior commenced until a command decision was made o steer the group towards the Sky Ride. The Sky Ride here gives a nice tour of the of about ¾ of the park. You see the park kind of forms an L shape, and the sky ride is at one end of the long arm of the L, and floats over the Big Rig, Carousel, Music Express, Dodgems, Disko, and some of the picnic pavilions. To the left you can see the water park beyond. You ride to a point just past the Disko then turnaround, no one way rides here. I was bummed to see the Disko closed. We float back the other way waving at each other as we passed around the return bullwheel. A nice park overview, then guess what more Strange Coaster Nut Behavior.
Wally Points: Ridden: 13.5 – Points to Break Even: 20.5
The group splintered, and hey really 8 people is just too unwieldy for any length of time. We pass the closed Spider, and head to the Wacky Shack. The Wacky Shack is the parks haunted house, a vintage Bill Tracy dark ride. The queue was almost all the way to the back of the ride and back, without using the extension. Several park signs use the threat of losing your wristband as a deterrent, the dark ride animated host takes it a step further “You may lose your wristband, perhaps with your arm STILL attached” The futuristic mold cars remind me of the ones LeSourdsville Lake had on their dark ride, and have a simple overhead lap bar. It looks like a shack out front with rolling eyes, color changing windows and other visual gags. Inside its first through the mine trestles then the rotating barrel, where some might note a ramp on the floor causes the car to life up slightly as if it was rotating as well. A turnsround back a friendly skull, then you actually get to see the rotating drum mechanism with some skeletons being tortured. It’s clear the floor is rather tilted in some rooms, and some parts are well lit and others are nice and dark. About midway through you go outside, and do a slight roller coaster like dip out front, before going back in. You go past a set of doors each one appearing to be smaller than the last, a loud heartbeat you can feel as you stare at the monster just beyond the final door before you go into the strobe room, orange and green paint and the scariest dark ride spook ever, I mean it looked just like me. (a large mirror), and you have the swamp, the drunkard in a bathtub, and of course you end with the semi truck coming at you head on. It’s a classic masterpiece.
Wally Points: Ridden: 16.5 – Points to Break Even: 17.5
Just past the Wacky Shack is something that will make you say “They don’t build them like that anymore” I’m talking about Pirates’s Cove, a Bill Tracy walk through. The facade of the ride looks like a ships deck with cannons point out, and the queue area is between the cannons and the haunt itself. IT seemed they were letting people in just as fast as they came, so you went through conga line style. Both entry and exit doors next to each other so the attendant could keep track of both. You enter, up a few stairs and turn and then the one and only really demanding physical obstacle type stunt, the shifting floor where you step onto metal panels, each half the path wide, that sift back and forth opposite each other, Those not athletically inclined can be glad there is a clear and easy bypass to this element. You then head inside (yes the “lets watch people try to not fall” stunt is on full display of the midway) IT becomes apparent the haunt is encased inside a much larger building, and they have the fans up high. You ass a lot of stationary tableaux, as well as a few fun house classics like a tilt room or two. The rooms with different handrail configurations so you have to both up and down the tilted surface, I had to chuckle at the teens and younger ducking under the handrails to skip through, totally missing the whole point of the element. At the top of the tilt room you then go down a rather steep ramp, as Dave said the fact there are several walls you have to zig zag between will help limit your fall. Fine there are just too many of them and that part feels like an overly long gag. It seems the haunt was getting to its best telling the story right before it ended. You have the room where water is coming in the side of the ship, the sea monster, the drunken pirate singing rum and all that. Then one blat of cold air and a curtain later and its back outside.
Wally Points: Ridden: 19.5 – Points to Break Even: 14.5
We then pass by the closed for the day Log Flume, and we first take a small stop, where amongst the facilities, Dave points out to me that dogs are welcome in the park, so much so that he asked me to look at the water fountains. Ah yes, there is adult, child, and dog height fountains. I want to see the dog beabe to reach up and press the button though. Noting the bowl to be dry, Dave pressed the button which fills the bowl for the next thirsty puppy.
Next up, time for Steel Dragon. Stgeel Dragon is one of those spinning coasters. From the front end it looks like yet another Wild Mouse spinner. Waiting through the full queue for it, however, takes you back to see a much more inspired, or shall I say demented track layout. We get in, and at first the operator isn’t happy with my lapbar, but one shove later and we are good to go. We exit the station, quick right to the lift, and a very speedy trip up the lift, no time is lost here. Turn right, go across the back of the ride, right and then drop, from there on it’s anybody’s guess as the layout is demented and the car can spin. I say the car can spin, as our car didn’t do much spinning. Still, it’s a lot better than the Reverchons that were all the rage 15 years ago.
Wally Points: Ridden: 24 – Points to Break Even: 10
From here, we have to walk right past X-Scream, the parks drop tower. It was a one cycle wait, and Dave chides me for taking a park view instead of the better lake view. Oh well, at first I thought I was going to get no view, but the operator was able to get better leverage than me, and up we went. There is no pause, no warning, you are still going up admiring the view when, WHAM SLAM Thank you mam, you are back down. At the end I found that I also could not reach the belt release. Dave stepped in to save me. Then I still have to chuckle about buiding a 4-6 person wide exit ramp that narrows down to one rotary. I mean we could have two or there rotarys at the bottom.
Wally Points: Ridden: 27 – Points to Break Even: 7
We start to get in line for the Tilt-A-Whirl, but it’s line had just been cut off for operator rotation. We come back to Ravine Flyer II, and hey since we are here, let’s go for another ride. We woukld hve had no wait, except they did let us wait several cycles to get into the front seat. Ah, yes a real commanding view of the lake from this vantage poiiiiiiiiinnnnnnnnnnnnttttttttt. <Insert maniacal wooden twisting coaster here>. All told, it was a good move to ride the Ravine Flyer as we exitied, and soon me tback up with the full group of 8.
Wally Points: Ridden: 31.5 – Points to Break Even: 3.5
WE then all finally made our way over to that Ferris Wheel ride we had been talking about since right after the first Ravine Flyer II ride, we splt up into two groups 4 for a ride on the big wheel,. Problem is, the park has such a nice tree canopy, there really isn’t that much view from the wheel except for the peak of Ravine Flyers lift hill, and a bit of the lake beyond.
Wally Points: Ridden: 35.5 – Points to the Good: 0.5
It was at this point we decided to leave the park to eat. Hey we had to eat somewhere anyway, and we chose Sara’s which is just across the street from the park, we passed overflow lots that made us cringe at the thought they might be used some days, and we passed under the roller coaster bridge, so got that taken care of as well. You see Sara’s is roughly in back of Steel Dragon. Sara’s is a 1950’s hamburger stand that takes it theme to the hilt. From the decorations in the original walk up service building, to the classic cars parked about, to the authentic diner car in back the palce oozes atmosphere, and for being in a resort area (Presque Isles) and by an amusement park, is actually priced quite affordably. $10 gets you a bacon cheeseburger basket with choice of side and a coke, another $1.50 upgrades that to a shake. I declined the house favorite – the fired zucchini sticks, and opted for the more conventional onion rings, and even better the drinks come with free refills. We headed outside to a picnic table and share a nice coaster crazy dinner, followed by another of their signature items, the Orange Dreamsicle soft serve cone.
After that, we headed back to the park. Here is where we made our big mistake. We wanted to be sure to take in the train ride, unfortunately we must have gotten to the train just after it left. We should have gone and ridden the flat rides and come back to the train, after all the train is a high capacity ride. Nope, we waited in the train station. It’s a unique waiting arrangement as the thin queue lanes are lined with benches, so you get a spot on the bench to wait while still in an orderly line. We see a train come back, not knowing it had really only done half the ride. The train really does return, and we are asked to load from the back seat forwards. Train loaded, All Aboard called, the train takes off. Out of the station, and then through a track switch onto a single track that runs through the center of the waterpark, then along side the back of the park and the hill overlooking the lake. Too bad it had gotten dark by now, you get to the area by the Northern End kids ride area, and do a turnaround to feed back onto the single track, back alongside the hillside, back through the waterpark, through another track switch, past the back of the train station, then all the way around the parks rather expansive picnic grove, and of course through the obligatory long train ride tunnel. We get back to the station and yikes, all told wait and ride that was half an hour.
Wally Points: Ridden: 38.5 – Points to the Good: 3.5
From there RIdeman goes to get some more Ravine Flyer goodness, but I mistakingly think, surely I can nail two walk on flat rides and get back to the coaster in time. Spoiler alert: I could not.
I first stop at the Music Express, but not just any Music Express, this one is absolutely beautiful with a grand lighting package, classic music, and most importantly they aren’t afraid to turn the speed up to 11, for extended periods of time. Thus is how these were meant to be. That was well worth it.
Wally Points: Ridden: 42.5 – Points to the Good: 7.5
From there, I note the DIskO is open (Mega Vortex), and hey I just don’t see this ride very often. It’s similar to the Rocking Tug, just with a taller faser U shaped track, and instead of long bench seats on a rectangular car, you have a round car with a ring of motorbike style seats facing out around the rim. I sit down straddle the seat, make myself as one with the front of the seat, and had no issues when the automatic safety bar came up from behind and locked in back of the small of my back, slightly pushing me further into the front support. After that it was spinning goodness while going up and down and back and forth. Another great ride.
Wally Points: Ridden: 46.5 – Points to the Good: 11.5
The park has a clock right at the entrance to Mega Vortex, and as I walked past I noted it said 8:55 on a 9pm close. I booked it down the midway as fast as I could, but saw the red “NO more riders” gate closed across Ravine Flyer II’s entrance before I got there. Instead of sulking, I continued booking it over to Whacky Shack. IT looked dismal. The ride was lit up, but no riders in sight, I marched on into the queue where the entire queue maze had been shunted so you went right to the turnstile, and giving the operator a case of sad puppy dog eyes, he said to go ahead and get on. A haunted house at night, it just feels right, and I did notice things the second trip through I missed on the first.
Wally Points: Ridden: 49.5 – Points to the Good: 14.5
So, as you can see I did come out ahead on the Ride-A-Rama, not an insane amount, but we did get to the park at 2:30 or 3, had some Strange Coaster Nut Behavior, had the group meal at Sara’s, and had the lapse of judgement at the train ride. Given all that, we did pretty well, and ok, hat I actually used Wally Points, I would have only spent 47.50, with 2 free points on a $25 purchase, but yeaah the Ride-A-Rama was the way to go. I met up with the rest of the group at Ravine Flyer II, you can tell when each ride and stand in the park clears, as the lights go out. Have fun making your way out through a minimally lit park. Dave did his usual at of being the last rider of the night on Ravine Flyer, then a comfort stop. Then we grouped back at the car.
As we pulled out of the lot, April chided me for not getting any night rides on Ravine Flyer II, to which Dave defended me with “He chose the rides he wanted to ride” After that was the long trip back home, the Quest for A Frozen Coke continued (and yes we had a success story!!!!!!) , and we made a mystery stop, at a mystery location, to have some mystery food while talking with some more mystery friends. Then the long drive home, slushies, rest stops, etc, and we pulled in to Dave’s place at what 3-3:30 in the morning?
As you might guess, none of us were energetic the next day, even the ones that didn’t go to work. I probably didn’t get my shower till like 11 or noon,. And we didn’t get on the road till 2. The plan was Strickers, but after April and Tony backed out we decided to just do Kings Island, so no need ffor a trip report of a park I have done a zillion times, particularly since nothing particularly interesting happned there. Sure tower is closed, Haunt and fall fest decorations are going up, and it was the last day of the season for water rides, but we just rode the wood coasters, Adventure Express, Shake Rattle and Roll, and that’s it.
We did have a prolonged trip down, we first headed to Schmidt’s German Villiage, at 2:15 restaurant should be a walk in, but we were quickly scared away with a projected 2 hour wait, the parking lot and waiting area did not suggest it should be that bad. We headed to Grove City, where we did find a sit right down Bob Evans, with the slowest service (partly on the part of a seemingly brain dead server) that took way too long. Adding to that was the man at the table booth next to us how must have thought the entire restaurant wanted to hear him, even AFTER his food arrived. I mean the people eating with him couldn’t even get a word in edge wise. Then Dave’s Chicken Noodle deep dish came with reportedly no actual chicken, but it took so long to get that, and the noise from the next booth, by the time the food did arrive we just wanted to scarf it down and get out of there. Which meant we didn’t get to the park till almost 6 pm on an 8pm close, hence no real need for a real TR.