After a long layoff following wrist surgery in July, my past two weeks at amusement parks have been more about trying new things than settling for what I’ve done before. (Although there has been some of that, too.)
It started Aug. 20 with a one-day family outing at Kings Island, Cedar Point’s sister park in Mason, Ohio. It ended Sept. 2 with a day of water-related experiences at Cedar Point.
With only two days remaining on the summer schedule, Register reporter Andy Ouriel and I finally got around to parasailing, with North Coast Parasail & Water Sports, on the beach side of Cedar Point. As it turns out, by waiting we were able to parasail in Hurricane Isaac. OK, fine, in squalls from Hurricane Isaac.
I figured the bird’s-eye view of Cedar Point would be the best part, but instead it was just looking straight down at my feet, dangling hundreds of feet above Lake Erie. Even the gulls were well beneath me … but I didn’t return the favor for what they do to my car all the time in Sandusky.
We did the most expensive flight we could: a 15-minute ride with about 1,000 feet of towline for $130 ($117 after a 10 percent Platinum Pass discount). If you ever head out to do it, remember the length of the towline is the length of the line connecting you to the boat, not how high you’ll be in the air. We were 500-600 feet high, more than enough to look DOWN at Top Thrill Dragster, from the lake.
It was much easier and less-involved — at least for the parasailer — than I expected. You literally just sit back (into the harness) and relax. In fact, the hardest part for most people probably would be transferring from the small boat you take from the beach to the bigger boat that pulls the parasail wing (parachute) farther out in the water.
The hosts — Josh and Phil — were good guys, easygoing and answered any questions about the undertaking.
It was a breathtaking experience, but it wasn’t as extreme as I was expecting. So if it’s something you’ve thought about doing but were unsure of, give it a try.
Flights are finished for this season, but more information can be found at northcoastparasail.com.
Later that same day was a more laid-back — and less expensive — water ride: Paddlewheel Boat Excursions.
At only $8 with a pass discount, this one didn’t pack quite the same thrill punch, but it did offer great views and photo opportunities of Sandusky, Sandusky Bay and the park. And it’s a good opportunity for anyone who was sad to see Paddlewheel Excursions be removed from inside the park in favor of Dinosaurs Alive!
The 40-45 minute ride goes along the bayside shore of the park, giving beautiful panoramic views of the park and specifically Millennium Force, Maverick and Mean Streak.
I joked it was an “old-fogy” ride while on board. But considering the boat’s background music was from when I was growing up, I guess I’m an old fogy. Or at least becoming one.
While it’s not as good overall as Cedar Point, Kings Island has a lot going for it, namely Diamondback, Firehawk, The Beast, an award-winning kids area and a Soak City Waterpark you don’t have to buy a separate ticket to enjoy.
After Millennium Force, Diamondback is my favorite steel coaster. And Firehawk is a flying coaster the likes of which even Cedar Point doesn’t have.
But The Beast is the one ride that shows what Cedar Point is most sorely lacking: a truly great wood coaster. (The recent announcement that Kings Island will disassemble Son of Beast, which has been standing but not operating since 2009, leaves that park with a big footprint to fill, too.)
“QUICK POINTS” FROM MONDAY, AUG. 20 (at Kings Island); THURSDAY, AUG. 23; FRIDAY, AUG. 31; and SUNDAY, SEPT. 2
Overheard at the ParkWhile it can’t really be quoted, the dinosaur in front of the restrooms near Cedar Point’s main gate was roaring Sept. 2 during the national anthem, which certainly isn’t something you hear every day. Colleges must be back in session: Workers’ foreign accents were out in force Labor Day weekend.
The GoodEven on a fairly busy day at Kings Island, I was able to ride the park’s signature steel coaster, Diamondback, five times. The Beast was THE ride at Kings Island when I was growing up. (Some would argue it still is today). Such great, albeit terrifying memories, of that ride. Firehawk is the only flying coaster I’ve ever ridden. And it’s certainly a worthwhile experience. Just heading up the lift hill on your back, facing into the sun, is an odd enough experience, let alone then flipping over so you’re facing the ground like you're flying. Some kids’ fear vs. other kids’ lack of fear amazes me. For the second consecutive year a relative of mine, who was 10 last year and 11 this year, rode Slingshot with me at Kings Island. When I was about the same age was when I rode my first roller coaster: Geauga Lake’s Corkscrew, which was even smaller than Cedar Point’s. Was able to ride Millennium Force for the first time in well more than a month Aug. 23. It was good to be back aboard. Snuck in a few extra rides Aug. 31 during another video shoot on Millennium Force. ABC was at the park shooting a segment about Single Rider Bob (a Cedar Point patron mainstay) for an upcoming show, and Discovery Channel was at the park for a couple weeks shooting for its program “Nerve Center.” It took until Sept. 2 before I finally bought food inside the park this season. I love Cedar Point and the food, but a man can go broke eating there as often as I wander the park. Not making any religious judgments or comments, but I did find it amusing seeing a woman make the sign of the cross while watching her children on Power Tower. A friend saw a woman on a Top Thrill Dragster train do the same thing just before launch. For the second consecutive year my Facebook ramblings have helped convince one of my brothers, a native Ohioan, to return to Buckeyeland from Texas for a trip to Cedar Point. It happens this coming weekend, one of the typically least-busy times of the year.
The BadSpecifically came to Cedar Point during early-entry time Sept. 2 to ride Millennium Force with a shorter wait, but it was down right off the bat. It was up and running very quickly, though.
The Indifferent (just observations — not good or bad — about the days)Spent time Sept. 2 with a friend and her 3-year-old in Planet Snoopy and Camp Snoopy. Not much fun to be had for me on the rides there, but some of the looks on the kids’ faces were priceless. Also priceless was the 3-year-old covering his ears, trying to tone down the roar while walking through the Top Thrill Dragster midway. HalloWeekends decorations are resurfacing. Good because HalloWeekends is fun. Bad because it’s the surest sign the summer season is finished.
Tom Sherer is an award-winning graphic designer with the Sandusky Register and a Cedar Point enthusiast who visited the park 53 times in 2011. He chronicles his adventures in coasterland here at "Belaboring the Point."