austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Or if he even sleeps at all

We were enchanted by Valravn's graphic design and styling from first seeing the logo, last year, and the giant throne on which this king-of-magic-ravens sat. (As we understand the legend, the actual Valravn was a bird that feasted on the blood of dead kings, but we also understand Cedar Point softening this.) Valravn is the second major all-new roller coaster since Cedar Point's current management, with a focus on park beautification and whole-day experiences, was put in. So its design isn't just set up to put in a new roller coaster and make it look scary. It's set up to have an attractive area that people would like to visit and linger around. Even the queue is attractive, and mercifully shaded from the sun. And it's opened up an area that used to be completely off-limits, part of various rides and space behind them. Now there's another major walkway running with the grain of Cedar Point, one that lets you look around the back of the antique-car ride they didn't take out, and the Cedar Downs carousel and all that. It's hard to get used to, but it's attractive and pleasant and I imagine it also improves the traffic of the whole park. It's a third channel for pedestrian traffic on an area that needed it.

The station matched the theming, as anyone sensible would hope. It's bright and airy with space decorated by runes and all that. The Valravn roller coaster is a ``dive coaster'', a kind that pauses at the top of its major drops so people can savor the anticipation of plummeting. To make this work the train can't be very long. It's got only three rows of seats. For comparison GateKeeper has eight. But to have reasonable carrying capacity the rows have to be very wide. There's, I think, eight seats per row. So the station is wide but not long. Unloading and loading passengers was nice and quick, too. In station the rail is underneath the retractable floor, so there's nothing anyone has to climb over. And there's a monitor that shows when people have sat down and buckled their seat belts and got their restraint in place, switching to show bright green. I was delighted by this. ``You can actually see people following directions!'' I said of it. It also says how long the unloading and loading process has gone, which might encourage people to move that bit quicker. Our train was unloaded, loaded, and ready to go in under a minute.

Ah, but how is the ride? Rather good, I would say. The gimmick of the dive coaster, that you stop at the top of a vertical drop, is a cheap one. It's also quite effective. It drags out the moment of suspense before the ride tears into action, and it gives a moment to stare out over the park and appreciate it as a great living thing. The first drop is the better one; the ride stops a second time and that means it has to kill the momentum the ride had going.

What keeps it short of greatness though is that the great gimmick is done in that first few seconds. After the initial drop the ride is a fairly standard modern steel roller coaster. It's nice and smooth and swoopy, and none too intense. But it also feels short, probably because of the need to brake for the second suspension ahead of the second major dive. It's never bad, mind you, but it doesn't quite reach GateKeeper's greatness.

Like GateKeeper, Valravn guards and soars over its entrance to the park. GateKeeper takes its name literally and its front gate includes two towers with keyholes that the ride races through. ValRaven has a smaller gate, one that's now themed to match its Scandinavian At A Theme Park design. It hasn't got any towers, though, or any features to drop near and interact with. That's also a shortcoming I'd say. It may be silly to fault a ride for not having something it doesn't need, but when GateKeeper so nearby shows what a ``keyhole'' gimmick could do it's hard not to imagine how such a ride decoration would play.

We don't expect we'll ride this again if we have to wait an hour for it. But we don't do that for anything, except in special circumstances. A half-hour wait? Possibly. Twenty minutes more likely. It's a quite good ride and a grand addition to the park, and I imagine it's going to age well and be well-regarded most of its lifespan.

Trivia: Oliver Wolcott, one of the Connecticut signers of the Declaration of Independence, took home with him the smashed statue of King George III which had stood on Wall Street. He and his family were reported to have cast 42,088 bullets from the statue, which would be taken to Saratoga. (More reportedly, his 15-year-old daughter Lara made 8,378; Mary Ann, age eleven, some 10,790; nine-year-old Frederick 936.) Source: Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame And Misfortune Of The Men Who Signed The Declaration Of Independence, Denise Kiernan, Joseph D'Agnese.

Currently Reading: The Sea Fairies, L Frank Baum.


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