May 29, 2021
Normally I plan large summer vacation trips months in advance. I know where I’m going, staying, and what I’m doing. But because of the COVID 19 pandemic, I wasn’t sure what I’d be doing or where I’d be going in 2021, but I did have the dates set, as we are required to request our week long vacations in December of the previous year.
Not knowing what the vaccination situation or travel restrictions would be like, I planned to take a week off around Memorial Day just in case. I was upset early in the year when it didn’t look like vaccinations would be going quickly, but I was able to get my second dose near the end of March and even took a weekend trip to Atlanta in April to test my comfort with travel out. In the back of my mind, I had came up with a possible Midwest road trip, and when things started looking up in regards to travel, I chose the parks I’d be going to and started planning and paying for the trip. I would start off by flying in to Minneapolis and heading to the area’s regional amusement park, Valleyfair. This trip would take me to 5 new to me parks, a couple dozen new coasters, and lots and lots of boring farmland driving.
I flew out early on May 29 from CLT to Minneapolis. I’d paid for parking ahead of time at one of the private lots, and it was cheaper than regular long term parking. Going through security and the airport post COVID, all while wearing a mask, was different, but I’m so used to some things that when I see relaxed guidelines, it freaks me out a little at first. My flight boarded on time. I’d had breakfast and sat at the gate in the new terminal at CLT. Very nice upgrade and every seat has access to wired and wireless charging. The flight was on time and actually arrived in Minneapolis quite early. This was my first time in the state.
After landing I tried to find the vehicle rental counters, but the airport signage and maps weren’t doing the job. Eventually with the help of a flight attendant that saw I was struggling, I made my way to the Sixt counter, got through the very easy rental process, and headed to the car, a brand new Nissan Kick with Apple’s CarPlay (My first time playing with CarPlay, and I really liked it).
It was still very early and Valleyfair was close and did not open till 11 AM with my reservation being at 11:30, so I stopped and ate a breakfast snack at Burger King a few miles from the park while I let my camera batter charge, since that didn’t happen when I thought I’d charged everything. Eventually I made my way the last few miles and arrived at Valleyfair just after opening.
Valleyfair is a small park with several coasters and flat rides. I immediately recognized it as a Cedar Fair park, and thought it was quaint and clean. After heading in I went directly to the biggest coaster in the park, Wild Thing, a Morgan hyper coaster that the park has had for quite some time now. I’m not a fan of it’s sister coaster at Dorney Park in PA, but I do like Phantom’s Revenge, Steel Eel, and Steel Dragon 2000, so I was hoping that this ride would be at least decent.
Wild Thing (404)- The wait wasn’t extreme but they only had one train running and operations were slow. I road near the back of the train. The first drop was really great and by the second hill, I knew I liked this better than Steel Force. There was at least decent floater airtime on each hill, and the turn around, while swoopy, was very fun as well. I know that Morgan hyper coasters can have very little airtime in the ending bunny hops, but there was fun airtime over ever small hill. I really enjoyed the ride and felt this was a great way to start the day.
Everything at this point felt normal. Even though it was late May, the weather felt like early spring in the south, which is where I usually start my theme park seasons. I had a hoody and shorts on. The weather was absolutely perfect. As I walked towards the back of the park I decided that my next ride would be on Renegade, the park’s GCI wooden coaster. I walked right in to the station and on to the ride just as it went down. So I waited for a few minutes but then left. Up next was a ride I’d wanted to ride for many many years, the park’s classic Arrow, Excalibur, a hybrid wood structure/steel tracked ride.
Excalibur (405)- Basically like a mini-hyper coaster, and very old school, Excalibur has been rumored to be the next ride gone from the park, so I’m glad I finally made it. The first drop was great and what follows is rather violent lateral forces in the banked turns, a few violent airtime hills, helix goodness, and then the brakes. I really enjoyed the ride, and should have ridden again later. But I’m glad that I was able to finally get on.
Heading back over to Renegade I got in line for a row close to the front. After a few trains ran through, the ride went down yet again. This time, however, I decided to wait it out as maintenance was there quickly. They were having issues with one of the restraints. Eventually, though, I was going through the air gates to board the ride.
Renegade (406)- I always tend to enjoy GCI twisted wooden coasters. Renegade was no different. It was very fun with a great first drop. Then the layout is very twisted and runs around and through itself. I thought it was very middle of the road as far as GCI coasters go, and thats a good thing. Average when talking about some of my favorite coasters goes a long way.
I walked through the park heading towards the Snoopy themed section next. The park was getting busy and operations weren’t the greatest, so I was trying to get all of the credits in and then maybe get a re-ride or two. Next up was the park’s other wooden coaster.
High Roller (407)- I don’t know what I expected, but I definitely didn’t expect the ride to be as good as it was. The wait was longer than I expected. Eventually I was off with a back car ride. High Roller was actually pretty amazing and running very well! The first drop was fun and there was ample old school woody airtime on all of the hills, with one of the final hills nearly standing me up. I loved it.
I got turned around looking for my next destination but eventually made my way over to the park’s classic Arrow.
Corkscrew (408)- It wasn’t bad! In fact, I enjoyed it, but it’s a standard Corkscrew, though not a clone corkscrew with a loop and helix. It was fun.
I decided to take a break and head to my car for a bit. The day had warmed up and I wanted to drop off my hoodie. My camera was acting funny, and even though I’d charged one of the batteries to 40%, the SD card I was using was acting problematic. So I decided to switch to my phone as my primary camera for the rest of the day which, sadly, meant that it was going to use up the rest of it’s battery. I had planned on bringing my battery case for the trip, but it died about a month out and the new one I ordered I had to send back because the seller listed the wrong size and there wasn’t enough time to get a new one. Bummer.
I headed back in to the park to finish up with new coasters, grab some food, and get some photos and re-rides. I headed over towards the Steel Venom area. I didn’t expect to fit on Steel Venom, and since I couldn’t get the belt to lock on the test seat I decided not to get in line as I wasn’t sure help from a ride op would make a difference. I expected this, and even though I like Impulse coasters, I wasn’t too upset. I also took some photos of the Prince themed Delirious, a ring of fire type ride.
As I walked back towards Wild Thing I remembered a food stand I’d passed that had some interesting food choices so I stopped. It took forever. I saw they had a Monte Cristo on the menu, so I asked what that was. About half way through explaining it I said “I’ll take that!” The girl paused, looked at me, then continued telling me the rest. Regardless, I wanted it. I’d never had one before and it sounded disgustingly delicious while on vacation. And it was.
After lunch I got a re-ride on Wild Thing and I swear I think it was even better that time. I really enjoyed the ride, even though a few friends of mine were surprised as they don’t think highly of it. It was fun. I checked the app to see what the wait for the Mad Mouse was and it was listed at 40 minutes so I thought it may be best to go ahead and get in line. That was probably a good thing to do, but the wait was over an hour.
Mad Mouse (408)- Okay so I loved the only other Arrow wild mouse I’d ridden years ago at the Myrtle Beach Pavilion. Its a slightly different ride with banking and very enjoyable. After the wait I was finally off and the ride was just as good and unnerving as I remembered. The hills towards the end gave plenty of violent airtime, just how I remembered.
I went to ride Renegade again, but the line was longer than I wanted so I settled for taking photos instead. Then I went to take some photos of Excalibur, but it had nearly no wait, so I took a final spin. I loved that ride.
I would have liked more re-rides, but park operations were poor and didn’t allow for that with a 7 PM closing time and me needing to leave earlier to head to Des Moines for the night. I wanted to ride the drop tower and Screaming Swing, but passed. I knew I’d get a shot at another Swing in a couple of days. So I headed out and south to Des Moines and my first time in Iowa. I did, however, finally get to try Cane’s chicken on the way. The sauce was great, but, eh.
I arrived later than I’d wanted to Des Moines but was able to check into my room, which was rather large just for one night, and then head out to town for a couple drinks and mingling with the locals. I liked the vibe in Des Moines, great town. Hopefully I’ll be back again in the future. But I wasn’t done with Des Moines yet for this trip. I’d be back for a few hours in a couple of days. And for having only spent one day on vacation at this point, I’d accomplished a lot. It felt like 2 days.