Which way would you go? Forward into a new future? Or back to relive the good old days?
There may be a lot of downtime, an extra long wait, it may even be over before we have had our fill. When we finally pull down that lapbar and dispatch we will feel free. There will not be thoughts of stress, obligation, or even responsibility. It will be time to ride.
Dear Coaster Friends,
The off-season may have been unexpectedly prolonged, and many of us are experiencing a roller coaster of emotions. Isolation may look lonely, but we are all thinking the same thing together.
EDITOR'S NOTE: The author of this article is a community member and not a member of the site staff. We encourage all members of our community to submit similar op-ed pieces by e-mailing them to firstname.lastname@example.org for review by our editorial staff.
The story began on August 15th, 1999. My best friend Brian and I made a Sunday day trip to Cedar Point. It turned out to be one of the best days I have ever had there. Small crowds, multiple rides on Raptor, Magnum, Mantis, and the newest thrill ride Power Tower.
Now as much fun as we were having that day, all we could talk about was Millennium Force, the announcement was a few weeks prior. Even strangers that we were standing in the queue lines with us were obsessed with Cedar Point's Y2K addition. We must have ridden the train at least five times to see piles of dirt and downed trees. Brian and I even made a pact, no matter how long the line was our first ride was going to be front row. We were so excited about riding, Millennium Force the next summer. That I even checked with Hotel Breakers, to see if we could make reservations for the following year. (They said no) Anyway, like I was saying earlier, a truly great day.
A few weeks later, we started planning our 2000 pilgrimage to Cedar Point. After talking to several mutual friends, we ended up with a large group of us planning to go. Well, Summer turned into Fall. Fall turned into Winter. And we were still mainly talking about Millennium Force, all of us were counting down the days.
In January, Brian asked me if I wanted to go on a snowmobile excursion. His family has a hunting cabin in Kalkaska. Ours have one in Gaylord, and we would take long rides in between them. When he told me the dates, I had to decline.
1. The trip would fall on Super Bowl weekend, and I, along with some others, was planning a Super Bowl party.
2. My Uncle and his family were already going to be using our cabin that weekend.
Now I was a little bummed because I used to love snowmobiling. Plus, it was a great way to have some outstanding fun during the offseason. Brian understood he planned a smaller excursion focused around their cabin. If all went well, they would try to make it back in time for the Super Bowl party. I remember him joking with me; he was going to take a couple of the hillier trails at 90MPH to get a feel for riding Millennium Force. I went over to his place and helped Brian and his dad load up their Arctic Cats, and said I would see him in a couple of days.
A little over 24hrs later, I received a phone call you never want to get. Brian James Vickery left this world way too soon from a head-on collision with another snowmobile. Now you all probably know someone like Brian, he was the life of the party, someone everybody loved. When you went out with Brian, you were going to have fun. I even bet some of the fun we had, the statute of limitations has expired. His death shook our group to its core. All of us were devastated. I lost my best friend. No, it was way worse than that, I lost a brother. The months passed and the time to go to Cedar Point was approaching. Some people had to drop out, others who thought they would not be able to go could. Our final count was 24.
We all wanted our 1st ride to be on the same train. But we had heard some of the horror stories coming out of Cedar Point that Summer; four to five hour wait times, down half the day, and the worst issue for our group, we could not choose a row or time it to all ride together. Cedar Point was filling every train with how you entered the station, with no exceptions.
Some in our group were very upset, myself included. But the need to ride the world's first Giga coaster outweighed the aggravation of not being able to choose where we rode. Finally, June 11th, 2000, arrived. Our group checked into the Breakers right at 4:00 PM. We ate an early dinner and headed into the park on the twilight ticket. Now we were not planning to ride Millennium Force that night. The original plan was to ride everything else Sunday night and Monday morning. Then get in as many rides as possible the rest of the day/night Monday and Tuesday. But the park was strangely dead even for a Sunday evening.
We walked on Magnum a few times then, went up to Raptor, and was shocked to walk on that multiple times as well. While we were going through Raptor's queue line, we overheard someone saying that Millennium Force only had an hour wait. We quickly scrapped our original plan and decided to see if that was the case. Heck, even if it were a two-hour wait, from all the things we had heard, it would be worth it. IT WAS TRUE!!!! Not even a full queue. We felt like little kids when you see all the presents under the tree Christmas morning. With a winning Powerball thrown in. Another life long friend and I were the first two in line. What made that special was that Scott, out of all my friends, truly loves roller coasters. After hearing all of the hype about Millennium Force along with Brian's passing, I knew he would be there.
Some of you long time Cedar Point fans will remember when Millennium Force had a DJ in the queue line. I knew something special was happening when he started playing some of Brian's favorite songs. Some Garth Brooks, a little Bon Jovi, a touch of Billy Joel. (He had quite the taste in music) We were approaching the unload station, and the DJ played "In the Air Tonight." by Phil Collins. Let us say that took the moment to an eleven. On a whim, I started to count the people in front of us. To my amazement, it looked like we were going to all be on the same train. A couple more trains dispatched, I counted again. Now I knew for sure we were all going to be on the same train. Telling everyone in our group that our first ride was going to be together, resulted in a lot of high-fives and a few hugs. A couple more trains dispatched, and I realized Scott, and I had the front row. The look of joy on Scott's face is something that I will never, ever forget. After the longest Winter and Spring, I can ever remember, we finally started up the massive lift hill.
It had to be the quietest ascent on a roller coaster. You could hear crickets. Something was building; to this day, I can not describe it accurately. We crested the hill, started the drop, and the dam broke. Five months of unbearable sadness, grief, and pain were stripped bare. We all let loose our primal screams as loud as humanly possible. And I think somewhere in that absolute maelstrom of noise I could make out a scream from Brian. The train was blistering through the track, and it was almost like we were chasing lightning. And we were going to catch it, and I have no doubts that was the fastest Millennium Force has ever run. We made our way toward the ride photo building. Did the normal pointing and laughing when someone in our group had a tear form in their eye. One by one, we all had some tears in our eyes, then we grouped up together. I said a verse from the bible. John 11:35 "Jesus wept" " He wept for the death of his best friend" And we did; it was a good and healing weeping.
After all of that, the park was still open for another hour; we rode Millennium Force one more time that night. And honestly, that is all I can remember of that trip after our first ride. Now I can tell you every detail leading up to that ride, and it is still so vivid almost twenty years later. And I know for at least 24 individuals no matter the coaster, no matter the years. No other ride will ever, ever come close. It was the greatest ride we ever had.