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Author Topic: Lake Erie Circle Tour, June 8-17, 2018  (Read 591 times)

noelbotevera

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Lake Erie Circle Tour, June 8-17, 2018
« on: May 05, 2018, 01:05:55 PM »

Well, the title's true at least.

In mid-June, I plan on going to four places: (1) Cedar Point in Sandusky, Ohio, (2) Detroit, Michigan, (3) Toronto, Ontario, and (4) Niagara Falls, Ontario-New York. This is the plan I've laid out so far.

Leg 1: Chambersburg, Pennsylvania to Sandusky, Ohio

We plan to leave at around 7:30 AM, and arrive in Sandusky at around 1 PM. Our hotel of choice was the Knights Inn located on Cleveland Road, since it was the cheapest and closest to Cedar Point (5 minutes drive).

Route: US 30 -> I-76 -> I-80 -> OH 57 -> I-90 -> OH 2 -> US 6

We'll unpack in the hotel (probably take around 20 minutes), and then go to Cedar Point. We'll use the back entrance (near Soak City), and ride all the coasters, working our way to the front. We'll spend three days (June 8th-June 10th), and use the early morning/late night rider benefits (provided by the Platinum Pass) in order to maximize time. We'll also get a Fast Lane Plus for the 9th, since that's predicted to have long lines.

Leg 2: Sandusky, Ohio to Detroit, Michigan

We plan to leave on June 11th, around 7 or 8 AM. Hopefully, we arrive in Detroit at around 10 AM. Our hotel was the Quality Inn located on Van Dyke in Warren.

Route: Local Streets -> OH 4 -> I-80/I-90 -> I-280 -> I-75 -> I-696 -> M-53

We'll unpack, and explore places downtown/the suburbs (Dearborn, Southfield, etc.). Places we'll explore are the Ford Museum in Dearborn, the Detroit Zoo, Detroit Institute of Art, go to (the town of) Hell, visit a few old friends, and explore Ann Arbor if we have time. I've yet to decide on restaurants, but one place we've got to go to is the Miller's Bar in Dearborn.

Leg 3: Detroit, Michigan to Toronto, Ontario

We plan to leave on June 14th, again around 7 or 8 AM. Depending on traffic, we'll probably arrive in Toronto at around 12-12:30 PM. Our hotel of choice is the DoubleTree located near YYZ (Toronto-Pearson Int'l Airport). It's the closest, cheapest hotel to Toronto that I could find (can't go over $120 a night).

Route 1: I-696 -> I-94 -> ON 402 (clinch) -> ON 401 -> ON 427
Route 2: ON 402 -> ON 401 -> ON 403 (clinch) -> ON 401 -> ON 427
Route 3: ON 403 -> QEW -> ON 427
Possible detours (due to traffic/other causes): ON 410 -> RR 107/RR 7 -> ON 427 --or-- ON 427-> ON 409

I haven't planned out a lot of stuff in Toronto, but I've got a faint idea of what we could do. There's the Royal Ontario Museum, Toronto Islands, Ontario Science Center, Fort York, Casa Loma, Black Creek Pioneer Village, Aga Khan Museum, Yonge-Dundas Square, CN Tower, and the Scadding Cabin. The areas downtown we'll do on the first day, and use the TTC subway (CN-Tower, Yonge-Dundas, Fort York, etc.). Areas that are farther away, such as Ontario Science Center, we can drive to on the second or third day. For road related stuff, I'll clinch the Gardiner Expressway, Highway 409, and the Don Valley Parkway. Restaurants I need to plan out as well.

Leg 4: Toronto, Ontario to Niagara Falls, Ontario-New York

My plan was highlighted in the "Question about Niagara Falls" thread. We plan to leave Toronto at 7-8 AM, and arrive in Niagara Falls at around 9-9:30 AM. We leave Toronto on June 17th. No hotel this time, we're doing this the day we drive home.

Route 1: ON 427 -> QEW -> ON 420 -> Local Streets (McLeod Road and Stanley Avenue) -> Rainbow Bridge -> Local Streets (Niagara Street, Main Street, Falls Street, Riverway)

Route 2: ON 427 -> ON 403 -> QEW

I've got a good plan laid out here, at the very least, First, we take pictures at Horseshoe Falls on the Ontario side. Then, we drive over the Peace Bridge, and park on some local streets (US 62, Old Falls Street, etc.) on the New York side. We'll walk or use the tram to go to the Maid of the Mist boat tour, do Maid of the Mist, and (if time permits) travel to Goat Island to do Cave of the Winds. If we don't have enough time, we'll probably do photos of Horseshoe Falls on the New York side.

Leg 5 (if time permits): Niagara Falls, New York to Buffalo, New York

Route 1: Robert Moses Parkway --or-- US 62 -> I-190 -> NY 198 -> NY 5 South
Route 2: I-190 -> NY 5 North

The only time we'll spend in Buffalo is to eat dinner at the Anchor Bar. That's it.

Leg 6: Niagara Falls/Buffalo to Chambersburg, Pennsylvania

Route 1: I-190 -> I-90 -> US 219 -> I-86 -> US 219 -> PA 153 -> I-80 -> US 322 (-> PA 350) -> I-99 -> US 22 -> US 522 -> US 30
Route 2: I-190 -> I-290 -> I-90 -> I-390 -> I-86 -> US 15 -> I-81

We plan to leave Niagara Falls at around 2 PM and make it back to Chambersburg at around 10 PM (6 hours driving, 2 hours buffer - means taking breaks/traffic/eating). My parents will go to sleep and I'll probably write up a trip report or play games at home.

Anyways, if anyone has good suggestions for interesting restaurants in the Detroit/Toronto area, then that'd be appreciated. Routing suggestions would be great too, but do remember I need the fastest route - won't have time to look around and clinch roads.
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Re: Lake Erie Circle Tour, June 8-17, 2018
« Reply #1 on: May 05, 2018, 01:33:48 PM »

Parking on the Canadian side just to take photos of Horseshoe Falls can be a pain. There is no street parking on the rim. There are a couple of small free lots, but they tend to be full. There are large paid parking lots near the visitor center, but those are not cheap. Rapidsview is cheaper, but it is a tram ride or long walk to the visitor center.
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noelbotevera

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Re: Lake Erie Circle Tour, June 8-17, 2018
« Reply #2 on: July 02, 2018, 02:21:46 AM »

Well, I've been back from Ontario for about two weeks now. So, here's my report.

Day 1: Chambersburg to Cedar Point
Driving Stats
Route: US 30 -> I-76 (PA and OH Turnpikes) -> I-80 -> OH 57 -> I-90 -> OH 2 -> US 6 -> Cedar Point Chaussee
Miles "Driven": 334
Time Elapsed: 5:41 (hours:minutes)
5:17 AM -> 10:58 AM

The Drive
I got a fair amount of sleep. I slept at 9 PM the previous day and woke up at 2 AM the next day. I gave up on sleeping and decided to wait the 2 hours to wake up my parents, prepare myself, and pack the car. Amazingly, everything fit within two suitcases and five medium sized bags (about the size of tote bags). So, packing didn't take long at all. While waiting around for my parents to drink their coffee, and my mom to get out of the shower, we left at 5:17 AM.

As we drove along US 30, we saw the sun come out of the horizon. That was beautiful, and happened at around 6 AM. Nothing happened for the next hour. We took our first rest stop at the North Midway Service Plaza on the Pennsylvania Turnpike, and refueled the car (turns out that my brother had really chewed up fuel the previous night), around 7 AM. Between 7 and 8 AM was passing through beautiful scenery - rolling hills and twisting turns - and going under the Allegheny Mountain Tunnel. Another hour later, we took our second rest stop at the New Stanton Service Plaza, since the next services were 82 miles away (at Mahoning Valley Service Plaza, on the Ohio Turnpike). I still never understood why they took out the Zelienople plazas. Anyways, once I passed west of exit 57, that was my entrance into unexplored territory.

Some interesting sights were crossing the Oakmont Country Club, where the US Open was held a few years ago. There was also the 3rd PA 910 overpass (GSV here - winner for steepest overpasses?), and the ridiculously low overpass, where trucks were forced to use the left lane. It was under 12 feet, and it was luckily under replacement (they were building a higher overpass nearby). I don't remember where it was, but I think it was west of Butler Valley and east of Beaver Valley.

At 8:50 AM we crossed the Ohio state line, transitioning onto the Ohio Turnpike, and saw absolutely nothing but flat land for the first twenty miles. At 9:00 AM, I found the first mention of I-80, and after crossing exit 218, I entered I-80 for the very first time. 21 miles later, or 17-18 minutes traveling at 80 MPH, we took our third and last rest stop (today) at the Portage Service Plaza. My dad said that he preferred the PA Turnpike's plazas, and I agreed with him. Those plazas look more like a house, and actually have more food options. However, the Ohio Turnpike has a few more services - a small arcade, a trucker's lounge, a little "farmer's market" (really just a few shelves selling snacks and a few freezers) - but I think the PA Turnpike still edges it out. After buying a few bags of beef jerky and two cups of coffee, we powered on towards Sandusky.

Also, looks like the Ohio Turnpike is repaving the far left lane for some reason. I found it closed roughly between mile 207 to 160. That slowed our pace down.

After crossing through my first national park (Cuyahoga Valley), we took exit 145 and exited onto OH 57. EZ-Pass made the toll plazas a breeze, and after two traffic lights, confusion, and dumb drivers, we made our way onto I-90. Seriously though, why do you have to weave across two lanes, with traffic to boot, to go between I-80 and I-90 West? Anyways, after a short mile on I-90, we exited onto OH 2. OH 2 wasn't that interesting, so after another 20 minutes, we hit Sandusky at 10:45 AM. We exited onto Rye Beach Road, traveling my first few miles onto US 6, and five minutes later, we saw the turnoff for the Chaussee...and missed it. We turned around in an abandoned motel, and successfully made the turnoff this time. Trying to make a left turn on Cleveland Road/Rye Beach Road...near impossible with the fast moving traffic. It's not easy.

Something that irked me off was this extremely misleading sign telling us to not use the Causeway to Cedar Point. WHY is this here? If I'm coming from the east, which a lot of people are, taking the Chaussee is the quicker route..so why make me needlessly drive the extra mile? Anyways, the Chaussee traveled through a ton of marshland and rich residential houses. It looked like Florida, and if I took a photo I could pass it off as going to Disney World or something. I don't know, I've never been to Florida or Disney World.

Cedar Point
At the end of the Chaussee was a sight to cross off my bucket list. I was now at Cedar Point - the place I've wanted to go for 4 years now. After showing my Platinum Pass (free parking), going through the nightmare of parking, the three of us took a good stretch, and distributed tickets. I was given $20 in cash to do whatever I wanted, and ran over to the entrance of Cedar Point. Security, which was literally a metal detector, a guard, and a plastic box, was a breeze. I entered Cedar Point at 11:15 AM, and after some confusion, also got my parents into the park.

Armed with a wallet containing a Platinum Pass, my cell phone, complete independence to do whatever I wanted, and 10.75 hours of time, I made my way over to Steel Vengeance.

Without a map.

I later learned that Cedar Point's layout is pretty simple - a figure 8 - but half of the time I wandered around and had no idea where I was going. It took me 15 minutes for me to actually get to the back of the park, 5 minutes of me scratching my head of where it even was, and finally, I found the queue. After waiting 40 minutes, THE COASTER BROKE DOWN.

I made sure to stop by a gift shop to pick up a map. Trying to wander around and relying on signs wasn't helping.

By 12:30, things didn't look so good, so I gave up on waiting and decided to check out the east side of the park. Finally, I found Magnum XL-200...which I didn't even have to wait for (well, 2 or 3 trains)! I scored a back seat ride that was rough to say the least. That ride did NOT age well. It's only 29 years old, how can it be this rough? Anyways, on the positive side, it gives damn good airtime, and I like going through its two tunnels at high speed. But I wouldn't want to ride this more than twice.

After riding Magnum, I met up with my parents, who gave me $20 to do whatever I wanted (I used it mostly to buy food). A short walk later, I bought a hot dog (with my parents' money) to tide me over without causing nausea, and then they left me alone. I made my way to Rougarou, and rode it backseat, on the very right. It was glossy smooth, unlike Magnum, and was a little more intense. It gets pretty close to the water on some curves if you sit on the right, for the first half, and moves pretty quick. There's mainly a vertical loop and a dive loop. It's not that spectacular. The second half moves slower, but is much more compact and has a ton of turns and inversions within a small amount of room. I like Rougarou, but it's not something that I had to ride a lot.

By 1:15, I was moving at a pretty fair clip, and my 3rd coaster of the day was Millennium Force. The line moved pretty quickly - only had to wait 15-20 minutes, thanks to its really good capacity (3 trains, 36 riders per train). Millennium Force is my 2nd favorite coaster of all time (but I've only rode 47). Again, backseat ride. More forces, more speed. That's the advantage of riding by yourself - you get to pick where you want to sit, and sometimes you can jump ahead in lines. Anyways, the 310 foot ascent goes pretty fast - it uses a cable instead of a chain. You're up at the top before you know it. While the ascent is somewhat scary, the descent is amazing. The speed, forces, and airtime you experience during the drop and the first hill is great. You go through some banked turns at high speed (the second being enclosed in a tunnel), and the turns are pretty close to the ground. After a turnaround, you go through some more airtime hills, getting decent airtime, another banked turn within a tunnel, a small hill which passes by the station and queue at high speed, and one last banked turn - and then you're in the brakes.

I was surprised at how quick the lines moved - I was expecting hour long waits to ride coasters. I decided to wait for Maverick's line to shorten, so I decided to kill a bit of time and rode Skyhawk. The best way to describe Skyhawk is to take a swing set, and make it 10x higher and faster. The restraints actually have some motion, even when they tighten them. So whenever you hang in the air for a second or two, you're facing the ground and the restraints feel like they're going to come loose. It also comes close to the ground, so it feels like you'll lose your feet. Overall, it's a pretty great ride. It never has a line, so it's also great at killing time.

After how much fun Skyhawk was, I decided to ride Maverick next. It was 2:10 PM, so I was still okay on time. I got in the queue, and the line moved at whirlwind speeds - I only had to wait 20-25 minutes. Maverick doesn't look that tall, but it goes pretty fast. 70 MPH is nothing to laugh at...but a height of 105 feet? Well, I was surprised at how intense it was. The drop is the steepest drop at the park - 95 degrees (it was even the steepest drop in the world for a few months), and the lift hill is more of a launch. After launching you out of the station and going through that intense drop, Maverick twists, turns, rolls, and inverts - in a short amount of time. Sure, there's an airtime hill or two, but it's not about the airtime. The first half is intense - it jerks you from left to right, rolls you around, and travels every which way. Then, the train brakes to enter a tunnel, and then suddenly launches you - in the darkness, mind you - and then does an overbanked turn over a pond, which dives down into a canyon, where there's a quick twist to the left. A few overbanked turns and an airtime hill later, you've reached the brakes. I'd say the first half is better than the second, but the second half is no slouch. Overall, Maverick is my 3rd favorite coaster - which means I love it to death.

Since Steel Vengeance was still down, I decided to walk over to Gemini. Time was still very kind to me - it was only 2:45. The wait was 15 minutes, and moved surprisingly fast. The blue side was down, so they were running 2 trains on the red side. The sign estimated 30-45 minutes, but hey - I guess I'm lucky. Anyways, Gemini was the tallest and fastest coaster in the world back in 1978, and it uses steel track on a wooden structure. It's smoother than most other wooden coaster, but otherwise, Gemini is your typical wooden coaster, just a little taller and faster (125 feet, top speed of 60 MPH). It's great at airtime, and the helix at the end is pretty nice, but I would prefer to see it racing...and I would see it race tomorrow.

I'll split this off into a part 2 - I feel like this post is already long and detail filled.
« Last Edit: July 02, 2018, 09:46:01 PM by noelbotevera »
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Rothman

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Re: Lake Erie Circle Tour, June 8-17, 2018
« Reply #3 on: July 02, 2018, 08:10:36 AM »

When we went to Cedar Point a couple of years ago, we stayed in their basic hotel, which allowed early entry into the park by some amount of time (half-an-hour to an hour). 

We really lucked out and were able to hit every coaster there -- thank goodness they got rid of Mean Streak, both my son and I had hurt backs after that one.  Going on a hot July Sunday and lucking out that the coasters kept running seemed to be the ticket.
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noelbotevera

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Re: Lake Erie Circle Tour, June 8-17, 2018
« Reply #4 on: July 02, 2018, 07:24:36 PM »

When we went to Cedar Point a couple of years ago, we stayed in their basic hotel, which allowed early entry into the park by some amount of time (half-an-hour to an hour). 

We really lucked out and were able to hit every coaster there -- thank goodness they got rid of Mean Streak, both my son and I had hurt backs after that one.  Going on a hot July Sunday and lucking out that the coasters kept running seemed to be the ticket.
I had the Platinum Pass, so that also meant I got into the park an hour early. In practice that extra hour is more like 30 minutes because they have to test coasters - some coasters aren't even open during this time.

I've heard Mean Streak was really rough, even though they retracked it several times. Now Corkscrew on the other hand...eugh. I got lucky with lines because I came to the park early enough in the season - a few schools were still in session, so they were a few field trips, but it's nothing compared to how bad it can be later in the season. My longest wait was 90 minutes for Steel Vengeance, but that was because it was a new ride.
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Re: Lake Erie Circle Tour, June 8-17, 2018
« Reply #5 on: July 02, 2018, 09:02:11 PM »

Seriously though, why do you have to weave across two lanes, with traffic to boot, to go between I-80 and I-90 West?

The OH 57 I-90/OH 2 interchange used to be a cloverleaf but has recently been converted to a diamond.

Quote
Something that irked me off was this extremely misleading sign telling us to not use the Causeway to Cedar Point. WHY is this here? If I'm coming from the east, which a lot of people are, taking the Chaussee is the quicker route..so why make me needlessly drive the extra mile?

Well that sign clearly specifies large trucks, campers and construction vehicles, which will have a much easier time using the causeway. Plus, they don't want that type of traffic, or extra traffic in general, using the Chaussee....mostly because:
Quote
the Chaussee traveled through a ton of marshland and rich residential houses.



Quote
Finally, I found Magnum XL-200...which I didn't even have to wait for (well, 2 or 3 trains)! I scored a back seat ride that was rough to say the least. That ride did NOT age well. It's only 29 years old and was retracked in 2009...how did it get so rough again?

Wait what? Where did you hear that Magnum was re-tracked in 2009?
That is not the case. It still has the same non-computer designed track Arrow Dynamics built in 1989, complete with it's triangular shaped airtime hills
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noelbotevera

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Re: Lake Erie Circle Tour, June 8-17, 2018
« Reply #6 on: July 02, 2018, 09:45:34 PM »

Quote
Finally, I found Magnum XL-200...which I didn't even have to wait for (well, 2 or 3 trains)! I scored a back seat ride that was rough to say the least. That ride did NOT age well. It's only 29 years old and was retracked in 2009...how did it get so rough again?

Wait what? Where did you hear that Magnum was re-tracked in 2009?
That is not the case. It still has the same non-computer designed track Arrow Dynamics built in 1989, complete with it's triangular shaped airtime hills
I thought they retracked it back when they did the 20th anniversary...eh, I guess I've been reading something wrong.
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noelbotevera

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Re: Lake Erie Circle Tour, June 8-17, 2018
« Reply #7 on: July 03, 2018, 04:32:12 PM »

Day 1 Continued: 3:00 PM to 11:00 PM

After checking the time, it was 3:10 PM. I delayed my lunch so that I'd have shorter wait times - and looks like I was right. I decided to use the restroom and get a drink of water. One of the issues I found with Cedar Point is that restrooms are a little sparse - for example, there's no restroom in the Blue Streak and Raptor area. This means that water fountains are a little rare, so it was hard to not tempt myself into buying water (which was four dollars). In hindsight, I probably should've brought my own water bottle, but eh - I survived just fine without one.

I made my way to Top Thrill Dragster, which was a slightly longer wait - 30 to 35 minutes - but I knew I had to ride it sooner or later. Dragster breaks down a lot, so when I saw it running and it had a decent wait, I had to jump at the chance. Top Thrill Dragster is a simple ride - a launch that accelerates you to 120 MPH, up a 420 foot hill, and back down 400 feet spiraling 270 degrees. It's over in 17 seconds, or more if somebody keeps putting their hands up. The scariest part is probably the launch - when you're waiting on the track, anticipation builds...until the launch. The launch comes out of nowhere, and you accelerate so fast - then the ride's over. You're trying to process that launch, and then the height, and the drop - it's an exhilarating experience. You also question if puny lapbars, yes lapbars, are going to hold you in the train - but through some miracle, they work and they're damn comfy. This ride is a must ride if you're at the park. There's only one other coaster like it, Kingda Ka, but I think I prefer this one based on people's experiences with Kingda Ka (the restraints are horrible).

I decided to explore the coasters near the entrance. I suspected that lines would be shorter later in the day for these coasters. It was 4:00 at this time - not a lot of people were entering. So, I started with Blue Streak, which never has a line. Blue Streak is your classic wooden coaster. It opened in May 1964, making it the oldest coaster in the park. It has an out and back layout with loads of airtime hills. After rising up 78 feet, Blue Streak drops 72 feet, going through a lot of hills and gives you tons of airtime. After a quick turnaround, it goes through more hills, and you're back at the station. It's a little over 90 seconds long, and has a top speed of 40 MPH. It's not impressive on paper, but it's a ton of fun for anybody. I love Blue Streak, but there's the Raptor in the room...

(ugh i'll finish this later, trying to motivate myself to do stuff during summer break is hard)
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Re: Lake Erie Circle Tour, June 8-17, 2018
« Reply #8 on: July 03, 2018, 11:35:18 PM »

Didn't your Platinum Pass provide in-park discounts?
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