SANDUSKY — The old guy still has it.
After psyching myself out of a Media Day ride aboard Millennium Force in 2000 and never even thinking about strapping in for the 120-mph Top Thrill Dragster (not doing it), I was determined to make up for my past sins of omission by conquering Cedar Point’s GateKeeper.
Not to worry.
I did — twice — during Thursday’s made-to-order, sun-drenched, 70-degree day during the debut of Gatekeeper, the park’s first winged roller coaster.
Maybe it was the gorgeous day and the relaxed, uncrowded atmosphere, but riding Cedar Point’s 16th major roller coaster was a walk in the park, thanks mostly to a pair of incredibly smooth, quiet trips that take you up 170 feet only to turn you upside down as you plummet back down the 164-foot lift hill drop, zip you along at top speeds of 67 mph as you experience a series of corkscrew inversions and one big 360-degree loop.
Then there’s the admittedly unnerving sensation of being pulled through the eye of a needle when riders are flipped vertically to roar through openings in two huge pylons as GateKeeper soars above the heads of people streaming into the park’s newly designed front entrance.
With the breeze flowing over you as you twist, turn, rise and fall, there is something of a feeling akin to what soaring birds must feel.
One word of caution: GateKeeper has the tightest, most constricting harness apparatus I’ve ever worn on a thrill ride.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m glad it’s there, but it feels like a giant hand pressing you back into the seat so hard that makes drawing a deep breath no piece of cake.
I rank GateKeeper ahead of Raptor for a similar but superior ride experience. While smoother and shorter, the ride is already among my Cedar Point favorites alongside Maverick, MaXair and Power Tower.
Contact Steve Fogarty at 329-7146 or firstname.lastname@example.org.