I started my PA/NJ trip up my making my first trip ever to Waldameer. I actually got to Erie about 45 minutes early, so I went to Presque Isle and turned $40 into $400 right before heading over.
I arrived at Waldameer about 12:30pm. Apparently they start opening rides by 12 and all are opened by 1. I walked over to Ravine Flyer II, which I was highly looking forward to riding, but it wasn't open yet, so I went into the Whacky Shack. It kind of reminded me of a ride-through version of Noah's Ark at Kennywood in a way, but it was a bit interesting to say the least. Still not as weird as Monster Mansion at SFOG though.
When I got off Whacky Shack, I saw that a small line had formed outside of the entrance to Ravine Flyer, so I figured I'd wait with everyone else. It opened about 10 minutes later and I was able to get the back row. Right after I got in, some young kid asked me if he could ride with me rather than wait and I said no problem. I come to find out he was from my area and this was his first rollercoaster ever. He really enjoyed it he told me afterwards and I hope that it leads him to ride many more in the future. Being from Avon Lake, he lives only about 50 minutes or so from Cedar Point.
Now, Ravine Flyer II definitely lived up to my expectations. It isn't the tallest coaster, but the pacing is great. The ride never really lets up and I found it to be pretty smooth for a traditional woodie. It was a great addition to Waldameer when they added it a few years back and its still a great ride.
I exited Ravine Flyer II and walked over to Steel Dragon. Now, most Wild Mouse type coasters are either boring or rough. I found this to be one of the best I've ever been on. Not only is it a Pandemonium-type spinning wild mouse, the hairpin turns and drops were great, the speed was great and it was a bit forceful. I really enjoy it despite not really knowing anything about it before going there.
After Steel Dragon, I quickly went over to Comet to get the last credit out of the way. (I wasn't going to ride RF3 because I'm not a credit whore - at least not that bad). Comet was meh. Reminded me a lot of Big Dipper at Geauga Lake, in the sense that it wasn't very tall or fast but had some cool bunny hills and things like that.
Once I got the three credits I wanted, I went off to take pictures for a bit. One of the problems with Waldameer is that in terms of photography, its really hard to find angles on their three coasters. Comet goes through the trees some and butts up against the side of the waterpark. Ravine Flyer goes back over the road and the only place I could get a good shot was up the entrance to the ferris wheel. Steel Dragon has some room, but wild mouse coasters in general are often hard to photograph since they stay flat on the track so often.
Waldameer itself is a great family park. I did not experience the water park or eat any food at the park. I was in a hurry, so I decided ahead of time to grab food along the way. That said, the parking situation is a complete free-for-all. I had to turn around on the main road, drive through a parking lot, just to make a right handed turn into the park. I somehow found a spot in the main lot despite getting there 30 minutes late, but there weren't many. I also found it interesting that the park only accepts cards and no cash once you're inside. You either buy a ride wristband, waterpark wristband, combo wristband or use the points system on one of their cards. I loved the "old school" feel to the rides and atmosphere. It truly made me miss Geauga Lake. After I collected a couple maps (which are a pain to find -- literally guest services and the front gate are the only places that have them), I searched the gift shop for lapel pins (they had none), and then I took off for Knoebels.
4 1/2 hours or so later and after driving through backwoods with scenes of the film "Deliverance" running through my head, I made it to Knoebels. Now, the parking lot is very deceptive there. I got there about 7pm or so (9pm was closing time). My only plan was to ride Impulse. If I had the chance to ride Phoenix, I would - but I wasn't heartbroken that it didn't work out. I bought my tickets right away and got in line for Phoenix, which was essentially no wait. Now, Impulse is similar to the Gerstlauer EuroFighters, but it is in fact a creation of Zierer. The setup is very similar though and it reminded me some of Dare Devil Dive at SFOG. That said, this was the best coaster of this type that I've been on. It had a ton of force, it was very smooth and it was a lot faster than it looks to observers. I really enjoyed the drop and the corkscrew near the end, I thought those were great elements. I got off extremely dizzy, but in a good way. This was a great addition to Knoebels. Its also very photogenic with its bright yellow-and-blue color scheme and its being very open to be able to take pictures.
After Impulse, I walked down to Twister and took a very few pictures of the only open spots really available and then walked over to Phoenix, where there are even less spots available. Flying Turns isn't much better due to the dynamics of the ride. I heard some kids talking about riding Phoenix one last time and the one kid didn't have enough tickets, so I gave him the other $2 I had left (I had only bought $5 anyways). I did my good deed for the day, and as much as I like Phoenix, it didn't kill me to spend more time taking pictures.
I really like Knoebels. I always found the tickets thing to be kinda weird, but based on the fact it is set up much more like a county fair than an amusement park, I understand it. I like that you can go in without any admission, bring dogs, smoke (in Ohio smoking is banned in most public places - I don't smoke but I believe in the right to do so). The people at Knoebels are also really nice and helpful. I bought a couple of souvenirs on the way out and then took off on the hour drive I had left to my cousins house in Hamburg, who are putting me up for the week.