I did a quick 24-hour trip to Northern Ohio for the Steel Vengeance media day at Cedar Point. I was talking with my PointBuzz co-creator Walt, when I realized that the site was essentially about to celebrate its 20th anniversary in May. I can't believe that it's been two decades. I mean, I don't think I've done anything for 20 years straight.
Way back in May of 1998, I started Guide To The Point, the predecessor to PointBuzz. At first it was just a place to share photos of the park (shot on film, by the way), and then I added a forum called Ultimate Bulletin Board, until I wrote my own forum a year or two later. Before too long, this community sprung up around it, and it has been there ever since. Two years after I started GTTP, Walt started a site called Virtual Midway, and in 2004, we combined our efforts and we've been doing that now for 14 years. For the most part, I've written the software and hosted the site, while Walt has created the content, which is particularly convenient now that I live in Orlando (and Seattle previously). Obviously, we've developed a relationship with the park over the years, so we've been going to new attraction openings ever since. The only major one I missed was Shoot The Rapids, which has since been removed anyway, so no biggie there.
Steel Vengeance was a unique opportunity because a bunch of people that we've known virtually for years got to meet up and hang out, in some cases for the first time. It's a reminder of what it meant to run the sites in the early days, when relatively small groups of people would connect on common interests. It reminded me a little of the wedding I went to a few years ago, where a surprising number of people first met via CoasterBuzz some years before. These small verticals are, I think, what made the Internet awesome in its early years as a commercial endeavor. It's strange how "social media" (in quotes because we were social media before it had a name) has made it all kind of generic. I can't put my finger on it, but building a group on Facebook definitely doesn't have the same effect as something you build yourself. I wonder if things may eventually swing back the other way as people become somewhat disenchanted with the big services.
The ad market hasn't been great in recent years, but we keep plugging away at it, sometimes doing the minimum, because momentum, the park relationship and these social interactions make it worth it. We have a good time when we get together in real life. I don't see any reason to stop.
As for Steel Vengeance, this is the first ride since Millennium Force that really surprised me. I said this to one of the reporters, but rides don't usually surprise roller coaster nerds because they're derivative of things you've been on before. This ride isn't that. You're up out of your seat constantly and in ridiculous directions. Maybe the weirdest thing about it is that it nearly follows the path of Mean Streak, which was boring and meandered around. But make it taller, switch to steel track, throw in some crazy inversions... it's nuts. It literally went from worst coaster in the park to first, and for real, it may be a contender for best ride anywhere. It's that good.
The weather wasn't great, and it was a ridiculously short 24 hours on the ground, but I'm so glad that I went. I'm hoping I can visit again next year with the entire family.