SANDUSKY, Ohio -

This Memorial Day weekend, May 25-27,Cedar Pointis paying a special tribute to men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces with free admission for all active, retired and honorably-discharged members of the military with valid ID. Additional tickets for immediate family members may be purchased at the gate for $39.99 each.

This holiday weekend, families can also cool off atSoak City Waterpark,which opens for the season this Saturday, or enjoy Picnic at the Point, an all-you-can eat buffet from 4-6 p.m. Sunday and Monday in Cedar Point’s Coral Courtyard. Tickets may be purchased online at any admissions booth. In the spirit of honoring those who serve, off-duty members of the U.S. Coast Guard who are traveling across the country in an electric golf cart to support the Wounded Warrior Project made a stop at Cedar Point this week, marking Day 22 of their 28-day journey.

Known asGO CARTS: Guardsmen Carting Across the States, their efforts have attracted nationwide attention since they departed from Petaluma, Calif., in April with plans to arrive back at their base at the U.S. Coast Guard Training Center in Yorktown, Va., this Sunday. Their goal is to raise $50,000 for injured men and women of the U.S. Armed Forces. Pictured from left are U.S. Coast Guard members Travis Sanders, GO CARTS President Ray Rehberg, Nicholas Barron and Deana Nutter posing with their golf cart in front of Cedar Point’s new wing roller coaster, GateKeeper.

Lauren Podell: My ride on the GateKeeper

My photographer and I arrived at Cedar Point in the middle of the night. The clock struck 4 a.m. when we pulled into the amusement park and the parking was packed!

Not only was May 9, 2013, media day, Cedar Point was open to hundreds of roller coaster enthusiasts from the group ACE: American Coaster Enthusiasts (I might need to join!).

After we brought it all our gear to set up our live broadcast, I was ready to ride the newest, longest and now record breaking winged coaster: The Gatekeeper.

Now, I have never ridden a roller coaster at 4:30 in the morning but surrounded by all of these enthusiasts, I was excited.

When I walked up on the platform, the Cedar Point representatives brought me to lane 2, where the Go Pro camera was being installed in my seat.

I was the first member of the media to “go flying” on The GateKeeper!

The only thing keeping you in the car -- an overhead bar. Your feet hang free and it is designed to really make you feel like your soaring through the air.

It was 4:30 a.m., I didn’t have anyone next to me, anyone in front of me and I was about to go up 170 feet and plummet another 164 feet in pitch darkness.

Normally, for me, the first drop to the coaster is the scariest -- but on the GateKeeper, it’s FUN!

You automatically get twisted and turned before you drop.

The coaster itself is so smooth, it reminds of the Millennium Force. You twist and turn so much during this ride you feel dizzy. But what sets this coaster apart from the rest -- the cement pillars it takes you through!

Yes, two the cars of the coaster actually go through an opening and right when you think you’re going to hit the cement the coaster flips you the other way -- that’s when a lot of screaming came from my seat!

Just when you think The GateKeeper is over, there are more hills and turns.

The total ride last 2 minutes and 40 seconds.

One of the reasons this ride is called “The GateKeeper” because this coaster watches over the entrance of the park.

You fly over people walking in through the main gate. The symbol of the coaster is a Griffin -- a mix between a lion and an eagle. 

I caught up with another member of the media, Benji Cates from WMAN in Mansfield, Ohio. He tells me the best place to sit on The GateKeeper is the back left coaster in the last car! Most people think the front is the way to go, but on this ride you feel the force in the last cart. 

The GateKeeper is the first new a coaster in Cedar Point since the Maverick opened in 2007.

This is a coaster you can ride over and over again.

And you know what? I think I might just do that while media day is open!

IMAGES: Lauren at the GateKeeper

Published On: May 09 2013 08:58:06 AM EDT
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