We stopped for a little snack at the central Market Square. This would be hot doughnuts and coffee and tea and inspection by a crow hoping for doughnuts and coffee and tea. It also saw us through a light rain, the worst the day would have to offer. At the center of the Market Square is a nice compass rose, with rough directions to the Explorer Gate and the Lodge Gate (we'd come in through the Lodge Gate), and pointing to the various themed worlds of adventure --- Pirate's Cove, Trail of the Kings, Transylvania, Sea Lion Bay, Africa, Amazu, more. This is a park that takes its theming quite seriously, and it pays off. The park might be small but it's worth taking in, slowly.
Still, there was something worrisome when we entered the park. A sign warned that among the rides not operating were Rattlesnake and Dragon's Fury. These would be two of the park's three roller coasters. (Four roller coasters, if you count the powered Scorpion.) While we can enjoy a lot of a park, especially a strongly themed and well-kept park, to have two-thirds of the roller coasters down was heartbreaking. I hoped for the best: perhaps they might open later in the day. Just this happened to us at Holiday World, when the Raven started the day closed.
This especially hurt because the rides looked great. Dragon's Fury is some spinning car ride that looks quite promising. Rattlesnake is a wild mouse that's more heavily themed than we'd ever seen before; it's built into what looks like a Old West Mission building, and rides that roll into and through buildings are special thrills. We kept watching the monitors listing rides that were closed, and some went on and some went off, but these never came back on. A guard stood outside Rattlesnake giving people the sad news the ride wasn't open and he had no information on when it might be. We would have to leave the park without riding them, and goodness knows when we might ever get back to Chessington. I'd suggested we might go back, buying tickets, if need be; we would have two more days in the area.
As it turns out that wouldn't have helped us any. It transpired that Merlin Entertainments, the company that owns Alton Towers, had ordered the shutting of many of its roller coasters across all of its parks. This was apparently a response to something discovered in the wake of the Alton Towers roller coaster collision the week before. What's crushing is they had only ordered the shutting effective that day. If we'd gone to Chessington the day before, rather than see bunny_hugger's uncle, we'd have been able to ride everything. I'm not sad we did spend the first full day in town with him, but it is a shame to have so much unfinished business at Chessington.
bunny_hugger, as ever more perceptive of the ways of the amusement park industry, realized the probable reason for these rides being closed while we were still at the park. But she kept it to herself, not bringing the accident up where anyone might overhear her. Not obvious to us is why these rides and not the other roller coaster, Vampire, were closed. None of them are the same kind of roller coaster as the Smiler, on which the accident happened, nor made by the same company or anything. Our best inference was that they used the same kind of braking system, or perhaps used the same operational procedures, and that was the real target of the shutdown order.
While a big disappointment, admittedly, this was also the only one we had. And the park filled in the last bit of ``we always thought Roller Coaster Tycoon made this up''. The video game lets you put up scrolling-message displays just to report park names and whether the ride is open or closed. We thought that an understandable natural bit of fancy. Well, this really happens. Gorgeous.
More park reporting to come.
Trivia: Forrest Mars, cofounder of the Mars Candy company, would reconcile with his father when Frank Mars bailed him out of prison in Chicago in 1923. Forrest Mars had been arrested for plastering the streets with Camel cigarette advertisements without permits. Source: Chocolate Wars: The 150-Year Rivalry Between The World's Greatest Chocolate Makers, Deborah Cadbury. Also, as ever, a reminder: if someone's looking for a story pre-adapted to be a great dramatic soap-operatic mess, look to the Mars clan.
Currently Reading: After the Reich: The Brutal History of the Allied Occupation, Giles MacDonogh.
PS: Reading the Comics, July 24, 2015: All The Popular Topics Are Here Edition, getting a little rowdy, inviting friends, that sort of thing. Four.
PPS: Happy birthday Marissa Picard! I guess also skylerbunny, but he'll never see that.