austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

And there's a sky rocket turning the world around

After the big Boulder Dash roller coaster we went to the Wildcat, Lake Compounce's other wooden roller coaster. It claims to date to 1927, a great era in wooden roller coasters. However there's classic problems of identity to be made from that. The roller coaster was ``totally reconstructed in late 1985'', according to the American Coaster Enthusiasts plaque denoting it as a Roller Coaster Landmark, ``closely following [ legendary designer Herbert P ] Schmeck's original design''. How much can you rebuild a wooden roller coaster before it's just a new roller coaster following the same design? Bearing in mind that eventually every piece of wood gets replaced, eventually? And what does ``closely following'' mean?

Well, whether the ride dates to 1927 or to 1986, it's a nice, reasonably handsome-looking roller coaster, done in classic white boards with a path that brings it over to the front of the park and back again. The queue takes you on a bridge over the first part of the track, so you get nice dramatic views of people leaving the station. And the ride operators, at least while we were there, were making a fuss about people having birthdays (or claiming to), leading several rounds of happy-birthday calls. We also noticed they put out little green traffic cones with ``Seat Reserved'' in front of various lanes. We're not sure what people do to get reserved seats, but had to admire the operational efficiency of all this. I'd say the ride had the best interactions between operators and riders. One of the ride operators even spent free time doing a little dance with the yardstick, to measure kids for minimum sizes, as his cane.

That said, I must admit the ride was a bit disappointing. Probably anything would be immediately after Boulder Dash. But Wildcat was a bit rougher, and a bit more abrupt, than I hoped. Particularly the string of bunny hops to end the ride gave less airtime, and batted my legs against the lockdown bar, more than I really cared for. I think I could probably get quite into it, especially if the ride operators were always as charismatic as they were this time around. And I wonder if I'd think better of it had we ridden this first.

(The ACE plaque mentions the Wildcat replaced the park's earlier coaster, Green Dragon. That's a curiously poetic, personable name for a 1914-era roller coaster and we're curious about it. Alas, Roller Coaster Database hasn't got any pictures of it, though Wikipedia has an old postcard glimpse of it.)

By this time we were back by the carousel and took in another ride. And once there we noticed they were getting ready to hold a show in the former ballroom. We've been getting more into appreciating amusement park shows, and we'd done all the must-ride targets, so we went in and got front-row seats, although on an end so we weren't exactly in range to get a hand-slapping high-five from one of the performers running around the edge of the stage.

But we recognized the show almost from its props. It had different costuming, but was in essence the ``Skeleton Crew'' cirque-style performance done at Cedar Point's Halloweekends show. There's several stunts almost exactly duplicated, including a performer building her own tower out of rickety-looking wireframe boxes, and the eye-catching and gasp-inducing routine of people jumping down from, and bouncing back up along, a wall with several cutout windows. It's a hypnotic show, especially since the cutout windows are revealed by someone jumping through one that had been closed up to moments before. So it was a good show and a delightful glance into the secret world of how someone or other is selling identical show scripts to amusement parks across the country.

After the show we went over to the Ghost Hunt dark ride. That's another Sally Interactive dark ride, puttering around a mansion and shooting infrared guns at targets. We really would prefer a simple dark ride where the show performs itself but that's just not what we can get anymore. The most fun part of it, I think, was part of the theming out front. It had a silly gadget, labelled ``Prof. Phearstruck's Boo-Blaster Command Center'' and a guy who looked for all the world like a local horror-movie host explaining how ghosts blah blah shooting at them for points. The horror-movie host routine looked appealing, though goodness knows if he's actually part of anything, anywhere.

Trivia: The entire first shipment of Nintendo Famicoms in Japan was recalled, due to a bad chipset causing game crashes. Nintendo President Hiroshi Yamauchi held that protecting the Nintendo name was more important than maintaining sales momentum. Source: The Ultimate History of Video Games, Steven L Kent.

Currently Reading: Media Hoaxes, Fred Fedler. Or someone who says he's Fred Fedler, anyway.

Tags: amusement parks, lake compounce, new england parks tour
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