It was somehow already about 5 pm, with the park's normal rides to finish at 6:00. But there was a special event first: the pumpkin drop. Opposite the music stage and where the swinging ride had been they set up a tall crane, with a white car spray-painted 'Hyde Garage' underneath it, waiting for a thousand pounds of pumpkin to go smash. Everyone was gathered around there. Since we'd come over from the Tumble Bug we were among the later people and we were stuck trying to find a good viewing point. We didn't succeed. We could see the pumpkin at the top of the crane, although all our pictures were taken looking into the sun. When the pumpkin actually fell ... well, we heard a thump, but didn't see so much. As the crowd dispersed we could see the car. The hood was crumpled in and the underside smashed, but it was a much less messy ruin than we imagined. The pumpkin hadn't exploded as we had imagined it might; it was more crumpled in on itself. Maybe that's just natural for thousand-pound pumpkins.
We went to another of Conneaut Lake Park's must-ride features, the Devil's Den. This is your classic haunted-house dark ride, with bright fluorescent paint monsters and sound effects and a wall of chewing gum that people had stuck on, part of the first big ascending hill. We didn't have much of a line, although the ride attendant had been off doing something or other. He launched the cars by pushing them, rather than using the braking system that I'm pretty sure was there on earlier visits. Sometimes the old-fashioned way is easiest.
Blue Streak had gathered another enormous line. I suggested we go to the Tilt-A-Whirl. If the Mission Amusement program is right, it's one of the oldest Tilt-A-Whirls operating and the park manager had made it a personal mission to make the thing work again. It was working now, or at least most of the seats on it were. I think the ride ran a bit faster than the average Tilt-a-Whirl, or at least I felt myself getting caught up in the nauseating movement more than is typical. It also might be that a lunch of pierogies and fried sauerkraut and popcorn eaten with dirty-water-strewn fingers left me in less than top condition.
There was one major attraction we'd seen but never been able to ride. That was the Bessemer Railway System, their miniature and antique railroad. The engine had been damaged in a fire two years ago and the ride wasn't running at all last year. This time ... I had seen the train stopped earlier, and then moved from that spot. Now there was a mechanic working on it, and a crowd of people gathered hopefully around. We had a dwindling block of time, but if there were going to be a chance to ride the Bessemer today --- or at all, given Conneaut Lake Park's most recent brush with doom --- well, we could give it a few moments and hope.
It took more than a few moments. The mechanic kept working on it, and the machine gave some good-looking signs. Finally and to a growing crowd he said they were going to call for a ride operator and be able to at least send one train around. Then there was some milling about between the mechanic and some other park(?) people, possibly other mechanics. The mechanic came back and reported the sad news that they wouldn't be able to send someone out. But, he could drive it.
bunny_hugger and I took seats right behind the engine, though this promised to be the loudest spot on the ride. The mechanic would turn around multiple times and try telling us things, especially as we photographed stuff like the abandoned part of the park. There's this island section which was as recently as the 90s some of the attractions, including a jungle-cruise type ride that we have to imagine produced horrors of animal care. Most of the island is just forest now, but there's a few spots where trails or stairs can be spotted. This adds to the creepiness. The mechanic noticed our interest in that section and he tried valiantly to tell us stuff but we couldn't make any of it out. I smiled and nodded because it seemed like the right response, and fooled bunny_hugger into thinking I heard any of it.
The train ride took us inside the foot print of Blue Streak, and on a slight incline there the engine nearly got stuck. But the little engine could, and we got to putter around while roller coaster trains went high above us. And we had that long stretch on the side of the lake, opposite the abandoned island. And then ... well, there's another incline on the leg returning from the side of the lake, and here the train did get stuck. The mechanic tried turning the motor up to full and it the whole train just did nothing. He explained that the locomotive just never runs with a full load like this.
He'd have to back up, and we puttered back to the lake side, there to get some more good views of the abandoned section. bunny_hugger thought we were going to back up the entire track to the station, but that wasn't the plan after all. The plan was to rev the motor up to full and get going as fast as possible on the straight section before the turn and climb up the hill. And, indeed, just as story books and cosmic justice dictate, this was barely enough speed for the train to crest the extremely slight hill. It took us on a little pass through the miniature golf course --- there's no fenced-off area or gates, just whistles to warn people out of the train's way --- and a covered section with fungal growths over the roof to add to the atmosphere.
With this, finally, we'd ridden everything at Conneaut Lake Park which had a reputation (besides the Little Dipper, closed on account of our size). There were things we'd have liked to go on again, such as the bumper cars, but now we had at least covered everything once.
It was at or around 6 pm. Close enough, anyway, to the time the park was closing its rides. This seemed crazy to us then, and it still seems bizarre now. They had to get ready for the nighttime events, including the haunted-house attractions which use some of the park's rides, but given the park was still jammed, crowded almost full, why not run the rides another hour?
Well, we made for the Blue Streak, in the hopes of catching the last ride of the day. bunny_hugger told me we were too late before I believed it; she observed the people walking away from the queue. I went to the platform to hear the verdict and yes, the ride operator said, they were sending the last train out now. If the park has had its last season, then our last view of the Blue Streak was this, watching the last train of the day going out.
I hope this isn't the last day we have at the park. This would not be the end of our day at Conneaut Lake, though, it happens.
Trivia: Venice's Council of Ten was established by decree on the 10th of July 1310, as a temporary body to sit two and a half months. By 1334 it was made a permanent body, and would last until the end of the Venetian Republic. Source: A History of Venice, John Julius Norwich.
Currently Reading: Pyrite: A Natural History of Fool's Gold, David Rickard.
PS: Reading the Comics, November 27, 2015: 30,000 Edition, commemorating going way past my 30,000th page view for the humor blog. /p>