Thunderbird had a short line, one only a couple ride cycles long; for a new major roller coaster that's almost as good as a walk-on. Walking to it took much longer, as it's at the back of the Thanksgiving section, itself the largest-by-area section of the park and the part farthest from the entrance.
Thunderbird's theme is ... well, as part of the Thanksgiving land it wants to have a Pilgrim/Puritan New England theme with just enough of that Algonquian touch to feel respectful without being all appropriating. Thus the Thunderbird name and the effort to suggest a wing coaster, in which the seats are to either side of the track, as a kind of great bird. The launch station and queue and some of the props are made to look like Old-Time New England Barn. Nitpickers going over the plans proclaimed that the barn style was anachronistic to 17th century New England. The signs decorating the barn-style buildings explain how this is the farm of a centuries-on descendant of the original white settlers and does not literally give a raspberry to Comic Book Guy's roller coaster cousin.
It's a launch coaster. That is, it gets its initial speed not from being ratcheted up a hill, the way GateKeeper at Cedar Point is. It's accelerated from a horizontal start by linear synchronous motors, giving the feel of suddenly moving by magic. Then some quick loops and a turn to sweep off into the woods and through the far back side of the Voyage roller coaster. There's some fine sweeping through the trees, and some good play against the terrain, and a couple of barn-themed overhangs for the fun that gives. One of them has a cutout of a person's hand, playing to the irresistible yet both stupid and futile urge to hold one's hand up going past an obstacle like that. Great cartoon logic.
The launching works very well for this sort of ride, which is broad and open and makes every seat feel like it's the front. Going through the trees, and the Voyage, gives a nice sense of being out in the midst of nowhere moving extraordinarily fast through things it wouldn't be safe to go that fast through ordinarily. The only thing that it lacks, compared to GateKeeper, is a keyhole element, a point where the train goes (vertically) through a narrow passage. The barns are great but they haven't got the illusion of a narrow escape needed.
We did resist getting a second ride, though the line probably would have allowed. We figured we'd need to get to the front of the park to meet my sister. Also we had forgotten something in the car and now, a month-plus later, I forget what. But it made sense to go back and fetch it. While we made the long walk back somebody going the other way noticed us and charged right for us. We didn't recognize him. We supposed he was some furry that we knew from somewhere but couldn't recognize out of context and without ears or a tail on.
No: he was a roller coaster enthusiast. He'd noticed my shirt, from Conneaut Lake Park. Possibly also bunny_hugger's, for Kentucky Kingdom. He was eager to talk to someone else who knew Conneaut Lake Park and we certainly were too. We spent a couple minutes talking over how very much more functional the park had seemed to be and what a sweet ride the Blue Streak there is. He was less enthusiastic about Kennywood than we were, but he was from Pittsburgh and perhaps had somehow worn out its charms. But if all that weren't a wild enough coincidence he mentioned how the week before he had been to Camden Park, in Huntington, West Virginia. We've never been to Camden Park, but it's one we have been thinking to get to, and had penciled in as the target for a weekend trip this summer.
So that was great. I would spot him a couple more times during the day, often around Thunderbird, as only makes sense. We didn't happen to chat with him again, but it was one of those pleasant chance encounters that makes it worth wearing the T-shirt for an obscure, distant park. It's how to signal other enthusiasts.
So that's when we left the park, went back to the car, and ducked back inside. The woman giving away the free tickets had done by that time.
Trivia: Glasgow broadsheets in 1684 called for volunteers to settle the ``Province of New-East-Jersey in America'', promising among other things a winter running only two months. Source: How the Scots Invented the Modern World, Arthur Herman. (This was while New Jersey was divided into East and West.)
Currently Reading: Wings of Madness: Alberto Santos-Dumont and the Invention of Flight, Paul Hoffman.
PS: Reading the Comics, July 8, 2016: Filling Out The Week Edition, which isn't just me stalling for time.