austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

The land of the girl and the boy

bunny_hugger and I could, most likely, have a great time in an old-fashioned amusement park whether they had any roller coasters or not. (We kind of have, as Coney Island Cincinnati has just the one, modest, roller coaster, though its age is more a bit of decoration than anything that shows much in its attractions.) But Rye Playland has got a grand old wooden coaster from the original golden age of such, and several other roller coasters that adults can ride, even if they all date to the past fifteen years.

The grand old roller coaster is the Dragon Coaster, of course, the most obvious ride in the park and the one that provides the park with as much of a mascot and central theme as it's got. We got our first ride on it surprisingly late in the day --- about 6:30, if my photo information is not misleading --- which I believe was our attempt to go when there wasn't too bad a crowd. It was a tolerably busy day for the park and good for them, but it did for a while have the queue spilling out past the ride's not too deep queue.

Dragon Coaster has your classic late-20s style launch platform, with no ride gates on the platform itself, and no waiting to pick a choice seat. When the train comes up to the loading area they just open the gate and let people in until the ride is full and if you don't get the seat you want, too bad. They've still got old-fashioned hand brakes, painted red over a layer of painted white, and if you look at the right spot you can still make out the manufacturer's plate (``Dragon Coaster. Model 1. MFC Frank Church. Max Passengers 28. Max Speed 40 MPH''). Part of the feature of the ride is a tunnel, which has been decorated like a dragon so that you go soaring right into the dragon's mouth. The exit from the tunnel is not decorated, probably owing to the challenge in making something both on-theme and tasteful.

We would come several times to the Super Flight roller coaster, Playland's newest roller coaster (it dates to 2004). This is a ``flying'' type coaster, in which you lay down in a cage that can sweep around and flip over during the ride, though it's neither a very tall ride (about 50 feet at maximum; Dragon Coaster, dating to 1929, is 80 feet) nor a very long one (a 48-second ride, says the Roller Coaster Database). Yet we only rode it once. The problem is that the ride kept going down. We're not sure just what was happening, but we kept seeing it not running.

At one point we got nearly through the entire line, which was pretty substantial though decorated by signs talking about the history of flight, from legends of Icarus up to the Space Race, when suddenly everything stopped and people started walking away, just as they do in Roller Coaster Tycoon when you close a ride. Some people on the ride when it stopped got the excitement of being stuck on the ride and needing to wait for rescue, which would be a kind of thrill, although not really one I'd care for. Lying down on my chest for the time it takes to get a ladder out seems too uncomfortable for the excitement of being there when something goes really awry.

Though disappointed we did go off to do other things; I believe we went over to the Wild Mouse. When we got off the ride was going again and we jumped on for the Super Flight, in what proved to be a maybe 20-minute stretch of the ride operating again that evening. There was no telling from our perspective what was going wrong with it. I hope it was just a bad day. I admit not thinking much of the ride, but it'd be a shame to lose this different type of ride.

When bunny_hugger and I visited several years ago, with her brother and a friend of his, I wasn't able to ride one of the roller coasters, the Crazy Mouse. It's (you won't see this coming) a wild mouse, tucked just behind the Dragon Coaster on the north end of the park, near the gate where we'd got our tickets. They had a maximum height on it, though, and I am among other things a tall person. bunny_hugger wanted to ride it, and I figured to go along too on the assumption that if I was tall enough for the ride to be somehow dangerous they wouldn't let me on, and I would accept that. All I'd lose would be the time spent waiting in line, which would be better done with bunny_hugger than separated from her. I admit I was slouching, though.

But they didn't kick me out. There was no warning about maximum heights, and they weren't measuring for anything but the normal minimum heights. The ride was a perfectly normal wild mouse, not so tight that any person of plausible height would be threatened by anything. My best guess to the problem is that the launch station has got a metal roof that I think was a couple inches lower last time, so that the whole restriction might have been one less of safely riding and more about safely getting on the ride, but I'm just not sure.

Besides these, and besides the Kiddie Coaster in the kiddieland section, they've also got the Family Flyer, a tiny little thing that's really another kids coaster. It's got a train with a dragon head growing out the front, and it loops around another dragon head in the center of the track, and climbs to the altitude of thirteen feet as part of its journey. Well, we saw some adults with kids riding it, and we had some time, and why not? My fitting in required a bit of human origami, but, I learned how to position my legs and my carry-on bags so as to be able to fly to Singapore in economy class; in comparison, fitting into a kiddie coaster seat is not so hard, even if it banged my knees more. If I ever can't ride roller coasters anymore it's probably going to be due to knee-based injuries.

Towards the end of the night we figured we probably had time to get on just one more ride; what should we go for? The Carousel? The Derby Racer? We picked Dragon Coaster, and managed to get in shortly before they closed off the queue, though a couple people joined the line after us. We figured to be in either the last or the next-to-last ride of the night; it'd be close. As we estimated the queue size we figured we'd be among the last people to ride our group and so we'd surely have to get whatever seats were left over, rather than the choice seats of front car or back car, which is your classic Amusement Park World Problem, I guess.

And yet we got lucky. There were just enough people on line when we were allowed to board to fill the last train, so we got to ride the last train of the night. We aimed for as far back as we could get, and what do you know but the very last car was strangely unclaimed by people.

So we were able to close the day by riding in the last car of the last train, in the nighttime glow of a classic old amusement park.

Trivia: In 1782 Josiah Wedgewood began making clay-based pyrometers, to measure the temperature of an oven by how much they shrank. He set one degree of heat to be a contraction of the material by 1/600th the width of the piece, an amount he acknowledged was ``unavoidably arbitrary'', but hopefully, repeatable and comparable. Source: Inventing Temperature: Measurement and Scientific Progress, Hasok Chang.

Currently Reading: I Gotta Go: The Commentary Of Ian Shoales, Merle Kessler.

Tags: amusement parks, casino pier farewell tour, rye playland
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