austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Although we may look different we'd all like to say

Story Land has two roller coasters, the older of which, and the more accessible, called the Polar Coaster. You probably guessed what the theme is already; the station's done up like it was carved into a glacier, and the track is blue and white, though the cars are brown. It isn't a very tall roller coaster, and it hasn't got any great drops. The ride is all turns, really, swoopy curves. It's too large to call a kiddie coaster, but it's certainly quite child-friendly. It's still fun, though.

And there's surprises about it. One guy getting in the train ahead of us brought his drink along. This may not be a fast ride and it might not be very rattly (although it is nearly thirty years old, and steel roller coasters had much sharper turns back then), and presumably he knows about what the ride feels like, but I couldn't imagine bringing a drink along on the ride. And they let him! Sadly for my curiosity they were running two trains so we don't know how he came through this.

We also went to the Tilt-A-Whirl, which delighted us by having a turtle-shell theme. Tilt-A-Whirls with themes will pretty much always get us interested. And as at Santa's Village, the ride operators told people of what to do in case they needed to stop the ride early (hold your hand out and give a thumbs-down). In this case, they actually did. The ride operator mentioned to us --- waiting for the next ride --- that it looked like someone was about to get sick and so they stopped short. Another group took the not-yet-sick people's place, and they resumed for what certainly seemed like a full ride cycle. Ride operators surely are trained to look for signs of imminent guest distress and to stop rides when that's coming forth, but we hadn't seen the process being so explicit before.

This path was taking us to the newest major ride at Story Land, one of the things that drew us to the park. It also took us into the dinosaur-themed area, and if you wonder how dinosaurs fit in to a theme of fairy tales and seeing-the-world, well, they're dinosaurs. Come on.

The target was Roar-O-Saurus, their new wooden roller coaster. It immediately leapt to the top of roller coaster polls, especially wooden roller coasters. We wanted to know what it was like. It was hidden behind a really, really long line, and we worried whether we'd get to have a second ride. It was bad enough to get only a single ride on Funtown Splashtown USA's Excalibur, which would certainly have been worth reriding. To get that at two parks in two days? ... But maybe the park would empty out later in the day and we'd be able to ride it again without a half-hour or forty-minute ride. We'd do better than that, in fact.

Roar-O-Saurus (the exact hyphenation is not consistent, by the way) is not a large ride. The Roller Coaster Database gives its greatest height at 40 feet, and greatest drop at 38.5; Leap the Dips, built in 1902, is taller than that. (Of course that's slower and hasn't got as big a steepest drop.) Its greatest speed is 34 miles per hour. The whole ride cycle is barely a minute, and about half of that is the lift hill, bringing you up to that forty feet. From the top of that to the station is about thirty seconds. The statistics suggest a gentle, easy ride. It's not.

Roar-O-Saurus hasn't got much height, or much speed, or much time for that matter. But it uses what it has brilliantly. The ride leaps and turns; it feels like it flies. There are something like a dozen air time moments, the points where you reach zero gravity and float in the seat. There's abundant side-to-side motion. It's always surprising, always thrilling. At some point on this first ride my pen leapt out of my pocket, never to be seen again. We understood why this is such a renowned roller coaster. It should stay at the top of the rankings for a good while.

There's been some talk in roller coaster fandom, apparently (I get this from bunny_hugger; I'm oblivious to the actual fandom) about how the 90s-2000s little golden age of every park putting in a giant new wooden roller coaster is ended. It does look like parks aren't putting in many big wooden roller coasters these days, and that's a bit of a shame. But this might be missing the point, in exactly the same way that science fiction fandom doesn't notice how much good-or-at-least-popular stuff is written as Young Adult fiction. Junior or kiddie-scale wooden roller coasters are still getting made at a good rate. And if they're being made to this standard, then, excellent. It is more important that a ride be delightful than that it be big or long or fast, and Roar-O-Saurus is delightful.

Trivia: At the time of American independence roughly a tenth of all slave labor in the country was used to produce indigo. The farms were mostly in Georgia and South Carolina. Source: An Empire of Wealth: The Epic History of American Economic Power, John Steele Gordon.

Currently Reading: Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change From Hawaii To Iraq, Stephen Kinzer.

Tags: amusement parks, new england parks tour, story land

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