austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Why everything's the same as it was

We went all together, in MWS's car. We assured him the path to Kennywood from the Red Roof Inn would be twisty and complicated and look like we were just lost in hilly paths in western Pennsylvania and we were. We also promised there was almost no seeing Kennywood until we were right on it, which was so. We also promised there would be free parking, which MWS didn't seem to think quite possible. He's been to fewer small-town and Pennsylvania Parks than we have. We pointed out the start of the free parking lot area and he detoured into the first one, giving us a spot that probably wasn't the best we could have got. And he looked aghast at the ski lift, used to bring people from the farthest regions of free parking way up the hill down to the park on days busier than we had ever seen.

It wasn't a crazily busy day, not yet. It was August finally, the time when everybody crowds into amusement parks for warmth. But we had got there quite early, before they even start letting people into the park, which they do a half-hour or so before the rides and attractions open. MWS was amused by the fresh and new-to-him amusement park. K was delighted, even with little things like the apparently ancient prop roses that hid the public loudspeakers. That would be something of a running theme for the day: MWS seems to have had a good time, but K really got Kennywood. At least K seemed to better like the Kennywood spirit. The park has this one little food vendor stand called the Lucky Stand. Nobody knows why it's called that, except that since it's survived since the 1930s it can't be unlucky. The park has a sign that explains the name nobody quite understands. It seems like K got this.

Kennywood lets people into the park before the rides open, the better to let the crowd distribute through and not all rush the stuff right up front. People tend to crowd up front anyway. We planned things a little better in spirit anyway, and went back to the Lost Kennywood area. Inside there is an indoor spinning wild mouse coaster, The Exterminator. It always has the longest lines of any roller coaster in the park. Not sure why, although it can't hurt that it's out of the sun, has a lot of theoretically moving animatronic stunts (they're never more than about half working, but it's usually not the same half), and is a not-too-scary ride surely helps. We'd reasoned that the shortest line we could hope for would be right at the park's open, before people had got back there.

Indeed there was already no line for The Exterminator. The ride was closed and an attendant warned it wasn't going to open at 11:00. Nor anytime soon after that. We'd check back a couple times during the day and it would never open. So MWS and K were slightly cheated on their first Kennywood experience. But we happened to be in the right spot to get a pre-opening ride on The Whip, always fun and one of those rides that major new parks just don't have. The first time I rode one (in memory) I thought it was a fossil that survived at Hershey Park. Now I know it's not that rare, but it is more common the smaller or less modern the park is.

And I spotted a wedding couple, coming off of the newly renovated Noah's Ark ride. We weren't anywhere near enough to get photos of them from, like, the front as they got into the park vehicle. But it did make me think of what a fine chance it turns out we missed by not getting married at an amusement park.

We got back to the Grand Carousel for the official opening of the park and its triumphant start-of-the-day song, the Entry of the Gladiators. You know, the circus theme. And got to ride, as well as to do something we'd been quivering with anticipation about doing: being tour guide for MWS and K. The carousel's from the Golden Age of Carousels, of course, from 1927. It's not the park's original carousel. And it's not in the original carousel pavilion. That pavilion, just in view of the current carousel spot, is a Johnny Rocket's. It had been one of the park's own-managed food stands before that, and we'd discovered vegetarian burgers there. Not so much now. (It's been other things; in the 90s apparently it was a TCBY, if you remember those. I faintly remember hearing talk that it was going to change to something else next year, possibly a new park-managed place. Generically, I favor park-managed places because I usually want stuff I can't have just anywhere. But I admit inconsistency on the point. Sometimes I will go to, say, Subway or McDonald's and get something as close to what I ordered at their Singapore counterparts, letting taste-memory renew my ties to gone times. If every Johnny Rocket's touched a particular happy day at Kennywood I might feel differently.) Anyway, the carousel we had learned got painted, one row of horses at a time, so that they're never too faded and never overwhelm the park's ability to carefully restore rides. This may sound like a big pile of trivia but it seemed like natural conversation at the time.

Most of the yet-small crowd was at the front of the park and so we figured to get to what's usually the third-longest wait for a roller coaster. (The second-longest wait is for Sky Rocket, but that's right up front of the park.) The Phantom's Revenge straddles the border between the Lost Kennywood and the rest of the park. It also has a ride queue that looks like when you put a ride down in Roller Coaster Tycoon and then realize there's nowhere for the queue to go: it runs this hilarious twisty path, much of it elevated, so that the entrance is nowhere near any obvious part of the ride. MWS and K both appreciated the easy little weirdness of this at least. And we got our first roller coaster ride in, early in the day and without a wait. All Kennywood's roller coasters are weird in one way or another. Phantom's Revenge's weirdness is in part that, because of the steep hills of the valley it's built along, its longest drop is the second one. It dives well below the ground level of the loading station. Fine ride. Good start to the day.

Trivia: The mortality rate for the Spanish Influenza recorded in Cook County, Illinois, hospitals was 39.8 percent. This includes all cases, not just those which developed pneumonia. Source: The Great Influenza: The Story of the Deadliest Pandemic In History, John M Barry.

Currently Reading: A Great And Godly Adventure: The Pilgrims and the Myth of the First Thanksgiving, Godfrey Hodgson.

Tags: amusement parks, kennywood, pinburgh

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