austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

I can't understand, no I can't understand

K wanted to ride the Black Widow, which is this giant spinning disc that itself rides a pendulum. I'm happy to ride that sort of thing too. bunny_hugger doesn't like to, and neither does MWS, because that sort of thing can leave one nauseated quite fast. So it turned out we made good riding partners; we're both able to take that sort of movement yet. We also agreed we might ride the Aero 360 ride, an inverted-seat rocking swing that brings passengers upside-down and holds them, something bunny_hugger's stomach won't let her ride. MWS's neither. It happens we never got around to that, but we kept looking over that way.

Once again my recollections are getting confused here. I could swear that K and I rode this twice. Also that one time we were in line for it but couldn't ride because something shut the ride down a while. I thought that interruption was before lunch, but also remember the interruption being for weather. It did rain a bit, but later in the day. I'm not sure how to reconcile this. bunny_hugger, who spent the time we were in queue sitting underneath the nearby pizza pavilion with MWS, may have a better understanding of how this all fits together. We pointed out to K and MWS that on some shelves far above the pizza pavilion were a few little cages. They're from the 1930s, when the park was smaller and thrills needed to be cheaper, and Kennywood improved its value-for-money by having a little menagerie including caged raccoons, rabbits, and squirrels. K seemed more enchanted by the idea of an amusement park that (a) would show squirrels as an attraction and (b) would keep the cages for eighty years after that.

We got lunch indoors, at the Parkside Cafe, the building of which dates back to 1898 and so makes even the squirrel cages and the Johnny Rocket's building look like newcomers. It was a good chance to sit in air-conditioned comfort and to avoid the wait for Kennywood French Fries. I think we failed to get any, actually, so that we weren't able to see whether MWS and K agreed with the Pittsburgh amusement park community that they're the best thing humanity has ever done or whether they're just, you know, pretty good but it's not like every amusement park doesn't know how to make fries.

The thing bunny_hugger and I most wanted to go to, and Kennywood's big draw for the 2016 season, was the Noah's Ark. The ride goes back to 1936 more or less, and it's the lone survivor of a family of amusement park rides. It's basically a funhouse on a rocking base, with pop-up stunts and gusts of air and shaky floors and other little pranks, all for some reason bundled into something that looks like your classic Ark with bobbling animal heads and whatnot. Kennywood's got a major tear-down rebuilding about twenty years ago, and it needed some big repairs and for the 2016 season got them.

The most obvious change: they brought back the Whale Mouth. You used to enter the Ark by walking into the gaping mouth of a blue whale, and you don't think of how you get from that to inside the Ark thank you. In the 1996 renovation this had been removed; when we visited the park before we went in through one of those mock elevator rooms that would ``plummet'' to a coal mine or something. Now there was a restored giant whale to walk into.

What's fun about any dark ride or walkthrough funhouse or similar attraction are the stunts. The props that show scenes, that do something. The stuff that's always broken. Even Kennywood, grand as it is, has trouble keeping everything going. The Exterminator roller coaster has, in our experience, slightly over half the stuff in it working, but it's usually different stuff each time we visit. The Noah's Ark in our previous visits suffered the same problems of stuff not reacting and often being left in the dark to avoid showcasing the disappointment. But this time, maybe two months off the complete renovation, everything was working. Or nearly everything. There weren't obvious gaps in the walkthrough, anyway. Lots of stuff painted with fluorescent paints, too, so you got that eerie unnatural glow. Lots of animals --- finally, the ``Noah's Ark'' name makes at least a little sense --- doing stuff. We recognized a few of the stunts from previous visits, but not too many.

So I felt great and quite liked it. MWS got a bit nauseated from the ship's rocking, which is unfortunate. It's part of the design of the ride, of course, but that doesn't make feeling it any better.

Well, that was the thing bunny_hugger and I most wanted to ride and it was what we could hope for. We could spend the rest of the day pointing neat stuff out to K and MWS. For example, The Turtle ride. That's another nearly extinct ride; the only other one is at Conneaut Lake Park and that one's called the Tumble Bug. It also had some special fun for MWS as our pinball friend CST is a turtle authority. The ride, at Kennywood since 1927, is metal tubs chugging along a circular track that rises and falls. You sit inside, un-belted, and fall over on your seatmats. It's a fun ride, and it's well-situated, next to the ravine leading to the river and tucked, in part, underneath the track of The Phantom's Revenge roller coaster.

And from there we leapt to The Thunderbolt, one of Kennywood's three and strange wooden roller coasters. Thunderbolt dates in part back to the 1924, as Pippin, which is the sort of thing you could name stuff back then to sound all hep and with-it. But in 1967-68 it was massively rebuilt and expanded. It's still a fantastic ride, and a nice weird one, in part by starting off with a steep drop out of the station. The park's geography lets it do strange things like have the main lift hill be the middle part of the ride.

I remembered there was talk about getting actual working electric lights on the trains. Back in the day there had been light fixtures, but they kept burning out. Some Carnegie-Mellon engineering students had ideas on how to make working headlights using modern, more reliable technology, and Kennywood was listening to them. But I never heard how that turned out, and if there were working lights on any of the trains we didn't notice.

Trivia: Among the uses Belgian King Leopold II found for the over 100 million francs of bonds his Congo Free State properties issued was a new gallery --- decorated with 85,000 geraniums for its opening day --- for a seaside racetrack he often visited. Source: King Leopold's Ghost: A Story of Greed, Terror, and Heroism in Colonial Africa, Adam Hochschild.

Currently Reading: Classics Illustrated: A Cultural History, William B Jones Jr.

PS: The End 2016 Mathematics A To Z: The Fredholm Alternative and if just the name of this doesn't captivate you then we may have nothing to talk about, I'm sorry.

Tags: amusement parks, kennywood

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