So the other, lesser roller coasters at Playland Castaway Cove in Ocean City, New Jersey. The most adjacent one that was open was the Whirlwind. It's a little figure eight, and that's all, one lift, one drop, with cars that spin. A lot. To make up for the short length --- 190 feet for a complete circuit --- and barely noticeable drop of the ride --- it's only 14 feet tall --- they run a bunch of circuits. Maybe eight. Maybe more. The ride is fun, but it does seem to reach near the point where your Roller Coaster Tycoon peeps would start thinking how they want to get off Whirlwind 1. I remember the ride starting off chugging very slowly, as though it might not get to the top of the hill given the load of people on it. It also braked a bit past the station, and had to again slowly winch its way down the track to where we could unload.
The other operating roller coaster is the Pirates Gold Rush, and yes, the lack of apostrophe disturbs me. It's another tiny roller coaster, one of many that makes me think of the kiddie coaster Little Thunder that used to be at Great Adventure. Tiny little oval track, tucked near the edge of the park, just over the wall from a Christmas shop we wouldn't have the chance to visit. It's got a train with cars that made me think of mine ride coasters, and maybe the ride's siblings farther from shore are set up as kiddie mine rides. It's a small thing, which drew a pretty good-sized queue that had to stand what seemed dangerously close to exposed power cables and the like. In any case, it's a good ride for kids learning how to ride roller coasters, and it smashed our knees something awful.
Next to the Pirates Gold Rush is a bumper-car ride with the same sort of circular tube cars we'd seen at the Columbus Zoo. And which we would see again, making this the summer of Baader-Meinhof amusements. We'd also look at but not ride the swinging ship, and the Chance fiberglass carousel. We would look at, and eventually use, the bathrooms with upwards of 850 people in line. And we'd admire the parrot they had out for photographs while wondering whether that's really good for the parrot.
And with this nearly surgical visit we were off, walking up the boardwalk in the direction we thought Gillian's Wonderland would be, worrying all the time that we were just walking into the mist until we'd get lost. Almost right away, though, we walked up to ... The Fry Guy, a big, inflated, mascot costume of a bucket of French fries. It was working the crowd, posing for pictures and hugging kids who find this exactly as baffling as you might imagine.
Also along the way we passed Haunted Golf, one of many indoor miniature golf courses in the area. It promised 18 holes, and it had a pair of animatronic hosts out front, a skeleton in a suit and a taxidermied buffalo head, who in-between talking the place up would karaoke to Michael Jackson's Thriller. Now none of this directly promises that the miniature golf is any good. But apparently the industry practice is to invest about as much money into the frontage as into the course, and this was clearly a solid investment in the frontage. Plus the thing was packed, with a dense line going out the door. Which is why we passed on it, ultimately: if we hadn't come to the place after Story Book Land and the Playland Castaway Cove we might have had the time for it. As was, no.
We continued on, passing the Tee Time miniature golf with a couple ancient-looking figures, some from fairy tales or apparently adapted from them (a man working on the Little Old Lady Who Lived In A Shoe's roof?), some dinosaurs and stuff, some just Hanna-Barbera characters that maybe were legitimate once upon a time? They had Fred and Barney in Fred's car, anyway, which made me think of the statue of Yogi Bear at Seaside Heights. Inexplicable things with, it's got to be, some story behind them.
And just past that, finally, we saw the slowly turning signs on posts that spelled out, one letter at a time: Wonderland.
Trivia: China's 1873 Imperial delegation to Burma was accompanied by a 1300-mule caravan carrying gifts of ``fruit and some hams''. Source: The Stone of Heaven, Adrian Levy, Cathy Scott Clark.
Currently Reading: The First Space Race: Eisenhower and the Quest for Aerospace Security, Nicholas Michael Sambaluk.
PS: Goodnight, Halloweekends Saturday.
Pumpkin spice snake. One of the carved-`pumpkin' snakes, seen here at night, and illuminated, so you get what I mean about the way they look.
People walking back to the hotel, though the after-midnight fog and intense lights. Also: the cover for my acoustic album.
The last time, it turned out, that we would leave by way of the Resorts Gate. And we noticed the sign with what apparently was Mean Streak Henry's final count of 16,174 rides on that roller coaster. No idea where if anywhere the sign's been moved to now.