austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Roller coaster by the water, made me feel more as I oughtta

Waldameer has four roller coasters, three of them ridable by adults. Possibly the fourth is ridable by adults too, but it is a kiddie coaster, a fearsomely little thing, and we weren't sure our knees would be up to it even if we could have ridden. Ravine Flyer II is the most important one, the big wooden roller coaster that turned Waldameer from a pleasant, obscure park in Pennsylvania's triangle into a destination for roller coaster enthusiasts. (Top-ten wooden coaster per the Golden Ticket awards for nine years running now.) It's a fantastic wooden roller coaster, all leaps and bounds, including one over the state highway in imitation of the original Ravine Flyer, torn down in the 1930s when the park's owners were distraught at a rider's death. (The rider had stood up, thinking he would help someone panicking.)

Apparently only the one photograph is known to exist of the original Ravine Flyer, although it shows the most dramatic element: where it went over the state highway that its successor does. The original valleyed over the highway. Ravine Flyer II has a hill over it. The original Ravine Flyer's station still exists, as a picnic pavilion, although looking at it doesn't give much hint where the track might have gone. I find strange and wondrous the idea there was this striking roller coaster at a park just outside Erie and that was around for sixteen years and that nobody's photographed. Hardly seems possible.

We'd come back to Ravine Flyer II for multiple rides, especially as it turned out the thrill rides weren't packed. I think we waited for a front-seat ride the first time out, out of uncertainty that we'd be able to get one when the park filled. If you have any taste for roller coasters this is one to ride. It's a Gravity Group coaster, so it's all these leaps, all these moments of air time, while the track banks and turns. Just magnificent.

Waldameer's oldest roller coaster is the Comet, a junior wooden built in 1951. It's your nice, basic, go-out-come-back ride, good for people who aren't sure they like this roller coaster concept. It's got a circular launch station, too, always a way to endear me. The unsettling thing to it: the old-fashioned levers used to brake and release and dispatch the trains weren't in use. They had an electronic button system now. We were trying to figure out whether they had the electronic button system in place in our last visit, which has to have been 2014 or 2015. We think but aren't sure they used the levers when we first visited in 2013. It's easy to understand why they'd go to electronic controls, given that it's so much less strain on the operators that way. But it's so much more charming to have mechanical systems moving things around.

The purely kiddie coaster is Ravine Flyer 3, and yeah, they go with Arabic numerals rather than Roman for this. In another quirk, Ravine Flyer 3 opened years before II did. Among other things the county needed to be coaxed into allowing a roller coaster to be built over the highway, especially given that the highway might plausibly need expansion. So naming it 3 was a striking bit of faith that the legal and technical hurdles would be beat. Anyway, we didn't ride. We probably wouldn't have fit in. The ride was built over what had once been some water ride, possibly the kiddie boats. And the water was left in. And it does leap over the approach queue, so one could argue it's got an even more dramatic setting than II does.

The other roller coaster is Steel Dragon. It's got these tiny spinning cars, and seats facing front and back, and it wasn't open right away when the park started taking riders. It did open after maybe an hour or so, and we were fortunate to spot that early. The cars have low capacity --- four seats, two facing forward and two facing back --- and it's not an obviously scary ride, so it gets lines easily and doesn't process them fast. It's also a rare chance to go up a lift hill backwards, a motion that bunny_hugger doesn't care for but would tolerate for my sake. It happens we got on with a pair who took the front seat themselves, that first ride, so we'd have to go up backwards anyway. We also found just how free-spinning the cars can be.

Speaking of free-spinning cars: the Octopus. Waldameer's got one, a set of pairs of cars on a half-dozen or so arms. The cars rotate freely, the pairs of cars rotate on the end of the arm, and the arms rotate around a base that twists up and down. We don't generally have good luck with free-spinning cars like this. This time, we did. We had so much luck, in fact, that the car just would not stop spinning. It's not rare that bunny_hugger, even with motion sickness pills, will start feeling uneasy on a spinny ride like that. It is rare that I'll feel uneasy, and this time, I did. We ended up trying to shift in our seats so as to discourage the car's free spinning. And the ride kept going on! We always joke about Roller Coaster Tycoon patrons who think, ``Spinny Car 1 is too long a ride!'' but, yes, Octopus 1 was too long a ride. For us anyway. We guessed it was maybe that we hadn't eaten anything in hours --- food tends to help avoid motion sickness --- and we rediscovered the stand with French bread pizzas. Also we rediscovered how much we love French bread pizzas. Remember when we had those in the 80s, but they were microwaved? Turns out that toasted in a real oven, or even a toaster oven, they're awfully good.

Another ride that I don't think we'd ridden before was the Ali Baba. This isn't any kind of spinning car; it's more a Moby Dick. A stationary horizontal row of seats that rotates on an arm let and right. Two rows of seats, in fact, which left us wondering how they were going to do the safety check. There wasn't any space in our second-row for an operator to check the restraints were in place. And I'm not sure what the answer is. I think I remember spotting cameras and a computer screen recording that all the restraints were down as far as they'd go. Subtle and good operations work. I also remember being surprised there was a second set of stairs, for the back row, so we could unload faster than I thought. I realize ``how are the operations for this pendulum ride done?'' are not questions of general interest. But if there's anything I know about me, it is that I am not of general interest.

Trivia: In July 1966 astronauts John Young and Michael Collins set the human flight altitude record at 475 statute miles. Source: Moon Bound: Choosing and Preparing NASA's Lunar Astronauts, Colin Burgess.

Currently Reading: Cats v. Coniff, Frank Conniff. Another Christmas present from bunny_hugger, who did say of it, that it had been on my Amazon wish list but that she also wasn't sure this was an actual book. (It's self-published, or at least near enough.)

PS: We didn't make the pin-golf finals Sunday, which is fine, because we wanted to do something else with the time. That thing was ...


So it's mid-March and a Sunday, how busy could the amusement park be? Turns out this was the week Six Flags Over Texas does some drive to get everyone in for some springtime park action.


A little picnic area along the main parking lot, on the way to the entrance. There's also a sign saying you can stow your coolers and picnic baskets at the park's gas station free, which goes against Six Flags's reputation.


Stone plaque near the entrance of thee park explaining the whole Six Flags motif. Six Flags Over Texas isn't owned by the Six Flags mother-corporation, although it is managed by them. It and Six Flags Over Georgia are owned by the original family, if I have this right.

Tags: six flags over texas, waldameer

Posts from This Journal “waldameer” Tag

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