June 29th, 2013

krazy koati

Rub a dub a dub in her little tub all those tunes she found

Would we actually be able to ride the big new attraction, the GateKeeper roller coaster? Surely even on a slow mid-week, lightly-rainy day, the lines would be intolerably long. The initial check and the 90-plus-minute queue indicated that. But after we had dinner we checked back, to see how bad it was, and ... the ride was closed. Probably the rains. Except, just as we were watching, they opened the gate again. There was mile after mile of shore view in the queue lanes, but, almost no people. We leapt into the ride and thought with dread about how long the hidden line might be, except, there wasn't a hidden line.

We didn't literally just walk on. But we came awfully close, needing to wait only a couple of train dispatches. It was certainly an under-ten-minute wait. It was short enough a wait that after we got through we went around again, because news of the ride's reopening hadn't propagated, and we got to ride the roller coaster from the other side with about the same lack of wait. It would be just about impossible to swing that any better.

GateKeeper is a ``wing'' coaster, a new gimmick by which instead of the seats being held from below, or above, they're held off by the side. bunny_hugger and I were a bit snarkily dismissive of this, but we were at least partially mistaken about its gimmick value: because of the spacing of the rows of seats, and the lack of obvious support, you get great views of what's around. The front car gets the most open views, but the cars behind aren't very obscured; the sense of moving freely is really powerful.

The ride, as it's by the shore and front of the park, gives a great and open and spacious view, for the most part. One of the big gimmicks is that the ride goes through keyholes in a pair of towers over the amusement park's entrance, and the illusion of racing towards a can-that-possibly-be-wide-enough passage is very effective. There's a 180-degree twist between the two keyholes, too, so you get to ``brush'' a top and a bottom of the keyhole each time. On the return leg, you don't go through the keyhole, but the track comes close to the towers, for again, magnificent artistic effect.

I had been more frightened of the ride than I needed to be, because by some weird misunderstanding I had the idea that riders went up the lift hill --- the first, slow climb that gets the ride started --- upside-down. Which would be gimmicky, but why not? No, though; you go up right-side up like near any normal coaster would, and while the sideways turns and the keyholes are a bit different from what a major non-wooden coaster might do, they're not fundamentally different kinds of things. The big difference is the sense of openness even middle seats get, though the rapidity with which the ride can move you from leaning-right to leaning-left is a fresh thrill. It's just that it does all these things quite well.

The whole ride is done to great artistic effect. The GateKeeper itself is presented as a griffin --- inspired we like to think by an old griffin statue that had rested outside the Iron Dragon ride for ages, but somehow not obviously in place around the new ride --- with amber and light blue paint schemes, and a griffin head --- beak open, tongue curling --- at the front of the cars. The track is beautiful to look at, well lit, and opens up such well-tended space, including views of the shoreline and Lake Erie, that that whole part of the park looks new and delightful.

We didn't get ride pictures, although I again looked like a screaming maniac in them. bunny_hugger thought long and hard about the plush griffins they had, and finally did pick up an amber one that's guarding our stairwell now.

Trivia: Huyshope Avenue in downtown Hartford, Connecticut, marks the spot where the Dutch colonists had a trading post, dubbed the ``House of Hope'', which Peter Stuyvesant was able to save for the Dutch in 1650 from English territorial expansion. Source: The Island At The Centre Of The World, Russell Shorto.

Currently Reading: Asimov's Science Fiction, August 2013, Editor Sheila Williams.