August 28th, 2013


And Disneyland and P.O.P.

Wednesday we set off, mostly eastward, for Altoona, the town that's always called Altoona, Pennsylvania, as if there were many other Altoonas so the location might be ambiguous. At least I think of Altoona as pretty distinctive: it's got the famed Horseshoe Curve for railroad enthusiasts, and it's the home of the Boyer Candy empire, or at least grand duchy, makers of Mallo Cups and surely you've heard of other things. It's also got Lakemont Park, and the world's oldest operating roller coaster, Leap-the-Dips. Hyphens, we shall learn, are apparently optional.

Lakemont Park is not a huge place like Kennywood. In the number and variety of rides it's probably closer to Seaside Heights than anything else, for what good that does in giving you scale. And it's had some hard luck, as small parks have had since the Great Depression, though in comparison to an upcoming adventure we'd realize it's had things pretty good. For a park that's a century-plus old it isn't very well-forested; this is the result, legend has it, of a misfired attempt at cleaning away diseased trees back in the 80s when the Boyer company took over the park and rebilled it as Boyertown USA, in tiny imitation of Hershey Park. Even given the relative size difference between Boyer and Hershey, the difference between Lakemont and Hershey Park seems to stand out, but then, it's not like there's another small family-owned Altoona-area amusement park that Boyer could have bought, except for the other one.

Boyer apparently had hopes of expanding the park, with the most tangible result being the Skyliner, a wooden roller coaster they'd moved from Roseland Park in Canadiagua, New York. Moving a wooden roller coaster is weird. Steel roller coasters move all the time, but wooden roller coasters not so much, because of all the wood. Boyer clearly had hopes they were building a major new attraction; the plan fell apart in the midst of the company's bankruptcy and takeover by New York City financiers who relocated to Altoona to be where the action was. Skyliner was a good chunk of what drew us to the park, but Leap-the-Dips was the star attraction. But allow me, as with Kennywood, to put the roller coasters --- three, that adults can ride --- to their own post.

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About those roller coasters ...

Trivia: In January 1865 the Confederate Colonel Frederick W Sims of the Railroad Bureau contracted with John D Gray of Columbus, Georgia, to produce an unlimited number of railroad boxcars, at costs plus 25 percent. It is unclear whether any were ever delivered. Source: The Railroads Of The Confederacy, Robert C Black III.

Currently Reading: Vanished Kingdoms: The Rise And Fall Of States And Nations, Norman Davies.

PS: The End Of The World, Qualitatively Explained, as I continue on the illusion from that Sleeping Bear Dunes overlook.