September 14th, 2014

krazy koati

There's a freeway running through the yard

Dorney Park used to have an antique carousel, as many older parks had. But theirs was lost in a fire in the mid-80s. In the early 90s the park was bought by Cedar Fair, who took one of the three-or-four antique carousels (it depends how you count the Cedar Downs ride) from Cedar Point and transferred it to their needy little sister. The park, at Cedar Point, had been the Frontier Carousel, set in the Old West part of the park, and was one of bunny_hugger's favorite rides. She hadn't seen it between the carousel's removal and our visit to Dorney Park in 2011 or so. So nearly the first moment past the front gate was her reunion with a long-lost friend.

There was, happily, not a long wait for us, thanks to getting the ride at a lucky moment. There also wasn't much ride, though. It was slow loading, of course, because dozens of kids were the riders, but also the ride cycle was extremely short, certainly not a full two minutes, and the ride took forever to get to its arthritic top speed, and then immediately began to slow.

It was early afternoon by now and we figured to get a snack; after grabbing a park map we figured where we could probably get fries and soda and thought that it didn't have too terrible a line considering everyone in the world was at Dorney Park. What we didn't realize was the people in front of us had somehow managed to make ordering their burgers and fries the most complicated transaction since the Credit Mobilier was established. You know the experience. After we got our food we noticed a fry stand that was completely deserted by the public, which figures.

We also had a puckish idea: sure, everybody in the world was at Dorney, and we really ought to get on the road again sooner rather than later, for the sake of not being too exhausted for Sunday, but ... if there were a roller coaster with a queue not too horrible, wouldn't it be great to ride that? Dorney Park has a wooden roller coaster, the Thunderhawk, originally opened in 1924 (though reconfigured in important ways in 1930), and the line for it was strikingly short. It was almost a walk-on, and we thought it was worth waiting for a front-seat ride, which it surely was. It's not quite the oldest roller coaster we could ride, but it's close, and of course a is a lovely wooden roller coaster.

bunny_hugger also overheard someone telling his kids about how the ride used to be called Hercules, which it was not. Thunderhawk was known just as Coaster until 1988, when Hercules, a new wooden coaster, was completed. Hercules was removed for multiple reasons, and in part of its place now stands Hydra, which suggests someone was getting their mythology backwards. Apparently roller coaster enthusiasts share stories of what they overhear about members of the lay public saying things about roller coasters that just aren't so. You probably already kind of suspected that.

The carousel is not the only ride Cedar Point has sent to Dorney Park, a park that bunny_hugger describes as having its own DNA overwritten by Cedar Point, or maybe looking like a weird alternate-universe miniature Cedar Point. The most noteworthy of those transferred rides is the Demon Drop, an Intamin-made Freefall ride that was popular in the early 80s. Certainly that's when it was the marquee ride at Great Adventure, known simply as Freefall. This is that tower ride that takes you in a cage up about 130 feet, and then, after terrible suspense, drops the cage, letting it free fall for about two seconds, which feels a lot longer than that. The ride then slows a little, and arcs to a horizontal, and pulls you back to the starting point. I rode it at Great Adventure though years after it was the new ride you'd wait two hours for. bunny_hugger, never fond of pure drop rides, never rode it.

And yet ... maybe it was the breaking-in experience of drop rides at Clementon Park and at Knoebels. Maybe it was just the recognition that it might be years before we were back at Dorney Park and the ride might be removed by then. There's almost no 1st Generation Freefalls still in existence; if passed up we might never ride one again. We might never see this former Cedar Point ride again. She wanted to ride it.

Trivia: The couple painted in Grant Wood's American Gothic were modeled on Wood's sister and his dentist. Source: Know-It-All, A J Jacobs.

Currently Reading: Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History of Apollo Lunar Exploration Missions, William David Compton. NASA SP-4214.