July 8th, 2015

krazy koati

And covered all the ground

Parc Festyland is a small place, with two roller coasters to its name. Shortly before our visit bunny_hugger noticed a picture of what might be a third: a track that looked like a Steeplechase ride. These are the one- and two-seater roller coasters where the car is made to look like a horse, and that goes around on a thin track. You see the one Coney Island used to have in black-and-white pictures and, if you look at the right moment, in the amusement park footage in Santa and the Ice Cream Bunny. Not many parks have them anymore. Blackpool Pleasure Beach is one. Could Festyland be another?

No. They have a ride that looks a lot like a Steeplechase --- a thin track, with a knight's horse ride, that even has a motor so the mount rocks up and down like a galloping horse might. (At least one mount doesn't rock. We don't know if it was merely broken, or if it's left like that for people who don't think they can safely ride a rocking horse.) But it's a powered ride, not dependent on gravity at all, and so falling outside what most people think of as roller coasters. But it was cute, and went past a number of nice decorations, and it was quirky and odd and just the sort of thing we hoped the park would be.

The park doesn't just have strange fish-airplane statues or stuff like that. It's got strongly themed rides. For example, they have a Disk'O-type ride called Le Grand Tournoi. This is a large disk, on which people sit facing outward, and which spins around while rocking along a larger-yet arc. bunny_hugger refers to it as her nemesis since she felt nauseated by the one at Kennywood. But instead of just having bright yellow seats and chrome restraints, this one is decorated. Its seats are made up to look like armored horses, and the ride decorated with Norman and French shields.

I had not, as a kid, appreciated how much decoration and theming add to an amusement park. Since the mind-expanding experience of the Pennsylvania Parks Tour, though, I've become aware of it, and I appreciate a park that makes its rides beautiful, or better, beautiful and unique.

Sometimes they're beautiful and unique, or at least exotic, rides, such as Le Valhalla. This ride I had assumed to be something like a Musik Express, and that's probably its closest relative. It's cars sitting on a track, that rises and falls; the ride rotates forwards and then for a stretch backwards. This is part of the Viking-themed area, as the name might suggest; each car is made to look like a ship, with a mast and sail and everything. It gives a good ride time, too, especially the time spent going backwards, which not enough amusement park rides do anymore.

But the park has got two rides that are indisputably roller coasters, 1066 and Drakkar Express. We decided to ride Drakkar Express, making it our first roller coaster of the year, after determining that 1066 was not running for a half-hour while, presumably, the operators were having lunch or something. This even though the park had opened just an hour before, and would only be open seven hours. Well, all right then.

Drakkar Express is part of the Viking theme. It's decorated as such, even including plaques which explain how Vikings had boats and that they'd sail them. This is a small ride, if not actually a junior coaster certainly junior-friendly. It's small enough that you get sent around the track twice for reach ride, or at least we were that day. It also curves very close to the trees, and the ground. I felt as if I might be about to touch the ground at the lowest point, and I certainly did get brushed with tree leaves a couple times during the ride. I'm surprised the trees could grow that far, really.

1066 is a bigger ride and a more fun one, at least as we see it. As the name implies it's part of the Norman Conquest/medieval knights themed area. The cars are made to look like battering rams, and the station decorated with reprints of the Bayeaux Tapestry. The lift hill is hidden within a mock castle. The ride is short --- merely a minute long --- but it feels strikingly like The Phantom's Revenge at Kennywood. Particularly both are on the sides of steep hills, and so can take advantage of this and have a second drop that's longer than the first.

Also like The Phantom's Revenge it's kind of a pain to get to. The Phantom's Revenge has an awkward entrance queue, one that starts well away from the launch station and winds its way around, like you see in Roller Coaster Tycoon if the player forgot they needed an entrance gate on the ride. 1066 isn't that bad, although it is on the far end of the park, and the only path to it we could work out took us up hill and past Kaskade, the surprisingly compact water-tub ride that's the new attraction at Festyland this year.

Despite some promises of sun, the day was --- as forecast --- cool, overcast, tending toward rain. Cold rain, too. And yet there were people riding Kaskade, taking an elevator up and then rattling back and forth a log-flume-like contraption that ensured people would get damp, at least, if not quite soaked. Still, it was maybe twenty degrees Fahrenheit too cold for this to seem even vaguely sensible behavior to us. Apparently Normans are just hardier people, or they figure if there's a water ride they're going to ride it, whether that makes sense or not. They were welcome to it. We'd be content with it not raining, and maybe warming up a couple degrees.

Trivia: IBM was removed from the Dow Jones Industrial Average in 1939 to make room for AT&T. It was reinstated in 1979. Source: The Great Game, John Steele Gordon.

Currently Reading: The Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, May/June 2015. Editor Charles Coleman Finlay.

PS: Reading the Comics, July 7, 2015: Carrying On The Streak Edition, that being the streak of consecutive days with some kind of mathematics post on that blog. It's getting a little unnerving.