August 14th, 2018

krazy koati

The world's a nicer place in my beautiful balloon

After becoming a serious amusement park fan bunny_hugger started keeping track of the different roller coasters she had ridden. In March 2017 she rode what she believed to be her 200th, Judge Roy Scream at Six Flags over Texas. Later research indicates we were mistaken and her 200th logged coaster was more likely the Thunderbird at Holiday World, ridden in May 2016. In any event since then we've been to a surprising number of parks with many roller coasters. She was closing in on her 250th, a worthy new milestone. When we were readying for Denver we thought about getting to a family entertainment center near Detroit, so that she might be able to ride her 250th at Lakeside Park. We didn't, although had we known about their new Zyklon --- and had it been running, which it apparently still is not --- we'd probably have tried.

But we could still get to that family entertainment center. Or --- in Howell, about 45 minutes east, there's an annual Balloonfest carnival. The center of it is hot air balloons. But they had amusement park rides in, including roller coasters. This could get us to 250, and on a travelling roller coaster? Very nice idea. And if that couldn't get us to 250, well, the Detroit suburb of Livonia also had a carnival, and that one had a huge travelling roller coaster, one about the size of the Zyklon that wasn't ready for Lakeside just yet. Both festivals were running the same weekend, and we only had one day we could devote to them. Going to two fairs in a day is a bit daft, but we figured we'd be able to make it if nothing went wrong.

So the first thing that went wrong, besides setting out late, is realizing about ten minutes into travel that we'd left the sprinkler on. Worse, on the plants on the driveway, so we couldn't even rationalize that at least the garden would get very well saturated. We just had to turn around and go home and wonder how neither of us noticed the shower of water right in front of our car as we set out the first time.

Also having gone wrong that day, though we had no idea: one of the hot air balloons crashed, falling into a nearby lake. Nobody was injured in the morning accident, and by the time we were there they were filling up and launching balloons again. Nobody was even talking about the accident. I learned about it from the noon news on Monday.

Balloonfest offered an exciting prospect, too. They had the promised spinning wild mouse roller coaster. They also had a kiddie coaster. bunny_hugger could get her 249th and 250th credit, if they'd let us ride the kiddie coaster. But they said no. I think they didn't let adults on at all. Certainly not unaccompanied adults. The Spinning Wild Mouse would have to be her 249th (and my 221st). It's a great one, mind. Reminiscent in layout of Kennywood's Exterminator. And it spun really well, which in the cozy, bright sun just went so very well. We took several rides on it, and really, with that as the centerpiece of the festival --- for us --- we could've been quite content.

They had many of the other attractions you might expect. A portable carousel. A Super Round Up. That balloon-themed rotating car ride. But also --- a double Ferris Wheel. These were a creation of the 50s and 60s, and they just aren't made anymore. bunny_hugger doesn't like most Ferris Wheels. Too large, too slow, not to upset her fear of heights. But this? When would we ever see one again? We got tickets for it.

The double wheel is, like it says, two small Ferris wheels, themselves separated by a long axle that also rotates. When the small wheels and the main axle are rotating you get this weird, complicated and fun movement. It's not quite a figure-eight loop but it seems like it ought to be. There's these lovely big and fast, small and fast, and big but slow curves, including reversals of direction that are just periodic enough not to be upsetting. And, something we didn't realize until we watched the ride cycle. When one of the wheels is loading, the other one is held up as high as it gets --- but keeps rotating at a constant speed. This does much to temper bunny_hugger's fear of heights, as the motion stays interesting. This likely also keeps riders from getting bored and doing stupid things.

So we have to say: double Ferris Wheels? Great ride. They should be more common. They at least reduce the problem of a Ferris wheel, that the ride is boring while all these cars get loaded. And the motion isn't like any other ride, really. This left us in high spirits for a last walk around the fairgrounds, and spinning wild mouse ride, and view of a couple more balloons being sent off into the pristine blue sky of Balloonfest.

Trivia: The carnallite mine at Strassfurt, Germany, had before World War I a worldwide monopoly on potassium production. Source: Nature's Building Blocks, John Emsley.

Currently Reading: Grocery: The Buying and Selling of Food in America, Michael Ruhlman.


PS: And closing out Gillian's Wonderland Pier.

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Another picture of Philadelphia Toboggan Company #75's chariot going to warp speed. I can't decide whether this or the earlier picture is better. The earlier picture looks like it's got a stronger forward motion, but this one has that shaft of light coming out the base of the chariot.


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Gillian's Wonderland Pier closing up for the night. The rides haven't closed, but the doors to the boardwalk are mostly shuttered.


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Yup, they're closing up. Notice how the outsides are painted to blend relatively smoothy with the main wall.