August 21st, 2019

krazy koati

The forming of a new connection to study or to play

It was hot at Knoebels. Really hot. Low 90s at least, maybe mid-90s. We had to get something to eat, and drink, and before the heat and surprise intensity of Tumbling Timbers got us sick. Happy to say, Knoebels has food. Lots of food. Lots of quite good food; they routinely win awards for park food. As the park is free parking and admission, it's not absurd to just drive to the park to eat lunch. We'd figured to eat here anyway; this was a good moment for it. MWS stopped at one of the stands offering some barbecue-based lunch. bunny_hugger got some pasta dish, I think, and regretted not getting the burritos or vice-versa. I got a hoagie from the Dexter's Deli stand.

Dexter Raccoon is one of the two sidekick mascots the park's picked up this decade, accompanying Kozmo Chipmunk. They even have a charming little book in the gift store, expansion of a story that used to be on their web site, about how Kozmo discovered the injured and lost Dexter after the 2011 Flood and found a place where he could be. The story's so odd that I wonder if they did find an injured young raccoon after that flood. Why, if they were just making up characters, not just make him female and get, you know, a girl mascot? ... And by the way, they got a girl mascot the past year or two, a fox whose name I could not remember. It's Piper. Kozmo and Dexter wear their names on their shirts. Piper doesn't get such consideration. They also have a mascot for their Halloween event, Hall-o-Fun. This is a ghost with a jack-o-lantern head, and that character's named Creeper. ... Anyway, no, I didn't go to Dexter's Deli out of an interest in raccoon solidarity. I figured a hoagie would be a good lunch and was right for me.

After lunch we got back to the serious roller coaster riding, resuming with Twister. This is another Knoebels moment, the (mirror-image) reconstruction of Mister Twister, from the Old Elitch Gardens amusement park in Denver, closed in 1994. Think of the attitude of a park that serves the Wilkes-Barre population basin, reconstructing a beloved roller coaster from Denver. Twister opened in 1999, a fact we didn't think of until seeing the 'Fabulous & 20' birthday banner hanging from the launch station. There wasn't any line, either. bunny_hugger and MWS took the front seat and I went in the second row, thinking belatedly, I should have tried the back seat.

We were circumnavigating most of the park. We went past one of the many creeks, this one with swans worth looking over. And past the Crystal Pool, the great swimming pool which opened in 1926, and is probably why Knoebels is anything rather than just a campground area today. This was certainly drawing in a lot of the crowd and keeping them from the line ahead of us.

To the front. One of the food stands is The Loaf, and it's basically your corrugated-steel building except that the roof and sides are shaped and cladded to look like a great loaf of bread. I mention this because we spent time trying to work out whether the name 'LOAF' on it was rendered in fast-twinkling light bulbs or whether it was just reflectorized discs swaying in the sun. It took us a long while to come to consensus and even then we weren't perfectly sure until sunset, which proved it was reflectors.

We got to the front of the park for Impulse. This is Knoebels's newest roller coaster, their major steel one. And it's ... you know, it's not a bad roller coaster. It just lacks that odd quirkiness that seems distinctly Knoebels. It's a vertical-lift ride very like Hydrus at Casino Pier, or Untamed at Canobie Lake Park, or Tantrum at Darien Lake. Not the same model as these, but the similar kind of ride, with the great lift directly into the sun and then a great many twists and turns and loops over a tight footprint. It's a brand-new ride, the kind of thing you could just go to the manufacturer (Zierer, Josef-Wallner-Straße 5 Deggendorf, Bavaria) and buy. It doesn't have lore, which is its only flaw, and that only a flaw for something at Knoebels where we want everything to need a docent. My ride photo came out looking pretty good. bunny_hugger's face was hidden behind someone's hand. We didn't buy one.

Our next ride was Kozmo's Kurves, which is their kiddie coaster that they allow grown-ups on. It's a little thing, with one real loop and a ride cycle of three circuits on the train. It replaced the loved High Speed Thrill Coaster, which had served this role for 53 years. Kozmo's Kurves runs over the canal for a boat ride, and we saw a good number of boats going past that. And though a small ride it can still surprise people with its intensity and ability to bash knees in. We saw by one of the support legs an adult's baseball cap, lost for the rest of the day. Also the high-water mark for the 2011 flood.

Did I mention it was hot? It was hot. We stopped for some frozen lemonade and while drinking that saw Kozmo, the mascot in suit, being driven somewhere. He wasn't near us; he was just strapped in to the back of a golf cart-like scooter. We don't know if that was just to get him across the park to a scheduled show or whether when it's in the mid-90s and sunny they have the mascots do as little standing and walking as possible. We wouldn't see Dexter or Piper or Creeper.

One thing we knew about Knoebels and looked forward to was pinball. In the main arcade they had the Stern Star Wars, Game Of Thrones, a Theater of Magic that might well be the one we'd played our last visit, and the remake of Monster Bash; in a bar/secondary arcade they had a Twilight Zone. MWS noticed the Game of Thrones still had the default scores on its high score table, so suggested playing that. Now, Game of Thrones, the pinball, has been out a couple years. But it had just about two weeks before gotten a major new code update, one that completely changed the strategies and made the game as fresh and exciting as when it was new. Knoebels had the new code. So consider that: they don't just have pinball. They don't just keep their pinball in good shape. They were right on top of software patches that, objectively speaking, they could install at their leisure. When we got to Pinburgh I would play a Game of Thrones that pointedly did not have the new code installed. That's the kind of attention to even the boring little maintenance stuff that Knoebels will offer.

Would you call it a good omen for Pinburgh, the biggest pinball tournament in the world, starting in two days from this, that on his first game on this table in a location he'd never visited before, MWS became the grand champion, winning a bunch of credits? How about that on her second game, bunny_hugger became the grand champion? Or that on his third game, MWS became grand champion again? Would you call it a bad omen that my first game was ... pretty good, but nothing spectacular, nor high-score-table-worthy, and every game after that worse than my start? Well, who believes in omens anyway? By the end of the day the high score table was entirely bunny_hugger and MWS (more MWS than she) and the two dollars we'd put in to start had turned into very many games, with a bunch left to onlookers to play.

We did check in on the other pinball location, and played a ball-rolling game some, with just a short pause while one of bunny_hugger's balls somehow leapt above the plastic cover. We still have no idea how that happened. Didn't play Twilight Zone, though. We didn't think we should spend the whole day playing games that, after all, we could play back home too.

Beside the main arcade is the Grand Carousel, one of the park's centerpiece rides and the one that still has the Brass Ring game. MWS agreed that it was foolish to hurry past that in the rush for the last roller coaster at the park. Also he didn't know what we were talking about with the Brass Ring Game. I know that actually grabbing for the brass ring has almost vanished from amusement parks. People blame insurance companies. I suspect insurance companies are a convenient minor villain; the brass ring, after all, demands another ride operator and a steady expense in replacing lost rings, and with most parks having gone to pay-one-price models the expense hardly makes sense. But I thought the game, the thing being referenced in talk about grabbing for the brass ring, was still current.

So the ring game, as we explained to MWS. During the ride a wooden mechanical arm will reach out and dangle rings just within arm's reach of the riders of the outer row of horses, the ones that don't rise and fall. You get one chance every rotation of the machine to grab a ring. Grab the one brass ring and you win a free ride. Grab one of the many steel rings and you get a steel ring to return at the end of the ride. Knoebels, which still offers rides a la carte, gives you the $1.75 in tickets that a new ride would cost. MWS took to this game right away, and his first ride got, I think, eight of the ten rings he possibly could have. I started out great, collecting rings up until the next-to-the-last go-round. bunny_hugger had a similarly great record. None of us got the brass ring, nor would we all day. Which was a small disappointment. In each of our past visits bunny_hugger had gotten the brass ring at least once. This time around she only got one from the souvenir Carousel Shop.

The Grand Carousel still has the sign out front, beside one of its four, count 'em, four band organs, which says it used to be at a park in Rahway, New Jersey. At the legitimately interesting museum within Carousel Shop, they have the bill of sale, from Riverside Park in Piscataway, New Jersey, a completely different central Jersey city. I have no explanation for this phenomenon.

But on to the last of the roller coasters, if you call it one. The Roller Coaster Database changed its mind and a couple years ago started listing it as one. This is the Black Diamond, a dark ride, the car puttering around a mining-theme ride. It goes through several levels, past daft coal miners and an explosion down into a surreal netherworld and the collapsed remains of Centralia, the famously abandoned town that's near enough to Knoebels. The abundant scenery, some of it animated with the train's movement, makes it feel more like a haunted-house ride. But if you just looked at the track you'd agree this is a roller coaster, even if it's not a very big or fast one. The ride used to be in Wildwood, where it was a gold-mine-themed area, since somehow every amusement park can do Old West stuff. At Knoebels it's been localized. bunny_hugger and I love it. MWS seemed to find it okay, possibly because it hasn't got a patch on the sorts of dark rides of a Disney park. He was cool to riding it again later on, but acquiesced, and said that he enjoyed it a good bit more the second time around, maybe now that he knew what kind of ride to expect.

It was about 4 pm now, and we had been at the park just over five hours, and we had gotten to all the roller coasters plus one of the two carousels. We had something like six hours left in the day, with all that any of us hoped to do yet being to ride the other, Stein-and-Goldstein, carousel; to play Fascination; to get some birch beer soda pop; and maybe pierogies or a sundae or something. Not that the only point to an amusement park is checking off objectives, but when you do have a place you can't get to often --- for MWS, possibly not get to again at all --- having the highest-priority things done is this great relief. You don't need to worry any longer that you're using your time badly. You can just let things happen.

Trivia: In 1269 England's King Henry III gave to Queen Eleanor the sole custody of London Bridge, for her personal use. Source: Old London Bridge: The Story of the Longest Inhabited Bridge in Europe, Patricia Pierce.

Currently Reading: Greater Gotham: A History of New York City from 1898 to 1919, Mike Wallace.

PS: Reading the Comics, August 16, 2019: The Comments Drive Me Crazy Edition, mostly about the Gregorian calendar, which is extremely me.


PPS: More of the playground area within the Bosque Tlalpan.

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And here's an actual hopscotch board (and the long chain is there in the background still) along with ... uh ... a touch-tone dial? (No.) I don't know what kids do anymore, sorry.


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The retaining wall and path into the playground area, as seen from below.


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And, oh, now, what's this? (Look dead-center. You can't possibly make it out but trust me.)