It was a snake.
But you can understand our mistake. So we got something to drink and entered ZooAmerica (which required getting a hand stamp, for reasons obscure to me to start; while Hersheypark admission includes ZooAmerica admission, the reverse is not so). bunny_hugger thought the zoo might make a nice break mid-day, and I agreed; it was a pleasantly calming interlude that made the park feel like someplace we'd visited twice during the day, too.
The biggest indoor attraction, besides some photographs showing what the indoor area looked like decades ago (mostly the same, except what's now a planter with a tree was a fence-enclosed turtle exhibit) is for animals of the southwestern desert, mostly lizards and snakes and animals of that kind, many of which prefer the night. As a result much of the building is in darkness. It can be hard finding a snake or a bat in the best of cases, but turn the light far down and you have a real challenge. For some animals, anyway; the swift fox was alert and jumpy, running around the enclosure like a swift fox in a 1940s Warner Brothers travelogue cartoon talking about how fast swift foxes are.
And then, at the end of the hall, just before the door, were the coatis.
They have to be new. There's no chance bunny_hugger would have overlooked them last time she visited. And while they fit an `animals of the southwest'' theme as that hall has, they really aren't nocturnal animals. The explanatory label tries to assert that since coatis are really jungle animals which happen to have moved into the desert they take to nocturnal habits in this environment, but coatis on display apparently hadn't heard they're not supposed to be day-active. Both were rolled up for sleep.
Mostly, anyway. The one nearer the glass partition unfurled himself and stretched out, slowly curling his tail up, to trot around a bit and steal the attention of several packs of kids. He'd curl back up and return to sleep, no matter what the label said, but not without drawing a healthy interest from family groups trying to figure out what they were looking at.
Here another curious phenomenon emerges: many people read the label. There were a good number of mispronunciations of ``coati'', understandably since most people haven't encountered the word before and don't know how to read Tupi words transcribed. But the kids were more likely to get it right, three syllables with a short ``a'' in the center, than adults were. Random chance or did the kids pick it up from the occasional appearance on Zoboomafoo?
After that serendipitous moment it wouldn't really have mattered if there were anything else in the zoo, but it went on providing a pleasant array of other creatures. They don't have the big cats that are zoo staples --- topping out at ocelots and cougars --- but for my money a good prairie dog town is the better attraction anyway. They do stuff. And the enclosure of that is pleasantly large and open-air, so the tribe was engagingly busy in its prairie dog-ness. It did inspire in us questions about how far down the exhibit walls go, and if they need a buried floor to keep the dogs from digging their way out, and if there is such a floor how far down it is. Or are prairie dogs naturally self-limited in depth?
Finding the answer to this sort of question would require trying, so we didn't. But we did overhear just enough of another animal demonstration, this one of skunks, that bunny_hugger noticed the zoo spreading disinformation. (Specifically, the animal demonstration script hadn't yet got the news about skunks not being part of the weasel family anymore.)
And so the zoo served as a beautifully spaced interlude between halves of the day at Hersheypark, with one better than we had hoped.
We returned to the park proper with plans to catch the roller coasters we had missed, although we did choose to give one a pass after all: this was the ``Sidewinder'', which rolls back and forth along a pair of hills with some loops in the middle, which bunny_hugger found more unsettling when she rode it. But we did take in a log flume, the Coal Cracker, which has the rotating turntable base for loading and unloading that I think of as the natural way into a log flume, and which didn't soak us despite it all.
The oldest coaster in the park, and now the oldest that I've ridden, is the Comet, a wooden coaster that dates to 1946 (with renovation in 1978) if Wikipedia is to be believed. After the charming and surprising wooden coasters earlier in the day, this was ... actually, a little disappointing. But it's of its era, a classical ``double out and back'' in which the cars go ... well, out, drop, rise, come back, go out again, rise, drop, and there's some bunny hills to fill out the ride. It's fine enough but unexceptional. I noticed one of the trains was labelled ``Mork'' and naturally wondered about the other; again if Wikipedia is to be believed it's actually ``Mork's Comet'', with the other ``Halley's Comet''.
Not so old but pleasantly old-fashioned is the SuperDooperLooper, which dates to the late 70s and shows it in the typefaces on the ride and on the retro-style T-shirts. It also dates to the days when a single loop was enough to make a roller coaster daring, but it's a nice one. And waiting in line we got to talking with a woman who'd ridden it as a child and was introducing her (I assume) children to it.
This all brought us back to the carousel, or Carrousel as they prefer, for our traditional ride on this, and we managed to ride it successfully even though we weren't sure where to find the entrance. Fortunately we found it by walking around until we found something that looked like a line, and that paid off. We weren't able to sit abreast, but the ride was slow enough I felt comfortable taking out my camera and getting some in-motion pictures from the ride and didn't even get yelled at by the ride attendants.
My curiosity brought us to another ride, a children's one that seems to go back a ways and I'm not sure of the correct name. It's got a set of cars hung as swings from a spinning base, with a solid metal sail on the center whose direction the rider can adjust. bunny_hugger and I together were just a bit too big to fit in one car, so we had to settle for glimpses at each other as we went spinning around. Tilting the sail different ways you can go up or down, or face convincingly outward or inward, and shift as you like. This is another of those simple but charming rides that our weekend was filled with.
The most superficially terrifying roller coaster, Fahrenheit, invoked all kinds of terror when bunny_hugger posted a picture of it in her trip report last time. The terrifying aspects of it are this: the ``lift hill'' is vertical, so you go up the hill on your back with no hint of when you're going to start falling, unless you ride up front; and the initial drop is at 97 degrees, so you're slightly upside-down as you fall. I wouldn't be surprised if I said horrified things about this when I first heard about it. The greatest actual terror of this was that we were getting very near the park's closing. We wanted to get another ride on Lightning Racer in, but here we were in line for Fahrenheit, moving up only about ten places in a long line every minute.
So after the thrill of Fahrenheit we raced across the park, at least without actually running, to find Lightning Racer again. This took us through the water park again, but now it was empty and much easier to navigate apart from it being easily twenty times as large as it was in daylight. But the Lightning Racer surprised us by having no line to speak of; we pretty nearly walked on, this time to the Lightning side and got to try the other half of the racing coaster. And what do you know but this time Lightning won. Not only had we been bumped forward in line five times but we'd won the coaster races twice.
I reminded bunny_hugger to smile as we approached the ride camera. Most, maybe all, the roller coasters have ride cameras and a follow-up amusement to each ride was looking at our faces. bunny_hugger often forgot about the cameras and so had all sorts of expressions; I pretty invariably had my eyes open and mouth wide and smiling. This way I ate a lot of bugs. But with this warning we got a shot of both of us smiling, looking pretty good, although not good enough to buy the photo.
bunny_hugger did buy the over-large Wild Mouse t-shirt, though, with plans for how it might be put to use. As we drifted back to the entrance we saw rides finally turning off their lights, and I paused to get a picture of the guy in the York Peppermint Patty mascot costume because how many times do you see people in York Peppermint Patty mascot costumes?
Where we did fail, unfortunately, was finding the restaurant bunny_hugger had eaten in before. It proved to be outside the park proper, and closed an hour before the park did. In the event if we'd gone to eat we'd probably have missed Fahrenheit and the last ride on Lightning Racer.
That did leave us the question where to eat, particularly a vegetarian-accessible meal after 10 pm on a Sunday in Hershey, Pennsylvania. We'd seen a Wendy's in a strip mall on the way in and reasoned that even though they'd be crowded from park-closing crowds they probably would be open to catch the park-closing crowds. And this proved correct: the Red Robin was in its last hour of business for the day (not that they chased us out), and we had Boca burger meals again as well as trying the fried apple pie nuggets. Our waiter told us we were the first people she'd served them to.
This brought the day to a close, happy at the time even if too soon. After the drive that felt to bunny_hugger satisfyingly short we took the hotel by surprise by wanting our bags un-checked (they had to find the check-in clerk, and find someone who had the luggage room key; in their defense, it was past midnight) and figuring when we'd need to be up. It would be early. She had her interview in just a few hours.
Trivia: According to a waitress there in the 1920s, Milton Hershey preferred eating ``simple food'' in his own restaurant at the amusement park, alone, and taking his time afterward to smoke a cigar. Source: Sweets: A History Of Temptation, Tim Richardson.
Currently Reading: Andromeda Breakthrough, Fred Hoyle, John Elliot. Based, it says, on the TV show that I never heard of, but as an early 60s BBC presentation I can kind of imagine it on black-and-white videotape with grey Britons chatting about how the whole world is being unfortunately destroyed although they'll carry on somehow. For some reason it's a planet in the Andromeda Galaxy trying to destroy Earth, when I'd think the constellation would be far-yet-near enough for a menace.