austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

And I'll bet the laughing lady

It was a traffic jam, of course, caused by construction. We're used to traffic jams from construction back home, as the Michigan Department of Transportation is trying to isolate Lansing from the world by rebuilding every road in and around it at once, but we didn't know MDOT was controlling Pennsylvania. We got past that, missing the opening of the park, but also taking us through several lovely and winding roads in the hills of eastern Pennsylvania, where our satellite navigator started to freak out --- we're guessing losing signal and then reacquiring it --- and tell us what path to take every mile or so, which amounted to continuing on this road. It also took us on a lot of hills, to the point that our ears began popping. I'd forgotten that ears could pop while just driving.

But we got to the final road leading up to the park, a wonderfully narrow path through a cathedral of trees which felt like when we went to Great Adventure back in the late 70s before the road was nearly wide enough to support this and traffic just turned into a natural long train of slow-moving cars with, somewhere at the end, a parking lot. The path took us past picnic areas and some of the park's rides --- we could see the kiddie coaster and the Whip --- and then turned again taking us past some individual homes, who we deeply envied because they live across a narrow street from one of the all-time great amusement parks. Granted it must stink to have to go out to the store around opening or closing time.

The parking lot's a big sandy patch, blending off to a grass lawn, the kind you might get in overflow fairgrounds parking, although Knoebels staff was quite sharp in waving cars to exactly the right spot so as to maximize parking capacity without crowding or confusing people. This was really sharp, matching Cedar Point's for operational smoothness. We'd see a lot of that: Knoebels is a family-run park, a tiny company in the scheme of things, but their staff really, really knows how to manage crowds so stuff is done efficiently and smoothly. If we weren't already set to love the park, the way they managed a jillion cars coming in at once would have set us to love the park.

There was a crafts fair going on, too, because this is the sort of park that supports having crafts fairs going on, and the vaguely defined entrance path was bordered by tents with people in the various states of ware-hawking, from leather goods to wood sculptures to their nacho dips and on. Oh, also, people were wandering in with their dogs, because Knoebels doesn't mind if you bring your dog to the park with you. (They do mind if you don't clean up after your dog.) This wouldn't be the last dog-friendly park we visited. Within about ten minutes we'd realize it feels weird going to a park that doesn't allow dogs. But we're dog-friendly folks ourselves.

I should mention the bathrooms, at least the ones up front, because they also speak to the park's personality. These ones were done with lovely stained planks of wood, looking like you might get at a lodge or, for me, the Stokes State Forest where we went on a camping trip as a sixth grade field trip (of three whole days!). I was honestly surprised they didn't have trough-style urinals. But inside the bathroom was a sign offering a reward for helping catch people who graffitied or, worse, carved into the wood surfaces. The reward was $25. Must be said, the bathrooms were in relatively pristine condition for being this sort of vandal-bait.

There's a similar sign along a little covered bridge they have above a lovely river big enough to support ducks and geese and such. The sign even ballyhoos it as the ``newest Old Covered Bridge in the world'', pointing out where it is compared to the original Knoebels Grove Covered Bridge and the swimming hole that was the park's original nucleus. Other signs ask that people take out their graffiti impulses on the plainly disposable plywood cladding on the insides of the covered bridge. The river the bridge spans runs through the park, and occasionally over it: markers around the park, including on some buildings, record the high-water marks from the flood of 1972 (Hurricane Agnes; they were operating again in nine days), 1975, 1996, 2004 (Hurricane Ivan; they were operating again later that same day), 2006 (four days for most stuff, though they had to dig a hundred tons of mud out of the Crystal Pool), 2011 (twice); they avoided floodign while we were there.

How they manage to keep their rides operating despite these floods --- which have got to get into the machinery of their brass-ring carousel at least --- is a mystery to us. It's hard to say whether learning how they do it would spoil the magic or would make us appreciate the magic more deeply.

Our first meal there we considered having at the Alamo, a restaurant which the historical marker notes had been first built there in 1926, and then replaced with the current building in the late 1940s, and of course there's a restaurant called the Alamo at an eastern Pennsylvania amusement park. But their menu didn't look vegetarian-friendly enough, so we got fries (I believe) instead, and ate in the shade by a Knoebels sign which sure looks like it used to be the entry point for the park. It's now pretty well past a number of flat rides, suggesting that the park grew past its old borders without moving the old border, because it's really easy to imagine the park is just like that. We tossed out our trash at a rubbish bin which had a fiberglass pig's head, with a vacuum inside, much as at d'Efteling. It didn't thank us.

Trivia: George Taylor, who signed the Declaration of Independence for Philadelphia, arrived in Philadelphia as an indentured servant, shoveling coal for iron merchant Mr Savage. (After Savage died, Taylor married his widow, Anne.) Source: Signing Their Lives Away: The Fame and Misfortune of the Men Who Signed the Declaration of Independence, Denise Kiernan, Joseph D'Agnese.

Currently Reading: War With The Newts, Karel Čapek. Translated by Ewald Osers. I did not see that end coming, but it was a great one. For one of the Great Books of the 20th Century it's surprisingly spry and amiable and friendly a read.

PS: What Is Calculus I Like? I ask because I just realized I don't actually know.

Tags: knoebels, pennsylvania parks trip
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