austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

And do amusement parks USA.

The Black Diamond, I'd mentioned, was the ride relocated from Wildwood, where it'd been a dark ride for one of the less popular piers. Knoebels bought it and moved it, and re-themed it from a wild west/gold mine to an eastern Pennsylvania/coal mine theme and the ride works very nicely here. It's longer than we expected it to be, and faster --- there's a solid roller coaster in there and I don't feel awkward that lists like the Roller Coaster Database or the Coaster Count page I started using credit it for roller-coaster-ness. There's a fine set of props and stunts, and we were delighted that they had a section themed to Centralia, which we'd been discussing before.

Wandering outside we ran into the eagle enclosure. Knoebels keeps a couple bald eagles because, well, sure, why not? But that was a stopover on the way to the Brass Ring, billed as a carousel museum. We figured it was a gift shop, and it was, in part. But it was also a legitimate carousel museum, with dozens of figures, some of them from unusual carvers or eras or of oddball animals, including things like a Dentzel Pig that had last been ridden at Jenkinson's Playland Pavilion in Point Pleasant Beach --- we'd been around there not a month earlier --- or a ``primitive'' standing lion, dating to sometime in the 1870s, carver and history unknown. And there it was, for us to appreciate.

We went through the Haunted Mansion dark ride, this one more like the lost Stillwalk Manor from Casino Pier than like the Black Diamond, and again, just outstanding; dark ride enthusiasts keep giving it top rankings. That fed us out to the carousel bunny_hugger didn't realize was there. It's the kiddie carousel, by Knoebels standards, a Stein and Goldstein carousel from 1912 --- a year older than the Grand Carousel --- and decorated with sideboards featuring paintings of various area towns or counties. It's a smaller carousel than the Grand one, and hasn't got a brass ring dispenser. Stein and Goldstein are the carvers who created New York City's Central Park Carousel, but as you might expect Knoebels has a better setting for the ride.

Beside this is a little wooded area that's labelled ``Squirrel Park at Knoebels'', because of course there's one. We did not see actual specific squirrels, but there were wood sculptures of them, and there were an array of seed sticks arrayed for, we presume, the pleasure of the squirrel community.

Knoebels has a Flying Scooters ride, something we had thought a rare ride experience when we first got to one at Hershey Park. Since then they've been added to Michigan's Adventure, and there's to be some put in to Cedar Point next season. Apparently the companies making these rides have finally found the price point to make every park ever have to have them. I did my best to recreate a feat from the Michigan's Adventure ride, where I somehow got my car going backwards momentarily; I couldn't swing it, but did manage to leave bunny_hugger just nauseated enough that we sat for a while to recuperate. We fully recuperated with rides back on the Grand Carousel --- where I got to ride the outer rim, and got a half-dozen steel and zero brass rings --- and on the Phoenix roller coaster.

We also got a ride on 1001 Nacht, a ``flying carpet'' type ride which is kind of like a swinging ship, although the seats keep at a reasonably steady level and the ride goes through several full loops. I've always been fond of swinging ship type rides and this was a great one, not least because the elevation above the tree line gave us a view of the park at altitude.

A long line attracted us, for a ride of a kind we hadn't noticed before. It's called the Looper. It's a flat ride, set on a circular base, and here, people sit in cars that are themselves circular. They get held in by padded restraints, because as the main axis spins around, the riders can, by swinging themselves forward and back, cause their cars to spin vertically. If you get really good at spinning, the car will roll all the way over, tumbling end over end. We thought long and hard about whether we wanted to ride such a crazy thing. They had an informational video explaining the ride and its operations and some of its history playing at the queue. It turns out this is the last known example of the Looper still operating. How could we resist a unique ride like that?

Well, easily, if you're not sure how steady your stomach is. We resolved to just rock a tiny bit unless we both felt comfortable on the ride; we did, and we rocked a little more and more until we did start tumbling over. This feels great, like you're really getting away with something extraordinary. There are relatively few amusement park rides where you're an active participant in the exact ride --- flying scooters and bumper cars are the most prominent exceptions among grown-up rides --- but ones where you control whether you go upside-down? Have you ever heard of that before? Rolling over didn't just feel great, it felt transgressive. We managed to get going to the point we spun four times in a row, at one point, and I never figured out how the brake worked, or if it did.

We went for night rides at the roller coasters, Phoenix showing itself off well with its chaser lights and glowing atomic-symbol cap. And we ran over to Twister, hoping to get a last ride in before the park's closing hour. We did this well, and dashed back into line to get another ride. A group of teens, similarly, did the race-through-the-queues to ride again. At one point, after the 10:00 official close of the park, the kids asked, ``How many more turns are you going to give us?'' The ride operator said, ``For them,'' pointing to us, ``Four. For you, because you asked, none,'' and everybody laughed. We got maybe fifteen minutes of riding time after the official park close, before the attendants finally said they had to close up for the night, and we understood, and thanked them, and wandered out in a merry haze thinking of how much nicer Knoebels was to us than Kennywood, that time. Well, and we stopped in a gift shop where we couldn't find quite the right T-shirt (there were some on the discount racks which had the right pattern but the wrong size for bunny_hugger) until we realized they were desperately waiting for us to leave so they could close up. Oops.

We got dinner at the Turkey Hill convenience store/gas station, since we missed the chance to have dinner in the park, and supposed that finding an open restaurant in Elysburg, Pennsylvania, was a bit ridiculous. It tasted fantastic, the way a humble dinner after an outstanding park will.

Trivia: Christopher Latham Sholes's first prototype typewriter, finished in July 1867, had one key, a telegraph key, which would produce the letter W. Source: The Wonderful Writing Machine, Bruce Bliven Jr.

Currently Reading: Naming Infinity: A True Story Of Religious Mysticism and Mathematical Creativity, Loren Graham, Jean-Michel Kantor.

Tags: knoebels, pennsylvania parks trip

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