austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

At first you'll be a chicken at the jackhammer ride

[ Sorry to be late; things kept me occupied. ]

Another roller coaster at Idlewild Park is the Wild Mouse, and it's got an intriguing history: it started life as Speeedy [sic] Gonzales in the Wiener Prater amusement park in Vienna, and was moved to the famous Alton Towers amusement park in England, before finding its way to Idlewild in a story that I'd sure like to know. It's an unusually long wild mouse, compared to the more modern versions. It also ascends the lift hill on an angle, the left side of the car lower than the right, to match a barrel feature that sadly didn't make it to Idlewild. It does make for a novel ascent anyway.

At least it did when we finally got there. Wild mouse roller coasters, bunny_hugger has observed, tend to have the worst lines, probably a combination of their non-scary appearances making it inviting to lots of people and the cars being low-capacity. We got on a line that moved sluggishly, and went on forever, so we spent nearly an hour --- half our time in the park --- just waiting to get to the front of the ride. It was a ride queue of adventure and drama, though, in part because the people ahead of us were a perfect example of the kind of parkgoers who drive bunny_hugger crazy. They were getting to me too. Loud, primarily, and squirmy, with --- most obnoxiously of all --- a kid who couldn't wait to go to the bathroom. To be fair, the line was going to take about forever to get to the front from where we were. But the kid, with designated guardian, left the line, and was allowed by the nearly hour's worth of people to cut right back into line.

At the ride station, a father and his kid (we assume) needed a pair to fill out the car --- the wild mouse seats four and they really don't like sending out partly-full cars, probably because too light a car risks grinding to a halt; more mass helps roller coasters keep going --- and the annoying group ahead of us was four people, so, we were called forward to fill out the group. This would have felt like blessed salvation except that the kid turned out to be too short for the ride. And not just a little short but not even close. I wanted to feel bad for them, but what idiot doesn't check the kid's height at the bar out front, before the line queue, especially when there's a huge wait? Have they ever seen a ride operator let a kid on anyway?

So they sent us back behind the annoying group, who got on the line, and then as we readied for our ride … something happened. I'm not sure what. But the ride got closed for a while, and we waited, and waited, and waited until a maintenance guy came out and unlocked something or other, and they ran a couple of test runs with spare ride operators in the seats. Finally, finally they reopened the ride, and we sat in the front seat and learned that the warnings to keep your hands on the safety bars were not jokes. The wild mouse there has brakes which are capable of stopping the car in minus two seconds, so that every time they grasp you're flung four feet forward and jackknifed across your belly button. This was rather sharper than we expected.

It's a really good wild mouse, though, faster and with sharper turns, and taller and longer than any other I can think of. I'm not sure it's worth a 45-minute wait, especially when it ate up so much of our precious park-visiting time, but between this and Rollo Coaster, Idlewild Park is a sweet, delightful spot and if I lived near Ligonier, Pennsylvania, I'd probably visit regularly.

We went from the wild mouse back to Rollo Coaster (for my aforementioned ride that started before I quite sat down) and back to the carousel. The carousel is an antique, and bunny_hugger was delighted to ride the lead horse, the one with the Philadelphia Toboggan Company shield, until she realized there was another horse with a shield on it. (The lead horse, in practice, is whatever the ride operators consider the front, and where they'd start collecting tickets from, when they took tickets during the ride. It's an operational convenience, but the lead horse is often marked by being the most attractive or distinctive in some way.) The carousel operator pointed out there's another one too, and the informational sign indicated why: this was among the last carousels that Philadelphia Toboggan Company made, at a time when they had more lead horses carved than they had carousels on order, so they started putting multiple ``lead'' horses on each ride.

To our disappointment, while Idlewild Park has two antique band organs, neither was working, and the carousel was just playing the same CD of classic carousel music that every park that isn't willing to make the effort to fix its band organs plays. We would learn the next day that no amusement park anywhere has any excuse for not fixing their band organs, especially not Idlewild, which is owned by the same company that manages Kennywood.

But that said, the park was closing. Unlike Kennywood they don't just turn off all the lights and shoo people out --- the carousel operator even let us back in and turned the lights back on to take a couple close-up photographs of the mounts after everything was done, and seemed cheery that there were carousel enthusiasts looking it over --- but they also didn't just let us keep lingering around forever either. But on the way out there was a stage with a performance, a medley of movie songs, which was going and kept going for something like twenty minutes after the official closing hour. We watched that, and were glad for it.

Back we went to the hotel, a Knight's Inn which wonderfully kept its 70s scheme of Tudor I Guess decor (except for putting a very 80s swirling-look comforter on the bed), which just delighted us. We went for food nearby; I believe we ended up at a Denny's after our investigation of an adjacent Quaker Steak restaurant established that (1) it's a restaurant festooned with 50s Cars For Guys Who Like Pretending They Fiddle With 50s Cars, (2) everything on it is bacon-stuffed and wrapped in another layer of bacon, and (3) I'm not male enough to set foot in one.

After five straight days of park-going, and six days of travel, we were tired, sure, and bunny_hugger looked up trip reports of other people who'd been to our last-planned park, Waldameer --- the one that would have kicked off our tour if it had been open Mondays --- to see just how long it really takes to do the park right. We might be able to sleep in a little bit longer.

bunny_hugger discovered that while Waldameer maybe didn't need a full day, it was surprisingly nearby another park, Conneaut Lake Park, which has been fluttering between closed and open for a decade-plus now, and that Conneaut Lake Park was open. And it had a 75-year-old wooden roller coaster, the Blue Streak, recognized by the American Coaster Enthusiasts as a ``Coaster Classic''. She'd known vaguely of the park, and the roller coaster, but hadn't any idea where it was, and just remembered it gets reported closed a lot. We'd have to forego sleeping in late, but, the chance to add another park, and one that's hard to get to? And to ride a 75-year-old wooden roller coaster? Yes, we could do that.

This would prove to be the most astonishing, incredible visit we'd pay to an amusement park all summer.

Trivia: Cypriot nobles in the 14th century hunted with, among other animals, cheetahs (papions) imported from India. Source: The Riddle And The Knight: In Search Of Sir John Mandeville, Giles Milton.

Currently Reading: Easy To Remember: The Great American Songwriters and their Songs William Zinsser. For the most part it resists being Cranky Old Guy Complaining About The Music Of Today, though some of that creeps in in the final chapters as it describes the change when Rock and Roll came in. I can't argue that there wasn't a breaking of tradition, though it seems to me (some) 50-year-old rock songs are remembered as soundly and as well by contemporary audiences as, say, a 1950 crowd remembered the tunes of 1900.

PS: Reading the Comics, September 11, 2013, for a roundup of mathematics in the comic pages.

Tags: pennsylvania parks trip
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