austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Day after day I get up and I say

The Sky Rocket roller coaster had a good-sized line, for the day, which passed very quickly because of our Leap-the-Dips T-shirts. A guy, in a tie-dye t-shirt, with a teenage kid similarly dressed, noticed the shirts and we actually started to talk. The guy's an amusement park enthusiast, and was mightily impressed that we had been to Lakemont just this year, and was even more impressed that we had come all the way from Lansing just to make use of our rain checks. As he noted, just what we spent on gas overwhelmed the value of the tickets. We didn't mention the hotel, and realized later that he might have thought we day-tripped from Lansing to Pittsburgh, which ... would be something else. He'd felt he had made quite a drive with his family to get there and it was just an hour or so for him.

But we talked about Pennsylvania area parks and wowed him with the Pennsylvania Parks Tour that we'd been on. We knew something really wild was going on when he started to ask about this park in northwestern Pennsylvania and yes, he was talking about Conneaut Lake Park. I don't remember whether he'd been to Knoebels but he certainly knew of it. And we compared carousels, with that --- bunny_hugger noticed, although I didn't --- the carousel talk the only time that the teenager's face changed from the impassive please-don't-call-on-me look of teenagers and actually, briefly, cracked a smile.

We would see him and his family again through the day, in passing on the queues for various rides, and verifying that they were having a great time and we were too. He also gave us a valuable tip that explained much about the park's lighter attendance: there was a Steelers game on. We had noticed, dimly, that the public address system was playing a football game but we didn't think about it because we're just not the kind of people who would skip out on an amusement park trip for a football game unless one of us specifically were playing in it.

We made some return visits to rides, such as the Noah's Ark and of course the ark rocks back and forth. It even whistles proudly at the end of each swing. I don't know how I got that confused last time around. But we also spent time studying the gorgeous settings, and props like --- next to the Cosmic Ghost (a Disk'o ride) --- a couple little aliens who are, depending on your personality, either loading or unloading crates of Excitement and Thrills into or out of their saucer. It's even got sound effects. We had to wonder how well they wear for the park staff hearing it day after day.

We both made wishes at their little wishing well, and bunny_hugger's --- that the park stay open late --- was answered remarkably promptly as the Female Voice of Kennywood said the park would, weather permitting, be open to 9:30 pm (instead of the projected 9:00). It would have been greedy to wish for it to stay open till 2:00 am. Might have failed, too. The Female Voice of Kennywood announced this first very early, something like 3:30 pm, when this was, we thought, something not announced until about 6:00. Also they have a Female Voice of Kennywood to go along with the Male Voice who actually closes the day.

We also revisited the Kangaroo, happily (especially since if I remember right it wasn't running on Saturday and the ride is the lone survivor of its kind), and the Garfield's Nightmore, a bit more resignedly (it's one of the few Old Mill rides left, but the Garfield theme doesn't really do much; we rode kind of in the hopes that the rumored re-theming was actually coming, and aware of the Taxi Apple paradox), and we did the Ghostwood Estate interactive dark ride, where we kept shooting targets at least until I noticed that the people riding in front were shooting enough that I had a bit of a better ride just being surprised by what was getting activated and shot.

And we did a lot of roller coaster riding: Thunderbolt, Jack Rabbit, and Racer. Jack Rabbit, as mentioned, we even got a couple sweet back-seat rides, including once where the nearly full car just left the choice seat for us somehow. On the Racer, too, we tried encouraging the hand-slapping across parallel trains, which encouraged us to do a lot of re-riding --- which was easy because there was almost no line most of the evening --- and to figure out where we had to sit so we'd be on the inside. It turns out, and it took me, the mathematician, irritatingly long to get this straight, that if you sit on the outside car when loading at the station, then you'll be the inside car for the rest of the ride. On at least one of these rides we got good enthusiasm for hand-slapping from the other train (though one person did actually grab hold of bunny_hugger's arm); on another, our train ended up so far ahead the entire race that there wasn't any kind of contact to be made. Too bad, but it does mean, we won.

On Thunderbolt --- one of the rides on which we re-encountered our friends --- one of the rides we got was in the next-to-the-front row. There were a couple kids in the front row and they explained they'd been riding it all day and were trying to think of new ways to make the ride thrilling after a dozen or more go-rounds. Riding with arms up? Riding with arms locked down? Riding with eyes covered? Riding like pirates (with one eye covered)? One said he'd been doing his best to lose his voice by screaming through the rides and, boy, it's fun being on a ride when there's people trying like that to have fun with you. Inspired by them I gave Thunderbolt a try riding with my eyes closed, and not only is it a weird ride to start with but with only a rough idea what's coming up next the ride is extra surprising. (One unexpected result: I could, obviously, feel when we were on the lift hill, but it doesn't feel like you're being lifted any, just, being pulled along.)

And we got yet another delight from Kennywood: the animated sign for the Turtle was running. Either they'd fixed whatever the problem had been, or maybe they just had failed to turn it on the night before. Maybe they needed a new fuse (a drama that I'll have to share sometime). But it's a gorgeous sign, turtles moving and waves rippling and bubbles bubbling. Also on the Turtle this weekend we'd had a ride with a kid who had just had her first ride on a grown-up roller coaster, the Jack Rabbit, which, wow, what a lucky kid.

For our last roller coaster ride of the night we went over to the Phantom's Revenge, relatively nearby enough and all the more amazing at night because they don't light it up. You're just soaring through the night sky. From here I got a bit of a view of the laser show, way off in the distance --- not actually that far, as Kennywood is such a land-starved park --- and bunny_hugger got a view of the Lost Kennywood fountain at night. We also here ran into our Sky Rocket friends again. They were taking rerides on the roller coaster until the rides ended for the night, and we got one reride (allowed as long as nobody else wanted the row we were in, and the people who were queued for our seat --- the back seat --- generously went to another spot so we could reride) before making our excuses. bunny_hugger explained we had sentimental business to get to before the park closed, and they understood, and I don't doubt that at all.

The business was, we wanted to be able to properly and clearly hear the Voice of Kennywood warning that the park was tucking in for the night, and we went to the Lost Kennywood fountain so we could hear him at the appointed hour, and we listened to his news and the start of the sentimental goodnight songs that follow his announcement, dancing with each other in the fountain-lit dark for one or two songs, then heading back to the carousel so we could close the night with its final ride.

We lingered as long as we could after the rides stopped, of course, and were there to see the lights turn off on Jack Rabbit and Racer and Garfield's Nightmare and everything but the Goodnight heart. I tried to leap up to touch the heart, but missed by a couple inches. We patted the Kennywood arrow on the other side of the entry tunnel and thought about when we could get back. Also that we'd spent the whole day, opening to closing, in the park uninterrupted. Felt really good.

Then we got back to the hotel and didn't know what the heck was going on.

Trivia: Rocket Rinking Toffee, a candy dating to 1910, was marketed as being for ice skaters. Source: Sweets: A History of Temptation, Tim Richardson.

Currently Reading: Enterprise, Jerry Grey. Late-70s book about the history of the space shuttle and how incredibly incredible its incredibleness was going to be. It talks a good bit about the need for more economical spacecraft, which is of course done best by fully-reusable craft as an article of faith, and every now and then it pauses to mention how liberal Senators kept popping up to spoil the fun of having any technology at all what with stuff like not believing there were going to be sixty shuttle missions in a year and that we could maybe do all right with three orbiters instead of five.

Tags: amusement parks, kennywood, rain check trip

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