Idlewild is smaller and less deeply weird than Kennywood, so even though it's an hour from Red Roof's successor hotel, we felt comfortable sleeping in a bit later, much-needed rest. There were no crises going on at work that anyone felt the need to involve me in, and a scare in which our pet rabbit had been not eating his pellets and barely interested in his fresh vegetables --- which can be the first sign of serious trouble with a rabbit, or just gas --- had passed and he was eating enthusiastically again and complaining how he's never been fed ever. And for a wonder we didn't even have trouble finding the place; it's nearly a straight shot on the Lincoln Highway out of Pittsburgh to the east.
We bought tickets using the buy-one-get-one-free coupon. Idlewild hasn't got a real gate; they just give you wristbands to ride stuff. One of the first things we saw was the Spider or Octopus ride (I'm not sure which it was), down for renovations: all the arms and cars were off and all that remained was the central post and the sphere that rotates to send the cars rising and falling. It was a moment to inspire saying, ``Aw, I wanted to ride the Lunik 24!''
But important things were working, and rather well. The antique carousel, one of the last ones made by the Philadelphia Toboggan Company (it kind of shows: they have multiples of the ``lead horses'', the most finely decorated horses on the carousel, representing PTC burning off its overstock of more lead horses than they had carousel orders for), was in good order and, better, its Artizan Style D band organ was working. It hadn't been last time we visited, but we heard a rumor they'd gotten a band organ to work. It's better than that, though: the other band organ, a Wurlitzer Caliola, was also working again after years and they were alternating between the two instruments. (The Calioli is much more calliope-like, without the drums, and has a more ethereal sound.) Considering how often parks will just play one CD of carousel music, and it's usually the same CD with upwards of fourteen tracks of ``American Patrol'' and ``How're You Gonna Keep 'Em Down On The Farm'', to have actual and diverse and not-quite-identifiable songs playing was great.
Near to the carousel is Rollo Coaster, built in 1938 and while a small ride also a fun one. It's close to the ground and overgrown by trees and manually operated in all its stages --- there's even a buzzer to warn the brakeman that the train is coming around --- and no seat belts or even restraints to drop down, just a bar to grab on in case you feel like you might be pitched out of the car. While we were waiting a kid ahead of us asked ``Why is it called Rollo Coaster?'', which nobody was willing to answer, though bunny_hugger said sotto voce to me, ``It's its name. Why are you called Madison?''
I'd noticed the Wild Mouse was rolling again; it had drizzled a bit earlier in the day and the ride has to shut down for some time after rain. Remembering our success with the Exterminator I suggested we see what the line was like, and it wasn't too bad, although since they were running only two of the tree trains it wasn't as good as it could have been. Still, we were right to get on the ride early: people kept drizzling into the line behind us and there wasn't any sign of that letting up.
This wild mouse had operated at Alton Towers (as ``Alton Mouse''), briefly, but unfortunately it was there after the publication of that guide to Alton Towers that I found at the Michigan State University library. I'd have loved to know how they described it.
bunny_hugger was delighted by an alternating process in the kids getting into cars, though. The ride operator and signs warn that you should keep your hands on the grab bar because of sudden stops. One group of kids would ignore this and get thrown violently forward at a stop that's just before the lift hill. The next group of kids, learning from this experience, would hold on tight and not be pitched forward. The group after that, having seen the previous kids have no problem at that stop, would ignore the instruction and go flinging forward at the stop.
The wild mouse twists to the side on the lift hill, just a little bit, but by design to allow for a rotating barrel to wrap around the lift hill and add some more disorientation to the experience. There's no barrel at Idlewild, though, and apparently there's very little evidence that there was ever a barrel at Alton Towers or at its original installation at the Wiener Prater (where it was ``Speedy Gonzales'') in Vienna. We tried to figure out if the track's current layout would even make a barrel possible, while someone behind us in line pointed out the tilt and declared that was the scariest thing she'd ever seen.
By now we were pretty well starved, and went for lunch at the Boardwalk Pizza, which is at the border between the park-park and the Soak Zone water park, where we had pizza and salads out of a sense that we should eat something kind of healthy-ish while we were on our tour. We also poked around the gift shop, which has a growing number of items featuring Duke, the dragon from Dutch Wonderland, which has been a sister park to Kennywood and Idlewild for a couple of years, although the t-shirts seem to suggest they think he's some kind of dinosaur, which, just, no.
The biggest unique attractions at Idlewild are the Story Book Forest and the Mister Rogers' Neighborhood ride. We'd been to both last year as part of the Rain Check Trip, although we can't go back to Mister Rogers' Neighborhood: the park is renovating it into a Daniel Tiger's Neighborhood ride, and it's in the middle of being worked on right now. But we could still go to the Story Book Forest, and walked over to it. Along the way we passed some of the picnic areas where the stuff from some family's picnic was sprawled out on a table and a squirrel was prowling around beneath, apparently trying to figure just what were the highest-priority items.
Trivia: At the Battle of Monmouth (28 June 1778), the British lost 358 soldiers killed and wounded, and the Americans 356. More than sixty on each side died of heat stroke. Source: The First American Army, Bruce Chadwick.
Currently Reading: Giant Brains or Machines That Think, Edmund C Berkeley. No, no, it really is quite interesting.
PS: Reading the Comics, June 27, 2014: Pretty Easy Edition, as there were a bunch of mathematics comics this week, but not about very deep topics.