austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Rising up to the challenge of our rival

Nevertheless we were really there more for the rides than the beauty, and they have got some beauties of rides. They hadn't any new rides from the previous year, admittedly, but we had more chances to go on them, and to try things we'd passed up for lack of time in 2013. The least notable of them, and the one with longest lines, was the Steel Dragon, a spinning coaster. It tends to attract lines because it's clearly a roller coaster, but it's not so big as to be terrifying, and since only four people can go in a car at once it has relatively low capacity.

The Steel Dragon sends up parties in groups of four, two facing forward and two facing backward, and after the first big drop and hill the car's allowed to spin freely so that the rides are never quite the same time after time. I'd keep trying to get a ride facing backward as the ride starts --- you just so rarely see down the lift hill --- but those are the choice seats and people would run to them first. Nevertheless, it's hard to figure a park which wouldn't be improved by adding one like this.

The big and most notable would be the Ravine Flyer II, named for the Ravine Flyer roller coaster of the 1930s. The notable feature (shared by the long-gone and the newly-present roller coasters) is that it leaps across the four-lane highway adjacent to the park for a quick bit of spiralling around. It's just fun to go across the road that way. It's also fun to be on the highway and see a roller coaster leaping above you. (There's also a kiddie version, the Ravine Flyer 3, which for complicated reasons was built before Ravine Flyer II; it hasn't got any roads to leap over but it does cross the entry queue for a cute imitation of its namesake/s.)

The original Ravine Flyer was in about the same position as II, but was torn down after a man's death (he fell out of the car and onto the highway), but a part of it remains. The original ride station survives as one of the picnic pavilions, and after a couple of roller coaster rides we walked around the pavilion trying to work out out just where the roller coaster might have been. It's hard to figure exactly, really: as best we can figure the likely track width and space needed for brakes and other mechanisms it seems like there's way too much space there. Possibly they had much of the ride queue underneath the cover too. We tried to imagine, from knowing where the station was, and that it had to cross the highway, what Ravine Flyer I might have looked like, but kept falling short. I've only found a few little glimpses of the original coaster, which don't give much to go on, but then, what's imagination for?

Other notable historically important rides include The Whacky Shack, one of the last and best-preserved Bill Tracey dark rides. The link there provides a lot of great pictures, showing in brighter and clearer light than usual what you get by riding on it. Waldameer spent much of the off-season between 2013 and 2014 focusing on repairing and restoring attractions, and the Whacky Shack's one of the beneficiaries. It's still got playing, in the entrance queue, an endlessly repeating loop warning that some disembodied spirit may just take off your arm if you go messing with the props.

The park's also got a really good Pirates Cove walkthrough, again a Bill Tracey attraction, and that too seemed to have more stuff just working this year than last. We were pressed a little during our walkthrough as packs of kids were running through, trying to get ahead of us, and we couldn't figure what the point was besides some kid-induced desire to get through as much as they possibly could at once. We lingered more than usual, including walking all the way through a maze that there's a bypass for.

The unusual-for-us ride to go on was the Thunder River, a log flume attraction. bunny_hugger had sworn them off last year after several unhappy soakings, but in the temporary sunlit heat of the day at Idlewild we took one and that went well, and that Saturday was, after its rough start, looking similarly hot and sunny. Thunder River's quite nicely designed, with a pair of canals winding through the Waldameer beauty, and a pair of lifts and drops that didn't soak us more than we were ready to take.

The horrible mistake we took was the Sky Ride. As with many parks they had a suspended cable car system and we thought it'd be a decent way to get from near the north to the far south end of the park. Getting on the ride gave us a number of fine aerial views of the park, at least so far as they can be seen through the heavy tree cover. The Comet roller coaster particularly looks really beautiful from above, almost like an ornate cylindrical cake. We also spotted a couple of roofs onto which apparently there's a tradition of throwing hair scrunchies and rubber bands and coins. This helped feed my thoughts of something Roller Coaster Tycoon 4 should have, but won't. In about long enough for bunny_hugger to have had enough time spent suspended by cable car far above we seemed to be getting near the south end of the park and then to realize the mistake.

See, we'd assumed there were two stations for the sky car ride. There's not; the ride just takes you out over the park and brings you back, which is fine if you haven't got a fear of heights and if you don't want to sit rather than walk the length of the car ride. bunny_hugger's not so fortunate regarding heights and was not happy to see all the terrain we'd just hovered over flowing back beneath us, especially as at least one car had idiot kids rocking so as to shake themselves and, we could feel, ourselves too.

Absolutely none of this should be taken as a mark against the park. I don't think there's anything we might seriously hold against it past that it wasn't open late enough in the evening for us. And we got, while waiting for a front-seat ride in Ravine Flyer II, to see they had posted an ``Operator Message for Train Breakdown'', taped up as if they figure to need it often. (You could probably have written it yourself, without any help. It reads: ``Ladies and Gentleman [sic], we are experiencing technical difficulty [sic]. Our Maintenance Staff is working to correct the issue. Thank you for your patience.'')

Our last ride of the day would be through the Whacky Shack, and I think we were even the last car to go through. The ride operator checked his watch to see if it wasn't just too late. Sadly it wasn't even sunset yet, though the twilight glow was settling in. We wandered around the park a little more, admiring it and taking scenic photographs and the like, and letting the parking lot crowd empty out, before returning to our hotel (and then heading out again, I think to Subway, for dinner).

Trivia: The cost of home delivery of groceries in 1923 averaged 1.2 percent of a store's total sales, an amount about equal to half a typical store's profits. Source: The Great A&P and the Struggle For Small Business In America, Marc Levinson.

Currently Reading: A Call To Arms: Mobilizing America For World War II, Maury Klein.

Tags: amusement parks, waldameer, west pennsylvania parks tour

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