austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,

Stalks his prey in the night

By now it was early afternoon and we were ready for lunch, which suggested eating somewhere in Erie. We were also right across the road from Waldameer, which doesn't require paying at the gate. You could just walk into the park, and, we did. While eating fries and overhearing the Swingin' Safari show again, we felt it was ridiculous to be in the park and not ride anything. So we bought a Wally Card --- a credit-card like contraption that's the only way the park takes money --- and put enough on it to take a ride on the Ravine Flyer II. That'd give us happy memories to leave Erie on.

When we got to Sandusky, Ohio, we took a detour away from the usual approach, the Causeway. Back before 1957 the only way to drive into the park was on the Chaussee, a two-lane road along a narrow spit of land to the east of the park. The Chaussee is still there, and it's at least geographically sensible to take it when you come from the east like that. We'd meant to take it last year but couldn't find it. The signs try desperately to ward you off of it. It's a neat path, though, on a tiny width of land (some of the Chaussee has actually sunk and is no longer drivable), with houses on one side and beachfront on the other, and you get a nice long time to see the park.

The park was packed as we drove in, at an hour nearing sunset. We'd tried several times to find pinball at parks this trip and come up with nothing, but Cedar Point, we knew, wouldn't disappoint us. They've had a row of a dozen games in the main arcade, a selection of 1970s electromechanicals plus for some reason two (count 'em) copies of Atari's Hercules. This was an attempt at helping pinball fight back against video games by making it really big, and it's close to twice the length and width of a normal pinball machine, played with a cue ball-sized ball. It's also achingly slow, because the table has to be very level or the ball would come screaming down at the flippers, and this causes the ball to roll very, very slowly across an enormous field. Plus the machine ate bunny_hugger's quarters and we had to have the attendant load up a credit. (On the bright side, it's got quite good art showing the various labors of Hercules. It's just a dull game.) Still, we had our pinball, and we got to see a number of people come in and play a couple games to their general delight.

Our first ride was the Blue Streak Roller Coaster, itself celebrating its 50th year and so, depending on just how you treat Kennywood's Thunderbolt, either the second- or the third-youngest wooden roller coaster we rode this trip. Cedar Point's been working on making the park better decorated lately, and the place has looked very good, including chaser lights along more of Blue Streak than I remember before.

We walked back towards Gemini, to see what's become of the old Gemini Midway which we expected to be obliterated as part of the park's renovations. It was changed in many of the ways we expected: the former Junior Gemini kiddie coaster now opens onto Camp Snoopy and is called Woodstock Express (though you enter by going underneath the roller coaster's track, always attractive to us). The Monster ride has new lights and, we think, new-painted cars, plus a new sign that's awfully attractive and that looks like it should age well. The new flying scooters and Disk'O ride are similarly well-apportioned, and the whole midway's freshly painted and covered by an overhanging mesh of lights. It's a pity that much of what bunny_hugger remembered as the Cedar Point of her youth was lost, but what's there is quite attractive and looks like it should age well.

The Gemini roller coaster was only running on one track, but there was almost no wait. As we walked through the line some kids ran ahead of us and we took up our casual walking-wide stance, making it hard for people to cut in line. Sure enough some kids said their friends were ahead of us and I said something like, ``Oh, don't worry, you'll get together at the station''. And they did; it was a walk-on ride.

We had heard rumors that the Iron Dragon ride had put seat belts on. Iron Dragon is a suspended roller coaster, with over-the-head restraints, that almost moves gently enough it barely needs any restraints. It's the only roller coaster in the park that explicitly allows you to take loose stuff like stuffed dolls you've won into the car with you. We wanted to check it out but the ride was closed to allow the Luminosity show --- with dancing, lasers, fire and fireworks --- to proceed. I suggested they might reopen Iron Dragon after Luminosity was done, but bunny_hugger's more aware of park procedure than me: the show starts a half-hour before park closing and finishes as the park finishes for the night.

So, we closed the night with a ride on the Kiddie Carousel, which was indeed when the park closed for the night (they turned the lights off after we were done with the Kiddie Carousel) and joined the masses leaving the park.

Here, I'd made a bad strategic error: in a bit of puckishness I found the parking spot closest to the front that I could, for the pointless bragging rights of parking, I think, two rows from the entrance (preferred parking excepted) on a fiendishly busy day. The trouble is this meant every car in the world was in line ahead of us to get out of the park. We did a lot of sitting, waiting for cars to clear out so we might join the rivers of cars waiting to flow into the main paths of cars waiting to join the larger paths leading back over the Causeway. At one point an SUV which had been sitting dead turned on and jumped into an empty spot ahead of me; I couldn't gun the car to take the spot back because a family of pedestrians was just ahead of me. I could honk, angrily, but that just made the pedestrians worry about what they'd done wrong. All the meanwhile the fun of a two-amusement-park day and the cheer of dropping in an amusement park mostly to play pinball was wearing off, and bunny_hugger was getting more anxious about how much driving we'd have to do after midnight.

After, without exaggeration, an hour of shuffling around I finally got free to break out of the rivers of traffic and exit by way of the Chaussee, starting off a couple miles farther west than would be ideal but certainly saving hours of traffic time, even despite the traffic jams along that. At one stop we did get to see the nearly-full moon above the water, framed by trees, in a scene so beautiful it was worth all the traffic anxiety for its gorgeousness.

We drove home in a straight shot, rather than taking the one or two breaks we otherwise might have, so as to be home and abed sooner rather than later.

The house was fine, of course, and the bed so wonderfully familiar and inviting and ready for us.

Trivia: The first popular American board game, The Mansion of Happiness (made in the 1840s), featured a spiral of 66 spaces to get to its eponymous goal; named spaces on the paths there included ``humility'', ``charity'', ``generosity'', ``cruelty'', ``whipping post'', and ``prison''. Source: The Game Makers: The Story Of Parker Brothers From Tiddledy Winks To Trivial Pursuit, Philip E Orbanes.

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

PS: What's Going On In The Old Universe, investigating whether something's just got to happen if you let the universe run long enough.

Tags: amusement parks, waldameer, west pennsylvania parks tour

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