austin_dern (austin_dern) wrote,
austin_dern
austin_dern

Gonna leave this world for a while

She wasn't the only one, by the way. Cedar Point attendees might have got jaded to the falling experience, but Dorney Park was still full of people who, five seasons after the ride moved in, could hardly wait for anything else. Maybe it's the fun of a few seconds of truly free fall; most rides of this kind drop you a little slower than free fall, so you have the reassurance of the seat under you, or a little faster, so you have the shoulder restraints. Demon Drop and its sisters do neither; you drop and you are simply floating between seat and restraint, an unnerving experience not quite like anything else at the park.

Also not quite like anything else at the park, so far as we know: the ride has its own music. The ride's safety spiel is given not by the operators but a continuously looped ``Demon Drop Rap'', which welcomes riders and explains how the harnesses work and do not take them off and listen to the attendants. You know, the eternal themes of rap music everywhere. It's kind of an odd experience and I wonder about every step of the process that created and implemented the ``Demon Drop Rap''.

Our gondola was shared with another couple; I believe he'd been on the ride before, while she was having her first experience. I imagine as long as you don't ride it too much you get an intense thrill from the most suspenseful part of the ride, waiting 130 feet above the ground for what moment when the ride does drop, because there's really not much obvious hint how long that's going to be or when it will start to fall.

Freefall rides also offer a curious definition challenge, to wit: are they roller coasters? They're not marketed as such and people don't think of them as such, but, it's hard to give a specific reason why not. They're gravity-driven rides, operating on closed-circuit tracks, on which wheeled cars run. It's a bit peculiar to use an elevator to gain the needed initial height, but it's not unknown either. Vertical drops are unusual, but not excluded by roller coasters either; some (e.g., Hershey Park's Fahrenheit or Cedar Point's Maverick) even have drops steeper than 90 degrees (and Fahrenheit even has a vertical lift hill, making the parallel more direct). And looking at the hardware up close makes obvious how much of it is really roller coaster technology, especially the brakes. Probably it's a marketing thing; Intamin or the first parks to put them in thought people would be more attracted to a ride like this if it weren't called a roller coaster, but, is that enough reason to let the decision stand? Or is there something essentially roller coaster-y that isn't satisfied by a Freefall? I feel like there is, but I'm also aware that I was taught from an early age that these were different things from roller coasters, so I'd like a stronger reason to believe that feeling.

These were the kinds of things we talked about --- along with how it looked like the Demon Drop building had been plucked right out of Cedar Point and put down in Dorney Park --- while sitting and watching the ride and also getting asked the time by a woman who communicated by sign with the rest of her party.

After the fire that destroyed Dorney Park's carousel in 1983, the park did get a new one, a Chance-manufactured carousel put in a couple years later. Since that was there we couldn't resist, of course, and we went to that. It's attractive enough for a modern fiberglass sort of thing, but what really interested us is that lining the outside of an adjacent gift shop are vintage signs and photos and memorabilia from the old days of Dorney Park, which we couldn't get enough of.

It's an anniversary year for Dorney, which opened originally in 1884, and they had posters and such up suggesting there was a bit of a museum of park history within the main gift shop. It isn't much of a museum, sad to say, although there's a nice long string of photographs going back over a century and that's always great to see. Cedar Fair's ownership has done some rather good things for Dorney Park, in things like finding an antique carousel for it and moving or building a number of roller coasters to a small park, but it's also washed away nearly everything that might suggest the park ever existed before 1992 or was ever anything but the iOS version of Cedar Point. The acknowledgement that there was something was a welcome touch.

At the gift shop bunny_hugger noticed some stuffed dolls for the Hydra, one of the steel roller coasters and one we didn't ride, given the time constraint. Sadly the Hydra isn't a racing coaster, but the doll is two-headed and pretty dragon-ish, so we picked one up.

By now we had been at the park several hours, when we really should have just popped in and looked around. Despite the crowds we hadn't really had to wait for much, but we had gone around to do more than just stop in to the antique carousel. And since we were leaving the park, we were passing by the carousel again. It'd be absurd not to give it one last ride, and we took that chance. As we rode one of the live-action shows started behind it, one of that kind where Peanuts characters are all happy and dancing and talk about singing together, then sing, the way the characters normally interact in the comic strip.

So we said goodbye to the former Frontier Carousel, and Dorney Park in general, and desperately hoped we could remember where to find the car. I suppose the crowd had more or less stabilized, as many people entering as leaving, though that did mean there wasn't the great sweeping mass of people flowing towards the front gate as we'd seen in entering just a few hours earlier. It felt like the grass lots and our car, at the end of the grass lots, was so much farther away than it even felt when we entered. But we got on the road and were pretty soon going back to New Jersey.

Trivia: Some 335,000 miles of iron and copper wire were drawn and spun for the construction of the 1858 trans-Atlantic telegraph cable; 300,000 miles of tarred hemp was used to cover it. Source: How The World Was One: Beyond The Global Village, Arthur C Clarke.

Currently Reading: Where No Man Has Gone Before: A History of Apollo Lunar Exploration Missions, William David Compton. NASA SP-4214.

PS: Without Machines That Think About Logarithms, what do you compute? Sixth of these, not counting a reblogged item, since the last roundup.

Tags: amusement parks, casino pier farewell tour, dorney park
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