Satellite navigation is a great invention and, as a general rule, a massive time saver. Occasionally, however, it doesn't provide the driver with information at the appropriate time, and urban areas with lots of tall buildings (such as Manhattan) fit that category. The net result was that we spent about twenty minutes circling the entrance to the Lincoln Tunnel before we finally located it. For the benefit of the foreign traveller, a word of warning; in Manhattan, sign posts often immediately appear after the road they are pointing to, rather than before.
1st August 2006
A notice was pushed under the door in our hotel last night warning about a heat wave affecting the greater New York area for the next four days. Among its requirements was that all air conditioner units be set to the low setting to avoid overloading the power grid. Although we were planning to drive north over the next few days, our first stop at Bowcraft Playland was actually south west of Manhattan. On arrival, the car thermometer showed an outside temperature of one hundred fahrenheit, well past the comfort zone for two people used to Irish weather. If ever there was a case for ride the coasters and run, this was it.
It should be noted at this point that my trip plans, in so far as possible, are written so that I don't just ride the coasters and run; it is often pleasant to take a slow walk around the park, trying out any dark rides, and the occasional interesting looking flat ride. The selection at Bowcraft Playland was pretty generic with no dark rides at all, but the lack of attractions was more than made up for by their condition. The place was one of the cleanest parks I've ever seen, with the rides positively gleaming. It is amazing how well even a small park can look with a little effort.
There were some minor technical gremlins with the main coaster when we arrived, but a member of staff told us it should be up and running within thirty minutes. We quickly rode the Dragon (#842) before retiring to the shade to wait. Several school buses pulled up to the park as we watched, disgorging their contents onto the midway. American school trips often have dedicated t-shirts printed, generally on the most gaudy coloured shirts available, presumably to make their owners easy to spot within a crowd. The ones today were luminous green, which caused visual discomfort even at a distance.
Crossbow (#843) eventually opened up, and our vantage point allowed us easy access to the first train of the morning. Zierer has come up with a new train and restraint design for this ride, and it works really well. The chassis engages the lift without the slightest of jolts, and the lap bars fit snugly, providing a smooth and comfortable experience. The coaster is shorter than would be ideal, but presumably this was as much for cost as anything else, as the ride is substantially bigger than anything else in the park. If this is the way Zierer's engineering is going now it'll be very interesting to see what they come up with next, as the ubiquitous tivoli coasters are becoming a bit repetitive at this stage!
1st August 2006
Playland Park is one of the few theme parks out there that is actually owned by a local authority. Recent news reports have carried stories about it losing money hand over fist, and to be frank, we couldn't see why. It wasn't exactly busy during our visit, but there were still short waits for most rides, which is pretty close to ideal given the pay per ride nature of the place. Also, a Tuesday morning is not exactly peak time for any amusement park.
The Family Flyer coaster was out of commission today due to a failed chain lift, but every other ride appeared to be open, including the two wooden coasters. The smaller of these is the Kiddie Coaster, and as the name might suggest adults are not allowed to ride, presumably due to weight restrictions. This is more than made up for by the stunningly good Dragon Coaster (#844), a true classic wooden coaster. The only caveat is that it is close to impossible to photograph, thanks to other rides being placed all around it; in particular it was impossible to snap the beautifully painted dragon on the side of the tunnel.
Crazy Mouse (#845) was being run in an almost completely unbraked state, which made for some pretty harsh turns towards the end of the ride. The locals seemed to love it though, which at the end of the day is what really matters. We followed that up with Super Flight (#846), which turned out to be considerably better than expected. George even remarked that he would ride it a second time, and while I wouldn't go that far (no need to tempt fate) it was still nothing like as awful as the model at Wiener Prater. The car design could gain a great deal from padding; even a small amount would help. As it is, the rider is sandwiched between two hard pieces of plastic moulding, one of which doesn't fit very well; not exactly a recipe for comfort!
We had enough points left on our ride card to try one of the several dark rides, so after a quick look around we went for the one that looked the most promising, Water Works, which as the name suggests was a boat ride. Some of the scenery was very high quality, and the length of the ride was surprising; it seemed to go on for far longer than the outside building would suggest.
Quassy Amusement Park
1st August 2006
Quassy Amusement Park was originally known as Lake Quassapaug, and with a mouthful like that it is easy to see why they decided to abbreviate themselves. Like several of the other smaller parks on this trip, we only chose to visit as a side trip on the way to another larger park. In this case, the location about fifteen miles from Lake Compounce was enough to add it to the itinerary as a half hour stop. Neither the Little Dipper (#847) or Mad Mouse (#848) would win any awards, although the latter was interesting from a historical point of view, being one of three remaining Herschell-built Monster Mouse coasters. The other two are at the Washington State Fair and at Tinkertown Family Fun Park.
1st August 2006
Lake Compounce was quite a bit smaller than we'd expected given its billing as the largest amusement park in Connecticut, but that was probably just as well given that we arrived at the gate just two hours prior to closing. There were no discounts available for our late arrival, and thus our visit ended up being the most expensive stop of the day by some margin.
The layout of Wildcat (#849) was interesting, but the track was littered with serious potholes, enough to make the ride very uncomfortable. For some reason however the punters seemed to love it. Our vist impressions of Boulder Dash (#850), formed from near the back of the train, were not much better. Fortunately, the front seat ride was like a completely different coaster, with only two of the potholes being perceptible at all. In reality, had we not ridden further back in the train, we'd probably have rated it a nine out of ten or better. Hopefully a little retracking can bring this ride back to what it should be for next year.
We entered the queue for the Ghost Hunt dark ride, but decided to exit it when we saw how slowly the line was moving; it would have been more than an hour, and for a target shooting attraction it was simply not worth it. The operator wouldn't let us on the Kiddie Coaster, which left one more target, namely Zoomerang (#851). This turned out to be the biggest surprise of the day, being easily the smoothest such ride I've ever been on. This is, of course, a relative term, but with no headbanging and only a single jolt caused by the final brakes, this was actually a rerideable Boomerang. Truth can indeed be stranger than fiction.