Deadwood was a relatively late addition to our trip added in the place of Six Flags America after both of us decided that a relocated spinning mouse wasn't enough of a reason to visit a major park on a weekend. It rained for almost all of the two hour drive from our hotel to the park, and when we arrived the nearly empty parking lot told its own story. The front gate was wide open, however, and as we walked in we noticed lights on in a few buildings.
We pushed open the door of an amusement arcade and found a friendly staff member in a red shirt who was more than happy to run the roller coaster for us. As we walked towards it we were told that management is used to enthusiasts turning up at the park from time, especially when there is an event on at Busch Gardens or Kings Dominion. He told us that the main source of business was private hire for birthday parties, and it was easy to see why; the park was small enough, but the standard of theming was excellent and would really capture the imagination of younger children.
Dinosaur Canyon (#2098) is a trailer mounted ride, but only those looking very closely would notice as the original structure has been thoroughly disguised under some fake rock work. The overall standard of presentation was probably the best I've seen on a coaster of this type, with lots of vegetation and even a five foot high Tyrannosaur standing beside the lift hill. There was a bit of a snap to the side at the base of the main drop, but apart from that the ride was exactly as expected, and we were given five laps.
2nd August 2014
Megan had prepared me for the drive up the coast towards Baja Amusements, advising that there were a lot of reputable businesses along Route 13 in Southern Virginia selling fireworks, ham, and tobacco products. While we didn't keep a count, the total number was well into double figures. Her ability to remember random useless information was very much in evidence, too; I believe I stopped at that 7-11 and bought a Milky Way there!
In due course we arrived at the park and made a hit-and-run stop for the standard model Wacky Worm. The ticket price was a very reasonable $1.50 per person. We were on our way out when a few other park guests noticed Megan taking a photograph of the ride price sign, and asked her if she was on a scavenger hunt. She explained what we do, and was immediately asked if we'd ridden the sketchy roller coaster down at the inlet that was like 40 years old. She advised that we'd yet to ride the Tidal Wave, but that it was certainly on the agenda for later.
Jolly Roger Amusement Park
2nd August 2014
My first visit to Jolly Roger Amusement Parkeight years ago was a fifteen minute stop where we rode the two roller coasters and left to catch a ferry. That visit reflected my attitude to coaster enthusiasm at the time; my aim was to tick off as many credits as possible, and everything else was unimportant. Now that I'm that little bit older my priorities have shifted somewhat, and while I'm not averse to the occasional credit run, my general preference is to take the time to enjoy each park that I visit.
The park offers a choice between an unlimited ride pass and individual points, several of which are required for each attraction. Today these prices ranged between 5.5 and 9 points, though there were stickers over a few of the values suggesting that they had changed recently. We elected to go for the unlimited option, which was administered using a combination of a wristband and a not-so-smart card that we had to swipe individually at each ride.
For the last few years I've been making it my business to ride as many different Schwarzkopf coasters as possible. This has become a race against time, given that the majority are well past their design life. In the thirteen years I've been involved in this hobby some two dozen have been dismantled, and while a few have been refurbished for new homes, several others have been scrapped. In late 2012 it became apparent that my trip that year had taken me within one hundred miles of a Wildcat that I'd yet to ride, an embarrassing and vexing oversight. Today was an opportunity to make amends.
Avalanche (#2099) was first installed at Bell's Amusement Park in 1974, where it operated successfully for many years. Unfortunately, a mechanical failure in April 1997 caused two cars to collide, claiming the life of a fourteen year old boy and injuring six others. The ride was disassembled and sold shortly afterwards, though it wasn't until 2008 that it rematerialised in its new home. The on board experience today was best described as anticlimactic, being largely devoid of airtime or perceptible forces. We rode three times only because we had wristbands; it is unlikely that we'd have bothered riding more than once otherwise. Independent travellers should be aware that Avalanche operates with a no single riders policy for reasons best known to park management.
The operator on Sea Serpent (#2100) asked us if we were not just a little bit to tall for his coaster, but was happy enough to let us ride after we replied in the negative. The park's newest attraction was pretty much as expected, being lively but not rough. With that out of the way, we increased our general levels of embarrassment by riding the Wacky Worm, allowing Megan to tick off her credit.
The operator on the Giant Wheel didn't exactly inspire confidence as he swiped our cards and gestured wordlessly towards the boarding platform without removing the headphones from his ears. The wheel began to move at the very moment we sat down, and we had just about made ourselves comfortable when we felt it slowing at the end of our ride; we had been given a total of two revolutions for our trouble.
On our way to the exit we stopped in at the Mardi Gras fun house, a two storey affair that looked from the outside like it might be reasonably worthwhile. The lower level held a respectable mirror maze, but the upper level was empty apart from a few fun house mirrors and a slide back to the ground.
Jolly Roger At The Pier
2nd August 2014
Ocean City has an enormous car park on the sea front that is ideally located for both Jolly Roger At The Pier and Trimper's Rides. The lot was crowded despite the overcast evening, and it took us several minutes to find a vacant space. We initially decided to leave our coats in the car, but this proved to be a mistake; the temperature fell rapidly as the sky darkened, and we ended up having to return after a few minutes to pick them up.
The operator on Looping Star had an unusual but effective approach to restraint checking, using one hand to pull on each harness as the train was moving out of the station, his other hovering over the E-Stop button. The ride was surprisingly good from the middle car, thanks to retrofitted padding on the restraints that cushioned some of the more uncomfortable moments. That being said, the girls in the car behind us seemed to have enjoyed a more typical Pinfari experience, one remarking I'm going to have bruises after this!
A third dimension was added to the embarrassingly badMorbid Manor a few years ago. I'm not able to say conclusively whether the changes were an improvement over the original, but I can say that Morbid Manor 3D took ten minutes of my life that I'm never going to get back. The interior had some cheap looking scenery in it, but there were no special effects that I noticed, and the car lurched throughout. The only part of the overall experience that I enjoyed was the opportunity to use the supplied glasses to look at other rides, the resulting pretty colours being pleasantly psychedelic.
The Giant Wheel here looked to be the same make and model as that at the other park, but the difference in operations couldn't be more striking. There was a lengthy queue of at least twenty minutes, but despite that everyone was being given upwards of twenty revolutions, about fifteen more than we wanted. We noticed several sets of guests looking acutely bored by the time they were finally allowed to disembark.
2nd August 2014
We began our visit to Trimper's Rides with a fun ride on the Wacky Worm. The instructions mandating fun came in the form of a 40 second long audio recording, played after restraints were checked, but prior to dispatch:
Welcome to the Wacky Worm. Before we begin your fun ride, please listen to the following instructions. Hold on to the hand rail at the front of the car. Adults with small children should hold the child with one hand, and the rail with the other hand. Always remember, keep your arms and legs inside the cars, and remain seated until the ride comes to a complete stop before exiting. Now we're ready to begin your fun ride on the Wacky Worm!
While we didn't have to wait for our ride, it's worth noting that this announcement could result in a considerable delay on busier days, and I'm not convinced that it helps to improve guest safety. Anecdotal evidence from other parks around the world suggests that the vast majority of amusement park patrons don't bother listening to announcements, be they recorded or otherwise (and before anyone asks, I transcribed this one from YouTube).
Megan was kind enough to point out that Tidal Wave was as old as she was, though not as old as me. Tonight it looked deceptively pretty, with chasing running lights shining brightly as the darkness fell. Unfortunately, the ride had a horrendous slam as the train engaged the second lift that did bad things to my spine; you can polish a turd but it still smells of sh*t.
Our next stop was at Aladin's Lamp, a fun house with the subtitle of Ali Baba and Forty Thiefs. The spelling mistakes on the ride signage made for an inauspicious start, but once past those the interior was actually quite good. All the effects seemed to be working, including various moving floors and rollers that were slick from the rain. It was interesting to learn that the original funhouse was downsized considerably last year in order to make space for another attraction, making me wonder how good it might have been prior to modification.
The best ride of the evening by some margin was the Haunted House, located on the boardwalk directly in front of the park, though apparently still a part of it. There was a sign outside giving a brief history of the ride, from its opening in 1964 to the present. The cars were shaped to look like coffins, with a wooden lid rather than a more traditional lap bar, and they negotiated a five minute long course over two levels that was filled with high quality special effects.
From there we went to another walkthrough in the guise of Pirate's Cove, memorable for both its extremely narrow pathways and its smell, best described as eau du latrine. There were some high quality scenes in here that could be enjoyed provided one stopped breathing for a while, including various skeletons and a drunk pirate with rum.
We finished off our evening on the Carousel, purchased in 1912 from the Herschell-Spillman Company in New York. The animals were particularly ornate, and there were many different choices; the standard horses were joined by a dog, a goat, a frog, an ostrich, a pig, and several others. Free brochures were available for those who wanted them with a written history of the ride, and we picked up a set for our collection.
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