Much of today’s adventure consisted of a lengthy and rather boring drive from Texas to Florida, crossing Louisiana, Mississippi, and Alabama. One of the few amusements available to me was reading the road signs, which I quote below for posterity:
Texas: “Watch out for stopped school buses.”
Louisiana: “Seatbelts and Vaccinations. Both save lives.”
Mississippi: “Read Eudora, Grisham, and Faulkner, but not when driving.”
21st August 2021
Carousel Gardens is a small family park in New Orleans that has been on my bucket list for years. I’d hoped to include it in my itinerary when I was last in the area back in 2008, but my trip was a little too early in the season for weekday operation and it wasn’t feasible to get there on a weekend. I never expected that it’d take me thirteen years to return, but, to quote a famous proverb, better late than never.
The park accepts credit cards at the gate. Today however it was taking an inordinate amount of time to process them. I couldn't imagine what was taking so long until I arrived at the cashier and saw it with my own eyes; the nice lady was manually purchasing tickets through an online portal. A family of four in front of me needed about five minutes to get through the procedures; those with the facility to do so would be well advised to purchase ahead of time.
On a happier note, the staff on duty today were without exception outgoing, friendly, and chatty. One even wished me a good morning while walking across the midway, which is not something that happens often; in fact the only time I recall similar was at Traumland auf der Bärenhöhle last year. The difference from the Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks elsewhere on this trip could not have been more pronounced.
The park’s solitary coaster is Lady Bug (#2938), a Zierer Force Two that replaced an earlier medium-sized Tivoli. I’d assumed that the old ride had been subject to an unscheduled disassembly at the hands of Hurricane Katrina, but apparently not; an internet search has turned up pictures of it operating in early 2010. The replacement has been configured with a generous three-lap cycle, and while the experience is nothing to write home about it is nevertheless a fun and enjoyable machine. As ever I tried both front and back, with very little to distinguish between locations.
One of the best things about small parks in the United States is the presence of Eli Bridge Ferris wheels with sideways seating. The unit at Carousel Gardens looks like a relic from the early part of the twentieth century, but I’ve since learned that it isn’t; it was a new purchase made during a major renovation, though it is does look more or less the same as the original models. The rotation was alarmingly fast for those used to other manufacturers, and the programme included both forward and backward motions.
The park has a two-level Wacky Shack fun house manufactured by American manufacturer Owen Trailers. It is a standard portable unit, rather than an enhanced park model, so it's entirely possible that it had a previous life on the road prior to settling in the Pelican State. The experience is about what one would expect, providing about a minute of entertainment: a few moving floor segments, a rotating barrel effect, and a spiral slide.
There were two other rides on my to-do list today, but sadly both were out of service. The Coney Tower drop was missing a number of seats, a definite clue that it was not likely to operate any time soon. Similarly the park’s 1906 Carousel was closed for refurbishment, something that apparently takes place every two years; signage at the entrance indicated that it should reopen to the public in late 2021.
Track Family Fun Park
21st August 2021
My first visit to Track Family Fun Park took place in March 2019. I remember thinking at the time that I'd probably never be back, but circumstances changed; at the end of that year management decided to replace their six-year-old Spinning Coaster with a brand new equivalent. Why they did this is anyone's guess, as the machine they sold was apparently serviceable; it has since reopened at Swampy Jack's Wongo Adventure in nearby Panama City Beach.
There was a large sign at the park entrance stating that for the safety of all guests and employees, anyone who has a fever, cough, any sign of sickness, or verbally threatens to have Covid-19 is not allowed on property. I'm quite certain that this will be sufficient to keep the location entirely safe, and furthermore that this will prove infinitely more effective than ridiculous big-state ideas like temperature screening and mask mandates. (Before anyone has a go at me, this is a joke; my position on the pandemic is neatly summarised by this eloquent article.)
My ten-lap cycle on the Spinning Coaster (#2939) cost $9. I found myself wondering how profitable the ride might be at that price, and did some quick mental arithmetic to figure it out. A full train earns a gross figure of $144 per dispatch, and one every five minutes (with unhurried operation) equates to $1728 per hour. Over a few weeks that turns into a very large number even after running costs are deducted. I think I can understand why the park decided they could afford a brand new machine!
21st August 2021
I seriously considered finishing my day at Swampy Jack's Wongo Adventure in order to score a bonus ride on the old Spinning Coaster from Track Family Fun Park. Going there would have required another 75 minutes of driving, and though I was tired it was more than a little tempting. In the end however the decision was made for me by a severe thunderstorm that I hit shortly before the required turnoff. There was no point in a lengthy detour into bad weather, so I decided to head to my hotel.
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