A theme park gift under $10? Theme Park Insider: 2016 Year in Review
Traveling companions: None
Weather: Pretty much excellent all the way through
The Parks: Quassy, Canobie Lake, SF Great Escape, Seabreeze
Left Sunday morning June 26 for Connecticut, destination Quassy Amusement park in Middlebury for a first-time visit. What's with the fact that all road signs for the park, on the highway and off, simply say "Amusement Park?" Paid $6 to park (weekend rate..normally $5) and $23.50 for a P.O.P wristband, which also included Saturation Station, which I would not partake of. Had about 40 minutes before the 11am opening time, so I walked around scoping the rides, and checked out the beach. Nice spot on Lake Quassapaug(?) Beach is included with admission. Individual ride tickets are $3.50 and each ride takes one ticket.
Waaaarrrrriorrrr...come out to play-ay....and I'm glad it did. A group of about 12 teenage boys was hanging by the entrance to Quassy's new signature attraction, Wooden Warrior. For some reason they had congregated on the EXIT side of the entranceway, so I moved into the ENTRANCE side, and was soon joined by a couple of young ladies. The ride opened at about 11:10 after testing. It looked, from my vantage point, to be a pleasant enough ride, akin to the Scooby-Doo type junior woodies found at so many parks. I arrived at the station after the girls because, well, they're 9-10 years old and weigh about 70 pounds and me, well, I'm me. The girls were waiting for the back seat. Then, as girls that age are wont to do, they changed their mind. The boys and all others had found the right path and made it into the station, which was now full. Because of the girls changing horses in mid-stream, I got the first ride of the day in the back seat.
Is WW the fastest coaster out there? Steepest? Most intense? Tallest? No, no, no, and no. Is it a helluva lotta fun? To quote the Magic 8-Ball, "Signs point to YES." This ride is an instant classic. I had a smile on my face all the way through. It's a VERY short ride..departure to the brake run is less than a minute, another 20 seconds to come in from the brake. And I wish they had another train. Speaking of the train, this was my first Timberliner experience, and I came away duly impressed. Among the most comfortable seats I've been on. I like the lack of seat belts and the way the restraint comes from the side. No issues with fitting in. And it wasn't like I really got to appreciate the comfort of the seats, as I spent quite a bit of time out of them. The one ride out of eight on the day that I took near the front wasn't quite as great as the back. Excellent use of a tunnel, too. I liked the plaque devoted to the local elementary/middle school students who gave the ride its name.
Other rides at Quassy:
My first time on a Chance Yo-Yo. Although the sign clearly stated a weight limit of 170 lbs., I walked right on, and again later. I thought it would be the same motion as your run-of-the-mill Wave Swinger ride, but I was wrong. Once it gets going, it has an awesome back and forth motion, especially if the rider helps it along by manipulating the chains. I swear I felt like I would tumble out backwards. Excellent ride, even if I struggled to buckle the upper strap.
Train ride around the park..pretty much a straight oval, don't really see anything except an empty field. Really pointless and boring, and then...they send you around again!!!
For a little park with not a ton of major rides, I was surprised at how high concessions were..not Six Flags high, but higher than I expected. I just got a pretzel to hold me over...$3.75. I thought it was cool that you could purchase in the gift shop..for $15..at t-shirt reading: I CAME ALL THE WAY FROM_____(Your home city) TO RIDE THE WOODEN WARRIOR. The fact that the "sample" shirt read DANBURY kind ruined the effect a little. The staff were very friendly. I rode most of the flats..Paratrooper, Trabant, Pirate ship, carousel, etc. Got a credit on the Little Dipper, a kiddie coaster I was allowed to ride myself. It was somewhat reminiscent of the former High Speed Thrill Coaster at Knoebels. Not a bad little park, and I'm glad I stopped by. I left about 2:45, next stop New Hampshire. I made it to the Motel 6 in Nashua in about 3.5 hours despite two rough traffic stretches. After checking in, I hit Friendly's for dinner. I pretty much ALWAYS get Butter Crunch ice cream, but have always seen the disclaimer on the menu: All flavors may not be available in all areas. Apparently, NH is an area where my flavor of choice is NOT available. So I made do with butter pecan with Heath Bar topping instead of my usual Butter Crunch with caramel.
Good financial news: On the Mass. Pike, my tired-from-driving, diabetes-affected, 46-year-old eyes told my brain the toll would be $7.10 according to the ticket. The 7 turned out to be a 1. Sometimes being wrong pays off.
Monday, June 27th
The Motel 6 in Nashua is surrounded by roads where you're unable to make a left turn into the driveway. So when I went to eat, or the market or the 7-11, I'd have to drive PAST the motel, turn onto a side block, and turn around in an office or condo parking lot. So when I walked out of my room that morning to see a Nashua police officer examining my car from his patrol car, I thought the worst..that someone had reported me and gotten my plate for what might have been something frowned upon. But I guess he was just checking plates against the motel's records to make sure all cars belonged to registered guests.
A so-so breakfast at IHOP was followed by the drive to Canobie Lake, about a half-hour. I had made plans to meet a fellow from another forum who lives in Concord, who would act as a "guide" to his home park and help me maximize my one day there. We had discussed one of us stopping at the local AAA office for discount coupons, but I found the same savings at McDonald's the night before, so I picked up a few. I was in the parking lot at 10:10, and Jason approached my car while I was going through my just-before-leaving-the-car routine. The coupons were only good for one person, taking the $32 entry fee down to $28. I gave one to Jason and the others to a mom with kids..random act of kindness, if you will.
Jason recommended hitting the Yankee Cannonball first. It only runs one train, it was 10:30 prior to an 11 o'clock opening for rides, and Cannonball was about 15 minutes late opening. And it was already getting hot. We took the third seat, and I wasn't terribly impressed. Too short, no airtime, and nothing to make me go "wow" or "oooh!" I did enjoy my second ride later a bit more, closer to the back.
Headed over to the park's newest coaster, Untamed, which I guess is known as a Euro-fighter. The only similar ride I've been on was Mystery Mine, and that was better. Untamed's theming (bears) is extremely well done, right down the intricately carved fences in the queue, to the gift shop, to the antler chandeliers in in the station. Pretty intense ride, pretty rough for its being so new. The crew does a good job, and I didn't wait more than 15-20 minutes for any of my four rides that day. I like those vertical lift hills...always remind me of Ultra Twister. Way too short, like the Cannonball.
Rode the Extreme Frisbee and found it to be pretty intense, and the most disorienting of its type I've been on. Collected a credit for The Canobie Corkscrew..pretty standard...and the kiddie Dragon Coaster. The two best rides of the day for me? A Zamperla model I'd never seen before. Called the Wave Blaster at Canobie, I looked at Zamperla's site. Apparently they call it a "Jumper." It's a step up from a kiddie ride model, aimed at teenagers. Riders sit two abreast at the end of an arm, and while revolving, the arms bounce up and down with some serious action. I liked it a lot, and rode it twice.
The other ride I loved was the park's old-fashioned dark ride, Mine Of Lost Souls. It's a throwback ride, reminiscent of the dark rides I grew up with at the Jersey Shore piers, but built in 1985 and re-done in 1992. Very slow, good cheesy special effects that were actually working, and just the right balance of spooks and laughs. Best ride of the day, except for the god-awful loading procedure. They'd bunch the cars (4 passenger trams,) about six or seven of 'em, in the station before loading...then allow them to go out with one or two passengers, the back often unoccupied. Made a slow line even slower..waited about half an hour when it shoulda been 15 minutes. I liked the flume, but was annoyed with the op who made me move to the front after I was already seated in the back..while the boat was moving, and despite the fact I was by myself.
This was another park where the concession prices were higher than I expected. I mean, maybe I'm naive, but I just don't expect it at smallish, non-corporate parks. I expect to get gouged at Six Flags..it goes with the territory. I had told Jason I'd buy him lunch, and we both got fish and chips and a drink at Minuteman Fried Clams. More than decent. I actually bought popcorn, something I never do at parks..because the stand...actually shaped like a box of popcorn..actually put melted butter on from a dispenser.
The one thing that bothered me most..and we all focus on things that mean a lot to us at parks, no matter how trivial others may consider them to be..is the fact that my requests at a couple of food stands for a "courtesy cup" of ice water were denied. I've seen instances where stands have those cups ready and lined up because they know people will ask. I'm not gonna spend for a bottle of water, and I don't wish to drink soda in the heat. This is the first time in recent years I've been denied at a park. So, between that, and the flume seating, two demerits.
I was also disappointed to get to the entrance of the the PsychoDrome (indoor Scrambler) and see a sign on the door that read "Please note that the lights will remain on for the duration of the ride." It was my last ride of the day, and felt a little faster than most, but why bother having it indoors if you're gonna keep the lights on? The Boston Tea Party shoot-the-chute had one of the biggest splashes I've seen. Found an arcade that actually had pinball machines and Skee-Ball with the old metal plates showing score..non-digital. So I played there for awhile, getting three consecutive free games on a pinball machine. I'm always glad to find a Rotor at a park. Canobie's is the Turkish Twist and it's a themed structure..like a mini Taj Mahal (no slot machines, though.)
Like Quassy, very nice setting on the lake. I left about 8..Jason had left about 5:30. Tried to pick up something to eat to take back to the motel, but apparently you can't walk into a pizza place in New Hampshire and buy a slice or two. I guess I'm spoiled living where I do. Ended up with Burger King.
Tuesday was a driving/no park day. I had decided to stay in Albany, which would be about an hour+ drive to Wednesday's destination, Great Escape at Lake George (actually, Queensbury) I was willing to make that drive, though, because the least expensive motel room I could find in the area of the park was at least $30 more per night (staying 2 nights) than I was willing to spend, and the drive would be less than it takes me to get to GAdv. I checked in, and was happy to find a Golden Corral just down the road. Was disappointed at the very limited selection compared to other GC's I've been to. No fried shrimp (or ANY kind of seafood, for that matter.) But I was able to load up on chicken (rotisserie and fried,) pasta, rice, and corn.
Wednesday morning, I headed out to Great Escape. Stopped at a Cracker Barrel for breakfast. The sausage was god-awful, and the waitress was kind enough to offer to replace it with a second portion of bacon. I sure wasn't gonna turn down THAT offer!
I thought the park opened at 10:30, but checked my notes en route and discovered it was actually 10. I got there about 9:50, and did not avoid the parking fee as I managed to do at SF America earlier this season. So they got me for the $13 (side note: Great Adventure daily parking..$20. My total parking fees this trip at four parks and a museum? $19)
The parking setup reminded me of SFNE's. After you park, you walk up several ramps and cross a highway. Took a lot out of me.
I said the four parks on this trip were new to me. That may not be completely true. As a child, my Mom and Dad had friends that lived in Lake George. As I explored the park, and took the train ride that has signs illustrating the park's history, I realized there was a good chance I had been there in the late 60's or early 70's when it was known as Storytown. There are still many structures in the park relating to Mother Goose tales, although they've been neglected and are in serious need of paint and rehab.
I walked first to the "Western" themed end of the park and took two rides each on the Steamin' Demon (Arrow(?) Corkscrew/looper) and the Canyon Blaster, a so-so mine train with actual scenery and props..and it moved slow enough to actually scope them out. I sandwiched those around a ride on the Condor (high-spinning flat ride) and hung out waiting for the log flume to open. I was sorry I did..one of the worst I've been on. Barely got a drop of water, and the other kind of drops were nothing to write home about. Saw a building by the flume with the legend "Nightmare at Crackaxle Canyon." I had read about that years ago but the building appears to be vacant. Anyone know what kind of ride it was?
Now it was time for re-living a personal memory of mine. Until recently, I did not know that the Alpine Bobsled at Great Escape was the former Sarajevo Bobsled from GAdv, having also called SF Great America home for awhile in between. It's a ride I used to like a lot in its four years at my home park. I seem to remember a serious accident on it while it was here..non-fatal. It's also one of the few coasters remaining that I rode with the only girl to whom I was ever engaged. So I really looked forward to riding it . As I got on line, I felt like I was having a sugar drop, so I got a Snickers ice cream bar (mmmm...) out of the machine on my way to the station. Waited about 10 minutes. The trains don't appear to be the type I remember. They're cars that hold four pairs of people sitting abreast, and the back seat gates were roped off, reducing capacity to 6 per cart . Cars are USA, Jamaica, Italy and Canada. This ride is much faster and more fun than Avalanche at KD..and the line moves a helluva lot better. It's also longer. Bangs you around some, especially entering the multiple brakes. I enjoyed the hell out of it and it brought back good memories. Took four rides at that time, although no re-rides. The crew was exceptionally cheerful, and the operator, whom I talked to for a bit, was having a good time.
I then headed over to the park's 1948 wooden coaster, the Comet, but was told it hadn't opened yet by an attendant stationed on the pathway leading to the ride..not even at the ride itself. So I hit the rapids ride twice in a row..pretty good, decent dousing, but Thunder Canyon it ain't (what is?) Took another spin on the Bobs and tried the Comet again. Success!
I knew something of the history of this classic..that it had been moved from Crystal Beach in Ontario when the park closed in 1989, and opened in NY in 1994. What I did NOT know, was that when the Comet opened in Canada in 1948, it was built with most of the steel structure and load station of the legendary Crystal Beach Cyclone, a ride I've read about as being one of the most insane coasters ever designed..it closed in 1946. So this modern-day Comet actually uses a large portion of the original Cyclone. Okay, boys and girls..history lesson's over. There'll be a quiz on Tuesday.
What about the ride? Wow. The train flies through the course, seeming much faster than it is. No trouble squeezing into the seat. Interesting height differential on the bunny hills on the return trip, one dip much smaller than the others. At least three pops of airtime, and one really tricky lift/lateral element just before the last turnaround. I rode in multiple seats, but this is a ride I did not enjoy most in the very back. The seat in FRONT of that..next to last..was the best. I took 12 rides, many without leaving the station. And when I did have to, it was a short walk. Really felt like I rode a piece of history.
It looked like a storm was coming in, so I headed over to get the Boomerang credit just in case. Also rode the train, Sasquatch drop tower, and some flats before heading back for four more spins on the Comet. At that point I decided to make a circuit around the park to make sure I hadn't missed any "must-do's." My intent was to then head back for a few more rides on the Bobs and Comet to finish my day (7pm closing.) I made the mistake of getting on the longest...slowest...most pointless...skyride of my life. Because of that length, I arrived at the Bobs at 6:10. Although I knew it closed at 6, I had forgotten as I prepared to wrap up the day. So back to the Comet I went!!! I finished the day with 12 straight rides, not only without leaving the station, but without leaving the previously mentioned next-to-last seat. I thought it was cool when the now idle Bobsled crew came on the Comet and closed out the night with the other riders, me included. Great finish to the day, and 28 rides on the Comet.
I don't really understand the Six Flags angle. Their name is not part of the park's official name. But Mr. Six is around. The words "Six Flags" are around a lot, on signs, employee shirts, etc. Their pay-to-cut is NOT called FlashPass. Prices are definitely Six Flags worthy..30 bucks for a pizza. I did find an amusement park rarity..an ice cold water fountain.
Some of you know about GAdv's ubiquitous "visual scan" where the ride ops do this hand-shading-eyes, RoboCop head-swivel to check the station before dispatch. Great Escape's crew says "Take Five" and sweeps an arm around, index finger out. I asked an op what the "Take Five" meant. It's the five places they check..train, gates, platform, exit ramp, and entrance ramp.
Some of the Six Flags debranding might have something to do with all of the licenses that the company didn't renew. As for not using Six Flags in the name, I always wondered if there was another owning partner or some other behind the scenes factor in keeping the name original. It is sort of odd, especially since they had no problem (over)branding all of the other classic parks that they took over.
It's always nice to hear about the small parks. The Comet is something that I haven't had the pleasure of riding yet. Good to know that it hasn't lost its reputation.
We used to also go to Whalom Park when I was growing up, a similar sized park in Lunenburg MA. But that was shut down in 2000.
Derek: I have since discovered that Nightmare at Crackaxle Canyon is an indoor, non-looping Jet Star. It's been closed and SBNO for about five years. I read that because it was dark inside, they only had two carts on the course at one time, which created a capacity NIGHTMARE (pun definitely intended) Where a well-run, high capacity coaster (think Nitro) may put through over 1000+ riders per hour, Crackaxle's was about 120 max. What a waste of a building.
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