Conneaut Lake Park24th July 2012
Conneaut Lake Park has been through troubled times over the last few years. A shortage of funds prevented the park from opening for two years, and a number of arson attacks resulted in the loss of several buildings. The park is now run by a new owner who is keeping it alive with the profits from his other businesses, with the hope that in time it can start paying its own way. As the park is a labour of love, he was willing to meet us there this morning and run a few rides for us despite the park being officially closed.
The original PTC trains from the Blue Streak are not currently usable due to insurance restrictions. For the moment, therefore, riders are sent around the course in rolling stock built by NAD. This train does work well, even if it doesn't quite feel the same as the one I was privileged to sit in seven years ago. We were warned that the ride was currently a work in progress, with portions of the track newly rebuilt and other portions still in need of work, and this was certainly true; having said that, the reconstructed portions were excellent, and my sense was of a coaster with significant potential if the funding can be found to rebuild the rest of it. We made a small donation to the fund ourselves; if more people did this, then the future of the ride would be secure.
We were also given the opportunity to ride the Devils Den dark ride, one of the few remaining rides from Pretzel Manufacturing. The owner noted this as meeting all the rules for being a wooden coaster; a chain lift, and a descent back to the start powered exclusively by gravity. Rather than kick off that particular debate I'll simply note that the ride was about what I'd expect from a dark ride like this, even down to the impressive collection of chewing gum on one of the walls!
It was impossible not to draw comparisons between Conneaut Lake and Knoebels from a few days earlier. The parks are in many ways similar, with a collection of classic rides maintained by people who are not simply there for the money. Time will tell whether Conneaut Lake survives; I certainly hope it will.
Fun Fore All24th July 2012
Fun Fore All is a small family entertainment centre located just off the I-79, the main interstate route from Conneaut Lake to Kennywood. It has a small arcade, two miniature golf courses, a go-kart track, and five family rides; Bumper Boats, Happy Swing, Jumpin' Star, Tea Cups, and Fiesta Express (#1786). Adults are welcome to ride all of these, though they'll likely feel a lot less self-conscious if they have a child in tow!
Kennywood Park24th July 2012
We arrived in Pittsburgh in the middle of a torrential downpour, and it was immediately obvious from outside that no rides were moving at Kennywood. Rather than sit in the car park and wait, we took a side trip for a meal in the local Hard Rock Café. By the time we'd finished our meal, the skies had cleared. The park wasn't terribly busy, presumably thanks to the earlier downpours, reducing the wait on the new roller coaster to just five minutes.
Built by Premier Rides, Sky Rocket (#1787) is a full circuit launched coaster with an outside top hat and two inversions; a zero gravity roll and a corkscrew. The trains are made up of two connected six-seater cars with a front decal that looks a little utilitarian, but I'm probably the only person sad enough to pass comment on something so mundane. Taller riders are advised to avoid the back row of each car, as there is very restricted space there for some reason, and while I managed to shoehorn my 6'2" frame in there it wasn't particularly comfortable. Height restrictions like this do seem a little bit like a design flaw for a coaster in a park that isn't located in Asia, but anyway...
Following a rolling launch, the train crests the main top hat where it hangs for a few seconds, giving a wonderful sensation of anticipation before the main portion of the ride. The rest of the layout is thrilling and fun, and for the most part works beautifully; the only bit I wasn't quite so sure about was a trick-track section towards the end of the course with the train moving from side to side a few times. Overall, my impression of the ride was of a top calibre coaster; a credit to both the designers and the park.
As with my two previous visits, only one of the two trains was in use on Phantom's Revenge, resulting in a lengthy and unnecessary wait. As before, however, the coaster ride proved worth the wait, with the experience being just as thrilling and fun as I'd remembered. Given that my visits were a long way apart, I feel compelled to ask; has anyone ever seen both trains running on this ride at once? Or have I just been unlucky?