About this file:
This is where you find the details of what happened between parks, and anything else that doesn't quite fit into the park trip reports. Much of this is probably off-topic, but you might want to scan through anyway, just because there are a few on-topic bits...
TIP #1: Get organized. At least get packed.
I got a half block from home before I realized I had forgotten something. When I passed the last Columbus exit, I realized I had forgotten something more important. Trouble is, the next exit was 20 miles up the road. One of these days I'm gonna get started on time and NOT have to go back for my junk.
Driver Alert: When entering an expressway in the state of Pennsylvania, ensure that the entire ramp is clear before accelerating. Pennsylvanians, as a general rule, like to cruise down the entrance ramp, accelerating to 55-60 mph. But at the end of the ramp, at the merge point, these drivers will stop suddenly and wait, even if there is no traffic present on the highway. When someone did it to me I nearly creamed him, but ended up driving around instead (60 mph slalom!). Which is a good thing; a wreck would have ruined my whole trip.
Is there any chunk of Interstate highway in New York that is not considered part of the Thruway?
Getting into Canada at Niagara Falls costs US$2.50 or CAN$3.50. Getting back into the US costs nothing, but on Saturday night took a very long time. I should have stayed in Canada that night...motel rooms are cheaper in Canada. On Saturday night, I had nothing better to do so I crossed the Niagara into Niagara Falls, Ontario. I looked at the falls, I had dinner, and I scoped out the tourist attractions. Maple Leaf Village is gone, but an FEC is taking shape on Clifton Hill...mostly a big arcade. A very big arcade. Speaking of arcades, the basement of the Skylon Tower contains what is called an amusement park. It's never been a particularly impressive park, but it is even less impressive than ever today. It now contains a set of bumper cars, a dark ride, a video arcade, and a set of floor-pick-up electric Go-Karts operating on a big wooden track. I believe this Speedway attraction is similar to an attraction that used to operate at Americana Park. I never saw it there, though, so I'm not completely certain.
Another interesting attraction in the Skylon FEC is an arcade which includes a unique video game from Sega: a fighter-jet game which features a capsule capable of doing full rolls in two dimensions. Yikes!
Where I come from, all the U.S. Post Offices have 24-hour lobbies where one can find mail drops, P.O. boxes, and vending machines selling envelopes, postcards, stamps, and related stuff. In other words, the most common postal needs are always available in these lobbies, even if the service counter is locked up and closed. But this is apparently not true across the country. In Niagara Falls, NY, I stopped at a post office on Saturday morning. The service window was, naturally, closed. But there was also no vending, no P.O. box access, and (get this...) no access to a mailbox! I guess the postcards will have to wait.
On Sunday morning, I crossed the border again and headed for Marineland. I actually finished with Marineland at about the time the day's big crowd was arriving. I drove down the aisle of the parking lot and encountered a parking attendant, who stopped me. "Where are you going?" he asked, as I bucked the traffic flow; I suppose he figured I had made a wrong turn.
"Uh...Toronto." I replied.
"Oh," he responded, and waved me through. There is no parking fee at Marineland, but I passed a couple of toll booths on my way out, so I suspect the reduced parking fee is a new feature. Perhaps some major US themers should take note. I visited eleven parks, and only three of them...Wonderland, Darien Lake, and Hersheypark...charged for parking.
Driving up the QEW in broad daylight, I was repeatedly (and dangerously) distracted by bright lights in my rear-view mirror. I've been annoyed by the running lights that General Motors has started putting on their new cars; now that I've driven in an environment where literally everybody has them, I've concluded that I don't like them at all.
I also noticed that while the highway speed limit is posted at 62 mph (as opposed to 65 mph here), just like US drivers, Canadian drivers cruise at "that speed", which is right around 69 mph, just like back home. The roads are good, but some of the things I've come to expect simply aren't so in Ontario. For instance, consider highway signs. Here, highway directional signs are green, indications of services are blue, and attractions are either green or brown. In Ontario, there does not seem to be any partcular standard. Many directional signs are blue, but some are green. And in Toronto, I suggest avoiding the extreme right-hand lane, as it has a tendency to appear and disappear at odd places. Fortunately, they have this nice feature where the second lane from the right is usually either "straight through" or "exit", so the extreme right lane can be safely ignored.
I've noticed that in driving through a city, sometimes it becomes quite obvious what the local favorite is. I first noticed it with the large number of Coney Island sellers in Detroit. Based on restaurant drive-bys, I've matched up a few cities with the local favorites. Feel free to add to the list...
Detroit, Michigan: Coney Island dogs
Columbus, Ohio: Fast food, pizza (hey...we're Wendy's home-town!)
Niagara Falls, Ontario: Italian entrees
Toronto, Ontario: Coffee and doughnuts
Rochester, New York: Frozen Custard
Williamsburg, Virginia: Pancake and steak
Not far from Canada's Wonderland is Woodbine Center, a moderate-sized shopping mall. Inside is an elaborate FEC featuring several rides which are tightly integrated into the building. For instance, a 12-tub Ferris wheel has no supporting structure of its own...the hub rests on a pair of bearings supported by I-beams which are otherwise part of the building's supporting structure. Since the FEC is on the upper level, the tubs load two at a time from bridges located on opposite sides of the wheel. It's a neat place, but not Wonderland.
A neat thing about Marineland and Wonderland: The Canadian crowd is much nicer than many of the parks around here. It seems like a stereotype, but it is absolutely true. Speaking of stereotypes, all the time I was in Ontario I resisted the urge to punctuate my sentences with "eh?"...but it was quite difficult.
I was driving through Rochester on my way to Seabreeze when I noticed the seemingly large number of frozen custard sellers. Right down the road from Seabreeze are two old short-order restaurants (McKenzie, you'd love 'em!) which turned out to be a good place to have dinner. I want a park just like Seabreeze in my town!
Why is it that every time I go to Knoebel's, I have car trouble? I suspect that the blame this time lies with Darien Lake's parking lot...I had to have two holes plugged in one of my tires. Many thanks to Thurston Garage on Thurston St. at Enterprise in Rochester for getting me back on the road in short order.
Driving through Elmira, NY, I spotted a sign which caught my attention: Eldridge Park.With moderate difficulty I followed the signs to the indicated city park. You know how sometimes you see a sign for a city park and it just jogs something deep in the subconscious that says, "Check this out..."? That's what happened to me.
Eldridge Park turned out to be a sad sight indeed. One building appears to be an older building converted over to rest rooms. Next to that is a large building apparently set up to house a farmers market, since it no longer contains a carousel. Then there is a huge oval building, also boarded up tight, which I suspect once held a Whip. Remnants of a couple of signs over the midway suggest a bumper car building. All of this faces a pond, and I could almost visualize a small out and back wood coaster running through the ball fields. Does anyone know anything about this place? Am I right about the Whip and the Coaster? How long ago did it close? All these questions as I delayed even more my arrival at Knoebel's.
A note for driving in Pennsylvania: Most law enforcement in Pennsylvania (the State Police are the exception) are not permitted to use speed radar. They do use stopwatches and measured distances (VASCAR), though, which is why the non-Interstates have horizontal lines painted all over them. Of course, none of this makes the slightest bit of difference to my driving, as I generally drive at close to the legal speed rather than worrying constantly about the cruiser or motorcycle parked around the next corner. But it certainly affects the driving of certain Pennsylvanians who go cruising through town at excessive speeds, then slam on their brakes when they see the telltale pavement markings. I forget the name of the town, but there was one town I went through on PA-487 where this behavior was quite apparent
Now, folks, prior to this, I had only seen one Wheel, and Knoebel's Merry Mixer. Suddenly I see a whole carnival made up of nothing but Garbrick equipment. I looked a little more closely at one of the nameplates. "Garbrick Manufacturing - Center Hall, PA" they read.
I grabbed my atlas.
Center Hall, it turns out, is just about five miles Northeast of State College. A quick detour, really, from Harrisburg. Well, what do you know? I headed for Center Hall, where I would search for the industrial ruins of Garbrick Manufacturing.
When I arrived in Center Hall, there were a couple of promising sites, but nothing obvious. Then I saw a sign indicating the location of a local library. If there is anything I have learned over the years, it is that if you want local information, the local library is an excellent place to start.
Sure enough, the Center Hall library proved to be a one-room affair where the staff was discussing plans for lunch. I glanced around and spotted a shelf marked "Local History." Paging through the tales on that shelf, I finally found a reference to a Garbrick who had bought two parcels of land for his welding and machine shop "on the West side of the concrete road", and in another book a couple of bad photos showing the Garbrick plant. I headed back out to the State route ("the concrete road"?) and continued through town. Right on the edge of town I spotted buildings that looked a little like the ones in the photos. More important, hidden behind a Runaway Truck ramp I spied painted steel. Actually, it looked like a trailer full of swinging gyms. I pulled in for a closer look. One building looked kind of like a house, but was clearly industrial in nature; next to it is a Quonset hut. Parked between the Quonset hut and the truck ramp are several semi tractors of nondescript livery, and what look to be a couple of ride trailers; one looks like it might be a Merry Mixer. More important, a plywood sign on the broad side of the Quonset hut clearly used to say, "Garbrick Manufacturing" though the sign is so weatherbeaten that it takes some effort to see this now. I was suprised to find that the place appears to be active for something; my suspicion is that instead of continuing the manufacturing business, the principals at Garbrick opted to go into the ride operation business instead, and are possibly using the old factory as a base of operations. Perhaps the unit I saw in Harrisburg belongs to Garbrick?
Interestring ideas, anyway. I drove on to State College, where I collected a young man whom I intended to corrupt with a coaster at Bland's Park.
Del Grosso's pasta sauce is billed as "The Finest Sauce Made™", so while I was in the area I bought a jar. It's not bad stuff. I don't think it is particularly remarkable, though. Of course I'm not a pasta sauce connoisseur, either. As for why I even bring up the subject of pasta sauce...well, the Del Grosso plant is across the road from Bland's Park, which makes sense since the Del Grosso family owns Bland's Park.
Y'know, approaching <-Kennywood-< from the East, there really isn't an easy way to get there from US-22. Not on my map, anyway. Not like getting there from US-30, anyway.
As usual, I stayed too late at Kennywood and didn't get home...yes, home...until 4:30am. Upon arriving at home, so tired I could barely see straight, what do you think I did? Of course. I fired up the computer and started reading rec.roller-coaster. Then I went to bed, slept until about 8:00am, then went to Cedar Point. Is that a sign of a true coaster nut, or what?
It was a neat trip. Erieview, Waldameer, Marineland, Wonderland, Darien Lake, Seabreeze, Knoebel's, Hersheypark, Blands, Lakemont, Kennywood, and Cedar Point...that's twelve parks in ten days. Add to that two museums, two FECs, a carnival, and three historical ruins. And on top of all that, I got to take a young man on his first roller coaster. What more could I have wanted...besides another week?
--Dave Althoff, Jr.
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