The day began much as the day before had ended. 50-some degrees and raining. How many words do Seattle residents have for "rain," I wonder...
From Seattle, it is a couple hours' drive to the Canadian border. Having read about long delays crossing the border, I took a slight detour, heading up WA-539 and crossing there. I figured there wouldn't be as many vehicles trying to go through there, so I might avoid a delay.
Big mistake, that. Sure, there were not many vehicles going through. But of course I was the one they had to stop, interrogate, and search the car. I have no idea what they were looking for, but I have concluded that Southwest Canadians are simply suspicious and/or paranoid by nature. More about that in a moment.
I drove past the PNE site and on down Hastings St. to find an ATM Footnote 1, then parked at the PNE lot across from the Playland entrance. I bought my admission and noticed that Playland is the only park I have visited which has a parents discount. Admission prices are based on height, with the break point at 48" Footnote 2. But a parent gets a price break if chaperoning a child under age 12, regardless of height (48" is about 8 years old). So for a discount when visiting Playland, bring the kids!
I couldn't resist heading straight for Coaster. It had a long line that wasn't moving, and before long I realized that only one of the three trains was operating. "Now what's this all about?" I wondered. Remember, I am one of these people who thinks that minimum waits are outrageous, and who has been known to walk out of restaurants that employ the "30-minute minimum". But I noticed that before long, a second train had been added to the ride. This accelerated the line considerably. The flanged wheel trains have open-front single-bench trailered cars with undivided seats and minimalist single-position lap bars hinged from the floor. This train was not only exceedingly comfortable, it also ran extremely well. I noticed that the lead cars are equipped with oilers which, when turned on, spray a coating of oil onto the rail directly ahead of the first road wheel. This makes sense, actually...the lead wheel has to slide a little in order to make the turns; all of the other wheels can track cleanly and could probably run with no track lubrication at all. These trains track smoothly and almost silently around the course, and seeing how they run I can fully understand why Mike Boodley's Roar train looks the way it does.
For my first ride, I plopped down in the last seat and pulled back the lap bar, then clicked the hold-down strap to the bottom of my camera. As I did so, the person in the Shivering Timbers shirt who sat down in front of me noted my Lakemont Skyliner shirt and noted that he had one just like it. I introduced myself and asked if he was somebody I should know. He turned out to be Kevin Coley, or KevinCBear@aol.com, r.r-c participant from Oakland. He had taken rather more rides on Coaster than I had.
Coaster is an interesting ride. In the back seat, yes, there is airtime on most of the drops, but a strange thing happens. The car drops out from under you, and you are literally pitched over the lap bar. It is an unusual action which reminded me a lot of Apollo's Chariot, only without the high seatbacks. But it was only the pitching motion that reminded me of Apollo. This ride has honest-to-goodness "where did the train go" airtime on it. The double-oval layout is carefully folded in on top of itself and very much hidden from the midway. The result is a ride which is full of surprises.
The biggest surprise came when I got back to the station. Coaster has hand-operated skid brakes in the station, and a mid-course brake which did not seem to make any contact wth the train. The surprise was the Allen-Bradley display console mounted on the door to a cabinet at the unload station. I didn't have a chance to find out for sure, but I wonder if Coaster doesn't have a computerized safety system!
The Coaster was running two trains, but the line hadn't gotten much shorter. So Kevin and I headed off to the Corkscrew. Corkscrew, in this case, is a Vekoma Corkscrew, and it has a much longer and more interesting layout than the Arrow Corkscrews I rode on this trip. It also runs very nicely, and I love the close clearances Vekoma builds into their rides. Interesting, like the Knoebels Whirlwind, the PNE Corkscrew does not have any foundations; it is essentially a portable ride, with a square-tube base held down with several large concrete blocks. I'm not talking about cinder blocks here, I mean huge blocks of poured concrete. I'm guessing that if the ride were portable it would have ballast tanks to serve the same purpose. Although it is a Vekoma ride, as can be seen by the bolts in the sides of the track, this ride has an Arrow train. Oh, and for what it is worth, it doesn't have the new safety bracket.
Playland's third coaster is a rare steel Wild Mouse. I have been told that it is a Miler mouse, but the signage on the sides of the cars implies that it might have been a Mack...or something else. In any case I waited a very long time for this one, then the ride went down mechanical. Damn. Well, Kevin was waiting for me to rejoin him, so I bailed out of the queue and rode the Octopus instead. This ride, sitting next to the Mouse, has five sweeps and a pod of four tubs at the end of each sweep. The interesting innovation here is that each sweep has a hydraulic cylinder on the eccentric mechanism so that at the end of the ride, all five sweeps can be simultaneously lowered to platform level for self-loading. The ride is in fact a Soriani & Moser Polyp, and it departs from the Eyerly Monster in another area: The eccentric motion of the ride is slower than and in the same direction as the main rotation, so there is not nearly as much up and down action as on the Eyerly ride. It's okay, but I like the Monster better.
I rejoined Kevin on the midway, and we headed over to the Eli wheel, thinking it might be a good place to get photos of the coaster. Well, it isn't great for that purpose, but it does work. When the wheel is operating, that is. As we approached, the wheel went down mechanical...loaded. They unloaded the wheel, then a couple of maintenance guys started examining the rope-drive system. Whatever it was, the wheel was down for a while. We went back to the Coaster, which again had a long line and was again running only one train. Again after an unreasonably long time the second train was put back into service, and I got to take a front-seat ride.
Up front is different from riding in the back. The front of the train is an airtime festival, not as dramatic as in the back seat, but the action is much more comfortable. In the front seat you are launched upward and not dumped over the lap bar. I think I actually like the ride better up front. It seems to flow better. Not that it doesn't flow well in any seat. The secret to this ride is clearly the train. It is easily the best-running wood coaster have ever ridden, and that alone gets my attention. I only wish it wasn't 2,500 miles away.
The Wheel was back in service, so we took a ride. It's not a particularly good place to see the Coaster from, but then, neither is any other location in the park. Coaster is arguably the least photogenic coaster I have ever ridden, so difficult to photograph, in fact, that I snapped a couple of photos from on-board the ride, something I usually don't bother with. Truth is, that is the only place in the whole park where you can get a decent look at the ride.
Kevin and I parted ways and I wandered the park some more, taking pictures as I went. I also did my ride census:
|Ride name||Manufacturer||Common Name|
|Coaster||Carl Phare/Burrard Amusements, Ltd.||Wood Coaster|
|Wave Swinger||Zierer||Wave Swinger |
|Musik Express||Mack||Musik Express |
|Tilt-A-Whirl||Sellner||Tilt-A-Whirl (cable drive) |
|Wild Mouse||Mack? Miler?||Wild Mouse |
|Octopus||Soriani & Moser||Polyp |
|Scooters||SBF||Bumper Cars |
|Scrambler||Eli Bridge||Scrambler |
|Ferris Wheel||Eli Bridge||Eagle-16 cable drive wheel |
|Waterfall||Reverchon||Wild River flume |
|Dragon Coaster||Zamperla||Dragon |
|Helicopter||Allan Herschell||Helicopter |
|Elephants||Allan Herschell||Rodeo |
|Grand Prix||Wilhelm Peter?||Kid car ride |
|Paddle Wheeler||Allan Herschell||Wet boat |
|Stunt Cycles||Hampton||Jump Cycle |
|Kiddie Swings||?||Swing Ride |
|Combo||Hampton||Combo Umbrella Ride |
Of particular interest is their Allan Herschell kiddie boat ride. They have added some decoration to the boats including a canopy and a little stern paddlewheel. Very cute. I also finally got to ride the Wild Mouse where I ran afoul of a "no single riders" rule. One of the operators jumped in with me, telling me that next time I should bring a friend. I've got news for him...it took an hour this time around, this is my first visit to this park in 29 years...I'm not likely to ride that mouse again anytime soon!
|I think this is the shot that got me into trouble...|
It is a very old mouse, with a 3-rail track and a mushroom wheel. It is a fun ride, but I don't think I would wait an hour for it again. It has a couple of good drops on it. It's a kind of a cross between the little Allan Herschell mouse at Lakemont and the big Vekoma mouse at Idlewild. Somewhere between those two. The car I rode in was a bit crowded as it contained me, the aforementioned operator, and a leaking sand bag.
I took another couple of rides on Coaster, and I duly noted the two water cannon mounted adjacent the last curve of their Reverchon portable flume. All of the rides in this park except Coaster are portable. I stopped by the administration building where I learned that the park attracts about 3,000,000 people during its season, then an additional 3,000,000 people during the 17 days of the PNE. Wow! I can't help but wonder if the Puyallup fairgrounds wouldn't have that kind of success if Funtastic Shows were to open up a summer-long amusement park on those grounds. Ah, I guess it is just wishful thinking because I know the Western Washington Fair happens during the first week of classes at Capital University, where I work, meaning there is almost no chance of me ever attending that show. Sigh.
I also looked for a Playland shirt. What is it with this part of the world? NOBODY sells tee shirts! I guess shirts are available during the PNE, but for the moment I was left with a pocket full of unspent souvenir money.
There was one other surprise that I never managed to investigate. Next to the flume ride there is a little french-fry stand called, "Buckeye Fries." Now, I am an Ohioan. I know that a buckeye is an inedible dark brown nut with a light brown spot on one side, the fruit of a buckeye tree. I also know that the tree is native to this part of the world, but outside this region, most people have never heard of a buckeye except in the context of The Ohio State University. I wondered about this, but I never bothered to check and find out where the name of the fry stand originated.
It was as I was leaving the grounds that I got something of a surprise. I was about to cross the street to go back to "my" car when several members of the park security detail sneaked up behind me. Er...um...yes? Remember when I said something about Southwestern Canadians being suspicious people? Apparently someone had expressed some concern that I had been photographing her kids in the park. There were kids on that ride?! 8-) At least the officers were nice about it; I think I left them with the impression that I am mostly harmless. I suspect I generated suspicion because I use a Pentax K1000 SLR camera, which is the kind of no-nonsense camera usually reserved for "serious" photographers and journalists, not vacationers. Interesting, that is the first time I've ever had that kind of an experience. Fortunately, everything worked out well. The Canadians are suspicious, but very polite about it, and quite willing to admit when there really isn't a problem. But while driving through Vancouver on my way to dinner, and ultimately back to the US, my experience with BC suspicion advanced to ridiculous when I was stopped (along with everyone else driving on that particular street) for a sobriety checkpoint. I could hardly believe it. Get me out of this country!
That night, I headed back to Seattle, hoping to spend the night there and drive to Silverwood in the morning. Since I still had a pocket full of Canadian cash, I stopped at a Boston Pizza for supper. I wonder how that company got its name. It is clearly a Canadian company, as it is not possible to get a meat pizza there that doesn't include ham. It was quite good. I noticed that they were advertising a 128-ounce pitcher of beer to serve eight people and I remember wondering why they didn't just call it a gallon until I remembered that the Canadian "Imperial" gallon was not the same size as a US gallon.
From then on it was an uneventful evening. But the strangeness wasn't over yet. But that is the subject of another report.
Next: Spokane Riverfront Park
Northwest Coaster Tour '99 Index
Trip Reports 1999
Or back to Dave's page
--Dave Althoff, Jr.
Footnote 1: Making an ATM withdrawal at a foreign ATM provides me with local currency obtained at what is usually a more favorable exhange rate than I can get at a bank. Besides, most banks are closed on Saturday afternoon.
Footnote 2: Yes, 48". NOT 1.2m. In fact, of all the measurements I heard and read at the PNE, the only metric measurement I saw all day was on my 600ml bottle of Coke.