This Fourth of July weekend, The Gryphon and I visited my family in Central Pennsylvania. My brother came down from Vermont with his family, and my sister came up from Virginia. Sadly, her husband had to stay behind and work.
The Gryphon and I arrived Friday night, just in time for me to do my evening work assignments. I finished after everyone had gone to bed. But no worries: we had a fun day on Saturday, the highlight being a trip to Knoebels Grove, a.k.a. Knoebels Amusement Park.
The Gryphon sits on a bench in Kiddyland
while my niece and nephew go on rides.
We had gone to Knoebels my entire life, and my mom had gone there since she was a little girl, as well. The Gryphon and I, along with my brother's family, were the first to arrive. Since we had cell phones, we arranged to call each other when we arrived. I had also established a fallback position of meeting at the Grand Carousel at 1 p.m., just in case we didn't manage to connect. It turned out to be a good idea.
If you are ever taking a large group to an amusement park, I recommend setting such meeting places in case you get separated. Even with cell phones, you never know.
The first thing we did upon arriving was to head for Kiddyland for my niece and nephew. Their first ride was a boat ride where they could ring the bell. They both seemed to enjoy that.
Next, they rode some planes. The planes had fake mounted guns, for shooting at imaginary enemy planes. I remember my brother loving such rides when he was little.
Just about then, my sister arrived and called us. We told her where we were, and she caught up with us. She enjoyed watching the kids on a mini Ferris wheel.
Then my brother took the kids to ride on some little cars that run on a track, while the rest of us rode the Haunted House. The Gryphon enjoyed it, although he said that it ran a little too fast. The Haunted House was named the favorite for five consecutive years by the Dark Ride and Funhouse Enthusiasts, and I remember when it used to scare the socks off me. This time, since I had the camera, I got a shot of the exterior and a few non-flash pics inside, which are blurry but nonetheless interesting.
My brother and his wife had packed some peanut butter and jelly sandwiches for the kids and got themselves some food at one of the stands. The Gryphon and I had also packed sandwiches, but we'd eaten ours in the parking lot, because we didn't want to carry the Tupperware container around. While everyone else enjoyed some cotton candy and some lunch, I had an apple, and The Gryphon had a granola bar, both of which I'd brought. My brother's wife bought cotton candy for the kids, which they shared with us, as well.
Dad called us about then, and while The Gryphon, my sister and my brother's wife waiting for him to get to the pavilion, I helped my brother take the kids to a nearby playground. It's a good thing I went along, because my nephew didn't want to go across the rope bridge that my brother crossed with my niece. Instead, we looked at mazes and other things one the ground together.
Then we took them to the nearby bumper cars, which my nephew later said was his favorite ride of the day. I think he really enjoyed being able to control it. In what I thought was a cute moment, he and another boy were talking to each other, psyching themselves up for the ride. They were saying, "I'm going to hit you." When the ride started, both of them spun around in circles and never actually collided!
The rest of the group joined us, with my Dad looking dapper in wraparound glasses and a boater. He was all smiles, seeing his grandchildren on the rides.
At 1, we headed to the Grand Carousel to meet Mom. She still hadn't arrived, so everyone but Dad rode the carousel. He was kind enough to get some pictures, including a really wacky one of me.
None of us got the brass ring, but I got one on nearly every round, missing only twice (and once that was because there was no ring in the ring dispenser).
I also shot a short video of the organ that provides the music for the ride.
When we got off the carousel, Mom had arrived. She wanted to ride the carousel, so my Dad and sister rode it with her, and I got a good shot of Dad before the ride started.
We went with my brother and his family to ride the Old Smokey Train, which takes adult and child passengers through Kiddyland two different directions and then back to the platform. This is one of two trains in Knoebels, with the Pioneer Train being the most popular. The kids loved it, and I got some neat pics. The Gryphon also got some pics of me on the train.
While waiting for the train, we'd suggested splitting up, with my parents and my brother taking the kids to more kiddy rides, while the rest of us hit some of the thrill rides. After all, it was The Gryphon's first visit to the park. When I first suggested this, though, there was a little resistance. Mom had hoped we'd all ride the Pioneer Train together, but it's on the other side of the park, so it didn't make a lot of sense to go there and back.
We arranged a time to meet: 3:30 p.m. at the Grand Carousel. I made sure that everyone looked at me as I repeated the time and place. This would turn out to be a very good thing.
So The Gryphon, my sister, my brother's wife and I headed for The Phoenix. It's a wooden roller coaster originally known as The Rocket when it was built in San Antonio, Texas. It moved to Knoebels in 1985 and has been a top attraction ever since. I've heard that coaster enthusiasts make a special trip just to ride it.
Fortunately, the long waits that were standard for the Phoenix 20 years ago are no longer a reality. We probably waited in line for about 10-15 minutes, tops. That was one of the longest waits we had the entire day. The Phoenix was just as much fun as ever. I put my arms up on the drops and screamed my lungs out.
After The Phoenix, we asked The Gryphon what he wanted to do next, and he said The Twister. That was after we tried to go to the new one and found out it's not completed yet. It's a wooden roller coaster that will take the place of the steel wild mouse ride, The Jet, which no longer exists.
The Twister used to be one of my favorites, but this time I got a slight headache from the jostling. My sister did, too. I don't know if it's the ride that's changed or just that my sister and I are older.
After this ride, my brother's wife said she'd go trade with him so that he could ride some thrill rides, too. We tried several times to call Mom and Dad, but neither one of them answered their cell phones. She headed for Kiddyland, confident she'd be able to find them.
Meanwhile, The Gryphon, my sister and I went to the Fudge Kitchen and bought three different types of fudge to share. We got Peanut Butter Cup, Tiger's Milk, and Chocolate Mint. The Peanut Butter Cup had too much chocolate and not enough peanut butter. The Tiger's Milk was tasty. The Chocolate Mint was my favorite.
As we ate the fudge, we talked about what to do for the half an hour before we met up with everyone at the Carousel. About this time, we realized that we hadn't heard anything from my brother yet, who was supposed to be heading our way to join us. Sure enough, we saw him walking by, pulling the kids in a rented wagon, with my parents in tow. I caught up with him and asked him where his wife was. She'd never found them!
So now, while my brother, the kids, and my parents headed for the gasoline-powered cars, one of my mom's favorite rides, the rest of us split up and looked for my brother's wife. We wandered all around Kiddyland, eventually joined by Dad and my brother, but none of us found her. Fortunately, she remembered to meet us at the Carousel at 3:30, so we all managed to reconnect.
So my brother was finally free to ride a thrill ride with us, and he opted for the wettest ride, the Sklooosh. It's one of the wettest rides I've ridden anywhere. It is like a flume but is designed to send up a huge wave that then drenches the riders. Once you get off, you can stand on a bridge and watch the next boat come down, caught inside the wave and wetted another time.
We were completed soaked at the end of it, so I'm glad we followed my brother's suggestion and put our personal items in a coin-operated locker at the nearby restrooms before riding. Of course, we had to get a picture. The Gryphon took one of us with both my camera and my sister's camera phone, timing it so there was a bit wave behind us each time.
Any further rides with the kids were ruled out by the fact that my niece had poked my nephew in the eye, making it red and swollen. This reminded my brother of the fact that my parents had always said that you knew it was time to leave Knoebels when someone was finally crying.
We rode one more ride with my mom, the Scenic Skyride, which takes the place of a similar ride that used to run over the central park. This one goes far up a mountain, giving you a great aerial view of the park on the way down. It's a nice, relaxing ride that I'm sure is popular with lovers.
After Mom and Dad left, we stuck around with my sister so The Gryphon could ride more things. We did The Galleon, and while waiting in line we noticed one woman on the end, closing her eyes and looking meditative. This seemed odd, so we decided to try it out. Wouldn't you know it: the ride that one minute ago seemed thrilling now seemed gentle. It must have something to do with the way we interpret visual data.
We also rode the Super Roundup, which is a spinning ride that sucks you against the back. I tried closing my eyes with that one, as well, and discovered that again, it seemed far more gentle.
Afterwards, since we were all hungry, we ate at the International Food Court, where we ordered from the World menu, trying out Bison Burgers and sharing some Alligator Bits. I was happy they also served corn on the cob and fruit salad.
We tried a new ride, the Fandango, which was very disorienting. You're on a spinning disk that also swings from side to side. The little bit of give at the top of the ride before you sink back down had me shrieking and laughing like an insane person.
Before leaving, we rode the Pioneer Train, introducing The Gryphon to a park tradition. When you go through the tunnel, you scream, and then when you exit, you act like nothing happened. I think it's something that kids naturally do, and that adults continue because of nostalgia.
On our way out of the park, I took a few more shots of some of the best-loved rides, including one of the Big Wheel that I think turned out rather well.
We followed each other back to my Dad's place and had a frustrating experience along the way, trying to find an ice cream place we had gone to with Dad. I was going the right way but didn't take us far enough, and neither Google Maps (access through The Gryphon's iPhone) or my sister's GPS were any help. So we gave up and drove home.
Since my brother and his wife had invited an old friend to visit, The Gryphon and I took Una for a walk. I wanted to be sure that Una wouldn't bark and perhaps frighten my niece and nephew. So far, they'd had a good experience with her, but I knew that my nephew had been bitten by a dog last summer, and he's understandably a little cautious. Already, she'd startled him twice by barking.
This meant that we actually got to see some fireworks both legal and illegal being set off around town. We also got to see the sunset.
Dad called us to let us know that she'd arrived, and when we returned, they'd already headed for a local bar down the street, which uses black light and has Day-Glo paint everywhere, including the pool tables.
I was a little surprised it was empty in there, but I suppose people were doing family things. It was kind of nice to have the place all to ourselves, though I think the bartender was sad to see us go.
Always set a fallback meeting place.