Wednesday, August 17, 2016

Down at Great Escape Park

We pulled out of the garage around 9:30 again, this time headed to Six Flags Great Escape in Lake George, New York. After a stop for gas, we made our way back into the upstate New York countryside...but this time, we went beyond Albany and Troy, mostly along the Interstate. While the clouds were in and out, there was a nice, cool wind, and it wasn't nearly as hot as it was yesterday or as it's been in South Jersey.

Finally made it to Six Flags around 11:30-noon. Getting into the parking lot was easy, much easier than it was the last time we went in 2009. They just needed to ring the bar on the parking voucher Lauren got online. We left the car in the half-full Dove parking lot (all the parking lots in Great Escape are named for Mars candies) and strolled across the pedestrian bridge to the main entrance.

Getting in the park was a LOT more complicated. They now have metal detectors in front of the main entrance. I know it's necessary these days, but it was a pain. I had to take off my gold necklace, and it got tangled in the cup. Good thing Lauren's more patient with this sort of thing than I am.

Once we made it in the park (and hit the bathroom), our first stop was the Magic Carpet Sky Ride in the Storybook Town area. It's your basic Sky Ride that glides over the Storybook Town and Hot Rod USA areas, but it did give us an idea of what rides were there now. We noticed Thunder Alley, Great Escape's 50's-themed version of Disneyland's Tomorrowland Raceway, was now hidden behind the brand-new Greezed Lightnin' "Fireball" endless loop coaster and seemed to have been spruced up sometime in the last few years. We'd take in that one later. The Swan Boats and park railroad (now the Storybook Town Railroad) were still there, too.

We wandered through Storybook Town and Timbertown Station (the more generic North-Woods-themed replacement for the Looney Tunes kids area) to take in two walk-through rides. The Alice In Wonderand walk-through started in a black-lit, green striped tunnel and went past a shrinking Alice drinking her "drink me" bottle into the Tulgey Wood. This seemed to consist mostly of bright-colored, gigantic snails and huge polka-dot mushrooms. We past the Caterpillar and his hookah, a wooden house featuring Mad Tea Party figurines, and the Queen of Hearts and her court. (The Queen was much too pretty to be screaming at anybody.)

Alice and the Jungle Rope Bridge Walk-Through date back to when the park was entirely called Storybook Town in the 50's and 60's. The small Bugs-and-Daffy figures we saw on the walk-through in 2009 had been replaced by nifty fiberglass jungle animals, including a huge hippo, an elephant, a tiger family, and a very realistic snake that bares his fangs in greeting you as you enter. The rope bridges remain the same - wobbly! We were still wobbling when we bounced off.

(My friend Linda Young, who went to Storybook Town in the 60's and 70's, will be happy to know the rope bridge walk through is still very popular. The mom in front of us mentioned her two toddlers had tugged her onto the walk-through at least 10 times this summer.)

It must have taken a half-hour to find the Comet, Great Escape's popular wooden coaster. It's got some interesting history, too. It was built in 1927 and spent 40 years in a park in Ontario before it shut down in 1989. It was moved to Great Escape in 1994. Lauren wanted to try at least one roller coaster and thought this wouldn't be so bad. I hadn't ridden a wooden coaster since Keefe talked me into going on The Great White in Wildwood in 2002. I hadn't been thrilled at the time, but I survived. How bad could it be?

I don't know. I kept my eyes closed most of the ride. The moment it went up and over that first steep hill, it was too much for me. I screamed at Lauren twice before I settled for clenching my teeth and holding on for dear life. It went around corners like a wild horse, bucking and rattling on the track. I swear I felt myself fly up in the seat at several points. I read online that this is considered to be one of the best wooden coasters in the world. Maybe some coaster fans wouldn't have a problem with it, but it was too crazy for us! We were wobbling more than on the rope bridges when we stumbled down the exit queue.

Lauren stopped to check our photos on the ride at the kiosk to one side of the queue. I didn't join her. I knew what I looked like on that ride - terrified! After she changed her mind about the photos, we decided we needed something a tad more grounded and easier on our stomachs. We strolled past Splashwater Kingdom, Great Escape's outdoor water park, and the wacky-colored Dr. Seuss-esque kiddie area Kidzopolis to the Fest Area.

The Fest Area is the home of Lauren's favorite ride, the Raging River. You ride in a large tube with five other people, passing under and through waterfalls, sprays, and jets of water (often shot by people on the path going by the rapids). We did it twice, once before lunch, and once afterwards, and had a lot of fun. The first time, we rode with three young-teen girls who giggled and laughed and screamed and compared one of their teachers to a chicken leg. The second time, we went with a mom, a grandmom, and a younger girl.

We had lunch between rides. The Alpine Fest Haus was a fast-food style eatery just a little down the road from the Raging River. We settled for simple chicken salads. Lauren bought a souvenir refillable cup. I thought they were way too much and went with a 12-oz Poweraide.

The second go-around on the Raging River left us both thoroughly drenched. We played games in the Fest Area while we were dripping. Alas, I just could not win. Lauren beat me at Whac-a-Mole and got a rather odd hat shaped like a purple and yellow squid. She won the skee ball horse race game and got a ladybug to give to her mom, who collects ladybug items.

We took in some less wild rides while we dried off. The Storybook Town Train took us past fiberglass versions of Hickory Dickory Dock and Humpty Dumpty, as well as "Popo the Purple Cow" (who looked far more like a friendly dragon or dinosaur) and ruined carriages and antique cars that represented Ghost Town. (And scared the dickens out of the two toddlers sitting in front of us, who squeals that they kept seeing ghosts around every corner.) The Swan Boats took a similar route on the River Dee, passing Popo and Humpty as well as several flocks of very real ducks looking for a snack.

Thunder Alley is my favorite ride at Great Escape. It had been cleaned up considerably since we were last there. In fact, the whole area had been themed around it, now made to look like a small town in the 50's and now called Hot Rod USA. The little cars sported bright new paint jobs. I rode in a black hod rod with "flames" on the front. The Technicolor tulips in the landscaping had been joined by vintage "billboards" for Storybook Town and Coca Cola. The genuine 50's and 60's building on the street across from Great Escape added to the atmosphere, including a neon sign with a giant chicken perched on the top. (Also, unless they're riding with a little kid, people can only ride one at a time in a car now.)

Had a small dinner at a pizza booth near Thunder Alley. I had cheesebread - cheese covered flat bread - and Lauren had a slice of pepperoni. After that, we returned to the International Village to go shopping. She bought a giant yellow neon bear with Six Flags Great Escape embroidered on its paws. I found the most adorable fuzzy pink hedgehog with a heart-shaped gemstone collar and embroidered heart cheeks. Her name is Miss Hedgie, and she's a sweet southern belle. I also grabbed a metal Six Flags key chain.

We were both worn out, and I pulled a muscle in my right leg climbing out of the Swan Boats and was sore as heck. It was time to go home. We headed out around 6, stopping briefly at Rite Aid for Lauren to try to find what her dad asked her to get yesterday. (She didn't.)

Finally got in around 8:30-ish. I showed Mr. and Mrs. Miller my hedgehog, then hit the shower. We're now finishing up tonight's chat session. Tomorrow, we're going to take in another mall, this one in the opposite direction in Eastern Massachusetts.

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