We got a slightly earlier start out around 9 this morning. Mr. and Mrs. Miller had a doctor's appointment and were awake to see us off this time. We had our Cheerios (mine with blueberries), gathered our purses and water bottles, and headed off for Lake George.
I love the ride through northern Massachusetts and upstate New York! It's like a painting of the country, with wildflower-dotted fields, weathered barns, cozy villages, and historic farmhouses. It was cloudy off and on as we made it onto the highway, going over a bridge with a fabulous view of downtown Albany. We encountered no traffic on the road and had no problems getting to Lake George.
We pulled into Six Flags Great Escape around 11. As she did last year, Lauren bought our tickets and parking vouchers in advance. She parked us in the Three Musketeers lot (all the parking lots at Great Escape are named after Mars candies), which at that point, wasn't even half-full. I made sure to leave the jewelry at home this time so there would be fewer things to take off and put through the metal detectors going into the park.
Great Escape is an expansion of an older park, Storytown USA. (Linda Young, who used to go on vacation to Lake George with her parents in the 60's, has mentioned attending the park in its early years.) The park's original attractions were miniature houses for kids to roam around in, with kid-sized furniture and entrances representing a wild west town and the homes of famous fairy tale characters. Lauren, who is a little over five feet, had an easier time getting in the houses to take pictures than I did. (I'm 5'4.) We waved to Cinderella in a sparkly turquoise gown by the bright yellow boot-shaped home of The Old Woman Who Lived In a Shoe. She spun and twirled, flaring out her fancy skirt, to the delight of little girls passing by.
After we waved to Scooby Doo, who was greeting kids between storybook houses, we found ourselves back in the Carousel Plaza. I love merry-go-rounds. They're so elegant and romantic. They remind me of my childhood, when they were often the first thing we'd ride after we got to the Wildwood boardwalk parks. I ended up riding the Grand Carousel solo. Lauren says the around and around makes her stomach queasy. I had no such problems as I managed to scramble onto a pretty white mare with an orange saddle painted with daisies. Some of the ride-on animals were really unique and detailed. I saw a lion, a rabbit, a cat, a camel, and even a dragon!
We strolled over the "wooden" bridge and into the 50's-themed Hot Rod USA. We were going to check out Thunder Alley, their car ride, but the line was ridiculous. We ended up waiting for the Swan Boats instead. They also had a fairly long line, but we were able to get on after 10 minutes because the large family in front of us wanted to stay together. We were greeted by a cheerful brunette Alice at the Alice In Wonderland Walk-Through and giggled at the real Canadian geese and ducks looking for a snack under the reeds of the River Dee. (The driver claimed there were baby marmots by the Jungle Rope Walk-Through. If there were, we didn't see them.)
Stopped for a quick lunch at the pizza booth across from the train station. We both got slices of pepperoni and small Cherry Cokes. As the train started its course around the park, the two of us settled down with our lunch and watched it leave.
Since we were there, we thought we'd hop on the train on its return to Hot Rod USA. The Storytown Train runs a similar route to the Swan Boats, going through a tunnel by Thunder Alley and around the river, past Humpty Dumpty, Popo the Purple Cow (who looks more like a friendly dragon), and Hickory Dickory Dock. Unlike the boats, it takes you through the spooky woods, giving you a glimpse of "abandoned" Ghost Town vehicles and Jungle Rope Bridge elephants and hippos.
Lauren's favorite ride at Great Escape is the Raging Rapids in the Alpine-themed Fest Area. She's not the only one who enjoys it. It's one of the most popular rides at the park...with one of the longest lines. By this point, the sun was in and out, making it the perfect time to get wet. The first time around, we shared our vehicle with three enthusiastic and funny teen sisters. They enjoyed the ride as much as we did! The poor youngest girl got soaked the worst, to her noisy dismay. On the second time around, we ended up between families who wanted to stay together and got a vehicle to ourselves. They added a few more bumps and waterfalls to the last lap, including a sprayer. Both times, we ended up pleasantly damp, but not soaked.
Normally, we love playing the boardwalk-style games around the corner from the Rapids, but they've gotten awfully expensive over the years. We did find an air hockey game outside and played a rematch; Lauren won again, 5-3. The crane games were a tad less pricey. I didn't win anything, but Lauren, after many tries, got a cute stuffed emoji star with heart eyes.
Since it's on the way back from the Fest Area, our next stop (after a break to use the bathroom and buy soda) was the Alice In Wonderland Walk-Through. Alice herself was gone by then, but I did get some shots of the massive fiberglass Cheshire Cat, the Caterpillar on his mushroom, Tweedledee and Tweedledum, and the Queen of Hearts and her court.
The line for Thunder Alley wasn't quite as daunting later in the afternoon as it had been around lunchtime. You ride 50's-style coupes with different paint jobs around a small track decorated with towering Technicolor tulips and billboards representing Storytown USA when it opened. The actual buildings from the 50's across the street added greatly to the atmosphere, including the red and blue neon sign with the giant chicken in the middle.
By this point, we were tired and dry, and the clouds were getting darker by the minute. It was time to buy souvenirs and head home. We explored a few stores at the International Village, but finally opted to buy stuffed animals from the gift shop that doubles as the park exit. She picked up a two-foot, electric blue bear with Six Flags' logo embroidered on his paw. I couldn't fit a stuffed animal that size in my luggage! I settled for a small stuffed tiger who bore something of a resemblance to Hobbes from the Calvin & Hobbes comics.
It sprinkled a bit as we made our way back to the car. Thankfully, the rain was long gone by the time we hit the highway. We had other problems. Traffic on 1-87 was backed up for miles, thanks to an accident. This part of the trip should have taken less than an hour. It was over an hour and a half later before the traffic finally broke up and we were back in business, as Lauren put it.
(I'm so glad she's good at dealing with traffic. The last time I was in a car that was stuck in traffic that badly was when Rose graduated American University in Washington DC in 2002. Mom drove Anny, Keefe, and me to her sister Terri's house in the DC suburbs in Virginia for the ceremony. The traffic around DC was a nightmare, even heavier than what we got stuck in today. Mom freaked out, screaming and crying. Anny cranked up the hard rock and flirted with truckers out the window. I think she was 16 or so at the time. I still don't know how 6-year-old Keefe slept through the entire incident. I was very close to jumping out a window and walking to Aunt Terri's, traffic be damned.)
It was almost 8 before we finally made it into the garage. We showed Mr. and Mrs. Miller our stuffed animals and heard about their day, gave them the mail, and ate turkey bacon sandwiches for a quick dinner. After Lauren looked up an old friend on Facebook, we played a couple of rounds of Yoshi's Woolly World. Finished up World 4 with a crazy ride on curtains, trying to direct arrow balls to treasures (and around Skyguys), and dodging a giant Audrey II-like piranha plant.
Tomorrow's my last full day here. At press time, we're planning on returning to Albany to browse through two major malls in he area.