Sunday, May 30, 2010

Embarking upon Sweet (really) 16!

Tomorrow, Memorial Day. Another day, another park. We've traveled through four states in one day which might be some sort of record for me. Of course, you travel above more in an airplane, but to let the countryside roll right past your window, past pastures, over rivers, and through the Appalachians - about halfway through, I began t realize that this was one of those once in a lifetime travels. Because Ben and I may travel through this way again - but it'll never be our first time through these particular four states ever again.

When we checked in at our motel, the desk clerk gave us our Priority Club gift: a bottle of water (which I have at my bedside) and a Hershey bar with almonds.

There's something about the sweet creaminess and the crunchy saltiness that makes the length of the day seem shorter and helps me to settle down.

I'm starting my Hersheying early. Because tomorrow, we'll be in a world of pure imagination...

Sweet dreams.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Ready to set sail!

Or, more aptly, ready to hitch up the wagon - no. Okay - fill up the tires and gastank, pack the cookies without the chocolate chips because they'll melt in the backseat, arm myself with tour books and SPF 30 and my trusty brown shoulder purse that holds everything I need for a day at the parks. Our next leg of the RoadTrip is just around the corner and I'm sitting at the top of the mountain, surveying what lies before me: six more vintage parks, varying greatly in size, shape, grandeur, character and corporate tie-in (or lack thereof). A veritable cornucopia of rides and treats awaits. Stories are waiting to be told, ride vehicles are teeming up to get their fifteen minutes via the snap of my trusty Kodak.

It's this time, before embarking on a trip, that holds even more wonder than when I step foot in my first park. No, that's not true; it's the whole trip, from the initial research to inserting that glass-topped pin into my giant wall map, to plotting out my accommodations and route. Every facet of the journey holds such promise, such possibility. From the first ticket purchased to the last mouthful of cotton candy consumed. It's all magic.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Dwelling in antiquity...

Found my Polaroid instant picture camera in the basement closet today, along with a pack of film. Always tickled me how the film comes with its own battery. Snapped away, taking satisfyingly quick-to-develop photos of Ivy in repose. They all had a sepia tone to them, which was very 19th century.

Makes me sad to think that once the film's gone, that's basically it. Polaroid's not making these critters anymore.

I wrote a whole essay for my book today devoted to the Polaroid on the basement closet shelf. I believe I'll collage the photos of Ivy into a piece of artwork: "Sepia Pup on an Afternoon in May".

Monday, May 24, 2010

The hour is nigh for more Cotton Candying!!

Well folkses, the time is fast approaching for my next Cotton Candy Roadtrip, this one exploring eastern PA and NY state amusement parks. Firstly, however, I'll be accompanying my hubby on his trip down to Ohio University for his 20th college reunion - of sorts. It's shaping up to be a small-but mighty one, packed with tours of the campus, directors' festival shows, and reunions of college buddies who lived through the mayhem of an OU Halloween (apparently, this was THE place to be for a rollicking All Hallow's Eve parade a' la the finale of "Animal House." Almost.)

I love college towns. I adore strolling through the streets, checking out the stores that sell tie-dye this 'n that, rainbow swirl-colored bongs, throws emblazoned with the Grateful Dead "keep on trucking" teddy bear. I like to imagine which bars were the busiest the night before, how many spiked lemonades were chugged down. That sort of thing.

But in the case of this particular visit, my time will likely be spent listening to stories told between my hubby and his buds, reminiscing about which bars are now cell phone stores and musings about how many Bartles and James' it takes to get you really schnockered.

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Sunday on the blog with photos!

Really unique ride at Conneaut Lake, depicting Hansel and Gretel and the witch of the Grimm fairytale variety. Appropriately, it's right by the Devil's Den, another ookie, kooky and spooky ride.

(insert witch cackle sound!)

Friday, May 21, 2010

"Monorail, monorail!"

I love monorails. No, I mean, truly, madly, deeply love them. My first memories of visiting Disneyland when I was seven involve riding the monorail, looping past "It's a Small World", then around and down, down, down through Tomorrowland, safely arriving at the station for a magic-filled day.

The seven-year-old in me, the one that never intends on growing taller and more cynical, is tremendously geeked about visiting Hersheypark in just over a week and taking in the park while riding their monorail. Like Disneyland's, it has an audio tour which helps to acclimate you to the park.

I'm gonna ask if I can ride up front!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Happy Good Luck Elephant!

I just love old-fashioned ride vehicles. While visiting the parks, I always seek out the kid-sized cars, planes and assorted animals with the most character, the ones who have the years behind, the ones that are clearly filled with wisdom. Look at this spunky pachyderm. You can just tell he's given decades of giggly fun.

A little "head's up" - I intend to set up a CafePress store with items featuring photos I've taken whilst Roadtripping. Once I launch said store (the proceeds of which will help me fund my Roadtripping)I believe I shall call this ride vehicle from Del Grosso's "Happy Good Luck Elephant", a festive little amusement-parkish Ganesh.

Imagine this little fella adorning a sweatshirt, or perhaps a mousepad (will the "mouse" frighten him? One wonders).

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

I'm gonna toot my horn a little...

Check out the following link:,0,2158127,full.story

and read about yours truly and her Audie Award nominations. The Audies are the Oscars for audio book narration.

When I'm not Roadtripping, I read things into microphones for fun and profit. Last year I read several audio books, including "Kiss" by Ted Dekker and "Face of Betrayal" by Lis Wiehl and April Henry. If you add all the characters I created for both books, you could populate a small town.

I'm just sayin'...

Monday, May 17, 2010

Lightning Bug Ride

The lightning bug,
The lightning bug,
I'll bet you didn't know
How much the fairies love him,
'Cause he's their radio.
The lightning bug,
The lightning bug,
The fairies' radio.

(The Lightning Bug, Written By: Julia W. Bingham, Music By:
James H. Rogers)

While doing research on Seabreeze Park, my fifth of six upcoming parks on the Roadtrip, I came upon this great photo of the Lightning Bug ride, circa 1950. The park was booming with post-WWII boomers, enjoying their local park.

I don't believe the ride exists anymore. But the fun lives on in this great vintage photo.

Sunday, May 16, 2010

Sunday on the blog with photos!

Behold one of the solid steeds who gallops along on the Conneaut Lake Park carousel.

Have a marvelous, relaxing Sunday!

Saturday, May 15, 2010

The Happiest, Houndiest, Howlingest Place on Earth!

Usually Disneyland carries the moniker of the Happiest Place on Earth, and well it should. But for one day mid-May in the Chicago suburb of Park Ridge, it's handed over to a small, closed-in park where Beaglefest takes place. The fest is a fundraiser/big party/mega-dog park for BREW Beagle Rescue, the wonderful rescue organization where we got our dearly departed Mabel and our present furry baby, Ivy.

Imagine a park where about a hundred and fifty gentle, howling, scampering beagles are all free to roam and play, to sniff, wander and wonder.

It's a kind of heaven on Earth.

Pictured above: our little Ivy, enjoying her own special heaven: peanut butter.

Friday, May 14, 2010

Could it be... the East Coast's answer to Kiddieland?

Perhaps. And I'm certainly chomping at the bit to learn more.

What I've found so far is that Hoffman's Playland in Latham, NY, opened in 1952. And many say it's much like it was over fifty years ago. The park contains 19 rides in a compact 5 acre area.

I absolutely can't wait. Sure, Hershey Park may have the chocolaterifficness, and Knoebel's apparently has an awesome dark ride, but Hoffman's has old-fashioned charm.

And a sign that's both retro-cool and scary. Who could ask for more?

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

It was rainy that day, too...

And it felt like autumn, because it was. Today, mid-May, Mother Nature has run out of excuses to be cold and clingy.

Just a glimpse at some of the flora at Nelis' Dutch Village in Holland, MI. They're open for the season -- and the weather's suposed to be dandy this weekend, making it a great quick getaway destination!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

The little engine who DID.

During our next Roadtrip, we'll visit six parks; Dorney Park in eastern PA will be our third of the bunch. Doing a little research this morning, I found this little snippet about one of Dorney Park's vintage rides, the Zephyr:

This miniature train takes riders on a scenic trip that ends where it begins. Added to the Park in 1935, the Zephyr helped Dorney Park survive the Great Depression. It is a one-of-a- kind train designed after the Burlington Zephyr--the first streamline train.

Imagine a family in the 30s with not "two dimes to rub together", as my Dad (who lived through the era) would put it. A special treat for the family might be a day spent at a nearby amusement park, to shrug off the effects of the Depression with a spin on the miniature railroad. And the park benefitted from the commerce that this "Little Engine Who Could" brought in.

In these tender economic times, I think a journey on this tiny locomotive might be just what many of us need.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with Photos -- Monday Edition!

Pondering the pondering nutria at Storybook Gardens, Wisconsin Dells, WI.

Saturday, May 8, 2010

A movie review on the blog? "Iron Man 2"? What the heck does this have to do with vintage amusement parks?

Bear with me.

Here's my mini-review for "Iron Man 2" which I posted on Flixster:

3 and a half stars. Big fun! RDJ, brilliant as usual. Mickey Rourke -- thank you for a multi-dimensional villain. Script, FX, direction, all great. But best of all, the acting. A special nod to the creative choice to cast John Slattery as Stark's father, seen in a retro flashback reminiscent of the old footage of Walt Disney presenting plans for Epcot. Inspired!

I Googled John Slattery and Walt Disney and Epcot plans all morning but couldn't find the image I wanted. But I know it exists (what I have pictured is the closest I came). Somewhere I have seen footage or a photo of Uncle Walt presenting his concept model of Epcot, the man the very picture of composed warmth mixed with that dash of little kid. In "Iron Man 2", Tony Stark is sent old 16MM footage of his father presenting a model of a city which... well, I can't very well give out the whole scenario. Let's just say it's integral to the storyline. And let's also say that Jon Favreau, the film's director, took an inspired leap by casting "Mad Men"'s Slattery as the iconic father, dressing him up in the same dapper 60s style that Walt himself would sport -- and even adding the well-trimmed mustache.

Go see the movie for the adventure, the great performances, and the explosions. But if you're a Walt Disney fan and know your Disney history, you'll be blown away by this homage to the great Imagineer.

Friday, May 7, 2010

For no other reason other than it's cool..

The carousel at Cleveland's Memphis Kiddie Park. Was trolling through my photos and saw this one and thought, "Well, why not post it today? There's nothing stopping me from it. In fact, I defy anyone to question why I would!"

So there.

Thursday, May 6, 2010

A world of pure (chocolatey) imagination...

Okay, click on this link (or copy/paste it):

Come with me, and you'll be, in a world of chocoalteyriffic goodness!

Hershey Park is set as one of the stops on my next bit of Cotton Candying and sure to be the one place where the chocolate will trump the spun sugary goodness. The park has Hershey-centric characters, as pictured above. And the smooth, rich Hershey chocolate runs rampant throughout the park in all the goodies you can possibly consume, including this:

Chocolate Desserts! Choose from our many tempting chocolate desserts featuring Hershey's Products! Tudor Grill - A warm and gooey triple chocolate Hershey's fudge cake Explosion, and, Reese's Peanut Butter Cup Cheesecake.

And then we come back to the link.

When in Rome, you do the Roman stuff (gladiator races? pasta tosses? dancing in fountains in your underwear?), but when in Hershey, you have the option of a chocolate massage, a chocolate facial. A chocolate bath. Yes. The Roman baths were for pikers. I can sink into a tub of milky chocolate if I so desire.

If you want to view paradise...

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Michael Palin -- hero, mentor, inspiration, and owner of cute knees

Ever take a look at Michael Palin's knees? They're pretty super. If you've ever watched any of his travel series or if you have committed Monty Pythons' "The Cycling Tour" to memory like I have, you'll testify to the neat cappies this man possesses, allowing him to take on many an adventure, on many a continent, throughout the course of many a decade.

Today's Michael's 67th birthday. Happy birthday, dear friend, and thank you for years of tear-filled eyes from all the raucous laughter. Thank you for Cardinal Richelieu, Angus Podgorney, and the already eluded-to Mr. Pither. And thank you most emphatically for the heartfelt wonder, gentle humor, and infectious excitement you bring to your travel accounts which undoubtedly have had a major impact and influence on my Cotton Candying. I thank you even once more, and I genuflect at your greatness. And those ever-so-cute knees.

(And he's super-human. Check out this video. A man of steel, he is.)

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

"Annnnnnd..... THEY'RE OFF!"

Posting this a few days after the fact, but posting none the less: in honor of the Kentucky Derby, which was three days ago, here's a horse racing ride I discovered at Cedar Point. Quite unique version of a merry-go-round, but the horses really whirrrr around, picking up a swirl of speed!

Monday, May 3, 2010

"Zoot! Are we livin'?"

When not Roadtripping, I've been known to sing things. I adore novety songs and I'm also a SUPER fan of the late Betty Hutton. These worlds are converging later this month when our old-time radio troupe takes on a "Command Performance" show wherein I will tackle an impersonation of Ms. Hutton singing the hyper-bouncy, "Murder, He Says."

Betty was called "America's #1 Jitterbug", and Bob Hope referred to her as "a vitamin pill with legs". I'll use an amusement park reference: "a musical Mad Mouse". This song has more jumps, turns, spins and slides than the aforementioned mini coaster.

I'd visit with you longer, but I'm in training!

Sunday, May 2, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with Photos!

Here we are, photographed on top of "the world's tallest Ferris Wheel" at Santa's Northpole Workshop at the foot of Pike's Peak in Colorado. We felt like we were on top of the world, swooping up past the towering pines.

But the fact is, I always feel on top of the world with my baby Ben.

Happy 12th Anniversary, my love.

Saturday, May 1, 2010

What do Rosalind Russell and John Waters have in common?

You won't find much in the way of history lessons in my book. It's way more experiential in its scope; I'll touch upon some select historical facts and share stories from the folks who've worked there for eons, but I'll focus specifcally on how the park affects me at that particular moment in time.

Essentially, if you want the date when the carousel was razed or the exact year the park changed hands in the 50s, go look it up on the park's website or check out Wikipedia. Better yet, buy a book from the park's gift shop on its history.

Now, I do get geeked about a park being featured in film and television. So while I was researching Dorney Park, one of my upcoming Roadtrip stops, I came upon some delicious tidbits to share:

Dorney Park is featured as the park backdrop in the 1988 John Waters' film Hairspray. In the film, the character Franklin Von Tussle, played by Sonny Bono, owns an amusement park.

Also, the 1968 film, Where Angels Go, Trouble Follows, starring Rosalind Russell and Stella Stevens, features scenes of Dorney Park including the old Alfundo entrance over the coaster, the Pirate's Cove (Bucket O' Blood), Journey to the Center of the Earth, the Scrambler, the Coaster (Thunderhawk), and other Dorney Park scenes.

Photo: Dorney Park entrance circa 1950s. Isn't it kickin'!?!?