Thursday, November 25, 2010

Most Thankful.

What am I most thankful for in this world? My best friend, love, playmate and Road Trip co-pilot: Ben Dooley, my wonderful husband.

He is truly super human.

I love you!

Arnold's Park, June, 2010

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Pace yourself. It's all about the pacing.

You'll notice there are three forks stuck into this pile of potatoey goodness known in Kennywood amusement park circles as Potato Patch fries. That's because Ben, his brother Simon and I shared this heapin' helpin'. And then drifted blissfully into a carbo coma, only to be awoken from it when we rode the Whip, which was subsequently followed by an ice cream bar covered in peanuts. Said bar was easily the size of a paperback novel.

So my words to you this Thanksgiving weekend are: pace yourself. Don't inhale all the foods at once in a copious, embarrassing display. Savor. Enjoy each morsel slowly. Because there's always going to be more...

Kennywood, Pittsburgh, PA. August, 2009.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010


This photo gets me every time. I took it while riding the train at Kiddieland on Opening Day, 2009. Little did any of us know that it would be the opening day of their final year. The image of this mom sharing a ride with her little boy renders me weepy because that little boy will never be able to share this same ride with his kids.

And that's why I'm writing this book. It's become my mantra. If my book can help keep one vintage park open one day, one year, one decade longer, then it's all been worth it. And I'm thankful for moments like these, watching the simple joys vintage parks bring to families, which keep me focused on my goal.

Thank you again to everyone who donated money toward my project on Kickstarter, to all those who check in on my blog, and to the multitudes who just ask from time to time, "How's the book coming along?" To all of you, I'm' eternally grateful.

Kiddieland, Melrose Park, IL. April 17, 2009.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Take THAT, Weight Watchers!

Sometimes you just have to be bad. Naughty and even slightly sinister. I felt impishly evil when I bought my Deep Fried Twinkie on the Santa Cruz Boardwalk. When the kid at the stand asked me if I wanted powdered sugar on top, I said, "Butofcourse!", just like that, like it was one word. When he asked me if I wanted chocolate dipping sauce, I said, "Are you kidding?" in the most incredulous voice he KNEW I wanted the stuff.

So here it is. Sorry the computer does not allow you the pleasure to scratch and sniff. Or scratch and savor.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with Photos -- of garbage cans!!

Yep, it had to happen sometime. I had to post a photo of a humorous garbage can from one of the vintage parks. I've seen garbage can clowns, garbage can hippos, garbage can rabbits, garbage can dinosaurs and garbage can elephants. Here's one of those. In day glo colors even!

Happy, colorful, day glo garbage-eating elephant from Kennywood.

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Just came back in from taking Ivy, our dainty beaglette, for a walk. It's cold and blowy, with a northeastern wind whipping at my unscarved neck. Brrrr....

Reminded me of my visit to Storybook Gardens in the Dells. That day was also cold and blowy, with an intermittent, unrepentant rain. Here's a photo of me taking refuge with the Three Bears. I guess that makes me the honorary fourth bear (kinda like the fifth Beatle). In any case, their place was a warmish port in the tiny storm.

Friday, November 19, 2010

"How much is that doggie-shaped candle?"

I know. It totally obliterates the rhythm of the classic little ditty by Doris Day, so I apologize most emphatically. But I just felt the need to share a great photo I took at Cedar Point last year. Now, why oh why did I visit such a large, thriving park as Cedar Point, you might ask? Because it's still vintage, it holds its history near and dear, and it has cool, kooky little nooks to explore, like the candle-making shoppe.

These canine cuties were made in-house and they sat on the shelf, ready to go to a good home. And I would've rescued one, but a wax doggie left in the summer heat inside your car is candle cruelty.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Coney Island. Or maybe Luna park? Okay then -- Dreamland. No, wait...

Check out this link for a sobering article on how so much of what gave Coney Island its soul is tragically being sent out to pasture. Many of the iconic businesses are not having their leases renewed. In with the new. Which sometimes isn't the best course to follow.

All in all, I still want to include Coney Island in my book, because although there's not an actual vintage amusement park that has at least three vintage rides, Coney Island itself has three rides which are listed in the National Register of Historic Places: the Cyclone rollercoaster, the Wonder Wheel, and the Parachute jump. It has two new parks named after long-gone vintage ones: Luna Park and Dreamland. So as far as I'm concerned, these disparate facts add up to one definite trip to plan.

So it seems a visit to Coney Island puts you in a position to decide what you want to get out of it. Of course, I choose to focus on the vintage, the kitsch, and the spirit of the place. I look forward to a little grime here, the sounds of rickety coaster chains (hopefully not too rickety...), and the shadows of days past tapping me on the shoulder, asking me if they can guess my weight.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

"Everyday it's a gettin' closer. Goin' faster than a rollercoaster..."

Before we visited Arnold's Park in Iowa, I had no idea that there was enough rock 'n roll history in that state to constitute an actual museum. But there is:

Just outside the amusement park proper is a small museum that packs a wallop, boasting an impressive array of artifacts and hands-on displays. I was drawn to the back of the building to two singular exhibits: the plane carrying Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper went down in an Iowa cornfield, so there's a great display about these artists which easily brings a tear to the eye; and the vintage radio studio recording equipment. Since I earn my daily living in front of the microphone, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to pose with this great piece of audio history. There's something magical about focusing your energy on a microphone that's "heard" so many voices over the years...

Monday, November 15, 2010

Okay, color me pathetic.

You're probably asking, "What's with the blurry photo? Where are the vintage ride vehicles and fun pictures of Pam riding a merry-go-round? When's she going to wolf down a funnel cake?". Well, there's a little story attached to this pic.

I've visited Conneaut Lake Park twice, the last time this past early June. The park itself was closed due to the weather (big bummer), but something going on at the Beach Club, something which took me totally by surprise, made the trip more than worth it.

A big event was commencing, wherein members of the Pennsylvania State University Paranormal Research Society were conducting an investigation of the haunted Hotel Conneaut. Folks flocked to the Beach Club, the historic lakeside restaurant and bar, to start off their paranormal weekend, where a variety of lectures and other special events were to take place. I bought an Arch Angel Michael t-shirt and leafed through various books and prints, all paranormal in content. Would've loved to have joined in on the event, but had lots of traveling to do that very day. Besides, I already had my own ghostly encounters at the Hotel Conneaut the previous year. And, unbeknownst to me, I was about to have some more in only half an hour. But more about that later. What you want to know now is why I'm just so very pathetic.

This particular paranormal group has achieved rockstar status with their own show on A&E, "Paranormal State" chronicling their ghostly adventures. Full dork disclosure: I've caught absolutely every episode of the series. The leader of the group is one Ryan Buell, tall, dark, stoic and brooding. And, okay, kinda dreamy. And probably half my age. Still, I felt compelled to snap some photos of the spooky kids playing beach volleyball while I was seated in our car before we left. Like some sort of half-assed P.I. (I'm still embarrassed at my behavior months later...)

(Note to hopefully extricate myself even a little from the depths of patheticness: I did attempt to talk directly with the members of the crew, as I did have my own encounters with the invisible inhabitants of the hotel that past August, but their security folks basically weeded me out, reminding me that when the group investigated the hotel a year ago or so, a different psychic was at the helm, not Michelle Belanger (the woman along for the event), so basically I had no one to corroborate my story with. But they were extremely polite Goth kids, exhibiting a perkiness that belied their pierced, studded, and tattooed exteriors.)

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Sunday on the Blog with Photos! A Heapin' Helpin' of 'Em!

There's something about pokin' through the photos taken last weekend at Silver Dollar City that gets me all itchin' for the Holly-Days! And then I start talkin' like Ellie May Clampett! Which only makes sense since a few episodes of "The Beverly Hillbillies" were filmed right there at Silver Dollar City, yessiree!!

Saturday, November 13, 2010

And so it began...

Last year in mid-April, I waited in line for Kiddieland to open for the season, without any knowledge of what would transpire in the months ahead. I snapped a few photos while enjoying my visit there, interviewing folks, sitting and sipping some free Pepsi under the shade of those retro-cool metal canopies.

This snap is from the tippy top of the Ferris wheel. I believe I heard the ride was bought by someone out in the Chicago suburbs and put in their backyard.

And so began my RoadTrip. A bittersweet beginning to be sure. I'd misplaced the opening day photos for months, but recently found them in an oddly-labelled file on my computer. I'll be sharing some in the months to come, and more than likely selling some items on Cafe Press utilizing them as well.

Friday, November 12, 2010

This is what happens...

Take an ordinary, garden-variety potato. Stick it onto a skewer and place the skewer into a special spiral cutting thingy. Deep fry said potato. Then hand potato spiral to anxiously awaiting carb fanboy.

Photo taken just this past weekend at Silver Dollar City.

Potato whirl-a-gig was doused with ketchup and various spices and enjoyed in about one and a half minutes.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Your fearless author tackles the unknown...

It's been one day now, almost the full 24 hours exactly, since my Kickstarter goal was achieved! Those of you who pledged, again, I thank you with the strength of a thousand smiling suns. The funds will be sent to me electronically on the 17th. And then the real fun stuff begins: planning the trips to the remaining fifteen parks. For those who are curious, here's a rough list: there's a park in New Orleans, a gaggle of parks in Southern California, a pride of parks dotting the East Coast. There's one single wan little park in South Dakota, two unique ones in Oregon, and one more park I can actually drive to up in Green Bay, WI. And there you have it.

Now, what we're coming up against, well, not soon but presently, is cold weather. Parks can't operate in cold climates - this past weekend at Silver Dollar City, plenty of signs bore witness to this, with the threat of ride closures if temperatures reached below 40 degrees. So the next parks I visit will be in warmer climes. Probably the Southern Cali parks, and that lone park in the Crescent City, a sturdy little city park, a survivor of Katrina.

I'll definitely keep you posted when the next trip is planned, which will probably happen after the Holidays, more than likely closer to February. Until then, boy oh, do I have some stories and photos to share. Like this relatively embarrassing one posted above (taken in June at Arnold's Park, IA).

Hey, what can I say? I give.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

I always do these. Always.

If there's a game arcade at a vintage park, chances are they'll feature a nice mix of new technology and "the old stuff". I prefer the old stuff. I'm no good at video games -- stopped honing my skills back with Lady PacMan (Yes, you got that right; I just called Ms. Pacman "Lady" PacMan. And I'll keep that glaring error right where it is to drive home the fact that I'm a video game dumbass). Actually, I should've stopped while I was ahead, as I was a wunderkind with Pong, but I digress.

So I'm always drawn to the pinball machines (my favorite being "The Adams Family") and other simpler games of skill. But what will always, always cause me to buy some tokens is the fortune teller machine. Like this one I found at the casino of the Santa Cruz Boardwalk.

I'd share my fortune with you, but doesn't it work like wishing on birthday cake candles or a falling star? Best to keep it between Grandma Fortune Teller and myself.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Waiting in the wings...

Children's Fairyland Park out in Oakland, CA has many wonders and kid-sized environments to explore. But one of the special features of the park is its puppet theatre. Here's a behind-the-scenes photo depicting some amazing marionettes which were clothed by a very talented seamstress years ago. The seamstress had a son who went on to become rather famous in the world of puppetry, then films about puppets, eventually branching out into directing film.

That man is Frank Oz. Isn't that cool??

Monday, November 8, 2010

Not sufferin' with the succotash!

But enjoying every plum durn spoonful! Silver Dollar City, a fifty-year-old park just outside Branson, MO, sells copious amounts of the stuff, especially during autumn and into the holidays. And I'm here to tell you that it's worth the trip. But while you're there, you might as well force yourself (yeah, twist that arm) and have an apple dumpling, maybe a fresh gingerbread cookie, some wassail -- and you'll be sure to roll down Hill St. (the main shopping hub of the park) like Violet Beauregard on the way to the De-Juicing Machine. That's how plump you'll be -- but not blue. Just happy.

Photos to follow of the amazing lightshow SDC puts on for the Holidays, ranked among THE top Christmas celebrations in the country.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Mercy! It's been a while, hasn't it?

Well, I usually pull away from the world in the days leading up to Halloween, watching way too many classic horror films and eating way too many M&M's. This year was no different, but I'll add to those diversions a complete clean sweep of my office and the planning for my girls only gypsy party.

But in the meanwhile, I also secured my visit to my next park on the Road Trip! Join me in the excitement of my impending visit to Silver Dollar City down in Branson, MO!! It'll be a looooong car ride (which means lots of car games, lots of obscure old-time radio listening, and lots of wacky convos with my hubby) which will take one whole day. The park visit is planned for Saturday and what's really exciting is that it's the first day of their Holiday spectacular, so I'm gearing up for lots of hot apple cider, comfort foods (including their succotash which I hear is a "must-try") and taking in the Christmassy feel of the surroundings. The only park I've ever attended in the past that decked its halls would be a Disney park, so I can't wait to see what the gentle Branson folk cook up.