Thursday, December 27, 2012

Join the fun at Deno's Wonder Wheel Park on opening day, 2013!

They won't let something as meager as Hurricane Sandy keep 'em down.

Boldly stated on the park's website:  "Thank you to all the volunteers who have helped Coney Island recover from Super Storm Sandy.  Our thoughts and prayers are with everyone affected by the storm. 

Rides on Deno's Wonder Wheel are FREE on Opening Day 2013 - All are welcome March 24, 2013 - Please join us! 

Have a Happy and Healthy Holiday Season! - the Vourderis Family"

It's so very heartening to visit their website and learn how things are shaping up and know that the travails of 2012 haven't dampened their optimism for 2013.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

My Vintage Amusement Park Gifts are Ready for the Holidays!

Folks, there's still time to purchase some amazing items from my Zazzle store in time for your holiday gift giving.  Imagine your best friend sporting a t-shirt with an image of the lucky elephant ride from Del Grosso's Park.  Or a special trinket box sporting the eerie visage of "grandma fortune teller" from Santa Cruz Boardwalk?  Or, bet yet, a 2013 calendar featuring vintage amusement park photos I took while traveling about for my book!

Come on.  You KNOW you want a throw pillow emblazoned with this guy's face (the front of a ticket booth from Salem Willows which date back to the late 19th century!)

And, of course, there's my book.  I recently met with some folks who were so moved and inspired by it, that they've made some big changes in their lives - or are planning to do so for the new year.  This from a book about vintage amusement parks?  Yes, indeed.  And I'm honored to have been instrumental in these changes.

If you're interested in a book, please contact me via email and I'll ship out an autographed copy in time to hide it under your Christmas tree!

Monday, December 10, 2012

Coney Island's arcade games and rides in the "vintage amusement park ER"

Please read this fascinating article on how the folks from Deno's Wonder Wheel Park are working hard to salvage the rides and games that were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy.

Of particular interest to me is how dear the Grandma's Predictions fortuneteller is to the park; they consider it a good luck charm.  Here's a photo I took while Ben and I visited Coney:

The article relates that Grandma's been around since the 1920s.  She apparently made it through the flooding, although she's being taken care of at the "ER"; apparently the Zoltar machine in the background didn't fair as well.

Again, please give to the Red Cross and help the folks affected by Sandy. And consider donating to Coney Island USA, to help keep the history and spirit of this priceless place alive for future generations:

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Keansburg Amusement Park WILL Rebuild, God Bless 'Em!!

Hurricane Sandy destruction in Keansburg, Atlantic Highlands and more.zipThe rides were rocked by torturous winds and salt water, the antique arcade games left to float down the street, the park covered with mounds of sand and debris,  yet the Gehlhaus family vows to rebuild the historic amusement park by Easter

 Easter!  Of 2013!

I'm barely able to wrap my head around the huge effort that lies ahead of them.  We're talking about rebuilding a vintage amusement park, many rides and games which many be very difficult to replace or repair due to the fragile quality of the housing, the rarity of spare parts.  Many a park has closed down for less of a blow, yet this park vows to carry on.  What drives someone to tackle such an Herculean task?  Dogged determination?  Pluckiness?  Desperation?  Out and out lunacy?

No, I believe, from reading the article and from learning what keeps folks like the Gehlhauses in this business, that it's a combination of courage and heart and wisdom (Huh.. In a way, like Dorothy's friends in "The Wizard of Oz", don'tcha know...).  It's a courageous thing to take on, against so many odds (according to the article, this isn't covered by insurance).  It takes enormous heart: they see that as Keansburg is an amusement park, it provides that elusive, etheric thing: amusement.  It creates memories and thrills and laughter; this is one of the main premises of my book, how much this matters in our fast-paced, digital world. And it takes wisdom, something I'm sure has been learned (and earned) over the years: that a place like this matters on so many levels.  The owners know that not only they but the locals depend on their park for income, and to bring visitors into the small seaside town of Keansburg.

An enormous Powerball lottery jackpot is in play tomorrow night.  I'll be playing it, and when I win, I'll donate a chunk of funds to this precious park, to help it thrive again, to allow it to continue to make the Jersey shore a special place to play at, to create wonderful memories at, for families to keep those traditions of "the first carousel ride", "the first cotton candy consumed" alive.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Give at Thanksgiving. The folks at Coney Island will be very grateful.

The museum is doing alright, but the sideshow, the gift shop and the attached bar are in shambles.  You might ask, "But why do I want to contribute money for a sideshow?  What good will that do the world?"  In a word: plenty.

Coney Island USA is enclosed in a building nearby the famed Coney Island amusement parks, the legendary Cyclone rollercoaster, and just down the street from THE Nathan's famous hot dogs.  Coney Island USA is comprised of the side show (I believe the only side show, actual side show with "freak" acts and feats of derring do) in the US, a place which hires folk who might be considered to be on the fringes of "normal" society, but who possess amazing skills and display them with pride and reverence for a form of theatre has long been ostracized and disrespected.  One visit to the Coney Island USA side show will tip you on your ear.  You''ll walk away with a sense of awe and, most importantly, a a fresh reverence for the unique characters who shamelessly give of themselves in order to keep the spirit of side shows alive.  To borrow the words from the company's site, "The purpose of Coney Island USA is to defend the honor of American popular culture through innovative exhibitions and performances."

Right now, the materials needed to present performances are soggy from salt water or were thrown away in a dumpster due to the flooding. See photo above.


The gift shop is the only place you'll be able to find earrings shaped like Deno's Wonder Wheel (I own a pair and wear 'em proudly), or a bottle containing an authentic shard of Coney Island boardwalk.  Right now, the items that were spared from the deluge are being sold to help support Coney Island USA.  Oh, and the bar?  A great place to grab a beer after watching the side show or visiting the museum.

So - your donation, or your purchase from the gift shop, helps support Coney Island USA, allowing them to do their work.  Oh,yes, the museum.  It's upstairs on the second floor, so it was spared from the flooding.  But the gift shop helps support the museum, as does the bar, so it's best that all spaces are cleaned up and restored as soon as possible.

And what's up in the museum? Oh, just amazing exhibits about the history of Coney Island, a true American icon, a seaside treasure that's withstood fire and flood, the changes of time and culture, and keeps on kicking and inspiring and entertaining.  The museum keeps the true spirit of Coney Island alive.

The holidays are just around the corner.  Who doesn't want a necklace with an image of a tattooed mermaid on it? The following link will take you to the store website, where you can order a great gift, or make a donation:

DO this.

(Photos from the Coney Island USA Facebook page.)

Friday, November 2, 2012

Keansburg Amusement Park pummeled by Hurricane Sandy

Hurricane Sandy destruction in Keansburg, Atlantic Highlands and

It is with a very heavy heart that I report one of the "Road Trip" parks, Keansburg Amusement Park, received devastating damage from Hurricane Sandy.  From what I've been reading, it was essentially ripped apart.

When Ben and I visited back in 2011, I was delighted by its truly vintage kiddie rides, its amazing dark ride (which I got a personal tour of with the lights ON!!) and the incredible collection of vintage arcade games.  I had a wonderful interview with Bob Falk, who not only worked there, but helped design some of the games which dated back to the early 1960s.

I can only hope and pray that, as the owners say in the article, the park will be rebuilt.  I'm sending out even more good vibes to Mr. Falk and the collection of incredible arcade games that elevated the arcade from your basic "win a stuffed toy" amusement to a veritable arcade history museum.

(if anyone reading this has more information about the park and Mr.Falk, please contact me at your earliest convenience via this blog.  Thank you.)

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

In the aftermath of Sandy.

My heart goes out to those affected by Sandy.  Seaside Heights' park suffered extensive damage.  Still finding out about the effects on parks like Gillian's and Coney Island and Storybook Land.  Prayers and white light to all.

Photo: Amusement park rides in Seaside Heights are in the ocean. Our Brian Thompson sent this pic of the Casino Pier roller coaster after the storm.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Kiddieland Sign Restoration Ceremony tomorrow evening!

Our beloved sign.  Photo taken on opening day of its last season: April 17, 2009.
Attention Kiddieland fans!  If you're near the Melrose Park area tomorrow evening, why not stop by and take a gander at our beloved Kiddieland sign in its new home: the Melrose Park Library!  There will be a restoration ceremony at the library tomorrow night, September 28, from 7 to 9 PM.  I'll speak for a few minutes about my book and how Kiddieland shaped its writing.  I'll also have some copies of my book available for purchase; what's better than a personally autographed copy I ask you?  The library is located at 801 N. Broadway in Melrose Park.

The sign (well, I hear MOST of the sign; it's not the entire sign) will adorn the exterior of the library, reminding passersby of the wonderful little park that once was...

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver will be carrying "The Cotton Candy Road Trip"!!!

Have you ever visited this store?

The Tattered Cover has hosted
Lovely historic building, the main location for Tattered Cover.
  If you're a Denver, CO local, you most likely have.  The Tattered Cover's been around since 1971.  It's huge, it's beautiful, in an historic building, has a great catalogue of books, and did I mention it's a Denver mainstay and lots of HUGE authors have signings (like that guy whose last name is uncannily similar to mine, minus the "l') there and it's a big deal for them to agree to carry my book?

It is, and it is, and it is.

"We at the Tattered Cover are
Look at this place!  It's beautiful - a REAL bookstore!
There's a process you go through to have your book carried there if you're self-published.  Last week when we visited Denver, I marched right in, armed with a copy of my book and my media kit and a horrible cold that was rather off-putting.  But I just got word today that either the book is that good or my red, flaky nose wasn't TOO off-putting.  Or both.

I'm so happy that folks in the Denver area will be able to sidle in to Tattered cover, take a look at my book, and bring home a copy.  A real bookstore.  And not just any bookstore.  Here's some specs:

Its one of the largest independent bookstores in the United States!!

And read more about them on this Tumblr page.  Interesting stuff this:

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

Revisiting old friends in Colorado.

In just a titch, Ben and I will be stepping off our plane at Denver International Airport and spending several days in our Other Home (nad, hopefully, Future Home): the Greater Denver area.  My mother-in-law, who I call Jeanmom, will be celebrating her 70th birthday.  And, because she's not one to stop a celebration short, she's adding a recommitment ceremony to her husband of 30 years to the mix.  I'll be singing "Simple", a simply beautiful song by k.d. lang - and will try not to blubber through the lyrics.  It will be a sweet and simple gathering in their backyard.  I'm sure God will be smiling down on them that day; he's been shining down on them for over thirty years now.

Later in the week, we'll be visiting some other dear ones: the folks and reindeer and llamas and The Jolly Bearded One himself at Santa's North Pole Workshop near Pike's Peak.  I visited the park for my book back in 2009.  This summer, their future was in peril due to the tremendous wildfires that ravaged the area.  I promised myself - and well as made an on-line declaration -  that I would visit the area very soon.  I'm making good on that promise.

Plus, I really need to have a convo with St. Nick about Christmas gifts.  Not really the ones I want for me, but the ones I want for others.  Turns out, three out of my 6 numbers for Powerball came up, but that only nets me seven bucks.  I'm sure the Jolly Old Elf will figure out a way for a big win by Christmastime.  I have lots of people to help.  And that includes a number of vintage parks.

Ben and me at the North Pole Workshop in September, 2009
The Garden of the Gods, Pike's Peak's Cog Railway and Manitou Springs are also on the itinerary, as is a visit to Denver's Tattered Cover Bookstore to drop off a copy of my book in hopes they'll approve it for inclusion on their shelves. And Ben's got a coaching lecture in the city as well.  All in all, a busy, bustling, exciting trip!  Can't wait to see our old friends again.

And that means you two!  I'm counting on you to remember me and looking forward to our heartfelt reunion!

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Bought a piece of Conneaut Lake Park ...

Well, a part of the boardwalk, to be precise.  I'm thrilled to announce that "The Cotton Candy Road Trip" is a proud supporter of the refurbishing of the Conneaut Lake Park boardwalk, the lovely walkway beyond the park, on the lake, near the historic Hotel Conneaut.

I visited CLP three times during my Road Trip and was ecstatic to see the progress made on this lovely park.  A shout out to Lisa, part of the park crew, for taking this photo for me.

If you're interested in donating to help the park get even better, please follow this link and give generously:

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Take a listen to an interview I did for WDCB!

A few weeks ago, quite early in the AM (you can hear the sleep in my voice), I was interviewed by WDCB, the jazz statio out of College of DuPage.  Click on the link below and enjoy.  And while you're listening, gaze at the photos beneath of our Road Trip to South Dakota (which I mention in the interview)!

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Chicago Tribune article about Santa's Village Azoosment Park - and a bit about "The Cotton Candy Road Trip"!,0,6360507.column

I'm so excited I could leap over candy canes, spin around the North Pole, and make a general spectacle of myself in front of Santa Claus himself!

Last month, Chicago Tribune feature writer Steve Johnson interviewed me at Santa's Village Azoosment Park in East Dundee, IL as part of an article about the resurgence of this beloved area vintage park.  I've been holding my breath for weeks now, but I can finally report the article is out and it's fantastic!  It features interviews not only with me but, even more importantly, the park's general manager Don Holliman, and Phil Wenz, who helped revive the park and compiled an Arcadia Publishing "Santa's Village" historical picture book!  And, I just learned, a writer named Christopher Dearman self-published a book called "Santa's Village Gone Wild!" comprised of stories from the folks who worked there over the years!

Azoosment Parkpalooza!!

Enjoy the article and make sure you pay Santa's Village Azoosment Park a visit this season!

Monday, July 30, 2012

Next book signing is at Nest Vintage Modern!!

Walking into Nest Vintage Modern in Brookfield, IL is like entering a sunny kitchen back in the 1950s, full of homey household items, groovy giftware, and pots that go "gloop".  I'll get to the pots in a second.

When I met Alana, the proprietor, I felt immediately welcome and it was apparent that we liked many of the same things, like vintage goodness - and road trips.  In fact, I noticed a few items that were connected with vintage campers and such.  So I was thrilled when, after bringing up about "The Cotton Candy Road Trip", Alana cooked up the swell idea to host a book singing at her brand-new store (apparently, she's had a following online for a while; the brick and mortar store is an exciting new endeavor).

Country Rose - Online StoreSo if you're in the area on Friday, August 3 at 6:30 PM, please stop by, meet and greet me (or maybe you know me already - then meet Alana!), and, for heaven's sake, take home a Gurgle pot.  It goes "gloop" when you pour water out of it.  Here's the pot at the left.  Actually, it doesn't just go "gloop"; it's more like "gluh,gluh, GLOOP, gluh"

It will make your dinner tons more fun when you serve a fine beverage out of this little guy.  You'll smile more.

And that's really what it's all about, now isn't it?

Sunday, July 29, 2012

A little unexpected miracle at the book signing.

Last night, I was honored to give a lecture on my book at the Oak Park Arms, the wonderful retirement home my dad has lived at for the past 11 years.  I've seen him change, wane, grow, wane again, and blossom into the wisest, most charming soul while he's been living there.  Not that he wasn't always charming, but by virtue of the fact that he comes in contact with so many people there, and obviously affects them so powerfully and beautifully, his magnificent power is multiplied times infinity.

Anyway, the lecture and book signing.  After the audience had some wine and cheese, I took the stage, talked about how the book took shape, read a chapter from it (on Lakeside, one of my Top Five parks).

Vintage neon ride sign at Denver's Lakeside Park
 Then I opened up the room to questions, and the folks had some great ones:

"Are there parks like Riverview still around?"
"Do parks still install vintage merry-go-rounds?"
"What sort of admission fees do vintage parks have?"

One lady wanted to ask question after question; she decided to buy the book in the end because it excited her so much.  In fact, a lot of folks generously purchased copies, but that wasn't the unexpected miracle that occurred.

Back to Dad.  When his caregiver wheeled him into the Terrace Room (once THE fancy bar at the Arms, when it was a grand hotel), Dad really seemed out of it.  His eyes seemed dim and had little of their usual sparkle.  Wine and cheese were brought and when he eyed the red wine in the small plastic glass, he asked what it was.  This is not Dad; this is some other guy, I thought.  Red wine is his lifeblood, one of his passions.

If I said that my Dad's condition worried me a little last night, it would be a gross understatement.  My attention was really drawn more to him than my task at hand, the reason I was brought in that evening.  But I breathed, knew the caregiver would keep a close eye, as would Ben.  All would be well, right?

I lectured and read, and occasionally (okay, a LOT) glanced over at Dad, who either seemed like he was sleeping or just slipped away into the dark rooms where his dementia leads him.

After my talk and question session were over, I immediately sat down by Dad.

"Hey, Daddy.  Did you like that?  Did you enjoy my talk?"

Daddy glanced into my eyes, and he was no longer sleepy or fuzzy; he was present.

"Every single thing about it was spectacular.  You really know this and I am so proud of you."  

 And he smiled.

At that moment, my attention was drawn down to our little dog Ivy, who was being petted by one of the residents.  My eyes were drawn like magnets directly to the woman's hand.  Because it wasn't her hand, it was, without a doubt, my deceased Mom's frail, tissuey-yet-elegant hand that was petting our beagle (Mom loved dogs).  And then, all at once, it was the woman's hand and she continued stroking and scratching our pet.

Angels love to bring families together, even those who haven't been in the same space together for awhile.

It doesn't matter to me how many copies are sold of the book, nor how many people are touched, enlightened or inspired.  God will provide exactly what is needed in those avenues, of that I am completely sure.  I got all I needed last night, from both my parents, who were present and proud and loving every single spectacular thing.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Memories of Chicago's Riverview Park from the Chicago Tribune,0,2410358.photogallery?index=chi-riverview_030t20080715140116

 Shoot the Chutes was a precursor of the log flumes rides of today.

Please take a few moments to enjoy this great photo gallery from the Chicago Tribune on the gone-but-never-forgotten Riverview Park.  Quite often while on my Road Trip, I encountered various parks (Kennywood and Knoebels and Lakeside come to mind) that have elements similar to what I see in these photos. It's good to know there are still some parks out there who keep Riverview's spirit alive.

Friday, July 20, 2012

I found a new old park! Martin's Fantasy Island!!

 to Martin's Fantasy Island

Trust me - when I did my research for my Road Trips, I really did some fine-tooth combing.  So when a new-old park pops up that I didn't know about, I'm simultaneously humbled, intrigued, piqued at myself, and raring to figure out a way to visit it whenever a Road Trip II is in the works.

Take a peek at Martin's Fantasy Island!  It's near Buffalo, NY and has been around since 1961!  With the exception of the antique cars and tilt-a-whirl, it seems that most of the rides are newer, but still it maintains a definite vintage feel!

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Never fear! "The Cotton Candy Road Trip Swag" store is almost here!

Had a great week at the Chopra Center retreat out in Itasca last week, meditating and feeling the bliss ...

 stop looking similar.

This week, I've had one voice-over job after another ...

 Best Microphone for Voice Over

This upcoming week?  It'll be all about the CafePress store!!  I've got so many nifty items planned, featuring some super images I captured while traveling around for the book.  Like this one:

Beautiful critter on the Crescent Park Carousel

And plan on purchasing your 2013 calendar from me, because it'll be jam-packed with images, all in color, of nifty, creepy and cool things I found in the parks.

That is all for now.  I appreciate your patience.  It'll be well worth the wait!!

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

"Gotta Go to Knoebels" - awesome video. As much fun as, well, Knoebels!

Check out this great video, a parody of "Good Feeling".  It's filmed at one of my Top Five parks on the Road Trip, Knoebels.  Truth be told - with the exception of Disney parks, Knoebels is my favorite of the bunch!

Book signings for The Cotton Candy Road Trip in the Chicagoland area!

Hey funkids!  I'll be signing copies of my book on Saturday the 21st of July at Kindred Spirits in Oswego from 12 noon to 1 PM.  Here's a link to their website so you can learn how to get there:

Then on Saturday, July 28, I'll have a book signing at the Oak Park Arms in Oak Park, where my daddy lives.  It will start at 6 PM.  Here's their website:

And there ya go!  Have some cotton candy and call it a day ...

Monday, July 16, 2012

Got interviewed by the Chicago Tribune today at Santa's Village Azoosment Park!!

My beloved Mangel's Roto Whip, which dates back to 1948.
You know what's big fun?  Getting to revisit a park from my book, while being interviewed by Steve Johnson of the Chicago Tribune.  The managers of the park walked through the park with us, filling us in on some of the historical facts about the park in question, Santa's Village Azoosment Park in East Dundee, IL.

It really takes a very special kind of person to run a park, an even more special sort to reopen a park that had been closed for years.  Such was the case with Santa's Village.  It sat dormant and desolate for five years and most of the Chicagoland area left it for dead, until these wonderful folks swept up the debris, put it to rights, brought in some gentle animals, and reopened it back in 2010.  I visited in September, 2011 for the book and was heartened that it was truly as sweet as I recall it was when I thrilled to visit it as a child.

The 2012 season brings with it even more fun, as an antique car ride has opened in what used to be a picnic grove area.  The folks at SVAP are really doing a great job with expanding and growing this historic park, and they promise even more to come, like an old-school, walk-through fun house!

Today, right before my interview, I was photographed by the Tribune staff photographer.  She thought it might be fun for me to sit in one of the Roto-Whip cars, since mentioned it's a ride rescued from the dearly-departed Kiddieland.  Well, sit in one of the cars I did, and let me tell you: my 5'8" frame never felt SO LARGE!  Goliath even!  She snapped away and then the miraculous happened: the kid manning the ride asked the manager if it would be okay for me to realize a little dream I'd had since seeing the resurrected ride almost a year ago:  would it be okay for this 150 lb. human to actually ride the ride?

Yep - I got the green light and the ride operator let the Whip RIP!  This teeny Whip packs a surprisingly good little snap!  I waved at the photographer and ride operator, just like I waved at Mom and Dad over forty years ago.

Yes, it was a very good day.

Friday, July 6, 2012

Cotton Candy Road Trip Swag Store to Open SOON!!!

Cafe Press stores are easy to open.  But crazy-confusing to assemble.  Except when they're easy.  This easy/difficult teeter-totter keeps yanking me back and forth and I'm getting dizzy!

Pals, let me tell you - I've been working for hours and hours in the last few days on harvesting the best/oddest/most unique photos from my Road Trip, images that will be used on a variety of items you'll be able to purchase from my store.  But Cafe Press keeps being difficult.  But then simple.  And my brain is having a hard time wrapping itself around it all.  Until I get it and then I go, "Huh.  How 'bout that?  That was easy enough - a child of four could've figured THAT one out.  Dang."

Anywho, in about a week or so, all will be revealed.  Suffice it to say, I think you'll be pleased and intrigued with the outcome.  The item I'm most jazzed about is the 2013 calendar, which will feature some of my most prized images from the Road Trip, including a number from our beloved Kiddieland and Storybook Gardens parks, now a sad memory.

I'll keep you all posted.

Until then, here's a little something to make you go, "What the heck IS that thing?"

Well, I'll tell you he's from Arnolds Park.  I'll also let you in on the fact that he's part of the month of October ...

Monday, July 2, 2012

New uses for old bumper cars!

My delightful friend, Jill Jackson, who's a great fan of my book, sent me this email and I was blown away by the creativity therein!  While on the Road Trip, I took a number of photos of old bumper cars, always wondering where the retired ones went.  To the trash heap?  To the park's museum (only a few parks actually have museums.  Arnolds Park and Knoebels come to mind; Coney Island has a museum but I don't know if they'd have the space for ride vehicles).

Anyway - I've never copied an email into a blog post, but I couldn't pass this one up.  Kudos to the brilliant Tom Wright who found a wonderful way to repurpose these vintage beauties.  Enjoy!

The ones in Coney Island and Rockaway Park back in the 20’s thru to the 50;s ran on electric . Had a pole on the back going to a metal electrical charged overhead plate.

Remember driving the bumper cars at amusement parks or
a fair, don't you? They were so much fun.
 Well, now what do you do with old Bumper Cars? (and check out the license plates!) 


Yes, you read that right; these little beasties are street legal.
They run on either Kawasaki or Honda motorcycle engines and co-opt vintage bumper car bodies into the most awesome form of mini-car we've seen in too long. There are seven of these little monsters floating around California and they're all the creation of one man, Tom Wright, a builder in the outskirts of San Diego who figured the leftovers of the Long Beach Pike amusement park needed a more dignified end than the trash heap.

They were originally powered by two cylinder Harley Davidson
Motorcycle engines but they rattled like heck because of the two cylinder
 vibration and Tom replaces them with four cylinder Honda or Kawasaki 750's.
And a couple have been measured as capable of 160 MPH, which is terrifyingly fast in machines with such a short wheelbase.
By the way, they are almost indestructible in accidents!

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

A sad day for the Flying W Ranch

I recall my first family trip back in the 60s.  I'm talking all three of us piled into the car, along with a tiny porta-potty for yours truly, and ventured Westward across this great country.  I remember stopping for a Dairy Queen in Kansas, visiting the Bug Museum, Cave of the Winds, Santa's North Pole Workshop near Pike's Peak, Pike's Peak itself (via the nifty tramway), and eventually Disneyland.  I was three years old and still have fond memories of that long-ago trip (even the part when I accidentally left my crayons on the back window and they melted there, decorating my Dad's car with dots of rainbow - and giving my Skipper doll's hair some unwanted highlights and lowlights).  In fact, I recall these places in vivid sense memory.  And that's really saying something, especially since many trips made in more recent years don't have that hold on my heart - and aforementioned senses.

But if you asked me to recall one place we visited most clearly, in small details of sound, smell and (Ooh Lordy!) taste, it would be the Flying W Ranch Chuckwagon Show and Dinner.  The musical cowboys took the stage under an outdoor, open air structure.  They played songs like "Happy Trails" and the eerie "Ghost Riders in the Sky" (evocative both back then and now of whispy, transparent-gray cowpokes and their phantom horses).  We sat at a long, wooden table with throngs of other happy vacationers and were treated to a tasty cowboy supper of a BBQ beef brisket sandwich, baked beans (best ever, ever), buttery corn bread and tangy-sweet lemonade.  I can still remember plunking down my empty tin cup after draining it of the lemonade, wiping my mouth clean with the back of my sleeve, satisfied and full.  What more do you need while listening to cowboy crooners while a gentle, evening breeze licked up against your shins?

It's with the deepest sadness that I must report this wonderful tourist attraction is no more.  I visited Santa's North Pole Workshop's Facebook page this morning and learned that Flying W Ranch fell vicitm to the tremendously savage fires that are menacing Colorado as I write this.  I'm constructing this blog post in order to inform my readers to please pray for the families affected by this tragedy, and the business owners who've lost their beloved Ranch, which charmed folks for the past 60 years.  And, in addition, I'm urging everyone to keep prayers of protection going for Santa's North Pole Workshop, for nearby towns like Manitou Springs, for the glorious forests, and Garden of the Gods.
Tags: ghost riders in the sky

While writing this, I can't keep my eyes from tearing up for those ghostriders, now a sweet, disntant memory ...

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

The Banjo Player in "Pirates of the Caribbean" and the Gemini New Moon

inside of Pirates of the

I love this time of year, just prior to the summer solstice, when the sun stays out so very long.  When the day just strums along like a banjo player, settin' on a front porch, pluckin' a slow, sweet tea-infused tune.  Kind of reminds me of this image from the beginning of the "Pirates of the Caribbean" ride at Disneyland, one of my favorite experiences at the park.  When night finally comes, it slowly pours in,  dappled with indigo-sapphire, glinting fireflies, a lunar reflection on the water.

The Gemini New Moon urges us to make up lyrics to that banjo tune, just for the heck of it.  And, while you're at it, stay up until it's dusk and look for the faerie folk in your backyard.  Because this time of year allows you to say what you feel, declare your exploration into the worlds of make-believe and craft your own colorwonderful possibilities.

If you've wanted to write some poetry, you should pour yourself right in - but be ready to read it aloud, with all the passion in your soul.  Walk in nature and talk with the trees.  Tell someone about your guardian angel.

Enjoy this magical, luxuriant time.  And whisper to the fireflies.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Pam Turlow "The Cotton Candy Road Trip" Suburban Sun-Times article!

Hey funkids!  I recently had the honor of being interviewed by Sun-Times Local writer Sandy Bosch for my book.  The result is a sweet article that focuses on the way nostalgia played an important role in the writing of "The Cotton Candy Road Trip".  Enjoy!

Me with the Largest Plume of Cotton Candy I've Ever Seen (Lake Compounce, CT)

Friday, June 8, 2012

VIDEO: Mister Rogers Remixed - The Garden of Your Mind

Detail from Idlewild's Mister Rogers' Neighborhood Ride

Back toward the beginning of the Road Trip, I spent a magnificent day at Idlewild Park in western Pennsylvania.  One of the sweetest and most unique experiences was a visit to the Land of Make Believe - they have an actual trolley that whisks you through it and you get to meet all the fabled characters the wonderful Fred Rogers made famous.  I can tell you many tears were shed when the recorded voice of my beloved Mr. Rogers wafted through the speakers and took us along on a fairytale journey.

I counted.  It only took me 40 seconds to start crying while watching this fantastic video.

Sunday, June 3, 2012

The tradition of the Conneaut Lake Park pony rides

During our first visit to Conneaut Lake Park, I had the pleasure of interviewing a few of the folks who run the pony track.  The park had just re-opened after being closed for two years, and the ponies were back and ready to resume their duties as if nothing had happened.  The dedication and verve of folks like Don Weyel are remarkable and major reasons I wrote this book.  Please take some time today to read this article and support YOUR local vintage amusement park!!  Heck - take a road trip down to Conneaut Lake Park and experience the magic yourself!

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Knoebel's Amusement Resort: a Veritable Smorgasbord of Smorgasbordy Goodness!

My perception of amusement park food changed for good when I visited Knoebels Amusement Park in 2010.  I should qualify that statement: my feelings about amusement park food other than Disney park food changed.  Disney parks have scrumptious food; I often revel in memories of the Dole Whip, the Blue Bayou salmon, and my new favorite beverage, the Practically Perfect Punch (because it IS).  But some other parks serve corn dogs, hamburgers, maybe some ice cream novelties, and that's about it.  And most of it isn't worth writing about. 

Enter Knoebels and their wazoo assortment of Food of All Nations!  High-quality ingredients, pride in preparation and clever presentation is evident throughout the park.  And the variety!!  You could literally show up at opening, eat all day, maybe fit in a ride, and keep eating until close.  We didn't quite pull off a feat like that, but we did leave a little roly and slightly more poly.  Here's what we consumed on that fateful day:

We started the day with some potato cakes, at this man's urging.  Dig the vintage signage.  Knoebels is teeming with it:

After that, we saw that the Potato Barn was close by, boasting Tri-Taters,(little triangular fried potato jobbies),  and we're glad we took the time to check it out, because right nearby, the Food of My People, meaning the Polish people, the humble-yet-delectable pierogi:

  After a potatoey, cheesy, Poly (as in Polish, not as in vinyl) morning, we ran the park, riding ride after ride, visiting the glorious carousel museum, taking the sky ride up the side of a mountain, leaving the park hub bub behind for a tad.  But more foodie wonderfulness awaited our return.  Finally, it was time for lunch, and for that, we dove into the Food Court - World Section, and were greeted by this cheery ear of corn.
While we did not consume any corn, we did have a satisfying salad and pasta, radiatori, to be exact.  Impressive.  I mean, what other amusement park sells radiatori??  The World Food Court is impressive, with food from Asia, Greece, Mexico, Italy - on it goes.  And it's all flavorful, not fast food quality but nice, sit down restaurant quality.  Amazing.  Then, it was off to more rides, including the Haunted Mansion, which frightened me enough to seek out some of my book's signature, sugary treat:

No visit to Knoebels is complete without some ice cream, because their ice cream is some of the creamiest, most flavorful around.
(I've enlarged the above picture so you can get an eyeful of the variety you have to choose for your mouthful. Yes, you're reading that right.  Teaberry. Milky Way.  Cotton Candy, fer cry eye!  Oh, and take a look at the little girl with her pet beagle on the left side of the sign. As if the ice cream sign was personally beckoning me, from one beagle lover to another )

Here we are with our crazy chocolate peanut butter cup  and Milky Way mouthfuls.  As you can plainly see, Knoebels does not skimp on size:

Suddenly, I had a  hankering for licorice whips.  Don't know why, just did.  So I was happy to find Stony Gables, a small building formerly used as a vacation space.  It now houses a multitude of sweets, including at least a dozen different flavors of licorice whips.  I had a tutti fruiti one and got a root beer one for Ben.

So, now is the time I get to totally geek out on you.  I know you've had funnel cakes before; everyone has.  But Knoebels' cakes are dream-worthy.  And what makes the whole experience truly magical?  When you tell the sweet ladies making them that you're writing a book - and they let you inside the little building they work in and allow you to photograph them at their craft.  Sizzle, sizzle, yum, yum, YUM!:

A minute later, my baby Ben tucks in and all is right with the world..

And so our day at Knoebels came to an end, but not before taking some time to genuflect at the picnic pavilion,  decorated to look like a gigantic vintage birthday cake:

Yes, we couldn't help but congratulate ourselves at tackling the amazing food at Knoebels.  And we welcomed that nice long walk back to our car at the end of the day.

(To give you a clearer indication of their variety, you should really visit this link. Prepare to have your socks knocked off, and start your dieting NOW: