Knoebels is an antiquated, beautiful park — the woodsy, old-fashioned kind that are few and far between anymore. I’ve mentioned this before on the blog, but I really do prefer small, family-oriented parks like this one because that is where you get the weird, old rides. Don’t get me wrong, I heart roller coasters just as much as the next adrenaline junkie, but there is something to be said for entering some creepy funhouse that smells like old All In the Family episodes and moth balls.
I’m not a big fan of riding ferris wheels, but Knoebels had one of the prettiest ferris wheels I’ve ever seen. I think I must have taken a picture of it every single time I passed it—it was the mechanical embodiment of childhood summers.
But again, I did not ride the ferris wheel because I was too busy riding things that were flinging me about like a rag doll. Whiplash never felt so good.
SPOILER ALERT: My stomachache went away after Henry fed me. (And no, he didn’t feed me Rohypnol. This day, anyway.) But first I had to suffer on a bench, alone, while Chooch and Katelyn “panned for gemstones” under the guidance of an old man who really took his position outside of the Mine Museum seriously. (I’m not being sarcastic.) While I was on the bench, I had the opportunity to internally mock a family who tried to ride the Black Diamond only to be rejected because they didn’t have tickets.
Speaking of the Black Diamond — sick ride, bro! It was a dark ride, one of the reasons we were there that day, and it took us on a relatively macabre tour of a mining catastrophe. It even started off with some miner forcefully yanking on his mule’s* rope, which really upset Chooch, so good job Black Diamond! Your work here is done!
*(I knew this was a mule and not a donkey because the Mine Museum taught me so much, you guys!)
There was one especially chilling part of the ride where we passed a mural of skeletal angels lifting away dead miners. (Props to Kari for the heads up on that one!) This was Chooch’s favorite of the two dark rides because it had a couple dips, giving it a mild coaster feel.
Me? I prefered the Haunted Mansion. It was everything a dark ride should be: pretzel car bursting through the entrance door and the momentary panic when your eyes don’t adjust to the sudden darkness, the sound of gears and chains as your car is propelled around corners, the heart-stopping sensation of having a car horn honked at death metal decibels right up in your grill, the parts that make you laugh (one of the dead props had hideously-sagging boobs, which Henry was obessed with), and the parts that make you wish you were riding with someone you could make out with, or worse. (Read: Jonny Craig. I wonder if his ginger hair glows in the dark?)
Included in our registration fee was an authentic Knoebels late lunch! The thick slabs of glazed ham and fried chicken, which—and I’m going to Vegetarian Times Hell for saying this—actually looked so super good but I still haven’t completely rejected my anti-meat stance yet. Instead, I allowed a Knoebels worker to ladle some scalloped potatoes and cole slaw onto my bare compartmentalized picnic plate. And it was really good. This is where I learned that I really enjoy white birch beer. I mean, I REALLY ENJOY IT, Dottie.
Then we got to eat birthday cake for the Haunted Mansion’s 40th birthday!
On a sad and serious note, one of the DAFE members had recently passed away. Her name is Tanya and she was supposed to have been there with us that weekend. Being a DAFE n00b, I had never met Tanya, but during our meal, someone stood up and gave somewhat of an eulogy for her, and I can tell you that she sounded like someone I wish I had known: had a love of amusement parks and haunted houses and ran like Hell from chainsaw guys. She must have been so much fun! And it was clear that she was incredibly loved and highly regarded. I can only hope people care half as much when I die. I mean, I had never met her and I was totally welling up!
Afterward, a raffle was going to happen, but Chooch and I were like, “WE CANNOT SIT HERE ANY LONGER. WE WANT TO RIDE THINGS OMG!!” Henry is REALLY into raffles and tried his best to discourage a revolt, but we weren’t playing around. From where I sat beneath Pavilion L, I could see approximately 4.5 rides that I wanted to strap my ass into post haste, and I wasn’t waiting around to hear a bunch of numbers.
Especially since Henry refused to bid on any of the bumper cars being auctioned off. Dickbag.
Chris offered to listen for our registration numbers to be called, so I was like, “GREAT THANKS!!!” and hoped that he heard that over the sound of my feet hitting the pavement. Chris? Bless your number-listening heart. Meanwhile, Henry looked completely defeated, but followed us anyway.
Because really — Chooch and me alone in an amusement park? Not the best idea.
Knoebels has a flying carpet ride, which Chooch and I rode twice in a row. Henry shook his head when he saw that in lieu of rejoining him after the first go-around, we ran straight back into line to ride again. He obviously knows not the gaping orifice left in my heart after Kennywood shipped off their own flying carpet ride, else he’d have understood my urgent need to clean to that swooshing motion a little longer.
That ride is my jam, y’all.
Like so many other parks, Knoebels has their own variation of the log flume called Skloosh, which I actually did not know the name of until just now. I had just been calling it “that log flume thing” this whole time. Anyway, prior to our DAFE meal, Henry had already filled his quota of rides (two wooden coasters and two dark rides — I imagine his hemrrhoids must have been straight up picketing) so he skulked around with my large iCarly messenger bag, pretending to have friends to text, while Chooch and I waited in line in front of a small gaggle of super boisterous middle school boys.
One of them said “shit,” resulting in their Eddie Haskell-esque ring leader to lean toward me and apologize on his friend’s behalf. I was like, “Oh bitch please, if you only knew the cussing dregs that pour out of this kid’s mouth,” jutting an elbow toward Chooch.
Seriously, that kid’s first word was “asshole.” He calls Bill a “douche cup.” Hearing the word “shit” isn’t going to drastically alter his already-snide demeanor.
Knoebels has one of the last remaining Fascination parlors left in the US. I learned this today by accident when I was Wiki’ing something else. (It’s really none of your business.) Anyway, I wanted to check it out because my friend Kate was telling me about her local amusement park in New York called Sylvan Beach and how she likes to play Fascination and I knew immediately that I needed to see this for myself because one of my favorite Cure songs is “Fascination Street” and what kind of poser fan would I be if I didn’t at least stick one foot inside a Fascination parlor.
So, it’s like a Skee Ball and Bingo amalgamation, right? Totally old fashioned and wood-paneled. Among the strange flea market assortment of prizes were crock pots and LAMPS, you guys. LAMPS. It was a nice change of pace from Bieber posters and stuffed Rastafarian bananas.
And you just put a quarter down and some chick comes around and collects it and then that’s it — you’re playing Fascination.
Henry and Chooch really sucked at it, though. I was really hoping one of them would win me that bantam green chair (pictured above) for my imaginary friend that just happens to double as a dwarf lifeguard.
Man, I bet Henry’s mom was the shit at Fascination back in the day. I’m going to ask her. Anytime I ask her things, she gets paranoid that I’m asking her things.
Chooch made me take this.
After the park closed, the rest of us laminate-wearing DAFE members got to stay for an addition 90 minutes of exclusive ride time on the two dark rides, free of charge. Yay, my favorite part! Flaunting my laminate!
Our group met in front of the Haunted Mansion, where a moment of silence for Tanya was held as the first car was sent in alone, carrying a bouquet of flowers. This beautifully bittersweet moment of silence as we all watched the floral representation of Tanya take the inaugural trip through the Haunted Mansion’s doors…
…when Chooch the Mouth asked in an inappropriately-decibeled voice: “What, did she like, die in the Haunted Mansion?”
Several people near us bristled uncomfortably.
“I don’t know,” I hissed, making throat-slashing motions which is Mom Sign Language for You Best STFU, Boy!
“Then how did she die!?” he pressed on.
It was everything I could do not to stuff the nearest caramel apple pork chop into his yammering maw.
Thankfully, I think the people around us understood that he is just a small kid with legitimate questions and meant no disrespect.
Still, it was pretty embarrassing. Meet your newest members, DAFE!
Before getting into line, we all hunkered down for a group photo which was cool because group photos make me feel like I’m part of something (paying for membership cards accomplishes that, too) and also because there were enough people huddled together that I have hopes the photo will be far enough away that the casual observer won’t notice my cake-rolls.
Afterward, I thought for sure we would all be in full-blown Sweep the Leg, Jonny-mode, clotheslining each other on our wild sprint to get into line. But everyone just walked calmly to the entrance and lined up without acting like the wolves I was raised by.
I was one of the first people in line because I am naturally in a hurry for everything. If I tripped you on my way there, sorry I’m not sorry.
You know what the worst is, when you’re with a bunch of people and they are walking so goddamn slow toward a ride at an amusement park and you see this huge group of d-bags coming from another direction and they swoop into line right before you because SOME PEOPLE don’t know the proper times to be in a fucking hurry!
Don’t be one of those people.
I think the reason I feel such a strong pull to darkrides is because most of them embody that flamboyant Hee Haw-esque psychedelic kitsch of the 1960s & 1970s and you never know what day-glo monster is going to laugh mockingly at you when your Pretzel-car bursts through those black doors. Kennywood had a ride called Le Cachot (lovingly known as Lick a Shit) which burnt down in 1998 and I promise you that part of my heart was singed along with it. Kennywood has never been the same since – the remaining old darkrides have been given modern makeovers, which basically means they’ve been raped of their magic.
Their beloved skeleton-haunted Old Mill was given a Garfield makeover, for Christ’s sake.
However, I’m sure 25 years from now, when the current darkrides have been replaced with CGI zombies and To Catch a Predator vignettes, my pruned-self will be pining for the days when we got to shoot at mechanical ghosts for points.
90 minutes of back-and-forth running between the Haunted Mansion and Black Diamond — it was this girl’s dream come true. And we were treated on a lights-on excursion through the Haunted Mansion, where Henry got to see his favorite pair of floppy monster boobs in better lighting.
(We almost got to ride through the Black Diamond with the lights on but then some ride engineer person caught wind of it and came over to tell the ride operator to turn the lights back off. Henry was super bothered by this which worried absolutely no one because what’s Henry going to do? Bristle his moustache, that’s all.)
This is the censored version. We all know what was really happening.
Knoebels is a super charming park, the kind you’d want to lose your virginity in (they even let you bring dogs! Not that I’m suggesting anything by mentioning that in the sentence as losing your virginity), and I can’t wait to go back!