Abbreviated Western PA Trip- Part 3- 8/26- Idlewild

Associated parks:
None

Friday, September 2, 2005 4:39 PM
Friday morning, I wasn’t in too much of a hurry to get going. I was headed to Idlewild, which opened at 10, and I had only a little over an hour to travel. I was staying at the Comfort Inn off of 376 east of Pgh. They actually offered cooked food (I won’t quite say it was hot) as part of the comp breakfast, but it was welcome.

I debated hitting the pool and hot tub for at least a few minutes (I could have used it after all the walking in Kennywood the day before). I searched for the pool, which in this sprawling multi-level place was the equivalent of heading from the front gate at Hershey to Great Bear (up, down, left, right, down again). I figured I had nowhere to store a wet bathing suit for the trip home, not even a car aerial, so I passed on the idea.

Soon after, I hopped on 376, to the turnpike, and got off one exit later to take Route 30 east to Ligonier. I was actually looking forward to doing a lot of driving back on east along 30, the Lincoln Highway, partly to avoid the turnpike tolls, but also because I’d heard it was a picturesque and interesting drive. One unexpected attraction was somewhere around Greensburg, where I saw a huge billboard for a cosmetic surgeon named “Dr. Teet.” And I’m thinking, crap, there’s nowhere to pull over and get a pic of this. It belongs on Leno, if someone hasn’t already sent it in. Having gotten that off my chest… the trip continues.

A few minutes before 11, I see a sign for the entrance to Idlewild. I’m surprised at the number of cars ahead of me, and more surprised at the number of cars already in the lot. Interesting that you buy (or in my case, hand over) your tickets right at the entrance, while the parking itself is free. I keep driving and driving parallel to 30 until finally I’m flagged into Section D. Lots of parking for sure. One good thing is that none of the lots are that far from the park itself.

I honestly wasn’t expecting that much from this park. Much of the info on the net, plus a conversation I had with someone at Kennywood told me that many of the attractions were kid-oriented. At the least, I figured, I could say I was here. Walking down the hill into Olde Idlewild, I was greeted with some of the most charming park architecture I’ve ever seen. The white clapboards, flower boxes, and rooflines definitely gave an old-fashioned feel to the park.

Checking out my handy-dandy folding park map and brochure (I definitely like these things, KW), I saw I was just a few feet away from Rollo-coaster. At this time of the morning there was almost no line. There was only one train of six cars, but the (very informative) sign mentioned that the ride was only 900 feet long, so things did move quickly. I like how the bell chimes when the train is close to returning, signaling the ops to send the next trainload of passengers to the platform. No matter what the ride is like, it gets an extra point for the hand operated brakes and the smell of grease.

Before we dispatched, one of the ops told me that I should hold my shades, an arm of which I had placed in one of my buttonholes. OK, I figured. I’ll go along. Well, I don’t think the glasses would have been in any danger of flying away, but I really enjoyed this compact little ride. The wooded hillside setting, simple out and back, some nice little dips and turns.

After that, I headed over to the Wild Mouse, which also had a relatively short line. While I’m standing in line for the next car to be loaded, another car returns to the station and there’s a loud popping noise. It startled the op that was loading the mice. Well, they’re holding one car at the bottom while the op in the station gets on the phone. A minute later, they're taking the folks out of the car and telling the rest of us the ride is temporarily closed. I guess my lucky streak just ran out.

No big deal, I figure I’ll just walk around and check out the rest of the park. Had to try out the classic Caterpillar. That was fun, the only downer was that there was no canopy on the cars, although the frames were in place and the fan was running. The park also has the typical flat rides: Scrambler, Tilt-a-whirl, Spider (Octopus), and a nice old-fashioned Ferris Wheel, with front facing cars as opposed to the round cages. I passed on all of these in favor of finding the attractions unique to this park.

I crossed the bridge into Hootin’ Holler, the western themed area, to check out the Loggin’ Toboggan, a flume ride that’s new for this year. What I got to see were two maintenance men perched on top of a dry drop hill with welders in hand. Not good.

Onto Plan C… the Loyalhanna Limited train ride. Scads of people waiting there, most of them with strollers. OK, I’m definitely not in the mood for that right now. Off to the side is Confusion Hill, with two young ladies clad in jeans and plaid western-style shirts. I asked whether it was open, since there was no one in line. Yes, they informed me, but there was about a 10-minute wait until the next tour. It wasn't that long until the previous group came down the exit ramp, and a few more people actually got into line as well.

We were herded into a small cabin and told not to touch anything. One woman wondered if things were going to jump out at us. Well our tour guide “Maggie” came in and stood on a wooden crate, and in her best hillbilly dialect went into her spiel about Confusion Hill and the story and various characters involved. Well, it turns out that the Hill is a 3 –room house you walk through with severely slanted floors. Much of the attraction is the optical illusion of what up and down is, as different objects seem to travel uphill. It’s a fun little diversion. Our poor guide though got stuck with a tough crowd who either didn’t get her corny jokes or didn’t think they were as funny as she did.

OK, train station still full of strollers and toddlers, maintenance guys still on the flume, I decided to check out Howler. I’d never seen one of these before. Definitely a popular ride with a pretty long line compared to the rest of the park. The ride seats up to 4 per car, and as I was alone, I was asked if I’d mind riding with a woman and (apparently) her granddaughter. Heck I didn’t care, as long as I got to ride. I wasn’t sure how much we’d get to spin, since the girl was barely 2, and I thought her lap bar could go in another few notches. I told her she had to sit back and not lean forward (I didn’t care if granny liked it or not), and then the op came and pushed the bar back a bit more. The kid couldn’t reach the wheel in the middle to make the car spin, but she kept reaching for it. So I figured she liked the spinning. I gave it a few turns, just to give us a gentle spin. I’d have liked to go much faster, but you work with what you have. The kid was sliding around as it was. I still had fun, but then I am easily amused.

By this time, I noticed the flume was up and operating, and had quite a few people in line. The line wasn’t that long, but I had the most annoying woman in line in front of me. Apparently, one of her kids didn’t want to get wet and didn’t get in line, so this woman paced and climbed all over the place like a zoo animal, every step of the way looking to make sure her kid was still standing in the same place. Finally, 30 seconds before they’re about to load their boat, she goes and gets the kid and makes her wait on the platform. I was this close to pushing this lady into the fricking water.

Well once they were gone, I got to enjoy the ride. It’s a pretty short ride as far as flumes go, only one hill. When they release your boat at the beginning of the ride, you move at a speed more like a lazy river than your typical flume. You just slowly navigate a few curves until you reach the lift. The ride isn’t long, but you do get a decent splash at the end.

After that, I decided it was time for lunch. I wanted to get something from the Sandwich Factory, I don’t know why, maybe because it was a nice looking building. Well, this is one of the few complaints I had with the park. The food service lines were terribly slow. There were two open windows, one serving hot dogs, the other burgers and steak sandwiches. I would think that when you see a dozen people standing in line, you could toss a few dogs and burgers on the stove and be pretty sure you’re going to sell them within a few minutes. But it seemed like we were waiting a good 5 minutes or more per order.

The food was good, it just took forever to get. Several people not only got out of line, they decided to head out to the county fair instead. I was going to spring for the “souvenir” cup, but saw the design was for the Highland games and not the park, so I passed and just got the regular Pepsi cup.

While eating, I noticed a maintenance crew working on Trinado. There was a sign in front of the ride apologizing that it wasn’t open all season long, but explaining that it was a difficult ride to get parts for and they hoped to get the ride up and running before the season was over. They got the cars spinning on each arm, but they never had the arms themselves moving. Of course, maybe they weren’t trying to do that either. It looks like a great flat; hopefully they are able to get it in operation again. Would be a shame not to.

After that, I went back to the Mouse, which I noticed had opened again, but with a much longer line than the first time. Eventually I did get to ride the back seat (no single riders in the front). This has a different layout as far as mice go, from the right leaning lift hill (what’s with that?) to the other turns and dips. For a first time rider, it’s a fun experience because it’s not the same as the more familiar Hershey/Dorney layout.

I decided to cross over the bridge to see what was there. Most of it was kid oriented—Mr. Rogers Land of Make Believe, etc. But I finally did get my train ride, as it pulled up just when I got there. I took the full lap around, just waiting for passengers to get on and off back in Hootin’ Holler. I thought it would be a longer ride, but it wasn’t bad.

Back over the bridge, I hit the T-shirt shop for, yes another park T-shirt. That’s 3 T’s and a sweatshirt this trip. Next I walked across to the gift shop just for a look-see. I found a small park ornament that was marked down to $0.75. It was next to some slightly larger and nicer Kennywood and Idlewild ornaments that were $12.75. Well, they weren’t THAT nice. So I took my find to the register, where the young kid told me my total with tax came to 3-something. I asked him if the ornament actually was 75 cents. He said that’s what he entered. I then asked if he realized he charged me about 400 percent sales tax. Uhhhhh. I took that as a no. Well neither he nor the other girl in the shop knew how to void the sale, so the other girl had to run for someone who could. Turned out all he had to do was hit one button. Hey, it's the principle.

Before I left I wanted to get one more ride on Rollo. The line almost filled the queue, but the wait was only around 10-15 minutes. This time I had to hold my glasses and put my bag in the cart on the platform. For a smaller coaster, it packs a decent punch. By this time, it was 3:30; I had been in the park for 4.5 hours, much longer than I thought I would be.

My impressions of Idlewild are that it really is a fun, beautiful park. It definitely is kid and family oriented. I didn’t bother to venture into several areas of the park as I figured the attractions were mostly for smaller children. I definitely would recommend this place to anyone who does have kids. Likes its sister park, it has a lot of history and defnitely plays that up. The signs throughout the park are informative and interesting. I enjoyed myself, as anyone who enjoys the traditional park setting and classic rides would. Thrill seekers would probably find themselves bored quickly, and maybe just go for the credits on Rollo and the Mouse. I’d definitely go back again, paired with Kennywood it would make a great weekend or 2-day trip.

Back on the road, I was heading East on Route 30 into the Allegheny Mountains. About 35 minutes into the drive, I saw a sign for the Flight 93 Temporary Memorial. After I passed, I thought maybe I should have gone to see it. Well, another few miles down the road I saw a second sign. I slammed on the brakes (luckily there was nobody behind me), and turned down a narrow road. I had no idea how far I’d be driving, but soon I saw another sign telling me to turn onto an even narrower road. This road turned into a gravel/dirt road. Soon I came out of the woods into a large open, barren area. There were some steam shovels on one side of the field, and on the other, even from that distance I could see the makeshift wooden frame that had been erected. I got a lump in my throat.

This site is absolutely haunting and tremendously touching. The guiderail erected to define a small parking area is covered with messages scrawled with Sharpie pens. The wooden frame is absolutely covered on both sides with hats, license plates, fireman’s gear, all kinds of memorials. Someone erected a cross, and there were several granite markers placed at private expense with engraved messages. A number of benches were placed, each with a few of the victims’ (heroes) names placed.

Someone had erected two rows of small aluminum angels, like you’d see in someone’s garden. Each one had a name on it. Every one of them had items placed in front of them or on them. Off in the distance near the treeline, a large single American flag kept silent vigil. I assume this was the actual point of impact. It was windy, the temperature was at least 15 degrees cooler than it was in Ligonier, but I’m certain that wasn’t the only reason I felt a chill go through my bones.

Maybe it seems cheesy, this makeshift monument thrown together. But you can feel the grief, pride, thanks… all the emotions. It’s all sincere and heartfelt. I would recommend that anyone driving through this area take a few minutes to stop here. Even for anyone crossing the turnpike, it isn’t that far form either the Bedford or Somerset exits.

It was nearly 5 by the time I got back to Route 30. The quick trip to Williams Grove I had envisioned wasn’t going to happen. Maybe Hershey. Outside of Bedford I passed these huge cartoon-like statues. One looked like the Pied Piper of Hamlin. I didn’t get a look at what that was about. Took longer and more complicated than I thought to go from 30 onto the Turnpike at Bedford. Too many route numbers in there.

I was getting hungry and reached for the Mallo Cup I got the day before. Bad move—marshmallow all over the wrapping. Apparently in the heat, all the marshmallow had boiled out, leaving me with two chocolate lifesavers. Hell, I scraped off what I could.

I got to the Carlisle exit around 6:30, but construction all through the interchange coupled with a Corvette show at the fairgrounds meant a huge traffic back up at the tollbooths, all the way to I-81. By then, I was more interested in dinner than coasters, and resigned myself to the fact that I had hit my last park. At that point I really didn’t regret it one bit. I'd already had a great trip.

Trip recap: 3 days, 4 new parks, 540 miles driven. 9 new coasters ridden, 1 missed because of maintenance. Total admission paid to 4 parks (including discounts): $53.90. *** Edited 9/2/2005 8:43:16 PM UTC by RatherGoodBear***

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Friday, September 2, 2005 5:15 PM
The Caterpillar usually operates with the canopy. It was taken off just a few weeks ago, not sure why.

The lift hill on Wild Mouse was tilted to give the illusion of falling out of the car/dizziness when it was at one of its former homes. There was a building that enclosed the lift hill.

The park's not having much luck with Trinado. The ride is fairly new, 1978, but not many are around and they can't find the parts.

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Sunday, September 4, 2005 10:22 AM
The Rollo Coaster - I have seen them shut down this ride to find people's stuff that flew out while they were riding. I don't know if this is the policy or what, just that I saw it happen while in line at least twice.

The Pied Piper statue on 30 - If I remember correctly, that is at the entrance to what used to be some kind of kiddie park of the same era as Storybook Forest at Idlewild. It's on the left hand side of the road as you go East.

I enjoyed your trip report - we used to live near Idlewild and go there a lot.

Sandi

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Sunday, September 4, 2005 1:25 PM
Mr. Bear - It looks like you had quite a journey and an ovreall nice way to wind up the summer.

The info about the memorial stopped me in my tracks. This is another example where the journey is just as important as the destination. Thank you for providing it.

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Sunday, September 4, 2005 5:16 PM
Teet is a fairly common last name in western PA. I went to grade school with two of them, (no jokes please) brothers who lived up the street from me.
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Sunday, September 4, 2005 6:14 PM
The lift hill on the Wild Mouse once had a revolving barrel surrounding it when it operated at the Prater in Austria. I'm not sure if the revolving barrel was used when it was at Alton Towers, but, with the tilted lift hill, I'm sure it offered quite a dizzy effect! Kennywood/Idlewild management decided not to use the tunnel when they erected the mouse at Idlewild.
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Monday, September 5, 2005 9:10 AM
RGB, I enjoyed reading your TR's, but I have a question......

You didn't visit Storybook Forrest? I must of spent an hour in there alone just taking photos and cracking up at the fairly tales. Confusion Hill was fun too.

But I agree, Idlewild is mostly geared for kids' and families, but it's an aboslute beautiful and quaint little park. Very laid-back. The only attraction I wanted to do and didn't was Mr. Rodgers neighborhood. Although the lines were not long the day I went it was an easy 2-hour wait just for that, most kids.

The Mouse was a blast. I especially liked the "mousey" trains. :-) Very cute.

Glad you had a great trip! I didn't realize the Flight 93 Memorial was so close by. The next time I am in that area I will have to check it out.

-Tina

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Tuesday, September 6, 2005 12:06 AM
Never made it to Story Book Forest. Only got as far as the edge of Jumpin' Jungle. I wasn't interested in doing anything that required exertion on my part. :) Walk from and to parking lot is plenty, thank you.

Thanks for all the comments, guys and gals. It all went too quickly. Now I'm debating if I want to do the same route next year-- although I think I can do DelGrosso's and Lakemont as an overniter with a Knoebels chaser on the way home.

Definitely want to add a visit to Waldameer and hopefully CLP also next time around, so I guess my question is, what could I add to the lineup to extend the trip another day or two? Your input as always is appreciated.

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