July 4th weekend: Coastahs and Lobstah!

Associated parks:
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Friday, July 8, 2005 9:11 PM
So an old college friend of mine (my roommate our Senior year, in fact) was getting married on July 4th. Don lives in DC. His fiance? DC? Her family? Mostly DC and Virginia. But wait, she used to spend every summer as a youth in Maine, and her parents now own a summer house up there. So rather than spending our weekend in the congested DC area, off to Maine we all go. (Incidentally, this continues to keep the bar high for cool weddings with this group -- two weddings ago was Hawaii. Last one was Pittsburgh, but on the day 376 was flooded by a hurricane. Now, Maine. The "single pool" for this group is down to three, including yours truly. This could get interesting -- Antarctic cruise, maybe? :) )

Anyway, this meant I'd be in Maine for the 4th of July. Originally I'd thought about taking a whole week off and driving up through New York and New England, hitting the parks along the way. With a rather sudden job change in March, however, that was reduced to flying directly to Portland, ME, for the weekend. I was still able to get two days off in addition to the 4th, so I flew out Friday to hit Funtown and Palace Playland. My flight from Pittsburgh to Portland (by way of DCA) was uneventful, and got me to Portland at 1pm on Friday. Plenty of time to get the car (a Chevy Impala from Hertz that had seen better days -- 19500 miles on a 2005 with Florida plates and a huge dent on the rear bumper. For that I could have gone to Budget or something!), check into the acceptable Hampton Inn Saco (friendly staff, but the room wasn't the best I've seen in the chain), and find my way to Funtown.

Well, what can I say. Funtown is small. First up, the Galaxi. It looked a little worse for wear, but was running, so what the heck. The op shut the ride down just as I walked up, to grab a paint brush and a can of grease and go work on the left. I kid you not. Then she came back to the station and I was the next person on. Whee.

Fresh grease or no, this thing was slow. And it was a landmark for me to boot -- steel #250. Joy.

Next, I found Astrosphere. This indoor scrambler was really well-run, although it took a while to really get up to speed. The two dudes running it were having a blast, making jokes like "If you leave any articles behind, check for them on eBay tomorrow".

Next up, Excalibur. My first ride was in seat 1.2. I came away somewhat underwhelmed -- not a bad ride, mid-tier woodie, but nothing impressive. A second ride in the back seat did nothing to change that opinion. The first two drops were better in the back, and quite fun, but the rest of the ride just didn't seem to have much action to it. At this point, I decided to go hit Palace Playland, because the weather had been threatening all day and I wanted to make sure to get there before they closed.

Old Orchard Beach was an interesting place. Slightly seedy, but I had a really good time walking around. The Galaxi there was running better than Funtown's had been, and the op didn't even blink when I hopped on the Orient Express for the credit run. I grabbed some sweet potato fries from one stand, hit a bunch of the flats (but sadly, not the funhouse, which was closed), and walked out on the pier. The funniest moment was when I was walking by the Power Surge and overheard a kid asking his dad "Is that ride any good?" The dad replied, "Well, the nametag says Zamperla, and that means fun, you can't go wrong with a Zamperla ride!" Um, sure...

By this time a thick fog was rolling in off the sea (which made for some cool photos), so I decided to head back inland while I could still find my way around. It was only 6:30, so I decided to swing back to Funtown, figuring even if the fog came in that far I'd be able to find the hotel easily enough.

What a GREAT decision that was. In the time I was gone, Excalibur had warmed up nicely. For the last two hours of operation, I never left the station -- the friendly ops were perfectly happy to let myself and a few other people stay on and fill in empty rows. By the time the ops said "Sorry, guys, that's it for the night!" I'd racked up 48 laps for the day. The first two drops had really kicked in, and the rest of the ride was at least doing SOMETHING. It's still not a top-tier ride, "just" a solid middle tier for me, but that's not bad. Definitely worth the stop.

(Note -- coaster-related stuff ends here, rest of weekend to follow :) )

Now, I was one of the groomsmen for said wedding, but I didn't HAVE to do anything until the rehearsal on Sunday. This meant Saturday was a free day for me. I took the scenic route up to the wedding site (Boothbay Harbor), stopping in Portland first. Lunch there was the delicious seafood chili at Gilbert's Chowder House. The bonus sighting for the day was watching the helicopter carrier Io Jima coming into power for the weekend. The tugs working with a ship that large (although a small carrier, it's still a large vessel) were attracting quite the crowd. I also took the time to explore the area, checking the various shops along the cobblestone streets, and even finding a bubble tea for myself for dessert. In one bookstore I spotted a book in the foreign languages section titled "More Making Out in Japanese!" (which implies that there was a "Making Out in Japanese"). Among the stores and bars to be seen were "The Bar of Chocolate", "Fore Play" (a sports bar advertising $1.50 Jello Shots), and "Condom Sense" (which was rather tame for an adult store).

Finally, it was time to hit the road. Boothbay Harbor is northeast of Portland, which meant taking Coastal Route US1 for a while, then SR27 south. While passing through the town of Bath, what should I spot but a Ferris Wheel and Zipper. That's right, a carnival was in town. A quick U-turn at the next exit (I'd already passed the Historical Bath exit I would need) and I was walking among some of the most tired looking rides I've ever seen. The nameplates were proudly stating the fair was being run by Smokey's Greater Shows. I ended up passing on riding anything, but it was still a nice little diversion.


Finally, I was there for the real purpose of the trip. Boothbay Harbor was a sleepy little fishing village. Rehearsal dinner was steamed mussels and clams (yum!), steamed lobster (double yum!), boiled corn on the cob (yum), and blueberry cake (which I couldn't eat due to a wheat allergy -- oh well, 3 out of 4 ain't bad...)

Saturday night we hung out at a cabin in the woods that one of the wedding attendees was renting. What a deal -- $500 for the week, at a place less than a mile outside of the town but TOTALLY isolated. I haven't seen a night sky that dark in years -- we were sitting on the porch in back, watching for moose and bear (yes, the owner claimed one would sometimes see them), picking out stars and constellations. Life was good. If I ever head back up that way I'm going to look into those cabins myself.

The wedding itself was Monday afternoon. Short and sweet, with a simple reception afterwards. We decided to get a late dinner that night at a place with a view of the harbor. I ordered, what else, lobster, and we watched the fireworks going off over the water. Perfect way to close out a great weekend.

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Saturday, July 9, 2005 1:26 AM
I'm both upset and glad that Excalibur is just a middle of the road woodie.

On one hand I had always hoped that hidden in the woods of the far north was a kick butt woodie that was delighting all the unfortunate (coaster-wise) people of Maine. On the other hand, I now know that I'm not missing much since this is definately one of the harder credits to get in the U.S.

I guess we know why there aren't any (are there?) buzzers from Maine!

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Saturday, July 9, 2005 3:42 PM
Aww, should have gone to the Lobster Shack (http://lobstershack-twolights.com/)! Best views and lobster rolls ever.

While the funhouse at Old Orchard is nothing special, it is kind of a classic. Still, not a big loss there.

Glad you had fun! Forty-eight rides? Whew!

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Saturday, July 9, 2005 5:38 PM
I have seen these parks advertised in a brochure at some craphole hotel i stayed in when i visited my brother, who is stationed north in the armed forces. I thought about going, now seems to me that with allittle help it looks like it may be worth a look. Thanks for showing what to do there even if it isnt much seems like i can actually find something to do there to keep me busy.
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Saturday, July 9, 2005 5:45 PM
I've heard that there are a lot of funhouses in that area, with a ton being at York's Wild Kingdom. Did you ride Dragon's Descent? I've heard a lot about it.
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Sunday, July 10, 2005 10:48 PM
Yes, I did hit Dragon's Descent. It was down when I first went through the park, but when I went back after checking Old Orchard Beach, it had opened.
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