Lake Compounce (5/30/04)

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Wednesday, June 23, 2004 10:13 AM
We really weren’t considering a trip to Lake Compounce until later in the season, but when we found out that fellow Wood Coaster Fan Club members Sean Snyder and Bob MacCallum were going to be at The Lake as part of the WNYCC event in New England, a good case was built for making a trip to Bristol. Besides, my father had not yet ridden a coaster this year, so riding one of his favorites would be a great way for him to begin the season.

We left Morristown late morning and picked up Linette on our way up Route 287. After a nice & scenic two hour drive, we were pulling into the lot and forking over $5.00 to park. To our dismay, the parking lot was packed- I had never seen so many cars there before. It was obvious that The Lake was having a very good day.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- Lake Compounce has one of the most attractive entrances of any amusement park. Emerging from that tunnel and seeing the pastel-hued entrance plaza spread out in the foreground, Southington mountain dominating the background and the Wildcat sandwiched nicely between the two is one of the most beautiful amusement park visions one could ever hope to see. Amazing is the fact that the new S&S Turbo Drop- Drop Time- is centered perfectly behind the entrance plaza. I wonder if this was on purpose? Either way, it’s a nice little detail that many will surely overlook.

We hadn’t set up a time or place to meet Sean and Bob so we headed over to the place where any respectable coaster enthusiast would be inside Lake Compounce- Boulder Dash. The line was halfway down the bridge that connects the station to the midway and, as usual, the coaster was running just one of its two trains. A fifteen minute wait- twenty minutes or more for the front. Which is where we headed.

Boulder Dash was running very smooth, just as it always does. The “out” run had its usual variety of airtime, but the “back” run seemed a little slow, especially over the last four or five hills. The train seemed to be losing its momentum somewhere before the “trick track,” taking away a little of the punch that those last hills usually deliver. But minor quibbles aside, Boulder Dash was still the excellent coaster that is the first to give my precious Phoenix a run for its money. We were going to ride again but we decided that a meal was in order so we headed over to The Grille for mediocre burgers and fries. The food wasn’t terrible, but why do restaurants within the park serve those standard-issue fast food fries when Potato Patch fries are sold right by the park entrance?

Leaving the restaurant, we ran into Sean and Bob who were on their way to shop for some souvenirs before heading to the WYNCC gathering. Having ridden pretty much everything in the park prior to meeting us (except for Wildcat and Drop Time), we figured that we’d hit some rides and meet back up with them in an hour. Since we had some time to kill, a leisurely ride on the Sky Ride was in order.

This thing is, by far, one of the coolest amusement park rides ever constructed. The trek up the mountain, which seems to last an eon or two, is entertaining enough, but the ride down… WOW! The view of the rolling Connecticut countryside is absolutely unreal. With the sun shining down on you and a gentle breeze in the air, it’s almost as if you are floating back down to Earth from some heavenly trip through the sky.

The Trolley pulled into its station by Thunder Rapids so we hopped aboard for a ride back to the station by the Croc Pot restaurant. I never realized how much the Trolley adds to the atmosphere in the quiet section of the park that connects main midway to the Thunder Rapids/Sky Ride area. It’s too bad that the Trolley doesn’t wind its way through the park so the ride lasts longer than two minutes, but considering how tightly-packed some sections of the park are, I can’t see how that would be possible.

It was nearing time to meet up with Sean and Bob so I decided to give the American Flyers a try as we walked back up the hill to Boulder Dash. The paint job on this machine is unbelievable- this is, by far, the nicest-looking set of Scooters I have ever seen (although Air Crow at Indiana Beach is very attractive too.) Too bad that the ride doesn’t spin fast enough for you to do anything with the Scooters. Trying to snap the cables? Forget about it. Just try and get the tubs to swing back and forth. By far, the most uneventful Scooters I have ever ridden, and it’s a shame because this park begs for a good set of Scooters.

Up the hill, we met Bob and Sean and decided to head over to Wildcat, which is running its orange train this year. I know the coaster has two trains but I have never seen both at the same time. Does the park rehab one of the trains during the summer and switch them each season? I sat in seat 1.3 (not my choice, seating is first-come first-served) with everyone else scattered about the train. I am both happy and saddened to report that the Wildcat hasn’t changed. It is still a speedy little Schmeck that runs a little on the rough side and has no airtime to speak of. What happened to the work that Martin & Vleminckx were supposed to perform during the off-season? If they did anything, it couldn’t have been much. More importantly, what happened to the restoration of the ride to its original Schmeck/PTC specs? This could be a great ride with a little fine-tuning, but right now, it remains my least-favorite Schmeck design.

It was time for more Boulder Dash but the line for Drop Time was rather short so we decided to take a spin. First of all, I like what the park did with this area, which was pretty bland in years past. Drop Time has a cool “broken clock” theme and the surrounding area has a new restaurant, new paths and a new layout (the Musik Express now sits in front of Boulder Dash’s final speed hills.) Between the new Carousel building last year and the changes made this year, the back part of the park between Wildcat and Boulder Dash looks absolutely spectacular! As for Drop Time, it was a lot of fun. It had been a long time since I rode an actual drop tower (not the Space Shot/Double Shot variety) so I forgot how unnerving it is to be dragged to the top of the tower and allowed to hang there for a few seconds. The drop was great but the bouncing afterwards does nothing to add to the ride. All it does is make the ride a few seconds longer than Intamin drop rides, which bring you to a halt after the initial fall.

The line for Boulder Dash was just as long as before. A ride in the back proved that the ride was running a bit faster, but still seemed to be losing speed over the last few hills. Sean and Bob wanted to make a trip to put some stuff in their car, so Linette, my father and I took a ride on the Lake Railroad, which is a slow but scenic ride around the lake to the picnic grove behind Thunder Rapids and back. We all agreed that the new swan boats in the lake look really nice. It’s little additions like those which make all the difference.

Meeting up with Bob and Sean, we had time for one final ride on Boulder Dash before the park closed for the night and ERT for the WNYCC event began. As we were waiting for our final ride, the second train was finally put on. While I was happy that the enthusiasts would have two trains for their event, it irritated me that the park waited that long to do so when the crowd in the park clearly warranted a second train all along. Aside from not having enough time to get more than

three Boulder Dash rides before the park closed, we had an excellent time at The Lake. It’s amazing how many changes have taken place during the past few years. Each year, the new additions seem to be a little on the small side (Drop Time is probably the most significant addition to the park since Boulder Dash was opened in 2000) but they do add up, and because of that, the park seems infinitely better than it was just a few years ago. Obviously the “slow and thoughtful” approach to expansion is paying off.

A few years back, I thought that this park begged for an S&S tower and a Crazy Mouse. With Drop Time, they are halfway there. With a small but fun steel coaster, this place would be just about perfect. Just run those Scooters a little faster so us adults can have some fun with them!

*** Edited 6/23/2004 2:15:35 PM UTC by Rob Ascough***

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