I topped off the oil and coolant and paid a measly $10 to fill the tank of my 1987 get-me-from-one-place-to-the-other-and-back 325is, then picked up my unfortunate passenger -- naturally, I had to take the girlfriend, the only one who could watch me do these ridiculous rides and still love me at the end of the day! -- and set out. Traffic down, as expected, wasn't too bad from North Jersey, and after about an hour and a half, the search for a parking spot began. We thought it was pretty bad looking for a fight in Seaside Park -- but of course, just wait for it...
So we parked near the very end of the Seaside Heights/Seaside Park boardwalk and moseyed on up to Funtown Pier. Immediately upon seeing the huge maze of stores, restaurants, ice cream stands, and game vendors, I was taken back to the old days (I use the term relatively; it may be only ten years to you, but that was over half my life ago) when my family would come down for a weekend in the summer and stay in Lavallette. They'd always chill in the house or up at the beach and tease me with the potential of the Seaside boardwalk; it was always the highlight of the week for me.
I'd always remembered Casino Pier being the big destination, with Funtown that crappy little pier on the end with the maze of booths, the Giant Wheel, and the gunboat game and not really much else. Man have they done great things with it since then. The place looks really clean, all the dirty unsightly things are gone (except for the Central Jerseyans, of course ;)), and there's finally a midway with a nice variety of kiddie rides and more adult rides. The only rides I recognized were the Wheel and the looping coaster -- and the biggest shockers were the new Spongebob Squarepants ride and a Chaos still under construction. Great things are really in store for Funtown Pier.
Back to the story... We reached the midway and I surveyed the battle plan: three coasters, one of which I had on my track record (the looper). Just need to tack on the Dragon Wagon (4 tickets) and the new Family Coaster (5 tickets) and we could move on. 9 tickets please! I tore off four and walked up to the Dragon Wagon attendant, handed them to her, and she said, "No!" (if you can't visualize this, picture the end of the first musical number in South Park: Bigger, Longer, and Uncut when the boys try to buy tickets to the Terrance & Phillip movie -- I swear that's exactly what happened) Apparently, despite no "under __ tall only" signs, I got booted for being too old. So I shrugged and walked over to the Family Coaster, where I was happily accepted as one of their own for three laps. It's brand new, still running like new, and even has a little pop of airtime. But alas, still just for the credit. I decided afterwards to invest 75 of my hard-earned pennies into another ticket and kill them all on a nice lap on the Octopus. Just as good as the traveling fairs, except bolted FIRMLY to the midway and with an extra-long ride cycle (the true advantage to ticketed vs. POP riding). Had the rather impressive-looking Tower of Fear cost less than $8.00, I might've ridden, but since I'm a cheap bastard, my work at Funtown Pier was done.
A pleasant stroll down the boardwalk and past the many games, vendors, and throngs of beachgoers took us to the more familiar territory of Casino Pier. This pier hasn't undergone any particularly radical changes save for exchange of rides -- for instance, the absence of the Wizard's Cavern was noticeable, but the exchange of the Rock 'n' Roll for the former Flying Bobs was meh. It's still got a great collection of thrill rides, some nice family rides right near the boardwalk, and a relatively clean, friendly atmosphere.
The first thing I noticed here was that despite RCDB telling me I'd find four coasters here, a quick walk of the boardwalk only produced three: the Star Jet (8 tickets), the Hot Tamale (6 tickets), and the Wild Mouse. Having ridden the mouse before, I'd only be adding two more at this point. During our pier tour, me and the honey noticed a Zamperla Power Surge (6 tickets) and I decided we'd both ride it as consolation for her having to inevitably watch me take three laps on the Hot Tamale. I purchased a 20-ticket book, Danielle bought 6 tickets, and I took my lonesome spins from the front-seat of the Hot Tamale. D told me that 12-year-olds were mocking me as I rode, but I didn't care -- I knew my cause was ultimately good. :)
Next we ventured to the Power Surge. I'd forgotten a bit what this ride was like, having only ridden one twice before now at PPP '03, but I remembered quickly and had a damn good time. However, considering where the auto-lowering harness ended up restraining her, it was no surprise when, at one point, D screamed, "THAT'S MY UTERUS!" While she recovered from reproductive shock, I took my ride on the Star Jet, the coaster that replaced the beloved Schwarzkopf Jet Star of my youth. I was happy to see that it maintained the sharp turn at the top of the hill and the short, suspenseful stretch along the edge of the pier with just the crashing waves below, but the rest of the ride was a bit disappointing. Severely overly braked, no banking on too-sharp turns, and just a really harsh ride. I'll definitely miss my beloved Jet Star.
After pining for a moment, we traversed the boardwalk back to the car, taking in all that I'd remembered from my childhood and hadn't experienced in a long time. On a less business-oriented day, I'd love to come back and play some games, ride some rides, and have a good time (and for sure check out the new Breakwater Beach, an update of my also-beloved Water Works).
Having taken the count to 95, we headed north to Point Pleasant, where the beaches are much cleaner and where a coaster named the Tornado (5 tickets) sat waiting on Jenkinson's Boardwalk for me to tack on for insurance purposes. I'd only been to Jenkinson's once before (my family was a Seaside family), but Danielle always went to Point Pleasant during her childhood. I immediately noticed that Jenkinson's is MUCH more family-oriented (i.e. more kids' stuff). The Flitzer (which I'd ridden years ago), the Super Himalaya, and the Tilt-a-Whirl comprised the trio of "hardcore" rides on this particular midway.
D and I split a 20-ticket pack and I took my spin on the Tornado while she hit up the Tilt-a-Whirl (5 tickets). Again, nothing much to say, just another credit, but D had a blast on the Tilt-a-Whirl, so we each spent our remaining 5 tickets on another ride. Good times!
We'd planned on spending the rest of the day at the beach, but at $6.50 a person and an hour and a half left on the meter, we decided to sit and watch the end of the Yankees game (an AMAZING game, by the way) before trekking a mile back to the meter. We'd THOUGHT Seaside Park was the worst place to find a meter, but I was wrong. We drove from Jenkinson's, down the main drag over a mile, through a municipal lot, across a traffic circle, down two dead-end streets, through a full parking lot, and back to that municipal lot again before finally finding a damn space!
We were a little burned and impatient from the parking situation, but a nice (and unbelievably inexpensive) dinner at the Wharfside restaurant definitely helped us out. If you're ever in the Point Pleasant area, I'd suggest this place; that, or the Lobster Shanty, which is right next door (both are owned by Jack Baker). We sat just as Ruben Sierra hit the game-winning sacrifice fly in the bottom of the 12th and were promptly served. We both got the early bird special -- baked stuffed flounder for D, shrimp and crabcakes for myself -- complete with a side, soup, salad, bread service (by the way, the bread is AMAZING), and dessert. And the bill was less than $30. After an expensive day on the boardwalk, you can't beat that.
The drive home wasn't bad -- not TOO much traffic on the Parkway, surprisingly -- and it was a fitting end to a tiring but successful day. I'd successfully brought the track record up to 96, plenty to insurance to insure that next week during Midwest Coaster Madness 2004, Shivering Timbers will be my 100th coaster. After waiting almost two and a half years to do this, all that stands between me and a promise finally fulfilled is a week of working and waiting.
MCM '04 is in six short days, and I'm ready! :)
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