The Abbreviated Western PA Trip Report, Part 1, 8/24

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Sunday, August 28, 2005 11:58 PM
What I did for part of one week of the summer, aka my abbreviated Western PA trip. Be forewarned, it's going to be a long and bumpy TR. Not to mention I ramble a lot. :)

Day 1- August 24. Destination: DelGrosso’s and Lakemont Parks.

As usually happens when I’m taking a trip, I never get out the door anytime near when I originally plan. Finally around 11:20 I got out the door, only to realize I had stuff in my trunk that I was supposed to drop off at our town’s recycling center. I really didn’t need to carry it across PA and back with me. So after that little side trip and topping off the gas tank, I was on my way to central PA.

Now, it has been several years since I was in the State College Area, so when the sign for the Bellefonte exit was telling me Route 220, I knew something different was up. Well things really have changed—Route 26 and 64 had been a construction zone since 1977, but finally there was an interchange there. No more driving through Pleasant Gap, past Rockview Penitentiary, and the Nittany Mall. Traffic just cruised right around State College. Of course some things don’t change and soon enough I hit old 322 West, which was the same old 2-lane road I remembered except for about 7 construction zones now in place.

Port Matilda was the same old crawl for such a little town. I noticed a really foul odor while driving through the town. I found out what that was when the minivan in front of me turned off and I was face to face with a roadkill deer lying in the back of the trailer attached to a pickup truck. Anyone ready for lunch?

Finally I made it to I-99 and speeds exceeding 35 again. It wasn’t too long after that I took the Tipton/Grazierville exit and headed toward DelGrosso’s park. I made the left into the free parking area and soon afterwards was looking for restrooms (it was a 2¾ hour drive!). Well, I made it with seconds to spare, heaved a sigh of relief and headed toward the ticket gate. I brought along the $3.00 discount coupon from the label on a jar of DelGrosso’s spaghetti sauce. So admission was all of $7.95 for the rides only. Yes, less than 8 bucks.

First thing you notice from the parking lot is the nifty little waterpark they have there. A few slides, and the Tipton Waterworks. I thought it might be a bit cool, but the temps was a few degrees above what was predicted, and the waterpark had quite a few people in it. Next to the waterpark was a cool go-cart track with some great hairpin curves and some grade changes.

One thing you can’t miss entering the park is the humongous pedestrian bridge crossing over Bus. 220. That thing had to cost more than some attractions some parks put in. But it gives a great view of the attractions on both sides of the road. I took a leisurely stroll along the midway past Kiddieland and headed toward the Crazy Mouse. The wait for the ride was only about 10 minutes or so. There was an op at the bottom of the ramp sending riders up to the platform one carload at a time. This was a really fun ride, and a great addition for a smaller park like this. My car had just the right spin to take a few of the dips backwards and sideways.

DelGrosso’s has a nice collection of flat rides too, most of them typical of what you’d see at many parks, but still fun to ride. I took in the Paratrooper-- the first I can recall that turned clockwise, Flying Bobs—they seemed terribly slow moving forward, but were totally kickass going backwards. Also rode the Pirate ship, Balloon Ride, Scrambler, Tilt-a-Whirl. I also rode the Tipton Railroad, a nice train ride, and took another spin, literally, on the Crazy Mouse.

In a great stroke of luck, I was at the park on the final “Spaghetti Wednesday” of the year. For $5.45, you get your choice of Spaghetti and Meatballs, or Rigatoni with Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce. The meal included tickets for 2 free soft drinks, a roll and butter. For only $0.95, I bought a side salad. I’ve paid much more for far less in quantity and quality at other parks. Before I left, I did something I’ve never done at an amusement park before—I went to the gift shop and bought a jar of Tomato Vodka Cream Sauce. The woman working there carefully wrapped it in bubble wrap and double bagged it for me too.

Overall, this was a nice, exceptionally clean, fun park. It might be lacking in thrill rides, so it’s not for everybody, but I’d recommend it to anyone. They also have a great entertainment lineup and special events. September still has the Italian Foodfest and Harvestfest coming up.

At just about 6:00 PM, I headed back onto I-99 South headed toward Altoona and Lakemont Park. 15 minutes later I was getting off the well marked exit to the park. The only problem I had was that I overshot the parking lot, because I thought the garage was for the baseball field. Finally I parked on the top level of the garage and made the walk to the gate.

In stroke of luck #2, I found out that Wednesdays are dollar days at Lakemont. General admission was $1.00, and an all day ride pass was only $1.00 more. OK, I had less than two hours before the park closed, but still-- $2.00 to get in. One problem with this park is they don’t hand out a map of any kind, so you have to rely on the large map located within the park. But that doesn’t necessarily show you how to get to any attraction, so I walked around for awhile before actually getting to anything.

I took a path that eventually got me to Skyliner. This looked like it could be a fun older ride. The white painted structure looked beautiful from the parking garage above. I didn’t find out till later that it’s only been at Lakemont since the 80’s, when it was purchased from another park. But it looks like it’s been there all its life. Nice touch that the minor league ballfield next door was oriented so its outfield fence runs parallel to Skyliner’s structure. Also that the train has the slogan “Go Curve” painted on the sides in honor of the team.

The ride looked a little slow from the pathway below. I got in the next to the last seat. Now while the WG Cyclone feels like the structure’s about to fall apart, this felt like the sides of the cars were about to fall right off. Lots of squeaking and creaking going on. Up the lift hill... through the 90 degree turn into the first dip... turnaround, then twice around the L-shaped structure. Not a bad ride at all, faster than it looked while watching, and a little bit of airtime.

I decided, what the heck, as long as I’m at this end of the park I may as well ride again. This time I nabbed the second seat from the front. The first dip felt faster, but I was totally unprepared for the airtime when the train came up from the first dip into the turnaround. I was practically standing. Whoa! Now this is a ride. More airtime the rest of the way around and a much better ride in the second seat.

After that I wandered back through the park. I headed over to Leap the Dips, only to find it closed again for maintenance. What a disappointment! There was a car stopped near the bottom of the lift hill. I also noticed a lot of new or recent wood along the track. I was hoping to ride this historic coaster just to say I had done it. My disappointment only increased when I tried out Lakemont’s version of the Twister. Two rides, and only two lousy spins, and they happened as the ride was stopping.

I also rode their train, complete with “Ponyshoe” Curve—cute, tried out their 2-story gravity powered funhouse—kinda lame, I thought the car ran too fast and the “effects” were on the cheesy side. I really appreciated the rubber bat that rubs over your head as you go up the lift. Gives you the willies, but for all the wrong reasons.

After that, I decided to squeeze in one more ride on Skyliner, and saw the line was much longer than it was earlier. One thing I noticed all evening, I don’t know if this is an Altoona thing or what, but people didn’t wait on the platform, they’d wait on the ramp until the train returned before they’d line up for seats. They also didn’t seem to get the whole lap bar idea, as the ops were constantly locking and unlocking the bars until everyone had them in place. A few times the train also got stuck in the brake run and had to be "walked" back to the station by one of the ops.

This time I rode the 3rd seat, and while not as enjoyable as the 2nd, it was still a fun ride with some decent airtime.

I lingered near the bottom of the exit ramp to try to take a few photos. Good thing I did, because as I headed toward the entrance I saw people walking down the ramp. Apparently it was 8PM and the ride was closed. Period. I thought that was just wrong, since there was maybe a train or two of people at the most waiting. If they intend to close a ride, they should station someone at the entrance and turn people away there instead of having them wait at the platform then send them away. Two bucks or forty.

As I headed back to the exit, I noticed this seemed to be the rule as there were only a few rides still operating. Most rides as well as the games and refreshment and gift stands were in darkness. I found one stand still open and bought a soda just to spend a few bucks at the park. This is probably the only park I’ve ever been in where the employees leave before most of the guests.

I thought Lakemont was a decent little park that needs some work and could use some improvement in appearance and operations, but does have a lot of potential.

And that concluded Day 1. Stay tuned for part 2 featuring another kind of cars and tracks, some chocolate (not the brand you're thinking of), and a little place called Kennywood.

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Tuesday, August 30, 2005 1:34 AM
Great TR, so far, Mr. Bear.

Sorry you couldn't ride LTD. It's really fun. When it opened, my Grandmother rode it just for the memories. She held on so tight, and giggled and screamed the whole way down. She said it was exactly the way she remembered it.

DelGrosso's is really nice for what it is. It's not a SF or Hersheypark, but it IS a very nice kids/family park. Those waterslides are incredible. They are very fast and thrilling.

Isn't the new I-99 extension nice? From my home in State College, I can get to I-80 in 15 minutes. In a year or Two...or Ten or so (lol), you'll be able to bypass Port Mitilda altogether.

If I would have known earlier, I could have met up with you. Maybe some other time.

...Waiting for part 2.

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Monday, September 5, 2005 8:28 AM
My friend and I did Del Grosso's and Lakemont last year before Kennykon and I really liked them both.

I remember Dell's pizza was pretty cheap and not bad. While I didn't go on the waterslides my friend said they were awesome. I found the park to be charming.....perfect for kids.

I found the mouse to be the most insane out of all the ones I have rode, including Exterminator. That thing was just going nuts!

Lakemont reminded me of a permanent carnival, with the rides kind of scattered all over the place with no real direction, but LTD was pretty sweet, very hard on the back but we did get to ride it in the pouring rain. LOL! That was funny.

We might stop by Lakemont on our way back from PPP this time. I still need that Toboggan credit. :-)

-Tina

*** Edited 9/5/2005 12:29:22 PM UTC by coasterqueenTRN***

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Monday, September 5, 2005 11:44 PM
You better make sure they're still open. According to the brochure I got (after I was at the park of course) September 11 is their last day.
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