We just took a long weekend and spent a couple of nights up around North Conway, NH.
On Friday, we went back to Story Land
, a little kid-oriented amusement park that I visited with my daughter a couple of years ago
. She's a little older, and some of the things that used to thrill her are less thrilling; having ridden Big Thunder Mountain Railroad and Test Track at Disney World, she's a little too jaded to be truly excited by the Polar Coaster
But what I was really looking forward to was Story Land's newest ride, Roar-O-Saurus. This is a surprisingly hardcore ride for a kiddie park like Story Land: a small wooden coaster made by The Gravity Group, which basically concentrates on delivering as much negative G-force as possible in a small space.
Jorie, having been a bit overwhelmed by Canobie Lake's Yankee Cannonball
a few weeks ago, opted out of Roar-O-Saurus. Considering that she was still feeling slightly carsick from the ride up, I don't really blame her. Sam, who I similarly traumatized with a ride on Lake Compounce's gigantic Boulder Dash
a few years ago, wasn't keen on it either, and was all too happy to supervise Jorie at the Loopy Lab play area while I went over there and rode Roar-O-Saurus.
Which turns out to be a fairly awesome, somewhat intense ride, and I think I'd actually recommend it more to older coaster fans than to little kids (though a fair number of kids were riding on it, so what do I know). It's only about 40 feet tall, so the biggest drop, while quite steep, isn't big enough to even be worth a scream... but after that, it's all
wicked bunny hills, which the trains zip right over, producing enormous amounts of what coaster fans call "ejector air": the feeling that the coaster is trying its best to throw you out of the car, like a mechanical bull. Do not
wear an unsecured hat or glasses on this thing; you will lose them.
I was in the front seat just behind the triceratops head, much like East Coaster General up there, though I think that video is shot from the left seat and I was on the right (and I think at least one of the ride ops in that video was working the ride).
The train on this ride is one of The Gravity Group's Timberliners, technically advanced wooden-coaster trains that provide a smooth, comfortable ride, while also a somewhat unnerving one. The only restraint on a Timberliner is a single padded bar that swings down from the side over your lap; it somehow silently and continuously "ratchets" so that it stays in place wherever your lap happens to be. The ride ops were making sure they were pretty snug, so it wasn't the old-fashioned buzz-bar experience where your butt constantly flies out of the seat, but the seats are designed to make you feel like you're fairly exposed. All in all, The Gravity Group's tech impresses me.
There were a lot of adult coaster fans in line with me. I later found out that this was because ACE (American Coaster Enthusiasts) had organized an expedition to Story Land that day to ride Roar-O-Saurus. The ride's reputation had probably been helped by its similarity to a previous small Gravity Group coaster, Wooden Warrior at Quassy. I'm sure they weren't disappointed.
Later that day, we concentrated on water-based rides. Jorie had refused to do anything wet the last time we went there because she insists on wearing a bathing suit, and I hadn't brought hers; but this time we were prepared. One weakness of Story Land in this regard is a shortage of decent changing areas and locker rental (the only lockers are coin-op, so you have to stock up on quarters). But we managed.
"Dr. Geyser's Remarkable Raft Ride" is one of those splashy rides with big circular rafts, this one with a campy turn-of-the-20th-century theme; unlike Thunder Rapids at Compounce, it relies much less on general chaos and more on gimmicks to spray you with water (fake firehoses, fountains that spout up out of the water, a chamber filled with mist), and the sprinkling the gimmicks produce is relatively gentle, probably to make it friendly to younger children. Of the various raft rides I've been on, it's by far the tamest. Despite the warning signs, I suspect it would be hard to get truly soaked on this ride.
This is not true of "Splash Battle: Pharaoh's Reign", an ancient-Egyptian-themed ride in which you ride around on a slow-moving boat and fight with spectators using powerful hand-cranked water cannons. This ride is great hostile fun and gets everyone involved completely inundated. I suspect there are people who just hang around this ride all day long and shoot everybody who floats by. Aside from Roar-O-Saurus, I think it's the actual high point of Story Land.
On Saturday we took the Mt. Washington Cog Railway
, a cogwheel train or rack railway
to the top of Mt. Washington, the highest peak in New England. I'd hiked up Mt. Washington a couple of times in my youth (and always thought it was a bit surreal to hike through the wilderness up a mountain and find a snack bar and gift shop at the top), but this was my first time on the Cog. It used to be a coal-fired steam train; several years ago, they switched to diesel for most runs, though they do a steam run once a day in the early morning.
This is a pretty remarkable experience, somewhat unnerving when it goes over Jacob's Ladder, a curving trestle with a 37.4% grade (about 20.5 degrees, if I'm calculating correctly). It creeps along at about six miles an hour; it's an hour to go up and an hour to descend, and they give you an hour at the summit. Jorie was really apprehensive even before we got on the train, and spent about the first half of the ascent clinging to me, but eventually decided the whole thing was cool and greatly enjoyed it. There's also a little museum at the bottom, displaying, among other things, the primitive and dangerous sliding board
that railroad employees used to use to get down the mountain on the center cog rail at great speed, like a proto-alpine coaster.