Wednesday, August 31, 2011
The next day, we loaded up the Family Truckster and headed out to Knoebels Amusement Park in Elysburg, PA. They bill themselves as the Largest Free Admission Amusement Park in the Country. The park is just brimming with character. It's a collection of old traditional amusement park rides along side all of the new standards in theme park thrills. They have a few stand-out attractions like their Haunted Mansion which is constantly rated the best dark house ride in America. It's a really good ride! They also have two world class roller coasters which I was able to tuck under my belt of 2011 rides. The Phoenix is a great classic out-and-back woodie with ridiculous amounts of airtime. It's the first coaster to be taken apart at one park and put back together at another. The process has since become quite common in theme parks. Both my kids conquered this large coaster and they both loved it, although only Tanner would go with Daddy for a second ride.
Their other great coaster is a behemoth dark wood coaster called Twister, which is based on the design of the classic Mr. Twister at Elitch Gardens in Denver. It's a crazy good ride with twists, turns and unbelievable speed! Fantastic ride!
Then of course Tuesday we had the earthquake. Not really a big deal, except it kinda shook everybody up for the rest of the day. I think the oddity of having an earthquake that big on the East Coast just set the stage for the pandemonium that was to become Hurricane Irene. We're pretty far inland so I wasn't too worried about the storm.
It started to get dark and windy around 4:00pm, some steady by light rain followed. By 9 it was beating down pretty hard and the winds were fairly extreme. We were having Elias' birthday party which into the night morphed into a Hurricane Party! Elias had a good turn out for his party and our hurricane party was a success that went well into the night.
Otherwise, we're just getting into the swing of the new school year. We took Joey back to college on Sunday, Monday we spent the last day of Summer Vaca at Dutch Wonderland and Tuesday Elias started 3rd grade and Tanner began his 13 years of schooling with his first day of Kindergarten.
Wednesday, August 24, 2011
If ever an earthquake were to hit our small town I would first gather the family up and make sure they were safe and secure in the basement or a sturdy doorway. Then I would selflessly risk my very own life to rush to my bookshelf and grab my copy of "Earthquake Preparedness for the Family" hosted by Yogi, the Be-Prepared Bear. Who doesn't remember all the earthquakes Yogi and Boo-Boo endured on the classic cartoon show!? Actually, this is a series of three public service books that I have put out by the State of California and featuring one of my all-time favorite cartoon characters: Yogi Bear. It seems kind of odd to use Yogi as a spokesbear for earthquake safety. I mean, perhaps his priorities are different than my own. All I'm saying is, I don't know if I'd save my picnic baskets before members of my own family!
This book is filled with all sorts of bizarre illustrations like this one (to the left) of Yogi Bear attaching a hot water heater to the wall. There's just something funny about Yogi Bear and a hot water heater, I don't know what it is!? But seriously, if you live somewhere that securing your hot water heater to the wall, before an earthquake strikes, is a good idea than maybe it's time you looked for a new house!
I'm looking forward to the next two books in this series: "The Jetsons Prepare for Avian Flu" and "Captain Caveman Prevents Identity Theft"
Tuesday, August 23, 2011
Monday, August 22, 2011
Bugs Bunny's 3rd Movie: 1001 Rabbit Tales (1982) I've always found this to be the lesser of the Looney Tunes compilation films, yet I've seen it about 1001 times. This collection of mostly fairy tale based Looney Tunes cartoons was an absolute staple of my childhood. It seemed to be on HBO every summer plus I ended up seeing it at the free movies by the lakefront in Columbia at least two or three times. The film is part of the Looney Tunes Movie Collection DVD set which oddly includes only the first and third of the Bugs Bunny films. I'd been jonesing seeing this again so the other night when my wife had a friend over to watch Insidious, the kids and I cowered upstairs and watched Bugs and the gang. No matter how bad the bridging sequences of newer animation get in these films, you simply can't deny the entertainment value in classic Warner Bros. shorts. This movie chops up the cartoons a little too much but it's still an entertaining tale of Bugs and Daffy as traveling book salesmen who get caught up having to read stories to a spoiled prince. It has some great old cartoons in it including one of my all-time favorites, Ali Baba Bunny.
Sunday, August 21, 2011
Saturday, August 20, 2011
Cheetah (1989) Do not get me started on how much I love this movie! I'm not sure why, but when I was younger I couldn't get enough of this tale of two American kids spending their summer in Africa and raising a pet Cheetah. Now that I'm older, I see that the writing and acting is a little stiff - and it's not very creative, but it's still an enjoyable movie. I was surprised my kids liked it as much as they did since it's so old...I mean from 1989 and all! It's amazing how much movies have changed in 20 years. This Disney film has no off-color jokes, no rap music not much of anything except a good wholesome adventure about friendship and doing what is right. I still love it!
Here We Go Again (1942) This flick was a real treat. I loves me some Edgar Bergen and you don't come across his stuff all too often. For those of you out of the loop, Bergen was a popular comedian/ventriloquist back in the old days. The cool thing I love about his movies is that they treat his puppets like real characters. Sometimes you'll see his puppet characters, Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd, not on Bergen's lap but doing stuff like driving a car or sitting in a tree. It's a fun little gimmick. This movie also throws in fellow old tyme radio/TV stars Fibber McGee and Molly and The Great Gildersleeve. I had heard of these two other famous radio personalities before but was never exposed to them until now. They are all funny and entertaining as well. The plot of this movie is paper thin at best and just an excuse to hang a string of silly sketches and routines on. It's all simple and funny and it ends with a pretty good chase scene like all good movies should!
Spaceballls (1987) I don't really like this movie. There...I said it. I made a comment about my dislike of this movie on Facebook the other day and I got a lot of virtual dirty looks from people. Mel Brooks is capable of so much more than this. I saw this when it first came out on video and way back then when I was 13, I thought the jokes were all obvious and stale. I love when they make a reference in a movie to the fact that they are in a movie...but Spaceballs does it too much. It kind of ruined that joke for me. I remember when this came out thinking that a Star Wars parody was kind of outdated and unoriginal. I laughed a handful of times but to me this is one of Mel Brooks' worst movies!
Wednesday, August 17, 2011
The themeing in nice although a little random. There are nine sections (or lands) at Great Adventure which is actually three more than the Six Flags template necessitates. Some of the sections are rich in detail such as a Spanish/Mexican theme region called Plaza Del Carnaval and the standard wild, wild west territory called Frontier Adventures. Movietown is supposed to be a tribute to New Jersey's film making roots - but at this point is mostly just a tribute to Batman. Other sections of the park like Fantasy Forest and Boardwalk just blend in with the rest of the park.
Great Adventure is spacious and clean. However, there are large sections throughout the park where abandoned or repurposed structures take up space physically and visually. Near the front of the park sits many unused hanger style buildings that once supported the ride and theme of an airplane based flight simulator. Now the buildings sit there looking like exposed backstage areas of the park. The airfield theme is gone and the buildings look tacky and out of place. The same can be said for several large theatrical venues around the park that are still clearly visible but yet completely unused.
But let's talk about fun! The day we visited the forecast called for rain and thunderstorms throughout the day. When we arrived at the park around 10:30, it was raining pretty heavily. After a great breakfast at nearby Java Moon Cafe, the rain had downgraded to a light sprinkle. We figured the crowds would stay away and at the least we could hit all the big rides pretty quick. So, we paid the insane TWENTY BUCKS for parking (Six Flags should honestly be ashamed of themselves) and got a great parking spot in Daffy Duck section 2. As we entered the park, everything was running except for two of the bigger coasters (which later opened.) As expected, the park was near empty and we didn't wait at all for a single ride all day. Most of the rides were sitting in the station waiting for us. Score!
The main reason for making the trek up to New Jersey instead of just visiting the closer Six Flags park in Maryland was Great Adventure's newest ride: Green Lantern. Joey Carwash is a HUGE Green Lantern fan going back long before the movie ever came out. I was all for making a road trip just to go pay homage to one of my buddy's favorite childhood icons. After all, I just spent a week camping with Yogi Bear. Joey was super excited with all the little touches added to the ride area. There's a giant lantern in the plaza entrance before the ride. The queue area is lined with over sized comic strips telling the origin story of Green Lantern. You'd like to think the ride creators really were passionate about the Green Lantern character but it was more probably based on pushing the new movie.
The Green Lantern coaster is an awesome ride! Standing 15 stories high, the rides drops it's standing passengers 144 ft. at 63 MPH. There are 5 inversions along the track, although to me it felt like there were about 11. I've never been on a stand-up coaster before. As the train left the station I thought to myself, "This isn't any different than sitting down." Once we got to the top of the ride and I was standing 15 stories in the air...yeah, I could tell the difference. The first drop is super awesome followed by a very long ride of very intense twists and turns. When the ride was over I was filled with adrenaline. That was easily the biggest, baddest coaster I'd ever conquered. It felt great. Joey, of course, was an immediate fan and couldn't wait to ride again.
We next took on Rolling Thunder, the parks classic out-and-back woodie. This is a great ride, filled with ups and downs and not much else. A classic roller coaster experience from start to finish. Next to Rolling Thunder is El Toro, a beautiful looking dark wood coaster with a 176 ft. drop at 76 degrees, sending you into speeds of up to 70 MPH. This ride looked awesome but unfortunately I was unable to ride. The safety restraint was a single person lap bar that needed to come back very far. I had no problem getting the bar to click into lock, but they needed to have the bar go back fairly far and I wasn't able to quite make it. Joey felt uncomfortable in his seat, but he said it was one hell of a ride! I'm not sure why I'm able to stand 15 stories in the air, but I can't sit in a car for a wooden coaster. Oh well!
However, I was able to hop right onto Bizarro, a huge twisting mess of track with seven inversions. This was my first time on a floorless coaster, which isn't really scary as much as just an extra element of fun. It was another intense ride, filled with just about every surprise a roller coaster can throw at you. Good times! I had seen this ride's sister model at Six Flags New England on Bert The Conqueror a while ago and I had been eager to ride it ever since. Well worth the wait!
In the Movietown section of the park there are two Batman coasters. Batman The Ride is a suspended looping coaster. It's nice that Six Flags offers a test seat in front of their coasters for larger rides to see if the restraining system will work for them. At Batman there is also a sign to let riders know that people with a 52' or greater chest may not be able to ride. I take a 52' sports coat and darned if the little seat belt was only a fraction of an inch from being able to click into the shoulder harness. No big loss - I was already starting to feel a little queasy from all the tossing and turning of the day so I checked out a gift shop while Joey hopped on the ride. His report afterward was that the ride is way too brief.
Batman The Ride was built between the second and third Batman movie in the 90's. Across from it is the newer Dark Knight Coaster based on the current string of Batmam films. With The Dark Knight, Six Flags really makes a stab at trying to create a story-driven experience similar to a Disney Parks attraction. Guests enter a Gotham City subway station where TV's air the news while people wait for their train. While D.A. Harvey Dent is giving a press conference on the news, The Joker breaks in and causes havoc. Suddenly everyone is hurried out of the room into some dark corridors beneath Gotham where you board a Gotham City Subway Car. What follows is a Wild Mouse Coaster in the dark with several animated scenes and special effects set out along the track. Again, this was a short ride and the overall effect doesn't make much sense, but it was still a neat attempt to do something a little different. I'm sure it would have been a big hit with my kids!
My favorite ride in the park had to be Nitro...
Nitro has no gimmicks. You sit in a seat, in a train on a track, there are no loops. There is just one big awesome 215 ft. drop followed by 2 minutes of continually breathtaking drops. Nitro is just pure exhilarating fun without all the bumps, twists and stomach turning elements of many other coasters. Loved it! We rode it twice throughout the day and they were both awesome rides!
In addition to a Road Runner kiddie coaster, the park has three other smaller coasters. Runaway Mine Train is a classic Six Flags staple, Blackbeard's Lost Treasure Train is an odd family-style steel coaster with the longest ride train I've even seen. It's kinda fast and curvy and very low to the ground. Skull Mountain is a dark twisty steel coaster in a dark skull shaped mountain. The ride is anti-climatic considering the themeing and build up before the ride.
There's a unique attraction called Houdini's Great Escape which consists of two parts. The first part, which is basically a preshow, is styled after the preshow of Disney's Haunted Mansion. Guests stand in a dark room while some bells and whistles go off trying to build up your anticipation for something scary that never really happens. The effect may have worked better had the volume been turned up. Next guests are moved into a second room where they have a seat and eventually the room starts to spin around you while you stay perfectly seated. It's a modern update on the classic Haunted Swing style ride...still enjoyed at Dutch Wonderland's Wonder House. We also rode their very old Saw Mill Log Flume and Congo Rapids white water ride.
The rain held off for most of the day, and we only had a brief little downpour which didn't bother us as we were already under cover enjoying a hamburger and fries. By the end of the night, the remaining two coasters had finally opened.
Superman - Ultimate Flight is possibly the coolest of all the superhero themed rides at any of these Six Flags parks. For this ride gives you the sensation of flying like Superman. It's a roller coaster...a big roller coaster at that. The seats are suspended from the track without a floor underneath your feet. The real kicker is right before the ride starts the seats raise up at an angle so that you are facing the ground. You then leave the station and proceed up the chain lift looking straight down at the Earth you are no longer standing on. I have to admit when the seats first locked into their ride position - I freaked. I would have gotten off if given the chance but I wasn't given that opportunity and I'm glad I wasn't. When the train lets go of the chain you are treated to a 100 ft. drop - head first, you then zoom up from the ground and travel through over a track that takes you on an experience very similar to what Clark Kent must feel like flying through the skyscrapers of Metropolis. It is a truly awesome experience! I love when theme park attractions can really tap into the property they are based on. The red, white and yellow color scheme of the coaster is nice. The comic book graphics all over the queue and loading station are also a nice touch. But experiencing the feeling of flying like Superman - something everyone has dreamed about is a really cool feat to pull off. My only complaint with the presentation of the ride was the generic FM radio music blaring over the speakers throughout the attraction. The familiar orchestration of John Williams' Superman The Movie theme would have been the ultimate touch to top off this attraction.
We rode Superman late in the evening. After a day of nothing but pretty big coasters, I was feeling a bit beat up and woozy. I didn't want to be a party pooper so we took Green Lantern for another spin almost immediately after Superman. (We spent at least a good 20 minutes in the Superman gift shop.) That second ride on GL did it for me. I felt like crap after re-riding that super intense roller coaster. I could have easily thrown up if years of drinking hadn't conditioned me to better control such an urge.
After much deliberation, I decided to sit out the evening's final roller coaster, Kingda Ka. As the tallest coaster in the world and fastest in North America I really wanted to conquer this ride but my stomach and my heart were telling me it wasn't a good idea. I decided to finally play my "recently had a heart attack" card and grab a seat on a nearby bench and let Joey hit this one up alone. I really wanted to ride it...honestly! But I think I made the right decision. I was not feeling well at all. I even passed up the opportunity to drink a few beers earlier in the day! Joey said the ride was just about the most awesome he's ever been on and at 456 feet high and 128 MPH I'm sure it was. Next time I'm at a park I'm going to try and get on their big one first and work my way backwards.Six Flags Great Adventure is a good park with an impressive collection of first rate roller coasters. Nice touches: Six Flags licences the Warner Bros. stable of characters which include the Looney Tunes and DC Comic Book characters. The park put these cartoons to good use as park mascots. The Super Hero attractions are full of nerdy detail for fans of the properties. We even found a fake phone booth waiting for Clark Kent near a Super Hero merchandise store. The Looney Tunes are well represented with two sections of the park devoted to kiddie rides featuring Bugs and the gang. There's plenty of stuff to buy all over the park with Superman, Batman, Bugs and Daffy all over them. Neither of these sets of toons are high on my list of interests but Joey Carwash dropped over $100 on Green Lantern and Batman paraphernalia.
The park was clean, spacious and well maintained. Some of the non-Superhero roller coasters had their own theme music playing in the station which was nice. You can even tell that employees are told to interact nicely with guests, except for the security guard in the parking lot who told us, "You picked a crappy day to come to the park!" "Thank you sir!"
My complaints: 1) $20 bucks for parking is legally considered rape in most states. Not a pleasant way to start off a day. 2) Too much crappy FM music blasting throughout the park. If you're going to go to the trouble of visually themeing areas of the park, the music should support your theme. Hearing Breakaway by Kelly Clarkson doesn't drive home the illusion that I'm in Adventure Seaport. 3) Why is there a therapeutic massage parlor smack in the middle of the park? It looks like the kind of place you go for "special services" I'm not sure why that would be in a theme park next to a store that sells Bugs Bunny t-shirts. 4) Not a single XXXL shirt sold anywhere in the park. It's New Jersey, I've heard they do have fat people there! 5) Mr. Six (the dancing old guy from their commercials) is creepy and nobody really likes him. Be gone with him!
Can't wait to go back.
Tuesday, August 16, 2011
Monday, August 15, 2011
Skibereen Po'Boy: Traditional shirmp Po'boy. Spicy breaded shrimp on a six-inch toasted hoagie roll with lettuce and tomato, served with home-made remoulade sauce.
Sunday, August 14, 2011
Friday, August 12, 2011
The boys were very excited to take Mommy on the Turtle Whirl. They can't drag me on that spinning death trap but Mom's a big fan of the ride and the kids were so happy to have somebody to ride with. They actually had to wait in line through four rides before it was there turn. We've never see a crowd like that at the park.
And finally, you know you're getting old when...
Thursday, August 11, 2011
Cyberbully (2011) Here's a throwback to the classic days of Made-For-TV movies where the whole point of the film is to illustrate a growing problem in society. This new ABC Family movie is two primetime stars away from being an old ABC Sunday Night At the Movies presentation. Emily Osmet, from Hannah Montana, is a likable lead in this silly drama about a high school whose whole world comes crashing down after hoping on a Facebook style website for about a week. After rumors of her promiscuity flood her profile page, she resorts to suicide. Then the whole picture turns real heavy handed and preachy and poorly written. There's also a whole silly sub-plot involving her best friend playing some evil trick on her. This isn't a complete waste of time but it's pretty darn close.
Wednesday, August 10, 2011
Tuesday, August 09, 2011
Sunday, August 07, 2011
Saturday, August 06, 2011
Wednesday, August 03, 2011
How To Eat Fried Worms (2006) This feels like it was made simply to try and make a few bucks off the popularity of kids books as movies....i.e. Harry Potter. Not much happens in this tale of a new kid at school who crosses paths with the school bully. They end up making a bet that the new boy will eat 10 worms and then it's just pretty much the kids coming up with gross ways to cook the worms. Silly, innocent fun - my kids liked it and that's who I rented it for!
Yogi Bear (2010) Third time seeing this flick and I gotta say I enjoy it more and more each time! This is probably the best cartoon-to-live action film that they've been able to make. It's faithful to the source material and they avoided adding in too much cynical & crude humor.
The Puppetoon Movie (1987) George Pal was the innovator of a film stop motion animation process known as Puppetoons, where he made cartoon shorts using materials other pencil and paper. The effect was the forerunner to films like Rudolph and The Nightmare Before Christmas. This movie is supposed to be a tribute to Mr. Pal but after a brief introduction scene featuring Gumby & Pokey the film just settles in for over an hour of old cartoons. Without any historical context or background information the toons start to run together and become rather bland. These sort of things work in brief 7 to 8 minute spots but a feature length presentation of them is hard to sail through.
July Movie Count: 16
Best New Movie: Winnie The Pooh
Best Rewatch: The Jungle Book
Worst Movie: The Puppetoon Movie
2011 Movie Count: 118
Tuesday, August 02, 2011
Monday, August 01, 2011
Now, my wife enjoys the great outdoors as much as the next person...but she needs her NOT PUBLIC restroom and some air conditioning. So, instead of completely roughing it, Yogi put us up in one of Jellystone's finer cabins:
This was our home for the week. In addition to our own bathroom w/shower and the nice cold air conditioning, we also had a kitchenette (which we hardly used,) a TV (which we only used to watch Yogi cartoons before bedtime,) and a few other comforts of home. We honestly didn't spend too much time inside, but it was nice to beat the heat every so often and also not have to walk the kids down to the bath houses to use the potty at three in the morning.
There's lots of cool things to do around the park. There's a pedal kart track for the kids which was pretty impressive. Tanner tore it up doing laps around the course...
We went on a wonderful nature walk through some paths that travel through the woods...
One of the coolest attractions at the campground is their Jumping Pillow...