Dorney Park
August 3, 2018

copyright Jay Ducharme 2018

On a drizzly August day, Karen and I set off on our final amusement park trip of the season. Our eventual destination would be western Pennsylvania to meet up with the grandkids. But on the way there we were going to visit a few other parks. We were concerned about the weather forecast; the entire week was predicted to be filled with severe thunderstorms. And many areas of Pennsylvania had already been ravaged by flooding over the summer. So we had a little trepidation heading out.

We arrived at our first destination, Dorney Park & Wildwater Kingdom, in Allentown at about 11:00, right when the park was opening. The sky was heavily overcast and the ground was wet, but there were a few breaks of blue here and there, which gave us hope. Also, the parking lot was pretty much empty, so we were hopeful that the rides wouldn't have any lines.

Since Dorney was a Cedar Fair park, we were able to use our Cedar Point passes for admission and parking. So even if the day was a washout, we weren't going to be out a lot of money. As we entered through the gates, Talon, the big orange and blue B&M looping coaster, was going through its paces with one or two riders. We walked past the park's beautiful 1921 Dentzel carousel with its Wurlitzer organ playing proudly and headed down the main midway. We were both hungry from the long drive. Karen suggested stopping into the Coaster's eatery, but I didn't think they'd have any vegetarian options. I had forgotten that the last time we were at the park, we had veggie burgers there. So instead we walked down toward the northwest end of the park. On the way we passed about a dozen concessions that were shuttered. The big building that served as the park's haunted house had been remodeled, but it was still closed except for Halloween events. I thought that was a waste of a large resource.

We finally settled on the Burrito Cantina. Like Fresh City and other similar establishments, you could build your own burrito with (supposedly) fresh ingredients. I ordered a veggie burrito with guacamole and chips; Karen had one without guac. We each got a soft drink with the meal, which came to a whopping $33. Granted, the burritos were huge, but I would have been fine with less food for less money. There were very few places in the park where you could eat indoors. So we sat at one of the adjacent cafe tables, under the cover of a patio umbrella. And then the skies opened up with a heavy downpour. Fortunately, the umbrella was large enough to protect us (and our food). Water streamed past beneath our feet as we ate. The air was so oppressively hot and thick that the rain really didn't bother us too much. By the time we finished our meal, the rain stopped and the sun began peeking out from behind the clouds.

We headed down the hill toward the Zephyr, the park's unique antique covered train. But it was closed after the downpour, like many other rides. So we wandered about the park, relaxing, strolling and looking at the scenery. Eventually we heard the sound of roller coasters clacking up their lift hills and the bell of the Zephyr, so we headed back and queued up for the train. Quite a few other passengers boarded and soon we were rolling alongside Cedar Creek for a picturesque and relaxing trip.

After that, since it was next door, I queued up for Thunderhawk, the park's classic 1924 Herb Schmeck wood coaster. I was able to immediately queue up for the front seat. Guests began queuing up behind me. I was glad to see that the venerable ride was still popular. We rolled out of the station and up the lift. Since our last visit, the park had acquired new PTC trains with a more open and visually interesting front and individual lap bars. The heat and the rain had helped make the track slick. The first drop was suprisingly steep and long, curving slightly to the left. The layout was an interesting mash-up: the mid-section was sort of a twister, with the track turning in on itself. The last section was a straight out-and-back run to the station with lots of air time. Originally, the ride was designed as a simple out-and-back, but the park added the figure 8 section in 1930. It was still a fun ride.

After that, I walked the short distance over to my favorite ride in the park, Steel Force, the Morgan hypercoaster with amazing air time. There was no one in line and I walked right up to the front seat. In fact, there really was no one in line -- I was the only person on the train. Karen said it looked pretty comical, as if I had personally reserved the ride. As always, the coaster delivered a wild and delightful ride.

The skies were thickening again, so I decided to film a walk-thru before more rain came. I walked back toward the entrance, passing Whitewater Landing, the park's shoot-the-chutes ride, which surprisingly had quite a few riders. I made it through about half the park with rain trickling down and then there was another downpour. I ducked into the nearby gift shop and waited for it to let up, then continued on my way. We were both pretty soggy by then and called it a day, heading to our nearby hotel for the night.

We both really enjoy visiting Dorney, preferably on a dryer day. The park is beautiful, with lots of shade (which we obviously didn't need that day), good food and fun family rides. Hopefully for our next visit, we'll leave the storm clouds behind.

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