Lake Compounce, May 15, 2010

Saturday, May fifteenth, Karen, Liz and I headed off for Lake Compounce.  Not only was it our first park of the season, it was also The Lake's opening day.  I had purchased our season passes online over the winter.  We arrived at the park at about noon and paid six dollars to park (one dollar off the standard rate because of our season passes).  There were few cars, about four rows deep from the front of the parking area.  The loose traprock crunched under our car tires as the parking attendants directed us to our spot.  It was interesting that Lake Compounce chose traprock instead of asphalt.  Not only was the traprock a bit cooler under the hot sun, but it gave guests a first impression that this was an old traditional park.

The park hadn't added any major new rides for this season.  We walked through the tunnel and emerged at the beautiful entrance.  Flowers were blooming everywhere.  There was a long line for processing season passes. The sign there was confusing, stating that the line was for purchasing passes.  I asked a nearby employee, who confirmed that it was both for buying and processing.  The park had dedicated six ticket booth station in addition to the office stations for processing passes.  Even so, the line moved very slowly.  But eventually we posed for our pictures, got our passes and headed onto the midway.

Our traditional first stop was at the Potato Patch for some fresh french fries.  We sat over by the swings and ate.  As has been the tradition at the park for a few years, drinks were free.  The weather was perfect: a crystal clear sky with temperatures in the low seventies.  As we sat there eating, a show began near us in the park's kiddieland, Circus World.  It was called Fiesta.  The preshow music was mostly a selection of Gloria Estefan tunes.  The two performers, a girl and a guy, emerged looking somewhat like spray-painted roosters.  Their costumes were a day-glo mass of ruffles.  At that point there was no one seated for the show. The performers amiably attempted to talk to families walking by and encourage them to sit down for the show.  Children seemed drawn to them, but their parents pulled them away.  After a few minutes, people finally did file in and sit down on the benches.  The show featured the two performers singing cuban-flavored pop (again, mostly Estefan).  They made small talk with the kids in the audience.  ("Do you know what this is?  That's right -- it's a pinata!")  They tried, a bit half-heartedly, to get the audience to form a conga line.  The guests sort of stood in a line and shimmied a bit, then dispersed with little direction from the performers.  After that, we dispersed and walked down through Circus World.  The entire area was brightly colored and whimsical, as usual.

At the far north end of the park, we queued up for Zoomer's Gas 'N Go, the beautifully themed fifties-style auto car ride.  A billboard opposite the queuing area was advertising another Parques Reunidos property, New Hampshire's Story Land.  Zoomer's is a fun if short ride.  In addition to the beautiful landscaping, there are nice touches like the Burma Shave signs and the popcorn machine in the drive-in theater.  It's refreshing to see such attention to detail.

Though we really like the park's flume ride, it was still a bit too cold out for getting wet.  Liz saw Thunder and Lightning, the park's S&S Screaming Swing ride, and wanted to try it.  Since I had never been on one, I decided to give it a whirl.  We didn't have to wait long to be seated; the ride had a very short cycle.  After getting up to speed, it would make two full swings at full throttle and then stop.  Only one of the two swings was running.  The seats were strange, very deep, as if I were sitting in a bucket.  The restraint was strange too: a padded arm that swung on a thick vertical post that went down beside the seat.  We were locked down and given the thumbs-up.  The ride hissed and gasped, as if it were heavily sighing.  We slowly swung forward and then were pulled backward with surprising force.  Then we were pushed forward and dragged backward with even more surprising force.  I could feel the skin on my face pull back.  Quickly, we reached the maximum arc.  If felt as if we were nearly upside-down, staring straight down at the ground far below one moment and then up into the sun the next.  Then the ride pulled itself to a rapid stop.  I could see how kids would enjoy the experience.  I thought that Time Warp at Six Flags New England gave a similar but more effective experience.  Liz really liked it, though, and went on it a second time.

After that, we walked next door to the freshly-painted Giant Wheel.  It looked much better this season, like a brand new ride.  Previously it was all white.  But now it was a patriotic red, white and blue.  As always, it provided great views of the park.  Next we headed for Lake Compounce's signature ride, Boulder Dash.  The ride was ten years old this season, but still felt fresh.  We queued up for the front seat.  There weren't that many people in line, but many of them wanted the front.  There was just one train operating, but it was being dispatched efficiently.  Every returning train was filled with cheering riders.  Within a few minutes, I was seated in front with Liz (who had never ridden it).  It seemed like the forest growth around the lift hill was denser than ever, giving the sensation of being pulled into the tropics.  I was glad to see that the track had been greased.  We turned the corner at the top of the lift and then plunged down the curving drop.  The train was vibrating a little more than the previous season, but it had a surprising amount of speed for opening day.  The ride performed spectacularly, with its unpredictable mix of sharp turns and violent airtime.  Liz liked it a lot.

We decided to mellow out on Ghost Hunt, the park's fun shoot-em-up dark ride.  The line was long, but moved right along.  We passed the time in line watching the ride's instructional videos.  Ghost Hunt is a lot of fun, and the target-shoot idea is implemented well.  There were some new stunts this season.  I'm glad that the park tries to keep the ride fresh.

After that we headed south along the midway, passing a food concession where they were selling clam chowder and lobster bisque.  We stopped into the nearby gift shop.  We played a water gun game (and Liz won!).  We passed by the beautiful carousel building where the band organ was playing vigorously.  Then we headed for Harborside Pizza and ordered a whole cheese pizza.  They cooked it up and we sat up on the deck of the Crok Pot to eat.  As usual, the pizza was delicious.  The water park was still dry; it wouldn't open for another two weeks.  Even so, there was a group of lifeguards sitting around a table near the wave pool.  Karen wondered aloud how they could be trained if there was no water in the park.

After that meal, we walked over to the trolley station and took the old trolley to the south end of the park.  I was surprised to find that Thunder Canyon, their soaking raft ride, was running -- and I was even more surprised to see scores of people coming off the ride completely soaked.  The sun was warm, but a strong and steady wind was blowing.  It probably wouldn't be long before those people were shivering.

Instead, we queued up for the half-hour-long Sky Ride.  Karen and I love how relaxing the trip is, but in the past it has seemed that few people share our feelings for it.  There were days when we were the only people on the ride.  But today, the ride was doing brisk business with every other seat filled.  Still, it was peaceful except for some boys with too much testosterone screaming out swears for no apparent reason.  After we returned to solid ground, we strolled back down the path alongside Boulder Dash.  I was amazed at the number and variety of flowers that had been planted everywhere.  As we once again passed by the carousel, it was four o'clock and we decided to call it a day.

As always, Lake Compounce provided us with exactly what we wanted: a chance to escape our busy lives and relax in beautiful, clean and colorful grounds.  We didn't feel rushed or pressured to ride everything in the park.  It was a wonderful escape, just what a park should be.

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