Text and images copyright Jay Ducharme 2012
|This was the first year in a long time that Karen and I didn't get season passes to Lake Compounce
in Bristol, Connecticut. I had been laid up with back problems
for several months, so it didn't seem prudent to get passes when I had
no idea when I'd be able to walk again. But as things turned out,
I was back on my feet by the end of June -- although riding roller
coasters would probably have to wait a few more months at least.
Karen unfortunately had to work on this Friday the 13th, so she wasn't able to go. The trip was a treat for the return of an old friend from Arkansas, Kosta, and his son HJ. Kosta grew up in the Pioneer Valley and had spent many years hanging around Mountain Park and local fairs with his dad, who ran food concessions in various locations. He made a trip back to the area last year and I took him and HJ (along with Karen) to Lake Compounce then. They also made a stop at the Holyoke Merry-Go-Round. That was a few days before Karen and I left on our Colorado excursion, and in the hustle and bustle I never wrote an account of his visit. But he and HJ had a great time. They braved Boulder Dash and loved it. So on their return trip this year they wanted to make another stop. Unfortunately, Kosta was having trouble with his knee. And the extreme heat and humidity of the day didn't help. Given his ailing knee and my healing back, it seemed as if poor HJ wasn't going to have any riding partners.
We arrived at about 11:30, and there were long lines of cars at the parking attendant stations. The attendants were all wearing elf hats. We had arrived during Christmas in July, though the blistering heat was anything but Christmassy. We parked and followed the thick crowd toward the big tunnel that led to the park entrance. There were security tables set up to check guest bags. (Curiously, when we left a few hours later, the tables were gone.) We got our tickets and entered the brightly colored midway teeming with activity. They hadn't ridden the Sawmill Plunge flume on their last visit, so I thought we could head in that direction. We passed one of the park's recent additions, the Rev-O-lution, which was busy hurling passengers about. HJ eyed the nearby Wave Swinger, but we kept on walking. The Zoomerang was still bright purple and aqua. But our first ride of the day was something a bit less thrilling: Zoomer's Gas & Go, the park's '50s-themed car ride. It was a pleasant distraction to start the day.
As usual, the park exhibited beautiful landscaping everywhere we looked. HJ worked up the courage to try the Wave Swinger, so we headed back in that direction. Kosta and I sat in the shade at an umbrella-covered table as the ride spun around, providing a slight breeze. The ride had been given a new lighting package of colorful LEDs. It must have looked really impressive at night. A man was riding behind HJ, a man Karen and I have seen on that ride every visit for the past few years. He apparently stays on it most of the day.
Thankfully, Compounce still offered free drinks throughout the park. It seemed like every time we passed one of the fountain stations we'd re-hydrate ourselves. We then headed over to Sawmill Plunge. The line wasn't that long, but it was moving slowly. At least it was covered, so we didn't have to stand in the burning sun. After about a half-hour, we were climbing into a log boat and then drifted along through the winding trough. Nearby, the Thunder & Lightning swing ride was blasting its pneumatic wheezes. After cresting the lift hill, the log dipped down slightly and then floated along under the thick shade of the forest on the side of the mountain. It was still one of the prettiest flume rides ever built. We finally curved around to the big drop. For some reason, they had turned off the water jets at the bottom. Even so, we all got a welcome soaking and left the ride refreshed.
Nearby was a giant Christmas tree surrounded by huge presents. Occasionally we'd see a few elves in costume wandering the midway. But those were the only indications there was a Christmas in July celebration going on. I would have thought they'd have strung garland around the buildings or spread fake snow in place. We didn't see any of that, but there was a garish Halloween display advertising their annual haunted house to benefit the Juvenile Diabetes Foundation.
I noticed to my surprise that there was no line at Ghost Hunt, the park's fun shoot-'em-up dark ride. So we headed there next. Kosta and I admired the cars, which ran along their course without a track. In a few minutes we were seated and heading off to hunt ghosts. Normally, I would easily rack up about 900 points during the ride. But I don't think our "boo blasters" were working correctly. I had a hard time breaking 100 points, and both Kosta and HJ ended up with double-digit scores. Even so, it was still a fun ride. And it was nice to see that the park has continued to add new scenes to keep it fresh.
We next walked over to the entrance of Boulder Dash. The line was short. But Kosta knew he couldn't ride. And I knew that I couldn't ride. That left HJ without a riding partner. All we could do was stare at the coaster. But at least there was a nearby Dippin Dots stand, and HJ got a cup of mint chocolate chip. We sat in the shade -- which thankfully was abundant in the park -- while HJ ate. Kosta was wondering where he could get a Boulder Dash t-shirt, so we walked down the hill to the gift shop that sold them. But when we got there, we found that the shop had been converted into a quaint ice cream parlor.
We continued heading toward the lake. Thunder Rapids was calling our names. We paused next to the return track of Boulder Dash and watched the trains speed by. The electric trolley arrived, and we boarded for a short but enjoyable trip along the lakeside. It dropped us off near our destination. The line for Thunder Rapids wasn't that long, but it moved somewhat slowly. Fortunately, as we neared the station, an attendant moved us to the front of the line to get the right number of people into a raft. Soon we were drifting through the rapids, spinning and bobbing up and down. By the end of the ride, we were all completely drenched.
By that point it was about 3:00, and Kosta was wilting from the heat and the pain in his knee. I didn't want to torture him by forcing him to stay longer. I was sure that HJ could have stayed until the park closed. But he'd have no one to ride with much of the time. So we decided to walk over to the south train station and call it a day. The ride back was relaxing. We passed by a lot of construction that the park was doing next to Lake Avenue. It looked as if the waterpark was being prepared for a huge expansion. Riptide, the park's new waterslide, looked lonely there. It would probably have neighbors for the next season.
We then made our way to the Main Street gift shop (which also doubled as the park exit). Kosta still wanted a Boulder Dash t-shirt, but unfortunately the wonderful designs the park had over the years were nowhere to be found. Most of the shirts were fairly generic, with the park name simply stitched across the front. There was one new design, a photo of the park entrance, that looked really nice. I picked one up for Karen. HJ got himself a huge Uncle Sam hat. Kosta finally found a blue glass Boulder Dash ornament, but it didn't have a price on it. Once of the managers was called over. It took her about fifteen minutes of unsuccessfully hunting through spreadsheets before she finally said, "How about $2.99?" So at least Kosta was able to take home a souvenir.
We drove back to Massachusetts through typically heavy Hartford traffic. We met Karen at Southwick's wonderful Summer House restaurant for dinner. That was an enjoyable end to the day. Lake Compounce was still a gem of a park. Everything may not have gone exactly the way we would have wanted it to -- but after all, it was Friday the 13th.
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