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September 2017

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So the roller coaster was closed. Not ideal. Infuriating, in fact. All we could think to do was, well, what if we go to the carousel and ride that and maybe get back and maybe something would have changed? [profile] bunny_hugger was skeptical that we'd have enough time for that. I was optimistic because I always am about contingency plans and somehow never really believe that we're going to be late for anything.

The carousel, a Mangels-Ilions from 1914, had been at Wyandot Lake from 1938 until 2000 when it got transferred to the zoo. (This is before the zoo bought out the park so I don't know why the park, then owned by Six Flags, was willing to sell.) We saw and were immediately disappointed by the sign saying the band organ would play between certain hours, I think 3 to 4 pm, which we would not see. But the band organ was playing, so perhaps the sign was just a promise that it would be going those hours and didn't mean to imply anything about the rest of the day? Hard to guess. It's a beautiful carousel, although run at a lethargic three rotations per minute as I remember it. The carousel had small radial slots for the horses' poles, so that they would naturally swing outward as the ride got up to speed. Those were fixed in place, with no chance of the ride getting up to speed.

The carousel also had two of the smallest chariots we'd ever seen, ones carved as chessboard knights. These, [profile] bunny_hugger deduced, were not the ride's original chariots, based on the (filled-in) slots ahead of them. So it goes.

After our fill of the carousel we stopped off for coffee and tea and walked back to the amusement park area. Along the way we passed several flamingos in an informal-looking display and were awestruck and delighted by the way they stood. Not with one leg tucked up against their body and the other extended, like we expected from pictures and cartoons and all. The leg they weren't standing on was just raised and let to dangle down, hanging loose but not touching anything. We did ask why they did that and I forget the exact reason, but I think it amounted to something like ``they just like it that way sometimes'', which is as good a reason as could be reasonably demanded.

And we found the roller coaster closed. We fumed about this some and walked around to see what else we could that might be fun, but, there was the pressing thought that we were going to have to leave soon lest we miss our visit to Coon's Candy. In our last moments we took one last check, and told some people asking about the ride that yeah, it looked closed, but --- oh, are those zoo employees coming up the path?

Indeed. At really just past the last practical minute they reopened the ride. And the front seat was no longer taped off. We could get our front-seat ride in ... if it weren't for the guys we had been talking to, who were just a little closer to the ride entry when it got reopened. We got a backseat ride, and then went around to rejoin the short queue and missed the front seat again. And then figured we just had to get going. Maybe we'll have the front seat next year.

As we walked out the skies darkened appreciably and it started raining enough to worry we'd spoil the park map. Didn't. And then we drove, following the satellite navigator's guidance, which took us nowhere near US 23 north, so that we missed a lot of the familiar sights north of Columbus. Worse, the description of the route made it sound like we wouldn't rejoin US 23 for an hour or so and we might miss Coon's Candy altogether. Not so; the alternate path merged into US 23 after maybe ten minutes and the course proceeded as normal from there. It was only a little different around Worthington is all.

Coon's Candy was closed. Presumably for Memorial Day, in which case this will be a problem in future convention visits. We may have to set out earlier and to bring a cooler to keep candy safe on the drive back north.

Trivia: At one Royal Navy victualing yard in 1850, some 111,108 pounds of canned meat were condemned as unfit for human consumption. The manufacturer's switch to larger, 9-to-14-pound cans required more sterilizing cooking time than the older, 2-to-6-pound cans. Source: Food in History, Reay Tannahill.

Currently Reading: Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman.

With the most important ride ridden, and confident we'd have time for the antique carousel at the Columbus Zoo --- which had been at the former Wyandot Lake amusement park and was now tucked somewhere deep in the main zoo grounds --- we turned to what else we might look at. Oddly, we didn't go right back to re-ride the roller coaster although that would have made sense: we hadn't gotten a front-seat ride, nor a back-seat ride, and it's not like we could expect the lines to be shorter than what we had already experienced. Indeed, when we checked back in a few hours the ride was closed, underscoring the importance if you make a trip to a place for a specific ride to get on the ride as soon as possible.

But, other rides. There was a Music Express, one of those flat rides that puts you in a car and spins around, climbing and descending a hill while music plays really loud. This one had a vaguely African Safari Or Something theme, one we don't remember seeing on another Music Express. Well, they're mostly decorated in Airbrush Art Of 70s/80s Rockers. Something with Airbrush Art of Zebras Considering a Jeep is novel.

Our most interesting discovery was the bumper cars ride. Or what we figured was bumper cars. They're more a ring, though, a seat sitting on a cylindrical disc, with an inflated tire serving as protective bumper. The driver has two sticks, one for the left motor and one for the right. Push both together and you go forward. Push just one forward, or one forward and one back, and you turn pretty fast. Push both backward and you reverse at the same speed you could go forward. In describing this later on [profile] bunny_hugger and her brother worked out the hypothetical meeting at which this invention was proposed: ``what if we had bumper boats, but on land?'' And someone starts to say something, but falls silent. Fair enough. It seems like a silly change.

Thing is, it's a great ride. The levers mean you can stop on a dime, and change direction instantly, and yoink into reverse without a pause. This changes the dynamic of bumper cars dramatically. The ability to evade your pursuer is greatly enhanced, and there's something really delightful in seeing someone coming at you head-on, throwing it into reverse, and just sailing backwards out of their reach. At a similar ride we'd find in Freehold, New Jersey, we'd learn there's a spot which, if hit, makes the hit car lose control and go spinning for a couple seconds, which is an even greater variation. We have no idea whether the ones at the Columbus Zoo do that. Now that we know to test we might find out next year, all going well.

The ride you'd least expect to see us on we took: it's the log flume. We're really not log flume riders, what with how soaking wet they try to leave riders. But given the incredible heat and still air, getting a bit soaked a few hours before we would have to set out seemed like not such a bad idea after all. Hard to say, after it happened: we did get quite wet, just in time for the wind to pick up and a heavy cloud to move over, spoiling what should have been good evaporative fun. But we kept drying and were less insufferably hot after all.

On to the Flying Scooters, a ride that in the past decade has gone from near-extinct to maybe overpopulated. It's a fun one. You sit in a scooter seat, with a giant metal sail in front that you can turn left to right. The tower lifts you up and swings you around and you can guide where it is you're pointing and some of your rotation and make yourself sick if you work hard at it. That part's in your control. Good ride.

We went back to the Sea Dragon, hoping to get a front-seat ride this time, to find that it was closed.

Trivia: In May 1945 the British Military Government evacuated a five-kilometer strip between Westphalia and Holland, displacing hundreds of families including the entire village of Suderwick. In October the strip was reduced to 500 meters and local farmers allowed to return. Source: Germany 1945: From War To Peace, Richard Bessel.

Currently Reading: Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman.

When I say there was a line at the Columbus Zoo I am understating matters. There was a lot of line. More line than that. If I say there were three lines lined up after one another, would you accept it? I'd be exaggerating some. Only a little. But even before then, when we got to the parking lot, [profile] bunny_hugger dreaded whether we could get to the attractions we wanted to see before we'd have to leave to get to Coon's Candy. The line was fearsome, and moving slowly, if at all. [profile] bunny_hugger challenged me to estimate how long a wait it would be. I undershot, as ever I do, which didn't reassure her, as ever it does not.

But there were signs of good line management. As people waited, Zoo employees came out with little dry-erase boards so that people could figure out what tickets they meant to purchase, and how many of them, and write that down. So people could get all their fussing and dithering done long before they reached the counter. Just pay and get going. Great idea, and I gave them high marks for organization.

The trouble: by the time people got up to the counter they saw the admission ticket options were more numerous and complicated than they realized far back in line with just a guide to ask for advice, orally. So they would re-debate their choices and dither anyway. Well, it saved time for people who didn't want to renegotiate their admissions, at least. We were among them. We should have renegotiated, though. We'd bought park admission, and supposed that we would buy ride tickets a la carte because given the queue there was no way we'd get more than maybe one ride on the roller coaster and carousel.

Not so. The amusement park area turned out to be sparsely populated, so we'd have plenty of time to ride and even re-ride things, and to ride things of maybe marginal interest. Fortunately we could get wristbands at a booth inside which had nobody waiting at it until we went up to buy wristbands, at which point a mob of roughly 800 ditherers converged just ahead of us. Also, it was incredibly hot and sunny, much hotter and sunnier than we expected it to be, and I don't think we had sunscreen with us because the weather forecasts all weekend had been for cloudy and overcast and thunderstormy. (It had thunderstormed one night, too, supporting the believability of the overall forecast.) Not a hint of cloud now. It was bright enough that if we had a couple of mirrors we could have reflected it back and set the sun on fire.

Most of the former amusement park area is separate from the zoo, but the animals do encroach on the rides area. We stopped over by one enclosure where some keepers were putting on a little show and I recognized the animal before anyone said: they had binturongs. Some of the most active binturongs I've seen, too, at least compared to the ones in the Singapore Zoo that were housed with the otters and always looked like they had been out too late for the previous fourteen nights straight. Might be they were putting on a show. Also, that thing about them smelling like buttered popcorn? Absolutely true. We got a really strong whiff of it in the breeze and the zookeeper admitted, yeah, sometimes they do a little marking and then you really get the popcorn scent.

To rides! Our highest priority, the thing that had always had us wanting to go to the zoo, was the Sea Dragon roller coaster. This was the first year we could ride it after Morphicon/AnthrOhio as previous years the convention was too early in the season for the roller coaster to be open. This was a good year to meet the ride, too: it's the 60th anniversary of the ride's opening. The roller coaster itself is set back and rolls over top of the water park's lazy river ride, which didn't have anyone on it when we first approached. It'd get people floating off in inflated doughnuts soon enough, drinks in hand. Or some people just walking down the lazy river which seems like missing the point. Also on the banks of the river was a nesting duck that, apparently, is unnoticed enough that it doesn't feel hassled by people riding the lazy river.

Sea Dragon is your classic small wooden roller coaster, a mere 35 feet high and looping back and forth repeatedly. It's got a curved station for loading and unloading, one of those little bits of personality I always like. The ride's also dispatched and braked by classic long wooden levers. The front seat of the train was taped off, a disappointment. The restraining bars were stuck closed. (If the restraints on a roller coaster break they almost always get stuck closed.) We could ride in the second car, at least. Quite a good ride, although aren't all wooden roller coasters pretty good rides?

Trivia: Henry Ford was shocked when his gift of a Model T to neighbor Rabbi Leo Franklin was returned in protest. Ford phoned to ask, ``What's wrong, Dr Franklin? Has anything come between us?'' Source: Henry and Edsel: The Creation of the Ford Empire, Richard Bak.

Currently Reading: Eight Flavors: The Untold Story of American Cuisine, Sarah Lohman.

PS: How June 2017 Treated My Mathematics Blog, reviewing the statistics of stuff.

Monday morning after Morphicon/AnthrOhio we traditionally sit a little in our room, moping about the end of the convention and the long drive home which will be tempered only by getting lunch somewhere (we never do the burrito place on the way home, oddly) and stopping at Coon's Candy about an hour north of Columbus. It's a fine spot, lots of homemade candy, and just far enough away that organizing a side trip at the convention would be ludicrous. We varied that after we got our room cleared out and checked and re-checked.

This was, as you'd figure, to walk around the hotel and take our last photographs of it in the daylight. I thought there were more people at the con for the day-after stuff than usual but that might be a false impression. We wouldn't usually go up to the front desk to turn in our keys, just leaving them in the hotel room instead. But who wouldn't expect the day after to have more lingering people photographing stuff than usual?

The extra time treated us well. The previous day [profile] bunny_hugger had mentioned she didn't know what PunkCat looked like out of his raccoon fursuit. I said I'd point him out to her when we loaded the car, since it seems like I always run into him when loading the car. And I hadn't seen him when loading up the car this time. But with the time we spent prowling the hotel taking farewell photographs we were in the right place and time to run into him again. As expected, she did know the guy from appearances, she just hadn't connected him with the suit. I hope the tradition of running into him at checking-out transfers to the new hotel. We need our certainties in life.

We didn't go somewhere to eat. We had a new prospect open. There used to be a small amusement park, Wyandot Lake, adjacent to the Columbus Zoo. In 2006 the Zoo bought the then-110-year-old park and divided it into a water park with separate admission and an amusement area dubbed Jungle Jack's Landing. We had wanted to get there since, besides the remnants of the old park, they had a wooden roller coaster named the Sea Dragon. It had always been something that opened in mid-May, too late for Morphicon/AnthrOhio in its traditional weekend. But now that it's moved to Memorial Day weekend we could go! The amusement park area would be open and the roller coaster running. We could try that out, and could also see their antique carousel.

It was a bright, sunny Memorial Day. We figured we'd only have a couple hours there, as we needed to get to [profile] bunny_hugger's parents at a reasonable evening hour. But that should be enough for a short visit to a couple of rides. And it might be crowded; we had no way to guess what the zoo and amusement park crowd would be like this early in the summer season, on a weekday, but a holiday weekday. We had heard we could buy admission tickets from the AAA, or possibly from the Kroger. We decided not to, though, trusting that while the tickets would be a little more expensive we'd be better off not taking the time to divert away from the Columbus Zoo.

This was as completely wrong a decision as we could possibly have made.

Trivia: Nicaragua's 1902 postage stamps, including the one depicting the Momotombo volcano which would help sway the United States away from a Nicaraguan and to a Panamanian canal location, were printed by the American Bank Note Company of New York City. Source: Overthrow: America's Century of Regime Change from Hawaii to Iraq, Stephen Kinzer.

Currently Reading: Sky Island, L Frank Baum.