Wednesday, May 19, 2021

100 Years of the Jack Rabbit

On May 8th, I visited Kennywood for opening day. I didn't plan on coming so soon (if at all) after the park announced they were removing four rides, but I came to attend a special event. I won a season pass in a contest for the Jack Rabbit roller coaster's 100th anniversary in 2020, but the park moved the anniversary celebration for the ride to 2021. The Jack Rabbit is the oldest ride at Kennywood. On opening day, the 100 winners, each of whom could bring a guest, got morning ride time on the coaster before opening as well as a lunch with trivia and a raffle. This was a really fun experience, but in Kennywood as a whole, I seem to find too many things that irritate me. (Sorry, I know I'm spoiled, but I just had to get that out of my system... the lack of attention to detail at KW really bothers me.)

I got to ride the Old Mill again, and I think it's one of my top two rides in the park! It just gives off a  great classic darkride feeling!
Just for fun, here're two pictures of me from my first Kennywood visit in 2007. My dad always jokes about this picture - he told me to smile for it but not until he took one of me frowning first. I remember being fascinated by this windmill - which has been in the park since the 30s - because of the windmill in the opening credits of Thomas the Tank Engine, of all things! Little did I know that when I was a teenager, Kennywood would build a whole "Thomas Town" area that I would not care for at all!
Okay, let's get the negative stuff out of the way! I'm over it by this point, but still, seeing this fence was such a "what the heck" moment. 
Apparently, the Bayern Kurve was sold to California's Great America to be used as a parts donor. I'm bummed that I'll never see it or hear the blaring horn on the Kennywood midway again. The removal of the four rides was not decided upon by KW management; it was an order that came down from the "higher-ups" at Palace Entertainment, the American division of Parques Reunidos, a Spanish park operator.
Here's where the Kangaroo was. I am hoping that Palace Entertainment management takes a look at the Kennywood Facebook page and sees that six months later, someone still leaves a "bring back the KaNGaRoO!" comment on every post. Hopefully, then, they would realize how important this ride is and allow it to come back; as you can see, that would be very easy to do, especially since the ride itself is still in storage at the park. 
I also got a new camera for this summer's amusement park season and am happy with the results so far.

The building in the background above is the Parkside Cafe, an original structure from 1900.
There's a section in the middle of Kennywood that is quite tranquil.
 With the Kangaroo gone, the most unique historic flat ride at Kennywood is now the 1927 Turtle.

The Turtle sits next to the Thunderbolt, which I did not ride on this trip.
Note the steel mill in the background - it's the last one in Pittsburgh, but tourists who visit Kennywood probably think it's just one of many!
The 100th anniversary lunch for the Jack Rabbit was in Pavilion 1, which overhangs the ravine the coaster sits in.
The drop below is the most famous part of the Jack Rabbit, the "double dip." After the train drops, it levels out before going down the second dip. This high-speed transition makes the ride, as it gives one of the greatest moments of "airtime" on any wooden coaster.
In the picture below,  I captured the split second when the train's "road wheels" are floating above the track, and you can see the people getting pushed out of their seats as well (there's only a seat belt to hold you in, which you are free to adjust yourself). The Jack Rabbit was one of the first coasters ever to use "underfriction wheels," which ride underneath the rail and allow the road wheels to leave the track as seen below. You can imagine how much of an upgrade in thrills this was in 1920!
In the trivia contest, I was one of the lucky few who won an old piece of one of the Jack Rabbit trains. Kennywood takes good care of its wooden coasters by rebuilding parts of the structure and the trains every year, so this decoration probably isn't more than 10 years old or so, but still, I think it's one of the coolest things I own!
Even though the removal of four rides is sad, it really puts into perspective how special Kennywood is. After all, they still have three wooden coasters from the 20s and five other antique rides from that decade. So all in all, I think the park is still worth a visit if you're a first-timer and didn't grow up with the place, in which case you might be disappointed.

Wednesday, May 5, 2021

Lincoln Highway Finds

Today's post centers around historical attractions along the Lincoln Highway, the first marked transcontinental road in the United States. Starting in Times Square and running through 13 states to San Francisco, the Lincoln is an important road in the nation's history, but it often gets overlooked in favor of its younger brother, Route 66. I've been fortunate to drive several old alignments of the old Lincoln Highway over the years, as it goes in a straight line across Pennsylvania.

The Lincoln Motor Court is from the 1940s and is wonderfully preserved. There used to be hundreds of these "cabin court" style motels (they actually preceded that term) along the Lincoln Highway, but this is the last one.
We got to meet the couple that owns it, and while it is for sale, they'll only sell to someone who will maintain it.
What an awesome slice of Americana! Imagine all of the stories from this place...
Switching gears, we come to Latrobe, home to Fred Rogers. 
Latrobe is famous for the TV works of Mr. Rogers as well as golfer Arnold Palmer. Here's a statue of Rogers you can snap a picture with!
Oh wait, I forgot that Latrobe is where the banana split was invented! Moving on,,,
Wow, this is an old traffic light...
You wouldn't recognize Mr. Rogers' grave if you weren't looking for it, as his name isn't on the mausoleum exterior.
I appreciated the opportunity to see this.
The last stop is the recently opened Lincoln Highway Experience museum near Ligonier.
The uniquely-shaped hotel below was an icon along the road in Bedford County before succumbing to arsonists in 2001.
Here's the view from the former ship's lookout point today, where you can reportedly "see 3 states and seven counties!"
The Lincoln Highway Experience is a small museum, but it has a large room with some cool artifacts, like the replica tourist cabin at the left, a Packard, and a neon sign from an old area motel.
Serro's Diner was built in 1938. It was originally going to be part of Pittsburgh's Heinz History Center, but it was unable to fit in that building. Now fully restored, a cup of coffee and a slice of pie are included with your admission ticket! 
The 1957 diner that replaced the first Serro's was also saved and moved to Erie, Pennsylvania (not close to the Lincoln Highway at all), where it's used as seating for a large drive-in style restaurant.
I hope you enjoyed these vintage sights!