Thursday, November 24, 2022

Knott's Berry Farm Pt. 2

The Calico Mine Ride and Timber Mountain Log Ride were my two most anticipated rides at Knott’s. It was surreal seeing the iconic façade of the Mine Ride for the first time, with the trains winding their way through the mountain.

This wheel bearing the name of Bud Hurlbut must be original or at least close to it, and it’s cool to know that you can still see the signature of a person who was so important to Knott’s history.
A few weeks after my visit, one of the trains had a bad derailment as it sped out of the finale scene. Luckily the ride reopened after only a few days.
As the train squeaked its way through this one-of-a-kind ride, I was amazed by how the interior felt modern thanks to the upgrades made in 2014 by Garner Holt Productions. The ride system, though, is wonderfully antiquated, all the way through to the flip-down seat on the car doors.
I love the rickety lift hill (which I’m sure has frightened many unsuspecting kids over the years… is this a roller coaster??) that ends in the awe-inspiring cavern scene. It's just as effective now as it had to have been decades ago.
The Timber Mountain Log Ride was by far my favorite ride at Knott’s. Riding it for the first time is one of my favorite memories of the entire trip. The first drop into the dark, waterfall-filled cave isn’t replicated in any video online, and I loved the catchy soundtrack added for the ride’s 50th anniversary.
I rode the flume three times, and this ride is pretty much worth the price of admission by itself!
One thing I found humorous about the Log Ride is the loud noise the log makes on the final drop, like an obnoxious zipper. No other log flume has that sound… if you know, you know!
The new Knott’s Bear-y Tales ride was enjoyable if a bit chaotic. I understand that darkrides that rely on atmosphere like the original Bear-y Tales are not as marketable today, but there are a few practical sets inside that go beyond the mayhem-filled screens left over from the former Voyage to the Iron Reef attraction.
The Thunder Cave sequence feels more vintage than anything else, and I think this scene may even be located in the same place as it was in the original ride, running along the back of the show building.
The exterior, queue, and surrounding area of the ride are all very well-themed. Knott’s did a good job of recreating a sliver of the old Roaring 20s themed area.
Coming out of the arcade that sits at the exit to Bear-y Tales, the neighboring gift shop has a great selection of merchandise on many niche subjects of the park’s history. I love that they use a former ride vehicle from the Wacky Soap Box Racers roller coaster as a display table.
The marquee of the Walter Knott/Charles M. Schultz Theater isn't real neon anymore, but it still dazzles at night. There weren't any shows here when I visited, but there was a roaming performer with a bike-mounted piano in front of the theater.
The biggest disappointment of my trip to Knott’s was that Montezooma’s Revenge had closed a few months earlier. I have always wanted to ride a classic shuttle loop, and Montezooma is the last one operating in America. When it reopens next year, it will be a completely updated experience, but it’s impressive that Knott’s was able to keep an old-school flywheel launch operating for more than 40 years.
The ride's loop had already been removed to be replaced when I was there in July, but the mouth of the dragon on the marquee was still slowly opening and closing, just to make me jealous.
Elsewhere in Fiesta Village, the Happy Sombrero ride is absolutely delightful, and the intricate paint schemes on the cars are really cool.
Jaguar! (the coaster with an unnecessary exclamation point) had the worst operations of any coaster I’ve ever ridden. A mass of people would come up the exit ramp, and the operator would say over the microphone that “we are boarding Fast Lane and boarding passes on this train.” The train would fill up except for two rows. “Opening gates.” BAM! The station gates would open. Four people would get on the train from the regular line. “Closing gates.” BAM! “Dispatch!” There has to be a better way to manage Fast Lane riders than that.
Xcelerator has been closed since March 2022, and it’s actually listed as “standing but not operating” on rcdb.com along with Montezooma’s Revenge. With the park recently investing in a full repaint, though, I can’t imagine that it will be removed any time soon.
The Dentzel menagerie carousel (meaning it has animals besides horses) was nice to see, especially given how Disney mutilates their carousels by replacing the legs of the standing horses. ;-) This patriotic Dentzel stander is similar to a figure I saw at the New England Carousel Museum, which I attached a picture of below. 
Though no two hand-carved carousel figures are exactly the same, designs were often copied from a master carver during mass production.
I made sure to not forget Independence Hall on the other side of the road, where we met up with a friend who knows a lot about Knott’s history. This musty old museum is a really peaceful respite in one of the busiest theme parks in the world.
It was sad that only a few people were touring Independence Hall on a day when the park was packed, but I'm happy that Cedar Fair continues to operate this important part of Knott's history.
I’ve been to the real Independence Hall and seen the actual Liberty Bell, but the version at Knott’s is way better, including the audio presentation in the assembly room. :-)
This is one of the last pieces of the original perimeter fence that Walter Knott built to keep out the "hippies," apparently!
I understand the hype about California sunsets now. I took this shot from the stairs up to Silver Bullet.
I love that they brought back the mission dioramas, a wonderful reminder of how Knott's used to be. I followed the story of their restoration on Yesterland.com with great interest years ago.
We did take a ride up in the Sky Cabin (in the background of this shot), and it was perhaps the only ride in the park with a short line. I took a bunch of pictures, but none of them are particularly worth sharing because of the fogged-up glass.
The dramatic lighting on the Mine Ride and Log Ride really helps this old rockwork shine.
That concludes our whirlwind trip of the rest of Knott's Berry Farm. I may have skipped some things, but I only included the best pictures out of the several hundred I took. Sorry to keep you waiting, but in the next post, we'll finally reach the happiest land of them all, Disneyland's Fantasyland.


TokyoMagic! said...

I'm so glad that you were able to include Knott's in your trip to California. It sounds like you were able to do and see pretty much everything in one day.....with the exception of the closed coasters.

It looks strange to see the shot of Montezooma's Revenge without the loop. It was even stranger to see the pieces of the loop laying on the ground next to the Knott's overflow parking (I know you saw those internet pics, too!). I'm glad that management is making an effort to keep the vintage coaster, even if it will be somewhat different. It's always been a favorite of mine, ever since it's grand opening.

Seeing pics of the Knott's carousel always makes me happy. I have photos of my brother and I riding it when we were kids. And I have always loved the variety of animals that are included (pigs, rabbits, ostriches, cats, roosters, etc.) on it. That's pretty neat that you had already seen a variation of the "standing" horse with the flag, at the Carousel Museum!

I agree about the nice paint job on the "Happy Sombrero" ("Hat Dance") attraction. There used to be a painted "swirl" on the turntable, just like Disney's "Mad Tea Party" attraction. I'm not sure when that went away. I suppose somebody in charge decided that they could save on some gallons of paint, and on some man hours in maintenance. Too bad.

Ha! I never even noticed the exclamation point in "Jaguar!" The Tokyo Disney parks use exclamations in quite a few of their attraction, show, and parade titles. I guess it's to get you excited about what you are about to experience. I'm sure you were far more excited prior to riding Jaguar! because of that exclamation point in the name, than you would have been if it had not been included in the name. ;-)

They have pushed that story about putting up the wall to keep the hippies out for decades now. I know some "historians" out there will disagree, but I have a feeling that was just a "P.R." story. I'm sure after seeing Disney collect admission for guests to enter Disneyland for almost 15 years, Walter Knott and the family decided it was time for them to start charging admission, as well. There used to be a copy of a letter (it might still be there) in a glass case in the Chicken Dinner Restaurant, informing the employees of the time, about the plan to start charging admission, and how it would benefit the employees too, when it came to the company's "profit sharing" program's payouts. M.O.N.E.Y.! I have a photo of that letter, I will try to find it and send you a copy.

It has been nice to see Knott's current management return some of the things that had been previously removed from the park, like the mission dioramas! Those are among some of my earliest memories of visiting the park. And the return of Knott's Bear-y Tales was quite a surprise, even if they did feel the need to "update" it for today's audiences. Of course, I would have been perfectly happy if they had brought back the full original Rolly Crump version of the ride. But I guess time marches on, or tastes change, or attention spans get shorter.....or something.

I LOVE all of that Bob Bates artwork, in your last photo. The attraction poster artwork goes back to 1980, and I believe the map artwork goes back to 1978. It all brings back such happy memories from the past!

This was another wonderful trip report, Andrew. Thanks for sharing your experiences with us! I'm going to come back and revisit this post, later.

TokyoMagic! said...

P.S.......That concludes our whirlwind trip of the rest of Knott's Berry Farm.

Funny....I know your use of the word, "whirlwind" was probably inadvertent, but Knott's used to have a ride called the "Whirlwind." It was a "Himalaya" type flat ride, and was located approximately where the Surfside Gliders attraction is today (in the Boardwalk area of the park). But you probably knew that already! :-)

JB said...

A couple of real nice interior shots of the Calico Mine Ride.

In the Log Ride queue shot, almost everyone has their head down, looking at their phone. Does Knott's have an app-based reservation system like Disneyland? Or are they just looking at cat videos, ignoring the scenery around them?

I watched a couple of Log Ride ride-throughs on YouTube. The scene you captured here, where the old-timer's camp is overrun with forest varmints, is one of my favorites. Really nice photo!

"...Walter Knott built to keep out the "hippies,"". Walter could have save some money and effort by just posting a "Barber Shop" sign out front. ;-D

I love the sunset shot with all the silhouetted coaster track.

The twilight shots of the Mine Ride and Log Ride rockwork look like Australia's Uluru (Ayers) Rock.

Thanks for another great update, Andrew. You know a lot of the history of these places, so you know what to look for. And you're doing an excellent job documenting it.

Andrew said...

TokyoMagic!, there was no way we would have missed going to Knott’s! I wished I had seen the Montezooma loop pieces in the parking lot, sadly they were probably scrapped. It was weird riding Jaguar! and going through the covering that normally threads the lop (you can see it in my picture), only the loop was missing! Menagerie carousels with a large variety of animals like the one at Knott’s are pretty rare, and I love that it’s such an early example of Dentzel’s work. Plus it came from Hersheypark!

I love how the Mad Tea Party has had its “swirl” since the very beginning. Too bad Knott’s got rid of theirs on the Happy Sombrero. I knew you would appreciate the exclamation point in Jaguar!, given your username. ;-) And yes, I was SO EXCITED to ride because of it.

Oh, so the Knott’s “profit sharing” program also lead to them dumping bags of old popcorn into the popcorn machines, haha. I really wish every park could be as attentive to its past as Knott’s is. The selection of merchandise in Virginia’s Gift Shop based on old attractions blew me away, including those Bob Bates posters!

I’ve heard of the Whirlwind flat ride, but I’ve never seen a picture of it. I wonder who its manufacturer was?

Andrew said...

JB, I’m sure everyone in line could have been looking at YouTube, or TikTok, or Instagram. But we all know that they were actually reading the archives of GDB. ;-) I didn’t mention it in the post, but I like the tribute to Bud Hurlbut in the Log Ride scene you’re referring to. I had to look up Uluru Rock, but I agree it looks similar to the Mine Ride, just not as lumpy. Thanks for the comment, JB.

Major Pepperidge said...

Hooray for Part 2 of your Knott’s adventure!

So glad you finally got to experience the Calico Mine Ride and the Timber Mountain Log Ride. I’ve loved those since I was a kid, and still do. I admit that I have not seen either since their upgrades with new animatronics and such.

I love that you are a keen observer of things like those Bud Hurlbut wheels! And your description of the train as it “squeaked its way through this one of a kind ride” is certainly apt. It’s the squeakiest! And yes, details like the flip-down seats are great. Who doesn’t love those blacklit caverns?

It’s quite a trip to see those animatronics that have all been added since my last visit. The old, static displays were pretty dusty, but I loved them just the same. I remember one scene had a backdrop that was peeling away from the wall, and in the caverns, you could clearly see the blacklights just leaning against some stalagmites. Hopefully they have hidden them a bit better?

I never saw the original Bear-y Tales ride, sadly, so I will be curious to see the new version, even though I understand that it is quite different. Good eye on that Wacky Soap Box Racers vehicle! Again, what a keen eye.

I’ve always loved those Happy Sombreros. So fun. I don’t think I’ve been on Jaguar!, but the loading system does sound very bad. And I’m also skeptical that Xcelerator will be reopening any time soon.

I guess as a traditionalist I can understand thinking that Disney has mutilated their carousels, but gosh, they really do look beautiful. Part of me does wish they’d just left them in their original classic state though.

My last visit to Independence Hall was similar to yours - I was the only person there other than a woman dressed in a Betsy Ross costume, it was quiet and drowsy and dusty, and wonderful. Plus I loved that there were chickens just roaming the grounds outside.

Walt Disney needed one of those hippie-proof fences!

Love those beautiful evening shots of the Mine Ride and the Log Ride, so wonderful.

Thank you for another fantastic post, I can’t get enough.

Andrew said...

Major, you would enjoy the updates on the Log Ride and Mine Ride, as they didn’t take the cheap way out with them. I would have liked to see the original version, though. Sometimes “old and dusty” is actually better! I didn’t notice any exposed lighting, but all the scenes were well-lit–more so than Splash Mountain!

I can’t imagine that Xcelerator would permanently close, but you never know given what happened to its sister coaster, Top Thrill Dragster at Cedar Point. The Disney carousels are nice and uniform, but they’re not my favorites because they don’t really feel like a classic carousel.

I loved how Independence Hall felt like a peaceful oasis in the middle of chaos. Again, “drowsy and dusty” is a good thing! I didn’t see any chickens, but I hope they’re still around somewhere.