by Paul Ruben
This was to be my big Park Hoppin’ adventure of the year, eight days visiting parks and attractions in middle America. It was a glorious part of my 52-week summer vacation, which is what this job feels like.
Flying into Cincinnati, Ohio, my first stop was at the Newport Aquarium. Nextdoor was Ride The Ducks, amphibious vehicles that carried me through the streets of downtown Cincinnati and along the Ohio River. Next stop was Coney Island, where I spent some time with Vic Nolting, then finally on to EnterTRAINment Junction, an FEC that houses one of the world’s largest indoor train displays.
Day two took me to Kings Island to write, photograph, and, oh yes, ride Diamondback, the park’s new mega coaster. Vice-president and general manager Greg Scheid has a winner on his hands. A top 10 ride.
The next two days were spent at Indiana’s Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari. I was working hard in the waterpark. On my tan, that is. Then over to photograph and ride Pilgrims Plunge, Will Koch’s new record-setting water ride. It doesn’t get any better than going fast and getting wet.
Then off to Bowling Green, Kentucky, with stops at the Corvette Museum and historic Railpark train museum before spending the day at Beech Bend amusement park, where I rode four new coasters. That’s 766, not that I keep count.
Because Kentucky has many caves I also did some cave hunting, visiting Mammoth Cave, Lost River Cave and Mega Cavern on successive days. Dark, mysterious, and easily accessible; I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
But Cave City, Kentucky, also boasts other roadside attractions. Kentucky Action Park has the appeal (for me at least) of an Alpine Slide, like the one I rode a decade ago with no hands on the brake and went so fast my sled left the track. Well, live and learn. This time I braked minimally and made it to the bottom in one piece. Then operator Ricky Carey invited me to ride a horse at the adjacent Jesse James Stables. So here I am with Blaze; she’s a sweetheart. I’m the one on top. I tried to be a cowboy, but this hat doesn’t cut it. It’s from Australia, with little corks dangling from two-inch strings to keep flies off the Australians’ faces. But they keep doinking me in the head. Don’t the Aussies realise that’s why God invented fly repellent?
Final stop on the tour was Louisville, where I stopped by Six Flags Kentucky Kingdom before heading to the Frazier International History Museum to see the exhibit on Fontaine Ferry Park, which operated from 1905 to 1969. I love Kentucky Kingdom, but I miss the old parks. And the pony rides.