If I only could, I'd be running up that hill If I only could, I'd be running up that hill
A theme park day with a late start – how strange. Yet because Knotts Berry Farm didn’t open until 10am and we were only 11 minute’s drive away, it was a leisurely 9am departure that we aimed for and met.
As ever my trusty co-pilot Neil sorted out the directions on the Sat Nav on my phone as I navigated my way out of the car park. A well-practiced routine. The drive and parking were straightforward too (although the less said about the $25 parking fee the better.
This was a new theme park for us. It is however old and predates even Disney. It started when Walter Knott started stumbled across growing Boysenberry’s (a cross between a Loganberry, Blackberry and Raspberry but much bigger). He started selling from alongside his farm from a market stall. Then his wife started selling Fried Chicken as well, both of which proved so popular that people were queueing for hours at the weekend to be served. Walter then added a ghost town attraction (as ghost towns were an interest of his) to keep people amused whilst they queued. He just kept adding attractions as the years went by. It wasn’t until about 20 years later that he put a fence around them all and started charging admission. The enterprise continued to grow. After Walter passed eventually his family eventually sold it all on but not to Disney from whom they turned down an offer.
Even as we approached it, we could sense the heritage of the place. It didn’t have that corporate perfect feel of Disney and we all quite liked it. Saying that though there was an awful lot they could learn from Disney. The systems, processes and ride design all needed work. Even getting in was painfully slow and not helped by the gates being slowed down by inadequate staff who presumably could not get jobs in Disney. Indeed, some of the staff were so old and frail they should have been in care homes. Don’t get me started on the number of staff who absolutely flipping enormous in size. I'm not being 'fat’ist’ and indeed in no real position to really mention this except that some them made me look positively anorexic.
Our first ride was to be ‘Ghost Rider’ which is the headline ride in the park. It is an enormous wooden coaster with very fast tight turns with no banks to them. Karen decided it wasn’t for her and so I joined the queue with Neil.
The queue despite the park only just opening was not bad. But it was not moving and when it did only painfully slowly. It was a masterpiece of a poorly designed loading process that caused me much consternation. Finally, after 40 minutes we were on the coaster. By heck it was taller and faster than I could have imagined and probably the limit that I can take nowadays. I almost lost my hat with the speed it achieved. It is quite a ride.
We returned to find Karen and then suggested that Neil should go to ride some of the other coasters before their queues became too long which he did. He was actually very successful as he rode another 3 before he returned. We waited and sat outside the Bakery and gave into temptation by buying a Boysenberry Pie for Karen with a Starbucks coffee and a lovely Ham & Cheese Croissant for me.
Upon Neil’s return we headed to the mine train which pre dates Thunder Mountain which is similarly themed. This was brilliant and almost worth the admission alone. The train took us slowly through the mountain passing all sorts of proper mining scenes. It was really well done and I can see why Disney turned theirs into a Thrill ride as if they had tried something similar it would have been hard to compete.
Next was the Log Flume which Neil assured us would not involve us getting wet. After 2 minutes in the queue though, I gave up. The queue wasn’t moving and I calculated there would be at least another 40-minute wait in the sun. Instead, I found a table in the shade to wait. The sun and heat had beaten me. It was 31c in the shade and probably nearer 40c in the sun. The cost of standing and waiting was not worth the payback to me, but Karen & Neil did say that they thought the ride was worth it.
Then we went to Bear-y Tales which was a 4D ride shooter ride in the same genre as Buzz Lightyear at Disney. A short queue did not disguise another poorly designed loading process. I came third badly but in fairness my ‘gun’ was not working correctly and only when I gave up and put it back in the holster did my points total started going up.
From here we wanted back to the Ghost Town where Neil got his lunch from the Fireman’s Grill. I went back to get Karen & I more croissants from the Bakery. We were both also in need of a hot tea. I knew where the only place they sold them and although it was a long walk went to fetch them. At first, they denied they had any ‘English Breakfast Tea’ until I showed where it was in their window. Eventually I got the tea and started the walk back. It surprised me that my hands were not burning carrying them. I stopped and opened one of them and the water was just tepid. I turned round and returned to the booth and was told their hot water tap on the machine was broken and so they did the best they could. I said that they were not drinkable but had to wait 5 minutes for a manager who could sort out a refund. I returned to Karen defeated but got us a bottle of diet coke as a meagre alternative.
Our next place of call was the Ghost Town Saloon which was lovely and cool. Karen & Neil both had a Boysenberry Lager which they both declared a hit.
We then walked over to ride the train around the park. It was pleasant enough and had the added bonus of the train being boarded by cowboys who wanted to rob all the passengers. Although amusing they were just ignored by everyone.
The heat was increasing and was quite ridiculous and so Karen & I sought more shade whilst Neil went and rode the rides he still wanted to do. Shade was hard to find as there wasn’t much and every little bit was already taken. We found some half shade and made do with that.
When Neil returned, we decided to explore the Ghost Town properly. Some of the shops were very interesting to explore. We were all by now bedraggled and slowly made our way out of the park.
On the whole I would say the park was a success and, in some ways, better than our expectations. It was just so blinking hot that took some of the edge away. Although not the park’s fault, they could have tried to mitigate it with more places to sit in shaded areas.
For our meal tonight Neil & I decided to try the Famous Chicken being sold in a Takeaway just outside the park. The order was prepared quickly and we took it back to the apartment to eat. It was good but not as flavoursome as say a KFC. Karen had ordered a Chicken Pot Pie instead from the takeaway which she loved though.
After chilling for a while, we all sat down to watch another episode of Stranger Things which again was excellent before retiring early ready for another early start in the morning.