December 19th, 2015


Back at the farm

Our plan was to not be quite so busy yesterday. Clearly our schedule had other ideas. We wanted to get started on our next assignment, and we had hope (perhaps an unreasonable hope) that we would finish the rough draft in one day. The plan was derailed the night before, when we got emails letting us know we would have not only a chapter of UQ Holder! to translate, but a chapter of Persona Q as well. We thought we might still get a little bit of work done on our next (full-book) assignment, but then the agency emailed asking if we could do yet another one of those little legal translations. Blargh. We didn't even have time to finish that before we had to head over to the ward Christmas party (early), so so much for starting a new book of manga. Oh well. More on the ward Christmas party later.

For today, I will continue to relate our berry farm adventures! I got distracted by the Iron Reef and forgot to talk about a couple of rides we went on first. See, when Gaston and Alice went on the Boomerang, it gave them a lot of time to see the neighboring attractions from above (the Boomerang starts you off by pulling the car backwards and launching it like a slingshot, but it takes a looooong time for it to get all the way up), and they were able to confirm that the drop on the log ride wasn't very intimidating. Our perpetual theme park dilemma is that we really love the atmosphere on log flume rides, but we hate falling (as confirmed by our experience on Jurassic Park back in 2011), so we want to go on the log rides, but never enough to deal with crazy long steep drops. But, as previously mentioned, Gaston and Alice saw the drop from the Boomerang, and Alice (she's always looking out for us) said it looked like the main drop was neither very high nor very steep. So onto the ride we went! ...With great trepidation.

It was about then that we realized the possibility that most of our Bizarro Disneyland dreams could be attributed to long-lost memories of Knott's Berry Farm. The theory would make a lot more sense if we'd ever gone on the log ride back when we were going to Knott's in fifth grade, but we know we didn't. Nevertheless, we had seen Knott's Berry Farm animatronics, and this ride did have some of those. In fact, it seemed a lot like Pirates of the Caribbean, Splash Mountain, and Big Thunder Mountain Railroad, all rolled into one. Apropos of a log ride, the theme was logging! So the flume took us past all kinds of scenes involving logging, with lots of signs for the finale scene: the Hootenanny. It was kind of neat, but something about the animatronics made them creepier and less lifelike than the ones at Disneyland, which made for an interesting effect when we rode by the guy out camping in the woods, kneeling outside his tent in his long-johns, looking at passersby (us) with a sort of crazed look in his eye. (We might have been imagining the crazedness of the look because of the uncanny valley effect.) I thought surely he must be some kind of serial killer hiding from the law.

We also rode by some wild animals, and we weren't sure if they were having some kind of a face-off (bears vs. mountain lions vs. coyotes), or if they were supposed to be looking hungrily at us. But I liked them anyway, because animals! Most of the scenes were inside the logging mountain, where there was also a segment that was so dark we had no way of knowing we were about to go over the preliminary drop! Oh no! But we survived. And it wasn't very long, so that was okay, too. And then we went to the Hootenanny, and when we passed that, there were a bunch of guys knocking down trees with explosives, and that's where the big drop was. But it was a really nice, not-steep drop, so I actually even enjoyed going down. I thought, "I could do that again!" But we didn't because we had other things to do.

Next we went on the mining train, which was a lot like the log ride, only on a train and with no drops. And they were mining instead of logging. They had some really big, elaborate animatronic scenes that were pretty fascinating, too. Actually, I think there was only the one really big one, but we went by it several times from different angles and different heights. But it was this giant cave full of miners! And the whole time, there was a narrator (might have been Powderkeg Pam; we know the name was alliterate and Pam) explaining what all was going on, so it was really neat. There was one smaller cave with a couple of miners cave-fishing, and...and...stuff... I don't remember all the details. But they did blow us up at the end. Apparently that's THE climax for everything. It would have been better if they had used mist instead of actual noxious smoke, but maybe the noxiousness was meant to make it more thrilling because there's a real danger to your life.

When we got off the ride, our party (referring to the thrill rating) said, "That wasn't a 3! That was a 1!" and Athena said, "What are you talking about!? We got BLOWN UP!" and a cast member happened to be walking by at that time and was all, "Yeah!" It was amusing.

After that was when we found our way to the Iron Reef, and from there we...sat around waiting for people. We also looked around the candy shop and determined that we would buy a plush boysenberry. Boysen seems to be the mascot berry for Knott's Berry Farm (because Walter Knott bred it or whatever you do with berries; there was a sign somewhere, with a small patch of boysenberry bushes? vines? they looked like the grape vineyard, but it's winter so they were all dried up), so they had boysenberry ice cream and boysenberry gummy bears and boysenberry popcorn and boysenberry licorice and so forth. And we have a weakness for plush toys, and we didn't know when we'd ever go back to Knott's Berry Farm, so we decided it was the perfect thing to remember our trip by!

When people arrived, we went to Big Foot Rapids! This was the one ride Athena and I had to go on, because last time we were at Knott's Berry Farm (when we were eleven), we went on it multiple times. It's a boat ride designed to imitate rapids, so it's a bumpy boat ride with lots of splashing. As I mentioned, it was our first thrill ride, but only because it really wasn't scary at all. It was a 5, but we think they boost the thrill rating by two if you can get wet on it, because the only thrilling thing about it was whether or not you'd get soaked. We will admit that the thrill factor was slightly enhanced by the fact that it's December.

But after that, we got to try out the big dryer! You give it five dollars, and you stand inside it, and it blows hot air on you for three minutes! Gaston was the most soaked of all of us, and I felt bad about it, because I sort of deliberately took the seat in our boat that looked exceptionally dry, and I remembered Athena mentioning something earlier in the day about how with Big Foot Rapids and the Magic Mountain version, there are seats that don't get as wet (as opposed to the California Adventure version, Grizzly River Run, where the only way to predict who will get the wettest is who's the most afraid of getting wet; we're not sure how that works, and yet it does). So to make up for cheating, I paid for the dryer and Gaston got to use it...but all the kids in our party wanted to try it out, too, so they all went in with him and blocked the hot air from getting to him. He did end up dryer. He's significantly taller than the children, so his back had good access to the air.

Anyway, on our way to the Rapids, we saw an intriguing roller coaster that looked nice and little, and they called it the Pony Express, and at the entrance to the ride, it was pretending to be a Pony Express office with help wanted signs, and the concept was just so cool! And then we saw that the cars were decorated to look like ponies, so we couldn't resist! What we learned when we got in line is that, not only do the cars look like ponies, they're actually designed for you to sit astride them as you would a pony! The safety harness presses against your back so you're sandwiched between it and the top of your horse. And! they demand that you remove any AND ALL loose items, including glasses that you use to see with. That part made it a little more intimidating.

But then the ponies took off! (I think they used magnetic launchers to start the ride off fast without taking you up first, technology that was pioneered by Disney imagineers!) And then the ponies were back. It was a very short ride. The loading process was several times longer than the ride itself. Like, the group that went on before us (we had to wait for just one group) took off, and I felt like I blinked and they were back. I thought maybe they had two cars running, but then I realized those were all the same people. But it was a lot of fun! If we weren't such trend-setters (meaning there was a line when we got off the ride), maybe we would have gone on it again. As it was, we were hungry and so we broke off from the group in search of pizza.

We had seen a place that sold pizza by the Iron Reef, but it was closed. So instead, we made our way all the way to the opposite corner of the park to the restaurant we remembered eating at back when we were in fifth grade: the Grizzly Creek Lodge. And it turned out, that place sold pizza, too! Huzzah! We also ordered some fries (they were seasoned!) and some boysenberry punch (we had to!), and we enjoyed a yummy lunch in a lovely restaurant. Meanwhile, the rest of the group eventually decided on Panda Express, which we were told is the best bang for your buck, but in our case, it wouldn't have been much of a bang because we wouldn't have eaten most of it. We're working on expanding our palates, but Chinese food is still far, far in the distance.

After lunch, it was finally time for the one other thing we really really really wanted to do: ride the stagecoach! This was the longest line we waited in all day, because the park was very uncrowded. For that reason alone, we thought, "Maybe for now I like Knott's just a liiiittle better than Disneyland." But we'd have to take the bus to get to Knott's. Anyway, our group was just barely too big to all fit in the stagecoach, but the cast members were determined! And we made it work!

But as we waited in line, we saw the stagecoach come by on its rounds a few times, and the horses! They looked so tired! We're hoping that it's just that we don't know anything about horses and they were actually fine. For example, they seemed to be working up a sweat (they were definitely lathering at the mouth), but maybe that was just because the cast members watered them down every time they came by. But anyway, here we are, thinking the horses are probably exhausted, and our group is gigantic (fortunately, most of the people taking up space were small children, but still), so we having a hard time enjoying that ride. (It was made a little extra difficult for Athena, because while we each had a child on our lap, the child sitting on Athena's lap first asked, "Is it okay, because my butt's wet." And her first thought was, "Eh, he was probably just on a water ride." And her second thought, after he had sat down, was, "He was on a water ride, right?" She was able to confirm later that yes, he was just on a water ride. After we left to find lunch, all the kids who had been on Big Foot Rapids went on it again.) Maybe next time we'll go with a smaller group.

Next, we went on a quest to find sarsaparilla. That was the last thing I remembered from our last time at the berry farm (other than dipping candles, which seems to have gone away, boo). But the place we saw that had a big sarsaparilla sign on it was closed, so a quest was in order. Someone directed us to a candy shop, where they told us there was no more sarsaparilla in the whole park, so we got fudge instead. They had cookie dough fudge! (Like cookie dough ice cream, only fudge.) And their fudge is soooooo good! We definitely do not regret that purchase.

After that, we found ourselves in Artisans' Alley. I don't think they really call it that, but I don't know what they do call it, so I made up my own name. Basically, they got some artists to come in and sell their wares. There was one group from Wisconsin selling chainsaw sculptures, most of which were super awesome. There were three or four booths selling homemade soaps, and a build your own beanie booth, and etc. We mostly hung around admiring the chainsaw sculptures, until the oldest girl of the children (also the only girl of the children, but we think she's the oldest of the children) came along and said, "Look what I have!" and shoved a bottle of sarsaparilla in Gaston's face. She and Maurice (Alice's father's codename) had gone in one of the shops and there it was! So we went in and bought some.

Then Gaston and Maurice started playing checkers on the checkerboard that was set up, so we kept browsing, and discovered that an adjoining store sold berry products. There was jam and cookies and mixes and honey! We looked at the ingredients on the strawberry honey and it was just honey, strawberries, and food coloring, and we thought, "Sounds legit!" (Mostly we don't let it bother us, but sometimes we get concerned about food additives.) But if you're in Knott's Berry Farm, of course you have to buy the boysenberry honey, so we did! And it had more ingredients, like agar-agar or something, but we figured hey, it's berry-flavored honey. It's all part of trying to get ourselves to eat more fruits and vegetables. And it's purple! So we bought that and the plush boysenberry we had decided to buy. And then it was time for the stunt show!

The stunt show was...just that, really. It was a show that had a lot of stunts and gunfire and explosions and slapstick comedy. And a Hello Kitty sweater! It even had a splash zone! Which was especially neat because all the actors stayed 100% dry! And at the end they said, "We're gonna send you where all hardened criminals go!" "Magic Mountain?" Aaaah ha ha ha. The basic plot was that there was one guy guarding the fort of something, and his superior gave him the key to the bank. Meanwhile, they had two new recruits who just happened to be wanted robbers! After the two real guards left the stage, the two robbers contacted their boss, and they all worked together to break into the bank. And hi-jinks and violence ensued.

After the show, we said hi to the actors, and then we went to the Iron Reef one more time, then it was time for the Christmas tree lighting. This show involved the head elf Holly and her assistant Jolly, getting everything ready for when Santa arrived. There was a special guest appearance by Charlie Brown and Lucy Van Pelt, and there were dance numbers performed by toy soldiers, candy cane dolls, and sexy reindeer. And they took some kind of meter into the audience to see how many naughty and nice people they were and (shockingly!) everybody was nice! And we all looked at each other and commented about how it's easy to make everybody nice when you lower the standards for niceness, because we are jaded and cynical. But then Snoopy came and they lit the tree and it was all very lovely.

And then the park closed, so we took all our shopping outside and we found some fuzzy slippers. And since we have giant feet, Athena thought, almost on a whim, "I wonder if they have any our size." That gets dangerous, because then when you find them you're much more tempted to buy them, and Alice was helping us look, and we ended up with new fuzzy slippers. On the bright side, we know we'll use them!

Today I'm thankful for having a lovely time at Knott's Berry Farm, knowing there's still such a thing as an uncrowded theme park, getting to try some new and exciting rides, plush boysenberries, and Wise the owl. (You know that weakness for plush toys I mentioned? We spotted one at the grocery store that we had to get. At first we were like, "That owl is kind of cute, but also kind of looks like a mogwai." Then we saw it up close, and it had the cutest little crooked beak that gave it a kind of quizzical look, and then Athena checked the tag and found out its name was Wise (it's a Ty thing), and sharing a name with the goddess of wisdom whose symbol is an owl, well... And then the cashier was all, "Dooo iiiit!" So we did.)