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June 22, 2009

CALIFORNIA FUN PARK KNOTT FOR FEINT-HEARTED

david ellis

I FEEL I am still in recovery, having been hurled, whirled, blasted, inverted and reverted forwards, backwards, upside down and sideways at a near-100 white-knuckle k's an hour – and for good measure dropped, plunged, soaked and spun dried.

Then tossed more times in 3-minutes than a Caesar salad.

Even when my feet are planted firmly back on terra fIrma for a sedate ol' fashioned steam train ride I find myself bailed-up by a couple of baddies wanting to spoil my ride by wielding six-guns in my face, and when I choose a genu-ine wild west Butterfield Coach for a more sedate amble, I find its sides disconcertingly peppered with equally genu-ine bullet holes…

Welcome folks to Knott's Berry Farm, America's oldest theme park, 10 minutes from Disneyland in California's Orange County, and a must-do on that USA holiday whether you're six or 60, and whether you're looking for a hell-raisin' coaster rider, or just mosey-in' around for photo opportunities with Charlie Brown, Lucy, Snoopy and the Peanuts Gang.

Walter and Cordelia ('Ma') Knott were struggling to make a living on their berry farm in the 1930s Big Recession when Cordelia had the idea of frying up some of their farm chooks and serving them to visitors to help make ends meet.

Her first eight customers on a June day in 1934 ate their meals off the Knott's wedding-present china in the family dining room, and so good was Cordelia's home-recipe golden fried chicken, creamy potato mash and tasty gravy, that most came back, bringing family and friends with them.

Soon folks were queuing for Ma's chicken dinners, and to kill time while they waited for a table, Walter brought-in some abandoned ghost-town buildings they could wander through; he then found a rusting old 1880's Denver and Rio Grande steam train that no one wanted, did it up and offered visitors rides on this on a narrow gauge track he laid around the farm.

Then came that rattling old Butterfield Stage Coach: America's first theme park was born.

Today, Knott's Berry Farm serves 1.5-million of Ma Knott's original family-recipe chicken dinners a year, and nearly as many servings of cherry, rhubarb or boysenberry pie, buttermilk cookies, ice-creams and preserves.

And from Walter's still-standing ghost town buildings there are now over 160 rides, shows, attractions, and shops to while away a day or two…

We late-in-life thrill seekers head straight for GhostRider, a 1400-metre long wooden roller coaster that reaches speeds of 100k's. It includes a 35-metre high swooping drop, and 13 hills, banks and turns, and has been voted by coaster freaks as America's "best ride."

Then its to the hair-raising Supreme Scream in which we're hauled up a steel tower the height of a 30-storey building, with nothing but fresh air and a safety-belt holding us to our bench-seat – and not dropped, but blasted ground-wards… at over 100k's an hour in just 3 seconds, springing bungy-like half-way up the tower again. Twice.

Others in the Knott's arsenal of speed thrills are heart-stoppers Boomerang and Montezooma's Revenge, Bigfoot Rapids, and Perilous Plunge – the world's tallest, steepest and wettest water ride in which 24-passenger coasters hurtle down a 75-degree water-slide from 40-metres up – creatng a splash at the bottom the height of a 4-storey building.

We get ourselves spun-dried after this in a cage that spins riders 25m into the air... then head for Silver Bullet, a near-1000m long coaster on which we're propelled at 90kmh through six 360-degree inversions and dropped almost vertically 33-metres.

For the kids and the more sane-minded there's Camp Snoopy's Charlie Brown Speedway mini-racers, a Ferris wheel, Snoopy's Red Baron Airplanes, Rocky Road Trucking Company's mini 18-wheelers, a kid-sized roller coaster called Timberline Twister, a restored 1896 Carousel, the steam train (now the oldest ride in the park) and that stage coach.

And a sedate splash through the easy-going Timber Mountain Log Ride, a simple runaway ore train ride in the blacked-out Calico Gold Mine, and Lucy's Tugboat…

Go visit: you'll find it a quick and reliable heart check you should see if you can claim on your health fund.

(For USA holiday packages incorporating Knott's Berry Farm phone Canada & Alaska Specialist Holidays on 1300 79 49 59, or email sales@canada-alaska.com.au)

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PHOTO CAPTIONS:

[] IT'S wise to do Montezooma's Revenge before lunch

[] UPSIDE down view of the world at a hundred k's on the Silver Bullet

[] BOOMERANG – twists and turns to get back where you started from

[] MORE sedate: steam train ride is the oldest attraction at Knotts Berry Farm

[] ORIGINAL wild west building that kick-started America's first amusement park


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