Let’s face it, when you’re 12 years old, you have a lot of stress in your life. Your report on “The Voyage of the Mimi” is due on Wednesday. On Thursday, they’re separating the boys and girls to teach us about public hair and penises – OMG how embarrassing! You still have to hit up a few houses in the neighborhood to sell pricey gift wrap for the school FUNdraiser (vinyl duffel bag, you will be mine!). And on top of all that, during computer lab time, your classmate Jessica died of dysentery in Oregon Trail. …Meh, she was a bitch. More food for the rest of us! *presses space bar to continue”
‘Ya gotta have a way to blow off that steam and during trying times like these, swinging from the monkey bars and playing tag just won’t cut it. Going for a long drive to clear your head would be ideal but you’re still three years away from your learner’s permit. What else could you do to ease your troubles? Badger your parents to take you to Gasoline Alley!
Located in Blaine off of Highway 65 next to a trailer park community, Gasoline Alley was one of those mini amusement parks with go-karts, mini golf, bumper boats, and an arcade. It’s the kind of place where a kid could be a kid (the same could be said about Vegas, but I digress). These types of mini family fun rec areas were pretty popular in the ‘80s and ‘90s, but you really don’t see these places around much anymore. Lilliputt is still in business, but whenever I drive by the place, it’s empty. What, kids these days would rather play Mario Kart or mini golf on the WII? The WII is great and all but nothing can beat planning your perfect hole-in-one shot by aiming your dirty neon orange golf ball at a fiberglass rhino’s tusk…have it ricochet off the wall and go through the windmill tunnel and into the hole…only to have your whole strategy foiled by a ruptured seam in the Astroturf. Seams don’t happen on a WII.
I don’t know when this place closed. Looking at it now, the place just looks spooky but back in its glory days, Gasoline Alley (much like Skateland) was a big elementary/middle school birthday party and field trip destination in the ‘80s and ‘90s.
We didn’t get to go to Gasoline Alley as much as we went to LilliPutt. It was either because LilliPutt was closer and/or Gasoline Alley was too expensive. Both amusement centers offered the same attractions, but Gasoline Alley was bigger and known for its go-kart track (though calling itself an “international raceway” is a bit of a stretch). Looking at it through adult eyes, it looks awfully lame. I couldn’t tell where the bumper boats used to be, the go kart track looks tiny, and the either they removed all the giant mini golf statues (except the windmill) or Gasoline Alley took a minimalist approach to mini golf and didn’t have any fiberglass animals. What’s the point of playing mini golf without a plastic yellow hippo giving you the stinkeye as you putt for par on hole #14?
Usually when my brother would pester Mom to bring him here, she would usually tell him no and to go ride his Big Wheel or play with his Micro Machines instead. On those rare occasions (i.e. his birthday) when my parents actually would bring my brother here (and a bunch of his friends), I would always tag along. I didn’t care much for go-karts, but like any kid, I did enjoy a game of mini golf (it really helped my short game!) or bumper boats to pass the time.
Gasoline Alley provided golden opportunities to bring out the wild child in any well-behaved kid. On the track, my brother would always try to side-swipe his buddy’s car to thwart him from winning the race. Out on the high seas of the bumper boat lagoon, I’d always try to ram my watercraft (which looked like an inflatable inner tube with a steering wheel & a cheap trolling motor) into some random unsuspecting stranger’s vessel and give them whiplash.
No need to sneer at me, you crybaby! Tough shit. This is bumper boats, not the fucking lazy river. Pushing and shoving with a side of whiplash is to be expected.
Trouble didn’t take a holiday on the links either. Kids have a short attention span, and after about 12 holes of putt-putt, let’s face it, you get bored and all the holes start looking the same (that’s what she said?) One hole has a slight hill and a giant spider. The next has a giant rocks that are supposed to resemble landmines and a water hazard to the right. Rinse and repeat. There’s only so many times you can get your ball stuck in a tube that’s filled with dead leaves and candy wrappers before you get frustrated. So it was around this point in the course where hitting the fiberglass tiger square in the eye with your golf ball was much more entertaining than actually trying to make par on the hole and pencil in a decent score.
But even that got boring after a while. Sure, the loud “ping” the ball made when it hit the statue was a riot, but sometimes, you need to cause a little more mischief. If you wanted to add insult to injury to the helpless synthetic beast, you could reach in your pocket and pull out anything with a sharp edge (utility knife, an well-worn slap bracelet, a fork) and carve an “I love Brian!” tattoo on the unfortunate tiger’s cheek. So many of the fiberglass monuments had innocent teenage graffiti on their plastic bodies and unfortunately, I admit to doing this once (sorry, I don’t know if it was at Gasoline Alley or at Lilli Putt).
Whatever. The fucker was looking at me funny. He deserved it. Besides, he looked like a kill-azz muthafucka with my wicked ink job.
So, what about the go-kart track? Well, looking at it now, it doesn’t look like anything special. Calling itself an “International Raceway” is a bit misleading – this isn’t the Indy 500. It’s just another loud and annoying go-kart track filled with screaming kids and mid-life crisis dads who wanting to take a quick break from their giant SUV with ample seating and an excellent safety rating and pretend to be Jeff Gordan for a few short minutes. The course itself looks like it had a slight hill to it, with lots hairpin turns allowing for chain-reaction braking and no acceleration lanes – what, did MNDOT design the track?
Gasoline Alley had an arcade so when you’ve had enough racing, bumper boating, and destroying the landscaping around the mini golf course, you could try to play some video games and hope they didn’t eat your quarters. The game room was pretty decrepit and had outdated games like Burger Time and shitty crap like a Love Calculator. On the arcade games that worked, you’d have to be a very good player to beat the computer; not because the artificial intelligence was set for super hard, but because your character was constantly walking to the right when you clearly were thrusting the sticky joystick to the left. And the “A” button had a coating of dried up soda all over it.
They also had a snack bar that had the shittiest food known to man. Yeah, I know, it’s a kiddie amusement park, so you can’t expect gourmet food, but the overpriced grub here was worse than SuperAmerica food. Decade-old wrinkled hot dogs on spinning on rollers, Totinos Party Pizzas cooked in a microwave, and a dessert cooler filled Flintstone Push Up Pops, Chipwiches, and those chocolate malt cups with the little wooden paddle spoon.
Okay, I admit, those desserts are pretty good…I could really go for a Chipwich right now.
Any memories of Gasoline Alley? Share in the comments!
Photos taken May 2009.