All right, maybe Kris Rowberry is a little crazy about amusement parks.
He's visited dozens across the country, pulling the rare 4-6-9 last summer by hitting four Six Flags in nine days. He's been on 183 roller coasters. He can recite the names of long-gone parks the way some people say their ABCs.
And now, with a little help from his friends, he's setting out to memorialize more than two dozen shuttered Northern California parks in what has become the digital era's amber: YouTube.
"It really goes back to when I was a child," says Rowberry, a 29-year-old radio producer from Redwood City. "We would go to Great America and the Boardwalk once a year, and I was always fascinated by them."
Yes, there is an entire subculture of amusement park enthusiasts who fill YouTube with videos of their wild rides on elaborate contraptions designed to simultaneously make you lose your nerve and your lunch. But Rowberry has a different take on the whole genre. Why add to the noise when you can do something more?
What struck me most about Rowberry's effort as I talked to him over a late lunch last week was the way he deploys the cutting-edge tools of the present to help preserve the long-forgotten icons of the past.
"Five years ago this definitely wouldn't have been possible," says Rowberry, considering the gadgets that go into his productions.
Rowberry works with coaster enthusiast Nicholas Laschkewitsch, 19, a La Selva Beach college student who knows his way around video production. They rely on GoPro mountable cameras, editing software and even a flying drone for aerial shots of the sites of parks long forgotten. They promote their videos with social media and they even used Facebook and the like to get the owners of the Santa's Village property in Scotts Valley to open up the shuttered park's land to their cameras. They catalog the films in their "Lost Parks of Northern California" series on the Web at www.greatamericanthrills.net
And their frequent editing sessions? Given that Rowberry is in Redwood City and Laschkewitsch lives on the Santa Cruz County coast, they have a tech solution for that, too.
"We at least once a week go on Google (GOOG) Hangouts," says Laschkewitsch, who shares his editing screen virtually with Rowberry as the two make tweaks. "It makes the editing process much easier and we're able to get the production out a lot faster."
Maybe we're all a little jaded when it comes to the way that technological leaps make work easier and make us more productive. But there is a certain delicious quality to the idea that the tools of Silicon Valley give all kinds of people the opportunity to capture the times and places that break-neck progress has plowed under.
In fact, Rowberry is motivated in part by high-tech's general disregard for history.
"The culture has changed," says Rowberry, who was one person this newspaper followed four years ago in the Pink Slip series, which chronicled the unemployed's search for work. "We don't really save a lot that is historic here. We're just happy to let it go."
Still, you can't save every building or amusement park; and the parks that Rowberry and Laschkewitsch are documenting are already gone. But tributes via video, which has become a cheap and easy medium, offer a chance for fans who favor all sorts of things -- taverns, buildings, ballparks, trains, newspapers, airplanes, cities, battlefields, department stores and on and on -- to save or revive the artifacts they find precious.
"It was the one time that my whole family was there," Rowberry says of those early days at Great America and the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk. "It was always all four of us -- my mom, my dad, my sister and I. I don't remember having a bad experience at any of those places. And you know what? We probably did have a bad experience, but I don't remember it."
No, the memories are good and powerful and the kind of thing that Rowberry would like others to share. And so his Lost Parks project marches on. He expects to post a retrospective on Santa's Village before Christmas. (Yes, there is a little marketeer in Rowberry, who is doing the project as a hobby, not for profit.)
"I hope they get nostalgic," Rowberry says of those who watch his work, "that they remember all the fun that they had at these parks and that they remember that time is fleeting -- and so is history."
Time and history are fleeting, but Rowberry, with the help of tech tools, has found a way to reach out and grab memories before they slip away completely.
Contact Mike Cassidy at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5536. Follow him at Twitter.com/mikecassidy.