I finished up another semester at the University of Notre Dame and that meant one thing…time to ride some coasters. My buddy Scotty, his girlfriend Taylor, and I drove down to Pigeon Forge on Wednesday the 16th. I had no idea that Pigeon Forge was such a tourist trap; I especially liked the neutered Skyscrapers at the go-kart places and the tiny four-seater S&S swing. Scotty thought the “Jurassic Boat Ride” looked awesomely horrible but we never hit it up. Pigeon Forge’s biggest crowd pleaser among the three of us was the “WonderWorks” building; dubbed “An Amusement Park for Your Mind” this place is a bunch of weird attractions (earthquake simulator, 360 degree looping human powered bicycle) encased in an upside-down Roman looking building. As much as Pigeon Forge’s tourist traps tempted us, we had one thing on our minds: Dollywood (Scotty and I shrieked in delight when we saw ads for Mystery Mine).
We entered the park on Thursday…does anyone else think Dollywood could use a few more parking booths? There is a bit of a bottleneck as you enter the park, but I will say that we moved reasonably quickly through the booths. It was a bit crowded when we tried to enter the park on Friday for our second day, but Thursday we practically drove right in. I have to say, the parking situation was about the only thing I would find at fault with Dollywood for my first visit. As soon as we entered the park we asked where we could buy a Q-bot and a nice gentlemen escorted us over to the Q-bot station (wow, what courtesy!). The Q-bot people were very helpful and even offered us a refund if we found the park to be too dead. We booked a time for Mystery Mine, and by the time Scotty and Taylor were done smoking we were ready for this beast.
Wow, wow, wow. First of all, Q-bot would become our best friend as we never waited a second for Mystery Mine. The station looks great and I love the Mystery Mine theme song. Gerstlauer’s restraints are fairly comfortable and do not detract from the ride experience. While I don’t think there is too much I can spoil about this ride, I will say that the two 90+ degree drops on this ride totally rock. The ride’s finale is truly stunning with an absolutely amazing 95 degree drop into the heartline roll (that is actually heartlined *shakes fist at Stengal and Maverick*) finishing with the twist n’ drop. As my buddy Scotty would repeat over and over again, “The fun factor on this ride is just through the roof”. I could not agree more…Mystery Mine is very re-ridable and just so much fun. Not a top ten coaster, but definitely a top ten ride. Fantastic job, Dollywood! We would end up hitting this ride three more times as we just could not get enough of that finale.
After riding the Voyage last year I have been pretty excited to ride Thunderhead. This would be only my second GCI after Gwazi and my first trip on Millennium Flyers. As a side note I really like the way the lap bars both spring up upon unlocking and fall down with locking. Going up the lift hill my anticipation was through the roof. Man that sucker flies…a lot of great airtime entering all of those twists and just an overall fun ride. After my first ride I have to admit I was a bit disappointed, the ride was definitely good, but it did not have that “holy crap” factor that the Voyage delivers in spades. However, I will say that on my second and third rides (both in the very front seat) Thunderhead secured a second place spot so so close to the Voyage. I also got a very back seat ride which was so awesome…I liked it better than the front. Thunderhead is certainly more re-ridable than the Voyage and even carries an even fun factor as the Voyage. In some ways it’s unfair to compare the two rides as they are so different, but we have two incredible woodies here so there is nothing to lose!
A note on those MFers…I will grant that PTCs could not track a layout like Thunderhead; however, I did not think that the MFers were noticeably smoother than the Voyage’s PTC, for instance. The middle of Thunderhead actually had a reasonable amount of vibration that I was not expecting. Thunderhead delivered glass smooth rides in the front and back, though. After Thunderhead I am obviously interested in hitting Renegade and The Rumbler…GCIs are such beautiful and fantastic coasters.
Everything that has been said about this ride is right on…it was a little disappointing that they were only running one train but there was hardly any wait so I could not really complain. This ride packs one helluva punch…fast, furious, smooth, and tons of fun. It reminded me of Magic Mountain’s Viper but without the cookie cutter inversions. This ride was probably the biggest surprise of the whole trip.
Fire in the hole! Blazing Fury was very different than I expected (how the heck does that ride fit in that building?!?!). It felt like you never ascended, but the ride still had three reasonable drops! Once again, the fun factor on this ride was just through the roof.
It was not very warm but we had to hit this highly acclaimed non-coaster attraction. The Slidewinder was great, a unique concept on which I got totally soaked! This ride must get some brutal waits during the hot days of the season, however.
We would also hit up the Daredevil Falls log flume, the Ferris wheel o’ death, the spectacular 5 mile train ride, and the Sky Rider (super Eagles!). Two other noteworthy rides were the Timber Tower and the Dizzy Disk. Timber Tower was fun, but not too intense. I feel so bad for Dollywood as this Huss monster seems to go down every other cycle. The Dizzy Disk was way more intense than I expected…the harnesses are not very comfortable at all, and I can see how they could be pretty brutal for a woman. I will admit, however, that the ride starts off feeling just like Maxair but then turns into the psycho child of Maxair and a Gravitron. I wonder what the disks with the bunny hop are like.
Notes on the park
I cannot say enough about Dollywood. This park definitely “has it” all. I liked every employee that I encountered, and the place could not be any more beautiful. The Eagle Mountain Sanctuary is incredible and the entire craftsman’s valley section carries such a wonderful atmosphere. You can definitely tell that the people at Dollywood want some more Golden Ticket awards. With a few more signature attractions (while keeping the shows, food, nature, and crafts) this place could definitely give some other places a run for their money. I guess my only concern is Dollywood’s ability to handle crowds. The pathway leading up to Timber Canyon is waaay too small and many of the pathways and queues just seem too small to handle even moderate crowds. We’ll see how that pans out in the future. Overall, Dollywood is such a great park and I can’t wait to return to ride whatever their next huge attraction is. We would enter the park on Friday morning to hit up Thunderhead one last time and then it was off to Holiday World for Holiwood Nights.
We got to Holiday World at the beginning of Friday night ERT. While Scotty and Taylor smoked I could not contain my excitement and had to get a quick lap in on the Raven.
The Raven was in top form for Holiwood Nights. This has got to be one of the smoothest woodies I have ever been on (and it’s 10+ years old!). I had only been on all of Holiday World’s coasters during the day so all of these night rides were a new experience for me. I’m definitely a back seat Raven fan as you get plenty of airtime down that sweet first drop and the fifth drop. The smell in the forest is sooo cool, also.
What a different beast at night! I am most unfamiliar with the Legend, I have had the fewest laps on it and it is much longer than the Raven so there is much more there. At night I was getting tossed around so much since I didn’t know where all the turns were going. Once again I am a huge back seat fan on the Legend for that sweet first drop. The Legend can be a little brutal but it is still such a great ride. Those night rides were just so powerful and out of control I think I would put Legend right behind Thunderhead as my number three.
I did not have the opportunity to experience the waterpark last year so after Friday night ERT we hit up Splashing Safari first thing in the morning (at 11, not for the ERT brrr!). Zinga was definitely my favorite slide, with Zoombabwe in at a close second. Bakuli was also very interesting, and I loved being flushed down the toilet bowl. I also had a blast on the Jungle Racers and the Otto, Go, and Ron black slides. I can easily see why Splashing Safari is one of the top rated waterparks in the country. Everything was clean, and I never felt dirty after any of the rides. I wish it was a little warmer on Saturday, but it was definitely worth it to hit up some of these amazing slides.
Thunder Bumpers is such a hidden gem. The three of us were seriously laughing hysterically on these bumper boats. Since most of the kids could not figure out how to drive the things, Scotty and I would just line up at opposite ends of the pool and gun it head first for each other…explosions of water, wet butts, and hilarity ensued. I will also back Chuck’s comments on General Buzz that Plymouth Rock Café is a seriously good deal (not to mention seriously delicious). The Voyage walkback was very cool and I got to see just how unique this ride is in terms of its interaction with the terrain.
I also finally got to meet Nasai! I have always enjoyed Rob’s music and I saw a familiar face in line for the Voyage. Rob also introduced me to the (in)famous Moosh. :) I also got to meet a handful of other really great people…we’re all enthusiasts that love to ride coasters, what more could I ask for?!?!
Ah, the star of the trip. I have to say the night ERT on the Voyage was just something else. I had never had any night rides on this beast and oh my how she bites differently at night. I waited once for the very front and got my first night front seat ride. That one ride came so close to topping my inaugural trip on Dragster…The Voyage is pretty intense in some seats, but I was seriously blown away by how SMOOTH the front seat is. Also, with the darkness my friend Scotty commented that in the front seat it is basically like riding the ride with your eyes closed except that your eyes are open! The front is also quiet since the whole train is behind you, which makes for a pretty eerie effect when it’s just you and the wheel assemblies holding on for dear life. I also received an amazing trip in the very back seat. If you want a smooth, enjoyable ride, take the front…however, if you want airtime city take the back. I cannot believe how much floater and ejector air I got in the very back…I am definitely sure that there are 24 seconds of major air in the back seat.
I still can’t get over how fast this ride is. When I’m on it I sometimes wonder how the heck those PTCs are holding onto the track. I have just never been on any coaster that behaves the way this ride does. The Voyage is definitely going to take some upkeep, but I would give that duty to no other park than Holiday World. The Voyage is a winner! Kudos to the Gravity Group and Holiday World on a job well done.
My first enthusiast event was a huge success, and I can’t wait to see some of you at Coastermania (hopefully I make it out to the Point for that).
-Craig (who is now looking to see how El Toro stacks up to Thunderhead and the Voyage) *** Edited 5/24/2007 8:36:50 PM UTC by Craig the Coaster Freak*** *** Edited 5/24/2007 8:37:02 PM UTC by Craig the Coaster Freak***
Great read! Your enthusiasm is something I sometimes forget when it comes down to it all. This isn't just about coasters, of course, and I love hanging out, so I do go to these events hoping to meet up with friends. It was great to finally meet you as well. I felt famous. ;) For a second, I was trying to figure out who knew my name, and my old band. I'm glad our music made you happy. It was the same for me. :)
So now what? We should get together when we have a chance again. You're a great guy.
All the best,
Kentucky Rumbler is less than two hours away from Nashville, so if you ever want to revisit Dollywood or even Holiday World, let me know and we can see how it compares!
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