I had just returned from a coaster trip to SF:StL, Holiday World, & Mt Olympus the week before; but when I got home my CoasterBuzz card was in the mail. I checked the website and there was an event scheduled for that Saturday (6/26/04) at PKI. I had never been to PKI, but I decided to do a little research and managed to get a hotel room in Cincinnati for $24/night on Priceline. Since they take your money if your offer is accepted, I had to go. I decided to hit another park too if I could find another good deal and started debating on where to go. Geauga Lake would also be a first time trip for me, but something told me to check the mileage to Dollywood. It was only 300 miles past PKI, so I did a Priceline search for that area. Thirty seven dollars a night was not bad, so I went to mapquest to get directions. The trip to GL from home was 970 miles, so I decided to leave that night and get a hotel half way just past Chicago. 34/night. This internet booking really beats just showing up like I did last year on my trips.
I got to the first hotel at like 3:30 AM and planned on staying till check out. With almost half of the trip done and not planning on doing anything that Thursday but completing the trip, I decided to sleep late. Unfortunately, that hotel had issues. Running water in the pipes and some unexplained beeping kept me from sleeping too much, and by 7AM I had been awake an hour and was ready to get up. I remembered seeing Holiday World flyers in the lobby and thought that maybe I could stop there for a bit since I would have some extra time that day. After looking at the map, I could see that it was about an hour or so out of my way. I got on the road debating with myself if it was worth it. I knew I was also close to Indiana Beach (I was about 10 miles south of the start of 65) but I did not remember how to get there and there were no flyers for that park. At about 9:20 I saw a billboard that said IB this exit, so I took it. I figured if the park opened at 10, I had time to get lost like I did last time when I had directions. Of course I could not find it and drove back close to the highway. I found a payphone and called for directions. Getting to the park well after 10, I was surprised to find a space right up front. I was more surprised to find they did not start till 11. But they do let you in the park, so I got my wrist band and walked around.
Since I was early, I decided to wait for Lost Coaster of Superstition Mountain to open because that line takes forever. At a few minutes past, it was obvious they were not going to open right away even though they did not bother to tell the gathering people anything. So I headed out to Cornball.
Last year they had this awful policy on their coasters to only run them once every 15 minutes unless there were less than 2 empty rows. That meant if there were very few people, you could not wait for the front because if you did not fill the train, they would just stand there. At some point they supposedly got rid of this policy…but not really. They still wait if the train is not full. It was not 15 minutes, but it was long enough to be really annoying. Also, there is a new sign that says you must get on and cannot wait for special seats, or you must exit the line. If the park could actually do some advertising, build some rides that draw people, and put up enough signs so people could actually find the park, the coasters would be full and they would not have to be that anally retentive with the few guests they do get. I think part of the problem is they still sell individual ride tickets and they don’t want to have all of them waiting for the front. If I paid $5 for one ride on Cornball and got stuck in the middle, I would be mad as *fill in the blank*.
IB management apparently does know what they are doing when it comes to woodie maintenance however. Cornball was greased to perfection and glided though the track. At times it did not feel like the wheels were even moving and that we were just sliding on ice. The ride is small and somewhat mild, but with perfect airtime at every possible moment if you are in the right seats. Personally I like the front better, but the back is just as good and I would not argue with anyone who preferred it. Just like Phoenix, Cornball delivers airtime at every opportunity, but unlike Phoenix, it is very high quality air. The coaster rides the track perfectly, and has moderate laterals as well.
I also took one spin on Hoosier Hurricane, got a half second of airtime (!), and then took one run on LoCoSuMo that was now open. I don’t want to overdo LoCoSuMo because that one is more fun when you don’t know what is coming next. I also picked up a credit on Galaxi because that was down last time I went. I got the back and there was nice air and laterals. Don’t miss it if you go. Not many coasters allow you to slide a bench like that anymore.
Last time I went, I skipped the up-charge Frankenstein’s Castle, but this time I went since many told me that I made a mistake. It was interesting, I’m not sorry I did it, but next time I am taking my 3.50 and I am going to get more tacos at that stand near LoCoSuMo.
I figured out how to wait under the Cornball station till the gates closed so I could get my seat of choice, and I abused the system to an obscene degree. After I had my fill of Cornball goodness, I left and drove toward Tennessee.
About half way through Kentucky, the weather came on the radio and said 100% chance of rain tomorrow (Friday). When do you hear that? I listen some more and they had a warning for flash floods from midnight to midnight on the day I was planning to ride Thunderhead. Thunder storms through out the day, flash flood warnings, several inches of rain predicted…I checked the mileage hoping I was further away than I was. The predictions continued the closer I got. In the hotel, the guy on the TV said light rains part of the morning and possible clearing in the afternoon. I decided to go…what else could I do? Normally I don’t check the weather because rain makes the coasters run better and it chases out the crowds, and thunder storms don’t last, but this was a big deal…or at least I thought so.
The desk clerk said Dollyworld does not do single day discounts. At 42/ticket, I was disappointed. They did have 2 day passes for the price of one (at the hotel…at the park a full admission after 3PM gets you the next day too), so I bought one knowing that I could not use the second ticket. Maybe I could sell it. (Note: the second day must be used within two days of the first.)
There was light rain in the morning so I stopped on the way and got a small umbrella. The park was a bit further from the hotel than I thought so I was a bit late. I got in at about 9:20 (they open at 9) and I opened my map looking for Thunderhead. This park does not draw the rides on the map so I had to read everything and while I was looking, a very nice older man (employee) came up to me and asked me if he could help me find something. I asked where the rollercoaster was and he said Thunderhead was over there *points to sign* *me smacks forehead* …but… they also have Tennessee Tornado which was the “tallest fastest loopingest mountain steel coaster in the world *insert some other creative descriptions here that I forgot*. He almost made me want to ride, but then had added, “but Thunderhead is just a wood coaster.” He was so kind and polite and helpful and misguided. I thanked him and left.
Very few people there, but the trains were filling up. The ride ops were the awesomest ever. Super friendly. Very enthused. THE BEST at finding single riders, BY FAR. And they were funny too. The nice lady at the mic with her southern accent (they all had ‘em) was just priceless. “I hope the rain did not hurt too bad, but I know it did…so that’s funny.” She was a riot.
My first ride was in the last seat, and by the time it was over, I was just like, “Wow.” I got about 8-10 rides total in the back, front and middle. The only way I can describe it is it is just perfect in every seat. Does it have the strongest, longest, or most airtime? No. Does it have the hardest laterals? No. Does it have the insane out-of-control feeling of the second half of Raven? No. It is just perfect. The ride just blasts you with amazing sensation after amazing sensation. No one element is the best you ever had (if you have been on several of the greats) but they are all right up there and there is one after another after another after another… and they come quicker than most coasters change elements. You keep waiting for one change of direction or drop or whatever to disappoint you a tad, and it never happens. Every inch of that track is flawless. If I had to pick the 3 most boring parts of the ride, it would be the ones that everyone is talking about. The first drop does have air in the back, but it is not Legend first drop airtime so it is one of the most boring parts of Thunderhead. The station fly-through makes you miss half a beat between the quick changes in the forces as does the handrail-headchopper turn that is a bit long. Those are all awesome elements, but they are the worst parts of the ride. The rest is better…a lot better. The airtime is very high quality in my book and happens over and over and over. What is even better is that the airtime fits the pacing perfectly. You fly up and out into a curve or whatever. You are constantly landing into the forces of the next element so that it makes you feel like a mogul skier. The ride is no rougher in the back than the front, and I did not notice more airtime on the ends than in the middle. On top of that, I love the trains. I can see that they won’t fit everyone, but they were nice and comfortable and they look great.
I wish I got more rides to continue to figure out this masterpiece, but they shut down the ride. One man told me that the breaks did not work so well wet. Another told me that ride was going too fast because it was wet, and was hitting the breaks too hard (almost the same thing, but not quite.) The first guy told me they were working on it and he did not know how long it would be. I started to wait, but he said it would be a while and at least 20 minutes after they got the all clear, so I decided to check out the rest of the park.
Every time I saw people singing in front of covered seats, I stopped…after all, it was raining. Apparently Dolly had lots of singing relatives. The shows were pretty cool. I kinda liked the one with all the birds. They had various birds of prey including a Golden and an American Eagle. I went into a large theater to get out of the rain not knowing what it was all about. I did not know this, but apparently singing vegetables love God. Who knew? Gotta love the good old Bible belt. I left there singing, “I love the bunny…”
Tennessee Tornado is awesome! Yes, I just said that an Arrow looper was awesome. In fact, I liked it better than Medusa (east), Hulk, and Montu. I know all you B&M fans probably don’t agree, but that don’t matter. I’m right, so…neener. The first drop is pretty much a double down. You might not count it as one, but it is close and the airtime is amazing in the back, so I’m calling it one. The inverting elements are large with tons of hang time and zero head-banging. The best part is that it knows when to end. Most Arrow loopers are fine at first but then they decide to increase their inversion count with a god-awful second half. If any coaster needs those “NOW YOU WILL PAY” idols from PKI, it is most of the Arrow loopers right at the mid-course breaks. But in Tennessee Tornado, you don’t have to pay for the great first half. You just get off. That is so cool.
Reading the map, it said Sidewinder was voted the number one non-coaster ride. I did not see by who or if was just in the park or what, but I decided to check it out, not knowing what it was. It turned out to be a large terrain waterslide (sort of like a bobsled track). I rode in the back and thought every turn was going to dump me. It was so much fun, but I got soaked. It was raining, but I got a lot more wet. I found a restroom and dried off the best I could.
I also found a building that said “rollercoaster” on a sign, so I went in. The ride is called Blazing Fury. At first I thought it was just a dark ride, but that it might be a coaster in the “Underground” sense of the term, but it turns out to be a dark ride, coaster, and water ride all combined into one. Not the best ride ever, but do check it out if you go.
The food in the park is awesome. I used to think Epcot had the best food of any park, but now I think it’s Dollywood. The prices are funny too. If you go to a stand that has traditional amusement park food, you will find typical amusement park prices. But if you go to a place with go old southern cooking, you will find reasonable prices. A large pop at a stand costs 2.69, but a bottomless glass at the all you can eat place I had lunch at was 1.99. Ironically, the only thing that was not any good was the cornbread. It was awful. Go figure.
Having seen as much of the rest of the park that I wanted, I wandered back to Thunderhead. It was still down. The rain had varied through out the day, but was usually just light. I sat on a bench to wait, and the guy came to me to tell me to go do the park because it would be a while if they did open. After chatting with him a bit and looking around, it was getting obvious that they were not fixing anything like the first guy had said. They were just waiting for it to stop raining. There was no thunder at all and the other coaster was open. I figured they would adjust the breaks and open it, but I did not expect it to stop raining. This upset me because every woodie I know of runs in the rain. Eventually the rain slowed to a drizzle and they still did not open. At this point, I was getting pretty upset. The rest of the park was nice, but I had come 1,000 miles to ride one ride, and it was down for an unacceptable reason, in my opinion. Sure, some of you think it is all about the park and not one ride and that I don’t know what is an unacceptable reason. I don’t care. I would not have come if it were not for Thunderhead, and coasters run in light rain. They even can run in moderate to strong rain sometimes.
I decided to go to guest relations. When I asked the lady at the window if they were going to open Thunderhead, she said she did not know. Then I said, “If you are not going to open it, I want my money back.” I was not planning to say that…it was just the next thing that occurred to me to say. “No problem sir,” she said and asked for my ticket. I was shocked, but I gave her my ticket, and she gave me cash. Then she had to put my name on her refund list and there were others who got refunds for the rain. They don’t give tickets or coupons if you are not satisfied, they give refunds. That is amazing service. Other than Thunderhead, Dollywood is not exactly up my ally as far my interests go, but with the amazingly friendly service I got through out the day and with them being willing to refund my money because one attraction was down and I was disappointed, Dollywood just move up to number one on my list of well run parks…even if they do shut down coasters in the rain. I don’t know when, but I will be back. No offense to Holiday World, Cedar Point or other friendly, well-run parks, but Dollywood really impressed me.
Leaving half way through the day, I was able to arrive in Cincinnati with enough time to get some much needed sleep. The next morning I was well rested and got to the park early and got in line to register for BeastBuzz.
I met lots of nice people briefly, but I did not want to hook up with anyone since I would be getting to all the rides and waiting in lines all day, and I figured most everyone that had been there before would be doing the scavenger hunt and tours. I bet most of you have been to PKI, so here are just fairly brief opinions I had on what I got to do:
Not what I expected, but very very good. This is the first coaster that has a helix that I actually look forward to. The second tunnel run in the helix is the only wood coaster track that rivals the second half of Raven for the totally out-of-control, insane feeling. I believe it is the only woodie on my top ten list without airtime. The tunnels at night are just amazing.
Son of Beast
Only did it once, due to the line and ride quality. It bounces you, but I don’t think it bounces you as hard as Beast does. However, it is 100 times worse because the restraints immobilize you to the point where you cannot absorb any of the shock any other way other than your brain rattling around in your skull. I am not kidding, I felt my brain rattling around in my skull. I was in 6.2.
Loved it. Would have preferred ERT on this as opposed to FoF, but FoF is good too. It reminds me of Rebel Yell, but a bit better.
Flight of Fear
The announcements outside the hanger are priceless. “The time travel committee will have a meeting last Friday at 0-eight hundred. Haha. The ride was great and both times I had the illusion that we were coming out sideways when we were right side up. I don’t remember that at PKD. Is that designed or is it just me? It’s probably me.
Reminded me of my days as a youngin on Scooby Do at Kings Dominion (my first coaster). I got a bit light in the back on the second drop, but I would not call it air.
I hate the Vekoma ear pads. The ride was okay, but it is still just a boomerang. Got the credit and won’t be back unless it is close to just station waiting and I am bored.
Okay ride. Not much to see here though. Best part was the less than 15 min wait.
What is up with the theming? I bet if they saved half of the money they spent on the theming they could pay someone to haul SOB away.
Amazing ejector air in the front at the crest of the second hill. It did hurt though with the OTSR’s. The rest of the ride was just as good/bad as most Arrow loopers. Like I said, the “NOW YOU WILL PAY” idols would be better theming for this ride.
My first Intamin free fall (other than the Demon Drop model). This is better than the S&S Turbo Drops and scarier too.
Funner and scarier than I expected. Night rides during ERT were a blast and had faster loading because enthusiasts can find their seat numbers. Yay us!
I had a lot of fun and I want to thank all those involved in BeastBuzz both with CoasterBuzz and with PKI. You all did a great job and I appreciate it. Since I added 2 new woodies to my wood top ten list, here it is if anyone cares:
3 Shivering Timbers
6 Cornball Express
9 Timber Wolf
If you read all that, WOW and thank you.
Great TR, sounds like a fun trip!
*** Edited 6/29/2004 1:22:49 AM UTC by BBSpeed26***
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