Let the Thunder Roll!

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This past weekend I took a trip down to Gatlinburg, TN with the family and and a friend from work and his family. He's from Knoxville and had a cabin rented in the Smokie Mountains that he didn't want to spend full price on. So he called me and we split the cost.

We headed out last Wed the 17th a little after one from Dayton. After a couple stops we made it to my friend's home around 8:00p.m. We went to the cabin the next day and then went into Gatlinburg.

Took the tram up to the top of the mountain. If anyone goes there I highly recommend this especially when we went with all the leaves changing color! Absolutely gorgeous! We did the alpine slides. My friend had his two year old and I had mine and we kicked their butts down that mountain. It was a good alpine slide but the one in Park City is a lot better because it has some drops on it that you can catch air on. At any rate, we played some Bubble Chexx Hockey and I won at the last second! The shooting gallery is pretty funny also with all the little water spouts that shoot out when you hit a target. We did a bunch of other stuff and went back to the cabin. Thursday over.

Friday morning the wives wanted to go Outlet shopping and I said go ahead...hoping that if I let my wife do this she would take care of the little one later on when I wanted to go you know where! So they went shopping and my friend and I took the boys to do what everyone does in Pigeon Forge...race go carts! Hint: most tracks are buy one get one free before noon. We had a blast strapping our little two year olds into the double go-carts and racing them around the track. I talked my friend into going over to the NASCAR Speedpark in hopes of riding their coaster. Well my two year old was all of a half inch too short of their 39 inch requirement to ride. Plus it was going to be $5 to ride for each of us so I said screw it and I guess I'm not as much of a credit whore as I thought. $5 to ride that kiddie thing, come on I paid that to ride Manhatten Express when it first opened.

After that we took the kids home for a nap and right after they fell asleep my friend gave me his keys and told me to get out of there and go ride my coasters and he'd take care of the kids. He said he couldn't justify spending the money for a couple of rides so off I went alone, which turns out to be very good.

I left the cabin at 2:15 Fri. afternoon and got to Dollywood at 2:35. I was in the gate and on my way at 2:45. I debated waited until 3:00 so I could come back the next day but I knew that probably wouldn't happen anyway so off I went.

First thing I noticed about Dollywood was the long narrow parking lot, that is a preview for what you find in the park itself. For those of you who haven't been here, Dollywood is literally built into the Smokie Mountains. This makes for beautiful scenery but very narrow paths. I got into the park and it was packed! I thought this won't be good because I didn't have a whole lot of time to ride in the first place. I decided to hit the Tornado first, the Blazing Fury and save the best for last according to the reports. As I walked...sped walked...okay I was quickly jogging back to the Tornado I started to notice something else a little different about this park...everyone seemed to be old. I'm not trying to be rude or stereotype here, I'm just stating what I saw and as I approached my first ride this observation was money in the bank. Ride time for the T Tornado said 0 minutes. I ran up to the station and could have gotten on in any middle seat but decided to wait the three trains for the front.

Tennessee Tornado

They were running run train with no real hold ups and for an arrow the OTSR were not bad at all. The coaster is way back in a "canyon" that makes for some very nice autumn views. The initial dip off the lift into the turnaround for the real first drop gives the train some nice speed. The drop through the tunnel is awesome and then you go into this one of a kind arrow loop. That loop felt so weird I knew I had to ride this at least one more time just to figure out what was up with that before I left. After the loop you have a nice overbanked turn into another loop then a half of a butterfly into another overbanked turn and the brakes. The overbanks are something I didn't expect but really enjoyed. As stated before I got off and went right back on and got in the last car this time with another single rider in the back. The back is way better than the front on this for me because of the floater air you get the whole time down the first drop. The loop is a little different then most because it seems to have a slight bank to the left as you enter it then a slight bank to the right as you exit. Did anyone else notice this? Anyway, excellent ride, with the terrain and now I'm sad like most everyone else that has ridden this, that Arrow hasn't built anymore of their new and improved steel looping coasters anywhere.

Blazing Fury

This is a dark ride slash coaster that had some okay drops at the end but for me I guess it became another credit.


Now it was off to the main event. Walking up to Thunderhead is more breath taking than all those colored leaves I saw the day before on my tram ride. GCI has built a masterpiece. Props to Mike Boodley on designing this twisted vine.

I got in the shortest line I could find and then they started calling for any single riders. Well that was me and I got a seat second from the back and off I went with a kid that was there with his sister and grandma who were doing shops and shows. He had ridden Thunderhead about 20 times. This wasn't my first GCI coaster but it was my first time to be in the much talked about and hyped Millennium Flyer Trains.

We reached the top of the lift where they now have installed a bunch of mist sprayers, and down we dove. The only thing I really remember about the first ride was feelings of pure ecstasy. (That is the feeling not the drug), but this coaster was a drug of its own because after one ride I was 100% addicted. I believe I read Sean's trip report right before I went down to Dollywood and he said the ride felt slow, well if it was slow the day I went then going fast must be insane because I thought we we going to fly off the track!

Since I was a single rider I was able to keep jumping right back on the train with the help of the wonderful ride operators running Thunderhead that day. Thanks so much Ron! I got a ride in the front, back, and all in between. I couldn't find a bad seat on this ride. After my second ride I decided this thing had more airtime than Ghostrider and had such constant intenseness that it outranked the Beast for me. I would probably give it a tie between the two if it were a Beast night ride. This ride is that good and those trains, they make my eyes water. No other train would even be able to make it around that twisted snake. Dollywood hit a grand slam with this ride. Not only do they have the "old" people, they are going to start to get a pretty nice fan base of young people coming back to ride this southern pine!

I got a total of 7 rides on Thunderhead and I left with a huge smile after each one. Even the GP were raving about this one. My last ride was with a father and his two sons and they decided to try Thunderhead out but they liked steel loopers a lot more than wood. Well I talked Thunderhead up to them before we got on and you should have seen their faces when the ride was over. This ride changes steel coaster fans into woody fans after one ride. This ride is that good. They ran off the ride and right back into the line for another spin.

I got into the park at 2:45 and left at 4:30. In one hour and 45 minutes I got 2 rides on T Tornado, 1 Blazing Fury ride, and 7 rides on Thunderhead. With a military discount you get in for just under $30. $3.00 a ride...seems like I'm stealing compared to NASCAR Speedpark.

Let's see...was it about 6 to 7 hours to PCar for the flyers or 6 to 7 hours to Dollywood for Thunderhead. I know where I would go. Yes, this ride is that good!

Thanks for reading...sorry if I was long winded.

Doug *** Edited 10/27/2004 6:20:45 AM UTC by S&SFAN***

BullGuy's avatar
I wonder if those misters have something to do with wasps building nests at the top of the lift.

Never Has Gravity Been So Uplifting.

You could be right BullGuy. However the operators told me they had to shut the ride down earlier that same day because of the wasps. I saw my fair share while on the ride also, but they kept it running for the short time I was there.
Don't know what it is with wasp in the fall. All the coasters at PKI get swarmed with them at the tops of the lifts. I've never gotten stung though.

Those alpine slides are one of the few things that actually scared the crap out of me. I wonder what the actuall injury report is on em as there are drop offs. On my one and only ride I got bad road rash as a result of not spacing enough and having to hop off the sled to keep from creaming the person in front of me.

Glad you enjoyed DW, I intend to make it there soon.


S&SFAN said: GCI has built a masterpiece. Props to Mike Boodley on designing this twisted vine.

Don't forget to give Jeff Pike props for the design too. Jeff and Mike both designed Thunderhead.

rollergator's avatar
But some emgee from the 'buzz did those awesome trains...;)
Gee, I wonder who that could have been...:)

I can't wait to go to Dollywood in December and ride that beast. Thunderhead, Tennessee Tornado, and Blazing Fury with Danny, Dawny, Tina, Kris, Mike, and me? Now that is an event not to be missed.

Mamoosh's avatar
The loop is a little different then most because it seems to have a slight bank to the left as you enter it then a slight bank to the right as you exit. Did anyone else notice this?

Arrow calls it a "loop-screw." Tornado is the only coaster with such an inversion.


Great Park, great Coaster... fantstic food!
wish i could go in december...

Great Lakes Brewery Patron...



Thanks for pointing that out...Props to Jeff Pike also on Thunderhead. You guys did one awesome job!


Thanks for clearing that up...It really caught me off guard the first time I went through that "loop-screw", but it is a cool little twist to a normal loop.


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