Six Park East Coast-ish Trip 06\24 - 06\29

Got family in North Carolina I visit every year, so I've been looking forward all year to tacking on a coaster trip like this. It's only my second summer of coaster enthusiasm and I'm a California man, so pretty much all these parks are new to me! Apologies in advance for a little light-hearted profanity

Trip started at Dollywood, and the whole family came along for this one. My dad's pretty well disabled by Parkinson's (he can stand and walk only for short periods, so I'm pushing a wheelchair all day), but he's still a thrillseeker, and my niece is finally tall enough for some real rides, so it should be fun. We ride Lightning Rod first thing, because I expect it to break down at some point. It's everything it's cracked up to be, with none of the roughness I've heard reported. I was nervous this would be too aggressive for dad, but we all love it and would go for more rides if my mom and sister weren't waiting somewhat impatiently, God bless them. The cinnamon bread is also as good as advertised and the Bald Eagle sanctuary is a nice surprise.

Next is Blazing Fury with my sister and the younger niece; I don't know it at the time, but at about 30 minutes, this will be my longest line of the whole trip, which is just unbelievable. The theming on this reminds me of the stuff at Knott's - delightfully outdated animatronics. Next we head for Wild Eagle. I'm cool with one ride but my dad and niece stay on for another, they like it so much. Ride ops here are particularly helpful with him. Likewise for the ride ops at Tennessee Tornado. I was personally a little disappointed by that ride but it's ok.

After stopping to have pizza (more on their vegetarian options to come) I ride Firechaser with the girls and they both love it, as I knew they would. The backwards sections actually gave me quite a thrill. Next is Mystery Mine with my dad and niece and we had a really unpleasant experience with a ride op here (we didn't even end up riding it), but I won't dwell on that much. Came very close to ruining everyone's day, but the ladies in the Accessibility Office later were wonderful and made things right, so Dollywood still gets highest marks for customer service. Like I said, everyone else working that park was really cool all day. after leaving Mystery Mine I ride Thunderhead with my niece and don't process it at all because I was still really upset at that point. It's surreal to be on a coaster and have your thoughts so preoccupied that you can't even register the experience.

The family was just tired at this point and went to the hotel (didn't even go to Wildwood Grove!) but I stay and get the credits and re-rides I want. Dragonflier is a top-tier family coaster, Mystery Mine is well-themed but rough, and Thunderhead is actually a very good ride.

Only bummer of the day is that everyone looks at me funny when I inquire around about a veggie burger or something and they offer me a cheese sandwich instead. Not even grilled cheese, just American slices in a hamburger bun. Come on, Dollywood! Can't complain, though, when Lightning Rod is a walk-on all evening with just a brief thunderstorm clearing out any remaining crowds, so I stay there til closing and get some jaw-dropping sunsets at the top of the hill.

Ride the bus back into town with all the employees, who I learn are mostly Dominican and pay quite a bit out of pocket to come to the states, work the season and go to school here. Good on them. The bus driver actually stopped the bus to shush them because they were talking to each other fairly loudly, you know, like they had just got off work together? I think it was essentially a lightweight racist move because they were all speaking Spanish, so **** that driver.

Next day I head off on my own for Holiday World. I personally don't dig the holiday theming, but they don't charge for parking, give a discount ticket if you arrive after 3pm, and have free sunscreen and soft drinks. Any one of those is pretty much unheard of; all four make this probably the best theme park deal on the planet. I ride Legend and Raven first. The laterals on Legend are too much for my tastes, so I prefer Raven for it's more straight drops and airtime moments. Thunderhead was better than both of these, in my opinion. I bypass Voyage to ride Thunderbird a couple times. I gotta say, everything is a very long walk in this park, but if I was making use of the waterpark in the center I probably wouldn't care. Thunderbird is good, better than Wild Eagle and more fun the second time on the back\left side, for what it's worth.

Next I head for Voyage, and it's closed! Disaster? Thankfully, the guy working the front assures everyone they're just cleaning up a "mess," and it's going to be back up soon. This ride is phenomenal. One of my favorite woodies, for sure, for all the reasons everyone mentions. I do have to say, at this point, that the restraints on all the wood coasters here are probably the absolute worst, in my book. I think they're PTC L-bars? The way you have to squeeze your legs together was terribly uncomfortable for me. It doesn't come close to ruining Voyage, but did affect my opinion of the ride somewhat.

I checked earlier, and they have a black bean burger (it's not hard, Dollywood!) which they offer to make while I catch another ride on Raven. It took longer than it should have, and I must say I had issues with the stations on this and Legend. Everyone gets bottlenecked at the entrance to the point that some trains were running with empty rows just because nobody could get through to those rows. Not very efficient. Anyway, they held my burger even though the restaurant had closed (very nice people, all-around, at this park) and I eat it whilst hustling to Voyage for a few more rides before closing.

Next day Kentucky Kingdom. It's hot as hell and there's no shade for everyone waiting for the park to open. Forget about free sunscreen. A lack of shade in general struck me about this park, but otherwise it's cool. Lightning Run is great, but I'm starting to feel the last few days in my lower back and only have a couple rides. This was much more of an issue on the RMC's later in the trip. This is my first Chance coaster, and I can't fathom why we aren't seeing more of these. Kentucky Flyer is next. A fun little ride with nobody on it, either because nobody can find the entrance or they are all in the water park. More parks should build little woodies like this. Sea World San Diego would be a perfect fit.

I ride T3 next, my first SLC, and I don't understand the negativity. To me, this was as good, and no more rough (possibly less, in my opinion), then any of your B&M inverts. I ride it twice. Next is Storm Chaser, which I find to be uncomfortable in some transitions and elements. My least favorite RMC, but that's just me and my bad back, maybe. I don't have anything to say about Thunder Run, really. They don't have much for vegetarians here, except for an above-average Greek salad at Swamp Water Jack's, which is probably the most charming theme park eatery I've seen, with its warped walkway and mismatched chairs. I'm a bit disturbed to see they have a sea lion show here. Sea World takes all the flak, but you'll never convince me those animals have it worse than sea lions in Kentucky. Why does this need to exist?

At this point, I'm worn out from the heat and the last couple night's rides, and the smell of chlorine is making me a bit nauseous, so I make a long drive back to Carolina to see the family off and get a free night's sleep and do some laundry.

Next day the family heads for the airport and I head for Carowinds. Went here for the first time last year. I consider this my home-away-from-home park, but I don't think I'm being biased when I say this place is severely underrated. Great top coasters and kids section, really friendly staff and public in my experience, live music performed outside as you're walking past (not even Dollywood had that), and a badass burrito place to set even a vegan's heart aflutter. Great park. Everything was basically a station-wait at most, including Copperhead Strike! I actually caught a show (to escape the heat...more to come), which I never do, and it blew me away. This acrobat-pantomime show with dudes dressed as squirrels and hillbillies and stuff. Very funny slapstick with no dialogue whatsoever, and remarkable stunts.

I was only really here for Copperhead and Fury, though I did manage to add the Kiddy Hawk and Ricochet credits I missed last year. Fury really re-established itself as my #1 ride, even above the other world-class coasters on this trip. Copperhead is a ton of fun, with unbelievable hangtime, superb theming, and good elements throughout. Kiddy Hawk doesn't hold a candle to Dragonflier, and was rougher than I thought possible. I shuddered every time I looked at Nighthawk and laughed my head off when I saw some tshirts being sold on which it was prominently featured.

Next day drove to King's Dominion. I gotta say, this was the prettiest opening plaza I've seen in a park. While Ligtning Rod was the one I most eagerly anticipated, I305 was the one that kind of scared me. I hit up Twisted Timbers and Backlot first just to get I305 to be my 150th credit, because I'm that kind of nerd. Twisted Timbers operations are frustrating; we're talking 3+ minute dispatches, routine stapling, and an asinine metal detector system. They give you a red card if you set the detector off, but then don't even check if you zipped your **** up when they come round to collect the cards, so what's the bloody point? Also, if you grunt when they staple you, they will offer to loosen it, which is nice, but again, seems paradoxical. I didn't care much for the ride, but that's just personal due to my lower back issues, I suppose, though I would argue there are a couple of elements that are poorly profiled and probably cause most people discomfort. I still rode it like five times through the day, of course.

On to I305. What the actual **** were they thinking? I've never "greyed out" on a ride and kind of took an inordinate pride in that, but I greyed out on every single ride and literally forgot where and who I was a couple of times. I feel like if a safety inspector actually RODE this, it would get shut the **** down immediately. There's going to be a whole generation of Virginians with cognitive deficiencies because of this ride, I swear. That said, I ****ing loved it every time and got about a dozen rides, mostly in the back row, throughout the day. I put this below Fury, though, in part because there are less airtime moments and in part because I think it's a bit too intense to be consistrntly re-rideable. At first I could only ride it twice in a row, and throughout the day I found myself wondering like, "Should I have something to eat first?" or "If I eat first will I pass out and **** my pants?" So yeah, this is number two. Later finished the night with a front-row ride as a thunderstorm looms on the horizon. Very cool.

The rest of the rides were...kind of been-there, done-that. Dominator is probably my favorite floorless, but I only rode it once because I hate floorlesses. Flight of Fear is rougher than the one at King's Island? Backlot is better? Who knows. Racer 75 surprised me by not being very rough, and was therefore very fun. Grizzly was neither of those, but the scenery was nice. Anaconda was kind of beautiful over the water. For a day this was my #1 Arrow. I forgot Volcano was ever a thing until I walked past a still-on-display stats poster where it used to be. Avalanche was the surprise highlight of the park. Much better than La Vibora (seemed to be a different design?) and honestly my second-favorite ride at the park.

Given my good experience the previous day at Carowinds, I caught the cirque show here and it...wasn't quite as good. Space themed, very "Trip to the Moon"-inspired set and costumes. The acrobatics were, of course, stellar, but the comedy wasn't quite as on-point, despite (or because of) a more plot-driven story with dialog. I wonder if they rotate these productions between parks? Anyway, it's something I'm going to look for more in the future, especially when it's hot as hell outside. Do they have a veggie option here? Yes they do. A good black bean burger. Are you listening, Dollywood?

The next day, I briefly consider trying to hit Six Flags America before finishing my trip at Busch Gardens, but I'm tired of driving, tired in general,'s Six Flags America (rimshot). So I head to Busch, hit the off-ramp, and...get stuck in a 30+ minute snarl leading up to the parking lot. It's bad. I'm thinking, "Well here's all the crowds I was wondering about all trip," and then I'm thinking, "Oh, no, I'm actually gonna piss my pants" and then, "How much trouble will I get it in if I whip it out and go behind a tree in the parking lot?" I barely make it, but my mood is definitely taking a dark turn due to the discomfort and size of the crowds.

But then I actually got in the park and stopped first in the fudge shop for a water bottle. The combination of the sight of those mouth-watering sweets and the sweet old lady shilling them immediately chilled me the **** out. Not literally - it was an unbearably oppressive scorcher all day. But I started to smile and be pleasant to people around me, so I had an infinitely more enjoyable day than I would have otherwise. I was looking for a light coaster day after a long trip, so I actually started the day with a train ride, another first for me. Had a good chat with the girl working the train station, as well. I'm not always a miserable ****heel :)

Busch Gardens is everything people say it is: stunning scenery and themery throughout. I found it a bit difficult to navigate, but getting lost in this park would be really nice on a day when it's not a billion degrees in the shade. I was actually looking forward to a good zoo, since Busch Tampa was one of the best I've ever seen, but I was wrong to expect that. It's just a delightful amusement park, and that's ok. They did have an awesome Grey Wolf exhibit!

I planned to ride everything just once, because I was wrecked from a long trip and did I mention it was hot as balls? Invadr is alright. Nicely themed or at least decorated, and a good middle ground between Kentucky Flyer and Voyage. Griffon was kind of whatever. I probably would've enjoyed it more if I wasn't starting to nurse a headache. I'm hungry, but none of the employees I ask knows where I can get something vegetarian, and this food and wine festival almost seems to be mocking me. I stop in the Battle for Eirye to beat the absurd heat, and I'm kind of blown away. Awesome animated intros in the queue. First VR thing for me and I love it, in no small part due to the originality of the IP, which can be said for all the theming here, as well. Also, the O'Potaties (or something) restaurant just outside has an absolutely killer salad bar, so there you go!

Despite the crowds, most everything is a station-wait, to the point that it's faster to go through the regular line rather than wait at the Quick Queue entrance. Oh well. Loch Ness might now be my favorite Arrow coaster, but ACE landmark? Sure, I guess, but aren't there only like 40 of those? Her? Walking along the river by the boats would be really nice...if it weren't so damned hot. I get an Icee and we really need to talk about these paper straws nowadays. I'm all for conservation and that, but these are just useless garbage, so are we really reducing waste here? My expectations for Verbolten were perhaps a bit too high, but it's fun and the drop track (my first? I forgot if Mummy or Gringgarbage had one) is legitimately terrifying, even though I know it's coming. I don't care for inverts so I have nothing much to say about Alpengeist except that on a day like this it seems a cruel joke to theme it after a ski resort.

At this point, I'm really just powering through the credits, on the verge of death, and I head to Tempesto next, where I experience a coaster enthusiast existential crisis. This is kind of a long wait. It's hot as hell, I'm tired, I have a headache, and I know EXACTLY what this ride is and what it's going to feel like. Why am I doing this? Do I really need to ride it to claim the credit? Who am I doing this for anyway? Is God even watching me and does my life really have meaning?!?

Anyway, I'm really impressed with the theming even on this ride, the little circus-style posters and old-timey daredevil guy in the safety videos. Kudos, Busch. And the ride was pretty fun. Last ride of the day and the trip is Apollo's Chariot. It's good, but a middling B&M compared to others I've ridden, elevated only by the terrain around it. They're running three trains which is actually a bad thing on a day like this, because it's a damn station wait anyway and we're left on the brake run too long. Normally I'd re-ride this, but it's really ****ing hot. I'm done. I get some matcha ice cream on the way out at the Japan food festival kiosk. It's got soy sauce on it. Weird.

Best rides of the trip:

1) Fury

2) Intimidator 305

3) Lightning Rod

4) Voyage

5) Driving the 441 through Smoky Mountain National Park between Cherokee and Pigeon Forge. Incredible theming! Great laterals on those snappy transitions! Killer helix! Seriously, a great drive if you come through that way.

Last edited by Coasterkeen,

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