(Photo TR) zburns999's Southern Road Trip

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Re: (Photo TR) zburns999's Southern Road Trip

Postby Skittles » Fri Jul 13, 2018 6:36 am

Nice report from a park I'll be visiting soon! That's good to hear about Nighthawk running okay; I haven't ridden it since it was Stealth in the early 2000s, and enjoyed it then, so I hope I continue to enjoy it at Carowinds.
Coaster Count - 104 (as of Carowinds; my count is up to date with my trip report thread)

Top 10 under construction as I'm on my trip.

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Re: (Photo TR) zburns999's Southern Road Trip

Postby Arthur_Seaton » Fri Jul 13, 2018 7:34 am

Fantastic reports; really enjoyable to read! More, please!

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Re: (Photo TR) zburns999's Southern Road Trip

Postby bert425 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 9:15 am

great report!

and thanks for the fantastic overview of SFoG, since I'll be visiting for the first time in less than 2 weeks!

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Re: (Photo TR) zburns999's Southern Road Trip

Postby zburns999 » Fri Jul 13, 2018 8:33 pm

Thank you, all, for the replies! I'm glad people are enjoying the TR so far. I've been really enjoying putting it together, so it's a win/win. I had never bothered taking pictures at a park before, but now that I can see how much fun it is for me to go back and look at them afterward, I'll probably keep on doing it.

pfalcioni wrote:What a great TR! I loved all the RCT references, and some of your descriptions had me laughing out loud, which wasn't a good thing since I was reading in bed and woke not only my husband but the cat who is now revenge-kneading me in the back.

I'm glad I was able to provide a laugh, albeit at a price haha. Thanks for reading!

ThemeParkJunkie51290 wrote:Awesome report! =) I'm glad you had fun and really enjoyed yourself! I love visiting new parks because it gives me a chance to experience new levels of excitement!

I hear ya. I've been blessed to be able to get to many new parks in the past three years, as I've been making it a bit more of a priority. It's pretty darn spectacular to find yourself queuing for a coaster you've only ever dreamed of riding. That's the great thing about being a coaster enthusiast--there's always something new to experience!

PKI Jizzman wrote:Glad to see a TPR veteran posting more often!

Oh man haha, it's so weird to think of myself as a TPR veteran, but I guess that truly is the case. You're not going to find many people who have been around here for 13 years and have less than 500 posts. Maybe I'll break 1000 by 2031. Gotta dream big!

sixFLAGSman! wrote:Nice to know there's another Scorcher fan out there. Great trip report!

Yes! The only reason I even knew that Scorcher had a good reputation is because I can distinctly remember people raving about it years ago. I think that fan base has gone underground, though. Time to reunite!

coasterbill wrote:Great report! Afterburn is a back seat ride though. ;)

Thanks, man! You know, it's funny you say that. The other day I was driving on rt 78 passed Allentown, PA and decided, what the heck, I'll stop by Dorney for an hour (I hadn't been there since 2011). First thing I did was hit Talon in the back seat and all I could think was that I might have been wrong on my "all-B&M-inverts-are-front-seat-rides" presumption, because that thing was awesome in the back. If I had gotten the chance to re-ride Afterburn, I definitely would have tried the back seat. Oh well, next time.

jynx242 wrote:I have just really enjoyed reading this report!

SFoG is my home park, and I absolutely love that you had a good time there and liked it.

I'll agree on Twisted Cyclone, when the layout and POV was released, I was not too impressed. Then I rode it. LOL.

I'm so glad you've enjoyed it. You've got a helluva good home park. I hope it's not blasphemous to say it, but I might even place it above Magic Mountain and Great Adventure. My road-trip buddy, Rufino, must have been getting sick of me vocalizing over and over "wow this is a great park" spontaneously throughout the day, whether I had just ridden something I liked or saw a nice tree (or anything in between). Also, it seems like Twisted Cyclone is this year's dark horse coaster. With all the hype around Steel Vengeance and Twisted Timbers (still have to ride SV), this one was understandably overlooked. Honestly, that just made it even better. I was expecting greatness, but I got elite(ness?).

boldikus wrote:Fantastic report, I love SFOG so much and I'm going back soon so you got me excited.

Thanks, boldikus! Hope you have a great time.

boldikus wrote:^ I rode Goliath once or twice in the front and while it was good, I rode it in the back a dozen times, preferring it much more. Its a great hyper, love that there is no midcourse and that wonky turn at the end is ridiculous and very un-B&M. I rank it under Nitro and Mako but higher than Apollo, even though all of them are great. I'm just a B&M hyper fan.

Agreed; it's pretty hard not to love B&M hypers. I haven't been on Nitro since 2011 and Apollo since 2002, so I really need to ride those again to get a better idea of where I'd place Goliath. All I know is that I am one of the biggest Diamondback advocates you'll find, and for the time being, that'll be my B&M hyper benchmark haha.

bigcwd2000 wrote:Awesome report. That was a fun read.

Thank you! Glad you enjoyed it.

SFOG1991 wrote:So that’s the story behind the photo. Sad but true.

Ha. Thanks for that explanation. Unless I was being horribly unobservant (as I'm prone to being), I didn't notice anything projected on the wall. But it's funny you say that, because that was my immediate thought when I got off the boat and didn't see a photo booth...perhaps it they used it as part of the ride?. But let's be real. That ride is the most overstimulating smorgasbord of eccentricity imaginable; if I missed my face being projected on the wall, it's only because there was a Southern Belle with purple skin and a three foot neck yelling at me while the McDonald's Grimace danced a hoedown two feet from the boat.

Canobie Coaster wrote:Great report! That wave turn really does look incredible on Twisted Cyclone.

I actually think Goliath is far better in the back because of the three large drops at the start and added Gs on the downward helix.

Thanks! Yeah, the wave turn was really fantastic. One of the things that made TC so special was that both the front and back rows had an equally impressive laundry list of positives. One thing I loved about the front was that the wave turn felt much more dramatic. It was still really cool in the back, but in the front it just felt so...wonky. Two days, two wave turns (TC and Fury). And good to know about Goliath. That will ease my restless soul, which could not be quieted until I tried Goliath in the front. I'm still trying to get over the fact that I missed out on a Fury night ride, though!

Skittles wrote:Nice report from a park I'll be visiting soon! That's good to hear about Nighthawk running okay; I haven't ridden it since it was Stealth in the early 2000s, and enjoyed it then, so I hope I continue to enjoy it at Carowinds.

Thanks! I know that Nighthawk has its haters, but I really did think it was the best of the Flying Dutchmen I've ridden, possibly because it didn't have one of those brutal helixes on the end. But as a whole, I just found it to be pretty smooth. Maybe I just had a lucky seat? I dunno.

Arthur_Seaton wrote:Fantastic reports; really enjoyable to read! More, please!

Thank you! Will do.

bert425 wrote:great report!

and thanks for the fantastic overview of SFoG, since I'll be visiting for the first time in less than 2 weeks!

Thanks, Bert! Have an awesome trip!

Hope to have Dollywood up sometime within the next few days. Thanks again.

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Re: (Photo TR) zburns999's Southern Road Trip

Postby jedimaster1227 » Mon Jul 16, 2018 11:30 am

I really liked your take on the park! I've often considered Six Flags Over Georgia to be one of the better Six Flags parks (I'd rank it higher than New England, personally) and it looks like it has been well maintained since my last visit in 2011. I've been itching to get back to Atlanta anyways (mostly for the Georgia Aquarium and the World of Coca-Cola) and with Twisted Cyclone now open, it may be worth justifying a weekend trip in the near future!
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Re: (Photo TR) zburns999's Southern Road Trip

Postby zburns999 » Sun Jul 22, 2018 7:44 pm

Jedimaster1227, thank you for the kind words! Haven't been to SFNE yet (a travesty, as I spent 20+ years of my life less than 3 hours from it), but I hope to get there soon.

Park 3: Dollywood

When Dolly Parton's days on this earth are complete, she will leave behind a multifaceted legacy: her pioneering musical style, her altruistic spirit, all the plastic parts that aren't biodegradable, and her multi-million dollar theme park, Dollywood! Guess which one I'm here to talk about...

Dollywood is located in Pigeon Forge Tennessee, which I--as a native of the Pocono Mountains of Pennsylvania--was instantly able to recognize as another one of those kitschy, Las-Vegas-in-the-woods type places where dinner theaters, alpine coasters, and mega-sized wilderness lodges with indoor water parks join forces to ravage a beautiful, natural landscape. And it's every bit as awesome as it sounds!

Truth be told, I knew very little about Dollywood before visiting. This was by choice. I always thought it might be fun to visit a park whose layout I had never seen and whose ride/coaster lineup I was only kind of familiar with. This, you can imagine, took some real effort, considering I'm the kind of guy who, instead of impulsively checking Facebook or Twitter throughout the day, watches POV videos of roller coasters on YouTube. But let me tell you, it was a worthwhile endeavor. It was certainly a humbling and oddly refreshing experience to be standing at the park entrance with my face buried in the park map wondering where the hell the big, fast wooden coaster was because I couldn't see it anywhere and had not the slightest idea of where it was.

But before I get to talking about the park, let's start this TR the same way I've started the previous two: by talking about the weather. Riveting! We had stayed overnight with friends in Dickson, TN (a short drive from Nashville), where I had driven through some of the gnarliest storms I've ever seen. As a northerner, I have this ill-considered goal of seeing an actual, real live tornado in its natural habitat. The way I picture this happening is that I'd be looking off the side of the highway and there, in the (safe) distance, would be a perfectly-formed funnel cloud sweeping gracefully across the landscape. However, if I were to see a tornado, I imagine the reality would involve a little bit less safety and a little bit more urine in my pants. Ultimately, though, we would find only one Tennessee Tornado on this maiden voyage to the Volunteer State. Even still, the two-hour, sustained downpour between the Alabama border and Dickson made for the fourth straight day with a thunderstorm. And guess what? The day of our Dollywood trip threatened to be the fifth.

With rain in the forecast again, I sulked like a child the whole four-hour trip across the state as a light rain pattered on the windshield and a dense Smoky Mountain fog swallowed-up the car. All I wanted was one normal, full park day. But with storms forecasted for the late afternoon, it looked like we were going to have to run the same drill we had run at Carowinds and Six Flags over Georgia. Night rides were probably going to be out of the question yet again, so we were facing yet another beat-the-clock scenario.

Arriving at Dollywood reminded me of how I felt when I arrived at Six Flags Magic Mountain for the first time. These are parks I had always wanted to visit as a kid, but kind of figured I'd never get the chance to do so, even as an adult. The parking lot was even weirder than SFoG's, as it was no wider than the parking lot at your local Walgreen's, and stretched approximately seventeen miles through a ravine. Good thing they were running trams to the entrance gate. If only we had taken one...

The game plan was to do Lightning Rod first, and everything else was of secondary importance. As mentioned, I had absolutely no idea where it was located in the park, so we just wandered around until we found the Doo Wop/50's greaser type theming. You know how sometimes, when you're at a park, you get this sixth sense that tells you when the best ride is broken down? Maybe it's that you really haven't overheard anyone talking about it? Maybe it's that some reptilian part of your brain is noticing that park guests aren't quite as excited as they should be had that ride been operating as normal? Or maybe it's that the Dollywood mobile app says: "Lightning Rod--TEMPORARILY CLOSED." Whatever the method, you're somehow certain that you're going to round the bend, run like an over-excited idiot to the queue entrance, and find a sign that looks something like this...

Well, that's not good. Somehow the presence of actual, closed doors added insult to injury.

So, time for plan B: go ride everything else in the park and try to ignore the fact that the coaster you basically built an entire road trip around is "experiencing a technical delay." No problem.

I have to be honest, with the news of Lightning Rod's closure and the threat of yet another weather-shortened day, I did not begin my Dollywood adventure in the highest of spirits. Nevertheless, there was a whole mountain of new coasters to ride, and I was determined to make the best of the day, even if it was only going to last until the storms rolled in around 5 o'clock. So we followed that narrow, winding, uphill pass from the main entrance to Thunderhead, and started a clockwise approach of the park. All was going according to (backup) plan until we got in line for Tennessee Tornado (which is at the park's highest point, other than the train). We had only been waiting for about five minutes when Rufino checked the trusty Dollywood app and made a glorious discovery: "Lightning Rod--OPEN." Splendid news, we thought, as we patiently waited in the half hour line for Tennessee Tornado, rode the thing, got something to eat, and then meandered over to Lightning Rod! Ha. JK. We tore out of that line in less time than a Phoenix dispatch and descended the mountain at a speed that toed the line that exists somewhere between "completely socially unacceptable" and "borderline dangerous." And from that moment onward, the tenor of our day changed completely. The sun came out, the forecast cleared, and one of the world's best coasters was open for business! While I was mentally prepared to enjoy a Lightning Rod-less Dollywood, I'm very happy I wasn't ultimately confronted with that dark, painful reality.

Before we talk about Lightning Rod (and all those other awesome rides), let's do some general park photos. I took a lot of them, because, well, there was a lot worth photographing.

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Love every moment? Don't mind if I do.

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Theming that looks like it was pulled from a combination of Back to the Future and that one part of Kingdom of the Crystal Skull that didn't suck. Must mean Lightning Rod is near.

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I was born to be a fiddler in an old-time string band.

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Apparently they were filming Saw IX at Dollywood. Sort of an odd choice of venue, being a family establishment and all.

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Even on the newer side of the park, the atmosphere was outstanding.

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I didn't realize that the whole purpose of this little display was for someone to "pop out of the middle egg" while somebody else takes a picture of him or her pretending to do so. I.E., this is the equivalent of me taking a picture of one of those "haha-look-my-face-is-on-the-body-of-a-woman-in-a-bikini!" cutouts, except instead of a face there's just a gaping abyss where a face should be.

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Craftsman's Valley is the part of Dollywood where you watch real men and women do real "old-timey" jobs like blacksmithing, training eagles, and cooking food, and then take pictures of these real men and women as if they are animals at the zoo.

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I wanted to do some research prior to visiting in order to determine the quintessential Dollywood food spots. I dropped the ball on that, so we just went to this place. They had me at "Smoked Meats and Fried Chicken."

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And I wasn't about to hold back. This is what a 17 dollar, all-you-can-eat buffet looks like. To say this was the best food I've ever had at an amusement park would be a disgusting understatement.

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The park was chock full of quaint little spots like this. Also, is that a miniature homage to Timber Tower I see in the background?

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Here's one of those "never in the North" things I spotted in Dollywood (all-you-can-eat fried chicken buffets at an amusement park being another). There's a literal church in the park. And it looked beautiful!

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I was very pleasantly surprised by the overtly Christian nature of the park. Ken Hamm's Ark World this was not (thank God), but there was still faith-based stuff everywhere. And you know what? It was all in good taste and totally unobtrusive to anyone's enjoyment of the park, religiously-inclined or not. Things like the Gospel Music museum, this church, the obvious "scriptural" theming of Wild Eagle, and the fact that many of the park's employees are on some sort of Bible-study work-exchange program really added to my impression that Dollywood is not so much a theme park representing another, foreign world, but rather an authentic snapshot of Tennessee and its people. Cool stuff.

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I don't usually wear coaster/park apparel, but this Sooperdooperlooper shirt was a great conversation starter!

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Locals tell campfire stories of Beverly, the three-ton mutant beaver that chews through fully grown trees and park guests alike.

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Much of the action inside Dollywood was right along this stretch.

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It's stuff like this that makes Dollywood one of the best parks in the world.

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Disney has its "Hall of Presidents." Dollywood has its "Hall of White Dudes Who Sing Gospel Music."

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Exit through the gift shop. Literally. I accidentally exited the park by exiting the gift shop.

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What a top-notch entrance plaza!

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I couldn't stop taking pictures of Dollywood. The place was just so incredible.

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For me, the thing that makes a truly great park is when there are neat things to see and do other than riding roller coasters. This is Dolly's Tennessee Mountain Home--a model of Dolly Parton's childhood abode--and I can confirm that it is not a roller coaster. It's a 4D interactive dark ride shoot-em-up experience new for 2018. What a ride!

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This was one of my personal favorite scenery pieces in the whole park.

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They had a carousel here, but I didn't ride it.

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Sure did look nice, though.

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I only discovered this part of the park at about 7 PM, after having passed it multiple times. And man, would I have been pissed if I had missed out on all the good stuff back here (more on that later).

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New scenery/theming group now available: Giant Garden Theming

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What if I told you I didn't eat any Dollywood cinnamon bread, and the universe didn't implode as a result?

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Current administration better not bust this union!

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Just another example of Dollywood taking a boring concession stand and turning it into something quite whimsical.

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There were a whole bunch of bird houses on the hillside leading to Thunderhead.

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First night photo of the entire trip! Finally.

While I'm of firm belief you could probably never have enough photos of this park, I'm going to move onto the rides now, as they're totally worth some pictures as well.

Lightning Rod

I guess this is the only place to start. I remember loosely following the saga of everybody trying to ride this in its inaugural year, even though the chances of it being open were about the same as Dorney Park building a new coaster. I figured that two years later the park would have had this thing figured out, but judging by the fact that it's been closed indefinitely for the past few weeks, I'd say that it hasn't. I just feel fortunate that I was able to ride it, as I really only had one crack at it. I've now ridden two of the most temperamental coasters in the United States: Lightning Rod, and that coaster in a perpetual state of purgatory that they call Gale Force. Good job, self.

Lightning Rod was an interesting coaster to actually ride because I feel like I had heard such a ridiculous amount of hype about it that it was virtually impossible not to have unreasonable expectations. As I was in line, all I kept thinking was: I can't believe I'm actually about to ride this thing. Apparently, news that the ride was operating spread like wildfire (wrong Americana-themed park pun), because the line was almost an hour with two trains running. We asked for the back and the grouper, although assigning seats, had no issue with our request. A few minutes later--after having been thrown all over the Smoky Mountains for two minutes--we were back in the station trying to register everything that had just happened. To me, the mark of a good coaster is that, while on the ride, I don't have the presence of mind to think about anything other than how nuts the ride actually is. Lightning Rod certainly fit this category. What made things even more fun for me was that I actually had no idea what the layout looked like. I had watched a POV or two at some point, but I couldn't really remember how the ride went, only that it didn't have inversions. So, the first time I ever truly saw the layout was at the approximate moment we were being flung over a mountain-top into a 170-foot drop.

Our back seat ride was pretty fantastic, but our front seat ride at night (during the fireworks show) was completely sublime. I've never ridden the Beast at night, but it would have a hell of a time holding up against Lightning Rod in the dark. It might as well be an indoor coaster. You can't see two feet in front of you as soon as you crest the hill. And that quad down? In the front, at night, it is without a doubt the most unreal ten seconds on any coaster I've experienced, save maybe Dragster's launch (in the front seat). But, you know, even Dragster's launch is probably not an adequate comparison. Then you've got that non-inverting carousel turn or whatever they call it, where it feels like everything is just being ripped out from under you. Unbelievable.

My only gripe with the ride was that, on our back seat ride, it felt like we bottomed out or something at the base of the first drop. There was this weird, jarring bump for a split second. I've seen some theories floating around that the current, prolonged closure of the ride has something to do with repairing this "pot hole." I hope so. The only mar on an otherwise flawless ride. Didn't feel the bump in the front seat, by the way. It's funny; this was my first wooden RMC. It almost caught me off guard that it did, at least somewhat, feel like a wooden coaster. It's as smooth as can be, but it rides much differently than the I Box conversions, as far as I can observe. I want to say that I would place it behind Twisted Cyclone as my favorite RMC, but let's be real--among the four I've ridden so far (Twisted Colossus, Twisted Timbers, Twisted Cyclone, Lightning Rod), any one of them could be counted among the best coasters on earth.

My new favorite wooden coaster? Sorry, Toro. I think I've got to give the slight edge to Lightning Rod.

Times Ridden: 2
Seats: 1 x front seat, 1 x back seat
Rating: 10/10

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Taken in the morning while the ride was still closed. The picture is kind of blurry because even my cell phone camera was crying when it found out there might be no Lightning Rod on this trip.

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I had never been so happy to wait in a queue.

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Does anyone know to whom the names on these time-cards might be referring? Or are they just random?

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Boy, the foreman at this "factory" is a real jerk.

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This is the most beautiful sight these eyes have ever seen.

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Taken just before the night ride of utter insanity. This crew was fantastic. Even though they were only running one train (Dollywood is very strict about running only one train when waits are under 30 minutes...which is weak), the ops announced that during the fireworks show, they were going to be doing a "power hour" in which they would send out as many trains as they could as quickly--and safely--as they could. I've seen Cedar Point do this on Rougarou, too. It's such a great concept, as it spices up the job just in time for the part of the day when things are getting exhausting. The ops would literally be grabbing your loose items out of your hands from across the train so that you never even had to step onto the exit platform in order to secure them.


Between this and Mystic Timbers, my faith in traditional wooden coasters has been restored. What an excellent roller coaster! As far as being my favorite GCI, I still give the edge to Mystic Timbers, but wow, Thunderhead is a close second. I love how out-of-control the whole ride feels, like the train is gliding over hills and crashing into each turn. So cool. At any other park, this would be a standout coaster. At Dollywood, however, it goes a little bit unnoticed in the shadow of its bigger brothers. I do feel confident in saying, however, that Lightning Rod and Thunderhead make up the best one-two wooden coaster punch of any park I've visited. In fact, I'm struggling to even think of a combination that could even come close to competing. Maybe Phoenix and Twister? Voyage and Raven/Legend? I dunno. I think that Dollywood's duo has to be the clear standout.

We would have certainly ridden this more than twice had the line been shorter. Our first time through (shortly after opening) it was only about ten or fifteen minutes, but later in the day they had taken the second train off the circuit and the queue time hovered around thirty minutes. It's kind of funny...the ride ops will even ask each other over the PA system what the posted queue time is. According to an op we spoke to at Thunderhead, the second the wait reaches 30 minutes, the second train will be added. I understand this. I really do. But I can't say it doesn't suck just a little bit. I've always felt this way about Knoebels, too. You wait 30 minutes for Phoenix, which is totally worth it, but you can't help but think about how great it would be if both trains were running. Does it really put that much more stress on the trains to have them both running consistently? Weren't they designed to handle such a workload? Oh well. I'm no expert.

Times Ridden: 2
Seats: 1 x row 6 or 7, 1 x back seat
Rating: 8/10

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Just in case you forgot what type of coaster Thunderhead is...

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Really neat how the whole ride is set in a valley.

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The train is really hauling at this point.

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I guess the idea of the station-flyby is a bit of a gimmick, but it does make for some neat photo opportunities.

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I assume this used to be covered in trees? I'll take the temporary ugliness in return for a huge expansion any day!

Mystery Mine

I genuinely had absolutely no idea what this ride was all about prior to experiencing it for myself. I had seen pictures of that last inversion/brake-run for years, but up to that point, the ride was, as they say...a Mystery. A Mystery Mine, if you will. Sorry, I'll stop.

But in all seriousness, I didn't even know this was a Euro Fighter. I just figured it was some weird indoor coaster they built in-house. Boy was that last drop shocking. I don't know how I didn't notice the 100 foot-tall mine shaft from the midway. That might have clued me in to the fact that this ride had a freakin' ten story vertical/twisting drop at the end. But hey, the not-knowing was a ton of fun. As we waited in line, I'm watching each train leave the station and drop into the darkness wondering what on earth happens to it after that. For all I knew, the whole ride was an interactive learning experience about Tennessee coal mines at the turn of the century, complete with animatronics, celebrity narration, and a totally out-of-place inversion at the end, perhaps to represent how modern environmental standards and contemporary social-ecological concerns have turned the entire mining industry "upside down" in recent years. Boy am I glad this wasn't the case.

This ride was just straight-up fun. I had no idea what to expect, so I had an absolute blast. As mentioned, that final drop will go down in my personal history as about the most unexpectedly awesome thing that's ever happened. As soon as we started up the second lift, I was like: Uhhh...this is unexpected. Then there's fire blasting in my face and I'm like: Uhhh...this is really unexpected. And then the drop came and I made this laughing/screaming/crying/surprised sound that will never be replicated.

If I were king of the world for one day, I'm pretty sure my first or second move would be to give this thing some proper lap bars, rather than those awful OTSRs. Honestly, they're the one thing standing in the way of this being an elite ride.

Also, loved the custom "Mystery Mine" music playing in the queue. Such an eerie and awesome touch. I'm listening to it on YouTube as I type this, and it sounds so uncannily similar to the "fantasy theme" in Roller Coaster Tyccon.

Times Ridden: 2
Seats: 1 x front, 1 x back
Rating: 7.5/10

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Such a menacing and well-designed area. You totally got the "haunted mine" vibes with the music playing (as well as with the sky being somewhat overcast).

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The "misty Mystery Mine."

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It was so exciting to be queuing for a ride I knew so little about...

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Incredible view of Drop Line and the mountains from the entrance to the "mine."

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Those sad and sorrowful OTSR's. Totally unnecessary.

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Pictured: the only part of Mystery Mine that I knew existed.

Wild Eagle

This was only my second B&M wing coaster (Gatekeeper being my first) and it affirmed my assumption that I just enjoy these rides. What's not to like? You float around gracefully, feet dangling, pull some good Gs, float upside-down a few times, get some nice near-misses, and that's that. You certainly won't find Wild Eagle or Gatekeeper on my top ten list (or probably any enthusiast's, for that matter), but you'd be hard-pressed to find someone who doesn't like these rides. They're fun, comfortable, and re-ridable. Also, in case you haven't picked up on the theme of this Dollywood trip yet, I had absolutely no clue what this coasters layout was. I didn't even know how many inversions it had. As we're going up that (unbelievably steep) lift hill, it occurred for the first time to me that I had no idea what was on the other side of that hill.

Something that I noticed on Wild Eagle was that, as I get older, my tolerance for G forces in general has decreased. I actually found myself graying-out on a coaster that is notoriously mild and "forceless." Hey, no complaining on my end. Would that all middle-of-the-pack coasters felt more intense than they actually are!

Times Ridden: 2
Seats: 1 x front seat, 1 x back seat
Rating: 7/10

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Wild Eagle: where Sacred Scripture, environmentalism, and theme parks meet.

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If you say so, Eagle dude! By the way, I loved how open this whole queue line was. Felt like the atrium of a Cabella's store or something.

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The loading platform floors were alarmingly squishy.

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You can see this ride from pretty much everywhere in the park, although everything that happens after that first drop is a Mystery.

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...Except for these little glimpses you can see from the Slidewinder queue.

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You really can't beat this setting. Dollywood certainly knows how to use the natural topography to its advantage.

Tennessee Tornado

In my SFoG trip report, I noted that Georgia Scorcher was a totally unexpected highlight of the trip. Why not the totally unexpected coaster of the trip? Because that honor goes to this bad boy. Tennessee Tornado, without exaggeration, is one of the best coasters I've ever ridden.

You only have to look at my avatar to know that I'm a bit of an Arrow fanboy. X2 and Magnum are among my favorite coasters, so I had hopes that Tennessee Tornado would be a good ride. I was totally unprepared for just how good it actually was. I guess that, in my head, I was expecting an above average ride that would have had me thinking something along the lines of: Well, for an Arrow, that was actually pretty good! The second we hit the brakes after my first ride, however, I knew I had just experienced something more than "pretty good."

This is kind of the perfect looping coaster. It's fast, it's severely forceful, there's great hang-time on the inversions, it's smooth, and it's over before you have time to get sick of it. And can we talk about that drop?! Holy macaroni. One of the best. The second we disengaged from the lift chain and tore through that turnaround, I was like...this ain't your granddad's Arrow coaster. What a rush! The temperature change, the feeling of your stomach in your throat, the echoing of everyone's screams off the concrete walls...it was all just perfect.

I don't know if this makes sense, but I really do feel like Tennessee Tornado is one of the most important coasters ever made. As far as I know, this was one of the first rides to feature inversions of the same species we often find on new rides today; that is to say, weird, almost formless elements that can only be loosely classified by traditional inversion names. Look at RMC. Look at the new Steel Curtain coaster at Kennywood. Gone are the days when you can sit down and name a coaster's elements (vertical loop, immelman, zero g roll, dive loop, etc.). Largely because of what Allan Schilke has done in the industry, classifying inversions is more-or-less useless, and leads to enthusiasts throwing around random element titles like "reverse boomerang" and "sea serpent roll" and "California roll" and whatever else. And Schilke's influence is undoubtedly spreading to other companies. It seems to me that Tennessee Tornado was a pioneering ride, breaking the mold of what a looping coaster had to be. Don't know if any of that makes sense, but that's what I got out of all this.

Times Ridden: 3
Seats: 1 x back seat, 1 x front seat, 1 x row 13.
Rating: 9.5/10

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Uh oh. There's a tornado in them thar' hills.

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Wonderfully themed queue/station building.

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The Iron Butterfly, in honor of Dolly's favorite song, In-A-Gadda-Da-Vita.

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Station shot.

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Off into the mountains. The first 20 seconds of this ride reminded me of Cedar Creek Mine Ride. After that, it's safe to say that the similarities ended.

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The old Arrow horse-collars are hilariously pointless on me. I'm so tall, the restraint rests on my shoulders and slants away from my body at about a 45-degree angle.

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I so badly wanted a night ride on this thing, but Rufino didn't want to walk back up the mountain. We had already walked nine miles, according to his GPS, so I can't blame him too much.

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This is a nose-of-the-lead-car away from being my favorite shot of the day. I'm very bad at timing these things.

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Just like Wild Eagle, Mystery Mine, and Lightning Rod, most of Tennessee Tornado is completely hidden from park guests. If you haven't seen a POV video, you'll have no clue what to expect.

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The queue is lined with these "Tornado Facts," which are obviously completely real.

Firechaser Express

Going into the day, I wasn't even sure if I wanted to ride this, as I thought it was going to be a glorified kiddy coaster. In actuality, this is probably one of the best family coasters around! And let me tell you, they were absolutely pumping out trains on this thing. I thought that with the low capacity and the fact that the launch track and brake run use a mutual track segment, the line would be eternally long to the point of not being worth the wait. The Dollywood app was posting a 45 minute wait time. It probably--no lie--took about fifteen minutes, and we waited for the front. That's how good the crew was for this coaster. No messing around. You were in your seats and shot out of the station in about 45 seconds. Such a well-designed ride and a perfect fit for the park.

Times Ridden: 1
Seats: 1 x front seat
Rating: 6.5/10 (but a perfect 10/10 as a family coaster)

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There was such fantastic interaction with the main pathway. Sometimes my favorite moments at amusement parks come when I see little kids having a blast on a roller coaster, and there was no shortage of kids who were visibly excited to get their turn on Firechaser Express.

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There are a lot of moving parts to this ride, but it all works flawlessly.

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At least they managed to find some use for that old ropes course.

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Just another beautifully landscaped ride at Dollywood. Nothing to see here.

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Wild Eagle and Fire Chaser Express form a mess of green and blue track in the back corner of the park.

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This is the part where you enter a warehouse filled with fireworks and gas tanks, because that sounds super safe. And unlike at three former Paramount parks I know, the explosion effects here actually work beyond sourceless machine gun noises.

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Back it up.

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Ready for launch (at a skin ripping 20 mph!).

Blazing Fury

Fire in the hole! This was the Monster Mansion of Dollywood. Somewhere amidst the demonic diorama of noodle people in flannel shirts sitting on toilets and falling off of buildings, my soul left my body and went to get cinnamon bread so it wouldn't have to endure the horror that is Blazing Fury. I'm not sure of the plot-line of this ride/roller coaster, but I have determined it has something to do with a fire company being called to respond to a fire, only to discover that they've been lured into the infernal pits of hell. Fun for the whole family.

In all seriousness, this ride was super awesome. I thought it was going to be a "roller coaster" like Black Diamond at Knoebels is a "roller coaster," which is to say, it really isn't. But, I was pleasantly surprised to find that there were actual drops at the end of this ride. Also, I watched a short documentary about Blazing Fury on YouTube, and one of the Dollywood engineers mentioned that when RMC came to do Lightning Rod, they were going to have them re-track the big drop at the end. This makes Blazing Fury my fifth RMC. Look at me go! I'd place it behind Twisted Cyclone and Lightning Rod, but ahead of Twisted Timbers and Colossus (they need more demonic mountain people, imo).

Times Ridden: 1
Seats: 1 x idr
Rating: 6/10

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The second best coaster I've ridden with "Fury" in the name.

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This is about the only other photo you can get of this ride unless you go on one of those fancy behind-the-scenes tours.

Drop Line

What is there to say about this? It's a drop tower, and a tall one at that. And it's located in one of the most beautiful areas of the country. And the gondola spins as it goes up in the air. It didn't take a genius to tell me that this was going to be a great ride.

Times Ridden: 1
Rating: 8/10

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I'm sorry that this was the only photo I got of Drop Line. I'm glad I captured all the beauty and majesty of the ride.

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Some fun theming in the queue. I hope they do this with the new Steelers area at Kennywood. God only knows you need some sort of a dictionary to decipher Yinzer-speak.

Daredevil Falls

Move aside Coal Cracker; I have a new favorite flume ride. I have no idea how, but I managed to get my entire butt soaked before we ever even reached the lift hill. Also, I love how you obnoxiously and clumsily bash into the sides of the channel over and over like some sort of drunk boat captain. And then that drop! What an excellent ride. A can't-miss attraction, for sure.

Times Ridden: 1
Rating: 8/10

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Do you get wet on Daredevil Falls?

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Yes. Yes you do.

Mountain Slidewinder

I can remember seeing this thing on the Travel Channel back in the day, and I thought it looked so awesome that I tried to recreate it with dinghy slides in Roller Coaster Tycoon. I'm fairly certain that many people were killed. After doing a full loop around the park, however, I couldn't find the Slidewinder at all, nor did I see it on the map. I experienced momentary sadness when I assumed they must have removed it for Wild Eagle and I never knew because I was living under a rock. Thankfully, this was not the case. There is was in the dead center of the park.

I figured that this ride would be fun, but somewhat average, kind of in the same vein as the old Frontier Shootout at HersheyPark. Boy, I could not have been any more wrong. I'm about 200 pounds, give or take a pound or two. Rufino is a bit north of 200. And then our two riding partners were teenagers who were by no means stick-figures. At some point when we were rocketing down the mountain at 85 mph, I was having visions of the EMT's scraping my sorry corpse off of one (or many) of the million trees surrounding the slide path. I've watched enough "ULTIMATE WATERSLIDE FAIL!!!" compilations on YouTube to know the signs that things are about to go south, and believe me, when we were pulling Millennium Force-style overbanks on those turns, I was saying my prayers. Completely absurd ride.

Times Ridden: 1 (Tried to go twice, but it apparently closes early)
Rating: 8.5/10

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I was kissing the ground in thanksgiving when we safely reached this part of the ride.

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This whole part of the park falls under the category of "hidden in plain sight."

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Oh, I forgot to mention that in order to reach the loading platform, you have to hike 1/3 of the Appalachian trail. They even have little mountain Sherpa guides to motivate you if you feel like giving up.

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It looks tame enough, but it's complete insanity.

Smoky Mountain River Rampage

This had Canyon River Rapids written all over it, but ultimately, I was a little disappointed. I mean, there were multiple water effects that literally shut off before they could get you wet. I got on the freakin' white water rafting adventure ride, for Pete's sake! Getting soaked is what I signed up for! Anyway, our boat-mates were a very nice mother-and-two-sons trio, and the mother was from my neck of the woods in PA. Sooperdooperlooper shirt making friends all day.

Times Ridden: 1
Rating: 5/10

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Rapids waterfalls that don't even reach the channel and can't get you wet are the reason I can't put my hope in any worldly thing.

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And it looked so promising!

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Another thing I loved about Dollywood is that the ride ops wear different costumes depending on the theme of the ride. E.G. Lightning Rod ops wear mechanic coveralls. Wild Eagle ops wear park ranger get-up. River Rampage ride ops wear picnic table cloths. Etc. Etc.


I think we all know by now that S&S Screamin' Swings are among the best flat rides on earth. This one was made even better by virtue of the fact that I had no idea it existed. At one point, maybe after we were done eating lunch, I saw an arm full of screaming people fly above the treeline and actually said out loud: No way! They've got a Screamin' Swing?! Needless to say, I was pretty pumped up. These things never let me down, and this one was no exception. They're honestly better than most roller coasters.

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The whole Owens Farm area of the park was deceptively hard to find, even with these signs pointing in the right direction.

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It's called Barnstormer and there's a barn. Get it? Only one of the "daredevils" was operating, though, so I'm not exactly sure how much dueling was going on. I like to think that the other pilot was Randy Quad's character in Independence Day, and just got super drunk and never showed up for the flight demo.

Lumberjack Lifts

Nice. I paid 60 bucks to do an arm workout. I thought you only got to go up to the top once, so I World's-Strongest-Manned that thing in 3 seconds. Then, as I was sadly floating to the ground, the ride op excitedly barked: "Go as many times as you want!" I'm sitting there thinking: Uhm, I just did. But I proceded to make like six more trips until I was visibly sweating and embarrassing myself. A must-ride!

Times Ridden: 1 too many
Rating: I can't. It's like trying to rate gym equipment at Planet Fitness.

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Why is this a thing?

Dizzy Disk

So, the entire Country Fair part of the park was totally awesome, and I would have completely missed it if I hadn't happened to be looking on the map to figure out where the model of Dolly's house was located.

Dizzy Disk was one of the many fantastic rides in this beautiful corner of the park. I swear it got wayyy too close to the edge of the track. Seriously, you could hear people screaming every single time. One of them may have even been the ride operator.

Times Ridden: 1
Rating: 6.5/10

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A somewhat disconcerting ride.

Demolition Derby

This was either the worst bumper cars I've ever been on, or the absolute best. The arena was entirely too small, and some sort of wizard must have placed a curse on everyone riding so that 50% of people totally forgot how to drive a bumper car or even comprehend human voices giving directions of how to drive a bumper car. And to make matters even better (or worse), the ride op was a kindly middle-aged man who absolutely would not end a ride until he determined everyone had gotten a fair shot at it. In other words, our ride lasted about twelve minutes because some poor kid couldn't figure out how to dig himself out of a corner. I tried to be a good Samaritan and blast him out of there with the full force of my car, but to no avail. In the end, I spent most of the time trying to avoid crappy drivers like some sort of mashup between the DC beltway and the highway scene in Matrix: Reloaded.

Times Ridden: 1
Rating: Depending on how you look at things, this was either a 0/10 or a 10/10...so let's just call it an even 5/10.

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Oh, what a pretty facade...

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...for an absolute dumpster fire.


I'm an absolute sucker for these rides, as the one at HersheyPark was one of the first amusement park rides I can ever remember riding. I was lined up in such a way that on every third catapulting motion, I'd come face to face with this dude who was taking a video with his cell phone. Oh, the restraint I had to exhibit in order to avoid taking the phone from his hand and giving it back to him the next time around. If only he had been eating popcorn or something.

Times Ridden: 1
Rating: 5/10

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Man, people really get dressed up for their Scrambler-riding down south.

Dollywood Express

We almost didn't ride this, and I know I would have regretted that because it looked like a really scenic ride. It certainly was, although I'm sure it would have been more scenic had the park not bulldozed the entire forest. I always love these big, authentic steam engines as they really run by their own rules. Case in point, the conductor's assistant made an announcement early on to avoid scratching your eyes in the case of flying splinters. I'm thinking what on earth is she talking about? at the approximate moment a flying splinter shot directly into my eye and I instinctively started to scratch it. Whoops. The ride kind of is a time commitment, too, clocking in at over 20 minutes.

Times Ridden: 1
Rating: 6.5/10

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To the right is a random path going through a cave. Never got to see where it went.

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The Steel Vengeance trains make a little bit more sense now.

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I love how all the rides at an amusement park are operated by teenagers and foreign-exchange workers looking to make some spending money, and then--never fail--the train is somehow operated by some guy who's life's work it is to dig for his own coal and keep the engines running smoothly.

Final Thoughts

My "favorite park of all time" changes from year-to-year. It's been HersheyPark. It's been Cedar Point. It's been Kennywood. It's been Knoebels. And now, it's Dollywood.

I simply ended up loving this park more than I ever expected to. I knew it would be nice, but I never expected it to be as "authentic" as it was. Nothing felt gimmicky. It was presented as an honest snapshot of Tennessee, and you really felt that to be the case. This was the kind of park you can bring home to your parents. It's beautiful, classy, and full of surprises. And it's a great cook! For those who don't like rides, it's got tons of atmosphere. For those who could care less about atmosphere, it has a world-class coaster lineup and a great supporting cast of flat rides and water rides. And for those who like both, well, it's basically the Holy Grail. Beautiful park. I can't wait to go back.

Well, that wraps up this TR. Thank you to those who have been following along. I hope to do more TR's in the future!

Before signing off, here is an updated Top 20, with bold titles indicating a coaster I rode on this trip...

1. Skyrush: HersheyPark
2. Millennium Force: Cedar Point
3. Twisted Cyclone: Six Flags over Georgia
4. Lightning Rod: Dollywood
5. El Toro: Six Flags Great Adventure
6. X2: Six Flags Magic Mountain
7. Fury 325: Carowinds
8. Twisted Colossus: Six Flags Magic Mountain
9. Twisted Timbers: King's Dominion
10. Maverick: Cedar Point
11. Phantom's Revenge: Kennywood
12. Tennessee Tornado: Dollywood
13. Diamondback: King's Island
14: Behemoth: Canada's Wonderland
15: Intimidator 305: King's Dominion
16: Storm Runner: HersheyPark
17: Top Thrill Dragster: Cedar Point
18. Georgia Scorcher: Six Flags over Georgia
19: Magnum XL 200: Cedar Point
20: Phoenix: Knoebels

Why do I still have a donkey title???
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Re: (Photo TR) zburns999's Southern Road Trip

Postby Canobie Coaster » Mon Jul 23, 2018 10:26 am

Fantastic report!

Interesting that Twisted Cyclone is your top RMC. I really need to make it down to ride that at some point. I found the 2nd to back to be the best seat on Lightning Rod so I wasn't on a wheel seat for that pot hole, but even on my back row rides it wasn't a deal-breaker. I definitely felt it, but it wasn't enough to ruin the ride as evidenced by where I rank it.

That's odd you didn't get soaked on Smoky Mountain River Rampage. I have always gotten soaked on that ride, even on the cooler days. That ride has some of the most soaking rapids out there plus the geysers and waterfalls.
Top 5 Wood- Lightning Rod, Phoenix, Wildfire, Outlaw Run, Boulder Dash
Top 5 Steel- Expedition GeForce, Iron Rattler, Fury 325, Twisted Colossus, Helix
Most Recent Trip Reports- Tokyo DisneySea & Adventure City]

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Re: (Photo TR) zburns999's Southern Road Trip

Postby Condor » Mon Jul 23, 2018 11:46 am

Great photos and reviews. I think you and I agree on a lot of coasters. Isn't Tennessee Tornado awesome? I didn't get to ride Lightning Rod in 2016, so Tornado and Thunderhead were a close first and second for my favorites at Dollywood. And I always love seeing Skyrush as someone's #1.

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Re: (Photo TR) zburns999's Southern Road Trip

Postby zburns999 » Mon Jul 23, 2018 6:32 pm

Canobie Coaster:
Thank you! Yeah, I'll be the first to admit that I didn't expect to love Twisted Cyclone as much as I did. I mean, the four RMC's I've ridden are all pretty much of identical (high) quality, but Twisted Cyclone was just such a graceful and perfectly paced ride that it was hard not to give it top honors. Lightning Rod and Twisted Timbers, to me, are a bit more intense/severe rides, which is awesome, but I have to say I prefer the route that RMC went with Twisted Cyclone, in that it flows well and doesn't require a defensive strategy in order to ride. On another note, not sure why my experience on River Rampage was so atypical. On paper, it looked like a real winner. I just didn't get all that wet. Perhaps another ride could have changed my mind.

Thanks! Yes, I always feel like I have found a new friend when I see Skyrush as somebody's number one haha. We are a unique branch of enthusiasts, I think. The only question left for me now is whether or not Steel Vengeance will usurp Skyrush's position when (if) I ride it next month. It would take a truly tremendous ride to do so. And now that you mention Tornado and Thunderhead in the same sentence, it really does make me think about just how solid Dollywood's coaster lineup is. Lightning Rod, Tennessee Tornado, Thunderhead, and Mystery Mine are a top four that only a few parks could rival, in my opinion.


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