Dec. 15, 2007


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   My friend Doug, girlfriend Christy and I got up really early to leave Ohio and head to Tennessee to visit Dollywood. We'd never been there before, and once we found out it was open in December, we had to make a visit. The drive was going to be long, and a storm was heading into the area. We hoped to miss the storm, but it hit us when we were in Kentucky.

   And things got worse. After stopping at a gas station for gas and food, we got back on the interstate and headed on our way. Maybe a mile after getting back on the interstate, we hit a patch of snow, spun completely around and went off the road. We were shaken up but OK. The car was fine too. We called a tow truck and paid $80 to get us winched out of there. The rest of the drive was slow, but that was fine, as the snowflakes got bigger.

   We got to Dollywood after noon and immediately headed to Thunderhead, where we were greeted with a sign telling us the wait was no minutes. I was really excited because I hadn't been on a GCI since 2005, when I rode Lightning Racer and Wildcat at Hersheypark. I absolutely love Millennium Flyer trains, and Christy got to experience her first coaster with them. She fell in love with them too.

   Christy and I waited about two trains for the back seat, and Doug rode in the car in front of us. The prelift run is a simple turn dropping to the right and circling around. I like it because it speeds up quickly and gives some laterals. The first drop on Thunderhead is spectacular. There's good airtime, and it's steep and twists sharply to the right. Then the track banks to the left into an insane hill and then goes into a double up. There wasn't much airtime in the double up, which disappointed me. But the next part had great air.

   The track drops and banks to the right, flies into a turn to the right and drops, where your photo is taken. It then soars into a high hill before the station fly-through. That's really cool. I waved at the people in the station each time I rode. Then the ride hits a turn to the left, a drop and a bunny hop with some floater airtime. This is when the ride really gets out of control. There's a shorter bunny hop and a turn to the left. Then the ride has some small hills lots of turns and a big turn into the brakes.

   Thunderhead was amazing. 10/10. It became my No. 3 wooden coaster.

   We went to Mystery Mine next since it's just up the hill from Thunderhead. I was pretty excited for my first Eurofighter and the second coaster I'd have ridden with a beynd-90-degree drop. The wait was pretty short, and only one train was being loaded at a time. We got seated in the second row.

   I wasn't really familiar with Mystery Mine's layout, but I knew it had a big 95-degree drop that turned a little, and I knew it had a heartline roll and a twist-and-dive maneuver. Watching the twist and dive from the midway was awesome because it looks like you'll get more than a second of hangtime.

   The drop out of the station surprised me. I wasn't watching the cars leave, so I didn't know it did that. The prelift run was really cool. There's a part where the track is banked the wrong way, and it's taken slowly. That was fun. The theming on the ride is really good. The vertical lift was cool, and I thought it would drop right out of it, but it didn't. It turns to the left, then the right and goes into a block brake. Then it drops 90 degrees, turns through a high-banked turn, a helix and goes into another block brake. Then it drops and enters a hill that, sadly, doesn't have airtime.

   It enters the mine again. A bird in a cage on the left of you dies, which I found hilarious each time we rode. You go up the second vertical lift hill, and there's a video at the top showing the mine shaft collapsing or something. It was pretty neat. You stop at the top, and some fuses burn toward explosives. A fire bursts in front, and then you drop down the big drop. That was crazy and really fun. The airtime is great, and the drop gave me a little tickle in my stomach.

   It flips through the heartline roll really quickly, and the twist and dive is right afterward. I was right about the hangtime. It's insane. There's about a second and a half or maybe even two seconds of just hanging out of the seat. I love it! It drops and enters the brakes. Wow. What a rush! 9/10.

   We walked down the midway and headed toward Tennessee Tornado. This park has an odd layout. It's not a circle or an oval or anything like that with ends connecting. It just has fingerlike midways that extend into the hills. The coasters are at the ends of the fingers. So we had to leave one and walk up an extremely long one to get to Tennessee Tornado.

   The wait for Tennessee Tornado was pretty short. We only waited a train before we boarded in the back car. The lift hill is built on the side of a hill, so it doesn't come too far off the ground. The first drop is great. It swoops to the right, where there are good G-forces, then it enters a hill and drops in a tunnel through the ground. There's great airtime in that hill. The big loop is next. That was fun, and I was glad that Arrow updated its design and made a smooth coaster with a large loop.

   There's an overbanked turn followed by the butterfly element, which is a loop and a sidewinder. That was fun, and the G's were pretty high. There's another high-banked turn, and it ends with an airtime hop into the brakes. Tennessee Tornado was pretty fun, but we only rode once. 7/10.

   We asked an employee how many coasters were in the park because we'd forgotten. She told us that Blazing Fury also was a coaster, so we went to it. We looked at the track in the station and saw that the rails were I-beams. It was built in-house. We sat in the back car after a short wait. Most of the ride is powered and goes through different scenarios with things on fire, though there isn't any real fire during the ride. We got dripped on a few times on the ride, which took us by surprise. Most of the ride is really dark.

   The ride was sort of confusing because I didn't really see how it was a coaster. Then we got to the end when it just suddenly drops. The airtime took us by surprise, and Christy slammed into the lap bar. There's another big drop and some turns, and it ends with a water splash. Wow. What a wild ending to a mild ride. We talked to a mechanic afterward, who told us the ride was built in 1978 by the park. We rode again in the front seat, and we got hit by some water in the water splash. I liked the back seat more. 5/10.

   We went to Village Carousel on our way to the Dollywood Express train. The train didn't leave for about 30 minutes, so we rode the carousel. It was OK. The ride lasted a long time. Christy looked at me and said it was taking forever and that we hadn't slowed down in a while.

   We went to the train and waited in the station. While in the station, we rode Bench: The Ride. Whee. We got on the train, which was pretty cool. The engine is a big steam engine, and the track is five miles long. It goes through the woods and hills and has a big loop at the end. We slowed down, and the announcer told us some caribou were on the tracks. Ha. I imagine it slowed down so the track could be switched at the end of the loop so we could go back. The woods were really pretty, and it's a cool, relaxing ride. I'm sure it would have been better if it weren't rainy and already night, but I enjoyed myself.

   We went to Demolition Derby next, the bumper cars. Doug didn't ride. I didn't really like the setup on this ride. You have to drive around in an oval. You can't just bump into anyone because you have to drive around the track. Also, at the end, you have to pull the car up to the side of the track and park it. Everyone parks the cars on the side in a row. Weird.

   We took the trek back to Thunderhead, where there was no wait at all. We hopped on, and when we got off, the ride hosts told everyone they could reride as long as they didn't get in the same seat they were just in. Sweet. We took advantage of this for three rides.

   Then we went to the Timber Tower, the Huss Topple Tower. Since it had been rainy most of the day, the seats were wet. It sucked sitting down and getting our butts wet, but we rode anyway. We were the only people on the ride. It's fun and really has a different feeling. The parts I like are when it tilts down and you're facing backward. It's a weird sensation. There are sound effects on parts of the ride, and it was timed so we would hear them when we faced the ground when it tilted.  6/10.

   We went to Mystery Mine and rode that twice. We got the back row the first time and the front row the second time. I really enjoy this coaster.

   To end the night, we went to Thunderhead and rode eight more times. Thunderhead gets totally insane at night. The ride is completely dark in parts, and its speed goes crazy after the station fly-through. The back seat is the best place to sit, and we tried lots of areas. The front seat was OK, but the airtime is way more intense in the back. Thunderhead is a spectacular addition to the park.

   We decided to head out since we were tired. We wandered around and looked at the lights, which were all over the place.

   Dollywood is a great park with some awesome rides. The only negatives I have are the odd layout and the size of the bathrooms. The park has long, hilly paths with dead ends, which makes it a little annoying when you try to get from one place to another. The bathrooms are also pretty small. On a day like this, which wasn't crowded, there was a wait at both bathrooms I went to. It's also pretty expensive ($48), and we were told there are no discounts. 8/10.

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