USA 04/19 – Dollywood

Day 6 – Travel

No parks today and probably for the best. We had left options open en route, but nothing surfaced in the end.
Of note:
– That American Dream Mall would have been on the cards, clearly not happening yet. We did happen to drive right past it between SFGAdv and SFNE, seeing a spooky shadow of some Gerstlauer track through the glass. That was cool.
– Also saw Dorney Park in passing on this drive. Still kicking our ass, but closed.

Everything else reasonably (and unreasonably) within reach of us was also closed so it was just a leisurely 12 hour drive that all went surprisingly smoothly really, stopping off for my favourite meal in the world – Quiznos, along the way.

Which then left us with 2 full days to enjoy this magnificence of a park. Good.

Day 7 – Dollywood

Pulled into what was soon proclaimed by us to be the world’s best car park. A quaint setting between the hills with gorgeous views and a couple of teasing glimpses of 2 of the main coasters testing.
The world’s friendliest tram staff pick you up from cutely named stops (C for Cotton Candy) and take you to the entrance, telling you everything you need to know and more, including the fact that there’s a phone number to call if you have minor car issues when leaving and that the park will send someone to come and help you out. How awesome is that?

Didn’t know anything (or care) about the logistics of navigating this park other than thinking Lightning Rod is in an area with some buildings and breaks down a lot.

#1 Lightning Rod

Straight to the Rod then.

We were fortunate enough to catch this ride on 2 consecutive days of zero down time and zero queue, racking up about (who am I kidding?) exactly 20 laps in total. And what a ride.

I had extremely high expectations for this thing, not particularly down to its mostly universal praise and being the ‘best thing ever’ circa 0BS (Before SteVe), but more from the fact that I saw some construction bits about it (specifically concept art for the quad down) when I was much more novice at this game and it stirred a reaction in me that I haven’t really been able to replicate since.

Construction doesn’t generally excite me much, the concept of following things being built with great interest, then not bothering to ride them or care about what happens next is alien to me.
Lightning Rod was the rare exception. I saw an image of the famous quad down element and my jaw hit the floor. It made me shout “I need this in my life”, but due to various circumstances I always ended up somewhere else.

Until now.

So that’s expectation context set up. I didn’t really know anything else about it other than launched lift and quad down.


It’s a lot shorter than I thought it would be.

For something that gamechanging I expected it to be repeatedly kicking your arse for a good while. But just as it properly gets going, it ends. And that left me wanting a little more.

The launch is insane, and stupid, and hilarious, and I love it. That’s aside from the fact that it has those weird handles on the restraints that you can grab onto and make things even funnier while you’re “peelin’ out on the world’s fastest wooden rollercoaster.”
Then it slows down at the top. Aww. The opening humps are good, but not amazing.
The pothole is there at the bottom of the main drop. It amuses me.
Then it does those 2 big sideways elements that are good, but not amazing. It may be because I’ve done enough similar things already that they didn’t particularly blow me away like they should have.
Then it gets good. Stupidly good.

A vicious wonky hill that often punched me in the side and/or back if I was being complacent about the intensity.
I believe they call the next element the twist and shout, but it was more like the shout and shout. Cos here come those leg wounds again.
And then it’s 4 shouts in a row of ferocity. No, 5. The little speed hill under the brake structure is sublime.
The train whips into the brakes and arghhhhhh no, keep going. This ride will give you blue balls.

It’s really, really good. But not the best thing ever.
It’s the ultimate death of Wildfire, I’ll give it that title.
It actually feels like you’re riding on wood and is a much, much better ride to go along with that.

Anyway, there are other rides here.

Stumbled onto a rapids next, which was a nice little sit down with some good water based entertainment.

Then stumbled on a log flume, which was a nice little sit down with some more water based entertainment. I like the synchronised splash effect here. Reminds me of trying to make them in ORCT.

#2 Blazing Fury

Blazing Fury was coaster number 2, which was a nice little sit down with some good dark ride based entertainment. Love the ol’ trick on the drop and the worryingly intense ejector in the back.
Learnt a little park history along the way. This park was the previous Silver Dollar City and all that.

#3 Tennessee Tornado

The Arrow looper was having teething troubles in the morning, but opened in front of our faces as we reached it.

Quote of the day from someone behind us in the train as it hit the brakes, paralleling my thoughts on Lightning Rod – “That was IT? WTF”.
It’s decent for what it is. Forceful and smooth. Spent some time dreaming of what more wonderful hardware they could put in its place.

#4 Wild Eagle

Wiiiild Eagle. Wiiiild Eagle. It has a song, love it.

It’s at this part of the park you notice the ride operators have a weird obsession of being overly specific with figures in their announcements, telling you the length of the ride to the second (See you in 2:22) as the train dispatches. It’s a good quirk.

Straight drop B&M wing, always on to more of a winner. Had a bit of roughness to it in the outside, but that’s probably good on these because it seems inherent with any strong force going on, so it means it’s actually doing something.
Pretty standard stuff as sensations go on one of these, but with amazing scenery. I found the seating alone more interesting than the other B&M rides that had been boring me recently, particularly in the front when it looks like you’re kicking track supports.

#5 FireChaser Express

FireChaser Express in it’s queueline claimed forces of 0.01 negative Gs with even more precision.

This trip is becoming king of the family thrill coaster. Another amazing ride that should really set the mark for what parks should be getting as their intermediate coasters.
And once again proves what Gerstlauer are best at.

Lovely airtime, fun effects, interesting, varied and good looking. The whole package – great stuff.

From here we discovered what may be my favourite thing about the park:

Rocking chairs. It might seem trivial, but that’s now a sign of a quality park for me.
I hadn’t previously been a big believer in the notion of ‘parks can be a good place to be, with or without the rides’ until I sat in a rocking chair at Dollywood and thought ‘Yes, I could sit here all day. I get it now’.

It needs the other factors of course, the place is beautiful and clean, there’s relaxing country music playing, it’s quiet, it’s hot, there’s a man with a banjo whose job is to chat to guests all day long.
Never mind the coasters, have I got a new favourite park?

We also had a view of Mystery Mine from our chairs and it looks SO BAD offride to the point of laughter. Jerking it’s way round awkward manoeuvres that would make Pinfari blush. How have they gone from that to what we just rode?

#6 Mystery Mine

Let’s do it then.
It rides as bad as it looks, for the first half anyway, but at least it’s funny.

The indoor parts set it apart. The first indoor bit is like Saw but less obnoxious and more fun. The second lift and following section is everything Novgorod should have been with its hilarious practical scenery canary death, fire at the top and cool inversions that make the preceding drop worthwhile.
Easily one of the best of its type and a bit of a guilty pleasure.

Talking of guilty pleasures, look, it’s the singing vulture from Portaventura.

The drop tower next door is amazing. More reasons for me to love the park in the fact that one of the attendants decided to jump on the ride with us as they were doing restraint checks and then casually chatted away to guests about the park while 200ft in the air. Amazing views, punchy drop. Love these ones. Better than Zumanjaro any day.

#7 Whistle Punk Chaser

Zamperla 80STD #3 of the trip. A pretty +1.

#8 Thunderhead

Thunderhead was a slight let down, though GCIs are a let down to me as standard these days anyway. I believe in the process of riding it we learnt it was a clone of some other reasonably big named woodie in America so that’s one less thing to look forward to in life.

It was alright, a couple of surprises here and there, a bit too much roughness. I think they quoted the main features of the ride as 100ft large sweeping drop and TWENTY TWO corners, both of which you know my feelings on by now. Eh.

But that ride completed the park, and what a joy it had been. Let’s do it all again.

We had some of their famous cinnamon bread with that dangerous apple butter and it was a messy but worthwhile challenge to finish.

We found Barnstormer after somehow missing it earlier. I like that.
It’s got Rush levels of short cycle, but a nice theme and interaction.

We sat in some more rocking chairs.

We rode the rod til we bled.


Easily one of the best days I’ve had at a park. There’s definitely something to be said for allowing extra time for something special.
Thank you to the other parks of America for not bothering to open yet.

Day 8

USA 04/19 – Six Flags New England
USA 04/19 – Pigeon Forge

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