USA 06/22 – Silver Dollar City
Having made it all the way to Branson the previous night, we were treated to a later start than usual and a short, scenic drive past some Ozarks to what was probably my most anticipated park of the trip. The weather was showing no signs of relenting however, and you know it’s bad when even the locals are complaining that it’s too hot. We thought we could at least prepare for it this time by, say, putting on some shorts, after it had been a bit of a surprise the day before, but it turns out most things simply aren’t built for this kind of heat.
Day 6 – Silver Dollar City
First impressions – the car park was a bit naff. There’s no real form of organisation as to where you go and the, what can loosely be described as trams, are sporadic and inconveniently placed amongst a sea of unshaded concrete and cars. The options were to wait a long time and probably not get on, while getting burnt, or walk for a long time and get burnt, so getting to the entrance was a battle in itself.
You have a great pass out ahead of you.
#1 Wildfire was first, with a beautifully shaded indoor queue hidden amongst some dense forest. I fell in love with the setting of the actual park itself immediately.
As for the B&M, s’alright. One of the better ones amongst the plain old sit downs for having a bit of variety between those inversions. And the views.
It was from here that we got lost, and learnt that this park is all about exploration, which I both liked and disliked. When you’re happy to relax and stumble around, it’s great. When you’re hot and bothered and want to get somewhere, it sucks.
Eventually we found #2 Powder Keg and got launched into some more equally amazing views, spotting just the tips of several more coasters through the thick, mountain top foliage. The ride surprised me mainly for having track that looks like Bullet Coaster. Keeping the old, water coaster ending without the water is a nice touch, hurts the pacing somewhat though. Crashing one of the old boats through the roof of a building as theming was also a nice touch.
Pressing on further, we encountered the fabled RMC. Their first wooden creation. Let’s get this out there – their wood ain’t as good.
I love Lightning Rod, and the wood somehow managed to add to that insanity, but then it also broke it. I love Wildfire, but to me it had always been the weakest RMC and the material itself made absolutely no difference as of opening year. If it deteriorates like #3 Outlaw Run, I feel it will only detract. It doesn’t carry that true, satisfying wooden coaster rumble, but it can carry a headache inducing judder that distracts from the glory, when sat in a wheel seat. I quickly learned to avoid those.
Wildfire is free, to be happy, as Outlaw Run instantly became my new least favourite. It’s deathly short for the size of the initial drop, which is amazing itself. The first, thing, doesn’t really do much for me. The following five airtime moments are lovely and varied, play well with the terrain, with the structural near misses and are undoubtably a very good sequence of events. I really didn’t like the double barrel roll. The end.
Still world class, obviously, we’ve come to expect that as standard by now, but something has to prop up the list and it’s unfortunate as I was rooting for this one to be a bit of an underdog these days, particularly in this style of park.
Suddenly the stakes were raised. There was a clear opening for a Mack launch coaster to be the best ride in the park. After getting lost again, and at the very last second asking a man where #4 Time Traveller was, only for him to point directly in front of us at the entrance sign, we headed in to learn more about where the Happiness all began.
Swing and a miss. I was rooting for this one too and though it also has brief moments of excellence, a lot of the layout is simply suboptimal. The sexy robot set the bar too high, in the future.
First drop, back row, incredible. We never left that seat throughout all of our laps for fear that the ride would suffer even more without that highlight moment. It did a lot of playful things in the inversions with the spinning, sometimes compromising my seating position and other times creating some gloriously disorientating visuals. Then it feels like there are just as many overbanks that slow to a crawl and do absolutely nothing. There’s a couple of cracking, back slamming, airtime moments if you happen to be facing the right way and yet that second launch essentially goes straight into the final brake run. That’s the real killer. You know I’m all about that pacing.
#5 Thunderation eh? Awful. Rode terribly and had that fake out ending again.
It was at the point we took a brief respite to have some food that I noticed a distinct lack of rocking chairs in this park. Whenever we wanted one, there was never a nice place to stop, sit and soak up that atmosphere, of which there wasn’t one really. There was no music, no festivities, no spontaneous banjo players, it was even supposedly too hot to make knives in the knife shop.
We ended up having a subpar meal in what can best be described as a sweaty canteen, with people crowding over and around us, mid eating, while there was nowhere better to go with it. A man here noticed my Dollywood shirt, at this very moment mocking everything that this park stood for, and made the simple statement ‘we live about two hours from there’. It wasn’t to strike up conversation, it wasn’t even a point of interest. It was just a fact. Maybe the heat was getting to them to, but I didn’t particularly rate the clientele here either.
#6 Fire in the Hole was ridiculously popular for some reason and had a hideous queue, while all major coasters were walk-on, but the post lunchtime blues seemed like the best opportunity to get it over with. Is it because they class it as a water ride?
‘Fire in the Hole!’ was shouted many times throughout the layout in an attempt to raise spirits and in anticipation of that all important moment. ‘The Baldknobbers have got me pants’ was also a good line, though I may be crossing it with ‘Gromit, there’s a bomb in me pants’.
Continuing on the dark ride theme, we ventured into the Flooded Mine. Great scenery, great song, shame they went and put guns on it really.
Here’s an obligatory kugel fountain shot for the fans, to mark the moment it all went wrong.
The last cred to mop up for the day was Grand Ex-spite-sition Coaster, not as grand as it sounds being yet another Zamperla 80STD. We got as far as sitting in the train but it simply wouldn’t dispatch. The operator was shrugging and pushing buttons, but not in a fun, Steel Curtain way. It was gone.
We were wordlessly evacuated, with no apology to the clearly disappointed families and children (or the heartbroken cred hunters). While sitting nearby to watch what went down, another staff member appeared soon after but only to carry the ‘unavailable’ sign down towards the entrance, so we gave up on it for the time being and went to ride the train.
The train was alright. It came with a bit of a pantomime in the woods, though even the live fire arm wasn’t working in the heat. There was a promise of ‘better views of Outlaw Run’ that wasn’t delivered on. There was promise of a train robbery that wasn’t delivered on. All in all it ain’t no song about a devil on a big black train, with the sheer terror of getting ash in your eye.
Upon our return to the station, we heard a number of people audibly complaining about some other rides being down. Sure enough the rapids ride, Infinity Falls was also closed for the heat. We had a subpar cinnamon bread just to confirm the food situation was also still poor and went back over to Outlaw Run, getting as far as the air gates before it also ‘broke down.’ An engineer arrived and seemed to be looking at a restraint issue but not in a fun, Steel Curtain way, and then quickly gave up.
No communication was made and gradually guests began to leave the station of their own accord. Eventually we asked one of the team what was going on and he said that the heat was causing power cuts, so they had been advised to cease operation of all rides for fear of something getting stuck somewhere. With the day just over half way done by now, surely that would have been useful information to give to their guests, rather than speculative silence? I guess not.
And so we wandered back out of the queue to find that absolutely everything was now closed, yet the park were choosing to say nothing about it. Was it too much to ask for a ‘Sorry folks, but stick around, we’ve still got live entertainment, food and shopping’? I guess so.
It was even too hot for water features to function apparently.
As we headed back to the park entrance, we got swept up in a depressing exodus of souls all exiting via the gift shop in a very solemn mood. One staff member broke the silence in poor taste with a “Well, goodbye then, *awkward laugh*”, to no one in particular.
Thus ended our day at Silver Dollar City, minus the uncomfortable walk back to the car because, of course, no trams.
This was the rival to what is essentially my favourite park ever, and yet not one thing landed the right way. I was worried that a single day wasn’t going to be enough for the place amongst all our other crazy adventures, instead it turned out that we didn’t even need that. I may come off as bitter and jaded about all this as I usually do, particularly when there were obvious external factors that aren’t the park’s fault, but I am genuinely upset that I didn’t like this place.
I miss Kennywood.