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2 Days of Heat and Southern Hospitality, Dollwood July 14-15


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Figured I may as well do a trip report as I am sitting at work bored as heck waiting for 4:30 to hurry up and get here.

 

We had to go to North Carolina for a friends wedding, I thought about possibilities hitting up a park along the way, my first thought was Carowinds but I ruled that out as I had been there a few years back and other then Top Gun was not overly impressed with the thing, plus I didn’t think Jen’s folks who were going with us would enjoy it too much. So my next thought was Dollywood. I thought Jen’s folks would enjoy it, as the park seemed to be so much more then just rides plus I really wanted to get on Thunderhead.

 

I definitely made the right decision.

 

We drove through rain most of the way down from Northwest Ohio and thought the weekend may be a wash, but we arrived in Pigeon Forge and went out to eat. When we left the restaurant, low and behold the sun was shining brightly. We knew Dollywood had a deal to get in free after three with the next day’s admission. We thought what the heck and headed to the park.

 

Upon arrival in the parking lot I was immediately astounded by how much work this place had put into a simple parking lot. Beautiful flowers hung everywhere, there was a constant line of trams taking riders to the park, and the people operating these trams had true southern hospitality.

 

We arrived at the front gate and purchased out tickets a good for that night along with the next day, Jen’s folks went off to explore the park and see some shows. Jen and I headed for Thunderhead.

 

We walked up the long path to the ride and were immediately struck with the sheer twistedness this ride has to offer.

 

Just as we reached the top of the hill around came the most Magnificent park train I have ever seen. I am a huge Railfan and was simply in awe of such a massive Baldwin engine going up such a huge grade, drivers slipping the whole way. But more on that later.

 

The line for Thunderhead was essentially a walk on this hot muggy day. We headed for the back seat. The trip up the lift hill was essentially the only breather on this ride. The action starts immediately with an absolutely crazy first drop. From there until the brakes it is non stop positive G’s. I had just ridden Hades a couple of weeks earlier and I think Thunderhead dishes up more intensity then that. It is an EXTREMELY powerful ride and to boot it was smooth as glass. We rode one more time before heading off to explore the rest of the park. Once again we were amazed at this park, it reminded me of Busch Garden’s Williamsburg yet even more “real” for lack of a better word.

 

We perused the different shops and stopped off to ride the Sponge Bob simulator ride.

 

This is the same movie that plays at all the Paramount Parks but without the 3D glasses. It was fun, but without the 3d effects it lacked quite a bit.

 

We headed towards the back of the park and ran into Jen’s Folks, they too were struck by the beauty of the park. We decided to take a spin on Blazing Fury, which I must say is one of the most bizarre attractions I have ever experienced. You board what appears to be a standard roller coaster train and go through some scenes representing a town on fire, then you drop down a bridge as it collapses, you go around a bit more and then are treated to another drop, this one followed by a splashdown into a pool of water. The ride just has that WTF? Quality that I so many theme park dark rides have, Ellen’s Lesbian Energy Quest at Epcot has that same quality. You hate the ride; yet want to go again it’s so bad.

 

From Blazing Fury we headed back to Tennessee Tornado, I must say, from the ground that loop seems absolutely massive and the ride looked stellar, but it was an Arrow…

 

This was the last Arrow Multilooper made and let me tell you, it is one AMAZING and unique ride. It is as smooth as the glass and has some very cool elements.

 

The lift hill heads up the mountain and then turns to the right and drops down through the mountain, the entire first drop is underground. You emerge into this massive loop, which has a couple of very weird moment in it where the train actually banks in the loop; it is very very cool and very unexpected. You exit the loop and head into an over banked turn which brings you into a loop that pulls some huge positive g’s only to be thrust into your seat again in the following sidewinder, you head through another over banked turn which takes your through the center of the loop and hit the brakes.

 

The ride is short but is right up there with Kumba as my favorite sit-down looper. It really is that good!

 

The rest of the evening was spent checking out the great Water Rides at the park. Daredevil Falls has themeing as good as Splash Mountain. The premise of the trip is you are on a normal canoe ride and make a wrong turn off a waterfall. A lot of fun and you don’t get all that wet.

 

Next we hit Smoky Mountain Rampage, which was a really fun rapids ride. The tubes only had 6 seats each and really spun, there were some fun dips in the ride but no waterfalls like Thunder Canyon has. Some of the standing waves did a great job of getting your butt pretty wet though.

 

We left the park that night glad we would be going back the next day. I was glad we went the evening before, as the next day was a complete wash out weather wise.

 

We got to the park at opening the next day and I immediately took a spin on Thunderhead again, and once again it dished out an amazing ride. We then decided to head around the park again seeing some of the stuff we hadn’t seen the night before including the Country Fair area, which is full of some great looking flats including a Zamperla Disco.

 

We had an absolutely amazing lunch at the entrance to Craftsmen’s Valley; I must say the food here rivals that of Busch Garden’s Williamsburg in quality. We then headed over to see the take a spin on the magnificent train. The engineers were out for lunch so we watched the Magic Show that had just begun; we got a good laugh out of it. We then boarded the train for what I must say was the best train ride you could ever have in a park. We sat right behind the engine and apparently if I would have asked I would have been able to ride in the engine, I will definitely have to remember that for next time.

 

The train ride was great to a railfan like me; the engine had the best sounding whistle I have ever heard. Right up there with Norfolk and Western 611 when it was still in service on NS. The grade is huge on the 5-mile trip and the engine was working VERY hard. It was great to hear the engineer working with the engine as the drivers would start to slip and he would pull back on the throttle to stop the train from stalling. In fact by the time we got to the top of the mountain I was sure we would stall. The engines here are Baldwin narrow gauge 2-8-2’s originally built for the White Pass and Yukon Railroad before WWII. The engines hauled many of the supplies used to build the Alkan Highway. They are hand fired and the fireman gets a real workout shoveling 5 tons of coal a day! These engines made the ex DRGW engines that ply the rails at Knott’s seem very tiny in comparison.

 

We got done with our train ride and the skies immediately opened up; it was just a matter of time with the 95-degree temperatures and the 95% humidity. This rain lasted the rest of the day. We went from shop to shop and had dinner at a nice sit-down restaurant, my steak was cooked perfectly and Jen’s chicken and dumplings were great.

 

I thought we would be done for the day with all the rain and the huge amount of lightning in the area but we waited a bit and the skies cleared. We saw a Boonie Hat at the giftshop up by Thunderhead that we thought Jen’s Dad would like so we headed that way. We got the hat and also noticed they had S and D Greetings wood coaster calendar at the shop. I had one of my pictures in the 2004 calendar and hadn’t purchased this one yet. We struck up a conversation with the Attendant who said she accidentally ran into Matt Sullivan (better known as Mamoosh and the S in S and D Greetings) one day without knowing it was him.

 

We noticed they were drying things off on Thunderhead and I thought one more ride would be great but I doubted they would reopen as the park closed in an hour and storms were on the way again. But we waited a bit and low and behold the ride reopened. This time I decided to take a front seat ride, and what can I say, the ride here was even more amazing then in the back, airtime galore and the true twistedness of this ride really shined.

 

No sooner did I get off when lightning struck again. They shut down the ride, after only 2 cycles but I was surprised they had reopened it at all.

 

By this time it was time to say goodbye to this amazing park. I will definitely be back. As we left we noticed some construction work going on, appears they will be building some more attractions in the Thunderhead Gap area, this time a Huss Topple Tower.

 

If you got this far thanks for reading such a long drawn out report and be sure to visit this park if you are ever within say 10 hours of the place. It really is worth it.

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I love that park! Great TR! Yeah, that magic show is pretty funny, especially when they squirt the people leaving the train. I can't wait to go next summer.

 

When I went last summer, maybe it was just me, but Tennessee Tornado seemed really rough. I got a headache after it. (BTW, I've only gotten a headache after Iron Wolf! )

 

I'm with you on Blazing Fury, you hate it but you love it!

 

Glad you had a good time.

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Great TR. We went to DW for the first time for the ACE event last May. What a great park...it was clean...the people were friendly and we absolutley loved Thunderhead. Spent most of our second day riding TH over and over. I think we lost count at 25. Hope to go back soon.

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My sentinments exactly! I went to Dollywood for the first time this summer and I will definately be back as often as possible! The landscaping reminded me more of Opryland, but the attention to detail and excellent food are Busch Gardens Williamsburg-esque!

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