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Day 4 1/2 -- Silver Dollar City

Friday, August 2, 2013




Outlaw Run

Powder Keg

Giant Barn Swing

Outlaw Run (x4)


Day 4 1/2


There was a buzz in the air as we departed Magic Springs just after 2:30 PM on Friday afternoon. It's no secret that the three RMC coasters were the key marketing angle for the trip, and the unfortunate incident in Texas left us with just one on the agenda. A perusal of the private trip forum would easily give a person the idea that our stop in Branson was one of the most highly-anticipated elements of the excursion, and with Outlaw Run waiting for us, we had no qualms with our rushed stop in central Arkansas.


We stopped for dinner on US-65 in Marshall, Arkansas, at a small grouping of restaurants that are so new they don't show up fully-constructed on most aerial imagery as of this writing. We were given an hour, and used only 55 minutes (5:20 to 6:15) before heading off on the road. Even the "quiet bus" of the two couldn't stay calm, engaging in roller coaster guessing games as we entered Missouri. I almost stumped everyone with Shockwave -- the Togo death machine at Kings Dominion -- but let's face it, the average participant on this trip had more theme park knowledge than me! On the subject of roller coaster history, there were audible groans as we passed the shuttered Celebration City's Ozark Wildcat -- a beautiful-looking coaster that is unlikely to ever operate again.


Moving out of the dry south, one complication that threatened the our time in Branson was the only significant threat of thunderstorms on the entire two-week trip. There was an expectation that storms would develop on Friday evening, perhaps affecting our night at the park. We were fortunate -- the bad weather did develop, but stayed northeast of Branson through the evening. Our luck wasn't so great the next morning, but I'll discuss that later on.



Radar imagery out of Springfield, Missouri, during our ERT on Outlaw Run.

We arrived at Silver Dollar City near 8:00 PM, receiving quite a briefing from Robb and the park staff. To begin, our reason for getting to the park early should be explained. We were originally intending an ERT session on Outlaw Run on Saturday night, but Silver Dollar City changed their schedule on Saturday to attempt their first-ever midnight Moonlight Madness event -- keeping the park open until 12 AM. With the park open that late, ERT wouldn't have been an option, so our exclusive time was re-scheduled for Friday.


After receiving our welcome packets, we were free to enter Silver Dollar City, with quite a bit of time before the park's 10 PM closing. Robb very strongly encouraged us to head straight to Outlaw Run, regardless of the wait or our scheduled ERT. Stories were told about a TPR trip to Holiday Park in Germany, in which Expedition GeForce -- the centerpiece coaster of the trip, as Outlaw Run was for this one -- went down during their visit. Why chance it? We headed to Outlaw Run and gladly waited an hour for our first rides. To say we were all blown away by Outlaw Run would be the understatement of the year. How was it? I'll quote myself from the 2013 TPR tour thread:


"Just got back from the Outlaw Run night ERT! That will stand out as one of the big highlights of this trip. At least 90% of us had never seen the coaster before, so our first rides were all in the near-complete darkness. Not an ounce of wasted track, and airtime everywhere, even where you wouldn't expect it."


There was just enough time for a ride on Powder Keg before ERT began at 10 PM -- also including the nearby Giant Barn Swing. During our Outlaw Run ERT, I was able to get in four additional rides. The park was only running one train at the time, which was unfortunate but unavoidable -- the other train was receiving some maintenance related to the incident in Texas. Supposedly the restraints had been tightened slightly, but no one in the TPR group had any problem with it. This was the only ERT of the trip with more than one-train waits straight through the session, but that had everything to do with the popularity of the ride. While most exclusive time thinned out a bit after 20-30 minutes, as some TPR members eventually opted to take a break, no one wanted a reprieve from this ride. I believe our ERT session lasted for almost an hour, so wait times were about ten minutes each (a little longer for the front or back). Focusing on the ERT and enjoying the evening, I left my camera on the bus, so I don't have any pictures to share from Friday night.


Outlaw Run ERT was just the beginning of Silver Dollar City's attempts to spoil us. In addition to our welcome packet envelopes (which I'll post in the next section), we received some additional awesomeness on the way out (just after 11 PM) -- shirts, gifts, and candy.


Yes, there was a minor hotel room snafu upon our arrival at the Best Western Center Pointe Inn, but really, who was in the mood to sleep anyway? Five rides on Outlaw Run, with more on the schedule for the next day, and thunderstorms to track late at night -- plenty to keep me busy, with the best day of the trip just ahead.

Edited by The Great Zo
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Day 5 -- Silver Dollar City

Saturday, August 3, 2013


Lesson of the Day: Figure out how early you need to wake up each morning, and set your alarm for 15 minutes earlier. I didn't hear many rumblings of missed buses, though the only rumor I did hear was on this day of the trip, so this seems as good a place to put this lesson as any. Better to miss the bus for a 10-minute drive to a park than, say, a 6-hour drive to Wisconsin! Anyway, there's no point in risking being late, and sometimes packing up and cleaning up takes a little longer in the morning than originally anticipated. These trips aren't for heavy sleepers anyway, so why not get up early and make sure everything's ready for the day?





Hang with me, as there are a ton of artifacts to post from Silver Dollar City! To start, here's the "welcome packet" envelope we received upon our arrival on Friday night.


This looks like part of the press kit from the Outlaw Run opening -- there was no mistaking that our visit was a showcase for the new coaster.


This is our schedule for the two days at the park. If this itinerary looks overwhelmingly full, well, that's because it is. With Moonlight Madness on Saturday, the park really pulled out all the stops -- not just in the TPR-exclusive events, but for all park attendees! Also pictured is the front of the park ticket.


Here's the back of our TPR-exclusive two-day ticket. Welcome, indeed!


Even our two meal tickets were custom-printed with the TPR logo! I had to get a picture of this while we were at the park, because anyone who knows anything about Silver Dollar City would know that these were /not/ coming home with me.


We all received exclusive Outlaw Run shirts that, as far as I know, were not available for sale. I admit that I find most roller coaster shirts rather tacky, but this one is classy and simple -- something I'm happy (and even a little bit proud) to wear on a regular basis.


What a way to commemorate our Outlaw Run rides in the coaster's first year of operation. I believe these were given out during the special events near the ride's opening, but our visit was treated much the same. As a further bonus, the park gave out two sizes -- L and XL, rather than forcing everyone into an XL. After a few trades on the bus, I think we were all pretty happy!


About half of the TPR members received a mug, and about half of us received an Outlaw Run snow globe.


This is now proudly displayed on top of a bookshelf in my apartment.


It's got some pretty good detail on the coaster track, and the ride's first drop is unmistakable! Not easy to get a good picture with the snow flying around, but I think I did alright.


Even our Trailblazer passes -- the park's skip-the-line system -- were emblazoned with the TPR wordmark!


I neglected to photograph the final gift I received from SDC on Friday night -- some of their homemade Peanut Brittle, which didn't survive much past the end of the trip. I'm sure that's understandable.




Outlaw Run Signing

Fire in the Hole Tour

Outlaw Run [Front]


Fire in the Hole


Grandfather's Mansion

American Plunge

Tom & Huck's RiverBlast

Lost River of the Ozarks

Geyser Gulch

Powder Keg


Flooded Mine

-- Lunch --

Grand Exposition Coaster

Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train

Outlaw Run [Front]


Powder Keg

Flooded Mine


Powder Keg

Outlaw Run [back]

Powder Keg



Day 5


A discussion of our day at Silver Dollar City has to begin with a little bit about the weather, as it was the only time on the trip that our TPR events were impacted by rain. Several TPR members noted being woken up by hotel-rattling claps of thunder, as a huge complex of storms rolled through between 5 and 6 AM.



Radar imagery from Springfield, Missouri, at 5 AM CDT.

The worst of the weather had moved south of Branson before our departure from the hotel at about 7:45 AM. As is typical with these types of storms, they left behind an area of steady rain, which lasted through our morning hours at the park.



Radar imagery from Springfield, Missouri, at 8 AM CDT.

This may have actually been good news for us, as morning rain tends to keep the atmosphere from being able to regenerate new thunderstorms in the afternoon! After the rain cleared out, it was dry for the rest of the day. By afternoon, conditions were partly sunny -- and actually a bit warm and humid.



Radar imagery from Springfield, Missouri, at 11 AM CDT.

Before we even began our morning activities, we met up at Crossroads Pizza for a breakfast spread (including some of the park's signature frozen drinks), and got out of the rain long enough to warm up a bit. Next on our agenda was the Outlaw Run signing, which showed up unexpectedly on the SDC-provided schedule we received the night before. I wasn't sure what this meant, but it was exactly as it sounded -- we were led through a backstage area to underneath the lift hill of Outlaw Run, given permanent markers, and allowed to leave our signature.



My name is now on the #3-ranked wooden coaster in the world. Thanks to Chris Mason for the picture!

With everything quite wet, it was tough to get the markers to work, but I think we were all successful!


Our Fire in the Hole backstage tour was next, giving us a look at the maintenance areas for the park's oldest coaster. The ride's staff gave us a lot of insight into the hard work that keeps their ride moving (and doing so safely).


To close our morning activities, TPR was provided early access to the Outlaw Run station, ensuring we'd have the first rides of the day. The Outlaw Run crew finished work on the second train, ensuring two-train operations for the entire day. Given how the crowds would end up, that was extremely important! For my first ride of the morning, I went for the front seat with Marcel, and it was not one of my wiser decisions of the trip. Raindrops at 68 MPH feel like needles, and with my eyes mostly closed, I wasn't able to get the outstanding view of the ride I was hoping for. I knew I'd have to rectify that later in the day.


With the weather gradually beginning to improve, we all split up to explore Silver Dollar City -- a place that feels much bigger than it looks on a map. I picked up most of the rest of the credits, finding only the Grand Exposition Coaster not yet operating, as I worked generally clockwise through the park's attractions. It was during the morning that I made what would end up being my only attempt to get some of the world-famous Cinnamon Bread, finding the bakery all out of stock. It's a cardinal sin that I didn't find time to revisit Sullivan's Mill, but that's a reflection of how busy the day was. I wasn't shut out entirely -- a group of TPR members already at the bakery were finishing off a loaf, and I did get to give it a try. Let's just say that there will be plenty of reason for anticipation when I visit another Herschend park in the future!


How can anyone discuss Silver Dollar City without discussing the plethora of dining options? It's sort of an accepted evil that amusement parks are going to gouge customers with overpriced, low-quality meals. The standard option people throw around is to simply reduce the prices -- which, let's face it, isn't ever going to happen. Silver Dollar City takes the opposite approach -- I won't say that things are cheap, but I'll say they're worth the price. For an amusement park, that's an extremely high compliment. I barely scratched the surface of the offerings, but I did try one of the skillets, the Outlaw Run pizza, and the vanilla bark from the confectionery -- not to mention the breakfast and lunch the park provided for us. Everything was fantastic.


The rest of my morning and early afternoon was spent in a group with Matt, Andrew, Neil, James, and Ian. We went through the park's three water rides in succession, fitting all six of us on one American Plunge boat. It barely seemed possible, but we made it work. We also learned that the wettest seats in the boat are the furthest in the back -- sorry Ian!



It was a little bit cramped, to say the least!

We had a 3:30 PM meeting at Reunion Hall (at the square near the park's entrance) for an outstanding lunch buffet, which had at least 20 different options to choose from. We were also provided with a sample of their new red velvet funnel cake, which was not yet available to the public! At lunch, we met Brad Thomas (Silver Dollar City's general manager) and Joel Manby (Herschend CEO). During lunch, those well-versed in park trivia had the chance to win a pretty rare prize -- a piece of wood use during the construction of Outlaw Run, branded by the park's blacksmiths, and signed by an assortment of SDC dignitaries. I volunteered for an easy one -- simply naming the park's coasters. I was incredibly excited to take home one of the wood blocks! It was one of my goals for the trip to win a piece of park memorabilia from somewhere -- how could I do any better?



An authentic piece of Outlaw Run memorabilia. As a sports card collector, in addition to being a coaster enthusiast, I can totally appreciate something like this!

Six names are on the block:

* Brad Thomas, Silver Dollar City general manager

* Casey Freeland, Silver Dollar City publicist

* Martha Bohner, Silver Dollar City publicist

* Fred Grubb, Rocky Mountain Construction founder

* Lisa B. Rau, Silver Dollar City director of public relations

* Courtney Goff, Silver Dollar City publicist


Yin was also a recipient of a wood block, but he got a signature from Joel Manby to complete the collection. Why didn't I think of that?


After lunch, I went off with a smaller group (Matt, Andrew, Stacy G) to get the kiddie credit. We also took some time for photography, exploring, and a train ride -- somehow sneaking on to the final dispatch before an hour-long maintenance window. Once the train ride was done, it was time to get back to the roller coasters. Our Trailblazer Passes got us past an Outlaw Run line that was over an hour in length, and I finally got a daylight good-weather ride in the front row! What an experience that was -- one of the highlights of the entire two weeks. We rode a few more coasters and stopped for dinner at Crossroads Pizza, with light beginning to fade at about 8:00 PM.


As night fell on the park, we waited to see what would happen to the Branson crowds as the Moonlight Madness festivities kicked into gear. I'm sure the park management was even more curious as to how things would go. It ended up being an incredible success, with the park even seeming to get more and more busy as the night went on! Bands played on a stage at the square near the front of the park, and roller coaster lines remained very lengthy -- those Trailblazer Passes sure ended up being a necessity. We got night rides on a few more of the park's best -- Thunderation, Powder Keg, one last go at Outlaw Run, and my last ride of the day on Wildfire. The park stayed open until midnight, but we had to depart a little early. That didn't give us enough time for a park-closing ride on Outlaw Run, which at last check, had generated wait times of 120 minutes! The worst part of the day was having to leave, but our trip had not even reached the halfway point, and there was a lot of ground to cover in the days ahead.


When people asked me what my favorite park on the trip was, Silver Dollar City was the immediate answer, and I'm pretty sure the majority of the tour participants felt the same way. Between Friday night and Saturday, we spent a total of almost 20 hours in the park, and it still wasn't enough time. We had time to visit all the major attractions, but several of them were worth multiple rides. An entire day could be spent just visiting all of the shops, craftspeople, and quirky elements that give Silver Dollar City its charm. I barely scratched the surface of the amount of photography I wanted to do at the park, and never fully explored all of the trails and buildings. There's no question that I'll have to come back to this park some day, and the sooner that happens, the better. Once I resolved to make a return visit, it made my decision to skip the Marvel Cave tour a little bit easier. The cave -- Silver Dollar City's natural underground attraction -- was very high on my list of things to do before going on the TPR trip. Unfortunately, it was learned on Saturday that the morning thunderstorms had left the cave partially flooded, cutting the tour length in half. I decided that I'd rather tour the cave when I can see the whole thing in one shot and really take it all in. Between that, Outlaw Run, and the cinnamon bread I had two bites of, I have plenty of things to look forward to when I head to southwest Missouri in the future.


Though I had a pretty good idea of what Silver Dollar City would be like, the park's theme and immersiveness did exceed my expectations. Silver Dollar City was developed atop Marvel Cave as a way to give visitors something else to do while they were in the area. It's based on the crafts and culture of real mining towns in the Ozark region from the 1880s. I thought the park was a little less "wild west" and a little more "wilderness" than what I had been envisioning (though Outlaw Run fits closer to the first category). Although some of the stories have villains, and the newest coaster is even named for them, the emphasis is always on the virtuous end of the conflict. On Outlaw Run, for example, the riders are treated as the law enforcement officials -- tasked with taking control back from the namesake outlaws. At the end of the ride, a successful return to the station ensures that the good guys win the day. Silver Dollar City is as family-friendly as a Disney park, with a little bit of educational entertainment, a little bit of religion, and a lot of kindness. The staff at this place needs to be commended for never missing a beat -- from the ride ops to the store clerks and the cooks, everyone brought out their best. The park's employees were definitely an intergenerational mix -- with young adults and grandparents working together on the same ride platform.


Silver Dollar City also makes good use of its outstanding setting. In the forests of the Ozark Mountains, it's a park with a bit of terrain -- probably around 100 feet of relief from the square to the Geyser Gulch pond, and almost twice that when some of the ride-only areas are factored in. The park is nearly entirely covered in trees, providing a lot of shade. The forested and hilly nature of the park does make it a little confusing to get a geographic mental picture of, but most paths were well-marked, and it was never a significant challenge. Naturally, the views from the three major roller coasters are breathtaking during the day, with a vista over the green mountains and valleys of the region. The setting is just as spectacular at night, when it authentically feels like being deep in the forest (like on Outlaw Run's lower points) or high above the dark landscape watching the stars (like on Powder Keg's hills).


For our large Theme Park Review group, Silver Dollar City redefined the proverbial red carpet. Through their efforts, they were our best host park of the trip. That's an investment they made to us and to the enthusiast community as a whole, and look what they get for their work -- a glowing, hyperbolically-positive review of every aspect of their operations. My thanks to the SDC staff for the meals, the gifts, and their time -- and for forcing me to plan a return visit to Branson!




Though atmosphere and theme come first at Silver Dollar City, ride quality comes in a very close second. Here are reviews of the attractions at Silver Dollar City:


Wildfire: Wildfire was my third new B&M of this style in 2013 (after Dominator at Kings Dominion and Superman at Six Flags Fiesta Texas). In terms of the overall layout, I'd rank those two over Wildfire, but there's a lot of good things about Wildfire that add up to make it an impressive ride. The cars on Wildfire are sort of a cross between the standard sit-down and floorless designs. My favorite element on Wildfire was the first drop -- a rare straight drop on a B&M looper. The air in the back row was actually pretty impressive! I think everyone knows Wildfire's biggest strength -- one of the most incredible settings for a roller coaster anywhere in the country. Wildfire is on the edge of a large open hill, several hundred feet above some of the surrounding terrain, which drains to an arm of Table Rock Lake southwest of Branson. The only thing better than that kind of view is seeing it upside-down.


Powder Keg: The only seating restriction on the Trailblazer Passes anywhere in the park was for Powder Keg, which restricted use to the middle rows. I was unable to try the coaster in the far front or back, so I can only assume it would have been a lot of fun in those positions! I was impressed with this ride, especially with the air delivered on the hills in the first half of the ride. Popping up over the tree canopy is a lot of fun, especially at night. I was not thrilled with the second half of the ride, once the transition was made to the old-style track before the lift hill. Some of those track sections were rough and uncomfortable, and the lengthy lift near the end of the ride (with only a short segment thereafter) didn't help the momentum. Still, the first half of this ride is easily good enough to stand on its own.


Fire in the Hole: This combination dark ride / coaster was a lot of fun, even if it moved way too fast for me to figure out the story! The final drop into the water elicited a few screams of "fire in the hole" and a bit of a splash, which did provide some (acceptable) wetness! I read that Dollywood's sister ride (Blazing Fury) had its splashdown removed. Hopefully this one manages to keep its water in place.


Thunderation: I've been on over half of the coasters in the Arrow Mine Train grouping on the Mitch Hawker ballot, and I'm not a fan of having to lump them all together. After a couple rides on Saturday, Thunderation became my favorite mine train. It has some force, especially on the helix into the tunnel, and it uses its setting better than any similar ride I've ever been on.


Grand Exposition Coaster: The toughest credit of the day was closed in the morning, and had a bit of a wait in the afternoon -- almost a half hour. To check off a tough kiddie credit, that's easily worth it!


Giant Barn Swing: It's a big S&S Swing in a barn! These rides are fun and forceful, but this one has most of the rest beat on setting.


Flooded Mine: This was probably my favorite shooting game of the trip, with one major issue -- we were all pretty sure the scoring system was completely hosed. On my second ride, I asked a ride operator where the high-scoring targets were located, and I was told to aim for the crystals in the ceiling. I couldn't get that to work, but for no apparent reason, some of our scores shot up to over 200,000 points at random points in the ride! I'm pretty sure it's not because we suddenly became skilled sharpshooters. To no surprise, the scenery on this ride was very well done, and I enjoyed that it was a water ride rather than just cars on a track.


Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train: This train ride is a little different than most, as it features a 10-minute show (a faux-robbery) about two-thirds of the way through the journey. I thought the actors did a great job! When I looked at my GPS tracks for the day, I was surprised to see just how far the train travels to the northwest of the park -- almost a half mile from the Outlaw Run plaza area. The train passes pretty close to Outlaw Run, providing some great views and photographic opportunities.


Grandfather's Mansion: Don't go in here right after lunch. This building contains a dizzying array of mirrors, perspective tricks, and uneven footing. I definitely have this on my list of can't-miss attractions at SDC. It only takes about 10 minutes to walk through, but it's worth a lot of laughs.


American Plunge: I'd describe this as a slightly-above-average log flume, with a significantly-above-average splash. It's pretty much a guaranteed soaker for anyone near the back of the boat. There are some dark sections with a little bit of theming.


Tom & Huck's RiverBlast: This splash battle was more of a splash annihilation, with our boat of TPR members going up against a bunch of younger children. Sorry, kids. This was surprisingly simple but very fun, with interactive targets to shoot at (in addition to other riders). Riding this more than once in a row might not be advisable, as cranking the water gun can get rather tiring!


Lost River of the Ozarks: I wouldn't say that this was my favorite rapids ride, but as with most of Silver Dollar City, it has a nice setting going for it. I don't recall it being especially wet, and the big waterfall in the cave was a clever fake-out!


Geyser Gulch: This was one of the few parts of Silver Dollar City that I thought could use a bit of attention. Geyser Gulch is a large play area with two sections. The first area has water guns to shoot at targets over the pond, though I'm not sure all of the targets were working correctly. The second area is a large play structure with foam balls and guns, which looked like they'd seen better days. I'm strongly in favor of interactive play areas at amusement parks -- especially ones that are welcoming to "grown kids" like us -- so I hope that if this area stays, it gets some upkeep.


Outlaw Run: I saved the best for last, and I'm going to open with the fact that Outlaw Run has a distinct sound. It's almost like a screeching, most audible as the train screams through the turn that bisects the lift hill structure. That sound can now be associated with near-perfection on a roller coaster. Outlaw Run is intense and forceful in all directions, yet very comfortable. The tracking was so smooth that I'd often forget I was on a wooden coaster during the ride. The one complaint about the ride -- quite possibly the only negative thing anyone can possibly find to say about it -- is that it's a little bit short. I can say with certainty that it's length is the far from something I was thinking about while riding it eight times between Friday night and Saturday. There is no section of the track that provides any time for rest. The first drop is deceivingly steep -- I actually think it steepens further about halfway down. The drop is a lot longer than the lift hill lets on -- using the existing terrain, a 107-foot-tall lift structure translates to a first drop of 162 feet. Immediately after the drop, the 153-degree outside bank looks incredibly strange, but works extremely well. The barrel rolls do provide some hang time, as the train slows while passing through them -- the track is actually rising in elevation through the twists. I'm not surprised that people are willing to wait two hours to ride this. It's my favorite wooden coaster by a mile, and fits just barely behind Millennium Force for my second favorite overall.

Edited by The Great Zo
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Pictures from Day 5


Additional pictures and bigger versions of these images can be found here and here.


Our tour of Fire in the Hole started in one of the control rooms, where we learned about the ride's operation, and took pictures of /everything/.


This map of the track segments has appeared in pretty much every trip report, and yet, I still haven't totally figured out the layout!


Here's the lower control panel (below the map), complete with big red button that you really don't want to press.


I thought I was being original by taking a picture of the random animals in the control room, but I think pretty much everybody got this shot!


However, I'm not sure many people saw this. It's hard to read, so I'll type the whole thing out.




Once upon a time there was a place called Marvel Cave. For some reason...maybe it was the magic of the beauty of the hills, the cool shade of the trees, or the warmth of the people who called it home... somewhere was the secret, resting in the soil on which success was built and a City named Silver Dollar. From the power of this secret sprang shops, theaters, wonderful restaurants, streets full of laughing, happy people, the Crafts Capital of America and a land of tropical adventures. And people came- - and people continued to come... not only to visit the rides and shops and theaters, but to experience the good life through friendly, interactive people who took pride in what they did. And then, the secret was discovered! The key to unlock the secret to the silver soil was found in the hearts of the people...it is the will to be a team, the yearning to have fun as a team, the need to be accepted on the team and the constant craving to win as a team. It's been here for over 40 years. It is our legacy.


The winds of change will not blow us over, for our roots are planted in our Silver Soil. From this soil grows heroes, memory makers, role models, and most of all dreams belonging to each of us who tread atop.


As a team, we rounded the bases and won the game in our conference. Now the game has changed. We're in the big leagues. We're racing for the pennant. We will win for we have good soil in which to dig our cleats. We know the key to success: Together... United Forever... We're Indestructible!


The maintenance area for Fire in the Hole, with track sections leading to the ride.


Another section of maintenance track, and the official Fire in the Hole coat rack.


Wires, tools, and equipment -- everything needed to keep Fire in the Hole running.


I'm probably not qualified to operate this.


You want wheels? They have wheels.


BEWARE OF BALDKNOBBERS! TPR members exit the tour and cross the track in the ride's station.


A view of the empty trains, which won't be empty for much longer.


Skipping ahead much later in the day, and with the weather vastly improved, I started my photo set on the way to the Grand Exposition area. This area of the park (the eastern part) is one of the only areas without much of a tree canopy on the main paths.


Echo Hollow Amphitheater is advertised as Branson's biggest theater. Coming soon: Southern Gospel Nights!


Entering the Grand Exposition, where apparently you can see a stunt dog show.


Though the Grand Exposition was opened in 2006, it's themed as an expo from the year 1882 (much as the rest of the park is themed to the 1880s).


Presenting Industry -- Showcasing Marvels of the Modern Age. Such as...


...the Grand Exposition Coaster! An Electro Mechanical Rail Ride. Also, the toughest credit of the day.


A look at the roomy coaches on the Grand Exposition Coaster.


Many of the buildings on the east end of the park were covered in holiday lighting. I didn't get to see them at night, but I bet it would have been spectacular!


Heading down the hill from the Grand Exposition area, the trails become a little more tree-lined.


I passed this very tall structure between the Flooded Mine and the Grand Exposition.


It's completely fenced off at ground level. Any idea what this tower was used for?


Here are some of the water play areas at Geyser Gulch.


These water guns got quite a bit of distance, though I wasn't sure if there was a purpose to most of them.


A look over the Geyser Gulch pond, with the queue for the Lost River of the Ozarks in the background.




The Flooded Mine was a fun shooting game, with a really convincing setting (something SDC does well), but a rather temperamental scoring system.


The Frisco Silver Dollar Line Steam Train only has one station, and makes a continuous loop along about a mile and a half of track.


The queue was long, and the train was packed, but we were lucky enough to get on one of the last half-empty benches.


By this time of evening, after several hours of good weather, the park was getting pretty crowded. The biggest congregations of people were, of course, at rides and restaurants.


A wider view of a typical Silver Dollar City walkway, from one of the train bridges.


The train ride offers a few glimpses of Powder Keg along the way.


RMC wood! This is what we all came to see, and the train offers several outstanding views. You'd have to be extremely lucky to catch an Outlaw Run train in motion.


Our steam train shoots off a bunch of water and mist.


In case you needed a reminder of Silver Dollar City's rural location, the back loop of the train's tracks goes quite deep into the forest.


Along the way, a burned-out train car is perhaps a warning for what we'd run into next.


Yes, our train was hit up by robbers -- and our conductor had to save the day! Thankfully, the rather infantile bandits were about as successful as Hard Rock Park, and made off with none of our money.


It was a good performance! These guys know how to work a crowd.


Hey, it's Outlaw Run again!


The 153-degree outside turn was pretty remarkable.


It's pretty strange to see wooden coaster track twisting that way. Even the tourist helicopter wanted a look.


Glancing up at the lift hill and the crazy turn that runs through it.


An Outlaw Run train returns to the station. I found the trains very comfortable, though I know a few taller people had issues with the shin guards.


I didn't notice it so much while on the ride, but from this picture, it's quite obvious just how inclined the barrel roll elements are. They look like tilted-over strands of DNA.


We headed past the train maintenance shed, and back to the station.


I can think of many worse things to do than driving a train at Silver Dollar City.


This is a park that is easy to enjoy just by looking around at all the strange and interesting things scattered throughout. Here's an elevator for water, which is powered by water! A nearby water wheel turns the chain that lifts these buckets of water up high.


A moss-covered roof is just another little detail that gives the park its character.


Several sections of the Lost River of the Ozarks are very visible from the main trails.


Backing into a wave is pretty much a guaranteed soaking.


There's Outlaw Run, with a train climbing the lift.


This giant sheriff's badge is located just outside of Outlaw Run's entrance, and serves as a landmark for the area. It's a monument for law enforcement personnel.


The citizens of Silver Dollar City proudly salute the men and women who uphold the laws of our towns, our counties and these United States of America. May God bless and protect you and your families.


Every good ride needs a good entry sign, and Outlaw Run's is simple and very effective.


The Western Missouri Stagecoach Company forms the theme for the ride's queue and station. Outlaw Run's trains are a little more comfortable than that stagecoach would be.


Outlaw Run's wait was around an hour for most of the day. What's a TPR member to do?


That's right -- hit up the Trailblazer Pass line! Outlaw Run, being new, had a special line designed directly for the Trailblazer Pass. Most of the Trailblazer Pass queues for the other attractions seemed to retrofit parts of the ride exits.


If you forget what time it is while you're in line for Outlaw Run, don't look at those clocks -- they're all wrong!


A view of the Outlaw Run trains, while waiting for a ride in the far back.


What a setting! Outlaw Run heads up the lift as the sun gets lower on the horizon.


Most of Outlaw Run is impossible to photograph from the park's public areas, but a glimpse of the final barrel roll is visible. The final turn from the roll into the station is a remarkably smooth transition -- like an overbanked curve that gradually flattens out.


A silhouette of Outlaw Run on a warm Missouri evening.


I love this well-designed and themed warning sign -- it's so much better than just a plain one. A picture from Shawn's recent Dollywood trip report showed an identical sign in use at SDC's sister park in Tennessee.


I admit -- I wanted to try out the High-Low Silos. No idea if they even let adults give it a go.


The Giant Barn Swing is a pretty impressive piece of theming for an S&S swing ride.


Just a bit of air time up there!


Was this picture really taken at a major amusement property? It looks like something out of a well-maintained state park or nature center. These switchback trails are located near the entrance to the Wildfire queue.


Wildfire has sort of a "mad scientist" theme, and it appears we have entered the laboratory.


Wildfire's setting is absolutely stunning. One of the best for any coaster I've ever seen. Possibly the best for any coaster I've ever been on. Silver Dollar City doesn't try to hide it, either -- there's a huge elevated deck behind the Wildfire station building and gift shop, which makes it easy to get pictures of the entire coaster (and the Ozark scenery behind it).


If you think this view is great from here, try adding 100 feet from the top of the lift hill! From up there, a much larger portion of Table Rock Lake is visible.


One more shot of the view -- everything to the left of here is mainly just trees.


This hill is located just to the southwest of the park. Under the hill (and behind the foreground trees) is the far western end of Silver Dollar City's southernmost parking lot.


Here's a good look at the Wildfire train. It has a floor, but the seats are high enough that feet generally hang free. The park emblem on the front is nicely done.


TPR members know where to go on Wildfire -- the back row is the place to be!


The B&M version of "riding off into the sunset."


A huge vertical loop -- a staple of most B&M coasters with inversions.


Heading into the cobra roll. You can see how close the deck gets to the ride, allowing for some outstanding photo opportunities.


The row of buildings behind this banked curve on Wildfire belongs to the Eagles Nest Resort -- only about a mile away from the ride station.


Every train dispatch on Wildfire is accompanied by a steam-venting effect.


The empty station gets a little foggy as the next train prepares to enter.


Even the ride's front gate is well-designed!


Heading over to Powder Keg, with its busted-up "back spike." Hopefully it won't ever have to be used for real!


Though it may have some function, it's also part of the overall theming for the ride, which was converted from Buzz Saw Falls in 2005. Track elements and an old ride car were built into the queue building's roof!


Powder Keg fires off when the traffic light turns green.


A blast into the wilderness!

Edited by The Great Zo
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Pictures from Day 5 (continued)


For many TPR members at SDC, riding might actually come second to eating. Skillet meals like these were prepared at several locations around the park.


Try not to get too hungry. I don't even like sausage all that much, and I thought these were fantastic.


I had to try the Outlaw Run pizza! I like specialty chicken pizzas (especially when made in a stone or brick oven) and this one was good. I thought it was slightly underdone -- not unsafely, but I like my pizzas crispy.


I never had time for the kettle chips. How could I not make time for the kettle chips? Why is there so much to do at this place?


I intentionally didn't make time for the rather exotic mix of jerky flavors, but full credit to anyone who did -- you're more adventurous than I am!


I did, however, pick up some of this vanilla bark. I packed it away for the rest of the trip, but it didn't last more than a couple days once I got home.


A wider view inside Brown's Candy Factory. After you're done here, you may want to walk up and down that hill on the way to Outlaw Run about 10 or 20 times.


No! Why, Silver Dollar City, why?


Time to close with some night shots! A night ride on Thunderation was a lot of fun, and the queue was moving pretty quickly.


Wildfire looks spectacular at night. That great view during the day turns into starry darkness once the sun has set.


A train pulls up to the lift hill.


Heading up the lift on Wildfire at night.


Cobra rolling through the night. That's the constellation of Scorpius (including the bright red Antares) to the right of the track.


Wildfire zooms past the treeline.


TPR blasts off on Powder Keg!


SDC does special effects well, from the steam in the Wildfire queue to the blast of fire that accompanies every launch on Powder Keg.


Outlaw Run, already in a class of its own during the day, is simply incredible at night.


A train screeches through the turn under the lift -- and I do mean screeches!


The Outlaw Run station was full. Note that the bad guys have all been captured!


Joel Manby (Herschend CEO) prepares for a front-seat ride on Outlaw Run!


Joel gets ready for the ride, along with a few TPR members right behind.


Another view of the Outlaw Run station, which is well-themed and spacious.


The Outlaw Run law enforcement monument shines over the park at night.


In case you forgot why we're here...


Of course, SDC has a place for those "old-timey" pictures, which just seems appropriate for a park themed to the 1880s.


Live music filled the air at the front of the park, thanks to these guys -- the Thundering Red Rockets. I believe they were doing some Pink Floyd when I passed by. Earlier in the night, another band (Mile Zero) welcomed Joel Manby on stage to sing a few songs.


The stage-left guitarist is even wearing one of the limited-edition Outlaw Run shirts. But why is the keyboard player in the back? Put that guy up front and give him a spotlight!


Note: this post may have been written by a keyboard player.


Does that mean it's time to go? Do I have to? After nearly 20 hours, I still didn't explore all of the park, and I don't think I had enough to eat either.


A final water wheel scene outside the park's main entrance.


The big sign outside the park, which looks fantastic all lit up at night.


Thank you to SDC, TPR, and especially those who I spent my time at the park with -- you made this one of my favorite days of all of 2013.

Edited by The Great Zo
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International Snack Exchange Epilogue


The Texas/Midwest Trip's International Snack Exchange was held on Wednesday, July 31, as I've already chronicled. I came away from that night a huge fan of the Whittaker's White Chocolate L&P (Lemon and Paeroa) that Matt and Andrew brought from New Zealand. Sadly, I was not successful in my attempts to find a place to purchase this stuff online -- or at least not without significant expense.


I received a lucky break about a month ago, when discussing the TPR trip with a friend whose husband was in Australia. The husband thought he might be able to acquire some of the Whittaker's chocolate, so I put in a request for a few bars. It was learned thereafter that free shipping on the import from New Zealand was only available with an order of 16 bars. So, that's what they arranged for.



Without raising any red flags, an incredible order of 16 blocks of the white stuff was successfully delivered in a three-nation transaction from the south Pacific to the Midwest of the United States!



I purchased five of the bars, and several others have been shipped to California, Washington, New York, and maybe elsewhere.



I may be sick of this stuff by the time I'm about halfway through the third bar, but until then, I'll celebrate our efforts in chocolate-trafficking. My thanks again to Matt and Andrew for the inspiration!

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Great detailed update of SDC. Absolutely fell in love with that park and I can't wait to get back there.


Dito that, plus I think I ate more food in that park than any since Dollywood two years before!

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Thanks for doing these. Some of us can't go to all of these amazing parks (yet.) and it is nice to live vicariously through these TR. SDC is climbing the "theme park I most want to go to" list almost daily. I loved the pictures looks like the place I want to go to.

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You need at least a week at this park just to try all the food! Everything we ate there was amazing! Oh, and Outlaw Run is simply an incredible ride! For anyone who hasn't been to this park yet, you should book your plane ticket now!

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Absolutely fell in love with that park and I can't wait to get back there.


Exactly how I felt. Everyone on TPR had me gearing up for how great the park was, but my expectations were tempered due to what I perceived as the park's overall scope and size. I think it takes a visit to really see how and why it works as well as it does.


For anyone who hasn't been to this park yet, you should book your plane ticket now!


You could fly into the new airport they carved into a mountaintop south of the city on, uh... Buzz Airways? I'm thinking I'll drive when I return


Why didn't I know that there's an Outlaw Run Pizza? Only need that to finish my RMC collection



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TPR is not a charity, and I know that our group doesn't simply expect to gain favors for a song. TPR is a business, and putting it in those terms, I find it hard to fathom why a park would allow such a remarkable marketing opportunity to slip through their fingers. In the wake of the New Texas Giant accident, especially, this is a park that could have used any positive press it could find.


This hits the nail on the head. Every other park we visited made a better effort to be good hosts, and I would have loved to say the same for SFOT but I just can't. Iron Rattler was closed too, but that didn't stop SFFT from being awesome. They did everything they could to give us the best day possible. That all being said, based on what I've heard about the park in the past, and that I still need those missed credits, I definitely plan on returning there at some point in the future and hopefully things will have improved.


I know this is from a few months ago, but when TPR went to SFoT in 2009 we had a blast. Operations were pretty good and I don't seem to remember any major issues (other than something with the hotel we stayed at). That was my first TPR trip so I might have been oblivious though. Has there been a change in management at SFoT that would have made the 2013 trip that much worse?

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Great trip report Andy! I really loved the variety of food at the park myself when I visited last summer. My biggest gripe was the wait at Crossroads Pizza. They were busy, but that really wasn't an excuse for waiting 45 minutes for pizza at an amusement park. Other than that though, I really love SDC. The park's theming is amazing, and the way they use their terrain to hide their big rides really add to the immersion. When I went, I rode Fire in the Hole twice on two different days in the same seat. On day 1, I didn't get wet at all. When I rode day 2, I guessed the water feature had been taken out, so I ended up getting an unexpected mouthful of nasty tasting water. Also, I wasn't that big a fan of Wildfire. It might have just been me, but other than the airtime on the first drop, I really didn't find the ride thrilling. Thanks again for the pictures of the best park in Missouri (despite my gripes)!

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Thanks again Matt!


My biggest gripe was the wait at Crossroads Pizza.


It was pretty busy when I was there, but they were moving through the line quickly. We probably waited 15-20 minutes -- 45 definitely would have been too much. I have to admit we were there on a day when they were obviously prepared, in terms of staffing, for big crowds.


the way they use their terrain to hide their big rides really add to the immersion


Not only that, but the way they hide the rides from the outside world. The Grand Exposition is pretty close to Route 76/265, and Thunderation gets close to the park's access road. You'd never know it!


Also, I wasn't that big a fan of Wildfire. It might have just been me, but other than the airtime on the first drop, I really didn't find the ride thrilling.


It's a solid "B" ride for me (B&M's certainly done much better), but I probably factor in setting/location more than a lot of people, which is why I did enjoy it quite a bit.


Thanks for the comments!

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