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CONTENTS:

Part 1: Carowinds (Page 1)

Part 2: Dollywood (Page 2)

Part 2.5: Pigeon Forge / Gatlinburg (Page 2)

Part 3: Kings Island (Page 3)

Part 4: Holiday World (Page 3)

Part 5: Six Flags St. Louis (Page 3)

Part 6: City Museum (Page 4)

Part 7: Silver Dollar City (Page 5)

Part 8: Branson (Page 5)

Part 9: Worlds of Fun / post-trip (Page 6)

 

------------------

 

Hi all.

 

OK, I think we'll be riding the buses long enough that I can edit up some pictures and do a rapid-fire, near-real-time trip report from our latest 11-day excursion.

 

So let's get started at Carowinds!

 

Got into town Monday night. We went to the park Tuesday and early this morning (Wednesday) and had plenty of time to explore the park and ride things. I did a credit run of the coasters but made sure to give extra time to the park's three best attractions:

 

* Intimidator: This was actually better than anticipated. I was expecting a weak ride like Silver Star, but got something closer to Diamondback, which is a pretty solid coaster.

 

* Afterburn: Classic old-school B&M snappyness. Instantly shoots into my top 3 with Montu and Banshee, and I think it's a steep drop off after those three.

 

* Fury 325: Of course, this one was pretty much the star of the show. I'll say it's an "A" coaster rather than an "A+" coaster simply because the second half of the ride isn't quite as incredible as the first. But the first half does a lot of really weird stuff that isn't typical for B&M, all while moving at an incredible, face-peeling speed.

 

Yup, our "very small but not quite zero" chance of rain ended up coming to fruition at about 9PM, but things dried out just before a fantastic round of ERT at the end of Tuesday night.

 

On to the pictures!

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Before the trip started, got some scenic shots of downtown (or is it uptown?) Charlotte.

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Charlotte's skyline is nice!

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Shiny.

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Welcome to Carowinds!

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Two states, one park.

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Let's not get into how long it took me to get this photo timed out.

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Fury wraps around the entrance area.

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I232 takes a drop.

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Also in view at Carowinds? Airplanes. Charlotte's airport is quite nearby.

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Not quite as close as the Louisville airport to Kentucky Kingdom, but much more air traffic.

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Some history and information about Carowinds on the state line!

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A shot right down the state line. It's a geo-oddity /and/ a theme park!

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Another state line picture.

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Weather theming! (the sign is better than the ride, though)

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TPR folks on the kiddie woodie!

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Coasters of all sizes.

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Fury is the star attraction, though!

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Coasters and clouds.

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Fury on one of its many high-speed turns.

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Fast as a rocket on Fury.

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Another tight corner on Fury.

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I absolutely loved the first half of Fury, and liked the second half.

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Fury and Intimidator.

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The famous "treble clef" shot.

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The entryway to Carowinds as evening begins to fall.

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Awesome colors as sunset approaches.

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More airplanes!

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Intimidator and awesome clouds.

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Fury's drop, silhouetted in the sky.

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Clouds and coasters. I could do this all day.

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Yes, we had some rain, but all it did was make this shot more awesome!

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This is a classic night view of Fury that just about any serious photographer who's been to the park has, but I had to get it myself.

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Bug guy!

 

We went back to Carowinds in the morning for a tour of Fury's maintenance area.

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New wheels.

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Old wheels.

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A high pressure washing machine thing, and some other machinery in the Fury maintenance area.

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A "behind the scenes" shot of Fury's mess of track.

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Reflecting on the lift hill.

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Fury is patriotic.

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Now for a few more action shots -- like this one of Fury going through its tunnel.

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Fury comes off the weird sideways airtime before the tunnel -- a first for B&M!

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Fury coasts onward.

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Fury rounds a curve.

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Fury dives into the tunnel.

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X marks the spot.

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Coaster nerd track shot. Thanks I232 for the cameo.

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Fury at high speed and low to the ground.

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Framing the turn-around in the supports.

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The first drop is pretty awesome!

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Furious!

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Warning. Restricted area. Do not enter.

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Fury pulls into the brake run, and we pull out of Carowinds. Great first park visit of the trip!

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Great report!

 

I agree on Intimidator. Not as bad as I was expecting from others' reviewers, but definitely on the lower end of the B&M hypers. Fury meanwhile was outstanding from start to finish. I thought the last few hills still gave amazing airtime and they weren't a let-down relative to the first half. And that was even with the trims biting a bit last year.

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Great pictures, Andy! Especially the night shots of Fury with the mirroring pools of water. A, but not quite A+ is a great way to sum up Fury, IMO. Those transitions in the first half of the ride are stellar..

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Thanks everyone!

 

Those transitions in the first half of the ride are stellar..

 

Yup, that they are.

 

And yet it's already dropped to the second-best coaster I've been on this trip...

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Hi again!

 

Here's park #2 of the trip -- Dollywood!

 

To no surprise, the reason for going to Dollywood was to try (again) to get on Lightning Rod. Things looked bad, and then looked not so bad, and then looked fantastic as we finally got in line to ride! After success on Lightning Rod, we also saw the fireworks, took a lap on the other coasters, had a great lunch at the new Front Porch Cafe, and ate some cinnamon bread -- though I shouldn't need to specify the last one, since it's kind of automatic.

 

How was Lightning Rod? It's right there with Outlaw Run and Wildfire -- two other outstanding RMC wooden coasters. Outlaw Run might be the most consistent of the three, but it's also the shortest. Wildfire has a perfect first half that lets up a little near the end. Lightning Rod might be the opposite -- it starts out as great, and ends up insane. Having never been on the ride before, I don't know if the launch is slower than before, but we definitely didn't crest the first hill with a lot of speed. That said, the quad down -- especially in the back -- is so awesome it almost hurts! I will say that LR's operations were in some ways odd, and in other ways simply not good. Won't get into that now, because I have to get the pictures up before we arrive to the next destination!

 

Will also have a short update from other stuff in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg up tonight or tomorrow.

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This is what we're here for!

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Cars and stuff.

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I now feel like I can take pictures of Lightning Rod since I've actually been on it.

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Lightning Rod was down, but then...

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...it was open! Just about to ride for the first time!

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Launching to the top.

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On the quad down.

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Up into the final turn.

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On the final airtime moment.

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Reaching out at the end!

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We got some more rides on Lightning Rod at night.

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As we waited to ride, everybody else watched the fireworks, and I took a picture of everyone else watching the fireworks.

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I saw the fireworks too.

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Gas.

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A nice view of the fireworks from near the Lightning Rod station. Oh, and the night rides were very dark and very awesome.

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Back to Dollywood in the morning for more fun.

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We started off with some rides on Tennessee Tornado, as demonstrated by Nathan.

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It's a good Arrow coaster! They do exist!

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It's hard to photograph, but there are a few views from the exit area.

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Russ enjoying the ride in the back row!

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More TPR riders near the front of the train.

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Naturally, we made our way back to Lightning Rod, and watched the maintenance staff make their walk down from the quad down hill.

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With that, we were on board and ready to ride!

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Pulling out of the station -- and it's genuine excitement since this ride is so good.

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Caption this!

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Launching on Lightning Rod.

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About to reach the top!

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Curving up.

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Intense right to the end.

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Hands up for maximum enjoyment!

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This is where the magic happens.

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Cinnamon Bread and whatever else. We know why we're here.

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We got a demonstration from Joan at the Grist Mill, as she was preparing new loaves to bake.

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Take a crap ton of sugar, add half a crap ton of cinnamon...

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...and prepare some loaves of bread for the coating.

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Mix it all up real good.

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Bake it up for lots of awesome.

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The end result! Popular with both humans and bees!

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Next -- some rides on Mountain Slidewinder.

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There aren't many of these types of rides around (Dollywood's is the only one I know of) and it feels a little out of control!

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It gets fast.

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It gets crazy.

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It might get a little wet.

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Or, it might get a lot wet.

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Mountain Slidewinder better not be going anywhere -- it's a fun and unique attraction that is very unlike most amusement park rides.

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A group of half-soaked TPR people at the end of the ride. Literally half-soaked; just one side!

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So why not get fully soaked? Daredevil Falls was providing a drenching drop for full boats.

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Cresting the top.

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Preparing the descent.

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Oh, the reactions!

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At the bottom of the drop.

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Disappearing into a wall of mist.

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This is where the wetness occurs.

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A full boat of fully-soaked riders!

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Random theming!

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Dollywood has live eagles...

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...and giant eagle statues.

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Also, coasters themed to eagles!

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Wild Eagle is good, but those restraints cut off the circulation in my arms, which isn't good.

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Firechaser Express is one of the best family coasters I've ever been on.

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Just thrilling enough for everyone.

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Yes, it has airtime.

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Crazy Charlie's! Oh, and can you find the hidden Dolly inside the fireworks barn? Try to find it on your next ride!

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Mystery Mine -- fun layout, great theming, still a little rougher than I'd prefer.

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Thunderhead is a fun GCI!

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Drop Line is new for 2017, and it's got a good drop with /outstanding/ views. It's really the only place in the park to get a view of the coasters in the foreground and Mount LeConte in the background. But take it in quick, because the drop can be sudden.

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There are some definitions to learn while in the Drop Line queue.

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I'm just going to refrain from further comment on some of these!

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On the way out of the park: this may or may not be Dolly's van.

 

Yeah, probably not. That's all for Dollywood!

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Excellent pics! So Mountain Slidewinder gets you kind of wet and Daredevil Falls soaks you - is that about right? I love the ones of Daredevil Falls where KT shrieks, shrinks, and disappears into the skloosh. I also love the picture of the fireworks with the old car in the foreground. Glad to hear the Lightning Rod gods were smiling on you for your visit!

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As always simply incredible photos. My favorite thing about your work is how you manage to capture peoples up close and true expressions on/reactions to rides. Amazing.

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There's a ton of really flattering pictures of me in this update, thanks Andy (also thanks for all of the rain ). I was not expecting to be sitting in a puddle in the log flume after the lift hill (Also it was KT's idea to sit in the front, not mine)

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There's a ton of really flattering pictures of me in this update, thanks Andy (also thanks for all of the rain ). I was not expecting to be sitting in a puddle in the log flume after the lift hill (Also it was KT's idea to sit in the front, not mine)

 

1) You seem to find a way into some of my more, uh, creative shots!

2) GOOD JOB ANDY.

3) Well judging by her reaction, Kristen might have regretted that decision!

 

Good to see you again, Andy. Great photos and looking forward to seeing the rest of the trip.

 

Likewise, great to see you and thanks for hanging out for a bit in Pigeon Forge!

 

My favorite thing about your work is how you manage to capture peoples up close and true expressions on/reactions to rides. Amazing.

 

That is the goal!

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Here's a short update -- we'll call it Part 2.5 -- from some free time we had in Pigeon Forge and Gatlinburg. There's plenty to do in this area, from tacky tourist traps to awesome mini golf, big attractions and cheesy restaurants. With a group like ours, there is plenty of fun to be had.

 

One thing I did but won't cover (due to a lack of pictures) is a fun trip to Clip and Climb (at Top Jump) which is a facility with a ton of different climbing walls. Robb's update covers this awesome place and I may have had a little too much fun (and scaled their timed wall in under seven seconds...)

 

Another accomplishment was riding four alpine coasters in two days! Reviews of them will be mixed in with the pictures.

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I have not been in an arcade in a decade, so things are a little different than I remember. Nonetheless, I had fun, and this insane gazillions-of-pucks Pac Smash air hockey table was a hit!

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I had some skill at this milk jug toss game, sinking three throws in a row, but never made it to five to win the jackpot.

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I loved the giant Pac Man machine...

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...which Russ set a high score on!

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The machine also allows people to play Galaga on its huge LED screen, and we had a ringer on our hands.

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A close-up view of one of the Galaga bad guys on the LED board.

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This was my first time ever riding alpine coasters at night! We started at Goats on the Roof.

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This coaster has an awesome lighting package on the lower half, but it's pitch black up top, which makes for a spooky ride.

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The "goat coaster" lit up at night.

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We also rode the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster.

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A view from across the street at the Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster. Contrasting with the Goats on the Roof coaster, this one has tracer LEDs that run up the entire lift, which creates a cool glowing effect in the tree canopy above the lift.

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Here's the view of the track!

 

These two are my favorite alpine coasters in the area. I think the Smoky Mountain coaster is slightly better (maybe a little more intense in spots) but to be honest the rest of the experience at Goats on the Roof is better. A little less corporate, a little more friendly, and a lot less crowded for whatever reason. Wish more people went to that one!

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The next morning, we went to the newest coaster of the batch -- Rowdy Bear in Gatlinburg.

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Rowdy Bear got us in early for some rides, and it was a lot of fun.

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This one's short, as it's on the same smaller hill that the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster is on.

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It might be my least favorite of the four, but it's definitely worth riding. Can't wait for their zipline coaster to open later this year!

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Getting ready to head up the lift at Rowdy Bear. Also, for anyone who's been there, "Bear Facts, Bear Facts, it's facts about bears, it's Bear Facts!"

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Climbing the lift at Rowdy Bear.

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The final alpine coaster was the Gatlinburg Mountain Coaster. This one is short, but its second half gains some significant speed, and the final helix is the most intense moment on any alpine coaster I've been on.

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Hmm, this shirt looks a little familiar...

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"Hi, this is the Hersheypark legal department, can we speak to the manager?" ;)

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I summoned the rain to try to make the Gatlinburg coaster run a little faster! That's my story and I'm sticking to it!

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Next up? A place I've been wanting to go to for several years -- Hillbilly Golf. I think I have to credit Erik/Smisty for doing the thread that first brought this place to my attention.

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It's a mini golf course that requires a ride on an inclined railway (funicular) to get to the course, which is a decent distance up the hill.

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POV shot up the funicular!

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Teeing off.

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There was more golf skill in this group than I was expecting.

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He sinks it!

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Hillbilly Golf has many interesting obstacles -- barrels, broken-down farm equipment, a stagecoach, an outhouse, etc.

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This is not an easy place to putt from!

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Take a bath while you wait to tee off!

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Just, please, keep your clothes on.

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I won an intense, hard-fought, epic battle -- 43 to 47 to 48 to 50.

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And then I called down the rain again to make the golf course more interesting! I promise it was all part of the plan!

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Final picture -- something to do on my next visit to Gatlinburg. This is the lower facility for Anakeesta which will run a chair lift up the hill on the southeast side of Gatlinburg to a new development. Anakeesta, of greatest interest to people reading here, will have a new alpine coaster at the top.

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Great photos! Your Lightning Rod photos are teasing me after I missed that ride. Someday, someday...

 

I loved Hillbilly Golf when I visited. I'm a sucker for the old-fashioned courses that rely heavily on obstacles and every single hole at Hillbilly had that. Then the inclined railway brought the course over the edge. Were you still able to see a ton of fallen trees from the windstorm the area experienced earlier this year?

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Next update is here! This is Park #3 -- Kings Island.

 

Yes, I live near here, and I've been here many times. Still, it's always fun to go with a new group and experience some of the rides through their eyes for the first time ever.

 

I rode some stuff and skipped some stuff, but was glad to find Banshee and Diamondback still delivering as usual. Mystic Timbers was new for me -- it's a really fun coaster, definitely an above-average effort from GCI, though it's not good enough to top Banshee or Diamondback in the KI lineup. As for Beast, it's still doing its thing -- remarkable rides at night in the darkness, and decent-ish rides during the day when the aesthetics aren't there.

 

Pictures!

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Brooding clouds behind The Beast at night.

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Deep blue skies behind the Diamondback lift.

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Earlier in the evening, some brave people tried Vortex.

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I was not one of them!

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Bright orange and dull blue.

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Vortex is a classic! That's the nicest thing I can say!

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Congrats, you survived.

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The back row also survived.

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Night rides on The Beast are a great experience.

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So are night rides on Mystic Timbers, which travels far enough out into the woods to be almost as dark as The Beast.

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Back the next morning for some bright-and-sunny rides on Mystic Timbers.

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Whatever you do...

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...don't...

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...go in...

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...the shed!

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They didn't listen, so up the lift they go.

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It's got typical GCI forces -- quick changes in direction, brief and not-too-intense moments of airtime. The layout is more fun, in my opinion, than some of the more twisted-up GCIs.

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They're about to go in the shed!

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Surviving the shed for some morning rides on The Beast.

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It's a coaster classic and a piece of local Cincinnati history.

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It makes people very excited to ride!

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Hands up ... on the pre-lift.

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This should be a fun train.

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Do not stand up!

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Keep hands inside car!

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So naturally after The Beast it was time to get some people on ... Flying Ace?

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Yep, Flying Ace.

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I have the credit so I skipped it (it's not a favorite).

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But, those who rode had a good time.

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Are we sure this isn't a Six Flags promotion?

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Firehawk is doing its Vekoma thing.

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Which is, from reviews, slightly better than Nighthawk's thing at Carowinds.

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"Welcome back Blue Racer, how was your ride?"

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"Not great because you didn't make it past the lift hill!"

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Our group really needs to stop breaking stuff!

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A wider view.

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No big deal, a quick walk down, and off on your way for the rest of the day.

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Mystic Timbers isn't easy to photograph, but there are some good spots from the new path to the rapids ride.

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Even from there, only the first drop is really visible.

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It's a fun drop with some whip in the back.

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Vortex seems to bring out a range of emotions.

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Front left says it all.

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Hey, let's combine a hang-and-bang with a boomerang. What could possibly go wrong?

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No brave TPR riders on the log flume this time, so I'll have to make do with a couple of random guests.

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Still quite wet.

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Probably too wet!

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Also got some pictures of the Congo splash boat ride, just in case it doesn't survive much longer.

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It's got a double-down.

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It also has one of the smaller splashes I've seen for a ride of this type...

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...but it still is big enough to soak everyone on the boat.

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A glowing ride on Drop Tower. Timed out the sun behind the center of the ride vehicle.

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A distant view of Drop Tower in action.

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Banshee is still great! It's not as snappy as Afterburn was at Carowinds, but the positive G-forces are more prolonged.

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An odd, distant view of Banshee from across the park.

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Terror on the skycoaster!

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Now for some views from the Eiffel Tower. I've posted a picture similar to this one before, but I'll do it again -- downtown Cincinnati is just barely visible!

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A shot of the construction going on near the Western Row interchange, which will help improve access to/from Kings Island by converting it into a full interchange in both directions.

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Banshee drops in on Delirium.

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A closer view of Delirium in action.

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Windseeker seeks some wind.

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Drop tower scares some people.

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Racer races.

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Mystic Timbers climbs the lift.

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Mystic Timbers heads out to the Beast-esque tunnel.

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Mystic Timbers on the return leg.

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Diamondback at the top of the lift.

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No, Diamondback is not actually on fire!

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Splashdown.

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Invertigo and Congo.

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Banshee goes all zero-G.

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Banshee does another inversion.

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A small gathering near the floral clock.

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TPR group photo from way up high!

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And now you can see everybody!

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Closed out with some shots of Diamondback because it's a fun coaster to watch.

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On the first drop!

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A wider view of a train on the first drop.

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Diamondback slithers onward.

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Two train shot!

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Diamondback passes guests on the midway.

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A splashdown in effect.

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A closer view of the back of the train splashing down.

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More splashdown!

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Last shot as a train climbs to the brake run from the splash below. That's it from KI!

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Great photos, Andy! Firehawk is starting to show a little green again..

 

Makes me miss my old home park a little bit. Glad to hear MT is developing a solid reputation and Diamondback and Banshee are still living up to the reputations they built.

 

Diamondback row 2 FTW!

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