It had been far too long since I had visited Virginia’s parks. Busch Gardens is easily one of the best parks in the world and Kings Dominion isn’t too shabby either. I was *this* close to scheduling this trip last year to check out InvadR, but Hurler’s early closure and the promise of “Really More Coming” had me (as well as other enthusiasts) salivating. With all signs pointing to a RMC, I knew it’d be worth waiting for 2018. And then on National Roller Coaster Day, Twisted Timbers was announced.
Originally I had planned to hit Busch Gardens on Friday and Kings Dominion on Saturday. Busch Gardens had longer hours on Friday and it made sense to hit Kings Dominion on the busier day since my ticket included FastLane Plus thanks to the President’s Day weekend sale. However, anyone following the Kings Dominion thread knows that Twisted Timbers has had some hiccups since opening.
As I drove down I-95 on Friday morning, it kept running through my head, “What if Twisted Timbers was closed all-day on Saturday?” I knew it was unlikely, but that thought couldn’t escape my head. Then I had an epiphany. I could hit Kings Dominion on Friday and if Twisted Timbers was closed all day, I could try a second time on Saturday night. Yes I’d blow my FastLane on a less crowded day, but it’d give me two tries to ride my most anticipated coaster of the trip.
It was a tough call, but then there was a sign from the heavens. I kid you not, a R.M.C. truck pulled in front of me on the highway. No not Rocky Mountain Construction, but a (later) Google search revealed it was none other than Bealton, Virginia’s Rmc Trucking LLC. It was too much of a coincidence to avoid. My decision was made. I was going to Kings Dominion.
As I approached the gate, I saw a long list of closed rides. My heart started to sink. With 5 rides closed, I had a bad feeling Twisted Timbers would be one of them. Snoopy’s Rocket Express. Not wasting my time. Snoopy’s Space Buggies and Joe Cool’s Driving School. Pretty sure I couldn’t ride those even if I wanted to. White Water Canyon. 65 degrees isn’t that cold for me, but I can understand it. But then number 5 was a major coaster with a twisted layout…but thank god it was Flight of Fear.
So once the park opened, I immediately made my way over to Candy Apple Grove. With each step, a booming, ratcheting sound became more and more audible. And that sound was emanating from none other than Twisted Timbers. And then I saw a train gracefully traverse that sick barrel roll drop. Yes it was open! Or so I thought.
We were informed cold weather would delay the ride’s opening, but the constant cycling of trains placated any concerns the ride would pull a Lightning Rod and be closed all day. I secretly chuckled on the inside that 50 degrees was considered cold down here. I mean even SFNE’s Goliath can run in temperatures that cold and that thing is the king of valleying.
I debated camping by the entrance, but decided to be productive. I had FastLane Plus after-all, so it wasn’t like lines would be an issue. Still I wasn’t going to let Twisted Timbers out of my sight. Fortunately there were a few other coasters nearby.
I began with the recently renamed Racer 75. Maybe if I had a greater attachment to Kings Dominion, I’d shed a tear over the ride no longer being called Rebel Yell. But to be perfectly honest, I could care less. A ride could be called something as dumb as (oh I don’t know, just picking a random name from my brain) Apple Zapple, but if it’s a good ride, who cares.
Only the blue side was running, but on a slower day that wasn’t too much of a surprise. Racer 75 appears to have been recently retracked since it was running extremely well. It’s never been a rough coaster, but it’s always been on the bumpier side. Not today. The train glided over each hill with barely any rattle whatsoever.
I started in the front and was treated to 3-4 nice pops of air on the outward leg. The return leg had far less air than you’d expect from a traditional out-and-back layout though. When we returned to the mostly empty station, I asked if I could change to an empty row and the operators were happy to oblige. This is always a treat for me since SFNE will always deny this request without fail. The second to back had less air than the front, but was still perfectly smooth. 6 out of 10
Twisted Timbers had progressed from water dummy testing to empty trains, but it still wasn’t accepting guests. So I decided to kill time on Apple Zapple. In the past, I’ve been disappointed by these large Mack wild mice. Yes the larger drop is fantastic, but the car really seems to crawl through the rest of the layout.
Maybe it was the sheer lunacy of a ride called Apple Zapple, but I thought it was running extremely well. The first drop was as good as expected, but the rest of the coaster held its speed quite well. I didn’t notice any of the brakes being used, which was a major plus. The hairpin turns actually delivered the side-splitting laterals I expect from wild mice. Then the extra speed also granted some weak airtime on the final bunny hills. 6 out of 10
I spotted an employee testing Twisted Timbers, so I joined the rapidly multiplying crowd by the entrance. A few minutes later, it was open. Since I was one of three people with FastLane Plus, we were able to bypass the lengthy queue and immediately proceed to the station, granting us the first public ride of the day. I snagged the back rows and the employees quickly checked our restraints and sent us on our way. I was stunned the park didn’t wait for the rest of the queue to reach the station, but wasn’t going to complain!
Anticipation built as the train slowed to a crawl over the lift, but once released, we sped into that barrel roll drop. I had previously experienced a barrel roll drop on Storm Chaser, but this one was quite a bit different. Storm Chaser’s felt drawn out and graceful. The one on Twisted Timbers feels steeper and as a result, the plentiful hang-time was accompanied by a ferocious whip.
After a two tiny airtime bumps and a speedy overbank came the highlight of the ride- the three camelback hills. Immediately after the ride’s animation was released, everyone fixated on those three hills. It looked more reminiscent of an Intamin hyper than a RMC. And let me say that these hills didn’t disappoint. While they weren’t quite at the El Toro or Skyrush levels of airtime, they were dang close. They were pure, sustained ejector air.
The rest of the ride is like a bucking bull. Then there’s another mini bump providing a small pop of air and that’s followed by the cutback. The cutback was much different than expected. I wasn’t expecting it to have any hangtime, but RMC again proved that they’re the masters of inducing airtime at angles that seemingly shouldn’t be able to. It was a really funky experience.
The rest of the ride felt a bit sluggish, but it still delivered spectacular airtime. From the trick track hills to the outward banked hill to the zero-G roll, each element launched me into the restraint. The final few hills lost quite a bit of steam like Wicked Cyclone. It felt like they wanted to eject me, but they weren’t quite able to…on my first ride at least.
After experiencing the airtime buffet known as Twisted Timbers, I had to experience it again. This time I rode in the front and even though it was just 15 minutes later, the ride was already traveling noticeably faster. Maybe it was the 3 person train on my first ride, but this time the second half maintained its speed much better. Instead of having a brief moment to catch my breath in between airtime hills, Twisted Timbers simply didn’t let up until the final few bumps.
So how’s it compare to other RMCs? Favorably. I can’t quite put it ahead of Lightning Rod, Iron Rattler, or Wildfire, but I’d say it slots in just behind Twisted Colossus. With each additional ride, I couldn’t help but think of Twisted Timbers as Wicked Cyclone with a barrel roll plunge instead of the standard first drop. While it’s probably the fifth best RMC I’ve been on, that’s still a borderline top 5 steel coaster and says a lot about the company’s pedigree. 10 out of 10
I could have very well ridden Twisted Timbers all day, but there’s a certain Intamin giga on the other side of the park. I have to be honest; until my most recent visit, I thought Intimidator 305 was overrated. Before raising your pitch forks, hear me out. I could never deny the ride’s intensity. However, I tend to prefer rides focusing on airtime, which is why I preferred something like a B&M hyper. However, that changed on Friday.
FastLane was laughably unnecessary for I305. Despite running just one train, the coaster was a walk-on in every row but the front. In fact, the park didn’t even have the FastLane queue open for this reason. Since the front was just a 3 cycle wait, I decided to wait the extra 10 minutes for what I thought would be the best row.
After hearing the familiar “Gentleman, start your engines,” it’s an absolute adrenaline rush. The first drop is one of the best in the world; it’s over 300 feet after all. Then the blackout turn certainly lives up to its name. You can try every Internet remedy out there, clenching your muscles or staying hydrated, but you will start to grey out.
Once you come to your senses, you are treated to some powerful, sustained ejector air. Then comes the insane twister section. I still can’t believe a coaster this tall and this fast spends a majority of the ride hugging the ground. It seems so wrong, but that’s what makes I305 so right. Each transition feels like it’s trying to kill you. I don’t understand how a flat transition like this induces airtime, but somehow I305 is able to.
The finale does have a noticeable trim brake, but the following two hills still give powerful ejector air. I’m pretty sure the absence of a brake would result in some Skyrush level air there. Then the last two snaps leading into the brake run are just as violent in a totally comfortable ride. Once I hit the brake run, I realized I was wrong about I305. It really is one of the best coasters in the world.
I immediately switched to the back row and was even more impressed. Yes I did miss the rush of wind battering against my face, but it was worth it to experience the first drop in full. I love the drops on the B&M gigas; you float for what feels like forever the whole way down. I305 yanks you down. And the benefits extended beyond just the first drop. The transitions felt even wilder in the back as well.
Dumbfounded there was no one waiting for the back, so I remained in my seat. When I returned to the station, the back was again open so I tried to do the same, but was told you could only reride I305 two times in a row. No bother, it allowed me to add steps to my Fitbit…except I305 killed it. The ride’s brute intensity somehow reset my fitbit. I think that says it all about how wild I305 is. 10 out of 10
FastLane was useful for Twisted Timbers, but not totally necessary. However, it was absolutely necessary for Volcano. Nothing else in the park had more than a 15 minute wait. Yet Volcano’s switchbacks were completely full and I’ve been led to believe it’s a common occurrence. I remember the first time I rode Volcano in 2006, I waited almost 2.5 hours.
Needless to say, I was ecstatic to skip the wait and in just 10-15 minutes, I was seated in the front row. This truly is the money seat on Volcano. I know it’s not a hydraulic launch, but the rolling launch is about as forceful a launch out there barring the accelerator coasters. The front row also allows you to fully appreciate the near misses with the volcano.
I know some may have an issue how repetitive Volcano’s layout is. I too find it repetitive, but I have zero issues with three consecutive barrel rolls. No one objects to three straight airtime hills on Twisted Timbers, so what’s wrong with three of the same inversions back-to-back-to-back? Nothing if you ask me.
Volcano is such a unique coaster and there really isn’t anything out there quite like it. I know there are the impulse coasters, but it’s still impressive to experience a launch on an inverted coater. Then unlike many of the accelerator coasters, Volcano packs more elements into its layout. 9 out of 10
Also why was there a shirt available that said "I'll be your volcano." I don't even know what that's supposed to mean...
Since I was nearby, I decided to give Avalanche a whirl. To be honest, I’ve never found it to be one of the better bobsleds out there. The only real speed is built up during the final helix and then you immediately charge into the brake run.
After riding several of the Mack bobsleds in Europe, I’ve realized they tend to noticeably vibrate as they picked up speed. Unfortunately Avalanche was no different. It never became painful, but I definitely wouldn’t call it a good thing. Still it’s a unique enough to warrant a ride if the queue is empty. 4 out of 10
Top spins seem to be a dying breed, so I definitely made sure to ride the Crypt. I recalled it being one of the better top spins out there and my memory didn’t deceive me. While the water and fire effects have lessened over time, the ride cycle is just as awesome. There are two separate instances of 3-4 consecutive flips. Anyone who has ridden a top spin knows just how many Gs are pulled during these flips. 8 out of 10
Since Boo Blasters was closed and I have enough dignity not to borrow a kid to ride the Great Pumpkin Coaster, I made my way over to Dominator. Not unexpectedly, it was a complete walk-on, so I started in the front row.
The massive vertical loop has some unexpected hangtime for a B&M, but the rest of the coaster absolutely hauls. The overbanks and cobra roll are taken faster than you’d expect and on this cooler day, the MCBR barely grabbed the train. This resulted in some great floater air to kick off the second half. Then the final two corkscrews aren’t quite as snappy as Kumba, but they’re pretty darn snappy. Really the only thing missing from Dominator is a zero-G roll. I’m still stunned the coaster doesn’t have one.
I immediately followed it up with a ride in the back row and enjoyed Dominator even more. The hangtime was even more pronounced in the vertical loop and I was fully able to appreciate the airtime diving off of the MCBR. With the park’s big three, I’m pretty sure Dominator will be overshadowed, but it shouldn’t. Despite being the only floorless coaster out there without my favorite inversion, Dominator still manages to stand out. 8.5 out of 10
Unlike the confusing volcano shirt, the park had a pseudo BDSM shirt available for purchase, "I'll be your dominator."
After non-stop coaster riding, I decided to take a break and ascend the picturesque Eiffel Tower. As a fan of theme park photography, I absolutely love when parks have observation towers. I especially love when they have the observation decks since that gives me the flexibility to grab photos at my leisure instead of just missing the perfect shot as the car rotates away. 10 out of 10
I wasn’t sure if the log flume would be operational in the cooler temperatures and I was worried when I saw no one in the queue line. Turns out, there was just no one willing to brave 60 degree temperatures in a flexiglass log. I eagerly plopped myself down in the back row, which was the correct decision.
After the first drop, a wall of water landed on the front bench. Had I been sitting up front, that would have been a drencher. In back, I barely got more than a few splashes. The second drop is considerably taller than the first and pretty average for a flume. But that’s not where the Shenandoah Lumber Company shines. This flume shines in its location.
It’s impressive how one half of Kings Dominion is an asphalt jungle while the other side is completely shaded. That yields one of the better log flume layouts out there. You truly feel as if you’ve traveled deep in the woods of Virginia. 8 out of 10
FastLane allowed me to skip a sizable wait on Flying Eagles. It appeared as if the queue had been swarmed by a school trip, so I was ecstatic to walk right onto the flying scooters. I had only ridden them once, but I remembered them being very snappable. I had no such luck today.
When I boarded, I noticed the sails were heavier than most and there was a considerable amount of friction with the tub. The latter is something I’ve never noticed on other flying scooters. I was still able to get a considerable amount of movement, but at no point did I feel like I was defying death itself. I guess I’ll save that for my inevitable Knoebels trip this year. 7 out of 10
Like the flume, Grizzly is another ride that uses its wooded setting extremely well. Even on busier days, this coaster doesn’t have a line. I’d say it shocks me, but I do wonder how many guests can find the attraction. Not only is it shrouded deep inside the woods, but you have to pass through a gift shop to enter the queue line. It’d one thing if the gift shop was a short cut, but no, it’s literally the only way to access Grizzly.
I began in the front row and immediately remembered why I’m a big Grizzly fan. The first drop is steeper than you’d expect and gives some solid air in the back row. Then the ridiculously slow, flat turn is one of the few spots to catch your breath on the ride. I know it’s technically not a double down, but the third hill after the turnaround gives some incredibly strong air.
Next is the signature tunnel with a surprise pop of air. The next turnaround is another dull spot on the ride, but the rest of the ride is anything but. A majority of the remaining hills give some good air and because several of them are angled, they also provide some strong laterals as well.
Like Dominator, Grizzly doesn’t get the love it deserves. The coaster really is the complete package. It has a wonderful setting, great airtime, and strong laterals all while providing a reasonably smooth ride. At a smaller regional park, I could see Grizzly being a star attraction. 8 out of 10
I then grabbed a few more rides on Twisted Timbers and it was now up to full speed. Any notion that the coaster was sluggish was eradicated. It was particularly noticeable on that trick track hill. While my first ride slowly undulated through this section, Twisted Timbers tore through it this time bouncing me out of my seat like a Mexican jumping bean.
Outside of the Crypt, I had been neglecting Kings Dominion’s solid flat ride collection. I was eager to reride Windseeker and their colossal Drop Tower, but unfortunately both were closed for the day. As a consolation prize, I had the park’s new for 2017 attraction to hit, Delirium.
I know many didn’t shed a tear at Shockwave’s removal, but I actually enjoyed it. In all honestly, I prefer the Togo stand-ups to the B&M ones since the restraints didn’t induce any headbanging for me. Unlike my last visit where the plot of land was vacant, the spot is now filled with a giant frisbee.
While I’m not as big a fan of the Mondial versions, but they’re still solid rides and give decent air on the max swings. They just are noticeably tamer than the giant Inamin, Huss, or Zamperla versions. I’m glad more parks seem to be adding these giant frisbees since few flats are better. 7 out of 10
I had two remaining coasters before moving onto rerides on I305 and Twisted Timbers. I planned to hit Backlot Stunt Coaster first. I entered into the queue and quickly noticed something was wrong. The coaster was only running one train. I have never seen any of the Backlot clones down to one train operations before and because of how far back the FastLane merge point was, I estimated the queue could take almost a half hour. Backlot is fun and all, but I couldn’t justify it over multiple I305 rides.
The other coaster was Anaconda, which was of course a walk-on. Not wanting to waste any precious time waiting for the front, I grabbed a ride in the very back. Anaconda really is a mixed bag. The first half is quite good with the underwater tunnel and forceful two inversions. But the second half is the definition of coat-hanger transitions.
Because the MCBR brings the train to a halt, you creep through the demented pretzel knot which truly lets you appreciate Arrow’s handiwork. Fortunately my head is above the OSTR because otherwise, this would be brutal. Then the two corkscrews feel very wrong. On every other coaster, corkscrews are snappy. On Anaconda, they’re taken so slowly that they actually induce hang-time.
I could see smaller riders despising Anaconda, but for me it’s no problem at all. I can’t justify riding it more than once since the park has a superior looper just a 5 minute walk away in Dominator, but it does have a nice setting over the water. 6 out of 10
I know there’ll be a debate on the better ride- I305 or Twisted Timbers. It’s close. It’s very close. But when closing neared, I found myself wanting to get my last rides on Twisted Timbers rather than I305. Still that’s like saying I prefer a prime rib to fillet mignon.
In the last hour, I was able to get 4 rides on I305 and 5 on Twisted Timbers. The latter had a reride policy that would make SFNE proud. Even when there was no one waiting for your row, they wouldn’t allow any rerides. The inconsistent reride policy was my one critique for the park, but in order for it to become an issue, that means you visited on a relatively empty day, so it’s hard to complain too much.
With the addition of Twisted Timbers, Kings Dominion quietly now boasts one of the best coaster lineups out there. Any park with a giga already qualifies, but once you add in an airtime monster like Twisted Timbers along with a unique Intamin launched invert, a solid B&M floorless, and good wooden coaster, you have a well-rounded collection.
I was really tempted to return to the park on Saturday night to experience some night rides on Grizzly, I305, and Twisted Timbers, but I couldn’t pry myself away from Busch Gardens. The latter is simply too amazing. That being said, I think it’s relatively safe to say I’ll be returning to the park sometime in the next few years and when I do, I’m going to try and visit on a day with extended hours.