Dollywood put itself on the coaster enthusiast map in 2004 with the addition of Thunderhead, still considered to be one of the finest wooden coasters on this planet. Eight years on, this ride is still running very well indeed, proving that the designers and those tasked with maintaining it know their business. Due to oppressive heat I decided to only ride once today, but in more temperate conditions I would gladly have spent a few hours repeat riding.
The latest addition to the park is Wild Eagle (#1791), a two hundred foot high B&M Wing Coaster that for a few weeks held the accolade of being the only example of this type of ride in the United States. The ride is built on and over a large hill, and thus the height statistic probably only matters to the park marketing department, but this is the only slight grey mark against what is a top notch coaster. The first drop leads into a series of inversions and low-to-ground manoeuvres that are handled with grace and with barely any bumps, even from an outside seat in the back row.
The Tennessee Tornado was running just as well as I'd remembered. However, the same could not be said of Mystery Mine; this ride has degenerated significantly over the last four years, and now has a distinctive rattle throughout and some very nasty headbanging that eliminate any possibility of repeat riding. The only thing that I'd say for it now is that it takes people out of the queues for Thunderhead and Wild Eagle, and for that at least I am grateful.
27th July 2012
One of the latest additions to the tourist attractions of Pigeon Forge is Fun Stop, a small amusement park geared at children that rebranded itself from Smoky Mountain Speedpark this year. The Dragon Wagon (#1792) originally operated at Kidstar Park in Florida, which was closed when I drove past it two years ago. This model had a slightly unusual design, in that the entire course consisted of left banked track rather than flattening out on the straights. Once would have been enough, but the operator insisted on sending the train round ten times!
27th July 2012
We had quite a bit of extra time in today's routing, and for this reason we decided to call into Ober Gatlinburg, a small amusement park located on the side of a mountain a few miles away from Dollywood. Satnav brought us to a car park in the town of Gatlinburg, right next to a cable car to the mountain top. This was certainly scenic, but it required a lot of time, as the cars only ran every twenty minutes, and we had to wait for the third one after our arrival before we got a space. With the benefit of hindsight, it would have been much more time efficient (not to mention cheaper) to drive to the top of the mountain; there's a sign-posted turn for this on the main road through Gatlinburg about three hundred metres after the cable car station.
The reason for our visit was the Alpine Slide, a twin-tracked trough ride built from concrete with individual sleds. Slides of this nature cannot operate when wet, and thus we were more than a little concerned when it began to sprinkle gently as we took a chairlift to the start of the slide. Fortunately for us, it only began to rain properly when we were a third of the way down the course, allowing us to make it to the end before the ride closed. The slide wasn't bad at all, and I'd probably have ridden a second time if conditions had allowed.