Megan, my girlfriend, has a remarkable ability to source discounted theme park tickets. This talent came in useful on a number of occasions this week, but her crowning achievement was at Silver Dollar City, where where she managed to get us into the park for half price. Using this deal involved a brief stop at a local Price Cutter store, where we acquired a receipt that could be exchanged for admission tickets at the park entrance.
My last visit to the Branson area took in both Silver Dollar City and the nearby Celebration City, both of which were operated by Herschend Family Entertainment. Sadly, the latter was closed permanently at the end of the 2008 season, resulting in the loss of the much loved Ozark Wildcat. While the ride still stands, casting a forlorn shadow over the area, it is unlikely that it will ever operate again. Silver Dollar City has filled the void left by the loss of OzCat with Outlaw Run (#1911), a terrain wood coaster from Rocky Mountain Construction that can only be described as an extreme thrill ride. The layout begins with a 162ft first drop taken at an 81° angle, making it the steepest wood coaster in the world, and continues with an over-banked turn, several airtime hills, some sharp turns, and two barrel rolls, the first inversions attempted on a wood tracked coaster since the removal of the loop on Son of Beast.
Outlaw Run operates two trains, each of which seats twenty-four passengers in a two across configuration that is far more spacious than what is normally found on wood coasters. The primary restraint is a comfortable design of lap bar, albeit one which doesn't allow a massive amount of freedom of movement. Unfortunately this is supplemented by a second bar at ankle height, and this one does hurt riders with longer legs. The good news, however, is that there are no restrictions on glasses at all. Those who wish to can ride without a glasses strap, though this is not recommended!
From the apex of the lift hill it immediately becomes clear that Outlaw Run sets new standards for what can be achieved with traditional wood coaster technology. The first drop seems impossibly steep and is laden with airtime, and the speed feels relentless. Despite this, the vehicle handles the track with ease, and there is no shuffling or jarring. The two barrel rolls at the end are negotiated so smoothly that they could have been engineered by B&M. In the view of this enthusiast these add very little to the ride, as they lack the furious intensity maintained up to that point, but as a marketing gimmick they are hard to argue with.
Enthusiasts will likely prefer the more intense stagecoach rides at the back of the train, but the front is worth doing at least once for the view. The only major thing to be aware of is that riders are not allowed to enter the queueing area without putting all personal belongs in a paid locker, and that includes secured belongings such as fanny packs and similar. Though a minor embuggerance, this is at least somewhat understandable on such a forceful ride.
With the new credit complete, we made a round of the other coasters. Wildfire really impressed me seven years ago, though today it felt somewhat lacking, to the point that I wouldn't have bothered waiting for it a second time. Powder Keg on the other hand, was fabulous as expected, despite the fact that the restraints seemed to tighten a bit while on course – though I did at least manage to avoid breaking my rib while riding (Hi, Martin!). From there we went over to Fire in the Hole, a borderline coaster credit which left us pretty wet afterwards. On a related note, I've come to the conclusion that the name of this ride was selected after the team responsible enjoyed a good Indian meal...
We saw an excellent demonstration of bad parenting while queuing to ride the Grand Exposition Coaster. A middle-aged woman told her child, probably about two years old, to hold his fingers over his eyes while she sprayed him with sun cream. Needless to say this failed to protect him, and the end result was the little brat screaming for almost a quarter of an hour. He'd probably have screamed even louder if he knew what was in store for him; I'll never understand how Zamperla manage to make such violent family coasters. We decided that the final credit, Thunderation, was the best way to nurse our bruises.
Megan had made arrangements to meet some of her friends at the park, and it was at this stage that we received a text message indicating that they had arrived in the car park and were now waiting for a tram to take them to the park entrance. For entirely selfish reasons we suggested they should meet us at Outlaw Run, where we clocked up several more laps while we waited for them to arrive. In due course they did, and after an animated greeting session we all boarded the back car. In retrospect, it might have been just a tiny bit mean to put two non-enthusiasts in the most intense part of the train for their first roller coaster ride in years, but it certainly resulted in a hilarious photograph!
We were going to have a lunch break at this point, but in the interests of avoiding indigestion we decided to get the Giant Barn Swing out of the way first. This ride is a thirty-two seat version of the S&S Screaming Swing, one of just a handful of this version in existence; the majority of installations being of the four and eight seat models. These rides no longer thrill me the way they once did, but it is still highly enjoyable to feel the floating sensation generated at the apex of each swing.
As things turned out, this was to be our last thrill ride of the day. The weather began to degenerate while we were having lunch, and though the rain came and went, the thunderstorms in the area were enough to keep all the roller coasters closed. As such, the balance of the afternoon was spent chatting, though we did wander through the Grandfather's Mansion crooked house, and Megan wiped the floor with the rest of us on the Flooded Mine target shooter, managing a six figure score, an order of magnitude greater than her nearest opponent.