LIGHTNING ROD REVIEW: The world’s fastest wood coaster speeding its way through the Smokies.

P1000307Rocky Mountain Construction.

If you call yourself a roller coaster enthusiast, you should be familiar with these three words. If not, I’ll fill you in with the basics.

Rocky Mountain Construction, or RMC, is the latest and greatest roller coaster design firm to hit the industry. They specialize in creating ground-breaking wood and steel coasters that use very innovative track tech, and pushing the boundaries, doing what was previously thought to be impossible. In other words, they’re changing the roller coaster game forever, and you don’t fully understand how until you ride one for yourself.

In August 2015, Dollywood in Pigeon Forge, TN announced it would be building RMC’s Lightning Rod, the world’s first LSM launched wood coaster that would also be the fastest wood coaster in the world at 73 mph. The ride immediately became the most anticipated coaster of 2016. After several months of construction, the ride was barely finished just a couple of weeks before opening day. On that day, thousands showed up anticipating their first ride on this crazy coaster, and it’s closed.

Ok so the park has a few kinks to work out. It’ll probably be open in a couple of weeks right? Wrong.

The ride finally opened in June, nearly 3 months after its original planned opening date. It operated for a few weeks, then went back down for ANOTHER month. Sheesh, this ride is giving me some flashbacks of Top Thrill Dragster’s opening year at Cedar Point in 2003.

After those two major delays, on August 4th, 2016, Lightning Rod opened again, and this time it seems they finally have the ride under control. Cue the impromptu drive to Pigeon Forge to take a ride on this thing.


This was my view right at park opening. It was the first time I had seen the ride run since May, except this time it was opening, and I was pumped. It was a very hot August day (high of 95 degrees…), and I stood in line outside for about 30 minutes, and finally the ride staff opened the doors and we were on our way. Up the stairs and into the station we go.

I need to take a quick aside to comment on the theming on this ride. It’s subtle but executed great. The first room is the garage of an auto shop where the Lightning Rod hot rod sits. The next room is a welding shop with a bunch of car parts strewn about and lights and sounds of somebody welding behind a closed door, my personal favorite touch. The exterior of the station looks like an old school ACE auto parts shop. Really well done.


For my first ride, I was sent to row 2, giving me a good look at the trains. These are beautiful roller coaster trains. The front car as seen here sports a classic hot rod engine hood and grill, and the sides are decked out with a slick flaming paint job. Probably the coolest looking trains I’ve ever seen.

This is my 3rd RMC, so by this point I was pretty familiar with their seat and restraint systems, which are pretty restrictive. The lap bar is super beefy and also has a shin bar, so once it’s down, your legs do not move one bit. Probably not as comfortable as a B&M clamshell restraint found on said company’s hyper coasters, but still not that bad.

(POV provided by UpStop Media)

Starting off, the hot rod train slowly rolls out of the station and takes a right turn to line you up for the launch. Before you know it, those LSMs kick in and you’re screaming up that massive first 206 ft hill at 45 mph. At the top of the hill is the first big moment of ejector air as the train dips down about a 40 ft drop, setting you up for the biggest drop on the coaster at 165 feet. Airtime moment #2.

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Down the large drop we go, flying out of our seats the whole way. Rolling out of the drop and screaming down the valley, the train rips through its first major element, a giant wave turn, in which the ride banks a hard left turn at 90 degrees, and while sideways, the track actually curves in on itself, resulting in airtime with no lateral forces whatsoever, yet you’re completely sideways. It’s so bizarre but crazy fun.

From there Lightning Rod heads back down into the valley, picking up a ton of speed, and heads into a 90 degree banked camelback hill. At breakneck speed, the train rolls out of a right turn and banks hard and fast to the left, then banks right again going out of the hill. The twisting laterals here are immense, and throw you like a rag doll. Insane.

Making a 180 degree turn to the right, the hot rod train screams through a low, banked airtime hill, providing strong negative and lateral g’s, takes a slight right turn to head back up the valley, cresting in yet another airtime moment. See a pattern here?

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At the top of the mountain, Lightning Rod sets riders up for the return trip home with the ride’s signature feature, a quadruple down. Four breathtaking drops in a row down the other side of the mountain, pushing riders hard against their restraints once again. Turning out of the last drop to the right, the train hops over another quick airtime hill and up into the non-inverting half loop, a heavily banked 180 degree spiral turn to the right. Out of that turn, riders fly out of their seats one last time as they drop straight into the magnetic brakes. An action-packed end to an action-packed ride.

So there’s obviously a lot of stuff that makes this ride amazing, but the biggest thing I took away from the ride was its pure sense of speed. This was the first time I was genuinely scared of how fast a roller coaster was going. Like seriously, Lightning Rod feels dangerously fast, like those wheel bogies were REALLY working hard to keep that train on the track. This ride is not just the fastest wood coaster in the world, but it truly feels like the fastest wood coaster in the world, if that makes sense. More than any single element of the ride, this is what makes Lightning Rod really stand out among the competition to me.

It took me four trips to Dollywood to finally ride Lightning Rod. The first two were early in the season, and the third was just four days before it opened back up. To be completely honest, I’m almost glad it took that long, because that really built up the ride experience in my head to something like an unreachable dream, so when I finally showed up that August morning and waited, something like an explosion of happiness went off in my head as they opened the doors and let us through. It was so surreal walking through the queue for the first time. I was finally about to ride the most anticipated ride of 2016, right here in my home state of Tennessee.

I rode Lightning Rod 10 times that day, and I don’t think that surreal feeling left me the entire time I was on that coaster. It was just so amazing to finally be riding it. This was compounded by the fact that this is the most intense, relentless, crazy roller coaster I’ve ever ridden, wood OR steel. I actually found my first ride to be too intense! We hit the brake run, and I’m thinking “what the heck just happened??” It was almost too much to handle, but I carried on, and jumped right back in line.

Ride after ride, I got into the experience more and more, being blown away at everything this ride was doing! The sideways airtime, the twisting laterals, that amazing quadruple down, everything. By the end of the day, my legs were aching because of all the ejector air I put myself through all day, but I didn’t care, because the ride was so amazing I couldn’t stay away from it.

As I said before, this was my 3rd RMC coaster. My first two were Goliath at Six Flags Great America, and Storm Chaser at Kentucky Kingdom. Both of which were really fun coasters, but neither totally blew me away like Lightning Rod did. It is absolutely their crown jewel coaster in my opinion.

However, I do have ONE small critique. At the bottom of the first drop, there is a really nasty jolt in the track, as if a track joint was not totally smoothed over. On one of my rides, that bump in the track tweaked by neck pretty badly, and I had to walk away from my marathoning for a couple of hours. The silver lining here is that if you ride in the front row of a car, the bump is barely noticeable, but in wheel seats, you feel it hard, so just prepare for it. Other than that, the ride is smooth as can be.

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Bar none, this is the most amazing roller coaster I’ve ever done out of the 156 I’ve ridden. It’s a game changer folks. Find any way you can to get to Dollywood and ride this thing. It’ll stick with you forever.

LIGHTNING ROD RATING: 10/10

Until next time, I’ll catch you in the front seat!

-JC

DOLLYWOOD VIDEO: April 2016 Trip Report / Park Review

My theme park season started with this cool, beautiful spring trip to the best park in Tennessee, Dollywood! Crowds were nonexistent, with wait times for rides never over 10 minutes. Dollywood’s Festival of Nations was in full swing, so the park was decked out with lots of different world culture activities and shows.

Lightning Rod, Dollywood’s new RMC woodie, was still closed, but the site was very active as crews were installing brakes on the launch hill, and I even caught some video of the trains being installed on the track! This ride looks absolutely incredible in person, and I think I speak on behalf of all coaster enthusiasts when I say I cannot WAIT to get my rear end in the front seat of this thing.

Dollywood is one of those few parks that just overflows with charm, with the attitude and culture of East Tennessee filling every ride, every walkway, every building, and every bit of landscaping. Cedar Fair and Six Flags parks, take note. THIS is how you do a regional park the right way.

Now I’ve been to Dollywood several times as it’s in my home state of Tennessee, but I’ve never been this early in the year, and it was probably my favorite trip to this park so far. The light crowds meant plenty of re-rides, so I really got to spend some time evaluating the parks ride line-up, and boy is it awesome!

ROLLER COASTER REVIEWS

P1000273 TENNESSEE TORNADO: It may be one of the shortest Arrow coasters ever built, but rest assured that this is, in my opinion, the best. It’s fast, intense, and most importantly, smooth! Being built after the Ron Toomer era and designed by Alan Schilke, this ride is the ONLY Arrow looper to feature “non-standard size” loops and use modern track-bending techniques to produce smooth transitions, and it’s head over heels above every older looping coaster in Arrow’s arsenal. That being said, this one is starting to show its age a bit. It had some bad vibration in a couple of areas that gave me a small headache, but it was still a lot of fun. RATING: 8/10

P1000268BLAZING FURY: I have a big love for old, cheesy dark rides, and this one has the plus of including a coaster section! The trains are themed to look like fire engines, and the ride takes you through quirky scenes that feature funny animatronics and lots of buildings on “fire” before going down three small drops for the finale. I love how Dollywood continues to update this old attraction with new effects and additions to the scenes. It shows how much they love it and want it to stay for a long time! FIRE IN THE HOLE!!! RATING: 7/10

P1000310MYSTERY MINE: Somehow this little gem of a coaster slips under the radar of many, but this thing is one of the best themed coasters I’ve ever come across. The ride story goes that a series of superstitious accidents led to the closing of a mine in the Smokies, and riders have a chance to explore that mine by jumping into one of seven mine cars and going for a ride, but they quickly learn that it’s nothing but trouble and must find their way out, but not before dodging a rock crusher, crossing a rickety trestle, and finally plunging 85 feet straight down a mine shaft! Seriously this ride is a TON of fun. The only negative part of the ride is that it’s a bit of a headbanger at times, but it’s nowhere near as bad as other rides I’ve done. RATING: 8/10

P1000283WILD EAGLE: Ah yes, the first B&M wing coaster in the US, and boy is it majestic sitting up high on a hill right in the middle of the park! Just like an eagle flying through the sky, the ride is smooth and graceful, but also powerful. It’s definitely not as intense as other coasters at the park, but I consistently noticed how popular it was among guests. They love Wild Eagle! Again I think that goes back to its comfortable ride and huge presence in the park. For this thrill seeker, it wasn’t my favorite, but it certainly does exactly what it’s supposed to do, and to me that’s all that matters. RATING: 7/10

P1000279FIRECHASER EXPRESS: This is another little gem of a coaster that is a lot more fun than you might think! The park markets it as a family coaster as it has a very low height requirement (39 inches I think), but this ride does a lot of cool stuff! Most notably, it features a layout in which the train travels forward AND backward, but it’s still a continuous circuit coaster, sort of like a mini Expedition Everest without the high level of theming. Speaking of which, the theming for this ride is pretty cool, too, as the trains look like fire engines and the station a fire dept. station. The story is that riders are firefighter recruits and are sent out on a mission to go put out a fire at a fireworks shop. Lots of fun for kids and adults alike. RATING: 7/10

THUNDERHEAD: (No picture, but heavily featured in video) Currently my favorite coaster in the park. This GCI woodie is the perfect example of what a good twister coaster should be: tight turns, high banking, lots of crossovers, and lots of speed! Also, despite the fact that there are no large hills for airtime, there are a TON of small airtime pops throughout the course that always catch me off guard. My understanding is that Thunderhead has won the “best wood coaster: award from Amusement Today a few times, and I can see why. It’s currently running a little rough, but not horribly rough in my opinion. Still a great coaster. RATING: 9/10

More park pictures below.

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Other notable rides include Daredevil Falls (a fantastic log flume), Barnstormer (a big S&S Screamin’ Swing), Smoky Mountain River Rampage (a drenching rapids ride), Mountain Slidewinder (a wet and wild toboggan slide down a mountain), and the Dollywood Express (a 5-mile train ride aboard a beautiful authentic steam locomotive).

Dollywood just oozes with southern charm, which is why it is one of my favorite parks in the whole country. Everyone needs to check this place out. You won’t be disappointed. Let me know your thoughts on this park in comments below.

PARK RATING: 9/10 (Excellent!)

Until next time, I’ll catch you in the front seat!

-JC

VOYAGE REVIEW: a 10-year analysis of Holiday World’s record-breaking wood coaster

P1010263When I first saw the announcement for this roller coaster in 2005, I knew it would be special. The ride rendering looked like one of those fantasy roller coasters some crazy enthusiast would dream up in No Limits. Except this one was being built for real…

The late Will Koch, park president at the time and a major coaster nerd himself, came to The Gravity Group design team and asked for an extreme out-and-back coaster, one that would put all others to shame. Make it big, make it long, and pack it with more airtime than any other wood coaster in the entire world. The result is an absolute monster, with a design that more resembles a steel hyper coaster than your average woodie.

P1010754We have a lift height of 163 feet with a 154 foot first drop, a top speed of 67.4 mph, and a ride duration of 2 minutes and 45 seconds. At 6,442 feet long, Voyage is the second longest wooden coaster in the world (behind The Beast at Kings Island) and the longest wooden coaster in the world with a single lift hill. On top of all that, Gravity Group squeezed in a total of 24.3 seconds of weightlessness, giving it the current world record for the most seconds of airtime on a wood coaster.

My first ride on Voyage was in July of 2006, its opening season, which also marked my very first visit to Holiday World. To this day, I have never ridden a traditional wood coaster as extreme as this one. What exactly makes it so extreme? Watch this video…

Filmed by Holiday World & Splashin’ Safari.

From this POV video, we learn a few things. First, this thing is FAST. Once it hits that 67.4 mph at the bottom of the first drop, it seems to never slow down even toward the end. Second, the ride is LONG, much longer than the average roller coaster. Finally, we can see that the coaster is split into three distinct sections. Let’s break them down one by one.

P1000123The first section is the outbound run. This section is exclusively made of straight camelback hills designed for long moments of floater airtime. The first two hills after the initial drop are giants, with drops of 107 and 100 feet respectively. The next two hills hug the ground and dive in and out of three underground tunnels.

P1000150The second section is the turnaround known as the “spaghetti bowl.” This section is made of rapidly-paced hops, twists, and turns that completely change the dynamic of the ride from an out-&-back to a twister. The track hugs the terrain closely, and contains a few surprises including a reverse banked hill and two back-to-back 90-degree turns.

P1000124The final section of the ride is the return run, beginning with a totally enclosed triple-down drop (the ride’s signature feature). This section cleverly combines the previous two dynamics (out-&-back and twister) by including straight hills interweaved with tight twists and turns, all while still traveling one general direction. The section has a sense of build-up as the elements gradually get quicker and more twisted until the ride finishes with a series of steeply-banked hills and curves that include two more tunnels before hitting the final brakes.

The true brilliance of the design is the way it uses the terrain to its advantage. It’s really hard to notice when you’re on the ride since everything is a blur, but the ground below you on the outbound run is gradually going uphill. When you get to the turnaround, you reach the top of said hill, so when the ride sets you up for the return run home, it simultaneously sets you up to go back DOWN that same hill. The total elevation difference here is a vertical of 100 feet. This is how Voyage is able to maintain its speed so well all the way to the end, by going uphill one way and downhill the opposite way. This is most evident when you get to the midcourse block, which is only about 10 feet or so off the ground. As you ride through the return run, you can feel the ride slowly picking up speed while staying close to the ground. It’s an amazing sensation and is a masterpiece of roller coaster design.

However, Voyage is, admittedly, a bit of a paradox. This is a ride that focuses on one thing and one thing only: extreme thrills. It charges full-steam from the top of the lift to the brakes, not giving riders a single chance to breathe sans the block brake before the triple-down. It is definitely an exhilarating ride that satisfies any thrill seeker’s craving for an adrenaline rush. On the flip side, though, I wouldn’t call Voyage “fun” in the traditional sense. It’s not a coaster that is designed to make you giggle with delight like a flat ride or smaller coaster might.

P1010965Its sheer non-stop intensity combined with its very long length results in a very tough, physical ride. It throws you around and beats you up a bit, challenging your coaster riding endurance almost to its breaking point, so while it’s very exciting, it’s also very exhausting. As a result, opinions on Voyage are quite polarizing. People either love it or hate it, usually for the same reasons.

P1000116Voyage’s thrilling, forceful ride also made it very rough and temperamental over time, turning the experience from tough and physical to violent and painful. I won’t be the first person to say that this ride is a thigh-bruiser. The train can shuffle through the course pretty badly and has left me in a bit of pain on more than one occasion.

P1010961I’m honestly not sure if Holiday World knew what they were getting themselves into when they decided to build a wood coaster of this caliber using traditional laminated track. Wood coasters are generally pretty expensive to maintain as is, and from what I understand, Voyage is a VERY hard ride to maintain properly. It ran incredibly well its first three or four seasons, but it started to get progressively more and more painful each year following. Thankfully Holiday World’s “coaster cats” (the nickname for the park’s coaster maintenance team) have been on top of things for the most part. They’re having to do major track work just about every off-season to keep this thing running as smoothly as possible, but even then it still runs a little rough today.

P1000127One possible long-term solution to Voyage’s roughness is to give it a “GhostRider”-style refurb. Knott’s Berry Farm in Southern California has a wood coaster similar to Voyage called GhostRider that has also aged badly over the years, so Knott’s decided to call in Great Coasters International Inc. to come and retrack the ENTIRE ride for the 2016 season. Not only that, but GCI is also reprofiling the highest-stress sections making them more manageable, and replacing the rolling stock with their own Millennium Flyer trains. These are single-axle trailered cars where one car attaches to the next via a trailer arm and hitch with a two-axle car up front. They track MUCH better than Voyage’s two-row PTC cars since the trailered design is able to follow the path of the track more properly with a lot less shuffling. The one-row cars are also much more flexible and don’t pound on the track as hard because the train’s weight is distributed across each car’s single axle. If Holiday World did this, Voyage might be easier to maintain over the long run and be more comfortable to ride.

GhostRider's new Millennium Flyer Trains. Image from of Knott's Berry Farm.

GhostRider’s new Millennium Flyer Trains. Image from of Knott’s Berry Farm.

Despite the fact that Voyage is struggling with age, there’s no denying that it is still an incredible ride. It’s a total package experience, offering three different roller coaster types into one ride: out-&-back, twister, and terrain. Even better is that all of its elements fit seamlessly together to where the ride has a natural flow to it. Not one element feels awkward or out of place. The non-stop speed makes for some ferocious pacing, some of the best I’ve ever experienced on any coaster. The ride also feels like an epic adventure, taking you FAR into the backwoods of the park and back. You really feel like you’ve “gone somewhere” with Voyage, which makes its name very fitting!
One other thing. Voyage really comes into its own at night. Because you’re out in the woods for much of the ride, it is pitch black out there, making it feel so much faster and all the more epic.

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I call Voyage the Beast of the millennial generation, because I can’t help but draw some parallels. They’re the top two longest wood coasters in the world, they’re both really ballsy designs for their respective periods, both are revered for their night rides, and both are considered the best wood coaster in the world by many, depending on who you ask. I’ve noticed that most older people who grew up with the Beast consider it to be the best, while the younger crowd (my age) tends to lean more toward Voyage.

I already consider Voyage a classic, as it has cemented itself in history as perhaps the most enduring wood coaster ever built. It takes some serious guts to build a ride like this, so you’ve gotta give props to Holiday World for not only having the guts to build one of the ballsiest roller coasters on the planet, but also caring about it enough to keep it running as good as they can. 2016 will be its 10th anniversary season, to which I say happy early birthday, Voyage. Here’s to many more thrilling years.

Voyage SHOULD be a 10/10 coaster, but as it’s currently running, I have to take off a point for its current rough ride.

VOYAGE RATING (as of 2015): 9 / 10 (Excellent!)

Do you guys agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below what you think of the ride! Until next time, I’ll catch you in the front seat!

-JC

40 things that may make you a coaster geek…

I came to the conclusion years ago that everyone is a nerd for something. I.E., everyone has that one hobby/activity they’re REALLY into. A lot of times it’s broad stuff like music, sports, photography, art, science or whatever. Then there are those of us that are really into super specific things to the point where people often question your sanity.

This certainly applies to roller coaster enthusiasts. Most look at riding roller coasters as simply a fun, exciting and/or scary activity to do during the summer, but us coaster enthusiasts? It’s our obsession. Our passion. The thing that makes us feel the most alive (at least when it comes to the tangible, physical parts of life), so of course there are going to be some really weird quirky parts of our personalities that occasionally shine for all to see. Hopefully you guys will understand this list and find this as funny as I do.

1. You save money and plan vacations completely devoted to theme parks around the country/world.

2. You will literally spend ALL your home spare time on your computer/phone reading up the latest news and discussion on theme park websites, and/or watching roller coaster POV videos on YouTube.

3. Your screen names for all your email/social media pages include the word “coaster.”

4. Your friends will come to you for advice on a future theme park visit, and you get a small ego boost every time.

5. Whenever your parents plan a (non-theme park) family summer vacation, you immediately think of the theme parks closest to/in said destination and plan a day or two to visit them if possible.

6. You are the dominant vacation planner in your family since you can’t comprehend the idea of a vacation without riding coasters.

7. You have absolutely NO problem doing a week-long theme park road trip completely and totally alone.

8. Anytime you hear someone say a random city/state/region, you immediately think of which theme park(s) are in that area. (Ex. When someone says “Florida” most people automatically think “beach.” You automatically think “Walt Disney World, Universal Orlando, SeaWorld, Busch Gardens etc.”).

9. You collect park maps from every park you’ve ever visited. Perhaps you even hang them on your wall as they are such lovely works of art.

10. If you live in a city within an hour from a theme park, you call it your “home park” and make it a pact to visit it at least once or twice a week while it’s open.

11. You could make your friends’ ears bleed with random trivia facts and ride stats from your home park or many other parks, but intentionally choose not to because you’d rather keep your friendship.

12. You can name off all your favorite coaster(s) ride stats by heart, including (but not limited to) who made it, height, speed, length, number of loops, angle of first drop, type of lift/launch system it uses etc.)

13. You cringe every time you hear someone shout out incorrect ride stats, and you’ve quickly learned that butting in to correct them makes you look like a huge a-hole, so you just have to let it be. (Ex. Person: “OMG I love Millennium Force’s 500 feet tall and 100 mph!!!!” You: “It’s actually 310 feet and 93 mph, just FYI…” Person:”Who asked you??”).

14. You know exactly which seat in the whole train is the best seat on several coasters.

15. You know what B&M, GCI, RMC, S&S, and Intamin all stand for.

16. The word “airtime” makes you shiver with excitement.

17. You know exactly the difference “floater air” and “ejector air.”

18. You know the Phoenix at Knoebel’s amusement park to be the best-kept secret in the roller coaster world.

19. You have had serious conversations about how Intamin is FAR superior to B&M (or vice versa), and which wooden coaster should be next to get the “Rocky Mountain” treatment.

20. If Schwartzkopf hair products make you think of one of the greatest roller coaster designers in history (Anton Schwartzkopf AKA “Mr. Roller Coaster”)

21. You know Cedar Point will always be the ultimate roller coaster mecca of the world (Sorry Six Flags Magic Mountain…)

22. You have a Top 10 list of your favorite coasters that you have put WAY too much thought into, and it drives you crazy every year as you ride more and more coasters.

23. You keep a precisely accurate count of how many coasters you’ve ridden in your life, and may or may not try to brag about it to your friends.

24. You will never forgive your city for closing down the only major theme park it ever had. (RIP Opryland USA in Nashville…)

25. Your wardrobe consists mostly of theme park t shirts.

26. You wasted SO many hours playing Roller Coaster Tycoon as a kid, AND played it seriously.

27. You know NoLimits 2 to be the most beautiful piece of software ever created.

28. Your dream job is to work in the theme park industry (Ex. roller coaster engineer, CEO of a theme park chain, theme park PR rep/marketer etc.).

29. You are for real planning on moving to a very boring part of the country JUST to be close to two of your favorite parks. (State: Ohio, Parks: Kings Island and Cedar Point. 😉 )

30. One of the first questions you ask on a first date is “Do you like roller coasters?” And if the answer is no, then peace OUT!

31. It annoys you that some people have never heard of any parks other than Disneyland/World or “Harry Potter World” (which is technically in Universal Orlando and is called The Wizarding World of Harry Potter btw).

32. You call Alan Schilke the next great roller coaster genius. Seriously, the dude is practically the Brad Pitt of the roller coaster world.

33. You shudder when you hear the words “Arrow,” “Vekoma,” “Togo,” or “Pinfari.”

34. SLC doesn’t mean “Salt Lake City” to you. Rather, it means “Suspended Looping Coaster” or one of the worst torture machines ever to be made out of a pile of steel.

35. November through March is known as the “off-season,” AKA the most depressing time of the year because all the theme parks are closed (unless you live in Central Florida or SoCal, lucky dogs…)

36. Opening day doesn’t mean a baseball game. It refers to the glorious day when your home park opens back up for the season.

37. rcdb.com is your most frequently-visited website.

38. You hope and pray that motion sickness will not become a major problem later in your life.

39. Your coaster count is higher than your number of friends on Facebook.

40. Your friends often think you are a little crazy, but you don’t care, because you know that roller coasters are man’s greatest achievement in entertainment and engineering, and you will keep riding them until you drop.

But why stop here? Let’s keep it going!! If you have any points to add to this list, post them in the comments below!

Until next time, I’ll catch you in the front seat!

-JC

Quick Update: August 2015

Ok, so…

My apologies for falling behind in updating this blog. I’m still sort of finalizing what exactly this blog will be all about. It’s hard to come up with something that I don’t already see often on other theme park websites!  I’m going to work on integrating video into my posts that flows seamlessly with my pictures. We’ll see how that works out. The other hard part about these posts is that whenever I go to theme parks, I always just want to ride rides and just have fun, and not concentrate on getting good footage/photos. Taking pics of rides takes a lot of patience, because it takes some time to get just the right shot, which also means less time riding rides!

Anyways, I’ll be posting new updates soon, as well as revising my old posts as I go along. Thanks for understanding!

-JC

THUNDERBIRD REVIEW: New for 2015 at Holiday World

It’s May of 2015, and pretty much all parks around the country have opened their gates for the season. Many of which have some shiny new rides to show off to the world, and one of the most notable additions to the roller coaster world plopped down in the middle-of-nowhere, Indiana.

Actually, the real name of the town is Santa Claus, Indiana, and the theme park is Holiday World, one of the best small theme parks in the country. Brand spanking new for 2015 is Thunderbird, America’s first launched wing coaster, and I recently headed there to check it out.

Thunderbird sits in the very back of the park right next to Voyage. Holiday World gave the ride an Indiana farm theme, with a big barn serving as the station, and several small touches like wagons, wind towers, and old-looking post fences. The whole area looked VERY nice. Definitely a step-up from Holiday World’s previous attempts at theming.

On a wing coaster, riders hang off each side of the track, giving the sensation of riding on the wing of an airplane. It’s a very cool sensation that feels very much like flying as there is nothing above or below you.

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The ride begins by slowly rolling out of the station and into a “launch room,” where the train pauses for a few seconds as loud booming sounds of thunder play and strobe lights flash. A spray of mist fills the room just before the train launches from 0 to 60 mph in just 3.5 seconds. The launch provides quite the kick, and it’s a fantastic way to start the ride.

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Next, the train soars into a gigantic 140 ft immalmann loop (that’s a half loop with a twisting roll out at the top).

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The winged train then dives down to the ground fighter pilot style to lead into the next inversion.

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That inversion is a huge 125 ft vertical loop. Coming out of the loop, Thunderbird crosses over Voyage just a few feet below and enters the deep woods of the park.

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Thunderbird then flies into a figure-8 maneuver where it rises and banks into a hard right turn that spirals down to the ground.

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Then it rises again and repeats the previous element in the opposite direction, banking left and again spiraling out to the ground.

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Thunderbird’s next move is a very quick but graceful Zero-g roll to the right. That is followed by a small s-curve hill with some airtime.

For the ride’s finale, the train dives through a rickety barn for a great head-chopper effect, spirals up through a 270-degree helix to the left, and finishes with a long inline twist through the same barn that gives some awesome hang time upside down. I wish I had pictures of those last elements, but it was impossible to get a good shot as they are very far back from the park walkways behind Voyage.

Until 2015, Holiday World never had a major steel coaster to sit alongside the park’s 3 famous wooden coasters. The entire coaster enthusiast community wanted it to happen more and more as Holiday World became a more prominent theme park in the industry. So when the time came to add a steel coaster, the park decided to go BIG, as in $22 million big, and call up Bolliger & Mabillard (or B&M as their often called) to build the new coaster.

After riding it myself, I can say that it was SO worth it. Thunderbird is an incredibly fun roller coaster. It is super smooth and graceful, yet quick-paced with plenty of forces throwing you around in lots of different directions. I rode it 5 times on my visit, making sure to ride on both sides of the train as well as ride in the front and back rows, and every ride was different and exciting. I’ve ridden all the B&M wing coasters in the country, and this one is definitely the best of the bunch. My one critique for Thunderbird is that the ride is pretty short and could’ve been a little longer to me, so for that I knock off a couple of points. However, the smoothness of the ride makes it VERY re-ridable, something I can’t say about Holiday World’s wooden coasters due to their roughness.

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So Thunderbird gets my official thumbs-up seal of approval. Great job, Holiday World! Can’t wait for the next big coaster!

THUNDERBIRD RATING: 8 / 10 (Great!)

What do you guys think of Thunderbird? Let me know in the comments below! Until next time, I’ll catch you in the front seat!

-JC