Life is a roller coaster, but not much in life is more exciting than an actual roller coaster. I grew up a thrill-seeker and still am. I ride all the rides at the fair. I love haunted houses, and I ride in the car with my dad, which is probably the scariest of the three.
Speaking of, my father told me that I rode my first roller coaster at the age of 3 at the now-closed Miracle Strip Amusement Park in Panama City Beach. Any park that would allow a 3-year-old on a roller coaster probably closed down for a good reason. I don’t really remember riding the roller coaster, but I haven’t really stopped riding them.
Because of my and my father’s eagerness for thrills, my family has made plenty of trips to Dollywood in Pigeon Forge and haven’t missed a season since 2005. I have seen the growth of the park for over 15 years. At that time, there were
only two big roller coasters: Thunderhead and Tennessee Tornado. I have probably ridden these two roller coasters more than any other roller coaster in existence. And they were positioned at opposite ends of the park from each other at the time, so one would open our day while the other was our final thrill.
I remember when they announced the new attraction, Mystery Mine, with a trailer like it was the next Avengers movie. Mystery Mine was being built right next to Thunderhead so when we would wait in line, we could see part of the track being built. I distinctly remember two vertical tracks being built which filled me with so much excitement.
After Mystery Mine, Dollywood finally connected a path from Thunderhead to Tennessee Tornado, which were a lot closer than you’d expect. With this path came a spot to build the next monster of a ride, Wild Eagle. It is the first winged coaster in
the United States meaning your seats or jutting out to the side of the track instead of sitting on top, leaving nothing beneath you. The climb to the top of Wild Eagle follows the peak of a small mountain nestled in the park. When you hit the peak before you soar down, you can get a glimpse of the entire park. The view is like no other at Dollywood.
The most recent high-thrill ride is actually a ride I’ve not ridden so much due to its popularity and technical issues. The Lightning Rod at the time of opening in 2016 was the first wooden launch coaster and the fastest wooden coaster in the world reaching speeds of 73 mph. In its early years, it suffered from technical issues, but for the 2021 season, it has now been modified to be predominantly steel rather than wood. As someone who rode it before and after the modifications, it is much more enjoyable now.
With the innovation in today’s technology, who
knows what kind of coasters we will see in the future at Dollywood, but I will be first in line for whatever they build.
Standard employee Taylor Moore can be reached at 473-2191.