For the third year in a row, we took our varsity baseball team to Myrtle Beach to play some spring games at the Ripken Experience. I always stop at Carowinds on the way back, but this year we took a different route so that I could make my first-ever trip to Dollywood.
We drove to Lexington from Cleveland on Thursday night and stayed overnight before leaving early Friday morning so I could get to Dollywood right around opening. I literally walked in 5 minutes after the gates opened, so that worked out perfectly.
Logically, I went directly to Lightning Rod and when I got near the diner, I realized it was still testing and the queue hadn't opened yet. After about 5 minutes, they opened the queue and it only ended up being about a 5 minute wait for the first ride, which I was able to take in the back seat. I am always very skeptical when people say rides were amazing and such, but I have never in my life gotten off a coaster with tears of joy in my eyes like after riding LR for the first time. I know that sounds really lame, but oh my goodness was that an incredible ride. After I got off, I got right back in line, waited ten minutes and when I got to the station told the worker "I drove 9 hours to get here, I want to ride in the front this time", which he gladly allowed me to. The front was also an incredible ride, but I definitely prefer the back seat on LR and pretty much every RMC I've been on thus far.
I left LR and ended up riding Blazing Fury without having a clue what it was. I'm glad I got the credit, but it was not an enjoyable ride. I walked around taking pictures for awhile before I got in line for FireChaser Express, which was really the only line I waited long in all day. I waited about 25-30 minutes for FCE and while it was an enjoyable ride, I was starting to get a massive headache at this point, so I didn't enjoy it as much as I probably would have normally. I took a break after this to get some lunch at the pizza place near Thunderhead. I was going to get barbecue, but I just wanted to sit down and eat and it was right there.
After eating, I took some more pictures for awhile and then I circled back around to ride Wild Eagle, Mystery Mine and Thunderhead. I was worried that after riding the other three wing coasters, that I might not enjoy Wild Eagle as much, but it was a great ride. It was interesting to not drop right into an inversion at the top of the hill like Gatekeeper or X-Flight. Thunderbird obviously is a little bit different because of the launch but you still hit that inversion right away. I loved the layout and the smoothness of Wild Eagle and it was pretty much walk-on all day, so I had the chance to ride if a few times in various seats and enjoyed each and every experience. I headed to Mystery Mine next, which ended up only being about a 10-minute wait. I'm not that big of a fan of the Eurofighters. I know some people love them, just not my preference. The ride itself was pretty boring in my opinion until the back half with the barrel roll and the slow inversion at the end, which I found to be extremely fun. I got off feeling a little bit dizzy but nothing like the headache I had earlier. After getting off there, I walked over to Thunderhead, stopping along the way to take a look at the construction on the new drop tower. It was hard to get any 'good' pictures since nothing was really happening, but I did manage to snap a couple. After this, I walked over to Thunderhead, which was a station wait. I haven't had a chance to ride many GCI coasters, but Thunderhead was a fantastic ride. My only disappointment was the limited areas from which to take pictures of it after the fact.
After Thunderhead, I circled the whole park to take some more pictures. I wanted to get some pictures of the eagles in their habitat as well as some more coaster pics. I made it to the back where I took the time to stop and buy the cinnamon bread which everyone recommends (and which I will now recommend as well).
With the park closing at 7, I made my way back to LR for one last ride before I left, and go figure, it broke down while I was waiting. It was down for about 30 minutes, but I stayed in line and got one final ride.
Overall, I had a great time at Dollywood. I thought the ticket was sort of expensive when I bought it prior to my trip, but it was well worth it. They have a great coaster lineup with something for everyone. The food choices are plentiful. The landscaping and scenery are absolutely amazing. And I think the thing that is overlooked the most is just how genuine and nice the employees are. I can't say enough good things about how well I was treated by everyone I encountered that day.
I was also able to pick up a bunch of souvenirs including a LR shirt and pin and a ton of maps. Although it is about an eight to eight-and-a-half hour drive from Cleveland, this is a trip I will definitely be making again soon. I would love to spend two or three days instead of feeling rushed there.
As an aside, I had intended to ride one or more of the mountain coasters after I left, but by the time we had dinner, I was too tired.