Thursday, July 17, 2014

Roller Coaster Road Trip 2014: The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster...Hella Cool!

Well,, I am back from vacation and there is so much to share about the things I've seen and the places that me, Rich and Eddie have been this past week.  Like I said when I first left, I love these kinds of road trips. Sure, the hours upon hours in the car can be a drag, but the places and the experiences had along the way are well worth it. On this trip, I got to check out things I'd always wanted to experience, like the city of Nashville and Holiday World amusement park in Indiana.  I also got to check out cool things I hadn't expected, like The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster...

I first heard about the alpine coaster from Rich, who'd heard about it from someone at work.  He shared a video of the ride with me on Facebook and it just looked so hella cool.  The best part about it, however, was that it is located right in Pigeon Forge, not far from Dollywood where we were going.  I had to ride it!
As it turns out, our little trip to this local Tennessee attraction was the last bit of fun we'd have, and what an ending it was!

After spending a day in Dollywood and having an almost five-hour drive ahead of us, we three were all tired, but determined to hit the alpine coaster before it closed and we were off on our merry way.  The attraction is only about a ten-minute drive from the amusement park and we hit it just in time before it closed at 9:00 p.m. The excitement ebbed almost immediately as we watched the sled-like cars ascend into the upper wooded reaches of the mountain into alluring obscurity.  We headed to the office buy our $15 ticket and jumped on line to wait our turn.

After only about a ten minute wait, we were seated in our vehicles, ready to ride.  Though there were some, um, older ladies, ahead of us who were decidedly nervous about the ride, it really was easy to manage.  You see, the coaster is not a roller coaster in the traditional sense.  Riders have the ability to control their speed with a break handle on both sides of the vehicle...push it forward to gain speed and pull backward to slow down.  

At first, I thought the ride was going to be boring.  The first few minutes of the 7-8 minute ride was like a pleasant, but tame little jaunt through the high woods.  The car wasn't moving quickly at all, traversing from one ascent line to another and then another, but once it reached that last ascent...HELLO!  As the (very nice) ride operator had said, the ride will tell you when to push that lever forward and it did, right at the crest of that last lift hill. Then, it was nothing but pure fun!  The ride careened through twists and turns through the very beautiful landscape, providing the very same thrills found on virtually any real roller coaster.  Some of the track was illuminated by blue light which provided added coolness to the evening ride.  

Even cooler was a little misfortune that snagged both Eddie and Rich, which we all cashed in on.  You remember those 'older ladies' I mentioned earlier that were nervous?  It turns out that one of them was so nervous that she completely slammed on her breaks (which you are not supposed to do), causing a chain reaction of stopped vehicles, including Eddie's and Rich's.  Since I had been filming my ride with my phone (check the video out below), I was going not at breakneck speed like the rest of them and did not get caught up in the brouhaha.        

When I got to the end, one of the workers asked me if I had gotten stuck, to which I replied in the negative. I didn't think anything about it until I saw the two of my friends heading back towards the entrance to the coaster.  

C'mon Weezie, we're going again.

I was confused.  It was now after 9, closing time, and the ticket office was closed, a fact that I pointed out to their backs as they ran for the ride with reckless abandon.  Rich explained what happened with the stoppage and the ride operators offered all the riders who had gotten stuck a free last ride for the night.  

That explained the operator's question.  I had told the dude I hadn't gotten caught up in the melee, but I couldn't let the two of them ride without me.  I lied to the other operator, who was putting all the cars to rest for the night.  He, of course, checked with the other guy who had first asked me the question.  My luck, right?  It was for nothing though (I said these guys were nice) as I got the last official ride of the evening, which I could enjoy fully thanks to that scared old lady.  And I got to enjoy it at full speed, too, since I didn't need to keep my cell out to record it.  So cool!

The Smoky Mountain Alpine Coaster is one hell of a cool attraction.  The ride lasts 7-8 minutes long, traversing one mile of track at speeds of up to 27 miles per hour through blissful wooded coolness. If you ever find yourself in the Pigeon Forge area, don't miss this one.  The coaster operates in rain and even snow (it closes only due to severe weather.) and is well worth the $15 ticket.  Check out the video below to whet your appetite...

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