Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Thursday, September 02, 2004

Coasterville Con '04 - Pre-coaster activities

Trip Report: Coasterville Con '04
Day 0 - September 2, 2004
Cincinnati, OH -> Pigeon Forge, TN

"Getting there is half the fun, come share it with me" - or "Planes, Inclines, and Automobiles"

Editorial Note: Day 0 does not contain any roller coaster action, but it does include a couple rides, and stops at defunct and or closed amusement parks. For those only interested in coaster thrills, you may want to start with Day 1. Reports for days 1-4 will be posted as I get around to writing them.

And on with the show.....

Over the course of Labor Day Weekend, Eric and I decided to take another one of our infamous roller coaster riding expeditions. The destination this time, Smoky Mountain Region. The host parks for Coasterville Con '04 were Dollywood, Lake Winnie, Six Flags over Georgia, and Carowinds.

As Eric is currently living in Charlotte, NC, the first order of business was to get myself to Charlotte. The kind folks at Delta took care of my air travel from Cincinnati to Charlotte, and after a non-eventful flight and a couple Egg McMuffins, Eric picked me up at the pick-up area of the Charlotte airport.

We immediately drove towards Pigeon Forge, TN, and experienced some minor rain that lasted to just about Ashville, NC. Quick stop for Chik-Fill-A in the truck, and before we knew it we were pulling off onto Rt 19 into Cherokee, NC.

Rt. 19 goes through Maggie Valley, NC, which was once home to the quirky mountain top amusement park "Ghost Town in the Sky" Unfortunately Ghost Town closed a season or so ago, but we could still see the front gate. We pulled into the parking lot for GTiTS, noticed the big sign had been covered over with a sign advertising that the park is for sale and gave a phone number. Driving past the ticket plaza the "Ghost Town in the Sky" signage is still there, and an incline car sits in the station, looking like its ready to welcome guests to the park. Since it is a mountaintop park, there isn't much more to see other than the front gate plaza, so we were soon back on the road.

After some windy roads through the mountains, we came to the Cherokee Indian Reservation, which has Santa's Land. Santa's Land is a christmas themed kiddie park, that has the Rudicoaster. The Rudicoaster is a custom themed Zamperla dragon. We pulled into the lot to discover a closed park. This park was not on our plans, but since were driving right past it we pulled in and looked at what one could see from the parking lot.

Driving further through Cherokee, we passed Cherokee Fun Park which is an FEC that appears to have a small kiddie coaster, we just drove right past. Leaving Cherokee, we started on Rt 441 through the Smoky Mountains. Now this was an adventure thrill ride due to heavy fog, up near the summit (Clingman's Dome) we could literally not see the road ahead of us. Coming out of the mountain we drove through Gatlinberg, were we saw no life at Gatlinberg (No) Fun Mountain. I had been to (No) Fun Mountain before, hence its name. We soon arrived at Pigeon Forge, TN and checked in at the Rodeway Inn.

After getting settled into the room, we searched for but never did find the former site of Race World and "Thunder Eagle". We wound up eating at "The Chop House" then pulled into the lot at the Nascar Speed Park.

Nascar Speed Park is a big FEC dedicated to Nascarts. We walked through the front gate turnstiles (free admission), and proceeded to take a walk around. The clubhouse contains a large arcade and one of those deluxe silicoln speedway racing simulators, outside there are about 7 different go-kart tracks of all descriptions, from kiddie tracks, to expert. The park looked fairly empty, and we noted that most tracks were 5 tickets. At the far side of the park we encountered a gift shop that also sold ride tickets. After wading through the complex pricing options. (They have a mechanical ride wristband ("Thrill Zone" = but its all kiddie rides), and a Go-Kart wristband (that does not include all the tracks)

We disocvered that the Kart wristband was $25, which did not seem that bad, till we asked about closing time. We were told the closing time was 8:00, we looked at watches and learned it was 7:30. We decided not to partake of the attractions. We did look at the kiddie rides which included a nascar themed kiddie coaster, a nascar themed double deck carousel, and a sports car themed Rocking Tug.

We made our way back to the truck, and headed back to Gatlinberg, TN.
Gatlinberg and Pigeon Forge are part of the Smoky Mountains resort area that is quite popular, and with it has come all kinds of novelties and attractions, including just about every tourist trap. After crusing the strip we searched for some cheap parking, we passses up the $10 and $5 lots, and finally decided on a slighly off-strip $4 parking lot. We walked up the main strip and decided to ride Earthquake: The Ride.

Earthquake: The RIde (by International Studios) is a dark ride located on the strip. From the outside it does its best to look like the famous Universal Studios attraction. You enter a subway station, you board a subway train, the train moves forward and you experience an earthquake, amongst other gags. Gotta love the mankins waiitng in line to give the impression that there are always people waiting to ride. We purchased tickets for $8.50 each and proceeded to the subway platform, there we boarded the subway car. There are maybe 5 rows of 2 seats, each with a seatbelt. Its quite an intertesting dark ride, as instead of having one continuous track, it 'shuttles' back and forth, but different stunts fire on each pass forward and back. Its a neat way to have a longer ride but in a real tiny space. It has the train coming at you, it has water pouring in from the sides, it has the crated gorilla that comes free, it has a section of trick track that DROPS when ythe ride vehicle passes over it. Did I mention the crude motion bases on the seats. Okay all the seats can do is tip forwards and back, but its a neat added effect. Okay, maybe not worth $8.50 but its still a real neat dark ride.

We meandered around and after heading down a side street found ourselves at a nice earlily lit Victorian house dubbed the Mysterious Mansion. We walked up the front steps and into the front hall, from there we learned that our pogress to the parlour was blocked by a turnstile, and a person selling tickets. $8 each later we were being ushered into the parlour. Mysterious Mansion is a combination between a fun house and a haunted house. Yes it has several mechanical haunted house pop up stunts, and one or two live actors, and has a lot of the same tableaux that cn be seen at haunted houses throughout the land. It wins some points for the cleverly disguised 'creaky floorboards' that act as triggers for the stunts., as well as the fun house style rooms, with secret passages, hidden doors, a hall of doors with 10 doors, only one of them leads to the rest of the haunt. and a trick balcony that tips downward when you step on it. It's not a bad haunt.

We came back to the main street, and priced Ripley's Haunted Adventure, it was a bit pricy at $13, and besides I had recentlty been through it. We did notice a change in the ballyhoo. The haunt used to involve guests riding from the street up to the haunt on a "haunted elevator" (Okay, realy an incline), that shook, and made all kinds of noises, and on its first attempt up 'fell' back down. The incline is still there, but the part where it falls back from from about halfway up back to the lower station is gone. We soon returned the car, and after having a Cedar Point conversation with the parking attendant (Eric has vanity plates), we learned the older genlteman's favorite ride at Cedar Point is the Giant Wheel.

We were on our way back to Pigeon Forge when we stopped off at Hillbilly Golf, parked in there lot for free, and $8.50 each later we were heading for a game of mini golf. Ah, but there is something unusual going on here. The two mini golf courses are located up in the mountain, requiring riding an incline railway from the ticket booth up to the courses. Watch which side on the incline car you exit on as the courses are located on either side of the incline track.

I had played the right course on my last visit, so this time we played the left course. Hillbilly golf is not a real challenging course and involves such hillbilly obstavles as an outhouse, or a moonshine still, or big barrels, or farm implements, or a conestoga wagon. Its a thmed course thats low on challenge. To wit Eric and I finished with only a 1 point difference (41 to 42 over 18 holes) I can proudly claim victory in the mini golf competition of Coasterville Con '04. Its also a terrain course, where over the course of 18 holes you work your way back down about halfway. After the 18th hole, you come to an incline station where they will take you back down to street level. We also noted they have a gravel path leading fromt he incline station that meanders its was down to the street.

After our round of Hillbilly Golf, we returned to Pigeon Forge, TN for some Go-Kart racing action. We pulled into this place, I think it was "Smoky Mountain Speed Park" which looked to have one wicked mess of elevated track. They do have a tangled web ov elevated track, but it is three tracks all intertwined. $15 for the three track ticket and we were off and racing.

We did the middle track first which is a traditional serpentine track, albeit with some nice airtime hills, that is built above the plain oval track immediately below it. To get to the track you have to drive your cart up a single lane narrow ramp, then follow the signs. At the end of the race you drive your cart back down that same narrow ramp. It's an interesting quirk, and the couorse was quite fun.

We next did the plain oval course, (Yawn!), and finsihed up on the course nearest the ticket office. This course lookedd demented but at first it didn't seem it, you first race up a 40' helix, (boring just hold the wheel in the same spot), but then you make a quick right, then a left, then you do a 40' drop while negotiating a hairpin turn. Its EVIL. They also gave us a door prize ticket to check at Startracks.

We drove down to Startracks and learned we won a free go-kart ride. Startracks has one adult course, that looks like it can be reconfgiured to a plain oval in bad weather, or a serpentine course outside in the summer. Luckily they had the full track open, and we soon boarded what were advertsided as 40MPH go-karts that required the signing of waivers. After an extra long ride, we headed back to the hotel to get ready for the real start of Coastervilll Con, the pre-show entertainment is over. Note to those who stay at the Rodeway Inn, the Coke machine sells cans for 75 cents, the bottled water machine has 20 oz. bottles for $1, and if you look towards the bottom of the selections, it has Coke products in it.

See ya in the next post!

Day 1 is Dollywood and Dixie Stampede.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

ghost town in the sky, maggie valley NC has reopened.

7:11 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home