Friday, July 13, 2007

Thrilling Physics

This summer we got the family season passes to Dollywood, the current incarnation of a theme park that has been around for longer than I have. When I was a young child it was called Goldrush Junction, and then in 1977 it was changed again to Silver Dollar City. In 1986 it became Dollywood and has since grown in size and significance as a theme park. (click link above for more detailed history)

In 1978 Silver Dollar City opened a roller coaster called The Blazing Fury. I was one of the very first riders and received a badge proclaiming "I survived the Blazing Fury." My dad knew the promotions director for the park and got us season passes so we got to go on opening day and ride the new ride when it opened.


I knew I would be glad I saved this thing after all these years. ;-) You can sort of see where I scratched in my then initials, RAH.

In recent years Dollywood has added some very high quality roller coasters. I hadn't been to Dollywood in many years due to having babies and children too young to really enjoy the experience. But this year we decided to get season passes since our youngest is now big enough to ride all the rides there. His favorite is Thunderhead, an impossible-looking (click for series of photos showing the odd angles and turns) wooden coaster that is a few years old.



Most wooden coasters don't look like this one. It's kind of insane that people have been able to manipulate the laws of physics to create this coaster that looks like it shouldn't even remain standing let alone hold a train full of people traveling at 55 mph.


click for more photos from site this one is from

I like the Thunderhead, but my very most favorite ride is Dollywood's newest, opened this year, called Mystery Mine.



It is absolutely maniacal! There are two totally vertical lifts, the second and tallest plummeting 85 feet at a 95 degree angle. That's practically straight down. Insane! And totally thrilling.


construction photo of the vertical drop

Click here to listen to the queue line music that is perfectly creepy to set the mood. This ride is so good that I could ride it all day long. Well, almost, anyway. ;-)

I may not be able to understand the physics (and engineering) that make these rides possible, but I sure do feel and very much appreciate the thrilling results. ;-)

1 comment:

Bee said...

Oh wow! The vertical drops look really cool, that's what I love most about roller coasters. I never understood what people find about loops. True, they look impressive, but the dominant effect is desorientation. Best, B.