So let me tell you about Thunder Road. It was a dueling wooden roller coaster at the former dumpster fire now awesome theme park Carowinds (Fun Fact: the only theme park on a state border) that started to bless the world with its existence in 1976. A true gift to America on her 200th birthday no less. One of the biggest claims to fame it had was that one side would go the standard face front way. But if you were feeling like getting an extra dose of fun for your day (and why wouldn’t you, you’re at a theme park) you could go on the other side that had you go…backwards. It was great! It was almost 100 feet tall and that first drop made you feel amazing! Forget riding something like “The Incredible Hulk” at Islands of Adventure in the front, THIS was the coolest ride to wait for front row on. It was the perfect introduction to roller coasters as a little kid, but still amazing to ride multiple times. And if you went on the right day, you could ride it multiple times in a row because they wouldn’t have a line. And who could forget the poem that you got to read on the way to the top of the first lift:
Grit your teeth
Bear the load
Enjoy your ride
On Thunder Road
Robert Frost be damned, that is classical poetry!
So why am I telling you about this wonderful attraction and at no point have said, “Make sure to go ride it yourself,” you may be asked. Because, just like Taylor Swift, it’s dead. Yes, some genius at Carowinds decided to get rid of Thunder Road almost 3 years ago. And to be honest I’m still not over it’s closure and to this day it is the ONLY ride in my life time closing that I was mad about closing. Forget a ride about seeing scary animatronics of movie stars closing, that was a glorified turd. This was a ride worth being sad over. What other roller coaster do you know that was themed after a movie about moonshine runners? I’ll wait………
But really this ride’s closure 3 years ago gives myself a reminder of the fragile nature of theme park attractions. This ride was a staple of the Carowinds skyline and had been around since the early days of the park. And much like other rides that have since left, the writing was on the wall of its demise. For starters, all trains were changed to front facing in 2009 and it eventually stopped dueling. So both cool features of it were no longer a thing in its final years of operation. On top of that, it had to compete with other steel coasters that provides higher thrills, like Afterburner (Top Gun), Night Hawk (Borg Assimilator), and soon the Intimidator would come to Carowinds to put the final nail in its incredibly large coffin. Wait times were always low for it and it ended up coming as no surprise that they closed it down to make room for Carowinds water park.
But that is the nature of theme parks as a whole. It comes down to the bottom line and if a ride isn’t meeting the goals to justify the costs, it will close. It’s never easy when a ride closes, especially a ride that has been around since either the park opened or for a very long period of time. I’m sure that Thunder Road is chilling out in theme park heaven giving rides to people from people heaven (which means The Legend of Jack Sparrow is chilling out in theme park hell forcing people to ride from people hell). I for one, can’t wait to give it another ride or seventeen per day once I hopefully go to people heaven.
Good night, sweet prince.