Thursday, May 20, 2010

A Blast From the Past - Race World's Intimidator Pt 2

We first set our eyes on Thunder Eagle in late November of 1999 and we were excited Pigeon Forge was getting a wooden roller coaster! We were even more excited when the opportunity arose to be among the first to ride Thunder Eagle in May of 2000.

So excited in fact that when we received a phone call from Paramount’s Kings Island, that their long and often delayed Son of Beast media day was the same weekend, we passed on the Sonny. In hindsight we could have, with a bit of creative navigation and sleep deprivation, done both.

We arrived in Pigeon Forge the evening of May 2nd 2000; it was still light enough that we could see Thunder Eagle peaking out between hotels as we drove through town on our way to our accommodations for the weekend. Being tired after the 10 hour drive, we resisted the urge to actually drive past the park for a better look.

Morning arrived and after breakfast we excitedly headed over to Race World! We quickly learned Coaster Works had encountered a few difficulties and Thunder Eagle was still under construction.

The folks at Race World were extremely sorry, but hospitable, offering free access to all the indoor entertainment, including go carts, which rapidly degenerated into contact cart racing, laser tag, and a wide variety of arcade games.

George Laibe, the owner of Coaster Works was there and offered an on-site tour and an explanation. You see Thunder Eagle looked eerily similar to the previous Thanksgiving Weekend trip, and wasn’t anywhere near being finished. So, we wanted to know what happened.

Laibe explained, “We built the crane inside the coaster and had to spend considerable time taking some of it apart and then putting it back together.”

So, we had driven 10 hours, didn’t get to ride Thunder Eagle and had passed on the tallest, fastest and only looping wooden coaster on the planet ... for a construction tour! Not the brightest in hindsight, but it was a good day none the less.

The coaster opened during the summer when we were too busy to get back to Pigeon Forge. Early reports were not very enthusiastic, but there was a reason.

Check back next week for the conclusion of our look back at Thunder Eagle