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 Review of Tennessee Tornado @ Dollywood
3 Rating Posted by: Timberman on 9/16/2007 3:57:00 PM
Had this ride been just a wee bit longer, I might very well have rated it a nine. Then again, I might very well have also returned to the station unconscious. During the second set of a series inversions that comprise basically the entirety of the layout after the first drop, Tennessee Tornado pulled a Terry "Bam Bam" Gordy on me. Suddenly, I saw a pop, as if from a flahbulb, and then my field of vision receded down a long, grey tunnel. I would have thought by this time that Id experienced about every sort of a sensation a roller coaster could impart, but that was definitely a first. While the intercranial effects of the ride soon dissipated, my respect for this roller coaster has not. Its a rare ride that can hand your butt to you and still have you coming back later for more.

This was among the last of the big Arrow loopers, and it is a fitting conclusion to a career that gave much to the roller coaster community but is too often remembered only for its missteps. At their best, Arrow coasters mimicked the feel of a wood ride in abruptness and intensity, while combining these traits with the sort of chest-collapsing inversions only possible on a steelie. Take, for example, the Tennessee Tornados opening sequence. After picking up some speed along a swooping right turn, the train drops suddenly and sharply down a steep, enclosed hill. Riders in the rearmost car are forcefully ripped out of their seats and then just as forcefully pressed right back down during the enormous loop that follows. Modern steel coasters from Switzerland are so adept at manipulating gravity that their positive and negative Gs have sort of an express-elevator-like quality to them. You get a moment of force followed by an expertly-executed transition that gracefully and gently positions you for the next phase. Arrow transitions, by contrast, are like the moments in Looney Tunes adventures when the Road Runners body outpaces his head, while his neck continues to elongate along its former orientation until it finally snaps around to catch up with his fleeing body. That may not sound like everybodys idea of fun, but personally, Id rather have my thrills modeled after the physics-defying antics of cartoon characters than the precision of watch-makers.

A more unfortunate tendency of Arrow coasters, however, was also present on the Tennessee Tornado in the amount of brain shake that came through in the back seat. Unlike head-banging, which can usually be mitigated by properly bracing oneself, brain shake is an unavoidable rattle transmitted from the union of track and wheels to the riders brain pan. If youve ever ridden a skateboard or roller skates with metal wheels over pebbly macadam, you know what Im talking about. Brain shake intensifies when your skull is placed firmly against the headrest, so it forces a rider negotiating fast inversions to choose between slightly scrambled grey matter or a possible wrenching of the thoracic vertebrae from leaning forward against heavy positive Gs. Really bad brain shake, the kind under-maintained Dinn-Summers coasters are famous for, can cause a headache that ends a days fun at the park. What little I experienced on the Tennessee Tornado was nowhere near this violent, however, and I willingly underwent a second dose to experience the excellent airtime on the first drop in the back seat. By contrast, the ride in the front seat was quite comfortable, although no less forceful; it was there where things began to go dim for me.

Earlier this summer, I had the opportunity to ride another Arrow classic, the Loch Ness Monster. My overall impression of that ride was that the most forceful elements of an excellent layout had been unfortunately muted with trim brakes. No such taming, however, has been visited upon the Tennessee Tornado. This is Arrow unleashed, and that, my friends, is a rare and wonderful occurrence in todays more conservative age of continental refinement.<s

Review Comments

ginzo on 9/16/2007 5:20:17 PM said:
Im puzzled why a seasoned Arrow veteran such as yourself didnt sit in the second to back row. I thought everyone knew thats the best place to sit on most Arrows. There are no concussions to be had there. I actually really like this ride. Its an Arrow looper that doesnt suck. Who would have thought?
Timberman on 9/16/2007 10:03:20 PM said:
You might be right, ginzo, but like a moth to the flame, Im drawn, for better or for worse, to the extreme ends of the train, as they usually provide the best view and/or the most extreme forces (save for the elusive "ejector seats" that occur from time to time in the interior seats near the front of the train). Ill definitely keep your tip in mind for rerides, however.
ginzo on 9/16/2007 11:14:31 PM said:
Thats whats so great about second to back in Arrows. You still get most of the potency in the drops, but a lot less herky jerky nastiness because youre not on an axle. Or something.

TN Tornado is almost like the Raven of Arrow loopers. Its too short, but everything it does it excels in. Except for maybe the brake run, which hits too hard at times. But you gotta be a real wimp to downgrade a coaster because of a poorly executed stop.
shag9004 on 9/18/2007 9:04:59 PM said:
I only rode this one time but the thing I remember the most is the great drop down into the tunnel that seemed like it last forever. I was really visiting the park to ride the Thunderhead and Mystery Mine and was simply planning on taking my beating to get the credit on this thing but was pleasantly surprised at how fun it was. I still HATE OTHSRs on any coasters which is why I am not a big fan of any loopers but this was overall a fun ride. Thanks for the outstanding review. Anyone interested in this ride should be able to read it and know exactly what to expect.
Horizons12 on 9/18/2007 11:22:30 PM said:
Great review Timberman, I like the comparison to Loony Toons. Its very true thinking back to my various backseat rides on Great American Scream Machine. And good job slipping in Terry Gordy!
detroit_jc on 4/21/2008 7:41:35 PM said:
Timberman, just a question....do you prefer an old school Arrow looper over a B&M or Intamin hyper? same height 1st drop? im not sure what your respnonse will be. maybe hypers because of the airtime?
Timberman on 4/22/2008 8:01:24 PM said:
Thats a tough question, detroit_jc, because these catagories of coasters, particularly the Arrows, vary a great deal in ride quality from one installation to the next. I guess the best answer I can give is that I like my favorite Arrow hyper (Magnum XL-200) more than my favorite Intamin hyper (S:ROS at SFNE). On the other hand, I like S:ROS better than any Arrow looper Ive ridden. Custom Arrow loopers and B&M hypers are about tied for me as a group. Finally, Phantoms Revenge is my all-time favorite steel roller coaster, but its an Arrow/Morgan hybrid now.
ginzo on 4/22/2008 8:45:12 PM said:
^Im wondering if the Magnum that Ive ridden is in some weird alternate superhero universe. Or if it has suffered a sharp decline in just the last year or two.

I rode Magnum several times last year in various seats spread across 3 individual visits to Cedar Point. I never got one good cycle. The train doesnt track that well and I dont remember there being any real ejector airtime. What Magnum did in lieu of bonafide ejector air was this strange maneuver where the train would jerk suddenly down into a drop and the lap bar would accordingly smash my legs a bit. I dont recall any moments where I was forcibly thrown upwards. I also remember the first drop being disappointingly lacking in any intensity and the overall pace of the ride seeming a lot slower than it should have. The seats also did this funky thing where they compressed my genitalia, which was not comfortable. I think it had something to do with the way the seats slope downward. It just seemed like a real Yugo of a ride.

Phantoms Revenge I can understand why people like. Its not one of my personal favorites, but I got lots of real ejector air on it and it has comfortable seats. It did have some of that Arrow pre-Computer Aided Design funkiness, but just the right amount of it. Enough to let you know you werent riding a Swiss coaster.

Apparently, Eagle Fortress is the ultimate Arrow coaster. Having seen how high it swings in the POVs, I dont doubt the reports of its excellence. Not sure if Ill make it out to Korea before Everland has to take it out as its apparently ripping itself to shreds.
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