Growing up in North Carolina, we Harris Sisters have visited Carowinds Amusement Park more than our fair share of times. We knew the ins and outs of it and had our favorite rides. Some rides, of course, were staples that we visited year after year.
And it's with a very heavy heart that I report that one of those rides is being taken down this weekend after having been with the park since 1976. Thunder Road, one of the park's few remaining wooden roller coasters, is being taken out of commission this Sunday, July 26.
Thunder Road was always very special because even though it may not have offered the speed, thrills, loops, or twirls that its steel counterparts offered, IT ran on dual tracks with one riding in North Carolina and one riding in South Carolina. Riders could choose which state they wanted to ride in as they filtered onto the ride. THAT was very special.
AND, with two young kids in tow, I must say that it's becoming increasingly difficult to find rides that they can enjoy. They are completely uninterested in level 1 or 2 "thrills" (think carousel), and they're not tall enough to ride those super fast steel coasters in many cases. That's where our good friend, Thunder Road, and coasters like it come into play.
This year Jaxon was just tall enough to ride Thunder Road. So, we made a special trip just so that he'd have the opportunity to ride it as many times as he wanted.
Of course, both boys loved it. And we ended up riding it eight times (we think). You tend to lose track of these sorts of things, as wooden roller coasters shake your brains up a bit (but that's all part of the fun).
We found that Carowinds had placed signs outside of the exit commemorating the ride. Note, two of the things pictured here are Bicentennial Babies, which is why I think it's so sad that they're doing away with this roller coaster. Poor thing didn't even make it to 40 years!
Here are closeups of the signs. The first one features photos of Thunder Road in action over the years:
The second one features facts about the roller coaster. If you've ridden it before, do you remember, "Grit your teeth. Bear the load. Enjoy your ride, on Thunder Road." I sure do!
We noted throughout the day how much the park has changed even since the last time we'd visited in 2011. On the way out, we grabbed two fresh park maps to commemorate the day, as we knew that this was the last year the map would show good old Thunder Road in D7 - the space it has held on the map my entire life. Wooden roller coasters, it seems, are going the way of the dinosaur (literally - check out Dinosaurs Alive in B10 - but only if you're willing to pay a $5 per person upcharge).
Ironically Bruce Springsteen perfectly summed up our many rides on Thunder Road yesterday with some of the lyrics to his 1975 hit of the same name:
"We got one last chance to make it real
To trade in these wings on some wheels
Climb in back, heaven's waiting on down the tracks
Oh oh, come take my hand
We're riding out tonight to case the promised land
Oh oh oh oh, Thunder Road"
Goodbye, old friend. Thanks for the memories!