The cold and snow of early spring was not going to stop Twisted Timbers from making an impact this year. I arrived nice and early at Kings Dominion in Doswell, Virginia with our fearless leader Daniel Westfall to register with the park and be escorted to the Media/VIP Event. There was an eager crowd gathered, despite the cold weather and travel disruptions, that were all talking and excited for this unveiling, the first RMC Iron Horse Conversion in the Cedar Fair chain. The park opened the gates and guided us down to the Candy Apple Grove Section of the park. A stage with projection screen was set up in front of Windseeker, and Snoopy and Charlie Brown were on hand to dance and get the group warmed up for the opening ceremony. The ceremony started with a greeting from Maggie Sellers, the park’s PR/Communications Manager. We also heard from the park’s new GM Tony Johnson and Cedar Fair’s VP of Design and Planning Rob Decker. The final word was from Scott Clemons, the park’s Director of Marketing. As part of the presentation we were treated to some behind the scenes production movies that included a timelapse of the demolition of Hurler and transformation into Twisted Timbers and a closer look from the RMC team about how their technology was being applied to create a new dynamic ride experience for guests at Kings Dominion.
After the presentation, the ride was opened up for the preview. This gave riders a first hand look at the ride layout up close, along with some of the scenery that helps explain the story of the Hanover Hills Orchard and this mysterious force that afflicted the area and caused it to become off limits. When thrill seekers approach the ride, you will see a large brick and iron gate with the Twisted Timbers logo on top off an old Hanover Hills Orchard sign. However, the bolder symbol of the ride is a large leafless twisted tree, complete with track wrapped around it by some powerful force. Once you enter the queue you pass underneath the track and enter the infield of the ride. Most of the layout is hidden from view in the plaza outside, so this will be your first glimpse of the ride’s elements. There is a grove of apple trees at the far side of the layout, and there is other evidence of a working orchard as well. There are work trucks, tractors, and covered areas that are labeled as orchard sheds. There are also some mysterious scenes; there is an object that appears to be a meteor that glows in the dark, a tractor that has been lifted and is stuck in the structure of the station, and the station itself seems to have been damaged by this mysterious force. While riders explore this area and wait for their turn, the coaster is darting around them and roaring by adding to the anticipation and excitement.
I was able to ride this coaster about a dozen times over the two days I was there, and I tried to ride in as many different areas on the train as possible. I did find that the experience can change based on where you sit, but you will have a great experience no matter where you sit. Riders board either a blue or green train themed to a fifties style pickup truck. The trains are really nice looking and have the patina of being used for work many years ago. The restraints are familiar to other RMC trains but they have added a handle grip on each side for guests who feel they need to hang on to something.
The ride begins with a gentle right hand turn out of the station to line the train up with the 111 foot tall lift hill. The lift chain grabs the train and the loud clang of the chain and the anti roll back give this the familiar feel of a traditional wooden coaster. At the top of the hill, there is a quick dip and banked turnaround to gain a bit of momentum, followed by the barrel roll drop. At this moment, it is clear there is nothing traditional about this ride. The barrel roll drop is a great way to kick off the action; you hang out of your seat and then drop straight down to the ground. At the bottom there is a small bunny hill that jolts you up before soaring past the station in a high banked turn at 54 MPH. At the exit of the turn there is another small hop that jolts you up again. The next section is all about airtime, and this ride delivers. They built up three camelback airtime hills that offer a traditional sequence you would get on a wooden coaster, but then you get flipped upside down in a cutback turnaround, and you are back into RMC country. This is where the ride becomes unhinged and twisted. The next series of airtime hills are twisted to give you lateral airtime back and forth, then a trick track pitching the train first to the right and then to the left. Then, without warning, the track suddenly drops out from under you all the way to the ground. It jumps back up into an airtime hill thought the lift structure providing a great head chopper. The track rises through the structure and pitches left, but makes a sudden right hand turn and drops. The train bounds over another bunny hop to get you out of your seat and then into the final inversion, a zero-G roll. As you exit you hit an over banked turn that puts you on your side, and one more to turn you back towards the station. There are two more pops of airtime, and you are up on the brake run.
After riding the ride many time and in different seats, I will say there is no bad seat on these trains. I enjoyed my front seat and back seat rides more than the middle but you would expect that. I was also surprised to find I did have a left vs right preference. This ride only makes right hand turns since it follows Hurlers triple out and back footprint, so I found the left seat more enjoyable as you get a bit of extra whip around some elements. Because both rides have a barrel roll drop there is a desire by many to compare the ride to Storm Chaser, but they have different profile and feel. According to ride designer Alan Schilke, the barrel roll drop is steeper on Twisted Timber than on Storm Chaser. Twisted Timbers is more focused on straight airtime than turning and laterals, as he intended for Storm Chaser. Twisted Timbers is very well planned to have the sensation of speed and to maintain excitement throughout. All of the instances where the ride cuts though supports or structure are towards the end of the ride when it is carrying less energy, but these near misses enhance that feeling of speed and keep riders on their toes. The two overbanked turns at the end to me are not the finale. To me, the zero-G roll is the finale; you storm into the first over bank, and it controls a lot of the leftover speed and inertia. I see this final sequence as part of the brakes, a way to control the ride and get it under control in a fun way. It still hits the brakes with some speed and feels fast throughout the whole ride. So I know the long and the short of it...Is it a must ride? Well yeah it is, unless you don’t like fun. Because it is a fun ride. Based on my rides on Wicked Cyclone and Twisted Timbers, I think that all of the work RMC has been doing is probably worth checking out. So is it now the best ride in the park?
Nope … GENTLEMEN, START YOUR ENGINE!