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The day my heart stopped or The day I rode Dollywood’s FireChaser Express

It was a peaceful, dark and early morning when I awoke in my hotel room in Pigeon Forge. My eyes instinctively squinted when I turned on my phone to check the weather.

IMG_0856Beautiful weather for my day at Dollywood, the 2013 Amusement Today’s winner for Friendliest Park, Best Christmas Show and Best Food. Today was also the day I would ride my first roller coaster in almost six years. FireChaser Express is the newest roller coaster to hit Dollywood; it’s also the nation’s first dual-launch coaster.

So, this would be fun.

What’s so great about FireChaser Express is that the minimum height requirement is 39” which means children can ride, making it a truly family-friendly ride. It’s two minutes and 19 seconds of thrilling fun.

I was about to find out just how thrilling it would be.

I arrived at Dollywood as the sun was cresting the mountains. Making a bee-line to Wilderness Pass, I was determined to be one of the first passengers aboard FireChaser Express.

As you’re waiting in line, Dollywood lays out the storyline of the ride. Passengers hop into one of the fire trains and race to save the Smokies from dangerous flames. It’s a ride celebrating the brave firefighters who stand ready to save America’s No. 1 national park, the Great Smoky Mountains.

It was finally my turn to board the fire train. These are the thoughts that traveled through my mind almost as quickly as I was while riding FireChaser Express:

  1. “These cars are roomy! Look at all this foot space I have.”
  2. “Oh, I probably don’t want to bring my purse. I’ll just put it in one of those cubby holes.”
  3. “Feelin’ free, feelin’ good. Let’s get this show on the road!”
  4. “Why is the attendant looking at me like that?”
  5. “Oh, woops. Forgot the security bar has to lock before they let us go.”
  6. “Sorry, y’all!”
  7. “Feelin’ good, feelin’ safe. Let’s get this show on the — ”
  8. “I wonder if these bars have ever come up in the middle of the ride. What would happen if – Well, I guess I would just fall out…?”IMG_0866
  9. “That would hurt.”
  10. “A lot.”
  11. “I haven’t ridden a roller coaster in six years.”
  12. “What am I doing?”
  13. “How fast does this thing go? 16 mph forward. 20 mph backward.”
  14. “Great. So I’m sitting in a box with wheels ready to launch from 0 mph to 16 mph.”
  15. “I should probably say a prayer.”
  16. “Dear God…”
  17. “What’s that ringing?”
  18. “It’s the fire bell. The ride is starting. Oh, I don’t know if I’m ready. Am I ready? Am I —“
  19. “OH MY GOSH! WHAT DID I SIGN UP FOR?!”
  20. “And we’re turning.”
  21. “We’re almost literally on our sides going around this turn.”
  22. “Speaking of turn, there goes my stomach.”
  23. “I DON’T LIKE THIS!”
  24. “BUT I KIND OF LIKE THIS”
  25. “NO, JUST KIIIDDING!”
  26. “Oh, we’re slowing down.”
  27. “Woo, that was a doozy.”
  28. “And we’re climbing”
  29. “And climbing.”IMG_0874
  30. “Goodness, how high are we going?! That’s right, 12 stories.”
  31. “12 wonderful stories.”
  32. “12 really high stories.”
  33. “But why do I feel as if I’m on my back?”
  34. “I should mentally prepare for the pitch-forward motion most roller coasters do during, what I like to call, ‘The Big Plunge of Death.’”
  35. “It’s okay. It’s just going to be a nice ride down.”
  36. “Kind of like sledding.”
  37. “Only with the fearful thought I may just fly right out of my coaster car.”
  38. “Safety bar, don’t fail me now!”
  39. “Aaaand pitch forwar—OH MY GOSH!!!”
  40. “I’M FLYING LIKE A BIRD BUT RIGHT NOW I WANT TO BE ON THE GROUND LIKE A NORMAL HUMAN BEING!”
  41. “AHHH!!! WHY SO MANY TURNS?!?”
  42. “STOP! HOW DO WE MAKE IT STOP?!”IMG_0868
  43. “I should’ve called my parents more.”
  44. “If I survive this, I’m going to volunteer a lot more hours, really make a difference.”
  45. “Be a better person, ya know?”
  46. “Oh, there goes my stomach again!”
  47. “Don’t barf, don’t barf, DON’T BARF!”
  48. “Slowing down again. Am I still alive? Yeah? Great.”
  49. “Fireworks shed. Sounds promising.”
  50. “Wait. This isn’t where we get off. But why…”
  51. “BACKWARD MOTION!”
  52. “No, no, no! I need to see where we’re turning! Noooo!”
  53. “Why are we going BACKWARD faster than we were forward?!”
  54. “And I wanted to jump out of a plane and skydive?!”
  55. “Maybe I should rethink that whole thing.”
  56. “Woo, we stopped. Is that it? Is it finished? Can I get out? Am I alive?”
  57. “I’m such a chicken.”
  58. “My legs are totally shaking.”
  59. “And my heart is doing some serious pounding.”
  60. “I see you laughing at me, child standing in line!”
  61. “That was intense x20.”
  62. “This may be the only coaster I ride for a long time.”
  63. “Never again…”
  64. “It was fun risking my life, though. The adrenaline. The fear. I feel SO ALIVE!”
  65. “Ride again? Again.”IMG_0879

Have you ridden the FireChaser Express? Tell us your experience in the comment box below!

Hey! I’m Amanda Stravinsky, a born-and-raised Jersey girl who now makes her home in the awesome, musically-inclined city of...Read on

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