As a rule, I don’t like wooden roller coasters. All the clacking and jostling gives me a headache.
By SARAH GISH
The Kansas City Star
I love the smooth speed of a steel coaster, with sharp loops and steep drops that make you feel weightless.
So when I went to the Ozarks with my family and saw a billboard for a new wooden roller coaster at Silver Dollar City in Branson, I can’t say I was thrilled. But I was intrigued: The sign claimed that Outlaw Run was the world’s only wooden roller coaster to go upside down three times.
Outlaw Run also boasts the world’s steepest drop on a wooden coaster. And with speeds of 68 miles per hour, it’s the second fastest wooden coaster on record, after El Toro in Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, N.J.
Layers of wood topped with an extra-thick steel track “allows Outlaw Run to do things other wood coasters can’t,” explains Silver Dollar City’s general manager, Brad Thomas. He says that innovative design also provides a smoother ride.
On opening day in March, my brother Brent and I decided to find out if the $10 million Outlaw Run lived up to the hype.
All of our family vacations are to Table Rock Lake, so we grew up going to Silver Dollar City. We know that the Flooded Mine is the most underrated ride, and that you never go to Grandfather’s Mansion if you’re full of succotash and sarsaparilla. We’ve survived a two-hour wait for the Lost River of the Ozarks ride and countless candle-dipping mishaps.
To get to Outlaw Run, on the western frontier of Silver Dollar City, we had to walk through the whole park, past a blacksmith demonstration, corn dog stands and at least one real, live hillbilly with torn overalls and a wizard beard.
Because it was spring break and opening day, we had to wait a full hour to ride Outlaw Run. It would have been boring if we hadn’t gotten to watch the ride’s grand finale, a double barrel roll that left riders — even grown men — cheering and clapping as they rolled to a stop.
Each ride at Silver Dollar City has a story line, and Outlaw Run is no different. It’s about lawmen in the Wild West racing stagecoaches so fast that robbers can’t catch up. The line snakes by antique-looking luggage and a life-size stagecoach. A 30-foot monument next to the entrance honors law enforcement officials.
“We want to have kids of today aspire to be the good guys,” Thomas says. “Good guys always win.”
Brent and I slid into seats in the stagecoach-style coaster car and clamped a bar restraint tightly over our laps and shins. The sounds of cracking whips and stampeding horses launched us click-clacking up the first hill. That’s when the panic set in. Maybe there’s a reason wooden roller coasters don’t go upside down, I thought as I looked out over rolling Ozark hills.
Then came the first drop, a near-vertical descent into a wooded valley, followed by a series of twists and turns that leave you sideways and breathless. Unlike other wooden coasters I’ve tried (I’m looking at you, Timber Wolf) there were no jarring, whiplash-inducing bumps.
“Just when you think you’re going to wind down,” Thomas says, “you go through the double barrel roll.”
By the second roll, you’re going slow enough to feel yourself hanging upside down. The twist ending is what leaves riders like me euphoric and applauding Outlaw Run, which is over in 90 seconds.
That’s right: I drove 200-plus miles, then waited an hour for a 90-second ride on a wooden roller coaster. And it was worth it.