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Fans of 'Thunder Road' flock to Carowinds for one last ride

Posted June 13, 2015

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— After nearly 40 years, the only wooden roller coaster to cross a state line is about to take thrill seekers on a final ride.

Carowinds announced in May that Thunder Road, a behemoth roller coaster that required more than half a million feet of treated lumber to construct, will shut down on July 26 to make room for newer park attractions.

Since the announcement, thousands of people who grew up with the famed coaster have been making the pilgrimage to the North Carolina-South Carolina border to relive their childhoods and get one last rush.

"Everybody that likes this roller coaster and wants to ride now has time to come out and ride it as many times as they like and create new memories," Jerry Helms, Carowinds' vice president of operations, said. "Then we can move forward."

Helms, who has worked at Carowinds since it opened in 1973, said he remember the initial excitement when the coaster opened.

"I had never ridden a roller coaster until I came to Carowinds," he said. "This one was taller, faster, dual train. So, it was exciting at the time."

Steve Wilson called Thunder Road "the thrill of Carowinds."

"That's why we enjoyed it so much. Everything comes to an end. It's really been an enjoyable ride, but with the new rides you have to upgrade," he said.

Isaiah Keith, one of Thunder Road's younger fans, said the wood-framed coaster offers a different ride than newer models.

"It's fun to go up and down, up and down," he said. "All the other roller coasters have sharp turns and stuff, but this one is really enjoyable," he said. "I want to ride it to remember it before they close it down."

Andrea Keith, Isaiah's mother, said she has decades of memories on Thunder Road.

"It's sad. This coaster is part of my childhood," Andrea Keith said.

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