RIP Dragon Challenge / Dueling Dragons Oct 2, 2017 23:49:38 GMT -8
Post by SoCalCoaster on Oct 2, 2017 23:49:38 GMT -8
This is a post that, when I originally typed it up a few weeks ago, took me a while to type. It's a long one, so saddle up, Champions and Dragon Handlers.
I've been a coaster enthusiast ever since I was young, though before having access to internet, the most I saw outside of California was some coaster specials on Travel Channel, Discovery Channel and the occasional Walt Disney World commercial.
Once the internet became more accessible, I was able to learn about more about roller coasters, and there was one that caught my eye, or rather, two.
At the time, two new B&M Inverted coasters were being built for a brand new Universal park the likes of the world had never seen. Dueling Dragons, comprised of Pyrrock and Blizzrock, more commonly known as Fire Dragon and Ice Dragon, respectively. The attraction was the first ever pair of dueling inverted coasters, and was quite impressive for its three duel points, with the trains coming within 18 inches of one another! The attraction also sported a completely unique entrance that was more art than anything else, and a half mile long queue like with theming that at the time, put Disney to shame. The coasters were even built over a lake! It was inspiring.
The attraction made me want to visit Florida to check out the park. Many people who know me think Walt Disney World would have been the reason for me wanting to visit, and of course, Disney had impressive lands as well, but at the time, I had Disneyland very close, so it wasn't a huge reason for me to go.
Whenever I researched coasters, I always came back to Dueling Dragons, inspired by it's twisting layouts. It made me want to design coasters one day. I constantly made recreations or rides similar to it in Roller Coaster Tycoon, and eventually NoLimits. The idea of weaving two rides within one another was an art form to me.
One day, it was announced that the boy who lived, Harry Potter and his Wizarding World would be coming to Islands of Adventure. An entire immersive land dedicated to one IP, it would bring Hogwarts Castle, and within it, a ride, a restaurant, shopping, and of course the ability to use wands, just like Harry Potter. It was also announced that this land would be taking over The Lost Continent, the land that Dueling Dragons called home. Many questions arised... Would Dueling Dragons stay intact? Would it be removed for something more family friendly? It turns out that over time, both outcomes came true.
Hogsmeade opened and with it, the original intricate story of Dueling Dragons was lost. Enter Dragon Challenge. Still themed to dragons, you we're a participant in the Tri-Wizard Tournament, riding upon the Chinese Fireball (Pyrock/Fire Dragon) and the Hungarian Horntail (Blizrock/Ice Dragon). After safety concerns arose, the attraction then lost it's dueling aspect, becoming a "chase" coaster instead. While many complained, I had the viewpoint of both coasters were still world class and at least they were still open.
In 2013, I finally got my first rides on Dragon Challenge. All of my high hopes and expectations were exceeded by the ride. It was two of the best B&M Inverts that I had ever ridden. I was especially drawn to Fire. It had a taller drop, it was faster and it was more intense. The second immelmann into the downward helix was the best part of the ride, in my opinion. It was also much more unique for a B&M Invert compared to Ice. Still, Ice was a great ride as well. It's zero g roll and it's cobra roll up against the castle wall were favorites of the ride.
I permanently moved to Florida in 2015. The idea of having two B&M Inverts practically in my backyard constantly had me excited. We would session it often, with one rainy night in 2016 in particular being a memory I'll never forget. But of course, this was all borrowed time. After 18 years, Universal announced the endless battle of Pyrock and Blizrock would come to an end, confirming years of rumor and speculation that the attraction would close to make way for a family friendly Potter attraction.
In its final weeks, I made sure to ride Dragon Challenge moreso than usual, getting as many rides as I could in before it's final day. On September 4th, 2017, that day arived. Me and several close friends planned our final session run, affectionately dubbed the #Dragonthon. After technical delays, lightning and crowds, we were able to get 13 rides on Fire and 5 rides on Ice, with our last ride being on one of the final trains of Hungarian Horntail. Known for being rougher than Chinese Fireball, Horntail provided it's smoothest ride ever for us, a fantastic way to remember it. It was a day that I'll never forget.
2019 is a long way away, and the new coaster to take the spot of Dragon Challenge will have large, Dragon sized shoes to fill. While it is regrettable that Dragon Challenge is no more, we can only look to the future and hope that the new ride will be just as memorable as Dragon Challenge.
To the many Champions I have been able to battle bravely alongside, to the many Dragon Handlers who have served exceptionally over the years, thank you for the many memories. You have impacted my life more than you will ever know. To those who never were able to find out that Fire is hot and Ice is cold, I challenge you not to turn back, regardless if you were told. Research this ride. Learn all that you can. It's a great behind the scenes story that showcases detail for an attraction that may be imitated but never duplicated. You have been cleared for your Dragon Challenge. Fly bravely.