On September 1, 2011 · 5 Comments

Anyone following the Twelve Mile Circle for any length of time knows that I have an unnatural fixation on borders and boundaries. I particularly enjoy those places split by borders or positioned directly alongside borders especially with a purpose in mind. I thought I’d discovered, either on my own or through the generous contributions of readers of this blog just about every large object that could possibly straddle a border. Imagine my delight and surprise when I found a massive entity, an entire theme park that’s split between North and South Carolina just outside of the city of Charlotte. It’s called Carowinds.

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Carowinds is a portmanteau — another one of my favorite topics — albeit a particularly lame example: Carolina and Winds. The Carolina part makes perfect sense. The Winds part seems a little weak, having to do with the breezes that blow across the Carolinas or something like that according to at least one source. I suggest they change their name to Carocue for the friendly barbecue battles that take place between the two states. South Carolina mustard would go up against Eastern NC vinegar or Western NC tomato (Lexington) styles. Everyone wins at a barbecue-focused theme park! Well, maybe not the poor pig, or the misguided person who thinks it’s legitimate to barbecue beef or, God forbid, chicken.

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Optimally named or not, Carowinds deserves a lot of credit for capitalizing on its unusual geographic placement. A long segment of sidewalk even traces a length of the border from the northern entrance, a telltale diagonal line in this satellite image. In typical fashion, and as we’ve observed in other instances, the boundary imagined by Google Maps falls a few feet short of reality.

The proprietors already know something that I’ve tried to portray through my writing: geo-oddities sell. People have an interest in strange geography. Unusual features can attract tourism and elicit economic development to areas that may not have been blessed with vibrant urban amenities or famous natural landmarks. It only takes a little entrepreneurial interest and a modicum of creativity.

Carowinds Border Sign

Notice how Carowinds marked the border prominently in this licensed Flickr image that I’ve borrowed, with attribution (hover over the photo). This happens in various places throughout the park. Visitors see that they cross the border numerous times during their wanderings, adding a geo-oddity dimension to their day of rides and thrills. Carowinds is proud of their geography and it wants people to enjoy the experience, or at least find some amusement from it.

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The border bisects a remarkable number of Carowinds rides and attractions. From the northern entrance traveling towards the southwest, the boundary slashes through the Vortex and Carolina Goldrusher roller coasters, splits a restaurant, cuts the Sydney Sidewinder water slide and an accompanying bathhouse, then completes its journey through the Crocodile Run float ride and the Thunder Road wooden roller coaster before exiting the park. I’m guessing that most guests probably don’t pay too attention to repeated border crossings as they hurtle down the larger roller coasters, but I would.

I found one potential downside. Apparently North and South Carolina have considerably different laws related to the inspection of amusement park rides. North Carolina applies strict documentation standards while South Carolina is a bit more relaxed. That doesn’t mean it’s unsafe but I imagine it could complicate oversight.

I’m going to have to bring my kids here when they get a little older: "go ride the coasters, kids, I’m looking for border markers."


On September 1, 2011 · 5 Comments

5 Responses to “Caro-what?”

  1. Phil Sites says:

    Hmm – I might check this out on Sunday – I’ll be driving back from Knoxville and figured a swoop down through S.C. is in order since I’ve never been there, although Carowinds would require a little bit of a larger swoop than I planned. Maybe I’ll discover the exact center of Carolina BBQ or something…

    • Rhodent says:

      The “center” would probably be the point where Eastern-style (vinegar-based), Western-style (tomato-based), and South Carolina style (mustard based) meet. The boundaries are not firm, of course, but it’s somewhere in northern South Carolina, probably not too far from the Chesterfield/Kershaw/Darlington/Lee County quad point.

  2. Tony Moore says:

    There is a pub in Southern England – the “Flying Bull” in the village of Rake – that lies right across the boundary between the counties of Hampshire and West Sussex. There is a sign in the bar depicting the actual boundary ( you can see it in the photos on the pub’s website – ). At one time you could sit on a bench seat with half your body in one county and half in the other, but I’m not sure if this is still possible, as I haven’t been there for several years.

  3. Dave says:

    Besides the main entrance to the park, you will not see any mention of the cross-border nature of the park. I was lobbying for them to mark off the boundary in the water park, specifically the lazy river, with little success. Imagine how cool it would be to float back and forth over the state boundary.

    Also, you did highlight the inspection dilemma, which is why the central office is in SC. Another thing you may want to consider is the variance in labor laws – my wife used to work there in an HR capacity, and it

    Also, if you’re going there, make sure to swing by the old Heritage USA site about 2 miles down the road: Most of the old PTL club attractions have been covered over now, but there may be some remnants!

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