Posted by: lylescott89 | July 23, 2013

The Great Smoky Mountains Journey Day Eight: Dollywood

Dollywood BakeryHey kids,

If I am going to a theme park of any kind I want to get there early.  I like to avoid the longer lines and the heat of the day if at all possible so it was probably a good thing that the light was streaming in yet again on this beautiful Thursday morning.  Since we had a fairly relaxing day on Wednesday I was feeling pretty good and was hoping that everyone else was as well.  They were.  According to the GPS it was going to take us a solid 20 minutes to get to Dollywood and we had to stop at Walgreens on the way so we figured we’d leave at 9:15.  I think I neglected to tell you that when we drove by Dollywood on Tuesday on our way to our rafting adventure there was a huge line of cars just waiting to get into the parking lot and I was not going to go through that if I didn’t have to.

The Walgreens we stopped at was right by the road to Dollywood and our stop was quick.  I turned onto Dolly Parton Parkway (I almost wish I lived there because that would be a great street to live on) and was hoping there was no traffic.  Despite the fact that it was a good 10 degrees cooler than the day before and it was bright and sunny we were almost the only car heading into the lot.  Awesome.  We parked and took the tram to the entrance.  Dollywood was a ghost town.  Double awesome.

If you have never been to Dollywood I can tell you that it is a very nice park with an extremely friendly staff and is very clean.  It’s not quite up to Disney standards, but then again nothing is.  It is not set up very well in my opinion and the maps provided are a little less than user friendly, but once you figure everything out a fun time will be had by all.  I guess I am used to the ease of finding my way around the Magic Kingdom and I mean no disrespect to Dolly as I am sure that building a theme park smack dab in the mountains is not an easy task.

We walked through the gate and into the Sothern Appalachian culture.  We passed several shops and restaurants andGrist Mill the smells of the food were quite enticing.  I saw a sign that advertised chocolate covered cheesecake and I announced that I was not leaving without trying that.  Adam wanted to ride the Wild Eagle before anything else.  Since that ride was situated in the back of the park I figured it would work out well to walk to the back and then work our way back towards the front.  As we were wandering and trying to decipher the map a very nice man named Fred asked if we needed some help.  I told him Adam wanted to ride the Wild Eagle and he took our map and showed us the easiest way to get there as he said “these maps are horrible”.  We liked Fred.

We found the Wild Eagle and it looked scary to me, but I had promised Adam I would ride with him.  Let me describe the coaster for you: quite simply it is a steel Wing Coaster.  Basically that means that pairs of riders sit on either side of the track with nothing above or below them.  In other words we were riding as if we were the eagle’s wings.  There was no one in line so we got right on.  As we headed up the first hill (a 210 foot lift) I was getting very nervous.  I used to love roller coasters, but as I get older I like them less and less.  When we began to initial 135 foot drop and reached 61 MPH I immediately knew that my thrill seeking days were long gone.  Throughout the twists, loops, drops and turns of the next two and a half minutes I was, according to Adam, “screaming like a little girl”.  I do not deny that.  I was visibly shaking when I stepped off and Adam asked me when I’d be ready to ride again.  The only word out of my mouth was “never”.

So naturally I followed Adam right over to the Tennessee Tornado, an older coaster that goes right through the mountain.  Fortunately I had ridden this one before back in 1999 and knew it was not that wild.  I was fine on that one, Eagle & Chickenbut the day was far from over.  I’m not going to bore you with the details of each and every ride we went on, but I will hit the highlights.

After riding the log flume we headed over to something called the River Battle.  This had to be the tamest thing we rode all day and it was probably one of my favorites.  Basically you do nothing but sit in a boat and try to hit targets and other riders with the water cannon located in front of you.  Of course those other boats are also shooting water at you and so are the nice people on shore.  And yes you can get the people on shore soaking wet as well.  When we exited I was drenched and decided that since I was already very damp that I would go to the sidewalk and get new riders as wet as possible.  That was fun.

Next up was the Mystery Mine which I thought was a variation of a runaway mine train and I guess I was correct only I did not realize it was a variation as designed by Satan.  The ride itself goes both inside and outside the alleged mine.  As we got closer to getting on Donna saw that it had loops and since Donna does not ride anything that flips her upside down it was once again just me and the boy.  As the ride began it did not take long for me to start “screaming like a little girl” again.  Seriously, I thought I was going to fall out the back of the thing when we rode up the 90 degree lift.  I could describe the entire ride to you, but the fine people at Wikipedia already have an excellent synopsis which you can read here if you are so inclined.  As I exited I was again visibly shaking and needed to sit down.

Donna was hungry and wanted to try the nearby pizza place which served a one pound slice of pizza that was biggerRiver Battle than my head.  I could have worn the thing as a hat.  Once nice thing that Dollywood does is to provide large cups of ice water to anyone that wants one absolutely free of charge.  Donna had gotten a Coke in a refillable mug, but I needed water and I was happy to partake of their offer.  Water fountains are nice, but a cup of ice water is exponentially better.  All theme parks should provide this service.  If I ever open Lyleland I plan on doing this as well.

We all rode the Thunderhead wooden coaster next and it was one of the wildest and most bone rattling wooden coaster I have ever ridden.  I was officially done with roller coasters for the day and it was time for me to find some lunch.  We had walked through the Rivertown Junction area on our way to the Wild Eagle earlier and passed a place known as the Sausage Junction.  I knew I had to return.  I ordered a smoked sausage wuth grilled onions and peppers.  Using the word delicious to describe it would be a bit of an understatement.  I got myself an order of Red Bliss Potatoes with Green Peppers & Onions at the nearby Big Skillet Tater Patch and I was now as happy as a clam.  Probably happier since I am not a clam and I don’t see where clams are that happy so I guess I was as happy as fat guy with a big plate of food in front of him.

Smoked SausageAfter lunch we hit a few more rides and Adam and I got soaked once again.  We headed over to the Mountain Slidewinder, a toboggan ride that would be our final water ride of the day.  Since Donna was no longer interested in being soaked Adam and I made the arduous trek up the mountain to the top for our ride.  For whatever reason this ride was very slow to load despite the fact that there was hardly anyone in front of us.  Adam and I sat in our toboggan and were ready to slide when someone spoke over the walkie talkie to the ride operator.  Lightning was in the area and the ride had to close down.  We were that close to leaving the station as we were the next toboggan to go and we had to get out and then trek back down the friggin’ mountain.  Damn you lightning!  (Notice how I spelled lightning correctly. Once these people asked me to check out their page online at Yahoo and told me it was under the name “White Lightning”.  However no such page existed.  Well the idiots spelled lightning with an e in it.  Idiots)

So with a storm approaching we started hitting the shops and shows.  We were forced inside when we tried to watch the Gem Tones perform because the rain had begun.  They were entertaining, if a bit on the corny side.  With a break in the rain we headed over to watch the glass blowing demonstration.  This was interesting to some people, but not me.  The only thing that interested me was the bizzaro sign advertising a Glory Hole @ 2400 degrees.  I saw the sign and it made me laugh. Frankly I never knew that a Glory Hole could get that hot, but then again what do I know?  I laughed even harder when the glass guy said something to the effect of putting the glass he’d blown into the Glory Hole.  (If this is not making sense to you just try Google.  You’ll understand then)

The rain stopped, but there were really dark skies.  We saw that it was getting ready to pour and we ducked into a shop.Yummy Potatoes  That’s when the tornado warnings were revealed to us and we were all told to “hunker down”.  Seconds later a torrential rainfall began.  We could not see more than a few feet out the front door of the shop.  We waited and then finally the rain started slowing down and the tornado warning expired.  We started making our way to get my cheesecake.

The smell of the bakery/candy store was wonderful.  There were so many things I wanted to try, but I remained focused on the chocolate covered cheesecake.  I made my purchase and took the first bite.  Oh my gosh it’s horrible!  No, just kidding.  It was absolutely heavenly.  A delight like no other.  Adam picked out some taffy and we made our way to the exit.  Suddenly we found out that the rides were all open again and since I was still in my wet clothes I agreed when Adam asked to return to the Mountain Slidewinder.   We made our way back while Donna waited up front.  There was no one there initially and then another family began trekking up the mountain behind us.  We rode, got soaked again and my day of riding was officially over.  It was finally time to put on the dry clothes I had carried around all stinking day.

Chocolate Covered CheesecakeAnd once again you have to hand it to Dolly.  This is where she gets one up on Disney.  If you want to leave the park you have to exit through the gift shop.  And not just any gift shop, but a huge mountain sized gift shop that took us a good 30 minutes to get through.  Brilliant!

We took the tram back to the car and headed back to the cabin for our final night in Tennessee.  It would be off to Atlanta in the morning for some city time and baseball.  I’ll tell you all about that journey a little later.



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