Dollywood July 21, 2005
My plan for this year was to visit a park every month from March to December. Well, plans change. I did do Solace in March. I had to skip Camden in April because the month was very busy for me (but a good busy). Then May came and went, and I had to skip Carowinds. Twice. But June lead me to Kennywood, one of my favorite parks, and this month I was going to be down in Johnson City, TN for 3 days regardless, so I decided it would be easy to go down a couple days early and hit Pigeon Forge & Gatlinburg for some rides and fun.
Well, my mother had to be out of town for most of 2 weeks for training on her new job. Couple that with some other obligations early in the week, and I had to scale the first part of the trip down to one day of Dollywood. Unfortunately, I had to take 3 days vacation and a Holiday, which I could have used later. Oh well…
Oh well. Since I work nite shift, I usually spend the entire nite awake, and sleep all day, even on my days off. During the last few weeks, I’ve had a problem doing this on my days off, which would not have been a problem since I needed to be up during the day Thursday-Sunday. Right, like anything is that easy. So, the Wednesday nite before I was to leave, I didn’t sleep because I was up till 3pm the prior day. I kept thinking “I can’t go to Dollywood on no sleep, I need to get to sleep” all nite. But sleep never came. Of course, I got sleepy at 5am, right as I was getting ready to leave. Like I said, I’m all for meeting up with *some* of you at a park, but no hectic trips of doing Six Flags New England and Dreamworld Australia…in the same day ;).
But I got ready regardless, and made my way to town for an ATM stop, then in the opposite direction, southwest, towards Pigeon Forge. The drive was just about 4 hours. It isn’t a hard drive, and certainly not a boring one, but I would have liked to have company, and/or some Vivarin. I arrived at Dollywood at about 11am. It was hot, humid, and extremely crowded. And that was just the parking lot. On top of that, I was totally exhausted. I didn’t know how I was going to enjoy anything. I had planned for leaving around 8pm, when the park closed, but I knew it would be before that. I honestly flirted with the idea of sleeping in my car a couple hours before I went in. No deal, Thunderhead was only a short ways away. So I paid my money for parking, and ended up parking farther than I had in December. Thankfully, they offer (faster) tram service (than Disneyland).
My only other trip was in December of 2004 with 9 other people. This time I was by myself. Plus, all the rides were running, and there were 10 new rides offered. This trip was during Kids Fest. And let me tell you, it was crowded. But you know what I love? Elderly people. Why? Because they keep a park like this in business, and yet they don’t ride any of the coasters (for the most part). I love crowded parks that have short lines, and Dollywood fits the bill perfectly there.
So I arrived at the front gate, paid, and walked through the front gate, stopping briefly to grab a park map on the way to Thunderhead. I felt the need to gloat, so I called Tina (coasterqueenTRN) to leave a message for her that I was on my way up the hill to ride Thunderhead. I still think the park could add a chairlift up to Thunderhead Gap, but at least the trip from Thunderhead to Tennessee Tornado won’t be *quite* as long for much longer…;)
So I got inline for the first task of the morning. This was the longest I saw the Thunderhead line all day, down the stairs and actually stretched back to the entrance. The sign said 15 minutes wait, but I didn’t wait that long…
Thunderhead-After waiting in line, once I got to the top, they were yelling for a single rider. The wait on this isn’t long, because they have CF-esq capacity, running two trains, and trying hard to fill every single seat (without requiring every train to be full). I raised my hand to be a single rider, and got picked. Imagine my surprise when the ride op looks at me, and I recognize him. Before he could turn to me, I said “Hey, this is a long way from Petersburg”.
I’ll give ya the quick back story: I used to live in a little town in the North-Eastern Panhandle of West Virginia called Petersburg. I worked at the Sheetz there, as a supervisor, before moving to Fairmont (and transferring jobs to Morgantown). I knew and/or recognized most of the people, esp. teenagers in the town. This ride op’s name was Curtis. We never spoke much, but he knew who I was, and I knew who he was. In fact, I was surfing the net one nite, and ‘bumped’ into him on another site. He goes to college close to where I live, so we actually spoke on line. So, while we don’t really ‘know’ each other, we are acquaintances, and recognized each other so far from where we were acquaintanced, and also a long ways from where I live, and he goes to school.
Anywho, I got on in the middle with another person, and we departed on the first ride of the day. “Let the THUNDER Rooooooooooolllllllllllllllllllllllll…” Still decent laterals in the beginning helix to the lift hill. That lift is still quick. When we were there in December, the misters near the top of the lift were obviously not on, as you don’t have troubles with bees making nests in Mid-December. But they were on this day in full force, and I liked it. A nice, refreshing break from the heat and humidity right before the plunge. In fact, they should add the misters all the way up the lift, IMO. So there we were, the train dropped, and the ride was starting. No major ejector air for me, but there is plenty of floater. Not only that, but there are great laterals, and the ride is just fast paced, and doesn’t let up the entire time. I like the station fly through, and the dip after. Thunderhead is still my #2 wooden coaster. I doubt it will ever leave my top ten.
After that, I woke up a little. After grabbing my hat and exiting, I walked around and noticed the line was even shorter. I ducked under the railing and headed up the stairs half way to meet the end of the line. This time I got in a small line in the back, and didn’t wait more than maybe 10 minutes. Again, a great ride, with a little more floater air in the back. I love this thing!
So I walked over to the ‘privy’ (if you have to ask, you probably don’t want to know), then stopped for a drink of water. I can see where Timber Tower is going next year, and they had posters up in the park for the new ride. A good family flat, nice addition for Dollywood. So, it was time for the long journey to Tennessee Tornado. I knew the journey was long, and much provisions would be needed. But there was something else I came to get done today. I headed down to County Fair, stopping for food at one of the ‘Papaw’s’ sausage and beef steak stands.
It was good, but I should have gotten more napkins. Anywho, I had taken my ginger pills and aspirin, so I headed to the next thing I really wanted to do, the Dizzy Disk. I’ve been waiting to get to one of those, and I was ecstatic that Dollywood added one this year. I’d heard nothing but good things; would it live up to the hype?
Dizzy Disk-This was probably the second longest wait in the park. Not because it has bad capacity, and not even because it only has one op working it. But they ran a fairly long cycle, spinning one way, then stopping and swinging the next. I waited 2 cycles to get on. I didn’t know what kind of restraints it used. Then I got on and found out. They were odd. Not bad, just odd. The ride itself is fun, but not really what I expected. Definitely a great addition to a small park looking for flat thrills. This was much needed at Dollywood, I would have liked a second spin, but there’s always December…
The County Fair section was so crowded that lines were long. I wanted to ride a couple other things, but didn’t. I even skipped the new kiddy coaster (gasp! So Sorry Bill, you may disown me now) because of the line). And, am I just imagining things, or was the Ferris Wheel not located here last year? I may be wrong, but I don’t remember it in County Fair. Oh well. Now it was time for the 2nd longest walk of the day.
I walked up the hillside to Tennessee Tornado, stopping off for a water break as I was sweating profusely. I hiked up the mountain and saw the familiar sign for the best Arrow Looper ever. Would the line be like Thunderhead?
Tennessee Tornado-No, it was longer. It was actually down to the switchbacks, though not in any of them. The reason? One train operation. I figure this is capable of two train op, they have 2 trains. Heck, if Corkscrew at Cedar Point can do 3 trains, this can surely handle 2. Oh well. I got on in the back section of the ride, but not the very back. We were off soon after I waited about 20 minutes to ride. Up the lift, down, around, through the tunnel. I swear, that Loopscrew is the best inversion I’ve ever been through. The banking and inverting and hangtime? I only wish that Tennessee Tornado had the newer, sexier Arrow trains like Canyon Blaster and Drachen Fire. Ah well. It is such a shame that this coaster was the last Arrow Looper. Had they been doing this all along, Arrow would still be an industry leader. Smooth, fast, with mega forces and a great 3 elements. My only complaints are the small length and I don’t care for the trains. But I didn’t get any knee banging into the brake run this time, so that was great.
I had planned to ride again, but I wasn’t waiting in that line right now. So I went around and down to Blazing Fury. The sign said 30 minutes, and they were right. As far as I could tell, they were running 2 or 3 trains, filling them as best as possible. The station didn’t smell as musty as it does in December.
Blazing Fury-Nice, air-conditioned queue, yay! The line was rather long, but with shade and air, I didn’t mind. I got on in the middle of the train and off we were. The dark ride portion could be updated, but the coaster elements are interesting. They are a bit rough, though, so be warned! And this time I got quite a bit more soaked than in December. I guess the control the amount of wetness in the winter months.
A sign near Blazing Fury said ‘Seven Miles to Daredevil Falls’, and it is almost correct ;). Actually, it isn’t far. I was looking for Mountain Slidewinder, but found Daredevil Falls first. The themeing in this part of the park is really great. It actually really reminds me of West Virginia and many of the caverns you can tour here. I made my way up to Daredevil Falls. I had seen it on TV, but never in person before. It looks great in person. There was no line, and great capacity.
Daredevil Falls-Having thought about it, I believe this might be my favorite water ride. The first part reminds me of the first half of Jurassic Park at USH. I like this just slightly better than the rapids at DCA. They’re great, don’t get me wrong, but I liked this ride a lot for some reason. Who made it? Reminds me of the boats on Splash Mountain. I guess this makes up for me not getting that in March. The section is very nicely done, the drop is outstanding, and themeing is cool as well. I highly recommend this to anybody (Except Brett ;) ).
Next up was the longest walk in a park I’ve ever done. The area leading to Mountain Slidewinder is really nice. A kid’s water play area. Little did I know I would be walking to Tibet to get to my next ride…
Mountain Slidewinder-Okay. I know I’m out of shape. But c’mon, Dollywood! The hike to this thing is ridiculous! One thing I will say is that I like that Dollywood hides their rides. You can’t say any other major rides when you’re standing at a major ride, unless you are at the County Fair. You can’t see anything from Slidewinder, though. I didn’t know this would be the scariest exp. on a ride I’ve had in a while. Upon trekking to the top of Everest (and I wasn’t even at Disneyworld), I got to the top of the rather short line. I was a single rider, so they put me with a family of four to weigh us (you have to be a certain cumulative weight to ride). The family was mommy, daddy, and a small son and daughter. We waited for our turn, and I was asked if I minded the front. I didn’t, but I didn’t know it would be hard to hold on up there. For those of you that don’t know what this ride is, it is much like a ‘homemade’ (by the park, though I don’t know who the actual mfg. is) waterslide, but you get in larger rubber five seater vehicles. It is a one way ride, you have to get to the top, but the ride vehicles travel up the mountain on a conveyor belt.
Eventually, we were off. The ride is fun, no doubt. Voted best non-coaster attraction in the U.S.A., if not the world, IIRC. I would have enjoyed it more, but it was hard to hold on the front seat, and there are no restraints. Add that to the fact that the vehicle is rubber, and very flimsy, and you have me almost flipping out of the vehicle on the way down. I lost my grip around a highly banked curve and lost the grip on my left hand, and hit my shoulder on the outside slide. It scared me and the family I was with. Thankfully, I don’t use foul language, or I would have burned the young children’s ears. Fun, and I’ll do it again, but next time with friends and I’m sitting in the back!
Okay, so I was drenched this time. In fact, walking back over to Thunderhead, some random lady looked at me and said “They put you up front, didn’t they?” I smiled and said ya, as she laughed. She may have been a worker there, I don’t know. That’s one good thing about Dollywood, the employees have the definite southern charm, and so do the guests. Everyone is happy. Good rides, good food, good coasters, beautiful park.
I walked down into the 50’s themed area next. I wanted water, but couldn’t find a fountain. I was gonna do the motion theater, but it was the Spongebob 3D movie, and I’ve seen it. I did go on a nice, highly air conditioned self guided tour of the Dolly Parton museum. I know, but c’mon! It was mega-hot and humid. This was 30 minutes of air-conditioned in already wet cloths. I was gonna do more down here as well, there were some kids performing a jump rope routine for Kids Fest, but I didn’t watch them. Then I walked back towards Thunderhead. I stopped in front of the theater right before the Thunderhead Gap hill and sat to see if there were any interesting shows. One looked interesting.
A ‘Mad Science’ production of some movie magic thing. I’m spoiled by Paramount Parks Magic of the Movies show last year (which I got to participate in), so I thought this might be a fun rip-off. I had 30 minutes to kill, so I walked over to it and waited till the doors to the air-conditioned (see the theme here?) theater opened. This was the worst show I’ve ever seen. It featured some people and the Pink Panther, audience participation, and they shot scenes for a movie, and edited them together. It was really terrible. The ‘hosts’ were annoying as can be, and the edited result was not good. I know it isn’t the park (or really even the characters) fault, but it was bad. Maybe they should have Paramount come in and do it for them next year ;).
Oh well, one bad part of the day saved by cool air. So I walked back up to Tornado again for another ride. This time, I waited for the front. Took about 40 minutes. I wouldn’t have done it, but I needed to kill time to get my money’s worth of Dollywood. This ride was just as good. This also has the best first drop on any Arrow I’ve been on, save for X. Despy and Maggie are close seconds.
So then it was back down the hill. I went through a few shops briefly, and then headed to the front of the park to speak with someone about a group event later this year. The person I was supposed to talk to wasn’t available, so I got her number and headed to Thunderhead for four more rides.
The first of the four was in the front, I waited a few minutes longer for this. The misters felt good. The ride, however, was amazing! It was really tearing up the track this time! I couldn’t believe it! The ride had seriously warmed up! I got off, went under the rail, and got back in line for the back. It was great again. Then, afterwards, I got off, went under the rail, and rode again. And again. Four times in a row. I would have done more, but I was exhausted. I needed to head up to Johnson City. I toyed with it again, but then I decided to throw in the towel.
I got to the bottom of Thunderhead Gap, then left the park, making some calls. Boarded a tram, then got to my Xterra as I was talking to my friend Jamaal who was on his way to Johnson City.
I passed by the NASCAR Speedpark. I need to stop there eventually. Then I noticed 2 new things. One of the FECs right near Dollywood had a brand new Screamin’ Swing (the single arm 8 seater), that seemed, from my vantage point, to have a longer cycle by about 2 swings. Then, one building was being turned into a ‘Jurassic River Adventure’ PPE ride on the drag in Pigeon Forge. I hope both of these are open during December, and I hope I get to do those, as well as finally do a Sky Scraper.
Dollywood is a great park for sure. Great food as well! If you haven’t been down there, do it soon! Thunderhead is good in the morning, great in the evening, and about the best there is (so far for me, anyway) at nite. Tornado is a rare awesome Arrow looper. Not too much looping, and great engineering for once. The new section is great, and the flat next year is another rare one. If you don’t make it this year, though, and can’t justify it next year, you WILL get there in 2007. I don’t know specifics, but I’m also being told I will be there in 2007, and if I gotta go, you gotta go too ;).
I can't wait to see the new stuff, including the new kiddy coaster. ;-)
Everytime I have been to Pigeon Forge it's only been for a day or two. You really have to take several days to fully explore it as well as Ober Gatlinburg (which I WILL get to eventually!) lol.
Glad you had fun, and thanks for the message you left me. I was LMAO. You still SUCK though. LOL!
Glad to hear the water rides can soak you since my plans are for a visit in August.
Thanks for the tips around the area also since I got a few days in TN I may skip Dollywood one day and do the FEC's and Ober Gatlinburg.
Dude! You were already at Dollywood. Why didn't you just say "to hell with it" and drive to nearby Worlds of Fun to maximize your vacation time? You could have made it in only a few short hours. =:^)
Great trip report, Clint. Silver Dollar City is the same way when it comes to blue heads crowding up the park. There may be a lot of them there and it may smell strange at times, but you know rides are to be had.
See! You have the drive. Now just go for it......and add a side trip to Boomers in Florida while you are at it.
Perhaps I'm just to old to hang with ya, Sean? Oh, wait. Nevermind.
Since when is age a factor in doing laid back trips?
Sure thing about meeting up. It will happen someday. Probably at a park in Guam or something freaky like that.
Clint, you are JUST a baby! I am the one that is too old to go on these marathon trips with Sean......oh wait Sean and I are the same age. LOL!
I have no excuse. ;-)
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