Malcolm's America Trip

A report on my recent trip over a lot of the Eastern half of America.

Saturday, July 01, 2006


After a lengthy drive from the previous park we arrived at our hotel in Pigeon Forge at 2 in the morning. We had a morning ERS at Dollywood 6 hours later, so there wasn't much chance to get any sleep. We had been warned about this day well in advance but it still hit us quite hard.

We had no coach to take us to the park because the drivers had already driven so long the previous night. Instead we were going to take a local trolley that would deliver us to the park, however we had been given wrong instructions on where the trolley could be found and after walking the best part of a half an hour down Pigeon Forge's main street we had to turn back as we'd overshot the pickup point, by quite some distance.

Eventually we made it to the park bleary eyed but ready for a morning wake up call in the form of Thunderhead, their wooden coaster that was at one time number 1, although its not going to be this year.

Dollywood, for those that don't know, is Dolly Parton's theme park in the heart of Tennessee. It's an usual park in that the demographic isn't just families and teenage kids. Older peeps also flock here, mostly on the off-chance that they'll see their idol in the park. Apparently doing that is a bit of a lottery as she only visits the park half a dozen times a year.

The park has a weird layout like a big banana where you enter at the center. Thunderhead is situated at one end, and their steel coaster at the other. This meant that if you were there to do the coasters, as we were in the morning then you'd have to walk the full length of the park to do so. You can't cut the corner as there's a mountain in the way!

Jeff doing his impression of the Fonz doing an impression of a rabbit caught in the headlights of a motor-car. Ayyyyyyyyyyy!

Thunderhead is a great coaster, not easy to photograph but very easy to ride.

It's in a gorgeous location surrounded by hills on 3 sides, with plenty of wood in the theming mixing in with the ride making this easily the wooden end of the park.

The beaver themed Topple Tower (no sniggering at the back Atkins, I don't mean that kind of beaver) is new for this year, and as with a lot of rides that have just opened are suspect to teething problems. This ride was down due to a defective part, which is a shame because it looks like it would have been a fun ride with its beavers spurting liquid at the riders (alright, get out Atkins!).

Our ERS went on for so long that we kept the public waiting, and waiting, and waiting. I felt sorry for them as there wasn't any shade but they were a very patient bunch. In order to show solidarity for them I left the ERS and after visiting the water fountains for the umpteenth time waited for the club to finish up.

Some of the theming was a bit unique. The showers did actually work. It was ridiculously hot in this park and I was close to jumping in this in an attempt to cool off.

But instead I found a nice shady place to rest in instead.

As we made our way over to the other end of the park it was clear that they had really gone to town on the theming. Most parks invest in big wheels, not here. Instead we had water wheels, lots of them in fact.

Dollywood also had the biggest frying pan I'd ever seen, which they were using to prepare enough cheese steaks to feed the entire park it looked like.

The park has lots of channels to move water from the mountain streams around the park. Some of it serves no purpose whatsoever but it all adds to the theming.

I liked this bit of theming, we must be getting close to the Tennessee Tornado.

Up at the other end of the banana shaped park is the ride, a surprisingly smooth Arrow coaster. Rather ironically this was one of the last coasters that they built and when they finally figure out how to build them smooth, they go bust! Ah well, the world works in mysterious ways.

As with the Thunderhead ride, getting pictures of the Tornado proved to be nigh on impossible.

The ride was well received even by Paul who looks absolutely wrecked in this pic. In his defence the hotel failed to set up his wake up call and we all left without him. I guess in the panic he forgot to wake up!

The third ride in the park is actually the best one in my opinion. Blazing Fury is themed around a fire truck sent around a town to put out fires. After a lengthy climb upwards you have a couple of surprise drops and effects to keep you entertained. A really good use of a coaster to make a dark ride fun!

The lunch at Dollywood was one of the best of the trip. Whilst some ate (and drunk lots of iced tea) others took the chance to catch up on some of the sleep they'd been denied the night before.

By far the craziest ride in the park was this huge racing water slide thing. After ensuring each raft is overladen, you're then sent down a crazy course with some of the most extreme banking I'd ever experienced. You are warned that you'll get wet and I was soaked by turn number two.

More weird use of those river streams this time pumping it into tree and making out it is natural.

Its said that everything is bigger in America, and it's true of coasters and theme parks. Its also true of these vegetable replicas that are apparently to scale.

The final coaster in the park is over in the kiddyplay area and looks like a moving packet of opal fruits, sorry I meant starburst. Certainly very bright, and I have no idea why the park insisted on the trains they did.

The rapids are very good and guaranteed to get you wet. I had deliberately chosen not to ride some of these rides at other parks but today was so hot and I was so tired that I needed something to wake me up, which this did!

Even Dollywood has been affected by some over-commerciality but admittedly not as much as at other parks. There's no escape from Spongebob!

I really liked Dollywood, its one of the best "themed" parks I've ever been to and easily the best one on the trip so far. I hope the park appreciated how tired we all were as we weren't really as excited at the ERSs as we had been elsewhere, just due to lack of sleep and not because of anything they had done.

South-west to another surprise park


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