Dollywood December 2005

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December 17, 2005
Pigeon Forge, TN

I didn’t sleep very much and woke up by the morning sun through the windows around 6 AM, but I laid in bed until about 8 AM as no-one else was awake. Eventually, though, everyone did wake up so I showered and got ready, as did everyone at Beth’s Cabin, and eventually everyone made it into the Element. The park didn’t open until 11 AM according to the website, but I had Ed’s backpack in my car so we went back to Best Western to drop that off so that Ed could pick up Mike B.

We had a lot of time to kill and needed to eat so we decided on breakfast at a sit down restaurant on the Pigeon Forge strip. I don’t remember the name of the place, but it wasn’t as crowded as the parking lot made it seem. We all sat down and ordered. I was in the middle of a conversation when I look around to see the waitress with our food. It wasn’t any longer than about 5 or 6 minutes. That was by far the quickest service I had ever gotten at a sit down restaurant, and the food was good. I ordered the big breakfast  which had 3 ginormous pieces of country ham, three eggs over easy, plus biscuits and gravy. All was good, but even I couldn’t finish my food, nor did anyone else at the table.

Ed called to say that the park had opened and that they were waiting for us so we paid and headed to Dollywood, making our way on the tram to the park gates. We saw Ed, Tina, Mike B., and Nicole standing around waiting. Everyone except Danny had pre-paid their tickets and dinner meal tickets to me. This was the first lesson we learned on the trip, don’t trust me to know what I’m doing. It is actually cheaper for a Season Pass holder to buy tickets, so Nicole got a refund for me to put towards her Season Pass since she wants to come back next year a couple of times. This didn’t take long and she paid for the tickets as I went over to pick up the meal tickets for the group.

After all of that we were trying to figure out how much money I owed everyone, and I couldn’t seem to equate that correctly. Then Nicole realized why. With her Season Pass price, she basically got us all in to the park without paying taxes. I’d forgotten to charge for taxes in the first place, so no one was really getting any cash back. It took a few minutes standing on the inside of the gate to figure that out. I went to the ATM to get the rest of the admission money for Nicole.

Brian and his group hadn’t arrived yet, nor had Dawn Marie and Russ whom we hadn’t met yet. So we walked up towards Thunderhead, which they’d planned to have open within the next half hour. We headed back down, around, and up towards the other major coaster, Tennessee Tornado. Ed and Mike B. commented on odd it was that there were no rides on the midway going up to Tornado and Blazing Fury, only shops. I explained to Ed that the midway splits off into other walkways that went to the water rides such as Daredevil Falls and Mountain Slidewinder, and that it wasn’t easy to notice when they had those smaller midways closed off. Blazing Fury didn’t have a long wait so we hopped on for a spin.

Blazing FuryAlways fun. This isn’t the bestest coaster ever, but it is interesting. They were running at least 2 trains by this point. The ride does take a while to cycle thru. The splashdown at the end was always turned down in the winter months so as not to get you as wet, but you do get a sprinkling. While the ride is a little rough in spots, it is a lot of fun and a must ride every time I’m at the park.

Getting off of Blazing Fury we headed next towards Tornado, but Brian called and reminded me I needed to pay Brad’s way in so while the rest of the group headed to Tornado I went to the front of the park. I could see them standing on the other side of the turnstiles, but I had to get the cash out of the ATM for Brad’s admission. Once I was outside I met Tommy & James and told Brian that he needed to pay for Brad’s ticket since he had a season pass. We made it in, and the group was hungry. Okay, so really James was hungry. But, then, James was always hungry. So we walked around, took a few pictures of people, places, and things and then they decided to eat at the Backstage Restaurant. Beth was on the phone with Kris while I was heading up to ride Tornado with them, but she said to stay there and they would meet up with us.

At the restaurant we went in and were seated. I only got water as I had just had breakfast. James showed me pictures of their Chihuahuas and I told them about our new Chihuahua puppy. I was downing my water as the rest of the group came. Beth, Mike C., Matt, Danny and I decided we would go on over to Thunderhead, so we told them to meet us there as we headed out. On the way at some point, Danny talked to Dawn, who was in line for Thunderhead with Russ.

Making the arduous trek up the hill to Thunderhead, much of which is under construction for following years new attractions, we arrived in the Thunderhead station and saw Dawn and Russ. I rode by myself with Danny and Matt in front of me, with Mike C. and Beth behind me.

ThunderheadThis is always a highlight at Dollywood. I love Tornado, but it really is all about Thunderhead. It was running a bit faster than it had been the previous year since it was much warmer. I could honestly stay on the coaster all day and not get off. We took several more rides with minimal wait after making a quick introduction to Dawn’s boyfriend, Russ, who was also very nice, and a new coaster enthusiast in training.

The second ride was just as good, I rode with Beth. That coaster just keeps getting better. As we ascended the lift hill, over towards the right you could see the base for the new topple tower being installed next year, as well as all of the other areas being cleared out for attractions. Thankfully, Thunderhead Gap gets more for next year.  After the two rides we waited for the rest of the group to come meet us. It was warmer than it was the past year, but still very cool outside. Eventually the rest of the group made their way up to us and we got in line. I rode this time with Tommy, then again with Matt. Thunderhead is a gem in the wooden coaster world. There is a reason it lands in the top 1 or 2 spot in the polls. It is a truly out of control experience.

After a couple more rides we were going to head to Tornado again. Ed and Mike B. were going to wait for Dawn, Russ, Beth, Mike C., Nicole, and Tina as I called to let them know. Danny, Me, Brian, Alicia, Tommy, James, Kris and Brad all went off on our merry way. As we made it down from Thunderhead, I saw a woman who worked at the park with Taco Bell. Kris asked what she had, and apparently, she had a banana in that bag. I didn’t know you got bananas at Taco Bell…

We also stopped by for a quick picture of us at the Thunderhead sign. Good times. So James was hungry again as we tried to head to Tornado. Thankfully I’ve been to Dollywood enough so that I don’t have to want to do everything in a short amount of time. I know what they have to offer. Add to the fact that they have tons of good food (hey, it is Dollyfood after all), so we stopped to get some sweet stuff at one of the many food places. It was warm in there, and I ordered a piece of chocolate pound cake. It was a chocolate monstrosity, with very good home made whipped cream.

We had planned to go to Tornado but we ended up going towards Country Fair instead as the normal Tommy & James, Kris, and Brian madness ensued. I tried my best to give them a chance to get rid of me, but apparently they didn’t mind having me around, since Brian wanted to know why I wanted to leave the ‘cool gang’. So we walked over towards the flat ride County Fair section and looked around. Brian, Brad, Danny, and I all had to take a spin on the Veggie Tales Coaster to get our credits.

Veggie Tales Sideshow CoasterAll left turns. The coaster wasn’t bad, if the trains were a bit uncomfortable to taller people, but you get two turns. It was interesting and worth it for one ride, but I doubt I’ll ride it again next visit. Hey, we got the credit.

Next we made our way over to the Dizzy Disk. I rode in the summer and liked it. Brian almost backed out, but ended up riding. This apparently pushes his nausea threshold.

Dizzy Disk-The wait was kind of long, but we had fun making fun of the people on the ride. Especially the little boy that looked very unhappy. I think that tenth cheeseburger did him in. Although we found out during their ride that his friend really had to use the bathroom, since he made it known to everyone. Kids are so vocal. The lone ride op was not having a good day it seemed. We all got on and I immediately got jumped because my feet weren’t flat on the ground. Then I got yelled at because I wasn’t holding on to the lap bars. I sat in the middle of Danny and Tommy. The ride op had a thick accent that sounded German. I kept referencing the Family Guy episode with Stewie and Brian in Germany. “Ve Ver On VACATION!” She liked to yell at us; thusly I dubbed her the Dizzy Nazi after the Family Guy reference was well enough established. Then we saw a haircut that was absolutely hideous. There should be laws…

Next we made it to the Aviator, though I don’t know the name of the one at Dollywood. I had never been on one, and rode with Kris. Boring. Although it was funny hearing James scream ‘Brian!’ with Tommy screaming out my name. Kris and I get off the ride and he goes in to ‘mentally challenged mode’, with me following suite. I think the woman getting off the ride in front of us thought it wasn’t an act, as she just smiled because we seemed to be having fun, even though we were ‘challenged’.

This time we were actually trying to make it to Tornado. It took a long enough time, but we did try. I can’t count the amount of times that we stopped for a potty break, or that James stopped for food. We did finally manage to get to Tornado. Alicia didn’t want to ride as she was cold. In fact, we spent some time in a store by the Fair section so she could warm up. Kris and I were having fun with these little wooden guns that make a loud popping noise. I don’t think that the people working in there liked us very much…

We had run into Dawn, Russ and Matt, who ended up not with us, and taking Danny along with them, it was just the 6 of us at this point. We stopped by the Eagle Sanctuary for more pictures and what not before heading up the rest of the way to the coaster. At Tornado Alicia got in line with Brian and I, who were in line for the front seat, but she didn’t ride so I asked her to hold my water. I rode in the front with Brian.

Tennessee TornadoThis is still the best Arrow out there. On the first drop into the loopscrew, Brian’s hat came off of his head, but the hood on his sweatshirt was holding it. Brian was pressing his head back against it so as not to loose his precious Gamecocks had, and the next thing I knew he’s going “Dude, grab my had!”. This made a less than fun ride, as he’s got his head pressed back and my left arm is holding onto his hat (I couldn’t get it from his head, but I didn’t want to lose it), so we both came off with cramps. Still fun, though.

After that ride, we went again at least once more. Kris ended up riding with some 13 year old girl. That was funny, especially Brian and Brad hollering ‘Get the Digits’.

As we went down the hill, we decided on another go at Blazing Fury, their first of the day, my 2nd. The line was longer, but still not bad. I ended up getting in line in front of Brian and Alicia so that Brian could point out the guy under the tracks in the station. I had never seen that before. Weird. Kinda creepy for sure. I got on with Brad and Kris a couple rows back. Another fun time, but I got a little wetter than before. One thing I had forgotten from the summer that Brian pointed out for sure after they got off was that you do get at least one or 2 points of major ejector air in seat 1-3 on this. Wow, a Magnum seat on Blazing fury. Too bad I had to pee when I got sent into the lap bars…

As we came out it was dark and the lights were on. It was almost time for dinner, but we had to stop for another bathroom break and a picture Brady Bunch style on some random steps. Tommy even does his ‘cheese face’ when he’s not in the picture. Classic.

So we went to the restroom and headed down the hill to Aunt Granny’s. If that isn’t the most incestuous name ever for a restaurant, I don’t know what is. We got to Aunt Granny’s and were greeted by everyone else, sans Dawn and Russ since they weren’t going to do the buffet. The line to get in was major long. I had gotten a call from Dollywood a week prior moving the location of our meal to Aunt Granny’s. I was hoping we wouldn’t have to wait since they knew we were coming, so I went in the exit and talked to the (slightly unfriendly) manager, who directed me to another server, who then told me to have everyone in the group line up at the emergency exit with our meal tickets handy. I went out that door and yelled for everyone as the people in the back of the line looked at me, not looking happy. When we all lined up at the door, some kid in line asked his mom who these people were, and the mother said “They don’t know what they’re doing or where they’re going apparently”. As the server came and took our tickets, letting us in, the entire back of the line gave us dirty looks and what not. Hey, you pre-pay and you skip the lines next time too…

We had a room pretty much to ourselves. There were 15 of us to eat, and we had a very fun dinner. After getting our drink orders, we were let lose, as I instructed everyone to the AYCE Line. If you don’t get it, never mind. So we ate, chatted, and had a very nice dinner. The food was actually pretty decent. They kept the buffet stocked with turkey, fried chicken, and ham, pulled pork, meatloaf, mashed potatoes, green beans, breads, desserts, and much more. Our server was really great as well. Eventually Dinner was over and we headed to Thunderhead for some nite rides.

Last year, they didn’t close Thunderhead down until 8:30ish. This year it was closed after dinner, though it wasn’t that cold out. We were surprised at this, and next year I’ll be sure to schedule dinner closer to 8pm. Since the outside coasters were closed, we headed down towards the gate to take a group picture. Brian wanted to look at the picture they had taken when they entered the park as well. This was fun standing around, but I ended up getting a little too close to Danny (what was that all about again?), making Ed laugh, as well as laughing at James’ constant yelling of ‘Brian!’ Eventually Dawn and her Man showed up while she was talking to Matthew (MaMoosh) on the phone. She got off and we found a very nice gentleman to take a picture of us at the front of the park.

Immediately following the picture, the Homey gang was leaving. Alicia was cold and the coasters were cold. So we all hugged and said our goodbyes to the leaving group. Then we headed towards the Train for a night ride thru the Smokey Mountains. I didn’t get to do it last year and we just made it this year. In fact, due to them taking a bathroom break after I did, Nicole and Mike C. almost didn’t make it. We were finally on the train, something everyone was looking forward to. The ride is about 20 minutes, mostly in the dark. The conductor on the back of the train was a lot of fun and played along with us well. I love riding on a train. It just seems so relaxing. I just wish the trains at Dollywood had wider seats, my behind isn’t that small.

After riding the train, Dawn and Russ were planning on leaving, so Danny walked towards the front of the park with them as we headed to Blazing Fury. We all hugged and said our goodbyes to Dawn and Russ, then headed for one last ride. The final Blazing Fury ride was fun as I had Ed sit in the ejector seat with me. I also showed them the guy under the tracks.

As we came out of Blazing Fury, the park was empty up our way. We made it down towards the front gate, which was crowded because of the Carol of the Trees show Dollywood puts on. We ran back into Danny, who was still with Dawn and Russ. They left as we went to the Emporium. Some wanted to shop, but that place was far too packed for me. Matt, Mike C., and myself all waited around for everyone to purchase stuff as Nicole and Tina waited outside. Once we were all finished, we went out the turnstiles beside the Emporium so as not to wait. They only let you go out after the park is closing. We said our final goodbyes to Mike B., Ed, Tina, and Nicole as we got in line for the tram. They weren’t parked far from the front, so they didn’t need a tram. We decided we didn’t want to wait either as the line was very long, so instead we walked to the Element, which ended up not being far either.

Before I drove the group back to the cabin we stopped at a gas station. I tried to hide from Danny and Matt, but that wasn’t so successful. We also stopped to see how much a ride on the Screaming Swing down the street was, but decided against riding. Once arriving back at the Cabin, Matt, Beth, Mike, and I got in the Hot Tub, which had since been fixed. Beth and I sipped on Coconut Rum mixed with Milk and Banana Schnapps. Mike sat out for a while but eventually went back in. I sat out with Beth and Matt till 3am. It didn’t seem that long.

Eventually everyone went their way to sleep. Sunday was a hectic morning getting ready and what not. Beth and Co. left before I did and apparently backed over an embankment. I was going to hang around the area, but decided that since I don’t get many Sunday nights off that I would go ahead home and enjoy the nite off. The perfect end to another fun coaster riding weekend.