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December 16, 2006
Gatlinburg & Pigeon Forge TN
The morning came far too early. We’d been joined by 2 more late comers at the cabin in the middle of the nite. I was waiting on everyone else to get ready and around 10:30 AM we started to roll off the mountain. I had told everyone else to be at Dollywood’s front gate that early so that they would be waiting on us to arrive, as then I could pass out tickets for our buffet. We stopped at a gas station to grab a few things and found our way to the park at about 11:00 AM.
After parking we walked towards the front gate when we heard Barron yell at us. We stopped to wait on Barron and Brandon and continued to the gate. After arriving and making our way inside the number for the buffet fluctuated, and I can’t count, so after paying, counting, miscounting, going back, paying for more, and then handing out tickets, I sent the group on their way with instructions for buffet at 4:00 PM. However, I gave my admission ticket out as a food ticket by accident while losing my food ticket. That would be the cause for more confusion later and I just wanted to ride Thunderhead.
We headed up to the Timber Canyon area of the park. They’d not only added a whole new section with one major flat ride, a small tower ride, and kid’s play area, but Mystery Mine, the next year’s new attraction, was almost complete as well and looked great. I love the lumberjack/beaver theme in this area. We walked up to the Thunderhead station and they were running 2 trains. But the weather was beautiful and I assume they were expecting a large crowd. We hopped on the middle. Thunderhead was still running great as usual. We hopped around for another ride before heading back to look at the new section of the park.
Afterwards we walked over to Timber Tower which was something I’d been wanting to ride. This was the first in the U.S. to be built. The ride was very nicely themed with a really nice queue. The ride was less than exciting which I expected, and made me slightly nauseous. Next we walked back to Lumberjack Lifts, which looked like fun, but the line was long. We took pictures, took a sneak peek behind the Mystery Mine gate, and then walked back over to Thunderhead. As we arrived something wonderful had happened. Dawn Marie and her boyfriend had just got engaged as he popped the question ON THUNDERHEAD. It was really nice, and he got her a beautiful ring. Just an even more special moment during a great day.
Having ridden Thunderhead some more we walked over towards the path leading to Tennessee Tornado, our next major destination. On the way we decided to graze for a bit as we were all hungry. I gave Tim money to get me a sausage, took the locker key for the locker they’d rented, and headed over to put my sweater, scarf, and goofy toboggan in the locker since it was so warm. I ran back over just as Tim was ordering food. We paid, sat down with our group, ate, chatted, and eventually headed up the hill.
There was no line for Tornado. This section of the park is very nice as well, and the Tornado theming is rather clever. We rode near the front and we ran in to more of the group in the station. Tornado was running well. It always is, but its too short.
Next we walked down to Blazing Fury. Tim and I got inline together, but he switched to the front seat with Matt. Matt then switched and got in with me. Blazing Fury is fun and quirky. This time I got rather wet in the splashdown. After we rode we headed to the Grist Mill for some sweets. We all love cinnamon bread and this was the place to get it. We ran into the group from Tornado who had the same thoughts as we did. I didn’t have cinnamon bread, though, opting for a huge soft chocolate chip cookie.
At that point Nicole, Mike, Patrick, and Nellie joined our group as we headed down to the Dizzy Disk in County Fair. The line was not short by any means, and the ride cycle is long, but we didn’t wait too long. I was in line with Nicole and Mike, with Tim behind us. Matt opted not to ride. Matt took a spin on the lemonade/tea cups ride, and then once we were all off, we headed to the tower glider thing we rode last year. Matt and I rode this one together and I got kind of nauseated. Tina joined our group here as well.
After that, Matt, I, Nellie, and Patrick wanted to ride the Star Shooter. Though designed as a kiddie ride, this one is taller and more suited to families. We were seated with a father and son, but the ride was temperamental and would not run with our weight on it. Everyone switched seats, the father and son got off, then the four of us moved to the middle of the gondola. The ride finally worked that way and it was fun.
We walked to the train station. Everyone else rode the carousel as Kevin, Emily and I ran to the restroom. I got back just as they were getting on and once that was all done it was almost time for dinner, so we headed down to the entrance to the pavilion. Patrick and Nellie left the group as they weren’t going to eat with us, so I told him I’d have Danny call him once we were finished. We arrived at the pavilion a bit early, and I let this group be seated as I went to wait for the rest. After misplacing one small group and finding them seated, we were all ready to eat. The food was not bad by any means, and the chocolate cake was really good, but the catered food the park provides just wasn’t as good as the food offered for sale in the park.
Once everyone had had their fill we split off again. Tommy, James, Barron, Brandon, Josh, and Brandi were heading to the Heartsong Theater, a theater attraction I’d never seen before, so I went with them. It was…interesting to say the least. Brandi and Josh needed to process their season passes so I went off with them, but ran in to Matt, Tim, Kevin, and Emily on the way to Thunderhead and since the sun was setting I headed off with them. We got to Thunderhead and figured we’d get a couple rides in before it got dark, but as Matt and I were in line for the very last seat they had some technical problems with the video system, which took a few minutes to fix before they could run the ride. By the time it was fixed, it was dark.
This is where Thunderhead shines. This weekend was the first time for many people riding on it and the first night rides for others. The ride was running amazing in the dark and my biggest fear of there being too much light from the expanded themed area around the ride were unfounded. The ride is still very dark. Before riding we’d stopped to pick up our stuff from the locker.
Once we’d ridden a few times we headed back to Lumberjack Lifts. Matt and I had some issues with the restrain as we’re both large guys, but eventually we got it to work. I think this is a really cute ride, lots of fun, and great for families. We took more pictures then headed back to Thunderhead as it was even darker now. The ride had the same malfunction to the video monitors that it had had earlier and a lot of people got out of line. We stayed in line and headed to the front.
We rode several more times, a few in the front row. Once I took my glasses off for the duration of the ride. I felt like a rag doll being tossed around. There was air on every bump, good laterals, lots of speed. What a great way to say goodbye to Thunderhead for the year.
Heading back down the mountain, Kevin and Emily decided to sit out of our run up to Tornado. We were to meet everyone at the gate at 8:00 PM and a few of us wanted some last rides. Matt, Tim, and I made our way up to Tornado. We toyed with a ride on Blazing Fury, but went to Tornado so Tim and I could ride together, making us having ridden a Tornado and a Hurricane within just a few months of each other.
The night ride in the back was really great. I’d have liked to have ridden Tornado more, but didn’t get to. We made our way down to Blazing Fury, but it was almost time for me to meet up with my other gang, so we headed to the front gate. Not everyone in the group that day made it down for the picture. Afterwards we headed out the gate to our cars as I said goodbye to Matt, Tim, Kevin, and Emily. The Cabin group and myself went to Kroger’s for some more stuff before heading to the cabin in the hills.
After Krogering, we had to switch some cars out and get some thing situated, but eventually we made it to the cabin. Once everyone was settled in we at dinner and played some games. I’m not even going to begin to go in to what the prizes were, but there was a nice bottle of Courvoisier, a nice Disney watch, and a few DVDs.
Then it was the moment we’d all been waiting for…Tommy & James’ Vacation Extravaganza 2006. Yay! The lights went out, the surround sound came on, and we all watched in anticipation. Well, we all started watching the DVD, but poor Barron got sick and spent most of the rest of the nite in the bathroom or in bed.
After the 2nd half of the DVD (Disk 2), Bryan, Will, Josh, and Myself all got in the hot tub. We sat on the porch and talked about everyone and everything, coaster related and more. Oh, and we played with the bullhorn. And by ‘we’, I mean James. And by ‘played’, I mean got on our neighbor’s nerves. Good times.
Eventually I went to my own bed. The next morning I slept a bit longer. After getting ready and getting back into the groove with the gang, we all headed out, some of us home, but the rest of us to Cracker Barrel. Thankfully Brandon had put in our table request rather early since they’d left before anyone else, so when we got there we didn’t wait long even though the place was crowded. Breakfast was good and at the end we left our awesome waitress a nice tip before saying our goodbyes and parting ways. Everyone else went home. I had to go back to Dollywood.
You see, the night before, I used someone’s cell phone as I thought I’d left mine back in my room. But when I called home, mom said someone else had found my cell at Dollywood. I didn’t even know I had it. So I had to head to the park to pick it up, and they didn’t open till 1:30 PM so I had to stand and wait. Eventually, though, I got my phone, got on the road, gassed up, and about 4.5 hours later, rolled in to my driveway.