Today we have a special treat for you, RD and his amazing fiancé Randy made their way to Dollywood and Pigeon Forge over the weekend, so we have a unique look at Dollywood and review of Lightning Rod from somebody who, well, it's safe to say, isn't a huge fan of RMC's. But that means there is a VERY funny story here.
Written by RD Sussman-Dewberry
Part I: The breast entertainment 25.00 can buy
After a nearly 18 month wait, it was time for me & my partner to take our first real vacation together - in this case, a road trip up to Pigeon Forge/Knoxville. We were able to luck out on so many fronts, and I will admit, my travel fairy was sitting on my shoulder the entire time... in part at least.
Leaving Atlanta in the evening of the 1st, we made our way up into the northern part of the state, passing such interesting places as Cartersville, GA (Home of Anheuser Busch's brewery...) and past Rossville... which would be a destination on the return trip. As we made our way into Tennessee, we saw the vestiges of civilization slowly disappear and morph into a world of wonderful, twisted & somewhat freaky examples of tourist trap hell... in more ways than one. We reached our destination, and had a reunion 20 years in the making.
Friday, 2 September 2016: The DOLLYEST place on earth.
We woke in the morning to see this view out of my friend's guest room. And this would be the hallmark of the entire stay - expect the unexpected, and there was something more special around each corner. And it was.
We headed the short drive down to Dollywood, to start our day with a tram ride to the front gate area. And my Travel Fairy spread her wings & dust... and the first surprise of the trip: A 25.00 ticket for a day at Dollywood! The weather was slightly cloudy and a little cool-ish (at least to a desert rat such as me) but still a beautiful way to spend a day at the park. As we entered, there was a decided lack of crowds to make their way through. Correction: You could roll a bowling ball from one side of the park to the other and not hit another guest. Walk on... EVERYTHING! But first, a stop at the A.D.A. booth inside the park gates to get an elevator pass for the rides.
A side note: Six Flags, Cedar Fair, SeaWorld Parks, etc. : Please take note of this system. Learn it. Love it. USE IT. Dollywood (And Herschend Parks for that matter) has been at the forefront of guest services and adapting the A.D.A. compliance to a gold-standard unbeaten in any sense. Why? They spent a bit of money to update a park's system to a laminated sheet with everything easily found and dictated out. They they actually trained their operators to use it. And guess what: It works BRILLIANTLY. If I could give a Golden Ticket to Dollywood for A.D.A. compliance & ease of use, I would.
I love my fiancé. Really. No, I love him more than life itself. And I'm willing to do anything for him, now and forever. Now I know you're wondering why I'd say this... but as you all know my beloved readers, I'm not a fan of high-intensity rides. Even less so about RMC's ideas in ride design & development. But I love him... dearly. Knowing the issues and temperament that Lighting Rod at Dollywood has had over the past months made it the first stop of the day... but in order to secure the ride just in case of a ride-shutdown/closure situation, we had to ride it right away. As I don't do stairs, waiting in line with him would have been painful and decidedly difficult, so with my A.D.A. pass in tow, we ascended the hidden lift to the special entrance to said monster coaster... (I really love my fiancé...)
At first glance, you can only see a few bits of LR from the park, primarily the quad-down into the overbanked brake turn, and the launch. And both are quite interesting to view. The trains blister up the lift at a pace that is insane to begin with, and fly through the quad down in a way that makes you wonder about the strength of the upstop wheels. The aptly designed train (complete with flames & other such decorations) rolls down the steep brake hill into the station, where the riders exit; we're next to board. A row change from the absolute last seat to the front of the train is done... and it is time to board.
(I really -REALLY- love my fiancé...)
As is typical with any RMC coaster, a seatbelt and the lap-bar of DOOOOOM is in place to securely rivet you to the seat. As in: You're not going anywhere anytime soon...
Or so you think...
Once all restraints are checked, a quick visual scan, and the sound of revving engines means 'dispatch' of the train. The trains turn around towards the waiting lift... and then OFF YOU GO.
(I really -REALLY- REAAAALY LOVE MY FIANCE.)
I've been on every type of launch coaster built - LIM, LSM, Cable, Flywheel, Compressed Air, Weight Drop... all of them. I can say that LR reminds you there IS a G-D, and he can punish you. And will. The launch is glass-smooth (save for the slight shudder of the trains) as they shoot you up the lift hill at astoundingly fast speed. Cresting the top (known as the Cathedral hills) you get your first dose of solid, almost perfect airtime, before dipping down & repeating a second time into the first long drop to the terrain. I will tell you this: It isn't bad - at all - and I thought if the rest of the ride was paced better, this would be a great ride... but as we all know, that's not RMC's style.
(I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, UNQUESTIONABLY LOVE MY FIANCE. AND THE RING HAD BETTER BE SIX CARATS & "A" CLARITY...)
From here, the ride becomes a blur - a non-stop, unrelenting, paceless, twisting, throw you into the hands of G-D experience. I was NOT happy. The train flew around each turn & reverse turn hard; picture being a rag doll in the mouth of a pissed off pit bull with emotional disorders. And it does not stop. Not an inch of pacing here - just more and more of the same body being torn apart feeling.
And then there's the Quad-Down.
(I REALLY, REALLY, REALLY, MUST LOVE MY FIANCE. AND WE'RE ALSO LOOKING AT A NICE BMW AND THE RING OF UNQUESTIONABLE SIZE AND QUALITY.)
Imagine, if you will, what it would be like to be shot into your lap restraint with tremendous force in a painful, BDSM sort of way. Now multiply that by a factor of four, and you have the Quad Down. Ejector air is one thing; Ejection from a high-speed jet plane air is another. I've never been so happy to see the final turn before in my life on ANY ride, anywhere. Of course... there is a camera at the base of the last bump before said turn...
So as we exit, and I begin to pick the BMW & ring I want, we stop at the photo booth to see the picture. As many of you know, I'm not exactly pale; I have my ethnic backgrounds and colors as part of my natural skin pigment...
But I was <WHITE WHITE WHITE> in the picture. As in: Casper the ghost. As in: Wonder Bread. As in: Snowfall. I rarely change colors on a ride... this was the exception.
Needless to say, the picture did NOT come home with us.
After LR, we made our way up through the park, to Fire in the Glory Hole (Blazing Fury) and around up to the rest of German Row & the majority of the E-ticket coasters. Every single ride for the most part was walk-on, even with a single train. Wild Eagle? Choose your seat... anywhere. Same with FireChaser Express. And Thunderhead. All of them - all of them - wide open.
We made our way through the park, exploring just about everything - and anything - in the deserted Dollywood - and including the much-required for any visit to the park Chicken Blessings from Miss Lilian. This tradition is something everybody should experience at some point or another; her in-dining show is priceless, funny & truly beautiful - something you will not find at any other park in the world. It is something that differentiates Dollywood from the best of the best, and elevates it to a higher level. It is why Dollywood is possibly the USA's best theme park - and untouchable by any means.
As the sun began to slowly descend behind the clouds and mountains, my beloved wished to go on that thing again. Being the wonderful, understanding & loving fiancé I hope to be... we headed back down to the ride. Swallowing more acid & bile from the thought of being turned into a human projectile, we headed into the front entrance building in the former Cas Walker's gas station. A lovely attendant heard my pleas for no more brutal and cruel punishment, and gave me a reprieve. My beloved could ride using the ADA access point without me. And he did. And he loved it. And I got to enjoy a wonderful, clean, cool park bench as my reward. Life is good.
Of course, no trip to Dollywood is complete without the tasty treat known as crystal methampetacocaicinnamonheroin bread. This beloved treat, going under the guise of "Cinnamon Bread" is possibly the most addictive substance known on this planet - and in many ways far more dangerous. One does not simply buy a loaf of cinnamon bread. They enjoy it, slowly, satisfyingly with icing and a feeling of hard euphoria, followed by the rush as it enters the body. Once your mind enters the state of altered consciousness, you ascend to the next level of fervent pleasure, unlike anything produced by man. After that last bite... the withdrawal symptoms kick in. You find yourself slowly craving it again... you need it... you want it... you begin to look for Cinnamon Bread from your corner dealer, that tweaky kid at the mall, you want it. YOU NEED IT. YOU MUST HAVE IT.
And so the day draws to a close. 8.5 hours at Dollywood. Memories were made beyond anything that I could ever wish to have happen, and it was truly a special day that I will cherish my entire life.
Along with the BMW & the diamond ring.