Dollywood’s newest roller coaster, Big Bear Mountain, continues toward its “BIG” opening this spring, as the last piece of track was put into place on Tuesday afternoon. At 3,990 ft., the roller coaster will become the longest at the park. It also will be the first ride at Dollywood to feature on-board audio.
Big Bear Mountain’s massive structure hugs six acres of undulating topography which runs along the border of Wildwood Grove, with riders racing through the wilderness before soaring high above the forest on the search for the legendary bear. Featuring a top speed of 48 mph, Big Bear Mountain takes guests through three separate launches, multiple airtime hills, high-speed carousel turns, and tunnels, including a pass behind a waterfall.
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.
Some of the Park Journey extended family made their annual trek to Dollywood's opening weekend festivities and awesomely shared some of their pics over the weekend.
It became very clear very quickly that they were enjoying all of the amazing food that the park has to offer, so we figured we'd buzzfeed the hell out of this article, because we can. =)
Special thanks to Stephen, Cliff, RD and JoAnna for all of the awesome texts and messages over the weekend, that made us all who weren't there very hungry.
#42 ... Free ... Moonshine ... Samples. Even though this isn't technically at Dollywood, it's definitely worth mentioning.
Awesome fountain in Pigeon Forge. Looks even more amazing after all the moonshine.
Now that we've got water and moonshine out of the way, let's head into Dollywood
Dolly's bus, wonder if it's available for rental? Would be an amazing road trip.
Great, now everybody knows how we pay people who write for the site. Oh wait, pay people? LOL!!!
RD and Stephen, ready for an amazing weekend at Dollywood
How many coasters can you see in this picture?
Twisty coaster. And this is the parks "family" coaster. Amazing.
How about a look at Wild Eagle
RD looks absolutely thrilled to be on a B&M
Jesus shirts if you are so inclined.
I think Cliff is trying to do \m/ but he might just love us. We love you too buddy. =)
Makes me want to take a nap. Zzzzzzz
RD paying his respects to one of the great country singers ever.
Please God, allow me to eat more of the awesome food.
This reminds me of the Ferris Wheel they had at Disneyland during the County Fair. Anybody remember that?
Awesome looking kiddie coaster
You're a shooting star
Need to head up high to see where your next food is coming from?
How about some more coaster shots?
Oh yeah, we're supposed to be telling you how to get a food coma. Well, there's really not 42, but well, 42 is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything. =)
#15, after stuffing your face it's time for a train ride, or eat on the train, or nap on the train.
#14 ... well, this has nothing to do with food, but could possibly be where the 2016 attraction is going?
#13 ... the chance to see a Bear in his natural habitat can sure get you in the mood for some awesome food.
#12 ... if you've had too much food and need to wash off, what's better than an awesome rapids ride!!
Ok, we'll get into the actual food stuff.
#11 ... As if Pork Rinds by themselves weren't enough, how about a Souvenir bottle full of Pork Rinds? And then how about getting refills on said Pork Rinds? Sold!!!
#8-10 ... Cinnamon Bread. I think we'll all agree it deserves more than one spot, plus, you probably will want to eat 3 of them anyway.
#7 Apple Freaking Butter.
# 6 ... Skillets, Skillets, Skillets, Skillets, Skillets. Did we mention the Skillets?
#5, because one spot isn't enough for the Skillets.
#4 - The Chicken Ranch, err, Chicken House. =)
#3 ... what could get you more comatose than a 25lb apple pie? Time to get about 30 friends and go to town.
#2 ... Miss Lillian. You can just see the sweetness in these pictures. Even though she's gotta be gritting her teeth given Stephen's choice of sweatshirt and cap. =)
#1 is of course, Miss Dolly Parton herself. She absolutely loves her fans and well, I'm guessing RD fainted when he saw her.
Dolly says thank you Park Journey for coming out to my park. I can't wait for you to see what is coming in 2016!!!
Thanks for checking out our Dollywood update. It's possible that once everybody is home and has some time to decompress we'll have some more Dollywood pictures to share with you all.
We'll also have some pictures of other Pigeon Forge attractions for you in a few days, so stay tuned for that!!!
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