(this is the last Dollywood CoasterCon TR and honestly, there is no real coaster analysis and shit so if you want that, skip it. there's pictures at realtalkguidetoawesome.wordpress.com that sorta goes with the words if you want to see some random pictures of nothing particularly important)
Wednesday, AKA the last Dollywood Con day. After years of e***ment and hope regarding this, honestly, I was relieved to see this day come. We had another morning ERT session to join up with and then wed just be waiting around for the intermission ceremony and buffet lunch. Then we were free to do as we wished. Miraculously, we had even gotten two towels brought to the room during our night ERT session the day before, which meant no uncomfortable showering at the Park Vista. Things were indeed looking very bright.
ERT was on Thunderhead, Wild Eagle, Blazing Fury, Tennessee Tornado and Mystery Mine, and was preceded by more pastries and the like for breakfast. Im not about to complain about more breakfast afterall, much less additional rides on coasters I like. By the time ERT broke, I had my fill of the rides there. In fact, I didnt go on a single ride outside of an ERT session provided by ACE. Just never seemed worth it or necessary since almost everything in the park was included. Blazing Fury ran lights on (which was interesting) but for the final thirty minutes, ran completely lights off, which apparently made it rather extreme given that the inside of the building gets really really dark. We rode everything available for ERT minus Mystery Mine at least once. Then it was back to perusing ***and having nice sits with our free soda mugs. At this point, we had been so overloaded with imagery from the preceeding days that nothing and no one was likely to shock us.
The Intermission Ceremony featured plaque exchanging, a song and dance show to the song about dreams and shit from Dollys appearance, and lots of talking about shit we didnt care about. I mean I think people were generally OK with that but whatever, I kinda wish I walked in for the last 5 minutes. After it was done, Dollywood handed us more free swag in the form of a t-shirt with the Con logo on it and pictures of the group photo we had missed. In total, we got wristbands, glow sticks, mugs, bags, a t-shirt, a photo, candy, and pins, all for free. We also forgot/didnt bother to get our free on-ride photo which we had coupons for but probably should have. Thats a lot of shit for nothing, and Im not including all the food, tours, Dixie Stampede, ERT, on and on and on.
We dealt with the large line for food, ate, and our group of three decided that we had enough Dollywood for awhile and bounced, effectively ending this stage of CoasterCon. From the perspective of what happened: What an event! ACE members were treated like demigods and the perks were over the top. Enough cant be said about how Dollywood treated the attendees. You just cant.
My final conclusion on how I feel about Dollywood is that it lives up to the billing of being that great, upper tier regional theme park/pseudo destination park that has been claimed forever. Theres 3 really great coasters there and some really fantastic secondary attractions. It has trees, shade, charm, shows, food, the whole 9. The themeing on some of the attractions is right up there at the Busch Gardens level too, which is sorta rarified air in this part of the world. Theres so much parks like Cedar Point, Kings Island, Magic Mountain, et al can learn from what theyre doing here. So much.
By the same token, theres a lot Dollywood can learn from other destination parks. Europa, Efteling, Cedar Point, Phantasialand, Port Aventura, Gardaland; What do they have in common? They have on property accommodations. Dollywood owns some cabins, but it doesnt have a full service hotel linked to the park. I think thats a big mistake. Get a hotel, have a private entrance to the park from it, and build conference facilities there. It would be so much easier to bypass Gatlinburg entirely. Blazing Fury is good but a bit intense why not build a more traditionally styled dark ride? Just a thought. Those are really minor quibbles though.
Another thing I admit I thought Dolly is 66. One day, possibly soon, Dolly will cease to be. I guess the theming is generic enough that it becoming Silver Dollar City again is not impossible and that may be what happens. Id hate to see a park so successful turn into Dogpatch USA and take the region with it.
Dollycon completed. Done-zo. Finished. Now we could relax, and we started our relaxing with a game of mini golf. We all had our eyes on Hillbilly Golf, located near the entrance to Gatlinburg. Its strongest selling points were location (on a heavily wooded hill) and that it had an funicular to take you up to the course. In spite of the name giving the sense that it might be low rent, Hillbilly Golf is actually very well maintained and nicely themed, and the funicular ride being included in the whole experience is very unique and totally cool. Meredith won by 4 strokes, again retaking the title of Mini Golf Champion of the Universe. She credited the one negative aspect of the course, which is that a lot of holes are actually somewhat similar and P shaped. We all liked it though. Even a driving rain storm that hit during our game didnt affect us too badly with the dense vegetation and various roofed shelters along the course.
We went back to the hotel after taking a brief drive into the National Park behind the Park Vista. Theres a loop there leading to hiking trails that we honestly just hadnt had the time penciled in for. Id like to see more of the natural beauty, but I feel like to see the good stuff Id need to hike for a long time in that park. Trotter split off from us to go get ready for the ACE Banquet, which we had chosen to skip and save our money on. We instead hung out in the room, slept, packed things, and eventually headed back out to Pigeon Forge to find food (eating burritos at a chain called Salsaritas that wasnt actively horrible) and even drive through the mountains.
Years ago, my wife and I were at an airport and picked up an issue of National Geographic Explorer which noted that it rated the top travel destinations in the world. Oh wow!, we said. I wonder if weve been to any? #1 was Geirangerfjord, which we had been to a couple months prior. Well, I guess we peaked early. The Smokies got a horribly low rating, chalked up to heavy traffic and an abundance of terrible development that was *** the place. After 4 days in Pigeon Forge, Im forced to agreeto a point. The big strip in Pigeon Forge is but a fraction of the overall Smokies, and I dont think its entirely fair to say the entire national park sucks on that basis. But the Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge area is just too much for me to handle. Too many crappy FECs, too much ugly development, too many people, too much exploitation of various resources.
Theres not a fix involved here any more than you could somehow fix the Las Vegas Strip without destroying it. I dont know that Im asking for that. I just come away feeling like I do when Im in Vegas too long and I feel dirty and bad about myself. I feel like in a couple years when this has disappeared, Ill be willing to go back to Pigeon Forge for a smaller period of time, spend maybe a day at Dollywood, and then go on to do some of the stupid things along the Gatlinburg or Pigeon Forge strip. And Ill be fine with it, because hey, my participation alone really isnt going to make or break this town. People who share my thought process about what Pigeon Forge is arent going to go anyways, and those who want it arent going to have their minds changed and choose to milk cows on an organic farm in Vermont or look at art in Prague instead anyways. Pigeon Forge is the panacea for the masses of working class stiffs to be entertained in our world, and unless you want to go about rejecting the world we live in (tough to do for a coaster enthusiast), this is what you have to accept as being the terms of your agreement to participate in all this.