-DOLLYWOOD SPLASH COUNTRY-
Id love to give a full review of the water park, because honestly, its pretty well themed and among the nicer regional waterparks Ive seen in my day. However, only 4 slides were open on this day; 3 tube slides and the mat racer. None of the body slides nor wave pool were going, but I am hardly going to complain. Fleming Cook joined Chris Trotter, myself, and Meredith for the large tube rides (there were two), there was also a toilet bowl tube slide that took single or double tubes which we rode twice, and the mat racers. I cant say that any particular slide was necessarily next level or anything, but we enjoyed ourselves. We made sure to make visits to the continental breakfast of cut fruit and pastries several times over the course of the morning while trying to dry off a little bit. Dollywood really rolled out the red carpet here, and comparatively few enthusiasts showed up. Probably no more than 150 or so appeared.
Transitioning to the dry park, the numbers increased quite a bit.
Mountain Slidewinder: Strange water slide/flume contraption with giant foam boats and perhaps built in house. I had never even heard of it before booking for Con, honestly. It requires a hike up the mountain where Wild Eagle is located to get to the top, where you and your group are weighed on a scale and then placed in one of the boats. Its fast, weird, exciting, and also weird. It actually isnt that wetness inducing though. Theres some spray and whatnot, but it isnt going to get you disgustingly wet.
Barnstormer: The rare non-water ride attraction for ERT this morning. This is an S&S Screaming Swing, which is very well themed and has a nice perspective on the mountainside. Unfortunately, the ride is run very tamely, and only hits maximum swing twice before coming to a stop. At least I didnt wait long for it.
Daredevil Falls: An O.D. Hopkins SuperFlume, the first I can remember riding. The difference on the SuperFlume is capacity, as the seats are double wide and can accommodate two people per row in each of its 4 rows. This means that it has the same capacity as Shoot The Rapids, except with the caveat that the SuperFlume was built with actual fluid dynamics in mind and doesnt attempt to continuously sink itself, and also predates the new-Intamin log flume rides by many years. Oh, and theres no ridiculous lapbars.
Enough about how this is obviously, unquestionably, clearly better than Cedar Points shitty log ride. Daredevil Falls is yet another very, very good attraction. The theming (think; timber mill) is really quite excellent, the operations nice, the capacity great, the length of the ride superb. Theres a lot of log flumes out there, but this one really stands out in the US. If I were to go about ordering these, it would probably be 4th best in North America under the Disney and Universal owned such rides, and above a lot of really good log flumes.
Smoky Mountain River Rampage: Unlike all the other water rides at Dollywood, for whatever reason, the wettest such ride in the park doesnt offer any convenient bins in the entrance way. We used cubby hole/bins on the flume and Slidewinder, and with it being ACErs only, I wasnt too worried about getting my shit lifted. We probably would have gotten a locker if there was a change machine, but there wasnt. On platform, we were told to put our bags in the center of the raft and they wouldnt get wet. For future reference: this is a lie. If you have expensive things like I did that cant get wet, do like I did and find shit to wrap them in, then put them in a bag. Then pray.
As far as river raft rides go, SMRR isnt terrible. Its better than Grand Rapids at Michigans Adventure, which is pretty much the standard bearer for terrible ass raft rides. But unlike the log flume, it doesnt really jump out in what is generally a crowded field of fairly unremarkable attractions. Theres really only one waterfall youre likely to hit and the ride itself isnt too-too wild in terms of the rapids encountered. It isnt memorably wet then. Themeing wise, it looks basically like every other rapids ride this side of Disney or Universal. Plus the not being able to leave a bag on the platform thing left a bad taste in our mouths. Couldnt you bend the rules for us when theres like 10 people riding the thing at all?
Chris had left his free lunch coupon at the room, and now soaking wet, we headed back to the hotel to change and dry. We discovered that in fact, we had been given no bath towels at all this day, and that our maid had no bath towels to give either. I complained at the front desk and was told that the power outage put them behind on towels, and there might be some later. Uhhh.
We met up with Chris again and went back to the park, arriving just in time to miss the ACE video contest entirely. Meredith and I arent good at doing those sorts of things. We also didnt participate in the Photo Contest voting, and we skipped the group photos at both parks. Ill admit that we did poke our heads in at the ACE Lounge that had been set up in Dollywood, where occasional free refreshments, air conditioning, and the photo contest/regional newsletter voting was set up for a couple moments, but regretfully we didnt get any bottles of water/soda before they were all used up Day 1.
Hey, for a family of 4, you could have done nothing but Con activities and stayed at the official hotels and had a very, very cheap weeklong vacation with practically every meal included. Yet we heard people complain about the schedule and how there was too much to doHuh? Really? You can always opt out, and lots of people did from a variety of things. We could have done the ropes course for free but skipped it. Lots of other people didnt. There were a ton of photo tours you could have signed up for. How nice! Oh, except then that it is stuff to do, and stuff to do is apparently bad according to some. I cant see complaining about having the world handed to you on a silver platter unless you just want to hear yourself ***. I guess the Preservation Conference schedule this year with Great America offering absolutely nothing, not even parking, is more their speed. Whatever. Even if youre like me and you have little but total contempt for your fellow coaster tools, it shouldnt be tough to recognize unless you want to be purposely ignorant.
One activity we did do this day was visit the Roller Coaster Museum travelling exhibit over at the space that was the Dolly Museum once upon a time. Its a small exhibit that probably needs more interactive things or something like that to really work and be sold to science museums and the like in the future, but thats probably not what theyre chasing afterwards or something. Theres some info, a couple vehicles, and its nice and all, but theres also a couple glass cases that look sparse and empty. The best looking exhibit is arguably the mockup of a Coaster Nerd Lair, complete with all sorts of old amu***t park swag. All it was missing was a pair of Paul Greenwalds gym shorts. We also ran into some sort of situation involving an ACE member in a motorized wheel chair screaming *** you at a Dollywood employee on our way out. 3 days in and were already yelling at the Dollywood people for all the awesome stuff they did. I can see this relationship working well in the future.
After looking at coaster junk, it was time for us to do what any good enthusiast should: Eat. We had free meal tickets, and goddamnit, we were gonna use them. We ate pizza over at Lumberjacks Pizza, noted for its enormous one pound slices. Chris went the salad route there while Meredith and I each had the famed enormo-pizza. It wasnt bad pizza, necessarily, but it wasnt really that great either. Thin crust (like it should be) but on the overly greasy side. Chris seemed to like his salad. We walked around some more, looked at things and shops, and then headed out to eat yet again.
This time, the eating came in the format of a dinner show. The longest running dinner show in the Smokies is Dollys own Dixie Stampede. If a stereotypical member of the US East/West coast intelligentsia were to try and imagine what southern hillbillies wanted in a dinner show, they couldnt even make up Dixie Stampede if they tried. Theres a preshow with a bluegrass ensemble doing comedy and rock and roll covers, then you head into a long set of different paths to eventually arrive at the Dixie Stampede arena. The arena is probably the size of a small hockey arena, with about a thousand seats (maybe more?) and a giant dirt floor onto which stuff happens.
And oh, what entertainment. Want comedy? Enter the wacky Skeeter. Theres bison. Theres kids chasing chickens. Theres horse races of some variety. Theres pig races. Theres a Cirque like segment around Native Americans. Meredith and Trotter were laughing uncontrollably over the pony race, which featured dummies on their back that bucked in surrealist fashion. Pigeon Forge was taking its toll on us; we were becoming simple folk capable of being entertain by the most base of entertainment. It was both freeing and horrible. The food itself is very good there was a whole chicken, pork chop, potatoes, creamy soup and other sides too, chased with all you can drink soda pop and an apple turnover. Meredith got the veggie entree, which many had been made of before the event. That was a pasta dish that she said was tasty.
Because of the pizza stop a couple hours prior, we were not ragingly hungry, but given that all of this was free with our admission to Con, why would we go about complaining? The service was excellent and honestly I thought it was fun. It is a necessary component in the Pigeon Forge experience, whatever that entails to the person experiencing it.
There was another stop back at the hotel to rub our bellies before returning to the park for ERT on Thunderhead, Mystery Mine, and Wild Eagle. Some participants also took on the River Battle attraction, but we had our fill of being sprayed and sloshed with water for the day already, instead opting for night rides on the wing coaster and the parks great wood coaster. There was also an array of snacks and free drinks set up again for us as part of Dollywoods continuing confusion in believing we were good people worth a damn. As long as they were deluded in this, we were gonna keep enjoying stuff.
One thing that we werent being deluded about was Dolly-overload. I hit the wall at Dixie Stampede with Dixies Tribute to all Things Gawd Bless America and with a 20 foot tall poster of her thanking us on the way out the arena. Meredith and Trotter were still willing to let this slide and appreciate Dolly, but the Wild Eagle queue music loop ended that. For Trotter, it came with Dollys cover of Stairway to Heaven. For Meredith, it was the campy, unironic lyrics of the Wild Eagle theme song. Even now, days afterwards, simply uttering the phrase, If they call you wild, what of it? generates screaming from my wife. The Dollycon portion was ending and not a day too soon. We simply couldnt handle any more Dolly.