USA 06/23 – Dollywood

Something else opened up recently right?

Yes, a mere 9 hours away by car was our old friend Dollywood, with the added convenience of pointing ourselves back in the direction of Texas. We’ve strayed as far as we dare on this adventure.

Sadly Dolly doesn’t offer any form of sweet start, and in order to have made the most out of a 2-day visit we would have had to have pushed stupidly hard on the journey. Not worth it.

And so, on arrival in Pigeon Forge after yet another long and uneventful drive, the only thing to do was pick up a cred of some, any description. Ideally the cheapest possible.

There’s a wide range of Alpine-based activity on offer, but most are ridiculously priced. Goats on the Roof has always been an entertaining name and, being one of the older of these establishments by now, presented itself as the most stomachable option.

Day 9 – Goats on the Roof


Not quite what I imagined if I’m honest. Turns out they’re building a new dinosaur mini golf in order to try and one-up the local competition. As if having goats on a roof didn’t already do that.


They have goats on a rock too, and the #1 alpine coaster of course, which was par for the course. An old country store, a swinging bench, everything really.

That night as we ate our food in the car, engine on in a now perpetual fear of a dead battery, a strange sound started coming through the speakers. An emergency warning system was kicking in, speaking of storms, high winds, tornados, hailstones the size of golf balls, death, destruction, loss of trailers and RVs. This was all delivered in a robotic voice which named a long list of locations, none of which made much sense to us. Comfort was taken in the fact that a) we didn’t hear ‘Pigeon Forge’ and b) no one else seemed to be doing anything about it.

Headed to the hotel and thought nothing more of it.

Day 10 – Dollywood

It’s been too long. The infectious manner in which the car parking area is described as C for Cotton Candy in a southern accent is enough to take the sting out of the $25 and remind us that, much like Hershey, Dolly’s would have our back if the car should die again. We parked in a comfortably shaded area by a small creek and took in the magnificence of the Smoky Mountains feat. rollercoasters once more. Unlike Silver Dollar City, the tram stops here are conveniently located and have shelter. As such, we got to enjoy the on-board shenanigans of the announcer telling us about our day ahead.


We already had things planned out and headed left at the entrance, straight up to the back of the park where all the newness is.

Not wanting to queue anything at all really for my 8th one of these, though they are good, we hit #1 Dragonflier up first.

At official ride opening time, guests moved forward into the queue as staff were doing their final checks and then a technical delay was announced. Oops. Looking across the plaza, the Big Bear wasn’t ready for us yet either and with most of the queue immediately turning heel and leaving in front of us, it seemed best to stick it out rather than chasing our tails.

Tactics worked, 15 minutes or so later we were beckoned onto the first public train, most importantly skipping ahead of even the reasonably significant fast track queue that had already formed. Ride was alright, I’ve done better examples by this point and there’s better things to do here. Oh and the queue remained hideous and stewing for the remainder of the day.


Over at #2 Big Bear Mountain there was even more stewing going on. The latest and greatest was still down for now, a single train was being tested and parking itself in the wrong place – it was much appreciated how open the staff were about the situation rather than the usual wafty nonsense you get from most places.

The quantity of people in front, that was also slowly dwindling, and the fact that they hadn’t opened the main queue at all meant things again didn’t look too bleak if they did manage to get the ride fixed in a reasonable time. We waited, admiring that big logo, watching test trains fly past, picking up on fun little details like the fact that the entrance board has a fast track logo with ‘coming soon’ already plastered over it. It’s a minor detail, but I can picture so many parks not planning ahead with that type of thing and then having to shoehorn in some signage in future.


Soon a second train was added and both were testing successfully, seems the ride system simply doesn’t like being low capacity. Staff were given a final test lap and then threw some big thumbs up to the crowd. We were in.

By the time we filed through the full queue there was barely any wait time until we were seated. It contained some nice posters and storytelling, from a passing glance, but action came quickly. A Pegase Express style station launch kicks things off with a bang, over a hill and straight into the first actual launch track.


A very lengthy sequence of hills and turns of varying potency (weak to notable) takes you out along a hillside, mostly muddied and with not a huge amount going on. The above water feature and rockwork punctuates an otherwise featureless landscape as you reach the furthest point and head back in the other direction. I swear this thing was supposed to have on-board audio.

Much like Taron, though also nothing like Taron, the amped up final launch is parallel with the other, taking you up into the highest point and back over the ride plaza area.


Again this leads to another lengthy sequence of hills and turns of varying potency (notable to decent), picking up the pace into this final drop under a path where the noise of a bear hits from a speaker and you hit the brakes reasonably hard.

There’s something very modern Vekoma about it all, and not the Fønix type, it feels extremely fine-tuned both to the point of respecting the hell out of it, but with that also comes a lack of excitement. I wasn’t expecting minds to be blown by a family coaster, though I did think from a park with Firechaser Express that I might come away saying it was a very good one of those. Instead it all just sort of happened.

Hardware aside, I think the most glaringly obvious omission is the storytelling. We’re meant to be hunting a bear, but should we really be out in the open over some mud? And then back where we started but over some landscape gardening. The sound effect at the end feels like an afterthought and surely a romp through the forest would have been far more effective. Sure, lots of new creds open up in mud and get better over time, so there’s scope for improvement but is that really what’s going to happen here when there were already trees available, and now the other half sits alongside service roads? I hope so.

Oh well, with the +1s out of the way it was time to enjoy what made the park great in the first place. It was roddin’ time.


They’ve killed Lightning Rod.

It’s gone.

RIP rodness.

Well it was broken upon our arrival, making 3 for 3 on that front. Staff were present, but had recently evacuated a 50-minute queue, then shut up shop and closed the main doors so that they didn’t have to stand there and turn guests away any more. We sat on a bench and waited, cheesing it once again as it re-opened rather promptly and we walked straight onto it. Almost.

A single train was all that was on offer, with the decorated zero car seemingly gone for good now. Water was gushing over the base of the launch at all times, rusting away everything below it and making a mess of the road that runs underneath. Queue line videos continue to play factually incorrect information, such as wood, and the number of seconds of airtime on offer (we’ll get to that, don’t you worry).

The layout of the queue has changed to accommodate a complicated batching procedure where, as promised several days ago, a man with a clipboard who cannot see the station or the air gates assigns guests their rows. Immediately I spotted the problem here, but was interested to see where it was headed.

We ended up in row 1 to start, a double edged sword, and ascended the final stairs into the most atmosphere-less station imaginable. No sound or music, no friendly smiles, staff looking embarrassed by the experience they were about to offer. Amusingly, and as predicted, four guests that had followed us up now had nowhere to sit. The clipboard guy had come too and was getting visibly upset about the mess up – disabled/exit pass guests were on the opposing platform and being assigned to some of the back rows by a separate member of staff.

It’s time to bring back the good old quote of the day I think – I wasn’t made aware of this
Well, obviously…

The air gates opened and no word was spoken. Being the first train after recovering from a breakdown, and with all the bars down, guests (and us) were left unsure as to whether to proceed through them or not. A stalemate occurred, in silence, for a good 10-15 seconds, before one ride host plucked up the courage to timidly invite us on board.

With that debacle out of the way it was time to get excited. It may not be wooden any more, but we were peeling out on a top 25 coaster (with no despatch announcement) – a machine of madness and mayhem.

The launch itself still feels wild, but coming from someone who believes they already had the slightly ‘neutered’ version, the ease off into the humps is now comically prominent. The train barely clears either, with little to no sensation at all and then the first drop felt exactly like the last two pedestrian ones we’ve just had, from a chain lift, so what’s the point?

I’m sure someone will be pleased to hear that the pothole is gone, but the first big turn thing, which is shaped to produce exactly the same effect as those on Wildcat – a pop at the top, was taken at another crawl, leading to weird leaning sideways out of the train feeling while staring at more mud. This bit is actually wood, and the next element rides poor, very poor. So by what measure was this retrack performed exactly?
I was never overly enthralled with the first half of Lightning Rod to begin with, things kicked up to the level of ‘amazing’ at the twist ‘n’ shout for me, though today I wasn’t even sure at what moment this began. Oh, it was… those hills we already did? Ahh, quad down now.

It’s gone.

It’s dead.

Maybe it’s the ArieForce talking, but the quad down was taken at a measured pace that you could count out in a functional fashion. 1. Bit of float. 2. Bit of float. 3 bit more float. 4. Bit more float. 5. That’s a speed hill right? What used to be HAULING into the brakes with what I previously described as the blue ball effect now just plops down some hill and says you’re done mate. Hot rods!

No whooping or hollering in the station, nobody’s pumped. “Welcome back, how was your ride?” met mostly with awkward silence. And it was with exactly that with which we left the ride area.

To get things back on track we had some cinnamon bread, promptly spilling apple butter all over myself while sitting in one of those legendary rocking chairs. Have to suffer for your art.


Barnstormer was walk on, but had a cycle so short it would make Rush blush, and felt a bit underwhelming after the massive Sea World one.


Further up the way is Blazing Fury, a classic for sure, but sad to see it’s been tamed down a bit by removing things like the splash effect. Extending the longevity of these rides at what cost?


Tennessee Tornado was decidedly quiet too. It rides well for what it is, but is over in a flash.

Wild Eagle was a good little sit down, also bagged a good quote from the queue. “I don’t know what it does, I only saw the angle.” Then it was immediately spoiled to them by a queue line video. I hate ones that use POVs.


Firechaser was the most popular of the day, and probably rightly so, so we kept moving to Mystery Mine. I dunno, I feel like they’ve removed a bit of the charm by redoing that little bit of the outdoor portion. It rides so poorly for something barely moving in that section that it’s hilarious. Fire didn’t go off, end is uncomfortable, job done.

Drop Line the Drop Tower is excellent.


Thunderhead rose in my estimation. It’s far from a standout GCI with all them record breaking corners, but it had a lot more gusto in the transitions than I had experienced before so Lightning Racer down, this one up.


Not much left but to suck up the queue for this little gem, thankfully Firechaser Express had quietened a little. The first section has developed some rather amusing roughness to make up for lack Mystery Mine comedy, though it still hits hard where it matters. All the show effects were working perfectly, unlike the rest of the park too. Family fun at its best.


Rode the big black train, which unfortunately did not feature the big black train song. Had some other railroad related stuff that didn’t hit as hard, but the commentary, like the tram ride, is always good and the history of the locomotive is rather impressive. It’s a war veteran don’t you know.


With attractions not at their best, it was the better idea to slow down and soak the place up more. Had to remind myself that that’s what it was all about before, rides are secondary to rocking chairs and country music.


It’s been a negative sounding report for sure, but that’s only because I care about the direction in which the park heads. We still had a fantastic time of it and yes it holds a special place in my heart too. Hurry up and get that Mack launch/Xtreme spinner now.

We wanted to give the Rod its best chance to redeem itself, so wrapped up the day on it, as far back in the train as stupid seating assignment luck would allow. It was a marked improvement though still a shell of its former self. I can no longer recommend this as a world class attraction and that saddens me, as did making it through the day without a single staff member taking note of my Dollywood attire.
Could be worse. Could be Silver Dollar City.

The tram ride out cheered us up, they had great banter and showed interest in what rides people had done that day, encouraging plenty of interaction and keeping the smiles going all the way to the car. It was interesting seeing which ones got the greatest reaction – not the rod and not the bear. The tram itself won hands down of course.

Day 11

USA 06/23 – Hersheypark
USA 06/23 – Lake Winnepesaukah + Alabama Adventure

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published / Required fields are marked *