Saturday, June 21, 2008

Hooray for Dollywood

Ok that's a totally idiotic title but give me a break I'm in Alabama at a Best Western. It's hell late at night and my husband and my six year old are still awake and watching the cartoon channel - those loud, quick-cut, sardonic new cartoons that cause ADHD?

So I'd say that so far we're having a vacation that's about 300 awesome, as Zhou would say.

We woke up yesterday morning at Brother Joe's in the Blue Ridge Mountains. We'd gotten a jump on the road trip by driving down there Thursday night. It is so gorgeous there, especially on a late spring morning. You could eat the air. We stopped to say hi and bye to my parents, who were in the neighborhood, and Dad lent me his telephoto lens. Expect dolphin photos later.

Drove to Pigeon Forge, where Dollywood is, and spent the night, so this morning we were at Dollywood when the park opened. I was dreading the amusement park experience - I was picturing hot, greasy, crowded, fake-butter-scented, sweaty, fat, money-gouging, and exhausting. Bob was astounded that I had proposed it in the first place, but I thought we couldn't ask yon children to suffer Baltimore to New Orleans all in one go.

What a relief - since we arrived so early, the temperature was sweet, the place was empty, and there were NO lines. First thing we hit was this Mystery Mine thing. I'm not well-versed in the whole ride vocabulary and architecture, so it wasn't until after Mao and Bob had disappeared through the ride's gates that I realized: that twisting, looping double strand of tubing up there? is part of the ride my SIX YEAR OLD is ON. I thought:

  1. "He's going to go hysterical and they'll have to stop the ride."
  2. "He's going to throw up and we'll have to go back to the car."
  3. "There is NO WAY those restraints are tight enough for his little body. They're used to giant Southern children around here, he's just going to slip through the bars."


Turns out it's the scariest ride in the park. It actually belches fire at you. Bob was mightily impressed, and Mao was appalled. He came off fine - no crying, no puking - but he was like, "That was INSANE. What is WRONG with people, they come up with shit like that? I mean SRSLY. OMG. WTF?" Not in so many words.

I was really impressed by the structures, the landscaping, and the use of materials in the park. There were buildings legitimately made of logs and stone - not just crappy facade stuff. The rocking chairs that were set out for people to rest on were made of wood. There was water trickling everywhere, little creeks and waterfalls, and a working water wheel at the grist mill. The craftsman stuff felt pretty contrived, but it wasn't fake - you can't sit there and pretend to make a broom.

The one thing that I thought was weird was that there was very little Dolly in Dollywood. I expected her face and her voice to follow us around all day. I expected at least a wooden Dolly figure with the face cut out so you could have your picture taken. I would have taken that picture, come to think of it. I had to look hard in the gift shop to find a t-shirt that had her face and the word "Dollywood" both. Maybe she has sold it.

We did a rather tame kids roller coaster so that Zhou could have a shot at a big-kid ride. There was a little splash to it, which he wasn't very happy about. Afterward, we were discussing which rides to go on next, and Mao said, "Nothing that goes upside-down, because those rides freak me out." I swear, he's really six. Then Zhou adds, "And nothing with water, because those rides give me a pissy fit."

"Hissy fit" we hastened to correct him. "Hissy."

Luckily, there have been very few of those so far. Tomorrow we drive to New Orleans though, another long day in the car. Luckily, I brought CDs of the first three Percy Jackson and the Olympians books, and the kids love them as much as I do. Unluckily, the reader, a Jesse Bernstein, slurs his 'tr' sound so much I'd like to kill him. If Percy looks out his 'bedgeroom' window and sees a 'chree' on the 'shtreet' below I think I'll have to hurl the disc out the car window, as my brother once did with a Sinead O'Connor cassette in Colorado on a road trip with his roommates.

Happens to the best of us when road fever is upon us.

All our pictures here.