Well, I survived Dollywood on Friday. For those of you who don’t know, Dollywood is an amusement park in Pigeon Forge, TN (near Knoxville). It’s not one of the largest ones around (Six Flags in Atlanta is bigger, and I'm not even going to mention the Disney Empire), but it isn’t bad. What’s bad is the crowds.
I guess I was relatively lucky on Friday. The crowds were large owing in part to the fact that a lot of people were off work and in part because the park closed yesterday and won’t open again until the end of March. I sure that just about every season ticket holder within a 150 mile radius (which is where I would expect most season ticket holders to live) were there at some point between December 26 and yesterday. But, with that being said, the crowds were not quite as bad as I had feared. But I still don’t like crowds all that much.
Happily, there weren’t that many people there to ride the rides. I think most folks were there for the Christmas-time shows and to shop for stuff. Dollywood does have a lot of crafts artist working there, and they usually have stuff on sale at very low prices to clear out the last of their stock just before the winter closure. But I wasn’t there for that. No, I’m a roller coaster junkie.
There were five of us together there on Friday. It would have been six, but She-Mom wasn’t feeling all that well and decided to head back to Kingsport. Those of us there headed straight for Thunderhead. Thunderhead is a large wooden rollercoaster. It features a 100 foot maximum drop, speeds up to 55 mph, and causes you to experience approximately 3.5 G’s. The ride lasts about 150 seconds, which seems like a very short time considering the fifteen minute wait in line, but it is worth that wait. MG and her half-sister Emma went from there to Timber Tower (which seems like a rather lame ride to me), so I took the youngest half-sister, Hannah, with me for another shot at Thunderhead. Step-She-Mom went with MG and Emma to watch them.
I thought about hitting Thunderhead one more time, but everyone else wanted to move on. So we headed up to the Tennessee Tornado. The Tennessee Tornado is a roller coaster with an interesting bit of history. There used to be an older roller coaster sitting where it does now, but it was quite old. When, years ago, Opryland decided to close their theme park, Dollywood bought the ride from them, dismantled it, shipped it to East Tennessee, and reassembled it where the old roller coaster had been. This ride only lasts about a minute, but the speeds are higher and the G-forces a bit more extreme (since you do multiple loops upside down). My only complaint about the ride comes at the end, where the track jolts the cars upward before coming into the station. I’m still sore today from that little bump, since it made me bang my knee and the harness compressed against my collarbone implants. Maybe I’ll stick to Thunderhead.
And we did. After milling about for a while, and letting Emma watch the glass-blowers doing their exhibition (always a crowd-gatherer), we ended up going back over to Thunderhead for one last ride before going to the smaller rides (e.g., bumper cars, the Scrambler, etc). Man, I love that rroller coaster. And they’re building yet another roller coaster near that one. It will open in April. I think I can brave the crowds for a shot at that…maybe by May or so once the “new-ness” wears off.
Last Ride of ‘06
I did get one last ride in for the year. I met John B. at his house yesterday and we rode over to the mountain bike trails at IC King park. I didn’t really ride very well. I was still sore from the Tennessee Tornado and from running a couple of days last week. John had claimed he wouldn’t ride very well either (due to being ‘over-served’ at a bar the night before), but he still rode much better than I did. I guess I do OK mostly on the flats and uphills, but he really rides away from me on the downhill sections. I seem to be having a bit of a confidence problem with going fast downhill on a mountain bike. I can’t imagine why.
We rode all the way out to the end of the loops by the second (unused) parking lot. John showed me a location that he was wanted to see about opening up for a few more trails. I have, on occasion, thought the same thing over there, but John actually knows the people to contact to make it happen. I’ll be glad to help cut the new trails once approval is gained from the Park Department. Looking at the area, I see a lot of potential.
John needed to be back at his house to get ready for a wedding, so I mentioned that we should head on back. We did, until we met up with Philippe, who was also out riding. We ended up stopping and talking with him for maybe 10 to 15 minutes. I was just getting ready to remind John about his need to go when he realized it himself. Since he was riding so much better, I told him to go ahead and not wait on me. I kept up for a little while, but I had a little difficulty at a log-crossing and lost sight of him there. From that point on I just continued on at my own pace all the way back to his house.
My one real moment of concern happened about half a mile from John’s. As I was riding through the neighborhoods, I saw a dog (maybe a Doberman mix?) jump over a fence as I was coming by. After a moment of panic, I noticed it had jumped out of one fenced-in area and into another. However, I knew that if he did it once … I sped up. So did the dog. He reached the corner of the fence and … sure enough, up he jumped. I decided it was time for a sprint. However, sprinting is not something that full-suspension mountain bikes are made for. I felt I could have easily outpaced him on my road bike, but on that bike he was quickly gaining on me. My usual tactic would be to grab my waterbottle and give him a squirt in the face, but I knew I couldn’t get to it fast enough. So instead I pulled out Plan B.
I stopped sprinting and turned my head in his direction. He got to within about five feet of me and I, well, I barked at him. I can’t describe it any better than that. It was loud. It was abrupt. And it worked. I really loved the confused look on his face as he scrambled to a stop.
Well, I had planned to spend today going through closets and drawers and reorganizing my clothes (culling out the stuff I don’t wear anymore), but I woke up at about 4:30 am unable to breathe through my nose. Yeah, I’ve come down with a cold, I guess. So much for going to Philippe and Sylvie’s for New Year’s Eve festivities, eh? At least MG is taking good care of me and I’m getting plenty of rest.
I just hope I can make it to the New Year’s Day Tour de Downtown Parking Garages tomorrow. Well, I’ll probably go anyway. I don’t think I can make myself worse.