Hooray for Dollywood!

August 10, 2010

On Tuesday, July 28, theskinnyonbenny family found ourselves in a rental house on a lake just West of Knoxville, Tennessee. We were with the Linkin family, and it was this particular day that we had chosen to load four adults and four children into a single mini van, and take the scenic route to the east. Our ultimate destination: Dollywood.

The scenic route was just barely scenic, and even then, only once we were 90% of the way to our destination. Mrs. theskinnyonbenny was navigating using a state map of Tennessee, and once we got close, we didn't really have any idea how to get to the park. The highway we were traveling was littered with little shacks where you can rent inner tubes to float down their local river, and it was decided that I would go in to get directions.

I pictured myself rolling out of a mini van (with Illinois plates) and into the shack with an obnoxious, "CAN YOU ALL TELL ME HOW TO GET TO DOLLYWOOD FROM HERE?" But I found a room full of such simpletons, that my self consciousness evaporated immediately.

The directions that they gave were precise, but unfortunately, they were wrong. The omission of a critical right turn left us pulling into the parking lot of a deserted Black and Decker repair facility where we expected to find the parking lot. But at about that time, the iphones figured out where we were, and popped directions to the park on their little screens.

We ended up with a wiz-bang parking spot, right by the bus station for the ride to the gate. The man talking over the loud speaker reminded us that we were at station D/E, "LAK DI-MONDE EAR-RING." (It will be tempting for me to continue to type words in Tennessee twang, but if you promise to read it in their accent, I'll stop with the typing.)

Jake plays in the rainstorm while the rest of us wait under cover.

At the gate, I gave the lady an American Express card for the first of about 600 times that day. And each and every time, I was informed that they don't take that card. Throughout the day, I kept handing it over, just to cause them a similar inconvenience to the one that they had caused me.

As I changed over to a Visa card, the cashier asked me if we had ever been to Dollywood before.

"Yes, but it's been 20 years."

"Well, a lot of things have changed since then."

I looked down at my receipt. "The price certainly has changed quite a bit."

Awkwardly, "heh heh heh, yes sir."

Yes friends, I actually went to Dollywood when I was nineteen. Mrs. theskinnyonbenny was there with me, although this is many, many years before she married into the name. We took about a week to cross Tennessee that summer, visiting Graceland, the Grand Ole Opry, Gatlinberg, Rock City, and Chattanooga in addition to our stop at Dollywood. I'm just a few yards from a giant box of pictures, and somewhere in that box are photos of our skinny young selves on that trip. I actually opened the box with the intention of finding those pictures earlier this evening, but the mass of 20 years of pictures and my lack of amphetamines make it an overwhelming task. Someday...

As we passed into the park, someone asked the kids if they knew who Dolly Parton was. The oldest one is only ten, so naturally, they did not. I chimed in to tell the kids that she is an entertainer, most famous for her country music singing and her big boobies.

The kids after the day at the park.

Before we went on a ride, we stopped to feed everyone. Be careful of ordering a large drink in Dollywood. It's pretty close to a gallon of fluid. Picture carrying a gallon milk jug all over the park, and you'll have some idea about what you're in for.

After the food, we went rode a huge stinking polluting steam train up a mountain, around a little circle, and then back down. The ride was happily narrated with folksy witticisms from a guy in the back of the train. It was not particularly fun, and it was even less fun when the old fart pulled back into the station and said that all of the rides other than the carousel, bumper cars, and one other thing were closed because of a storm in the area.

We high-tailed it off the train and into the carousel line. Once that ride was over, the rain started falling, and the few rides that were open closed along with the rest. It rained for an hour, during which time we stood under the roof of the bumper car building wondering whether we had driven two hours and paid $150 (just for theskinnyonbenny family) to ride a train and a carousel.

After the rain stopped, the badness went out of the day. It was still only around noon, and we spent the next several hours enjoying the rides. The lady was right. Twenty years ago, I remember there being one main roller coaster, and it wasn't much. Now, they have many really nice roller coasters, and many rides that are safe enough for my tall little boy but still scary enough to make him cry. He did enjoy the boats where you spray water on each other, and after that, we found a splash park, where the kids can soak themselves through and through. Had we found that early, he and I might have spent the whole day up there. Looking back, I really enjoyed this park.

Brent and I spent the afternoon looking for the largest ankles on a woman that we could find. Have you ever watched a football show where they show a rather close up view of a trainer wrapping a player's giant ankle? We're talking about a 300 pound player, with an ankle that's swollen. Those ankles wouldn't have made the top 20 biggest ankles of Dollywood on July 28, 2010. We saw ankles with rolls. Not just on one lady, but on several. I don't think we could declare a firm winner, but there were four or five women whose ankles were the size of one of our kids' waists.

The drive home. Because of a critically low camera battery, I only got a handful of pictures from this day. And only one of those includes any of the grown ups. It didn't make the cut for this post, but when I get the whole photo set up on the photo gallery page, it will be there.

On our way out of town, we stopped to eat, and I started to think. If the population of the United States was replaced with just the population of Dollywood on July 29, 2010, the eight of us would be among the country's top one percent in both intelligence and beauty. What a combo! In that scenario, any of us could be president, Hollywood moguls, leaders of industry, or perhaps we would even be looked at as super heroes. On the other hand, it would be a sad day for national diversity, as almost everyone there fit into the white protestant demographic.

We were all exhausted after the long day, and most of the kids dozed off on the drive home. I confess that I worked in a power nap, and then kept my breathing deep and eyes closed to listen to the other grown ups talk about my sleeping. Conversations are boring when I'm not awake.

We arrived back to the house during a downpour. It didn't seem to take long to get the kids into the house, and they all dropped into their beds right away. We had a tent set up on the deck for just such a weather contingency, so we cracked open the newly purchased liquor and head out for a nightcap.

Suppose you're sitting outside at night, and a mosquito comes into the area. Most of us would just apply bug spray. The queen of the ultra-natural products does something else: vinegar spray. Perhaps it works, perhaps it doesn't (there was only the one mosquito), but it certainly stings any skin that has a sore or cut, and it makes everyone smell like an easter egg. If I'm eating a salad, and you happen to be spraying the back of my neck, using vinegar would be quite nice. Otherwise, I'll stick to something citronella based.

My rum went down easily, and the next thing I knew, it was 4:00 AM. Can you imagine? I would have said that it would be impossible for four adults to get up early, drive to an amusement park, spend the entire day herding kids through the park, drive back, and then sit up until 4:00 drinking.

We are super heroes.