well, dolly, your wish was granted. the great smoky mountains did indeed touch our hearts. dollywood is much more than an amusement park. it is a celebration of the great smoky mountain traditions. we saw the foundry, and the grist mill, and the place where they make lye soap and the place where they hand craft wagons (each one with a hidden penny embedded somewhere, showing the year it was made). there was so much to look at, that we spent all of our time there just wandering and gawking, and pretty much skipped all the rides.
we attempted to go on the old wooden roller coaster, but it was closed. interestingly, though dollywood is host to at least three huge roller coasters, we never saw one. they are *that* well hidden. our one concession to the rides was a trip on the carousel. i saddled up a pony, and scoutie climbed up on a goat, and we whirled around to the tinkling calliope music. i am pretty sure that we were the only adults on the ride who didn't have kids with them.
after about 3 hours, we hit our wall. we were over-stimulated, over-heated, and just plain tired. we said a fond farewell to dollywood and headed back to our hotel. after a quick rest we decided to drive over to Galtinburg. it's a fifteen minute drive from pigeon forge, and apparently it's where all the locals go for fun. it's a weird place. gatlinburg was settled in the early 1800's by a collection of a few english, but mostly the irish and the scottish. it has attempted to remain true to it's heritage. but, like anything in close proximity to Dollywood, it's main goal these days is to pander to the tourists. so while it attempts to look like a sleepy little hamlet nestled in the mountains, it instead looks like something out of an OberLand disneyworld theme park. or perhaps the leftovers of one. it is a long scarring strip mall full of the detritus other strip malls wouldn't take. a plethora of airbrushed t-shirt stores, candy shoppes, and bizarre mini-golf playlands. don't get me wrong -- Gatlinburg had it's charm. but overall the place was strange and sad and yes... right over there!.... those damn time share people were at it again!
at this point, scoutie and i couldn't take it any more. pigeon forge is a dizzying place, as is gatlinburg. the main roads are disorienting and sort of fuck with your head. i was familiar with the ploys of vegas -- no clocks and no clear exits and surrounded by a place that was larger than life -- it's whole *plan* is to keep you inside and confused and dumping money. the small towns in tennessee did the same thing. it was hard to tell where you were, let alone where you had been. the same motels would appear on the landscape block after block. the *exact* same motels. our little beloved microtel? there was another right down the street! so rather than brave the strip again, we got some spectacular take-out barbecue across the street and just crashed in our room, writing postcards, talking with Josh at the desk, and watching yet more Law & Order. Our mission was done. we had made it to dollywood. and damn, were we tired.