There is a church in Dollywood. A legitimate church with business hours.
For a curious person, I don’t research much. I wonder A LOT, and then I kind of just float around for a while in a cloud of easily researchable stuff.
Like, I don’t know why babies can’t eat honey for exactly one year. And I just learned yesterday that OBX stands for “Outer Banks”. What they are and where they are? I still don’t know. I don’t know if OBX is a “they” or an “it”.
So help me with this, because I won’t be researching it, either: Why is Dollywood a thing? I mean, why does it exist? Did Dolly Parton build it? Did her fans? Her record label? Did she help a lot of terminally ill people? Why isn’t there an Elviswood, or a Beatleswood? Why Dolly Parton?
I don’t know squat about Dolly. I just know that Miley Cyrus has a Joleen cover and it is kickass. I’m sorry, but it is.
So it was with great befuddlement that I, and my ever-present family, descended upon the Dollywood Splash Adventure Theme Park.
It’s about a twenty-minute drive from the cabin to Dollywood, and for all of those minutes Mila was a whining bucket of hellsh*t intent on ruining everyone’s day. So when we got to the Dollywood parking lot, we told her that THAT was where we were going. The parking lot.
She was FURIOUS. It was blistering hot outside and she’d insisted on wearing pants and a dress and a bathingsuit (and underwear on top of her bathingsuit). We pretended we were looking for a car for her, because she’d be getting her driver’s license soon. And we played it out like crazy, driving slowly through the parking lot with the windows down, pointing out convertible beaters with “potential”, detailing the sort of prereqs for a fiveyrold driver like classes and lessons and written tests and six-lane highway rascality. Wheelies and such.
We got out and walked slowly through the lot rows, reveling in the sweat beads that began to pop out on her sweet, mortified little brow. And when we could see that last shred of faith slip away, when she looked at us, slack-jawed, having just realized that her parents are honest-to-goodness assholes, I broke the final straw by saying, “I don’t see anything out here, honey. Let’s go to the office and see if they can help us find something else.”
It was pure gold. I think I actually heard her heart break.
We hit the wave pool first. Do you guys love the wave pool as much as I do? Because I totally forgot that I F*CKING LOVE THE WAVE POOL. It’s slightly less exciting when you’re towing three children, but it was still pretty freaking awesome. I got SO EXCITED about that alarm when the waves are about to start.
Not awesome? Wearing a bikini that barely fit ten pounds ago, six days ago, before I got into the car and declared that I’d be giving up my diet for two weeks. Which for me means: I will angry-eat everything in sight like I’m two Rachels at 42wks pregnant. Which, at Dollywood Splash Adventure, means a whole lot of dippin dots and chili cheese fries.
(I wish to god I could’ve taken a video of the five of us trying to eat dippin dots at a run, because the ground was so hot and we don’t own water shoes (because we’re not toolbags) and we didn’t want to waste time sitting under a covered picnic area.)
There was a really great splash pool–with kiddie slides and nets and water guns and stuff–that had a HUGE bucket of water up really high. I’m sure you’ve seen something like it. It keeps filling and filling with water until it tips over, breaking the necks of all the grinning lunatics standing beneath it. So of course we tricked Jack into standing beneath it. I’m honestly surprised he survived.
Then I took Mila to a “water coaster”, a grown-up ride that we were delighted to discover had a minimum height requirement of 42in. Mila was thrilled for about as long as it took us to get to the front of a thirty-minute line. And then she lost her sh*t.
It looked like a kayak with four seats, the kind where the stranger behind you has to put his feet on either side of your face and you tense every muscle in your body because you don’t want take a sudden jolt and end up with a toe in your mouth.
Unable to back out now (because I had an iron grip on her wrists and forced her into the front seat) she continued to lose her sh*t for the duration of the windy, very fast, intermittently pitch-black tunneled water ride. She howled and screamed and damned me to hell, all while getting pelted in the face by needle-sharp splash rogues. It was hysterical.
So, Dollywood Theme Park is like Disneyworld with Jesus. Jesus and Jesus and more Jesus. Whittled plaques sporting poetry like “3 Nails + 1 Cross = 4given”, Jesus country music, churches and church groups…He was EVERYWHERE.
And the rides were really strange, like this one firefighter roller coaster with an animatronic hall inspired by real-life tragedies that happened sometime vintage. A liquor saloon up in flames, a woman leaping from the rooftop into a net, gunpowder barrels threatening to blow.
We were like, What?
But it was super fun, mostly because we rented strollers and didn’t have to carry Jack anymore.
We had lunch in the Bald Eagle area. It is a huge, netted enclosure inside of which are dozens of bald eagles. Now, I don’t mean to get all hippy on you, and I’m pretty sure they’re not endangered anymore, but isn’t it a little strange to catch or breed a bunch of bald eagles–the very representation of Freedom–and then stick ’em in a net cage to entertain chicken-finger kiosk patrons? I mean…right?
We stayed late enough to see the firework show–I think it was at 9.30pm. On the way to the viewing area, Rich had to use the restroom. I don’t remember him saying this, but I guess he asked me to “stay right here for thirty seconds. I’ll be right out”.
I didn’t, because I didn’t want the kids to miss the show (which wasn’t that impressive, but that’s not really fair because we’ve seen the Disney fireworks and not even an apocalyptic volcano eruption is better than the Disney fireworks). So I dragged the strollers a bit farther and settled in, assuming Rich would follow the crowd and run into us quickly.
But he didn’t. And there ensued a frantic search of the park, me traversing the daymare landscape from curious to “Somebody call the police, my husband is being held against his will in a men’s bathroom somewhere”. We found each other after fifteen agonizing minutes, and let me tell you: I did not get the loving embrace that I was expecting. He ran at me with the look of my mom when she got to the mailbox before I did during report card season.
All the poor guy wanted was to watch fireworks with his kid. He worked the fourth, so he missed out on Jack’s reaction and wanted a second shot. I get it. Now. At the moment I retaliated with my passive-aggressive (but deadly) silent treatment. Hot day, whiny toddlers, demon baby, two strollers, a heavy backpack and sticky clothing? Tack on a silent treatment and you can get anything accomplished.
This is what we fell asleep to, the four of us spread out on country quilts in front of the fireplace.
I really thought I’d love it, but I kind of didn’t.