Since I know you’re probably curious, here are some fun facts about my new city:

* There’s a street in 1950’s theme that has a traditional diner and acapella singing group.

* There are shops that sell everything from pancake mix to pop guns to tin can banjos on every corner.

* The local cuisine includes funnel cakes, ice cream floats, corn dogs, and sausage on a stick.

* Everyone is accommodating, helpful and unfailingly polite.

* Games line the streets and prizes are awarded readily.

* There are mines, log cabins, bald eagles, and a locomotive within a two mile radius.

* Pie is served by the pound.

* There is a Titanic replica down the street.

* Several roller coasters without any lines line the perimeter.

* There is a queen and a museum dedicated solely to her life.

That’s right everyone.  Forget Nashville.  I’m going to the greatest place in the country.  I’ve decided to move to Dollywood.

Dollywood is one of the nicest theme parks that I’ve visited.  Everyone is Disney-friendly, but instead of peddling hats with Mickey ears on them, Dollywood offers coonskin caps… much more my speed.  The rides are fun.  The lines are short, and the park is hidden within the Smoky Mountains, so you have no idea where you’re going.  As a result, each turn of the corner offers yet another surprise.  You might as well be walking around wearing a blindfold.  Above all though, the people-watching at Dollywood simply can’t be beat.  In every way, Dollywood is head and shoulders above the rest.

Upon our arrival in Pigeon Forge, I knew that I was in love with the place the moment that I saw the Titanic on the side of the road.  No explanation.  Just the Titanic.  Apparently, it’s quite an elaborate museum dedicated to the ship’s artifacts.  Had I known about this ahead of time, I would have adjusted my schedule for additional time in the Smoky Mountains.  Luckily though, after today, I know I’ll be back.

Once we finally arrived at the park, parked the car, and took the tram all the way to the entrance, we proceeded to wait in line for twenty minutes to purchase our tickets.  “Was it that crowded?” you ask.  No.  No it wasn’t.  It turns out that for a person of a certain age, the employment choices are Wal-Mart greeter or manning the ticket booth at Dollywood.  For some reason though, we didn’t mind.  It was clear right away that time knows no existence in Dollywood, and this feeling seemed to miraculously transfer to me upon stepping onto the premises.  I’ve never been as patient in my life as I was in Dollywood.

After entering the gates of Heaven, confusion set in.  First off, how have I never been here before?  This place might as well be called Cathiwood.  Second, is this a practical joke?  The map is written in hieroglyphics and the only things visible are the trees.  Do we follow the trees to the left?  Or the trees to the right?  I had never been in a theme park that I couldn’t see before.  After going to the museum (where again, no photography is allowed.  Dollywood Museum, meet Dealey Plaza…), my mom suggested that we take the train to “get a feel of the park.”  I agreed.  A nice ride around the park sounded like a good idea.

In the words of my marketing professor, Dr. Adler, “wrongo buddy.”  We waited for twenty minutes to get onto the train, all the while thinking, “well, we’ve waited this long..” I now know for the next time that the moment it starts to occur to me, “I’ve already waited this long…” is exactly when I should make a swift about face.  Things will not improve.  While in line for the train, I checked out the map to figure out where we would be let off on the other side of the park.  The map was extremely confusing, so I couldn’t figure it out.  We eventually boarded, and about fifteen minutes later, we were finally on our way out of the station.

The conductor greeted us, “Is everyone ready to enjoy our tour into the Smoky Mountains?” Huh?!  Tour into the Smoky Mountains?!  It couldn’t be.  “No,” my mom assured me, “that’s not what they mean.”  Next thing I know, she tells me that she hates to be the one to break the news to me.  The map specifies, “five mile round trip tour of the Smoky Mountains.”  Five miles?  Round trip?  Can you say, “time suck?”  But, like I said before, time has no place in Dollywood.  And besides, it’s not the park’s fault that I can’t read a map.  Tip: When the train tracks are drawn going off the page, there’s a larger meaning to consider.

I love Dollywood.  As if the rides, food, and shops weren’t enough, the presence of several bald eagles cemented a lifelong infatuation for me.  What’s more American than a coonskin cap and a couple of bald eagles?  Even Wal-Mart’s torch starts to flicker when compared to the light of Americana that shines through Dollywood.  One piece of apple pie from this place could feed a family of ten (or, based on appearances, one typical guest of Dollywood), and the feeling of the American dream is nowhere more evident than this theme park.  Just one look at the replica of Dolly’s two room childhood log cabin that she shared with her parents and ten brothers and sisters cements that fact.  You see the rags, and then you turn around and realize that you’re literally standing in the riches.

Being in close proximity to Dollywood is already worth living in Tennessee for me.  I’m officially obsessed with the Volunteer State, show me no more.  As if the day wasn’t enough, while driving to Nashville tonight, I witnessed one of the best sunsets that I’ve seen in a long time.  Of course, I was too busy trying to take pictures of it to really enjoy it, but hey, that’s a different story.

Tomorrow I will explore Nashville and attempt to start putting a life somewhat together.  I think that I might be beginning to forget that I won’t be a nomad forever (so I assume…).  It’s gotten to the point where I see “200 miles” on the schedule for the day and I think, “oh, just around the block.”  I’m happy to report though that both the civic, my mom, and me are doing well.  She returns back to Massachusetts tomorrow, and on Wednesday, I will proceed onto Georgia.

Thanks for reading!

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