Road Trip 4: Roanoke, VA – Pigeon Forge, TN

Day 4 Route Bigger
Day 4: Roanoake, VA – Pigeon Forge, TN

From Roanoke (after a lovely breakfast chat with the owner of the motel), we took the Interstate the next morning down to Pigeon Forge, Tennessee, which lies at the foothills of the Smoky Mountains. Whilst the route wasn’t as spectacular as the day before, it was a pleasant enough four hour drive through a mixture of forest and farmland. We stopped briefly in Sevierville for a photo opportunity with Dolly Parton’s statue, and ended up having lovely doughnuts and sweet tea at Courthouse Donuts, before wandering round the small town. Shortly after, we headed through afternoon rush hour traffic towards the Smokies, and found ourselves in Pigeon Forge.

I’d dragged Van and Amy here in order to visit Dollywood (Dolly Parton and rollercoasters? Surely a must in anyone’s book!), but had little concept of what to expect from Pigeon Forge itself: perhaps a little, unassuming place? The website certainly makes it look quite wholesome. Er, wrong. On our crawl down the main drag, we saw, variously:

  • A replica of King Kong scaling the Empire State Building.
  • A Mount Rushmore depicting Tennessee heroes (we only got Dolly and Elvis).
  • An upside down White House.
  • A scale model of the Titanic, improbably proclaiming itself to be the ‘world’s largest museum attraction.’
  • A huge white cross (church? Tacky replica of Rio? Both? Who knows…).
  • Signs advertising:
Can you spot Mount Rushmore and King Kong? Pigeon Forge, taken on a run the next morning.
Can you spot Mount Rushmore and King Kong? Pigeon Forge, taken on a run the next morning.

So, small and unassuming? No. Knock-off Vegas in the mountains? Absolutely yes, with arguably overtones of Blackpool, and even my personal favourite, Meixin. With more Jesus and more guns though, obviously.

Sadly, as it was quite late we passed up all of these sterling entertainment opportunities and checked into the motel, before wandering across to The Island, an entertainment complex that continued the theme of friendly and unashamed tat. If you’re into butter and casual racism, you can dine at Paula Deen’s lifestyle store, but we chose instead to have margaritas and shrimp at the cheesy but fun Margaritaville, before heading over to Old Smoky Distillery.

The Old Smoky outlet in Pigeon Forge is an offshoot of the main distillery in nearby Gatlinburg, but still stocked a variety of moonshine flavours – and, most importantly, offered free samples. Thirteen flavours of moonshine were stacked up on the bar, and mini shots given of each one in turn. The best, to my mind – and the one I went away with a jar of – was the new Mountain Java, but there were lots of other tasty flavours too, including the paint-stripping White Lightnin’ (most probably no relation to the infamous British cider, but alike in toxicity). There was also very little to stop anyone abusing the free samples; as there were three bartenders, an unscrupulous cheapskate could quite easily have gone round three times and got rather merry. I should add as a disclaimer that we did not actually do this, not because of moral scruples but because hangovers and rollercoasters do not mix well.

The moonshine tasting bar, including White Lightnin' stewed cherries and peaches.
The moonshine tasting bar, including White Lightnin’ stewed cherries and peaches.

Instead, we went back to the motel and braved the pool for a slighty tipsy swim, which admittedly mostly entailed dodging small children, before it was off to bed in preparation for Dollywood.

Highlights: The sheer existence of Pigeon Forge, 13 free shots of moonshine, Key Lime Pie doughnuts.

Lowlights: Crappy motel Wifi, dodging small children in the pool.

Coming next: Morning serenades, Dollywood, a storm in the mountains…

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