My ‘9 to five’ despatched me to sleep in Dolly Parton’s $10,000 excursion bus suite — right here’s what it was once like

Editor’s observe: TPG’s Tanner Saunders stayed within the Suite1986 Revel in courtesy of Dolly Parton’s DreamMore Hotel, however made all different commute preparations himself. The evaluations expressed beneath are completely his and weren’t topic to check by way of any entity.

I am not by myself in loving Dolly Parton.

Maximum people love Dolly, the 5-foot-tall East Tennessee multihyphenate bombshell who modified nation tune — all tune, truly — together with her reward of storytelling and melodic magic.

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For me, regardless that, Dolly created a different melody that performed right through my lifestyles. Rising up, I used to be fortunate sufficient to consult with Dollywood a handful of occasions and spent numerous hours being attentive to her fantastic songs at the highway between Texas, the place I grew up, and Tennessee.

In truth, I really like tune such a lot that songwriters like her impressed me to transport to Nashville the primary 2d I may, identical to she did, to review songwriting at Belmont College. And in school, I even labored as a behind the scenes excursion information on the Grand Ole Opry, taking visitors at the back of the scenes earlier than and after displays to percentage the tales of the degree and dressing rooms the place Dolly, as a member of the Opry, carried out her hits.

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However in early September, I were given to take my love for Dolly to an entire new degree on a commute to her “Tennessee Mountain House” of Pigeon Forge for a possibility that is now most likely without equal revel in (except assembly Dolly within the flesh) for any die-hard fan: the danger to spend two nights snoozing at the 10-time Grammy winner’s not too long ago retired excursion bus.

Pinch me. How am I so fortunate that that is my literal “9 to five”?

The Dolly Suite 1986 Excursion Bus Revel in

Previous this 12 months, Dollywood’s DreamMore Hotel and Spa — her lodge close to the theme park — introduced that Dolly was once changing the excursion bus she used for the closing 15 years right into a resort “suite” that may be booked for a once-in-a-lifetime keep. Between 2008 and 2022, Dolly (who hates flying) traveled just about 360,000 miles at the bus, the usage of the time at the highway to jot down the “Backwoods Barbie” album and “9 to five The Musical.”

For a groovy $10,000, two visitors (most likely superfans) can e book the bus for a two-night keep to sleep, actually, in Dolly’s mattress. The revel in additionally features a non-public dinner at the bus with Dolly’s chef; breakfast for 2 every day on the lodge buffet; and a host of candies like Dolly’s e book, “Songteller: My Lifestyles in Lyrics” (I might introduced my very own replica from house as it is necessarily my songwriting bible) and her fragrance, “Dolly, Smell from Above,” amongst different glitzy extras.

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And whilst the cost is steep, a significant portion of the proceeds pass immediately to the Dollywood Basis, which finances Dolly’s Creativeness Library, a program that provides loose books to youngsters as much as the age of five in a handful of nations. In truth, by way of 2020, Creativeness Library had given away greater than 150 million books. (Dolly herself additionally donated $1 million to Vanderbilt College to lend a hand fund the Moderna COVID-19 vaccine.

After masking the announcement of the excursion bus revel in and spending the evening on the Dolly Parton-themed Graduate Lodge in Nashville, I knew this revel in was once one thing I might need to do someday. Happily, Dolly’s crew knew about my love of the rustic goddess and prolonged a call for participation to be one of the most first to put my head in probably the most glitzy “suite” of all of them.

Within the spirit of Dolly’s kindness and in appreciation of the comped keep, TPG is creating a donation to the Dollywood Basis for $2,500.

Livin’ like Dolly


Whilst the Suite 1986 Excursion Bus Revel in is a two-night keep, I arrived at DreamMore an evening early, along side my colleague, Colby Kirkpatrick, to get a really feel for the lodge, positioned about an hour from McGhee Tyson Airport (TYS).

That evening, I did not sleep. I used to be too excited. I might additionally came upon that Dolly was once snoozing on the lodge within the top-floor suite, having simply wrapped filming a film on the park. Dolly at all times stated she sleeps in her make-up so if there was once an emergency, she’d glance her highest having to make a nighttime get away.

“Must I pull the hearth alarm?” I questioned to myself at 4 a.m. “No, that is most likely now not get on her just right aspect.”

The large second in any case arrived at 10 a.m. the following morning. I met Shana, who manages the revel in, to escort us to the bus.

Shana had an “emergency” and needed to sprint off for a second. Later, we came upon her “emergency” was once Dolly leaving the lodge. Because it took place, a mother and her younger daughter had been on the proper position on the proper time to look Dolly go out. Whilst I used to be unhappy to have overlooked her myself, Shana instructed us that Dolly took an image with the little lady and requested her what she was once doing that day.

“We are going to Dollywood,” the kid stated. “Oh Dolly, I feel I do know her!” Dolly joked earlier than floating away.

Strolling from the lodge to the bus, I felt like a star walking down a crimson carpet (simply with out the paparazzi). The bus pad is surrounded by way of greenery, and I realized a handful of butterflies (a logo regularly related to Dolly) floating out and in of the plant life.


The spirit of Dolly was once with me.


When the door in any case opened, I stepped up the steps into the 45-foot-long Prevost bus, noticing the worn leather-based of the driving force’s seat, an indication of the loads of hundreds of miles this once-touring bus had coated, then became to my left for the primary style of my brief lifestyles as Dolly Parton.

“Right here I Am” flooded my head. There I used to be evidently.


The bus itself felt like a retro-homey railroad-style rental; now not a 4 Seasons suite on wheels, however a spot that is in fact lived in.

Within the entrance, there was once a sofa with a tv above it that was once shuffling via nation tune songs and a slideshow of Dolly pictures. At once reverse was once a eating room desk with a half-circle bench and inlaid cup holders the place Dolly and her staff (in most cases her pal and private assistant, Judy Ogle, and bus motive force, Tim Dunlap) would’ve sat for foods. Perhaps a pimento cheese sandwich?

In truth, I used to be instructed Dolly likes to make her personal foods such a lot that within the bus’s kitchen there’s a full-size fridge (larger than the only in my New York Town rental) that required putting off the bus windshield to suit it inside of. The refrigerator was once stocked with Coca-Cola merchandise, together with root beer — her favourite.

Round the principle dwelling and kitchen space, an in depth pal of Dolly’s, Donna Davis Carter, helped customise the distance with hand-painted work of art. In a single scene, Carter depicted herself and Dolly dancing in colourful outfits round a fireplace.

However right here, the actual spotlight was once tucked away within the again nook, the place a tumbler case held a rhinestone-studded guitar, guitar strap and hot-pink fringe-adorned tambourine from the “Two Doorways Down” episode of “Dolly Parton’s Heartstrings” on Netflix. Despite the fact that I used to be unhappy the tools had been at the back of lock and key, I may listen the strum of that glossy six-string in my middle.


To the aspect, there was once a small door that opened to show just a little rest room with a rest room and a sink. It was once there I used to be reminded that this can be Dolly’s motorized space, but it surely’s nonetheless a bus, and so the bogs flush by way of maintaining down just a little transfer that takes some time to do the rest then sucks the whole lot down with a dramatic “whoosh.”

One amusing factor Dolly put in was once a trio of digital pocket doorways that separated the bus into 4 distinct spaces, the second one of which was once the place 3 bunkbeds had been stacked for her commute partners. In the ones windowless bunks, visitors may catch some shut-eye in privateness by way of ultimate multicolored, velvety curtains or make amends for their favourite displays by way of flipping down an in-ceiling tv.

On a typical excursion bus, the other wall would most likely have extra bunks — however that is Dolly we’re speaking about. She had that wall retrofitted right into a closet to carry her sequined attire and, clearly, her wigs, of which she’s stated to have one for each day of the 12 months.


For the suite revel in, the closet was once remodeled into some other show that held dramatic jewellery, corresponding to a crimson hummingbird necklace (some other image Dolly is understood for); an collection of glamorous attire worn to express occasions, together with the get dressed she wore whilst cohosting the 57th Academy of Nation Song Awards (which I watched are living at house); or even a couple of pairs of her higher-than-the heavens heels, all of that have been red-bottomed Louboutins.


The memorabilia jogged my memory of my excursion information days on the Opry the place, in a single dressing room, I might inform lovers from world wide the tale of ways Dolly wrote “I Will All the time Love You” as a somber good-bye to her longtime musical spouse, Porter Wagoner, when she sought after to mission out on her personal.

As we are saying in nation tune, “Would possibly the circle be unbroken.” And for me, it truly had come complete circle.

Non-public area

Passing via the following pocket door, I noticed I used to be getting into a sacred area: Dolly’s non-public rest room (two bogs on one bus!) and bed room, all extremely custom designed to be her sanctuary at the highway.

The toilet was once tiny. Very tiny. But in addition gorgeous and really Dolly. In a shoebox-size, bohemian area to the aspect was once a rest room, orange velvet curtains hiding the garage space, golden candle sconces, a tiny sink within the nook or even rest room paper embossed with “Suite 1986.”

However what was once further loopy about this compact rest room was once that it has a bath with a real tub that’s perhaps 2 1/2 ft deep and simply large sufficient for me to take a seat in with my legs folded into my chest. And I will say that with walk in the park as a result of, for the sake of journalism, I did take a bathtub in that little bath.

I additionally sang my middle out as a result of what number of people on the planet can say they sang in Dolly’s precise bathe?

After which there was once the bed room.

I used to be in an instant beaten with pleasure within the room, which is stuffed with prospers of magenta, fuchsia, turquoise and gold, plus extra textures, extra fringe and extra florals than I’d ever observed in one area. And all of it simply labored.

I additionally questioned if perhaps it was once a play on Dolly’s real-life coat of many colours, with every cloth and texture in moderation decided on to counterpoint the following. Perhaps this house was once an ode to her first; a humble cabin with two rooms shared by way of her folks and 11 siblings and not using a working water or electrical energy.

Glance how a ways she’s come.


The room made me really feel like Dolly herself had wrapped me up in her fingers the similar means her tune did. It was once an intimate feeling, like connecting with anyone you realize deeply in spite of now not in fact understanding them in any respect.

At the a ways finish of the bus was once some other glass case, this one containing the most productive memorabilia of all of them: a number of Dolly’s giant blonde wigs. I attempted to believe the place she wore them. In an interview, she was once as soon as requested how lengthy it takes her to get her hair finished.

“I don’t know,” she replied. “I’m by no means there!”

Dolly additionally had a separate fridge and microwave put in in her bed room, possibly to have simple get entry to to beverages and snacks with no need to go away her sanctuary. Figuring out it was once there, I might packed a bag of popcorn to warmth up, along side a obtain of “9 to five” for a film evening later within the keep.


After which there was once the self-love, with a brief cushioned stool, a large replicate and just a little pull-out replicate, along side facilities for visitors like Solar Coast salt scrub, lip balm and a white leather-based Dopp package. Different candies I were given to take house from the suite incorporated a vinyl replica of the “Coat of Many Colours” album, towels embroidered with the Suite 1986 emblem and an ultraplush bathrobe with the similar brand because the towels.

I considered Dolly’s self-confidence and the way, in spite of criticisms for her look, she’s at all times been proud.

“It prices some huge cash to seem this reasonable,” she’s well-known for announcing.

To me, Dolly will at all times seem like one million dollars.

Calling squatter’s rights

Later, on this visitor room-turned-closet, I used to be reminded for the second one time that I used to be, if truth be told, on a bus and now not simply in a typical resort room. I closed the motorized door isolating the again space from the kitchen and once I went to open it, not anything took place.

I attempted time and again and nonetheless — not anything.


Happily, each visitor at the bus has a personal concierge telephone quantity to textual content for any and each want.

My textual content: “So I 100% might be doing one thing incorrect however the pocket door between the bunks and the kitchen space isn’t operating and I’m caught.”

However my thoughts was once screaming, “You’re caught in Dolly Parton’s bed room surrounded by way of her garments, her wigs and the ingenious air she breathed to make the tune you like.”

Secretly, I used to be hoping they’d by no means come let me out. “I are living right here now,” I instructed myself and crashed onto the mattress stuffed with extra throw pillows than a Pottery Barn. I additionally took the time to move slowly into one of the most visitor bunks to look how tight they in fact had been — they are lovely tight, y’all.


Unfortunately (and hysterically), I used to be ultimately free of my glamorous entrapment and spent my afternoon at Dollywood earlier than heading again for the multicourse dinner that was once incorporated with my keep.

With just a little little bit of time to kill earlier than dinner, I frolicked within the entrance of the bus taking in the entire main points once I spotted a bunch of other people had come as much as the gate to take pictures of the bus — after which some other crew. Over the process an hour, I noticed other people trying out the bus from each perspective. Fortunately, with the super-tinted home windows, they could not see me, but it surely was once wild to understand that Dolly most likely reports this zoo-like revel in in every single place she is going.

Eating like Dolly

That evening, my co-worker Colby, a fellow Dolly enthusiast who was once staying in a room on the lodge, and I had been handled to probably the most magical dinners I have ever skilled — and I as soon as ate in any respect 3 Michelin-starred eating places on the 4 Seasons Hong Kong in a single evening.

The dinner was once ready by way of Dollywood’s govt chef, Mark Galvin, who’d introduced a grill to the bus pad. The dinner was once a multicourse banquet that incorporated a wine pairing with every direction. An ultrafriendly server additionally joined in at the amusing, reworking the desk at the bus right into a scene from an award-winning eating place entire with desk settings.

Ahead of our consult with we had been requested about nutritional restrictions and Galvin was once greater than excited to be informed that we had none. And when you may be expecting this meal could be essentially country-fried classics, that wasn’t the case.

As an alternative, a pineapple full of grilled shrimp and red-pepper skewers and a pineapple-onion salsa made its means in the course of the doorways of the bus.


Then there was once a burrata salad with crispy bacon, a juicy steak with mashed potatoes and bundled asparagus, or even a whole grilled fish dish. Galvin even works with a different purveyor to supply fit to be eaten plant life to make use of as garnish — and you’ll wager your backside greenback we ate the ones, too.

For dessert, as though our stomachs may take care of yet another chew, there was once a trio of chocolates together with Dolly’s personal banana pudding (my favourite!), a praline and creme brulee. I considered it as a sugary ode to Dolly’s “Trio” album made along nation stars Emmylou Harris and Linda Ronstadt — or perhaps that was once simply the 6th glass of wine speaking.

Dolly won’t had been there, however consuming her meals, from her chef, at her desk, was once just right sufficient for me.

After dinner that evening, when I used to be all alone, I closed the entire pocket doorways, became down the air con at the in-room thermostat (there are in fact more than one devices right through the bus) and pulled again the covers to move slowly into mattress. That is once I remembered the ornamental pillows were not for snoozing on and that genuine pillows had been stowed away in a brilliant crimson ottoman at the aspect of the room.

I did not assume to invite if turndown carrier was once an choice, however I think some other textual content to my concierge on accountability may’ve made that occur.

Admittedly, crawling into Dolly’s mattress was once an excessively atypical revel in. It was once fantastic — and extremely peculiar — that I used to be by myself in a star’s motorhome parked off the principle lot of a lodge within the Smoky Mountains. However it was once additionally completely relaxed and homey, regardless that it will’ve been just a little tight had I been sharing the mattress with anyone else.

Fortunately, I used to be by myself with my ideas and drifted away with ease to the quiet hum of the desk bound bus.

Out and about

Despite the fact that it was once difficult to go away the bus, I had come all this fashion, so I made two journeys to Dollywood all over my keep. I may pass on about how a lot I really like the park, particularly the wild curler coasters that use the mountains as leverage for larger, scarier drops, however we’ve got a at hand Dollywood information that may solution your whole questions.

One advantage of staying on the lodge, regardless that, is that you just get a wristband that allows you to skip the road for 8 rides an afternoon. There may be additionally a commute that is going backward and forward between the park and the lodge foyer each 20 mins. The park could also be the most productive position to select up Dolly souvenirs. For puppy homeowners like me, it carries all of the line of Pup Parton wigs, crimson cowgirl hats, attire and squeaky microphones, which I bought for my corgi, Splenda.


Colby and I additionally ventured out to Dolly’s Stampede for a wild dinner display the place we ate entire chickens with our naked fingers whilst looking at trick horse riders. Right through the display, one aspect of the target market competes with the opposite in a chain of occasions and, at one level, I discovered myself in the course of all of it, racing buckets of water to strangers on my crew.


The kitsch degree was once became the entire means up, however we nonetheless had a pleasing time — as you’ll see from the commemorative photograph I purchased as a memento.

‘I’m going to By no means Say Good-bye’

After 48 hours of dwelling my lifestyles like Dolly, I will say that no, it did not pass to my head.

Mother, in case you are studying this, you wouldn’t have to floor me.

As an alternative, the revel in left me feeling humbled and nearer to Dolly than ever earlier than. For anyone with such a lot affect and status, it is transparent her kindness and sure power permeate each nook of her lodge. And, for anyone who may simply take non-public jets between one town and the following, it was once interesting to look how she constructed a house on wheels, pondering via each element to make it a protected and inventive area to are living her lifestyles in.


The closing evening, as I crashed in her mattress, I considered my very own lifestyles and the way, in spite of all my connections to Dolly, I by no means in fact noticed her carry out are living till I moved to New York Town to chase a dream of writing about commute, as a substitute of writing songs.


That display was once stuffed with all kinds of other people, from my fellow Dolly-loving gays to tug queens, cowboys, youngsters and older other people — a real illustration of all walks of lifestyles and the entire other people impressed by way of her. After that display, she most likely walked off degree and walked up the stairs of the bus to seek out respite within the very room — the very mattress — I used to be in proper then.

The bus would have pulled out and rancid to the following display, some other forestall in her fantastic dream. I took the subway chasing the following forestall in mine.