* Disclaimer: There just aren't that many good photos from this day. We took some. Apologies in advance. Instead, get ready to hear lots of great things about the best park.
So after the hellish nightmare of a hotel the night before I was half dreading/half stoked to check out our next room in Colonial Williamsburg. Honestly, it couldn't possibly be much worse. On our short jaunt from the Amber Ox over to the hotel (Brit drove, after our strong sours Bill was in no shape) we really got a sense of just how dead this town is after dark. We pulled up a dark, non-nondescript road seemingly in the middle of nowhere, and came upon the much cozier looking Econo Lodge Colonial. Now still before midnight, we pulled into the lot and were surprised to find the lobby locked with no one in sight. Rang the bell and eventually out came the manager in his pajamas to check us in.
Pulled around back, parked, agreed on a morning check-out time, and split off to find our rooms. Upon entering, other than the faux wood floors in place of last nights filthy carpet, the room was identical. It was also spotless, the heat was on, and didn't smell funny. The bed was also a real, actually cozy, king sized bed and not two 40 year old twin mattresses pushed together. Also, they have vacuums at this Econ Lodge. In spite of all this, I again got a crappy nights sleep. I just don't tend to sleep great on park trips. I think its just my body burning off all the adrenaline. I do it even at home after a day at Great Adventure - I'll stay up super late and be dead to the world the entire next day.
With no Waffle House nearby (I would have happily eaten there two days in a row, y'all
), and the park opening @ 10, yet only than 15 minutes away, we had plans to be checked out by 9:30am, stopping off at a Dunkin that was supposedly on the way. We couldn't find the Dunkin, but instead found a Wawa just up the street, grabbed some coffee and sandwiches and jumped back in the car. Good enough.
With Bill's platinum pass we were directed back to the relatively empty England lot and got a parking spot very close to the bridge that leads us right over to front gate, and not before long we were strolling through England, with our compasses set toward (the new-to-me) InvadR. Apparently nothing else was open this early, and no animals out, but we walked all the way around Scotland, Ireland and into France and found InvadR to not only be running, but with absolutely no one at all riding it. I was particularly hyped for this ride during construction making ridiculous predictions about it being the sleeper hit of 2017, and was admittedly a bit butthurt to find the initial reviews mostly less than stellar or just indifferent, so I set my expectations accordingly. Though after our OMFGamazing
rides on White Lightning back in December I was excited to ride another new GCI woodie.
We managed to walk right up and onto the back two rows, which is where I was looking forward to sitting due to the rides straight first drop that looked like it had potential to give some good air. Up the lift we went (anyone know why it slows down halfway up?), and around the turn up top surprising me with its quickened pace and mild laterals. The first drop is small but steep enough to pack a nice little pop with the tunnel adding a nice sense of speed to the affair. I mean its no El Toro but we were already off to a good start. The remainder of the ride is brief but unrelenting - lots of unexpected small floater hills and tight turns, all taken nice and smoothly, never losing any steam until the brakes.
I guess lowering my expectations paid off because I really, really enjoyed this ride. Its not my favorite woodie by any means but its perfect for this park, and fills out the family rides department. It'll be even better when some foliage grows in around the ride. I asked if we could walk around since it was still deadsville, and could we try the front? We waited another 2-3 trains to be able to sit up there and once again I loved it. The drop is obviously different up there, with a moment of pause looking down the tunnel and no yank but the sense of speed throughout the rest of the ride is really cranked up sitting up there.
After exiting we headed further into France, discussing what might be open by now when our conversation was delightfully interrupted by the thunderous roar of a certain amazing B&M invert nearby.
We wasted no time in hustling over the bridge to the ski lodge, found an empty queue, and made the very easy decision to wait 3 trains for the front row.
As mentioned, Alpengeist was another coaster of the trip I had concerns about fitting into. I pulled down the restraints and was able to snap the belt myself with a smidge of room to spare! The attendant asked if I minded if she pushed it down a bit, which I had no problem with since I was elated I fit in a non-big boy seat all by myself! Like a big boy!
Not before long we were headed up the enormous, insanely loud lift, which gives a fantastic view of the mammoth and mythical Griffon sprawled out in front of you. Eventually we crested the hill and were left to soar back toward the ground and back up into the first swooping inversions.
For a B&M running a mostly empty train on a cold March morning, we were positively hauling. With the temps in the 40's, the rush of cold air against our faces perfectly added to the themeing. I love that so much of this ride, much like Montu or any good invert, is about near misses and foot choppers. With Montu its underground trenches, whereas on Alpengeist your feet are perpetually about to collide with trees, rooftops, supports, tunnels, more trees, more supports. I know there is plenty of clearance but this ride does a great job making it hard not to pull your feet up under the seat. I also really appreciate that this coaster starts off as this graceful rush through the forest, the massive cobra roll provides a duo of dramatically snappy moments to remind you that this is no newer, forceless B&M. One more ridiculous snap into the midcourse and you're soaring back down into the second half that is all ground hugging flat spins, zero-G rolls and more snappy near misses over "snow covered" trenches.
I honestly can't understand how any enthusiast could dislike this ride. Obviously it wins best themeing for an invert, no contest. It's got length, height, speed, forces and
gracefulness, and a unique layout for an invert that is neatly fitted into the wild landscape. It manages to perfectly balance these mammoth gliding maneuvers of newer B&Ms with the intensity and transitions of an old school classic. Please whiners, enlighten me - what is there not to like about this ride?
When we started to exit the ride I noticed our train going back out was empty save for the first few rows. I asked the attendant if we could jump on in the back and Bill and Brit happily followed me. That lap was also amazing but the mostly empty train seemed to have a little bit of a rattle. It didn't affect the way it rode, it was just really noisy. Still, the snappy parts back there are absolutely demented, the three of us shrieking with delight. That first lap was honestly one of the best coaster rides I've ever taken. I could sit here and rave about this ride for the rest of the report but I'll spare you. I considered it a top 20 coaster before, but then I rode Montu in December and found that to be better than my 2016 Alpengeist rides. Now I'm not so sure.
By this point it was still very early, probably just about 11am. But as expected, the gang was thirsty. After our hilarious experience attempting to get beer before 11am at Seaworld last year, we approached with trepidation for fear of the sting of rejection. While wandering through a random souvenir spot, my keen eye spotted Shock Top in the fridge behind the counter. With only one employee in sight currently busy stocking shelves, we hung around for a minute until an older cheerful woman emerged from the back, us asking politely if it was too early to purchase alcohol to which she dryly responded "It's five o'clock somewhere, hun." She happily scanned our platinum passes for a 10% discount. On beer. Does any other park do anything so awesome?
With suds in hand we wandered out and noticed that the elusive Mach Tower was actually running with people! I missed this last time as it didn't run all day so we bolted over to the ride. Problem being Billy and I still had almost full beers. Brit walked into the queue leaving us to chug our first beers of the day. Picture us jackasses at the ride entrance in quiet 11am Germany chugging beers while laughing at each other. Meanwhile Brit was able to jump on the loading cycle so we just wound up walking into the loading area with the last few sips, the attendant on schpeil duty acknowledging our adult beverages on the mic for all to hear, informing us with a wink and a smile that as much fun as it would be, that we weren't allowed to take any beer on the tower.
Once we loaded Brit had time to run around and ride again. For a moment the ride freaked out and wouldn't run so while they called maintenance over while we joked it was because Brit unbalanced it by sitting with us and not where the attendant told her to. Turns out I'm just a fatass and my restraint wasn't down enough to give a green light. The ride itself is pretty awesome. I love that it rotates during the ascension providing absolutely incredible views of the surrounding Virginian landscape. The drop itself is a nice surprise with some force and good air. Also since it didn't run at all during my 2016 visit I had no idea that the tower is loud AF! All that dropping whipped up our appetites and who couldn't use another beer at BGW at 11:30am?
We stopped at the little pretzel shop right across from Mach Tower and got ourselves some beer and pretzels, grabbing a table right next to the ride where we got to witness the maintenance dude get called over a few more times. Does it really have it's own maintenance shed right next to the ride? That dudes totally in there chillin watching cartoons or something only to be interrupted every five minutes by this piece of crap.
While sitting we talked about how the last time I was there I only got to ride Apollos Chariot once and how I'd love to try it again after just riding Mako and Nitro in December. We finished up but before it was time to say auf wiedersehen to Germany, we had to slip in a ride on Verbolten! In 2016 but was concerned about my cracked rib and not knowing what was coming in the dark section but wound up loving our one back seat ride on it nonetheless, and was thrilled to enjoy it again without that worry.
It was a little more than a station wait, and unfortunately they were only using the front loading platform, and running 3 trains, but we managed to get on the two front rows in about 15-20 minutes. Absolutely worth the wait. Brit and I took the front with Bill behind us. Let me just stop to admire these trains. The lapbars are a little bulky and the shin restraint that doesn't actually come anywhere near your shin is awkward, but the trains themselves are awesome!!!
The ride is fantastic and I loved it so much more this time. Sitting in the front during the show provided a truly surprising yet perfectly smooth ride. I knew the drop section was coming but it still made my stomach drop, a rarity anymore, unfortunately. I love both launches, as well as the entire outdoor section. I know there was some discussion of the rides pacing in the BGW thread not long ago and I just don't see it.
The only point where it loses steam is the drop track section which is a highlight of the ride, and the slowdown/pause on the bridge only adds to the dramatic effect of the creaky bridge before the drop down over the river. Everything else is a zippy little ride. If you think the launches are weak for a family coaster I don't know what to tell you. The minimal themeing in the black forest is perfect, works nicely, and still looks good. There's not really any airtime to be found anywhere but its still equally thrilling and just flat out enjoyable for me. I'm a big fan of this ride.
Finally making our way over the bridge and into Italy we came upon Apollo and found a completely deserted station and queued up for where else but row 9. A younger kid asked if he could jump in with us and raved about how much a fan he was of the last row on this ride. I'm a huge fan of B&M hypers, they're just fun rides. You get the height, you get the speed but they're kinda just relaxing and fun. Like I said I'd ridden this is 2016, but it was one of the first rides the day after the rib incident so I was cautious and not doing hands up and all that. I was looking forward to finally enjoying this with abandon and it did not disappoint.
The drop off the "shelf" in the back row is incredible - literal ejector air sustained all the way down. Phenomenal. The rest of the ride we were flying. With no one waiting for our row we stayed seated and rode again, our new friend joining us for round two.
My favorite parts to this ride are the first drop, the steep twisty drop down over the river, the drop off the midcourse, and the very last "surprise" drop before the final brake. Apollo also does a much better job than Nitro of winding in and out of trees and up and down the terrain out there. Definitely bumped up in my rankings a good bit.
Right next door we noticed Tempesto aka Angry Pasta Coaster had a station wait. In 2016 this was fairly new and also because of its low capacity we made sure to hit it first thing, meaning it was my first ride after waking up after drunkenly ignoring a mildly serious injury by marathoning I305 all night. Though I was 100% sober, I recall nothing from that ride other than paying close attention to how my rib felt and trying to decide if I'd be OK to keep riding that day (spoiler: I was). Since that trip I'd been to Compounce and fell head over heels for Phobia, giving me a second reason to give Furious Spaghetti another go-around.
For the third time this weekend, Premier trains! Yay! They're perfectly fine once you're in but are such a chore to get in and out of. These are the worst of them thanks to those stupid comfort collars. I know that its the parks decision to add these, but after having done Phobia with just lapbars, these things are beyond obnoxious. I'd have much less of a problem with them if they were like Intamins soft OTSRs but even a guy my size - they don't rest on me, and they would do absolutely nothing to secure me if it came down to it. They literally exist just to attempt to put reluctant riders minds at ease, which makes their existence even more frustrating.
We spent a few minutes extra queuing for the front two rows, after preferring the front of Phobia. I enjoyed Angry Pasta Coaster much more than last time, but overall Phobia gets the edge. I think its the longer trains on this but it just doesn't quite have as much oompf. The launches are wonderful - forceful but buttery smooth, and the pop of ejector air as you crest the top is delightful, and you gotta love the slow roll up top, dangling by only my thighs resting against the lapbar before darting down the vertical drop and into the non-inverting smaller loop. For such a small footprint and short ride time, the Sky Rocket IIs are magnificent. It's actually my current crack pot fantasy for Moreys to get rid of like Rollies Coaster and put this in. Or make room for it on Adventure Pier near the Great White. Small footprint, a fistfull of thrill.
Earlier, while riding InvadR, we found Bill to be visibly aroused by the site of water and logs present at Le Scoot, even getting to witness what we can assume we're maintenance fellas taking it for a spin, but at some point a short bit layer he was disappointed for us to discover it drained with no signs of life. Since then he'd been attempting to convince the other two of us to ride Escape From Pompeii, upper-40 degree temps be damned. I'm pretty sure he maniacally planned for us to (of course) have to take the Skyride back to France to ride Griffon, but this would also ensure we'd have to pass Pompeii.
You know where this is going, right?
As we got closer he talked up how we wouldn't get wet, blah blah blah, and even had us watch a few splashdowns. The ride was dead and boats were going around empty or with a handful of riders filling a row or two. The splashdowns seemed to not he soaking the passengers so Bill eventually wore us down and we agreed to sit in the middle, and only on a boat by ourselves. Still, I had a bad feeling about this.
We wandered through the empty queue, making sure to leave some space between us and a group ahead of us so that we'd guarantee our own boat and let them load and dispatch before approaching the station. I pulled up the hood of my very thin windbreaker and jumped in row 3 alone, Bill and Brit behind me. Everything seemed to be going according to plan until a small family suddenly ran up at the last second and jumped in the last row. Dang it! Up the lift we went and I'll admit I enjoyed the indoor portion, the fire effects were super cool, and otherwise the music, lighting etc was neat. Around the corner to the drop... and I got soaked.
Not exactly drenched but even with putting my head down, my entire front and back were wet from the waist up. OK now it feels cold.
Where is the best place to go when you're cold and wet and only wearing a long sleeve T and a very thin windbreaker? Up in to the air on a slow moving Sky Ride!
In spite of feeling like a moist rat and having to hang myself out to dry on the Sky Ride, I was having a great day. And it was about to get even better with a visit to the mighty and mythical Griffon. The views on this section of the skyride are phenomenal and I took a lot of photos of Griffon. Enjoy.
I came to this park in 2016 went into it thinking Griffon, my first ever dive coaster, might be a let down. After all, as big as it is, I'd ridden coasters twice as tall and the dive aspect seemed like it could be little more than a novelty. I left the park going goo goo for Griffon. What a ride.
As was the theme of the day, we waited one train to sit front and center, and were quickly headed up the lift. One of my absolute favorite parts of this ride is the view from the turnaround up top - incredible. The pause and 90 degree drop is absurd, I love it. The rest of the ride is smooth as butter and nothing but fun. After doing Sheikra in December its hard not to compare the two.
Sheikra does a much better job of sorta fitting into its surroundings, Griffon feels more like they ripped some trees out and just plopped it down (I also hate that the paint job is so close to Alpengeist, right next door), but as far the actual ride experience Griffon gets the edge due to its superior second half.
Sure, Sheikra drops into a freaky tunnel but then it just turns into the splashdown, and turns into the brakes. While Griffon has an inversion, a little airtime hill into the splashdown, and then another little airtime hill after the splashdown. I know its only 5 feet but it does somehow feel taller to me. Griffon wins the battle of the Busch dive coasters.
We did take the opportunity to walk around and get a second lap in row 3. I actually greyed out a little bit on this ride at the bottom of the first drop, obviously thanks to little sleep and the beer. After a couple rides on a massive B&M dive machine, beer seemed like a good idea, so we headed toward the Festhaus in search of the legendary craft room.
After a bit of poking around we finally found it and a rather extensive craft brew selection, at least for a theme park. (I mean let's be real, comparing this to quite a few bars in Philly and its not all that special)
But a much welcome change to the limited selections usually found any parks.
I had a cider (forget which) and Bill tried a flight. I have absolutely recollection of what Brit had here. Maybe wine? Its a cozy little spot and we got ourselves a table and hung out for a bit before moving on to get some more rides in.
After finishing up we caught a moment of some folks dancing to strange music in weird outfits, and headed out to find the Sky Ride over to Italy so we could walk over to hit Loch Ness Monster with its new/refurbished trains.
I'm just gonna rip the band aid right off. I do not like this ride. It was just OK last time and this time it hurt. I think I was pretty lit by this point because all I really recall of this ride is pain. And before you think I'm an Arrow hater I rank Magnum very highly and love their mine trains. Their loopers generally suck though. I avoided Anaconda the day before and only rode this because there isn't a lot of funky inversions or a lot of weird transitions. I had told Bill and Brit I would have no problem skipping this, but Bill wanted to ride it and talked me onto it. The problem for me is the bottom of the drops and in and out of the loops.
Bill and I sat in the front of the back car and Brit sat in the front seat of the car in front of us. They both enjoyed the ride but I felt like my head/neck were being compressed into my spine repeatedly. I'll give it a few positives: the setting is wonderful. Its certainly smooth, other than the few parts where I felt like I was being adjusted by a giant metal trash compactor, and I do enjoy the tunnel/helix that feels like its going to go on for an hour.
But yeah. LNM is the weak link in this parks lineup for me, personally. I know I'll get crucified by some purists but I call it like I see it.
While it was a short day we packed a lot in, both in the form of rides and beverages, but we couldn't leave the park on a sour note, so I insisted we head back into Italy and have one more spin on Apollo. As I mentioned we only rode in 2016 once, and I absolutely loved my rides earlier in the morning. While boarding the back row, a younger employee asked if she could ride with us, saying how it was the only row to ride in, and then recognized us from the Sky Ride earlier in the day. She explained she was taking some rides on Apollo, then Loch Ness and something else during her lunch break. I joked I'd take my break for eating and she explained that she gets two breaks and ate earlier.
As we crested the drop, Bill, Brit and myself raised our hands up high and I noticed out of the corner of my eye our new friend had her legs wrapped around the t-bar and was holding on for deal life. She was so assured going up the lift, now she seemed downright terrified. As we crested the first airtime hill and gently floated out of our seats time seemed to slow down as I turned to her yelled "legs out, hands up!", and she thought for a second... and then jolted her arms and legs out as we plummeted down the next drop, her screaming in some combined of horror and elation. It was an awesome moment on another incredible ride on Apollo. As we exited she told us to have a great day and ran off hoping to ride a few more things.
We had a really long drive back home but we'd packed a ton into this weekend and I'm still so stoked we never decided to cancel. It was chilly but nice in the sun, and I'd take a chilly sunny day over the heat and humidity of mid-summer. I tend to avoid parks as much as a I can in July and August unless they consist of three piers next to the Atlantic Ocean just north of Cape May.
When I retire I am pretty sure I am moving to somewhere right between Busch Gardens Williamsburg and Hershey. My two favorite parks, they never fail to disappoint. Kings Dominion is no slouch either and really, really I can't wait to get back down to ride the hell out of the excellent Virginia machines. If all goes well I'll be back later this season.
Not too shabby for 5 hours! Thanks everybody for reading. And remember kids, commenting is cool!