Staying in Norfolk from Wednesday to Saturday for two AHL hockey games (Hershey Bears @ Norfolk Admirals), we decided to take spend Thursday at Busch Gardens Williamsburg.
The excitement started to rise as we approached and saw the purple and yellow structure of Apollo’s Chariot stretching out along the road to the parking areas. Seeing they had a sign for “Preferred Parking”, we decided to spend the $10 and take that… and wound up only a few hundred feet from where you purchase tickets.
Another impulse buy came with the tickets… figuring that we would probably get a chance to return later in the summer, we decided to get the “Summer Sizzler (Bronze) Passport”. Not a bad price.
Anyway, from memory (I had visited in the 1977 while on a family vacation) and from what we have read, we were expecting a very picturesque and well kept park. Even with these very high expectations, we were very pleasantly surprised. This park is simply beautiful and we began taking it all in as we walked from the ticket window to the main entrance.
After some initial confusion (its not a hard park to find your way around in as some claim, but we were unfamiliar with the layout and were relying on a map), we got our bearings straight. Since it was closest to the entrance, we decided to hit the Loch Ness Monster first. It was evident that others had this same idea as the line was kind of on the long side. However, it did move fast. It was not long until we were seated in the train for our first coaster ride of the season. This one surprised me. Not knowing the layout, I was not expecting a large drop over the creek and then a turn around before another drop leading into the first loop. The helix in the tunnel was pretty dark, but some light was coming in from someplace. I’m sort of glad it was… seeing the tracks so close above you as you spiral down gave some great head chopper effects. Unlike many coasters that do all of their tricks at the start, Nessie ends with its second loop just before the run to the station. A great job for any coaster, especially considering that this is the start of the Loch Ness Monster’s 25th season.
After this we headed over to Ireland and Corkscrew Hill. Reading other TR’s, I will abide by their lead and not give away anything as far as what you see inside. Suffice it to say, next to a set of dueling iguana’s in Orlando, this ride had the ‘eeriest’ entry queue that I have ever encountered… a long dark cave like tunnel that seems to go deep underground. All I will say is… a great attraction… very fun. (and the synchronization seemed to fit rather well).
Getting a little hungry, we headed up the hill past Aquatine to New France and grabbed some Ribs and a “Smoke House Sampler” (ribs, chicken and beef brisket) for lunch. With all park food, it was a bit pricy, but I don’t complain when it is good food. Needless to say, I was NOT complaining here. Actually, I think I would take the brisket here over the prime rib at many restaurants I have visited.
The Skoot log flume looked as exciting as I remembered from 1977, however the temperature was only in the low 50’s and we had a whole day ahead of us. Since we bought passes and would be returning at a later date, we decided to let this pass this trip.
Up next was Alpengeist. The line was moderate, but moving. Not wanting to wait that long, we decided to take any seat and wound up somewhere in the middle of the train. What a great ride! After that first ride it leaped to the top of my list of favorite inverteds. After the first ride, I decided to take a second, but this time in the front seat. My wife said “I’ll be around here at the shops… give me your ‘fanny pack’ (where I carry my camera) and your wallet.” Oh well… she was letting me wait in line for a front seat line so how could I argue? J After about an hour wait, I was seated in the front seat and heading up the lift hill. At the top, with the diving drop, that hill looks a heck of a lot higher than it really is. While the middle seats are great, the front seats on this coaster (as on any inverted) are absolutely spectacular. Lots of close calls and wild visuals. You feel like you are traveling twice as fast as you really are. Being a cold day, I also felt like I had actually survived a blizzard when I came off of this practically frozen to the bone.
We then headed over to Wild Maus. The line was fairly long so we decided to skip it. Since we were going to be returning later in the year, we would hit it then (and add it to the count).
It was then time for the most frightening ride of the day… The Big Bad Wolf. We were in line for the front seat and saw that they had three trains stacked up… one in the station and two on the break run. But they dispatched the first one after a moderate wait and we boarded the next. As we were climbing the lift hill we looked left and saw the next train sitting on the mid course breaks, not moving, and we were still climbing. We neared the top of the lift and saw that they still had not moved. First in the train, we saw that we were just about ready to clear the left. Suddenly we stopped. Not thrilled at being stopped at the top of the hill, it was better than going over the top and meeting up with the train in the midcourse breaks rather suddenly. After what seemed like an hour (was actually only a few minutes), we saw that the train had left the midcourse breaks and then we started moving. This coaster surprised me. Not expecting very much, I found it to be one wild ride. The swinging under the tracks made it seem really out of control. A slow midcourse and second lift was the only bad part, but was quickly made up for by a crazy drop over the creek and then a helix back into the station.
A bit of a disappointment next. I saw on the map a ride called “the Katapult”. I remembered a ride from 1977 called the Catapult… an enclosed scrambler themed to look like a catapult in an old castle. Its lighting effects and all made it really a fun ride. However, the current version of the Katapult is a scrambler, but out in the open like all the rest. Sigh… oh well… things change.
We skipped this and headed down over the hill and across the San Marco bridge with a quick stop for some great pictures of Big Bad Wolf to the right and Loch Ness Monster and Alpengeist to the left. By now I was getting a bit woozy, so we stopped for a little snack (cheesecake and cheese sticks) and watched the ending of a show in the theater.
It must have been my blood sugar, because after I ate, I felt fine and we set out again for Fiesta Italia and Apollo’s Chariot. Standing below this huge thing, my wife decided to sit this one out, so again the camera and the wallet were handed over to her. I was secretly hoping that she was not going to return to the shop in San Marco where the two gentlemen were hand crafting porcelain flowers (the “bouquet” that caught her eye was priced at $1,119!) Anyway, while standing in line for AC, an announcement came over the speakers “Apollo’s Chariot will be temporarily shutting down while we add a third train”. I was shocked! Not that the ride was shutting down, but rather that they were adding a third train when the line was not at all full by theme park standards! Not sure if this was for the guests to speed up the line, or for the crew to practice putting a third train in service, but I didn’t care… it meant a shorter wait after re-opening. It was down for around 5 minutes to transfer the train and do a test. Then it was off and running. What can I say about this coater, except Wow! That first drop… and the crazy air on the other hills. I am not afraid to admit that I held on for dear life on that first trip and that I was a little “white knuckled” by then end. Instantly I knew that I had a new #1 favorite.
We next hopped the train and took it from Fiesta Italia back to New France to the “Passport Processing” area (the other is located inside the main entrance). The things about that train… 1) good for sight seeing 2) good for getting form one side of the park to the other fast if there is no line. There was no line… a train was in the station and we walked right on. A few minutes later we were disembarking in New France. On the way we passed the great clearing in the woods where Drachen Fire used to sit. All that is there is a lonely looking station and the shed where the trains were kept (noses of at least two are still peaking out from under their doors). Traveling through this area you can still see the cement footers of the coaster right along the train tracks.
After getting the our passes processed, we looked around a few shops in New France and then headed back toward the Wild Maus in Octoberfest (or is it Rihnefeld?). Again, a long line so we made better use of our time by hitting Big Bad Wolf for a 2nd ride and then going back to Fiesta Italia for my second ride on AC.
Half an hour till closing (7pm on this night) and we decided to do Escape from Pompeii. We thought that if we got wet, we would be soon in the car and could turn the heat on. A walk on for this. A fun ride with neat effects inside and a good drop that doesn’t soak you too much. When we came back into the station, there was no one waiting and the ride op told our boat that we could all stay on if we wished and go through again. No one took him up on it. Like I said as we were climbing out… “If it were 20 degrees warmer, we might…” It was COLD!!!!!
It was now very near to closing time. Knowing we would be passing near Nessie on our way to the leave, we thought we may get in “one last ride” on her. The line was very empty and we walked right up to the station and got on the first train (somewhere in the front half, but not the front seat). Another fun ride, especially in the rapidly darkening evening. When we got off, we walked back around and saw that the queue was still open and we decided for “one last ride”. Again, a walk on and again a very fun ride. The darkness of the nights and the flood lights on the loops make a very good contrast. When we pulled into the station, there were only a few people waiting for the front seat. We asked if we could stay on and the ops told us that if no one was waiting for our seat, we could stay. So my wife and I (along with at least the two people in front of us), stayed on for “one last ride”. Okay… I don’t know what they did to this coaster on this ride… did they turn off the breaks… sneak out and quickly grease the tracks… or was it the temperature change? What ever it was, the coaster screamed through its course this time and gave us a very fast and wild ride. However, with no one waiting in the station, the ops said that this had truly been the last ride.
Walking out, we stopped at a few shops that had stayed open later (including one in Banbury Cross that sold medieval swords that I MUST stop at again). After exiting the park and climbing the hill after our day, we were very glad that we got that preferred parking! All in all, a great day at an even greater park… and a great way to start the season.
We are both looking forward to returning at least one more time (hopefully more) before the end of the season.
*** This post was edited by SLFAKE on 4/8/2002. ***
Paragraphs, please! That's really hard to read!
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*** This post was edited by SLFAKE on 4/8/2002. ***
I don't know exactly where it was located, but it was called the "Catapult" (or was it like the current spelling, "Katapult"). It was enclosed entirely in a building. The inside of the building was made to look like the inside of a castle's walls. If I remember correctly, the supports of the scrambler were even "themed" to look like a catulpult's supports (but I could be wrong... that was 25 years ago). Anyway, the lights would go out (or at least very dim) and the scrambler would start to spin (just like a regular scrambler). Different lighting effects would then begin. You swore you were going to slam right into the walls! Even though it may not have gone very fast, the flashing lights, closeness of the walls, etc, made it seem like you were going much faster. I can pretty vividly remember this ride after 2 1/2 decades and remember that after that it made most other scrambler type of rides seem very lame.
The current Katapult is located in Ocotberfest and is not enclosed... just your standard scrambler.
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