Timing is everything - BGW (10/5/03) [long]

Associated parks:
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Wednesday, October 8, 2003 7:42 PM
Two months ago, my fiancee and I decided to book an early autumn flight out to Virginia to see the historical sights and visit Busch Gardens. What could possibly go wrong... except a hurricane, and a power outage?

I started having a Walley World moment as we were driving away from Norfolk Intl. Saturday afternoon and heard people calling in on the radio saying that Busch Gardens was closed due to a power outage. “They don’t close Florida!” I screamed... to no one in particular. At our hotel, we ran into a disgruntled mob of people who had just left the park. Not good!

Fortunately, the park was up and running again on Sunday, which is when we had originally planned to go anyway. No need to purchase a BB gun after all! We arrived around 9:30, and I was blown away from the start. The way Apollo’s Chariot just dominates the park entrance... it’s truly breathtaking. The rest of the park was equally impressive. I’ve never seen a park or its rides exist so comfortably within their environment. It really looks as if the rides were always part of the landscape. And I especially loved how close you could get to the rides – they almost seemed to interact with the park guests, rather than sit tucked away in some corner.

Since we planned to stay the whole day, we opted to hit the coasters early and late, and enjoy everything else the park had to offer in between. First up was Apollo’s Chariot, back row. The first drop was fantastic. The third drop, however, was gonzo! That floating drop-and-twist near the river was just sublime... While B&M hypers just don’t thrill me as much as Intamin hypers (I blame the trains), I could still appreciate the monster air and the great scenery the ride provided. We managed two quick rides in the back row before the line had time to build. 9.5/10

Next up was the Loch Ness Monster. Appreciation for the classics... We sat first row, seventh car. Decent ride, and surprisingly smooth for an Arrow, especially a 25-year-old one. There was a little headbanging in the pullout of each loop, but it was otherwise comfortable. Even the harnesses were on the soft side, and had plenty of give, which definitely helped. Thumbs up to the first and last drops, thumbs down to the trim on the second drop, and the long... boring... tunnel. 6/10

Onward to Alpengeist. My fiancee was planning on skipping this one, but she changed her mind at the last minute... and it ended up being her favorite ride at the park. This is pretty typical behavior for her. She’s a thrillseeker in serious denial. We waited for the front row since we’re both a little prone to motion sickness sitting in the visually-obstructed rear seats of B&M inverts. I remember people gushing about Alpie when it was newer, but I figured it had been tamed in recent years after hearing complaints about the trims. But that first drop erased any thoughts of anything “tame.” Unbelievable speed, and I loved the immelman. In fact, I loved everything up until the MCBR. Total buzzkill. The zero-g roll and corkscrew were ok, but just not as intense as they could have been. Excellent first half, but a less-than-strong finish. 9/10

We did a quick spin on Wilde Maus before heading to the Big Bad Wolf. Really, they ought to change Wilde Maus’ name to Black Sheep. Not only do you get the whole wolf/sheep dichotomy, you also accurately describe the one ride in the park that just doesn’t fit in. The hairpins were fun, but the brakes killed everything after that. After Alpengeist, it was definitely a palette-cleanser. 5/10

Finally, we hit Big Bad Wolf in row one, car seven. Intense, great scenery, excellent swing. Could’ve done without the trim on the last drop, but it still packed plenty of punch. 8/10

During the day, we took in a bunch of the other attractions and shows. We also grabbed some very good barbeque lunch at the Trapper’s Smokehouse (and that’s coming from someone who lives in Texas). I didn’t think The Haunted Lighthouse was quite as good as Spongebob in 3-D at PKI, but it was definitely better than Corkscrew Hill, which seemed to be lacking a few dimensions, notably, the third. Kudos to hiring half the cast of Back to the Future for The Haunted Lighthouse, as well as David St. Hubbins. Loved the cameo at the end, too.

But, being Howl-o-scream and all, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the park experience after the sun went down. This has to be the perfect park for a Halloween event... the woods almost create all the theming you’d ever need. When they add piped-in screams and rustling noises, and you’ve got Blair Witch Project: The Park. Everything got better in the dark. The rides seemed a lot faster, and a lot more out of control. Loch Ness Monster jumped to an 8/10, and Alpengeist was even more thrilling feeling the cool air blast past our faces. Big Bad Wolf, though, took the cake. It is an absolutely insane ride in complete darkness. On the little jaunt to the second lift hill, you could really take in the darkness of the woods, the smell of the trees, the sound of the wind rustling the leaves... it was terrific.

The day had its minor downsides: the sky ride was down, and the Rhine River Cruise was having maintenance issues that kept us from riding. Also, I noticed very few smiling park employees. Most looked glum and had their heads hung low, especially on Apollo’s Chariot at night... the loading was excruciatingly slow. But, overall, I had a fantastic day at BGW. It was definitely the most complete theme park experience I’ve ever had – truly world-class coasters, great food, and beautiful landscaping and theming.

[sorry for the earlier lack of paragraphs... I cut and pasted from Word]

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Colin D.
Ask about my references!
*** This post was edited by Olsor 10/9/2003 1:48:24 AM ***

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Wednesday, October 8, 2003 8:05 PM
Very good trip report!!!!!!
BGW is my favorite non disney/universal park!!!
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Wednesday, October 8, 2003 8:15 PM
BGW is a fantastic park. I haven't been there since the early 80's unfortunately. I remember the tunnel on Nessie being great back then with fog and strobes. I've even heard there used to be an image of the fabled creature inside the tunnel, but alas the coaster was whizzing by too fast for my eyes to see it in all the strobes and fog. Is that correct and if so, is the Nessie figure still in the tunnel?

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Nashville needs a theme park!

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Wednesday, October 8, 2003 9:57 PM
thrillerman - I didn't see anything in the tunnel, but, then again, no one did. No strobes or anything. Some effects in the tunnel would easily crank up my ratings, though.

Still, it was great to finally see Nessie in person after years of seeing only pictures of her. I really enjoyed riding some classics like Nessie and The Beast for the first time this year, and experiencing some (recent) coaster history. Some parks like my old home park, SFGAm, barely resemble the park they were even ten years ago, yet you get a sense that BGW has aged very gracefully.

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Colin D.
Ask about my references!

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Thursday, October 9, 2003 8:05 AM
Nessie and the fog and strobes WERE a big part of "the LNM experience". I was surprised during Con to see that the theming in the unending helix had been removed. Still, a great ride.

Two of the finest Arrow rides in ANY park when combined with "The Wolf". AC is also my favorite B&M hyper, thanks mainly to the insane rides during Con. I love BGW, even if my calves always seem to hurt the next day...;)
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We're whalers on the moon, we carry a harpoon, but there ain't no whales so we tell tall tales and sing a whaling tune...

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Thursday, October 9, 2003 8:14 AM
I have seen the creature...although, unfortunately, it is no longer in the tunnel. The first time I saw it was probably the second or third time I rode the coaster. It used to flash much like a strobe, but very intermittently so that only the fortunate eye was able to catch a glimpse of the beast's head just before exiting the tunnel--it really was a great effect. A few years ago, however, a very cheesy, cartoonish monster replaced the original, and it no longer flashed periodically. Rather, it just remained illuminated in all its corny glory, and it no longer meant anything to claim that you actually saw Nessie in its lair. For whatever reason, everything (monster, strobes, colored lights, fog) was either removed or just turned off a year or two ago, and now all that remains is a dark, dank, boring tunnel around a triple helix.

Excellent trip report, Olsor. It sounds like you had a very similar experience to my first Howl-O-Scream last October. I was blown away by the effort put forth by the park to create a phenomenally erie mood after dark--those recorded screams definitely caught me off my guard on more than one occasion! I also had my best rides on Alpengeist that same night. Normally the coaster is somewhat illuminated, but I guess for Halloween all lights are turned off, providing a fantastic, nearly pitch-dark ride. The empty 'ghost trains' sent out periodically are a nice effect, too.

As I read your report, I noticed that you did most of the 'must-dos' at the park--i.e. Big Bad Wolf must be done at night, and in the back seat; Apollo's Chariot provides the most air in the back seat (although the front is an amazing experinence in itself); and Alpengeist, as with any invert, must be done in the front, as the visuals are truly not to be missed the first time around (the vertigo I experienced at the top of the lift in the front seat on my first ride in '97 has not been matched since).

Did you happen to partake in any of the haunted attractions? While the ones I chose to do last year were not especially frightening, they were definitely elaborate, and executed quite nicely. I have yet to experience what I've heard are the best Halloween-themed parks--that is, Knott's Berry Farm's Halloween Haunt and Islands of Adventure's Halloween Horror Nights--but as of now, Busch's Howl-O-Scream is by far the most fun I've had at a theme park in October.

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-Mike Buscema

'No matter how skilled the designer is, every time we push the envelope we learn new things about coaster design.' --Dana Morgan
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Thursday, October 9, 2003 8:52 AM
Vater - glad to know I did the "must-do" activities! I probably would've opted for the last row of Alpengeist if it weren't for my fiancee's stomach.

We didn't really partake in any of the Howl-o-scream events, other than the animal shows. We rode the train before it turned into the Nightmare Express, though, and got to see all the "haunted" special effects in all their well-lit, er, non-glory. The spookiest portion was passing the ghost of Drachen Fire.

I'm still completely blown away by how terrific the park looked before and after the lights went out.

By the way, I was amazed at how much damage hurricane Isabel inflicted. The national media has way too short of an attention span. That has to be an immense clean-up project!

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Colin D.
Ask about my references!

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Friday, October 10, 2003 10:14 PM
Sounds like you had a great Trip. I'd love to go to BGW during the Halloween season.

I agree with you on the park looking so natural. I think part of it has to do with them not using floresent colors on buildings like Six Flags and Pararmount do.

Nessie's tunnel had some strobes in it on my July visit. No Monster or Fog though.

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"The Mountain Slidewinder. Voted The #1 Non-Rollercoaster Ride in America Amusement Business Magazine, 1991"

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Saturday, October 11, 2003 1:57 PM
Man, you just made me miss BGW bigtime! Great TR. I have to get back now, although I admit to holding out for the next big addition. Any news Mike? :)
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The end of an era has come. Ethyl is no more.
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Monday, October 13, 2003 9:41 AM
I wish, Rob. While it can be frustrating that coasters are so seldomly added to BGW, when they are, you just know they're going to be good! :) Here's hoping for a new one by '05...

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-Mike Buscema

'No matter how skilled the designer is, every time we push the envelope we learn new things about coaster design.' --Dana Morgan
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