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G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12

Geauga_Dog Geauga_Dog Profile

Posted:
6/21/12 at
10:08:44 PM

Part two of my trip as posted from my site, with a few changes that I didn't post over there.

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Though I had a great time at Kings Dominion this was the reason for coming down to Virginia this year. Arriving at the park on Wednesday I felt a bit overwhelmed/emotional. Coming from a guy now in his 40's that may sound strange but the very, very few people who know me and those who know me here on URC know of my tremendous love and adoration of Busch Gardens Williamsburg, which in G-Dog's world, is the perfect theme park. Great landscaping, quality rides, immersive/detailed theming and food you don't normally find in your standard theme park all come together to create an incredible experience. You couldn't take the smile off my face the whole time I was there.

The crowds would be light on Wednesday but more moderate by mid to late afternoon on Thursday but felt I didn't need to use the park's Quick Queue program. The park was only open till 8:00 PM.

G-DOG'S BUSCH GARDENS COASTER COUNTDOWN

While Busch Gardens is not a coaster mecca they do have five high quality coasters in their arsenal.

5. Apollo's Chariot - The first coaster you'll see as you pull off I-64 to greet you on your way to the parking lot, Apollo does seem impressive however I find it the weakest of the coasters at BGW (I know I will get some flack for that comment). I do like Apollo, don't get me wrong, but after riding all the other B&M hypers the layout isn't all that inspiring. I can't fault that on BGW or B&M as Apollo was one of the first hypers ever produced by the company and considering its location in Festa Italia there wasn't a lot of room to work with though the first drop to the river is pretty sweet. I found my money seat was Row 4.

One of the things that bothered me at Apollo's Chariot was they closed off the second row for Quick Queue riders only thus letting that row go empty on almost every train that left the station. They should have just let the regular guests fill that row and if someone with Quick Queue showed up they should have let them have the seats like what they did for me on Volcano at KD.

4. Loch Ness Monster - For a ride as old as Nessie it sure looks brand new and still runs smooth as ever. BGW takes great care of this coaster. The best part for me, on this trip, was coasting through Nessie's lair, which had the musty 70's smell in it, which actually added to the ride experience. Nessie also has one of the best first drops for an Arrow coaster, dropping within inches of the water below.

3. Verbolten - It seems strange not having Big Bad Wolf there, dropping to the Rhine River, but Verbolten mimics that classic ending as you view it crossing over the San Marco bridge.

First I must say congratulations to Zierer and welcome to the big time! Despite the little bumps and hiccups in operations, Verbolten is a very good replacement for BBW. Guests seemed to really enjoy it. I personally felt it was on the border of being a family ride as it surely is much faster and parts a little more intense than BBW was. One guy I was riding with wasn't sure if it was a ride his six year old could ride but I saw plenty of younger guests on it and coming back with smiles. I actually thought that this is what Italian Job/Backlot Stunt Coaster should have been like. The trains are, dare I say it, sexy -definitely the best car-themed trains ever. They are comfortable and have ample leg room.

The coaster did not open until mid-afternoon on Wednesday and had shut down early due to technical difficulties on Thursday but I was able to grab three rides in those two days. Things happened so fast on my first ride I could not fully register what went on in the "Black Forest" but on my two other rides I was able to soak it in more.

The queue is very well themed. You first enter through a park-like area that leads to the travel bureau where they have small televisions showing Gerta talking about the Black Forest and your upcoming trip through it. The walls have travel posters and there are cabinets with brochures and maps of the Black Forest area. The next building you go through is Gunter's office, which has three TV screens showing eerie views of the Black Forest. The station is Gunter's garage, complete with grease and oil stains on the floor. That's one of the reasons I love BGW - they go all the way with the miniscule details when theming an attraction.

Verbolten would be the longest wait I had for any ride at BGW and even with a full queue the wait was, at max, 40 minutes thanks to the dual loading station (they load the trains like they do at Dragster).

The ride - you exit the station and follow the same path as BBW. You make a left turn drop then a right turn and into the first launch sequence. Just like on Sky Rocket at Kennywood you just coast right into the upward launch, which takes you right into the Black Forest show building. There are some lighting effects and lightning bolts when you enter. You drop in darkness and into a helix that actually made me gray out for a second. You go up into a brake run that slows you down, then a left turn swoop dive, and then up into what is the most talked about part of the ride - the freefall track.

As the train slows down you get more lighting effects. The lighting effects highight trees in the Black Forest in shades of red and green (it's almost like colors you would see in a black light poster). There are different effects here. My first and third ride I had the lightning and thunder before the freefall and on my second ride I had the red glowing wolf eyes that surround the train. As for the freefalling track, it is a very cool effect. actually giving some air time as you drop. The downside of this feature is the only way it can be effective is if it's part of a dark ride or is well hidden to throw off the riders. I also wonder if this is the reason the ride has so much downtime considering the mechanics of producing that freefall effect.

After the freefall track you drop out of the building and coast onto the second launch track, which you then take a quick right/left turn up to the decrepit covered bridge only to be slowed down and crawl across the bridge. There are sound effects of the bridge creaking as you cross over it. Then you plunge down the 80-foot drop to the Rhine RIver and finish the ride in the same way as BBW did. Again, I have to say, a very good ride.

2. Griffon - My very first ride Wednesday and I was in awe when I first saw it in person. It fits in well amongst Acquitaine, the French area. Everyone says you have to ride it in the front seat and I did just that on my first ride. I was surprised at how fast you climb to the top of the lift and the view when you crested the lift of the James River in the distance is absolutely stunning. Then came the "Oh crap!" moment when you are left hanging on the edge of the drop, which is even escalated more if you are on an edge seat, which I got to try both ends on only two of my eight rides on it. The drop is fantastic and I like how you swoop under the bridge to enter the massive Immelman. On the edge seats it felt like you were flying as you rose into the inversion and twisted back out. A short brake run follows to slow you down and then the second vertical drop, not as potent as the first one, but enough to make it seem like you were going to crash into the water below and up into the second Immelman and then a quick skim across the water ending. While the splash down on Diamondack is impressive, Griffon's is majestic in the sheer height of the water plume that trails behind it.

While everyone says the only way to ride Griffon is in the front row, I have to say I also greatly enjoyed the back row. Sure you don't get the OMG feel of hanging at the precipice of the first drop but I found sitting higher than the rest of the train plus the slight pull over the drop was equally quite effective.

Despite its short track length this is one powerful beast and it appears to be the most popular ride in the park.

1. Alpengeist** - This has always been my favorite ride in the park and it continues to be my favorite for the sheer fact that it does more than any other coaster at BGW plus it is one of the finest inverts ever created as well as uses its location to the fullest. Add in the excellent theming of the ski lodge station and ski resort atmosphere around it pushes the ride high on my list of favorites. However I did not ride Alpie as much as I wanted to though I did ride it six times.

As for the two asterisks above there were a few little noticable things about Alpie that sort of bothered me. First, I had a hard time buckling the restraints, which I never had a problem before. I must add that on Dominator at KD I had similar issues in certain seats and I had little to no issue on Griffon. While I might have a small gut it felt more like an upper body issue than a lower body issue. Once the restraint was buckled it felt snug against my body.

Second, they used the brake at the top of the lift. My first ride on Thursday the brake was not working but on all my other rides it was noticable. If they used it in the past I don't remember but I was a little bummed that the whip into the first drop was not there.

Third, I also noticed an annoying rattle in the train, enough so that on some rides I felt like I was getting a headache. Now it could have been because the weight of the train was light and I was the only one in my row but even with a trainload of riders there was just this shaky rattle that, at times, was not pleasant.

BUSCH GARDENS AT A GLANCE

Now that the coasters have been covered it's time to move on to the rest of the park.

Curse of DarKastle is amazing! The 3D effects are very well done and mix that with the spinning/tilting motion of the "sleigh" resulted in one of the best dark rides out there. The theming of the ride station is top notch and very detailed. Loved the gothic look of the building. The wait wasn't bad either.

One thing about Busch Gardens is that they know how to keep their special effects working. Escape From Pompeii's effects were all working well. I found out the best place to sit is in the back to avoid the most splash.

Le Scoot is one of the better log flumes and still looks brand new. I got more wet on this than I did on Pompeii as a wave at the bottom of the drop went over the side of the log and soaked the left side of my shorts.

No trip to Busch Gardens is complete without a ride on DaVinci's Cradle. This Zierer Flying Carpet has always been one of the best operated ones around and that still holds true on my visit. The Flying Machine next door (Tivoli Orbiter) had one of the shorter ride cycles in the park and also is not run at the insane speed the Oribter is capable of. Still a fun ride though.

I wanted to ride Mach Tower but it was down both days I was there even though maintenance was working on it all day on Wednesday.

Europe In The Air made me nauseous. Big screen movies with a lot of movement on the screen have never agreed with me, including the IMAX movie my dad would drag us to at Cedar Point every year back in the day. Add a simulator to the experience and it felt like I was sitting still and the room was moving around me. Not a pleasant experience.

If there's one aspect Busch excels at it's their shows. While I only got to see one show during my visit, I wasn't going to miss "Celtic Fyre" at the Abbey Stone Theater in Ireland. I loved the former show "Irish Thunder" back in 2003 and "Celtic Fyre" was just as awesome. The audience was really into it, the dancing was great and the vocals were strong. Not to be missed if you plan on heading to Busch Gardens this year.

As for food I went to Ristorante della Piazza in San Marco on Wednesday and had the chicken parmagiana which included spaghetti. Add in the cup of mixed melons and a lemonade my bill came to just over $17.00. That does seem excessive but at Busch Gardens you are pretty much guaranteed food of a high quality over most theme parks. On Thursday I had planned on going to Trapper's Smokehouse in New France but decided to go to the Festhaus. I had a roast turkey sandwich with chips, a cup of mixed melons, and a lemonade and my bill was about the same price as what I had at Ristorante della Piazza. Now it wasn't turkey cold cuts on two pieces of bread but two thick slices of actual roast turkey on a bun. Very good stuff.

I was a bit saddened when I boarded the tram to take me back to the Italy parking lot as who knows when I'll be able to get back down there again. I guess that just makes Busch Gardens that much more special.

Thanks for reading.

G-Dog

Re: G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12 by frontrow frontrow Profile at 6/22/12 9:57:18 AM
Great TRs G-Dog. My last visit to Kings Dominion was in May of 2010. I rode I305 in it's original configuration, and it immediately went to #1 steel coaster. My last visit to Busch Gardens was in 2005, so I haven't ridden Griffon. At least you got to ride Verbolten. From what I've been reading, the coaster seems to go down quite a bit. At least you gave yourself 2 days at each park. Glad you had a good time.
Re: G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12 by alpengeistno3 at 6/22/12 6:04:13 PM
Equally nice TR, G-Dog. To answer your Alpengeist question, the brake was initially only supposed to be used if there were 8 or more people on the train. The 1st year the ride opened, it was manual, but the ops did not always switch it on. Starting the 2nd year, maintenance made it automated (or at least, it was always on, maybe to varying degrees.)

The restraint problem was Busch's unexplained response to the SFNE incident. They shortened all the seatbelts on Alpengeist by one click. I can't explain how or why they felt the need to do that (Montu was still on the old 3rd notch when I went down this past Thanksgiving, so it wasn't a chainwide response). I find Dominator one of the easier B&M OTSR's to get into. I can buckle it without assistance on pretty much every train. You may have got a short one because the ops usually refuse to believe me when I tell them that the belts are not the same size. Rumor has it that they are looking to lengthen them on Alpengeist, but it won't be until next season (same rumor as this season, so don't hold your breath on that)

Paul

Re: G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12 by Geauga_Dog Geauga_Dog Profile at 6/22/12 6:31:51 PM
alpengeistno3 said:

The restraint problem was Busch's unexplained response to the SFNE incident. They shortened all the seatbelts on Alpengeist by one click. I can't explain how or why they felt the need to do that (Montu was still on the old 3rd notch when I went down this past Thanksgiving, so it wasn't a chainwide response).

You've got to he kidding!! The thought of shortened belts crossed my mind but blew it off as I've never heard of a B&M needing to have the belts shortened and that it only happens on certain Intamins (hence why I can't ride Darien's RoS, CP's Millennium Force and Dragster). Even though I had slight problems on Dominator at KD as well as on some rides on Griffon I was still able to buckle the restraint without needing assistance. I felt a little embarrassed about not being able to buckle on my own (had no problem with the "big boy" belts).

Thank you for clearing that up for me. It's still a wake up call to start getting myself in better shape. Only problem is I don't have anyone to help get me motivated.

G-Dog

Re: G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12 by frontrow frontrow Profile at 6/22/12 6:41:01 PM
I feel your pain guys. I had to do my first walk of shame on Batman in Six Flags St. Louis. I've been trying to loose weight, in which I have shaved 2 inches off my waist. On the flip side my exercise program has made my chest grow. I know realize in order to enjoy the B&M coasters, I must loose mass everywhere. I wish all the B&M coasters had a big boy seat.
Re: G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12 by GoYanks34 GoYanks34 Profile at 6/22/12 7:07:31 PM
Great TR! Your description of Griffon makes me want to go back even more - that coaster was my favorite and I couldn't get enough of it. I agree - the rear on a wing is the place to be. I liked the front too, just preferred the back.

I didn't care too much for Alpengeist - thought it was very rough and banged me around a bit too much for my liking. The friend I was with got very sick after riding it too and that ruined her day. I agree with everything else - I too thought Apollo was a bit over-rated and the least thrilling B&M so you won't get any flack from me on that one! ;~)

Sounds like you had a really good trip!

Jen

Re: G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12 by frontrow frontrow Profile at 6/22/12 8:01:17 PM
I have ridden Apollo's Chariot 12 to 15 times. First off, I do agree that it is overrated. If you view my profile it's not in my top 10, but I do rank it 13th on my steel coaster list. The very front or the very back provide wonderful rides. My favorite part is the very last drop. That's where I feel the most air time. Apollo's Chariot was built in 1999. At that time it was one of the best coasters in the country. My last visit to BGVA was in 2005, before Griffon or Verbolten. At that time it still was my favorite coaster at BGVA, with Alpengeist a close 2nd. As far as the head banging, I naturally ride with my head forward. The only time my head is against the head rest is on the launch of Top Thrill Dragster and Kinda Ka. This is probably the reason I don't get that head banging on coasters that have that over the shoulder restraints. When I do revisit BGVA, I suspect that Griffon will be my new favorite coaster at the park, but I won't know for sure until I ride it.
Re: G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12 by GoYanks34 GoYanks34 Profile at 6/22/12 8:13:12 PM
frontrow said:

I have ridden Apollo's Chariot 12 to 15 times. First off, I do agree that it is overrated. If you view my profile it's not in my top 10, but I do rank it 13th on my steel coaster list. The very front or the very back provide wonderful rides. My favorite part is the very last drop. That's where I feel the most air time. Apollo's Chariot was built in 1999. At that time it was one of the best coasters in the country. My last visit to BGVA was in 2005, before Griffon or Verbolten. At that time it still was my favorite coaster at BGVA, with Alpengeist a close 2nd. As far as the head banging, I naturally ride with my head forward. The only time my head is against the head rest is on the launch of Top Thrill Dragster and Kinda Ka. This is probably the reason I don't get that head banging on coasters that have that over the shoulder restraints. When I do revisit BGVA, I suspect that Griffon will be my new favorite coaster at the park, but I won't know for sure until I ride it.

Don't get me wrong, I think Apollo's Chariot is a good coaster. It's when you compare it to the other B&M hypers is where its over-rated status comes in.

And of course I rode with my neck out on Alpengeist but I can only hold my head out so far and it was a very rough ride. I rode it 3 times so I would have the feel for the layout and have better defensive riding skills but I still didn't care for it. Now, it is no where close to the beating I received on Skyrush (I've been in car accidents with less injuries) but I thought it was uncomfortable and I usually like the B&M inverts. I was there last year so perhaps it's gotten rougher over the years. I don't know, maybe it's just me. :~)

Jen

Re: G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12 by frontrow frontrow Profile at 6/22/12 8:30:35 PM
I agree Jen. Behemoth, Goliath at SF Over Georgia, Nitro, and Intimadator kick Apollo's butt. I do like Apollo better than Diamondback or Raging Bull. It's a good coaster, but it is overrated.
Re: G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12 by Overbanked Overbanked Profile at 6/23/12 4:12:14 PM
Thanks for the TR G-Dog. Count me in as a member of the 'Apollos Chariot being overrated' club also. It was the only BGW coaster (ridden BBW, but not V-Bolt yet)that I had an 'eh' reaction to. I enjoyed BBW immensely over AC.
Re: G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12 by theRock-steel theRock-steel Profile at 6/24/12 12:06:12 PM
Currently I have Apollos Chariot as my number 1 ride. I must admit that I am willing to hear reasons why Goliath at SFOG or Intimidator should be there instead. No other coaster so far has a chance. I love B&M hypers. Here is the list of those I have ridden in order of how much I like them:

1. Apollo's Chariot
2. Goliath at SFOG
3. Intimidator
4. Diamondback
5. Raging Bull
6. Nitro

Within Busch Gardens Williamsburg and in the countdown way G-Dog does things:

5. Big Bad Wolf - It's not dead until we say it's dead. Long Live The Wolf!!

4. Loch Ness Monster - Like I said in reply to the Kings Dominion report, this is the best big Arrow looper.

3. Griffon - I live only two hours from Tampa and have had a premium pass to all Busch/SW parks since 2007. You may not like what I said at the beginning of this post, but I hope you believe me when I say that Griffon kicks SheiKra's behind.

2. Alpengeist - I'm sorry guys. Talon, Patriot, Afterburn, Montu, Raptor, Great Bear, either Dragon Challenge, and my seven Batman clones don't measure up to this one.

1. Apollo's Chariot - I only have one more comment concerning this. It seems like in all the Busch/SW parks, the second rows from either end are both roped off for Quick Queue. However, in Florida ride ops are there to fill them from the regular line if need be. They only send them empty if riders are just standing around looking at the wild blue yonder. They only do this on a few rides though. Kraken and Montu do it and Gwazi does four rows right in the middle. Cheetah Hunt, Kumba, and Manta try not to let Quick Queue people pick the front or back rows, and nothing is blocked off for everyone else either. Before the takeover, I was at SW San Antonio. The line for Steel Eel was nuts. I don't think that it needed to be. There was just one train being used all day. It wasn't called the same thing, but the people that could walk right up the exit were allowed to pick any row they wanted. It was two hours before the park was going to close and I almost didn't make it to the front seat. I couldn't get there all day. Yes, I was a jerk. This was still ridiculous.

It's good what I am hearing about Verbolten. For a "thrilling family ride", it's nice to see its rankings so high with the great ones at this park.

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Jen, I just noticed what you said:
"Now, it is no where close to the beating I received on Skyrush (I've been in car accidents with less injuries)".
That may be out of context, but I love that comment. I can sleep nights knowing that I am not the only one that thinks that about Skyrush. Lets do the math. How fast would a 20 ton dump truck have to hit you to get the same effect. I also don't think that El Toro is much better with its ejector airtime.

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* This post was modified at 6/24/12 12:51:21 PM *

Re: G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12 by frontrow frontrow Profile at 6/24/12 12:32:57 PM
theRock-steel said:

Currently I have Apollos Chariot as my number 1 ride. I must admit that I am willing to hear reasons why Goliath at SFOG or Intimidator should be there instead. No other coaster so far has a chance. I love B&M hypers. Here is the list of those I have ridden in order of how much I like them:


1. Apollo's Chariot
2. Goliath at SFOG
3. Intimidator
4. Diamondback
5. Raging Bull
6. Nitro


----------------------------------------------------------

I posted a thread similar in this regard of rating these B&M hyper coasters. It was interesting that everyone has a different order. I think all 6 and Behemoth are fantastic coasters. It's very interesting how we all have such a difference of opinion when it comes to these coasters.
P.S.: I'm not trying to change the current thread.

Re: G-Dog's Virginia Diary - Busch Gardens 6-13 & 6-14-12 by mugen828 mugen828 Profile at 6/25/12 11:04:23 AM
frontrow said:

theRock-steel said:

Currently I have Apollos Chariot as my number 1 ride. I must admit that I am willing to hear reasons why Goliath at SFOG or Intimidator should be there instead. No other coaster so far has a chance. I love B&M hypers. Here is the list of those I have ridden in order of how much I like them:


1. Apollo's Chariot
2. Goliath at SFOG
3. Intimidator
4. Diamondback
5. Raging Bull
6. Nitro


----------------------------------------------------------

I posted a thread similar in this regard of rating these B&M hyper coasters. It was interesting that everyone has a different order. I think all 6 and Behemoth are fantastic coasters. It's very interesting how we all have such a difference of opinion when it comes to these coasters.
P.S.: I'm not trying to change the current thread.


I'd love to post in that thread if I haven't already frontrow! I loveeeeeee me some hypers. Awesome TR and this report makes me want to get back there even though I went last year!

- mugen828
157 Coasters -- Favorite Coaster -- Nitro (SFGAdv)
117 Steel -- 40 Wood -- Home Park: SFGADv