Busch Gardens Williamsburg26th July 2012
The Suspended Roller Coaster was a ride design that used trains that could swing from side to side. It was originally developed by Arrow Dynamics, and subsequently copied by Vekoma, with a total of thirteen installations between 1981 and 1992. While these rides are thrilling, they are now quite old and as such are beginning to reach the end of their useful lives. Busch Gardens retired their version, the Big Bad Wolf, at the end of 2009. I'm privileged to have ridden eleven of the thirteen in my career, including all eight that remain operational today.
The space formerly occupied by the Big Bad Wolf lay idle for two years, but has now been filled with Verbolten (#1790), a major new coaster from Zierer featuring two launches and a section of track that drops vertically, similar to the Intamin version that debuted at Alton Towers in 2010. The ride is targeted at families and is therefore not particularly aggressive, but it is fast enough to keep enthusiasts happy, and I certainly enjoyed it a lot. The ride also has a nod to history, maintaining the signature drop and final turn from the Big Bad Wolf, and in so doing making for a thrilling finish to a great ride.
The only other new attraction since my last visit was Mach Tower, a giant drop ride with a rotating car built by Moser Rides. We rode this once mainly because there was no queue, and it was pretty much as expected. Beyond that, we did a circle of the park, taking in a single ride on each of Alpengeist, DarKastle, Griffon, Soaring over Europe, and Apollo's Chariot.
Two years ago I took part in the fascinating Roller Coaster Insider tour offered at Busch Gardens, which was well worth the money, both for its perks, and for the insights it gave into operations at a major amusement park. Rather than expand the existing tour, the park decided to run a completely independent one for Verbolten. Though on the surface this tour looked interesting, I'm afraid to say that it was for the most part a waste of time. While we were able to stand in the event building, it was impossible to see much other than the flickering of lighting as the train went racing past, and the other portions of the experience didn't justify the extra ticket cost. It'd have been fun to see the drop track in operation, and it would have been really cool to enjoy a lap or two with the event building lights switched on, but neither of these items were part of the tour. If anyone from Busch is reading this, how about it?