Unlike most major amusement parks, Busch Gardens Williamsburg takes the title of a theme park seriously. The beautifully landscaped gardens and detailed buildings catch the eye from the moment one passes through the park gate. The architecture presents a drastic change for people used to the bland decorative style that one might typically associate with a Six Flags park.
The current signature attraction at this park was also our first coaster of the morning. Apollo's Chariot (#171) is one of four hypercoasters built by B&M to date. I'd been looking forward to the ride for some time, having particularly enjoyed Raging Bull late last year. Needless to say I was not disappointed; the feeling of floating you get over every single hill is what makes this ride. Andrew immediately proclaimed it to be his new favourite steel coaster, and while it didn't quite make that accolade for me it wasn't far off.
Unfortunately our ride was somewhat marred by someone we'd never met before, who had taken advantage of the single rider line to take the fourth seat in our row. This individual felt compelled to flip the bird at the on-ride photo, and for that reason the park refused to sell us a copy of the picture. This was particularly unfortunate as the shot of the rest of us was pretty good. Those who engage in behaviour like this should be removed from the park. I'd happily have escorted the reprobate out personally, but he had wisely disappeared from the ride area.
On route to the next coaster we ran into a group of people from the Roller Coaster Club of Great Britain, all of whom had been on the trip I took part in earlier this year. Better yet, these fine people had spent an extra week touring additional parks at the end of that trip, yet here they were back in the country less than two months later. And yes, I'm aware this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black, but in mitigation, my trip at least coincides with a visit to family!
Big Bad Wolf (#172) is a ride that features on the America's Greatest Coasters DVD. After riding it, it was impossible not to wonder why; though it had some pretty impressive theming, the whole layout never picked up a lot of speed thanks to some very aggressive braking. There was a superb drop right at the end of the ride, but by then it was too late for me not to consider the experience to be, on the whole, dull. Having said that, it did at least have the capacity for a park on this scale, unlike the bog standard Wild Maus (#173). Slow loading meant this ride had an altogether inexcusable ninety minute wait.
Fortunately the day was saved by the tallest full circuit inverted coaster in the world. Like so much else at Busch Gardens, Alpengeist (#174) has some very detailed theming. The whole ride is set up to look like an out of control ski lift, even down to the station which features a model of a crashed skiier (is that a word?) on the roof. Portions of the ride felt like it had been built to enter into the record books, but even still the overall experience was top notch.
The final coaster at the park was one that I wasn't particularly looking forward to. Loch Ness Monster (#175) is one of two coasters in the world with interlocking loops built by Arrow Dynamics in the late seventies, and the other, Orient Express, had not been a particularly pleasant experience. Fortunately I need not have worried; while not as smooth as Apollo's Chariot, the ride was still one of the smoothest Arrow designs I'd been on.
Mary and Steve wanted to watch a show in the Irish section of the park, which gave me a unique opportunity to review an imitation version of my own country. The architecture was certainly authentic enough, but there were a few critical details that revealed it to be nothing more than a crude copy. First of all, there were no road works anywhere; one cannot even begin to simulate Ireland without having a third of the streets under construction. Second, there were no serious looking gentlemen waiting outside the bar ready to refuse entry to anyone wearing clothes they didn't like. Third, no self respecting Irish gift shop would sell God Bless America badges. Finally, the accents were appalling, with an American twang clearly audible under a bad attempt at wesht cark. Oh well!