Saturday, July 21, 2012

Busch Gardens: Wet and Wild

Day 2 of our jaunt was devoted entirely to the modern-day “thrill” genre of leisure time activities. After last night’s monsoon, we awoke to cloudy-but-non-precipitating heavens to start our day. Sadly, this was not to be the story of our Saturday, but we left the hotel with high hopes for many hours of nail-biting excitement and…other amusing stuff. Some background: I used to experience—and greatly enjoy--Busch Gardens on a regular basis with my own parents and siblings while I was growing up. Even so, I was a certified lily-livered kiddie ride devotee, paralyzed with fear at even the notion of climbing on something as terrifying as a rollercoaster. (For that matter, anything with a hill of any height whatsoever was right out.) That is, until Dad somehow convinced me (Cajoled? Shamed? Threatened? Tricked? Bribed? Any of these is plausible, I just don’t remember which tactic he employed…) to give the Loch Ness Monster a shot. That’s right, the biggest, fastest coaster ever built, at the time. With not only a ginormous mountain of an incline, but loops. Two of them. Don’t ask me how I ever got on that thing—but I ended up LOVING it. To this day, I fear heights in the Real World. After all, climbing tall ladders or scaling very steep rock faces or walking along the edges of soaring cliffs all could actually kill you. But put me on an amusement park rollercoaster with twists and turns and all kinds of crazy scary nonsense (including up-and-downs) and somehow it’s heartpounding in a fun way, rather than a “get me a defibrillator, STAT” way.

So now I was all grown up, returning to Busch Gardens for my first visit in decades, and the moment of truth had arrived: time to introduce my own children to the joy of stomach-knotting anticipation…followed by an intense period of screaming their heads off...and (hopefully) loving every second of the rush. Since we had gotten ourselves motivated and moving in a brisk fashion this morning (the words “free hot breakfast” and “complimentary coffee” tend to do that for us), we arrived at the park right about when it opened for business. And fortunately for us, the rampaging hordes—I mean the other people who planned to bask in the Busch Gardens environment—seemed to be running slightly behind us…meaning for about 2 hours, we reveled in a line-free zone and leaped instantly onto any attraction we decided to try. First up: Apollo’s Chariot, which would be Derek’s and Riley’s first “real” coaster (not counting the adorable but…tame…Goofy’s Barnstormer at Disney 3 years ago). Nothing like kicking off your day with a major tummy-dropping, sideways careening…warmup ride…right?  Afterwards, we assessed Riley’s reaction, which wasn’t difficult to judge, given the beaming face, excited hopping, and enthusiastic burst, “That was GREAT!”

Obviously, then, he was ready for the Big One. Bring on Nessie! Even Derek, though, admitted in the long line (as those “others” had apparently caught up with us and wanted to ride as well—darn them!) that he was feeling slightly nervous. His expression—equal parts bravado and trepidation—told the tale. Did we listen to his reservations patiently and reassure him gently? Phhh, we advised him to suck it up, since there was no possible way he wouldn’t absolutely adore it. (Good parenting? Hey, we know our kid.) It was just as exhilaratingly…terrifying as I remembered it. Wheee!!!! And yes, the next generation embraced it just as much as we thought they would.

Then there was an ominous announcement over the loudspeaker, broadcast to the entire park. Something about “severe weather headed our way” and “operations being temporarily suspended”, and advice to "wait it out". R-A-T-S! Haven’t we been wet enough already on this trip? Well, the Weather Gods’ answer was: “definitely not”, since the skies opened up again and dumped torrents of rain down onto the suddenly sloshy faux-European landscape. We managed to find a couple of indoor things to do (strangely enough, all utilizing 3D technology): a simulation that mimicked flying over various iconic sites (Coliseum, Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, Alps, Blarney Castle, etc.); a “haunted castle” deal with evil ghosts popping out at you and chucking sharp, lethal-looking (animated) weapons; and a Pirate-y movie. Afterwards, Derek gave this opinion, “I don’t really like the extra Ds…too much going on.” Here’s my counter: it sure does beat having sopping underwear….again. Can’t really argue with that one, huh? And some of the covered options still were available to us--so we whirled in dizzying rotations on the teacups, and battled centrifugal force on the "Trade Wind". (Around AND up and down...really, really fast. My fellow passenger--Derek--remained glued to my side despite his repeated best efforts to painstakingly inch his way back over to his part of the car. So naturally I briefed him on the physics of the matter as we whipped around the track. Good times.) Having traveled in circles for two rides in a row, Husband and Derek both firmly announced that they were "finished with spinny-things" for the rest of the day!

After that, during an apparent brief reprieve from the downpour, we heard the sweet sound of metal clacking on rails again…the fun had been re-started! Since I was now fading from lack of food, I chose to search for sustenance rather than stand in line for one of the coasters. However, the dry period lasted less than a half-hour, as my family came to find me when everything shut down once more—without having had a chance to make it on the ride. Bummer. On the plus side, I had retreated into the Festhaus in Germany (ironically, to eat French fries, not…bratwurst), and when they located me, they were just in time to see a bonus Fairy Tale Show! Whoo hoo! (Yeah, imagine Derek’s utter ecstasy at the frolicking Hansel and Gretel…and evil witch…and gnomes—not making that up…) But even the singing and dancing (and the fact that our clothes had finally, mercifully, dried out) couldn’t fully revive our flagging spirits at that point. And it continued to rumble and rain. So we finally gave up, counted ourselves lucky to have experienced several super-cool thrills and chills, and abandoned the splash zone for our climate-controlled, comfortable hotel room.

Thus ended Day 2 in Williamsburg: drippy but delightful.

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