Williamsburg AAR

At long last, here’s my promised, much-delayed report on my weekend in Williamsburg, VA.

Friday was a long day. I took Amtrak Northeast Regional from Philadelphia. The train was scheduled to depart at Noon. Mama Raptor and I got there at about 11:15. So I sent Mama Raptor home and waited around the station for forty-five minutes. Not a whole lot to do then except guard my luggage. Yeah, I’m paranoid, I know. Anyway, the train was pretty much jam-packed from Philadelphia down to Washington D.C. We had a half-hour layover in D.C. whilst the train crew switched locomotives. The Northeast Corridor, which stretches from Boston down to D.C. is all powered by electric locomotives, but the track south of Washington isn’t electrified (i.e. no overhead wires) so we had to switch to a diesel locomotive.

Once we got moving again, the train was pretty much full from  D.C. down to Richmond. All in all, the trip was pretty uneventful… until about 5:45 PM. The train stopped a little bit south of Ashville, Virginia. Now, there was no station here, so I figured there was a problem. I was right: an idiot driver had tried to beat a CSX freight train through a railroad crossing a few miles a head of us, and lost. All trains on the line had to stop until the authorities could clear the wreckage off the track. Our train was supposed to get to Williamsburg at about 6:15. We didn’t start moving again until 7:45. Finally got to Willimasburg at about 8:30 PM. Went to WaWa (yes, there is a WaWa in Williamsburg) and wolfed down one of the sorriest excuses for a cheesesteak sandwich I’ve ever seen. Not that I cared: I’d eaten lunch just outside of Philly, had finished my last snacks at about 6:30, and the Cafe Car had been closed. Went to bed early that night.

Saturday, Little Brother and I went to Busch Gardens. Short version: we had a BLAST! We rode pretty much everything there was to ride, except Escape from Pompeii, which was closed, and Roman Rapids, because the line was insanely long and we didn’t feel like waiting an hour plus to ride it.

Now, for those of you who haven’t been to the park before, Busch Gardens Williamsburg presently has four roller coasters: Loch Ness Monster (the park’s signature attraction), Alpengeist, Apollo’s Chariot, and Griffon. We rode all four. Here’s how I rate them:

  • Loch Ness Monster: pretty good, but not that intense. Forgiveable since the coaster was built back in the 80’s.
  • Alpengeist: HELLZ YEAH! Definitely my favorite coaster in the park.
  • Apollo’s Charriot: WOOHOO! Almost, but not quite, as great as Alpengeist.
  • Griffon: OHMYGODWEREGONNADIEHELPMEGODIWANTMYMOMMY!!!!!!!!!!!!

Griffon is hands-down the most intense coaster I’ve ever ridden. It’s what’s called a Diving Machine (or, for those of you familiar with Roller Coaster Tycoon, a Vertical Coaster). This thing drops you 210 feet at 72 miles per hour… straight down. You’re in total freefall down that first hill. And not only that, but the sadistic minds who designed the coaster installed a braking system at the top of the first hill, so you get to hang over the drop for about five seconds before you finally fall. No. Heck no. Not again.

In addition to completely scaring the you-know-what out of me, Griffon also showed me just how… unusual… Little Brother is. We get to the top of the hill, hit the brake, and are hanging over the edge, when the following exchange occured:

Little Brother: How high up are we?

Raptor: TOO HIGH!!! TOO HIGH!!!

LB: I was hoping for an exact figure. I’d say…. (looks down) two hundred feet?

R: WHY DO YOU CARE?!?!

LB: And how fast do we go on the way down?

R: I DON’T KNOW! SEVENTY-SOMETHING…. (I look over and see LB fiddling with his calculator watch) Wait… are you doing physics problems…. on a roller coaster?

LB: (looks at me like I’m crazy) Yeah.

R: You’re (the brake releases) InsAYEAAAAAAAUUUUUUUUUGGGGGGGGGGGGHHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!!! (screams like a little girl through the whole ride)

We get to the end of the ride, I’ve got a white-knuckle death-grip on my harness’ hand-holds, and LB looks over at me and says something to the effect of “That stunk. I forgot to hit the button on my stopwatch on the way out of that loop. Now all my data’s messed up.”

You read that correctly. He was trying to do physics… in his head… through the whole ride.

That said, I want to ride Griffon again… if only so that I can say I made it down both vertical drops (there’s another one about halfway through the ride) with my eyes open. Yes, I closed them during the vertical bits. I couldn’t help it.

Anyway, out of all the rides we went on, there was only one that I was really disappointed by. It’s called Curse of DarKastle, a haunted house with 3D special effects. Basically, you sit in these cars, wear 3D glasses, and the ride simulates all of these movements, including free-fall. Technologically, it’s pretty impressive, but that’s about all it’s got going for it. The ride’s “story” is that you’re exploring this haunted castle and are being chased by a dark magician who turns into a werewolf. There was one bit that was pretty freaky (a 3D effect where a snake comes out of a guy’s mouth), but that’s about it. For the entire ride, I couldn’t help but think to myself “If Owen Pitt and his crew from Larry’s Correia’s Monster Hunter International series were here, this ride would’ve been over in two seconds.” Magic werewolves aren’t so tough when they’re being ventilated by silver 00-buckshot.

All things considered, I’d go back to Busch Gardens in a heartbeat.

So, Sunday was pretty slow. LB and I went to church in the morning, went into Colonial Williamsburg for lunch. There’s this great little sandwich place on Duke of Gloucester Street (aka DOG Street). Called The Cheese Shop. I swear, the food there is to die for. After lunch, LB gave me a tour of campus. Let me tell you, William & Mary is an awesome school with a very beautiful campus. I wish I’d gone there. The tour took until about 2:30, and was very nice, except for the fact that it started pouring about halfway through and neither of us had so much as an umbrella, let alone a jacket. Apparently such weather is par for the course down there. So we had about three hours to kill until my train arrived, so we walked up and down DOG street again. I got myself another sandwich at The Cheese Shop for my dinner, we grabbed some chocolates at a candy store (I wish I could remember the name of it), packed up my stuff, and headed for the train station.

One thing I should mention about Williamsburg and William & Mary is that the campus is two blocks from the train station and right across the street from DOG Street, which is the central “hub” if you will of Colonial Williamsburg, so the school is located very conveniently for traveling students and anyone who’s bored on the weekend.

Train ride up was blessedly uneventful. The train was completely sold out from D.C. (there was an hour layover there this time) to BWI Airport, and we didn’t get into Philly until midnight, which was the scheduled arrival time, but aside from that, it was pretty nice.

All in all, I had a great weekend (aside from the 2+ hour delay on the way down), and LB and I are gonna try and set up another weekend either later in the summer or early in the school year.

Also, I’m gonna have to post a review of Robert A. Heinlein’s novel Starship Troopers at some point. I read it on the train ride down, and it actually saved my sanity during the delay. It’s a good book. Interesting, somewhat unusual, but good.

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