Traveling to Virginia Should Not Be Done by Amateurs
Back in April or May, Bobby and I entered into discussions of how exactly we wanted to spend our ninth anniversary. (This is nine years of love, mind you, not marriage; we were high school sweethearts.) Our anniversary being 31 May, we decided to go to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg because we are both rollercoaster freaks and BGW is our favorite theme park.
Of course, being Dawn and Bobby, nothing can be made a simple occasion for just the two of us. We could hardly go to Busch Gardens without taking our best friend Harry Potter, who shares in our love of coaster excitement. And then we heard about a deal where, if you buy three season passes, you get the fourth free, and so our sister-in-law ended up going along too.
By now, it wasn't much of an anniversary trip, though. So we bumped it back to June, when everyone was out of college, and sufficed to have dinner at the Iron Bridge Wine Company and see the new Star Wars again, an excursion that cost nearly as much as both of our season passes would and so *seemed* like it should be a mini-vacation, even though it was a single evening and no more than ten miles from home.
We got season passes because they cost the same as the two-day pass, and we figured that a late-summer weekend return could be in the works, if we wanted. On our first trip, we stayed at the Travelodge. Upon arriving, the room smelled of mildew, but we are a hopeful and unpicky lot, and we noticed but failed to comment. When Bobby tried to take a shower later that night, the faucet flew out of the wall and water sprayed everywhere. The hotel experience went downhill from there, beginning with the fact that, when we returned the next day to freshen up for supper, our shower still had not been fixed, despite our alerting the front desk about it nine hours earlier.
Needless to say, upon our return, I summoned all of my persuasive nasty-letter-writing powers and ended up getting a free night's stay at the Travelodge, which basically meant a free holiday whenever we wanted. (The manager originally tried to make the offer good during the off-season only, but *that* idea was quickly thwarted, let me tell you!)
So, with a weekend with nothing to do and free park admission and a free night's stay in a hotel, we had a ready-made and practically free vacation.
Before I begin, allow me to offer warnings and apologies to Virginia residents. I am about to trash your state. Yes, I think your state sucks. I do not think you suck because I probably don't know you, but your state makes Maryland look like the cradle of logic and scholarship in issues of civil engineering.
Bobby was warned by coworkers who live in Virginia that I-95 south gets to be quite hectic on Saturdays because of people going to shop. (I-95, for those non-native to the eastern US, is one of our country's largest highways. It stretches the entire length of the east coast, from Florida to Maine.) So we left early on Saturday, hoping to beat the traffic, on a trip that should take about three hours.
We reached construction on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge in Washington, DC and did not drive a steady speed until exiting onto I-295 about 20 miles north of Richmond. For those unfamiliar with the area, that is about one hundred miles of drifting along at 20 mph. Our three-hour trip took us five-and-a-half hours. (Although, to be fair, we stopped for breakfast, so take forty-five minutes off the total.)
The mystery: There is nothing in Virginia. Past DC, it is about forty miles to Fredericksburg, which is hardly a metropolis, and another 80 miles to Richmond, the capital. Between? Nothing. So what caused all of the traffic? I can honestly say that I have no idea.
Finally, at 1:30, we arrived in Williamsburg.
Temperatures were supposed to be in the low nineties on Saturday. What they failed to mention was the humidity: It was unbelievably humid, and so felt like being wrapped in a hundred-degree sopping-wet blanket. (100 F is about 40 C.) I love hot weather, but even I kept getting lightheaded from the heat while waiting in line for Alpengeist, although that made being thrown around loops and corkscrews quite an experience. Afterward, though, we practically ran to the Festhaus for drinks. Bobby was contemplating a beer, but the bio-nerds in both of us know that alcohol dehydrates and is not the best idea on that kind of day. So we settled for lemonade and three cups of complimentary water. (Potter, of course, had soda. If the man cuts himself, he bleeds bubbly brown stuff.)
It was also very crowded. Very crowded and very hot are not a happy mix. We were sitting in the Festhaus, looking at each other, and everyone secretly thinking that, so far, this trip royally sucked.
Finally, we decided to skip out of the park for some supper and come back for the evening. So we checked into the hotel, checked the shower (the faucet did not fly across the tub this time), and tried to recover from two hours in bumper-to-bumper traffic followed by two hours in a steaming hot theme park packed shoulder-to-shoulder with people, half of whom were screaming children.
Upon leaving for pizza, we saw a magnificent sight: Piled on the horizon was a black storm cloud. Complete with lightning. Complete with rain. It seemed that the heat and humidity had given us one gift, at least: A late afternoon thunderstorm, enough to drive the temperatures down and the people away.
That thunderstorm saved our trip. By the time we were finished supper, the worst had passed. Most of the rides had reopened by our return to the park, and the people (especially the screaming children) had magically disappeared. It was cool enough to walk one hundred feet without stopping for water.
Bobby and I said that the three of us could be happy going to Busch Gardens if we got to ride just one ride: Apollo's Chariot. It is our favorite coaster, and we have ridden many. It is a hypercoaster and so does not loop, but the first drop is 210 feet and the restraints are such that your feet do not touch the ground. Hold up your hands, and you feel like you're flying.
Last time we went to Busch Gardens, we discovered a secret: The line for the front is long and so, at the end of the night, if you are willing to settle for one of the middle cars, and there is no one behind you, then they will let you stay on until the front line is empty. Last time, we got three consecutive rides. This time, we got only two, but it saved our day.
And the traffic going home was not bad at all.
All this talk about coasters makes me want to go home and waste my time on Rollercoaster Tycoon 2. Does anyone else have this game? Because I am in the process of designing scenarios patterned after First Age Middle-earth and would be happy to swap with anyone who's interested. (Of course, that means that I'll actually have to *finish* an entire scenario....)