OK since you guys are chomping at the bit for this report (lol) and its dead at work today I whipped up a little something to wet your whistle. Not many pictures from this first part, but lots more coming. My Virgin Visit to Virginiaor: How A Grizzly Took A Bite Out Of Me, But Not My WeekendPart One
I first met Coasterbill in person during our mutual visits to Cedar Point during Memorial Day weekend of 2015. We immediately hit it off and have met up a handful of times since, always resulting in really great times. He is just as much of a witty assh*le as his online persona suggests.
I guess it was sometime during closing day of Holiday In The Park @ Great Adventure earlier this year when we discussed him scooping me up on his annual trip down to Kings Dominion in the fall. Kings has been in my top 3 buckletlist parks for a couple years now (the other two are Busch Tampa and Dollywood, in case you are wondering) - thanks mostly to the existence of I305, otherwise solid lineup, close-but-kinda-far proximity and mostly positive reviews. Of course I jumped on the opportunity and we started to solidify our plans when he and his missus Brittney came down to visit me in Wildwood this summer (still waiting on that report, Billy!)
Earlier this season I made a handful of trips over to Great Adv and also spent a day at Six Flags Over Georgia while visiting my sister in Athens, GA. Otherwise I spent the most of my summer in Wildwood since it was too hot to deal with the crowds at Great Adv, though I did manage two late-summer jaunts to Dorney and Great Adv in late August and early September, respectively. While I really enjoyed my summer of 2016, there is nothing like going to an unfamiliar park and riding coasters for the first time. By mid-September I was itching for that. Bad.
A few weeks ago we mutually agreed we had to figure out what weekend would work for all parties involved - and settled on the 1st of October. While I was visiting Wildwood two weeks ago for my last rides of 2016, we texted back and forth finalizing things, pulled the trigger on booking a hotel, and since I do not have Cedar Fair season passes like Bill & Brit, I found an excellent discount for admission and Fast Lane+, and for the hell of it, got all-day dining so I could eat as much as I wanted and spend the cash I'd have on hand on things like souvenirs... and beer. (Disclaimer: I always budget for but never buy any skip-the-line program in advance as the weather can and will dictate what crowds will be like and that is completely unpredictable, but the discount was so good I basically got in the park for less than half off, and I figured if it turned out to be a quiet day that I could use it to power-ride Volcano which I've only ever heard has terrible capacity and ridiculous waits. It turned out the weather cooperated and the FL+ was not totally needed since the crowds only got really heavy at night, but it did help us get a ton more riding in than I had even hoped for.)
When we first discussed this trip, it was planned to be a double date type of thing with an even four of us - Bill and Brit and me and my #1 lady, but as she is not as into going balls deep power-riding at parks like we are, she eventually decided to sit this one out. Unfortunate, and made me super bummed, but I wasn't going to let that stop me from visiting this bucketlist park. The original plan was to get rooms for Friday and Saturday night at Kings Quarters (located a short walk away, in the park's parking lot essentially) - we'd drive down Friday, spend all day Saturday, and head home Sunday. That quickly went out the door when we realized Kings Quarters was booked solid. We shopped around and decided to just be cheap asses and stay in nearby Ashland (one exit south on 95 from the park) at a Days Inn, literally at the bottom of the Ashland exit. Really it was a blessing in disguise as cheap ass hotel = more beer money!
In the middle of the week leading up to the trip I got a very exciting text from Bill - that as a season passholder to SeaWorld/Busch parks, they had a BAFF I could use if I wanted to on Sunday pop down to Busch Gardens Williamsburg, a park I've been wanting to visit for basically my entire life. My initial reaction was "Ive heard such good things about Busch, I dont really know if a quick pop-in is how I first want to experience that park
" but what I actually texted back to Bill was along the lines of "Hell yea I'm in!
Of course all week the weather was teetering back and forth between crappy and nice and the Thursday and Friday of our trip was (at least in Philly) an autumn blast of cold rainy crap. I always have good luck with weather on park days - I've had brief short showers on occasion but literally have never experienced a total washout, luckily. *knocks on wood* I was ecstatic to wake up Friday morning and check the forecast for the Doswell and Williamsburg areas to see it had turned and would be a mix of clouds/sun with little-to-no rain.
I got a text at 3:15pm Friday that Bill had just picked up Brit at work and were on their way from New York down to Philly. Knowing he'd be coming into the city right at rush hour, and with a Phillies/Mets game starting at 7, texted him to "anticipate traffic
". I worked til 5, rushed home to finish packing the last few things when I started getting texts from Bill about how they were 7 miles away but were in dead-stop traffic, just as I predicted. Luckily once we got him off 95 and into the hood for a stretch-the-legs/pee break before the 2nd leg of their epic journey to south of the Mason-Dixon line (I swear the southern accent starts as soon as you cross this thing), and back on the highway, the traffic had mostly cleared and we were on our way. The only other bits I think we hit were around DC of course. The only notable things about the drive was a brief monsoon we had to drive though in the middle of Virginia, and that Bill and I nerded out so hardcore that Brit quietly inserted her earbuds at one point.
Bill has done this drive a bunch so he was winging it but I was in the backseat using my phone to surf the net, and occasionally checking my GPS to see where we were/how much longer the drive was while texting my other half to let her know how our journey was going.
Around 11pm, we had finally made our way all the way down 95 South to Doswell, where I could see the fog and light pollution coming over the barrier of trees between us and the park. I asked Bill if I should keep an eye out for any tall rides we might be able to see, when he unexpectedly pulled off at the Doswell exit, Brit and I wondering what the hell he was up to. He passed the front of the park and even though it features many very tall rides, thanks to the parks Haunt fog combined with the already steamy night we could only really see a little bit of Dominator across the parking lot and the parks entrance sign along the road. Bill quietly explained "I'm looking for a little road up here...
" and suddenly cut a quick right turn down a dark, shady back road. We drove through the darkness, Bill wondering aloud where we were in relation to rides inside the park. We slowly crawled up this dark, foggy, deserted back road with our windows down trying to see or hear anything but the forest was too thick... until suddenly an opening in the trees.
I305 has sat firmly at the top of my bucketlist since I fell back into this hobby just over three years ago, and here I am sitting in a car, on a creepy rural, Virginian road late at night, finally face to face with this monster of a machine. My hair stood on end - the moment was not very different from driving over Cedar Points causeway at night during our visit last year. We wondered if it was running when suddenly Brit pointed and exclaimed "Look there it goes!
" and through the darkness and fog we could just barely make out the train being absolutely ripped up the lift... and over the crest... and down that ridiculous looking first drop. The silence was cut by the sound of screaming, falling riders, and the train disappeared beneath the tree line. "OK be quiet I want to hear this thing!
" I said, and we listened as it zipped around its mostly low-to-the-ground course, completely out of our view. Jesus Christ, the freaking sound this thing makes! I have a weird fetish for coaster sounds - the B&M roar, the Intamin fart, LIMs firing up, accelerators launching, etc. I305 has a sort of menacing gurgle, I can't think of another way to describe it.
Bill joked that he wanted to go into the park for a quick ride, but as I am not a Cedar Fair passholder, that wasn't an option for me - my ticket was only good for Saturday. I did offer to sit in the lot if the two of them wanted to run in, but we agreed we should head to Ashland to get to our hotel and get some rest for a full day tomorrow.
Of course the night wouldn't end there. On and back off 95 in a few minutes we arrived in Ashland, VA, hungry after our long drive, to a mostly commercial stretch of hotels and restaurants, most of which looked closed. We talked about looking for fast food but then spotted what looked like a sports bar (lots of TV's) with a handful of people finishing up for the night. We quickly pulled up, ran through the rain to the entrance and were greeted by the weary eyed staff who informed us they were closing but if we wanted anything from their late night menu (aka "anything from the fryer") that we had to order right away. We split mozzarella sticks and their variation of crab fries - which were no Chickies, but they were great. Came out hot and fast. As we ate and had a few beers while the place cleared out, Ashland rolled out the welcome wagon for us in the form of the town drunk saddling up to the bar just in time for last call. We knew this because of the reaction of the staff who were obviously familiar with this guy, and also because he was completely sh*tfaced. He sat around the corner of the bar from us and proceeded to chew our ears off about everything and absolutely nothing at the same time, but after the long drive and with food and a few beers now in our bellies we were completely entertained.
We stumbled outside around 12:30 into the rain once again for a two minute drive around to our Days Inn to check in, and get some shut-eye. The hotel was nothing to rave about but fairly clean, no bugs, all around most definitely could have been worse. Amazingly after a full day of work followed by a five hour drive followed by food and beers, like a kid on Christmas, I still couldn't sleep. So I sat up on my phone/watching TV until dozing about 2:30am, with my alarm set for 7:30am.More to come...