Every so often, I travel around the country to take in one of my favorite pastimes: riding roller coasters. Living in the New York Metropolitan area, the closest place to enjoy thrill rides is over two hours away, at Six Flags Great Adventure in Jackson, New Jersey. Being that Great Adventure is closest to me, I’ve ridden every ride the theme park has ever featured many times, great coasters such as Kingda Ka, El Toro, Nitro and more, but there are a great many other coasters out there that I don’t often get to ride.
In my travels I’ve visited amusement parks in and around the Northeastern United States, from Dorney, Knoebels, Kennywood and Hershey parks in Pennsylvania to King’s Island and Cedar Point in Ohio, and King’s Dominion and Busch Gardens in Virginia. Many of the coasters I’ve ridden at these parks have given me that great adrenaline rush that coaster enthusiasts seek when they ride and beginning with this piece I’d like to share some of those experiences.
Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia is one of the most beautiful parks in the world. It’s theme is “The Old Country,” named after the western European countries of Scotland, England, Ireland, France, Germany and Italy, and each section of the park makes you feel like you’ve literally stepped into each of these places.
The newest ride at Busch Gardens opened in 2012 on the site of what was a very popular ride. Verbolten is a wild car ride through a forbidden forest in Germany and is a very worthy replacement for a personal favorite, Big Bad Wolf. When the announcement had first been made in 2009 that Big Bad Wolf was closing, many people, including myself, were very disappointed, and plenty of riders flocked to the park to get one last ride on the fun coaster. The suspended coaster’s unique visual effects and swooping freefall over the Rhine River made it one of the most popular rides around, and at the time no one could imagine Busch Gardens without it, but then came Verbolten.
The queue to the new ride is typical of the authentic visuals found in the Old Country, with an abandoned old car overridden with greenery greets riders at the entrance. Old televisions, suitcases and radio equipment dot the line area, as a fräulein tells the story of the “forbidden forest.” First time riders are given a glimpse into what’s ahead for them on the ride and by the time one enters the line queues to board the trains, which are modeled after old German-made cars, excited anticipation fills the mind.
After boarding the trains, the coaster at first takes a short, leisurely ride out in a familiar countryside, though that relaxed feeling doesn’t last long. The train approaches a building, and as it reaches the entrance to the edifice, riders are propelled forward and upward into complete darkness. What follows is complete pandemonium, as the coaster navigates through twists and turns, ups and downs, with foreboding scenes of illuminated images of the forest all around. After thirty to forty seconds of this, the train begins to slow and eventually comes to a stop in complete darkness.
Riders cannot help but be filled with anticipation of what’s to come, as the train slowly backs its way towards an audible click. What happens next is the best part of the ride. The entire train suddenly and frighteningly drops to a lower track where it revs up to exit the building. Next, the coaster’s linear induction system propels it once again at a high speed outwards and upwards, prepping for the big finish. Here, the ride navigates that same, swooping hill down over the Rhine as the area’s former favorite once did, and like that, the ride is over!
Having been a big fan of Big Bad Wolf, I was definitely a skeptic when I first heard of the new Verbolten, but having ridden the thrilling ride, I can say that it is a very worthy replacement. During my last visit to Busch Gardens, I rode the coaster several times and loved each and every trip. As riders disembark the trains, the fräulein bids “auf wiedersehen.” Ah, till next time…I can’t wait!