The Conclusion of the Busch Gardens Williamsburg Roller Coaster Tour:
Alpengeist, Big Bad Wolf, & Apollo’s Chariot The rest of the Roller Coaster Tour felt a bit more brief. I’m not sure if it was because my tour group had fewer questions or because of the nature of the first two stops. The Loch Ness Monster portion was like a crash course in Coasterology 101 where we got insight into the basics of roller coaster operation. Then, we experienced Busch Garden’s tallest and newest roller coaster, Griffon, from all angles including atop the lift hill, in the maintenance area, and from behind the control panel. Now, it was on to Alpengeist, the roller coaster that many believe is the best inverted roller coaster in the World.
Alpengeist & Some Coaster Trivia When we arrived at Alpengeist we stopped in front of a large water pump near the station and maintenance area. Our tour guide, Zach Gray, explained that Alpengeist had to be designed to fit around the pump as it was just too costly to be moved. Then, in the clean and well-organized maintenance area we saw a train parked in the garage-like building. Gray offered up a trivia question asking us what the front “seatless” car on Alpengeist’s train was called. He hinted that other roller coasters like Manta also had this first empty car. On Manta it’s the large wing seen at the very front of the train. None of us knew that this was known as the zero car and it helped with the weight distribution of the train.
Alpengeist & Accelerometers
Next, we headed to the station for more ERT (exclusive ride time). Once again, we were the only riders on the train. I rode in the front for my first ride. Alpengeist is still an intense and fast ride. The cobra roll by the river borders on too rough, but I can overlook it because I love the rest of it so much. It’s easily my favorite intense coaster and the front seat felt extra fast with all that wind in my face. Based on the suggestion of a friendly ride op, I sat near an accelerometer mounted on the back of the 4th row for Math and Science days. I’d noticed them before, but never paid attention until this ride. It was cool watching the accelerometers react to Alpie’s intense and varied layout. The heavy g, light g, and zero-g forces were illustrated by the meter. Even if you’ve ridden Alpengeist a ton of times, like I had, I recommend you find one of these meters and watch it. Read my full Alpengeist coaster review to see why it gets one of my few 10 out 10’s.
A Final Look at Big Bad Wolf As we approached Big Bad Wolf we observed a train get transferred to the track and dispatched for a test run. Due to the ride’s maintenance operations, we were not allowed to visit the maintenance area or get exclusive rides. We were able to enter the station and ask any questions. Gray shared how the suspended Arrow roller coasters had been through several generations or designs. Big Bad Wolf was the first successful design (the first being the failed Bat at Kings Island). The newer suspended coasters like Eagle Fortress and Iron Dragon had slightly different trains from Big Bad Wolf’s. So, we shouldn’t expect to see any parts emerge on the few other suspended coasters.
Why Big Bad Wolf Was Closed With the news of Big Bad Wolf’s closing I took the opportunity to ask for a clearer explanation of why the ride was closing. Zach explained that based on the ride’s dynamics, design, and specific installation, the manufacturer (Arrow), set a service life for the roller coaster. He compared it to the rider height requirements set by coaster manufacturers that parks agree to follow. In other words, Arrow may have told Busch that Big Bad Wolf will last about 25 years. Finally, on our walk to Italy the staff took pictures of the group from the bridge overlooking several of the park’s roller coasters. Read more on Big Bad Wolf’s closing and read my full Big Bad Wolf review.
Apollo’s Chariot: No Seat Belts Needed
Our tour ended with Apollo’s Chariot in Italy’s Festa Italia area. Now celebrating its 10th year, Apollo’s Chariot is one of the most beloved hyper coasters around. We headed for the maintenance area to get one more behind-the-scenes look. I asked reader Austin’s question about why Bolliger & Mabillard designed hyper coasters don’t have seat belts like the Intamin designed hyper coasters. Gray had an interesting answer. He explained that seat belts are more of a measuring device than an actual restraint to keep riders in their seats. When the seat belt attaches to the lap bar on Intamin hypers, then the lap bar must be low or safe enough for the rider to ride. Apollo’s Chariot’s trains have sensors on each lap bar that tell the ride ops if the lap bars are low enough.
Apollo = God of Airtime
By now, the park was open and Apollo’s Chariot’s station was already busy. The tour group entered through the exit and as we did a ride op explained to the crowd in the station that we were on a VIP roller coaster tour. It was nice way to promote the tours and also explain why were able to basically cut in line. He explained how we’d just been to the top of Griffon and gotten a great behind-the-scenes look at the roller coasters. We selected our seats and then the people in the station joined us. We were treated with two rides on my number 3 ranked roller coaster. I’m happy to report that the ride still holds up. Apollo’s Chariot is an ultra smooth, airtime-packed, scenic adventure. Read my full Apollo’s Chariot review.
Skip the Line Ride Passes Overall, the latter part of the tour was less educational, but still a lot of fun. After we exited Apollo’s Chariot, we were given skip the line ride passes to ride each of the roller coasters again later in the day. We also gave our information to a park employee so that we could pick a disc of all of the pictures the photographers had taken during the tour.