Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I Lampoon Our "European" Vacation

One of the things that frustrates me about these past 13 months is that the family didn't get a fun, summer getaway because I was undergoing treatment.  I realize that I can't do anything about that and that getting treatment trumps other considerations, but it was still annoying.  We did, however, manage to squeeze in a five-day trip before school started.  Anyway, I won't write an entry for each day, just a synopsis of our trip to Virginia and "Europe." No, not the Europe in Europe, nor the Europe in Orlando, FL.  We went to Busch Gardens Europe in Williamsburg, VA, where roller coasters and other rides are set amidst European scenes, like fake castles and fake marketplaces.

The first thing that made it feel like going to Europe was the long trip down I-95 in rush-hour Friday traffic.  A movie and free alcohol would have made the experience more authentic, but at least we avoided the security line at Dulles.  We were joined, for part of our stay, by brother-of-270 and his family.  Their flight from Florida was shorter than our drive.

The five flags of Europe
So, unencumbered by passports or Schengen visas, we headed to Europe.  To quote Donald Rumsfeld, this is Old Europe.  The only representatives were the United Kingdom, Ireland, Germany, France, and Italy; no Baltic states, former SSRs or former Yugoslav Republics.  Fortunately for los amigos madrileƱos, Spain was not represented.  I write "fortunately," because that's four amigos and 45 million others who won't be pissed off at Anheuser Busch for trivializing their country. Here's a brief look at selected "countries" and other notable items.
  • United Kingdom (Lite):  This UK was missing Wales and Northern Ireland, but who, other than me, is counting.  Hooligan Chase would be a good, soccer-themed, thrill ride here.  We didn't do much in the UK, except get on a ride that takes you away to France.
  • France:  The big thrill ride here, The Griffon,  was out of order when I tried to get on.  It really was out of service, not a usual French strike.  By the time I returned, it was in service but the wait was 45 minutes.  So I skipped it.  Our main attraction here was the all-you-can-eat buffet that featured traditional French dishes such as southern-fried chicken, hot dogs, and macaroni and cheese.  None of that coq au vin or escargot.  France was adjacent to another area of the park, titled "New France."  If you're wondering what "New France" is, it's Canada, complete with a trading post for north woods tschotkes.  France my derriere!
  • Italy:.  Unlike the real Italy, no-one in BG's version smoked or rode scooters.  Now that would be a good ride, Bumper Vespas.  We did ride Escape from Pompeii, a water ride in which your boat floats past collapsing columns and statues, propane volcanoes, and finally, down a flume where you are splashed.  I told my kids that it's just like Indiana Jones, the world's worst archeologist.  Every time he enters an ancient temple, it crumbles to dust.  Anyway, Italy was the site of the only roller coaster that I went on (alone), Apollo's Chariot.  This was one of the few rides that made some sense.  If you remember your Roman mythology (which they plagiarized from the Greeks), you know the story of Apollo's son who took his dad's chariot without permission and went careening across the skies.  The roller coaster was sort of like that, in 45 seconds and with more screaming.
  • Germany:  Here we took a ride through Dark Kastle, a house occupied by 3-D werewolves, which scared the kids.  Then we ate at Festhaus, where dancers danced to traditional German polka and oom-pah Musik.  What authentic German fare did we eat?  Pizza.
  • Consistent (?!) with the European theme was a Jack Hanna exhibit with North American grey wolves and North American bald eagles.  This must be the NATO part of Europe.
  • Gastarbeiters.  Translated as guest workers, this is the German term for foreign labor.  Except that they stayed in Germany, fought for citizenship, and their children now play for the German national soccer team.  BG (and the rest of Williamsburg) is filled with young people, mainly from Eastern Europe, with summer work permits.  This makes some sense.  If you're going to risk your life on a roller coaster, it's good to know that the people at the controls are good in physics and engineering.
  • Shopping:  Who are these people who travel to a fake Europe and then spend thousands of dollars for a German cuckoo clock?  If they have that kind of cash, why not travel to the real Germany?  Seriously, "Germany" contains a cuckoo clock store.  Sadly, there is no German beer store, because this is BUSCH Gardens.
Donald or Douglas takes passengers around the Island of Sodor

Dum Dum.  You give me gum gum
Once you leave Busch Gardens and are back in American Williamsburg, you may visit President's Park.  A collection of giant busts of the 42 American Presidents, prior to Barack Obama, in one small park.  Obama is currently represented by a life-sized bust in the visitor center.  I don't know if this is because the sculptors are working on the giant Obama bust or if this is Virginia being Virginia.  Anyway, this place is America's Easter Island.  Presidential first name trivia:
  • 6 named James (Madison, Monroe, Polk, Buchanan, Garfield, Carter).
  • 5 named John (Adams, Q Adams, Tyler, Coolidge, Kennedy)
  • 4 named William (H Harrison, McKinley, Taft, Clinton)
  • 3 named George (Washington, HW Bush, W Bush)
  • 2 named Andrew (Jackson, Johnson), Franklin (Pierce, Roosevelt), and Thomas (Jefferson, W Wilson)
Williamsburg Arsenal FC
Colonial Williamsburg:  OK, pretty much all of you know about this 18th century colonial village, one of several cradles of the American Revolution - at least the only one that charges you $36 to get in.  Williamsburg craftsmen use techniques of the period to make bricks, silver items, wool yarn, and ummm... funny hats.  Williamsburg actors portray revolutionary war-era events such as a protest of the new taxes in the Stamp Act, which is ironic because the food and beverage tax in Williamsburg is 10 FREAKIN' PERCENT!  With all that history around them, what did the boys enjoy most?  Guns from the gift shop.  My little Americans.

Water Country USA:  The last day of the trip turned out to be the most exciting.  The boys, who eschewed anything that looked like or was next to a roller coaster in BG, eagerly went down water slides.

After that, it was back on I-95 for the quick return trip home with the mandatory stop at Cracker Barrel.  Country fried steak, can't get that in any Europe.


  1. Does Williamsburg Arsenal FC play in the Busch League? Or make that "Liga"?

    Glad you got away. Team Doc tries to hit Busch Gardens once a year -- but not this year, unfortunately. I still miss the free tour of the brewery. I think they ended the tour when DadRyan refused to leave.

  2. you missed late night minature golf back at the hotel, something else the colonists did.