Ah, I am awake this morning. I think I might have finally gotten over my weekend. It was long and fun!
So, we took a shortcut to Griffon from Nessie that went down by the railroad tracks (well, under the bridge the tracks go on before the Scotland station) and in the back side of Griffon. This is where the fun really began. There were eleven of us on the tour, but a dad and his two daughters weren't going to go up the lift to the top. Yes, the TOP of Griffon. For safety reasons, the top of Griffon, where the car turns to get to the first drop, has a floor so that if a car were to get stuck, they could unload the passengers. The lift is basically a little car that rides up the first lift. It has seats for 8 passengers, with seatbelts. We sat down, buckled up and then rode up to the top.
I will admit that I chickened out by the time we got up there. The car is very steep itself with rather high steps, and it was pretty windy up there. I am not really afraid of heights, but my eyesight isn't that great with bad depth perception and horrible peripheral vision. I almost thought about going up after the car stopped rocking, but I was rather content just standing there and looking around. I was probably 200' above the ground anyway. The walkway on top of the coaster is actually 210'. The 205' drop is measured from the rail itself. My husband went up and took some awesome pictures. I took a few with my phone before deciding that I should put that up since I'm a klutz. It really was beautiful from up there, though. You can see the James River so well. I wish the sky had been clear. You probably could have seen even further.
When I refused to walk up to the top, one of the maintenance guys came down to make sure I was all right. He's afraid of heights, too, but works on a rolercoaster! He said he rode Griffon after they had finished it and called his wife immediately to tell her. He loved riding. He was trying to tell me how safe it was and all, which I know it is. Busch goes over the top with their safety requirements. They go above and beyond the state and national requirements, which is why there have been so few accidents at their parks. To put it another way, the Rhine cruise boats are piloted by retired Naval officers who take a lot of pride in their boats. If I ride is down when you happen to be there, it's either the four hour check or someone has been stupid and done something they shouldn't have. There are all sorts of precautions to keep everyone from getting hurt. When you see a sign that says ride restricted area, do not go in! That's how you get hurt or get everyone on the ride pissed at you for getting it shut down.
Once we got down back on solid ground, we were taken into the maintenance bay. There was still one car in the bay, so we got a good look at how Griffon works. The wheels are so different from Nessie's. Jon, who was showing us around in there, handed me one of the big wheels (top wheel on the track) and man, it was heavy! My husband estimated that they are about 50-60 pounds. We were standing under the car, so you could see the roll back hooks for climbing the hill and the clamp that holds you at the top of the drop. It's amazing that one little piece of steel is keeping that huge car with all those people in place for four seconds before dropping. Each side of the car has restraint releases for the five seats on each side of the rows. The rooster tails (the water spray) are produced by open ended metal boxes at the back of each car that dip into the water. All three cars have different spray patterns. I'd never really noticed that before!
The others came back down and we went up to the station to ride. We had to wait for them to load the third car, which was so cool to watch from the exit side of the platform where the maintenance bay is. They had to cycle the cars through, so we got to go up into the control booth. It's amazing the differences between Nessie and Griffon. Nessie has b&w screens and just a couple with a huge board. Griffon has a bank of about 10 color screens that cover the entire ride and a more digital board, but still has the release buttons. It was so cool watching the cars go past each of the cameras. Then we loaded up and got two rides. We sat in the front first and then the back. I love Griffon!
Next we walked over to Alpengeist. Since the park was open, we rode first. We just went once since we'd ridden it on Friday night. It's one of our favorite rides. I think they'd gotten new harnesses, because I usually have trouble getting my harness to hit that last click until I'm going up the hill. This time it clicked right away. On most rides, I'm just about half an inch away from the next click to get the harness tight enough. After everyone finished their second ride (and our gracious host and photographer got to ride, too), we headed into the Alpengeist maintenance bay. Not much different here, just how it is more like a barn since the car is hanging from instead of sitting on the rails. They have huge crab pots that they use to heat the metal to get off worn or defective nylon on the wheels. After they replace the nylon, they have to cure for several weeks in the sun before they can even touch the rails. And then they have to run so many hours without people before they can be used on a real run. More safety at work.
We took the back way out of Alpengeist and came out beside the Festhaus. We then headed to Italy and Apollo's Chariot. Another maintenance bay much like the others, just this one is purple and yellow. By the way, the reason Alpengeist and Griffon are painted blue is so they will blend into the sky. The locals at Kingsmill don't want anything ugly in their skyline. They still aren't happy with Apollo's purple.
We did get to see one of the lap restraints away from the car. It has a "clamshell" design and if you've never noticed it before, the under side is actually concave to fit over your thighs. There is a line on the post of the restraint that if it can't be seen, you can't ride. Very large people (height or weight) are unable to ride because of this. That's a really great safety precaution, really. We then went up for our two rides. While we were riding, Carl, our guide, was telling everyone in the station about why we were getting to bump up in the line. Our second ride was in the front with the two girls that were there with their father. The youngest girl, probably 8 or 9, was sitting beside me. On the way up the first hill, she raised her arms and I looked over and told her that she really knew how to ride this ride!
That, unfortunately was the end of the tour. Carl and Jon were super great. Jon took 220 photos and we each got a CD of all of them. We also got a QuickQueue pass for the rest of the day that would allow us one ride in any seat of the four rides (as long as they crossed it off the card). It is really well worth it to take this tour. It's a lot of fun and I learned a lot!
Added a few shots from the lift on Griffon. Can you see why I chickened out?