Hello, I am here to tell you about one of my favorite moments of our vacation. To some people, it might sound like a horrible drag, but…just stick with me.
We got to Busch Gardens Williamsburg early enough that we were one of the first cars in line for parking. The lot wasn’t open yet so we had to wait for about 15 minutes. The thing about amusement parks is that there is so much waiting involved. I guess that can be said with travel in general. So much of our lives is spent…just waiting.
I actually cannot stand the anxiety that builds up like plaque in my heart while waiting for parks to open. Especially Cedar Point. And I even said that I didn’t want to do this shit on this trip, yet here we were. Not so much by choice but because we just left too early from wherever it was that we stayed the night before – I honestly can’t even remember now aside from the fact that it was one of the worst beds I have ever slept on in my life and I threw a big fit. The mattress was like a waterbed without the water! I felt like I was going to flop right out of it!
But I digress.
Of course, when the gates opened and the cars started making their way through, our line came to a standstill because as usual Henry chose the WRONG LINE. He always goes right to the one where someone in front of us doesn’t understand how to pay for parking or starts asking the attendant for, I dunno, Netflix recs. It never fucking fails. So Chooch and I were screaming at him and Henry was shouting, “IT DOESN’T MATTER! IT DOES NOT MATTER!” and some lady in the car next to us called out, “Oh, it matters!” sarcastically because her kid was doing the same shit to her and it was the funniest, heartwarming moment of Coaster Parent solidarity. I loved it.
So then we finally got through and parked the closest to the entrance we have EVER been. Like a row away, ISTFG. But as we’re walking to the entrance, Henry realized he forgot his man-purse or something and WENT BACK TO THE CAR. Chooch and I had our tickets so we were like, “Fuck him” and continued on in. It ended up not being his man-purse and now I can’t remember what it actually was. His eyeglass rollercoaster strap I think. Actually, who cares.
We were behind only ONE PERSON!! And then somehow, even though there were 5 or 6 gates, we managed to be the FIRST PEOPLE IN THE PARK?? Yo. This day was off to a sweet start.
So, since it wasn’t 10am yet, we could only make it through this first area until we reached the “crossroads” where a park employee was standing sentry. We were still first in the now-larger group of people gathering at this point but weren’t allowed to go any further until the park officially opened. We knew that Pantheon, our most coveted ride du jour, was off to the left somewhere, so we scooted over to that side and stood along the wall.
HOWEVER!!! Some bitchass older man inched his way over so that he was on the other side of us. I was so pissed. Like, how are you just going to pull a bitch move like that when we were clearly at the head of the pack and did the work to get there first??
THEN!!! Two dumb teen boys casually did the “do-doo-doooo” whistle walk right past and got even further than the man did! I was outraged and started to stare them down and they knew it so they wouldn’t look at me. Chooch was like, “Please stop trying to fight with minors” and I was like, “FUCKING RUDE AMERICANS” like I’m not from here.
Because I’m not.
I’m from a beautiful country in my mind where I’m fluent in Korean, the sky is purple, the temps range from 55 to 85, and Josta is the national bev.
(Seriously, long live Josta.)
There was two younger people (like early 20s?) behind me talking about how they didn’t want to run, but they also didn’t want to get mauled over, and I started to really panic now because I didn’t want to run either and I hadn’t planned on it and had hoped that Busch Gardens was not a running of the bulls / rope-dropping type of park but then the clock struck 10 and it was MAYHEM, MARY. Everyone started running. Chooch was at the head of the pack and people behind me started to pass me up so my fight or flight response kicked in as a combination of both I guess and off I went too.
OK, I GUESS I’M RUNNING, I thought grudgingly.
The girl that was behind me talking with the other person about not wanting to run was also running but she FELL on the train tracks and her glasses flew off and I felt so bad but don’t bad enough to stop and help because I had about 15 kids and frat boys that I needed to gain on, and also I had no idea where I was running because this was only my third time at this park and I am awful with directions and also part 2, I was wearing newish Vans and even oldish Vans aren’t great to run in so you can imagine my misery as my feet slapped the pavement with NO ARCH SUPPORT.
Eventually, I started passing people. Kids were dropping left and right. The two stupid asshole teen boys COULD NOT HANG with this 42-year-old track star, Lucy, and they too eventually dropped out of the race.
Turns out, it was actually kind of far to where the new coaster was, and I almost gave up because my vision was going gray and my lungs were SCREAMING, like they were trying so hard to assist with my breathing but also they’re like, “WE ARE 42 YEARS OLD, HON, CAN YA SLOW IT DOWN TO A JOG MAYBE?”
I vaguely remember sprinting (I can only imagine how I must have looked) over a bridge and as my vision was graying out and the cymbals were crashing in my ears, I looked up just as I was passing the last kid and now the only person in front of me was…
And right up past him?
We made it. We motherfucking made it.
FIRST! FIRST FIRST FIRST!!!
Well OK, I was second, but still Chooch and I were a team so I’m co-opting his win.
But, LOL, instead of the sweet horns of victory we were instead met with SAD TUBA as we saw a park employee standing at the entrance to the ROPED OFF PANTHEON AREA.
“Is it….closed?” I huffed, bent over with my hands on my aching knees.
“Unfortunately, we’re having some maintenance issues and Pantheon will be having a delayed opening today,” the young guy named EVAN said calmly. “You’re welcome to enjoy the many other rides the park has to offer, such as Tempesto and Apollo’s Chariot which are directly behind you.”
“Can we stay in line?” I wheezed, and Evan was just like, “I mean…” You know these people are instructed by the park to try to deter lines forming in front of closed rides in any way possible and some parks are actually SUPER FORCEFUL about this (COUGH*KINGS ISLAND*COUGH). But I was like, “No, I ran here. I am 42-years-old and blew past all those bitch ass kids, did you see me? Shout out to me, right? Also I came here from *wheeze* Pittsburgh specifically to ride this *pant* so please don’t make me leave.”
Now some little kid had also made it over to us and his family caught up with him around the same Henry meandered over like fucking Huckleberry Finn strutted through a meadow I have no idea where I’m going with this but I was still bent over, huffing painful breaths of what sounded like PLEURISY* into my knees, and he started cracking up because it wasn’t even open.
*(I have been obsessed with pleurisy ever since I got my grubby little hypochondriac child hands on a copy of the Merck Medical Journal and then kept it on my nightstand for some light bedtime reading. I always think that I have this anytime I have even the slightest twinge in my chest!)
Sandals Guy was behind us from the beginning with his son and wife. I heard him talking to the parents of the small kid who made it to Pantheon after us, and he was saying that his family were big coaster enthusiasts but then said that King’s Island was owned by Paramount and that Carowinds was a “world class park” like OOOOOH-kay buddy boy. He eventually turned his attention to us and I told him we came from Pittsburgh so he started trying to get me to care about some cavern that his family had just went to and made me look at pictures of it on his phone and it just made me real uncomfy, swiping through a stranger’s phone, you know?
Then I didn’t like him anymore because he was saying to the other family, “Wow and your boy here was the first one in line for this too! I saw him running the whole way here, like lightning!”
THIS IS ERRONEOUS.
MORE SYNONYMS FOR BULLSHIT.
Chooch and I locked eyes and telepathically exchanged hexes. Like hell that bitch kid was first! If he was first then why were Chooch and I at the front of the damn line? BECAUSE WE WERE THE CHAMPIONS.
WE RAN LIKE THIS WAS THE ORIGINAL MOTHERFUCKING OLYMPICS AND THE GODS WERE DOING THEIR ANCIENT-ASS VERSIONS OF TIKTOK DANCES IN THE CHEERING SECTION.
WE DID IT ALL FOR YOU, PANTHEON.
Meet Benjamin and Zach. Poor Zach was tasked with continuously walking the line to inform everyone that the ride was down and there was so estimated time frame. Benjamin was the more-senior ride op, from what I could tell, and he would periodically come down from the ride’s station, where maintenance was doing the damn thing, and get on the little microphone thing to implore us to move on with our lives and ride other things.
Every time he came down the sidewalk, the mom of the non-first kid would scoff in disgust, “Oh here he is again” and her husband yelled, “SAVE YOUR BREATH!” So after Benajmin gave his canned spiel for the 3rd time, an hour into our wait (oh, yes we had crossed the 60 minute threshold by now), he walked all the way down to us and said to me and Chooch, “You guys are die hards, I love it” and fist-bumped us (I felt SO SEEN) and then he goes, “Which one of you said ‘save your breath’?” and shook the dude’s hand! It was so funny, but I actually had really started to despise both families behind us after a point because while their little barbs were funny at first, it was starting to wear on me. Look, none of us woke up that morning wanting this to happen!
The one lady kept saying in her annoying South Carolina drawl that they were there yesterday and the same thing happened but it was because of a staffing issue, so every time one of these poor employees would try to say that maintenance was working on it, she would call out, “Yeah, OK we know you’re just waiting for more employees to get here!” so Benajmin was like, “Look, between just the three of us standing right here, we have enough people to run this ride right now, but we literally can’t until maintenance gives us the all-clear.”
She was such a fucking know-it-all! If any of these assholes were actually “thoosies” like they were pretending to be, then they would know that the manufacturer of this coaster is notoriously unreliable. (But fuck, Intamin makes some world class coasters though so I can’t hate them.)
This is my boy Evan, who was stuck having to look at us all morning and as if that wasn’t bad enough had to deal with people CONSTANTLY coming up to him and asking, “Is this not running or something? When will it open?” POOR FUCKING EVAN. We were like, “You should just start making things up like, ‘it ran out of gas.'”
I sincerely liked this kid and I hope that he liked us too because we were literally the only ones at the front of the line not being entitled dicks. I also appreciated that he was ONLY divulging behind-the-scenes info with me and Chooch. It made me feel like a VIP.
Like here in this picture, you can see the guy who told Benjamin to “Save his breath” BERATING THE MARKETING DIRECTOR. What the fuck is she going to do to solve this problem?? She is in marketing not maintenance!
Furthermore, I don’t know why this guy even gave a shit because he was barely in line. He left his wife and who I assumed was the older daughter to be placeholders while and his kid WHO WAS NOT FIRST kept running off to ride other rides!!
Eventually, the Know-It-All It’s-A-Staffing-Issue family of Karens called it and left the line after about an hour or so. Good riddance! Go find the nearest restroom to lodge your complaints up your asses. About 30 minutes later, the Sandal Dad family also called. The dad wished us luck and honestly I should clarify that none of these people were *that* bad. They were just middle-aged and grouchy, and I don’t care how many parks they allegedly attend, if this was true, then they would have more patience. Once we started really getting into park-hopping, we learned super quickly that you gotta walk into these parks with low expectations. If you go in thinking that lines will be short, rides won’t break down while you’re in line, and that you’re gonna collect every single coaster cred…
….don’t go to Cedar Point, lol.
We learned the hard way.
Now that the old asses were gone, we had young people behind us! I was so happy to have refreshing convo happening behind us. We now had the girl who fell and her brother, and a group of 3 young people: I think two of them may have been a couple, and then their third-wheel friend who was SO COOL. All of these people were in their early 20s I would and I was trying to breathe in their youth.
The third wheel girl cried out at one point, “OMG I love your nails! Did you do that yourself??” and I realized she was talking to ME, an OLD?! Then she told her friend to look at them.
“Yeah!” I said, fluttering my fingers. “Thanks!”
“And they match your shoes too! I love it!”
“I like to coordinate,” I blurted out because I couldn’t think of anything cool to say and couldn’t catch any of the current slang swirling around in my mouth fast enough to put sound behind it.
Chooch straight scowled at me and turned his back in embarrassment. I think his favorite part was when I thrust my hand toward the guy in their group (who earlier mentioned that he had waited 4 hours for VelociCoaster and it was worth it), and said, “Do you want to look, too?” and he goes, “Oh. Yeah, OK sure.” We were going on 2 hours at a standstill, you guys. Your girl was getting slap-happy.
Suddenly, a voice called out from the nearby Tea Cups, “Why are you guys in line for a ride that’s not even running?” Turns out it was a group of middle school boys. The guy who I forced to look at my nails fired back, “Why are YOU in line for the TEA CUPS?”
“Because it’s the best ride here!” one of them shouted back and they all cheered like dumbos.
“What a lame response,” the guy who looked at my nails said. “If they had said, ‘because at least it’s running’, that would have been a sick burn. But…best ride here?”
“We’ve now reached the point of this endless wait where we’re having battles with kids over which ride is the best,” someone said, and I deliriously cracked up.
Then!! Evan got some intel in his headset and came over to tell me that the issue was that one of the trains was not connecting to the WIFI. I….didn’t know what that meant but I made an appropriate-sounding, “Ah,” to fool him.
Then I heard the Girl Who Fell and her brother (the things you learn in line: family trees) say something about how she was going to punch someone in the face if it was really a staffing thing so I passed on the WIFI message and it turns out that the brother used to work at Carowinds and he said that this was a legit thing! Apparently newer coasters have control panels that use WIFI…OK I can’t remember. But this was something that genuinely happens, I guess.
And then, at exactly the TWO HOUR mark, Evan quietly turned around and unchained the entrance to the steps. No loud announcement, just a quiet, “Go head, guys, have fun” and Chooch and I took off. We still had to walk (run) up a small set of steps, over a bridge, down the steps, across the Pantheon courtyard, and FINALLY through the ride entrance, where a Pantheon worker was standing and nodded at us. Chooch and I ran all the way through the empty line, up the steps to the station, and straight to the front row. I like front row on launch-coasters, OK?!
Apparently no one else ran because it took a bit for all our friends (and Henry ugh) to catch up and fill the inaugural train.
The energy in the station was palpable! It was like we all had BEEN THROUGH something. Also, it was so crazy to now see Evan and Zach in the station and not standing in front of the closed-off line delivering “no news” to all of the people who were demanding ETAs! They had joined Benjamin and some other crew and it was exciting to see them doing their thing. Then one of the ride operators was like YOU GUYS READY FOR THE FIRST RIDE OF THE DAY?? and we were SCREAMING. Oh, the vibes, you guys. I’m getting all teary as I write this.
I’m shit at reviewing coasters. I have a hard time remembering various element names, etc., but this ride exceeded expectations. I had watched so many videos on it and it is so hard to imagine how great it actually is. I was low-key worried that it was going to be over-hyped and that I would regret waiting 2 hours. But yo. This fucker is fucking satanic I swear to god. That backward launch over the hump and up into the spike is BONKERS.
When we returned to the station, the whole train exploded in uproarious cheers and applause (Henry probably didn’t join in though – FYI he ended up sitting near the back with the DAD OF THOSE DICKHEAD TEENAGE BOYS WHO TRIED TO CUT! The boys didn’t make it on the first train with us though because they opted to wait for the back row).
Our young people friends!! A memorable moment was when the girl on the left was inexplicably bleeding from her elbow in line and the friend who liked my nails sprung into action by asking Evan if there was first aid anywhere.
“Dammit,” Henry mumbled. “I had band-aids – from Korea! – in my bag—”
“–purse,” Chooch and I corrected in unison.
“—but I left it in the car.”
Don’t worry! She procured a band-aid for her elbow-dripping friend from “some mom back there in line.”
See?? I don’t carry band-aids on my person so I’m still cool and not entirely mom-ish.
Even if you have eyeglass straps, they still make you put your glasses in the bin so Henry looked like this on the ride ^^^ lol.
I really wish that anyone reading this could just jump into my blog and have a virtual ride on Pantheon because it is so hard to put in words how outstanding this coaster is.
Our friends behind us!
WE EARNED THIS! When we got off the ride, Evan was like, “Well, was it worth it?” and I gushed, “YES IT WAS AWESOME!!” and Chooch gave me the “stop talking” eyeball warning.
Stand back a little bit farther, Henry. People can still see us.
I had so much love in my heart for the Pantheon crew that I made a point of stopping by customer service before we left that night. I was so excited to give them the names of each employee and gush about how awesome they were in light of all the bullshit vitriol they had to catch from a lot of the park-goers. We have never had a bad experience at Busch Gardens and the ride operators have always been so awesome, but these customer service hags were AWFUL. First of all, there were three of them there behind the counter, chatting away as I walked up. They looked at me and then continued their conversation. Finally, the youngest broad asked if she could help me, like yeah duh that’s why I’m not here and certainly not to eavesdrop on your lame-ass chit chat.
Anyway, I told the bitch that I wanted to give props to the Pantheon ride crew and I had to wait for her to pull out a binder for comments while pausing to talk more to her co-workers. I was so excited to tell her how awesome these guys were and she never once smiled, said “That’s so great to hear,” nothing. She just went through the motions of writing down what I was telling her and then said, “Anything else? OK, thanks.”
I should have said, “Yeah, there’s something else. I’d like to also put on record an account of a shitty experience I had with a park employee” and then this would be the part where I menacingly read her name off her name tag. But in reality, I just walked away. I was shivering from Pantheon night rides and I wanted to eat some of the delicious cookie that Henry had just purchased.
Additional things that happened on additional rides later that day:
- Zach remembering us and exclaiming, “You’re back!” and me saying, “The wait was a LITTLE shorter this time, ha ha.” (We only waited about 25 minutes for the back row!)
- We got back in line toward the end of the night and there were verbal fisticuffs when two meatheads cut the line and another meathead called them out and it was super passive aggressive and then the guy who called them out yelled, “let’s all cheer for the line jumpers!” and it was tense but also kind of exciting?!
- On our last ride of the night, there were two guys in front of us. Their friends were on the train right before, so when that train came back, one of them ran over and took the one guy’s hat and the other guy’s glasses for them so that they wouldn’t have to put it in the loose article bin. But then THE RIDE BROKE DOWN. So the one guy goes, “Awesome, now I can’t see” and his friend said, “And now my hair looks like this” and made an annoyed gesture toward his head. WHY WAS THIS SO FUNNY TO ME, I ACTUALLY LAUGHED OUT LOUD AND CHOOCH WAS SO EMBARRASSED. Anyway, the ride was only down for 10 minutes and then Chooch and I got the nightride of our lives (well, after Hat Hair and Bad Eyesight Guy).
- There was a guy in line front of us on one of our rides and he had these interesting lines of symbol tattoos. I asked Chooch if he knew what he was and he said no. But then a few minutes, Chooch said, “Oh, it has something to do with Naruto.” I was like, “Wow Chooch really has his finger on the pulse of…whatever Naruto is.” Then we were in line for the next ride and I saw someone with a shirt with the same symbol shit on it! “Did you watch Naruto or something?” I asked Chooch, and he admitted that he only knew it was Naruto because in the Pantheon line, there was some young girl in line behind us acting like an idiot and she bumped into the tattoo guy. He turned around and said, “I like your shirt” and then pointed to his tattoo. She was wearing a Naruto shirt. After this, I couldn’t stop seeing Naruto shirts at every turn. It was weird.
We were recapping our Pantheon experience for days and days afterward, and I mentioned that I thought the 2-hour wait actually made it more memorable. 100% worth the wait.
“Yeah,” Chooch agreed. “It’s about the memories you make along the way.”
Chooch should get that tattooed on his neck. And I want “That Time I Ran to Pantheon” on my tombstone.
Here is a video of Pantheon. Because, Pantheon.
And here’s my FAVORITE coaster vlogger’s experience:
P.S. The formatting of this post is trash and the font mysteriously shrunk near the end. I cannot spend any more time trying to fix this so apologies for causing you to squint.