Cree mused to himself how few people actually used the full spectrum of military benefits available. For example, he and Crystal were now driving their three little ones and puppy to Busch Gardens Williamsburg. They’d purchased park passes, premium parking, complementary meals every 90 minutes, puppy day-care, fast passes to most of the rides. SeaWorld Entertainment, of which Busch Gardens is a part, gave them more than half off of everything.
Arrival, Parking, and Check-in
“Good morning…” the gate attendant said cheerfully as Cree handed her the stack of papers currently serving as their tickets.
No adventure starts off flawlessly, and the papers never mentioned anything about Peggy. Cree pulled up his gmail in a flurry as he reviewed the ticket purchases, and found her information. So, after a couple minutes delay, they were headed in.
Parking went smoothly, as the ushers kept careful track of where they needed to go, and they parked only a few feet away from the front gate. Cree and Peggy checked into the puppy day-care, and Peggy greeted every tenant as they made their way to her pen.
Park Entrance: England
“Check it out, the horse smiles!” Cree said as Crystal walked up behind him.
England Train Station
“All aboard — join us on the Busch Gardens Railway for a 20-minute train ride around the park. Three steam-powered locomotives whisk guests through 134 acres of lush landscaping with stops in Scotland, New France and Festa Italia for a breathtaking tour of the park.”
– Busch Gardens Railway
New France… Louisiana?
As he stepped off, a brightly colored spinning/twirling ride caught Cree’s attention.
“Hey Babe, why don’t you take the little ones on this one?”
Crystal smiled as she agreed and escorted all three children to the line. Cree watched in admiration as she managed to help Melody get strapped in, and the ride took off.
While “Le Catapult” twirled and spun them around, Cree pulled Crystal’s camera from her backpack. It took him a moment to get the focus and shutter speed right. Eventually, he figured it out and began snapping away at his little family.
All four of them looked ecstatic as they stepped off the platform.
Crystal saw an eatery nearby called Trappers Smokehouse. They found the front easily enough, and went through the line that reminded her fondly of her work in a cafeteria. As they finished, Crystal pulled out her food ticket, and the kind lady immediately offered to have her trade that out for a bracelet.
As they ate, Cree and Liz were talking about a ride called Invadr. Crystal wanted to ride that one too, but since the two of them finished their food first, she decided to send them ahead, and she’d catch it when they got back.
“I’m sorry, your fast pass doesn’t work on this one,” the attendant said.
Well that felt like a grand waist. Cree still wanted to try out the ride with his little girl, so they headed towards the line to see.
An hour later, they made their way to the exit to find a slightly annoyed Crystal, and two extremely rambunctious children.
“Would you like to try?” Cree asked earnestly.
“No, let’s just go,” Crystal said, visibly calming herself. “we’re here to enjoy ourselves, and waiting isn’t fun.”
“Check this out,” Cree said, pointing to Acadia Traders.
Crystal and Cree stepped into the small shop, and an idea suddenly hit.
“Let’s take each other’s names!” Crystal suggested.
Cree quickly agreed and pointed out the multi-colored rings. They made their order and rejoined the children.
Crystal didn’t love roller coasters that took her hundreds of feet up, only to fling her back at the ground at breakneck speeds. The simple log ride looked so much better. Using their fast passes, Crystal and Liz boarded their own log immediately.
Disembarking, Crystal mused that she felt glad to get a little wet. It made the hot day feel cooler. She laughed a little as Liz rushed ahead to find their picture on the wall of screens, taken as they dropped down the big water slide.
Suddenly, the coaster began slowing down. Cree watched in disbelief as the front cars stopped quite a ways away from the loading docks.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, we apologize. We are currently experiencing technical difficulties and the ride is currently inoperable. Please let an attendant know immediately if you have any issues. Again, we apologize for any inconvenience.”
Not really sure how to respond, Cree dug his phone out of his pocket and snapped a quick selfie to let Crystal know he was okay.
“Check it out, it’s the Land of Dragons!” Cree pointed out. He felt pretty rested after sitting in the shade on Alpengeist for so long.
“Go ahead, I’m going to take some more pictures,” Crystal said, pulling her camera out in the shade at the entrance to the massive playground.
Land of Dragons
Rhine River Cruise
“Please Daddy!” Liz asked as they looked at the massive tower, feeling braver than ever.
Her dad had taken her on nearly every roller coaster she’d wanted, and now she wanted to try the Mach Tower. It looked like so much fun!
“Okay,” her dad agreed as he said something to her mom. Mom and the two little ones headed for a tiny bit of shade as they got in line.
The ride person made them stand on a colored square. Then, as soon as the ride area cleared, Liz ran forward to find the same color on the ride. They nearly walked past it, she felt so excited.
“Cree! Liz!” Mom called to them from the fence.
“Are you excited?” Dad asked as the seats began moving upwards.
“Wouldn’t it be funny if we could see our house from up here?” Liz asked.
“Nah, but what a view of the park!”
She saw a blue roller coaster a short ways away, or so it seemed. Liz asked Dad if they could do that one next. He gave a vague response about not knowing the plan, but he’d love to.
The ride came to a slow stop, and as they sat suspended, she looked out over the massive park in awe. In an instant between breaths, they were plummeting towards the pavement at a seemingly impossible speed. Then, just as suddenly, the ride began slowing down, easing them to the ground.
Best Brezeln Under Bier
Still hyperactive from the 246 foot drop, Cree led the five of them to a corner shop selling all sorts of pretzel based foods. When they arrived at the line he glanced back at Crystal, confounded. The place just felt confusing.
As it turned out, the place not only felt confusing, the overall mood in the place came across as rude. The line workers treated nearly everyone they encountered with disdain. Cree seriously began to wonder if they were supposed to act rude.
At least the pretzel dogs tasted good.
“Let’s find some rides specifically for Matthew and Melody,” Crystal suggested as they stepped across the bridge into Italy.
Cree studied the map intently, only to realize that they’d literally stepped into kiddie land.
Scotland, Ireland, And The Griffon
“We should head back and pick up our rings,” Crystal said, glancing at her watch.
Cree quickly agreed, but as they began making their way around, another roller coaster caught his eye. He nudged Liz, but she shied away at the title.
The Loch Ness Monster
Cree stepped right up to the front of the line on Loch Ness. Liz had opted out of this one, and he felt slightly lonely as he sat right at the front of the coaster. It seemed incredible to him that she’d agreed to go on so many. Only a few years ago, she’d been terrified of everything, and in one short family trip, she’d overcome so many of those fears.
As he stepped off, he smiled. The Loch Ness monster was one of the longer rides, but took so much less time than any of the others.
Battle For Eire
I loved Battle For Eire! I loved Busch Gardens!Matthew
Cree glanced over at Melody, she’d been tanking water since he’d noticed how pink her face was. Melody put her bottle down and gave him the biggest smile ever.
Crystal and the other two had gone into the virtual reality ride about twenty minutes ago. Cree didn’t mind, it gave him a chance to just hang out and visit Melody.
When they got out of Battle For Eire, Crystal led the group up the arduous climb through Ireland. Along the way, they passed mountain sheep, beautiful bald eagles, and an empty wolf haven. She couldn’t help thinking of her dad as she snapped several shots of the various Eagles hanging around.
As they reached the top, Crystal heard Liz asking to try the Griffon, and Cree readily agreeing. She glanced over to see Cree apologetically watching her for approval.
Liz clung to the harness as the floor slid away from the crazy roller coaster. As the ride began, the cars eased forward and onto the tracks. Then, they were moving upwards in the now familiar buildup. The cart reached the top, and instead of the rapid decent, she found herself looking down at the park. Something suddenly caught her eye.
“Hey Dad! Say Ah!” Liz called over to her dad.
At first he seemed not to understand. She knew she had his attention when he suddenly chuckled. Then, he reached over and gently squeezed her leg… right before the whole ride suddenly dropped, and she screamed ah.
Acadia Traders Part II
Cree and Crystal picked up their rings, admiring the fit. It’d been awhile since they’d enjoyed looking like a married couple, and these happy rings looked perfect.
New France Train Station
“Do we have enough time to go to Festa Italia?” Crystal asked, thinking about the gelato joint they might find there.
“We could take the train, and get there pretty quick,” Cree responded. “Let’s book it!”
They took off, Cree holding Melody’s and, and Crystal pushing Melody. Liz followed close behind, taking great care to keep up. As they arrived at the platform, Cree quickly placed Matthew and Melody on the solide platform and folded the stroller down. Crystal heard Cree begin muttering under his breath as their belongings scattered under the train car.
“It’s okay Sweetie,” she reassured him, and tried to help him gather everything up.
“Please get the children aboard,” Cree said, seemingly annoyed at her help.
They all felt a little tired, so Crystal ignored her impulse to snap at him and quickly herded the children into their seats. By then, Cree had finished picking up everything he could and sat next to her. Crystal reached over and pulled him into a hug, cuddling the rest of the ride to Festa Italia. She felt his tension melt away the rest of the ride.
“There it is,” Cree said as they stepped out of the train station. The gelato shop looked a lot more tropical than he’d expected. Their menu featured pineapple flavored gelato, and included shakes, cones, cups, and even a hollowed out pineapple.
“Can I have a pineapple please,” Liz asked.
“Sure,” Cree said as he looked to Crystal, “what about you?”
Crystal selected a simple gelato, and Cree ordered two additional cones for Matthew and Melody. They’d been troopers all day.
“I wanna do something for just the two of us,” Crystal confided in Cree as they ate their gelato.
“Okay, how about that?” Cree said, pointing to something called Trade Wind.
“Okay!” Crystal said as she felt herself grin. He’d picked a spinning ride that took them up and around in a very tight circle.
“Liz, watch your siblings VERY carefully,” Crystal instructed. She’d felt uncomfortable all day at the thought of leaving the three of them alone. Now, she really wanted to enjoy this one last ride.
As they sat down and lowered the rowbar, the ride began spinning. Slowly at first, then it picked up incredible speed. She felt Cree’s arm loosen slightly as she slid into him. The force mushed them together until she couldn’t really tell where she ended and he began.
The ride suddenly slowed to a stop, and they waited patiently for the attendant to release them. It took her a moment, but as soon as they found their feet, she rushed to the ride entrance to make certain all three of her babies where there…
All three of them had switched places.
Closing the Park
After Cree took Liz on the Trade Wind, they made one last bathroom stop before heading to the front gate.
Without a lot of warning, the lights around them began shutting off one by one. As they moved towards the front gate, the lights seemed to turn off after them.
Dad eased open the latch to Peggy’s pen and she waited just long enough for him to attach the lease to her collar before she sprang for the door at breakneck speed. Dragging the leash, she nearly lept the gate to the open area and immediately squatted.
“You okay puppy?” Cree asked her as he finally caught up.
Peggy stayed perfectly still for another minute before she finally trotted over and sat next to Cree’s leg. Then she looked up with her big brown eyes as if to say, “Okay Dad, what’s next?”
Things Done Well
- Purchasing the all inclusive packages
- Bringing Peggy along instead of finding a sitter
- Allowing Liz to dictate some of the activities kept her interested and attentive
Things To Fix
- Stop at least two or three times to see Peggy
- Only get in line for rides that we already have passes for
- Immediately trade our paper tickets for wristbands as soon as we arrive
- Bring high capacity water bottles along to avoid dehydration
Count Your Blessings
- First, I’m grateful for the amazing ideas Crystal has, including saving up and going to places like Busch Gardens
- Then, there’s my three wonderful children, and their amazing attitudes, even at the end of an incredibly long day
- Finally, I’m grateful for the memories that we build during our crazy adventures