There is a wide array of technologically advanced roller coasters to test your mettle these days. At Busch Gardens Williamsburg for example, you could soar down 200 feet and hit 73 mph on an incredibly smooth hypercoaster, experience tight inversions and powerful positive G-forces on an inverted coaster train that hangs beneath the tracks, or plummet 18 feet in the dark tethered to a vertical drop track that gives way on a magnetically launched coaster.
For its eighth thrill machine, however, the Virginia theme park has gone decidedly old school. In April, Busch Gardens opened InvadR, its first wooden coaster.
Located in the rustic New France section of the park, the ride incorporates a really old school theme: Marauding Vikings, it seems, have invaded the village and are threatening its loggers and trappers. The spelling-challenged warriors duke it out aboard InvadR (apparently the seafaring Scandinavians aren’t all that fond of vowels – or at least the letter “e”).
Featuring a 74-foot drop and a top speed of 48 mph, the traditional woodie doesn’t aim for the stratospheric heights or the bugs-in-your-teeth velocity of some of Busch Gardens’ other coasters. “We were really trying to make this a family coaster,” explains Suzy Cheely, the park’s director of design and engineering and the person leading the charge for InvadR. “But make no mistake. It really is not a kiddie coaster,” she adds.
Despite its modest stats and its comparatively low 46-inch height requirement, InvadR delivers a surprisingly potent ride and hefty doses of rise-out-of-your-seat airtime. The front row provides unencumbered views, but, like many coasters, the back of the train is where airtime junkies would want to head. The negative G-forces are nearly unrelenting there.
Cheely says that depending on their appetite for thrills (and their height), children as young as six years old could ride the new coaster. While it is accessible to youngsters, the park wanted to make InvadR exciting for adults and provide an opportunity for parents and grandparents to share a thrilling ride with their kids and grandkids.
“It’s a great in-between ride,” says David Cromwell, president of Busch Gardens Williamsburg. “It’s kind of the first ‘big-kid coaster.’ “
The Vikings’ whimsical battering ram graces the front entrance of the coaster. The fort-like loading station, made with rough-hewn timbers and decorated with Viking shields and other artifacts, fits in nicely with New France’s log cabin motif.
The Millennium Flyer trains, manufactured by the ride’s builder, Great Coasters International, are roomy and comfortable. There are two trains: One outfitted with a bear head on the lead car represents the villagers, while the…