Saturday, June 23, 2012

Casey Cares Trip to Williamsburg

The Casey Cares Foundation recently granted us a vacation to Busch Gardens in Williamsburg, Virginia.  The gift included 2 nights at the Embassy Suites hotel, 5 meal cards at the park, a gift card to Dunkin Donuts, and a gift card to Cracker Barrel.

My wife found a deal on the Internet for half off of a night at the Great Wolf Lodge and with a little help from the mother-in-law, we decided to tack that on to the first day of our vacation.  We left the metropolis of Eldersburg at 8am.  We made good time until we hit D.C. (of course).  An hour later we were in ......D.C.  We crept around the Capitol Beltway all morning.  Plus it was raining.  Awesome combination - D.C. rush hours (plural as it basically lasts all day) and rain.  Once we got onto I-95 south traffic started moving better.  Did you know that the speed limit on I-95 in Virginia is 70 mph?  That means you can go like 80 or 85 mph.

I decided that we should play the license plate game.  Unfortunately, I was the only contestant.  Sponge Bob occupied the rear passengers and Mrs. Eludius could care less.  Nonetheless, I counted 35 states, 2 Canadian provinces, and Washington D.C. and several U.S. Government plates.  I did see a Virginia U.S. Senator plate ( #2 - whoever that was driving a dark colored Ford Taurus) and a Virginia Congressman.

Just outside of Williamsburg we stopped for lunch at a Hardees.  There aren't enough Hardees in the world.  Good food.  We got 3 $5 grab bags.  Which means 6 sandwiches, 3 fries, 3 drinks, and 3 desserts.  Which means I got 3 sandwiches (mine, the extra, and my daughter's which she only ate a portion).  Good food.  I think it was a joint for the locals.  There was a gaggle of older people one corner.  Other elders entered and were looking at us and others in disgust, which I later interpreted as someone was in THEIR seats.

We finally made it to The Great Wolf Lodge around 1-ish.  The first thing my son says is, "this place looks creepy!"  My other two kids are excited.  After a quick check-in, we change and head to the waterpark.  If you've never been to a Great Wolf Lodge, you still have a lot of money in your pocket, but most importantly, you're missing out on a really neat place for the kids.  There were several tube water slides, a tidal pool, a lazy river, a boogy board ride, and the ubiquitous jungle-gym tree house waterpark mainstay.

The kids had a blast.  We got to spend two days there.  The tidal pool was the biggest thrill for my youngest daughter with leukemia.  She LOVED it!  The other two liked the slides, though my son would never admit it.  He was scared initially, but finally used one, then kept going on them, but insisted he didn't like it.

I love people watching and this was a great place for people watching.  There was one lady that looked like she was a ton of fun.  Every time she got in the tidal pool the water level went up a foot!  There were the ladies that wore bathing suits meant for 16 year olds.  There were the guys whose bellies went clear down over their waste band and almost to their crotch.  There were guys who looked like they had carpets on their back.  There were the unsupervised teenagers who exploited their new-found independence as an opportunity to demonstrate their knowledge of profanity.  And there were some cuties.

The first night we ate at Sal's By Victor in Williamsburg.  It was cussing fantastic.  My oldest got chicken tortellini (awesome!) and I got veal victor (amazing!).  My wife got a pizza, my son got chicken tenders (which he said were also amazing) and youngest got spaghetti.  I got an Italian dark beer which was fantastic.  I'm discouraged that I cannot remember the name of it.  Anyway, best meal of the vacation.

The second night we ate at Cracker Barrel.  We ate like pigs and ordered a ton of food.  And it came to $43.  How can all of that food be so cheap?  And I don't care what you say, I thought it was good.

The second night we stayed at the Embassy Suites.  Embassy Suites granted us 2 nights free of charge.  This place was so nice.  The sign on the door indicated that the nightly rate was $499.  Hokey smoke!  We don't ever stay at nicer hotels, so maybe we're easily thrilled.  Regardless, Embassy Suites had a gift pack ready for the kids when we got there.  Balloons were tied to a chair and there was a basket of treats, coloring books, crayons, and toys.  Additionally, there was a gift certificate for a free pizza at Pizza Hut.  The room was really nice.  Two big beds with comfortable pillows and blankets.  These were no $35 per night blankets with stains on them.  Nope.  These were the real deal.  And there was a door between the bedroom at the living room.

The next morning we enjoyed the complimentary breakfast.  It included make-your-own omelettes, eggs, bacon, sausage, French toast, muffins, danish, oatmeal, grits, cereal.  Basically if you eat it for breakfast, it was available.  I had a spinach, jalepe├▒os, and cheese omelette.  Yummy!  Again, there comes the people-watching.  When there is free food, you should expect extreme gluttony.  I saw people with plates piled 10 inches high with eggs, potatoes, sausage, and bacon.  There was no way in hell these people were eating all of this food.  And if they did, there was no reason for them to eat again for several days.  There were several young teenaged boys helping themselves to French toast - grabbing the toast with their bare hands off of the tray.  And they were all eating holding their forks with their fists.  Don't parents teach their children how to behave and eat properly anymore?  And people wonder why we're bat-sh*t crazy with the hand-sanitzer these days.

The third day was our first day to Busch Gardens.  Believe it or not, this was the first time that I've ever been there.  I've heard that Busch Gardens is a nicer King's Dominion or Hershey Park.  I'll have to admit it is mostly true.  It's very well kept.  Getting there when it opened, I took advantage of the opportunity and rode The Griffin.  This is one of the hanging roller coasters where your feet dangle.  It was pretty cool.  There are two major drops.  The first one seemed like it was about 20 stories high.  From top to bottom was no more than 4 seconds - long enough for Martin O'Malley to introduce new taxes to Maryland.

Unlike most parks that I've visited, Busch Gardens is like a big circle.  You go from one village to another, from England, to Ireland, to France (where they easily surrender to any sort of threat), to Germany, to Italy, and back.  We ate lunch at the Festhaus both days.  Our meals, had it not been for the meal vouchers, would have cost about $70.  I got the 3 sausage meal with German potatoes, and saurkraut.  My kids got the turkey sandwich, which they really liked.  Boy that makes me hungry just thinking about it again!

We finally found the Sesame Street-themed section where my youngest had a blast.  They all rode the Gover roller coaster, which my youngest hated, that is until my oldest took her on it again, which then became the best ride there.  Funny how a sibling can make a scary ride fun.

Around 4:30 on the last day we decided to head home.  Again - it rained, and it rained hard.  We made good time, until we hit D.C.  I think I sense a pattern.  We inched along the Capitol Beltway - at 7:30pm.  Why is there rush hour traffic this late???  I had a friend who moved from South Carolina to Washington, D.C. for grad school, but decided to move back to South Carolina because he said it was guaranteed that if you needed to go out for milk there'd be a traffic jam at 10pm at night.

We finally made it home about 8:30pm.  After everyone had slept almost the entire ride home, they were already to party. Me?  I was ready to crash.  I wasn't able to crash until today.  I ended up taking a 2 1/2 hour nap.  I guess I needed it.

Thank you Casey Cares, Embassy Suites, Busch Gardens, Pizza Hut, Dunkin Donuts, and Cracker Barrel, for providing us with a wonderful vacation this summer.  We LOVED it!!!


T.J. McLaughlin said...

Future reference, never go above 80 in Virginia no matter the speed limit as it is reckless diving automatically. They got me for this last year on way to myrtle beach. It turns out this is a scam to get money as they just reduce it to a non moving violation called "defective equipment."

Eludius said...

T.J. - good to know. Thanks!

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