Coasterville Commentary

Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

Monday, February 27, 2006

Goodbye, Winter Olympics


The 2006 Winter Olympic games have come to an end. I admit it, I ama fan of the Olympics. I got off toa slow start this year, what with being out of down the first 4 days and all, but thanks to TV Spots nightly on demand highlight reels, and the nightly evening coverage I still got to experience a wide variety of the best Winter Sport has to offer, worldwide.

Alpine Sking - check - Saw the non-conformist Bode fail at eveything he tried. Saw snow postpone skiing,imagine that. Caught some downhill, some slalom, some super G. Maybe not my favorite but it is interesting to watch. What was with outlining the course in blue spray paint, I don't recall seeing that before.

Biathlon - caught the women's race. Saw the winner practically lap everybody else. The endurance of cross country skiing, the patience and accuracy of target shooting.

Bobsled - Saw that two, you might suspect its one of a coaster fan's favorite event. Coaster fans even travel to ride 'bobsled coasters', roller coasters in deep troughs meant to give the feel of bobsleding. Last summer ACE visited Olympic Park in Salt Lake Utah, where they have a public modified bobseld run for anybody interested. I wish I could have made it.

Cross Country SKiing - I saw the men's relay which was won by an Italian, saw his bask to glory as he was FAR ahead of anybody else, then saw Italy win again in a 50K endurance race that was decided by fractions of second.

Curling - OK, I admit it, I am fascinated with Curling. Sure itslike shuffleboard on ice, sure it isn't exactly the fastest paced game at the Olympics, sure subtly and finnesse are favored over strength. What some people can do with a 44lb rock is amazing. And, hey the United States took home a bronze medal. Not bad for a country that isn't exactly known as a Curling hot spot. Well I suppose its another 4 years of Curling deprivation for me.

Figure Skating - Well, the good news is a new objective scoring system seems to have rid us of the usual judging scandals. The bad news is said scoring system has been inferred to have promted skaters to design such demanding routines that falls were more the rule than the exception. I mean 4 falls in Ice Dancing!!!

Freesstyle Sking - so its x Games meets the Olympics, its still really fun to watch what people can do in terms of stunts mixed into a downhill race.

Ice Hockey - Watched a few games of this. Saw Russia get a player ejected for unsportmanlike conduct, saw USA get dinged for having too many players on the ice. Saw USA's hockey dreams dashed.

Luge - Sledding for Gold! Yep, its another coaster fanatics dreams. I got to see a luge sled up close at the Minnesota State Fair once. I hear the price for error is severe, and unfortunately we got a lesson in that this time around. I got to see some luge racing, thogh I missed the Skeleton, which is face first Luge for Psychos.

Speed Skating - yep saw both the regular and short track (roller derby) style races. Saw the first African-American winter olympic medal winner win, saw the height of ugly unsportsmanlike conduct threaten to tear our team apart. And saw Italy sit back and take Gold while our splintered team was recoiling from the shock of bad blood, Saw some wipe outs, saw South Korea take the prize this time.

Snowboarding - Okay so its X-Games meets the Olympics, its just plain fun to wath this one.

Ski Jump-I didn't manage to catch much at all of this one, but what I saw looked good.

Oh an'd yall may laugh at us Curling fans, but outside of hockey, how many other sports had their own dedicated channel!

I caught the closing ceremony last night, have not watched the opening yet, but have it taped for whenver I have like 4 or 5 hours to spare.

I also witnesseed a great example of making the most of what cards life deals you in the Vancouver mayor. He is the victim of an awful skiing accident that left him as a quadrapalegic. Part of the ritual and tradition of the closing is the passing of the Olympic Flag from one host city to the next. with each mayor waving the flag vigorously. Well, he scoffed at the idea of letting a stand in take care of his flag waving duties, he engineered his own brilliant solution to the problem. Thats the spirit.

As has been stated these Olympics shared the medal wealth more than any other Winter games with 26 nations medaling, some for the first time ever. It seemed there were no sure things, and that keeps the dream alive.

Well, now the pagentry and spectacle of watching the world's best is over until the next summer games in 2008 (China) and the next winter games (2010) in Vancouver, Canada.

So, like that, it seems to take forever for the Olympics to roll around again, they may seem to last forever as we are glued to the TV night after night. But then, when its time for it to end, its like a vacation, it just seems like the time flew by.

Well, there is one last thing to dofor these Olympics. My own personal closing ceremony - time to take down my Olympic Flag, fold it up carefully, and put it back into storage, awaitng the 2008 summer games. Maybe I'll give it a few vigourous waves first.

Friday, February 24, 2006

Coasterville Con - Trip to Florida - day 4

Welcome to the final installment of the 2006 Florida Trip.

The date is Sunday February 12, 2006 and we are wakin gup in our Tampa hotel room. Our first mission today is to return to Orlando, FL. We know its about 80 miles, but we had heard that I-4 was a bear, so we budgeted 2 hours for the drive, thus we awoke a bit earlier, got ready, had breakfast, and checked out of our hotel.

We had a couple wrong turns getting back to I-4, and we did get to see the Florida State Fair midway from a distance one last time. "Now I'm not going to lie to you", I don't recall much of the drive back to Orlando becuase I slept for a fair amount of it. It runs in the family, the sleeping in the car on trips business.

I awoke in time to point out the former site of Circus World/Boardwalk and Baseball, and we also noted that the east bound exit for 192 was closed. Hmm, we were planning on using that exit later on today. We continued east and headed for International Drive. Magical Midway recently opened their brand new Funtime Star Flyer. We decided it was worth a look and possible a ride.

International Drive is a touristy area of Orlando, designed to give people smaller things to fill in time when they aren't at one of the large theme parks,. Gift shops, restaurants, FECs and tourst trap attractions line the street. It isn't hard to spot Magical Midway thanks to them having the only elevated go kart track in Orlando, as well as an S&S tower, a slingshot, and now the Star Flyer.

What is hard to see is the driveway to Magical Midways parking lot, in fact we missed it the first time and had to go around the block. We caught the unassuming drivway on our second trip past the park and soon pulled into their free parking lot. We had arrived at the 'park' about 15 minutes in advance of opening, but that gave us time to pour over the maps and plan a 'cross country' route to our next destination since it looked like the Interstate was not a good option to due to road construction.

Now, the Star Flyer is a relatively new ride concept, and I believe Magical Midways has the only one in the United States. At its core the ride is basically a really tall Wave Swinger, with the added thrill that the seats not only just go up to the top when the ride starts, then come back down at the conclusion, but they can be sent up and down many times during the ride, sometimes with nice amounts of speed.

Now, we had been following the local weather closesly, and we knew that it was to only to be about 48 degrees out, with 25mph winds. To be quite honest, we did not expect them to operate the Star Flyer in that sort of weather. A feeling that grew as we were watching them test the Sling Shot, and the passenger capsule was getting blown all over the place.

Shortyly after 10AM, we deicded to enter the park and look around. On their website they talk about having an assortment of classic midway rides. We took a look around and found: Wisdom Tornado, Dodgem Cars, S&S Tower ride, 2 go kart tracks, the Star Flyer, a Sling Shot and an arcade.

We walked around the tiny midway and took a look in the arcade. I noted there was no pinball in the arcade, and so we returned to the outside. We looked at the price packages. We could get a POP wristband for $13.50 after discount coupon, and that would have included one courtesy ride on the Star Flyer, or we could pay $7 for one Star Flyer ride, with rerides at $5. We looked around, and even though there was a Wisdom Tornado, the midway package didn't really do anything for us, so we decided to just take one ride on Star Flyer. Problem being that we had not seen the Star Flyer run at all, not even tests.

Star Flyer has its own ticket box, so we went over and asked about if, and found out that they would in fact give us a ride. Tickets were purchased and a ride operator was summoned, who went over to meet us at the ride.

We entered the empty queue area, ducked under a support structure, then climbed up the staircase to the Star Flyer. A ride operator met us, collected tickets and let us into the ride area. The ride offers both single and double chairs. We all chose the single wide chairs, which I found to be be a bit more heavy duty than normal swing ride chairs. As usual I lift up the shoulder bar, sit down, and lower the bar. The chair has two seatbelts, first a lapbelt with a normal aircraft style lift latch buckle, then a second belt that goes from the center of the lapbar and secures using a special buckle between your legs to the seat horn in the front of the seat. This buckle is a special buckle in that once inserted it is locked and can't be released. There isn't even a release button to tempt you.

As our restraints were checked, the ride operator warned us about the winds and to be on the look out for the other chairs. Just before our ride I note another ride operator come running to the ride at a fast pace, and I am sure he is going to put an end to our ride, but nope, we do in fact get our ride. The ride firsts starts to rise us the tower as the chairs spin. The rest of the ride consits of the chairs going around much like and other wave swinger, and the ring of chairs going up and down the pole. Frankly I was expcting more out of the rise and fall sensations, but the actual ride experience isn't that much different than a common swing ride. We faced no danger of collisions with the other chairs, however the ride did get interesting when, due to wind I'm sure the chairs started twsiting around, so much so that I was facing backwards at times. It was an interesting ride, but I wouldn't call it anything special. I think the operators were a bit diapointed when we retuned to the deck looking totally calm, unphased by the ride, and when asked how we liked it, responded that it was alright. I was expecting the operator to have to come around and unlock the special crotch strap at the end of the ride, but once the ride is parked the mechansim lets go, and you can just lift the buckle out of the slot.

We exited down the stairs and headed to the parking lot. I chuckled at the cute sign by the Sling Shot. It has a volcano theme, and the wall around it has an orange painted lip, and a sign saying not to sit on the wall becuase the lava is hot.

We next headed along some back roads to the Osceola County Fair. The Osceola County Fair would be my first expericne with Strates Shows, and we had heard that their midway would be noteworthy, and to sweeten the deal, they were having a pay one price ride session from noon to 5pm for $15.

we had expected to spend more time at Magical Midway but we just weren't that impressed with that place, and besides we were now planning on taking back roads to the Osceola Connty Fair. We arrived at the fair ahead of schedule, as you might expect. The Osceola County fairgrounds are on 192 just east of Kissimmee. As we were approaching the fair, our first sign that we were in the right area was spotting the giant wheel. We note that 192 runs right alongside the ride midway. I note that its a nice large midway, but at first I don't see anything that interesting. Wait, what is that, is that a Chance Rok N Rol!!??!! Now, I'm not exactly new at the fair going hobby, and I had just found my first operating sample of a Rok N Rol this week, what are the odds of going from having never seen one, to seeing two in a week.

We pull into the parking lot behind a stretch hummer limo. I note that parking is free, and further note that due to our early arrival we get to park quite close to the fair admission gates. We arrived early enough that we rested a while in the car, and also noted the wind hadn't died down. Somone sat a cup of coffee on a pickup truck, and we were guessing whether the cup would be blown off into the bed or onto the ground. Unfortunately the coffee cup was removed before we found out. The adverts said the grounds didn't open till noon, so we sat in the car till about 11:50, then headed up to the entrance gate. The gate was a rather simple affair, with just being a gate in the fence, with a man stationed at a card table under a canvas canopy taking tickets, and two potable tickt boxes sitting outside. I was a bit surpised to learn they were using a computerized ticket machine to custom print tickets on purchase. Grounds admission was $5.

It does not take long to get oriented to the grounds, the midway is to our left, and the livestock area and then the expo hall is to the right. We continue walking down the main path, passing by the double deck carousel, then a lot of game joints and smaller attractions. This site must be the kiddie zone. We hit the other end of the midway, and turn left by the show office to get a closer look. It looks like the midway contains:

* Giant Wheel
* Musik Express
* Go Gator
* Wave Swinger (Zierer)
* Starship 2000
* Scrambler
* Larson Fireball
* Monkey Maze
* Wacky Worn
* a sideshow
* a kiddie pool with kiddie boats
* a couple inflatables that were never inflated
* Tivoli ReMix
* KMG Fireball
* Dartron Cliff Hanger
* Chance Zipper
* Chance Rok N Rol
* Chance Thunderbolt

Kids rides inckluded a mini himalaya, Dizzy Dragons, Crazy Bus and more,.

We take a walk around the midway and decide its worth it to stay. Oh yeah, Jerry and I really just looked at the Rok N Roll and we said "Game is On!"

We went into the Expo Hall to use their facilites, and noted that the main hall had not opened yet, but the important facilites were open, along with some 4H displays and the officialfair souvenir stand.

Right at twelve the expo hall doors open and we head some opening remarks. WE head back outside and take a secod tour of the midway. It seems like the midway is coming to life so we go buy our $15 wristbands. We overhear the jointees already griping about how this day has BLANK written all over it.

We take our new wristbands directly to the Rok N Rol for the first of several Rok N Rol ride sessions. After getting a couple disorientation rides on the Rok N Rol, Jerry and I decide to get an official ruling on our Zipper ride eligibility. We walk up to the Zipper, are shown to a tub (old style tubs) and the door slams shut without any trouble. We proceed to get a totally unremarkable Zipper ride. Could it be the strong winds, or too much weight in the tub, I don't know, but we were not impressed with the ride.

Next, Paul and I ride the KMG FIreball. I needed some help from the operator, but he pushed the bar locked and away we went. The program on their Fireball is one that the ride has a nice intense climax, but man it takes a long time to work its way up to the big climax. All in all we deemed it to be a good program.

From the Fireball,we note that the ReMix is closed, that no one is even working on the Remix, that it looks like the Remix will not be operating anytime soon, and in fact the ReMix never did operate while we were there.

We head to the Starship 2000 and arrive just as the ride is going down for awhile. We instead stepnext door to the Musik Express and get a nie ride on the Musik Express. I clock the ride at 12RPM.

From the Musik Express we head to the Scrambler, and are delighted that they were actually runnng their Scrambler at a nice peppy speed. After our Scrambler ride we have a nice chat with its operator, Overall we found the Strates workers to be friendly and helpful.

After chatting for some time, we head back to the Starship 2000 just in time to see the door close in front of us. We'll try back later. We note that this show has a dunk tank, but the dunk tank is closed due to frigid weather. Hmm, dunk tanks and side shows, two aspects of the midway that are almost extinct up in Ohio whereI come from.

We head back to the Rok N Rol for another Rok N Rol multi ride session. After tiring of the Rok N Rol, Jerry and Paul go to ride the KMG Fireball, and I go to round up a nice hot cup of coffe. Coffee was a deal with the stand near the ReMix selling coffee at only 75 cents a cup.

We head from one Fireball to the other, and we take rides on the Larson Fireball. Larson Fireball was running a typical Fireball ride experience, including holding you upside down for 10 seconds straight, I like how ever other row faces backwards, so each passenger compartment seats 4 people 2 facing each way. Fireball has the more open cages than the Ring of Fire, and uses shoulder bars instead of a cage and lap bar.

After the Fireball ride I spot a Cover the Spot joint. Talk about midway nostalgia that I hadn't seen for quite some time. No I declined my chance to try this classic midway brain teaser. I also note the dozers are running tokens.

We take a break and walk through the Expo Hall, it doesn't take long as there arent rows of booths, ots more like booths lining the outwe walls of the hall, and another ring of booths in the cneter. A lot of political oriented booths, and such, Not much of interest to us, but we do note that this Fair is more like a still date that just happens to have a few minor animal exhibts and a meager expo hall attached.

We head towards the kiddie rides are with the intention of making the Dizzy Dragons very very dizzy. We even get in line, but note the kiddies on the cycle in front of us aen't even turning their dragons. We decide not to try to traumatize the kiddies and instead opt to take the aerial view atop the Giant Wheel. According to the signs their Giant Wheel is 125' tall. We get a better idea about how small the fair is, how empty the parking lot is, and how cold it is at 125'up.

After our carousel ride, we do finally get our Starship 2000 ride. We received a Starship 2000 ride that in normal circumstances I would call a regular fun ride. However, we had just been on the Starship 3000 at the sate fair two days ago. That Starship had a kicking sound sytem, awesome light show, and ran so smooth you could not tell you were spinning. This Starship was a lot plainer, and offered a rough ride in comparison.

After the Starship, we headed back to, you guessed it, the Rok N Rol for another ride session. We figure out that unlike the Rok N Rol at the state fair, this one has kicker tires and a mechanism wheeby the operator can force the tubs to fliop over. We also figure out that in this case it may be counterproductive to try to rok the tubs ourselves. But then the operator started playing with us, and after we stopped trying to spin the tubs ourselves, he kept playng with the switch that controlled the auto tub flipper so that we never quite new weather or not to expect a flip. Then there was the bring the ride to a stop, then restart it gag. We rode a few more times. Yes we more than got our POP worth at the Rok N Rol alone,

After the Rok N Rol, Jerry and I give the Zipper another chance. We got a few flips but it was still a pretty dull ride as Zipper rides go, and it was not for lack of effort on the part of the ride operator, We could feel him trying to gie us a flip fest, but with the wind and all the ride would just not cooperate.

After The Zipper we head to the Chance Thunderbolt. I had been on the HErschell and Mack versions of the Matterhorn type rides, but never the Chance. I can now say I have the Chance in my collection of rides ridden. As a bonus the tubs were swining high which means the ride was running nice and fast. The ride also made a nod to Europe by not having any type of gate, chain or barrier at the ride entrance.

We exited the Thnderbolt and Paul and I attempted to ride the KMG Fireball again. Recall that I was able to ride it earlier today, and I had no snack stops between rides. This time the operator tries two seats before rejecting me. Paul notes that he say the OK light for my seat come on, but the ride operator is the final arbiter. Bummer.

We next head to the Cliff Hanger for our mid day nap. We all head to, and the crew lets us all ride in one 'kite' (each kite accomodates three) . It was as expected a nice relaxing ride.

After the CLiff Hanger, we have another Rok N Rol rise session until we just can't take it anymore. Besides POP was due to end soon.

On our way off of the lot, I stop by a grab for Cajun Style Fried Alligator on a Stick. The stands gets bonus points for cooking the gator to order, having the recepts showing the fresh gator purchase on prominent display, for having very friendly workers, offering a hand sanitizer, and giving nice large portions. ($6). we note they won a blue ribbon for best food stand at the 2005 edition of the fair.

With that we head out, and note the parking lot never did fill up. Overall I am impressed with Strates shows, they put on a nice large friendly show with a nice assortment of machinery.

We start to head to our hotel for the evening, another Baymont Inn.. WE look around for dinner ont he way, and settle in for another Steak N Shake run. After Steak N Shake, we manage to drive right past our hotel (which actually sits behind the IHOP and Perkins) and don't realize it until we ae at Old Town. We look up the hotels location, and decide to deal with it after stopping at Old Town.

We pull into Old Town's free prcking lot and enter the entertainment district. Old Town is a tourist district that involves shops, restaurants, bars and atractions set up to look like an old time downtown, USA.

The cross streets have various amusements like a mechanical bull and the Worlds Largest High Striker. A haunted house, arcade, lazer tag, and indoor bumper cars figure amongst the tennants, and their are amusement midways at either end, One end is anchored by the kiddie rides as well as a Zamperla Windstorm Coaster (that I already have the credit on), along with some games. The end nearest 192 is much more interesting with a Chance Inverter, Larson Fireball, Zamperla Turbo Force, Funtime Sling Shota large go kart track, giant wheel, scrmbler and more in this area.

We note that if we purchase a wristband before 6pm it would be $12 as opposed to the usual $15. We look around and decide against the wristband. We also inquire if members of the American Coaster Enthusiasts still get some free rides on the coaster. Nope, that offer has been taken off the table as well.

I peer into the bumper car arena, which claims to have extreme bumper cars, ans it looks just like ordinary dodgems that are indoors. The dodgems are not included in the wristband. We do confirm that they will operate the Turbo Force or Spring Shot if we ask,

We decide instead to go next door. Next door to Old Town sits the World's Tallest Skycoaster, at 302'6". The skycoaster sits majesically over a lake, but we bypass that for now, walking past the clubhouse out to the drag racing venue, The ride is G-Fprce which is a S&S drag racing simulator. In short, you get into a replica of a stock car (yes through the window), get harnessed in with a real raceing harness, then you have to watch the chistmass tree and hit the gas as soon as the light comes on, but not before. A scoreboard notes race time, response time, and if the erson false started. The ride claims to be ablt go go 0-100+mph in just 2 seconds, All in all it looked interesting but at $30 ($20 for the reride), it sounded just a bit too expensive, so we passed it up.

Between the G-Force and the clubhouse, the have a Moser Spring Ride, and an intersting ride that involves a bike shaped ride tub where you are secured by shoulder bars, then with fast enough pedaling can flip all the way over. Both of those smalle rides go for $3. Looking back on it, I now wish I would have tried the bike riding one.

We went to the Skycoaster club house, Look around, and eventually ask if they will run the Skycoaster. Yes they will but triple flyers only due to the wind. Paul goes to a private room to deliberate his decision. It was known that Paul does not like drop rides. Paul rejoins us and indicates his answer is no. We leave the clubhouse, and Jerry and realize that we will have to put on our pursuasvie hats. I note the clubhouse sells beer out of a fridge labeled "Liquid Courage"

We take another walk up and down the main street of Old Town. Jerry and I go from low pressure to applying some good old fashined peer pressure. We walk through the Happy Das Arcade, which quite frankly is not that happy any more. A good deal of floor space is given to slot machines, which do not retun money, only prize redemption tokens. The arcade has only one pinball machine and it was out of order, as were several other machines, including a dollar bill operated animation of an execution scene. How does THAT belong in Happy Days?

Eventually we apply the maximum amount of peer pressure allowed by law, and before Paul knows what hits him, he has a Skycoaster ticket and we are heading out to the harness shack.

We are admitted to the harness shack, and they have the hanesse set out, and Jerry and I already have our feet through the loops and are pulling the leg loops up our legs before the attendant comes to instruct us. We get a "Y'all have done this before I see?" More times than we care to admit to, which let her focus her spiel on Paul, the novice.

We get harnessed, and we decide that Jerry will pull the ripcord. We go out along a bridge to the loading area. We board the lift and are taken up to the fligh cables. We get all hooked together, then hooked up to the flight cables, and everything is going well until the time where the lift usually starts to lower and you fall forward, effectively hung, but the lift is low enough that you don't come in contacgt with anything. Now its true we were very unstable in our balance during loading, so I don't know what happend, but the next thing we know we are doing the usual fall forwards when WHAM we hit the hard floor of the lift face first. I had put out my hands to stop the fall, so I didn't skin anything up, but man my hnads stung from that impact for some time after the ride,

The crew is understandably startled as well, checks that we are okay, and if we wish to continue. We do wish to continue, It was a fun team buildng exersice as they asked us to stand back up, while still tied together as well as tied to gthe flight cables, AND can't reach the railing of the lift to get a good grip to stand,

We resume the loading process, and the next time the lift lowers we fall forward again, but this time we are hung instead of smacking into the lift floor again. We then take the 300'+ climb. The mic man tells us not to look down, but instead to look straight ahead and wave and look happy, your on an amusement ride, darn it. He also says things like "You guys are only a fourth of the way there" "Only halfway there" Man, this is tall.

We get to the top, and after the countdown, Jerry pulls the cord, and Paul goes into the shock of his first every sKycoaster freefall, while Jerry and I are enjoying our mini skydive. By about the second swing Paul is smiling and having fun.. They let us swing for quite some time, then we are brouh to a stop.

The lift comes back up, and we get unhooked and change places with the oncoming riders. I think the best part of getting to watch the next flyers get harnessed is seeing their reaction when they take that little fall forward on the lift. We start to exit out to the hanress shleter when we realize that at least Paul and I are still tied together. I look down at the harness and unclip the links between the two harnesses. I only mention this becuase last time I did this particular SKycoaster, which was back in 2000, thehy left Jerry and I clipped together when we tried to exit. Except that in 2000 they left a mission critical piece of equipment attached to our suits and had to come running after us to retireve it.

We emove the harnesses, then watch but d not buy the DVD of our experience before heading back to Old Town.

We return to Old Town and it seems that Paul wants to try the Sling Shot now. The signs for Sling Shot inducate that it launches you 360' I remind Paul that what goes up 360' mjust come down 360'.

Paul and I ride the Sling Shot. Unlike other shots I have done there is no capsule or roll cage around the chairs on this one, just a very open exposed pair of seats, each seat has a shoulder bar and a crotch strap. That was a tight fit for me. I think i am now done with Sling Shots, just becuase there is nothig to the ride. I mean the anticipation is nice, especially after the tile the pod back so you are looking sriraigh up, but then you launch like a rocket, and it is so smooth its unreal. No strong negative G's, no rough jerky halt a the top. It is just one very very smooth ride, I did lke when we flipped to face upside down just in time for one of the drops.

Our last stop at Old Town is the Genera Store, a nostalgia store of sorts. Their gimmick is cheap drinks. Pepsi is only 50 cents a bottle, and beer is only $2.50 a bottle. Those are stadium bottles, 16-ouncers.

Paul notes that some of eh nostalgia they sell are expired license plates. "Who says we have to pay 50 for license plates" We have a round of beverages, and note that they serve our beer bottles in their own plain brown bags. We ask if we are allowed to drink the beer outside as we walk through Old Town. They neither confirm nor deny that we can.

We drink our beers, and by the time we finish Jerry decided to go give teh G-Force drag racer a try, but alas that ride had already closed for the night, and the dust covers were on the cars.

We return to our car and head to the Baymont. I almost felt like royalty at the front desk as I had apparently merited Express Service, which means that you don't have to fill out a registration card at the desk, you don't have to show them your credit card, you just tell them your name, and they hand you your keys, already pepared and tell you which room. In the morning they slip the receipt under the door. Quick in, quick out. This Baymont is a lot better than the one in Tampa, with interior corridors and all. We even get a room assignmnet right up close to the office. We move in, recharge batteris in electronics, futz around on the internet for awhile, and plan tommorow out.

Our entire plans for Monday include the flight home. The earliest departure in our happy trio was 10:30, so with tSA guidelines that means an 8:30 arrival at airpot, whihc means arriving at Hertz at 8:00 to besafe, which means leavng the hotelby 7:30. We decide to not stay up late.

"All thats left is the trip back home"

Monday morning we get up early, get ready, enjoy the courtesy breakfast and head out to the airport. Along the way to the airport they manage to get $2 in road tolls for us, but soon we arrive back at Hertz. The Hertz car return procedure is real easy you just pull into the return center, a waiting agent scans your car back in, and settles the account, then we head to a waiting bus to return to the terminal. Our shuttle driver is somewhat of a comedian and soon we have returned to the airport.

I part ways and make my good byes, and head inside the airport and check in and check my luggage. I don't head directly to security as I have tons of time to kill, whith an 11:10 departur. I cruise the shopping mall in the airport. I don't buy anyting but I do some brochure rack raids at the Disneym Universal and Sea World stores.

Around 9 I finally head over to security. Organized Chaos is the best way to describe it. It llok me 40 minutes to get through security. My favorite part of the line was where 4 lanes all suddenly merge down to one lane without warning,

I clear secuirty, take the moorail out to the terminal and head to my gate area to elax and read the courtesy paper I picked up at the Baymont.

The flight back home was uneventful (my favorite kind of flight), and as I had time to kill in Cincinnati before my ride arrived, I enjoyed lunch at the Wolfgang Puck Cafe before heading on home.

Hope you enjoyed the TR'sas much as I enjoyed the trip!

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Survivor Exile Island - Episode 4

Come on in Guys!

Let's review episode 4 shall we?

Survivior has become very formulaic, first we had the 'previouslies' and the credits, then we come up after asuper long commerical break to the new episode.

Let's check in with the tribes!

First we check in with La Mina since they lost Misty last week. We start with seeing themget a fire going, but don't worry we soon get into tribal politics. It seems that while Misty was voted out Ruth Marie was left out in the dark, and she tought Sally was going. That much is all part of good game playing. The 4 men of the tribe form a gender based alliance, and with having 4 of the 6 spots on the tribe right now, they already have a lock unless some sort of shake up happens.

The guys decide they need to bring a fifth person into the Alliance. They are already thinking post merge, becuase when an Alliance is more than the minimum needed to rule the tribe, it is getting unweildy and must crumble at some point.

We then check in with Casaya. Casya is having work ethic issues. We start with showing some tribe members coming back with a pail full of snails to eat, and they are already to start cooking them when they return to camp, to see no fire, and that nothing had been accomplished by the rest of the tribe while they were sourcing food. The usual finger pointing, hurt feelings and bickering over 'pulling their weight'ensues.

And, it's time for Reward Challenge #4
"Want to know what your playing for?"
Prize: Casa De Charmin - It's a bathroomfor your tribe. The prize package includes an outhouse complete with real toilet seat. Did I mentiionthe outhouse came stocked with several rolls of Charmin. Outside the outhouse is a bush shower, wash basin, some bars of soap, some bath towels, back brushes, and a 5 gallon bottle of purified water. The losing tribe gets the usual booby prize of loosing a tribe member to Exile Island until the next imunity challenge. "Worth playing for?"

The challenge: Its a variation on the perinnial floating puzzle challenge. Out in the lake each tribe has 6 floating triangle shaped puzzle pieces. Each tribe also has a hexagonal shaped ring out in the water. One by one the tribe members have to dive off the dock, swim out to a puzzle piece, unclip that puzzle piece,and get it completely inside the hexagonal ring. The next player can't dive off the dock till the previous player has their puzzle piece in the ring. After all the pieces in the ring, the tribe can start to solve the brain teaser. Each side of the triangle pieces has a symbol, you have to move the pieces and place them in the hexagon so that whenever two pieces touch, the symbols match. The hexagonl ring itself also has symbols on it that adjoining pieces much match.

La Mina is way ahead on the puzzle piece gathering phase, but don't blink, becuase Casaya comes from behind to win the challenge by excelling at the puzzle solving phase. Casaya wins the bathroom reward and Casaya elects to return the favor by choosing La Mina's obvious leader, Terry to send to Exile Island.

Terry atually sounds thrilled to go into Exile, he calls it a vacation, and shouts out "Bring in the boat!", he is seen smiling and waving his way off to exile.

Time togo backand check in on the tribes again:

La Mina looks deflated by their second challenge loss in a row. They vow to make Terry proud by keeping camp life up and possibly improving upon the way Terry left it. Uhm, that lastsabout 5 seconds, till the tribe mates decideto break for lunch and naps. In short you can forget about productivity on this tribe.

Over at Casya, we get to see their deluxe bathroom. The tribe can't enjoy thir prize as someof the tribe members decide that the outhouse would makea better woodshed than outhouse. We also get another dose of the work ethic dispute. Its getting nasty, and Courtney seems to be th target of the laziness-police. We learn that Cire, ever the pro at playing the interpersonal game decded that this is the time to fly under the radar. Good move!

Lastly we check in on life over at Exile Island. We learn that not only is Terry alowed near the big wood skull, me must go to the top of the wood skull to get the clue. Tery recieved a scroll with a map that has red zones that show where the idol isn't. Also since he is the fourth exile, he recieved all 4 clues.

Clues thus far:
"WHY" has fate brough you here
The idol is above the tide line
The idol is underground
The idol is under a rock.

Well, this is all Terry needs. He soon goes on a no stone unturned search of the island. He finds one stonethat comes up way too easy, and just doesn;t look natural. He digs out the sand and dirt under the rock. He then remakrks this doesn't belong here. He digs out a wood crate. In the rate is a glass jar, inside the jar is the immunity talisman. A note attached to the jar instructs him to break the bottle and claim his prize. He uses the rock that was covering the idol to smash open the jar, and claim the rather startling looking idol.

I, for one, am shocked that they let us see him claim the immunity idol. Well, we also now know that Bruce does not have it.

Speaking of immunity , its time for the immunity challenge. They welcome Terry back to the tribe, and Jeff really tries hard to make Terry slip up and spill the beans. They go onto the challenge.

In this challenge one player getswto take it easy and sit on a swing (
Jeff calls it a chair, I call it a swing), another ribe member climbs to the top and stands in a crows nest. The other tribe members are split into pairs and are teathered together. The runner must, as a pair, negotiate a criss crossing balance beam. Yes, both tribes have to cross each other several times. Not onlythat but they have to negotiate the balance beam course, teahtered in pairs, and while carrying what look like paint cans. When they get to the other end of the course, they are lakeside. They dip their cans into the water and fill the cans up with water, then they have to negotiate the balance beam course again, this time teathered together and carring full cans of water. Any water spilled is lost. In addition falling off the balance beam means that both members of the pairhave to empty their cans, and start the balance beam portion over. If they get the water cans back to the home station, they are to pour them intoa larger bucket. After they pour the water into the bucket, the person in the crows nest uses a pulley arangement to bring the water bucket up to the crows nest, they then pour the bucket into a larger water drum. After emptying the bucket into the drum, they lower the bucket back to the other tribe members. The water drum is connected via a pulley system to the swing with the last tribe mate. Once the weight in the bucket exceeds the weight of the swing and tribe member, the drum will go down and the swing will go up. After the swing has gone up, the person in the swing can pull a large pin out of the support post, which will cause the tribal flag to unroll. First tribe to have its flag unrolled wins immunity.

Oh, and not originally part of the challenge, but it rains and then thunderstorms during the challenge. Its a very close challenge but Casaya finished just seconds ahead of LA Mina to claimthe seond immunity challenge in a row.

WE get one last visit to LaMina's beach for the backstapping portion of the episode. Their seem to be some work ethic issues on this tribe as well, but remember how at the start of the episode the idea was to keep Ruth Ann and evict Sally. Well now they want to kick Ruth Ann out, There issome dissention amongst the alliance about this however.

We then go to tribal council. Jeff asks Terry to describe Exile Island, but Terry isn't talking about it, but he did share the fact he got tosee all four clues, but only after his tribe mates asked him directly. We then talk about performance at the immunuty challenge. Sally claims she gave it her all. Jeff then talks about how Misty was blindsided last episode.

We go to the vote, and as expected its Ruth Ann and Sally. In a 4-2 vote, Ruth Ann is evicted, but we are shown that the two women each vote for each other. That means one of the men, probably Dan,did not vote along Alliance lines.

Jeff evicts Ruth Ann comments that the tribe still has a positive outllok on life, and that's important.

And the previews: LaMina's food situation does not look to have improved, and over on Casays it looks like somethig bad happened to Casa De Charmin.

Until next week, take care, and remeberAmazing Race starts Tuesday

Feel free to Curl amongst yourselves until then. I mean the sport, what did you think I meant? The Linz's Curling rink should be opening any day now! :)

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Coasterville Con - Trip to Florida - day 3

Welcome back, its Day 3 of the Florida fair and coaster tour. That would be Saturday February 11, 2006.

Today we planned for an all day outing to Busch Gardens Tampa, and staying bery close to the park, we basically ran the same morning routine of getting ready, grabbing breakfast, and driving to the park as yesterday. In fact, I think we might have gotten just about the same parking space.

Today, I decided to take my camera into the park with me. I realized that I just didn't have much in the way of Busch Gardens Tampa photos, owing a lot due to the parks very strict no loose articles policy. Cameras and passes in hand, we boarded the tram and took the quick trip to the park. Owing to our camera bags we would have to stop off at the security checkpoint, it's the same paw through your bag type security they use at the Disney parks. The security check took just enough time that by the time we got the the front gate, the gates had been opened, and the initial onslaught had already gone through. Therefore we just needed to have our passes scanned, stick our hands into the hand reader, and enter the park.

Even though we planned on taking a photo safari of the park, we decided that we are coaster enthusiasts above all, so we decided to see if some early morning power riding opportunities were available. We rememberd that the park did not open SheiKra with the park on Friday, so we decided to head to Egypt to ride Montu. When we arrived at Montu, the coaster had not quite finished its morning coffee, or its morning checks. We used the time to get some Montu photos, and a short time later the ride was opened. Owing to the loose articles policy, we chucked the cameras into a locker (convieniently located right outside the ride entrance, and only 50 cents) and entered the queue.

Power riding was very much the order of the day, and we started with a 6 or 7 ride power ride without having to leave the station and walk around. The morning got off to a peppy start with 2 back to back rides in the "Hot Seat", the back left seat is my personal favorite on the ride. From then we moved around between rows 5, 6 and 7 with most rides in row 7, which offered the intensity of the back row, but with usually no body waiting for that seat when we returned to the station.

All in all I think we got about 11 Montu rides before we decided to move on. This on a Saturday, maybe the crowds won't be bad after all. After our 11 Montu rides we decided to move on from the 7 inversion B&M Inverted coaster and start the park photo shoot. Ah, a Montu Morning Wake Up Call, who needs Coffee!!

Montu sits in the Egypt section of the park, and according to my research Montu is an Egytian war god often depicted as a bird. The Montu site is themed loosely around an archeological dig, complete with some of the elements running through trenches. You enter the ride through some Egyptian ruins complete with portions of heiroglyphic paintings on the walls. The whole area has dark brown walls literally covered with carved heiroglyphics, and the actual entrance to Montu is through a magestic looking archway in the park of the area. Out in the area before you get to Montu is a gift shop, games of skill area, a sandbox attraction, and a walk through exhbit "King Tut's Tomb" On the border between Egypt and Crown Colony is the former site of Akbar's Adventure Tours, which was a motion simulator ride, that building has 'moved' to Crown Colony where it houses the Show Jumping Hall of Fame. What is odd is the Akbars's theme still stands outside the old ride entrance. There is also an entry to the Edge of Africa area. Edge of Africa provides guests with access to take a walking tour of the Serengetti, which is the parks main animal area. Busch Gardens is very much still a zoological park. We decided not to go out of our way to see the animal exhbiits, but if we happened to walk past one we'd look at it. Therefore we skipped Edge of Africa and headed into Crown Colony.

Crown Colony is a stately majestic looking area of the park, its focal points are the Clydesdale Hamlet where you too can visit the Clydesdales, and the Crown Colony House, which is the finest restaurant in the park. Another massive structure also resides in Crown Colony. At first it looks like the worlds largest Skyride station. Long time visitors of the park might remember when there was no "Edge of Africa", no walking tour of the Serrengeti. At that time you could tour the Serengetti either by overhead monorail, overhead skyride, or from the train ride. Of those, both the Skyride and the Monorail used to board from the gigantic looking building that sat accross from the Crown Colony House. The Skyride remains, the monorail was removed at about the same time the "Edge of Africa" waling tour was opened. The park did put an entrance for Edge of Africa between the Skyride and the Crown Colony House.

We noted gates blocking the ramps up to the Skyride, and a sign stating the ride was closed for weather. Given the days wind and rain forecast, this was a very reasonable and understandable decision by the park.

We headed on past Crown Colony and zipped past a secondary admission gate to the park, the Nairobi Gate which must be for VIP and speical events. We then passes through Morrocco. Morrocco is the parks main merchandising arm, not to say the park doesn't have enough other gift shops located throughout the park, but this is the main area. Coming from Crown Colony, we pass one of the parks major show venues, the Morroco Theatre, a rahter majestic building on the left, a tile fountain in the middle of the walkway, and the alligator exhibit to the right. We pause to look at the alligators before continuing.

We then hit the front gate plaza which is themed to a bazzar, complete with gift shops, food outlets, crafters stores, and the Marrakesh Theater, an ampitheatre showing a rock and roll review show, titled "Morrocan Roll" (More Rock and Roll, get it?) As we pass through the Morrocan village presumeably featruring Morrocan architecture we hit the Morrocan countryside and come upon Gwazi. The Gwazi area themeing neither matches Morrocco, or the Bird Garden beyond. It alsmost is its own little mini land. There is a Gwazi themed sculpture accross from the ride entrance, and in the adjoining extreme attractions area, the rock wall is paintend hald blue half orange and has a Gwazi theme. We opt to not ride Gwazi at this time, but I do notice how unphotogenic the coaster is, mostly becuase its very well concealed the rides station house and marquee all about obsure any decent view of the ride from the midway, and the rides structure blocks interesting views from the exit ramp.

We head past Gwazi into "Bird Gardens" one of the older areas of the park, housing, well you guessed it Birds. The area houses a bird show theater, a bird aviary, a pink flamingo exhibit, some merchandise locations, a couple special event areas, and the Hospitality House. The Hospitality House located in a picturesque setting accross a lake, houses a pizza booth, beer sampling area, "Budweiser Beer School" educational tour and an entertainment stage. Accross from the Hospitality House is the A-B logo in topiary format. We decide that its a bit early for drinking beer, but we assure Jerry that we will return to the Hospitality House later, and he can build a bank on that.

After the Hospitality House, we pass the pink flamingos and head towards Land of the Dragons. Land of the Dragons is the parks signature children's area. There are Kimodo Dragons on display in the "Living Dragons" area, then we pass by Land of the Dragons. This section of the park sits to one side of the main pathway and is entirely fenced in except for one entrance point. Great for keeping watch over your children. The are has a few mechanical rides, like the dinos egg ferris wheel, but way more impressive is a really cool looking climb/play structure.

Bypassing Land of the Dragons, we come upon Lorry Landing which is another bird aviary, and there are two ramps that go up along either side of it, in effect when you get to the other side of of Lorry Landing you are lookig down into the exhibit, which offers some real nice vews of the birds. At the top of the ramp we go through a nice shade bridge and come out into a smoking area which also offers some great views of Sheikra. We take numerous photos of Sheikra, eventually going down the stairs into Stanleyville and taking more phots in the area boardered by the SheiKra splashdown finale on one side, and the Stanlleyville train station on the other. We note we have to be careful to avoid the splash zone. We pause here for some time to take lots of photos.

After we are satisfied with our SheiKra photo collection, we head towards the ride, and note the ride time is posted as 0 minutes. Coolness. We chuck cameras into a locker located in the area, and we head to SheiKra. We were not able to get rerides on SheiKra, but it was a walk on and by the time we would exit, and walk around, we could get right on antoher train. Sheikra seems to be a capacity machine.

We take time out for a power ride session on this 2005 B&M Dive Machine. Man, those Swiss make great steel coasters. Two vertical dives, an Immelman, the splashdown finale fake, and high capacity, what's not to like!

We take several rides on Sheikra until the ride started to actually form a line, which by normal amusement park standards was still quite low, barely getting back to the entry stairway, with both stations loading. After the line gets back that far, we decide to go see if power riding Kumba is an option.

We suspend the photo safari, and head over to Kumba as fast as we can walk. We arrive at Kumba, and yes power riding is on at Kumba complete with re-rides. It's another fine B&M coaster, this time with 7 inversions and conventional style sit down coaster trains. We ride Kumba several times until the line starts to back up past the station back into the queue area. When we moved on from Kumba it was still only posting a 15 minute wait, on a Saturday, excellent by usual amusement park standards.

We backtrack our way to Stanleyville to reclaim our cameras. We take some more photos of Stanleyville which in addition to SheiKra also is home to two of the parks water rides, the Staley Falls log flume, and the Tidal Wave (shoot the chute type ride). We note that Tidal Wave is closed for annual rehabm and is behind construction walls. The area also houses an animal exhibit out in front of the log flume, the Zambia Smokehouse, a few skill games, merch shops, and the Stanelyville Theatre which is currently hosting a music series for the park that required special (albeit free) tickets.

We head from Stanelyville to the Congo section. Congo houses the parks other water ride, Congo River Rapids, which allows the park to have all three major water rides right next to each other in sort of a water ride zone. You can get it all over with at one time, then go change clothes. Congo also includes two of the parks roller coasters, the older Python on one end, which is an old Arrow Corkscrew, and the massive wonderful Kumba coaster at the other end. Congo River Rapids sits with its loading area in the rear center of the area. In the middle of the area is Claw Island which houses a tiger exhibit, "No Paul, this is not the petting zoo" around Claw Island is Vivi, a major eatery and a gift shop. What was interesting about the gift shop, it that it was selling Corona logoed products. Uhm, I thought that Corona was brewed by a competitor, I was somewhat shocked to find Corona logowear on sale in the park. I made note to look into this at the Hospitality House later. The area also has a train station and a skyride station for the parks in-park transportation system.

As I said, we take a photo tour of the area focusing special attention on Kumba, which means Roar in Congo, and when you get near the ride, and hear it, you will realize the ride is appropraitely named. Once we are satisfied with our photo collection of the freshly repainted and rehabbed Kumba, we headed out through the Mountain Dew shade bridge and head towards Timbuktu. There is a ride area in front of Kumba that looks thematically like it belongs in Timbuktu rather than Congo, but yet I don't feel like Timbuktu should start till we go down the ramp and through the Timbuktu entry arch. Out in front of Kumba sits the Ubanga Banga bumper car arena, and a kiddie ride zone. We'll call it the Timbuktu annex, as Timbuktu seems to be the parks original rides midway area.

We head down the ramp into Timbuktu and took photos of the entrance archway. Now whenever somebody makes an off hand commnet about having to go clear to Timbuktu we can say we have been there, and show them the photo. We enter theTimbuktu proper, the area is done in real pale sandstone colored walls. There is a massive show venue on each end of the area, the Timbuktu Theater on one side which specialized in 4D movies. (Hey, you can't have a theme park in Florida without offering something in 3 or 4 D). The other end of the themed area houses the Dessert Grill, which is a big indoor restaurant that also offers live entertainment. Between the two theatres is the parks main games of skill area. I am a bit disspointed the games aren't more carefully themed. I know this seems nit picky, but the chains sister park up in Virginia has the "Fool the Guesser" game that measures your weight in stones, using a balance scales. That was unique enough, that I actually had the guesser guess my weight, just so I could be weighed on the balance scales, but that is back from anther park, lets flash back to this park shall we?

This themed area houses the parks video arcade, "Sultan's Arcade", a small collection of flat rides, and two rollercoasters. On the flat ride scene is a rather unremarkable looking carousel, the world's slowest dullest looking Orbiter (Sandstorm), a looping starship (Phoenix), a couple kiddie rides. It is clear you don't go to this park for the flat rides. In the back of the area is a Mack Wild Mouse called Cheetah Chase, and in the front of the area is the Schwarzkopf Scorpion. Of thee the the Scorpion is much more interesting, so we spent some time taking photos of it. There is a small bandshell type stage in this area. We take several photos of the single loop and interestingly intense coaster. We note the Scorpion is posting a 50!!! minute wait. We look at the queue and remark that there is no way.

Paul doesn't really care for Scorpion, but Jerry and I like it, so we had Paul hold cameras, and Jerry and I rode Scorprion. The actual wait was more on the order of 10-15 minutes. Schwazkopf really knew his stuff, the loop is wonderfulyl intense, the helix is evil, and ya have to love the "Stop on a dime and give nine cents change" brakes.

While we were riding Scorpion, Paul was enjoying a bag of popcorn, which we soon helped him finish. We also noted the weather was starting to look a bit worriesome. We left Timbuktu through an area that looks like a crafters bazzar into the Nairobi section of the park.

The Nairobi section is mainly an animal exhibit area, with elephants, rhinos, camels and more lining the walkway, and some other animal exhbit areas off the main pathway. The area also features the Rhino Rally Safariquest Adventure Ride. Its a humorous take on a safari ride. For details, see the Day 2 report.

We pass the walkway back to Rhino Ralley and the Nairobi Train station. A bit past the Nairobi train station we see a zookeeper giving up close and personal looks of one of the parks birds, a Falcoln I beleive, that is missing a wing. We then head out of Nairobi back towards Morroco. One of the really neat features of the park is that scattered throughout the park are several sets of guideposts. A guidepost is a pole or post upon which is mounted numerous arrows pointing the way to the various lands and attractions in the park. What makes the guideposts special at BGT is that they also indicate the distance in yards and meters to the destination.

Entering Morroco we pass by but do not enter the Myobi Reserve animal exhibit area. As we pass the alligator exhibit, we have completed an entire lap of the park, and thus have finished the photo safari.

We realize that we have not focused much time on Gwazi, so we return to Gwazi, cameras into locker, and we enter the ride. We are especially pleased to find out that both tracks are open, so we head towards the Tiger side. Gwazi is named after a mythological lion with a tiger's head. Gwazi is also a Great Coasters International dueling wooden coaster. Dueling beause it has two tracks carefully crafted so that when it is run correctly, the trains from both tracks will pass each other numerous times, often with the illusion of a head on collision. It also is helped by the fact the ride has an interesting very twisted layot, and at first glance its hard to tell what parts of the trackwork belong to which track. Add to that there are nice hints of airtime along the way, and Gwazi should be another fine BGT coaster.

We board the blue Tiger train. The ride uses PTC trains that have very intricate paint jobs, and the train themeing goes down to the blue seat cushions on Tiger, and the brownish red seat cushions on Lion. We take seats towards the back of Tiger, and let me tell you Tiger has not aged well. That ride was rough even by wood coaster standards, man that felt almost as rouh as Beast has been running the last couple years. Gwazi also suffers from having just about the worst wood coaster loading policy known to man. A policy that required that all seatbelts be fastened, tightened and checked BEFORE they press the button that allows you to lower the lap bar. After the lap bars come down, they effectively have to check the train again to verify the lap bars are locked. They take their own sweet time about it to. I also noticed tht BGT has done something to their lift latch buckles, whereby the belt will not release unless the lift latch is lifted up all the way. I presume this is to prevent accidental release, as those belt have been known to open inadvertantly by rubbing up against something. It also makes it a chore on Gwazi to open the belt as it uses the standard PTC configuration with the real short belt end, so there is not that much space you have to work around with to get it opened.

We decide to try again, this time we head towards the Lion track, and that Lion is not sounding good, he roared at us as we joined the queue for Lion. We ride Lion in the rear, and Lion has survived a lot better than Tiger. Lion gave an acceptable ride, and we decided on another ride on Lion. This time we opted to sit towards the front of the train. We were to be the next to boar d the ride when the crew announced that they were closing the ride due to inclement weather. We note that it has started to rain. We also note that parks have been known to clear coaster stations totally if the storm gets too severe. We note, as well, that Gwazi is very near the Hospitality House. We decide to make a break for the Hospitality House, stopping to get the cameras out of the locker first. We note a slippery slab of paving on the way, and although not a heavy downpour, its harder than a sprinkle, and even an annoyance rain. Its a medium strength rain.

As luck would have it not 30 seconds after we enter the Hospitality House the skies open up, and the rain comes thundering down. It looks like the Hospitality House was a popular rain shelter, but not as popular as one might expect. We get in line to enjoy a nice free glass of beer, and about 2 minutes later the Hospitality House and surrounding areas lose electric power. We don't know how widespread the power outage is, but what do we care, beer taps can operate without electricity, and the park kept the beer flowing. In fact we overheard the bartenders comment to pour fast as the beer can't be servied it it goes above 40 degrees. We obtain our beers and note the rain has slacked off enough that we head outside to a sheltered spot on the outdoor patio as the air was getting stuffy inside the house.

We decide not to try to make a break for the park exit as that looks like it was a populr destination at the time, and if the power is out at the park, who is to say the hotel isn't without power as well as the traffic lights between the park and the hotel. We decide our safest move is to wait at the Hospitality House until the situation resolves itself, besides if the park decided to resume operations, we may get some more power ride sessions.

About 20 minutes later power is restored, and we go back into the Hospitality House to look around. One one side of the house is a pizza joint, front and center is the courtesy bar where the free samples are distributed. We note that signs say "Please observe our2 samples per day limit" I see its an honor system, the park isn't going to try to enforce that. We also note a sign saying the bar closed at 7:00, and a digital clock posted quite near that sign. The park is using fancy looking white beer taps, and offering 8 selections: Bud, Bud Light, Bud Select, Michelob, Michelob Ultra, Amber Bock, Bare Knuckle Stout, and Odouls.

In the back of the house is a smaller bar where Beer School is held. They also have several television monitors showing their various commericals. They also have a well done looking set of display cases giving a corporate style presentation on their company. There is a case that shows all their non-brewery activities, sch as the park you are visiting, cases that talk a bit about the beer, cases that show containers of all the various Busch brands of beer. I note tht Corona is not amongst the display. A case that shows how internationally enjoyed Busch beers are. There are also displays about responsible drinking, and Busch's community involvement.

Ah and the rain has let up, we exit the Hospitality House, and go into the restroom. There are a couple points of interest in the parks restrooms. First of all, at least in the location nearest the Hospitality House the faucets have the A-B logo, and in all the restrooms, there are placards above the urinals, beer trivia queestions that seem to be a slam against the Miller brewey in thin disguise. I note the park has not posted the beer trivia placards above the lower "children's" urinals. I also note the trash cans in this area have the A-B logo laser engraved into them.

We decide to leave the Hospitality House and head towards SheiKra. (Sheikra - a hawk that lives to dive down on its prey). We get to Shiekra just in time to stow the camera gear into locker and start another SheiKra power ride session. A couple things happen during this session, for one it seems water is leaking into the tunnel under the slashdown area. IF you sit in the third seat from the right, you will get a minor spray of water. Far more interesting was on one of our rides, we appoach the mid course brake run and stop. Now its normal procedure for the ride to stop and hold every train for a few seconds before releasing them onto the second dive drop. Well this time the mid course brake grabbed us and held us there for like 10 minutes or so. Long enough for a PA annoucnement saying that our ride is being delayed, and to basically sit back relax and talk amongst ourselves. I note that the park will probably try anything to not have to evacuate guests down 13 flights of wet slick metal stairs. As I said, about 10 minutes later we get another PA announcement "Your ride is about to resume, please brace for a sudden start" , we are released onto the second dive, and then we are stacked on the ready brakes behind the station. Eventually we are let into the station and exit the ride. We ride again, this time the line is backed up most of the way down the stairs, but that soon clears up. We ride for several more times, with slight lines now becuase we don't see anything else moving. When the ride has another spot of downtime, we decide to head to Kumba. I have noted SheiKra has a dual loading station, which works mostly well, it would greatly help exit stait congstion (recal the spiral stairs to exit, single person wide door at top of stairs, and 48 people tryting to exit at once.) I think it would greatly help this congestion if they would release the riders out of the front train as soon as it stops in the station, of course I also realize why they don't do that, in case the second train returns to the rear station, and for whatever reason the brakes fail and the two trains in the station collide. They want everybody safe and secure till both trains are safely stopped and secure.

During Sheikra's second spot of downtime, we head back to Kumba. Kumba is a little bit too busy for rerides, but we can walk right back around. We take another ride session on Kumba, and ride Kumba for some time. Eventually the line fills the station area and backs up into the queue. It is during that time, the ride as to close for a 'satisfied customer' that had exceeded their thrill ride limit. "Clean Up on Asile Kumba" They spend some time cleaning the train, then they ghost that train for a few cycles, effectively taking the ride down to a single train for some time. In fact we are the first lucky guests to be admitted to the ghost train. I note the loaders do come around with towels to wipe the water off the seats. Between the seat drying, loading, etc, it takes just enough time for rainstorm #2 of the day to arrive, and the skies open up right as we start up the lift hill. "This is not going to be pleasant" I close my eyes, bow my head, and just hope for the ride to end soon. I dont look up or open my eyes till the train has stopped and no rain is falling, indicating we are back in the station.

We note they have closed the rides again for inclement weather. Kumba is not the best place to be during inclement weather. We duck under a sheltered part of the queue area till the rain slacks off, then head out and the canvas cover of the Mt. Dew bridge actually helps a bit. By the time we get to the Ubanga Banga bumper car building the rain has stopped. We head back to Stanleyville to retrive our stuff out of the locker. While standing there we note something interesting on the Log Flume safety signs. "Riders must be 2 years of age. " Yeah, they mean 2 and up, but the sign clearly states "Riders must be two years of age' Guess I can't ride the log flume.

We decide to make our way out of the park, we head past the Stanleyville Train station, cross the shade bridge, hope the rain holds off, go down the ramp around Lorry Landing just in time to see a guest take a nasty spill on the slick ramp. They need some kind of anti slip surface here. We head past Land of the Dragons, and duck through the Hospitality House on the way. I reconfirmed that I don't much like Stouts. We head back into Morrocco, browse the gift shops, but eventually end up without making a purchase. We exit the park, and are glad to see no line for the parking tram. We ride out to the parking lot and are soon making our way back to Busch Blvd.

We head down the familar route, going most of the way to the fairgrounds but this time stopping at Steak N Shake. Paul and Jerry don't get much exposure to Steak N Shake and I admit the Chocolate/Banana Side By Side Milkshake did sound great.

After Steak N Shake, we head back to the hotel, but stop past the KMart on Busch Blvd to pick up some blank CD's. Then its back to the hotel, where we have a photo sharing party where we use the box of blank CD's to make each other copies of our photos. We then decide to get an early nights sleep.

See you soon for the final part in our series - Part 4 covering days 4 AND 5.

+ Magical Midways - I-Drive, Orlando, Fl, with the brand new Star Flyer thrill ride
+ The Osceola County Fair (midway by Strates Shows)
+ Old Town, and the Skycoaster place next door.
+ The trip back home

See you soon for the last installment

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Coasterville Con - Trip to Florida - day 2

Welcome to day 2 of the big Florida trip.

As we had discussed yesterday, we decided to replace a full day at the Florida State Fair with a half day at Busch Gardens Tampa and then the evening at the Florida State Fair. We still planned on a full day at Busch Gardens Tampa on Saturday. We instantly liked the friday BGT idea as we figured it would give us a better chance at getting the park with ERT like conditions.

Therefore we awoke nice and early in the morning, got ready to go to the park, checked the internet for any important news, and headed to breakfast. I think one of the nicest perks hotels have added recently is the inclusion of breakfast, This particular Baymont offered waffles, fruit compote, cereal, pastrys, muffins, bagels, juices, coffee and milk. A nice assortment of food and a great way to start the morning. We noted the center building of the hotel also holds a conference center and a game room.

After breakfast we head to the car for the "Oh so close and yet so far" block and a half drive to BGT. BGT offers a multitude of parking options: Valet, Regular, Preffered. We opt for Regular, so that means we get to park in the lot accross the street from the park. The park has a very long entry drive to the park that wraps around one side of the lot which is clearly designed to be able to contain a lengthy traffic backup. Might I suggest that the park think about posting the parking prices further back along the driveway instead of waiting to break the bad news to you right asyou pull up to the toll plaza. We arrive at the toll plaza,and pay the $8 parking fee, for which we gain entry to the lot, a parking ticket, a flyer about the parks music concert series, and a flyer about security precautions. The toll plaza is at the farther reach of the back of the lot and we have a drive like in National Lampoon's Vacation as we zoom through the empty lot up to the area in the front. As we near the front of the lot, parking attendants guide us into a space very near the tram stop.

I note that for $12 you can drive through a tunnel and park in a lot that is located on the same side of the street as the park, but even that lot is behind the handicap parking area. We parked in regular parking just a few feet from a tram stop, which in effect sets you up even closer to the park gate than the preferred lot.

We decide to leave the camera equipment in the car today so that we won't be hindered during potential optimum ride conditions. We walk over to the tram stop, its a nice tram stop with canvas covers blocking the elements, and park benches andsoft drink machines for creature comforts. It looks as if the park may be thinking about self-service ticket kiosks as there was a row of small machines with dust covers on them,

We board a parking tram and are shuttled to the fron gate plaza. I note the park has created a seperate tunnel so that the parking trams are not hindered by other traffic. The park gives the usual spiel, stuff like "Make sure you have everything with you that you will need, such as your wallets", and a mention that those 21 and over with proper ID are welcome to enjoy a free beer in the Hospitality House. Now thats my kind of hospitality. In fact I think I'll crack open a nice Bud Light right now.

We proceed through the tunnel and as we reappear on the park side of the street, I note the fence has been decorated with several arrows pointing towards the park. Whats more important, each sign has the word "Welcome" written in different language. A nice classy international touch. We continue along the driveway arriving at the front gate plaza.

Speaking of classy touches, before you get to the ticket booths is a little building that is decorated with American and military flags. Its part of the parks "Here's to the Heroes" promotion where military personnel are given complimentary admission as a gesture of thanks. We have pre-purchased web vouchers so we proceed past the ticket boothsand note that thepark has several guest relations windows to the right as you pass the ticket booths, all the guest service windows were closed. We easily clear secuirty as we could go though the bypass line as we had no bags. BGT uses the same type of security check as Disney, where they merely paw through your bags.

We see another guest relations center to the left hand side of the entrance turnstiles. They had a grand total of one window open. We go to the guest services office and exchange our pre paid vouchers for our Fun Cards. A Fun Card is a cut rate budget season pass. BGT charges $58 for a single day ticket, and $58 for a Fun Card. A Fun Card is good for unlimited vists through 12/31/06. You don't get any of the season pass perks, but for the price, its a great deal. For us it was like getting a two day ticket for under $30/day. Passport processing is easy, they merely collect the voucher and check photo ID, they then give you your pass. There are no photos on the passes,and its printed on ticket stock. The tickets do have your name printed on them, and the endorsement that photo ID is required.

Passes in hand we join the queue for the turnstiles. At around 9:15 a band comes out to entertain people as they wait for the 9:30 park opening. Shortly before 9:30 the ticket checkers come out to take their posts and shortly after 9:30 a man who was supervising the front gate area bellows "Open em Up!" The park day has begun. As we enter the park, they do not check our photo ID's however they do have us insert our hands into a biometric hand scanner. Its quite similar to Disney's system. Okay, now they have taken a sample hand scan from all of us we enter the park.

Busch Gardens Tampa is an intersting park in that it is both a Zoological park as well as an amusement park, and some also extoll its virtues as a botanical park. The park has adopted an African Safari theme, and at one time was called Busch Gardens: The Dark Continent. The parks main shopping district is themed as a Morrocan village. We jaunt through Morroco, zip through a Zagora Cafe dining patio and come to a point of decsison. We can either head right to Egypt for Montu, or we can head left towards Stanleyville for SheiKra. We decide to head for SheiKra, and right on the outskirts of Morrocco, we pass Gwazi, the parks wooden coaster. We note lift hill start up alarms souding on Gwazi, and proceed to head towards the Bird Gardens, however the pathway is blocked with a sign stating that the area won't open util 10am.

We turn back towards Gwazi and notice the ride has opened. We decide to stop for a ride on Gwazi and we note that only the Lion side is open. We head up the ramp to Gwazi and are soon seated in the back car. I recently reviewed my 2000 BGT TR and noted that I commented on the short seatbelts then. Luckily that would not be an issue as I had no trouble fitting into the train. What has remained is the agonizingly slow loading procedure where they check all the seatbelts before allowing you to lower the lapbars, then they have to check the lap bars. They take their own sweet time doing it as well. Paul noticed the park has installed a "christmas tree" light pole that lights up and when the green comes on it is safe to dispatch the train. I noticed similar light poles on most of their rides.

I had heard bad things about how Gwazi has held up over time, but the Lion side seems to still run pretty smooth, and it still has nice hints of airtime. Some of the thrill of the ride is missing without having the other train running, but the layout is very interesting with lots of wists and turns, and some interesting drops. It has some nice minor airtime, but nothing extreme. Gwai was made by Great Coasters International and is dubbed a dueling coaster as when the trains leave the station at the same time, they will pass each other numerous times out on the course.

We enjoyed the ride, but BGT is all about the steel coasters, so we deicde to go find an open steel coaster, or at least get nearone of the parks bigger attractions. We see the path to SheiKra is still barricaded, so we decide to try our luck with Montu. We figure that even if Montu isn't open yet, it willbe by the time we get over there.

So we backtrack through Morrocco, cutting through the Zagora Cafe's dining patio and head past the Morroco Theatre which appears to be running a Cirque du Soelil inspired show titled Katonga. Passing the theatre we ender the Crown Colony where we pass the Clydesdale Hamlet while "Here is the king" plays on the PA system. We zip past the stables and I note that the building that used to hold the parks motion simulator ride has been replaced by the "Showjumping Hall of Fame Museum", well except for they still have the exterior theming for Akbar's Adventure Tours. Akbars marks the line between Crown Colony and Egypt. The entry to Egypt contains a games of skill area, a "See King Tut's Tomb" exhibit, a sandbox for the kids called "Sifting Sands" and an area decorated with heirglyphics.

But now is not the time to admire the scenery. We head to the back of the area and to the Montu entrance plaza. Montu has a plaza like area which provides for great ride viewing and picture taking. We note the gate to the Montu queue is open, and so we go on in, and walk right through the area that is themed to Egyptian ruins and emerge into the station. We note a short line for the back row,so we decide to give Paul the proper introduction of the first ride in rear left seat. We see a train leave and it is to be our turn when, uh oh. The ride suffered a mechanical failure. First, the announceements said they anticipated a short delay, and they recommend peole stay in line, then the announcements changed to we don't no how long the ride will be closed but you are welcome to stay in line, then changes again to The ride is closed, please exit the queue area" We decide to comeback to Montu later in the day.

We head back into Crown Colony and then decide to take the Skyride over to the other side of the park. This skyride station is unbelievably large, and I wonder how many people remember that the huge structure used to hold the monorail station for a former park signature attraction, the Safari Monorail. The structure still hold first aid and other park services according to the park guide. As we head up the ramp to the Skyride station, you actually head to a smaller structure in back of massive building in front. There is a minimal wait for the Skyride, so we are soon up to the front of the line. We note a signwarning not to reach out for the cars as they go past, that sign must not have been effective as they have installed a grille seperating the queue from the ride area. A bit further along we note the weight limit is 650lbs. We do the math, and decide that we don't want to push it on a Skyride. Paul and I get into one gondola, and Jerry into another. The Skyride passes over the safari area and gives nice views into the Serrengeti Plain. Ohter views can be had by riding the parks train ride, riding Rhino Ralley, or taking the "Edge Of Africa" walking trail. After passing over the animal exhibit area, we then pass over Rhino Ralley. Rhino Ralley looks and sounds interesting, we'll have to stop by here later. After passing Rhino Ralley we head down into what looks like it might have been a former skyride station, butis now disused, however you still have to stop here so the attendants can ensure proper spacing of the gondolas, and can push them back out onto the next segment of the course. The next portion of the ride passes over the Timbuktu section, or one of the older more amusement park like sections of the park, finally decending into the other station in the Congo section of the park midway between Kumba and SheiKra.

We exit the skyride and head towards SheiKra. As we approach the ride we are happy to see that there was no wait time posted. We enter the queue and I take a moment to give Ye Olde Test Seat a try. I have no problems with the Test Seat, but Jerry does point out that the test seat conforms to the standards of the larger seats. BGT has one of two seats per train that are a little bit more accomodating than the other seats. According to the park signage you may need to resort to the special seats if your chest is larger than 52".

We head through the empty queue area, and head to the very shallow stairway that heads up to the loading area. Sheikra has a double station where they can load one or two trains at the same time, by parking the trains one behind the other. I also note evidence of a disused fastpass style entrance lane. The queue area is almost but not entirely covered Instead of standard queue lanes, there are a series of bridges that head from the load side over to the track. We note the small crowd and decide to ake our first ride in the front row.

We are seated, its a tight fit for me, but we are safely seated. Once both trains inthe station are loaded, both trains advance out of the station, with the rear train being held on a staging brake immediately downtrack of the station. Once the staging brake releases, its a slight dip and right hand turn to the lift. What a lift it is, 200 or so feet tall, and the lift hill is banked steeper than tthe first drop on several coasters. It is evident the park wanted a large statementmaking coaster that did not take much land area. I also note the ride has a funicular railway that runs along the side of the lift for evactuation purposes. Sheikra uses weird trains, they are only three rows long, however they are eight seats wide. Loading two trains at once, this means they load 48 people per cycle. and they were running 4 trains. It also means there are effectively 16 front seats and 16 back seats per cycle. The official posted policy is that trains will be loaded front to bacl but that was not enforced.

Okay so our train has reached the top of the lift, here we can look out at our hotel and enjoy the view as we perform a turnaround to the right so that we are facing the park proper. I note the wind gauge spinning madly on top of SheiKra lift. As we near the first drop, we hit a second chain that travels ever so slowly, it catches you car and drages it nice and slowly inch by inch towards the brink of the 90 degree straight down first drop. It causes a nice effect where it hold the car with you looking straight down at the ground for about 5 seconds before the chain finally releases and you go screaming straight down. Lots of people exagerate that other coasters go straight down, well this one actually does it. After the amazing first drop, you go back up the second hill and into an Immelman inversion. To my knowledge, this is B&M's third Dive Machine,the only Dive Machine in the USA, and I think the only Dive Machine to feature an inversion. Yoou make a coulple curves after the immelman to hit the mid course brake run that runs parallel to the station. The brakes bring the train to a complete stop before advancing you to a second near 90 degree drop, this one is only about 130' tall, but it heads into a tunnel that runs under a pool of water. You go up a hill on the other side of the tunnel, perform another turnaround, and head right for that same pool of water. The train then dives into a nice dry trench that runs through the center of the water. The trains have been outftted with special scoops that cause copious quantities of water to be sprayed by the train as the train goes past, with the side effect of creatign a splash zone for those passing by. You may get wet watching the coaster, but don't worry, the riders on the train stay nice and dry. After the 'splashdown finale' you take a few more turns as you circle the station building heading into the final brakes You then advnace back to the load/unload area. The exit issomewhat unusual in that you exit via a cicrular tower using a spiral staircase.

At the bottom of the spiral stair you emerge into the ride photo sales area. I note that not only do they sell still photos, they also offer DVD videos for $20. From the footage they showed on the screen, it only shows the big drops and little more. I think I'll pass on the DVD offer. We note the line is still non-existant, so we go back for a back row ride. The first thing I note after taking my seat in the back row is that this ride features stadium style seating with each row a bit higher than the row in front. I like that effect. The ride rides pretty much the same no matter where you sit in the train, however I think I still like row 1 purely for the visuals, though the middle and back rows are good for hearing the reactions of those in the front row. vvWe enjoyed the ride, and we returned to try the middle row, and then we took a few more rides. Owing to the short line we got several rides on Sheikra before deciding to move on, Folks, "We have a WINNAH!"

We decide to head next to Kumba, and at first we head off in the enitrely wronf direction. We figure it out as we went past the Zambia Smokehouse so he eaded back past Sheikra, then the Stanley Falls Log Flume, past the closed for rehab Tidal Wave into the Congo area.

We took a detour in the Congo area to ride Python. Python is a bare bones standard Arrow Corkscrew. Paul did not have the credit, so we figured we had to go ride it once. Paul opted for the front seat, and Jerry and I opted for the back seat. There isn't much to tell, you go leave the station, turnaroundto the lift, turnaround for the first drop, then turnaround again for the corkscrew turn, then turnround once more for the brakes. Its a standard model coaster in a compact space, It gets points for having the storage track located underneath the station. I bet its fun to get a train up out of there. All in all its an easily forgettable Arrow ride.

We head through the Congo area, bypassing the turn towards Congo River Rapids, and head towards what looks like a kiddie ride area. There is kiddie hangglider ride, a kiddie wave singer, I think maybe a tubs of fun. From the kiddie rides we pass the Ubanga Banga Bumper Cars on our way back to Kumba. Kumba has a nice enry sign "Enter Here (If you dare)" followed by a bridge that has thoughfully had shade covers and sides installed. Those covers have a not-so-subtle Mountain Dew theme to them.

Kumba is fresh out of an extensive rehab that included repainting the ride, and let me tell you, it looks FABULOUS!!! We enter the queue area and quite by accident we wound up in the front seat queue. That one fork in the queue area is a bit confusing. We decideto stick with it though and wait itout for a front seat ride on Kumba. The first time I rode Kumba it was glass smooth in 1995, then it was running rough in 1998. Let's see how it runs today. I note seatbelts have been installed on the seats on Kumba. I don't recall them being original equipment on thsi ride. These belts were also a tight fit.

Soon we are out on the course on this B&M standard sit down multi element, It might be a standardcoaster but it have a very interesting series of inversions, tunnels, helix. I like how the lift hill threads the first loop, and there are some other very interesting manuevers. Best yet,My Kumba has returned to me, its running glass smooth again. It's an awesome example of a B&M coaster. We exit the ride and reenter, this time heading for the back seat. Its good back there as well, at the end of our second ride we learn that we can fill in empty seats for rerides, we proceed to go on a 6 ride Kumba session. Aftee our 6 ride session,we take another ride or two before continuing to tour the park.

Our next walk takes us to Timbuktu, well at least the park section known as Timbuktu. We note that Pirated 4D has soft opened in the Timbuktu Theater, though we pass it up. Instead we head to the back corner of Timbuktu where Cheetah Chase is awaiting us. Cheetah Chase is a Mack wild mouse, and has some history with the Busch park chainas it started life in Busch Gardens Williamsburg where it was installed the same year that Atlanta had he 1996 Olympics, and the ride was called the Wild Izzy after the olympic mascot that year. After the Olympics were over it became known as the more generic Wild Maus, now it has arrived at BGT as Cheetah Chase, though I note the control panel still says Wild Maus. The cards have just lap bars, no seatbelts, and I note that tall sides have been added to the sides of the cars. We take the lift up to the top of the lift, and at first the ride takes off with gusto taking the top tier switchbacks totally brakeless, the brakes hit as you enter the lower area of the ride nad don't let up as the ride just sort ofpeters out into nothingness. I did note that you cold tell if a brake was going to hit. The brakes that looked freshly painted were off, the brakes that looked dull were well used. We exit the ride and hear the faint 'click' of a coastere credit being counted. This is as opposed to the feelin as we concluded our first sheikra ride, thatwas more lot slotmachine jackpot bells going off to signify the new coaster credit being scored.

From Cheetah Chase we walk through Timbuktu, it contains a games of skill area, a unremarkable (rather portable looking) Carousel, a Looping Starship called Phoenix, a video arcade, and an Orbiter called Sandstorm. We didn't spend much time with the flat rides as the Phoenix was closed and the Sandstorm was about the slowestmost pathetic Orbiter you have ever seen. It has a unique paint job, but they have stripped off all the lights and midway flash the ride may have had. The other end of Timbuktu has a shopping crafters area, the Desert Inn, which is the parks large restaurant/theatre (ande looks like it was made with the same blueprints as the BGW Festhaus, just with a different facade and decorations)

But we can't leave Timbuktu before going over to visit Scorpion. Scorpion is a single loop Schwarzkopf coaster. Scorpion was originally a transportbale model coaster that the park has firmly rooted in what looks like little more thana fencedin gravel area. The ride runs with a 'fill from the front' policy owing to the very small station. There isonly a one train wait, then we board thetrain and pull down the lapbars. Yes lapbars only on a looping coaster. Its a refreshing change, and we note the signs telling us to keep hands down. This ride also threads track through its loop, and ends withan intense helix. ITs a really fun older coaster, withlots of brakes all positioned at the end of the ride. It looks like the ride was built to handle more than the one train BGT was running on it today. We take one ride, then decide to backtrak our way back around to Sheikra.

Its a long walk around the park and as we pass Sheikra we can't pass up a couple more rides. We then head around this time correctly past the splashdown area where I am able to avoid Jerry's efforts to push me into the water spray. At the back of the area we pass the train station, then head up a stairway, then down a ramp that runs alongside the Lorry exhibit. (a bird aviary), after the bird exhbit we head around Land of The Dragons, which is a wonderfully themed kiddie area with an impressive climibngand play structure and a few kiddie rides. I think the dino egg kids ferris wheel is cute.

After the Land of the Dragons we pass a Living Dragons exhibit featuring kimodo dragons, then past an area with pink flamingos. After the flamingos we decide to visit the Hospitality House where free beer is sampled. Don't mind if I do! You know there are some parks that give out free soft drinks, but here they give out FREE BEER! Having finished the free beer we head around bypassing Gwazi but I note the park has their own"Extreme Area" next to Gwazi, well its a Gwazi themed rock wall, eurobungy and Water Wars attraction. We zip back through Morrocotaking a look in the Marrakesh theater and noting a sign advertising prints from your digital camera. We head back to Egypt and this time Montu is open. We manage to get a few Montu rides, including a back seat ride , front seat ride and several mid train rides.

Montu is a 7 inversion B&M Inverte themed as if you were diving through trenches in an archeologicla dig site. They park has added a trim brake to if before the batwing, but all in all its a wonderful Inverted coaster thatruns nice and smooth. I like the back left of the trainthe best. So we take numerous rides on Montu and the teming adds so much to the ride.

After taking a few rides on Montu we decide to go take a ride on Rhino Rally. We head through the Nairobi section of the park. Rhino Ralley is not so subtly sponsored by Wendy's and Land Rover. We head down the walkway into the safari section of the park to the waiting area. We note the wait is posted at 20 minutes and we figure that although that is the longest line we have waited in all day, it will likely be our best chance at the ride. Rhino Rally is themed to an off road ralley type race. The queue area shows a course map and distress signals, and is sprinkled with the gear you would need for a ralley race. We are about halfway through the queue when the ride goes down mechanical. They say they don't know how long the delay will be, but we are lucky to be near a helpful honest host who tells us they had a truck break down, soas soon as they get it pulled off the course, the ride would reopen. The queue ahead of us almost totally empties, so that when it reopens we are on the second Land Rover out. The ride reminds me a lot of Jurassic Park with the land rover and all.

Our driver welcomes us, makes sure our lap belts are fastened, and intriduces usto our navigator (a fellow park guest). They set up the rally theme and tell us that the course is lined with black and green posts, as long as we follow the posts we will be all right. It also become evident that the park has decided to go with the corny humour style similar to Disney's Jungle Cruise withall the bad puns and bad actingthat go with it. In other words, while you do get tosee a few animals the presentation ismore comical in nature. The majoirty of the off road coursse is pretty tame, you do drive through a few small bodies of water. Just as the driver is tellingus, all we have to do is make this last curve andwe are done, well las you may expect you take a wrong turn andhead into a more hostile looking area. You note there are no more green and black posts. You head out onto a pontoon bridge when the rides signature effect occurs. The pontoon bridge comes apart andyou gl floating down the river avoiding waterfalls onyour little bridge section. IT just so happens that at the end of this section the bridge section just happensto perfectly reallign itself with a road and you head back into the station. Its a unique ride, I like the floating bridge section special effect. Thanks Paul and Jerry for putting up with going to see this.

After Rhino Ralley we decide to head over to the Florida State Fair in time toget some fair photos. We head back through Nairboi, then Morocco and out the main gate. We see them setting up a lot of portable queue in front of the tram stop in anticipation of the big exit rush. We board a tram and head out to the parking lot. I note there is a stop halfway back the preferred parking lot. I don't think its very preferred if you still need to ride the tram.

As we approach the exit tunnel, I note the arrows pointing the way out have "Goodbye" written in various languages. We exit the tram, head back to our car and head back out of the parking lot. We then retrace the familir drive back to the fair grounds.

We enter the free parking lot and are sent to the far reaches of the parking lot. We start to walk towards the fair and check to see if there is another gate by the amphitheater, but wind up walking back to the main gate in the center of the lot. We note the parking tram, but note that we have already walked far enough that we were able to beat the tram to the fair.

Jerry and I had presale admission tickets ($6), Paul did not, so we waited up for Paul to purchase a $10 admission ticket,. Passing the ticket booths, they had not only security pawing through our camera bags, but they also had up lift up our shirts and turn around, checking for concealed weapons. You will note there was no security on Thursday. We enter the fair and head through the Expo Hall once again.

we head towards the midway and stop off for Stromboli and soft drinks. After our snack we took a photo safari of the midway. You can check out my photos, see the photo link on my main site The photo safari took quite some time as we collected photos of every ride on the mian midway, and a sampling of the kiddie rides. After taking photos in the kiddie ride area, Jerry and take a ride on the Rok N Rol. The ride crew recognized us, I guess we left an impression. The midway was a lot more crowded on Friday, and it wqs a 2 cycle wait to Rok N Rol. After the Rok N Rol we return to the expo hall for a bathroom visit. Noteworthy only because they had restroom attendants and a tip plate.

we return to the midway Jerry and I had already redeemed presale wristband vouchers where we were able to get ride wristbands for $20, Paul, who did not have presale tickets, did have a Mt. Dew can which advertsed a $5 off offer for a wristband. The fairhas a real anal policy where you can't redeem the Mt. Dew can at the ride ticket boxes, he was supposed to redeeam it out af the grounds admission ticket booth, depsite the large sign at the grounds ticket booths saying to purchase ride wristbands on the midway. So Paul has to get hsi hand stamped go back out to the ticket booth, where he trades the can for a paper coupon to take back into the mdway back to the ride ticket cage. I hate needless bearacracy.

We take another photo safari of the midway to get night shots. We decide to take a ride on the Orbiter. The Tivoli Orbiter is like a Scramlber on steroids, and the one at the fair was running nice and really fast. After our Orbiter rides, we hold the camera as Paul goes to ride the KMG Wild Claw. Jerry and I don't even bother to try,

We then head down the midway stopping off at the Huss Tornado, we take turns holding the cameras while the other two ride. The Tornado contains several round 4 person cars that go around on a big turntable which raises up into the air. About the most interesting part of the ride is the scenery panel as we could only get the cars to rock bakc and forth, not spin. We tried balancing the tub, we tried severely unbalancing the tub. No luck. We ruled Tornado a lackluste ride and moved on. We then decided to send Paul back to the car to return the camera equipment, You see the fair was runing realy strict reentry rules. You needed both a a hand stamp and a time ticket. You then had 20 minutes to get out to your car, take care of whatever you needed to take care of and nd be back inside the fairgates.

While waiting for Paul, Jerry and I rode the Starship 3000. Its the spaceship looking ride where you spin really fast then stick to the wall as the wall panels go up to the ceiling. This particular Starship 3000 was running an exceptional light show, even though one of the best parts is when they turn off all the lights for a few seconds. The Starship 3000 also ran so smoothly you didn't even feellike you were spinning. The bad part of the Starship 3000 ride was that there was not an orderly line, just a mob that pushes its way towards the ride as soon as the gate opens, Survival of the fittest.

After the Starship 3000 ride I watch talker of the twleve in one build a nice tip. I manage to miss the comotion on the midway behind me. Jery and I then proceed to ride Nitro, again having to defend our position in another mob non-queue. I really like the Nitro version of the Claw type rides. After Nitro I snack on a corn dog and soft drink as Paul returns. Paul rides Space Roller as Jerry and I finsih our snack. Paul' Space Roller ride looked lackluster despite the addition of a fog machine. Paul reported that he also had to deal with the mob style of line. Ya know its not fun having to deal with hordes of people with no sense of manners or idea of howto wait their turn. By the end of Paul's ride the
line for Space Roller was clear back to the Starship 3000.

We decide to head over to the Moonraker, but find that it is still out of service. We waitthree cycles to ride Spin Out, and note the Spin Out operators had set up a nice orderly queue, so I suppose it is possible.

Remember what I said about those narrow midways, lined with joints with over aggressive game operators, well any remaining space was taken by a younger crowd of fairgoers that had just about packed every available square inch of ground space.

We note Moonraker was testing while we rode the Spin Out, so we headed tothe Moonraker. It was still closed, but we decided to take the gamble and camped out right at the bottom of the entry stairs, we only let the ride crew though. About 15 minutes later we were invited into ride. The SDC moonraker isa unique ride that looks like a big flying saucer, people board the flying saucer and sitdown facing inward, then powered shoulder bars lower down. The Flyingsaucer starts to spin round reallly fast creating strong positive G's, then the ride tips up like a big round up, but what is more unqiue is the ride turns around so thatthe whle ship and boom roatearound whie the ship itself is spinning. I found the bars to pinch a bit tighter than I would like, but it was a wonderfully intense ride. We would ride it again, except they onyl had 7 seats operational and by the time our ride ended a large crowd had already formed. The ride looks marvelous, has a good light show, but was just having severe mechanical issues, it didn't open Thursday, opened very little during the weekend, and sources tell me that on Monday it was replaced by a Dartron Cliff Hanger.,

After teh Moonraker ride he head to the Flip N Out. Here the mood of the crowd turned ugly and cutthroat as we negotiated the mob trying to board Flip N Out, where we had a much shorter ride than on Thursday. During our Flip N Out ride we decided the mood on the midway had turned ugly enough that we no longer felt safe. After the Flip N Out ride we hihg tailed it off that midway as fast as we could smake our way through the crowdd. We didn't slow down till we got back on the other side of the lake in a virtually deserted part of the fair. We did relax while we had a nice talk with the Boars Head Provisons guy while snacking on some of their hot dogs.

We then headed back to the Expo Hall to exit the fair. Big problem, the Expo hall was locked up for the night, and we appeared not to be the only people befuddled trying to find an exit. We start to walk around the expo hall and run into secuirty guard near the lost persons office That person directs us to the other end of the expo hall. We eventually exit down a dark unmarked path next to the ampitheatre. You knowif you are going to block off the usual exit, some nice large signs pointing the way out would help. As it is I can see a tragic result in an emergency evacuaion situation. The revised exit takes us down a serivce path that wraps around the expo hall so that we actually exit through the front gate structure past the front gate photo booth.

We note the parking trams are not running, so we head out to the car, and don't really calmdown until we aresafely in our car, headed out the exit driveway. We return to our hotel a bit earlier than we planned, and wind up staying up way too late watching Olympics and doing other computer pursuits.

And that ends Day 2 - check back soon for Day 3 where we are at BGT all day!