Location: Cincinnati, Ohio, United States

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


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