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
* 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!