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TR: 10 Parks, 40 Some Coasters and MORE! Pt.2

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Moving along......

Sunday ended up being a washed out day at Sea World, with only a handful of rides on Kraken and Journey to Atlantis. On Monday, we decided to use a day of our Disney Park Hopper pass. It was a tremendous day, but I'll go into more details about that when I get to Disney.

On Tuesday, we got up and decided to head over to Busch Gardens Tampa. I've always had mixed impressions of this park. For me, it is no where near the caliber that Busch Williamsburg is. I think what detracts from my experience here is just where its located. The Williamsburg park is so spread out and has an isolated type of feeling with it. You feel like you are truly in another country. The Tampa park is the extreme opposite. Landlocked on all sides by bustling streets, residential areas, etc, it just doesn't create the same atmosphere. With that sad, its still a gorgeous park. While its no where near as big as Williamsburg, it gives the impression that it is. There really are no short cuts. The paths to the back of the park are long and winding, making the trek to Kumba seem like its a mile back!

We pulled into the lot, flashed our Sea World season passes to get our free Preferred Parking and parked right next to the front gate. Upon arriving, the park was DEAD. Not exactly a huge surprise. We were stoked, hoping to get a ton of rides in before the weather turned. The forecast was severe thunderstorms and torrential rains developing right around lunch time. We were on a time crunch to hit the coasters, so the lack of lines worked for our favor.....or so we thought.

Where Busch Williamsburg normally shines in their ride operations, Busch Tampa certainly was having a tough day.

First ride of the day was Montu. One train running, no line, no big deal. Rode twice in the back seat, thanks to our Platinum Pass that allows one re-ride. I enjoyed the ride a lot more than I have in the past. Braking was definitely less on the mid-course brake. The first half of Montu is terrific, its very powerful....especially the Batwing element. Unforunately as soon as the the train hits the block, it is essentially brought to a halt. It completely kills the second half of the ride. Still, I give it points for the setting. The second half is totally buried in underground trenches and such. The line was starting to build up after our two rides, so we decided to make the trek to the others.

We passed by Gwazi, which was closed. We knew the Lion side wasn't going to run today, but Gwazi Tiger was suppose to be open. They were cycling trains all day, but by the time we left it still had yet to open. NO big deal, I don't particularly care for the ride, though it would have been nice for James and Robb to take a spin. So we moved on around to SheiKra


Robb and I visited BGT last September, but we were only able to ride SheiKra once. That day, also, was filled with storms and showers which shut the rides down all day. I wasn't sure what to think of it. It was fun, but I didn't really get to appreciate any of the ride. The line was about 40 minutes long this time around, they were only running two out of five cars! Not sure what was going on there, but the line was definitely a slow mover....despite the speedy dispatches from the crew working. Finally we boarded the front row, again flashing our Platinum Pass. So we ended up riding the front row twice without getting out, very cool!

Its not until you are climbing the lift hill that you can appreciate the sheer SIZE of this ride. The track is so much larger than that of a typical B&M. The lift is steeply angled at 45 degrees (see Millennium Force) and takes little time to reach the top. A gorgeous view of the tampa skyline greets you as you crest. Slowly, the train moves around the 180 degree turn at the top, then slowly lowers you into position to stop. Definitely a different experience in the front seat. It was somewhat awkward because you could feel the structure swaying a bit, actually it was pretty unnerving! Loved it though. Without warning, you drop. Nice floatage all the way down before you climb high into the Immelman. This element, while nothing out of the ordinary, just flows so well. There is no snap at the top, like some of the others out there, instead the train just gently flips over before diving down into the helix. I definitely did not remember the ride being as powerful as it was running! Next up was the mid-course brake. Slowing to a crawl, no time as wasted as the train dumps over the 2nd vertical drop and down into the tunnel. Nice banked turn over the Smokehouse leads to the splash down ending, which doesn't really slow the train at all.

Overall, definitely fell more this ride as we rode it! Makes me look forward to the arrival of Griffon next spring at Busch Williamsburg. ONe very cool feature that has been added since my last visit is the video that you can purchase. There are 3 cameras placed along the ride. One positioned to view the first drop, a second that shows the second vertical drop and one on the final brake run. You can purchase a video of your ride experience. The video is slowed down, allowing a crystal clear view of everyone on the train at the time. Very easy to see yourself and your expressions as you experience those different elements. It also includes some stock footage of the ride as well as a POV. Shockingly, it was only $20 for the DVD. I found that to be reasonable considering how darn expensive some other on-ride photos can be!

We then made our way back to the Congo section. Python was up next, just because James wanted the credit :-) It was cool to take a final spin, as it will be coming out VERY soon as they prepare to rennovate the entire Congo area of the park. Cha-ching.

Kumba was calling our name. It received a fresh coat of paint since our last visit and my god it was looking beautiful! I've always loved the colors chosen for the ride, especially the yellow trains. They are very striking against the turquoise track. Again, only running one train. This was aggravating simply because the line was starting to spill out of the queue line by the time we rode! Again, we took advantage of the double ride perk from our Platinum Pass. darn. This ride just delivers EVERY time. It makes me miss the old school days of B&M, when every ride they built was balls to the wall intensity. The inversions are rapid fire with no time to catch your breath! I've always loved the Zero-G roll, although Kraken seems to be the slightly more powerful element in this case. The ride has developed some minor head banging, but nothing too serious to detract from the experience.....especially for a 13 year old coaster.

We were so frustrated by the line that had developed and the fact that they were only running one train, we decided that our day at Busch wasn't going to be as fabulous as hoped. Very quickly, we hopped on the two remaining coasters. Cheetah Chase and Scorpion. Cheetah Chase was just the standard mouse, but way over braked. It never ran that way at Williamsburg, so I was a bit disappointed. Scorpion is still just a hella fun ride. I'm always amazed at the smaller Schwarzkopf coasters. They pack quite a punch, while taking up very small foot prints. The man was brilliant, may he RIP.

The small crowd had turned into a problem due to the one train operations on everything. So, we did the only logical thing......hopped in the car the drove back to Orlando to renew our Universal Annual Passes :-)

Universal Orlando

A little over an hour later, we were parking and walking into CityWalk. We decided to head to the Studios first to renew our passes and take a few spins on Mummy. Definitely LOVED what we saw. An empty park with a 5 minute wait for ALL attractions! Sweet!!! First stop was Revenge of the Mummy

Revenge of the Mummy

This ride will never get old for me. I recently read a TR on here about someone stating that Italian Job was the superior ride? I'm not sure how anyone could possibly come to that conclusion. The storyline completely sucks and lacks any creativity, but the actual ride experience makes up for that. All the theming and effects were working, including the beetle scene. I still love the rotating table with Imotep watching and following the car as it spins around! The ride itself is surprising powerful. We rode the front seat on our first ride. I forgot the spots of EJECTOR air that this ride has! The helices are speedy and pretty forceful. My one complaint is the sudden stop for the show scene. While I like the effects and the scene itself, it totally ruins the pacing of the ride. Minor gripe though. I do wish the ending were a tad longer and it certainly lacks the intensity that the first half does. Overall, LOVE LOVE LOVE this ride. We probably ended up with 20 rides or so throughout our two days or so that we spent on property at Universal.

Men In Black: Alien Attack

No line. They even had the pre-show turned off so it was just a straight shot into the loading area. Again, a ride that never gets old for me. The gun system works flawlessly. Very easy to hit the targets, better yet is the fact that the aliens shoot back at you. The spinning action combined with the great theming and interaction with the other cars all add up to make this a fantastic attraction. I still screw up everytime and forget to "Hit the Red Button" to get the 100,000 point bonus near the end. James and Robb had it down to an art by the end of the trip though. darn them! None the less, we always trumped the other cars and rightly earned our Galaxy Defender status :-)

A quick spin on the E.T Adventure and we decided to go check out Islands of Adventure! Since the lines at the Studios were 5 minutes, perhaps the same would be true of Islands. It was. We got in the Park around 5PM, with a 6PM close fast approaching we decided to just make the loop and see what we could ride.

All was good. Hulk was running the best I've ever seen, even the second half (which I normally despise) was bringing it this trip! Spiderman continues to amaze me. The effects and how the 3D intereacts with the actual theming is super. Again, one attraction that never gets old for me. On through Toon Lagoon, we hopped on for a quick spin on Ripsaw Falls. This is where our first Universal hiccupp occurred. No grouper near the end of the line, so people were lining themselves up in all 3 loading areas. Problem was, they were only using ONE. This led to mass confusion in the station. Definitely frustrating, but all was forgotten as we got our soaking ride! Ripsaw is crazy. The final drop is phenominal, it always surprises me with the steepness and the speed that the logs careen over it. Gotta love the speed hill that follows right before the splash down.

We skipped Jurassic Park and made our way on over to Lost Continent. Now would be the perfect time for a few Dragons rides. NOT. 5 minute wait time posted. We had 30 minutes to spare, so we figured we could ride both sides then head back over for one more Hulk ride. Unfortunately, Universal wasn't going to have that. One train running on both sides. The thinking is that its ONE attraction, so we both sides open they are running two trains. Somedays I'm sure thats ok. There were 3 trains in front of us. Not a big deal, except the painfully slow crews. It took 35 minutes for us to get our ONE ride on Fire Dragon. While the ride was fantastic as always, the operations were so poor that it just totally ****ed us off. We left feeling aggrevated. Even more, a 6PM close while the Disney Parks were staying open until 8 or 9PM. We were out of the parking lot by 630, with no desire to spend any time at CityWalk. Nor did anyone else, as people were flooding out to their cars.

We ended up spending two more days at the end of the trip at Universal. Tried out the new High In The Sky Seuss Trolley ride at IOA. I'm glad they made use of the ride system that was put in place, oh, SEVEN years ago. Sadly, the attraction isn't much of one. Short ride cycle with just an automated segement. Four different stores are reported to be there. My friend Michelle had ridden earlier in the summer. Her story was nothing but sound effects. our ride was the Alphabet being sang to us in rhyme. I normally can appreciate a ride for what it is, even if its a kid ride, but if I waited anymore than 15 minutes for this, I'd be ****ED. I can't believe this was Universals idea for a new attraction at IOA.

I'm not sure if it was the fact that we went back to Universal AFTER Disney or what, but it was obvious to me after this trip why Universal NEVER will beat out Disney. In general, Islands of Adventure is showing its age. Sad since its only 7 years old. No major attractions have been added to the Park to give it any life. Rides are faded and in need of paint jobs BADLY. Perhaps the worse is Ripsaw Falls. Some rides like Hulk are great with operations. Others, like Dueling Dragons are pathetic and remind me more of an old Six Flags experience. The Studios park is in far better shape and has had several major additions since IOA came to be. Still, some of the operational nightmares continue there as well. In general, this was a bad Universal experience for us. Its sad, because i've always been a proponent for them. Again, some of this could have been the fact that we had just spent 4 wonderful days at Disney. Still, its clear why Disney is number one in Orlando and will most likely always be. Is it any surprise that Universals numbers are going down the tubes if they are running the Parks like they were this week?

None the less, plenty of rides were still taken! We waited no more than 10 minutes for anything there, so guess we can't complain too much. I just hope they make some changes and get the parks back to the level that they need to be. They seriously have made some serious cuts and its starting to show. The fact they closed at 6PM every night last week, while the Disney Parks were closing anywhere from 830PM until 10PM, I can't help but to ask why? How much money are they losing by not keeping people there longer?

CityWalk has no luster at 6PM with a beautiful sunny sky. Its all about the night time atmosphere, music and bright lights. It sets a tone and makes people wanna party and stick around. Instead, we found ourselves headed to the lights, smells and tackyness known as Old Town. Spent a few hours there. They were more than happy to take our money, as we were more than happy to give it. We rode the Windstorm coaster, fun as always, but ended the night on this crazy little ride by Moser rides. It was a bicycle gone wild. Two people per bike, strapped in with an OTSR. The ride would start swinging back and forth by you pedaling forward. After a certain point, as you pedaled, you would be quickly accelerated ALL the way around. You could keep going upside down or stop pedaling and suspend yourself upside down. It was sweet. She let all 3 of us ride for $3, as opposed to $3 per person per ride. We also snagged a second ride for free. Definitely a disorienting way to end a so-so day.

Next up, our 4 days at Disney.

- Todd

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