BGT- 9/8/2005 and 9/13/2005

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Thursday, September 22, 2005 11:48 PM
My wife and I joined my brother and his wife at Busch Gardens Tampa on Friday, September 8th. Although I have been there nearly a dozen times in my life, this would be a first visit for both of them. Even though we're all Ohioans, we have family in Clearwater-an excellent excuse to buy plane tix, 2 silver passes, and to make our way to Busch Boulevard!

Upon entering the park, we headed directly to my favorite coaster on the planet, Montu. Luckily, the park appeared to be completely empty, and it almost was. There was no wait for any row but the first, so we decided to take a second row seat.

Wow. One train operation meant virtually no brakes on the midcourse, and breath taking speed throughout. My brother and his wife, who are by no means enthusiasts, instantly proclaimed it the best ride ever. But they still hadn't experienced the front back around to the station we went!

Front row. 5 minute wait. Un-freakin'-believable. I firmly believe that the front row is the only way to go on B&M inverts (with the possible exception of the back outside seat). But on Montu, it's a must. The visuals on this ride are second to only the Dragons, and you just don't get a sense of them from any other seat. Montu, still firmly planted in my numero uno spot.

One skyride later put us at Kumba (or close enough). Much more of a wait here. Still only running one train. Arrgh. I'm spoiled.

We chose the back row, and I wish we hadn't. Very, very rough ride, with more headbanging than any B&M I've been on. What happened to Kumba, vintage 1996? Either this ride is getting MUCH rougher or I'm getting MUCH older and less tolerant of square wheels. It wasn't great on my last visit in '02, but it's way worse now.

My brother and I finally convinced the ladies to head over to SheikRa. They both decided to sit this one out, much to my chagrin. No matter-we ran up the stairs to find three train operations and no waiting if we picked the second row. Since the signs promised unobstructed views from any row, we were okay with it.

Well, my first impression of the ride was that the lift hill is STEEP. However, the seats on the uniquely configured train are so comfortable that I could have easily fallen asleep. There was no chance of that happening though-not with the butterflies in my stomach.

Up and around the bend-boy, Florida is flat!-and realizing that this really is a hyper, we slowly go over the first drop. Ugh. The second row is a disappointment. Not much of a view here. I was only disappointed for about 4 seconds though...because we were off! Wow, what a first drop! It didn't seem super long, but the trip back up to the immelman was very intense-enough to gray me out. The second vertical drop didn't seem to be as vertical, but it was just as fun. The turnaround over the splash was very quick, and just like that, the ride was done.

We quickly disembarked and ran around for a second lap. The wives decided to join us this time, but would only agree to ride in the third row. Oh, well, it's probably still worth it, right? We ride in the third row, and the view of the drop is even more obscured. The ride experience is still top-notch, however.

One more lap, and this time we go for the front row. Now this is what I'm talking about! It seems like a totally different ride up front. If you leave yourself enough room between yourself and the restraint (not dangerous amounts, just so you're not stapled), it really does feel like a freefall all the way down the first drop. Amazing. SheikRa immediately became a Top Ten ride.

We then decided to grab a bite to eat. I was all for the smokehouse directly overlooking SheikRa, but my brother was hoping to get something like a burger or pizza, so we headed down to the Hospitality House in Bird Gardens. However, there was no way I was going to be able to pass by Lory Landing without going in to see the Lorikeets. This attraction, IMO, is what makes Busch Gardens so unique. If you haven't been there, I'll try to explain.

You walk into a netted enclosure, and there are dozens of colored birds resembling either small parrots or large parakeets, depending on how you look at it. You can pay $3 for a small container of nectar which the birds will actually land on you to drink. There was a slight moment of trepidation when two birds landed on my wife's head, but the problem was quickly remedied by coaxing the birds away with some nectar. Great fun-maybe the most fun experience in the park.

We continued on to have some very average pizza at the Hospitality House, and then we went on to Timbuktu to get a credit lap on Cheetah Chase. I was struggling internally on whether this actually counted as a credit, since I had already ridden it at BGW as Wilde Maus (and when I say struggling, I mean joking about it). They were sending around empty cars, so they were thrilled to see us in queue. I really enjoy this ride, for some twisted reason.

Next up was Phoenix, the looping pirate ship. My brother's wife opted not to ride this one, but she did get some great shots of us upside down. The pressure on this one got to my head a little bit, which is odd considering I've been riding this ride for 15 years with no negative effect.

We decided to pass on Scorpion (why, I don't know) and headed to Rhino Rally. I would normally skip this one, but since my brother is a Land Rover owner, he really wanted to go on it. Well, true to form, the ride broke down right in front of us. 30 minutes later, we were on the ride, with my brother as navigator. I'm always a little disturbed by how close the rhinos get to the truck-I'm assuming that there's a really good reason that they don't charge the Rovers.

Anyway, it was a fun little ride, and, true to form again, it broke down right after we got off-this time, right on the river. TAER IT DOWN!

Gwazi Lion was down for the day, so we settled for a lap on Tiger. Wow! Despite the ridiculous loading procedures and the lack of a dueling partner, Tiger was still kicking much booty. I did have a mild headache following the ride, but nothing too serious.

We spent the remainder of the day looking at animal attractions, including one very animated pair of tortoises (the turtles are just wrestling, kids). We had one more exit lap on Montu, and headed home for the day right around closing at 6.

My wife and I decided to head back to the park on the following Tuesday, and it was even less crowded. It was pretty much a repeat of the previous trip (plus one great Scorpion lap), except that we opted to eat at the Crown Colony house restaurant this time around, and we were very glad that we did. We brought back our passholders' sport bottle that we had purchased on Friday, and it was a great thrill to only pay 99 cents for a soda at a theme park (looking forward to free Pepsi at Holiday World on the 1st, of course).

We also saw the 4-D lighthouse show at the old dolphin theatre. I miss the dolphin show! Oh well. The 4-D show was okay-typical water and air effects. I was surprised to see some semi-stars in the file (Christopher Lloyd, Lea Thompson).

Even though we live in Cincinnati, BGT has always felt like my home park, and I was glad to see that nothing had changed that. 5 stars, and it still ties for my favorite park with IoA.

Thanks for reading!

*** Edited 9/23/2005 4:29:26 PM UTC by Money B***

Friday, September 23, 2005 4:37 PM
Awesome! I can't wait to get back there and ride Shiekra. Too bad about Kumba, maybe it was having a bad day. It can be a bit rougher than newer B&Ms, but it's got intensity they don't either.
Friday, September 23, 2005 5:15 PM
Kick The Sky's avatar I came away with the same impression of Kumba after my first visit to BGT, but subsequent visits I have had excellent rides. Must be a tempermental coaster. <<shrug>> Who knows?

My thoughts exactly on the Lorikeet exhibit. It's probably one of the oft missed attractions in the park by enthusiasts because a) it's not a thrill ride and b) it is a bit difficult to find. Well worth the time and it makes a good break from the thrill rides for a bit.

I just wonder how the park makes any money with every trip report that I have read for the place says that it is dead and every visit I have made it has been dead. Is that park EVER busy?

Certain victory.

Friday, September 23, 2005 5:40 PM
The summer was crazy busy. Some of the biggest crowds that I have ever seen there. (I live in the hood next to the park). We went July 3rd, There was an hour wait to ride the skyride out of Congo. BGT officials have confirmed the fact that attendance has been way up over last year.

It is odd now however, even if the rest of the park is packed, the Timbuktu area is usually quiet. Hopefully park planners are noticing this too.


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