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the_rock401

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Everything posted by the_rock401

  1. Are there any waterparks with the slides that release the water halfway down in the US? Paul "Loves waterparks" Miller
  2. Did you ever get an answer to sacking out in your car? Having fun up on the plaza is fine unti midnight, but then I would sleep a lot better in a car than on the concrete. Paul "Scrounging for flights on Expedia" Miller
  3. Currently on Expedia (9:45 AM CST), a mid-size car from Thrifty and going from noon Wednesday until late Thursday night (red-eye back to Minneapolis) is $62 including the underage fee. PM me if you want to split the cost of a car. Paul "If people let me know when they're coming, this may just work" Miller
  4. I agree. I graduate next December with a Bachelor of Civil Engineering degree, and I haven't a clue what to do with it. Do I want to work in the public sector? I'm a Minnesota homeboy, do I work around here or do I see what else there is to see? It's a scary process.
  5. You Are Corona You don't drink for the love of beer. You drink to get drunk. You prefer a very light, very smooth beer. A beer that's hardly a beer at all. And while you make not like the taste of beer, you like the feeling of being drunk. You drink early and often. Sometimes with friends. Sometimes alone. All the party needs is you!
  6. And it's all over but the paperwork. Duke is OUT!
  7. PAUL, JERRY, AND DAVID TAKE FLORIDA, PART 3 SATURDAY, FEBRUARY 11, 2006 BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY TAMPA, FLORIDA After staying up until well after NBC’s midnight sign off from Torino, we were a little bit groggy when it came time to head over to the Busch Gardens for our full day there. This morning, we were masquerading as theme park tourists, cameras and all, instead of being the aggressive, go-for-broke coaster junkies we are.  We start the morning over at Montu. Now, while we were definitely going to take pictures, we were not going to pass on a power-riding session should the opportunity present itself. And an empty queue house was opportunity presenting itself. We started the day with six straight rides in the “hot seat”, and 11 straight overall, all without leaving the loading platform. My T-shirt had yellow stains on it where the bottom of the OTSR squeezed up against it. Then the photo safari began. And we mean safari. Plenty of pictures of the beautiful theming by Montu. After loading up on Montu pics, we try to take the skyride back to Sheikra and Kumba. However due to the very breezy conditions, the skyride was closed. So, we head around through the front of the park, past the crocodile pit, Hospitality House, and aviary, to Sheikra. Plenty of pictures are taken of Sheikra from the Stanleyville area of the park. Also, during the photo shoot, David took a picture of the wait time clock at Sheikra. The clock said 0. Truly a wonderful sight. The photo safari was briefly put on sabbatical while we hit Sheikra for another power-riding session. We rode Sheikra until the line got “long.” By long we meant that it was about a two or three train wait, depending on what row you were waiting for. I think we’re getting spoiled when a long line only fills up the bridges going over to the Sheikra loading platform. The power-ride session moved back to Kumba, where several more rides were taken before the queue house filled sufficiently to prevent immediate rerides. After this, we got our cameras from the Sheikra locker bank, and worked our way back towards Kumba on the photo safari. This took us past the tiger pit and Congo River Falls, BGT’s large raft river ride. Large amounts of Corona merchandise were seen in a gift shop near the Congo River Falls exit. This is indeed a strange sight, considering that neither Anheuser-Busch nor any of its subsidiaries distribute Corona beer in the United States. This anomaly aside, we kept taking pictures of Kumba. It is at this point of the photo safari that I run out of fresh batteries, so my camera is done for the duration of this trip. The armchair photographers work their way into the Timbuktu portion of the park. Included were pictures of us walking into Timbuktu, so you can impress your friends by saying that you have indeed gone to Timbuktu. Never mind that it was at Busch Gardens. It was TIMBUKTU, man! Aside from Scorpion and Cheetah Chase, this part of the park has some of the most pitiful flat rides I have ever had the misfortune of seeing with my two eyes. Jerry and David decide to go on Scorpion. Based on my misadventures with it yesterday (getting stuck), I decide to partake in a bag of popcorn. It’s very good popcorn, albeit a bit salty. While all this is going on it becomes painfully clear to all of us that it is going to storm sometime in the near future. The wind has picked up, the sun has vanished, and the clouds keep getting darker. The question is not if it’s going to rain, but when. So after Jerry and David get out of Scorpion, we head through some of the animal exhibits back towards the front of the park. I know I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again. Busch Gardens is an absolutely beautiful park in the middle of a crappy part of Tampa. Lots of greenery, as if BGT is a zoo first, theme park later. We head past the Morocco Theater and the croc pit, and decide we are going to ride Gwazi. Since we’ve already ridden the Lion side, we head over to the blue Tiger side. I thought that the Lion side was OK, but boy was the Tiger side rough. Very rough. Since our cameras have been stashed in a locker down below the station, we head around to take another ride on the Tiger side. Ah, much smoother. We are second in line for another ride on Tiger when the announcement comes. “Due to approaching severe weather, this ride is closed” or something to that effect. We notice that it has started to rain. Since the Hospitality House is close by, we decide to head over there, as there is no such thing as a bad glass of free beer. It is raining fairly hard as we walk fast/run over to the House, and no sooner than we step inside than the heavens open and the rain comes POURING down. Shortly thereafter, fate takes a decisive turn against the prohibitionists in the park. There is a flash of lightning, and the power goes out. If you know anything about beer taps, you know that electricity is not required to operate said taps. However, I overhear one of the bartenders say something like, “Keep that beer flowing, because once the beer gets warmer than 40 degrees, we can’t serve it.” Having consumed large amounts of beer that was nowhere near 40 degrees during my college career, it wouldn’t bother me in the least if beer was warmer than 40 degrees. That threshold must be a corporate policy. While we are standing outside the House (it’s getting quite stuffy in there from lack of ventilation), we notice large amounts of people heading towards the exit of the park. This option briefly crosses our mind, until we realize that if the power is out here at the park, then it may very well be out in the surrounding neighborhoods. So we decide to bide our time, and perhaps the park will clear sufficiently to power-ride some more before the afternoon is out. David and I decide to try some of the Bare Knuckle Stout beer. While I will never denounce free beer, Bare Knuckle was certainly a lot of work to drink. While we were drinking our stout, the power came back on, and a loud cheer went up from the masses. We waited an additional half-hour after the power came back on to allow for everything to start up again, then we head to Sheikra. It is during our second ride on Sheikra during this power-ride session that our Flirtation with the Lawyers (or the Women) takes place. While waiting to load, two women about my age were waiting in front of me. One of them was psyching herself into thinking that she was going to die on that drop. Since I am fairly certain that nothing serious will come out of it, I egg her along a little bit. She then asks me if I go to Michigan. Keep in mind that I’m wearing a T-shirt with a maroon Minnesota block M on it, which looks nothing like a Michigan M. I chuckle and tell her that at least she’s in the right conference. I was sitting in the third seat from the left, front row, with the two women. After the initial drop, she’s carrying on as you would expect she would. Just our luck, we hit the mid-course brakes and grind to a halt. I continue to carry on the conversation (they catch on about the Minnesota M) until the announcement comes: “We are sorry. The ride has temporarily shut down.” Since the seats are quite comfortable for coaster chairs, we chat for a while until the announcement comes that the train is moving again, and to brace for movement. By the time we get back to the station, the line has lengthened quite a bit, but since Sheikra is a line eater, the line dissolves very quickly. We ride Sheikra a few more times, then head back to Kumba. Things have picked up at Kumba, but we can still walk around. Just as we are about to get on the train, a park patron decides that they have had enough Kumba for one day. The unloading deck and train are hosed off and disinfected, and the train is ghosted, cutting the capacity in half. This train is ghosted two or three times, and by the time we finally get on the train, we can see the rain start again. This is not going to be a pleasant ride on Kumba. Since I had never ridden a fast-moving B&M in the rain, I close my eyes and hope I don’t get sandblasted too badly. The Kumba Kar Wash is open for business as we scurry out of the station. None of us thought much of the Kumba Kar Wash, and it is agreed we are done on the coasters for the day (the forecast is that when it starts to rain, it’s not going to stop til morning). Unlike during the last rain squall, we decide that this is it, and head out of the park. We browse the gift shops, duly noting that any kind of merchandise with any sort of Budweiser logo on it can be purchased here. David also conjectures that they are willing to assist you in shipping, in the event that you know you can’t fit your purchase into your bag for the trip home. We ride the parking tram back to the car, noting that the weather has turned from a warm sunny day into a cold, dank, dreary all-night rain. We then decide to give Steak ‘n Shake a try. This particular Steak ‘n Shake, on Hillsborough Ave. near the turn to BGT, was not the most pleasant dining establishment I have ever eaten in. The food wasn’t bad, although I attribute that to being half-starved. We retire to the hotel after a purchase of blank digital media to get photos back home. Paul
  8. 35 degrees? In SoCal? In March?!?! Paul "I thought it was cold last year at WCB" Miller
  9. I don't know what you guys are thinking by saying "No headbanging." When I rode X last year at WCB, that was the worst headbanging I had ever had the misfortune of experiencing on any coaster. The OTSRs and legs were fine, but that was not pleasant. Paul
  10. Pardon me for getting a little OT, but how is that floorless standup even the least bit comfortable for guys? Does the seat lean back a little, because by those photos, it looks like all your weight is on your crotch. Paul "OWWWWWW!" Miller
  11. Well, gang, the official Theme Park Review NCAA pool is over at Yahoo Fantasy Sports. http://tournament.fantasysports.yahoo.com/men/group/28230 ID# 28230 Password: donkey Paul "Let the Madness Begin" Miller
  12. When the Alveys came up to Wisconsin Dells to ride Hades and Avalanche, IIRC, there were 6 people in the party. Well, including myself, 7. Paul
  13. Hell yeah! Even though my Gophers are long gone from the tourney, I'm always cheering for Big Ten teams not named Wisconsin and Iowa. If anyone is interested, I can set up a TPR tournament pick'em pool over at Yahoo. Post or message me and let me know. Paul "Loves college BB" Miller
  14. Emo can be immaculately summed up by something I found on the Facebook the other day: "WAAAA! I have such a hard life, I broke up with my girlfriend and now I'm going to cut myself. WAAAA!" Paul "Not an emo fan" Miller
  15. Did the details for the Friday night ERT just get released on Wednedsay night (the timing of Chris' post)? I know it's the same as last year, but the flier didn't say anything about ERT. If that's the case, I can understand why people weren't going to come (too little notice to clear schedule). Paul "May still be heading to WCB" Miller
  16. 1919 Root Beer is a local drink du jour. Brewed out at New Ulm, MN. And we get Shasta up here in MN. It's the CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP stuff you buy at Sam's
  17. Sue: The first two (front row, then another row) we walked around on, but 3-7 only involved changing rows. Paul "I love rerides on B&Ms" Miller
  18. This part of the trip report brought to you by Powdermilk Biscuits, coming to you in the big blue box with the picture of a biscuit on the cover. Heavens, they’re tasty and expeditious! Has your family tried a Powdermilk? Has your family tried a Powdermilk? Well, if your family’s tried ‘em all You know they’ll satisfy ‘em all. Has your family tried a Powdermilk? Powdermilk Biscuits! Now, part 2.2 of “Paul, Jerry, and David Take Florida” PAUL, JERRY, AND DAVID TAKE FLORIDA PART 2.2: FLORIDA STATE FAIR, FRIDAY NIGHT FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2005 FLORIDA STATE FAIRGROUNDS TAMPA, FLORIDA Coming around the exit ramp, we see that there are a LOT more people at the fairgrounds today than there were yesterday. A LOT more. We end up parking in what is widely regarded as the “Back 40,” a long way from the gate. We get to the gate, get our tickets, and come up to a “security checkpoint” that wasn’t there the previous evening. It’s basically the same as the one over at Busch Gardens (paw through bags and hooded sweatshirts), with one additional twist. They have you raise your shirt and expose your beltline, to expose any contraband that you may have stashed in your belt. Not that it would have done a bit of good. If you use your brain a bit, you can get a substantial weapon past that gate without them being any the wiser. Through the expo hall, and back to the midway. We stop to partake in some fine stromboli, and then we embark on the mission of the evening, which is to take pictures and get footage of the rides. Since the sun was at an unusual angle, we were taking pictures looking east. We shot pictures until about sundown. At this point, David and Jerry got their wristbands. I had obtained a Mountain Dew can the previous afternoon giving $5 off the evening wristband, so I tried to redeem this can at a friendly ticket window. However, the lady at the ticket window told me that I needed to go out to the front gate to a tent, where I would get a voucher to present at the ticket window. David and Jerry went over towards the Rok n Roll while I went to the front gate to get my voucher. I approached the front gate and attempted to figure out the re-entry procedures. I could definitely tell that the crowds were very different tonight than before. I overheard the exit procedures explained. What happened was that you got your hand stamped, then you were given a re-entry pass good for the next 20 minutes. If you took longer than 20 minutes, too bad. It was clear that they were discouraging re-entry, but since I was only getting a POP voucher, I didn’t need the re-entry stamp. After getting cleared back through “security”, I go meet David and Jerry back at the Rok n Roll. Getting there was starting to be a challenge, as the place was getting more crowded by the minute. Since the sun was setting, we continue to take photos, as that is our primary objective for the evening. The weather is gorgeous, which means we have a very different crowd on the midway tonight. For one, there are a LOT of people on the midway. Check that. There are a lot of teenagers on the midway. Apparently, Hillsborough County Public Schools had the day off and a $5 break at the gate. Put them together, along with the $5 off POP armbands, and you get a midway that is absolutely PACKED. Long lines for everything, short cycles on all the rides, and a lot of people spending their money. Or not spending their money. As the evening progressed, the crowd got bigger and bigger, but the crowd also brought a nasty attitude with them. We finished taking pictures, and I volunteered to make the run to the car to dump cameras, loose objects, etc. After returning, and clearing “security” again, I meet up with Jerry and David back by the Space Roller. The crowd has gotten even more brazen, as David and Jerry witnesses a fight in front of the Roller. I then try to ride the roller, and I have to act like a blocker and force my way up to the entry point. There is no order to the line whatsoever. Every man for himself. There is a Huss Twister ride down the line, and David and I try to get a good spin ride in. But we can’t get that sucker to spin to save ourselves. David and I sit on one side of the car, but all that happens is that we slosh back and forth. Blah. Then over to the other side, and we wait for the one-of-a-kind Moonraker. We had seen it run earlier in the day, and we decided we were going to try to ride it. We camped out at the bottom of the stairs, and after about 15 minutes, it finally opened up. It’s basically a sit-down Round-Up with OTSRs. Only 7 seats were operating. Just to show you how crowded the place was, by the time we got off the ride, about 3 minutes, the line had grown into a large scrum. We then move across the road to the Flip ‘N Out, where another ugly line incident developed. It was all I could do to get to the front of the line. After the Flip ‘n Out ride that I had to use an offensive lineman’s skills to get to the ride, we decided to cut our losses and get the hell out of there. The crowd kept getting uglier and uglier, and it seemed that a massive conflagration was imminent. I witnessed a stampede towards a fight that I couldn’t see while waiting for the Moonraker. At the end, the crowd had a “We’re going to do whatever we want and you can go screw yourself” attitude. I regularly go through some of the crummiest parts of the Twin Cities, and that was the first time that my gut was telling me to run for your life. I took the lead blocker position, moving as fast as I could, hitting gaps wherever I could find them, and not slowing down until we got out of the mess. David and Jerry followed at close proximity. We finally ended up at the Boar’s Head Hot Dog booth, where David and I partook in some fine hot dogs, and we discussed the fair, hot dogs, and how the brand was working its way into the Midwest. Since it’s getting late (after 10:00), we decide to call it a day, and head back towards the expo hall. Problem is, all the doors to the Expo Hall are closed. So we try to go around the south end of the building, only to find the path goes into an auxiliary exhibit hall, which is also locked. A Hillsborough County Sheriff deputy was stating that the hall was closed, and wasn’t giving any directions on how to get out of the place. Earlier in the afternoon, I had noticed what looked like an exhibitor entrance behind the Springshot. The Springshot is located across the pond to the north of the expo hall. Sure enough, there is a paved road going back towards the road. After a couple of dead ends, we make our way back to the gate side of the expo hall. To me, this sets off all kinds of alarms in my brain. If you needed to clear the grounds in a hurry at this hour, pushing 10,000 people into a dead-end that is the expo hall or down a dark, unmarked path, that is asking for trouble. Also, with the midway set up the way it was, if you needed to clear out the midway in a hurry, there really was not many places to go. There was too much stuff jammed into that lot. If you needed to clear that place out in a hurry, there could be some BIG trouble. But after all of this, we make it back to the car alive and in one piece. We head back to the hotel, and watch the end of the 2006 Torino Olympics opening ceremony. I don’t worry, though. I figured out how to activate the timer on my VCR so I can watch the opening when I get back to Minnesota. Paul
  19. One of my favorite things about the Olympics is when the home country wins a gold medal, and the very partisan crowd sings the national anthem louder than the recorded music. I know when Australians won golds in Sydney, the crowd sang "Advance Australia Fair" louder than the recording. Same with Italy this year and the Greeks in Athens. I don't remember if American crowds did the same in Salt Lake, though.
  20. Author's Note: I apologize for taking this ong to get the next part up, but last week was not kind to me as far as free time goes. We'll just keep chugging away. PAUL, JERRY, AND DAVID TAKE FLORIDA PART 2.1: BUSCH GARDENS, DAY 1 FRIDAY, FEBRUARY 10, 2006 BUSCH GARDENS TAMPA BAY TAMPA, FLORIDA Confucius once said that if a man is tired enough, he will sleep anywhere. Well, I was beat after an early wake-up call and lots of walking yesterday at the FSF, so despite the fact that I was on the floor, sleep came very easily. And so did breakfast the next morning. After partaking in some of the Baymont’s continental breakfast, we get in the car and make the agonizingly long, drawn-out, 5 minute drive to the BGT parking lots. After giving the trolls at the toll plaza $8, we proceed to park very close to the tram station. We then ride up to the main park entrance plaza. There is a slight chill in the air, but the warm Florida sun is rapidly dispersing said chill. It’s going to be a fine day. Anyway, up to the ticket plaza to get our vouchers processed. I was anticipating something along the lines of Valleyfair’s season pass processing, where my wonderful mug shot would get taken and placed on a hard plastic card. Instead, when I hand over my driver’s license and Fun Card voucher, the lady in the office returns with something that I thought came out of a parking garage ticket dispenser. No photo (although the back side of the card has a nice Busch Gardens photo), just my name, a barcode, and “Photo ID Required” printed in boldface above the barcode. Since it was still about 15 minutes before the park officially opened, we bided our time. At about 9:20 (park open was 9:30), a brass quintet came out and entertained the small crowd that was gathered at the gate with such songs as “Sweet Georgia Brown” and the themes from Perry Mason and Mission: Impossible. They played for 5 or 6 minutes, and then went back into the park. They were seen over by Sheikra later in the afternoon. During the band’s performance, an older gentleman was pacing around behind the turnstiles with a nervous look on his face. He looked like the starter at Churchill Downs on Derby Day, so naturally I assumed he would be the one that would give the signal to start taking tickets. At promptly 9:30 AM, he yelled out to “Open ‘em up!” At this, the ticket takers began processing tickets. I dug my license out again, and went up to the turnstile. The lady scanned the pass, and then told me to put my hand in some strange-looking doohickey next to the barcode scanner. This is a hand scanner, and I had never seen anything like it before. I had trouble getting all the lights to go out, so my Minnesota driver’s license made for a good stand-in, and the three of us were admitted. Busch Gardens is laid out in an uneven circular layout, with Montu to the right from the front gate, and Sheikra, Gwazi, and most other stuff to the left. We opt to head towards Sheikra, since it’s the new thing, the crowds will flock to it. However, we get as far as Gwazi and see that a large rope has been stretched across the midway, along with a sign that stated something to the effect of “This area of the park will open 30 minutes after park opening.” However, the rope is past the entrance to the queue house for Gwazi. And at this fateful juncture in time, we see a train go out from the station. The three of us head straight up to the loading platform on the Lion side, and jump in the train. Gwazi Lion isn’t a bad wooden coaster. Not terribly forceful but fairly smooth. After riding Gwazi, we decide to try our luck at Montu. We make our way towards Montu. By all appearances, Busch Gardens is a zoo that just happens to have some some sweet B&M thrill rides. This is likely one of the reasons why BGT management took great care in their theming. The theming in this park is fantastic. Whoever did the theming in the Egypt area where Montu is had an eye for detail. Since it’s still close to the open, the park is deserted, which means there is almost no one in the queue house. We go to the back row of the train, and wait. However, the train stays in the station, and a man from park maintenance is futzing with something in the control. Then an announcement is played, stating that Montu is temporarily down. Being the patient people we are, we wait for a spell, as several trains are ghosted. Then the announcement changes to “The ride is closed, come back later.” So no Montu ride in the “hot seat” right now. We walk over to the skyride station, built by our friends at Von Roll, and determine that the three of us must split up, as the listed weight limit is 650 pounds. David and I go in one car, and Jerry follows in the next car. The skyride goes over the Serengeti plains, and we get a good look at the animals on the “Serengeti plains.” After getting off the Skyride, we parked our stuff at a locker bank near Sheikra, and headed into the queue. Sheikra is the second B&M dive machine, and it looks great. What looks even better is the near-empty queue. Walk-around for all three rows in the second train. Sheikra loads two trains at once, one in front of the other. Six rows of 8 seats a row means that this thing can crank the people through in a hurry. Since it’s a walk-on, we ride in the front row. The seats are almost like a Mondial seat, with a wicked lean back. We roll over to the lift hill, and are forced back by the incredibly steep grade that the lift hill has. Obviously Busch Gardens didn’t want to waste much real estate on the lift hill. We hit the top, and roll around to the top of the drop, where the train lurches to a halt, and begins to creeeeeeeeeeep over the edge. And we hang in our OTSRs as the people in the train start to babble among themselves, then BAM! Crazy airtime followed by a very forceful element. It’s a wild roll into the mid-course brakes, where the train lurches to another stop, then slowly rolls into the second plunge. Coming out of the tunnel, I always seem to take a droplet of water square in the forehead. The water effect doesn’t do much on the train, and we roll back into the station. Busch Gardens has a winner on their hands, and a high-capacity one at that. We continue to reride until the queue bridges get full (about 6 or 7 rides), then head back towards Kumba. However, en route to Kumba, we take our obligatory stop at Python, as I don’t have the credit for it. It’s an Arrow corkscrew, and I think it’s similar to the original Corkscrew at Knott’s Berry Farm. After looking at RCDB, it is. It may have been the biggest thing since sliced bread back in its day, but if I had to wait more than 5 minutes for this waste of time, I would demand my money back. One-trick pony. After wasting our time at Python, we find our way to the back corner, and a freshly painted Kumba. Kumba is a beautiful piece of B&M work that’s just been freshly refurbished. It looks beautiful. The line for Kumba is a confusing one. There are no immediate signs declaring what line is for what, and we end up in the line for the front row. Which just so happens to be the only queue with any people in it. It’s a four train wait to get to the front, and it’s worth it. Fabulously smooth with a powerful punch. We go around again, and again, and again. Seven straight times in all. It’s almost as if we were riding Avalanche at Wisky Dells instead of Kumba at BGT. After all the fun at Kumba, we go back to Sheikra to get our stuff out of the lockers, and then we go to the Timbuktu section of the park. We see a mouse coaster, and jump aboard. This is a Gerstlauer Wild Maus, which has been themed Cheetah Chase and given a blaze orange paint job, in tune with the Timbuktu theming. After loading up the car, it heads up to the top of the hill, and flies through the top-level flat spins. I’m thinking that this thing has some potential for the rest of the course. But as we take the first drop, we start to hit brakes, and the ride just kind of fizzles out to nothing. File this one alongside Python. Nearby is Scorpion, a single-loop, single-train Schwartzkopf coaster. The station is very small, so the train loads from the front to the back. I get in the first row of the second car, and promptly get stuck. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, it appears that for the first time, thanks to my insanely long legs, I am stuck in a car. The Schwartzkopf train on Monte wasn’t much bigger than this, but it was big enough as to not get stuck. Being stuck kinda ruins any fun effect that Scorpion may have given out. But getting tossed out of the coaster isn’t an issue on an Anton creation. Lots of force and headchoppers. David, who is sitting along side of me, has to get out before I can turn and get my legs un-wedged. We then decide to make our way towards the front of the park, and the Anheuser-Busch Hospitality House. For those of you who are of legal U.S. drinking age, A-B offers free beer in the Hospitality House. Yes, FREE BEER. Granted, they aren’t giving you a free “mas” of beer, but free beer is free beer. Several different types of Busch beers are on tap, and I found it ironic that a pizza joint had been placed in the house. Hmmm. Pizza and beer go hand in hand, so why not put a pizza joint next to the free beer? Someone up in corporate gets a gold star for a genius bit of marketing. By this time, we hope that whatever mechanical issues they were having on Montu would be ironed out. So we head over there, deposit our stuff in a locker (again), and head to the back row line, so my first ride can be in the so-called “hot seat.” Folks, we have winner #3 of the day. While some coasters go for copious amounts of air time, some try brute speed, and some just plain suck, Montu is all about force. The fierce kick of airtime at the batwing is incredible, and I can’t imagine what it was prior to the mid-course brakes being turned on. Since there were decent amounts of people in the queue house, we had to walk around, although it was never more than a one-train wait for any seat behind the front row. Did I say that the theming of this ride was fantastic? David wanted to see what the Rhino Rally was all about. So we meander over there, and the queue time indicated by the clock says 20 minutes. It’s a nice day, so we don’t mind waiting. We get part of the way through the line (it’s moving along fairly well), before the line stops, and an announcement comes saying that the ride has just gone down mechanical. This virtually clears out the queue, and we are in the second Land Rover/Humvee/Jeep to go out after the ride comes back online. Our navigator was a kid with an unpronounceable Islamic first name, so he’s affectionately known simply as Skippy. Rhino Rally is a cool, unique ride that I won’t go into much detail about. It’s worth waiting a few minutes for, but not necessarily two hours. It is at this juncture of time and space that we depart Busch Gardens and head back to the Florida State Fair for an evening of photography and POP abuse. We’ll head over there, after a word from our sponsor. Paul
  21. I was there when they did this, and if it's possible to be funnier in person than on video, it was. HELP!!! Paul "Watching Robb spin like a top = Priceless" Miller
  22. I watched the Closing Ceremonies last night, and I absolutely loved it. I liked the handover part, and the mayor of Vancourver "waving" the Olympic flag around by doing donuts with his wheelchair. Paul "Wants to go to Beijing in 2008" Miller
  23. My Spring Break goes from March 10-March 19. I'm trying to convince a friend of mine to go on a road trip to SoCal and Las Vegas. Just in time for WCB (Leave Minneapolis either late Thursday night or early Friday morning puts us into SoCal on Saturday afternoon/evening). But either way, I want to get out of town! As much as I love Minnesota, I gotta get out of this place once in a while. Paul
  24. PAUL, DAVID, AND JERRY INVADE FLORIDA PART 1: FLORIDA STATE FAIR or THIS IS FLORIDA?! THURSDAY, FEBRUARY 9, 2006 3:30 AM YOUR FEARLESS NARRATOR’S APARTMENT MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! It is the rather annoying sound of an alarm clock rousting me out of a tumultuous sleep at half past 3 AM that starts our adventure. Jerry and David convinced me (actually, I did a fair amount of convincing myself) to go to Florida with them to visit the Florida State Fair, Busch Gardens in Tampa, and a certain 300-foot tall A-frame on the Irlo Bronson Highway in Kissimmee. An itinerary was found that reasonably matched David and Jerry’s that was also reasonably priced. Seats were booked, passes were bought, and schedules were cleared. The best-fit fare this time around went on US Air through Mayberry, er, Charlotte, North Carolina. The flight crew on the 6:20 AM departure from MSP to Charlotte had a very good sense of humor. The lead flight attendant referred to the crew as “Pilot Fred, Co-Pilot Barney, and Flight Attendants Wilma and Betty. Also, if you needed to smoke, and couldn’t make it to Charlotte without a smoke, you are more than welcome to step out onto our beautiful smoking wing…” After arrival in Charlotte, the rear flight attendant came over the speaker and boldy declared, “OK, who brought Minneapolis with them?” Barely visible outside the windows of the small CRJ were snow flurries. Knowing the reputation on how southern airports deal with snow (they don’t), I suddenly had a couple of nagging doubts about my flight to Orlando. However, said snow flurries immediately ceased, and the flight to Orlando went off without a hitch. One cool thing about the Charlotte airport was in the main shopping area near the security checkpoints, they have white rocking chairs under trees. I like that little touch to try and improve the otherwise sterile interior of that airport. But back to Orlando. I met with David Bowers and Jerry Dorf at the Hertz rental car facility, and we head for Tampa. There isn’t much to see on I-4 between the two central Florida metropolises, so most of the time was spent discussing the subtle nuances of our trip. Our first destination on arrival in Tampa was the Baymont Inn on the western side of Busch Gardens. After several false starts, wrong turns, and missed exits, we finally end up on Busch Boulevard. I realize that Busch Gardens Tampa had been in its current location since around 1959, and that Tampa had grown out to surround the park. Still, I was quite surprised at the state of that part of Tampa. I guess I had been expecting something like what Beach Blvd. is around Knott’s, or worse yet, the Wisconsin Dells Strip. Instead, the street is lined with pawn brokers and check-cashing parlors. Generally, the types of businesses on a street are a fairly good indicator of the type of neighborhood that the street runs through. Also, a large concrete wall has been built around the Busch Gardens complex. For those of you keeping score, there used to be an access to the entrance across from the McDonalds. Jerry and David were both using that fact to base hotel placement, to try and avoid $8 a day in parking fees. Alas, this was not to be. However, splitting $16 in parking three ways makes the ding a little more bearable We check in and head for the Florida State Fairgrounds. We had already passed the grounds on our way to Busch Gardens, and now we returned to the site. My initial reaction on getting out of the car was the fact that it was not very warm. In fact, it was only going to get colder as the evening progressed. It didn’t help that the winds were howling out of the northwest at better than 20 mph. But anyway, we enter the fair through the enormous Expo Hall, and emerge onto a strip that is packed wall-to-wall with food joints. There are a LOT of foods available on this fair, but I don’t like how everything is jammed into the lot. The fairgrounds claims to be 330 or so acres, but much of it is lost to parking. I looked at it thanks to Google Earth, and it appears that about half the grounds are lost to the enormous parking lots. Down this strip, and over onto the main midway. I have been on several good-sized midways, and I have never seen a midway that was so crowded with stuff. I am not talking the crowd (the crowds were very light tonight), I am talking the joints. It seems like the committee told all the shows that brought equipment to bring every joint they had, and to get as many of them as we can physically fit on the lot. From this setup, no one was going to make any money. All the jointees were working their joints extremely aggressively, but the crowd was just not there on this cool and breezy Thursday night. Even by our Midwestern standards, it was getting mighty chilly. Despite this crowded midway, the selection of flat rides on the lot was hard to beat. Huss Rainbow, Enterprise, and Tornado, SDC Moonraker, Mondial Top Scan and Shake (Magnum), three gorgeous music rides, Crazy Mouse and Zyklon coasters, Chance Rok-n-Roll, three claw rides (KMG Afterburner and Freak Out, and Zamperla Nitro). On Opening Night of the fair, unlimited ride wristbands were $15 and gate admission was $5. Parking was free during the fair, so it makes the elaborate booths at the entrance to the grounds irrelevant. So the potential for POP abuse was imminent. As a flatride fan, we thoroughly abused the wristbands. Later in the evening, we were over at the Chance Rok ‘n Roll. Jerry and David had already ridden it twice, and the guys running it recognized them immediately when they came up for ride #3. Over the course of the evening, we met up with many members of Matt’s Carnival Warehouse, as well as some show owners. Matt Cook, Ryan Vawter, cny_chris, Mike Reiss, and Top Spin Jay were all there, as well as Mike Wood and Jim Murphy. However, something was missing about this fair. David and I couldn’t figure out what the heck it was. Perhaps it was the lack of greenery on the fairgrounds. Yeah, the lake was there, but it seemed little more than a “token” object. Or maybe it was no “buzz” of the crowd. Or maybe it was the lack of other stuff on the fairgrounds, aside from token appearances. Throw in a little bit of the brisk weather (I won’t say cold, because the wind chill outside my apartment as I write this is -32F), and I think it’s a combination of all these factors. Overall, the Florida State Fair was a good time, and not a bad investment in $25 (I throw on an additional $5, because you HAVE to eat something). We returned to the Baymont Inn and made preparations to hit Busch Gardens the next morning. Paul COMING SOON: PART 2: BUSCH GARDENS AND MORE FSF
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