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Photo TR: Griffon conquers Florida - well, almost


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This past week my girlfriend, Erin, had to go on a business trip to Orlando, so I decided to take the week off to go down with her and make the most of it! The whole trip was absolutely amazing, with short lines at the parks, temperatures in the mid 80s and nothing but sun the entire time. Very low humidity too.

 

Since our flight didn’t leave until Sunday morning, I actually drove down to Busch Gardens Europe for a few hours on Saturday and got some additional pictures of Griffon from the skyride. The next day we took off for Florida. It’s been about 13 years since I’ve been to any Disney park, so I made sure to get all the new credits that I’ve been missing out on. We also took a day and went down to Busch Gardens Tampa. Oh, and of course we made time for the Universal parks.

 

I realize that as I get older I won’t have the ability to do things like visit all 4 Disney parks in one day. I’ve heard it was impossible to do, but I definitely accomplished it on Monday. Overall we ended up with 61 rides, 24 coasters, and 9 new credits for the list. I took about 1000 pictures, so I’m sure they can cover the rest. This was definitely a memorable vacation.

 

Day 1: Saturday 4/21- Busch Gardens Europe

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Close up of the trains. Those end seats are really going to be great. Hopefully we'll know for sure soon.

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The train sat here at the bottom of the lift the whole time I was in the park. Apparently Griff started testing as soon as I left for the day. Go figure.

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New wood at Busch Gardens Europe! Actually, that wouldn't be such a good thing.

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I wish more parks had trains. They're a great attraction when parks get crowded

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Loch Ness again

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Loch Ness through the woods

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This duck was like.. why you puttin' that camera all up in my grilll???

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A view of the station queue area.

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Hopefully this will be an airtime hill. I have a feeling we'll find out soon

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Final turnaround before the brakes

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Station area

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New Griffon splash pool. You can see the viewing area is almost complete. Should be close enough to get a good splash from the train too.

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Alpengeist flies by

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Hey look, it's Top Gun Man!

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I've found the secret to how Busch Gardens keeps "America's Most Beautiful Theme Park" clean. I've never seen one of these in a park before.

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Decided to start the trip with a beautiful morning at Busch Gardens Europe

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Day 2: Sunday 4/22- Flight to Orlando, and Resort photos

 

Sunday morning our flight left Richmond at 8am. I've never flown to Florida before, and it was really nice to only be in the air for 1.5 hours, and then have the whole rest of the day to do whatever.

 

We arrived, and checked into the Gaylord Palms resort (on her company's tab ). This place was really amazing. The resort was divided into 3 different "atriums" that represent different areas of Florida. The atriums were surrounded by guest rooms with balconies, and all of it was enclosed with a huge glass roof. The indoor areas were climate controlled to make you feel like you're outside in perfect weather. And, as you can see from the pictures, the whole place was massive. The pictures I got were just in the hotel side of the resort. There was a whole other convention side separated by 2 outdoor pools, a mini-golf course and volleyball courts. I could have spent a day or two just wandering around the place, but with a tight theme park schedule, I only managed to get a handfull of pictures while passing through.

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And, the highlight of our room... shower head passes the test!

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But this was the view from our window. Having the world's tallest skycoaster in the background ain't too bad

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Our room was in the Key West section, but we didn't have a view of the inside of the hotel

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A view of the main lobby and check-in area

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I don't remember who they were, but they sounded pretty good.

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On Sunday night they had a small concert in the main area.

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The second, "family" pool with a cool water slide. Unfortunately I didn't have time to go swimming

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One of 2 outdoor pools

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Overhead view of the Everglades area

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This was a restaurant in the Everglades atrium.

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Alligators chillin' in the sun

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And alligators! Although they didn't move around too much

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There were several waterfalls around the resort

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Balcony in St. Augustine area

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More sand sculptures

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Key West Atrium with sand sculptures

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St Augustine Atrium inside the hotel. You can see the guest rooms along the walls

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Our hotel for the week. This place was really amazing

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Hello MCO

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Getting into Florida

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After a mostly cloudy and cold month in Virginia, I can finally leave the clouds behind for a little while.

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Ready for vacation

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Now I remember why I don't like to fly. It's been about 10 years since I was on a plane

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Universal Orlando Pics

 

After we checked into the hotel, Erin and I both spent a few hours on Sunday at Universal Studios. I've never spent much time in this park, and haven't been to Florida since before Revenge of the Mummy was built.

 

The crowds weren't too bad for a weekend afternoon, we waited about 20 minutes for Mummy, which I thought was a really great ride. There were a couple spots of really good airtime, and the launched lift was a surprise to me. I've also heard it was a short ride, but I didn't think the length was bad at all.

 

We also got on E.T. and MIB for the first time, which were both decent. And the Nuthouse Coaster kids credit.

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So long, Universal

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I don't know exactly what that sign was for

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The MIB ride. I wasn't so impressed with this, actually. I expected it to be exciting, but it turned out to be more of a kids attraction (in my opinion)

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Back to the Future Theming. I wonder if this will stay in the park

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New credits are always a plus!

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Hey look, we're in... wait a minute I wasn't on a plane that long

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Until I snapped a quick photo of the trains.

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The only photo ever seen of Mummy

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Streets of Universal

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The streets at Universal are really cool to walk around. However, there just isn't much to "do" for someone like me who wants to keep moving to the next ride

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Twister was not so impressive

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Day 3: Monday 4/23 - All the Disney you can handle

 

On Monday, I was on a mission. Erin was in a vendor show all day, so I had time to myself to conquer as many Disney attractions as possible. I had been strategizing my plan of attack with a few friends before the trip, and the plan we came up with worked perfect.

 

I left on the shuttle at 8:15am, went to all 4 parks, and didn't get back until after 11:00pm. I was exhausted, and my fairly new socks had holes worn in the heels by the end of the day, but I managed to hit every major attraction in all 4 parks.

 

I would say the highlights were Space Mountain, Tower of Terror, and Expedition Everest. Space Mountain was much longer than I remember, and overall a great ride. Tower of Terror was such a cool ride, even before you get to the freefall part. I really didn't know what to expect, and it was great.

 

Expedition Everest is actually in a class of it's own for me. I've never been much of a fan of themed rides. I've always said I wish parks would spend more money and build bigger, longer rides rather than spend the money on theming, but I really think they did Everest perfectly. Another thing that got me was that I was expecting it to be more of a tame ride than it was. There were some really good g-forces in the first backwards section, and again in the helix. Then shooting up by that Yeti at the end with his hair blowing in the wind reaching down at you was amazing. I had 4 consecutive rides on Everest at the end of the night as the crowds were leaving, and the line disappeared, and that really had me feeling that this is a great, solid ride.

 

After Animal Kingdom, I hung out at Epcot for a while as the sun went down and pretty much just took pictures there. The only ride I wanted to get on, but didn't, was Soarin'. It came down to either food, or soarin' and anyone who has been with me to a theme park knows which one of those two would have priority. I ate a nice meal and then watched the fireworks.

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So long Disney

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Epcot from across the lake

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Awesome lighting

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At this point the sun was going down, which is the best time to get pictures

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And lastly, on to Epcot. I thought test track was really cool

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I took a ride on the safari tour, but was not very impressed with it

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Only one side of Primeval whirl was open, so unfortunately I missed out on a credit here :(

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Cresting the top of the mountain

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helix of awesomeness

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The runout before the 2nd lift

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I know I've seen this shot before

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Props in line

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Everest queue line theming was great.

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I love the way the mountain really blends in with the background

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close up

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coming out of the mountain

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There's really only one thing to take pictures of here. That's Everest. Definitely my favorite ride at all Disney parks

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After a long wait for the shuttle, it was off to Animal Kingdom

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Tower of Terror queue line theming

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Tower of Terror was awesome. This was my first time on the ride, and I wish I had more time to ride it again

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And I managed to sneak a shot in the exit area. The train isn't launching, I just used a slow shutter speed.

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I like the theming outside the entrance

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Rockin' Roller Coaster was great, and much smoother than I expected.

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Now it's on to MGM. Only a couple things here to ride, so I was only in the park for about an hour

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I think the lighting was really great on this shot

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Some castle and flower pictures for castle and flower lovers

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I was amazed at the 2 train operation on Barnstormer.

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Big Thunder train

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The theming is really great

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I rode Big Thunder Mtn as a kid, but riding it again this week really proved this is such a great coaster.

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I think I need some help with a caption for this one :)

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The overexposed Grand Floridian resort

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Cool shot of Space Mtn and one of the boats

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Starting off at Magic Kingdom, I was able to get there before the gates opened.

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Beautiful pics! Griffon looks great. You can see in the pics how it totally dwarfs the other coasters. Love the shot of the kid showing crack! The Expedition Everest pics were great too- it looks like an awesome coaster. And the hotel- wow! I think I want to be reincarnated as one of those crocodiles.

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Day 4: Tuesday, 4/24: Islands of Adventure

 

After being worn out Monday, I slept in on Tuesday, while Erin was at another event. We met back up around 1pm, and headed over to Islands of Adventure for the afternoon. Practically everything was a walk-on so we didn't need all day in the park.

 

Dueling Dragons and Hulk were both awesome as usual. We had to ride Ripsaw Falls, despite getting soaked, but after that I didn't feel the need to go on Bluto's raft ride and get even more drenched.

 

The coolest part was that I managed to get the impossible Pteranodon Flyers credit. You're supposed to have a kid with you in order to get on, but at the end of the day we kept looking up at the ride and noticed there was nothing but adults on it. I walked up to the entrance to see if we could sneak by, but the employee stopped us and tried to discourage us from getting in line by saying the ride was for kids and it was really boring and short. I kindly explained my coaster nerd status and that I've been on everything in the park but this one ride, and also how I missed the Primeval Whirl credit at Disney the day before. He laughed at me for being a total dork, and then let us through. There was about 10 people in front of us, which translated into a 10 minute line, but I really enjoyed the views from just above the trees.

 

After the day in the park, we hung around City Walk for a while and looked in the shops, then went back to the hotel.

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Would have been cool to eat here, but we didn't make it in time and it was packed

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Hard Rock cafe at night

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We hung out at Universal City Walk for a while and saw some interesting shirts (in the endangered species store, of all places)

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Another sunset on another great day. I actually made this one in Photoshop though

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Spiderman- amazing just like I remember

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Actually the Pteranodon Flyers were pretty cool despite being a kids ride

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I look mad in this picture, but I'm actually pretty excited to be here :)

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Hulk close up

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Train coming out of the clouds

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Hulk was running faster and more intense than I remember. But also a little more rough

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If you look closely, the guy in the front row was in the process of losing his hat

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Best train wheel covers too

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The most exciting vertical loops in existence

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Dragon entrance. Both sides were running as good as I remember

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Hulk and Dr. Doom's Fear Fall

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I visited IOA for the first time a few months after it opened, and I was very impressed this time with how well everything has been kept up.

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Hello IOA

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Day 5: Wednesday, 4/25 - Busch Gardens Tampafrica and Old Town

 

When we originally planned this trip, I didn't think we would have a chance to make it to Busch Gardens, mainly b/c I didn't want to have to rent a car. But shortly before we left, I found out that Busch Gardens was smart enough to offer a daily shuttle from Orlando to Tampa. This was a perfect situation for us, so we jumped on the shuttle and headed down to the park on Wednesday.

 

This was my first time to BGT since 2000, and I have to say that I am much more impressed with the park now than I have been in the past. The landscaping was better than I remember, and despite being a little hard to navigate without a map, the park just seemed to have something for everyone.

 

Sheikra was great, and in a way I'm glad I got to ride it before it goes floorless. I think the floorless aspect will make a huge difference in the front row, but probably not much of a difference in the back two. The drops and immelman were both great, and I loved the ride.

 

However, the best coasters of the whole trip for me were Kumba and Montu. Kumba was a little rough, especially on the end seats, but it was much faster than I remember, and the layout is so great. It's a good ride in any seat and transitions into each element really nicely. Kumba is now easily in my top ten, which it wasn't before.

 

In previous trips to the park, Montu has always been a good ride, but seemed kinda slow throughout the second half of the ride. This time it was flying through the midcourse brakes , which made the 2nd half of the ride much more intense as you dive through the cool trenches. This is easily now my favorite inverted coaster.

 

Gwazi, on the other hand, has obliterated into total crap. I can't believe a ride like Drachen Fire was removed for being rough, while this ride is still operating as rough as it is. It's a shame because it used to be so great. Anyway, overall, I really enjoyed my time at the park, and it was a great way to end the trip.

 

Our flight left on Thursday afternoon, and we were going to try and get to Sea World that morning, but I wasn't able to arrange transportation back to the airport, so we decided not to. Still, I'm very happy that we were able to do as much as we did in just a few days.

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And finally, a sunset from the plane ride home. When I got back to Richmond, it was again cloudy and raining. Back to reality I guess.

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The G-Force ride was too expensive for what it was, so I just watched a couple launches

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I thought I would be able to get this credit, but was turned away as I did not have any kids to snag and ride with.

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Later on Wednesday night we stopped over at Old Town and hung out for a while.

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And lastly from Busch Gardens, a donkey

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The park theming and landscaping was excellent

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Flamingos are cool. I wanted to take one back for the yard, but I was told Airport security wouldn't allow it

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Chasing dinner

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Hey, what are you lookin' at?

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Lunch time for the giraffes

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I didn't know what to expect, but the river part was definitely cool, and made it more of a ride than an attraction.

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I thought Rhino Rally was really great!

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Scorpion the g-force machine. Still a decent ride

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Gwazi the jackhammer. Geez, this ride used to be so good

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My first re-located credit, although I don't think it's fair to count it as a new one. The brakes were on pretty heavy, and it ran very slow. A much better ride in VA.

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Montu from the safari

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Loop #2

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Flying through the awesome trenches

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Montu fan turn

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Immelman greatness

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This is my kind of line!

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Signature Kumba shots

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this is such a cool effect for a coaster to have, and it was definitely very popular

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Looks like a close call in the back seat for getting wet, but I know for a fact now that you don't feel any water

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splash zone

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2nd drop into the fog

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I love this picture of both drops

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Chain dogs and anti- rollbacks

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Splash

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B&M goodness

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Sheikra and flowers, for Sheikra and flower lovers

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Countdown until the ride closes. They were really advertising this heavily throughout the park, and on billboards in the area

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Out of the fog

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I know there are pictures of this already, but since it was part of my trip, I'll put them up here too.

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Looks like you had a fun-filled vacation! I want to go back to BGAfrica but I think I may be waiting for the new floorless trains before I go. I've already experienced it with the floor.

 

I absolute LOVE the picture of the Epcot ball on the side with the sunset lighting. I imagine it would look awesome as a background photo. And, there is no wand to be seen, HOORAY!

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wow... Disneyland looks awesome at night! I really wish I could remember when I went to the Paris one all those years ago (over a decade!)

 

Really nice photos! Makes me envy American coaster enthusiasts that little bit more...

 

Thanks everyone for the comments, I appreciate it. Since you're from "somewhere in England" I thought I would mention that the parks I went to seemed to be filled with a lot of families from England and Europe this time of year. There were all these families with kids and I remember thinking "why aren't these kids in school" but I noticed they all had British and European accents. Maybe school is letting out this time of year in Europe? I don't know?

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Great Pics man. I didn't realize until now that Griffon's rows are 10-seats wide to Sheikra's 8. Interesting.

 

Glad to see that you enjoyed Everest. I really enjoyed that ride. I also agree about Kumba over Montu. Kumba is INTENSE!!! It still blows my mind how much power this ride generates for its size. It feels faster than a lot of coasters that are taller and faster. It does not get as much attention anymore, yet it is still one of the best on the planet. Montu slows too much in the second half and doesn't end with a bang. You roll back into the station almost bored.

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Did Scorpion get a paint job? Ive never notice it being that blue before.

 

Im glad you had a Good time in Florida. You came at a good time too. Down season maybe a little bit of a spring break but not much. the weather has been perfect.

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What kind of camera do you have? DSLR?

 

I wish I had a DSLR. I'll probably end up getting one before the end of the year, I'm getting more and more into photography. I use a Sony DSC-H5 right now which is a great camera, but nothing professional. I actually do a lot of work in Photoshop to boost up the contrast and bring out the color in each picture. It's a lot of work, but I love doing it for some reason.

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Dude those pics were kickass!!!! You could not have planned out a better time to go (crowd & weather wise).

 

Truly outstanding pics and your photoshop work to bring out the colors is awesome!

 

I hope you have just as nice days for your CP trip in a few weeks!

 

Glad you and Erin had a great time.

 

JEFF

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OMG AMAZING TR! I loved ever one of the photos! Just viewing this TR makes me want to get to Florida even more! I can not wait! Thanks for posting! OMG and I loved the pictures of the Kissimmee Skycoaster! I can so not wait for that ride! OMG Did you ride the Kissimmee Skycoaster? ANYWAYS... great TR! Thanks so much for posting!

~Matthew

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