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Photo TR: Andy's Texas/Midwest TPR Tour

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Another great update Andy. I do agree with the "enjoy the downtime" advice. A more relaxing day here and there on a TPR trip is fantastic, and the itinerary usually provides this (i.e. on this trip the next park was Sea World, which was more relaxing than Fiesta Texas, followed by the exhausting SFOT, then a more leisurely day at Magic Springs, etc).


I think your mystery coaster is Titan at SFOT?


Oh my God, I'm a nerd.

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Really really NICE trip report Andy! I like the high quality photos! It reminds me of the amazing times we guys had! Such a great trip. Can we go back?

So cool to see it through the eyes of other TPR members! Keep it going! With that being said…THUMBS UP!

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  • 2 weeks later...

Thank you everyone. Glad to return with the next installment, and the final day in San Antonio.


Day 2 -- SeaWorld San Antonio

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Lesson of the Day: Wear something distinctive -- if you want to find yourself in photographs during well-attended ERT sessions, that is! It can sometimes to be tough to pick people out of longer-distance or un-zoomed pictures on coasters. I'm not suggesting an 80s revival with copious neon and big hair, but something you know you'll recognize may help.





Our "OneOcean" tickets -- and the three major coasters on the park map.



I never once got sick of seeing our group's name on tickets throughout the course of the trip. It's very official-looking! SeaWorld also provided us with free refills for drinks.



Journey to Atlantis (x2)

Steel Eel (x2)

Great White (x4)


Lunch Break / Animal Ambassadors


Penguin Encounter

One Ocean

Shamu Express

Dolphin Cove

Sharks / The Coral Reef

Rocky Point Preserve


Day 2


Traveling from northern San Antonio to the city's western reaches around Texas State Highway Loop 1604, we arrived at SeaWorld San Antonio for our final stop (and my fifth day in total) in the Alamo city. Gathering outside the park, we prepared to enter SeaWorld's Texas home.


My only visit to a SeaWorld location was roughly 15 years ago in Orlando -- long enough ago that I didn't have any real point of comparison for this park. Differing somewhat from the layout of a standard amusement park, SeaWorld is laid out with a mix of animal exhibits, show venues, and rides. At the middle of the park's southern extent is a small lake, surrounded by the park's biggest rides and venues.


TPR's morning at SeaWorld San Antonio was planned around three ERT sessions on the park's major coasters. We started the day on Journey to Atlantis, an arguable credit that I think most of us were happy to count. I wasn't in the mood to soak myself thoroughly, so I only planned one ride, but the enthusiastic ride ops sent the boat through a second time! It's rather impossible to say no to that, especially when a TPR group is on board and cheering wildly!


We moved over to Steel Eel for more ERT, which was quite enjoyable. With only one train running, waiting for the prime seats in the back or front might have taken a while, so I called it quits after a couple rides and headed over to our third and final ERT session of the day. Our trip's second Batman clone, Great White, was waiting for us at the park's southeast corner. A shark-themed old-school B&M was obvious to be a hit with the TPR crowd!


After leaving Great White, it was just about time to gather for lunch. We were promised some sort of surprise during the early afternoon break, but weren't sure what was yet to come. To begin, SeaWorld provided one of the better catered meals of the trip -- a full taco/fajita bar! A few plush toys were given away to lucky winners, and then the real stars of the show appeared -- three of SeaWorld's animal ambassadors! We got to meet and spend time with three animals and their caretakers -- Susie the Cockatoo, a lemur, and a kingsnake. These animals are cared for by SeaWorld's staff, after finding their way to the park under sometimes less-than-ideal situations. They behaved themselves quite well, with the possible exception of the rather hilarious lemur, and enjoyed photographs with many TPR members. This was one of those little unexpected things that I'd learn can make a TPR trip great -- a unique experience with animals that most people don't ever get up close and personal with.


After lunch, the group split off, and I was able to visit most of the rest of the park's attractions. I went into the Penguin Encounter, getting to see some of the famed Antarctic birds. I achieved the kiddy credit (Shamu Express), and then watched OneOcean, the park's premier event. The show, featuring orcas with human trainers on the sidelines, was modestly entertaining. I'm not usually huge on going to shows at amusement parks, but I couldn't pass up seeing this one, even if just to watch a bunch of whales soak the heck out of half the audience!


I spent the early afternoon wandering around and getting pictures of the park, seeing some of the other animal exhibits. Several bottlenose dolphins were swimming through Dolphin Cove, with feedings ongoing on the other side of the small lagoon. The Coral Reef aquarium was very enjoyable, with dozens of species of aquatic creatures, including rays, sharks, and lots of other fish. In the darkness of the aquarium, I made the huge mistake of failing to notice my sunglasses slipping out of my pocket. I'd very much come to regret losing them throughout the rest of the trip! After leaving the aquarium, I also saw the rather entertaining seals and sea lions at the Rocky Point Preserve. Several events were ongoing at the park's lake, including water-skiing and flyboarding (Matt has a great picture of a guy on a flyboard here). Once our time at SeaWorld was complete, we all met up for a 330 PM departure near the front of the park.


SeaWorld San Antonio could be a full day park for someone who wants to see all of the shows, and perhaps spend some time in Aquatica, the on-site water park. For this group of park enthusiasts, our six and a half hours seemed sufficient to hit all the important elements. I couldn't shake the feeling that SeaWorld was a bit sparse in places, perhaps due to some big swaths of undeveloped land, and how spread out most of the big attractions are. Still, what's there is quite nice. The park was not overly busy on our visit, with the biggest crowds in the water park. I don't think the coasters ever got horrendously lined up, so while I can't ever say one-train ops are a good thing, it made some sense in this case. Though I'm not generally a huge fan of shows, as a photographer, I love the animal habitat areas -- SeaWorld has done a fine job with these elements, and I hope they remain a focus going into the future. All combined, I had a good time at SeaWorld, and I wouldn't hesitate to visit again if I were spending time in San Antonio. I have to give a big thanks to the SeaWorld staff for their hospitality with our group -- animal ambassadors, a great lunch, and three ERT sessions!


Reviews of the four roller coasters:


Journey to Atlantis: This is apparently the least-developed of the three Journey to Atlantis rides, and although I'll count it as a credit, the ride really only worked conceptually as a splash boat water ride. Sitting in the back row, it wasn't a drencher, although I think the people in the front got quite a bit more wet. I rode it twice and was good with that.


Steel Eel: This was touted as one of the hidden gems on the trip -- a Morgan pseudo-hyper coaster, sharing the basic layout of a hyper without hitting the 200-foot mark. I really enjoyed Mamba at Worlds of Fun, so I was hoping this one would be nearly as good. In some ways, it was. The ride delivered some very fun floater air time, and I enjoyed the views from up top as well. The undoing of this ride is the very rough transitions from floater air to spine-slamming positive Gs. The seats on the Steel Eel train are not padded, and something to absorb the shock would have helped immensely! I liked this ride a lot, but found it begrudgingly disappointing that certain painful elements made it hard to re-ride. Even still, I only made it on twice, and with another half hour at the park I likely would have gone on once or twice more.


Great White: It's a Batman clone that rides like a Batman clone, so you all know the story -- strong forces and lots of disorienting fun! I went on Great White four times -- not quite in a row, but close to it -- and that was about all I could take without needing a time out.


Shamu Express: It's a kiddy coaster with orca tails on the back of the cars! Awesome!

Edited by The Great Zo
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Pictures from Day 2


Additional pictures and bigger versions of these images can be found here and here.


Arriving at SeaWorld San Antonio!


A full train of people with their hands up? It must be TPR heading down the first drop of Steel Eel.


I think everybody got this "classic" shot of the Steel Eel first drop.


I strip away the old steel eel, that hides a shining car.


Great White lift hill shot. Unlike Goliath at SFFT, this one has the standard eight rows.


TPR goes loop-de-loop.


Another loop on the Great White Batman.


The front row is clearly the place to be.




Interestingly enough, the Great White sign actually includes the word "The" in the title.


Our lunch break spot on the lake gave us a fantastic spot for pictures of Steel Eel's first drop -- made somewhat frustrating by the fact that the ride seemed to have a little bit of downtime while we were waiting with our cameras raised! This is a typical scene -- coaster enthusiasts taking pictures of coasters. I actually found the picture Matt was taking, while I was taking the picture of Matt taking the picture (it's this one from his trip report:




Gathering for our special lunch presentation, with plush toys, a taco bar, and...


Snake! Snake! Oh it's a snake!


This Kingsnake was originally from Florida.


Here's Susie, the cockatoo who says "hi." You can hear her on the video here: http://www.thegreatzo.com/photos/video.php?set=20130731a&vid=0077


There are a lot of animals in this picture. There's also a bird.


KT, Susie. Susie, KT. Say hi.


The lemur got a little excited to meet Shawn...


Sometimes, I can't write a caption better than the one the picture writes by itself!


"Yeah, I jumped on a TPR member, what are you going to do about it?"


"Oh, now you're just going to take pictures of me?"


"There must be somewhere I can run to get away from these people..."


"Sigh. Park enthusiasts."


This picture is the lemur equivalent of a facepalm.


That's right, we all enjoyed meeting our new lemur friend.


A view across the lake to Journey to Atlantis.


Atlantis on the way down!


A splash faintly visible.


Picture time with a giant anthropomorphic penguin!


Say "hi" to Susie again!


In the Penguin area -- looks like it's time for a visit.


A puffin on the rocks.


Steel Eel looming above the midway. SeaWorld doesn't have a ton of shade over the main pathways, but they are lined with trees and do look quite nice.


Steel Eel's awesome -- awesomely 90s, that is -- sign.


The sun shines on the eel.


Morgan's supports for Steel Eel are notoriously strange, but pretty cool looking too.


Time for some water-skiing!


Another shot of the Steel Eel lift hill across the water.


JtA goes splash, kids get soaked.


Now in the big stadium for the OneOcean show. Curtains of water rained down from the back of the pool.


Jumping orca!


Another whale picture.


A view of the pretty big crowd.






Trainers love their whales! And darn it Matt, we got the same picture /again/ :-D




About to splash.


This is what you get for sitting in the front.


Soaking wet!


Orca on the LED board.


Frog hopper.

Edited by The Great Zo
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Pictures from Day 2 (continued)


Shameless kiddy credit. For a park with only four coasters, I might as well get them all!


Yes, it had a small line. Yes, we waited in it. Shameless, I say. Shameless.


The fountain near the park's main entrance.


Dolphin Cove: TPR takeover edition.


Atlantic bottlenose dolphins swimming around.


Yes, I see you.


I think these dolphins are hungry.


The interestingly-shaped Coral Reef building, home of the park's aquarium.


This flagpole is planted in an off-limits area at the north end of the park, but it's on a hill that is actually the park's highest point.


Taking in the wonders of the ocean, or just mesmerized by a bunch of fish.


A tropical paradise.


Giant glass walls on the inside of the aquarium.


Silhouetted in front of the water.


Rays and fish.


I'm not good with species identification, so we'll call this one "white fish with a thing on its head."


Here's "blue fish with a bunch of yellow spots." That's right, I'm one step above Dr. Seuss.


Plenty of fish in the sea. Several more in San Antonio.


I'll call this one "Evan Longoria."


Pictured: shark. Not pictured: Tums.


Creepy shark picture with the light in the background.


Piranha: stars of the future Oscar-winning film Pirahnado, directed by Martin Scorsese.


Yeah, everyone here probably already knows these guys.


Sea life is weird, part 1.


Sea life is weird, part 2.


Now entering Rocky Point Preserve, home to the park's seals and sea lions.


"Hey, you got any fish?"


"Just swimming along."


Also home to river otters, including these two, who spent some quality time together.


"Yeah, what?"


Two of a kind. I have video of these fine creatures: http://www.thegreatzo.com/photos/video.php?set=20130731b&vid=0399


Sad puppy face?


I drive a Chevrolet movie theater.


Flying high above Steel Eel.


Cresting the first drop, which is much more fun than hitting the bottom of the first drop.


This guy's got wingspan.


Steel reflections.


The bottom of the first drop on Steel Eel.


Airtime! Followed by spine-time!


Dropping in on Journey to Atlantis.


Here it comes...


The big splash.


Hope you enjoyed your ride.


These people know what's coming next.


For those in the front row, perhaps an unacceptable amount of wetness.


Riding out the bottom of the drop.


Yeah, they enjoyed it.


Dolphin statues and the front entrance fountain.


Now leaving SeaWorld San Antonio after a great half-day!


A final view of all three coasters.


Steel Eel rises above the trees -- the last view of the park on the way out.

Edited by The Great Zo
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Day 2 Bonus -- International Snack Exchange

Wednesday, July 31, 2013


Once our half-day at SeaWorld San Antonio ended, it was time for the first long bus ride of the Texas/Midwest tour. A few scenes from the road...



This is a high school football stadium. This is a /small/ high school football stadium by Texas standards. Goodness gracious.



Hey, I recognize that place! A parting shot of the trip's first hotel.



Freeway interchanges in Texas -- no one makes 'em bigger. Can you say "frontage roads?"



Circuit Of The Americas -- a big Formula One race track near Austin. I had no idea what this was, but several people on the bus recognized the place, so I took a picture of it as we sped by.


After stopping in Temple for what would end up looking like a smorgasbord of dining options compared to later breaks, we finished our journey to the La Quinta in Arlington. Although we were done riding coasters for the day, it was time for another highlight of the trip -- the International Snack Exchange! I stupidly did not bring my camera to the event, but to give you an idea of the scope, here are three outstanding pictures from Yin, from Marcel, and from TPR. Obviously, there was far too much to eat, though I think we gave it our best shot!


I couldn't even begin to describe all of the items we had available, so hopefully a few can be picked out in the pictures. I provided some coconut bars produced not far from where I live in Ohio. We also had buckeyes from Ohio, loads of Haribo gummi candies, Timbits from Tim Hortons, jelly beans, Takis, crackers, jerky, and dozens of other items I can't even remember.


I took home three packets of Frigeo Ahoj Brausepulver -- German soda powder -- determined to make myself a glass.



I opted for the orange packet, and hoped I'd make it correctly.



It fizzed the water magnificently, with a very sweet orange taste. Not bad at all!


From the back of the packet:




Den inhalt des Portionsbeutels in ein Glas mit 0,2 Liter frischen Wasser (Mineralwasser) schütten. Sofort erhält man ein herrlich prickel-frisches Getränk.


I gave Google Translate a go, and came out with, well, something close enough to make sense out of!




The contents of the sachet into a glass with 0.2 liters of fresh water (mineral water) pour. Immediately obtained a gorgeous prickling-fresh drink.


What were my favorites? Well, let me start at the bottom, with one I didn't even try -- I think we all know Yin wins the award for worst International Snack Exchange entry, made all the more hilarious by the fact that he was trolling us all along. Yin's pickled vegetable something-or-others looked positively hideous, but six months later, they make for one of the most memorable snacks of the night! Well played, Yin. Well played.


Honorable Mention: Bourbon balls, homemade by Stacy G. Nicely done!


Third Place: Prickly pear cactus jelly candy, provided by one of the Arizona residents. I wasn't sure if I was going to like it, but I did! It took some getting used to, but the purple stuff was worth the effort!


Second Place: Heck, I can't even remember the name of it, or who provided it -- but it was some sort of pineapple chocolate semi-gummy candy that I found rather addicting. Does anyone else remember this?


First Place: Whittaker's White L&P Lemon and Paeroa.



Was I the only person that liked this stuff? It's white chocolate (which I love) mixed with L&P (Lemon and Paeroa), a soft drink made in New Zealand. The end result is that it's a mix of white chocolate, lemon, and pop-rock-esque fizzyness. Obviously, I have the Kiwis to thank for this -- Matt and Andrew, thank you, but darn you for hooking me on something I cannot find on this side of the globe!


That was one of my favorite evenings of the trip -- another one of those unique experiences, as people from all around the planet get together to eat enough to make up for all we've sweat off in the hot Texas sun.

Edited by The Great Zo
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