Thursday, February 16, 2006

Coasterville Con - Trip to Florida - day 1

One of the downsides of living up North is this little thing called the off-season. During this time the local amusement parks and carnivals cease operations for the winter leaving us with about 5 months without our favorite coasters and rides.

Enter a proposal made by fellow coaster and fair enthusiast Jerry Dorf to go visit a state fair that neither of us had visited before, the Florida State Fair, to sweeten the deal we could also stop by Busch Gardens Tampa Bay and ride the only B&M Dive Machine in the USA. I hemmed and hawed and took a bit longer than Jerry woulod have liked to get all my arangements in order and in early January we committed to making the trip. A couple weeks later, Paul from Minnesota decided to join us on our quest.

"Getting there is half the fun, come share it with me!"

Yeah I know its a line from the Muppet Movie, and I have oftenb used it for the opening of trip reports to cover that otherwise dull part where we talk about getting to the park, but when you add the complexity of three of us arriving from two different cities on three different airlines, it makes for an interesting morning,

I booked a reasonably priced direct non stop flight on Delta, which was to leave Cincinnat at 8:20 and arrive in Orlando, FL at 10:30, with Jerry arriving about an hour later at 11:35 and Paul and hour after that at 12:43.

I decide to push it and on the morning of February 9, I arrived at the Cincinnati airport at around 7:00, and was able to use self check in and have my bag checked in just a matter of minutes. I then proceeded down the escalators to the security checkpoint which is located in the basement right before you get to the underground train station. The line for security was only about 5 minutes this early in the morning, and part of that was with all the added steps it takes to get through secruity. I mean fist you have to move your cell phone, keys and metal objects into your carry on bag, then remove your jacket, then remove your shoes, and since I was carrying a laptop, I had to remove the laptop from its case. I decided to camoflage the laptop against possible theft by placing it in the bottom of the grey tub I as issued, then spreading my jacket out on top of it, then placing my shoes on top of the jacket. I did not get any complaints from the TSA and soon I was through the checkpoint and using the newly installed row of chairs to get situated and get my shoes back on.

I proceeded into the underground train station to catch a train out to the terminal. As had been reported in the local paper one of the two tracks was down for rehab, and signs indicated that it may be a 6 minute wait for a train,. Having over an hour till departure I decided to wait for the train. The train station is well designed with lots of visul cues inlaid into the floor. The most obvious are arrows embedded into the floor that point towards the doors to board the train, the other is the use of blue trim by the trainsides. Its a subtle effect, but since people enter and exit the train on the same side, it seems to serve as a safety line for people to stand behind. I boarded the train and took the ride out to Terminal B. Up the escalator I was standing in the food court.

I checked the clock, and decided I hadtime for a sit down breakfast. I stopped by the Wolfgang Puck Cafe for Belgian Waffles with strawberries, bananas and cream. It was a nice large andfillingwaffle, tasted wonderful. Came inat just around $10 with bacon and coffee. After making a pit stop on the way to the plane, I found myself arriving at the gate just in time to board the planeafter themain throng of passengers had boarded. I boarded the plane, learned thatmy laptop case just barely fits under a seat, and settled in for take off. Our departure was slighly delayed becuase they oversold the flight. They first tried to bribe a passenger off with just a breakfast voucher. They tried hard, but finally got someone to cave for just a $200 Delta gift card and breakfast. We were further delayed with a trip through the de-ice. I kindoflike watching de-ice, its like going throuh a carwash with guys on enclosed boom trucks spraying the aircraft with a nozzle while a truck driver drove them around the aircraft. The remants of snow and ice on the plane didn't stand a chance against this stuff.

Soon we were up in the air and I learned that while I could use my laptop its not a comfortable fit. I decided to watch Lion King on the way down (Special edition w/ Morning Report added), and got to the part where Simba announced he is returning to the Pride Lands when the call to cease use of electronic devices came out. In other news Delta has stopped pasing out their infamous trail mix and now offers you the choice of an item out of the snack basket, along with the beverage.

We touch down in Orlando more or less on time, and I look out the window to learn thatwe are parked next to a jet from Hooters Air. After exiting the plane I enter a crowded bustling terminal, and I didn't even get to see the Hooters air flight attendants. I make a pitstop, make a phone call or two, then head towards the main terminal. I didn't rush towards the terminal, but I didn't think I took an uneasonable amount of time to walk through the airside, ride the monorail back to the main terminal, exit the secure area and proceed down one floor to the baggage claim area. Signs at the bottom of the escalator direct you to a carousel. Iarrive just in time to get my bag seconds before Delta representatives were going to take it to the unclamied luggage desk. I then look around the baggage claim are for a snack bar, and eventually return to the third floor food court to pick up a soft drink before going down two floors to the ground transportation level.

We had decided that instead of trying to come up with a meeting place in the main airport, tbat we would meet at the Hertz rental car facility. I found some comfy chairs in the terminal and relaxed a bit before going outside around 11:45am to catch the shuttle bus. We waited at the terminal for the bus to fill then we headed out to the Hertz Office, and I arrived right around 12:10 stepped off the bus to meet up with Jerry who had somehow lapped me and was already sitting in the waiting area.

I discover the Hertz waiting area is a WIFI hot spot so I check email, check MCW and BGT online for updates, and check in on a few other things. Around 12:30 Jerry goes inside to claim our reserved Ford Focus. We load our luggage into the car, and Paul tocuhed down right about on time at 12:45, and arrives at the Hertz facility around 1:10. We pick up Orlando and Tampa maps, then show our rental contract at the checkpoint and are soon headed out on the road.

We leave Hertz and soon see the signs "To TAMPA". We decide to take the beeline expressway, and $1.50 later we are passing by Sea World and see the space spiral. We then take I-4 most of the way into Tampa. As we pass the Disney complex, Jerry takes note of the not-so-hidden Mickey in the electric tower. We wind up pulling into Tampa just around 3pm, and decide to get checked into the hotel before going to the fair.

We can see the Florida fair midway as we exit I-4, and then we see the Hard Rock hotel/casino. We then negotiate our way through Tampa to the Baymont next door to Busch Gardens Tampa. As we pass BGT we determine that one of our money saving tactics is not going to work. We were thinking about walking from our hotel to the park as there used to be an opening in the wall near McDonalds. Well that hole has been filled in, and walking to the park would require walking darn near around half the perimiter to the park. Oh well, if we share the parking fee amongst three of us it won't be too bad.

We arrive at the Baymont, and pull in the back gate and go into the office and with not much fuss get checked in. We decide to check out our room, so we drive around the back of the hotel and the parking spaces near our room are coned off,, so we wind up needing to take a second lap around the hotel as the perimeter road is one way. We find a parking space, and walk up to our room and the door is sitting open. The room was empty and a maintenance man comes past and tells us that they are doing some rehab to the hotel. Well, it was beofre the usual 4pm check in time, but we decide against leaving our bags in the room. Okay, now we have the hotel keys so now its off to the Florida State Fair. we retrace our way through town back to the fairgrounds.

We take another good look at the midway as we cross the highway overpass and take the fairgrounds exit. We apporach the fairgrounds and are welcomed by an impressive looking archway over the parking lot entrance. As advertised, the Florida State Fair offers free parking, and as such the parking toll booths were closed. We take the multi lane paved entrance road into the parking lot. At the end of the main entry driveay parking attendants guide us into a parking space. Only the main drives through the lot are paved. We walk through the parking lot towards what looks like the front gate. As we apporach the front gate, we realize the booths start before you even get into the fair. We first pass the Royal Caribbean cruise lines booths. In addition to a typical booth, they have a presentation that takes inside an inflatable cruise ship. Yep you walk up a gangplank and into the inflatable boat for the main presentation. As if that gimmick wasn't enough, they also had a complimentary rock wall. People will be paying to climb a very similar looking rock wall inside the fair. We next pass a trailer from SPAM. Just like they did in Minnesota a couple years ago, tis trailer was passing out FREE Spamburgers. We all declined the free sample offer.

We next apporach a impressive looking front gate and proceed to the ticket windows. The state fair had anopening day special with half priced admission for everyone. This made it more advantageous to buy tickets at the fairgrounds rather than use advanced sale tickets. $5 each later we had special cash register receipts that doubled as tickets. Florida is a state that has an abundnace of amusement parks, and as such it looks like the fiarboard has taken some lessons from the theme park operators, with the disused but impressive parking lot entrance/toll plaza, then the parking attendants, then the impressive looking front gate structure. We note there is no security check and proceed to the turnstiles. As the ticket taker is taking my ticket she welcomes me to the Florida State Fair and informs me that I entered through Gate #1. A few seconds later another person is handing me a 24 page full color glossy fairgoude. The centerfold map looks theme park quality. The guide tells about what is new at the fair, what the speial events are, about the shows in the ampitheater and so on. A few moments later a fair photographer is taking out front gate photo. Nope, no theme park influence here.

Now that we are on the faigrounds, we look around. Straight ahead is the Expo Hall, after looking aroundm it appears that the entrance to the fair is through the Expo Hall. We entered the hall and it appears that fair expo halls are the same all over, the same home improvement, cooking demonstrations, ginsu knives, and so forth. I note that the tlescoping flagpole booth is still there, they have been offering that particular item ever since I recall going though the ohio state fair's expo hall as a child. Speaking of flagpoles, its "Proud to be an American" day at the fair, complete with a free Lee Greenwood concert that evening, and a US Navy band in the afternoon. We exit the Expo hall on the other side and are out on the main fairgrounds. Immedicately in front of us is a nice sized lake, comllete with rental pedal boats and kayaks, along with a couple booths for watersports products. It is a great entrance view with the midway visbile on the other side of the lake. Looking at the map, it looks like we can circle the lake on either side to get to the midway. To our left are all the traditional fair buidlings like the expo halls and livestock areas, to the right is the main amphitheatre. We decide that the pathway to the right looks shorter.

We pause as Jerry makes the official first fairground food purchase, but Jerry was quick to note that he did not stop by for food at the airport. At the end of the expo hall we come to one of the 'extreme thrill areas' of the fair. This paritcular thrill zone contains a rock wall, eurobungee, mechanical bull, and a Giant Slingshot. We pass by the thrill zone and make a left in front of the ampitheatre and head towardss the midway. Alongside this walkway on the right side is a huge inflatable that looks like a fallen giant. This is a walk through exhibit, and is of course an extra charge attraction. According to the bally, this is an educational exhibit by day, haunted nightmare by night. same price either way. We did not tour the fallen giant, but it made the television coverage of the fair. Appearently it is meant to look like you are walking thro the internal organs of the giant, at night they use the same eerie setting for a huanted house.

Soon after the Fallen Giant we reach the midway. The midway takes up a huge portion of the Florida state fairgrouns. The main midway is striaght ahead, and Kids Kingdom is to our left, alongside the lake. We proceed straight ahaed, and pass by a Giant Wheel and the KMG Tango. We decide to take an orientation walk of the midway before going for rides.

We start by walking down the outer aisle of the main midway. We note a ride listing which contains:

Alongside this part of the midway, there were sevral side shows mostly of the pay 50 cents to see some visual gag, like the worlds smallest horse, but much more impressive was the old fashioned style ten in one tent, although this one claimed to be a twelve in one. The rides and sidehows were along the sides of this aisle with the food joints down the center along with some games in the center and some games on the sides. In some places they have two lineup joints setup back to back. I did note that there were no joints immediately outside the twelve-in-one allowing for the building of a nice sized tip. Overall I thought the walkways were a bit too narrow. We walk along the short walkway between the two main aisles of the main midway. Along the back were

At either end of this short walkway were dunk tanks. These are the traditional type that are staffede by clowns who are trying their hardest to insult you and make you upset enough that you'll drop money to try to dunk him. We note another thrill area which contained the KMG Speed (Skyscraper style ride), a mechanical bull, and an Eurobungee. The Jungle themed walk through was also back in this area.

We head back the other long aisle:

We note the walkway that completed the circle of the main midway, it contained two back end piecesw, a Mardi Gras glass house, and the Cukoo Haus fun house.

Now, just so you don't think I ignored the games, I looked at the games and saw some unique pieces, for example there was a group came similar to wac a mole, but you hit mice as they popped out of mouseholes, what made the game more unique was the winner was determined by a baloon burst. I don't think I have seen a baloon burst group game in some time. Bust a baloon games seemed quite popular, and the one in a black tailer giving out lava lamps as prized was certainly unique. I saw some fool the guesser games, several ball and dart tosses, and some water gun race games, however I don't think I saw the rolldown horse derby style race games. Most dubious proposition goes to the Bottle Up game flashing XBOX 360's as prizes. Not only did you have to stand the bottle up, it had to be entirely within a black dot painted on the game board. They had to dunk tanks, set up literally right accross from each other, couldn't they have spread those out a little bit. The clowns in said dunk tanks were pretty ruthless in their line of sharp hitting insults and annoying mechanical laughter. I also noticed the midway games were not getting too much play, possibly becuase there just seemed to be way too many food and game joints, I think the revenue pie was sliced into very small wafer thin pieces. This also has the side effect of the jointees getting my award for most aggressive jointees ever. It almost became a game to try to walk past a game without getting pitched to. Sorry guys, I just don't have room in my luggage to fly your plush back home.

At this juncture we are all the crossoroads between the midway and the kidway, and as such we see the main ride ticket office. We head towards the kidway and spot

Having taken a look around the midway, we decide to go purchase some ride armbands. We head to the ride ticket booth locared directly across from Space Loop, and take advantage of another opening day special. Today, ride armbands were only $15, they are normally $25, and then only on days when pay-one-price is offered. Single ride tickets are available for $1 each, or a value pack of 40 tickets for $25. One suggestion would be for the ride ticket booths to get a larger opening for you to insert your wrist through. Having been suitably outfitted with our red and white wristbands we head off in search of a ride.

Paul suggests the Freak Out for our first ride, I am a bit worried as I know from experience that KMG rides have smaller, less accomodating seats than other manufacturers. Ya, know on fairs most people wish each other good luck when they are about to play a game, well for those of us larger riders, we wish each other luck as we head towards certain rides.

We arrive at the KMG Freak Out. The Freak Out is a smaller version of their popular Fireball ride. Whereas the Fireball seats 24 per cycle, the Freak Out only seats 16. We arrive at the ride as it is loading and we head upon deck and into the seats. The bars come down and hit the first lock, but the bar needs to down far enough for the light to come on. Jerry and I find ourselves heading down the exit stairs before the ride even begins. Bummer. We do watch Paul receive his ride, and we note the ride program focuses more on the swinging pendulum action and not much about spinning.

From the Freak Out non-ride, we head to the Chance Zipper. Jerry and I are glad it has the older style cars, as we know that we physically can't fit together in the newer style cars. We head towards the Zipper and they don't even let us get near the tub. The operator just says "You two are too heavy to ride together" Lets see you cant ride single, and you can't have over 340 lbs. combined weight. Thats a nasty catch-22. My feelings about this fair are falling fast.

We next come to the Big Ben tower. They are loading the tower, and we head upand take seats. I notice the ride has a collection of mismatched seatbelt buckle styles. I take it the belts have not held up well over time. Big Ben is a tall (130' or so) portable freefall tower ride that is themed to look like Big Ben. There is no small amount of satisfaction when I get the shouldr bad down and the seatbelt fastened. The ride acts sort of like an S&S Double Shot. After the bars are checked they let you sit there for a few moments before the ride tub is launched up towards the top of the tower, you then bounce up and down a few times, then the tub is taken up to the top of the tower, held there for awy too long in suspense, you then freefall down,bounce a few more times, then come back to the loading area. It's a nice ride, and I liked having both the Shot and Drop elements in the ride,but both the shot and the drop were week, andfelt more controlled. The ride may run even weeker than Valleyfair's Power Tower.

After Big Ben we head over to the Crazy Mouse. According to the ride list posted on MCW this is Vander Voste's Crazy Mouse which is the same one that plays the MNSF, so there is no coaster credit to be earned here. However there was no line and soon we are cramming the three of us into a Crazy Mouse car. We put Paul and I on one side, and Jerry on the other. The ride is a Wild Mouse, and about halfway through the ride the car unlocks and is free to spin. We got average spinning, not the most intense I have seen this ride run, but respectable none the less. Our ride did come into the unload deck spinning like a top.

Staying in a coaster mood, we head to the Pinfari Zyklon. Again looking at the preliminary ride list, we determine that this is NOT a travling Zyklon I have already ridden. There is no wait so we head up to the platform. The three of us have sadistic glee in trying to see how much weight we can put into a Zklylon tub, and at times we have so overloaded Zyklon tubs that they overshoot the brakes. This Zyklon crew did not give us the chance to play "How much weight can we fit into a car". We get to the top of the stairs and they immediately seperate us, 2 in one car, and Paul into another car. Jerry and I take our Zyklon ride, and its well, just about what you would expect from a Zyklon ride. We did note that they offer on ride photos on this Zyklon, so that means both the Crazy Mouse and Zyklon are offering on ride photos ($6), we declined the on ride photos.

After the Zyklon, its bck to the spin ride circuit with a trip into Zero Gravity. Zero Gravity is the updated round up from Dartron. Zero G gets up to speed faster than the old round up, and has some other mechanical imporvements as well as some decorative improvements, and more like improved padding for the riders, and boarding stairs that fold up to become the gate over the one opening in the drum. We baord the ride and take our places. Instead of chains, the Zero G uses straps that go over your legs and fasten over a peg on the other side. So now its not the gut you have to worry about, its the large calves. The operators are familiar so they have you stand on your tip toes so that they can wrap the strap accross your legs, then you can slip in under it. The straps are so low, I think their sole purpose is to keep you from stepping out of your slot during the ride. All in all, its a very fast very quick Round up ride. The rides ability to get up to speed faster, then raise and lower faster means they can effectively offer the same amount of thrills in a shorter ride.

We then headed down to the Nitro. Nitro is Zamperla's entry into the trendy spinning pendulum ride market. Nitro seats 20, and we decide to take a ride. We take our seats, and I notice that while the shoulder bar has what looks like a regular seatbelt buckle end, the base of the seat uses a clip instead of a buckle. The bars lower and we have no trouble clipping the belt. The ride starts, and it quickly becomes evident that Nitro can spin a bit faster than the KMG, as well as getting up to speed and height a bit faster. All in all I think I like the Zamplera Nitro over the KMG Fireball. As an added bonus, the Nitro can spin in both directions, as we learned when midway through the ride, the claw started spinning in the opposite direction. Its a nice intense ride.

We continue touring the midway and we come to the Space Roller, and the Space Roller crew looks board. It may be due to the fact that Thursday is a school day, it may be the cool temperature and the winds, but attendance was qute low today. We decide to ride the Space Roller. The Space Roller is one of our favorites. When in operation the ride looks like a windmill, the main boom spins bringing the windmill up and down, the arms rotate around, then the arms themselves are on swivels so the seats can roll back and forth. It was a respectable Space Roller ride, not the best I have had, but it was respectable.

From the Space Roller we head to the Tango. At first it looks like the Tango might be closed for service, but we learn the ride is open are are ushered in. Tango is another KMG ride and looking at it the seating did not look accomodating or comfortable. Wait, did I just say seating? Tango is a differnet kind of animal. There are no seats, instead there is a seat horn that you straddle with one leg in a notch on each side. There is a safety bar, but it doesnt't really com in contact with you, instead there are two shoulder traps wrapover your shoulders andcome together in front of your chest with a nice big leather-like pad, The safety cage is over those straps, and the whole afair locks in to the front of the seat-horn between your legs. It was a tight fit, and the crew had to shove hard to get the thing locked. I became concerned when the crew became concerned for me. Something like "Are you okay?", "are you sure you still want to ride?" "are you really sure?" Yes, guys I want to experience this at least once.

The ride consists of three arms each with 8 ride positionsl, 4 facing each way. Once the ride starts the ride arms lift up, then the three main arms start spinning around like a windmill, and it seems like the arms can rotate around as well. Did I mention you do all this spinning, flipping and pummeling while standing up? Did I mention that once the ride lift off the ground, allyour weight is being supported by your crotch? Paul reports he was able to use his strong arm muschles to use the handles to lift himself upand support his weight on his arms for some of the ride. I was already crammed into the ride, so lets just ride it out. Its a shame the ride involves such discomfort as the ride motion is something I'd really like. We exit the ride and decide we need to walk it off. That ride HAD to be designed by a woman as no man sould subject another man to that.

We start out by walking back around past the thrill zone the way we entered. We headed past the Expo building and decided to take a lap around the fair. Well, we determined this part of the fair was just as slow. We do happen to be in the right place at the right time to see a duck race. I notice one of the exhibits is the Gatlinberg Crafters Fair, another building has some sort of sports fair, yet another building has a kids expo. We bypass the Mall which looks to be more commercial/expo exhbits and the Taste of Florida booth. Passing the commerical and more traditional fiar buildings and components we near the livestock area. We follow the signs for depedtrains to keep to the right. We didn't go near the barns but we didn't see much activity here either. When you reach the other end of the livestock area you rejoin the main midway.

We chack the time and its almost time for the MCW meet up at the Space Roller, so we dutifully headed to the Space Roller. While we wait I grab a slice of pizza at the pizza joint between Space Roller and Enterrise. We soon meet up with Chris and the group he was touring with. We talked for a bit by Space Roller, and started walking around until we got near the Dream Machine. Chris's group decided they needed to grab dinner, so decided we'd grab a few more rides.

We headed to the Flip N Out. FNO is a Sorani and Moser Super Loop on Top, so it looks like a Top Spin type ride with a gondola contaiiing long rows of seats suspended from two support arms. Like a Top Spin the two main arms rotate around lifting the big gondola in a huge circle. Also like a Top Spin the gondola can spin around its axis causing forwards and backwards rolls. Unlike a Top Spin, the FNO can have both arms move independnat with each other, allowing the gonaola to obtain really unique angles, and the gondola can spin while set at wierd angles. The restraints are quite cumbersome with a shoulder bar, a lap bar and then a redundant mechanical lock that checks the lap bar, which checks the shoulder bar. The ride starts and we beleive the operator was shwoing the ride off forthe assembled tip as our ride was much longer and had more flipping action than we recall seeing when we watched the ride run earlier. Its a nice ride but is showing its age, and like Tomb Raider they decided to have a segment where they hold you upside down for about 20 seconds straight. I think I may have even heard tribal drums beating on the sound system during loading.

We next head over to the Spin Out. The Spin Out is a KMG/Tivoli ride thatrides sortof like riding a taffy pulling machine. A big claw is mounted on a support post that roatates around a big turntable, while the claw rotates, while the main boom roates around its axis which can turn the claw upside down. Its a nice mixture of ride sensations. The ride must also be more Tivoli than KMGsince although it uses KMG style shoulder bars, the bars were able to drop and lcok intoplace without operator assistance. Its a ride I have ridden several times, and I still like it.

From the Spin Out we head back over to the Crazy Mouse for a second ride. This time we loaded Jerry and I on one side, and Paul on the other. We didn't get as much spinning but what we had was nice and intense.

From the Crazy Mouse we head to Magnum,a Mondial Shake. On this ride Jerry and Paul ride together and I ride alone. While Paul and Jerry reported they had a ride full of flips, I may have gotten one or two flips the entire ride, but a lot of severe rocking back and forth. The Shake looks a lot like a Break Dance with a large turntable that has 5 turrets, each turret spins a cross arm and at the end of each point of the cross arm is a ride tub. Like a Break Dance the main table spins and the crossarms spin, and the tubs can then spin by inertia. Unlike a Break Dance, the tubs are alsomounted so they can flip and roll upside down. Its a wonderfully demented ride.

When we exited the Magnum, we ran back into Chris and his group. We walked and talked on the midway for awhile before heading back behind the Moonraker and met Matt of Matt's Carnival Warehouse. We chated for quite some time, then we all returned to the Magnum for another ride. This time I rode with Paul and we gota couple more flips but nothing too exciting. We proceed totalk some more before parting ways again.

I wanted to take a closer look at the King's Circus while Paul and Jerry were not too interested in it, so I take a solo tour of the King's Circus. The King's Circus as mentioned earlier is a FOUR level walk through. I enter and proceed up the ramp from the midway to the first floor, the first stunt is a rotating turntable that was not operational, what was operational was the second stunt, which are the crazy stairs. These are the stairs up to the second level and are of the type where the two halves of the stairway move up and down opposite each other, and each half is too narrow to put both feet together. Its a tricky stunt, and one that some fairs disable. I quckly decide that my strategy it to put one foot on the moving stairs, then to keep putting the other foot on the opposing half of the stair way as it goes past. Its an effective strategy and without killing too much time I have accended the crazy stairs.

I make the turn to exit the trailer out onto the balconyand pass the attendant stationed to watch the crazy stairs and the activities on level two. Level two contains numerous floor based stunts. Next up is a conveyor belt which looked to be turned off. I get about halfway across when the operator activates it. Whoa, I quickly recover and the next turn takes me back inside. Its the floor where the two halves of the floor shuffle back and forth. Other stunts incoudes the buckling floor, the rollers, and many more of the usual flor gimmicks that make the second level more of an obstacle course. The second level ends with a normal stairway up to the third level. On the third level you go through the ringer where two overpadded bolsters spin, so you have tosqueeze through and they sort of push you thorough. After the bollsters you enter the main gimmick on level three which is the glass maze. The glass maze wasn't too challenging, then it was through another set of bolsters and a couple more floor tricks.

At the end of the third level I reached a fork in the path, I could either proceed go upone flight of stairs to tackle the fourth level, or go down two flights of stairs, effectively bpassing the fourth level. The fourth level is hidden behind the attractions marquee, and really consists of just the queue area for the spiral slide. See the Kings Circus is an attraction where clusters of people can tour one after the other, but once you get to the slide, you have to wait for the person ahead of you to safely clear the slide. There are two attendants, one at the top and one at the bottom ensuring safe operation of this stunt. The slide looked like a narrow tight spiral, and I made no bones about asking the attendnat if someone of my size could fit through the slide, He indicated I would, so I did, and had a fun zippy ride down the spiral slide with no trouble at all. The spiral slide ends on the first level of the house, and the attendance at the bottom was directing people to bypass the rotating barrel which was disabled. I passed the base of the stairs where those who bypassed the slide rejoin the tour, and there is a trickier bit of rollers in the floor and rails so you have to zig zag your way over them. We go back into the last room whee there is a stunt that looks like it should be the standard stunt where you cross a bridge through a rotating drum, meant to cuase a disorienting feeling. However this barrel was also shut off, and I soon hit the exit ramp back down to the midway. It was an impressive back end piece. I rejoin Paul and Jerry and we decide to head toward the Space Loop

Space Loop is Fabri's version of the Top Spin,except they motorize the gondola to give the operator more control, and the back row faces backwards. However we took one look at the seating from the midway. It containsshoulder bars which are safeied by a huge lap bar cage type arangement. The seats looked tight from the midway, and I remembered a recent ride on the Crazy Surf which had the same type of seating. I could fit on Crazy Surf but it was painful. We all decide to pass on the Space Loop, particularly after the ride has had rather poor reviews.

We instead head towards what became the surprise hit of the trip. We take the trek deep into Kiddie Kingdom. Sitting back amongst the kiddie rides is the Chance Rok N Rol. The Rok N Rol is a wierd case, its a ride that has been around for years, possibly decades, but Jerry and I had only seen them in pictures. This would be our first time getting up close and personal to one. The ride looked like something we would like, like many kiddie rides, it contains of several tubs that rotate around a center spindle at a relaxing pace, what makes the ride interesting is once the tubs unlock, you can rock them back and forth, and with luck and skill you can cause the tub to spin roll completely around, hence the name Rok N Rol. Jerry and I spent much of the first ride getting familiar with the ride, and towards the end of the ride we started getting the rhythm down, we also learned that it is easier to roate in the direction of travel. For the second ride we had that tub rolling around at a nice pace, practically spinning. Folks, the old ride is a winner! An added bonus is the fact the tubs have no doors,no lap bars, no shoulder harnesses, just a really wide seatbelt that the loader pulls as tight as can be then locks into some sort of camlock mechanism.

After the Rok N Rol, we take another walk around the midway,but decide that what with the early morning start and travel to call the night early, around 9:15, which wasn't too early as the fair had already closed for the night, and the midway was due to shuit down at 10pm We exit through the Expo Hall just as we had entered, stopping past guest relations for some fresh fair guides to keep as souvenirs and teo ask for their advice on directions back to our hotel.

We note the front gate is locked, literally, and exit out the exit gates to the side,the exit gates are placed to funnelyou directly to the front gate photo booth . We exit and have no trouble fidning our car and exiting the parking lot. We proceed to retrace our way back to the hotel, stopping off for some food at Arby's on the way back. We end up closing down Arby's as we are the last customers to leave when they closed at 10pm.

We proceed back to the hotel where we enter past the unmanned security shack. We note a lrage amout of Direct TV trucks in the parking lot, and wind up parking in the auxillary lot on the side of the hotel. We unload out bags into the room, get moved in, get our laptops setup to check email web and all that. We probably wind up staying up a bit long,we also decide that we don't think we needed a full day at the fair as we had previously planed, and instead we would spend the morning at Busch Gardens Tampa. Plans made its time for bed.

Stay tuned for Part 2, which will contain coverage of Busch Gardens Tamp and more Florida State Fair coverage

See ya then!


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