Florida 03/22 – Busch Gardens Tampa

It was time to take a break from the wonders and queues of Disney and deal with the pressing matter of getting on some of these fancy new coasters that had caused the push for this trip in the first place.

Day 4 – Busch Gardens Tampa

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There’s quite the introduction when walking from the car park to the entrance. Hello freshly painted Montu, you’re looking rather yellow.

The actual entrance to the park must have been rather forgettable because my very next picture is this.

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They’re clearly making statements about how this day is going to go.

Being at the very front of the park it was the obvious move to quash any anxiety over new ride breakdowns and get straight on this thing.

A man was animatedly shouting into his phone at his family who sounded like they weren’t yet in the park. “We’re in the front of the park, near the… the big Khwazi… the big I-Ron Khwazi. On the tables? God damn! What are you doing out there?! Get inside the park!” I’m so glad I caught this piece of dialogue because it forever redefined the character of this coaster. God damn I-Ron Khwazi!

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And it’s fully justified, because #1 Iron Gwazi is an absolute beast. I was worried when it slowed to a crawl at the crest of the lift as I’m not one for caution on a ride, I like to be flung over the top of these things in a relentless manner. The disappointments of Shambhala are not what you want in your head to begin proceedings.

Once again it’s fully justified, because it’s an absolute beast. That drop still manages to have all the makings of one of the best in the business, though equally importantly the subsequent pull out into the next element is uncharacteristically intense for one of these. I don’t recall ever seeing stars on an RMC before and if you’re not feeling too fresh I can see it easily approaching grey-out status. But fear not, unlike some rides, they don’t dwell on that sensation for long.

I’d have struggled to describe to you how the rest of the ride plays out on only single figure laps and luckily enough we were able to get significantly more than that over the course of the trip and here’s how it goes down. Ish.

Wild, wonky airtime from the first, whatever it is, while you’re still trying to regain focus and composure from that pull out. Hurtling at speed through head choppers and up into that death roll thing. This is exactly the kind of inversion that deserved invention – good name, does cool stuff. It’s like their downwards barrel roll drops but with that extra surprise of rotating more than 360°, an out of control feeling I can only think is most similar to the 540° twist on B&M flyers. You think you’re done, and you’re not, it hits you hard, in this case with some wicked laterals on the exit.

Wild, wonky airtime from the third, whatever it is, while you’re still trying to regain focus and composure from that inversion.

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This. The most effective sideways airtime hill I’ve ever encountered. Keeps you pinned for way longer than it has any right too and comes with a great near miss under the lift. A lot of these are just visual spectacles, this one delivers hard.

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It enters more familiar territory at this point with some solid pops in different directions before hitting that signature stall just a little too fast to appreciate it fully. Others do this particular moment better.

The final sequence though, as violent as they come, particularly when seated towards the front of the train. RMC sure know how to end things on a bang and these 4 powerful bursts of ejector separated by banked turns don’t look like they should work at all. They really do.

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So, as mentioned, it’s hard to catch your breath on this ride and process any of what is going on, which is a true strength of the layout. On my initial laps this contributed towards the ride feeling far too short, but as I grew more familiar with it, I learned to love it even more for the relentless machine that it was. Duration is the only real downside I can come up with at this point, and it’s barely even a downside because anything more might have spoiled the pacing. Perhaps it would have benefitted from one of those funky little pre-lift sections, though it does it’s best to try and remove you just the once, even before the chain begins.

Contrary to what we may have thought at the time, there is other stuff to do here.

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From the worst to the best with #2 Air Grover.

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These definitely don’t do it for me any more, blame China. It was cool to at least see that signature splash down of #3 SheiKra in person.

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It’s hard to imagine a universe in which #4 Tigris is better than Helix, though I have seen that proclaimed. Beyond my usual lack of enthusiasm for the abomination that is the comfort collar, I don’t remember these trains being so obnoxiously hard to get into, it’s like an assault course. Nope, these don’t do it for me either.

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Rather watch real tigers.

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My standout memory of the Congo River Rapids is getting sunburnt on the final lift hill, some sort of capacity nightmare was going on even though it was a walk on.

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I never expected to love a legend like #5 Kumba, but these things haven’t aged well. I sat there appreciating the engineering, but never really enjoying it. That quirky twist and dive into the tunnel was unexpected at least.

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Disappointed. Falcon’s Fury has all the makings of a terror machine and is of course legitimately scary, but there’s no physical pay off to dropping on your face, it simply doesn’t do to you what drop towers do best.

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Scorpion was broken somehow. What would Anton say?

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Which meant that #6 Sand Serpent, a name I thought I’d made up, was vile. Second longest queue of the day for a lazily profiled mouse.

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Still not sure what this is.

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I wanted #7 Cheetah Hunt to be a bit of an undercat and was rooting for it to entertain me better than is generally proclaimed.

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It did and it didn’t. I don’t so much mind the meandering and the stretched out elements, the weird straights that serve to get you a different piece of landscape rather than to enhance the ride. I did mind the restraints, and the falling into them in that dumb slow inversion that just feels completely out of place. Without it, it would have been a solid sit down with multi-launch goodness as there’s two decent airtime moments in the exit of the crow’s nest(?) and the surprisingly profiled return hill after the final launch. I also enjoyed the little slalom between the rocks, good lats there.

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Rather watch real cheetahs.

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#8 Cobra’s Curse was impressively themed in the queue, I liked the anger in the little preshow. While the big snake himself looks great, I never actually managed to catch what he was saying to us at the top of the elevator lift and do feel that would only have added to the experience. As a ride it’s an interesting take on the spinner and not what I anticipated, controlling you both forwards and backwards for different sections before having a light sequence of chaos. S’alright.

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It’s a little bit scary to think about but I don’t believe these do it for me any more either. Whilst I can say #9 Montu was one of the better inverts out there, even with some real ferocity in certain places like that final corkscrew, they’re just so… formulaic and that really stands out when it’s in such close proximity to a ride that breaks all the rules.

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Rather watch crocodiles.
Wait, no, that’s an alligator.

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And so, with the lap of the park complete, it was time to close out the evening with as many goes as possible on the lineup wrecker.

I’ve thought of one other downside in that it’s too difficult get photos of. A spectator coaster this is not, it’s stuck in a weird no-man’s land between service roads and sheds, while somehow being in the centre of the plot.
It is glorious at night of course.

A cheeky bonus occurred in that #10 Scorpion re-opened halfway through the night. We took the opportunity for a quick sprint and, with relief, finally declared the park ‘complete’.

As the night drew on, the operations steadily ground to a halt and then God damn Iron Gwazi managed to break down. This kept us in the park nearly an hour longer than expected and it was already getting pretty late. Not good for my already aching bones but obviously worth it.

That’s Busch for now, though we’d be back later in the week for some proper reflection.

Day 5

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