The Reichley Family Florida Extravaganza Part 1.

Busch Gardens Tampa: In which the fearful four drive 15 hours to experience Florida's summer weather and hit 7 parks in 8 days.

From Charles Reichley
Posted August 10, 2010 at 6:02 PM
The first leg of our journey took us from Virginia to Tampa by way of Lumberton, NC. After a 6-hour friday night drive, and a 9-hour Saturday drive, we checked into our hotel in Seffner and then hit the road for dinner and a trip to BGTampa on a hit, wet Saturday night.

We arrived at around 6:30 with our Platinum passes, and were ushered to the premium parking, which seemed cool at the time. The weather looked iffy, and we packed in our ponchos along with our water bottles.

I expected we could get two or three rides in and maybe a show before 10pm; this was really the warm-up for our Sunday trip.

Our first stop was Gwazi, with only lion open. We found the lines were pretty short, and so my daughter and I took the front car with my son and wife in the 2nd car. While we waited, they opened Tiger, so we went there next. Overall, I liked these two wooden coasters, we thought Lion was smoother than Tiger, but it could be because we rode near the back on Tiger.

We got a report in line that there was hardly anybody at Kumba, and after less than 25 minutes we were on our way to the back of the park.

But, we had to stop at our favorite family ride, the Rhino Rally. Well, it used to be. We got through that line quickly as well, as it seemed everybody had fled the park just before we got there because of some earlier inclement weather. Soon we were on the ride, with my son next to the driver.

Then we learned that the rafting part of the ride was closed. Turns out it had closed up in May, either because they ran out of parts or because they needed the space for the new ride. In any case, that was apparently the only reason my family liked the ride, and so we crossed it off our do-again list.

Then it was on to Kumba, where we rode the back; I really liked it, lots of nice turns and twists.

After that, we popped down to Sheikra. I wasn't expecting much, figuring this was just like Griffon at our home park. Well, it wasn't -- the cars were different, and the ride behaved a bit differently as well. It was fine though, and I'm glad we hit it once. I think the 10-car Griffon is more fun, especially sitting on the ends.

Having hit all the other coasters, we crossed the park for a ride on Montu. This was the only ride I actually remembered from our 2004 trip other than the Rhino Rally. Again, an enjoyable ride, nothing too special.

So, we managed to knock off the entire set of major coasters on a Saturday night, in about 3.5 hours. Pretty good, as this would relieve the pressure from Sunday.

Then we got to our car in preferred parking, and .... sat. And sat. And sat some more. Seems there are hundreds of cars trying to leave, and a single road to get you out, with a guy at the far end directing traffic in a way that let about 3 cars through a minute. BGA could use a well-marked main exit from the preferred parking that doesn't require you to go under the road.

Having escaped the park, we went home and crashed, as 9 hours of driving and 4 hours of theme park is a pretty exhausting day.

Sunday was still cloudy and threatening rain. We hit the park right at opening, and learned the back of the park was opening 20 minutes later. The girls decided to spend the day looking at animals, while the boys would hit the water rides and then head for the water park.

We were the first to get to Kumba, and rode the front -- and in fact were the only ones on the train. When we pulled in, all the other first-riders had left on the other train, so we were sent around again. Two front-row rides as the only passengers, I felt like Eric Cartman.

Then we hopped off and hit Scorpion and Cheetah chase, before hopping over to River Rapids, Stanley Falls, and Tidal Wave. Fully wet, we spent 10 minutes in Shiekra's splash zone, and at 11am set off for the water park.

And by set off, I mean we decided to walk -- which was a bad move, because that park is a pretty good distance away. I won't bore you with the details of the water park. We went down slides, lazed in the lazy river, rode the rapids in the wave pool, and mostly got wet.

We called the girls to pick us up, and went back to BG to see the Katonga show. We were pretty late, and they were sending people to the balcony, but fortunately there were some seats left in the Platinum pass section, and I was feeling pretty good about that purchase.

My daughter says the hamburger platter at Zagora Cafe was the best.

We wrapped up the park at 5:30, decided not to head back later to see Kinetix (since it looked like it would be much like our old Kinetix show from BG), so instead we got fast food for the kids on the way home, and my wife and I popped over to Bob Evans for a sit-down away from the teenagers. We also hit a Walmart.

That's all for now. Next stop was Seaworld in Orlando.

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