Friday, February 24, 2012

Out of Africa (1982 Florida vacation, part 5)

(Click here for parts one, two, three and four of my series reminiscing about our trip to Florida 30 years ago.)

After Disney World and Sea World, we had one more amusement park to visit in Florida in 1982: Busch Gardens. With central Florida booming as a tourist attraction, Busch Gardens was beginning to be heavily advertised nationally, with an impressive African-American voice-over (could it have been James Earl Jones) distinctly finishing off a commercial with "Busch Gardens, Tampa." We had already worked our way over to the coast, found a Ramada Inn to stay at after our visit to Treasure Island, and had one more day of amusement park fun planned.

I don't remember too many specifics about Busch Gardens. Whereas Disney World was a little crowded for February, Busch Gardens was almost empty on the weekday we went. The park had two rollercoasters then: Python and Scorpion. We got to go on the Python (reminiscent of Great America's Turn of the Century) three times in a row -- without ever getting off the train -- but I think we only went on the Scorpion once (and I'm pleased to discover after visiting Busch Gardens' website that Scorpion is still in operation 30 years later).

We went on one of the safari rides and saw the wild animals featured at the park. We visited Timbuktu -- not the real one, but the section of the park named Timbuktu, which had a mild German theme (yes, I remember dancers in lederhosen). There was an arcade with some classic old games (at that time, old was 1978 for me) including Atari's Fire Truck. We actually went on a brewery tour (Busch Gardens was owned by Anhueser-Busch, after all), after which Dad got a free beer and we witnessed some aggressive seagulls steal food away from guests near a snack stand.

But what I took away most from Busch Gardens was how sick we got on a spinning ride: Sandstorm. Somewhat like Great America's Triple play, the Sandstorm (still in operation last year) spun riders three different ways. Normally, this wouldn't have made us queasy, but because the park was so empty, the ride operator kept the ride going extra long. Afterwards, I was dizzy, but my father was green. No one threw up, but Dad hasn't been able to quite stomach spinning rides since (I lost my ability to do spinning rides in 1991, for another blog post).

And that was it. Looking at Busch Gardens' current website, the park is far more impressive, with more rollercoasters and wildlife. But we still had fun, though I don't know how bittersweet that day felt because our vacation was nearing its conclusion. Soon enough, we'd be headed back north.

Click here for Part 6.

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