Friday, March 31, 2017

Roller Coaster Day At Busch Gardens, Tampa

I've always been a roller coaster fan since my first time on the big wooden roller coaster at Hunt's Pier in New Jersey. That would be in the early 1970's. My first looping roller coaster was the SooperDooperLooper when it first opened at Hershey Park in 1977. I've ridden some pretty large coasters all over the country but not for many years.

Of course I have always ridden the Disney rides and even Universal's in Orlando but I had to put a pause on the really ferocious rides for a while. A high stress life and a high G-Force roller coaster leads to seeing black spots, chest pains, fainting, and balance problems.

Now that I have gotten away from the high stress life, blood pressure under control, no more ice pick in the chest mid day job stress, I just wanted to give it a try again. It was always my dream for retirement to ride the biggest rides in the country. That ended 5 years ago on the Hulk in Orlando, A ride I've been on many times prior, made me get my blood pressure checked. 190/110 and an ER visit was the result. I was tipped off by the 3 day migraine and loss of balance. Sometimes you just need to know when to give it a rest. - Fast forward to last week.

I started my day at
Busch Gardens, Tampa very early. Took a few shots with my cell phone to start off. There is plenty to see and do
 even if you don't ride the coasters. I arrived on Food and Wine Festival day but I had no plans to eat. I was on a mission. The first coaster I walked up to - Sheikra. I watched a couple of test runs then started to regret the fact I drove to the park alone... This might have been a situation where a little prompting from a friend might have been needed. I wandered around a bit and made it to Kumba as they sent the last test car by and started loading passengers. Ummmm - Nope - Not ready - How about that train through the animal park. Sure - I'll start with that.

The nice thing about the train, you get to see all the coasters in the park. Some pretty close up. Helps with the courage thing as you watch hundreds of happy people fly by. I could have stopped at several stations but I was making my plan. That was to ride every one before days end.... starting the moment I got off the train.

First up - Kumba. I first rode this when it was new. Montu when that opened as well in 1996. That was the last new coaster I rode in Tampa so I had quite a few to catch up on. Well - it had an issue while I waited so I got out of line. By the end of the day, it was the only one I didn't ride. 

About this time, the park was starting to get crowded - Hey look! Sheikra only a 10 minute wait - I wonder why? Oh cool! Front row!! So at nearly noon, after stalling all morning..... this is how I started my day. 

Now I've been told in the past, riding with me is like riding with Glenn Close in the rollercoaster scene from Fatal Attraction. It takes a lot for me to do much more than smile a little. This one had me screaming and laughing at the top of my emotional register. Just the first drop alone had me shaking like a quadruple espresso. 

After that it was ON! I rode one right after another. Just a tip - Montu, then Cobra's Curse
Those spinning rides still get to me. All in all, best day ever. No serious medical situation, not even the slightest headache. I have several Florida coasters to check out then I'm hoping to start my quest to ride the biggest and baddest. I threw together some cell phone clips to enjoy. But better yet - go ride. Nothing gets the stress out like a scream. 

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Bay Area Renaissance Festival - 2017

Taking a quick count, I've been to seven other Florida festivals, most in the last few months, but this was my first ever visit to the Bay Area Renaissance Festival. Two reasons - It runs the same time as my home town fair and it's 300 miles from my home. My goal this year was to catch them all. Mission accomplished.


I have heard wildly mixed reviews on this show from it's a must see to not worth the drive. I can say with certainty my review will not be mixed. I LOVED IT!!!! Easily takes the top spot of my favorite Florida Festival.

DSC_7660The first thing I noticed were the trees. As the sun got higher in the sky, I appreciated them more and more. The next thing I noticed was this fair is huge. I managed to walk through much of it before the crowds but it took a while. Later in the day the crowds made walking quickly impossible.


Unlike every other fair I have been to, including Scarborough Renaissance Festival in Texas, and The Georgia Renaissance Festival, I knew virtually no one at this festival. Pretty much 3 acts, 2 vendors, and 1 Human Chess Match fighter. Meeting new people has never been my strong suit and it was pretty obvious as the day wore on that there are not a lot of photographers at this show. None I recognized at least.

Since I did my typical thing of showing up before the pre-show at the gates and being escorted out a half hour after closing, that situation changed dramatically. Considering the 20,000 views on my photos already, I think it's safe to say I made a few new friends.

So what can you expect on your visit? A very colorful royal court. I strongly suggest getting to the fair before opening to watch their show at the gate. You will also thank me for this tip when it's time for your journey home. Being closer to the street will greatly cut down your time exiting the parking lot at the end of the day.

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DSC_9646Like any good forest, this one is full of fairies. They show up in the most unexpected places. It's hard to tell from my photos but there is a larger percentage of children attending this fair then most I visit. That was keeping the faires and children's stage acts very busy.  Long before I brought my cameras to these fairs I brought my daughter. The best way to unplug your children is to take them to a full day of live interaction. And if you accidently get called up on stage and have to run around shouting about wearing your man pants....  yep, that's a memory you will share with your child and cherish forever.... apparently.




One of the the big deciding factors in attending this show was to see the Human Chess Match. I caught their show recently at a different fair and yes - it was worth the drive to see them again. Could I have photographed it better? Ummm Yes. I missed the real action shots. My camera is fast - the action on this stage is faster. At least you will know these are the slowest moments in the whole show. 





Then there is Acrobellum. This is my third time seeing this troupe and I'm not sure how to describe them. They put on an amazing stage show but they are also everywhere during the day. Collectively they are like a toddler, high on sugar and maybe a spoonful of adult cold medicine. They are non stop everywhere from the opening gate, to the parade, to cheering at the chess match, wandering the lanes, to the last ones I saw as one of them escorted me to the exit after closing. They raise the energy level of any fair but here they were on fire.

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This is barely a fraction of what I saw in two full days and really I would need two more to even begin to say I saw it all. I am seriously considering going back the last weekend. If not - Next year for sure.

For my many photos on this trip [click here].

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

New Hurricane Shutters and PGT Impact Windows

I'm no stranger to making huge financial decisions. This was a difficult one as it was way out of budget. I purchased this house four years ago by emptying my savings and slowly fixing as I went. To take a quick look at the before pictures [click here].


I could not afford Impact Glass on the patio doors so I went with accordions. I was completely opposed to individual panels as is typical in Florida. A bit inconvenient and far cheaper but my father can no longer put his own up. I plan to be here a while so best to plan for the future.


IMG_1124So the big questions - Why Impact Windows, and what was the cost.

The first consideration was none of the windows in this house functioned. Cracked glass, leaks sealed with duct tape, some did not open, of those that did, none would stay open without a prop, and out of 12 windows only two had screens. The cost of accordions for the whole house would have been less even if I replaced the windows with regular glass. I would still need to put panels on two as they were too small.

The windows I chose are double glass, with an inert gas between the panes. They reduce the light, and greatly reduce the heat. Also they cut the noise down considerably. For all the logical reasons - Impact Glass was the way to go. Will I save enough in energy costs to pay for them? Not a chance but every little bit helps.


So now about those cost considerations. This whole job was just under $20,000. I retired a year and a half ago and my payout went into two bathrooms. I had a few dollars left in savings but not even half. I priced out accordion shutters well over a year ago and was saving for that but it would have been a bad choice if I ever decided to change out the windows. I got a quick price on windows over a year ago and had sticker shock. Several months ago I had a company quote and because of the "This price is only good for tonight" hard ball sales tactic - I threw them out of my house. I looked into some local companies but I was finding mixed reviews.

Well two things happened. A near miss by hurricane Mathew prompting me to make a decision and a slight uptick in my stock investments for some strange reason helping me with the rest of the cost.


That's when I called Home Depot. John the sales person could not have been nicer or more laid back. He did the measure, showed me the specs, presented to me the windows I had already researched, set the price. I signed the deal. That started a flurry of contacts with Home Depot. An entire team of people doing scheduling, installing, and satisfaction surveys. Probably the most pleasant team of people I've worked with on a project this large.


Let's talk about the mess. It's loud, dirty, hot, but as far as a mess, my floor might have been a bit cleaner when they left. I had to do a little dusting but nothing more than a normal week. they covered everything in the house. The whole job took two days but had a missing piece not been delayed in arriving, it could well have taken just one. The missing piece actually showed up by the end of the day but the guys had knocked off at 3:00.


The accordian shutters had actually been done a few weeks prior, in about two hours. Those guys also swept up leaving my patio in perfect condition. Home Depot handled all the permitting. The inspector was out the very next day to pass my installation. My schedule is pretty open right now but a three day start to inspection project is far quicker than I was expecting.


I don't mean to be making an advertisement for a particular company but I have used Home Depot for a kitchen install years ago and I knew what to expect. They were actually a few hundred bucks more than Mr Hard Sell after the 5 "discounts" he was offering but since his "deal" was only good for one night only, I felt like maybe his warranty would be the same. I'll take my chances that Home Depot will still be around in the future. If you have any questions, shoot me a comment.

For a few more photos of the old and new windows [click here]