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Damn that dog! A delayed trip to Florida (March 2018)

Discussion in 'Trip Reports' started by witchfinder, Apr 15, 2018.

  1. Matt N

    Matt N Well-Known Member

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    I can imagine that tower not being particularly nice in the wind! Makes me dread standing at the top of the 120ft Summit Plummet tower next April, but hopefully it should be less windy in April!
     
  2. witchfinder

    witchfinder Well-Known Member

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    Day 7 – Busch Gardens

    The chaos I referred to in the last day's report was a drive down to Tampa to Busch Gardens on what promised to be a busy day based on previous years’ queue times. As planned, we got up early, grabbed breakfast and hit the road at around 8:15. The plan was to get to BGT by 9:30 so that we were there for park opening. We were booked for one of their animal experiences at 11:00 so by getting in at opening we were hoping to grab rides on a couple of the big coasters before that.

    It was all going well and we left the recommended exit off the I-75 at around 9:10, and then the worst happened. There had been an accident earlier in the day and the main road to the park was closed! This meant that after around 30 minutes of sitting in traffic we ended up back on the I-75 and had to travel a couple of exits further before getting off an approaching the park from a different direction. By the time we arrived it was after 10am and by the time we’d parked and got the bus to the entrance it was nearly 10:30, and any chance of getting early rides before our animal encounter was gone. F**k! :(

    So as planned we headed to the Animal Care Centre for our behind the scenes tour. It was quite interesting, as they had several potentially injured birds of prey in to assess, doing X-rays of several, and the tour guide was informative and humorous. The problem was the tour was supposed to last around 75 minutes but was closer to 90, and my cred anxiety was really starting to set in!
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    One good moment of the tour was the ability to take this photo of Sheikra from an angle that most people probably wouldn’t be able to. Didn’t help with that cred anxiety though!
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    After the tour it turned out that Anna had arranged a special surprise for me, which was to meet the Aardvark they have at the park (I love Aardvarks). Unfortunately nobody had told our tour guide so there was further faffing around and we eventually got to meet the Aardvark, who is currently not in an exhibit at the park due to digging her way out of the last one!
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    This was all very nice, but by the time that was over it was approaching 1pm and we still hadn’t ridden anything. As expected, the park was very busy and with most queue times at an hour or more, the only sensible thing to do was grab lunch and make a start on the rides afterwards.
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    (Random topiary pic, just because!)

    So with lunch settling we headed for the ride I’d hoped we’d do at 10am, Cheetah Hunt. With a 50 minute queue at least we’d have time for our food to go down, and having waited that long a front row ride seemed the only sensible option. It also gave me the chance to record my first on-ride POV with my dodgy Chinese Go-Pro knockoff (that’ll be coming soon).
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    I’ve read a lot of people knocking Cheetah Hunt, but I thought it was great. Not Taron great obviously, and the first of the three launches was pretty pointless, but I enjoyed the acceleration, long layout, weaving close to the terrain and even a bit of airtime on the hills. No complaints from me at all on this one.
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    (Bonus goon-friendly info board!)

    Anna was feeling a bit ill due to the intense heat that day so I did all my coaster rides alone from this point on while she tried to stay in the shade. With Cobra’s Curse temporarily down and Montu’s queue at 25 minutes I decided to leave both of those till later, and we headed up towards Kumba. That was showing a 60 minute queue so I decided to try Sheikra. So after a sweaty walk round most of the park I finally found a coaster with a reasonable queue time, waited 20 minutes and got my front row ride on my second B&M dive coaster.
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    This was everything Oblivion could’ve been if Alton Towers had more space, no height restrictions and didn’t insist on having the first version of any new type of coaster. It still wasn’t amazing but the first drop was great and I enjoyed it a lot more than the glorified drop tower at my local park!
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    I then made my way back to Kumba, whose queue had officially gone down to 45 mins, though I only waited 30 at most. Rather than waste time waiting for the front row I went for the back on this one.
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    What a great ride! A great old school B&M with a cracking layout. I love how they’ve packed so much into a relatively small footprint, as it weaves over and under itself. And who doesn’t love a tunnel? This is definitely my favourite B&M sit-down coaster, and so photogenic too.
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    Anna was still overheating so we decided to cool down with a ride on the Stanley Falls Flume, which meant me walking back to the Stanleyville area. After all that walking I needed to cool down too! The queue for this ride was one of the most claustrophobic queues I’ve ever stood in, and the number of fast-trackers queuing via the exit was ominous. After about half an hour we got on, and the flume itself is a pretty mediocre one, but we did get wet at least.

    With 3 of the 4 major creds done, we made our way back towards the Pantopia area. I really wanted to ride the classic Scorpion, but the queue looked insane (I couldn’t actually find a wait time anywhere) so with only an hour or so left before the park closed I made the difficult decision to skip it and instead went on one of the ride I was most anticipating - Falcon’s Fury!

    Without doubt this drop tower is one of the scariest rides I’ve been on. Plummeting face-down for 200+ feet is enough to make anyone sh*t their pants and while that thankfully didn’t happen, there was plenty of swearing from me and the three other people I shared a gondola with. Anna recorded the whole thing on her phone while I recorded a POV, so watch out for a ‘simulcast’ video in the future :)

    There was now only half an hour to go so we made our way back to the front of the park. Cobra’s Curse was again having technical issues so I went for Montu, which had just a ten minute queue. Add another ten for front row of course, but I always try and get my first ride on an invert on the front.

    What a ride it was! I’d heard Montu was intense, and that had me worried as the last really intense B&M invert I rode (Batman at SFOG) I found too intense to be fun. Not so here – Montu mixes intensity with fun almost perfectly, and instantly became my second favourite B&M Invert and sneaked into my Top Ten. If I was to pick out a favourite moment then it would probably be the second loop, which is a simple but effective moment coming just after the MCBR.

    After coming off the ride I checked Cobra’s Curse again and it was back running, but showing a 30 minute queue. I had no idea if they would even let me on at that point so decided to skip it and grab 2 further rides on Montu, which was now walk-on. The back row ride was even more intense – the forces as you go through the Batwing element are just crazy!

    No decent pics of Montu from inside the park but I did get this beaut on the way out...
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    And that was that. Basically the BGT trip was a bit of a train wreck – I missed 4 creds, didn’t even see two areas of the park, had no time to see the wildlife, spent 50% of the day in queues and ended up a sweaty, disgusting mess. It was everything I hate about a day at a theme park, not helped by the crap layout of the park, which has obviously grown organically rather than by planning. Also annoying was the lack of queue time info – I never saw any information boards, half the rides didn’t even have a queue time sign (and half those that did were incorrect) and there’s no in-park Wi-Fi or queue time app either. I did get to meet an Aardvark though! :)

    I felt that for a park of this size it was rather dated compared to its competitors in Orlando, which is a real shame because it definitely has the best coasters of any park in the state. Obviously I want to go back to get the creds I missed, and I’m sure they’ll add more great rides (or RMC the ones that are SBNO) so I just hope they’ve improved some of the more annoying aspects before we return.

    The one upside was at the end of the day, we got to eat at our first Cracker Barrel of the trip and we didn’t have to drive to Orlando because we’d booked a hotel half way between Tampa and our next day’s excursion. Which you’ll find out about in the next update.

    Sorry for the lack of photos for this bit of the report - I was too busy running around. :(
     
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  3. Sanchezmran

    Sanchezmran Well-Known Member

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    That sounds exhausting! Sorry to hear about that. Makes me feel glad that I had a pretty relaxing day there myself with plenty of re rides on the good stuff. :p

    Skipping out on Cobra's Curse for more rides on Montu was the right move. Yeah you missed the cred but life goes on, and at that point, re rides are more important. The creds you missed aren't really anything special. Cobra is interesting but lacks excitement, Scorpion is solid for what it is but a little uncomfortable, and the other two aren't worth mentioning.
     
  4. gavin

    gavin Administrator Staff Member Administrator Moderator Social Media Team CF Award Winner 2016

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    Grabbing lunch at around 1pm in a theme park is not the sensible thing to do. Rookie mistake!

    Totally agree with you about Chunt; I really liked it and don't understand why it doesn't get a bit more love. I guess when you've got three B&Ms in the same park, including probably the best sit down and one of the best inverts, it sort of makes sense, but on its own merits it's a decent coaster.
     
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  5. Howie

    Howie Well-Known Member

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    ^Liked purely for the use of the word 'Chunt'. A) because I hadn't heard that one before and B) because it sounds a bit rude.
    Yes, I really am that puerile :)
     
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  6. witchfinder

    witchfinder Well-Known Member

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    Normally I'd agree, but we went to the restaurant near Falcon's Fury that has loads of separate counters for different styles of food, and everyone was queuing for American food while the Chinese food counter had nobody waiting at it, so I got some reasonable Chinese food and only had to wait a couple of minutes to order and pay. :)
     
  7. witchfinder

    witchfinder Well-Known Member

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    Day 8 – Manatees, Mako and more

    Bit of a mixed bag for this day, kicking off with a trip to Crystal River for a swimming with Manatees tour. The peak Manatee watching season ends in March so we were not likely to see as many as we would’ve done a month earlier (stupid dog!) but there were still a few around and we managed to see a small group of males and also a mother and calf.
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    Most pics courtesy of RiverVentures who I would definitely recommend if you want to do this activity.

    In the afternoon we drove back to Orlando and after a couple of hours relaxing at the hotel we headed back to SeaWorld for a couple of hours. Anna wanted to feed the stingrays again and I wanted to re-ride Kraken and Mako, this time recording some on-ride footage (which again, I will get up on here eventually).
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    Aside from another near-sunset ride on Mako, the highlight of this short visit was calling out a kid who was trying to queue jump the front-row line for Kraken, and making him do a walk of shame back to the end of the line. I also saw them take a train off Kraken, which I’ve not seen before, and was quite interesting, though it was also kind of annoying as it turned a 10 minute wait into a 25 minute one.

    We then headed south a bit for our only Disney experience of the trip – Disney Springs. We were hoping to eat at the T-Rex Café but it was completely rammed, with two separate queues outside – one for dining and one for reservations, we think. So in the end we just grabbed a couple of hot dogs, had a quick meal and then spent an hour or so wandering round the various shops. The standout was the Lego store which had some great constructions and some cool, free stuff for kids to interact with.
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    We also visited the Disney and Star Wars stores, that latter of which had preview T-shirts for upcoming attractions, on and off screen.
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    They also had the world’s most desirable Star Wars figure, complete with his gorgeous golden robe. :rolleyes:
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    Overall we thought Disney Springs was really impressive. Expensive, but impressive. It absolutely wipes the floor with Universal’s Citywalk in terms of theming and the stores available, not to mention the free parking, and although we didn’t spend a lot of time there we enjoyed it.

    Interesting take on a water taxi!
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    Since we were in the Kissimmee area, we then intended to head to the second Fun Spot, but a SatNav screw-up combined with the lateness of the hour and our need to pack for our flight home put an end to that, temporarily. But there was still one (ish) day to go! ;)
     
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  8. witchfinder

    witchfinder Well-Known Member

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    Day 9 – Wild Florida and a Fun Spot Cred Dash

    The final day of our trip, and we already had plans to visit Wild Florida, which is about 40 mins south of Orlando. So another relatively early start and once we’d finished packing and checked out of our hotel we headed for a quick breakfast at a place I would never dream of visiting for breakfast in the UK… MacDonalds! But this was no ordinary Maccy D’s. This was something surprisingly beautiful. It was clean, tidy, had a fresh cake stall and a fish tank, and even had a giant arcade on the upper floor. They still got my breakfast order wrong but I was so impressed with the place that I actually didn’t mind! :D
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    So on we went to Wild Florida, where we’d booked more animal encounters and also an airboat ride. We almost didn’t make it for the first of those due to a weird exit on the Florida Turnpike where they don’t accept cash payment for tolls, which meant we had to drive 20-odd miles down to a service area to turn around and drive 20 miles back up to the exit on the other side, which did take cash. WTF! :mad:

    So anyway, we got to Wild Florida just in time for our 10:15 Porcupine encounter. Here are some photos – they were very friendly!
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    As was this tortoise that shared their enclosure!
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    After that we had a bit of time to look around the rest of the park, saw some wild owls in the trees, watched the gator feeding show and then went to our second encounter with the Sloths. Turns out Sloths are a bit boring and the first ten minutes were spent just try to get the thing to move to the place where we could stroke it and have a photo.
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    Finally we went on our 30 minute airboat ride, which was ace. We saw more gators, lots of birdlife and even a raccoon. And got a few bugs in our faces.
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    After that it was time to head off, but not before lunch and the chance to eat Gator nuggets. Predictably they tasted a bit like chicken, but more fishy!
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    By now it was around 2pm, and we had 2 hours until we needed to get to the airport. Between Wild Florida and the airport, with a relatively small diversion, was Fun Spot Kissimmee, so we hit the road again and ended up at Fun Spot just after 3pm, which gave me around 20 minutes to grab the two creds. So I cashed in another 4 ride wristband voucher and headed to Mine Blower. Luckily, in complete contrast to the Orlando park, this Fun Spot was completely dead and everything was walk-on, so I managed two rides on Mine Blower, one front row and one on the back.
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    This was my first Gravity Group coaster and my first inverting woodie, and it was pretty good. It’s pretty small but there’s plenty of thrills in the compact layout, including a pretty intense first drop, a decent overbanked turn and some nice airtime hills at the end. The only criticism is that it was pretty rough for a coaster that’s only a year old and the restraints were a bit weird and uncomfortable. Another plus point though was the ride ops were cheerful and enthusiastic, a complete contrast to the miserable sods at their sister park.
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    That just left one cred before heading to the airport, the super-exciting Rockstar Coaster. I’m going to call these JASSMs from now on (Just Another Sh*tty Spinning Mouse).
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    +1 obtained, it was back to the car and a drive to the airport, which took a little bit longer than expected due to traffic problems, but we made it in ample time and 2 hours later we were flying home...

    That concludes this trip report, though I will do a quick write-up of the experience as a whole and there are still some videos to come.
     
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  9. Sanchezmran

    Sanchezmran Well-Known Member

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    I haven't done Fun Spot Kissimmee, although Mine Blower wasn't quite done yet when I was in Florida last year, so I didn't want to make the effort for just a spinner. Mine Blower does look like a fun ride. Shame that it's rough though, the other mini Gravity Groups I've done are pretty smooth.
     
  10. Howie

    Howie Well-Known Member

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    Great reporting Witch'! All in all, not a bad trip then?
    JASSM - that needs to be a thing. :D
     
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  11. Hixee

    Hixee Flojector Staff Member Moderator CF Award Winner 2016

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    I'm definitely adopting it.

    Nice report - good to see some of the non-coaster stuff too. :)
     
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  12. Howie

    Howie Well-Known Member

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    ^New thread idea; Your Jassm Count.
    50+ and you get a Vajassm.
    100+ and you get an Orjassm.

    Anyone?
     
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  13. mouse

    mouse Well-Known Member

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    Cheers, thoroughly enjoyed reading through the report. A Florida trip has always seemed a bit daunting due to the sheer volume of stuff to do, but think I would plan a very similar itinerary to this - covers pretty much everything I would want to try!*

    *Except the aardvark :p
     
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  14. witchfinder

    witchfinder Well-Known Member

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    I think if you're limited for time you have to make the decision between Disney or Universal. For us (this time) it was a no-brainer as Universal had much more that appealed to us, but that will change when the Star Wars land opens at Disney. I also think rest days are very important as the heat, long opening hours and lots of walking make it an exhausting experience... At least they do when you're my age! ;)

    If you need any tips, give me a shout. It may interest you to know that the up front costs for both of us including flights, accommodation, park and excursion tickets came to about £2500 (until the dog issue that is!) so it can definitely be done affordably.
     
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  15. witchfinder

    witchfinder Well-Known Member

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    So just to round this off (apart from the vids which I will get around to eventually) this was my first trip to Florida for 30 years and overall it was a brilliant trip, despite being a lot more hectic than it would’ve been on our original dates. There isn’t an abundance of coasters at each park but aside from the JASSM they are all high quality, with the plethora of B&Ms being the obvious highlight. I might have missed a few at BGT but still ended with a +19 cred count and a good reason to go back again to pick the others up.

    Parks-wise, the Universal resort is just incredible. The level of detail that goes into the theming of the rides is amazing, and rides based on such beloved IPs just adds to the enjoyment. We didn’t even ride everything but simply enjoyed being at the park soaking up the atmosphere, which is something I don’t think I can say about too many places. Even little things like good quality Wi-Fi and a decent queue times app added to a brilliant all-round experience. The one criticism would probably be over-reliance on screen based simulator rides, but when they’re done so well it’s hard to complain too much. Hopefully when they add the new cred in Hogsmeade and expand the Wizarding World further these parks will get even better.

    The SeaWorld-owned parks were a bit more hit and miss. SeaWorld itself was fun, and Mako is the best coaster in Florida by my reckoning, but the layout of the park is hard work and the lack of accurate queue time info was irritating. The same goes for Busch Gardens – great rides, but it’s a ballache to get around and as I’ve already said, it seems dated in some ways compared to its competitors. The two Fun Spot parks are just amusement parks really and not in the same league as the others, but one was nice enough while the other was horrible on the night we visited.

    When all is said and done, I would love to go back again in a few years and do Disney when the Star Wars land is finished, and also revisit Universal and whatever expansions they’ve done. I think Orlando is the perfect destination for anyone whose other half is not a full-on coaster fan, as most rides are family-orientated and there’s plenty to do even if you don’t want thrills. My wife certainly enjoyed her birthday present and we don’t regret the £1000+ we paid to reschedule the trip.

    Oh, and in case you’re wondering, we did forgive the dog and even got him a present from the Magical Menagerie in Diagon Alley.
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    Let’s finish with some lists! :D

    Top 5 Florida Coasters
    1. Mako
    2. Montu
    3. Cheetah Hunt
    4. Incredible Hulk
    5. Kumba (OK I previously said this was my fave B&M sit-down but I wasn’t counting the Hulk because it’s a different kind of experience with the launch and on-board audio!)

    Top 5 other rides
    1. Escape From Gringotts (yes, it’s technically a coaster but it’s more of a dark ride)
    2. Spider-Man
    3. Falcon’s Fury
    4. Jurassic Park River Adventure
    5. Skull Island: Reign of Kong
     
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  16. witchfinder

    witchfinder Well-Known Member

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    Here's the first video, covering Universal Orlando day and night, with plenty of focus on the Wizarding World.

     
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  17. witchfinder

    witchfinder Well-Known Member

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    Finally got around to doing video number 2. No creds in this one though!

     
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  18. witchfinder

    witchfinder Well-Known Member

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    SeaWorld video, with POVs of Kraken and Mako (where you can almost feel the airtime!)
    Ironically I think it's hotter here in the UK now than it was on the day we went to SeaWorld...
     
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  19. witchfinder

    witchfinder Well-Known Member

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    Nearly done. This is the last vid with coasters, but there's one more to come.
     
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  20. Hixee

    Hixee Flojector Staff Member Moderator CF Award Winner 2016

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    God Falcon's Fury looks vile. :p
     

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