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Busch Gardens Tampa - Stanleyville:

Rating: * * * * *
Type: Vertical dive coaster
Time: 3 minutes
Short Take: Gulp!

SheiKra (pronounced SHEEK-rah) was America's first "vertical dive roller coaster" and its presence cements Busch Gardens' reputation as the Central Florida destination for coaster freaks. And just to add to the fun, they removed the floor, adding an extra layer of terror to the experience. If pushing yourself to the limit is your idea of having a good time, then you will not want to miss this fall-filled fear-fest.

Although SheiKra officially lasts a full three minutes, the first 70 seconds or so are taken up by the slow crawl to a height of 200 feet where, after a tight U-turn, you reach the first drop. There you pause just over the lip for several hours (okay, three or four seconds) as you contemplate your fate. Then you drop straight down at a 90 degree angle before swooping upwards to do it all again. The second drop takes you straight through the mist-filled center of a ruined tower, underground, up again for another tight turn, and down for a watery splashdown that slows you for a quick return to safety.

The best seats in the house. The ride vehicles are broad and compact, with three eight-seat rows. On top of that, they feature "stadium-style seating," meaning that each row is a little higher than the one in front of it. The result is that virtually every seat gives you a great view of the terrors that face you. Still, the true believers will want to ride until they get into the first row for the unobstructed view of the first drop during that eternal pause.

One of the best touches in this ride is a simple engineering trick used in that final splashdown. Twin tubes mounted on the outside rear edges of the ride vehicle dip into the water on either side of the track, sending up two towering plumes that crash down on the kids who have eagerly gathered at pool's edge. And thanks to the clever siting of the ride, you will have plenty of time to figure out exactly how it's done. In fact, SheiKra offers the best views for non-riders of any Busch Gardens coaster, so you can walk under and around it and get an excellent idea of exactly what you are missing. That is almost as much fun as riding. Almost.

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