Well this weekend turned out to be quite an adventure. After a romantically disappointing trip to New York last weekend, and a grueling work week, I had pretty much hit my BS limit and started looking for someplace close and cheap I could escape to for the weekend. Given my close proximity to Tampa, and the fact that I have a year-pass to one of the city’s major attractions, Busch Gardens, I decided to go low-key and just spend a couple days riding rollercoasters and clearing my head.

In order to keep costs down, I opted to try out Priceline’s name your own price thing, which pleasantly surprised me. For a net of $61 a night, I scored a room at the Marriott for two nights located 12 miles from the park. I booked the room for Friday and Saturday nights, and drove up to Tampa right after finishing work on Friday.

Sheikra at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL.

Sheikra at Busch Gardens in Tampa, FL.

The hotel is exactly like you would expect from a Courtyard Marriott, and this one even had balconies and a heated pool/spa. Scoreeee. I brought a small cooler of wine, cheese, and prosciutto along with my Golden Girls box set, and thoroughly enjoyed my evening alone in a quiet hotel room. I made it a point to remain pretty vague on my weekend plans when friends and coworkers asked. There is something so relaxing about leaving town without telling others. It’s like no one could find me even if they tried, and that’s exactly what I was looking for.

The next morning, I set out for Busch Gardens around 8:30am, and to my surprise the park was pretty dead. Without buying a skip-the-line pass, I was able to jump on all my favorite coasters absent a wait. I was in heaven. I rode Sheikra about 10 times in a row to start off, and then I worked my way to the back of the park for a couple rides on Kumba before heading up towards Cheetah Hunt. With plans of returning the next day, I decided to venture back the hotel around 2pm. I took the tram back to parking lot C, started walking towards aisle 18, reached in my pocket for my keys, and… Oh shit…

Somewhere, at this Busch Gardens in Tampa is a lone key ring with two keys on it. I bought my car used, and it only had one key. When I went to have a spare made, I was informed it would cost about $90 because of some microchip, so I just laughed my way out of the hardware store. Now I was crying my way back to lost and found, where unsurprisingly, no one had turned in my key.


And that’s how you waste a a few hundred dollars…

The dollar signs were prancing through my head as I considered my ever shrinking set of options. I caught a cab back to the hotel 12 miles away.. in FL, this is a $40 trip… each way.  Ughhh. The next morning, I called the park again to see if the maintenance crew had found them during the morning walkthrough… no luck.

My cheap relaxing weekend was basically turning into an expensive hellish experience right before my eyes, and in the end I had no choice but to get a locksmith out to the park to make and program a new key… $210 and an entire day later, I drove out of Busch Gardens not the least bit amused. Lesson learned: 90$ is a bargain for a spare car key in 21st century.

I can’t help but feel that every time I walk out the front door some catastrophe will occur and I will suddenly find myself spending or losing hundreds of dollars usually due to my own stupidity. Just a few months ago I had my wallet, along with all my spending money for NYC stolen out of my carry-on while in flight. I subsequently spent a long weekend in the city with no ID or money followed by a long week of replacing important documents and credit cards. Despite the setbacks, I am thankful for the experiences and for the lessons I have learned. Hopefully, someone reading will learn from my mishaps and not go on rollercoasters with keys in their pockets, or not put a bunch of cash in the front pocket of their carry on.


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