Wednesday, March 26, 2008

Tour Guide Troll – Destination: Busch Gardens

We took the kids to Busch Gardens last week while they were on Spring Break because about a year and a half ago we bought annual passes that were good for two years. Our rationale for buying the passes was: Hey! Two years for the price of one? What a deal! It’s only an hour and a half away. We could go maybe once a month and ride roller coasters!

Last week was only our second trip.

Savvy Marketing Department: 1, Blogless: 0

Don’t worry though. We’ve got another three trips planned before the end of July when our passes run out. We’ll get those bastards yet.

Anyway, if you don't know, Busch Gardens is an Africa-themed theme park in Tampa, owned by Anheuser-Busch. As a native Floridian, it takes a lot to get me down in the trenches and battle the mindless tourists all day long, but free beer, roller coasters, and animals in captivity does it for me every time.

Actually, of all the theme parks that detain wild animals, Busch Gardens is probably the best. They’ve been open for almost fifty years, and in that time they’ve dedicated a huge amount of time, money, and resources to animal conservation and rescue, habitat protection, and education. I know they’re owned by a cold-blooded corporation, but the people who work there really do care about the animals, all animals really, except maybe pigeons. If you’re a pigeon flying north or south or just out and about on a pleasure trip, and your wings get tired and you get the idea in your little pigeon brain that you’re going to land on a flat comfortable-looking surface inside Busch Gardens that’s above human head level, then you’re met with: The Shish Kebabs of Doom!

© 2007 Bird-B-Gone, Inc.

I guess they figure eagles, lorikeets, and roseate spoonbills are all worthy of protection, but your average weary pigeon deserves death by impalement.

Alright, on to the roller coasters. First up, Scorpion:

It’s a twenty-eight year-old steel looping coaster, the second roller coaster built in the park, and one of the first in Florida to feature a vertical loop. When I was a kid and this was the best roller coaster around, I’ll admit I rode Scorpion time after time after time. But now that I’m older, and I’ve been spoiled by advanced roller coaster technology, this thing sucks. You can feel every day of all twenty-eight years of wear and tear in its jarring, back injury inspiring track. But the first time we used our passes, our almost-seven year-old daughter (who is a coaster freak) was only five, and this was the only roller coaster she was tall enough to ride. So we rode it. And rode it. And rode it. Eight or nine times, I shit you not. She’s an adrenaline junkie in the making. This time though I managed to escape with only having to ride it once, since she’s now tall enough for several other coasters.

Scorpion is located in the Timbuktu area of Busch Gardens, which also houses Cheetah Chase:

This is your basic wild mouse kiddie coaster featuring sharp turns and a dramatic braking stop at the end that causes adults to fly forward into the lap bar, like a punch in the gut. Fun for the whole family.

Since there were two roller coasters there, we spent a while in the Timbuktu area, and most of the time we were there the whole place was inundated with the most rank, most horrible smell I have ever encountered. It was like someone took a dump on some roadkill and cooked it inside a septic tank and served it with a side of rotted cadaver. Naturally, every five minutes or so, Blogless Jr. would raise his head high, take a big whiff, cover his nose with his T-shirt, and point accusatorily at me. And since I didn’t want anyone to get the wrong impression, I had to do the same back at him. It wasn’t until later we realized Timbuktu backs up to Rhino Rally.

©2006 Busch Entertainment Corporation

Actually, it backs up to the enclosure building where all the rhinos sleep at night, and since they’re not there during the day, the perfect time to clean the enclosure building is apparently quarter till lunch, so in fact what we were smelling all morning was rhinoceros shit. If you ever visit Busch Gardens, please do not rob yourself of this experience. Next time we go, I’m bringing a case of glass vials, inside of which I plan to capture the essence of rhino butt and sell it on Ebay. I’ve done some research, and there’s already a market for this kinda thing.

However, when we were there, before I came to my entrepreneurial senses, I was so distraught that my family had spent the better part of an hour inhaling microscopic feces particles, that it almost ruined our entire day. But in the end we were saved by two beautiful words: floorless SheiKra.

Alright, I was saved. By the time I got off this one, I had completely forgotten what rhino ass smelled like. I’d ridden SheiKra a few times when it first opened, before they made it floorless, and I liked it then, but the Gs coming out of the first dive were way too intense, even for me. Remember Spies Like Us? When Dan Aykroyd and Chevy Chase were in the centrifuge? That’s what it used to be like at the bottom of that first drop. But now that it’s floorless, I guess it weighs less or some technical engineering explanation like that, and it’s perfect. If you’re like me, and you broke your arm when you were six because you stood on a swing in your grandmother’s backyard, got going really high, and then jumped off in attempt to fly, then I would definitely recommend sitting in the front row, in either the far left or far right seat. You’re like five feet away from the track, dangling two hundred feet above the ground. Here’s a video:

One of the cooler elements of SheiKra is the splash down area at the end of the ride. The riders don’t get wet, but as you can see below, onlookers are given that option. Anheuser-Busch (who also owns Sea World) demonstrates once again they possess a keen grasp of human nature. Mindless tourists at theme parks will push, shove, and stampede their way inside if it rains, but tempt them with some warm highly-chlorinated water infused with roller coaster axle grease and the occasional splash of rider vomit, and they will come running like lemmings to get drenched.

(I’m sure the parents of those kids later regretted their decision to let them get soaked, because the kids probably bitched and moaned and complained the whole way home about being wet and cold and sticky, and tried to convince the parents that the only way to remedy the situation was stopping for ice cream, which, of course, the parents probably did. Idiots.)

Anyway, I’m not what you could call a coaster enthusiast. Actually, that’s not true. I could be called a coaster enthusiast. It’s the people who call themselves coaster enthusiasts who need to pick a different word— nut, fiend, maniac. These are all much more accurate. In order to be a true coaster enthusiast, you have to be infatuated with wooden roller coasters, and I am not. I mean, I like ‘em. They’re okay. I can handle the rough rides, the bone rattling vibrations. What I can’t get past is the fact that several tons of coaster train and human flesh are being supported by a patchwork of two by fours. The coaster enthusiasts can have their nostalgia. I’m perfectly happy with that new fangled steel stuff.

This is Gwazi, a dueling wooden roller coaster. I convinced our daughter that “two” was the perfect number of times to ride this one, though “zero” is closer to the truth. By the way, a good tip when you find yourself on a wooden coaster: Don’t look at the two by fours as you pass them to see if they move or shake. They do. A lot.

Here are the other two coasters at Busch Gardens.

Kumba - Steel sit down looping coaster

Montu – Inverted coaster

We didn’t get to ride these this time because 1) the kids weren’t tall enough, and 2) I didn’t feel like waiting in line. Both, like SheiKra, are made by Bolliger & Mabillard which means the ride is super smooth and they kick ass. B&M is the BMW of roller coasters.

Alright, that’s it for now. We’re going back to Busch Gardens in a couple of weeks for the opening of Jungala, a new area featuring tigers and orangutans. I know. Sounds pretty lame. At least there won’t be any pigeons.


Robin S. said...

"Anheuser-Busch (who also owns Sea World) demonstrates once again they possess a keen grasp of human nature. Mindless tourists at theme parks will push, shove, and stampede their way inside if it rains, but tempt them with some warm highly-chlorinated water infused with roller coaster axle grease and the occasional splash of rider vomit, and they will come running like lemmings to get drenched".

That part,and the essence of rhino ass particulate matter rant - they made my afternoon!

Aerin said...

Don't forget the glass bottles for "Tiger and Orangtang" Essence.

Do you suppose they use the skewered pigeons at the concession stand?

McKoala said...

Very funny BT. I appreciate the momentary attention you paid to the animals before getting on to the Good Stuff.

Aerin - eww! Perforated pigeon nuggets. Add my vomit to the roller coaster stew!

blogless_troll said...

Thanks, Robin.

Aerin, I like the way you think. Orangutan Essence even has a nice ring to it. As far as the pigeons, I do know I paid nine bucks for something dry and tasteless that was supposed to be a cheeseburger, so you might be on to something.

McK, I always pay momentary attention to the animals. They're our friends. Now, if they had koalas, I'd dedicate an entire post to them.

pjd said...

your average weary pigeon deserves death by impalement.

Oh indeed, indeed. There is little doubt in this wisdom. Though death by tearing apart isn't out of the question either.

Yet another great post, BT. Robin quoted my favorite bit already.

Although I've never been to Busch Gardens (though I was in Tampa for a conference once, and they bussed us somewhere about an hour away for dinner and there might have been a rocket launching somewhere in the distance that I missed due to the free booze inside), I love coasters too (not a nut or zealot). Your description of wood coasters is spot on. I will never forget as a kid riding the Thunderbolt (wood coaster built in 1941) at Riverside Park in Agawam, Massachusetts. I remember the park being a little like a glorified county fair with some better rides, but it was the only thing we had back then.

Chumplet said...

Wait, did you say FREE BEER? The rest is just a fog.

The best time to visit a park is on a rainy day. Just put on a slicker and ride everything. No lineups!

My appetite for roller coasters has faded over the years. I think it ended when we were ready to roll on the Great Canadian Minebuster - a huge wooden coaster at Canada's Wonderland north of Toronto.

We were all seated, ready to go when the chain snapped at the top of the first rise, slithered down and gathered in a pile against the front of the first car. We figured that was a good time to bail out.

blogless_troll said...

The Thunderbolt's still going strong, Pete. But I think they changed the park name to Six Flags New England.

I'd say that was a good call, Chumplet. At least you weren't half way up the hill when that happened.

McKoala said...

A koala post? Now that's a good idea.

McKoala said...

Um, but the unique BT spin is scaring me. Perhaps I should do it myself...

Ello said...

OH Lord! Between the shishkebobs of doom and the rhino ass, I am giggling so hard I peed my pants. Seriously I'm laughing so hard I'm crying too. I'm all leaky everywhere.

Rhino Ass!!! I fucking read the whole thing and all I can still say is rhino ass. Oh my - I fucking peed again!

ChristineEldin said...

OMG, that looks like an awesome time!!! I just saw a special on TV about roller coasters in Japan. They seem to have the biggest, fastest, etc.

I had completely forgotten what rhino ass smelled like.
I'm telling my husband.

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Cialis said...

That looks very fun!