The Adventures of Toaster in Florida (Part 2)
The Busch Gardens Death March
Wow, I was intending to put this up right away. However, things get in the way such as life, apathy and various projects. Yes, I am borrowing that from comedian John Pinette as it's not only hilarious but just as apt as his "Epcot Death March" in that it was insanely hot. It was in the mid-90's with humidity so bad it felt like you were wading in the air outside!
Before we left the hotel for Busch Gardens, I found the Lithium station on the Sirius XM radio in the rental car. It basically just plays 90's alternative, though it does branch out slightly (for instance it played Nine Inch Nail's "The Hand That Feeds" which came out in 2004 I think). I figure I would listen to that channel a lot if I had satellite radio.
Anyways, we entrusted Google Maps to give us directions to Busch Gardens and it succeeded... in getting us to the employee entrance. Seriously? Outside of an occasional delivery or a new employee, the vast majority of Google Maps users trying to get to Busch Gardens are going to attend the park! what the hell Google Maps? (Note: this would not be the last time I said this during the trip.)
So we eventually found the real entrance and paid for parking. I really hate paying for parking. It is such a rip-off; a cheap-ass excuse for someone to make extra money to pad profits by for providing virtually nothing in return. Worse yet, none of them are willing to take responsibility if anything bad happens to your vehicle (such as vandalism or break-ins) which is just wrong. If a concert venue or amusement park or comic book convention are going to force me to pay additional money just for the privilege of being able to park my only means to get to their destination, that should make said venue responsible for the well being of my vehicle while it's in their "care." It's irresponsible to create a situation where hundreds of people are paying to put their cars in one place and then do nothing to prevent criminals from harming those vehicles.
Having gotten that rant out of the way, I can get back on topic. We paid a bit extra to park closer to the park so we didn't have to walk a mile or cram into a tram to get to that lot. Then we had to stand in line for tickets for a ridiculously long time, in the ungodly heat. Well, most of the time it was TivoGirl standing in line while I tried to placate Little Toaster... which wasn't easy. They didn't have any gift shops by the ticket area, so we were mostly limited to standing and sweating. I was pretty much soaked in sweat before we even got into Busch Gardens. Humidity and I do not get along.
We found the kangaroo feeding area, one of TivoGirl's favorite parts of our trip to Busch Gardens in 2011 before Little Toaster had been built from leftover parts (I can only assume that's how he came about). When we got to the entrance we were asked how old Little Toaster was. Finding out he was four, they informed us that only children ages 5 and up could feed the kangaroos. Now to their credit, they were nice enough to give Little Toaster some free food to feed the ducks that were also in the exhibit, which he enjoyed. However, it seems kind of dumb to me. I don't see what is so dangerous for animal or child in a scenario where you hold out your hand and the kangaroo (or wallaby), a vegetarian creature, eats out of your palm. It's not like everyone was unsupervised during feedings! We didn't bother to buy any food for the kangaroos because it was the end of their feeding time and most were already full. Instead, TivoGirl decided we should return for their 5:30 feeding.
After that, we found the little kid area which had a Sesame Street theme. Little Toaster enjoyed himself there, especially a Count themed ride where he got in a car and rode in it on a set track. At that point the heat was really starting to get to me. Many years ago at Cedar Point, a different amusement park in Ohio, I got heat exhaustion. Since then I am much more prone to getting sick from hot weather. I bought a $13 refillable souvenir cup that had unlimited refills of fountain drinks or frozen slush drinks all day, but even unlimited ICEEs weren't helping. Eventually I had to backtrack to a rather nice gift shop we had passed that had air conditioning. I stayed in there probably a half hour, looking at their selections of fancy stones and handmade drums. That did the trick. Once we were able to pry Little Toaster away from Sesame Street land we continued touring the park, seeing such sights as Tigers asleep in the heat, a chimpanzee peeing into a waterfall and a gorilla carrying it's baby around, which was pretty cute.
Then there was the train. We got on a steam locomotive that takes a trip around the Busch Gardens Serengeti area before letting you off somewhere else in a park. We got on and went for about three minutes. The train then stopped. It stayed there for probably 45 minutes in the 90 something degree super humid heat of the day. We weren't allowed to get off the train. We weren't even allowed to stand. The conductor, whom we could hear via a speaker wired to each car, had been explaining various sights for the few minutes we were moving. During our unscheduled stop, he spent much of the next 45 minutes alternating between telling people to sit down and assuring us that we would be moving soon. It was when he announced that park employees were going to be bringing us all water that I knew we weren't going anywhere anytime soon.
Needless to say, it was miserable on that train, especially given the knowledge that everyone could have walked back along the rails to where we got on many times over instead of cook. Poor Little Toaster had gotten a bead of sweat mixed with sunscreen in his eye and was understandably distraught from the pain. I spent much of the time texting a friend, continuing to debate him that Drogon from Game of Thrones would totally kick Charizard's ass! (Come on, the fight would be over with one bite!) They finally brought us all our waters, chilled bottles of Dasani. It was a nice gesture, though I assume it was less to be accommodating and more to prevent possible lawsuits. Still, they sell those bottles for around $4 a piece. I generally don't drink Dasani as, like Aquafina, it's just glorified tap water. If I'm paying for bottled water, I prefer that it comes from a spring or glacier. I joked that if the park were really sorry for the train delay they'd give me some Fiji water!
Eventually the train got moving again. They never told us the reason for the delay, but my guess is that some large animals, like zebras or giraffes, were standing on the tracks and wouldn't budge. It didn't seem like a mechanical problem. So, we saw the plains animals eating and walking around. When the next stop came, we immediately got off the train. I was definitely done with the train.
We went back to the Kangaroo feeding area just after 5:30, in plenty of time to give them lunch or dinner or whatever meal they were having. This time they didn't ask about Little Toaster's age, but in the end he didn't care about feeding anything but the ducks anyway. TivoGirl and I fed several kangaroos and I fed a wallaby. That was pretty cool.
I was pissed to find that my favorite thing from our 2011 trip, an exhibit of sea otters, had been replaced by penguins! Penguins are fine, but otters are way more fun to watch. I could watch otters swimming and playing for hours. Penguins... not so much.
There's not much more to tell of the Busch Gardens trip. I watched Little Toaster while TivoGirl rode some sort of water ride, possibly one involving logs. In the meantime, Little Toaster and I perused a huge gift shop near the exit of the park. I find it annoying how many souvenirs are made in China. It makes it hard for me to believe this thing I buy is a real keepsake if it doesn't really even come from the area I'm buying it from. Regardless, Little Toaster got a big eyed stuffed monkey toy, which I named Fernando.
Eventually left Busch Gardens and drove about an hour to Bradenton and then to Anna Maria Island, where we would be staying.
Next time: Tropical Storm Colin