Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Busch Gardens - The Animals, Part 2

All Aboard!

The picture train is about to leave the station.

Please keep your arms and legs inside the blog at all times. Do not try to stand up while the blog is moving. Secure loose articles, as this blog cannot be held responsible for lost or damaged property. Flash photography is permitted, but it might enrage the animals who will then maul you, and those seated near you. This blog will not be held liable for that, either. Do not fold, spindle, staple, or mutilate ... anything. Ever.

And, for heaven's sake, don't ever, EVER, remove those tags from your mattress. The Mattress Police will come and blow up your house, cook your pets, send your children to the salt mines, smear you with honey and stake you out over an ant hill in the blazing desert sun until you can state all the US Vice-Presidents in reverse alphabetical order while gargling spoiled milk and fish entrails.

This blog might be held liable for that, so please, for the sake of my family, DON'T DO IT! (Well, except the kids and salt mine thing, you can cause that if you want.)

Now that I've gotten you warmed up for the trip ... we're off!

I forgot to show you the very first pictures I took when we arrived at Busch Gardens. How inconsiderate of me.

Right past the entrance, with it's 738 shops, 327 kiosks, and about 63 eateries, (not to mention the hordes of annoying camera wielding staff who body block your forward progress and demand you hold still for a family picture you can pick up at the end of your visit for only $39.95, the deed to your house, your first born child, an arm, a leg, and whatever loose change you have in the little space between the front seats of your car), is the Morocco section.

A great animal habitat called Myombe Reserve is there. It's basically a primate preserve with chimps, gorillas, and other monkeys that you can get as close as a pane of thick glass to.

We didn't go in there.

I did take a a shot of the kids monkeying around, though.

This Explains So MuchRight before that entrance is a large habitat for American alligators.

Now, I live in Florida, so seeing these great reptiles is nothing new to me. They are not so prevalent, nor as easily located, as when I was a kid. Or as the popular myth of Florida being overrun with gators makes it seem. But you can find them in almost every pond, lake, or stream, man-made or not.

Floridians know to respect the alligator. Because if you don't, it might eat you. Or, at least your dog.

Anyhow, for those of you who live in more northern climes, here is a closeup of Alligator mississippiensis, the American Alligator. (And, yes, that is the true species name of it).

American Alligator at Busch GardensThis bad boy was about 9 or 10 feet long. And, don't let his sun-basking, half-asleep look of calm serenity fool you. This beast is watching you, waiting for you to fall over the railing into his habitat, and wondering if you taste like chicken.

You can tell this by his toothy smile.

Back on track now.

After the Bird Gardens, Land of the Dragons, Stanelyville (SheiKra, Stanelyville Falls Flume), and a long trek, we found ourselves entering Timbuktu.

Timbuktu at Busch GardensTimbuktu is the central area of Busch Gardens. It is done up in African-style wood and stucco buildings, brightly colored awnings, and the traditional African roller coasters, flat rides, and carnival games. No self-respecting African village is ever without those, you know.

The coasters are small ones, and the flat rides range from sedate bi-planes, to an inverted pirate ship, to a whirling Sandstorm. We didn't ride any of those this trip, though Sandstorm and Cheetah Chase are on my to-do list for the next trip. As well as the Pirates 4-D show which is in the old Dolphin show palace.

I used to love the dolphin show, but Busch had to close it down due to high costs, low attendance, and the fact that people kept tossing coins into the dolphin habitats and they got copper poisoning from all the pennies. Okay, the penny thing may be a local urban legend, but there have been documented cases of dolphins in captivity dying from copper and zinc poisoning from coins in their water, as well as chlorine poisoning. Sad, sad, sad. :(

So, while sad about the dolphins, we were still hungry. So we threaded our way through the carnival like atmosphere of Timbuktu and made our way to my new favorite restaurant ... The Desert Grill!

The Desert Grill Restaurant at Busch Gardens. If You Don't Eat Here, Something Is Wrong With You. ~.^This used to be the Oktoberhaus. A German themed eatery with the best Black Forest cake you will ever eat, live polka bands, and literal dancing in the aisles.

Now, it is more in keeping with the whole African theme ... on the outside, at least. Inside is good, ol' American-style food, live floor shows, and chamber music when the floor shows aren't going on.

Seating is casual at long trestle tables with small benches. You go through a line and pick out the foods you want, almost buffet style, though servers are there to serve the hot foods. Then you pay for it, and tote it back to your table on a tray.

The food ... mmmm-mmmm ... the food. I had Grilled Chicken with Fettuccine Alfredo. It ran me about eight bucks, but it was a heaping plate full. And, the chicken wasn't some scraggly, thin piece of poultry. It was a thick, full breast of chicken grilled to juicy perfection. I also got a pickle. Not some dark green anemic from-a-jar pickle. Oh, no. This was a huge, almost 6 inch long (pre-sliced), near two inch thick delight of green dilliness. *slurp slurp*

But the best part, oddly enough, was the breadsticks. Best. Breadsticks. Ever.

I could have made a meal just out of those breadsticks. They were baked to perfection; golden brown, lightly buttered, a hint of garlic, paprika, and other spices. Soft, warm, and slightly chewy, I literally have had dreams about those breadsticks since then. Talking about them has made me hungry.

Yes. They were THAT good. Breadsticks.

Tyler got the same thing I did, though he said the chicken was bland. This is because if chicken has no breading or honey mustard on it, he doesn't believe it's real chicken. Tim got spaghetti, and he ate the whole portion of it. Quite a feat for him. Mom got a meatball sandwich, and she claimed it was the best meatball sandwich she has eaten in a long, long while.

There are other foods there; salads that looked so tasty you could feel the the lettuce crunching in your mouth by looking at it, other sandwiches piled with meat so high you need a skewer to hold them together as a mere toothpick would not suffice, and desserts so decadent you teeth began to rot just by ogling them.

If it were not for the lousy $9 parking fee, and the fact my mom cannot walk that far thus requiring a mobile scooter, I'd eat there quite often.

Enough about food. No snack carts on this picture train, and I don't want you falling off raving in hunger.

I showed you ride shots of Rhino Rally, but I didn't show you any animals from that adventurous, epic journey.

Unfortunately, you won't see many either. =/

The truck ride was so bouncy, so jouncy, that taking a clear shot was about as easy as picking your nose with a spoon. You can dig and dig, and you might strike gold, but it'll be a mess and probably painful.

Okay, that was gross, and there was no pain involved taking photos on Rhino Rally (except my poor knee that kept hitting the door hinge on every jolt). But, they were fairly blurry, and only a few came out mostly unscathed.

The first was an African elephant. Several shots were taken of him, but only one came out well.

African Elephant ButtThis will be an ongoing theme with my animal shots from here forward. I think the animals were trying to tell me something. =/

There also was a Black Rhino habitat we drove through, but we only saw one, just as we were leaving the enclosure. The bugger was lazing in the shade of a small bluff, languidly watching us as we jostled by. I got lucky in that I only took one shot of him (and it came out well), and that he wasn't mooning me. Though it -was- a rearward profile.

Lazy Black RhinoYou may have to look close to see him. Even though he is a Black Rhino, he is very dusty from rolling on the ground to cool off, and he almost blends in with the orangey-brown rocks behind him.

Shortly after, we drove through a crocodile enclosure. Right through the water! Of course, there was a very visible fence angling out towards where they presumably were. I didn't see any. I was on the opposite side of the truck from where they were supposed to be, but even far out in their lake, I saw nothing.

There was a freakin' huge one in a glass enclosure near Rhino Rally that I snapped a pic of after we left the area however. He's hard to see well, as the glass and water distorted his profile, but you can still see how huge he was.

Big, Honkin' CrocThere were two more animals I got clear shots of while on Rhino Rally.

One is some striped deer-like animal I cannot recall the name of. Impala? Antelope? I'm leaning towards antelope. It might some sort of small buffalo. I really cannot recall.

Showing Me What He REALLY Thought of MeEither way, it's another butt shot. A blurry butt shot. It gives you an idea of what the other, blurrier pics must look like. =/

I swear the animals all had an early morning meeting before the park opened and decided that day was Ass Day, or something. *sigh*

The final animal I got a good shot of while on Rhino Rally was the elusive brown-maned, female Boogerdigger.

A Little Deeper and She'll Hit OilAaaahhh, now my previous nose picking comment makes much more sense, doesn't it. ~.^

Now, to be honest, she may not have been actually digging in her nose. She may merely have been scratching it. Inside. with her finger nail. Repeatedly.

In her defense, it was hot and dusty in the area, and I had swiped my own knuckles across my nose in an attempt to quell the rising itchiness crawling around my nostrils. She just took it a step further and dug down to the root of the problem. >_>

And with that lovely image rattling around in your minds, I'll leave off this post. Tomorrow (or maybe Friday), I'll finish up with the pics of animals from my sojourn on the Serengeti Railway. There are thrills, spills, and even a few moments of unabashed "Aaaaaaaawww" to be had.

Until tomorrow.

And remember to take any belongings with you. This blog is not responsible for anything you leave behind. Because if you do, I'll sell it to pay for parking and go eat at the Desert Grill! Yum!

Today's Penny Doubled Daily Cumulative Amount for 150 days is: