By Don Stuart
---- — My family’s recent trip to Florida wasn’t all that tiring, and yet, we came back Busched.
As mentioned in the last couple columns, we stayed with my in-laws, which was vital to making the trip affordable. We also ate pretty much all of their food, which was equally vital to making the trip affordable. But, I’m proud to say, I never cabbaged a single one of their beers. That’s because their refrigerator broke down, largely because my kids ate entire meals standing in front of it while deciding if there was any food they liked. This, in turn, left their beer much too warm for my discerning palate.
My in-laws live in Port Richey, Florida, which isn’t far from the Busch Gardens amusement park, a destination we visited because my in-laws paid for our tickets, which was vital to, well, you know.
During our day at Busch Gardens, everyone found something to love. We all enjoyed the animal habitats, housing nearly 3,000 creatures from all over the world. In addition, for my wife and No. 4 (age 16), there were roller coasters! For my in-laws (ages undisclosed), there were shows and entertainment! For No. 5 son (age 13), there were burgers and fries, for lunch and dinner! And for me, there was – wait, WHAT? – no more free beer?!
You used to be able to score free brew at Busch Gardens. But alas no more. And believe me, I tried like heck to find some, asking for it from every beverage purveyor. Thwarted, I was reduced to telling complete strangers – while waiting in line for attractions – the story of how you used to be able to acquire free beer.
You’d simply stroll into a building called the “Hospitality House,” step up to one of two bartenders and request a sample from a selection of five or six beverages. You were allowed two visits per day, which was a lot of hospitality indeed. Although I personally felt that fathers of constantly bickering kids ought to have been allowed at least one more.
You could also sample Anheuser Busch products by visiting the Brewmasters Club, which offered an experience much like a wine tasting. It was here that I learned how to properly pour a beer, both to avoid stomach gas and to assure that I get the most when I’m splitting one.
My wife, who hates beer, felt no pain that the free beer was history. Besides, she apparently gets the same pleasant sensations – don’t ask me how – from the gut-busting Busch Gardens roller coasters, with names like “Gwazi,” “Kumba,” and “Montu” (all Congolese euphemisms for “vomit”).
A couple of the Busch Gardens coasters were made by a Swiss company called Bolliger & Mabillard (also known as B&M). Amusement parks all over the world feature B&M rides, which are famous for scaring the BM out of riders.
B&M’s coaster designs are unique in that they place the center of gravity on the riders’ hearts. The folks at Busch Gardens have grudgingly accepted this, although they regularly plead with B&M to help them squeeze more revenue from visitors by relocating the center of gravity onto park-goers wallets.
Thankfully, No. 5 son’s thrill ride tastes are much like mine. The most daring attraction we were willing to tackle was the “Skyride,” a low-and-slow aerial tram that traverses the park. Luckily it was running the day we were there, even though it was a bit windy. On a previous visit, they shut it down the whole day because of wind. Unfortunately, there’s always a problem with wind at Busch Gardens, what with thousands of flatulent wild animals on the premises. And that’s just the park-goers after way too many fried snacks.
No. 5 and I also got big kicks at Lory Landing, an aviary where you buy a little cup of a sugary potion and spend several minutes being swarmed by – and hopefully avoiding the BM’s of –a flock of parrots called lorikeets.
During our visit, one landed on my head, and, clearly peeved to discover that I (a) had no sugary potion and (b) was not something she could successfully breed with, proceeded to grab, twist and pull the skin at the corner of my left eye. I admit, it hurt for a while, but I felt a whole lot better after I whined to the attendant. And got a voucher for a free beer.