Saturday Slobber

Posted in Kids, Travel on August 17th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Well, school starts on Tuesday, so for one last summery hurrah, we ventured over to the coastal cities in Ohio on Lake Erie for some fun.  First stop was the African Safari Park in Port Clinton, which is really more of a drive-thru zoo than anything having to do with Africa.  They do have zebras, giraffes, and camels, but most of their animals hail from North America.  It’s always an extremely fun experience, and we try to go every year.  Since this summer was very busy with the new baby and all, it didn’t occur to me that we hadn’t gone yet until I struck up a conversation with a really nice elderly couple at a restaurant the other day.  When I asked where they were from, they replied, “west of Cleveland”, so that got me thinking about the Safari Park in Port Clinton.  On the way home from the restaurant that night, I said to my husband, you know, we haven’t been to the safari park this year…  An idea was hatched, and there we were on Saturday with 6 of our closest friends.

Saturday morning was almost like a one-act play with all of us standing there on our front porch, trying to figure out who was going to ride with whom; we were trying to find the best way to do things to be as economically (and environmentally) friendly as possible…  We ended up taking just 2 cars for the 12 of us, and then once we got to Port Clinton, it was like musical chairs (cars) once again while we tried to figure out how to position everyone to get the most bang for our buck, so to speak, since the safari place charges by carload and by individual…

So anyway, after a stop at Cheese Haven In Port Clinton – and now I have to go off on yet another tangent because Cheese Haven is SOOO good and totally worth a stop if you’re in the area.  And what I mean by “in the area” is anywhere up to 100 or even 1000 miles, depending on how much you like cheese.  They have so many varieties, along with fresh jerkies and beef sticks and other yummy treats.  We stopped there to get our lunch of corned beef sandwiches – and they have the best corned beef sandwiches, yum.  Unfortunatlely, I was not wlling to take 4 kids into the cheese store to run around, so I was stuck in the car with the kids, but my oh-so-thoughtful hubby talked the worker into making me a sample bag (which they’re not supposed to do, you only get the free samples if you go into the store, but hey, I was stuck in the car), AND he made my sandwich for me – how sweet 🙂

Ok, tangent aside…  now we’ve arrived at the Safari Park, and it is SO crowded…  Makes me think twice about going there again next summer unless it’s near their last weekend of operation like it was when we went last year…  I mean, I just can’t stand waiting in line to go to the bathroom, of all things…  Waiting in line is not much fun at all, but when you’re waiting in line to do something as necessary and as unrewarding as going to the bathroom, it’s really annoying.  So, because it was so crowded, it took us forever to get through the drive-through zoo part; although not as long as it took the other vehicle in our caravan because they were stuck behind an obscenely slow white van the whole time…  So while we got out of the drive-through section, they had barely just begun…  But the whole park is a really cool place; even more so if you don’t care about the vanity nor cleanliness of your car since there are some rather huge creatures (including deer, elk, elands, buffalo, zebras, giraffe and longhorns) who drool, head-butt, lick, slobber, and basically invade your car as your drive through their habitat.  I think you must truly be an animal lover to appreciate the place since you come out filthy…  This was the first time we had been there in our new car, but I’m happy to report no major damage, that I know about, at least; but what’s this about driving our car through a pond, jamiahsh?!?

We’ll get to the bottom of that later…  when you come out of the drive-through part, it’s time for the walk-through zoo section, and there they have monkeys, macaws (military, not green-winged as the sign said), ocelots, warthogs, alpacas, and tortoises; not to mention rides for the kiddees: ponies and camels.  I noticed that they had 2 camels for riding; one was resting while the other gave the rides.  But interestingly, one was a Dromedary and the other a Bactrian camel, the difference between the two species being mainly in how many humps they had…  My daughters rode the Dromedary (1 hump), and they really seemed to enjoy themselves – I wonder if riding the Bactrian (2 humps) would have been any different?  I was envious because I’m no where near the 125 lb. weight limit, so I’ll probably never get to ride a camel…  After that, we got to check out an animal show, ironically titled “Laugh With the Animals”.  It was ironic because our host for the show was so dry – she had the audience doing everything but laughing…  It was a fun show, though, and something that we hadn’t yet done at the park in our previous visits.  Overall, an interesting day…  as it is anytime you have 12 people on an outing together!

If you liked reading my synopsis of the day, check out my fellow tangents.org blogger and get Jamiahsh’s take on the whole thing.  I’m going to take a lesson from him and blog this in 2 installments…  got to leave the readers craving more, so they say!  Check out my next post for a full summary of our visit to a year-round haunted house – Ghostly Manor in Sandusky, Ohio!  Until then…

Lions and Tigers and Bears Oh My

Posted in Kids, Uncategorized on March 18th, 2008 and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

I am greatly anticipating our scheduled visit to the Toledo Zoo next week.  My daughter needs a specialty dentist in the big city, so we’ve decided to throw some fun in there as well with a trip to the zoo.  It will probably be my last one until after I have the baby, unless they have a wagon available for rental that’s big enough for very pregnant me AND the 3 kids.  Since it’s only March and I’m not due until July, I think I can still handle the large amount of walking it takes to get around the zoo – we’ll see anyway.  I naively thought that pregnancies would get easier with experience, but it seems that I forgot to factor in my increasing age – I am almost 10 years older than I was the first time I was with child – and I feel it!

Toledo Zoo is very large.  It’s a very nice zoo, but there is lots of walking.  It remains one of my favorite zoos in the country however, and I’ve visited at least 20.  Toledo has lots of animals, but they are pretty spread out.  Also, because the zoo straddles a major road, you have to trek up and down a ramp and across a long pedestrian bridge; all of which is not so much fun if pregnant or in the heat of the summer.  But overall, it is one of my favorite zoos.  Even though the gorilla’s indoor exhibit is pretty small, I really enjoy how close you can see them, and they don’t seem unhappy being in a small exhibit…  unlike a gorilla at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska.  He had a really small indoor enclosure, and we witnessed him charge at a little boy – it was very scary and thank goodness that glass was thick!  This was years ago, and I think Henry Doorly has since re-built their gorilla exhibit.  Another zoo with a lot of walking is the Brookfield Zoo near Chicago, Illinois.  Brookfield has lots of walking, but unlike Toledo, the animals are spaced further apart, so much of the walking is without seeing animals.  It’s been a few years since I’ve been there, so maybe they’ve changed this, but it’s not one of my favorite zoos, unless we’re talking about sentimental reasons – it was the site of my husband’s and my first “unofficial” date.  One zoo that sticks out in my memory as one of my favorites is the Folsom Children’s Zoo in Lincoln, Nebraska.  The name is misleading, they had quite an array of animals there; including red pandas, camels, reindeer, leopards, monkeys, a variety of reptiles, seals, sloths, emus that like to be pet, and there are still many more I haven’t named.  All in only 19 acres, nestled right in the city.  Which sounds large, but once you get in there, it was really the perfect size.  Not much walking at all, lots of animals who all had lots of room in their environments, and it was very nicely landscaped with mature trees and such so that you forgot you were in the middle of the city.  We used to live close enough to walk there, but the only problem with this great little zoo is that it was only open from April – October.  If you are ever in Nebraska, the Folsom Children’s Zoo is a must-see.  Being a native Chicagoan, it’s strange that I’ve never visited the Lincoln Park Zoo, which is also in the middle of a city, albeit a much larger one than Lincoln.  But I’ve heard good things about it, and maybe one of these days, during one of our bi-yearly visits to the area, we will give Lincoln Park a whirl so I can add it to my zoo resume.

Before our trips to the zoo, I like to visit a really cool website to brush up on my animal facts.  It really makes zoo trips more interesting if you know a little more about what you’re looking at.  Check out this online database that is maintained by the University of Michigan:  http://animaldiversity.ummz.umich.edu/site/index.html

And finally, if you are still reading this, you must be an animal lover like me.  If you also like to read, I highly recommend my favorite book written by my favorite celebrity: Jack Hanna, called “Monkeys on the Interstate”.  If you ever watch The Late Show with David Letterman, you know that poor Jack often comes across as a bumbling fool when he’s on the show.  He is an animal expert however, and he is much more entertaining to watch than most animal experts.  He and Letterman tease each other mercilessly, and there is almost always some sort of animal mishap that occurs when Jack is involved, always with hilarious results.  His book is a narrative of the same sort of episodes, all taken from his life as he was growing up and also from when he went on to become the director of the Columbus Zoo.  By the way, being an Ohioan, I’ve had the opportunity to visit the Columbus Zoo, and I will say that it did not disappoint.  If you read Jack’s book, you will read about how he brought the zoo from anonymity (he notes in his book that when he first arrived in Ohio, people would always ask him,”there’s a zoo in Columbus?!?”) to one of the most renowned facilities in the world.  There was a lot of trial and error involved in acheiving this, and again, many hilarious hijinks, all of which are detailed in the book – it is really entertaining reading.  And it’s not just a clever title – there really were Monkeys on the Interstate, thanks to Jack and one of his hare-brained ideas!  Maybe I will take another look at it on the long ride to Toledo next week…