Saturday, July 25, 2009

Lions and Tigers and Bears. Oh My!

Yep! That was the line Mandy and I kept repeating, over and over, last night as we pointed out this or that animal to Maya and Kurtis during our visit to the Pittsburgh Zoo.

I think I may have been to the Pittsburgh Zoo sometime or other when I was very young -not sure about that -but I do seem to recall that when I was a little kid, my uncle took me and probably his five children to the zoo during one of our visits to his house. Trouble is, I have no clue as to how old I might have been if/when this actually did take place.

I wonder if, in years to come, Maya and Kurtis will remember this visit vividly or if they, like me, will just have foggy, almost dreamlike, visions of having been to the place.

Pittsburgh is a little over 130 miles from where we live and Mandy printed out a map from Google Maps giving us directions on exactly how to get to the Zoo.

As it turns out, we've driven that route -well almost all of it -on numerous occasions in the past couple of years as it is pretty much the same route we would take to get to UPMC for my doctor visits with the wonderful Dr. Hughes there. The only difference in this drive was that as we crossed the Highland Park Bridge, we went to the right and north on Route 8, roughly about two blocks I believe.

We left here around 3:00 p.m. and just after having passed the Penfield exit on I-80 west, we hit a backlog of traffic due to construction on-going between the mileposts 108 and 96 -around Dubois. However, we hit the backlog at about 3 1/2 miles before the construction actually started so Mandy decided to take her chance and pull a u-turn (yes, I know -illegal, isn't it, on the interstate) but the thought of the traffic moving that slowly for the next 15 miles -well, visions of a very over-heated jeep plus two really miserable and cantakerous kids being strapped in the backseat of the jeep were coming up in her mind -and mine as well. So she pulled into a crossover and cautiously made her way across and headed back to take the back road into Dubois. Once in Dubois, we decided to take the really scenic route from there to Brookville -Route 322 -which I informed Mandy had originally been referred to as the "Lakes to Sea" route since Rte 322 (a U.S. Route number) originates up at the Great Lakes and ends at the shore in New Jersey -hence the term, "Lakes to Seas." I know my trivia knowledge just had to be riveting for her to hear me spout this off to her and then I told her I learned that tidbit a little over 50 years ago in 8th grade because our teacher that year, Sara B. London, was one who loved to fill our heads with all kinds of little bits and pieces of trivia. Who knew that a little over 50 years down the road I would be telling my daughter that choice piece of information too?

Our journey went quick smoothly across Rte 322 to Brookville, where we picked up Rte 28 and followed it down to Pittsburgh. We made very good time -until we got to our exit at the Highland Park Bridge where it took us about 45 minutes to inch our way across that bridge and into the northbound traffic on Route 8.

The Google Map proved to be a tad confusing once over the bridge too as it said we were to go left on Baker Street then hook another left on to Wile One Place. However, the first light we encountered on Rte 8 North was for "Wild One Place" so we hooked a left there and ended up driving up alongside the Zoo but with no indicators as to where to park, where the entrance to the Zoo itself might be either. So we doubled back down to that light and back into the heavy traffic again to go one block further up to Baker Street and turned in there and followed the signs from there into the Zoo parking lot.

Once out of the jeep, with Kurtis situated in his stroller -which, by the way is about as hard to steer as is my son's old pickup truck that doesn't have power steering -we started the walk up to the Zoo entrance.

Did you know the actual name of this Zoo is the Highland Park Zoo and in my opinion, it is very aptly named too. Highland though should be written out as High Land as this zoo is all an uphill journey -both ways (as Bill Cosby would say)!

The event last evening was sponsored by ABOARD - a group for people with disabilities of any type (and age) and their families so the area was packed with lots and lots of people in wheelchairs,along with maybe a bit more strollers than would normally be part of the visiting traffic there.

The only "downer" as far as I was concerned was in the parking lot while Mandy was getting Kurtis settled in his stroller. Maya was standing by me and watching a family (father, mother, grandma and two young boys -probably about 3 and 5 or 6 years of age) get ready to make the walk up to the entrance. One of the two boys turned t see Maya watching him and he began to try to converse with her. I had no problem at all with his actions but his father most certainly did! He grabbed the child by the arm and yelled at him -and yes, I do mean YELLED at the kid, that he was being rude and disrespectful and yadda yadda and yanked the kid into line then as they walked away from their vehicle. What harm did that chld's actions do anyway? As far as we were concerned, he was exhibiting the best of his social skills -especially acceptance of other children -and sure didn't need to have his Dad screaming at him in that manner. I wanted to bop the Dad upside the head but Mandy kept mumbling to me to ignore himand not make any audible comments that he or others in their group might possibly overhear.

So anyway -to the entrance where Mandy went to the table marked for people with surnames between T and Z, checked in with the people manning that table to verify our registration, etc. and then headed to the "real" entrance -meaning having to select from trying to take Maya with me on an escalator and leaving Mandy and Kurtis to use the elevator -or, to try to convince Maya that the short ride on the elevator would be fine and dandy!

This was one time for sure when it was nice to be around so many other people with family in strollers/wheelchairs and people (mainly smaller ones) who tend to wig out, kick and scream in sheer terror over the prospect of riding in an elevator! When we four got into the elevator, we forewarned those around us to get out their earplugs if they had any with them as they might come in handy between Kurtis and Maya both crying and screaming at having to get in that elevator. Thankfully, the others around us just laughed and told us not to worry about that as they understood the issue there completely!

The first place we came to where there was an animal on display was a leopardI believe. Initially, we had to really look long and hard to find him as he was semi-hidden in his "area" but then, we "spotted" him, pointed him out to Maya and thus began the thrill of seeing these animals, on display, in a habitat meant to give one an idea of what would be his/her normal type space were the animal on home turf.

I tried to take some pictures of some of the sights we encountered during our long, uphill stroll through the zoo (I wasn't the only one wondering why a zoo would be built into a hillside either -LOL -as several others walking around with us had the same questions and thoughts!) But because of how the animals are housed and such, the distance between them and us was a bit problematic in getting any photos that really show what animal it was we were looking at.

Next up -after the leopard -was the Lions Den. We finally spotted two lions laying atop a huge rock-type locale and I tried to get a picture of them but, as I mentioned above, the distance involved and trying to use the zoom feature on my camera makes it a bit difficult to see the two Lions sleeping away in the sun.
My apologies for the pictures but maybe if you click the "bigify" thing, you might be able to get a little glimpse of the two lions atop that rock.

Here's the flamingos that were sort of across the other size of the zoo -and they were a bit easier to photographe. Also, I think they were the first things that Kurtis was actually able to view too as we're really not sure if he was able to pick up on the the animals in the other areas -or many of them, at any rate.
From there, we plodded on -and upward, always moving upward -and saw these sights then too.
Above - dwarf crocodiles. Yeah -they're there, somewhere, if you strain your eyes a bit.
Rhinocerous - note, that is singular -as we only saw one of this species and in most instances, that often seemed to be the case.
Another leopard of some type.
Ostrich - and though this guy was standing many, many feet away from us I was amazed at the size of this bird. Also learned that they can cover 16-20 foot of ground in just one step too! Now that's one giant step for a big bird, isn't it?
A pair of giraffes! They shared their space with a couple of zebras too but I didn't get a shot of the zebras. Around the corner, sort of, from the giraffes and zebras was the elephant area and we didn't get into that where apparently one could get close enough to the elephants standing with their keepers to actually touch them. The line for that was entirely too long for us to try to deal with what with the kids and the heat and all that. So sorry -but no attempts were able to be made to photograph the elephants.

This was the best I could get of the area housing the gorillas. I think these though were among the animals Kurtis was actually able to see the best but the pictures were taken from behind a thick glass-type wall that was incredibly smeared and blurred because of the fingerprints all over that. Kind of reminded me of the front storm door and the bow window in the living room here at home both of which are usually on overload with fingerprintings as well as lots and lots of crayon markings too!

The area that Kurtis really did enjoy the most though was the aquarium part where he and Maya both especially enjoyed seeing the penguins! Maya had told Mandy before we left for the zoo that she figured we wouldn't be able to see any penguins there though because after all, they have to have snow! Imagine her shock and surprise when we did indeed see a whole bunch of penquins. I didn't even try to get any pics of them as the lighting there was so dim that I knew it just wouldn't take at all.

While in the aquarium area, we came across a section with a big pond-like body of water and I could see some animals swimming around, occasionally surfacing but didn't see the label prior to arriving there as to what animals were in that water. However, I mumbled aloud that I wondered what this was and the family to my left informed me these were otters. They had a little girl probably about 8-9 years old in a wheel chair and as there was a tiny bit of space alongside that little girl, Maya went right up there beside the child and the two of them were glued to the glass, watching when all of a sudden the otters swam right up to the window and did a back-flip, splashing water all over the glass but that move, brought such smiles and even laughter from both this other little girl and Maya, that it was one sight well worth the seeing. It also made me feel very good watching Maya as she stood by that child with no off-the-wall type of reaction to her and her "disabilities" -just saw her as another child, like herself, interested in observing the animals. Kids, left to their own devices, can be very accepting of other children around them regardless of the factors being presented there -as long as parents don't interfere and give them some ideas to form that associating with others is not a good thing to do, ya know.

To be honest, I was kind of disappointed in the Zoo as I thought there would be a reptile area too. Yeah, imagine that will ya -me, who is an avowed hater of all things reptilian, most particularly snakes, and yet, I was kind of hoping to see a whole bunch of 'em here -big and little! Probably for the best though as seeing a slew of all kinds of snakes may have caused me to have nightmares later, don't 'cha think?

Overall, I think the trip was worth it and for the most part, enjoyable for the kids as well as for Mandy and for me. However, as we were walking out of the zoo, I saw a sign that listed their rates for visitors -$12 per adult and $10 per child and was very glad that our visit, through the ABOARD organization was free for us. If Mandy or I would have had to shell out $44 to take the kids to see this, I'm quite sure we'd have thought long and hard about that and most likely would have passed on it too then.

The trip home was considerably cooler -thankfully -and also, not traffic laden either -also a relief!

And today, I'm just slowly trying to get around here -moving very, very stiffly cause that walking yesterday was way more than I'd do in a day -more likely even more walking that I might do in a week, possibly a month! Yeah -I need to get out and move around not just a bit more, but a whole LOT more, for sure.

Tonight is yet another parade for our school's marching band -at Houtzdale for their summer celebration. Rain is a possibility but I sure do hope that if it comes about, it hits well before the parade time -or better yet, long after the parade ends as I'd hate to think of those kids all having to strut their stuff while getting drenched!

Tomorrow afternoon, at least Mandy and I (doubtful we will take the kids -maybe Maya though) to see the Summer Youth Theatre in Philipsburg's final production of "Beauty and the Beast." My cousin's grandson has a lead role in it -and he's quite the good theatrical kid too so I'm sure Jammers will put on a great performance there! Anything he's been involved in over the past 4-5 years -at school productions and with the Summer Theatre, have all been terrific. You go, Jammers -do the family really proud, Kiddo!

So it's going to be a pretty jam-packed busy weekend here by the looks of things.

I may forgo the parade tonight as I'm not sure if my old bones and joints can handle standing and watching all the units go by -we'll have to take a wait and see on that event I think.

I might just stay home and play with some crochet stuff I started yesterday in the jeep on the ride down to Pittsburgh. I made a crocheted dishcloth using the cotton thread and finished it just before we pulled into the zoo parking lot! So I'm gonna go monkey around for a while now and work on another one of those type of dishclothes this afternoon now too! If they turn out nicely enough, I'll make a bunch of them to donate for the church bazaar come November.

How's that for planning ahead, huh?


Maggie May said...

That father was out of order shouting at his son like that. What an example to set to any kid.
Glad you enjoyed the trip to the zoo. It seemed a long way to have to travel.

Marguerite said...

Looks like a great trip to the zoo. Great pics. I'm sure that your adorable grandchildren enjoyed it. And wow, that is planning ahead!

Berni said...

Looks like lots of fun was had and you got to use your camera, glad you remembered to take it. I usually forget to bring it.

Palm Springs Savant said...

I still love going to the zoo, its is one of my favorite excursions. Like anywhere you go and deal withthe public there are always one or two idiots toi encounter.

btw- nice pics, I think they came out pretty good.

terri said...

What a fun adventure for the kids to get a trip to the zoo. So glad they had a good time!

My kids are probably too big for the zoo these days, but I'd still like to go now and then. Might have to do that one of these days. We have a very nice zoo in St. Paul with free admission. It's been around since long before I was even born.

fermicat said...

I think the kids have good taste. The penguins are a wonderful part of the Boston aquarium. So much personality!

TechnoBabe said...

A trip to the zoo is exhausting and exciting at the same time. You have some photos to show the kids when they are older and will help them remember their day.

Paula said...

So glad the kids enjoyed their trip to the zoo. That's such a fun experience.
"Beauty and the Beast", huh? Fun! Hope that was great for you guys as well!

Paula said...

So glad the kids enjoyed their trip to the zoo. That's such a fun experience.
"Beauty and the Beast", huh? Fun! Hope that was great for you guys as well!