The Invisible Elephant Saga, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Zoo

On Tuesday I’ll be 33. According to some think tank in the UK, that’s the age most people report to have been the happiest.

I certainly plan on doing my best to support that position with the help of some silly, smart, spectacular people in my life. Several of those people accompanied me to the Omaha Zoo on Saturday, a trip that’s been on my “Midwestern Bucket List” for some time.

The zoos of today are a far cry from the rows of caged, stressed out animals from my youth. Zoos are heavily involved in education and conservation and have made many improvements in their animal display areas.

One such improvement is adding in more space – more space for the animals as well as more space in between them. And that means more walking for us, which, in most cases, we can totally use.

The Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha is a great sprawl of a place. When we arrived we were instantly dwarfed by the huge desert dome at the front. Inside the dome, I stood face-to-flapping-wings with a cave full of hundreds of bats. I walked through a dark swamp with alligators and nutria and felt like I was back at home in Southeast Texas. (Not that I ever actually walked through a dark swamp there. Alligators don’t tickle when you disturb their naps, even if you try to pacify them with marshmallows.)

We visited giant apes, some who were curious about us…

And some who were too busy contemplating the complexities of life to bother with our stares.

*Sidenote: Have you ever looked into a gorilla’s eyes? I got to, and the intelligence behind them was almost overwhelming. I wanted to hug this guy and tell him I loved him. I figure he’s not a hugger though, and I get that.

We took a little time to let our Monkey attend to some, uh, monkey business. He was in such a mood all morning, wanting nothing more than to be left alone in his wagon to eat. He ate nonstop for the first two hours of the visit, but eventually wanted to get out and look around.

Now here is where the aforementioned saga actually begins.

The entire first couple of hours at the zoo were spent in a descent through ramps and elevators, through the desert and swamp and apes and all, until we reached this guy.

At first it looks like he’s all, “Hai! I’m a bear!” but really he’s laughing at us. He’s laughing his dirty bear butt off because he knows what comes next.

The zoo map tells us that up the hill are rhinos and elephants and sea lions, oh my. The kids want to see all these fantastic creatures and so do we, so up the hill we hike.

We see the rhinos, muddy and quite fat. We watch the sea lions swim around in their pool and wish we could jump in because the temperatures are climbing. Then we begin the trek up yet another hill to see the elephants.

Only, the elephants aren’t there. Instead there’s a pretty sign that announces, “Future Elephant Site.”

By now we’re hot and sweaty and pissed because nobody likes invisible elephants. They’re useless. Our friend Tyson quipped that all of Nebraska must be uphill and it occurred to me later that this must be where all of our grandparents lived when they had to walk to school.

Monkey studied the map for awhile as we took a break to recover from the hill hike. I love his friends’ faces here. You cannot imagine the immensity of the effs they do not give at this point.

One of the older members of our crew, obviously seasoned in the ways of the zoo, suggested a train ride so we could rest our haunches and cool off.

I could have hugged this man. Not only did he do most of the pulling of the children up the hills in the wagon, but he saved our sorry selves with that suggestion.

The train route took us back up the hill so we got to enjoy the sights without huffing and puffing.

Little prairie dogs scurried up out of their burrows alongside us to stare as we chugged past. Monkey and I snuggled, waved at them and mugged for the camera.

When we left the train, we were reinvigorated and ready to finish our trip. But then the clouds rolled in, the temperature dropped about 15 degrees and it looked like it might storm, so the entire visiting population of the zoo crowded into the aquarium.

Our reactions to the massive mob were quite different. Some of us (the smart ones) moved quickly through and ended up on the other end enjoying sno cones.

I was not one of the smart ones, and ended up in a human traffic jam with my little six-year-old sidekick. We made the best of it though and got to see monster crabs, deadly jellyfish and happy stingrays.

One of our crew didn’t make it through though. Yup, that’s my kid, passed smooth out in his wagon where he stayed until we picked him up to put him in his carseat. Homedude was done, y’all.

The best days are those where you’re too tired to walk at the end, but you have a head full of memories and a disc full of pictures that will always remind you that you’re loved. Thank you Greta, Tyson, Henry, Ivy, Essie, Ervin, Maggie and Jim for joining my family as we visited all the wild and wonderful creatures Omaha had to offer.

Now, can someone please tell me WTF this is?

25 thoughts on “The Invisible Elephant Saga, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Zoo

  1. Dude, I always read your tags!

    “The immensity of the effs they do not give”. BAHAHAHA. That was another momment when I laughed out loud and had to explain to T why.

    I don’t know what those statue things are, but they looked enough like pirate ships to amaze Henry.

    We may have been smart enough to move quickly through, but I missed a lot of the aquarium. Oh well. We’ll have to go back!

    1. Is there anything else to do in Omaha? Cause if we go back I want to stay the night there. That drive sucked. 🙂 Which is hilarious because I can do 13 hours with no problem.

      1. Last time we went, we stayed at a hotel just down the road and went swimming. That’s, like, my kids’ favorite thing in the world to do. But I’m sure Omaha has plenty more to offer than hotel pools. 😀

  2. Yeah! I turned 33 last moth and this is the happiest I have been in years. I would hands down choose this time to freeze if I had too. We are also hitting the Omaha zoo in two weeks. It’s been probably a good 15 years since I have been there. I am really lookig forward to it!!

    1. Happy belated birthday! I’ve really enjoyed all of my 30s, to be honest. If 33 is the best, then I’m going to draw out every moment of it! Enjoy the zoo, I hope the weather is good for you.

  3. Awww…this is an “awwww” post. Love the gorilla, and yeah, I get he may not be a hugger. I do have one piece of advice for you: I would get rid of the picture of your kids in the wagon. One day they’ll tell you their friends found your blog, and the picture of them in the wagon is embarrassing, and now they need therapy. 🙂
    And 33 was a good year for me! I totally agree with that UK thingy…

    1. Sandra, they’re gonna claim the need for therapy no matter what you do, you know that! (Although I’m going to learn from your life and totally delete my blog by the time Monkey learns to read.)

  4. This is one of my favorite posts. 🙂 Funny stuff.
    “How many effs they don’t give.” 🙂
    Also, I’m totally appreciate the understanding you have for the gorilla who requires a good bit of personal space and the hill your grandparents hoofed each day to school. Julie is brilliant, you see. 🙂
    So glad you guys enjoyed yourselves… even if the zoo suckered you in to seeing an empty exhibit. Assholes. 🙂

  5. The pic of the kids not looking amused is hilarious! Glad you made the best out of it…even if their were no elephants!

  6. I love the zoo. And gorillas are and always have been my favorite. I’m glad you got to go and have fun with friends and kiddos–despite the invisible elephants.

  7. Ugh, the zoo.

    Why are they all on the side of a hill? Just like colleges too, coincidence? I remember going to the SD zoo with just me and the boys and a tank of a double stroller. What do you know they bothe fell asleep as we get there and of course to get to the top is like walking up a cliff. Stupid polar bears!

    1. It does feel like the zoo is something parents do for their kids because they think the kids will like it, but after about an hour the kids don’t care and the parents are all “HAVE FUN DAMMIT.”

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