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?