Thursday, July 1, 2010

Ohio Vacation

For the past several days I've had terrible Internet access. Then Tuesday I got the terrible news about our beloved Savannah the giraffe and when I sat down to write could think about nothing else. That is the curse of being a zookeeper- caring so deeply about the animals in your care it rocks your world when one dies. Especially when the animal is young and the death is totally unexpected. It is a huge personal loss for everyone involved and a gaping hole in our zoo family. Savannah, I will dearly miss visiting you every morning and will especially miss your kisses and your sweet, sweet breath. You were my favorite giraffe in the world and I will think of you every time I eat a sweet potato.

Despite the sad news, we have had an excellent vacation. We left home around 8 Sunday morning and Gene dropped me off at Indy Zoo a little after noon Eastern time. I met up with my keeper friend Holly and spent nearly five hours tagging around with her, meeting her new cheetah boys and watching the cheetah girls on exhibit. We fed the baby giraffes, cut browse for the baboons, watched an elephant show and checked up on several animals. I spent five hours at the zoo, never left the African Plains area and was completely shocked when the phone rang that Gene was in the parking lot and it was after 5pm. I had a great time with Holly and many other keepers that I already knew and several more I just met. I love the Indy Zoo!

Gene took the kids to the Indy Children's Museum. They had a great time as always. The great thing about the Indy museum is that they are so huge they cater to the older kids as well as the younger ones. Most children's museums are really targeted at the preschool crowd, so older kids don't have as much to do. Kaylin still loves the Chihuly glass exhibit. Logan didn't give me a favorite, but he had lots of fun. We drove on four more hours to Zanesville and arrived at the same Super 8 I stayed at in February, exhausted and ready for bed.

Everyone slept in late Monday morning and we set out for the Wilds around 9:30am. I was expecting to love the place, but it was even better than I imagined! We had the choice of closed, air-conditioned buses with tinted windows or canopied, open-air buses. The open-air buses were significantly more expensive, but appeared so much better! It was a cloudy day with a good breeze and maybe 80F at warmest. I sprung for the open-air tour and didn't regret it! The place was amazing! Herds of animals EVERYWHERE! Babies chasing each other around, adults coming right up to the bus... We were stopped for several minutes when the herd of Bactrian camels came up and started rubbing on the bus mirrors. We didn't, but we could have reached out and touched them. We saw a newborn baby onager (wild donkey) and two baby P-horses. There were pairs of wild trumpeter swans nesting on almost every lake. To give an idea of how huge the place was, the tour lasted more than 2 1/2 hours, including a stop at their carnivore center (cheetahs, African wild dogs and dholes) and another stop at a lake trail with beautiful flowers and a catfish feeding area (Logan's favorite.) The place was so huge that somehow the herd of 8 white rhinos was completely hidden and we didn't get to see them. That was my ONLY disappointment! I was afraid the kids would be bored or get sick of it. Nope. They loved every second and can't wait to go back. Um, it's an 8 hour drive. So?

I rarely buy zoo souvenirs, but loved the Wilds and wanted to support their efforts. I bought both a t-shirt and a hoodie, Gene a t-shirt, Kaylin a bag of wildflower seed and a key chain and Logan (dum da da dum) a chocolate bar. The kids pronounced the Wilds restaurant "the best food they ever ate in their lives" and while I won't go that far, I will admit it was the best "zoo food" I've ever had.

We sadly left the Wilds and drove 3 hours toward Cincinnati. The plan was to spend the next two nights at Great Wolf Lodge. GWL was booked solid Monday night! Yikes! We had planned to come home Wednesday, but decided to stay an extra day so Kaylin could have her two nights. We booked Tuesday and Wednesday night and moved on to a La Quinta with a pool. The kids were happy to have an extra day of vacation and pretty much didn't care where they were swimming as long as they were in the water!

Tuesday we went to the Cincinnati Zoo. We all loved it! I spent hours there back in February when half of the zoo was closed due to heavy snow. I couldn't BELIEVE how much I missed and how many more areas there are! Kaylin had a great time feeding the lorikeets. She was actually picking up birds and holding them while they ate. I love their insect building and think it's the best I've ever seen. I also saw my first Sumatran rhinos. It seems like this zoo has a lot of rare animals as well as all the usual zoo favorites. It's a great zoo and I hope to visit again.

We checked in at GWL around 3pm. Our room wasn't quite ready so we played in the arcade for a half hour until they called. Our room is amazing! It has a separate "Kid Kabin" area with bunk beds and a twin bed (oh, AND their own tv) for the kids. We also have a fireplace and a balcony. We were able to watch fireworks at the amusement park next door both nights. There is tons of room and the kids love being in the room almost as much as they love the rest of the resort. The water park is huge with a wave pool, several activity pools and areas, numerous slides including a roller coaster slide and even an outdoor area. The arcade is wonderful. The MagiQuest game is set up right in the middle of the common areas of the 2nd, 3rd and 4th floors, so Kaylin can easily access it and play by herself for hours. This GWL is vastly superior to the one in Wisconsin Dells and we hope to come back someday.

Yesterday (Wednesday) we went to Newport Aquarium. It wasn't the best I've ever been to, but we all enjoyed it. I especially loved the entire room full of various jellyfish. Gene loved the penguins and the kids loved the shark touch pool. It was worth a visit, but for the price I doubt I'd return. We came back to GWL and swam for several hours before arranging Kaylin's birthday surprise. We got a package that included a door banner, pizza and drinks, a personalized cake as well as a t-shirt and stuffed animal for Kaylin and goody bags for all 4 of us. It was a bit pricey, but far less than what I'd spend on a theme party at my mom's. She was very surprised and loved the attention. Oh, I forgot the best part of the package! A ridiculous birthday cake hat with candles! Kaylin wore it all night while she played MagiQuest and will probably wear it all day today.

Today we'll be heading home. I imagine that will be AFTER we swim, play MagiQuest and play in the arcade one last time. I did my 4 zoos in 4 days. If I had more time off work I wish I could squeeze in Columbus, too! It's been a great trip and honestly, a great week to NOT be at work.

Happy Birthday, Kaylin! I can't believe you are double digits!

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