Saturday, August 07, 2004

A Wedding! Toledo, Ohio—Day 189

Today one of my best friends from Macalester got married to her high school sweetheart. It was a wonderful occasion and much fun was had by all, but there was one location hitch.

Guess where it was. Just guess.

That’s right. The Zoo.

My friend Kathryn got married at the Toledo Zoological Gardens, which her now-husband’s father just so happens to be the President. Isn’t that funny!?! Even attending a friend’s wedding can’t get my away from the zoo!

Several things were different about this trip to the zoo, besides the fact that I was going to attend a wedding rather than primarily for the hippos. (Btw, Adam, my boss’ son, had already photographed the hippos there so there was no need for me to photograph them, which is kind of ironic in a way since I had another reason to go there!)

The rehearsal dinner was at the new Africa! exhibit which was quite exciting and it was super fun to be at the zoo with all of my friends from college, a first of course. We basically spent the evening riding the train around the African animal’s exhibits while sipping gin and tonics—yet another thing I hadn’t done at a zoo before!

This morning my friends and I all decided to go on the special behind the scenes zoo tour with Jeff’s dad (el Presidente) acting as a tour guide. We met up at the Zoo gates at 9:00 am and for the next two hours or so were taken all around the zoo, and of course stopped at the hippos. I might be biased, but I think the hippos were the best part. Not only because they have a “hippoquarium” there where you can see the hippos underwater, and not just because the water was so clear or that we were viewing them way before the zoo even opened, but because there were all of my friends there with me, ooohing and ahhing over the hippos.

I was happy.

I took tons of photos and my friend Lucy reminded me that I didn’t NEED to take pictures of the hippos, but I couldn’t hold back. I even tried to get a picture that made it look like I was kissing Herbie, the baby hippo (who now doesn’t even look like a baby because he is so huge).

We saw lots of other animals on the tour, were given new insight about the history of the zoo and the buildings, and just learned a lot of neat stuff in general. I am so used to just going into the zoo, taking my pictures, and then leaving afterwards that it was nice to have an actual tour about the OTHER interesting things in the zoo besides the hippos.

On the way out my friends and I of course couldn’t NOT get a picture of us with the hippo costumed zoo worker before walking back to the cars. We had just enough time to eat, get ready and come back to the zoo later on in the afternoon, which would make for my third trip to the zoo in two days. Why break out of my habit? J

Once we all had eaten and made ourselves more presentable, we headed back to the zoo into the formal gardens for the wedding ceremony and then on to the reception which was held in the Lodge—a huge banquet space at the zoo which was beautifully decorated for the wedding.
We ate and danced the night away, stopping only to go outside to get fresh air and to hear the zoo animals settling down for the night. While the hippos were not the main event for me in this case, I have to say that tonight was hands down my most memorable zoo experience yet.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, August 04, 2004

Ann Arbor Michigan...

Hope you all enjoy the new updates! I'll be at a wedding over the weekend and back on the hippo tour starting Monday in Toronto. Until then...

Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Milwaukee, Wisconsin—Chicago, Illinois—Day 185

Today I flew in from Milwaukee at the wonderful hour of 6 a.m., meaning that I had to be up and ready to go to the airport at 5 o’clock. When my alarm went off at 4:30, my dreams were telling me to throw whatever was making that god awful sound under the bed, but then I realized that it was my alarm and that I had to get up.

The hotel had arranged for a taxi to take the to the airport and he was even early, so when I dragged my bags downstairs he was practically there waiting for me. He tried to make conversation as we drove to the airport, but I was so tired and out of it that I could barely show any enthusiasm.

At the airport, I checked in and made it through security and sat and waited with my other fellow passengers to board the flight. We did and were told that this time around the flight was only going to be 15 minutes long! Now that’s a record. So basically we boarded and about 5 minutes later it was time to “prepare the cabin for arrival.” The ride was pretty calm until we had this huge gust of air that made the whole itty bitty plane swing like a pendulum from side to side. I immediately sank down in my chair and gripped the armrests and clenched my eyes shut as we swayed back and forth two times before settling horizontally again. As we approached the runway we rocked back and forth just that much that made me feel like one of our wings would hit the runway but amazingly we landed and with a huge slam on the brakes, skidded into safety.

My bag took forever to come. Probably because I was the only person on the entire flight that had only gone from Milwaukee to Chicago. So I waited and waited and just when I got in line for the missing baggage counter, I caught sight of it out of the corner of my eye. The woman just smiled at me as I picked up my things, put away my luggage ticket number and grabbed my bag off of the carousel.

The guy at the taxi cab stand was pretty funny, shooing away these two young business guys who were trying to cut in line in front of me, telling them “Man, this is the LADY’S cab, yo! What you tryin’ to do, cut in front of her? Man!” I just smiled as he helped me into my taxi. The taxi ride down to the downtown area of Chicago was actually pretty smooth and there was hardly any traffic considering we were trying to get right into the down town area during rush hour. I checked in and took a quick nap since I was going to meet up with Richard (who just so happens to be in Chicago at the same time as me!) and his son Adam (my friend who connected me with his Dad in the first place) a little bit later on in the morning.

By 10 o’clock I had had a nap, a shower and was on my way to Adam’s apartment which turned out to be just a few blocks from my hotel. I found it and had the doorman call up to Adam’s apartment to inform them of my arrival. I got up to the 35th floor and walked out and couldn’t find any indication of what the room numbers would be and which way to walk out of the elevator. So I had to walk right up to a door and check out the number then to the one next to it to see if I was even close to Adam’s. Luckily Adam’s was the second one that I checked so I knocked and Adam appeared and let me into his really cool apartment overlooking Lincoln Park.

After showing Adam the pictures of the hippo conference, Richard and I were on our way to the zoo. We had Adam’s car and his nifty GPS system to guide us and we made it to the Brookfield Zoo with no problems. We paid for parking and headed into the zoo.

Luckily the hippos weren’t too far from the entrance and we arrived only to find the two of them completely submerged in the water, coming up every so often for a breath of air. They moved over to the beach area of their enclosure and to our luck got a little bit out of the water, just enough to get a partial body view of them, which is much better than just the nose for sure!
So we stood and watched and finally decided to go in search of their names. We headed to their inside enclosure, which also housed the rhinoceroses and the elephants, but couldn’t find anything about what the hippos’ names were. Richard started to head back to the hippos but then spotted a guy who was apparently coming towards me. I had my sunglasses on inside (completely forgetting to take them off) and couldn’t for the life of me see what Richard was gesturing. He was shouting my name and waving so I thought he wanted me to come over to him. So I did but then he asked if I had talked to the keeper that had just walked past me. Oh.

So I raced back in and found a door near the elephants that had to have some keepers in it since it looked like a storage room AND I could hear voices. So I waited and sure enough, three keepers walked out. I stopped them and asked them about the hippos and they told me that their names are Hansel (male, father) and Wicket (female, daughter). They also told me that they (the keepers) were heading out on their lunch break and that the hippos would not be fed for quite some time (or as they put it, “not any time soon, that’s for sure.”

So I headed back out to Hansel and Wicket’s enclosure and told Richard of the news. Wicket and Hansel hadn’t moved while we were gone. So we watched some more and the heat began to intensify. It was just boiling hot, with all of the humidity, and it was beginning to feel just dreadful. Everyone was feeling it, and feeling envious of the hippos that were lying so happily in the water. Several people commented on how they could just jump the fence and jump in with the hippos and I just smiled and shook my head at them. Even one guy told his little granddaughter who must have been about three that he was going to pick her up and throw her in, and I turned around to see him pick her up while she burst into giggles. Richard had gone off in search of drinks and I continued to watch Hansel and Wicket who had decided to move from the beach area back under the tree, which meant that they were completely submerged again.

Eventually they finally moved back to the beach area and I was able to get some cool pictures of them with several logs that were in front of their beach area. Richard returned with the drinks and I went off in search of the keepers again to see about feeding (it was now about an hour and a half later) and found a girl cleaning the inside hippo enclosure. She told me that the hippos were not going to be fed until “much much later on in the day” and I checked my watch. It was now almost 2 o’clock. I walked back out and told Richard and we decided that the pictures that we had were going to be just fine for what we needed since we already have a lot of hippos during feeding time. So we headed back out of the zoo and got back into the car (which was absolutely roasting) and turned on the air conditioner full blast. We readjusted the GPS system and headed back into downtown Chicago.

We stopped off for gas and then at Sam’s Liquor Store where one of the Hippolotofus Members works. We thought we would sort of surprise him and just say hi but unfortunately it was his day off so he wasn’t there. So we headed back to my hotel where Richard dropped me off and agreed to meet up later for dinner, along with Adam and his two brothers Eric and Tyler.

I went back to my room to drop off my things, headed out to find some lunch. I then stopped off at a Barnes and Noble for a bit before heading back to the hotel and calling the Cohens for dinner. We met up at a restaurant that was also not too far from my hotel. I had heard a lot about the brothers Eric and Tyler from Adam throughout college, and also from Richard, and it was quite the time seeing the four all together. After dinner they dropped me back off at my hotel and I stayed in working on the pictures from the zoo today.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.

Monday, August 02, 2004

Milwaukee, Wisconsin—Day 184

I arrived in Milwaukee yesterday (after spending the previous day at Banff National Park in Canada which is SO COOL) and was picked up at the airport by my friend Clark, who also went to Macalester with me and is currently working at a law firm in Milwaukee over the summer. He picked me up (minus my luggage that didn’t make it and would have to be delivered) and we set out on a tour of Milwaukee before heading to my hotel to check in. I checked in and found that I had a special zoo rate for my room (a first!) and even got a concession zoo ticket with my hotel room. How great is that!

Clark and I then headed to Sun Prairie, Wisconsin which is just about and hour and a half or so from Milwaukee (sort of a suburb of Madison) to meet his family for Sunday dinner at his parent’s new condo. I was truly in luck because not only was dinner wonderful and Clark’s family just super but I was also able to see their new huge TV that Clark’s dad and JUST bought. It was quite the TV (it was so big, I am not even sure if it really qualifies as a TV! More like a huge screen with speakers or something….) anyways, it was really fun and despite having ice cream after dinner. Clark and I stopped off at a Culver’s on the way back to Milwaukee. Clark dropped me off and we made plans to meet for dinner the next night.

So that leads me to today where I woke up pretty early and got my things together to go to the zoo. I headed downstairs and inquired at the front desk for a shuttle over to the zoo. I got dropped off at the pedestrian entrance and gave them ticket and headed over to the main entrance with my map in hand.

Finding the hippos wasn’t a problem, but I had to wait quite a while before they were out. But I didn’t mind because I had come at the perfect time of day to see them. So I waited near the warthogs and watched the single albino giraffe among the typical giraffes for a bit (very cool—they’re white with tan spots!) and talked with a keeper about the hippos, Patti and Puddles. She told me that I could tell the difference between the two females (mother and daughter) because Patti would be taller and Puddles would be wider. Sure enough, when they came out you could instantly see not so much that Patti was taller, but that Puddles was much, much wider. It was kind of funny, Puddles was definitely more oval shaped in the stomach area. So I took pictures of them heading out to the nice pile of hay in their enclosure (thankfully set up so that people could watch them eat!) and then when they were done, pictures of them resting and walking around in search of more food. They were great and I could call their names and they would look straight at me. I watched them for about two hours in total and then headed back to the gift shop where I picked up a few things. I called the hotel for my shuttle and soon enough I was heading back to the hotel.

It was getting to be a super hot day and luckily there was a mall nearby my hotel where I could kill time in the afternoon waiting for Clark. My hotel was quite a ways from downtown Milwaukee so spending time at the mall seemed like the most aimless, yet most enticing thing for me to do. So I killed time by watching a movie (“Napoleon Dynamite”) and perusing the shops. I then finally went back to the hotel where I worked on the pictures from today and called Clark who was just about done with work. Before I knew it he was at my hotel and caught me a little off guard by being early. So I finished getting ready and we went out for dinner in the downtown area. We then drove around a bit checking out really cool huge mansions along the water front and near the University before Clark dropped me back at the hotel.

(c) 2004 Sarah Galbraith. All Rights Reserved.