Wednesday, January 12, 2005

Fresno, California—Phoenix, Arizona—Los Angeles, California—San Diego, California—Days 345/346/347

I flew from Fresno to San Diego via Phoenix which was funny because Phoenix is not really on the way. I was glad to be leaving Fresno in search of something a little warmer and more beachy.

After a short layover in Phoenix where I had to de-plane the same plane that took me from Fresno and would take me to San Diego. I arrived into San Diego, rented my car and went straight to the zoo.

I got to the zoo by three o’clock after all of this and the weather was still foggy and misty. I had been to the San Diego zoo before and remembered it being quite a ways from the city. However it is not so my senses must have been way off last time. Anyways, I made it to the zoo and bought my ticket and was warned by the ticket man that the zoo would be closing its gates at 4pm and the grounds at 5pm.

So I rushed off to find the hippos and after quite a bit of searching and dodging construction, I found the 150,000 gallon hippo pool.

There was one hippo in the pool—I would later find out that there were three hippos at the zoo (not five like I had originally found out!—and to my utter joy there was a sign telling us the name and age of the hippo in the water!! Today it was Jabba, the male born in 1983.

What wasn’t so convenient was taking pictures of the hippo as he swam around. I had to go back and forth from one crammed viewing area to the next. When I mean crammed, I mean that there was only one good spot to stand at each of them to get a semi-good photo of him. Plus he was swimming back and forth like there was no tomorrow so I had to rush from one end of the pool all the way around a bend and to an upper level to get a second view. It was madness!

Plus I had to dodge around all of the people that were also looking at the hippo and thinking that they too needed to get a good picture of him. It was the first time too that I had seen foreigners at a zoo—Australians, Japanese, New Zealanders—everyone seemed to NOT be from the USA which was a first at a US zoo.

I spent the rest of the afternoon (the two hours that I had) doing my best to shove people out of the way and to stop Jabba from swimming around (this included waving and calling his name much to the amusement of people around me).

Soon it became dark and I decided to head out of the zoo. I hopped in the car and drove three hours north to Los Angeles. It shouldn’t take this long, however I was stuck in traffic at rush hour AND in the California storm of the century. But I finally made it with enough time to meet up with my brother who lives there and two of my friends Anna and Brian from Macalester who also live there. It was great.

The next morning after having breakfast with Anna and dropping Simon and Brian off at their different work places, I headed back to San Diego. The sun was out and the rain had cleared. It was a truly perfect day to be at the zoo. I made it back to the zoo early in the afternoon only to find Funani (the female hippo) and her baby Jazi swimming in the water.

It was so cute! But unfortunately everyone around me also thought it was pretty darn cute. This meant that they would all move en masse when the hippos did and I had to fight through them to get a good picture. I eventually booted people out of my way when the pair settled down for a bit. The crowds came and left and at the one point when I was finally, FINALLY alone, Jazi and Funani settled into the cutest, most perfect pose ever.

Jazi was mashed up against the underwater window with her nose pressed sideways against the glass (a profile shot if you will) with Funani lying next to her. Both had their heads propped on a rock. I was a great picture and I snapped furiously and feeling pretty darn good that the crowd had disappeared just in the moment of true hippo glory.

People eventually came back and caught on and again I was left with the crowd blocking my perfectly good view.

Never mind, I had some great shots of the pair. I left the zoo and spent the rest of the afternoon driving around San Diego, finding at hotel in the Old Town area. I stopped there and wandered around after checking in, eating at a great Latin American restaurant for dinner.

Because the hotel was full tonight, this morning I had to check out and go in search of another hotel online. I packed up my bags and after breakfast, got my stuff back into my rental car (a white Chevy Impala which is like, huge and boat-like) and I headed back to the zoo.

My last day at the zoo.

Oh, it was so sad. I went back to the hippo enclosure on this bright, sunny day and found Jabba again but this time he was on land. So I spent the morning photographing his various moves and stances until he eventually slumped down for a nice looooooong nap.

Because I didn’t want to leave, I got out my book and read for a bit next to the enclosure. Then I decided that I was being ridiculous and pathetic and gathered up my things. I found a zoo store near the hippo enclosure which sold all things hippo (amazing discovery!) and so after buying up practically the entire store, I went back one last time to say goodbye to Jabba.

To say goodbye to the hippos.

I eventually did leave the zoo—grudgingly of course. I even got my hand-stamped just so that I had the option of returning even though I knew I wouldn’t. Pathetic? You bet. I left through the big gates feeling a sense that almost felt like a loss, and I guess it was. I mean, you spend your whole life doing one thing and then one day its over. The end of an era. Its hard not to feel sad about it.

But I have so much to be happy and grateful for of course and I am leaving this experience with a whole new outlook on life.

That, and just about a bazillion photos of hippos.