Thursday, December 30, 2010

Camels and gorillas and bears, oh my!

Aunt Betty and Unke Roy!

Aunt Betty and Unke Roy are the cutest couple in the world. They've been married for almost 60 years, and still perform magic shows for the children's hospital, sing in choirs, and hold annual memberships at SeaWorld and the San Diego Zoo. They are the best zoo guides ever.

Aunt Jody, Cousin Nik, Dad, Mom, David, Amy, Jenny, and I met them in Balboa Park at the zoo. Not as mobile as they used to be, but always enthusiastic, Betty and Roy sent us off on the Skyfari air tram across the zoo while they shuttled to meet us at the elephants.

On the way, we stopped at the polar bears, and enjoyed the most amazing display of bear-happiness we've seen in our long relationship with zoos. A young female bear rolled and somersaulted through the water, biting and submerging a foam toy, while her twin brother watched from the shore of the habitat. She swam over every so often to reach up and snap playfully at his face. He snapped back, and then she returned to her toy, alone.

Polar Bear and her foam toy

She loves that toy.

She dug around in the cave...

At one point, she dug into an underwater crevice in the rock and pulled out a traffic cone! She stuck her face into it and paddled around, like a Conehead. It didn't impress her brother.

See the cone sticking out of the water?
...and pulled out a cone!

Finally, she crawled up on the rock behind him and chased him into the water! Woohoo! They wrassled and fought like our golden retrievers used to.

They played

They fought.

After (I kid not) at least twenty minutes of great bear time, they both exited the pond, exhausted and ready for a nap.

We moved on to the Elephant Odyssey with Aunt Betty and Unke Roy. The elephants have a huge new enclosure! It's beautiful! There's also a new area to watch trainers as they clean and care for the big beasts individually in ginormous holding cells. We saw a dear elephant get her feet cracks rinsed with a hose, and another immerse each front foot into--oh yes--Epsom salt baths for her pedicure.

Epsom salt bath for footsies.

Jody, Nik, my family, and I caught a few more animals on our own. Highlights include the Peccary (insert classic family story of Cary Grunt and Gregory Peccary from 40 years ago), the camels (I last saw them in a butcher stand in the Fez Medina), and the capybaras (huge guinea pigs!!).


We said goodbye to Betty and Roy at the orangutans, where we heard the story of Janie. This ape loves to fix her hair with the help of mirrors held up by guests. Sadly, Janie didn't feel like primping during our visit.

These are not Janie.

Later, we saw the gorillas. Dad adores gorillas. My whole life, Dad has imitated silverback gorillas by walking on his hands and knees in a rather stately manner. We only saw one gorilla this time, but he was quite dignified indeed.

This is not my father.

Nearing the limits of our desire and will to visit animals and walk all over in cool weather, Mom bought churros for us. Thanks, Mom!

Daddy and his sister, Aunt Jody:
Dad and Aunt Jody!

Nik, my awesome cousin, and our awesome snack:
Cousin Nik and churro!

We bid the zoo a fond farewell and drove to Betty and Roy's house for a short visit and to give annual hugs to Dad's cousin Mike and wife Joan. This house is one of my top four nostalgic favorites of all time. Covered in Christmas, Disney, and Zoo paraphernalia collected and saved over their life together, it never gets boring. After a lovely chat and tasty goodies, we hugged them goodbye until the summer. <3

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