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Monumental Animals

On a scale of one to ten, we rate the National Zoo a seven. Some enclosures were quite spectacular, giving the lions and tigers an immense amount of room with lots of grass, trees, and an elaborate moat. natzoo.jpgOthers, such as the entirely indoor small mammal house, were minimal. The whole thing seems geared more toward the scientists studying the animals than the visitors watching them, as many animals were off exhibit. Though all of their advertising proudly proclaimed giant pandas, which they had, the act that stole the show was the cheetah den and the five young cubs. We spent a long time admiring them.
Another unique feature of the National Zoo were the free-ranging golden tamarin monkeys. As we walked down one path, we overheard a ranger speak into his walkie-talkie, “I’ve got a sighting.” Our first thought was that a creature had escaped, but then we saw the sign saying that there were monkeys able to roam about the trees as they pleased! cheetah.jpgIn addition, the invertebrate house had a couple of orb weaver spiders in the open air without any protective glass. We watched in horror as a keeper placed a cricket on their web, and one of the spiders immediately rushed to the disturbance, injected the cricket with poison, and wrapped it up for later consumption.
After the zoo, we made a whirlwind tour of all of the monuments in the mall area. We noticed that a large number of them were quite new, as if Congress had gotten into “monument fever” a few years ago. All of them were very impressive, and offered plenty of picture-taking opportunities. lincoln.jpgInterestingly, one family saw Jon’s T-shirt reading “Los Angeles Zoo” and asked us to take their picture, saying that it was nice to see fellow Californians in D.C. We told them of our true Michigan home, and welcomed them to this side of the country nonetheless. It took every ounce of remaining energy to race back to the hotel as a gentle rain began to fall. Tomorrow’s stops: Harpers Ferry and the Battle of Antietam!


Off to Washington D.C.

Today we traveled through five states on our trip eastward: Michigan, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Maryland, and Washington, D.C. We’re not sure how the states figured it out, but the geographical features are distinctly different the moment you cross state lines. Crossing the border from Ohio to Pennsylvania? BLAM! Instant mountains out of flat lands. Leaving Maryland for Washington, D.C.? SHAZAM! Instant urban landscape out of the wilderness. Cuyahoga.jpgWe managed to add one more national park to our Parks Passport book—the Cuyahoga Valley. While a good nature area, it was indistinct to us from our familiar Michigan parks, so we moved on after a brief picnic lunch.
Since we got a late start in the morning, everything was pushed back a bit, which meant that we arrived in Washington, D.C. at rush hour. But, amazingly enough, all five lanes of highway traffic behaved very nicely, allowing for consistent 70 mph traffic, with only one slowdown. Downtown, though, was trickier. The usefulness of roundabouts is certainly debatable and takes a bold driver to successfully navigate. We made it to our hotel, though, which is next to the George Washington U campus, kiddie-corner to the Watergate, and only a short walk to the monuments.  And we got complimentary cookies!  We can’t wait for the National Zoo tomorrow!


Capybara and Pudu Are Friends

We have always been interested in how the Detroit Zoo promotes cross-species habitats whenever possible. Until now, we had always thought that it had been mostly a question of tolerance. For example, the ostrich tolerates the giraffe, so they can share an enclosure. Today, though, we discovered a very special relationship.
capypudu.jpgA docent told us that the zoo's pudu gets depressed when the keepers remove his regular capybara companion. When we visited their enclosure, we witnessed their bond firsthand as they chased each other playfully around in the water. What's really ironic? We are talking about a miniature deer and the world's largest rodent hanging out together. Is this a tabloid headline or a children's story? You decide.


Frogger Live

Well, not much has happened in the last week. Therefore, it's suddenly relatively exciting that we visited a local park. We're not sure if this would be a stand-out normally, but life has been fairly routine this week. The park, on Ford Lake, was actually quite nice. We invited our new neighbors/old friends Kristin and Matt to join us. After a short woods trail, we reached an elaborate boardwalk that circled the lake and bridged several manmade islands. Everywhere we looked, off either side, there were turtles sunning themselves on logs. That, combined with the plainly visible adjoining highway, reminded us of a real-life version of Frogger.


Comedy of errors

I had meant to do homework tonight.  Really.  Jon was going to be out until at least ten (he is directing "Into the Woods" this month), the dogs had been fed and I was sitting down to get a lot of work done.  That's when the doorbell rang and our new neighbors (also friends from church) needed air conditioning while their own home suffered a power outage (during our 10o degree heat wave), so I introduced them to the kids and gave them the general tour.  After they left to go shopping and get dinner I finished making my own meal and sat down to do that homework I was talking about.  That, of course, was when the kid from the University called to collect money for some campaign drive.  Right.  He must not have noticed that we only graduated in the last couple of years, because he thought we were going to bave a thousand dollars to give him for a chair in an auditorium.  He should have called the med student who graduated in 1980.  It did, however, take me almost 10 minutes to convice him that we were not going to donate for said chair and by that time the phone was ringing again.  My mom wanted me to go look at the beautiful red ball of setting sun, which I really thank her for and I really enjoyed... until the front lawn sprinkler (yes, you remember sprinkler system 2?) came on, shooting straight up my shorts.  I had finally opened a book (remember my homework?) after drying off and changing into my pajamas when Jon called to say he was on the way home, and not 10 seconds later, the doorbell rang again - Kristen and Matt were still without power, and me still in my pajamas with soggy hair.  Then Jon came home, we all chatted until nearly eleven, they went home to try and sleep, Jon and I caught up on the goings on of the day and now we are headed to bed.   Homework?  What homework?  But it was a really fun evening.