the Backpack ~ Strange and Unexpected
when I post something from the archives, it involves bringing
back an essay or article or such that had appeared on the In My
Backpack web site and was removed during one of the updates or
computer issues over the years.
entry is a bit different though… in addition to appearing on the
site, it was part of the Travel
Trilogy project… or, more specifically, Strange
and Unexpected: Backpack on the Road – Volume Two: California.
that means a couple of versions exist… somewhat specific, almost
definitive versions if you will… the work that was on the site,
and the chapter that was edited and potentially revised from that
piece and used for the book.
material was originally posted on September 5, 2005. It was later
published in April 2013. Some minor proofreading edits and adjustments
may have been made while bringing the material back to the site
in this posting.
~ ~ ~
three, Monday, April 18, 2005
you are planning to comment about my earlier observation that
I haven’t seen any system for labeling exit signage on the highway
with letters, numbers or anything beyond a street name… you can
stop. (Oh, send it along if you want to. I like mail. I’d love
to hear from you. But driving south to San Diego this morning
for a day at the San Diego Zoo, I see numbered exit signs. Amazing.)
couple of other interesting observations…
Pendleton. I’m sure for some of you, daily life involves a military
base in some way. You work at one… live at one… drive past one.
Something. Well, for people like me that don’t experience this
every day, it is quite a shock to be driving along, blink your
eyes, glance to the side of the road, and suddenly see a huge
tank cruising along literally right next to the highway. I see
submarines occasionally. Planes every so often. Tanks? Next
to the highway? No.
lights on an on-ramp. Really. Red lights right there at the
top of the on-ramp. Unbelievable. They basically allow traffic
to enter one car at a time, which assists in the problems that
might be created by merging traffic during rush hour. Or, at
least that’s what it seemed to do for the week we encountered
them. Funny side story… A few weeks after this trip, I went
to Chicago with my Dad. One evening, we stopped for dinner,
and then got back in the car and drove toward the on-ramp. There
was a red light at the top of the ramp. Well, I had seen these
in California, wasn’t shocked to see it here, and I stopped.
Dad on the other hand almost dove out of the car trying to curl
himself up for the impact he figured had to be coming since
there was no other earthly reason for me to be stopping at the
top of an on-ramp. When I pointed to the light, he was amazed,
because he had never seen such a thing.
know those “adopt a highway” programs you see just about any
place you drive? Well, they actually take them seriously in
southern California. As in, seriously enough that there are
clean sections of highway with trash bags of collected material
set aside near the signs for pick-up. Really… clean highways.
we’re heading along for a day at the zoo, and this is something
all of us have been looking forward to for quite some time. I’m
not sure why I like visiting zoos so much… perhaps memories from
arrive at the San Diego Zoo, and we need to talk about tickets…
because one of the ticket options is why I have to agree with
Tigg, who said as we were leaving: “I think I liked the National
tickets for the zoo cost $32 per person. As is the case with several
theme parks, there are options available to build upon that pricing
and the offerings that go along with it. For instance, the San
Diego Zoo is associated with the Wild Animal Park (we didn’t go
there, but it looks very interesting), and you can purchase tickets
to visit both locations at a discount with a two-day, two-park
pass. There is another package that incorporates Sea World. (Again,
we didn’t visit that park. We’ve seen one in Orlando, and may
be headed back this November. Decided not to visit this one.)
There are also some great options involving hotel packages. And
then there are options involving just your visit to the San Diego
Zoo, and how you plan to get around once inside. For our admission,
we have opted to pay and get unlimited use of the guided bus and
sky ride (called an aerial tram on the ticket portion of the web
site, Skyfari when you are inside).
get inside and decide to stay together as a group for a little
while. Looking at the map, we figure a ride on the Skyfari will
take us to the other side of the park, and also allow us to get
a great view of the zoo. Kind of take in the whole thing before
we really start wandering around.
get on at the Skyfari East station. We ride over: the Reptile
House, Scripps Aviary, Tiger River, Gorilla Tropics, The Treehouse,
and a few other exhibits. At least the map says we rode over them.
See, the foliage was so thick we couldn’t see anything underneath
us except for the tops of trees. So… yeah… nice ride, but not
exactly for what it offers of the zoo.
don’t mistake the comment I quoted about the National Zoo a few
moments ago as saying we didn’t like the San Diego Zoo. All of
us liked it… a lot. It is definitely the world-class facility
it advertises itself to be. And we would welcome the opportunity
to return. But when you compare the ticket prices -- well over
$100 for a family of four in San Diego to get inside... free admission
in Washington, D.C. -- I think there are legitimate comparison
questions to consider based on costs alone. While some of the
exhibits in San Diego were beautiful and included animals I had
never seen before, some main areas… pandas, gorillas, assorted
monkeys… were flat out nicer in Washington. The exhibits of elephants
and bears were pretty much a wash between the two places.
enough about that stuff… because this was a good day and I don’t
want to waste it with the appearance that I’m complaining. Let’s
get back to the start of our visit…
walk onto the main grounds and directly over to the Flamingo Lagoon.
Between the flamingos and the peacocks, the pictures seem to be
coming out wonderful and from very close range. From there we
head over to the Reptile House… interesting, but, yeah, yuck...
and then over to the Skyfari ride I already noted.
get off at the Skyfari West station and wander a few steps over
to see some takins. Beautiful animals… and none of us had ever
heard of them before.
group heads over to the Polar Bear Plunge and we come down the
outer edge of the zoo grounds, eventually reaching one of the
completely unexpected treats from our visit… a hippo.
huge windows on one side of the exhibit pool and a bridge with
an observation area on the other side, we stayed to watch a hippopotamus
play with a ball for at least twenty to thirty minutes. To give
you a good idea of what a strange treat this was, Tigg and I were
watching some ducks (one older, several ducklings) swim at the
edge of the pool. They got out of the water and paraded across
the foot path. It was one of those rare, very cute moments that
you stumble into and can never plan.
we leave the area, the, umm, fun begins. We get lost…
and I’m going to contend it isn’t our fault.
entering a section called Tiger River. Our plan is to see the
tigers, then turn up a path labeled on the map as leading to the
Gorilla Tropics and pygmy chimps… and ultimately to where we expect
to eat lunch, The Treehouse. But there are stairs, dividing paths,
and unlabeled walkways. The boys go one way, and Tigg and I another.
We eventually manage to see a tiger (barely… as is the case in
most zoos, some of the animals know where to hide when they aren’t
moving around) and find the home of the chimps. When we can’t
find the boys, a call is placed to Jay’s phone and we manage to
meet up at the gorillas.
could stand next to the gorillas for an entire day if you don’t
nudge her along. Today is no different, and when the keepers begin
to feed them, she goes through a ton of film taking pictures of
the largest gorilla eating a tomato. Finally, lunch gets the vote.
walk over to a place called The Treehouse. The paths leading around
it are about as amazing and poorly planned as I’ve ever seen.
It’s hard to explain… really needs to be experienced… but other
than an elevator (necessary for any entrance not involving stairs
and climbs), we only found one way in and one way out.
couple of sodas… a couple of sandwiches… a wallet $54 lighter.
was here that we saw several people pulling sandwiches out of
a bag. If you are planning on visiting the San Diego Zoo… keep
this in mind. You may want to call and confirm things with them,
but bringing in a packed lunch would be more convenient and significantly
begin walking along the back paths that lead from the orangutans
down to the bears and over to the pandas. (By the way, be careful
with the map in this area because they aren’t kidding… it’s an
escalator and it runs up.) The line into the pandas isn’t bad
and we are walking past them pretty quickly. One is taking a nap
and another is snacking away. Great to see.
now gone from what I’ll call the back of the zoo (according to
the map it’s the west area) to the front (the east… close to the
main entrance). We’re standing next to the loading area for the
Bus Tour… so the boys take off on their own, and Tigg and I decide
to take a ride.
I may have been unimpressed by the sky ride… I was very impressed
with the bus tour. The property has lots of climbs… stairs and
hills. It just so happens that as a fluke, by heading to the west
section on the Skyfari and turning the way we did, it felt like
we were heading downhill while moving to the eastern sections.
We didn’t plan it that way. Riding on the bus we learn exactly
how steep some locations are. The bus tour takes about a half-hour,
and they say it covers about 75% of the grounds... which it definitely
does. The drivers know passengers are looking for information
about some of the animals, good views, and a few pictures… and
our driver didn’t disappoint us. We had some wonderful views of
the elephants and a rhinoceros, and get a guided, chauffeured,
great trip around the zoo. Highly recommended.
a side note to sum up the visit… I don’t know that I have ever
seen a collection of animals that look as healthy as those here
at the San Diego Zoo. Every place we look the animals appear to
be well cared for, and... dare I say… happy.
was a very good day. I want to stress again that the park was
very nice and we head a great time. The place is highly
recommended by our group.
just also need to be honest and say that for the cost of our family
membership at the Roger Williams Park Zoo (which allows us to
visit other zoos and currently costs less than two adult tickets
for the San Diego Zoo), or for free at the National Zoo, we have
seen some wonderful properties that may not be as extensive as
San Diego… they are certainly not lost in its shadow.
stop at a restaurant we had never heard of for dinner… Claim Jumper.
I have no idea why, perhaps it was that he had one on his wrist,
but Justin calls Jay the “Rubber Band Man”. The food was good…
but I seem to recall it was a bit pricey. Can’t say why that thought
has stuck with me. (Also can’t say why we spent a good portion
of the dinner having Tigg sing the song that Justin placed in
heading back to the resort and that’s a good thing. We have a
long day planned for tomorrow… including four to six hours of
driving to make the round trip. We’re heading out to the Joshua
Tree National Park.