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December 9th, 2009 - Let's Go To The Zoo!

But not that zoo. The Twin Cities of Minneapolis and Saint Paul have two zoos, well three if you count the Governor's office,
I however am not thinking of "The Minnesota Zoo," (with fingers making the quotation marks) but the Como Zoo. What zoo? Exactly. Como Zoo. In Saint Paul.

The Como Zoo is a nice 'inner-city' zoo, smaller than the Big M zoo. It used to be, shall we say, rather scruffy. Since it scored some budget shifting and improvements, it's pretty nice.
Nice as a zoo can be anyway, Sharon and I have mixed feelings about zoos on the whole, especially those that aren't 'free-range', as it's hard to watch the animals when you know they are expressing OCD behavior from their constant captivity, and I get enough of that at the nature centers I work at seasonally.

Be that as it may, it is still a great opportunity to see the animals up close and even photograph them. The majority of the pics here were taken through the glass, and if you work at it you can get some decent results.

The baby Emperor Tamarins were so cool. They are allegedly named for their resemblance to the German emperor Wilhelm II (well, mostly his mustache).
This little guy or gal on the right is concentrating so hard at taking some first steps up the tree branch. I could have watched them all day.

But before we go on, how about a humiliating story...?!
Yeah!!! I thought you'd say that. Who doesn't love a humiliating story when it's not about them?!
The only reason I am telling you this story is so that you can feel better when you do something really stupid and there is no escape from looking ridiculous in public. You can always think back to this story and think, "Well, at least I didn't look that stupid." Thanks for making me feel better, Infinite Universe guy.

It goes a little like this...
Some years ago, Sharon and I were into cross-country skiing regularly, the snow was good for a few years straight, and we sought to try new places.
We bought this guidebook called "60 Great Places to XC Ski within 60 minutes of the Twin Cities."
We tried various places in the book and were pretty happy with most of them, it was fun to try out our new venues.
Well, one weekend the snow was good in town and we didn't feel like driving too far. The book said that they had XC skiing in the zoo on weekends if the snow was adequate, so we thought we'd give it a try.

We dressed up in our ski duds, me with my semi-garish lycra and nylon windbreaker, ski hats, boots, and the like.
We trundled our gear over to the ticket line and mixed in carrying our skis and poles and trying not to gore anyone or drop our skis while clomping into the ticket area in our XC boots.
Soon it became apparent that we seemed to be the only skiers waiting in line along with the moms and strollers, couples, and families buying tickets for the zoo. Hmmm. People seemed to be looking at us with a shall we say, bemused yet puzzled look, and scanning the entire area for a camera crew, or someplace big enough for 'Totally Hidden Video' to camp out.

Thoughts had begun to flow through my mind as it approached my turn to confront the ticket vendor.
I said, "We're here to ski!!!" Perhaps a little over-exuberantly.
The polite, albeit smirking teller lady informed me that they hadn't had skiing at the zoo since 1994. Oh. I guess our book was a little old, come to think of it.

Well, we sure weren't going to see the zoo wearing our semi-garish ski togs and boots, and carrying skis and poles.
We mumbled something about being sorry and did an about-face, and with our heads held high, eyes forward, marched back out to the car seeming to shrink towards microscopic size with each step, except for our ears which seemed to be getting bigger and radiating like red-hot suns. It is a little difficult to conceal two pair of seven-foot-long XC skis and poles while clomping through a 19 acre parking lot, in your ski boots, but we did our best.

When we got to the car and were able to switch hats and pull them as far down as possible, we beat a hasty retreat.
Actually, if I remember right, we replotted course to the nearby Cleary Lake Trails where we knew there would be more of our kind and where we would not be ostracized. As much. At least my ears were warm for the rest of the day.
So there you go. It ain't that bad. Lookit that dork in line at the zoo in his ski gear.
One thing though, being married has it's benefits, as we were able to share our experience. Now we can look back together and laugh. Ha ha. Ugh.

I would suggest definitely going to the Minnesota Zoo sometime, but leaving your skis at home. And if you use an old guidebook for something, you might want to fact-check your selections before jumping right in.
Also go to the Como Zoo sometime too. Besides the captive indoor animals, they have wolves, giraffes, and other animals that you probably won't be seeing from your rear deck in the metro suburbs, under normal circumstances.
They also have the beautiful Conservatory, with a Butterfly Garden and the awesome greenhouses. We like to go there in the midst of cabin-fever blues and see what a non-monochromatic world looks like, just to remind ourselves, say in the middle of February.

As an aside, you can ski at Como Park (What Park?) along with about a bazillion other people, but not at the zoo or the conservatory.
I wonder if maybe the ticket-taker had thoughts of letting us take our chances in the Siberian Tiger refuge that day. Just to thin out the gene pool... could have been a great perk for the monorail riders.

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