Tuesday, July 23, 2013

Get yer pith helmet

Let's finish up my San Diego trip report.

When you get to the fourth day you're a little glad that it's almost over, but you don't want to give up just yet. Especially if you're going somewhere as special as the San Diego Safari Park (formerly known as the Wild Animal Park).

If you've never been it's a huge treat. They have miles and miles of land to let the animals roam and interact as naturally as possible (without letting carnivores thin out the herds). As you can imagine, maintaining all this land and many hundreds of animals isn't cheap, and they monetize it however they can.

Included in the admission is a ride on the Africa Tram Safari, the basic tour of the vast Africa area. From there, the list of specialized tours is long and specialized. You can take the Cart Safari for a more personal experience with a smaller group. You can get a close look at the cheetahs, or feed the rhinos and giraffes with your own hands. You can fly on ziplines above the area or climb through the trees on suspended logs and ropes. You can go behind the scenes to see the vet stations and breeding programs. You can even camp out overnight. There are many more special experiences, and each one come with its own considerable price tag. It's all to benefit this non-profit so it comes guilt-free.

We decided that once we had finished with the Africa Tram we would take the Cart Safari through the Asia area. That, along with the more traditional zoo-style exhibits for smaller animals, would be plenty for us on our last day out before heading home. (I have daydreams of coming back in a few years and climbing through those trees with an older child.)

Theo's love of vehicles translated into fascination with the tram itself. Spotting animals along out tour wasn't too difficult, though sometimes you'd have to get the right angle to spot a baby snuggled with its mother. There were a lot of attempts to get Theo to see things, and for most of it he wasn't super cooperative. He didn't want to sit in a lap or be picked up at stops, and after a bit, we had to just let him be.

The Cart Safari through Asia went much better for him. The very comfy, over-sized golf cart held less than a dozen people. The open sides and lower stance made it much less claustrophobic than the large tram, feeling more like a real safari in a jeep, and bringing us closer to the action. Theo dug the motion of the ride and was more interested in the animals as well. Our guide was very knowledgeable, too, making this tour worthwhile for all of us.

One might think that all the bang at this place was in the tours and large spaces but one would be mistaken. There were amazing things everywhere and we didn't even get to half of it. There was a lemur enclosure with no barriers between you and the animals, much like an aviary. We found a spot to watch the scheduled cheetah run - pretty amazing to see it in action. Theo and his cousin were delighted when we fed the lorikeets, who were lovely and very friendly to humans, though rather competitive with each other.

We happened upon a couple of meet 'n greets with handlers bringing animals out for a talk, including the adorable, fluffy African Pygmy Falcon, smallest of the falcons and no bigger than a sparrow; and the Three-Banded Armadillo, which ran around and around us on stubby legs then curled up into a perfect ball when picked up.

We saw lovely large fruit bats stretching their wings to span 3 feet, cute fennec foxes drowsing cozily, the incredibly small dik-dik, the tiniest of deer - it's these types of animals that capture my imagination.

Just thinking about the end of that day makes my mind groggy and my limbs ache. So. Very. Tired. As made our way out we were half-joking about how we can't wait to get back to our boring day-to-day. Putting ourselves out there is a lot of work. Truly experiencing life often isn't a vacation.

In the days that followed our trip Theo kept mentioning how much he loved staying in the hotel with his cousin, aunt and uncle next door to us. We kept all the park maps and he loves going over them again and again, discussing what we did, what we missed, what we'll do "next time". We're still much too close to even consider planning another one, but it won't be long. Eventually, you forget the hard part and only remember the fun part. I mean, look at this last post, I left nearly all the tough bits out, and it's been less than a month! ;-) I can be a determined homebody, a lazy lump, a complainer and an anxious over-planner, but with notches like this on my belt, I don't think anyone would figure that, and that's a good thing.

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Biking, sort of.

On the way home from preschool one day this week Theo asks if we can go on a bike ride. I say sure, after we eat lunch and water the plants, like we always do. Theo starts pitching a fit. I'm very firm, we have to have lunch and water the plants first. He gets the message but is still sulky about it.

After much wrangling, he sits and eats a big, long lunch. Then he wants TV. "Didn't you want to go on a bike ride?"

"I want to watch TV first, then water the plants, then go on a bike ride."

Ok, we watch TV. Time to water the plants. I coax him into his sandals. I figure we can water, and go right into the biking preparations. Theo then pours water all over himself.

Sigh. "Ok, let's go get changed."

Upstairs, Theo wants to play trains, he wants to do flips. Just getting him out of his wet clothes (which he supposedly found very distressing just a moment earlier) takes a solid two minutes. Once he's down to his underwear, I ask him to please go potty.

Pouting, whining, rolling around on the ground.

For a couple of minutes, I just sit there and stare at the floor. We're in the full blast of the air conditioning, just sitting the quiet of his bedroom. Do I want to go for a bike ride? Not really. His posture reflects my mindset. Not dressed, laying on his back, smirking at me - it's like my own lack of willpower is on display. This is the most insidious type of teachable moment - the type that involves forcing myself to emulate good behavior, even though I'm lazy as hell. I fully understand that a bike ride involves not only the energy it takes to push the pedals - it takes the energy to get this stubborn kid through all the paces just to get out the door. I take a deep breath and resign myself to the work ahead.

"I thought you wanted to go on a bike ride! Now you won't do the things that will get us out the door. Let's go, one step at a time. Go potty!"

I had to force the issue by putting him into the bathroom. As usual when he complains his hardest, he really did have to go. Then, more struggle to get clothing onto him, and get him downstairs.

Shoes, sunscreen. Theo is finally getting into the idea and complies easily. We get outside and the heat pounds us. It's already after 2pm. Sometimes we head out without water bottles but today it doesn't seem to be an option. I set up the water and briefly consider bringing a snack, then dismiss it.

Now it's time to set up the bike trailer. Theo loves to jump on me when I try to do anything constructive, so there's more hassle while I get it done. By the time the trailer is ready I'm sweating and feeling exhausted from all the battles, but there's no stopping now.

We get in and go.

"Mommy, I love bike rides."

"Me too," I say, somehow.


I figured we'll do a quick ride down the bike path along the Santa Ana River to Angel Stadium. You can bike right next to the Big A itself. I had done some biking lately and felt we could do it. It's only 2 city blocks north, no big deal.

Turns out - it's a big deal. It's hot, and I should have had a snack before leaving. The bike trailer plus kiddo isn't light. There's somewhat of a cooling breeze but I can feel the wind drag on my cargo.

We dip under overpasses and I shift super low to pedal our way out. We go slow, I drink water, we make it to the Big A. I pull over for about 5 seconds.

"You want to go home, kiddo? Or walk around a bit?"

"Yeah Mommy, let's go home."

I make a big U turn, get up on the pedals, and I see stars. I chug water and gear down. No big deal, take it easy, no rush. More stars, heat in my head, pounding heart. We dip down under the next main street and I can't climb us out.

"Hey kiddo, I need a break." I park the bike, let Theo out, take our helmets off, and we sit in the coolness of concrete shade.

Theo is in good spirits, happy to sit with me in this odd place. The path isn't busy at all since most people are smart enough to not exercise during the hottest part of the day. The cars rumble across the bridge over our heads. We have views of other main streets with lots of trucks to gape at. Nope, no complaints from the kid, he was fine where he was.

If I had a snack right now I'd be fine, too. Snack, break, water, go. But without it I'm a puddle of goo. We sit for a bit while Theo calls out the trucks he spots from afar.

I make motions to leave and realize that I can't. I look up and point into the distance.

"Theo, check out that bridge with cars on it, far away. Do you see it?" He does. "That's the street we need to get to, to get off the bike trail and be almost home. I don't think I can do it. We're going to have to call Daddy."

Theo thinks for a second.

"Mommy, did you bring your phone?"

"Yes, I did."

So yeah, a bust, a fail. I'm lucky that Greg is home and available at that moment. Even without him, worst-case scenario would involve walking to find place to have a snack and cool down for a while before riding back. Not too terrible.

I'd like to think I learned a lesson but it's a pitfall of mine. You get so committed to the idea of doing something that you throw common sense out the window just to get it done. I knew I was already a wreck when I got on that bike, and just a tiny bit more effort to pack a snack would have helped. Lesson learned? For the moment. Give me a while and I can get annoyed enough to unlearn any lesson.