Monday, July 29, 2013

Road Trip: Wending Our Way Around the West

So! We're on this road trip (by "we" I mean me, Michelle, Will, and Al). We started in Cleveland, we're presently in Denver, and we'll be hitting New Mexico on our way to Oklahoma and then back home.

But - on the way we see many strange and beautiful things. So you get to see them, too.

We left Ohio in good weather, but that was as far as our luck held. Well, no, actually, that's not true; it's been pretty awesome. Last year my air conditioner exploded. Twice. This year, it's been reasonably cool and not stupid-hot, and the car has held up just fine.

I didn't take any pictures as we drove through Ohio and Indiana, but in Utica, Illinois, we found Two Girls and a Cupcake, which was advertised on one of those FOOD signs on the highway. Though we had just eaten, that was too much of a sign to pass up. We stopped for cupcakes. The name of the business alone just sort of made us blink, intrigued.

Wonder what they sell here?
The cupcakes were lovely. Mine was a s'mores cupcake. The staff was not terribly enthused about life, but they live in Utica, so that maybe makes sense. Other nearby attractions included...um.

This truck. 
But, smiling travelers!
Cupcake unicorn!
So then we continued driving, and wound up in Iowa. The hotel at which we stayed was old, in a kind "old hotel" sort of way (you know the type I mean). It's going to be demolished in August, and so there was this very kind of "fuck it" sort of attitude. But in a good way. People were very nice.
Note the decor.
In the morning, on we went! We stopped in Des Moines to get lunch at Zombie Burger, because seriously, this place is amazing. I had a shake made from tiramisu and a Twinkie. It was like drinking a cake.
"Will is a monkey," part one.
But - check this out. Across the street from Zombie Burger is a waxing salon. It's called...


THE PINK BEAVER. I am not making this up. THE PINK BEAVER. MOVING. ON.

While at Zombie Burger, we also saw a blue dog.

Like you do.
From there, zombies, blue dogs, and pink beavers at our heels, we drove through Iowa into Nebraska, and stopped in Omaha.

Now, Omaha is actually pretty cool, and our hotel (Element) was amazing. The key cards there power the rooms (like, if there's not a room key in the little slot, the lights don't work). The breakfast there had fresh berries and quiche. For free. AWESOME. I was seriously considering saying, "screw it, let's just stay here and then drive home in a few days," but no, t'was not to be.

The other thing about Omaha is the zoo. This zoo does not fuck around. We went for an hour on the first day, saw the nocturnal exhibit, which was pretty boss - they had a batcave. Like, a huge cave with freaking swarms of bats. The next day, Will was initially grumbling that he'd "seen" the zoo, so why were we going back?

HA. This is why you don't listen to teenagers.

The rainforest exhibit LOOKS LIKE THIS:

Relax, there are better pictures coming. 
Oh, but first, I had to get our traditional shot of Lyons with lions.
Front view.
Back view.
Also, I GET TO FIGHT THE LION.
The lion is in the contract.
Right, anyway, back to the rainforest. So, we've got rope bridges...
Which terrified Will a little.
...apes...


...waterfalls, as you can see...
Michelle, between the raindrops.
...fruit bats...
That's not a terrific picture, but they wouldn't stop moving. 
...a sloth...
Now, he stopped moving just fine. Actually, he never started.
...a tapir...
He snurfled in his sleep. It was adorable. 
...some monkeys...
"Will as monkey," part two. 
So we finally left the rain forest, and decided we'd take the SkyTram over to the other side of the zoo and walk back. On the way, we found an Abyssinian hornbill, who was kind enough to sit for a picture.

I AM FROM THE ABYSS.
 And an okapi.
Sort of looks like they need to change their ink cartridge. 
The SkyTram was exciting, in that kind of "dangled above a cheetah enclosure" sort of way. We came out near the bug house, which we did not enter, but I did take a picture of the awesome sculpture.

And made the boys sit and think about BUGZ.
BUUUGS IN YOOOOOUUR HAAAAIR.
And then on to the giraffes. They had a herd of giraffes, and they were wandering about licking leaves off trees, like they do. I took some pictures.




Al realized then that he had found his people.
He has the neck, not quite the tongue. 
So then we headed down the hill to walk through prairie dog town. Now, we've seen prairie dog towns in other zoos, and it tends to be behind plastic. Nah, fuck that. These guys are right by the road. You can walk up and picnic in the midst of them. They don't even bark at you (much).
'Sup. 
One of them wandered over, inspected Michelle's shoe, and then wandered off. I have literally never seen Michelle so giggly.
Hi. I'm your mom's spirit animal. BARK!
And then over to the sea lions.
Not seals. HE WILL CUT YOU.
Draw me like one of your French mammals.
And then over to the Red Barn, for the goat picture I promised Sarah.
They have brushes. You can brush the goats.
And then we grabbed lunch at a nearby diner, and were off! On our next whirlwind adventure! Through Nebraska...

....oh god...

...IT DOESN'T END.

Seriously, Nebraska just goes on for freaking ever. We eventually found the Archway Monument, and stopped because JESUS IT DOESN'T END.
The word "consargler" leaps to mind, for some reason. 
"God dammit, you didn't get the dong right. Re-sculpt that bison!"
We took the tour, learning about settlers who crossed the plains, and the natives who were probably like, "y'all are stupid. We've made this work for years, and you guys are dying of dysentery and eating each other?"

Also they were made of wax. I did not know that about the settlers.
Sisyphus, reimagined.

How 'bout some more beans, Mr. Taggert?

Ladies.
And then things got more modern!
During the brief period where we gave a shit about our infrastructure. 

Burn it all. BURN IT ALL.
There was a bit outside, too, including a Pawnee earth lodge (or a replica thereof).

This looks bleak and creepy. You're welcome. 
Also some free-range, wire buffalo.
Natural camouflage. You can barely see them.

"Will as monkey," part 3. Note the hat, which is a new purchase.
And back in the car, and through the of Nebraska, and into Colorado, and near Denver, which is where we are now. And now I shall sign off, for breakfast calls, and we have miles to go before we sleep. Pike's Peak, ahoy!