The girls and I got up on Monday morning in time to have breakfast with Kevin before he and Sandy took Cathy to the airport and headed for Dickinson. The girls wanted a little more time to enjoy the hotel pool, so I let them swim for an hour after breakfast. While they showered, I packed, then we said our goodbyes to any relatives we found in the breakfast area of the hotel, checked out, and made our way to Como Park Zoo and Conservatory. I have many fond memories of Como Park Zoo: it wasn't terribly far from where my cousins lived, so we'd generally manage to work in a stop there when we came to St. Paul for a visit. My grandma LOVED the Conservatory, so no trip to The Cities was complete for her unless she got to go see the flowers.
Now, my cousin Anna works at the zoo, so we got to take advantage of her expertise for a while. We wandered through the primate exhibit (and came back past it several times--the girls were fascinated with the gorillas in the outside exhibit) then headed to meet up with Anna. She gave us a guided tour through the Tropical exhibit--the first exhibit at the Como Park Zoo to incorporate the skill of the gardeners and the zookeepers, and home to some very interesting animals. (If you'd like an explanation on the difference between "poisonous" and "venomous," just ask any one of our daughters.) Anna had to work for a while, so she gave us some suggestions for our next stops, and we made a plan to meet again later.
We got to see the new baby giraffe, a sea lion, tigers, lions, zebra--animals one would expect to see at a zoo. When it was time to meet Anna again, she took us into one of the zoo's classrooms, where she had a surprise for the girls. Anna was able to introduce us to Steffano, a two-toed sloth, and Turkey, an African parrot. We didn't get to hold or touch the animals--they are not tame--but we learned a lot about both animals. Turkey didn't like sharing the girls' attention with Steffano, so he'd whistle or talk to get their attention whenever they turned to watch the sloth. When the girls stopped watching Steffano in favor of watching Turkey, then the sloth would start making his way down his perch towards the floor--knowing that he wasn't supposed to get down, and therefore Anna would come over to entice him back up the tree with grapes or apples. This would upset Turkey, who would then try to get the attention back. After our session with the animals, we got to go out on a balcony that overlooks the tropical exhibit to get a view of it all from above. I've always loved visits to the zoo--and it was even more fun with Anna's help.
That sloth has some mighty luxurious hair!
We said goodbye to Anna because she had to go greet a batch of campers (yes, you can attend camp at the zoo!), and then we went out to finish seeing what we'd missed. After a quick lunch, we walked through the Conservatory (the flowers were BEAUTIFUL--Grandma would have loved it!) and the Japanese Garden, made a quick trip through the butterfly exhibit, rode ONE ride in the amusement park, and then made an uneventful drive back to ND and then back across the river to East Grand Forks.
That's Gabriel looking over his shoulder at the camera--cute!
Can you tell which foot is Erin's and which is Susan's?
Wednesday started off with a run/bike ride along the river. I hadn't ever been on the "wet" side of the dike, and the city has done a nice job of building a network of paths that take advantage of the lovely river view. In the afternoon, we met the Langeruds at the swimming pool. The kids had lots of fun on the slide and diving boards, Suzanna got reacquainted with a friend from elementary school whom she hadn't seen/talked to since we moved, and the adults even took a quick dip in the pool to cool off! After a yummy supper of barbequed ribs, asparagus, potato salad, and watermelon with the Almlies and Langeruds, we headed to Jay and Erin's volleyball game. They play on a sand volleyball team with the Jungs, and it was fun to see them in action. They play at a park where there are several sand volleyball pits and a large playground, so the kids were able to go back and forth between the game and the playground. In the end our friends were victorious! After the game, everyone came back to the Almlies for a fire in the fire pit and birthday cake for Michael (one of their team mates whom I just met that night).
Nicole and her daugher Mya were among the swimmers at the pool.
Rob and Laurie confer while waiting for the ball--probably high-level strategizing about plays and such.
Thursday morning started out a bit rainy, which was a little disappointing because the girls and I had plans to meet Cathy Spicer at Caribou Coffee and then to head to a park for playing/visiting. Instead, we visited at the coffee shop, and by the time we were ready to leave, the sun was coming out for the day. Cathy was in Grand Forks to visit her mom, and she brought along Zoe, one of her fur babies. The girls enjoyed meeting Zoe, and we'd never seen a cat on a leash before!
After saying goodbye to Cathy and Zoe, we headed for Fargo. Hillary received a Target gift card for her birthday from Cheryl and Arron and HAD to find something to spend it on. I HAD to make a stop at Hobby Lobby (my new obsession = knitting, remember?), and then we were hungry so we had to stop at Qdoba, which is a place we enjoy but don't get to visit often. We our errands complete and our tummies full, we turned the van towards home. One quick stop in Bismarck to use the restroom and get gasoline, and we were home in time for supper, which Kevin was preparing as we arrived. It was a very relaxing vacation; visiting with friends is always enjoyable but too short, but it was really nice to be home!
P.S. Susan hadn't read or listened to the news to know about Wednesday night's tornadoes here in Dickinson, so the ladies were surprised to hear about it on the radio as they drove into town.