Monday, October 8, 2007

Day 36 -- And the rains came

Set out this morning for Oklahoma. As I crossed the state line from Arkansas, I noted how pretty the blue sky was, but as I approached the welcome center/rest area a few miles into the state I saw the sky getting low and dark in the direction I was heading. Just a few minutes after I left the welcome center the sky fell in. A downpour. The big truck in front of me disappeared, tail lights and all. I slowed down and turned on my hazard lights. Unlike the brief squalls I ran into in Florida, this didn't want to quit. It would ease up a bit and then come down hard again.

I wanted to get gas and a bite to eat before I reached the turnpike so I took one of the off ramps and parked at a MacDonalds to wait out the rain. I used the time to study the discount books I'd just picked up. The driving rain turned into just a steady rain, so I drove to a gas station in the area and then to an ice cream place across the street. After a scoop of cappuccino chip frozen yogurt I was ready to proceed.

The darkest part of the sky seemed to have passed, but as I joined the turnpike the sky fell in again. No choice but to go on, despite all the standing water on the road. I don't know how long it kept up, but eventually the worst was over, and as I continued northwest I could see a strip of blue sky on the horizon. By the time I arrived in Tulsa, rain seemed like just a remote threat (40% chance, they said).

At the Tulsa Zoo I asked if I could speak to one of the ape keepers. The regular chimp keeper was on her day off, but the back-up keeper, Kristen, agreed to meet me. She gave me lots of background about the chimps, including the two babies, a little girl born early in the year and a boy born in June. There's also an older female (in her 30s) who suffered a stroke about a year ago. After months of recuperation she is back with the group. Her left arm and leg show the effects of the stroke, but she gets around.

I snapped lots of photos of the older baby in the inside exhibit -- and some of them came out well. After touring the rest of the zoo I stopped again at the chimp exhibit to get some photos of the outdoor area, a low island with lots of shrubs and grass. Just as I pulled out my camera, mom and baby appeared from the bushes. Mom went to the edge of the moat to get a drink. I couldn't tell for sure which baby it was, but I think it was the younger of the two. Lots more photos. And it looked like mom was posing. She kept looking at me as if to say, "Have you gotten enough pictures? Want to try a few more?"

Couldn't stay too long. Needed to leave by 3PM so I could get to Oklahoma City and find a place to spend the night. I navigated the twisty expressways around downtown Tulsa to get to another turnpike. Quite a bit more traffic than I would expect to find on a toll road. And the road surface was not as smooth as I anticipated. I expected the turnpike to be better driving than your average highway. I guess people are paying for the right to drive 75MPH -- on a rough, crowded highway.

Managed to find the motel I had targeted. Same side of town as the zoo. Had grilled trout for dinner. Carry-out from the near-by Cracker Barrel. Big food. Fish was good. Surprisingly the biscuit and corn muffin were disappointing.

Tomorrow night -- and the next several days -- in Wichita, Kansas, where I will be attending the 2007 Chimpanzoo Conference. Not sure whether where I will find internet access. Maybe not at my budget motel.


jcd said...

are you going to take a pumpkin to the OK zoo with you? Their web site says you can get in free that way.

Gerry L said...

Actually, I think I get in free (or at a reduced rate) with my Oregon Zoo membership. So far every zoo I've visited has honored my membership even if it was not listed on the Oregon Zoo website.
I have noticed, however, that that many zoos are now giving a discount (like 50%) rather than free entrance. Also, most zoos are now charging for parking -- a lot. I didn't go to Cincinnati, but I saw that it's parking fee was $6.95. Some charge for parking only on the weekends.