Monday, September 30, 2013

Hiking in the Airport

Black Hills, South Dakota
We left home this morning before anyone else on the East Coast was even thinking of waking up, and headed for the airport.  Our first flight was smooth and took us from Harrisburg, Pennsylvania to Chicago's infamous O'hare Airport.

Today in that airport, I hiked, oh, about 10 miles or so.  The announcer at our first gate, the gate we hiked about 5 miles to get to, joked about how this airport is the King and Queen both of "changeroo."  He then told us to move to another gate.  Hike, hike.

The attendant at that gate then begged us "not to shoot the messenger," but directed us to hike to another concourse and find yet another gate.  Hike, hike.

We did eventually board our plane at some gate there somewhere, after more hiking, and we arrived here in Rapid City, South Dakota, late in the afternoon.

Our sightseeing of the Black Hills area officially begins tomorrow.  

Tonight, we are getting our bearings, relaxing, and reading up on the local sites to see.  And, we are hoping that the government will not "shut down" so that we will be able to see the National Parks and Monuments we came here to see.

We found some dinner nearby which involved another small hike.  Since this is wild country, Bob ordered a buffalo burger, which he said was fairly good.  

To cap off the evening, we're going to make good use of the hotel's pool and hot tub.  My feet could use a good soothing soak.

Sunday, September 29, 2013

A Terrapin Release

Before I tell you about the Diamondback Terrapin Release we attended, I must make a P.S. to my blog post the other day about the Classic Car Show in Wildwood, New Jersey.  I simply neglected to include several photos of some very fun and unique, small classic cars.  It's rare to see one of these going down the highway.  Here they go, as viewed from our hotel balcony:

On the last day of our trip to the New Jersey beach, we headed to Stone Harbor to visit the Wetlands Institute.  The Institute was having its Fall Migration Festival / Terrapin Release, and had all sorts of interesting seminars about birds, animals, and turtles throughout the day.  They even had a fly tying expert giving demonstrations throughout the day.

The Wetlands Institute, Stone Harbor, New Jersey
 We learned that the Diamondback Terrapins are often hit by cars as they make their way through the salt flats and onto the roads prior to laying their eggs, and so the Wetlands Institute has a rescue and release program.  Terrapin eggs are harvested from the mothers that are killed, incubated until the babies are born, and then at an optimal time, the young terrapins are released out into the marsh.  

On the day we were there, twelve young Diamondbacks were to be released.  We were able to see and hold these young terrapins prior to their release, and learn all about them in one of the afternoon seminars.  These are some of the turtles that are ready for their new lives:

Two of the twelve
I was able to hold this one and enjoy a good close up examination.  This one looks ready to me.

At the end of the day, the twelve terrapins were taken out into the marsh at the far end of the Institute's boardwalk and released.

Every hour a new seminar started, including one that highlighted birds of prey.  

This girl was a professional handler and had several birds along with her for her presentation.  She obviously has a passion for her birds and their care, and told numerous funny stories about the birds' personalities and quirks.

In between classes, we visited the live animal exhibits in the small aquarium at the Institute.  I learned that an octopus is very smart.  In fact, and although I have a hard time believing it, this octopus has more brain neurons than a human.

There was one hour in which we went on a guided marshlands birdwatching expedition.  Two birding experts were on hand with scopes and information about what we were seeing out along the path.  In addition to birds, we saw small nets that were marking and protecting the egg nests of the terrapins.  The marshland predators wait until the eggs are laid and then dig them up, so the Institute gives known nests a little help.

Terrapin egg nest
Our final seminar was a presentation on animal adaptations offered by the folks from the Philadelphia Zoo.  They brought along numerous live animals and reptiles, and spoke primarily about how the species protect themselves.  

A shy porcupine

This lizard looks way too much like a snake to me.
So, all in all, we had a fine time at the beach for five days, and enjoyed some new and interesting experiences.

Now, we are home, laundry is being done, and we are packing our bags again.  Why?

Because our plane leaves at dawn tomorrow for South Dakota.  If the government doesn't "shut down" in the next few days, we hope to visit some National Parks and Monuments.  If it does, well then....

More adventures to come, stay tuned.  

Saturday, September 28, 2013

New Jersey - Cape May County Zoo

I'd been hankering for a while to visit a zoo, and so while on our New Jersey beach vacation, the husband/lover/driver complied and took me to the Cape May County Zoo.

The Cape May County Zoo is a 200 acre park and zoo which is accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.  About 550 inhabitants representing 250 species reside in this pristine preserve.

The park includes both natural wooded areas and open space parcels which accommodate a variety of exotic and native animals including Snow Leopards, tigers, lions, and Mountain bongo.

Included within the zoo are the World of Birds Aviary and the Reptile and Amphibian House.

According to TripAdvisor, this zoo ranks #3 of all zoos in the United States.  It was a lovely property with well maintained walkways and pavilions for resting and viewing the animals.  Besides being a wonderful zoo and park, it's FREE.

I'm sure most of my readers have been to a zoo at some point in their lives.  And I, like you, have my favorites.  Usually I am most fascinated by the monkeys.  Their behaviors are so eerily human-like and just plain funny.

However, this time there were other animals that captured my attention more.  These two giraffes seemed so graceful and followed each other around.  It's hard for me to believe that such large animals would have a fear of anything, but I've heard that giraffes have a fear of heights. 

I also got a kick out of watching the turtles fighting for space on this log.  In some moments there were so many turtles lined up along the log, that the littlest ones would sit on the backs of the larger ones.  

And finally, this little guy made the coup d'etat of the whole zoo.  Wouldn't you agree?

He just made me laugh, and with that, we concluded another great day at the beach.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Wildwood, New Jersey - Classic Car Show

I went bike riding.  Yes, I rode a bike, up on the Wildwood Boardwalk.

This may not seem very blogworthy to some of you, but to me, after spending the last three months recovering from some rather invasive heel surgery, this is remarkable and is a big step forward.

Not only did I ride, but I rode from one end of the boardwalk to the other and back.  Roughly 3 1/2 miles in all.  Yes, my foot was killing me by the end, and yes, it was quite swollen by the end of the day, but still, I RODE A BIKE.

And I am happy I am once again able to do so.

The scenery up on the boardwalk was fun, too.  It was Wildwood's 2013 Classic Car Show Weekend, and we were told there were about 600 classic cars expected at this event.  They were lined up, all shiny and stylish, up there on the boardwalk on Friday and Saturday of last weekend.

Of course that made for treacherous bike riding conditions, what with all the trazillion people walking and gawking at all those spiffy cars.  But, bikes are allowed there until 11:00 AM, and so ride I did.

I can't keep all this fancy car appreciation to myself, so I'll just let you "ride" along and enjoy the views too.  Here now, for you, is part of the 2013 Wildwood parade of classic cars.

As we rode past these classic automobiles, I heard my husband muttering to himself, "I would love to have that one" quite a few times.  

As for me, I'm just glad I was able to ride.  A bike, that is.

It's a lot cheaper that way.