On this trip we have been feeling a need to get to California as soon as possible. Don’t know why, but sometimes you just need to go with the feeling. So here we are in San Diego, enjoying a visit with Randy’s brother Butch and his lovely wife Lina. As usual, they welcomed us and have been making sure we have a good time. Butch drove us to Coronado Beach to enjoy the great view of the lovely Coronado bridge, and then on to the Silver Strand Beach. Why they call it the Silver Strand is a mystery to me, because the wet sands look absolutely golden.
RV parking is allowed on this beach and we have considered staying here, but it’s one of the few places where you have to pay for dry camping so we haven’t done it yet. But it’s really beautiful. Of course, when I'm on a beach, I look for shells. And as usual, everyone indulged me and helped out, and I got a lot of shells to carry back.
Here is my first try at posting a video - this is Gao Gao, effortlessly stripping off the inedible outside of bamboo and munching non-stop; you can see he's an expert at this.
And they also took us to the San Diego Zoo. We haven’t been there since 2002 and boy, has it changed! San Diego Zoo is one of the top Zoos in the nation and here’s one thing we noticed right away; the St. Louis Zoo, which is also a top zoo, is free while the San Diego costs $42 (unless you have a relative with a guest pass, like we did). But it’s non-profit, so all money goes towards the maintenance and expansion of the zoo. And it’s an amazing zoo; their exhibits are created to provide the animals with the best environments possible and are constantly being updated. The wild is the very best place for wild animals, but there are a lot of reasons to have animals in zoos, and I have to say that most of the animals here really seem at ease. For example, the Sun Bear was up in a tree, flat on it’s back, sunbathing and scratching - not the actions of an animal that stressed. The only time we saw animals pacing back and forth was when it was lunch time and they wanted to go into their feeding areas. The Silvered Leaf Monkeys have two adorable little babies, and one of the Takin (which looks sort of like a stocky Wildebeest) has a brand new baby, less than a day old and already standing up behind his mama. None of them exhibited nervous or stressful behavior. Their lions and jaguars are so beautiful and not at all impressed with the tourists, but they weren’t shy around us, either. There are some animals here that I haven’t seen before, such as large Secretary Birds and charming little Meerkats. They have a good assortment of the animals you expect to see - rhinos, camels, giraffes, antelope, elephants, etc, and we learned what you feed a California Condor - a dead rabbit. They also have two really unusual and outstanding exhibits - polar bears and pandas. The polar bears are gorgeous and you can see they are totally at home here. They include a brother and sister who have been here since they were a couple months old, and another polar bear who has been here since she was two. Now they are all grown up, very graceful and frighteningly big. The male is over 10 feet tall and none of that is fat. In the wild their diet would be mostly seal blubber, but in a zoo they don’t expend as many calories (regular meals, no hunting and warmer weather) so they are fed leaner meats. These bears are all muscle and fur and ready for lunch; it was wonderful to be so close to them.
There is also have a big exhibit for their Giant Pandas. No matter what I know to the contrary, they really do look like you could reach out and cuddle them. Right now they have a female and a male. The male is called Gao Gao and he’s known for two things: he is a bamboo-eating machine and he is really good with the ladies. Female pandas are only fertile two days a year, so in both zoos and in the wild it’s hit or miss to make a baby panda. But Gao Gao has gotten it right four years in a row!