The map of the Louisville Zoo. ICEEs for everyone!
The day was simply too splendid for classes, thought Alice. “In my world, there would be no classes,” said Alice to Dinah. “Everything would be nonsense.” (Carroll, Adaptation by Bazaldua, pg. 5)
After three and a half long hours, Gamma and the children arrived at their destination. “Oh, the zoo, the zoo, no time to be blue,” exclaimed Gamma. “We’re here!” The children nor Gamma could contain themselves. Quickly, the seatbelts unbuckled. Gamma and the Grands darted to their feet and out of their seats. All were ready to see the animals at the Louisville Zoo.
Most of the conversations in the car revolved around the must-see animals. The giraffes were top of the list with their spotted coats and considerably long necks. Second to the giraffes were the monkeys. The third must-see was the zebras.
First things first, bathroom breaks and cool drinks. Does it sound like nonsense; to take a potty break and then refill the tank? The day was simply too splendid to make sense.
After buying the tickets and walking hurriedly through the zoo’s gates, straight ahead was an oasis. It was the largest selection of ICEEs ever compiled.
There were endless flavors: Banana, Orange, Blue Raspberry, Bubble Gum, Cherry, Cherry-Lime, Cola, Cotton Candy, Flamingo, Lemonade, Grape, Green Apple, Igua-Nana, Llama-Ade, Mango, Peach, Orange Cream, Mixed Berry, Mermaid, Penguin-Melon, Pina Colada, Pina Kuala, Pink Watermelon, Shark Bait, Strawberry, Strawberry Lemonade, Watermelon, and White Cherry. It was scorching hot outside and temperatures were expected to peak at around 100. An ICEE was required.
Each child chose their flavors; Bubba Blue Raspberry, Sis mixed it up with Banana, Blue Raspberry, & Bubble Gum, and Baby Brother had traditional Cherry (mom’s favorite).
As the children sipped their ICEES by the zoo sign, Gamma snapped a picture. She thought it clever to have a photo of the map should things go sideways. Armed with cool drinks, Gamma and the Grands started down the zoo path. After a quick left, there HE was; Cottontail Bunny. Standing as still as a statue. He didn’t scurry away as the White Rabbit did from Alice. Cottontail Bunny was ready and willing to be their guide.
Like Alice’s fascination with the White Rabbit—Cottontail Bunny drew intrigue from the children. He hopped within inches of their feet. He wasn’t scared. He didn’t even flinch. His little body, with the strong, hind legs easily kept up with the Grands—No matter that he was 25 times smaller. The extraordinary journey through the zoo had begun.
Their first stop was the Conservation Carousel. It’s a magical ride with 24 wooden horses and 24 wooden animals of all kinds, many endangered. The delightful music and the array of animals rising and falling to the rhythm of the carousel were fairy-tale-like. The carousel is over a century old and arrived at the zoo in 2000. It was a magical place to begin our journey down the zoo path with Cottontail Bunny.
There are 24 horses and 24 additional hand-carved animals on this century-old carousel.
Hippity-hop, Hippity-hop, quickly arriving at our next stop. Cottontail Bunny introduced Gam and the Grands to the rhinoceros. The most distinctive feature of the rhinoceros was the large horn on its snout. The horn is made solely of keratin. When parents say, ‘Eat your carrots or veggies’, it’s not only for the beta-carotene to help you see better but for the keratin to strengthen your hair, skin, and nails. All animals have keratin in their nails, hooves, horns, and hair. Keratin helps the rhino develop a thick skin that acts as a protective plating. Bubba noticed the mud-coating all over the rhino's body. Though they have tough skin, rhinos may still get sunburned or get bit by mosquitos. So, they roll in the mud. Who knew?
The rhinoceros horn is made of 100% Keratin.
“Look,” shouted Sis, “It’s the giraffe house.” The Grands were very excited and ran swiftly inside the glass building. Once inside, “Shew-wee,” said Bubba. The giraffe house was stinky but the giraffes themselves; were spectacular. There were two inside the building. Both were tall. One was taller. Baby Brother was in ‘awe’ at the sight of the long-necked creatures. He reached his hand to the sky to touch the elegant animal. He was only a tiny bit too short.
The giraffe house at the zoo.
Cottontail Bunny encouraged Gam and the Grands to pitstop at the outdoor garden. Inside were hundreds of native Kentucky butterflies thriving within the ecosystem. The sanctuary was swarming with tiny insects. “Who are you?” asked the smoke-blowing caterpillar while awaiting Alice’s response. To answer the question, she blew the smoke away from her face and consequently blew the clothes off of the caterpillar. Alice looked around to see what happened, and the caterpillar had turned into a butterfly (Carroll, Adaptation by Bazaldua).
Most enthralled by the beauty of the butterflies was Gamma’s middle grandchild. He was very much interested in petting the graceful insects. Bubba didn’t want any part of petting goats, donkeys, or other animals inside the petting zoo. His ideal petting zoo was the butterfly sanctuary. He stuck his finger to the butterfly and gently stroked its wings. He was petting a butterfly.
The butterfly sanctuary is home to 100s of native Kentucky species.
“It’s hot,” sighed Gamma. “We need to cool down.” Baby Brother’s fair skin was turning a bright shade of pink. Cottontail Bunny knew what to do. He led the crew up one hill and down another— and to everyone’s surprise, an ice cream stand materialized. Gamma motioned everyone over to the concessions and placed an order.
The only flavor was vanilla. No one minded. It was a creation of pure genius; coolness from the ice and sweetness from the cream. After a few bites melted on Baby Brother's tongue, and slid down his throat and into his belly, the snow-white color of his skin reappeared. Heat exhaustion averted.
Vanilla ice cream on a hot, hot day at the zoo.
The African Outpost was simply amazing. Capturing the Grand’s attention almost immediately was the African elephant. By far, the largest land mammal in the world and the largest of all three elephant species. Adult elephants can measure the same size as an in-ground swimming pool. The average weight is 11 tons—the equivalent of five midsize cars. The elephant in the room was the type of food elephants eat. They eat mostly foliage. Gamma couldn’t imagine getting that big and wide by being a vegetarian.
Other animals of note in the grasslands included male and female lions, hippopotamus, giant tortoises, cheetahs, and zebras. The black-and-white striped horse was on the children's must-see list. The only problem was the viewing distance. The zebras gathered at the back of the enclosure making it difficult to see—time to go. Cottontail Bunny prodded the children to move along. There was so much more to see.
The African Elephant is the largest of three species.
Around the corner was thick vegetation. Gamma and the Grands stepped further and further into the brush. It was cool and damp within the confines of the sugar cane and jungle-like trees and plants. The sunlight vanished—so did the sweltering temps. It’s time for a photo-op. Cottontail Bunny hid in between the sugar cane as other guests approached. After a short break, the journey continued.
A cool jungle path led to sugar cane.
“I told you I’d find the monkeys,’ Sis proudly exclaimed. She did indeed. And not just monkeys but gorillas. The most impressive of the gorillas was the ‘silverback.’ Silverbacks earn their stripe after reaching the age of 12. They are the leaders of the gorilla packs and the strongest primates in Africa. One of the larger gorillas in the park enjoyed a whole lettuce head and fruit.
The sliver streak on the gorilla’s back appears after 12 years of age.
To follow the White Rabbit, Alice needed to shrink to fit through the keyhole. She followed the advice of the Doorknob and drank the ‘Drink Me’ potion. After drinking it, she fell into the ‘Drink Me’ bottle and sailed on the Vale of Tears through the keyhole. Alice landed on the beach where Dodo commandeered other fish and birds to dance (Carroll, Adaptation by Bazaldua, pg 13). The idea was to air-dry. Unfortunately, the waves kept crashing to shore and getting them wet.
After seeing all there was to see at the African Outpost, it was time to explore Glacier Run. Cottontail Bunny led the crew down a steep hill. At the bottom were misters. Like the waves of an ocean lapping on the beach, the purpose of the mister was to get zoo guests wet. Unlike the birds and the fish on the beach in Alice’s Wonderland, Gamma and the children wanted to get wet. The mist was cool and damp on their skin—a welcomed relief.
Glacier Run was home to the Polar Bear, Grizzly Bear, Seals, and Sea Lions. Bubba wasn’t happy to venture into Glacier Run. Bears were scary with big paws, sharp teeth, and giant ‘roars.’ Gamma assured him they were safe. The bears were inside their very secure enclosures.
Gam and the Grands advanced toward the Grizzly Bear. His enclosure was the largest, or so it seemed. He had gigantic rocks to climb, waterfalls to bathe in, and caves to take shelter. The walls between the guests and the animals are strong and tall. Cottontail Bunny stayed behind as the crew approached the bear. A tasty snack he would be, if not careful. The Grizzly was busy doing grizzly things and paid no attention to the zoo guests.
Polar Bears are roughly the weight of ten men.
The next stop along the zoo trail was home to the Polar Bear. The snowy white bears are marine mammals and can weigh as much as ten men. The furry creatures spend much of their life hunting for prey though only having a success rate for ‘the hunt’ of less than 2%. Their senses are keen. They can smell prey over a mile-and-a-half away.
There was only one Polar Bear at the Louisville Zoo. He was in a glass cage with little to do other than stand or sit. At first, he stood on the second tier of a two-tiered cage. The space was encased in glass, consisting of concrete floors, a shoot or slide, and an old Glacier Run Wilderness Tour truck. The bear appeared confused and discontent. All three Grands: Sis, Bubba, and Baby Brother watched in amazement.
Polar Bears are the largest arctic mammals.
Sis wanted to have a closer look at the fuzzy, white bear. With her face pressed against the glass, she watched and waited to observe his next move. Sis was curious about the bear. At the beginning of Alice’s Wonderland, Alice became curious about the hole the White Rabbit disappeared in. As she peeked down through the rabbit hole, she said, “Curiosity often leads to trouble” (Carroll, Adaptation by Bazaldua, pg. 7).
The enclosure’s clear glass looked like it was treated with a layer of metallic oxide. This can create an opaque effect that blocks out images on the other side of the glass. You can see through it, but the smokiness makes it more difficult.
As the crowd gathered around the foggy glass, Sis continued to peer through, face to hands and hands to the glass. Slowly, the bear walked down the three steps that connected one floor to the next. His head turned side-to-side and sniffed the air as if searching for prey. Suddenly, the bear spotted Sis and made a ferocious sneer, lunging at the glass window.
Everyone gasped. Sis jumped back in disbelief. All were shocked. Sis didn’t know whether to cry, run, or hide. It was both scary and embarrassing. The unexpected pounce was terrifying. It was an embarrassment because the crowd stared in silence. Sis buried her head in Gamma’s side and softly cried. After a few minutes, the excitement was over. Sis’ apprehension continued as we pushed forward to the next attraction.
After visiting the sea lions, Cottontail Bunny reappeared. Had Sis made the bear mad by peering through the glass? Did the bear spot Cottontail Bunny on the path? Could that be the reason for the lunge? In Alice’s Wonderland, the Cheshire Cat angered the Queen. He tripped her up, causing a fall that pulled her skirt over her head. Never matter—it wasn’t the Mad Hatter.
The crew climbed up the hill, getting further away from Glacier Run. ‘Birds of a feather stick together’ as do Gamma and the Grands.
The Flamingos were next on the zoo path—those pretty, pink birds with skinny legs and fluffy feathers. Everybody loves pink flamingos. There were at least 100 of these exotic birds at the zoo. Alice and the Queen played a game of croquet with flamingos. The birds were the croquet mallets; the hedgehogs the ball. More nonsense.
Pink flamingos eat algae, vegetation, and animals that are in shallow waters.
Cottontail Bunny enjoyed seeing the flamingos. He encouraged Gam and the Grands to persist along the zoo’s path. What’s that sound? It's laughing children heard above all other noises. They had reached Splash Park. It was near the end of the zoo trail.
Splash Park was a nautical-themed water park. There was a climbable fishing boat, dump buckets, small water slides, and fountains of water poking through the concrete floor. It could be said—the highlight of the day. Gamma and the Grands were soaked in sweat and ready to get wet.
Cottontail Bunny watched Gamma open the gate to Splash Park. As the children stepped through the human enclosure, they waved to their new friend. Cottontail Bunny had stayed beside Gamma and the Grands the entire adventure. For today, it was time to say goodbye. Cottontail Bunny had to return to the forest. The children whispered, ‘Until next time,’ and down the zoo path hopped Cottontail Bunny.
Bubba and Baby Brother enjoying Splash Park.
Sis is running the good race at Splash Park.
It’s the end of the day
Time to make our way
Back to the car
It’s not that far
Only one more hill
Then we can be still
Resting in our seat
And off our feet
Thinking about the zoo trail
And our new friend, Cottontail
The day was simply too splendid for nonsense.
In the book Disney Alice in Wonderland, Especially for Angela, Adapted by Barbara Bazaldua, 2017 Disney Enterprises, Inc. Based on Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland.