On the morning of June 25th - Chris' 40th birthday - we woke up to blue skies and a beautiful view of Pittsburgh. We showered, dressed, and got ready to head down to the Three Rivers Restaurant. Before we left the room, I texted my friend Brandon and asked if he could meet us at the restaurant so we could thank him for arranging for such a magnificent room for us...and he could! Just after we were seated, Brandon joined us for a few minutes. We thanked him profusely for our rock-star room, and offered him a taste of Clark hospitality if/when he makes it back to visit State College (he's a PSU alum).
Following breakfast, we ventured up to the Ballroom level of the hotel to check out the new convention space. This space was supposed to be done in time for the 2010 ERAPPA Annual Meeting, but financial difficulties, changes in ownership, and a brand change meant the renovations weren't completed in time. It was nice to finally see "what might have been" and "what could be" for when ERAPPA rotates back to the KAPPA chapter in 2019.
|Good morning, Pittsburgh!|
|A morning view of Heinz Field.|
|A barge heading down the river.|
|The Duquesne Incline.|
|I saw this red car rear-end this truck while I was looking out the window.|
|The grand staircase "that should have been" in 2010.|
|New convention space on the Ballroom level. I love the integrated screen.|
|Oh, King's Terrace...such fond memories!|
(This was our Host Committee "War Room" in 2010.)
When we got back up to the room, we packed our bag and I called the valet for Scooby. We checked out of the hotel and just as we walked out, the valet pulled up with our car. I consulted with my printed directions to the Zoo (Chris still didn't know where we were going, so I couldn't ask him to navigate), and we were off!
|So many birthday boys!|
It only took about 20 minutes to get to the Zoo. When we pulled in, I turned to Chris and said, "Surprise! You said you didn't want a birthday party because you 'hate people' so I thought we'd spend your birthday with animals instead!" He laughed. I asked him if he was, in fact, surprised and he admitted that he suspected that we might be headed to the Zoo. I asked, "How?!? How did you suspect that?!? I never said anything the whole time!" He replied, "We've been together 20 years...I'm inside your head!" And then we both laughed because we knew it was true.
Once we parked, we sprayed on sunscreen, stashed small bottles of water in our pockets, and made our way to the front gates.
|The Zoo's pollinators' garden.|
|Checking out the map to see what the Zoo has to offer.|
|To reach the main part of the Zoo, you have to ascend this very long and VERY STEEP escalator.|
|Welcome, birthday boy!|
|A nice picture together!|
I guess from this point forward, I'll tell the story through the captions of the pictures for the most part. I took TONS of pictures. I hope you're ready!!!
|Amur Tiger cools off.|
|Lazy Amur Tiger|
|Another view of the Amur Tiger.|
|These guys (and gals) were LOUD!|
|Stretch those wings!|
|Momma Black Rhinoceros|
|And baby Black Rhinoceros, wallowing in the mud.|
|Momma and baby|
|How I measure up to the height of a Rhinoceros.|
|And how Chris measures up.|
|All that we managed to see of the African Lions...|
In the African Savannah area of the Zoo, we came across the highlight of our visit - the African Elephants! When we were at the Erie Zoo last summer (I swear that blog post is still coming!!!), while we thoroughly enjoyed our visit, Chris was disappointed that they didn't have an elephant. He said, "Real zoos have elephants." So he was very excited to see the African Elephants at the Pittsburgh Zoo.
|Heading to the African Elephant reserve.|
|The birthday boy is excited!!!|
|What's an elephant exhibit without a little dung?!?|
|At first we thought, "Here's hoping this isn't the only view we get of them!"|
|And then the little baby headed over to get some hay.|
|And brought it back to eat it.|
|Momma elephant looked on...|
|...and then baby joined her.|
|Someone was very excited about his hay!|
|The elephants were quite active while we watched them.|
|When they headed down to the water, we had a front row view!|
|Trudging through the mud to get to the water.|
|Time to cool off!|
|More splashing and spraying.|
|I'm sure that water felt really good on such a hot, humid day!|
|Playtime is over.|
|Everybody out of the water!|
|Yay! The birthday boy saw elephants!|
|Fun with photos!|
|More fun with photos!|
|This exhibit shows just how much food an elephant eats each day.|
|Measuring up against elephants.|
|Why am I so short?|
|Inside the Elephant "House."|
|My foot compared to an elephant's footprint.|
|Hmph. Who knew?!?|
|I didn't realize elephants walk around on their tippy toes!|
|Chris checks out an elephant jaw.|
|Those are some interesting teeth!|
Just past the elephant exhibit, we spotted something that looked very familiar...
|Could it be?!?|
Just kidding...obviously those were Masai Giraffes! But boy howdy, those long necks really did remind us of our least favorite Boston Bruin!!!
We left the African Savannah and headed into the Tropical Forest.
|Time for primates!|
|Welcome to the jungle!|
|Love these little guys!|
|South American primates ahead...|
|Black Howler Monkeys - the black one is a male; the straw-colored one is a female.|
|White-cheeked Gibbons - again, the black one is the male and the white one is the female.|
|Black and White Colobus Monkey|
|More Black and White Colobus Monkeys...love the one on the right just chillin'.|
|A snoozy Western Lowland Gorilla.|
|Zoo techs examine a gorilla baby.|
The bear exhibit is getting rehabbed at the Zoo, so the only bears they currently have on display are North American Black Bears.
|This one was super lazy!|
|This is all that we got to see of this bear!|
Following the Black Bear, it was time for the PPG Aquarium! I don't profess to know all the different fish, so not every Aquarium photo will be captioned!
|PPG Aquarium - Diversity of Water|
|Very cool otter statue at the entrance to the Aquarium.|
|Chris checks out the outside Aquarium exhibits.|
|The birthday boy and a puffer fish.|
|This puffer was cute!|
|And this one was spiky!|
|Looking down from the top level of the Aquarium.|
|Whoa! Pittsburgh Penguins!!!|
|Jellyfish by green light...|
|...and by blue light.|
|It's got a head like a horse, a tail like a monkey, and it eats like this...SLURP!|
|Fish tank selfie!|
Outside of the Aquarium, we walked to the Water's Edge exhibit - home of the polar bear, sea lions, sharks, and otters.
|Whoa...that's a lot of teeth!!!|
|Another sea lion|
After the Water's Edge exhibit, we made our way to Kids' Kingdom, which features animals native to Pennsylvania, a petting zoo, small mammals, reptiles, "and much more."
|Sure...it looks cute now...but when it's spraying your dog, it's not so cool.|
|These deer were in an open, walk-through exhibit.|
|This little guy was tough to photograph because he was so quick!|
|He never stopped moving!|
|Unlike these American Beavers, which just sat there like bumps on a log...|
we'll call them "Buddha Beavers!"
The next area of Kids' Kingdom was an open, walk-through exhibit of Eastern Grey Kangaroos.
|These guys were SUPER lazy. In their defense, it was close to 90 degrees.|
|Look at his cute little front paws!|
The last few exhibits in the Kids' Kingdom were pretty random:
|Chris rode a tortoise.|
|I just sat on it.|
|Miniature Mediterranean Donkeys|
Our last adventure at the Zoo was the Time Travelers' Express Train.
|The narrative and signs on the train ride tell the history of the Pittsburgh Zoo, |
starting with the Highland Park Zoo over 100 years ago.
|Here comes the train!|
|It's been a long, hot day...time for a cool train ride!|
|Chris is 40 now...I guess this Grumpy Old Man face is apropos! LOL!|
|Off we go!|
|And with that, our Pittsburgh Zoo and PPG Aquarium adventure came to an end.|
We toured the Zoo in four hours without stopping for lunch. Honestly, it was too hot to eat! We did snag Icees on our way out of the Zoo to cool off. We got on the road and headed for home. We stopped at the Sheetz in New Alexandria for a bathroom break, drinks, and a snack. I'd originally thought we might stop for dinner in Altoona at El Campesino - a Mexican restaurant that we've been wanting to try. But we reached Altoona at 4 PM. I mean, Chris is forty now, but he's not quite ready to start eating dinner that early yet! So we continued up to State College and went to Rey Azteca instead (at 4:45...LOL!). Our food didn't arrive until after 5 PM, so it didn't seem that early. Plus we knew we had cake and ice cream to look forward to later in the evening, so an early dinner wasn't such a bad thing.
In keeping with the Pittsburgh and Zoo theme, I special ordered an 1/8th sheet cake from Wegmans with black and gold trim and an elephant!
Since Chris didn't want a party (despite my best efforts at convincing him), I decided to throw him a "postal party" - inviting everyone that I would have asked to attend his party to instead send him a birthday card. Here's the birthday boy with his nearly 20 birthday cards!
|Check out all of his cards!!!|
And that wraps up the tale of Chris' 40th birthday! It was a great little adventure! Despite Chris suspecting that we were going to the Zoo, I did manage to surprise him with the night away, so I'm calling the whole thing a huge success!!!