I didn't have much say as to when me and my mother would go on our "Wild Encounters" at Zoo Atlanta. Mom gave me a timetable for when we could go. I called the Zoo and asked when we could see the animals up close. I tried for Saturday. Sold out. Sunday. One slot available. So we wound up going for Monday. . . today. Otherwise, we either would have cut out of Atlanta early, or done something else entirely.
I mention this because it was a miserable day. It rained for most of the morning before tapering off. Since we burned the CityPass package yesterday, we had to pay admission today . . . which was half-off, because most of the animals were not outdoors and on exhibit. That included two of the pandas we saw yesterday.
Ah, the pandas. Before heading out, I turned on the panda cam, and we saw the twins playing around with the hammock, while momma Lun Lun munched on bamboo. By the time we got there, the twins were passed out in the same place they were passed out when we saw them yesterday. At least they were on display, though . . . even a sleeping panda can be cute. After seeing a school group go in and out of the space, the folks who plunked down $150 for a "Wild Encounter" gathered. What did that give us? A once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to feed a panda.
No, for real . . . you can feed a panda. You have to jump through a few hoops first . . . like wearing a white lab coat, baggies on your feet and latex gloves. But you get a lecture from a guy named Carvel Bennett. No, he doesn't get discounts at Carvel Ice Cream . . . I asked. He answered all our questions before herding us behind the scenes to a small building. After getting a look at the panda cam control room (where the magic happens!) and a refrigerator full of snacks and specimens, we got to meet Xi Lan, a five-year-old panda whose name means "Atlanta's Joy" in Chinese. Xi Lan was in a cage that looked a little cramped, but the keepers assured us that he was a happy camper . . . probably because he was surrounded by bamboo and not out in the rain.
The experience was a bit surreal for me. One by one, we were given specially-made biscuits to give to Xi Lan through the cage. He would take it in his mouth, but not before munching on his beloved bamboo. It was like feeding a big black-and-white dog. Still, it was worth the price.
Me and Mom wound up going back after lunch to see if the cubs were moving. They weren't. We walked around, eventually visiting the Elephant House, home of Kelly and Tara. The first impression wasn't so great, as one of them wound up peeing. Hard. Then the other one had to drop the deuce to end all deuces. I turned my back to get out, but I heard it hit the floor. That was traumatic.
We wound up wandering the Zoo before heading back to see the elephants. Carvel was there again to guide us, and it turned out we were the only ones to go on the "encounter." It was the same deal as with the pandas . . . lots of talking and facts, then an up-close meet-and-greet. In this case, it was with Kelly. She performed a few tricks for us; nothing too humiliating. Then we got to feel and feed her. I think that people forget that elephants are mammals, because they're pretty hairy. To touch an elephant's hide is to feel a hairy, wrinkly wall. The ear was pretty thick as well, even as it was thin in comparison to the rest of the body. The weird part was the feeding. You see an elephant pick up stuff with its nose all the time, yet it doesn't register when she grips lettuce from your hand. The tip is so flexible, acting like a primitive hand. Once again . . . surreal experience.
There's not much left to talk about today. We wound up going straight back to the hotel and rested up before going to the Hard Rock Café for dinner. We've had enough of Atlanta for one trip. I figured that we didn't want to make things too heavy, so there wouldn't be trips to Civil War and civil rights-minded locations. My mother never got into Gone With The Wind, so no Margaret Mitchell house for us. And there wasn't enough time to do a tour of Turner Field. The Braves open their home season tomorrow against the Mets, while we'll be flying north back home. That's probably for the best . . . I'd be shouting "Really? REALLY?!?" at the first sign of a Tomahawk Chop.
PEDOMETER: 7,083 steps. We wound up taking a cab to and from the zoo (shuttle service in conjunction with the hotel) and another cab to the Hard Rock, since Mom seldom feels 100 percent. Otherwise, I might have topped 10,000 steps. Oh, well.