Sunday, December 30, 2012

Pass the apples to the Rhino!!

I hope everyone had a great Christmas Holiday! I got behind with posts because of Christmas and family visits. But, I wanted to get right back in and get to where we left off a few weeks ago.

 After we had our time with the lions, we found our way back to the park entry walkway. It was a little confusing to find the correct path because the park is located on a hill with winding pathways and many trees.

We arrived at the caravan check-in desk and found the crew members to be very nice. They were all enthusiastic and eager to take us on our trip. The guides were trying their best to get the group excited about seeing giraffes and rhinos. Some of the other visitors seemed so serious and quiet. We had a group from Japan that were very excited. Once the crew loaded us in the truck, everyone started to show a little more enthusiasm.

Ian, our guide, was ready to handle all questions that we would throw at him.  We sat on benches, in the flatbed of the truck that had a canopy to shade. Lucky for him it was a cool day with a breeze because he was not covered at all.

We came upon the animals quickly. As shown in the photos, the park's exhibits stretch far across the land, almost like a savannah. One is able to see a great number of animals all at once. At first glance the giraffes, rhinos, steer type bulls, and deer looking animals are found. We headed straight to the rhinos.

Umm...poop pile is behind Eric lol

We just pulled right along side these grey beasts and I had to wonder if we were annoying them a bit. Ian explained their mating habits and pooping habits. As a matter of fact, one pooped right in front of us. Imagine that! We are on the back of a truck, minding our business, and this rhino comes and relieves himself! It was like something out of the film Bridesmaids! Well, it was nice to see he felt comfortable enough with us to do so.

We then moved on to what we had all been waiting for, feeding giraffes. They were up on a hill and all eating together. Our guide said that although they were eating, they would still come over for a visit. Ian also mentioned that the only reason they would come to say Hello is the food we had. We were also instructed to never pet the animal. They are not like dogs and aren't looking for affection from us. He also added that if you do touch them, one might use its head to hit you. Have fun!!!

The visible keychain is available at

Let me just say up front that people can be dumb. And, it can be fun to watch stupidity in action, when adults are the ones committing the crime. After we received a few more instructions, we started to go around the group and feed the giraffes acacia leaves. "Away from your face, and keep arms stretched out when possible," Ian told us. Of course people have their hands right at their own faces and are getting slobber on them form the giraffes. Then a few others are trying to pet the animal and Ian has to cry out to not do that. Eric and I just gave a look to one another that asked ourselves, "Why are they doing this?" To be fair I need to add that the giraffes do not wait until you are ready. As the leaf is getting handed to you by the guide they are already going in for it.

I must add there was this lady with us that was just an odd ball. Before the tour began we were asked what we want to see on the tour. Well she was so excited to see giraffes, her "Favorite animal", she added. When it came time to feed them she became impaired in motor movements. She could barely look at them and panicked. Again, Eric and I gave each other one of those looks.

The patterns are interesting, aren't they?
Although we saw other types of species while standing in the back of that truck, I was surprised we were able to feel a rhino. We had seen some rhinos earlier and when we left them, we figured that was it. But, toward the end of the tour the sliced, sweet smelling apples under my seat got their use. This was good because at this point I was so hungry, I was about to eat them myself.

This one was located away from the others we had seen earlier. He was with a different group and held in the Asian zone. Feeding the rhino was easier than I thought. All one had to do is walk over and toss it in his mouth. People were glad that they were able to pet him near his ears. I wish I knew this before I fed him because then I would have joined in that.

Even though this was a lot of fun, Eric and I were so hungry. Having been up around 7 AM, we were also getting tired. Feeding the rhino had been our last stop. Now we just enjoyed the scenery as we headed back to the loading/drop off area.

Once getting back to that station we were gladly surprised to see that our friend Kevin was suited up for a tour. There was a schedule change and he was about to drive a tour group out to where we just had been. He had been indoors most of the day so he looked forward to this.

Kevin had to get going, but we thanked him for the great time we had and hopefully he reads this to hear the details of the trip.

Yes indeed, Eric is sticking his tongue out.

Monday, December 17, 2012

Hollywood does Grinchmas

Before heading back on Safari, I was inspired to share our latest trip!........."Simply having a wonderful Grinchmas time " was today's mantra.  Eric and I hadn't been to Universal Studios during Christmas so we gave it a shot. To add to the cheer, our friends Ricky and Miley joined in the winter event.

It was a cold afternoon when we arrived. We were caught in a light, misty drizzle that didn't keep us or anyone else away. But of course the day I wear my glasses, the lenses were full of water! It was a surprise to find that on rainy days, the park gives out free hot chocolate in heated tents!!! What service!!

Although the walkways were full of visitors, we were glad they weren't in the queues. Even the line for food was a breeze. We had decided to eat and headed to Mel's Diner. Great burgers were devoured! But, Miley was the odd woman out with her Chilli Cheese fries. We had some great service with our food. A busser even offered to help a nearby table with directions to their next destination, and they didn't have to ask!

First attraction up was The Studio Tram Tour. We had heard that the WhoVille scene had added characters and dancers for Grinchmas. Miley is a former tram tour hostess and she asked a former coworker which guide available would give the best spiel. A guy named Jay was the recommended tram host. He performed some fun voices and used his personality to give a better experience. Since we were at the front of the tram with him, he also had some funny side comments.
Jay, our fearless tram host

Although Jay gave an above average performance, we were a underwhelmed at the WhoVille scene. It was still drizzling, so the Whovians were only standing and waving. Lame! The host, Jay, added that they do a cool little song n dance, but the rain has stopped them. Knowing there would be a performance, you can imagine our surprise when the tram didn't stop and kept moving!

So basically we rode the whole tour for nothing?? All was not lost because it was fun for Miley to experience Kimg Kong for the first time. She hadn't worked there in a few years so even the Jimmy Fallon supplemental video is new to her. Universal is a working studio, so there is usually a slight variance in one's tram experience as they avoid film shoots. We missed Desperate Housewives' Wisteria Lane because of an insurance commercial.

To prove how short the lines were, we waited about 8 minutes for Transformers. That was also a first ride for Miley and she loved it! Who wouldn't, except for people prone to motion sickness? Eric would really like to see a soundtrack added to that attraction. The sensations of movement and technology are fascinating, but it lacks that little boost music would give.

The queue for The Mummy coaster was a "walk-on"! Although a fun coaster, it wasn't as exciting without the sound effects. For some reason they were never switched on for us. The attraction was slightly awkward because it was obvious something was missing. Our group did have a slight giggle as the unenthusiastic unload hostess sipped on a beverage. Where was the clapping???

So far we have Whovians that only wave hello, no sound effects on The Mummy, and a bored worker drinking what I hope was water. But, the four of us were still having a fun time in the cold.

We ventured into the future by visiting the Cyberdyne presentation at Terminator 3D.  But, according to Terminator 2's timeline, aren't we past what Sara Connor calls "Judgement Day"? Shouldn't the Terminators have taken over the country by now? Oh well.

Neither of us had seen the 3D/Live Action show a while. With rumors that a Despicable Me film will replace it, we had to stop by. I love the T2 film so I was definitely into the show. Motorcycles driving into and out of the screen, live actors, explosions, hydraulic theater seats, and CO2 enveloping the audience is great fun! There is a section in the middle that drags a bit, but I'm forgiving.  I'll miss the show once its gone.

During the show "load in"

It was now time for the icing on the cake, the Tree Lighting Ceremony. The show is held in the former Wild West arena. It was now an icy blue winter scene that surrounds a whimsically shaped, 60 foot tall tree. I don't really recall the film "The Grinch" all that much. I am more of a fan of the vintage cartoon. The show drew from both sources as they used the original music from the Christmas special. I looked like a nerd filming with my iPhone and snapping photos with my camera. Below you can see the video I shot.

Once the Whovians started singing the song 'Welcome Christmas" I got a little giddy and Eric was mumbling the lyrics. The show's writing was a little hard to swallow, but that song really brought out the feeling of Christmas. The show's climax ended with a lighting of the entire theater, the tree, and a snowfall. It was a nice treat for this wintery day. Eric and I then decided to get a little scared at the House of Horrors!

As noted in a previous post, I've always been a fan of Halloween and horror. It's great that Universal has a haunted maze filled with their classic characters such as Wolfman, Dracula, Chucky, and Norman Bates. The facility is a former Marvel themed restaurant and storage area that was renovated approximately 10-15 years ago. There are elaborate, eerie sets that fill up the two level space.


It's not really all that scary, but some people really do get frightened. I love whenever the film Psycho is represented! As the "Shower Scene" music plays, one must walk close by a creepy figure of Norman's mother sitting in a chair. We never knows if it's merely a figure or if she will jump out at you. This time she merely sat there (guess the performer was at lunch or a call sick).

To our surprise it was nearly 9 PM and the park would be closing soon. It was evident that the marketing campaign for Grinchmas had helped to keep in the crowds. To be honest I almost fell for the holiday marketing and bought a silly Grinch themed hat. Ricky did make a purchase but his hat was definitely more reasonable. I wonder who's Christmas tree will go missing tonight....blame Ricky!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Run for your lives!'s a.....Giraffe???

Ah the beauty of Southern California! Why you ask? Everything is about an hour away and so convenient. I know I have mentioned this before, but it really is a great perk. Luckily another attraction that is worth visiting is near us, The Safari Park. If one  has a clear road ahead, it's about an hour away, south of Orange County. It's a nice drive down the 5 freeway as you pass the nuclear plant San Onofre (looks like boobs, heehee) and most importantly the Pacific Ocean. Just make sure you don't stare at the ocean for too long. It is very tempting to direct your gaze off that road.

I'll admit there is a point where the second travelled freeway ends, the 78, and you wonder if a wrong road was taken. The land dedicated to the park is secluded in the hills near the city Escondido. When hope is almost lost, you come upon the greenery that surrounds The Safari Park signage. For those that don't carry cash, like myself, the toll booths for parking do accept cards. That was a relief! It was also a grand surprise that Eric and I were able to park so close to the main entrance. Last year we parked in a land far far away, on a dirt lot. And, I was pleased to be reminded that they pipe music into the parking lot! Nice touch!
No Howard here.

We know people in high places at this park so we had the red carpet rolled out for us! For the sake of the animals, I hope that carpet was made from sustainable products. On that Imaginary red carpet, at the park entrance, we met our great pal Kevin. Thanks to his employment as a lion tamer, we were able to waltz through the front turnstile, in style. (He's not really a lion tamer but we can pretend)

It was a relief to see that it felt as though we had the park to ourselves. I think all must be Christmas shopping or in school. Walkways were clear. I could hear music from the carousel (which I didn't notice at all the last visit). I'm sure you all get the picture.

We then set out to find this odd looking bird that resembles Howard the Duck. If you are clueless as to who that is..... First, pat yourself on the back for never having to see that film....Second, you might just be too young. (I've never actually seen the film, but I have seen clips of it) Anyway.......Kevin, Eric, and I gave up our search quickly after a few minutes of strolling around what I will call "The Bird Pond". We were ready to see some gorillas.
Left : Grandmother Gorilla, 57 years. Center : Alpha 
Awww, the baby. 1.5 years old

Last November we saw the youngest gorilla at a few months old. Well we were told he was now about a year and a half. It took some patience, but he finally emerged from the cave where he was probably resting. Watching him run around was awesome! By watching him create solutions to get what he wanted, it showcased how smart the gorillas are. The leader of the pack, the male, was very calm as he kept watch. When it was time to be fed, he was fed first and the others joined. I should mention that the eldest gorilla (grandmother) was born in 1957! That's very impressive!

Something else that really caught my eye are the serene locations that are within the park. There is a winding trail that takes you through what is a huge garden and forest. It's quite nice to look at, so I added a panoramic view. And, in that area we came across some interesting animals such as Warthogs, these deer looking things, and a few exotic birds. As peaceful as all that is, the main attraction for the park are the safari trams or caravan tours. Kevin set us up for a caravan tour and he headed back to the offices. Before going to check in for the ride, Eric and I stopped by the mighty lions.

It was still early, around 10 AM, so the lions were active. Well, they were as active as they were going to be that day. Although only our second trip to this park as a couple, both times we have had great views of the lions and lionesses. When one visits Animal Kingdom in Florida, it is "hit or miss" with the lions. As you can see, we had a very close encounter. He really was staring us right in the face and it was a little creepy.

As mentioned, Eric and I were heading to the caravan tour. That is going to be quite the addition to the blog. It's full of many more animals and feedings! It's best if that is left for part two of this post. (Keep the few of you reading this, wanting more) Have you been to this park? And, have you also been to Animal Kingdom? Thoughts on either??? Leave some comments because I'd like to hear your thoughts. (or maybe you hate zoos altogether?)

I'll end with this cool shot of a bat flapping his wings, which of course gives us an upside down BATMAN signal!

The Joker better start running!