Ohio wild life

Trumpeter swans

Operation Bandicoot, Day 11, July 20.

Our final stop for this road trip was the famous Columbus Zoo, in Columbus, Ohio. This is one of the better zoos in North America, and may be best known for being the home base of Jack Hanna, host of the syndicated television show Jack Hannah’s Wild Countdown. This zoo is located in Powell, Ohio, just a short drive from Dublin. We managed to get an early start this time, and arrived at the zoo around 9:30AM.

As with other galleries, I’m only scratching the surface of this great zoo. But I think I managed to get a good sample of the menagerie of animals this place has.

Pronghorn antelope



Bald eagles

Polar bear

Arctic fox

In hindsight, it was interesting to see so many cold weather creatures that day, given that it was hot as hell!

African lion

Spotted hyena


Wildebeest, Thomson’s gazelles, and some other savanna creatures that I can’t make out.

Giraffe. There are actually two species of giraffe, and this zoo has both. I can’t tell which one I have here.

Vervet monkey

Common (savannah) Warthogs

Malaysian giant fruit bat, also known as the flying fox.

Red panda, one of my favorites animals.

Pallas’s cat

Markhor antelope. Dang, these guys have presence!

Bengal (Indian) tiger

Amur (Siberian) tiger

Caitlin posing on a live-size bronze statue of an Amur tiger. It’s not until you see one of these statues that you realize just how big a tiger can be!

I think this is an Eastern Hellbender, a type of giant North American salamander. I thought it’s face reminded me of Toothless.

Giant Galapagos tortoise

Bonobo. This is one of the few zoos that has these elusive – and endangered – great apes in captivity. They generally don’t do well in captivity, but this zoo has managed to keep several, and even has a breeding program.

Red River hogs

Mandrills, both an adult and a baby. It was hard to get a picture of these guys.

Okapi, another creature not often seen in zoos. These relatives of the giraffe are highly endangered because of habitat loss.

A camera-shy orangutan.

Caitlin and I posing with a bronze statue of a lowland gorilla.

Komodo dragon

Red kangaroo. There is a small section of the zoo where the kangaroos and the humans are in the same space. Under the right circumstances, you could probably touch the creatures! Though I’m not sure I would recommend doing that, given their frequently bad temper.

Koala, also camera shy.

Florida manatee

Ridley’s sea turtle

Michael and Caitlin posing with a bronze statue of a manatee, the final photo of the trip.

This zoo is amazing. I strongly recommend it, though I’m not sure July was the best time to go. It was very hot and the humidity was oppressive. When we were finished, we limped our way to a shopping mall to have some dinner. The mall also had a play area where Caitlin and Michael were able to burn off some of their remaining energy.

I do remember deciding, however, that the next time we travel during the summer, I would try to find hotels with swimming pools.

Day 12, July 21.
We were also so tired that we slept very well the previous night. Even Michael went to sleep early. We left Dublin around 9am and started for home. We had considered making a couple of photo stops along the way, but never did. Truth be told, we were now all so tired that we weren’t in the mood for much of anything. We almost stopped for dinner at a pizza place we like in Front Royal, but since Michael was asleep, and none of us were very interested, we passed on that. We arrived home a little before 7pm. Recall again that the drive over the Appalachian ridge is perhaps the worst part of this entire route. We all went to bed early, and I had a lot of trouble getting out of bed for work the next day.

And with that, Operation Bandicoot, a highly successful family road trip, came to a peaceful conclusion.

I’m already jotting down ideas for the next family road trip.

  • Operation Bandicoot
  • Buried roots


    Operation Bandicoot: Day 1, July 10

    We left home at 1:30pm on Friday, July 10. Our destination for the night was Zanesville, Ohio. We figured this was as far as we could reasonably expect to go on half a day’s travel. In terms of travel conditions, this first leg of the trip was perhaps the worst, as there is no easy way to get through the Appalachian mountains. The biggest problem we had were patches of construction, where traffic was painfully slow. The second biggest problem we had was at the hotel that night: Michael refused to go to sleep! As a result, we didn’t get an early start the next day, which we had hoped to do. Oh well.

    Day 2: July 11

    We left Zanesville around 10:00am, and started for the Dayton area, where we had two stops planned. The first was the historic Woodland Cemetery and Arboretium, where two members of my family are buried. This wasn’t exactly a cheerful stop, but it was one I felt compelled to make.


    The first stop was my paternal grandmother, Barbara. I’ll be perfectly honest: I had mixed feelings about this. I didn’t know her well, and what I did know about her wasn’t all good. She was an easily disturbed woman who didn’t treat my father and uncle at all well, and her perspective on many things was… skewed. In fact, she was known to completely re-write history here and there. It would be pretty fair to say that she was a mess, and the effects of her behavior can still be felt in various ways. I’m trying, as best as I can, to put this in perspective, and leave it in the past where it belongs. She didn’t have much peace during life. Perhaps she has some now.


    Our second stop was my aunt Mary Pat, who passed away last October. In contrast, I have many good memories of my aunt Mary Pat, though I’ll admit she was often hard to understand. For a while, when I was young, she nicknamed me Bunny Foo Foo, because I sang it for her once, and apparently it cracked her up. I hope she’s getting a good rest.


    Our third stop wasn’t family, but historical: Orville and Wilbur Wright, inventors of the airplane. These two brothers had a bicycle shop in Dayton, and there they developed what would become the first functioning fixed-wing aircraft. History has told this story fairly well, so I won’t rehash it here. The two brothers and one of their sisters are buried in a large family plot in Woodland Cemetery, along with their parents and some other relations.



    Our next stop was a nursing home in the nearby town of Englewood, where Mary Pat’s widower, Gary, lives. What can I say about Gary? He’s a funny guy. I remember him always being quick with jokes and witty remarks, some of which were entirely inappropriate. But he always managed to get a laugh. He’s not nearly as active as he used to be, thanks to two strokes during the last ten years. But one could say that while he’s a lot slower these days, the lights are still on upstairs. I’ll admit that it was difficult to see him in his debilitated state, but at the same time it was good to see that he was still good ole, fun Uncle Gary. In all seriousness he probably doesn’t have much time left, but I suspect he’ll keep those nurses laughing up until the end.

    As well he should.


    After visiting Gary, we had a leisurely lunch before continuing our journey. Apparently I was looking pretty glum, because at one point during lunch Lisa asked me what was wrong. I confessed to having been “crying on the inside.” A lot of emotions were running about that day.

    At any rate, we left Englewood around 3:00pm, and continued. All in all, the traveling through the rest of Ohio and Indiana was without incident. The last hour, in the Chicago area, however, was quite an adventure. I came to the conclusion that speed limits are viewed as polite suggestions in Chicago, and aren’t taken seriously as laws. At one point I was (out of necessity) doing 70 in a 55 zone, and someone whipped past me on the left as if I was standing still! According to Lisa’s uncle, that’s a pretty common occurrence in the Windy City.

    We arrived at Lisa’s aunt and uncle’s house in Crystal Lake around 10:00pm EST. (We had to change our clocks to Central Time.)

    And no, this isn’t the same Crystal Lake where an undead psychopath in a hockey mask goes around with a machete.

    Next: Get your motor running

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  • Mary Pat Peck