Happy Birthday, Michael!

MVP-03a

Today is Michael Vincent’s third birthday. That means he is now out of the terrible twos, and into the terrorizing threes. He’s had a big year! He’s finally starting to communicate, mostly by pointing and by using pictures. He even started preschool in August!

Here are some images of My Son the Cyborg, from 2015.

MVP-02a
From my birthday dinner at the Park Lane Tavern in Fredericksburg, back in February.

MVP-03b
Playing at Yowell Meadow Park, in March.

MVP-04a
Hanging out at Mountain Run Lake Park, in April.

MVP-05a
At the Fireman’s Carnival, in May.

MVP-06a
Being a boxtroll, in June.

MVP-07a
Strolling down the road near our house, in early July.

CH-06
During the Chicago trip, in July.

MVP-09a
Hanging out with the family at Lenn Park, near Culpeper, in September. His mom and grandparents are in the background.

MVP-10a

MVP-10b
Two views from a school field trip to Round Hill Farm, in early October.

MVP-10c

MVP-10d
Halloween, 2015, as Captain America!

Caitlin, meanwhile, was Black Widow. Avengers assemble!

Ohio wild life

CZ-01
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.

CZ-02
Pronghorn antelope

CZ-03
Caribou

CZ-04
Bobcats

CZ-05
Bald eagles

CZ-06
Polar bear

CZ-07
Arctic fox

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

CZ-08
African lion

CZ-09
Spotted hyena

CZ-10
Cheetah

CZ-11
Wildebeest, Thomson’s gazelles, and some other savanna creatures that I can’t make out.

CZ-12
Giraffe. There are actually two species of giraffe, and this zoo has both. I can’t tell which one I have here.

CZ-13
Vervet monkey

CZ-14
Common (savannah) Warthogs

CZ-15
Malaysian giant fruit bat, also known as the flying fox.

CZ-16
Red panda, one of my favorites animals.

CZ-17
Pallas’s cat

CZ-18
Markhor antelope. Dang, these guys have presence!

CZ-19
Bengal (Indian) tiger

CZ-20
Amur (Siberian) tiger

CZ-21
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!

CZ-22
I think this is an Eastern Hellbender, a type of giant North American salamander. I thought it’s face reminded me of Toothless.

CZ-23
Giant Galapagos tortoise

CZ-24
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.

CZ-25
Red River hogs

CZ-26
Mandrills, both an adult and a baby. It was hard to get a picture of these guys.

CZ-27
Okapi, another creature not often seen in zoos. These relatives of the giraffe are highly endangered because of habitat loss.

CZ-28
A camera-shy orangutan.

CZ-29
Caitlin and I posing with a bronze statue of a lowland gorilla.

CZ-30
Komodo dragon

CZ-31
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.

CZ-32
Koala, also camera shy.

CZ-33
Florida manatee

CZ-34
Ridley’s sea turtle

CZ-35
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
  • Down on the farm

    HF-01

    Operation Bandicoot, Day 9, July 18.

    This was the ultimate reason for this entire trip. Lisa’s cousin Eric Albert, and his fiance, Taranee, had their formal wedding at the Heritage Prairie Farm in Elburn, Illinois. Actually they had their official wedding in Thailand last summer. But that was beyond the travel ranges of most of their friends and family, so they had a second formal wedding here. This farm is a working farm, but it’s also an event venue. It is a very pleasant and rustic place, and it made for an excellent setting.

    HF-04

    HF-02

    HF-03

    HF-05

    HF-12
    Michael wasn’t sure about all of this.

    During the reception, I slipped out to view the gardens, and took some notes for future gardening endeavors.
    HF-06

    HF-07

    HF-08
    Look!!! Square foot gardens!

    The reception meal was delicious, and was heavy on locally grown vegetables, and meats from free-range livestock. Given the abuse my digestive system had endured during this trip, my A1C was grateful for the break.

    HF-09
    First Dance.
    Of interest here was their song of choice. It was an excellent acoustic version of John Deacon’s You’re my best friend, which was a hit for the band Queen in 1975. This particular cover was done by The Once, and it’s an amazing interpretation.

    Video: The Once, performing You’re my best friend.

    HF-10

    HF-11
    Yes, that’s Caitlin and I.

    This was pretty much the end of our Chicagoland adventure, but Operation Bandicoot still had some adventures in store for us.

    Next: Hopelessly Midwestern


  • Operation Bandicoot
  • House of Sue

    FM-01

    Operation Bandicoot, Day 8, July 17.

    Day 7, July 16, was a down day. We spent the day relaxing and socializing with family in and around Crystal Lake, and running some local errands.

    Our stop for day 8 was the Field Museum of Natural History, in downtown Chicago. It is one of the more famous natural history museums in North America, and one of the most popular. One of the famous attractions of this museum is Sue, one of the most complete Tyrannosaurus Rex specimens ever discovered.

    Other dinosaurs can be found at this museum, including, but not restricted to…

    FM-02
    Eoraptor, one of the earlier dinosaurs.

    FM-03
    Daspletosaurus, a smaller cousin of T-Rex.

    FM-04
    Parasaurolophus, one of the hooting
    hadrosaurid
    , or duck-billed dinosaurs.

    FM-05
    Stegosaurus, the “roofed” lizard.

    FM-06
    Deinonychus, aptly named “terrible claw.”

    There are other types of extinct animals as well, including these:

    FM-07
    I think this is one of the giant ground sloths, that were native to Central and South America.

    FM-08
    I believe this is an Irish elk, which went extinct during the pre-Roman ancient era.

    FM-09
    Some ancient fish and sea faring reptiles from the age of dinosaurs.

    FM-10
    The scariest looking fish I have ever seen!

    The museum also has a rebuilt Maori house. These houses are still important in Maori culture, where they serve as both a town hall and community center. It’s customary to remove one’s shoes when entering one of these halls. As such, this was the one point in the day where we didn’t have to keep putting Michael’s shoes back on.

    FM-13

    FM-12

    FM-11

    During our visit, there was a special exhibit on Vikings running, which was great because Caitlin had recently been learning about Norse history in school.

    FM-14
    Michael, Lisa, and Caitlin in front of a restored longboat.

    FM-15
    One of the smaller, skiff-style boats that Vikings used for local traffic and light fishing.

    FM-16
    Norse rune tablet.

    This gallery barely scratches the surface of what The Field Museum has to offer. It’s another place that I strongly recommend visiting if you’re ever in the Chicago area. This was our second visit to this place, and I suspect it won’t be our last.

    FM-17
    Caitlin camping it up in front of some mounted narwhal specimens.

    FM-18
    A final look back at Sue the Mighty.

    After the museum, we braved our way through Chicago traffic to attend the rehearsal dinner for Lisa’s cousin. Having driven in New York City, Boston, and Washington D.C., I’ve braved some pretty nasty traffic in my time. One thing I can say about Chicago drivers is, well… they are keen to reduce travel time.

    Next: Down on the farm


  • Operation Bandicoot