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Afternoons at the San Diego Zoo

A Great Burger Joint and Exploring the Zoo

sunny 105 °F

I was surprised to find that all my preconceptions of San Diego were completely wrong. When I think of a place I’ve never been to before and have heard stories about, I start to form mental images of the place. In this case, my mental images had nothing to do with San Diego in real life.

For one thing, I thought San Diego was going to be a lot hotter than it was in Riverside (just east of LA). Indeed, as we drove down, the temperature had hit 90 degrees before the ten o’clock in the morning. I thought I was in for another blistering day. As we neared the city, and began to make our way to the ocean, the temperature dropped sharply in a matter of ten minutes. When we parked at an ocean side park, it was 68 degrees. I felt cold for the first time here in southern California, and I wondered if I needed a coat. I had already grown accustomed to the oven-like temperatures of late August. What happened was a bank of cold ocean fog had rolled in, tempering the thermostat to a more agreeable temperature.

Secondly, the terrain of San Diego was much hillier than I had imagined. There were hills of all shapes and sizes all over the city and suburbs. When summiting, these hills offer a beautiful vantage point to look over the lush paradise that is San Diego. Indeed, the palm trees, well-manicured shrubs and hedges, lawns, flower gardens and bushes all had thick green foliage on them. It seemed tropical to me.
We started our day by visiting one of the best burger joints in the country, a dive highly rated by it’s customers to the degree of making it one of the top five burgers in the US. Ho-Dad’s lives up to its reputation. We stood in line outside on the sidewalk, patiently waiting for a seat to open. The owner of the place walked by, and began bantering with the crowd. “You know, here at Ho-dad’s, we offer same day service. If you order your food today, you’ll get your food today…or maybe tonight at the latest.” He was charismatic and funny, obviously enjoying working the crowd. In So Cal (southern California), I’ve seen more owners of restaurants than anywhere else. It seems they like getting out on the floor, talking with diners, making them feel at home. I like it. It’s a nice touch to have the actual owner of a place come out and talk with you. I think more restaurants around the country should do the same.
How was the burger? It was HUGE! It was delicious! Done in the simple California style way, they had hand formed patties, THICK slices of tomato, onion, some lettuce, pickles, house sauce on a bun. The atmosphere of the small restaurant was classic. The ambiance was loud. Loud music kept the diners talking loudly, competing to be heard above the din. It wasn’t overpowering though. This isn’t a fancy French Bistro. Ho-dad’s is a great little burger joint, and you can take it, or leave it. Most people choose to take it. The walls were festooned with license plates from all over the country, most of them vanity plates. Surfboards hung from the ceiling from chains. The small tables were tightly packed, and all of them were full. We sat at the bar, which faced open air to the sidewalk. While we waited for our food and ate our burgers, we watched the passing people. The array of interesting characters parading by was cheap entertainment. There were more spaced out beach people, beautiful women, families, dogs, and surfers- a California medley.
We went to the San Diego Zoo and the zoo’s Wild Animal Park on separate days, but since they are similar, and part of the same organization, I’ve decided to talk about them as one. I’m always skeptical when going to a zoo. In my way of thinking, I’d rather see an animal out in the wild, on its own turf. Therefore, to come to a zoo, I can’t help but feel like it’s kind of an animal jail. A friend told me that the San Diego Zoo had been voted the best zoo in the United States. I asked her if the animals voted it their favorite prison in the U.S. Therefore, with that mindset (which admittedly isn’t my usual open mindedness) we went into the zoo.

I’ve got to say that the zoo won me over. We spent the better part of 5 hours (at the main zoo, 3 hours at the wild animal park) wandering around viewing the animals. I was impressed by the variety of animals, and the habitat in which the animals live. The zookeepers have done a good job at making realistic conditions for the animals. I think it helps that this zoo is located in southern California. The hot weather allows the zoo managers to easily create tropical and arid environments. Therefore, they can bring in a wide variety of animals that dwell in tropical, deserts, plains, forests, near water, etc. The layout of the zoo was well designed. While walking the many trails between main exhibits, there were many smaller animal exhibits to see on the way.

I kind of feel like capturing photos in the zoo is cheating. Getting good shots in the wild, is a lot more gratifying, but since I didn’t know if I’d ever see these animals again, I though I would take advantage. Besides, it was good practice trying to get good pictures of moving animals. Therefore, while I feel some of these pictures are dynamic and interesting, the animals did all the work.

Without further ado, I give you the zoo. Author’s Note: If you can listen to Simon and Garfunkels classic, “At the Zoo” it might help you get into the spirit of the zoo and its inhabitants.

Look at these Fancy Kicks!
The Secretary Bird was among my favorites.
For Some Reason, I love Elephants in Sepia.
I love this dozing Koala. So Peaceful!

It's hard for me to choose my favorite exhibit. I liked a lot of the animals that I saw. I really liked the gorillas, elephants, aviaries, giant tortoise, reptiles, and insect house.

Posted by Rhombus 09:08 Archived in USA Tagged photography

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