Albuquerque BioPark

Polar Bears

Polar Bears

The Albuquerque BioPark is a big combo zoo and aquarium and botanical gardens. We hadn’t planned to go there, but after driving through Oklahoma and half of New Mexico with nothing going on, Terry and I gave in to Benjamin’s pleas for the aquarium and zoo after he spotted the billboards along the interstate. So this was our first real “stop” on Road Trip 2012. We spent the first night of the trip at a Motel 6 in Albuquerque and then went to the BioPark in the morning.

Now I feel like I should point out, as I shall feel compelled to point out every time New Mexico comes up, there is no cell service in New Mexico. At least not along Interstate 40 from Oklahoma to Albuquerque. I realize there aren’t a lot of people out in there, but there’s cell service in Death Valley. Is New Mexico really more remote than Death Valley?


They had signs warning that the gorillas might throw things at us. This one tried, but lost his balance trying to heave a stick at us and fell into the pit that divides gorillas from humans.

All in all, the BioPark is pretty nice. There are plenty of animals and plenty of fish. They have a nice little collection of sharks and lots of rays that like to splash around in their pool. There are some sea creatures that you can touch and people to tell you about them.

There was the problem with the elephants. We barely got to see them. They have an area for the elephants where you can’t really see them, and that’s apparently where they spend most of their time. The botanical garden is interesting with large ant and spider sculptures around and an anthill maze for the kids (it’s pretty easy).

Here’s where I could go into “Zoos: Right or Wrong”, but I’m not going to. I don’t know how I feel about zoos. I know my ten-year-old loves them (as most ten-year-olds do), and we’ll just have to leave it at that for now.


Some sort of rays -- they begged us to take them with us.

The zoo and the aquarium are a ways apart, but there’s a train to take you back and forth. We didn’t want to wait on the train, though, so we just drove over.

So, that’s the Albuquerque BioPark. I like these combo sort of things, one stop entertainment (like that combo zoo theme park in Georgia where the roller coaster goes over the alligator pit). It’s a mid-size zoo and a good-sized aquarium, and the price is pretty good, $12 adult and $5 child admission.

Back Home and Reflections on the Trip

Los Angeles from the Hollywood Hills

The smog of Los Angeles viewed from the Hollywood Hills

Whew! The first day back, my house didn’t even look like my house to me. I couldn’t find anything, couldn’t find my clothes, couldn’t even find my stuff in the shower. And I especially noticed the noise that evening, the cicadas and the frogs and the owls and the other racket making creatures. My yard is the noisiest place in the United States.

At a San Joaquin Valley Farmers' Market

At a San Joaquin Valley Farmers' Market

There were people and a cat that I missed, and it’s nice to be back in the humidity, but I still miss that daily excitement, rush and hurry, route and plan, find the geocache, reserve a room, get some pictures, hike seven blocks uphill somewhere, find a place to eat, pray to make it into an area with cell coverage before we’re completely lost, get carsick from looking at the map too long, get us back on the interstate, write a haiku, reroute, back up the day’s pictures, find the cheapest gas, and drive back to that motel to get that phone charger dangling out of the wall. It’s constant excitement, barely a moment to even think about anything that’s not part of the trip. Four days had passed at one point before I remembered I have a job.

Joshua Tree

Joshua Tree

I still have all the geocaches to log. Yeah, I could have done that on the road, but it just didn’t happen. I still haven’t sorted through all the trinkets or put the new magnets on the fridge, and Benjamin and I are going to do a scrapbook that he will also use to get his Webelos Scout Traveler’s Badge.

Forced Planning

So, tonight I guilted Benjamin into helping me plan this summer’s road trip. I wish I had someone who enjoyed playing maps like I do. That’s what I call it — “Playing Maps”. I used to play maps even before there was the Web. I tell Benjamin how I used to plan road trips before Google Maps — or even Alta Vista — existed. I used the big printed Rand McNally United States Road Atlas, and I wrote down the miles between each marker along the highways, those tiny, red numbers, and I added them all together to find the distances between places, and I did it barefoot through the snow, uphill both ways. I had columns of numbers written in a notebook that I added up to find the mileage for the trip. I used a highlighter, too.

Benjamin and Darla Kay at the Grand Canyon

We park, Benjamin jumps out and runs up to the edge of the Grand Canyon and says, Mom, you're gonna want a picture of this!

Then, I remind him of the Webelos Traveler’s Badge; he loves the badges. And then I say, if he doesn’t want to plan it, he must not want to go. Finally, he settles down, and we delve back in. And then he usually starts to enjoy it. The first thing we did was to find all the places we want to go. I use the word “all” loosely. We constantly find more places to go. Now, I guess the really first thing was to choose a direction. We chose west. We want to see our California relatives. It’s been a while.

So I Google “Utah dinosaur museum”, “California dinosaur museum”, “Arizona dinosaur museum”…… You get the picture. We also Google science centers, 1800s farms, ligers, and the Redwoods. Terry likes the old farms, and Benjamin has recently become enthralled with ligers. We found a zoo in Reno, Nevada that has a liger, so we put that on our map. We look at the web pages for the museums, zoos, and science centers. Benjamin mainly wants to see their gift shop pages.

We put all the places on a Google Map as we find them. There will be some that we won’t be able to make it to. That part is always hard on us, Benjamin and me. Terry doesn’t really care.

The next step is to find the mileage between them and, if it’s too much, find a place in between where we can stop. We’ll use the total miles to get an idea of what we’ll be spending in gas and also to see if the trip as planned is even feasible. This is the part we’re working on now for RoadTrip 2012. We’re almost back home.

Another Travel Find Using

So I’m scrolling along the Google Map through the California Redwoods, and I see a cache, an easy regular (for the muggles, a regular is big enough to have stuff in it). There aren’t a lot of caches out in the Redwoods, so I had a look. It was called Turn Off to Jurassic Park, so I’m immediately interested since it might even vaguely involve dinosaurs. It turns out that the cache is in the location where they filmed some of Lost World, the second Jurassic Park movie. I checked it out at IMDB and confirmed that they did film part of the movie in the Redwoods and also Humboldt County. So, now we are going to try to route this cache into our 2012 Road Trip.

Using to Help Plan – Even If You Don’t Geocache

Geocaching is great fun, but even if for some bizarre reason, you don’t enjoy geocaching, you can still use the web site to help plan your road trip.

GeocachingFirst, you have to appreciate obsessive compulsive road trip planning. That means once you’ve found some area that you think you might like to visit (the Redwoods for example), and you’re thinking you might want to do some camping in the tall trees, and you’ve Googled “camping in the redwoods” and found some campgrounds, then what you need to do is to load up that area in Google Maps and go to satellite and scroll around, looking, for about an hour. An hour at at time.

As you’re scrolling around, you might run across something interesting, something odd looking, something that makes you go, what the hell is that? Can you Google that? “Weird barren area at end of dirt road in northerly Prairie Creek Redwood State Park? Well, maybe you can; I didn’t actually try. Instead, I hopped on over to and put Klamath, CA in the search. Sure enough, there was a cache within a few feet of the weird barren area, an Earthcache in fact called Fractured Coastline. Turns out there’s not only an incredible view from that spot, but it’s also a great place to look at the tectonic plates that are tearing California apart. Neat, huh? That weird barren area is now obviously a parking area so you can check out the view.

Using Pinterest to Help Plan Your Trip

I’ve started using Pinterest for trip planning. We’ll see how it goes. The pinboard is called Places we want to go on RoadTrip 2012. It’s an interesting way to look at the different destinations, using mainly photos. I’ve given collaboration rights to Benjamin so he can add places also. Once I get Terry set up on Pinterest, he can add places also. Yeah, right…

Musical Road

Something I really want to see — or I should say hear — is the musical road in Lancaster, California. It’s one of only four musical roads in the world. It has grooves cut in it that play the William Tell Overture (you know, the Lone Ranger song) when you drive down it. It’s called the Civic Musical Road, and it’s on Avenue G between 30th Street West and 40th Street West. Groovy!

View Musical Road in a larger map
If we make it down the Civic Musical Road, I will update this post.

Planning Vacation 2012: Where We Want to Go

Step One… Where in the U.S. do we want to visit? What do we want to see? What do we want to do? We’ve already decided on Out West (when will we ever get back to Florida?). We need to get in good visits with Aunt Toad up in northern California and Cousin Linda out in southern California. So, it’s time to make a list. We’ll just start with California since we know that’s our farthest destination.

I say “we” because Benjamin is helping me plan this trip. It will help him earn his Traveler’s Badge in Cub Scouts. Besides, I shouldn’t have to be the only one planning these things.

Places we need to go in California:

  • Crescent City, CA
    to see Aunt Toad
  • Los Angeles, CA
  • Death Valley, CA

There is a buttload of dinosaur museums in Utah!

  • Dinosaur National Monument, Dinosaur
  • Eccles Dinosaur Park, Ogden
  • The Museum of Natural History, Weber State University, Ogden
  • Thanksgiving Point, Lehi
  • Brigham Young University Earth Science Museum, Provo
  • Fairview Museum of History and Art, Fairview
  • Utah Field House of Natural History State Park Museum, Vernal
  • The College of Eastern Utah (CEU) Prehistoric Museum, Price
  • The Museum of the San Rafael, Castle Dale
  • The Mill Canyon Dinosaur Trail, Moab
  • Sauropod Dinosaur Tracksite, Moab

I used the website for the dinosaur list.

And there’s other stuff like:

  • Arches National Park
  • Canyonlands National Park