Sunday, June 8, 2008

6/8/08 Butterflies and the Ocean in Omaha

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Arriving in Omaha we called my good friend Steve Murow’s brother Allan. We had hoped to meet up, but our schedule and his didn’t match up. Allan had plenty of good suggestions for things to do in town, so we decided to take it easy and enjoy Omaha for a few days. We were anxious to stay put for the upcoming storms.

Our new campground had been inundated by the storms and their gravel roads were badly damaged. It was easy to choose a site -- most were in standing water, so we tried to choose one that wouldn’t be good for growing rice.

The first night we went downtown and enjoyed a “Taste of Omaha.” It was a lovely warm summer evening in the Heartland of America Park on the Missouri River with food booths featuring local restaurants, a live band doing a tribute to U2 and fireworks.

The next day Sarah, Mayim and I sat outside enjoying some rare sunshine, played with a frog found next to RV, and read each other the book "The Perfect Present" a going-away gift from our South Dakota friends Celia and Jack. It wasn't till later that we realized that we had been a lovely snack for the mosquitoes and Sarah and I were covered in bites.

Later the girls went on a quest for internet access, ran errands, discovered a Tollhouse Cookie store, and bought groceries while Dave hung out at the local Borders book store. We got back just as a major storm was starting that continued for the next 36 hours so we enjoyed our full pantry and movie selections as we watched the rain pour down. Our final day in Omaha we enjoyed the magnificent Henry Doorly Zoo, considered to be one of the best in America. Sarah and I got sidetracked in the walk-through Kingdom of the Seas Aquarium and spent several hours enjoying the penguins and puffins, giant Pacific octopus, moon jellyfish lit with black lights, floor-to-ceiling cylinder tank with schooling fish, and coral displays. We were in awe in the Shark Tunnel area – an oval-shaped, 70 foot long, acrylic tunnel through a 500,000 gallon salt-water tank with sharks, sea turtles, rays and other marine life swimming by on two sides and overhead.

We then went to the brand new Butterfly and Insect Pavilion. The exquisite butterflies and moths fly freely in a conservatory filled with large trees, plants rocks, waterfalls and ponds to mimic natural habitat. When you leave the exhibit, you enter a mirrored room to check that no butterflies are trying to hitch a ride out. Fascinated by the chrysalis room, we tried to match the cocoons in the hatching chambers up with the beauties we’d just seen. After admiring the bee hive and insects like centipedes and walking sticks, Sarah squealed with joy at seeing the different spider habitats including her favorite -- tarantulas. (She continues to lobby for a pet tarantula making her case that they would be the perfect pet for an RV. Eek!)

Knowing that our time was growing short, we hopped a tram to see the rest of the zoo. Luckily for us, our tram driver was an adorable teenage boy who used every opportunity to flirt with Sarah and was rewarding by her teasing him back. He stopped the tram for us to get pictures of the baby sea lion that had been born that morning. The mother sea lion guarded her darling little one zealously almost wounding another sea lion in the enclosure who swam up to see the new arrival. You’d be amazed how quickly she can move!

Sarah tried to wrangle another ride around the zoo, but I dragged her off to met up with Dave for a “Wild Ocean – Where Africa meets the Sea” IMAX in 3D. At the end of the day, we ran into Dave at the primate exhibit. He had seen the entire zoo on foot and was more than willing to leave the for a steak dinner at a Texas Roadhouse.

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