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It is official. Colorado Springs is the GREATEST PLACE ON EARTH.

Wait. Stop. Stop, stop, stop!

Second greatest. Disney World is still better. Obviously.

But C.Springs is a respectable second. On Saturday, we went to The Cheyenne Mountain Zoo. We were holding out for better weather so all the animals from warmer climates wouldn’t be huddled en mass in the far corners of their pens. Finally, we had a beautiful day. My expectations for the zoo were pretty high, I hail from Chicago – home to two world-class zoos; Brookfield Zoo and Lincoln Park Zoo. Holy awesomeness, Batman, my mind was BLOWN this weekend.

We get there, and this is the first thing we did…

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No big deal. Just feeding the giraffes at the zoo. What?? They let you do that? Yes. Every. single. day.

You fork over your two dollars for a hunk of romaine and then the giraffes just come running. I am thanking my lucky stars that I am no longer suffering from engorged ta-tas… And I am done smuggling a load of vegetation in my brazier. Would they have smelled it in there? Don’t get me wrong, I love me some giraffe, but I’m not sure that going to second base with one of their gigantic tongues would have been the highlight of my day. It would’ve been a helluva story, though.

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The zoo is small, and its primate houses and hippo arena leave a bit to be desired. It is like walking back in time when you enter those buildings. I’m not sure when they were built, but it was a long time ago. It is pretty sparse, and way before the era where zoological parks started to make the habitats of animals look like fake rocks. Outside of that, it is amazing… All the animals are so interactive. You can just touch all sorts of things. The hippos are so close you could touch them; though I was way too terrified to try. I’ve never seen one so close before. They were right there… Not that it was a spiritual experience with a pachyderm or anything, but it is profound to stand eye to eye with a hippopotamus and know that the only thing between you and it are a few metal bars. I sort-of lost myself locking eyes with them; I wonder what they are thinking… And what would happen if they suddenly lost their mind and charged the bars. Mental note; nearest exit is behind me and to the right.

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We were nose-to-nose with wallabies. We watched grizzlies go for a swim. We now know what it is like to be in the midst of a screaming match between every species of monkey in one of the primate houses. Finny learned that he has no desire to be close to a gorilla – like, ever; real or fake, and I have reaffirmed my distaste for birds after Nathan and I got pooped on while standing under a hoard of parakeets, cockatiels and zebra finches. In hindsight, it probably wasn’t the most prudent place to stand.

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I suppose we should thank our lucky stars that we only got shit on once apiece after standing under THAT.

I suppose we should thank our lucky stars that we only got shit on once apiece after standing under THAT.

I think this may have been my favorite place in C.Springs yet. And that is saying something.

When we first spied the giraffes, I forgot that I am 31 and a mother of two. I took of running; “Nathan! Finny! Look! Giraffes are – holyshitholyshit – someone is touching them!!”

Long ago, in middle school, my dad took us to Busch Gardens in Florida, and I was so excited to feed the giraffes. I remember the commercials where people would pile into a giant, double-decker jeep-ish vehicle and they would be eye-level with the giraffes. A little girl would reach out her hand and touch one. There is only one thing that I wanted more at that point in my life (which was to go to NASA Space Camp), and holy cow; it was gonna happen. Only problem is, it never did. Once we got there, I realized to do one of those giraffe safaris was extra – LOTS EXTRA – and I knew better than to ask.

All of a sudden, I was eleven again and I took off like a bat outta hell and shamelessly elbowed my way in. By the time Nathan and the kids caught up, I realized the giraffes wanted absolutely nothing to do with you if you didn’t have lettuce. I would reach up to touch them and they were as prude as Sandra Dee before the hooker shoes and bouffant. Gimme some greens, lady. I’m not giving the milk up for free, especially to some lunatic who just kneed a seven-year-old girl in the back for a better look-see.

Yes, I know giraffes are big, but they are staggering in real life. You know in those old Three Stooges movies where Larry has one end of a ladder and turns around, whipping the other end of the ladder super fast into Curly? They move like that; only there is no crashing or poking one another in the eye. They walk and their heads just like, whhaahhh – swing around so fast; it is so graceful… And as cheesy as it sounds, it is breathtaking to watch.

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I could have stood there all day. We got some lettuce from a super helpful zookeeper and at her behest, by the end of our stint in the African Rift exhibit, we packed up, headed straight back to the ticket booth and signed up to become members. If we came back at least twice more in the next year it would pay for itself. I can think of worse things to spend fifty bucks on.

So we cancelled our plans on Easter and headed right back to the zoo. Two days in a row and I still cannot get enough of the giraffes. I’m smitten.

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Maybe it was so magical (yes, a smchmaltzy way to put it, but it truly was) because we stumbled upon it and had no idea how spectacular the zoo would be. If it wasn’t just happenstance and we expected more maybe it wouldn’t have seemed so cool. Either way, I still can’t get over the fact that I live here. Everything we head out to do, whether it be Garden of the Gods, or The Incline; it’s all so definitive of this place. Since we left Washington, the feeling I had when we lived Spokane was always something I hoped we would find again when we retired. But I’m only in my thirties.

Mostly, I just feel as though I am finally back home again. And all it took was to get licked by a giraffe and pooped on by a parakeet.

Gratuitous Little-Girl-in-Her-Easter-Dress Shot.  Couldn't help myself.

Gratuitous Little-Girl-in-Her-Easter-Dress Shot. Couldn’t help myself.