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Rainy Florida Days

This has been the rainiest summer season that I can remember ever since becoming a Floridian in ’08. I’ve been finding way too much of my time off has been spent stuck inside, vegging out in front of my screen of choice. So last weekend I decided rain be damned, I’m going out on an adventure.

My son and I started the day a little late, waking up about 9:30am. After looking out the window and seeing sheets of rain I began to settle in. Then I realized that is what we’ve done for the last three weekends. We got the rain slickers put together, packed one for my wife on the off chance she finishes work early, and then headed out.

First was a stop to Dunkin Donuts down the street.

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My son had been begging to go to the zoo for a few weeks; I thought it sounded like fun. Zoo in the rain, heck yeah. Lowry Park Zoo is one of my favorite spots in all of Tampa, so there were no objections on my part. A torrential downpour started as soon as I parked the car. We waited a few minutes for it to fall back to more reasonable downpour. People were running to their cars and I was waiting to go in…oh man.

People were huddled under the sheltered area at the ticket booths. Me and my son scanned our passes and the ticketing woman told us the park was closing at 2:00pm for set up of the park’s booze fest. That sucked as it was about 12:30pm when we got there. No turning back now though!

The walkways were pretty empty…

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The Galapagos tortoises didn’t seem to mind though…

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And neither did my son…

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That’s where we spent a good chunk of our time. I eventually coaxed him out to look at some animals. We went about our way in through the wet, wet zoo. Of course, a lot of the animals sought out shelter. The elephant habitat was empty…

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Which was a shame. The elephants are my favorite animal at Lowry Park Zoo. Although I kind of expected them to be inside–but honest truth: being at the zoo in the rain was awesome.

The rest of the time we wandered the Florida boardwalk to the Manatee habitat–which is my other favorite animal at Lowry Park Zoo. Did you know that manatees and elephants are related? Yup, that’s a true story. Although I don’t know at what point in history they each went their own separate ways, with Manatees deciding to go hang out in Florida rivers and the elephants deciding to wanders the African Plains. Perhaps a post for another time–hmmm…

Anyway, what I noticed about the manatees, as the storm raged above and the thunder shook, is that most of them gathered flat against the bottom. I wondered if this was normal manatee behavior during a lightning and thunder storm. Manatees can hold their breath for about 20 minutes before needing to surface. I wondered if this is what they did in the Florida rivers or in the ocean shallows–is this a behavior that evolved from years of dodging hurricanes? Interesting nonetheless, even if I don’t have the answers.

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I talked to a zookeeper who was in the underground tunnel with me, and also an intern from USF, who had spent his summer studying the manatees. He wasn’t a hundred percent sure about their behaviors of hunkering down during a storm, as he reports he’s seen that same behavior on sunny days. Is the manatee really that mysterious of an animal that we know this little about it? I did learn that manatees can dive down to 60 feet while swimming in the ocean. That’s a pretty cool fun fact.

We spent a good chunk of time studying the manatees. My son really loves them. And turtles, he loved the turtles too.

We walked through the manatee tunnel, looked at more fish, checked out the snakes, and we saw this guy:

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Yup, a guy snorkeling in the turtle display. Haha…I’ve never seen that before in my life. It was pretty cool.

My son had manatees on the brain and when we came across this machine I couldn’t resist. He’s always wanted one of these dang mold-o-ramas, but I always thought they were a waste of money. But now, for some reason, I think they are pretty cool. So I bought him one. It cost two dollars; a small price to pay to put a smile on my kid’s face. Oh gag–I know, I know…that was pretty sappy…

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That gray plastic blob is a manatee. I swear it looks more like a manatee from the side.

Anyway, here’s a parting shot from the zoo… They didn’t seem to mind the rain.

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Well, time was winding down. 2:00pm was fast approaching. We were having such great fun and I for one didn’t want it to end. Oh man, what to do when you don’t want the party to end? I suppose one could follow the old saying “you don’t have to go home but you can’t stay here.” So where does one go in Tampa when you still want to see animals but the zoo is closed?

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Why Busch Gardens of course. And it was only a 12 minute drive away. This is what the drive over looked like:

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It was wet still.

But looked who could join us!

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MOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOMMMMMM!!!

It was really raining hard now, but we soldiered on.

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Here’s an awful photo I know. I swear I’m gonna take a class some day. This momma gorilla was hunkered next to the viewing glass, a baby gorilla is carefully tucked away underneath that momma.

There’s currently two baby gorillas at Busch Gardens. We were lucky enough to see both of them, although both of them were cuddled close to their moms and were hard to get a good look at. Still fun, though. The nearby baboons were having a grand time in the rain. They were great fun to watch. No pictures of them though, sorry, they were just too hilarious for me to watch and to also think about taking their pictures. I guess you’ll just have to see it for yourself some day. Promise it will be worth it.

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The hippo was enjoying the weather. He was more active than usual.

Everybody was hungry, so we went to the pizza/pasta buffet and ate until our stomachs were about to burst.

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My son was finally tall enough to ride the river rapids ride. He has had his eye on that ride for a long, long time. Practically his entire three year old life.

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Here we are at the finish line, soaking wet. We had to ride it twice.

What’s to say. It was an awesome day. I got to snag a ride on the Falcon’s Fury between rain storms. We went on the log ride. The bumper cars. I rode in the back row of the Kumba. By the end of the night, the weather cleared up enough for the Kinetix Show to take the stage and for the fireworks to be launched off. I am so freakin’ glad that I decided to get out of the house.

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