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Connecticut River Valley, New England, United States

Sunday, October 13, 2013

Early October through Columbus Day

October 13 2013 4PM CST Townhouse Office in Nashville, Tn Hello gang! This will be a serial account of excursion days and domestic days here in the lovely Nashville Townhouse and environs. I must say we are truly familiar with all of the major roads in and out of town and their names are now as familiar as any road in Post Mills, New York City, Burlington or any of the places with which I am most familiar. Amalie, Old Hickory, Nolensville Pike, Edmonson Pike, Harding Pl, Rt 100, Franklin Pike etc and I even know how to get to them and The Trace without a map! When I look up directions to anywhere on MapQuest or dear Greta, I can skip about the first five to six steps. BTW, I was referring to the Gamin the other evening while discussing the sights with the Applebee's manager, Lloyd McDonald, a young man who hails from Knoxville. It was he who told me that Greta can be programmed to ignore Interstates, toll roads and dirt roads ( which I've done ). He also said that he and his family find Greta's voice quite seductive so they call her the Gamin Hussy! Love it! As always one day runs into the next and we are never quite sure what day it is. For some reason the first two days of October were not very active; indeed, I slept until 11 am on the 2nd. I shouldn't say that any of our days are " unproductive " but though we've made several lists of places we want to explore and annotated them with info from google etc, we find that, since we are actual residents of Nashville, we don't feel the need to be on the go every day in order to see everything before moving on. This, of course, may mean that some places will not be explored but that is always the case even when we are traveling. The Government shut down could have had a truly disappointing impact on our stay but the historical sites associated with the Civil War, such as Stony Creek Battlefield and others in the immediate area, we had visited already the year that quite without planning became our Year of The War Between the States. Other sites are under the aegis of the State of Tennessee and remain open. In addition, that beautiful road, The Trace, though Federal, remains open and we have been out checking foliage several times. My plan then is to cover the highlights of our explorations and try to cover just one day's excursion per chapter. It is hoped that by breaking the story into little bites you will be able, as we have been, to more easily enjoy them without being overwhelmed and without the sometimes hot and sweaty experiences they may have been. Also I won't be boring you with the laundry, cooking, exhausting dodging of the Roomba, and draining loading and running of the dishwasher that unfortunately occupy the once in awhile day we spend sunning on the deck and reading or the Sundays watching football on TV! So, all that being said, come on to Grassmere and the Nashville Zoo. There are hysterical signs all over this area but most are located on the aforementioned Pikes and Roads on which traffic is heavy and the drivers are nuts. If ever you drive around here do as one of the regulars at Applebee's told us. Stop when the light turns YELLO but watch your rear end when you do and DO NOT go on green until you've counted to 50, because no one else stops on RED! We laughed but will tell you each time we came to an accident and the condition of the cars and people when we did. At any rate, we did not stop to read the hysterical sign at the entrance of Zoo Road ( which we discovered quite by accident when Greta got us to Aldi's a few days earlier ) which is right off Nolensville Pike and the intersection of which has a traffic signal including a turn arrow--all good! I had read an article in The Tennessean before Bill arrived back from Vermont which talked about a new exhibit of red kangaroos through which one could walk and where one could PET A KANGAROO!!! Well, you can bet that went right to the top of my MUST DO things while in Nashville. Bill is very anti-zoo but some of my happiest memories growing up was excursions to the Bronx Zoo and when I lived in Burlington I made several trips to Granby Zoo and Parc Safari in Quebec. Not having been since Betsy was little and NEVER having pet a roo I was determined to go. After all, he won't fly to Australia ( or anyplace else, for that matter ) and I don't think I'm going to get to the Serengeti anytime soon to see any of these other beasts in their natural habitat, my wish became his command. The history of the land on which the Zoo is located is really interesting although I didn't have the stamina in the heat and humidity to explore the historic home which is off to one end of the grounds. Tennessee was originally part of North Carolina and in 1786, NC granted 640 acres to Wm Simpson in gratitude for his service during the Revolution. His son sold 272.5 acres to Michael Dunn of Virginia in 1810. Dunn built a Federal style brick home which he sold along with the land to his son-in-law, Lee Shute for $10,000. Shute acquired more land over several years and in 1859 sold the house and the now 346 acres to his son Wm for $5. This Wm named the Estate Grassmere after Wordsworth's poetry. Though pillaged by Union troops, the home and family survived the War and became prosperous once more. In time, the farm was inherited by William's four daughters, one of whom with her husband and two children resided there until moving to Cuba. In 1931, these two children returned to live at Grassmere with their Aunt Leila who left the farm to these two unmarried women in 1952. They lived there and ran the farm until the last one died in 1985. Margaret and Elise felt the land was more important than its monetary value and in 1964 they donated it to the Children's Museum of Nashville. In 1985, at Elise's death, the museum developed the 200 acre area into the Grassmere Wildlife Park which opened in 1990 but it closed due to lack of funds. In 1997, The Nashville Zoo took over management at the instigation of Nashville's then mayor. Today, in addition to the Zoo visitors can go to the farm and its various buildings, including at certain times of year, a tour of the home. Perhaps, before we leave we will go back to do just that. A lady who we often see at Applebee's--our very own Cheers--told me this story and encouraged us to go see the Roos which she said were great fun. The Zoo is beautifully laid out in two very large loops, exclusive of the loop to the Farm. We arrived shortly after it opens at around 9, since it is only minutes from our home. There are a few slight rises and many of the walk areas are boardwalk type under the canopy of large trees. The Zoo has not gone overboard in the number or types of animals they have and the areas in which the animals are located are open and the animals, free. There is a short introductory loop that brings you to a main plaza like area in which there are rest rooms, a restaurant and small gift shop. It is from this area that one chooses which way they want to go for their first major loop. Since the Kangaroo Kickabout was my main goal we headed out the Jungle loop. But not before encountering the park's greeters, Hyacinth Macaws. Since Blue is my favorite color this was a thrill since their blue was so stunning and they were so pleased to pose and preen for these curious creatures passing them by. Each of the exhibits has a marker giving various tidbits of info such as habitat and scientific name etc for the creatures contained within. I had just discovered Earth Flight on PBS a few nights earlier and the particular episode I'd watched included the red headed crane--so sacred in Asia and I was really excited to see that the very next area contained two of them, one of which chose to remain hidden and its partner to ignore us. Nevertheless, to see them and realize their true size and the beauty of the plumage was wonderful. As we rounded the corner we encountered the white cheeked gibbon and another, which I don't remember. What a pair! The yellow fellow was quite laid back and indifferent to both us and his island mate. They were separated from us only by a narrow moat and seemed perfectly content. The white cheeked fellow was very active and seemed very anxious to get the other guy to join him in play but noooooo. I had mentioned to our lady friend that as a kid I always stayed out of the monkey house--I found it horribly nauseating and monkeys, except for few--like the marmosets--really obnoxious. I do like the Silver Back Gorillas in Quebec, though. She told me that Grassmere had only a few primates and no gorillas, they didn't feel they had the facilities for them. That made me happy that the management was realistic and concerned about the animals enough to limit their numbers and size. On the next Island was a bit larger fellow with whom I was not familiar, the Siamang of Malaysia and Sumatra. I would have loved to have seen them inflate their throats and call out but apparently they had nothing to talk about that particular morning. Over the hill and around the bend we came to some of natures clowns--they aren't, of course, but they do seem to amuse us. The meercats. One group of three were particularly noticeable and amusing. Using the trunk and roots of a tree in the corner they rolled backward on their butts as if in hammock chairs and exposed their little bellies to the warm morning sun! A young man not much bigger than they enjoyed watching them watch him. One of the neatest things about a zoo is watching little kids --they so love the animals and their glee is contagious. There were many young mothers with infants and toddlers chatting away with each other as their children excitedly took it all in. One young woman had a two year old in a stroller with a set of twins in another. She said there was a 4 year old at playschool. She and a friend, with one toddler were enjoying the early morning visit. I told them their children were adorable and how happy I was they had such a lovely place to bring them. Then the toddlers and I talked to the meerkats as they stared back at us. Next we came to the broad banded beak stork--at first no birds were in evidence and then one sort of sauntered out from behind the shrubs, followed more slowly by another who walked out and then back and then around the shrub. All of a sudden the first turned back and stood tall as he lifted his wings wide. Again, I was seeing what had been shown in Earth Flight--a mating dance! He ran away from her and piroueted gracefully, jeted and leapt--it was a true ballet worthy of any Edward Villella. I could not believe my eyes, the grace, speed and strength of the performance was breath-taking---so much more impressive in real life. I could have watched forever but soon they started back to the bushes and I felt that perhaps privacy was important to birds, too. After passing through another plaza area containing an amphitheatre and exhibition hall of spiders, snakes and amphibians of various types, in which I had no interest, we came upon another sign for the roo enclosure and then, there they were. We were instructed to stay on the path and allow them to come to us. Unfortunately, there is plenty to eat and though very close to us, the animals had absolutely no interest in getting petted. Except for Irma, that is. Irma was lying right on the path and was very interested in having her back petted. She allowed the keeper to rub her tummy but we were told to only approach her from behind and pet her back but not her head. That was fine with me--these are, after all, wild animals and as such can feel threatened by what seems the most innocuous behavior but these dumb upright creatures. For one thing, that pouch is pretty special and I would imagine even empty Irma isn't too thrilled with strangers getting that personal. As for the canine head pat, probably not a good idea. She looked at me sideways, kept her ears turned my way and allowed me to stroke her thick wooly coat. One of the highlights of my life!!!! The rest of the Zoo was just icing on the cake. Since my knees aren't always as dependable as I'd like I chose to bend from the waist rather than squat--easier to get out of the way, should Irma decided I'd stroked enough. The resulting pictures aren't my most flattering--but I DON'T CARE--I PATTED A ' ROO!!!! I could have stayed right there all day but that isn't fair to others, not that you are asked to leave or that anyone was at the door limiting entrance, though I imagine that probably happens at times. Also, Bill wasn't as enthralled as I and didn't pat a 'roo! Continuing round the bend we came to an open grassland, which interestingly wasn't considered part of the Savannah loop, in which eland, Reba Zebra and friends and a comically curious ostrich reside. On we continued to the cats area, well some of the cats--a beautiful white tiger who was headed right toward me, and of whom I would have gotten a great close-up, but for the marauding middle school group that came to the barrier with fierce roars that sent him back to the rear of the enclosure and close to his more naturally colored next door neighbor who watched him pace unblinkingly. The same beastly brat roared equally loudly at the Eurasian lynx, who both lay unmoving doing a very good job of impersonating furry sphinxes. With a sigh I continued along my way and almost, but not totally, embarrassed to admit that I didn't tell another rambunctious unrestrained brat, who almost took me out at the knees as he rounded the downhill curve in front of the Alligator Cove sign, that the alligators were inside the building that had two doors and resembled a rest room with an entrance and exit. I allowed him to continue round the next curve without even acknowledging my existence before I casually walked in and eyeballed those living logs for a short while with a smile on my face and in my heart. I know, I know, but sometimes the lack of consideration for others supercedes my understanding of and tolerance for youthful exuberance. The Bamboo Trail actually starts prior to the gate that announces it and the pathway is imprinted with bamboo leaves --all of it very soothing. There are so many types of bamboo but I've never actually encountered the incredibly tall bamboos of Asia. This flora certainly adds to the ambience of the habitats of the fauna of this area. Hopefully, in some way it reproduces the normal habitat of these creatures. I absolutely fell in love with the Clouded Leopard and the Red Panda. I had only seen one other Red Panda, in Quebec. They are really cute and cuddly looking but those Clouded Leopards---how regal and elegant--even piled three deep in one crook of a tree--and the length of those tails! Oh, just gorgeous. Nocturnl animals are always appealing because of their huge eyes. I was actually surprised that the lemurs were as active as they were since the light was rather bright and they were outdoors. The Cassowary is far less appealing to look at, I think, but their adaptations and life-style is rather fascinating. For one, they are flightless birds, no big surprise! Their head is protected by a helmut-like covering, the wing tips are elongated to create a sort of armor and there is an elongated toe nail on the inner side of its claw so that is jumps and slashes, disemboweling attackers! The males incubate the eggs and take care of the young until about a year old. Ugly but pretty impressive. The red-ruffed lemur was even more active than the ring-tailed lemur and there were more of them for some reason. The tapirs on the other hand were not about to leave the shade or the far distant side of the enclosure. I forget who that avian creature was with them but it was a long tall drink of water, that doesn't really show up in the picture. And then we arrived at the flamingo lagoon. Oh, these were the flamingoes of my dreams. I was so disappointed in my teens to see the flamingoes in Florida--they were so pale, almost albino looking. I simply was not impressed and really haven't seen any since that impressed me. Even those on Earth Flight were kind of less than pastel--but these guys were vibrant! Coral pink orange and dazzling. Just magnificent! By this time I'd had it--the loop was finished but we needed to return to the original plaza area and I was hot and tired. Bill wanted to continue the African Savannah loop with elephants and giraffes and red river hog. I wanted something to drink, a postcard or two and a bench. Not a problem for either of us. We slowly made our way back to the gibbons--I sat in the shade on a bench and Bill went off to Africa. He was back in about 45 minutes and I chatted with Moms with toddlers and enjoyed the antics od that white-cheeked gibbon. As we departed we saw the arrival of many more school trips--each group from a different school or church group wearing a different colorful t-shirt emblazoned with whatever. Was happy to leave the grounds to them. As we left Zoo Road there was our first accident. The object resting on the front grill of the car nearest us as we went by was the door of one of the vehicles. Who knows how that happened but both cars were pretty shot. Couldn't tell is anyone was injured but purchases were strewn all over. AND this isn't downtown!!! Decided to go to Applebee's for appetizers and a beer for early dinner and something simple later at home. I decided to get my hair trimmed next door at Supercuts and then joined Bill and the locals we usually run into in late after noon. Three hours at the zoo, hair washed, trimmed and styled, chicken wings and a Yuengling. Life is good. Hope you enjoyed the day as much as we. Til next time KandB

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