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Entries about colleges

Columbus, Ohio

OHIO - PART II

sunny 30 °F

The first thing that comes to mind when I think of Columbus is The Ohio State University. Maybe it is the number of times I have heard players emphasize the "The" when announcing their school on Monday Night Football. Regardless of the reason, it was our first stop when driving into Columbus.

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It reminded me a little of NC State, probably due to the color red that was everywhere. Students were on winter break when we arrived, so we didn't see many people walking around campus. I wanted to see the football stadium since it is one of the largest in the nation (Megan was more interested in finding a buckeye). The football stadium isn't the only large part to this campus, Ohio State has the third largest campus in the country. It took us a while to walk down to the football stadium.

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The stadium was pretty large, but the cool part was the river that passed right by the stadium. Across the river you could see the basketball arena. We rested our legs by leaning over the bridge and watching logs get trapped against the supports of the bridge.

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On the other side of the football stadium was a courtyard that had been planted with rows of buckeye trees. Apparently the first 22 were planted in a football formation, but all the others honored the top football players that had played at Ohio State. I took a picture of Megan looking for buckeyes that may still be remaining on the ground.

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We made our way back through campus to grab a quick bite to eat. The only restaurant that looked open was Wendy's, and they had the Bengals game on TV! I never get to watch the Bengals live in Raleigh, so we took our time with our bowls of chili to watch the game.

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Before the sun went down, we wanted to check out another section of town called German Village. As the name would suggest, German Village was originally settled by German immigrants. This area of town still has streets made of brick (with a trough in the middle for horse whiz and snow runoff). All the homes used traditional Christmas decorations. German Village was pretty, but the look comes with a steep price. A medium sized house was listed for over a million dollars!

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German Village has some traditional shops and restaurants as well. One restaurant in particular had caught Megan's eye on The Food Network's Man vs. Food for its Sausage Autobahn, an all-you-can-eat sausage buffet. German food mean German beer, so was I all for it. We stopped for dinner at Schmidt's Sausage Haus.

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Schmidt's was packed! Luckily we didn't have to wait for a table since we only had 2 people, but we got shot some dirty looks when we bypassed everyone in line upon checking in. After a quick glance at the menu, we both decided on the Sausage Autobahn. Schmidt's makes 4 types of homemade sausage along with a large variety of other traditional German foods, and it all looked delicious (I hadn't seen German food this good since we were in Sheboygan). While I took my time trying to get a little of everything, Megan took off at 100 mph down the Sausage Autobahn.

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After multiple returns to the buffet, I couldn't even look at another sausage. Unfortunately for me, Schmidt's has another delicious tradition—giant creme puffs. These creme puffs took two hands to eat and were jam packed with different flavors of creme, and they were fantastic!

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We ordered one extra creme puff as a gift for our Couch Surfing host in Columbus. We left Schmidts (slowly since we were so stuffed) and headed back through downtown. Our host for the night, Tom, wanted to meet us at a local bar near his house. Just like James (our Cleveland host), Tom was easy to talk to and had a ton of stories to tell us about Columbus. I talked to Tom about life in Raleigh and Cincinnati while Megan slowly drifted into a sausage-induced coma. After a couple of beers, we headed back to the house and crashed for the night. Tom was such a great host that he went late to work the next morning to take us out to breakfast at a diner around the corner from his house.

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The real reason for our trip to Michigan/Ohio was the Columbus Zoo. Megan knew that I absolutely love zoos and discovered that the Columbus Zoo is one of the highest rated zoos in the world (largely because of the work of director "Jungle Jack" Hanna). When Southwest offered $100 tickets to Columbus (I guess people don't like flying north in the middle of winter), it sounded like an awesome opportunity. We said goodbye to Tom and made our way to the zoo.

Despite the zoo's popularity, it was empty on Monday morning (I'm sure the sub 30s temperature didn't help either). We had the zoo to ourselves. Unfortunately, many of the outdoor exhibits were closed for the season, so we had to observe the animals in their inside enclosures.

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The zoo was pretty large, but it didn't seem too much larger than some of the other zoos I had visited. What made the Columbus Zoo so nice was the extensive detail put into all the enclosures. The aquariums were stunning and enormous. The reptile house and bat house were made to accommodate large groups of people. The manatee enclosure made me feel like I was standing on a dock in Florida.

Some of the more active animals were the gorillas and bonobos (a primate that looks similar to a chimpanzee). We were able to stand right next to the gorillas (they were eye level and only separated by a pane of glass). Two younger gorillas wrestled on the ground while the large male occasionally broke up the fighting. He also gave Megan a look when she sat down next to him!

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The bonobos had just been fed when we walked by their enclosure, so they were very active. Their enclosure looked like an elementary school playground, filled with slides and monkey bars. It was astonishing to see how quickly and easily they climbed around the enclosure (sometimes scaling the walls using only the tiny bolts that secured the glass). One bonobo was playing with a spinning seat by throwing objects into the seat and spinning it around until they went flying out. Even the baby was playing around by going up and down the slide.

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We wandered through the Australian animals, the African animals, and the South American animals, but about half of these exhibits were closed or could only view the animals indoors. The real action was in the North America section which had all of its outdoor exhibits still open.

We saw a wolverine lounging in a hole, bald eagles eating mice, and an arctic fox chewing on its enclosure. These animals were all very active, moving around their enclosures and playing.

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There are too many animals to even try to name all the ones we saw. Deer, bison, reindeer, wolves, foxes, antelope, goats, pigs—the list goes on and on. Megan did her best to look Canadian by posing with a moose holding her Tim Horton's coffee.

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The bears were some of the scarier exhibits. The polar bear was big, but it was nothing compared to the grizzlies that were sleeping up against the glass. These things were gigantic! After seeing these guys, maybe I should have been a little more nervous on our early morning hike in Glacier National Park!

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We spent nearly 6 hours walking around the zoo, and that's with no lines and some of the exhibits closed. I'm sure Megan was getting tired of me spouting off my ancient Ranger Rick knowledge (for those that don't remember Ranger Rick, it was a kid's animal magazine). Despite our tired legs and Megan's tired ears, we enthusiastically entered the last animal house. We had saved a special treat for last, the elephants (there was a baby elephant).

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I could have spent another whole day at the zoo, but we had to leave. Our flight back to Raleigh was leaving in a couple of hours. Sausages and animals, I don't know if I could have asked for more.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 12:30 Archived in USA Tagged animals beer colleges local_food Comments (0)

Snakes in Albuquerque!

STATE 14 - NEW MEXICO

sunny 55 °F

We are headed into the heart of New Mexico, the 5th largest state in the US. Albuquerque here we come!

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Leaving Colorado heading southeast, the plateaus dwindled away while sandy hills took their place. There were almost no trees or vegetation. Looking on either side of the highway getting close to Albuquerque, everything was just brown. Even the houses were brown!

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I couldn't be sure, but it looked like the air conditioners were installed on top or on the side of houses rather than on the ground. I guess it was to keep them from getting clogged with sand and dirt? If someone knows for sure, let me know. Another weird thing New Mexicans do—they paint their highways turquoise and a light-brown/pinkish color!

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We arrived into Albuerque barely beating the rush hour traffic. Our destination was the American International Rattlesnake Museum in Old Town Albuquerque, the largest collection of rattlesnake species in the world.

This place had a lot of snakes. It was less of an official museum than I had anticipated (it was in the back of a souvenir shop), but the actual snake enclosures were nicer than you would typically see in zoos. Each display had information about the particular type of rattlesnake, and the snakes all looked alert and healthy. They didn't just have rattlesnakes. Other vipers like copperheads, turtles, lizards, and spiders were also on display.

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Unfortunately the snakes are fed after hours, so we didn't get to see any feedings. We also didn't get a chance to explore the rest of Old Town as everything was closing down for the night, but it looked like a lot of tourist souvenir shops and restaurants, so maybe we didn't miss that much.

We drove across town to the base of the Sandia Mountains, the towering peaks overlooking Albuquerque. Albuquerque is already at a pretty high elevation, it sits even higher than the Mile-High City of Denver. In fact, almost since we had entered Arizona, we had stayed above 5,000 ft (except obviously when we hiked to the bottom of the Grand Canyon). The Sandia Peak rose much higher into the sky, the summit over 10,000 ft high. You can ride a tramway up to the top of Sandia Peak, precariously dangling you over thousand foot drops along the way.

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The ride took nearly 15 minutes to get to the top, and we only passed over 2 towers to get there. The Sandia Peak Tramway has the world's third longest single span, and of course this is when you are the furthest away from the ground.

We reached the top and began walking around the platforms. During the winter, Sandia Peak offers skiing down the other side of the mountain. It was pretty quiet at the top now, the temperature too cold for hiking or biking, but too warm to keep snow on the slopes. Remember when we misjudged the distance of the Stratosphere in Vegas and I said you could see far away here in the southwest? Well, the view from the top Sandia Peak allows you to see mountains over 100 miles away. An ancient volcano looms off in the distance, and another ridge of mountains even further beyond that.

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You could see rain falling in the distance, as well as sun shining over the mountains. You could see the square borders Albuquerque. Albuquerque is bounded by an Indian reservation on one side, the air force base on another, and the third side stopped by a protected forest. We walked down to the ski slopes and took in the view the other direction. It was pretty cold at the top, so we started to head back to the tram station. We watched the tram climb up over the valley below, and then boarded to head back down to the car.

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On the way down, we asked our tram driver where to go for supper. He said if you only have one night in town, you have to eat down near University of New Mexico at Frontier Restaurant. He recommended the cheese enchilada with green chiles. Chile is the largest agricultural crop in New Mexico, and therefore New Mexicans like to put it on everything. At Frontier you can get the green chile stew or chopped green chiles on top of your burritos. I opted for the stew, which was more like a sauce. It was pretty darn good, especially when combined with the college atmosphere. We were also given sopaipillas, a flat bread, on which you spread honey.

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After supper, we walked through the middle of UNM. It was the end of March, but you could still plainly see chalk advertisements saying "Come to our show tonight! Feb 6th!". I guess it hadn't rained in a while. We found some statues, and Megan posed in some pictures. I took a picture with my Wolfpack brethren in the southwest, the Lobos.

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Apparently I was wearing the perfect urban camouflage for that picture.

We were only staying in town for one night, and thankfully I can stop having to spell the word "Albuquerque", quite possibly one of the most awkward words to have to type.

Posted by Mike.Flynn 13:50 Archived in USA Tagged animals museum colleges local_food Comments (0)

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