Saturday, February 18, 2017

Put Me in the Zoo

True Confession Time:  as a very young child, before I discovered the wonders of comic books, not to mention all the other wonderful written prose that exists, I had two favorite books:  Green Eggs and Ham and this one, featuring Spot, who could change the color of his spots and even juggle them!

Okay.  That revelation aside, on to blogging.

I'm sure many of the loyal readers of this blog have been to the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C.?
But how many of you have run through it?
I hadn't - at least until early in the morning before heading out of our nation's capital this past week.
A tip for the D.C. runners among us - get there right when the zoo grounds open, first thing in the morning.  The only folks in the place with me were fellow runners, the workers, a camera crew shooting pandas in action, and the gorgeous creatures you'll see in some of the pics that follow.
Though truth be told, as the day winds on, I'm not sure the 163 acre zoo in the middle of February is a premiere destination spot, so I can't say what the numbers ended up being like later on.  I can just tell you, if you're there as they open the gates, you've got your run of the digs.
The nearby Taft Bridge (which I ran over the previous morning) is guarded by four Perry Lions, named after sculptor Roland Hinton Perry.  Two of the lions rest on all fours with their heads tilted upward and mouths open while two others have their eyes closed, apparently sleeping.
Two of those bridge guardians were copied in bronze and now greet visitors at the Connecticut Avenue entrance to the zoo.
The National Zoo is one of the oldest in the United States. It's part of the Smithsonian Institution and has free admission!  Founded in 1889, its mission is to "provide engaging experiences with animals and create and share knowledge to save wildlife and habitats."
Lions, tigers and bears.
And zebras. In terms of running, zebras can run almost 40 miles an hour.
Bisons, who come to find out, can also run almost 40 miles an hour!
Elephants - damn things can apparently run at least 15 miles an hour.
Pretty deflating to find out I can't even outrun a damn elephant.
and Gorillas
(pretty sure I can outrun the statues, at least.  Real ones can run at least 20 miles an hour.) 
This would have been the time for Heather and Jackie to visit.  No snakes as far as the eye can see. 
Say hello to Uncle Beazley, a life-size fiberglass triceratops statue outside Lemur Island.  The dinosaur is named after one in the children's book the Enormous Egg by Oliver Butterworth.  (In the book, a boy finds an enormous egg that hatches a triceratops, which, when it becomes too big, it taken to the National Zoo's elephant house.)
This guy had the right idea 
The Wolf Pack was on the prowl 
Come to find out AFTER THE FACT, which explains why the TV crews and photographers were all aflutter outside the panda display - one of the panda bears is being shipped back to China this Tuesday.
Turns out her name is Bao Bao.

From the zoo's webpage, here's why she's heading to China:

As part of the cooperative breeding program with the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA) that the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute participates in for giant pandas, all panda cubs born at the Zoo depart to live in China by age 4. In China, giant pandas participate in the breeding program when they reach sexual maturity between 5 and 6 years old.
Giant pandas are listed as “vulnerable” by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). There are an estimated 1,800 in the wild. Although that is an increase from the previous giant panda census, it is still not very many. The population remains vulnerable to threats from disease, climate change and habitat loss. Scientists in China are working to increase the number of wild pandas and their habitat. They are beginning to reintroduce pandas, born in human care, to the wild. It is possible that Bao Bao’s offspring or descendants may be reintroduced to the wild.  

You, too, can say Bye Bye Bao Bao by going here:

Like I said, get there early, you've got your run of the place 
The Lions of Winter
Again, if you're ever in D.C., make sure to visit the National Zoo and appreciate these magnificent creatures.  Don't be afraid to make a donation to support the institution.  You can do that here:

And if you're lucky enough to get there early and have it in you, take a run on the wild side!

If you want to find out any more information about the zoo itself, visits its website here:

All that being said, I still don't understand why Spot opted for the circus, though.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

A Monumental Run

It's February, the dead of winter, which also happens to be when I make a trek to our nation's capital each year to meet on behalf of my workplace with legislators that represent our district in D.C.  Been doing it for years, and it's helped yield some tremendous opportunities for Middlesex Community College over time.  This year included meetings and conversations with most members of the Massachusetts delegation.  Fingers crossed, we'll be able to identify some new funding sources for programs at MCC in the not-too-distant future.
But as regular readers of this blog knows, a trip to Washington also provides me with an opportunity to log some mileage on some of my favorite running courses in the United States.
The busy schedule on the Hill means an early bell for the runs, but truth be told, the early starts also help provide a peaceful and very introspective feeling to the runs, as the pathways aren't packed yet with the bustling crowds that will overtake most of the monuments that line the National Mall during the later hours.  Sure, the temps are a bit chillier, but it's a give-and-take.  The ability to run unimpeded by crowds enhances the overall experience.  And bonus - NO SNOW!
Anytime I'm out there and see folks taking selfies or splitting camera duties as they take pics of one another at the sights, I always volunteer to take their pic as a whole group.  And in turn, they capture an obligatory shot of me running with some of the inspirational tributes to our nation in the background.
D.C. has my favorite architecture in the U.S. of A.  (See: Supreme Court, Capitol, etc.) 
But peppered throughout the city are literally HUNDREDS of statues and tributes to some of the greats of our history.  Seriously - does ANYONE know how many statues and monuments the city actually boasts?
For example, Mahatma Gandhi.
"It is health that is real wealth and not pieces of gold and silver."
Or the Andrew Jackson equestrian statue in front of the White House, which you can't even get near anymore, thanks to the chain link fences which push you back nearly a football field away from the White House fence.
"Heaven will be no heaven to me if I do not meet my wife there." - Andrew Jackson
Around the other side of the White House, a distant view from the other side of the Ellipse. 
Love this solitary white mulberry tree aside the Washington Monument.
According to historical records, the tree's been there for more than a century.  It first shows up in pictures somewhere around 1910 or so.  It features prominently in a famous 1969 photo of an anti-Vietnam March on the monument grounds.
Me, I just like it because it stands out so starkly against the otherwise empty horizon.
As you can see, the crowds cheering me on for my morning run were huge.  Bigly, in fact.  Right up there with Dr. King's I Have a Dream speech crowd. Or even Forrest Gump's anti-war protest speech.
I was waiting for Steve Rogers to run past shouting "On your left," but it wasn't meant to be. 
I owe it to my dad to stop by the Korean Conflict monument every time I pass through the Mall.  I thank him for his service each and every time.
Then the apex of the run, a quick jaunt up the steps to pay homage to our 16th President.
"No Days Off" - Abraham Lincoln
Over to the Vietnam Wall, with a quick stop at the Three Soldiers, by sculptor Frederick Hart.
"I see the wall as a kind of ocean, a sea of sacrifice that is overwhelming and nearly incomprehensible in the sweep of names. I place these figures upon the shore of that sea, gazing upon it, standing vigil before it, reflecting the human face of it, the human heart."  - Frederick Hart 
A sobering moment at the wall itself.  A Valentine delivered 50 years later to a fallen soldier.
Heading back to the hotel, with a pass by Albert Einstein.
"Life is like riding a bicycle. To keep your balance, you must keep moving." - Albert E.
The Gate that started all the other Gates to follow. The original itself, Watergate. 
Running the Rock Creek Parkway, home beneath a seemingly endless array of bridges, of which this was one of the more interesting.  Turns out its the Dumbarton Bridge, connecting Dupont Circle and Georgetown.  Named after a town in Scotland.  Go figure!
I followed the pathways to the William Taft Bridge, which led me back not only to my hotel - but BONUS - a Dunkin Donuts, to  provide me with my morning cup of Joe to start the day off on the right feet!  Iced, no less!
On to the Hill! (Just lots of walking to be done there, alas, no more running.)

Monday, February 13, 2017

Adele Beckons

So a certain wonder-singer from Tottenham, London took home some top honors at last night's Grammy awards.
Congrats go out to Adele Laurie Blue Adkins for taking home five Grammys, including for album, song, and record of the year.
It was our friend, fellow E Streeter Martin Brewer who first clued many of us into the singer from his homeland, lo, so many, many years ago, before she ever said Hello to the world, and indoctrinated millions into her flock.  Martin used to rave about her and promised us that one day, this gal was going to make it big.  Martin was a prophet, he was.
So as everyone basks in the glory of Adele's triumphs at the Grammys, including her courageous restart for her malfunctioning George Michael tribute - WHAM! - here's a quick look back to a few months ago when I took my favorite Adele fan in all the world to an unforgettable concert by her favorite performer.
(Indulge me in this early love letter to my Valentine, courtesy of Adele and some of her songs that have charted music history.)
Jackie's the one I love saying Hello to every morning.
Let the sky fall
When it crumbles
We will stand tall
Face it all together
With your loving
There ain't nothing
That I can't adore
The way I'm running with you honey
Means we can break every law
No river is too wide or too deep for me to swim to you
Come whatever, I'll be the shelter that won't let the rain come through
Your love, it is my truth
And I will always love you
Love you
You look like a movie
You sound like a song
My God, this reminds me
Of when we were young
Let me photograph you in this light
In case it is the last time
That we might be exactly like we were
Before we realized
We were sad of getting old
It made us restless
It was just like a movie
It was just like a song
Love you, hon - leaving you with another of Adele's songs, though, truth be told, it was written by one of MY faves - a man with similarly dulcet tones to Adele, Bob Dylan.

When the rain is blowing in your face
And the whole world is on your case,
I could offer you a warm embrace
To make you feel my love
When the evening shadows and the stars appear,
And there is no one there to dry your tears,
I could hold you for a million years
To make you feel my love

Sunday, February 5, 2017

All in the Family Run

With Heather's sights set firmly on April 17th and a certain 26.2 mile course from Hopkinton to Boston, that means 2017 weekend runs are long runs, and long runs are a good opportunity to explore the wilds around Stonehill College in Easton, where Heather is currently tearing up academia.
So devoted brother Andrew and mapmaker father laced up our sneakers to join Heather as she explored all new roads - and off-roads - in a community that doesn't believe in convenience stores, gas stations, or any type of modern amenity that could supply a runner with a drink during a long morning of vigorous exercise.
A couple of shots on the Stonehill campus before we started our exploration.
Finally, into the sheep pasture that we've driven by hundreds of times, but never had the wherewoolthal to explore - until now. 
What is the Sheep Pasture?
Funny you should ask.  Here, from the Natural Resources Trust of Easton's website is the explanation:
In 1973, the NRT was invited by Elise Ames Parker to use her former residence, Sheep Pasture, as a 115-acre classroom for its environmental programs and the study of nature in an outdoor setting.  With the availability of this classroom came exciting new ways for the organization to implement its mission.  A program of community gardens was introduced and managed.  Farm buildings were repaired and farm animals acquired.  A newsletter was published.  In October of 1973, the third grade class from the North Easton Grammar School walked down Main Street to Sheep Pasture for its first environmental education program.  That third-grade class pioneered a trail to the establishment of a new outdoor learning laboratory that continues today.  In 1979, the NRT became the owner of Sheep Pasture through Mrs. Parker's generous bequest.  Twenty years later, the NRT purchased 40 additional acres that had been a part of the original estate from Mrs. Parker's grandson.  That purchase increased Sheep Pasture's size to 154 acres. 
All I know is that it provided for some damn fine trail running in the middle of the winter. 
From there, it was up the hill in Easton to explore Borderland State Park. 
Never heard of that either?  Then allow this blog to continue to educate: (we try to provide an educational experience here at Wicked Good, in addition to frivolity and mindless banter)
Borderland State Park, according to the state's MassParks website, is one of the most historically significant tracts of publicly owned land in Massachusetts.  Created in the early 1900s by artist and suffragist Blanche Ames and her botanist husband Oakes, Borderlands' 1,570 acres offers many of the same pleasures that the Ames family enjoyed: walking, horseback riding on woodland trails, fishing and canoeing on the ponds, and in winter, ice-skating and sledding.
We Cooks added running to the slate of offerings.
Further into Borderland - and we didn't even have the chance to explore any of the offshoot trails that wind around the pond and pastures - we came upon the actual Borderland.
Which, it turns out, is a gorgeous stone mansion.
In 1906, the Ameses purchased land on the border of Easton and Sharon.  The country estate they named Borderland remained in the family for 65 years, until in 1971, two years after Blanche's death, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts acquired the estate and opened it as a state park.
The family's home, a three-story stone mansion built in 1910 welcomes guests into the northern entrance to the Borderlands.  Its 20 rooms are furnished as they were when the Ameses lived there.
We, of course, had to run a lap around its grounds, just for posterity's sake.
From there, after continuing to be unable to find any type of liquid sustenance anywhere, we headed back toward Stonehill, with a detour through the Oliver Ames Parker trails, another set of terrific trails through 36 acres of greenspace.  Parker was a former governor of Massachusetts, don'tcha know.
Andrew, meanwhile, was getting desperate for a drink, and considering all options at this point. 
Back on campus, past the Mansion on the Hill, it was time to wrap up this 12+ mile adventure.
Luckily, there were drinks aplenty back at Heather's dorm, where Skyhawks pride was flying high. 
All of this marvelous family time was followed by the omelette bar at Roche Common on campus.  Worth the drive down and a 12-mile run just for that.
Keep on plugging away, Heather!  Next time, though, when we go exploring the history of Easton, we're bringing our own drinks.