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Our 2010 Road Trip, Part 6: The Zoo That Chocolate Built

Chocolate Deer!

Sorry, chocoholics, this yummy-looking deer is merely a display item.

In my son’s youth we tried to accommodate him on our road trips with at least one kid-friendly stop, usually either an amusement park or zoo. This year, thanks to the generosity of groundbreaking chocolatier Milton Hershey, we got two for the price of one.

Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover:

Every year since 1999 Anne and I have taken a road trip to a different part of the United States and seen attractions, marvels, history, and institutions we didn’t have back home in Indianapolis. From 1999 to 2003 we did so as best friends; from 2004 to the present, as husband and wife. Beginning with 2003’s excursion to Washington DC, we added my son to the roster and tried to accommodate his preferences and childhood accordingly.

After the record-breaking nine-day epic that was our 2009 trek to the farthest reaches of South Dakota, we decided to scale back in 2010 with a shorter drive in a different direction. We previously drove through the corners of Pennsylvania in 2003 and 2004 — through Washington in the southwest corner on our way to Washington, DC; and through Erie in the northwest corner on our way to Niagara Falls. This year, that extra-large wooded state would be the center of our attention.

As one of America’s original 13 colonies, Pennsylvania contains multitudes of U.S. history and authentic places and things from centuries past. For the three of us, we figured it would do well. Anne is a big history buff. I’m willing to drive just about anywhere within reason. My son would be dragged along for whatever ride until such time as he developed a separate life and identity.

We’re the Goldens. This is who we are and what we do.

At one point during our long, hot day at Hersheypark, we took a break and walked next door to ZooAmerica, which was included with our park admission even though it’s technically a separate attraction. The zoo’s origins date back to circa 1905 when Hershey was first planning his chocolate factory and its surroundings. Hershey envisioned not just a lucrative snack business, but an entire town for his employees to live in and enjoy to the fullest. That meant value-added quality-of-life special features such as the park (which added carnival rides in later decades) and the zoo, which has closed twice over its century-plus history but nonetheless remains a vibrant part of the community.

As the name hints, ZooAmerica’s focus is strictly on American wildlife, but that’s not necessarily a boring thing. We took pics of a handful of the residents who stared back at us, along with a few local handiworks on display around the grounds.

prairie dogs!

Prairie dogs were among the zoo’s first residents way back in the day, and gave us flashbacks to our 2009 trip to South Dakota.

spoonbills

Spoonbills try impressing with their antics.

Turtle!

Turtle peers into our very souls.

Bad Snake!

I didn’t copy down the names of all the animals, so let’s just call this one Bad Snake.

Animal Art!

Intermission for fan art from local schoolkids. I imagine ZooAmerica is probably a frequent field trip for them.

Guy on Ball!

Second intermission for the only animal in the zoo silly enough to stand on a big rubber ball.

Porcupine!

Porcupine in solitude, no doubt bitter over all those slanderous inaccuracies about his kind in countless classic cartoons.

barred owl!

Handlers offered live demos with select animals such as this barred owl.

barred owl!

Barred owl in inscrutable close-up.

Caribou!

Actual deer or buck or caribou or whatever, more flesh-‘n’-blood than the simulacrum in our lead photo.

Among the zoo sections not pictured was an indoor habitat for nocturnal critters, all darkness and creepy scurrying and unusable photos. Definitely one of those recommendable “you had to be there” parts of the ZooAmerica experience.

Once we’d had our fill of animals, park rides, and chocolate — and frankly, who ever thought such a thing was possible? — we took our leave, parted ways with our delightful tour guide Carla, and headed back to Exton. We were too exhausted to go hunting for local eateries, so our dinner was at a Red Robin across the street from the hotel. We had one of those back home, but not as convenient as we’d like, so this wasn’t too commonplace a meal option for us…which at their prices is perhaps for the best.

That night on TV: Back-to-back episodes of MythBusters, in which inquisitive daredevils attempt difficult feats outside their comfort zone in a quest to verify what’s possible or even plausible.

To be continued!

* * * * *

[Link enclosed here to handy checklist for other chapters and for our complete road trip history to date. Follow us on Facebook or via email signup for new-entry alerts, or over on Twitter if you want to track my TV live-tweeting and other signs of life between entries. Thanks for reading!]

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