Snore & Roar

My sandbox friend, The Baroness of DC, sent me an email in March requesting my presence at the National Zoo’s Snore & Roar event in July. Commoners such as moi do not plan events months in advance so naturally, I was free on that particular date. I was also looking forward to a reunion with Guinness, the dog I helped unite with The Baroness last year, and I wanted to meet Mulligan, the beautiful black and white dog that had been with The Baroness for many years.

Mulligan and Guinness were the perfect hosts and shared everything with me: my bed, my food, my blanket. They took turns inspecting the items in my luggage and Guinness took full responsibility for both dog toys that my four-pack sent as gifts.

The Snore & Roar at the National Zoo consists of an after-hours tour of an animal house or exhibit, a flashlight tour of the zoo and the opportunity to sleep over in a tent. I believe I missed the tent part when The Baroness extended the invitation. I’m not a tent kind of girl. The last time I truly camped was in 1980 in New Jersey in the Girl Scouts. We had cabins with bunk beds. Unfortunately for me, by the time my brain fully grasped the fact that a tent was involved, it was too late to back out.

The Baroness was well prepared with air mattresses, wool blankets for the record-breaking August heat wave and tiny throw pillows. A quick trip to the grocery store yielded the bare camping necessities of fruit, cheese, fried chicken, and alcohol. The royal entourage consisted of her mother, sister and me…the smartass friend.

Our first mission was to set up two tents. We chose a slight incline beneath several stately oaks. Intimidated by the expert tent making activity around us by other Snorers and Roarers, we stared at the tent components and each other. I pointed out to The Baroness’s mother that she was my Girl Scout leader back in the day. I failed to mention the cabins and bunk beds. I was determined to not be the last group to set up camp. I sorted each tent part into piles, and began to set one up, carefully working my way around the blue plastic tarp in my red and cream high heeled sneakers. Twenty minutes later, The Baroness and I triumphantly stepped back to admire our handiwork. I was pleased to note that one couple was still struggling with their tent. Never mind that they looked like grandparents. As we gloated, a gust of wind blew our tent over and we scrambled to secure it to the ground with the metal pins. I believe it was a reminder from up above because there were no more gusts of wind the rest of the event.

The first tour was of the Amazonia exhibit. We welcomed the air-conditioned building and our enthusiastic tour guide. Birds greeted us with their songs and the sound of falling water was relaxing. I was reluctant to leave such a peaceful environment. The second part of the tour was the Big Cats exhibit. The lions and tigers were behind the scenes in their cages for the night and we were able to view them up close and personal. The “Lion King” was majestic with his enormous head and large, wide paws. Two female lions reclined with eight young cubs, their wide eyes and playfulness melted our hearts. The tigers were harder to view because the automatic lighting had been dimmed. The male tiger had beautiful stripes and the zookeeper demonstrated how to give it a shot. It looked more like a “stop, drop and roll” exercise that we learned in kindergarten with the fire department.

Finally it was time for the flashlight tour of the zoo. Our tour group, unfortunately, included the couple that had more trouble setting up their tents than us. The Odd Couple donned their flashlight headgear and eagerly began the upward climb through the zoo. It was all uphill. I sighed and lagged behind in my fashionable footwear. The female half of the Odd Couple walked with me, incessantly chattering and asking me questions about each exhibit. It dawned on me that she thought I was a zookeeper. Really? I wasn’t sure if the high heeled sneakers gave it away or the Storm Trooper in my pocket, but I just didn’t think that my attire screamed zookeeper. After a short internal debate on whether to humor my inner devil and give her a private tour or tell her I wasn’t a zookeeper, I took the higher road and sprinted carefully in the dark to catch up with The Baroness. I didn’t lag behind again, having learned my lesson.

When the tour finished, we headed to the outdoor pavilion for the wine and cheese social. There was no wine and cheese. Everything was gone. Either the group ahead of us ate and drank everything or there were some really happy animals in the zoo. The Baroness was prepared with the cooler of adult beverages, fried chicken, a fruit and cheese platter and a box of wine. I am always suspicious of boxed wine so I satisfied my thirst with adult beverages. We invited the zoo personnel to join our spread and refused to make eye contact with the Odd Couple. The Baroness and I made our way to the tent and settled down for the night with our wool blankets and tiny pillows.

Morning came too soon. We emerged from our tents to discover half of the tents were already dismantled. Ever the one to keep up with the cool kids, I rushed to take our tent down, too. We couldn’t be the last ones! Thankfully, the Odd Couple had yet to emerge from their tent. Our party of four regrouped at the pavilion for bagels, coffee and juice. We watched as the Odd Couple approached, clad in spandex, knee pads and bicycle helmets. I was grateful that the male half was also wearing a fanny pack around his waist covering up the front panel of his spandex shorts. It was too early in the morning. The Odd Couple stretched and jogged in place before gathering a few bananas and bottles of water. They approached our table as the zoo personnel were sitting with us and asked about bike trails. A few options were given and the Odd Couple went away.

The Baroness and I repacked her car with our camping gear and watched the Odd Couple pull everything out of their car, carefully placing it throughout the parking lot like a flea market display. They struggled with removing their bikes from the top of the car but were finally victorious. The female half grabbed a tiny bike with big wheels that looked like it belonged in a circus and attempted a few practice runs in the parking lot. The Baroness and I cringed as she nearly took out several cars and steered crazily to the opposite end. Satisfied with her biking achievements, the Odd Couple hastily crammed their car with duffel bags and air mattresses and coolers. We caught a glimpse of them slowly riding on the bike path to begin their morning adventure. I said a quick prayer for the other bikers on the path as the Baroness and I left the zoo.