Something big was happening at the Carnahan residence. After a week of continuous failure at Hotseat Isaac, we hit a round that was starting to bear fruit. We actually pushed through the Cathedral with the Polaroid and we were now standing in the first room of the chest, the first glimpse any of us had of the place. This was high stakes. Last day of the trip. Last chance for us all to see the final ending as a family.
Aaaaannd we die immediately a couple rooms in. Tragedy.
The question lingers of what to do with our final full day today. Reno's relatives always push and suggest that we see the local sites, but Reno is as big of a homebody as me, but we really should do something. The choice comes down to the Cleveland Zoo or the state park. The controversy rages for a while; Reno doesn't really wanna pay for the zoo but then Wilco Moneybags Blackflame McGee swoops in and offers to pay for him and Jessie. The zoo is what we decide on based on a majority vote. I voted for it primarily for the photo ops.
Oh man, that big dome makes me think that this will be like going to Epcot! ...Maybe we should've just stayed home.
Before we enter the parking lot, I start an important ceremony. I ask Reno to close his eyes and tell him that we are honoring a long standing dorp tradition of four months. I put an object in his hands and tell him to open them. I have transferred the Penis Whistle that Siro gave me to him, to honor the spirits.
Naturally the first thing we do upon getting to the do is spend an hour at the concession stands. We had planned to pack our own lunches with us, but apparently everyone assumed that sandwiches would be made FOR them while we were playing Isaac as opposed to getting up and actually doing it themself, so it didn't really happen. The problem here is that now, every time we get come near a concession stand, we get sucked in and linger there for entirely too long. Although I'm hungry, I refuse to buy anything because of absurd prices and the desire to get the show on the road. I claim to be satiated by principle.
The Mewd at the Zoo could easily be a children's book classic.
Whenever I think about zoos, this is the first image that comes to mind. A big exhibit with a sign announcing an animal and there is no animal. I do appreciate that modern zoos actually treat their animals with dignity and give them plenty of space, but I always feel like I am playing Where's Waldo when I go to an exhibit.
Cleveland Zoo is known for its elephants. They, thankfully, have a much harder time hiding.
I... I can't tell what emotion Wilco is conveying.
With our tickets, we get little green coins that we can use to donate a quarter of our ticket towards a wildlife preservation of choice. Most of us threw our coins into the RHINO bin because RHINOS ARE AWESOME but Sarah actually stopped and evaluated what the money was going towards and decided that the Cleveland bat fund was the best because it was actually trying to preserve a whole habitat as opposed to just monitoring one endangered animal. BUT BATS AREN'T RHINOS!!
Reno was telling us about how the Rainforest exhibit was pretty amazing, all indoors and out of the sun, and had a preserve the rainforest exhibit that always stuck with him. We hadn't wanted to spend the extra money but we had a AWESOME TWIST OF DESTINY and apparently the rain forest exhibit was free today.
W-wiggy. You can be maybe a little excited. I mean, it's free.
Okay that is maybe TOO excited.
Looking at exhibits with this group was way better than going to the Baltimore Aquarium with TEN PEOPLE. We could pace ourselves better. Though I never feel like I can appreciate all the information given at any given exhibit in a big group outing like this. But it's still fun.
Piranha, apparently, do not actually swarm prey like shown in every piece of media ever. They apparently attack one at a time and only take a bite-size of flesh. Amazonians aren't that scared of them, apparently? Apparently. Apparently!
This sleeping turtle was pretty awesome. A constant stream of sleepy bubbles. There was also a giraffe neck turtle that we wanted to locate but the probable suspect spited us and refused to extend its neck out of its shell.
I love this exhibit for the porcupines that randomly fills with bewildering fog. Do porcupines even LIKE fog? I don't know! They slip into it mysteriously like myths and shadows.
Egad! Porcupines are HUGE!
This big lipped fish could easily be mistaken for a Cryptid.
I'm GLAD this exhibit was closed, with a pun like that.
Do... do you guys actually know how to play checkers
Wilco loses at checkers and his punishment is to be locked in with the porcupines.
Capybara are great because they are HUMONGOUS RATS
Slothes are our spirit animal
A net of chains prevents Wilco from rejoining the group.
Sarah was outraged that the zookeeper apparently doesn't feed the anteater actual ants.
These monkeys were CRAZY lethargic. I guess I would be too if my jungle was a cardboard backdrop.
Wiggy is about as sleepy as those monkeys.
This pygmy deer is kind of disquieting.
Wilco's favorite animal here is orangutangs. They are pretty lively.
Don't mess with me, toddler.
After we escaped the rainforest exhibit, and more importantly, the cafeteria of the exhibit, we were back out in the blistering sun.
Let's huddle for warmth, you guys.
Early settlers of Monkey Island were a generous donation by X.
I shouldn't find these barrels as funny as I do. They're just big barrels that are clearly labeled as not safe for human consumptions, but the flowering water just looks so tantalizing in the hot sun.
We take frequent breaks, and really the heat really drags our momentum for the outdoor exhibits.
The late Monkey Mike, who has a memorial at the park. We aren't sure if he was named such because he really liked monkeys or...
This bridge is something else that was completed JUST IN TIME for our arrival.
AUGH ANOTHER CONCESSION STAND!! Our gang stops, and I continue to savor my principle.
Then we came across the best part of the trip. The Wolf Lodge, which Sarah was psyched about to see wolves, but everyone else was psyched about because the air conditioning inside was downright frigid and there were sofas. Sarah, on the other hand, CRAVED wolves. But the wolves were all up in one little shady corner a million miles away behind the glass and we could barely appreciate them. But we did get to see wolves on the TV in the lodge! That's why you go to the zoo, right?
A native American Krampus.
Antlers, rifles, and a portrait of Abraham Lincoln.
Wiggy, is your understanding of benches on par with your grasp of checkers?
This tiger was pretty active, and kept dipping into its little pool to stay chill.
It was soon that we discovered the strangest thing of all.
This bear. Rotating its head in circles. Constantly. For like ten minutes. Curious.
Our zoo time was winding down. There was plenty more to see, but most of the gang was completely worn out. Sarah could look at animals all day, though. We use our need to go to Conezone before it closes to leverage her into leaving.
OH MAN, ICE CREAM? YEAH! I got a big ol' lemon milkshake, and there was black raspberry and riscotta and other flavors for people WOW.
On the ride home, we somehow invent this string of scenarios where Wiggy is an airline pilot and keeps leaving messages over the intercom that are at first disconcerting but not really. Stuff like, "Is there a doctor on the plane? If there is, I'd just like you to know that is a very respectable profession. Good going!" inbetween sessions of introducing his co-pilot Frank for ineptitude. Y'know Frank. The co-pilot.
And this eventually concluded with, "I don't want to alarm anyone but this flight crashed like a month ago. You should probably wake up."
We return home, and it's time to grill up some chicken. We can't escape the fail motif, though, and a chicken grease fire haunts Reno as he tries and barbeque up some dinner. He manages to get a cap on it, though. The outside is crispy but the inside is great.
We all sit in the backyard as a family, and argue about how kosher giraffes are exactly and what qualifies as kosher. Jessie makes some Mac and Cheese as a side (and so that Siro has something to eat at all.)
Contemplating the penis whistle.
A nice big family dinner.
Jericho likes fruit punch. (He was stealing seats about as often as Wiggy steals beds)
Wiggy finally gets a taste of Civ 5: Gods and Kings courtesy of Wilco, and everything else stops mattering.
The finale for Kickass Cleveland vacation is Call of Cthulhu. We've been stalled on my massive homebrew campaign, The Drowning of Maine, for ages now. We stay up until like 3AM resolving it. The group spends ages discussing the political ramifications of siding with different warring factions for ages, but then, on account of getting lost, they stumble upon a optimal solution. They double cross EVERYONE and the only morally ambiguous thing they do is side with an Elder God and indirectly murder a town of survivors. However, the immediate threat of a flesh melding cult and their all consuming God is put down. The elder gods that the team side with postpone the end of humanity until The Stars Are Right. The team rides back to civilization on the back of a monstrous leviathan. Scoops, the news reporter played by Reno, comes back with irrefutable evidence that Monsters Are Real and essentially becomes a credible tabloid reporter who makes crazy cash. Carlyle, Siro's obnoxious writer character, ghost writes a novel for Fuzzy, the jazz musician who anachronistically composes a song before his time. Sarah's character, Gloria Van DerWalls, tries to become biffles with the race of monstrous fish people and gets rejected.
The only one who didn't survive the campaign was Wilco's character, a lush and cowardly aviator who acted as navigator for the group. At one point, a bout of serious insanity gave him a permanent fetish for knives. Wilco acted this up to an obnoxious degree. He refused to put the knife down when the military confronted him and had his head caved in with the butt of a rifle. Everyone cheered at his demise, including Wilco. He was dead exactly the moment when he was no longer necessary.
We are all barely awake for the end of it, but it was an accomplishment to end this campaign after so long. We turn in for our last morning together.
That night, however, I have a strange experience. While trying to drift off to sleep, I am looking into Sarah's sleeping face when suddenly I hear a hostile, male voice coming from her face. It demands to know what I am doing here. I sit bolt upright in bed. Sarah is asleep and I am just on pins and needles for a while. It takes me a while to finally get to sleep and I wake up bleary.
It's very possible that I just hallucinated the voice on the verge of sleep, but I felt rather alert at the time. It is more probable that I imagined it. Reno was confident of my misconception. Jessie, on the other hand, is more convinced that the house has ghosts. There have been strange noises coming from upstairs and down in the basement. The upstairs is a bit eerie, as it is empty apart from a few cats, and the glow of a television that is always on for the comfort of said cats.
Sarah is alarmed that no one mentioned the ghosts to her up until now. But I did not inform her specifically because it would keep her from sleeping at night.
We all shower, a delirious shower train. I am not very alert. The visit has been wonderful, but also exhausting. Reno looks forward to getting back into his old routine but also will miss us. We pile into the car and drive to the the airport.
On the way, Reno announces the Cleveland Awards, an arbitrary assortment of notable accomplishments over the course of the visit. Such as:
Most beds stolen: Ryan Lewis
Highest fail count: David Kinne
Best Dino King: Dino King
Reno drops us off at the airport and we bid a teary farewell. He reminds us that we're always welcomed here and that we should totally visit again he's not even joking. Do it.
At the airport, the lines are long. Siro gets held up at security. By the time we're at the end, we have a narrow margin to catch our flight. Cleveland airport is huge and it's several terminals away. Wilco, Sarah and I bolt in that direction, more or less abandoning Wiggy and Siro who leisurely stroll in that direction.
My foot is killing me, having a nasty sore on the bottom. I lag, but we arrive at our gate. The haste isn't really that necessary, though as Wiggy and Siro get there in time just fine by strolling.
We're all taking the same flight and manage to get adjacent seats, which is awesome. It's boring for Sarah, though, because she's a row behind and I'm so exhausted that I spend the entire flight dozing.
We arrive in Baltimore. There, we will meet Blue, Cherri and ProZD. Dorp Beach House is happening. STAY TUNED?