Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Colin is dead

Road Trip Days 2&3: The Tragic Animal Kingdom
No, this cute little fella is not a gigantic anteater. His name is Colin, and he was a Malayan Tapir and Peter's most absolute favorite animal ever. In case the past tense in the previous sentence and the title of this blog didn't give it away... [spoiler alert] ... Colin died. More on this tragic event later.

Day 2 of our self-inflicted road trip actually started without tragedy, unless you count Angie's meltdown when she was looking for a pair of shoes. Who is it that wears Prada, again?

I had spent over an hour delicately cramming all 20 bags of our collective shit into the car and was quite proud that I had managed to allow enough room for all five of us, so I was not so amused at Angie's satanic excercise in shoe hunting. Note the white balloon sitting on top of the suitcase. No special reason yet, just notice it.

As soon as we got on the road, my stomach started growling for fish and chips. We were in England, after all, and it was either that or blood sausage for breakfast and I hate blood anything. Sorry, mates. Before we could find a fish and chips dive, Angie saw the ocean.

I know, England is an island, so witnessing the ocean should not be an amazing sight that makes attractive women who can't cook scream 'LOOK! WATER!' into the equally if not more attractive but certainly younger driver's ear. Especially if said hunky youth is used to driving on the correct side of the road. Sorry again, mates.

While the water freaks were out collecting 214 seashells (Angie), 2 dead snails and 1 live one (David), and 1 crushed up coke can that resembled the Chateau de Versailles (Peter), I was stuck in the car with Tommy Sleepsalot and collected 1 stinky diaper after Rip Van Winkle's bowels woke up.

After collecting the beach bums, we hit the road again in search of fish and chips. Again, Angie intervened and screamed 'CASTLE!!'

I'd love to lie here and explain to you how those funny Brits have gorillas running loose through their public castles, but I am better at blogging than lying. That should tell you what a shitty liar I am.The truth is, we stopped at the castle and then realized it was actually a money-hording amusement park that happened to be collocated with a castle. When we found out that the 'castle' cost 35 bucks a person, we opted for the photo op of the gorilla sign conveniently located before the cashier. Then we shouted 'cheerio' to Mary Poppins and the greedy castle folk and continued our search for these fish and chips that you keep reading about.

As we left Cash Castle, I asked one of the parking attendants where we could find some good fish and chips. The guy, no shit, stopped breathing for a full minute. Then he started hyperventilating and I began wondering what the hell 911 was in the Queen's country. After a few deep breaths, he began spitting directions at me to the 'most lovely' fish and chips joint in all of England.

I wouldn't let psycho babysit our children, but my stomach told me to listen to the odd man with the funny accent and breathing issues. We pulled up to the place and wondered why there were 20 people lined up out front wearing uniforms. As we looked closer, they were crying.

It turns out, the owner had just died and the staff was outside paying their respects as the hearse pulled away. Angie thought we should just drive on, but my insensitive stomach asked them if they would be serving food anytime soon. It's okay, I told them I was Australian.

After what I have to admit was the best damn fish and chips I have ever had, we decided to hit the road again. Being so wise hurts my head sometimes, but I did manage to ask the boys if they needed the toilet before we got on the road again. No. Great. Wonderful. Let's roll.

After getting everyone buckled in, and punching our next destination into the nav, Peter and David shouted out in unison.

'I need kaka.'

'Ha, ha - nice try, but I asked you quite clearly before we left if you needed to.. pee.....aahh, damn it!'

At least I learned a valuable lesson. If you are dealing with kids five and under, you need to be very specific when asking about their bowel urges. After the poop troop finished up the needy, we hit the road and actually made it without another poop stop until Twycross.

Why Twycross, you might ask. I certainly did. Now we come back to the story of Colin. Colin used to live in our zoo in Heidelberg. Peter saw him and it was love at first snort. Suddenly the Tapir was Peter's favorite animal - posters, paintings, stuffed animals, t-shirts and coloring books featuring tapirs followed. If they had sold tapir toothpaste, they would have been really horrible businessmen, but they would have sold at least one tube.

In Heidelberg, there was only Colin. Poor, lonely Colin, just looking for some tapir action. At the Twycross Zoo in England, there was only Madge. Poor, lonely Madge, just looking for someone to eat bananas with.

If you're ever looking for a partner, just talk to your local zoo people - they are incredible matchmakers. They managed to hook up Colin and Madge and come on, let's be honest...they're not the most attractive tapirs out there.

As is normally the case, the male had to be one to chase the female, so Colin ended up in Twycross. By the time we drove the three and a half hours out of our way, it was too late to visit the zoo, so we got a hotel for the night.

There a couple of things to point out. First of all, Angie's Guinness. Mine was in my hand and yes, we deserved all six of them. The other thing worth pointing out is Angie studying the zoo map we had picked up so that we could find Colin as soon as we got there.

When we got to the zoo, Angie stopped one of the zoo keepers and explained our journey from Germany to visit Colin and asked if we could have a private tour from tapir keeper. In hindsight, the strange look was probably not related to the request itself.

The boys flipped out at the flipper tank while we waited for the 'super-duper special visit' with Colin.

Sarah, or as Peter shouted, 'The Tapir Lady!' showed up and I forced her to stand in front of the tapir exhibit before she could say a word.

Again in hindsight, her uncomfortable look was probably not related to being camera-shy. After a few more pictures and a recap of our history with Colin, 'the conversation' began.

'Is that Colin in there? Where's Madge?'

'No, that's not Colin. That's Madge. Look, I'm really sorry but Colin is dead. He got TB in February and had to be put down.'

After a few moments that were not silent, Sarah asked Peter if he had any questions that might help him remember Colin.

'What was his favorite food?'


'Did Colin and Madge have a baby?'

'Yes, they did,
[long sigh] but the baby died, too.'

After another moment of non-silence, Sarah asked Peter if had any other questions.

'Yeah, can you let Madge out in the yard so we can feed her?'

'No, sorry, we can't. Madge has TB as well and is in quarantine.'

At that point I promised Peter an ice-cream if he stopped asking the nice lady questions . We thanked Sarah for the lovely tour and walked to the nearest ice-cream stand. Peter ordered a push-up ice-cream and got a little too excited with the pushing up part. When his ice-cream hit the dirt, I thought for sure he was going to royally flip out. I was right.

I calmed him down by buying him another push-up ice-cream and very gently suggesting that he not push quite so hard. He glared at me, but took the ice-cream. Just then, Sarah came running up.

She was a really nice woman and seemed to genuinely feel bad about the whole 'Colin is dead' thing, but I could not stop my thoughts as she approached. If she starts telling us how Colin's mother was killed by a jaguar, I'm going to get a restraining order.

When Sarah reached us, she said again how sorry she was about everything. She explained that she was also in charge of the giraffes and invited us to a personal tour of the long-necks.

The boys thought that was MEGA-cool and it was definitely a good distracter. Colin who? Aside from taking pictures, I was busy making my 'nya-ha' faces at the poor saps stuck behind the rail. Ah, too bad you guys are stuck on that side; it's so much more fun in here.

At one point Angie jumped in to help David and I guess the giraffe found Angie's hand rather appealing. At that point, Sarah told us that Gwen Stefani had also visited the zoo and was granted the privilege of feeding the giraffes. To that, Angie turned to me and made the most awesome and most strangest comment she has ever made to me.

'My hand was just licked by the same tongue that licked Gwen Stefani!'

I can't wait to see the Google ads generated from that comment.

After the tapir family tragedy tour, Angie and I still felt guilted into cheering up the boys. The long necks helped for sure, but I think we finally reached our target when let them sift for precious stones.

I'm always looking for a good business idea, and I have to admit - this one is brilliant. They sell you a big bag of dirt with four or five 'precious' stones that look vaguely like what I could find in any Barbie dress-up kit. The kids then dump the dirt into a sieve and let the water wash away the dirt, leaving their 'precious' loot behind.

After the exciting disappointment trip that took us three hours off course, I cracked the whip and straddled up the youngins. Lets ride!

The tragic events of this morning obviously affected Peter, who fell asleep with his arm in the air. Are you Sure? David's grin can be explained by going back to the white balloon that you noticed earlier unless you're complete crap at following directions. David certainly was, as he repeatedly ignored warnings from Mama that 'if you don't stop whacking my head with that balloon, I'm gonna pop it!'.

One pop later, the car was enjoying another moment of non-silence. Funny was that Peter and his raised arm slept through it all. Not funny was that Tom did not. We drove on anyway, and soon all three were out cold. Five hands down, one hand still up.

When we finally reached the hotel, the three little bears woke up from hibernation and went absolutely bizerk.

I had put a cartoon on the laptop to try and calm the untamable. Tom had jumped out of the bath was streaking through the hotel room. David was doing flips on the bed, despite falling off on his head twice. Peter only looks like he is biting his wrist; I'm fairly sure he was just keeping it from raising up in the air again.

Angie and I just stared at each other and shrugged. There was no way in hell we could enforce their normal bedtime, so instead of beating them, we joined them. I stopped jumping on the bed after my first head crash, though, and Angie refused to run around the hotel room naked, but we still felt like we bonded with the crazed maniacs.

Like all crazies, there's the rocket up and the roller coaster down. Unless you're one of the crazies, you should be able to tell which ride they were on.

Ladder Talk:
1) What was the best part of your day?
Peter: When we saw Madge.
David: When we go to the zoo and see a tapir.

2) What was the worst part of your day?
Peter: When Colin was not there.
David: When Peter say I am in bed first.

3) What would you like to do tomorrow?
Peter: When we are going to Ireland.
David: To play with Peter that I are a balloon.


  1. Jerry Seinfeld said there's no such thing as a "Family Vacation." After our last whack at it, I think he may be right. Nice recounting of the day's event's, though.

  2. Too bad about Colin, but thanks for making me laugh this hard!

  3. @Jamie: Jerry also said "Sometimes the road less traveled is less traveled for a reason". After getting lost in England, I'd have to agree.

    @Semi: I know! First Michael Jackson, now this!

  4. Has Angie ever changed Tommy's stinky diapers?

    1. Once, but it was only because she lost a bet on how to spell Boris Yeltsin in English. See, in German, it is Boris Jelzin and stubborn Angie refused to believe me that I knew to spell his name. Instead of reminding Angie that I studied Russian for years, I accepted the bet. One Google search later, I kicked her to the changing table.