The Mill Creek Festival

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The Mill Creek Festival is held just a few miles from my house, so Jason and I decided to walk there and see what there was to see. And there was plenty to see and do– live music, entertainment, crafts vendors, food vendors, play areas, and even a haunted house!

In general, I’m mostly uninterested in buying stuff from festival vendors. I’m also the sort of person who feels the weight of the craftsperson’s eyes when I’m looking at their wares and subsequently feels guilty for not buying anything, so I really cannot speak to the variety or quality of any of that. I can tell you that I saw lamps made out of liquor bottles out of the corner of my eye that made me grimace.

The food court could have stood for some more variety–there were three gyro stands right next to one another, and kind of shockingly overpriced at that. We ordered at one of them where prices weren’t posted, and if I had known that they were $10 apiece, I would have gone to Kafe Neo instead and had one made to order instead of the sort-of mediocre one I ended up eating. The malasadas from Hawaii’s Donut were awesome, though–what’s not to love about warm fried dough rolled in sugar?

The very best part about the Mill Creek Festival is that it’s dog-friendly. Dogs aren’t just welcome, they have an entire area devoted to products for dogs…even a stage area where various dog groups put on demonstrations of their skills. I am such a dog person that seeing one dog makes me happy, and there were so many wiggly wagglers and tummies in need of rubs that I thought I might explode. My favorite dog was an eensy weensy puppy named Taro who was dedicated to taste-testing a pebble on the ground in front of him. My second favorite was a corgi who wanted ALL the tummy rubs. When we got home, Napoleon had a fit: not only did we clearly eat food that we didn’t share, but we also cheated on him with fifty other dogs. It’s true. And I’d do it again.

Spotted on the Roadside: Vac Shop in Seattle, WA

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What to do with vacuums you just can’t fix? Turn them into vacuum monsters and station them outside to advertise your business, of course! True story: I had a nightmare about this place the day after visiting. Whether it was brought on by mild heat exhaustion due to a long, hot day in a car that doesn’t have air conditioning or my general aversion to household chores, I couldn’t say, but the fact remains that a dream about being surrounded, carried off, and devoured by vacuum monsters next to a lake of blood from their other victims is an unsettling association to make with vacuum repairs.

Spotted at 402 S Lucille St in Seattle, WA.

Olympic Sculpture Park in Seattle, WA

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The Olympic Sculpture Park is a free park along Seattle’s Elliot Bay waterfront, and was created with the aim of making a green space for art that could also accommodate a salmon habitat and native plants. The park is open half an hour past sunset, which makes it especially enjoyable in the PNW’s glorious summers: we have sunsets as late as 9pm! Visiting the park just before sunset allows you to browse the sculptures in the prettiest light, and you can also continue down Alaskan Way as you leave and watch the waterfront come alive in the night as twinkling ferries glide to and fro and the Great Wheel beckons you to come play.

Makin Stuff: A Harry Potter Moving Picture Frame

A while back, I participated in the Harry Potter gift exchange on reddit. I’d participated in a few other gift exchanges previously, and they were all pretty much bummers in that I’d put a lot of time and effort into picking out what I thought would be a great gift only to have the giftee not even bother to acknowledge that they’d received it. However, I felt strongly that the Harry Potter exchange would be different, more magical, both because of the subject matter and because this time I had a plan in place for what I wanted to give. Something I’d been thinking about making ever since my trip to the Islands of Adventure. Something that you couldn’t buy anywhere. No, not friendship.  A picture frame that made it look like you were on the cover of the Daily Prophet. Just in case you’d like one, here’s how I made it!

What you’ll need:

  • A digital photo frame that supports video files, with a total width of less than 8.5 inches. I used the Micca M707Z.
  • An SD card. You won’t need a huge one unless you plan to cycle through a number of videos instead of just one.
  • Basic video editing software
  • Plywood, enough for an 8.5×11 sheet plus a few more inches for the other frame components
  • paint or wood stain
  • wood glue
  • double sided tape or mod podge or your preferred adhesive
  • x-acto knife
  • basic woodcutting tools (I used a Rockwell multi-material cutting saw)
  • photo editing software
  • printer
  • a few sheets of paper

 

All of your measurements will be based around the dimensions of your digital photo frame, so if you’ve ordered it online, you should wait until you have it in hand to get started. For example, the photo frame I bought advertises that it has a 7 inch wide screen, when in reality, it’s just over 6 inches. That makes a big difference! Once you have your screen measurements in hand, you can proceed.

I did the newspaper portion of the project first. I used photoshop, but you can use any photo editing software you have. I’m sure if you were tenacious enough, you could lay everything out in Word! Choose any number of the free Harry Potter-inspired fonts on fontspace, and plot out your “articles” in a manner that’s pleasing to you. They can be literally about anything you want: a wizard fashion show, a holiday, a special occasion, anything. It will look more like the movie newspaper if you mix fonts and include snippets of multiple stories rather than just one, but it’s really up to you. The only thing you need to work around is a rectangle of blank space exactly the size of your digital frame’s screen dimensions somewhere on the page. This rectangle also shouldn’t butt up to any of the edges: leave enough room for the frame part of your digital frame to hide so it’s not sticking out anywhere.

daily-prophet

Print out a copy to make sure you’re happy with it. Cut out the blank area with an x-acto knife and use this printout as a template with which to trace onto your plywood. Once all of your lines are traced, you can start making your cuts. When you’re finished, you should have an 8.5×11 piece of wood with a hole the size of your screen cut into it. Now while you CAN do all of the woodcutting with a dremel, here’s why I don’t recommend it:

dremel-vs-proper-tool

That one on the left? I used a Dremel and it took about a year to cut just to get it to that level of shittiness. Once I broke down and bought a proper tool, I cranked out the considerably less shitty one on the right in less than five minutes. You’re also less likely to be injured when using a tool in the way it’s intended instead of forcing a diamond bit through a sheet of plywood like I did. As with all power tools, use proper safety equipment, and read all instruction manuals before operating any tool you’re unfamiliar with!

At this point, you can paint or stain the back and sides, or you can wait until you have all of the wood components completed. It’s your choice! You don’t even have to do anything to the wood if you don’t want, but I feel like painting or staining it black allows the back and sides to recede so the focus is on the front, where it should be.

Now, you could just glue your digital photo frame to the back of this piece of wood and be almost done (and if you’d rather do that, you should definitely paint/stain first), but I wanted to make the photo frame removable for a couple of reasons: (1) so if it ever dies, it can be replaced and (2) if I decide I don’t want something Harry Potter related on display in my house anymore, I can always slide out the digital frame and use it by itself.

Here’s where my instructions get a bit dodgy if you’re using a different make/model of digital frame. My frame’s power cord and SD slots are all on one side–the left side, if you’re looking at the back. Thus, I wanted to keep that side open for easy access to the SD card. On the right side, however, I cut a small strip of wood (5.5″ long, .5″ wide) to serve as a stopper, so the digital frame has something to butt up against and keep it from sliding out of the side. I then measured the depth of the digital frame and cut two pieces of wood that would be glued together to give the digital frame a place to sit and would also hold it in place. My pieces were both 6″ long and 1.25″wide. At its deepest, my frame is just over an inch thick. My plywood was .25″ thick. By gluing the plywood together in an L shape, I was able to create a support that was just a hair over an inch think which enables me to seat the digital frame in snugly, which means it doesn’t need any support on the top of the frame to hold it in place.  Depending on the depth of your frame, yours may be different.  Use wood glue to glue the narrow strip of wood to the back side of your 8.5″x11″ piece of wood, on the opposite side of wherever your SD card inserts. Glue your two supporting pieces of wood into an L shape. Let dry.

gluing-supportsThere is literally no reason for the clamp to be in this picture. I didn’t use a clamp. Ignore the clamp, is what I’m saying.

Once your L shape has dried, use more wood glue to glue it in place on the back of your large sheet of wood. Let dry.

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Once all of the wood glue on the back of your frame has completely dried, try sliding in your digital frame. It should fit snugly. If it doesn’t, you’ll need to figure out what went wrong–this may involve swearing. Once it does fit snugly, cut one more piece of wood to serve as your stand. Mine’s 2.25″ wide by 5.25″ long–yours may be different. Just cut something long enough that when propped at an angle, it will be able to keep the frame upright of its own accord. Once you’ve got that piece, glue it liberally into place and let it dry.

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If you haven’t painted or stained the back and all of the various bits of wood, now is the time to do so. Let dry completely. If you used stain, you may want to lightly sand any drips or spots that you may have gotten on the front of the wood, as otherwise, it can show through your paper.

Once it’s fully dry, you can affix your “daily prophet” to the front. Either use the one you printed off as a template if it’s not damaged, or print a fresh one. I used double sided tape to attach mine to prevent any ink bleeding from getting the paper damp, but you can use whatever you like. I didn’t want to mod podge the front to seal it, again, as I was concerned about bleeding ink and also because I wanted it to have the matte look of a newspaper. If you’d prefer yours to be sealed or shiny, by all means, go for it.

After your frame is done, all that’s left to do is to follow the instructions on photojojo to make your moving picture, and you’re done! Tell your friends, or let them think they’re going crazy when they think they see a picture wink at them the next time they’re over at your place. Either way, have fun and enjoy having just a bit more magic in your everyday life!

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 I’m confused, this one says “wizard” and the one up top says “wizards”. Good catch! I made one for myself as well, the one above is the one I mailed out on the exchange. And he LOVED it.

 

The Outback Kangaroo Farm in Arlington, WA

“Ewwwwwww, it’s not like in cartoons.” “Yeah, there’s a lot more mucus.” – The Simpsons, Bart vs Australia

You could go all the way to Australia and try to interact with their kangaroos. It’s not advisable, but you could. Or you could save yourself the cost of international travel and a potential disembowelment and interact with the tame ones at the Outback Kangaroo Farm in Arlington, WA instead. I won’t judge you either way.

We took the earliest tour, in the hopes that it wouldn’t be too crowded and that the majority of families with small children would still be stuffing them with cheerios and wrestling them into the car to head to the farm as we were leaving…but no such luck. I know I often come across like a wretched kid-hater especially since it’s common knowledge that I don’t plan on having any myself, but my hopes mainly stem from my selfish desire to be able to do everything. If there are kids present, there’s no way I stand a chance of being selected to feed the lemurs a banana. There is no adult on Earth who can win a contest competing against children. The odds are on par with a unicorn swooping out of the clouds and taking you for a journey to the moon–and since there’s a kid around, there goes your shot at that, too. And I get it: those experiences are magical and special to kids. But damn it, I want to do it, too! And I know without you having to tell me that my attitude makes me the biggest baby in the world. I still have to pay adult admission, though. WAH.

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lemur

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tortoise

The lemurs were the only animals that you had to be selected by a staff member to feed. As for everything else, they gave visitors bits of bread to feed the kangaroos and wallabies. Not entire loaves, like the Olympic Game Farm, but bread nonetheless, which as we all know, is what they eat in the wild, building cob ovens in the outback and baking their tiny paws to the bone, or bartering pouch rides for cookies with the Keebler elves. But in order to actually feed them their daily requirement of Wonder Bread without shoving a kid out of the way (which I would like to remind you is something I would not do), we ended up trailing farther and farther behind the tour group.

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chupacabraI don’t know what animal this is, so I’m going with “chupacabra”.

kangaroo

kangaroo-at-roo-zooThe kangaroos were much more shy than the wallabies, which would probably follow you into your car if they thought you might have more bread.

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roo-zoo-scratches

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We ended up so far behind the group that we missed the ostriches entirely. On the way, we paused to take a picture with the black and white pony they had tied up on the path: bear in mind, that at this point, everything on the farm could be touched or fed, and we had no reason to believe that pattern was changing. The pony, however, was having none of it. As Jason posed with him, he shifted his hindquarters around and threw a kick at Jason’s knees (either he missed accidentally or it was a warning shot). Immediately after this kick was launched, the tour guide yelled at us, saying that he’d warned the group that no one should approach the pony for just that reason. Now, ignoring that we didn’t hear said warning because he was moving on before everyone had a chance to use up their bread allotment, why exactly would they tie up a pony with anger management issues so close to a walking path where he could put a hoof through numerous knees and faces?

oreo-pony

bad-oreo

alpaca

After The Pony Incident ™, we were invited to feed an alpaca a treat by holding it between our lips and waiting for the alpaca to kiss it off, much like that college dorm standbye “suck and blow” but with way less sexy results. Unless you’re into that sort of thing. I, personally, have had a little too much experience with the phrase “gee, that’s never happened before” applying to me to be entirely comfortable with an animal lunging at my face for food, so I elected to sit this one out.

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baby-wallaby

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jason-wallaby

Hands down, the best part of the tour was at the very end, when they lead you back into the gift shop and allow you to hold a baby wallaby. I could have snuggled that adorable baby for hours. I wanted to smuggle it home, but sadly too many people were watching….this time. After all, how hard could it be? I do have plenty of bread around.

In Defense of Traveling Like A Tourist

tourists

“Tourists don’t know where they’ve been, travellers don’t know where they’re going.” Paul Theroux

“Please be a traveler, not a tourist. Try new things, meet new people, and look beyond what’s right in front of you.” – Andrew Zimmern

“The traveler sees what he sees, the tourist sees what he has come to see.” – G.K. Chesterton

“The traveler was active; he went strenuously in search of people, of adventure, of experience. The tourist is passive; he expects interesting things to happen to him. He goes “sight-seeing.”” – Daniel J. Boorstin

“If it’s tourist season, why can’t we shoot them?” -Anonymous

 

Picture  a tourist in your head. Mostly likely, you envisioned someone with a camera strapped around their neck, wearing ill-fitting shorts, some manner of shirt with a tropical print or beer logo on it, fanny pack clamped to their waist, and a stripe of sunblock down their nose. Maybe they were even wearing socks with sandals. You may have additionally determined that this person is ignorant of the local customs, of the language, and is looking for the most mundane, prepackaged  experience and wondering how they can find the closest Applebees. Don’t get too caught up in your elitist fantasy: that person is you.

Now, you may not necessarily look for a place where it’s “always Friday” and you may have studied the language or read up on the culture. You may dress impeccably. But if you’re visiting an area in which you do not live for the purposes of pleasure or experiencing culture, you’re a tourist. Tourist shouldn’t be shorthand for ignorant, but it’s been this way for years: people mutter about the “damn tourists” in their town, and fancy themselves “travelers” instead, romanticizing a synonym, waxing rhapsodically about their style of travel,  and drawing imaginary contrasts between  the two words so that they can justify looking down their collective noses.

Lately, the buzz on blogs and magazines and even television is to travel “like a local”: do what locals do, eat what they eat, sleep where they sleep in order to have a more “authentic experience”. It’s a new way to draw a line in the sand between what they do and tourism, and it’s equally arbitrary, and equally rubbish.

Locals eschew the wonders in their own backyards

How many times have you talked to a friend who lives in another city/state/country and asked them about a famous landmark or activity, only to have them respond “Oh, I’ve never been there.” You think “What?! Why not? How is that possible, you’re right there, it would be the easiest thing in the world for you to go!” Turn that eye inward: what in your area have you been “meaning to visit” and “not gotten around to”? A museum? A famous building? A natural landscape? A highly-rated and/or expensive restaurant? How much do you know about local history? Would you say that someone who travels to the area should follow in your footsteps, that it would be the best way to experience the area?

“Like a local” fetishizes a certain type of local

“Travel like a local” is, at its best, disingenuous. The people filling their Pinterest boards with high contrast photos of exotic locales with twee quotes about travel written on them aren’t aching to actually travel like a local. They don’t want to get a shitty job, come home to an overpriced, poorly furnished craphole of an apartment, eat something from a can, and worry about bills. No, they want to travel like a local rich person: someone who doesn’t have to work,  eats 16 course tasting menus,  and whiles away their days on a lazy bike rides. It’s not that those are bad things, they’re just not the experience of the average local. You want to see new places, make new friends, try new things, and that’s grand. But you don’t want to travel like a local. Not really.

“Local” long term expats shouldn’t be your guide

So many travel guides recommend you locate expat hangouts because you’ll be able to get a wealth of information about the area from them and may be able to cultivate a “local” friendship while you’re in the area. That’s partially true. What you’ll mostly find among any group of expats: an unbelievable amount of complaining. The weather, the traffic, the people, their customs, the food, the health care, the cleanliness…if you sit among a group of expats, what you’ll learn is that everything is terrible, that they hate it all, and everything is so much better back home. This group commiseration is normal; they’re no longer in the honeymoon period, and they need to vent with a group of people who will understand their frustrations. But is that really the best  way to see a country: through the eyes of the disenchanted?

There are no secrets

We live in an age of boundless information. There’s plenty that an individual can learn, but there’s scant “discovery” left on Earth. We were born too late to explore Earth, and too soon to explore space. What’s left is tourism and individual enrichment. You can profess that you have “the heart of an explorer” but the reality is that there are no “best-kept secrets” anymore.  There are no restaurants that only locals know about in the age of Yelp and blogs. If people like something, they talk about it. Even the best restaurant in the world will go under if no one knows it’s there! Thus, the rub with the “travel like a local” crowd: Are you not going to visit the highest-rated places just because tourists know about them now, too? Which do you want more: the experience or the sense of elitism?

You’re not fooling anyone, anyway

You may have learned some French in high school, maybe brushed up before your visit with the Rosetta Stone. You may place orders in French and dress très chic, sitting at a cafe with your croissant and coffee with nary a fanny pack to be seen. Still, one wrong ‘vous’, an unusual accent,  will out you. And yet the world will not end. Locals may actually be more inclined to help you: to give directions, to be more patient when you’re fumbling with their currency or language. And there are some areas of the world in which you never could pass as local, no matter how long you spend in the area…and that’s ok, too.

Tourism makes the world go ’round

Well, not literally. Physics does that. But economically, tourism is vital, regardless of whether you’re eating at a street vendor or a chain restaurant. Tourism bridges gaps between disparate cultures and peoples and creates opportunities for employment for locals. To roll your eyes at those who visit Paris and beeline toward the Eiffel Tower or those whose primary goal when visiting Seattle is to go to the top of the Space Needle is to roll your eyes at tourism itself: the impetus felt to see a wonder in person, to touch history, and to better understand the world we live in. No, locals may not visit those places more than once, if ever, but sites that drive tourism are just as important as your favorite hole-in-the-wall bagel joint. Moreso, actually, as they bring money into the area that’s vital to growth and allows smaller spots to survive that otherwise wouldn’t.

You may only get to visit once

Ironically, there’s no one more dedicated to avoiding tourists than the elitist tourist. I once read an article about a woman who took a class on her trip, just so she could smugly ascertain that there were no other tourists present. …Congratulations?
Unless you’re an heiress, you’ll never have as much travel time and money as you’d like. The average American earns one week per year, and of that week, uses four days of it…that is, if your employer offers paid vacation at all and doesn’t penalize you for actually taking the vacation time you’ve earned. Disneyworld may claim “it’s a small world after all,” but unless you make travel a priority in your life, you’ll likely never visit all of the places you’d like to go. So why would you spent your  travel time trying to live up to someone else’s standards for where you should go and what you should see or feel embarrassed about what you like?

If you want to visit every tourist trap on Earth, visit every tourist trap on Earth. If you want to rent a room through AirBNB and only eat at Michelin-starred restaurants, go nuts. If you want to hike across a country, do it. Don’t let any magazine or elitist hipster douchelord blog tell you that you’re doing it wrong, because “the best way to travel is ____”. When it comes down to it, no matter how you style your trips, you’re a tourist…and that’s ok. It doesn’t make you ignorant, or disrespectful, or anything other than someone seeing the world on their own terms.

Spotted on the Roadside: Giant Chicken and Egg

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What came first, the giant chicken or the giant egg? If I was working on a project like this, it would for sure be the giant egg, as it’s much easier and would allow me to say I’m “half done” much sooner, which gives you a little insight into my creative process. Namely, that I’m lazy. It appears that the chicken used to have legs, but now doesn’t, for whatever reason, which also begs the question: we all know the saying about what the chicken does when its head is cut off…but what happens when it’s the legs instead?

Spotted on Bothell-Everett Highway in Bothell, WA.

The Lavender Festival in Sequim, WA

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Sequim (pronounced more like “squid” than “sequin”) is serious about its lavender. When I first decided to attend the Sequim Lavender Festival, I had no idea how central lavender is to the town’s identity. I didn’t know much about it at all, actually.

Sequim is located on the Olympic peninsula of Washington, and lies within the rain shadow of the Olympic mountains, which makes it much drier than the surrounding areas. They bill themselves as “sunny Sequim,” but I’ll have to take their word for it as it was overcast and threatening rain the day I visited. What was immediately evident was the town’s pride in their lavender. Lavender shrubs were everywhere, even growing in the landscaping of Sequim gas stations!

The Sequim Lavender Festival takes place in July, and activities are spread throughout the town, marked at their entrances by purple flags. There are two non-farm locations, one in downtown and one in Carrie Blake Park; I parked in a church lot near the park location for a nominal fee. They offered a shuttle and a hayride to Carrie Blake Park, but it’s an easy walk. From Carrie Blake Park, they have a free shuttle running back and forth between the downtown location, and one of the farms also offered a free shuttle from that location. Each place had their own spin on the festival; most offered live music, shopping, and food items with culinary lavender. Some offer u-pick lavender, some offer classes on distillation, crafting, cooking, beekeeping, and more. One offers high tea with George Washington!

This festival is incredible, both in scope and in quality. The farms and craftspeople are proud of their work and happy to show off to visitors, everything smells amazing, and I was in lavender food heaven. I wasn’t able to try everything I wanted to try, owing to limited stomach capacity, but everything I did try was so, so delicious. Peach lavender ice cream. Candied lavender walnuts. Piping hot mini donuts with lavender sugar. Dungeness crab cakes and greens with lavender balsamic vinaigrette. Lavender sweet tea. A warm from the oven apple mini pie.  A soft lavender sugar cookie. I may have proclaimed it the fattest day of my life.

 

The Olympic Game Farm in Sequim, WA

“Dad, don’t you want to know where we’re going?” “No.”  “DISCOUNT LION SAFARI!” “Damn these childproof doors!” -The Simpsons, Old Money

The Olympic Game Farm used to be the home of Disney’s nature film animal actors; they were the bears and big cats they’d film for close-up footage when it would be too difficult or expensive to obtain in the wild. The animals on the farm today are the slackabout progeny of these animal celebrities (plus a number of rescues), and for a fee, you can drive through the farm, pat some of them, and feed them whole-wheat bread.

When we arrived at the farm, after giving us a waiver to sign, an employee asked if we’d like to buy any loaves of bread to feed the animals. I’d told him that not only would we like to buy bread, but we’d take as many as he could sell us. It turned out the number they could sell us was only limited to money and car space, so instead, we bought his recommended amount, two loaves, so we could feed out each side of the car.

The tour started off slow, with nothing to be seen on either side of the road. The general consensus was that we hoped that eventually they’d have animals on their animal tour. I heard a noise out of my window, and Jason whipped a slice of bread past my head “just in case.”

Eventually, there were some yaks alongside the road. They mostly stood quietly, doing their yak business, although one of them would eat proffered bread if you placed it within an inch of his nose. This is when we learned that yaks can eat an entire slice of bread at once, much like a vending machine sucks in bills.

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Further down the path were some utterly disinterested  fallow deer and zebras. The deer stayed far away from the car path, wanting nothing to do with bread or tourists, while the zebras were closer to the road. I had hoped to feed one (even though we had been warned to watch our fingers as zebras can bite), but I was still excited to see a zebra so close. Zoo zebras are generally far away, and before that, the closest I’d come was a sad donkey painted with stripes in Tijuana.

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A little further down the path, we both had a “Is what’s happening down the road what I think is happening? OH MY!” moment. As it turned out, yes, two llamas were in fact giving a mating demonstration on the side of the road.

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Now, I could be an adult about this, but instead I’ll tell you that the noises that a male llama makes when he’s getting down are the worst. Imagine a regular llama sound but much throatier and jucier and you’re halfway there. Thankfully, Jason  took video so you don’t only have to imagine.

A bit further down the path, we had our first encounter with an animal that wanted all of the bread we’d feed to it: another llama. It is really disconcerting to have an animal stick its head into your car to be fed, especially when it knows that you’re holding out because it can smell the loaves you both have stashed between your feet. We tried to creep the car along, and it kept right along with us, insisting that we were being stingy and unfair by only feeding it four slices. Eventually, it was attracted to another car by the passengers waving bread out the window. I don’t know what the last car in line for the night does…maybe they take a llama home with them, or they’re subjected to a llama tantrum.

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In the bear fields, they had both kodiak and black bears; these were separated from the cars by two fences: one that a bear could use as dental floss, and the other electrified. I think the first fence was there mainly to keep the average dumbass from trying to hand-feed and/or ride a bear. The Olympic Game Farm advertises their waving bears, but no bears waved at us. One did, however, fetchingly snap a slice of bread out of the air. It reminded me of summers in northern Wisconsin with my grandparents, feeding marshmallows to the bear cub outside of a restaurant called The Honey Bear, only with slightly more nutritionally sound food and less cruelty as these bears have much more space.

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Speaking of space, the part I didn’t like at all (actively hated would be more accurate) was the predator zone. Here, they have a lion, a few tigers, some wolves, and other big cats in tiny, tiny pens that have chainlink on all sides. This area strikes me as cruel, and the farm would be better without it. Considering you can only see the predators on the driving tour and you obviously can’t interact with them in any way, the people coming to visit wouldn’t miss much from not seeing a bunch of chainlink fences and depressed animals, and on the flip side, the animals would benefit immensely from being in a sanctuary situation where they could actually stretch their legs and, you know, live.

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After the predator area, visitors are given the option to leave or enter the high risk area with the bison and elk. Since our last encounter with bison was with the invisible variety (and we didn’t get to feed them), we pressed forward. They make it very clear when you enter the park not to stop in the bison area, but to roll through at a low speed, as this reduces risk of damage to you and your vehicle. They state it in the rules pamphlet they hand out. They state it on a big sign before you enter the bison pen. What I’m saying is, they are very clear that you should not stop your car at any point during your trip through the bison pen.

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Unfortunately, the farm was so busy that just one person stopping was enough to create a domino effect, and so eventually everyone was stopped in the bison pen. I’m sure it didn’t help that they were standing at the entrance, waiting to mob anyone with bread. All of a sudden, you were in a scene from Jurassic Park, with a giant eye scanning the contents of your vehicle while you look straight ahead and try desperately to avoid eye contact so as not to draw its attention.

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“But why are the pictures so crappy?” you ask. “Crappier than usual?”

That would be because I was busy flinging bread through a crack in the window as hard as I could to draw them away from the car, and pictures became a lower priority than rolling the window back up before another fur-covered, ropey-drool monster could shove its head into the car, snot all over everything, and rip our arms off in the hunt for bread.

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Toward the end, when we were completely out of bread, I saw the largest bison by far on the side of the road and tried to take his picture, which drew him over to the car and enticed him to try and snap off our sideview mirror, which was both exhilarating and terrifying. I guess I don’t understand this almost frenzied desire for whole wheat bread, because I find fiber boring. However, once I broke off a sideview mirror while backing out of the garage and thinking about pie, so while the objects of our desire may be different, our game is the same, bison friends. I bet if I really tried, I could eat a piece of pie in one bite, too. I’d high five you if I wasn’t scared that you’d eat my hand.