A suburban walk on the wild side. Even though this is a contradiction in terms.

So the sunny girl and I went to the zoo today with our street sisters, and realized again why we love living near Washington, D.C. We have a great zoo!

We hit the petting farm first. We were told the alpacas were named already -- names like Lulu and Iris. The sunny girl hated these names, and re-named every alpaca; since she tends toward names like "Percival von Fluffington," I suspect the National Zoo will reject her suggestions.

And while we're talking about the petting zoo, here's what I want to know:

How come the goats at the National Zoo have nicer playground equipment than the kids at my neighborhood school?

The Amazonia exhibit space took us through a rain forest habitat.

After walking though the aquatic space, we entered an area where the animals are free to roam the entire habitat room -- including the paths. It was cool!

Although I suspect the urchins were hoping to be accosted by a monkey or dive- bombed by a toucan, the closest animal we were able to approach was this sexy bird. No one bothered to find out what it was -- we were all just so excited to happen upon it.

The Amazonia exhibit space also includes a research room; it's filled with books and maps and tanks filled with teeny tiny poisonous frogs, and microscopes and globes and lab space where you can interact with scientists (or at least scientist re-enactors).

The great cats were asleep in the heat of the August sun, and roused themselves only to seek more shade. Smart.

By contrast the Think Tank, where researchers study the language, communication, and reasoning abilities of orangutans, was hoppin'! We watched as this researcher played a game that was clearly based on three-card monte with the orang, and the orang won every time. I'd like to take her (the orangutan, not the researcher) to Manhattan with me next time I go.

The urchins played every game in the exhibit; they were almost as good at all the tasks as the orangutans were!

At this point the torrential rain started, so the rest of our zoo adventure was basically a sprint from indoor exhibit to tent to kiosk with an over-hang.

Before we sprinted to the car we did squeeze in a visit to the Panda House. The pandas busily turned their backs to us as each proceeded to stuff a room full of bamboo inside his or her cute little panda mouth. I feel like a loser as I report that this panda picture ( of our sweet little Tai Shan who went back to China) is a screen capture from one of the zoo's video exhibits.

Then we headed back toward our happy little cul-de-sac in the suburbs -- a trip that should take thirty minutes, and during rush hour can take as long as an hour. So you can see from the above self-portrait how thrilled I was that because of the storm it took us three hours to get home.

We should have camped at the zoo.