April in Glenwood: A fun way down the holiday road | PostIndependent.com

April in Glenwood: A fun way down the holiday road

This week, we took the first of what I hope will be many family vacations together. It wasn’t as comical as National Lampoon’s version.

Not that a Wagon Queen Family Truckster couldn’t be in our future.

Actually the “vacation” was more of an overnight spring break trial run at traveling with an eight-month-old and a kindergartner. We took a short road trip to Cincinnati for a day visit to the Newport Aquarium, located along the Ohio River. The aquarium boasts one million gallons of total volume of tanks, which is a dream for my dad, an aquarium hobbyist since my childhood.

We spent many family vacations checking out aquariums when I was a kid.

My dad always kept salt and freshwater tanks, and I learned the difference between fish species fairly early in life. At the Newport Aquarium, I could name many of the fish without needing the signage clues. Yellow tang, lion fish, electric eel …

I’m kind of sad there wasn’t a test afterward. Growing up, we had some big fish tanks in the house, including one in our front room to welcome guests. We had everything from nurse sharks and hermit crabs to puffer fish and eels. Sometimes we had some snakes and tarantulas, too.

There was even an iguana named Jimmy Connors. These days, my parents have a green parrot named Icky, who belonged to my late grandparents. He may live another several decades. Icky loves to pretend like he’s a part of the conversation when my mom is on the phone, and asks if the dogs want to go out when they go to the back door. Animals have an amazing way of becoming part of a family, and ours — from the furry to the scaly — have always been a part of my life. With all the different species that have lived under our roof, we probably should’ve been like that family in that “We Bought a Zoo” movie and bit the bullet. As a kid, I would have been hanging out in the trees with the monkeys.

Or maybe playing in the snow with the penguins.

My favorite exhibit at the aquarium was the Penguin Palooza, mostly because the gallery had a nice place to sit with the baby as we watched the penguins play in the water. The exhibit featured the king penguin, Inca tern, chinstrap penguin, gentoo penguin, macaroni penguin and rockhopper penguin, with a short presentation with a guide in a tuxedo to teach the older kids. An exhibit of this kind is important, as the Newport Aquarium is an accredited member of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and a leader in global wildlife conservation. The more we know about animals, the more we can do to help conserve the world’s millions of species. And teach our children to follow our lead in protecting them.

Second on my list of favorites at the aquarium was the jellyfish gallery, which included moon jelly, upside-down jellyfish, sea nettle, and spotted jelly. I’m typically a big scaredy cat when it comes to jellyfish on the beach, but I was certainly in awe of the beauty and grace these gelatinous marine animals have as they move through the water. I thought the gallery was mystical and wonderful, and Will was enamored by the magical sights.

I think he really liked the feeling of being surrounded by water again.

Family vacations with visits to aquariums, zoos and museums, especially down in Florida, were a mainstay in my childhood. My dad really loved to share his love of marine animals, insects, and reptiles with us. I always said he was a wildlife biologist in another life. These adventures were a fun way for all of us to learn in the best way, with hands-on experiences while being immersed in all the sights and sounds of life in action. The personal bonding as a family while learning about the world is something I’m planning to pass down in my family. I hope the tradition continues for generations well beyond me.

Soon we’ll move up to a week of family vacation together, and the fun will really begin. I would love that to be through a summer trip to Colorado so my family can see the mountains and meet all the people in Glenwood Springs and Carbondale who made me the woman, and mother, I am today.

Maybe we’ll even rent a Family Truckster, or preferably an RV, to get there.

April E. Clark misses the Rocky Mountains and the Colorado River. She can be reached at aprilelizabethclark@gmail.com


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