I decided to stray a bit from my daily walk in the park and turn my hike into an adventure. It had been a long time since I considered a trip to the Detroit Zoo…decades actually. Walking the trails through the animal reserve when you weigh more than 500 pounds is not an excursion one looks forward to, but instead cunningly avoids! An ancient rerun of Wild Kingdom or visit to the Animal Planet channel was enough of a safari for me back in my rounder, 500 pounder days.
There were numerous difficulties associated with such a trip. First of all, imagine, if you will, picking up a full grown St Bernard, strapping him to your back and then for fun…picking up another one and throwing him over your shoulder. This should put you close to my enormous breadth. Now, take a walk around the block and see if that doesn’t put you into cardiac arrest. If not great….you are on your way to a fun filled day! Next, load you (and your St Bernards) into a vehicle, drive out to your destination and prepare to park a half a mile from the gate…if you’re lucky. Get out, tighten up your sneakers and head for the ticket booth. Be sure to wear sunblock, as this trek may take a good 45 minutes, since most of your traveling is done in “low” gear. Eventually, you will reach the ticket window, sweating profusely and panting where you will be greeted by Tiffany, an obnoxiously happy little 110 pound, perfectly beautiful young lady. She will smile gleefully and ask if you are ok and you will bitterly throw your money at her and wheeze away from the window. As you pass through the gate, feeling as though you have already run a 5K, you are tempted to make a U-turn and go right back until you find yourself stuck in the little turnstile that everyone else seems to glide through. Humiliated and embarrassed, you suck your stomach in and reach your hands above your head hoping to squeeze yourself through the stupid spinning gate….it is that very moment that you begin to question your sanity and your absurd decision to visit the zoo.
This was a chapter from the story of my life before joining Weight Watchers a few years back. Years later and 250 pounds lighter I am looking forward to my first visit to the Detroit Zoo in nearly two decades. My daily walks have prepared me for this little fieldtrip and I feel enthusiastic and eager to begin this exploration. I arm myself with just a Nikon camera and a pedometer. I choose to go on a quiet Tuesday afternoon, when I know that the place won’t be overrun with evil screaming children. The sun feels warm while the air is cool and it is a perfect day for such an adventure. As I pass through the entrance, I hand my money to the woman at the window and deviously smile to myself when I realize that she is both older and chubbier than me. I am also pleased to find that the turnstiles have been removed, though I am quite sure I would have slid through with ease.
I take my time strolling along….not because I am weary, exhausted, or because I may stroke out from the heat. I am thoroughly enjoying my time spent with the lions and camels and the zebras who are taking afternoon naps in the sun. I stop to rest along the way on the solid wooden benches carved out of pine and cedar. I relax peacefully, listening to the birds sing, surrounded by the scent of thousands of beautiful wildflowers, plants and sweet-smelling blossoms. I spot a crabby gorilla laying on a rock and I laugh to myself as I realize that he reminds me of “yours truly” not so very long ago.
Finally, it is late in the day and the sun has become a red wafer in the sky. In the distance I hear the whistle blow on the little train that circles the park. I remember that on my last visit, I had been afraid to try and board the train for fear of falling or even worse, not fitting into the seat. Today, on this day, I wait for the locomotive to stop and I confidentially stroll up to the boarding gate and step up onto the train. I slide back into seat the quite comfortably, and smile as I listen to the wheels churn and feel the cool wind hit my face.