Solbit Finds Exotic Animals in the Nation’s Capital

Dear Nicalai,

Exotic animals of all kinds have colors and patterns that help them to blend into — almost disappear into — their surroundings, but, with my iguanodon eyes, I can spot them!

OK, being at a zoo in the nation’s capital helped too. Nona and Papa took me for a walk at the Smithsonian National Zoo, not far from where we were staying with our friend, Jo. We saw some exotic animals.

Fashion.  That’s the word that came into my mind when this cat came into view.

I think this cat, a cheetah, could be a feline fashion model, don’t you?

I think this cat, a cheetah, could be a feline fashion model, don’t you?

She kept her distance from us, so I never got her name.  She also kept walking back and forth along that fence. I suspect she was looking for a door to get out of her confinement. That’s what I would be doing, if I were her.

Nona got my attention, “Oh, Solbit, look! A Dwarf Mongoose! Isn’t it cute?”

This little mongoose seemed to be as interested in me as I was in it, but a glass window kept us separated, and so we couldn’t chat.

This little mongoose seemed to be as interested in me as I was in it, but a glass window kept us separated, and so we couldn’t chat.

I waved hello to her through the window, and she just kept staring at me.  I think she wished she could know what kind of exotic animal I am.  I mouthed the words “Jurassic Era Iguanodon … but I’m plastic,” but I could tell that she can’t read lips.  In other circumstances, I think we could have become friends.

You would think that this cute and cuddly looking exotic animal is just a house cat, but you would be wrong. Washington, DC has more house cats than you can count, but I suspect it has only one of these.

Sand cat.  That’s what this cutie is.

Sand cat.  That’s what this cutie is.

When I go to a zoo, I do learn a lot. For example, I learned that Sand Cats, also known as Sand Dune Cats, live in sandy or rocky deserts.  They have fur on the bottoms of their paws — like slippers! — to protect their feet from the hot sand or hot rocks.

Well, that’s my report on our visit to the National Zoo, but I have one more photo of an exotic species to show you.  We didn’t see her at the zoo though.

We went to visit our friends, Meg and Aaron, at their house.  When we got to their door, it was open, because someone had been waiting for us to visit her.

Colette’s beauty and poise took  my breath away.

Colette’s beauty and poise took  my breath away.

She welcomed us on her favorite new toy, a push bike.  I guess she’s like Uncle Josh and Papa; she likes bikes.  I think she likes me too.  She wanted to know all about me: “What’s an iguanodon?” “Why are you so small?” “Where are your parents?” “Do they make bikes small enough for you?” “Are you a girl or a boy?”  “Do you want a sandwich?”  I really enjoy talking about myself and nibbling on a sandwich, so we had a great time together.

Nona says that we’ll be in Washington, DC for a month, so I’ll probably have more to tell you about our stay here.  Bye for now.

I’m your friend.

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Love,

Solbit

November 2015

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit’s story of “A plan gone wrong, then right”

Dear Nicalai,

Today, our travel plan went wrong, so here’s my story about how we improvised, on the spot, to make it go right.

You know that Nona, does all our travel research. She had found a great place to watch birds in Ohio, Magee Marsh.  We could stop there on our road trip from Ann Arbor, Michigan to Wilmington, Ohio.  So, Nona, who also makes all our reservations got us a nice place to stay near that birding place. It’s called a “lodge.”  After a night there, we went to the Magee Marsh Trail to watch birds. On our way there, Nona said, “Solbit, this place is a birding hot spot.”

The famous birding trail had a closed sign on it. No go. Oh, no!

The famous birding trail had a closed sign on it. No go. Oh, no!

Whopper! Not! The trail had a closed “due to hunting” sign. “What’s hunting?” I asked.  “That’s when people go out with guns to shoot birds, or rabbits, or deer, or some other animal. People used to do that to get food. Now most hunters hunt for fun,” Papa explained.

“Do I need to hide in Nona’s purse, now?”  Papa’s answer didn’t put me at ease, “I think they’re just hunting birds, probably ducks, Solbit, but you don’t have to worry; you’re not big enough to stuff or to eat, so they won’t shoot you.”

After traveling around the world with Nona and Papa, they’ve taught me that, every time something goes wrong, we get an opportunity to learn something. So, when our travel plan went wrong at Magee Marsh in Ohio, I asked, “What are we going to learn from this bad experience, Nona?”  She said, “We have learned not to try to go birdwatching here during hunting season.”

I wondered if Nona or Papa ever went hunting. Nona exclaimed, “Never!”  Papa said he grew up on a farm and, as a boy, he enjoyed shooting at targets with his rifle. He told me that he went hunting, “…but, as soon as I killed my first rabbit on a snowy winter’s day, I regretted it and never went hunting again.”  Wow, I’m learning so many things I didn’t know before.  I’m kind of glad our travel plan went wrong.

“So, what do we do now?” I asked.  Nona, said, “Solbit, we got lemons when we didn’t want them, so we’ll just have to make lemonade with them.”

“What? Nona, you know I don’t like lemonade!  Can I substitute “blueberries” for “lemons” and make a “blueberry smoothie” instead of “lemonade,” please?” I appealed to her.  Nona replied, “Solbit, sorry girl, the metaphor doesn’t work that way.”  So, then I had to ask what’s a “metaphor,” but I don’t have time to tell you about metaphors now, because I have to tell you the rest of my story, but just know that what Nona told me was another learning experience.

Well, disappointed but not defeated, Nona and Papa quickly made a new plan, “Let’s walk on the open part of the trail and find out what else besides birds we can see, ok?” Nona asked me.  She wasn’t really giving me a choice, you know.  So, we did go searching and look what we discovered:

I learned that mushrooms like to grow on dead wood:

What an amazing balancing act by this mushroom!

What an amazing balancing act by this mushroom!

I learned that not all dragon flies are dragonflies.

Papa said, "Look at this dragon fly, Solbit.” Then Nona quickly corrected him (she has to do that a lot), “No, that’s a damselfly, Papa.” Another learning experience!

Papa said, “Look at this dragon fly, Solbit.” Then Nona quickly corrected him (she has to do that a lot), “No, that’s a damselfly, Papa.” Another learning experience!

I learned that a bee can be seen up close, if you’re real quiet and you don’t make quick movements in front of it.

Ms Bee told me, “You wanna stay off that trail down there.”

Ms Bee told me, “You wanna stay off that trail down there.”

Ms Bee turned out to be very friendly.  She explained about hunting, “I’ve seen hunters with long rods that go bang down that way. They’re just having fun in the outdoors, but the ducks don’t enjoy it so much.”

Well, even with that birding trail being closed, we saw a lot of interesting wildlife, and I learned things I never expected to learn. This was a good day, sort of a blueberry smoothie day for me but a lemonade day for Nona.  Bye for now.

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

October 2015

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit On the Waterfront and Sailing Away

Dear Nicalai,

Here’s a trick question: what do old people do in Ann Arbor?  Before we visited Thomas and Nancy there, I would have answered: walk very slowly, stop a lot to look at birds, nap, talk about ailments, and nap some more.  What would you have said? Maybe I’ve spent too much time with Papa.

We stayed with old friends Thomas & Nancy in Ann Arbor, Michigan

We stayed with old friends Thomas & Nancy in Ann Arbor, Michigan

Well, I bet you wouldn’t have said this: Go see a classic movie, “On the Waterfront,” — now you won’t believe this! — where The New York Philharmonic Orchestra plays (live!) the sound track, right in front of you.  I’ve got to get Nona and Papa to take me to more of these movies!

Here we are in Rackham Auditorium on the U of M campus to see “On the Waterfront.” Thomas and Nancy volunteer as ushers, so we sat with them up in the balcony.

Here we are in Rackham Auditorium on the U of M campus to see “On the Waterfront.” Thomas and Nancy volunteer as ushers, so we sat with them up in the balcony.

Also, I bet you wouldn’t have said old people in Ann Arbor do this, either:  go sailing on a windy fall day.  That’s what Thomas and Papa did.  Papa took me along. Also, a really nice guy, Paul, went along, but he wasn’t old.

Thomas backed the sail boat trailer down a ramp and right into the lake. Then the boat could float off and be pulled by rope to the dock.

Thomas backed the sail boat trailer down a ramp and right into the lake. Then the boat could float off and be pulled by rope to the dock.

Once the sail boat was tied up at the dock, we all got into it. A gust of wind took us zooming across Lake Whitmore. “Hold on to me, Papa,” I screamed, “or I’m a goner!”

Captain Thomas at the helm and old passenger, Papa, hanging on.

Captain Thomas at the helm and old passenger, Papa, hanging on.

Thomas is a speed demon.  As Captain, he steered the ship.  Paul served as first mate. He controlled the sails.  Papa’s job was just to stay in the boat and keep me from falling into the lake. He lacks experience but got the job done — just barely.

So that’s what old people — plus a plastic Jurassic — did in Ann Arbor.  I know because I was there.  Next stop Ohio. We’re going to rent a car and drive there.  Nona told me, “Solbit, we’re going on a road trip next, all the way to Washington, DC.” That means we’ll be at Uncle Tom and Barbara’s in time for Thanksgiving. Bye.

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

October 2015

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit loves good food as she travels

Dear Nicalai,

All I have to do is whisper to Nona, “Salt and Straw,” and she will immediately think, “ice cream.”  Or, I can whisper to her, “ice cream,” and she will immediately think, “Salt and Straw.” Sometimes, she goes beyond “thinking” to “I’ve gotta have it.” Then off we go to the Salt and Straw ice cream shop to stand in line with a lot of other foodies.  Portlanders do like good food, including desserts!

I especially like going out to the farm for one of those suppers where a local chef comes out from town to cook fresh produce right out of the fields for a whole bunch of guests.  Papa likes that a local beer maker and a local wine maker usually come out too.

Tables set, chairs in place, long shadows indicate late afternoon. Time for an Our Table Cooperative supper on the farm!

Tables set, chairs in place, long shadows indicate late afternoon. Time for an Our Table Cooperative supper on the farm!

Uncle Josh and Aunt Tanya took us out to Our Table Cooperative for one of those dinners.  I got to meet Narendra! He’s the smart guy that got the cooperative going.

The food’s great. Being an herbivore, I can nibble on almost everything, and nobody seems to mind having an iguanodon at the table — well, really, “on” the table would be more accurate, but my feet are small and clean!

The other guests focused on the food so much that maybe they didn’t even notice me.  That’s a bit disappointing, but then I’m not the main attraction.

Tasty food, fine wine, convivial company, gentle sunlight combine for a delightful evening, just before sunset, among the guests.

Tasty food, fine wine, convivial company, gentle sunlight combine for a delightful evening, just before sunset, among the guests.

Actually, the main attraction was the farm produce and the great chef, Joshua McFadden, from Ava Gene’s. He even came over to say hi to us. Fine cook and nice man.  That reminds me of another sign I saw, “It’s nice to be important, but it’s important to be nice.”  Isn’t that true?

Oh, one more thing before I go, speaking of a nice man, Uncle Josh is a fine baker.  He knows that Papa really likes deep dish apple pie.  (I think that’s why Papa likes bike riding, because he can find bakeries along the way with fruit pies.)  So, anyway, Uncle Josh made this for Papa.

Uncle Josh knows how to make and bake a deep dish apple pie.

Uncle Josh knows how to make and bake a deep dish apple pie.

Papa gave me some expert pie eaters’ advice, “Solbit, you just add a little bit of coconut or vanilla ice cream and you have the perfect dessert!”  I’ve tried them both, and he’s right. Well, almost right, I do think the chocolate hazelnut ice cream in a freshly-made waffle cone might be better.  Have you had one of those?

I’m your friend.

Love,

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Solbit

September 2015

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”

Solbit explains, “Portland has a gift for surprise.”

Dear Nicalai,

Remember a couple letters back when I told you about the weird signs posted in Portland?  Of course, I enjoy weird signs. Most people do, but, as a plastic jurassic, I have to remind myself that I’m not in the “people category.”  So, I’ll add that weird signs are not just for people. This iguanodon likes weird signs too.

Today I’ve got something else I enjoy, what I’ll call “Portland surprises.”  As Nona and Papa take me around town, we enjoy being surprised by unexpected things that different people have put in our way.

Just the other day on a walk, Papa and Nona suddenly stopped. “Oh, look at that, Solbit! What a surprise!  I haven’t seen a portable typewriter in years,” Nona  exclaimed.

“Was a ‘writing station’ something like a gas station then?” I asked.

“Was a ‘writing station’ something like a gas station then?” I asked.

The first thing I said was, “Nona, what’s a typewriter?”  She tried to explain that it’s a machine for writing, and it was used before the age of MacBook Airs and iPhones. “Really?  Gee, I just thought we always had MacBooks and iPhones, didn’t we? Did everyone put them out on the sidewalk?

Nona, explained, “Solbit, slow down with the questions.  First no, we did not always have computers.  Yes, we used typewriters, like that one.  No, we’ve never seen a “writing station” before; we think that’s somebody’s joke, but it’s a good one.”

So, then Papa showed me how you put paper into this machine and hit keys that make metal letters slap the paper and put ink letters onto the paper, all in a straight line.  How odd? What a surprise!  Who knew?

When Papa and I went for a bike ride in town on his old man’s recumbent bike, we got another surprise.  Someone with a wonderful sense of humor and some artistic talent had painted a little something onto the bike lane logo.

Don’t go painting on the streets by your house; you could be run over by a truck.

Don’t go painting on the streets by your house; you could be run over by a truck.

That little painting on the road made us both giggle. Portlanders seem to have a good sense of humor. I’m inclined to think that cyclists may have the best sense of humor, though.

All three of us liked what this bike shop put on their roof.  I saw it first, and just for the most brief moment, I thought, “Hey, what are those cyclists doing on the roof?” Instantly, I felt a little giggle because then I knew someone had played a little trick on me. Just iron sculpture up there, but those iron bikers gave me a happy surprise.

In the right light, rusty iron can look like something else, real people and bikes.

In the right light, rusty iron can look like something else, real people and bikes.

I wonder if I surprise Portlanders as much as they surprise me?  What do people think when they see an itsy-bitsy, plastic jurassic jumping on the shutter button on top of Nona’s camera in order to take a picture?  Do they stop to scratch their heads when they hear a squeaky voice yelling to Nona, “Take me out of your purse, I want to look too” ? Do they think, “Am I going crazy? I thought that little orange iguanodon on that man’s shoulder said hi to me?”  Giving Portlanders back a surprise or two makes me feel good. I hope they enjoy my surprises as much as I enjoy theirs.  Bye.

I’m your friend.

Love,

In the right light, rusty iron can look like something else, real people and bikes.

Solbit

September 2015

*New reader? Get oriented below.

  • You may be asking yourself, “Who is Solbit?” Solbit is a fictional character, but she is a real plastic dinosaur, sent to us unsolicited in a package we ordered from Photojojo. So, she’s a plastic jurassic. Solbit is short for the four names given her by our grandchildren: Sparkle, Orangie, Lulu, Breakit. We tend to use her given names for when she’s been naughty. Thank you for visiting Tales of a Plastic Jurassic. Solbit likes company and hopes you’ll come back.
  • You can learn more about Solbit at her About page and in the earlier posts, “Solbit: How I Got My Name” and “Solbit: How I Got to Travel.”