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3 February 2002

We met Bill today. He's something of a town celebrity. We had never even heard of him, and our meeting was one of those serepdipitous situations. If we'd spent more time wandering around Old Eureka, we never would have met him at all.

The day started with continental breakfast here at the hotel, and then we checked out the exercise room. I actually got on the recumbant bike for a bit, but not for a workout. We were there, in fact, to check the computer room, which happens to be across the hall from the exercise room. After discovering that our phone bill for me to upload yesterday's journal was $7.50, I asked about the cost to use the hotel's facilities and discovered that an internet connection on their computer is free to guests.

Well...duh! What am I doing scrunched up trying to type on a nightstand (the only modem connection), when I could be sitting at a real desk, with a full size computer and a mouse and not paying anything.

We checked it out and made plans for me to use it tonight (like when I finish writing this!).

Then we set off to explore historic Eureka. When we parked, it reminded me of my one trip to Galveston, only with Victorian buildings. We wandered up and down the streets for an hour or so and then managed to find the car again. We had two hours to kill before the wedding, and no plans, so I suggested we go visit the zoo, since I'd seen a sign for it. Whoda thunk a town the size of Eureka would have a zoo?

"Zoo" is perhaps a bit of a misnomer. It's teeny, with only a handful of animals, but we hit it on "prairie dog day" and enjoyed watching the two prairie dogs pop in and out of their holes.

After we'd seen most of the zoo, we discovered Bill. Bill is a chimpanzee. But not just any chimpanzee. He is the 4th oldest chimp in the world. He was born in 1946, which makes him older than some of my best friends--and only 3 years younger than I am. He spent his first 11 years working for the circus, but in 1957 they decided he'd become too old, so he was purchased by the Eureka zoo, where they figured he'd spend his declining days. Only he's been "declining" for the past 44 years! He has lived longer than chimps in the wild do, by far.

What's great about Bill is that everybody knows him. His cage sits off in one corner of the zoo and he has all the comforts of home. If you stand by the cage, you'll hear people passing by, all of them calling out "Hi, Bill--how are you today?" Bill looks up to acknowledge that someone has spoken to him.

Walt passed a little kid who was leaving the zoo, but turned to his mother to ask if he could go say hi to Bill before they left.

Another mother was there with a small child. "Say hello to Bill," she said. "He'll remember your voice." And I'm sure Bill did.

A siren began to sound in the distance and Bill looked around. A woman standing next to me began to explain to him that it was just a siren.

Bill is obviously the big draw for this teeny zoo. If I lived here, I suspect I'd be down saying hi to Bill every couple of weeks myself.

We stopped in the gift shop before we left. It's such a small gift shop that three people have to squeeze to get past each other, and that is all the shop can handle at any one time. They also don't accept credit cards. But they do sell paintings by Bill. They sell for an outrageous price, of course, but how often do you get the chance for some authentic chimpanzee art? The proceeds go to help the zoo, so it was worth it for us to bring a little piece of Bill home with us.

When we left, we headed into the woods and down a dirt road until we got to the apple farm where Andy and his Sandi were being married.

As weddings go, this one almost made Paul & Audra's wedding seem "traditional." It was a genuine feel-good, enjoy-yourself wedding. But it deserves a whole entry by itself. Since we're going to be in the car all day tomorrow, with nothing much happening, I'll save the wedding report and photos for then.

I guarantee you, you ain't seen nothing like this wedding! But even without the wedding, it was a fun day because I got to spend some time with Bill...and that was definitely worth it.


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