Tag Archives: zoo

Roars and Snores and So Much Mores!

Last weekend, I went camping. With lions.

Despite being only about an hour and a half away from my home, I felt as if I had somehow been transported to an African safari. I rode around in safari trucks with guides who knew a lot about the dozens of animals we passed. And before falling asleep in my tent, I listened to the carols of a pride of lions.

In reality, I was at Wildlife Safari near Winston, Oregon. I’ve been to this drive-thru safari experience a few times, but that wasn’t in the plans for this trip. I was there to take part in Roars and Snores, which involves a sleepover inside a lion enclosure, plus a jam-packed itinerary for animal enthusiasts. The event description on their website was somewhat vague, so I knew I was in for a weekend of surprises!

I arrived at Wildlife Safari an hour before Roars and Snores began. This was the perfect amount of time to enjoy the free Safari Village, which has a petting zoo, taxidermy room, and dozens of animals you can’t see in the drive-thru safari. There’s also an overlook to the lion enclosures, where I saw staff setting up for the night’s experience. Then I went to the gift shop to check-in. I was told to have a seat in the restaurant where guests would soon enjoy dinner and a presentation.

The barbecue-style dinner was delicious, with enough food and variety for everyone to eat as much as they wanted. Several zookeepers showed us slideshows about two animals we would see that evening: lions of course, and also bears. I learned a lot about these beasts, like how lions “carol”, which is a sort of role call using roars.

After everyone was stuffed, we walked it off on the way  to the nearby lion enclosure. The keepers explained how they don’t train Wildlife Safari’s animals to do tricks like a circus might. However, they do need to train the creatures in some ways to make sure that they stay healthy. For example, we got to watch the lions mimic their trainers by lifting up their paws, and that way they could be inspected for injuries. Each lion who did this was rewarded with raw meat kebabs. However, no one at Wildlife Safari forces the animals to do anything. These snacks were a good encouragement to get inspected and go into their nighttime shelter, but if a lion chose not to do this one night, then the staff would record this and try again the next day, but otherwise let the lion be.

Since these aren’t truly “trained” lions, we got to see some of their wild instincts up-close through the safety of a fence. When the lions saw the children in our group, or even adults squatting down, they would pace in front of that person. In the wild, lions often go after smaller prey because it’s a more guaranteed victory for them. But some of these lions’ habits weren’t the same as a wild lion. In this pride, a female was in charge. Typically a male would be the head of a pride, but since the two adult male lions were rescues, the females had more skills. The adult males are also kept separate from the cubs so that a male cub doesn’t try to overpower an adult male like they often do in the wild.

After the lions went to bed for the day, we hopped on the safari trucks and headed over to the bear enclosure. On the way, we passed through parts of the African and North American sections of the safari, so we got to see several species along the way. When we got to the bears, I watched them eat watermelon, play with boxes, and take their medicine. It was a great experience, but I hope I don’t get that close to a bear in nature!

By the time we were bussed down to the lion enclosure with all of our camping gear, it was getting dark. I don’t think I’ve ever set up my tent after sundown before, but it was accomplished! We were rewarded with a campfire and s’mores. Maybe the event should have been called Roars, Snores, and S’mores!

I really liked how the staff thought of everything to make the stay as pleasant as possible. Besides dinner and s’mores in the evening, ice chests full of beverages were available. This was especially helpful since I had left my water bottle in my car parked a mile away. An outhouse was places in our lion enclosure to use at night, but there were a few opportunities to use the Safari Village restrooms before that. (As a note, Safari Village is really cool after the park closes and the usual guests have left.) Even a continental breakfast was provided, which wasn’t mentioned in the information online.

Although this event is called Roars and Snores, neither of those happened until after I had crawled into my sleeping bag for the night. Lions use their roars as a way to keep track of everyone else, so when one lion roars, the others roar back. When the lions listen to this “carol”, they are able to tell if someone is missing, or if a stranger participated in the carol. They did this roll call (or is it a “roar call”?) several times at night before the roars of the lions were replaced by the snores of the other campers.

I awoke the next morning to more lion carols- quite the alarm clock! I got ready foe the day, tore down my campsite, and leisurely enjoyed the continental breakfast. Two African cranes noticed that all of us humans were caged up and walked over to the outside of our fence. It was like they had gone to the zoo to see the people exhibit!

Our first activity that morning was to go inside the enclosure that the lion cubs would use that day. We took cardboard boxes, spritzed them with perfume, and placed them around the enclosure. Apparently lions love playing with boxes and the scent of perfume interests them, but I think it also helped that the keepers placed meat in some of them! Once we were all safely outside of the enclosure, the lions were released and had a blast!

The last activity of Roars and Snores was with a big cat that can’t even roar. Everyone had the opportunity to get their picture taken with a cheetah. 

It’s hard to believe that thia all took place in less than 24 hours- they packed a lot into this short vacation! If this sounds like something you would like to do, check out Wildlife Safari’s website regularly for announcements about upcoming Roars and Snores sleepovers. They also sometimes offer an event that includes dibner for both you and the lions, bur without the campout. Your group could also book a private event that includes a lion encounter. Even if none of these are available for the date you want to visit, I’m sure you’ll still have a great time at Wildlife Safari at the drive-thru or in an animal encounter. 

PS- Discounted tickets are often available on Groupon, good for either drive-thru admission or an elephant car wash!

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Day Trip on the I-5

Although I am from Oregon, I can’t stand the rain! That makes coming up with day trip ideas complicated. But yesterday, my sister Jen and I took a very fun day trip along the Southern Oregon I-5. Since the majority of what we did involved being either indoors or in the car, the rain didn’t bother me at all!

Stop One: Spider Cars, Wolf Creek

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They’re bugs that are also bugs! This wasn’t a stop as much as it was a drive-by photo op, since these art pieces are on private property and meant to be viewed from the road. But it sure was nice to take a break from the interstate for a couple miles and catch unique scenery!

By the way, I found out about these bugs from RoadsideAmerica, which I often use to find fun stops on the way to a bigger destination.

Stop Two: Seven Feathers, Canyonville

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Seven Feathers had five different restaurants! Only one was open for lunch on Sundays, so we enjoyed fried-pickle-topped sandwiches at Cow Creek Restaurant. In front of Seven Feathers is the largest bronze casting of an eagle in the world.

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Although Seven Feathers is a casino resort, we didn’t go there to gamble. When we entered, there was a blue line in the carpet separating the casino area from the restaurant entrance, which minors are not allowed to cross. Because Jen recently turned twenty, I had to tease her by showing off how I could go across the blue line!

Stop Three: Wildlife Safari, Winston

This was the goal of our trip! I had given Jen a Groupon for Wildlife Safari as a Christmas gift (they’re still available on Groupon if you want to snag one!), and she finally had the opportunity to use it! Wildlife Safari in Winston, Oregon, is a drive-thru animal park. I’ve only been to one other animal safari (in Ohio), but Wildlife Safari is definitely unique in its own right. First, it is the only drive-thru safari in Oregon. It also has more unique animals, as opposed to mostly farm animals like at many locations. Best of all, it’s certified by animal welfare groups, so I can go here knowing that my experience won’t be detrimental to the animals.

The drive takes you through three regions: Africa, The Americas, and Asia. I went here a few times as a kid, and I don’t remember being allowed to roll down car windows back then. This time, we were told at the entrance that windows down and seatbelts off were totally okay, as long as we didn’t get out of the car! This meant that some animals (especially the large bird species, like ostriches, emus, and rheas) would come up and poke their heads in to check out my car’s interior. Since there were wild animals, we got to see some of them fighting, and we may have cheered two bison on in their head-butting! No worries, though. Dangerous animals such as bears and big cats were separated from cars with fencing.

After our drive through, we went into the Safari Village. Up to this point, this had been a great rainy day trip (which was good since it was pouring buckets all day!). Safari Village is mostly outdoors, so we got a bit cold and wet, but we made the best of it. There were several animals here that were not part of the safari drive, which were fun to see. For kids (and kids at heart!) there’s a children’s petting zoo which has the standard goats and miniature horses, but it also has a black-tailed deer with a unique coloring: it’s white with brown patches! My favorite area was the Australia section. That wasn’t a continent included on the drive-thru, so it was cool to see the wallaroos, black swans, and kookaburras there. (Speaking of Australia, the late Crocodile Hunter Steve Irwin has visited Wildlife Safari and documented it on his show! His wife, Terri Irwin, is from this area.) However, I think the highlight of Safari Village was meeting Pancake the cheetah up-close! While warming up in the gift shop, Pancake and the trainer walked in, followed by Pancake’s companion dog. They were raised together since they were a cub and puppy, and as such treat each other like siblings. (Jen and I also saw this phenomenon at the Colombus Zoo a couple years ago.)

At Wildlife Safari, every ticket is good for two drives through the safari. I think this is a great idea because we got to see and interact with some animals that were hiding during our first drive. Unfortunately, the one animal I was hoping to see that we didn’t see either time was the giraffe. We asked about it, and apparently they really don’t like the rain. I don’t blame them! But I think going on a rainy day ended up being a good idea, because the crowds were minimal and most of the other animals have no problem getting rained on.

Stop Four: Noah’s Ark, Winston

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Wildlife Safari was definitely the highlight, but we had one more place to stop by in Winston. Noah’s Ark is located just across the street. It’s hard to miss since the building is shaped like a big boat and surrounded by wooden animals! They offer a restaurant and tour through Biblical history, which I may take advantage of in the future. But with an all-day excursion, we mostly just wanted to see what it looked like. It had a nice view outside and a decorated bookshop inside. After that, we headed home in the rain!

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Bad Hair Day on Holiday

While traveling, I usually don’t care a whole lot about what my hair looks like. I’m often wearing a hat anyway, or can slip on my Tubie (my Buff knockoff) at any given point. In fact, I don’t think much about my hair at all… until I take a look at my pictures.

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This was was taken on the Rainbow Bridge in Niagara Falls, right between the United States and Canada. So I had crazy hair in two countries at once! The wind was really strong over the gorge that day, and simply would not allow me to get a good selfie.

In fact, the wind caused my hair in this photo to be so crazy-looking, I decided to enter it into a contest. I read the newsletter of my favorite author, Melody Carlson, and she has a contest nearly every month. To celebrate the release of her new book about a hairstylist, she had a bad hair day contest. As of now, you can see my picture and story along with several of her other favorites (many of whom were too embarrassed to even include a photo!) by clicking here.

I’m not sure how long until that link changes, so here’s what I wrote in my contest entry:

When I went to Niagara Falls this past summer, I wanted a good picture of myself with one foot in Canada, one foot in the United States, and the falls in the background. But the wind picked up and my hair just wouldn’t cooperate!

But that is certainly not my only travel hair horror story. There was the time I was at a drive-thru safari in Amish country. While taking a selfie in front of the giraffes, one of them decided to eat my hair!

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What’s something funny that has happened to your hair while traveling?

#ThrowBackThursday: Winter Weekend at the Creation Museum

As I mentioned in yesterday’s post, last year I spent a few days in Petersburg, Kentucky. But I did so much more than just spend a night in a BnB!

The weekend started when I had to drive to Columbus, Ohio to take a test. This test would determine whether I would be able to continue my EMT certification, so the weeks leading up to it were filled with lots and lots of studying! Since I wouldn’t know for several days after taking the test whether I passed or failed, I decided to eliminate the exam result anxiety by leaving the testing site afterward and, instead of heading back north where I was living, continue south. Then I would at least have a wonderful memory of a weekend trip, regardless of whether I passed or failed. (Spoiler alert: I passed!)

I had never driven south of Columbus before, and it was mostly farmland until I passed King’s Island park. Then I swung around Cincinnati and into Indiana for a few minutes before crossing the border into Kentucky. From there, it was a short drive to arrive in small town Petersburg.

I stayed there for two nights, one night for each of the two accommodations available in Petersburg. The first night was an incredibly unique location: a bank! Well, at least a former bank remodeled into a guesthouse. Deborah’s Guesthouses provides unique places to stay in Petersburg, but The Bank sounded the most appealing. Although there were three rooms that you can sleep in, the most coveted one is the former vault!

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Because I arrived well after dark, I spent my first night just enjoying The Bank’s amenities before falling asleep. In the morning, I found a guide that provided information to take a historical self-guided walking tour of the town. It was nice to see how this friendly town looked in daylight.

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I then headed to the Creation Museum, which is just a short drive out of the town and a big attraction for Northern Kentucky. It was surprising to go from small town and farmland to immediately hitting a huge parking lot filled with cars! The dinosaur footprints led me to the front door.

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Inside the Creation Museum is a wide variety of displays supporting the creationist theory of how the world was made.

There was an exhibit on what “Lucy” (often considered the missing link) might have looked like…

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There were Biblical wax characters.

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…and lots of Bibles and other ancient Christian work…

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A recreation of the Garden of Eden allowed a glimpse at what the world might have looked like when it was first formed…

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…along with what kind of animals may have existed back then!

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And then there were displays of how the Earth changed once sin entered. (I especially like the display of how Adam and Eve were eating some sort of berry or grape-like fruit, because there is no evidence to show that the forbidden fruit was an apple!)

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Then there was the Ark Room, where 1% of the ark was displayed. (Answers in Genesis, who owns the Creation Museum, is now building a second attraction called the Ark Encounter, which will feature a full-scale version of the ark, complete with all the Biblical requirements of its features!)

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For lunch, I ate the “Eden Wrap” at Noah’s Cafe, which was ah-mazing!

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There were also some outdoor exhibits, that anyone can visit for free. I loved the petting zoo, with adorable, funny-looking animals like alpacas and camels!

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Because it was winter, the pond by the outdoor garden trails was frozen over. Nessie sure looks cold! DSCF5935

Because this trip took me to the Greater Cincinnati Area for the first time, I had to celebrate by going to Gold Star Chili and ordering my first-ever Cincinnati chili. An interesting combination, but it worked! I like it!DSCF5936

For my second night, I stayed at First Farm Inn Bed and Breakfast. I think I’ve only stayed in a BnB once before, when my church youth choir traveled, the very first year I was in it one of my host homes was actually a BnB. This one was a very different setting, being on a farm. One of the house cats followed me everywhere inside, and even insisted sleeping in my bed (until he attacked my feet in the middle of the night, when he was kicked out into the hallway). I stayed in a very nice room.

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But this BnB had more than just nice rooms. And even more than just nice breakfast. One of the hosts was an actor, and I was given a ticket to attend Godspell where he played John the Baptist/Judas. I had never seen the play before, and after hating the musical Jesus Christ: Superstar, I was expecting a disappointment. Boy, was I wrong! That was a great play, made even better by the cast at Footlighters! Another perk of staying at First Farm is that they have horses. I even got to go out on a riding session with the horse Sundance.

Because all Creation Museum tickets are good for two days, I was planning to spend Sunday at the museum as well. The problem was, overnight, a horrible ice storm hit! Everything was covered in ice; it took several tries until I could get any of my car doors to open, and it took even longer to defrost the windows enough that I could at least see a little bit! All that time, I had to be careful not to slip on the road. I considered just heading straight home for safety, but I thought that the road conditions may get better later in the day, so I carefully headed to the museum. (I stopped along the way for a geocache, but when I found it, I couldn’t even open the container because the layer of ice surrounding it was thicker than the actual geocache!)

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I’m not sure if it was because of the storm, or because it was a Sunday, but hardly anyone was at the museum that day, so I was able to spend as much time as I wanted at each exhibit without having to wait to get a good view or worry about someone waiting behind me. This was a much better day at the museum, and I noticed a lot more throughout, like the live creatures near the entrance… DSCF5949

…or Adam and Eve in the garden right before the serpent came down to tempt them…

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…and this creepy door that kind of stood out from its surroundings like a sore thumb…

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…and how there were workers that built the ark just because they were employed, yet they still thought Noah was crazy…DSCF5968

…and having just taken my EMT certification test, the medical diagrams supporting creationism were of note…DSCF5973

…and even though the “Confusion” exhibit featuring the Tower of Babel was small, it had beautiful art.DSCF5974

Of course with the weather, all the outdoor things were closed that day, but here’s one of my favorite animals from their petting zoo: a zonkey! (And the animal behind him is a zorse.)

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There was an almost-hidden exhibit showing different species of dinosaurs…2014-03-01 17.10.37

…and even some geological finds…

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All in all, it was a busy, jam-packed travel weekend, and the snow-covered drive home just made for another adventure. In closing, here’s a picture of me with “Lucy”.

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Don’t forget to sign up for your $25 AirBnB credit, so that you can stay in some crazy cool accommodations like the ones featured above! 

Central Ohio: Amish Country and More

I just moved to Oregon a few weeks ago, but before that I spent a year (plus one week) living in Central Ohio. My sister Jen had been working at a orphanage mission in Mexico for part of that year as well. Upon returning to America, she wanted to visit me. Of course I was excited to see her again, and I was excited to be her tour guide for her first-ever visit to Ohio. But then I remembered…

I live in Central Ohio! What will we do?

Outside of Columbus, Central Ohio is a pretty middle-of-nowhere area. I lived in Marengo, which has a population of 342! But despite the lack of people, there are actually plenty of things to do! Some things may involve driving over an hour, but here are a few things Jen and I ended up doing:

President Warren G. Harding’s Home and Tomb, Marion

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Did you know Ohio has given our nation seven presidents? Warren G. Harding is one of two presidents that lived in Central Ohio, and even campaigned on the front porch of his home! We both enjoyed the first half of the guided tour of this historic house. You may be wondering why I only said we enjoyed the first half. You see, Jen passed out in the upstairs hallway! We missed the middle part as I was helping her to recover. After the color returned to her face, she rested in the gift shop and I returned for the last part of the tour.

At the end of the tour, we were both feeling great again, so we drove a few miles through downtown Marion to reach the tomb of President Harding and his wife. This tomb is something you’d expect to find in Washington, D.C.! Except here, there’s a lot less people, and security, so we felt free to walk around the memorial at our leisure.

The Columbus Zoo, Powell

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Despite being told multiple times that this zoo was really awesome and I needed to visit, this was actually my first time here. The last zoo I had been to was the Omaha Henry Doorly Zoo over a year ago, and Jen had visited the San Francisco Zoo a few months prior. Even though these are considered the top two zoos in America, we both found the Columbus Zoo to be just as good! A new Africa exhibit had recently opened, and we ate there at a restaurant that overlooked the “savannah” filled with giraffes, lions, and other creatures. Collectively, our favorite animals were apes, red pandas, penguins, polar bears, and flamingos. However, the thing we liked best about the zoo were the statues of animals that we found throughout the park. We had to pose with every single one of them for pictures!

After spending most of the day at the zoo, we went to the nearby city of Powell for something sweet. Rita’s and Jeni’s both have excellent frozen treats!

President Rutherford B. Hayes’ Birthplace, Delaware

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This is more of a joke than an actual trip. While driving near Delaware (the Ohio city, not the state!), I asked Jen if she would be interested in swinging by President Hayes’ birthplace. I then proceeded to drive to a BP gas station. Once at the station, I announced “here we are!” She was confused. She thought I had stopped here to fill up the gas tank, but then I pointed to a memorial plaque. This gas station was indeed the birthplace of Rutherford B. Hayes!

Of course, back in his day, it wasn’t a gas station; it was his family’s home. Long after he grew up and moved out, his house was demolished, paved over, and transformed into the (British-owned!) gas station we see today.

Amish Country, Holmes County

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Now THIS is why people visit Central Ohio! Holmes County has the largest population of Amish, and many of them are welcoming to us “English” as we visit their shops, tours, and eateries. Because we arrived on a Sunday and the Amish take this day of rest very seriously, there wasn’t a whole lot to do. So we visited Guggisberg Cheese Factory (where Baby Swiss was invented), and then checked into Blessings Lodge.

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Blessings Lodge is located within walking distance of downtown Berlin, Ohio, and is a wonderful centralized location for everything going on in the heart of Amish Country. Although it has the conveniences of indoor plumbing, electricity, and cable television, it still reflects the Christian values that are shared with the Amish.
Each room at the Blessings Lodge is unique, and my sister and I enjoyed our stay at the “Faith” Simple Blessings Cabin. It was her first visit to Holmes County and my third, but it was the first time for both of us to stay at this cabin, which we agreed was our favorite part of this getaway! The porch offered amazing countryside views (and there were binoculars to gain a better perspective). The kitchen allowed us to save money by making our own meals, and we were surprised to be greeted with Amish cookies waiting for us on the kitchen table! The bathroom featured a Jacuzzi tub, and there were enough beds to sleep up to seven people. These were just a few of the amenities. The owners did an excellent job providing special touches to make the Blessings Cabin feel like home, such as games, books, and décor that can only be found in Amish Country.

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After a restful night’s sleep, we headed into the tourist area to make the most of our day. Lacking a plan, we decided to do anything that sounded interesting at the time. We began by walking around and visiting shops in Walnut Creek. This town has a street filled with all kinds of gift shops, a woodworking shop, and best of all, Coblentz Chocolate Factory! Just down the street was Der Dutchman, where we enjoyed an authentic Amish lunch.

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We then decided to tour Yoder’s Amish Home. It has a gift shop filled with Amish-made goods, a barn full of farm animals, and two houses that represent Amish living. Our tour guide was formerly Amish, and many of the employees here were practicing Amish themselves! It was very fun and educational.

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Our last stop was the cheese factory of all cheese factories: Heini’s Cheese Chalet! With samples of nearly every cheese they make, plus a variety of fudge samples, we didn’t even need dinner!

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Bridge of Dreams, Brinkhaven

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On the way to Holmes County, we saw a sign for Ohio’s Second Longest Covered Bridge. We decided that we would definitely stop by on the way back. I’m glad we remembered to! It was fun to drive across, even though it ended up not going anywhere and we eventually had to turn around and go back. Later, through researching online, I found out that this is called the Bridge of Dreams. It’s 370 feet long and was originally built in the 1920s. I also learned that Ohio is the state with the second-largest amount of covered bridges, coming in just behind Pennsylvania.

At the end of this week, I realized that Central Ohio actually has quite a bit to do! We didn’t even do it all! Here are a few other things I could not do when Jen was in town, but did on my own:

-Malabar Farm State Park, Lucas

-Mansfield Reformatory, Mansfield

-A slew of things in Columbus, such as COSI, Topiary Garden, German Village, Ohio State Campus, Art Museum, the site of the first Wendy’s, and the World’s Largest Gavel

Note: This post was made possible in part by Blessings Lodge.