Day Twenty Five: Lions & Tigers & Dawn Adele, oh my!

We spent the night in Perry, Florida, last night. If you’ve never heard of Perry, you are not alone. We found a clean little roadside motel there just before dark. I left Dawn to unwind from a long day of driving and hopped down to the Winn Dixie to pick up a couple of groceries for the Magical Mystery Bag. In reality, it’s just a heavy plastic tote that we picked up in Utah, with pictures of Arches National Park on the outside. Calling it the Magical Mystery Bag makes it so much more, though, as if we might open it and find an apple pie, instead of the trail mix that is actually there.

I hustled through the aisles of the Winn Dixie, picked up my few items and headed for checkout. A bored young woman said hello and asked me if I found everything all right. I said I had. The bored look slipped away, and she said, “You’re not from around here, are you?” Every time I come south of the Mason Dixon, my inherent Yankee-ness seems to roil off me in a cloud, so I’m used to that question.

“No, I’m not,” I answered.

She nodded wisely, then closed one eye and looked at me slant-wise. “Where you from?”

I knew that “Orting,” or “Enumclaw” would only result in a blank look, so I said, “Seattle.”

She knit her brow critically, and said, “Wait. You’re from Seattle, and you’re spending the night in Perry?” The name of her town dripped with negative energy.

“Yep.”

“Why?”

“It was getting dark?”

“That’s the only reason I can think to stay in Perry if you don’t have to.”

Driving out of town this morning, we kind of had to agree with her. I felt like maybe we should run back and get her and take her on one leg of our trip just to bring her a little excitement.

As we drove south, I scanned all the resources I use to find interesting things to do – my Roadtrippers and Off the Beaten Path books, RoadsideAmerica.com, and AtlasObscura.com. 

Not much showed up until I scanned down to Tampa, a few hours south. There, I found Big Cat Rescue, a non-profit shelter for, obviously, big cats. Scanning their website,  BigCatRescue.org, I saw that the only way to walk through the facility was with a guided tour. It wasn’t free,or even cheap ($36 per person) but every dime you pay goes to the care of the big cats. We were in. We drove straight to Tampa and got there in time for a trip through the gift shop (have I mentioned Dawn’s obsession with magnets, yet?) and then our tour.

I am a fan of Big Cat Rescue. They take in pretty much every kind of big cat and take care of them. Forever. Big Cat Rescue is the forever home for these oversized kitties. There aren’t any other good options. Almost all of them have had difficult, abused lives and many of them have been declawed or otherwise damaged. They couldn’t be released into the wild, and they shouldn’t be in private homes. So, Big Cat Rescue it is. It may not be their wild environment, but it is as good as the rescue can possibly make it.

The cats of Big Cat Rescue come from  many different sources – roadside zoos or attractions that have closed, other shelters that ran out of money, private homes that found that a 300 lb. kitty isn’t all it’s cracked up to be, etc. One was found chained inside a crack house. As you walk through BCR, the guide plays the story of each cat and how it arrived at the rescue. Many of them will break your heart.

The walking tour is a great opportunity to get up close and personal with many big cats and take some amazing pictures, but one thing is certain: this is not a zoo. This is a rehab and rescue facility, and the needs of the cats come first. If they are feeling antisocial for any reason, there are places in their compounds where they can go. So, you won’t see every cat you walk by, but you will see plenty. I took a million pictures, but here are my favorite few:

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How can you look at those faces and not love them?

Let me set the scene for you. We are in central Florida, so it is hot – probably 90 degrees. It is humid. There is thunder and lightning and intermittent rain coming down. Looking at the magnificent cats, strolling casually around just a few feet away, it is easy to imagine that you are standing on the African veldt. In fact, it very much put me in mind of the story, The Veldt, by Ray Bradbury (from his book The Illustrated Man.) Then, you look at this guy, so relaxed, and are glad there’s a secure barrier between you.

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At least, I was.

Big Cat Rescue, in my opinion, is doing the work of the angels – taking care of those that would never find the same level of care anywhere else. The moral of the story is – big cats are not pets and should never be domesticated. As happy as these cats are, I know their lives would be fuller in the wild.

Our time in BCR complete, we tried to scoot out of Tampa before the Friday afternoon traffic hit. We almost made it. So close. As veterans of Seattle traffic, though, this was really a piece of cake – about the same as I-5 on a Wednesday midday.

We went over a number of long bridges, and the weather was pretty iffy. I tried to get a shot of the dramatic rainfall off to the side of the bridge, as we were moving.

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We got our share of the rain before we escaped it, so the Silver Bullet is once again nice and clean.

Several hours south of Tampa, the sun went down and the sunset was spectacular.

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Kind of looks like a postcard, doesn’t it. Man, I love that color.

By the time we got to our room, we were whipped. One thing about hotels and motels, though. Last Friday, we were in Galveston, Texas, and stayed in the worst motel of the entire trip. Yes, worse than The Clown Motel. That room was $90. Tonight, we are staying in the nicest hotel of the trip, once again in a resort area. This room is $90. I just can’t make any sense out of what these places charge.

Tomorrow, we head in the general direction of Miami, getting ready to make our final assault on Key West.

Cheers, and safe travels!

Shawn

 

 

17 comments

  1. I love the idea of a rescue for big cats but it is sad all the same that they have to be rescued. Thanks for sharing that space with us. Glad your motel/hotel is better! Rest well and enjoy!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks! Neither of us is a photographer, and we don’t have one of the expensive cameras I see so many people toting around – just an inexpensive Canon – so I am always amazed when our photos turn out well. The first thing I do when we get to our room is pop in the disc and see what we got. Today, I was happy. 🙂

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  2. Once again, I looked forward to getting my daily dose of your adventures. I love how you’re generously taking us all along with you. The rain, sunset, and big cat photos are all gorgeous! We travel quite a bit, and you’re right, the cost of a room doesn’t guarantee what you’re going to get. It’s a crapshoot. Lastly, I’m not trying to tempt you to come to the middle of the country, but just to let you know, there’s another big cat rescue place near me, and you can even stay in a cabin overnight amid the big cats. You can read about it here: http://www.exoticfelinerescuecenter.org/home.html

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  3. We live so vicariously through you and Dawn & we thank you. I really like the BCR, it’s nice that people are devoted to taking care of them. Doesn’t sound like you’re letting any part of your adventures get you down, from rainstorms to hotel pricing, you two seem to take it all in stride & start fresh the next day with a new outlook. Enjoy, & looking forward to the next leg of your trip.

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    • No sense in taking a trip like this, then letting the little things disturb you. And, really, almost everything counts as a little thing, right? I do admit to looking forward to being out of the Florida heat and humidity before too long. 🙂

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    • Once upon a time, yes. Farman’s pickles haven’t been made there in quite a while, though. There was a time, back in the eighties, when one day per week was sauerkraut day at the factory. If you happened to drive on what the locals called Pickle Factory Road, there was a heavenly/terrible smell, depending on how you feel about sauerkraut.

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  4. Wow, you’re making amazing time down the West Coast. While there is a lot of beauty over there, a warning – if you come back up the east coast using A1A or US1, it will be a more time consuming trip as there is a stoplight and tourist shop basically every block from the southernmost point after you get back from the Keys all the way up to the spacecoast! Do look up the Coral Castle in Leisure City, south of Miami, though – it’s one of those little “worth seeing” spots!

    Liked by 1 person

      • Perfect! We really enjoyed seeing it several years ago. Give us a shout out should you be passing through New Smyrna Beach on your way back. A cool and *free* stop in town is our Turnbull Ruins. I’ve taken many pictures there over the years – and it’s available to freely walk around in into – great tree in the adjacent park where I’ve taken pictures of lots of kids and the family posed in it’s branches.

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  5. Beautiful pictures of the animals. I have never been there and live a couple of hours away. Must get there. Love your picture of the sunset. You got a perfect one. The sunsets on the west coast are beautiful, but you don’t get a spectacular one every day.

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    • It happened quickly, we were just driving, humming along to the music, when I glanced over my shoulder and saw all that color jump out at us. Since I took that shot from a moving car, I’m a little surprised it turned out!

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  6. The photos of the big cats are stunning. I too, can’t get over how the same price for a hotel or motel and their amenities differ. Safe travels on your way to Key West.

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  7. Those big cats were amazing. I am so glad that there are organizations like this that take care of these abused beauties. I have a friend with a pet Bobcat. He is beautiful and very good around people, but he plays like a cat, so you have to be prepared for him to jump on your head. He is a good boy. I know you aren’t going to make it to the center part of the country (hoping that is a future journey), but there is an elephant rescue in Hohenwald, TN. I bet you would enjoy that. The elephants there have been rescued from less-than-desirable circumstances. Many of them come from circuses or zoos inadequate for elephant life. Our zoo elephant, Bunny, went there several years ago and lived a great life until she died a couple years ago. They do have a web cam, so you can see the elephants on their 800+ acreage being elephants. i am really enjoying your journey. You just have a way with words.

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