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Snowleopard's 2012 Road Trip

Discussion in 'United States' started by snowleopard, 2 Jul 2012.

  1. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    It’s that time again!!!!!

    This summer the Snowleopard family is planning another extensive road trip across the United States. Our minivan will contain me, my wife, our daughter Kylie (who is closing in on 3 years of age) and our son Jeffrey (who is almost 14 months old). The intention is to leave on Monday, July 2nd, and visit approximately 40 different zoos/aquariums in around 47 days in perhaps 30 U.S. States. Even though I've been to over 130 different zoos/aquariums over the years almost all of the ones that I plan to visit this summer are establishments that I've never toured before. In fact, of the 40 that are on the tentative itinerary there are 35 that I've never seen. It is time for us to tour many of the small and medium-sized zoos in America, as well as many east coast aquariums.

    Road trips are living, breathing, fluid entities, and by that rationale I mean to say that the itinerary posted below will not be the exact, 100% finished product but by analyzing past road trips I would ascertain that the list below will be 90% accurate with only a few attractions added/deleted. I’ll be posting extensive reviews on ZooChat for the duration of the trip.

    Monday, July 2nd – Drive all day
    Tuesday, July 3rd – Drive all day
    Wednesday, July 4th – Drive all day
    Thursday, July 5th – Drive all day (24 hours to Sioux Falls)
    Friday, July 6th – Great Plains Zoo + drive 4.5 hours
    Saturday, July 7th – Blank Park Zoo + drive 4 hours
    Sunday, July 8th – Peoria Zoo + drive 3.5 hours
    Monday, July 9th – Indianapolis Zoo + drive 2 hours
    Tuesday, July 10th – Newport Aquarium + drive 4.5 hours
    Wednesday, July 11th – Potawatomi Zoo + drive 2 hours

    Thursday, July 12th – John Ball Zoo + drive 1 hour
    Friday, July 13th – Potter Park Zoo + drive 5.5 hours
    Saturday, July 14th – Erie Zoo + drive 4 hours
    Sunday, July 15th – Rosamond Gifford Zoo + drive 5 hours
    Monday, July 16th – Franklin Park Zoo
    Tuesday, July 17th – New England Aquarium + drive 2 hours
    Wednesday, July 18th – Mystic Aquarium + drive 1.5 hours
    Thursday, July 19th – Beardsley Zoo + drive 30 minutes + Maritime Aquarium + drive 1.5 hours
    Friday, July 20th – New York Aquarium + drive 2 hours
    Saturday, July 21st – Adventure Aquarium + drive 5 hours

    Sunday, July 22nd – Virginia Aquarium + drive 35 minutes + Virginia Zoo + drive 2 hours
    Monday, July 23rd – North Carolina Aquarium on Roanoke Island + drive 3 hours
    Tuesday, July 24th – North Carolina Aquarium at Pine Knoll Shores + drive 2.5 hours
    Wednesday, July 25th – North Carolina Aquarium at Fort Fisher + drive 2 hours
    Thursday, July 26th – Ripley’s Aquarium at Myrtle Beach + drive 2 hours
    Friday, July 27th – South Carolina Aquarium + drive 5 hours
    Saturday, July 28th – St. Augustine Alligator Farm Zoological Park + drive 2 hours
    Sunday, July 29th – Brevard Zoo + drive 2 hours
    Monday, July 30th – Palm Beach Zoo + drive 2.5 hours
    Tuesday, July 31st – Naples Zoo + drive 3 hours

    Wednesday, August 1st – Busch Gardens Tampa Bay
    Thursday, August 2nd – Tampa’s Lowry Park Zoo
    Friday, August 3rd – The Florida Aquarium + drive 2 hours
    Saturday, August 4th – Drive 5 hours
    Sunday, August 5th – Zoo Atlanta + drive 4 hours
    Monday, August 6th – Nashville Zoo + drive 5 hours
    Tuesday, August 7th – Little Rock Zoo + drive 4 hours
    Wednesday, August 8th – Dickerson Park Zoo + drive 3.5 hours
    Thursday, August 9th – Topeka Zoo + drive 2 hours
    Friday, August 10th – Rolling Hills Wildlife Adventure + drive 6 hours

    Saturday, August 11th – Denver Zoo
    Sunday, August 12th – Downtown Aquarium (Denver) + drive 3 hours
    Monday, August 13th – Drive 4.5 hours
    Tuesday, August 14th – Utah’s Hogle Zoo
    Wednesday, August 15th – Drive 5 hours
    Thursday, August 16th – Drive 5 hours
    Friday, August 17th – Drive 5 hours

    Zoos = 26
    Aquariums = 14
    5 Repeat Visits out of 40 Establishments

    Past Road Trip Threads:

    Snowleopard's 2011 Road Trip (24 zoos/aquariums in 32 days)

    http://www.zoochat.com/22/snowleopards-2011-road-trip-223080/

    Snowleopard's 2010 Road Trip (39 zoos/aquariums in 46 days):

    http://www.zoochat.com/22/snowleopards-2010-road-trip-160988/

    Snowleopard's Epic Road Trip (30 zoos/aquariums in summer 2008):

    http://www.zoochat.com/22/snowleopards-epic-road-trip-20316/

    Snowleopard's Florida Road Trip (4 zoos in winter 2008)

    http://www.zoochat.com/22/snowleopards-florida-road-trip-28418/
     
  2. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    Woohoo, on the road again with the snowleopard clan. Good luck with the first leg of your journey and really look forward to a summer of zoo and aquarium reviews from you.

    Is there any fun stuff to see on the trek from Abbotsford to the Great Plains Zoo? The world's largest ball of twine?

    Bon voyage!
     
  3. ANyhuis

    ANyhuis Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I thought SnowLeopard (and others) would enjoy the above posting from December, 2007 that I found recently. Goes to show that this guy has been to nearly 100 new zoos and aquariums in just over 4 years. Amazing -- especially for a guy with a very young family.

    Godspeed, SnowLeopard, and stay safe! We all look forward to reading your updates, and I personally (along with my family) look forward to seeing them when they come through Indianapolis next weekend.
     
  4. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member

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    Another summer road trip! I enjoyed reading all your reviews on the last two trips, and can't wait for this one! I wish you the best.

    By the way, is there a chance you could squeeze the Southwick's Zoo (Mendon, Massachusetts) into your schedule? It isn't AZA-accredited, but some of the exhibits there look pretty good.
     
  5. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    DAY ONE: Monday, July 2nd, 2012.

    Today began as a morning of chaos, as is common for parents of young children. My personal belongings for this epic road trip were almost entirely contained within a large duffel bag, and my wife Debbie had a little more than that but between us we were prepared with few personal possessions. Then comes the realization that the two children need a minivan full of odds n’ ends, from clothes, vitamins, medication (only in case of illness), toys, portable playpens, munchies and a bewildering assortment of things that take up valuable space but are still necessities. As we hauled items into the vehicle our kids continued to laugh, fight, poop, cry, and endear themselves to us with a plethora of noises that could easily have been appropriate for a rainforest pavilion in a zoo. Instead of the twittering of birds I heard the cries of toddlers as their favourite blankets went missing or (heaven forbid!) they were not allowed to devour a box of Oreo cookies. Such are the pleasures of parenthood.

    We eventually left Canada and our hometown of Abbotsford and headed due south to the blossoming metropolis of Seattle, and then drove onto Interstate 90 which heads east. The I-90 runs across the northern portion of the United States and we stayed on it all the way to our night-time location of Coeur D’Alene in Idaho. In total we logged close to 700 km (435 miles) with only two stops that included groceries, gas, Subway for lunch and bathroom breaks. Hitting the 700 km mark with two youngsters strapped into kiddie seats is a powerful achievement, but we were aided considerably by the fact that they each slept for about 2.5 hours during the day. The bliss of silence is something that should never be underestimated, and those of you without children perhaps have no idea of what I speak of.

    Debbie won the “Hawk Count” with a final tally of 16-13. To while away the time during our long trips we see who can spot the most birds of prey along our journey. Included in that total of 29 birds were 3 gorgeous bald eagles, two soaring overhead and a third seen in its nest almost directly next to the highway. The only other notable remark that I have is that it is consistently fascinating to witness the different environments that we drive through on our trips. Last summer we spent over a month in California and Arizona and there were days of cacti and scrubland in the distance. Today we had the enormous coniferous forests of the Pacific Northwest give way to undulating green hills and then yellow grassland that has already been scorched by an early summer on the plains of central Washington State. Blighting the landscape (in comparison to the beauty of nature) were countless temporary tents with people inside selling fireworks in anticipation of the 4th of July holiday this Wednesday. In the vast majority of cities in southern British Columbia, Canada, fireworks are banned and only available by major corporations with legal permits. In the state of Washington it seems as if fireworks are a rite of passage for people of all ages to enjoy during the first week of July. We still have firework displays put on by city officials in Canada but the average citizen in most communities cannot purchase them as in the past ten years they have been eradicated due to several high-profile injuries.
     
  6. ANyhuis

    ANyhuis Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Glad to see my friends are off to a good start. I meant to wish you Canadians a Happy Canada Day, Sunday. You of course will soon be in the USA for our Independence Day on Wednesday. I would also warn you that you are headed towards a major heat wave that the eastern 2/3 of the USA is experiencing. Some cities have experienced the hottest weather in decades. It was up over 110F in Kansas this past week. So be forewarned.
     
  7. KCZooFan

    KCZooFan Well-Known Member

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    You guys definalty need to learn to tell hawk species from a distance. Watching and IDing up birds and other animals on the road is an awesome way to keep yourself busy. I am looking forward to your first reviews, of some of the smaller American zoos.

    Yes, be very careful in this heat, I got sick after a hike last weekend. Can certainly ruin a good zoo experience. Good luck though!
     
  8. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    Odds n' Sods:

    - I've been reading about the heatwave and that is nothing new to us as we spent 10 days in Texas in 2010 and basically every day it was over 100 degrees, and then in 2011 during our stint in Arizona it was even hotter! We'll have to watch our little ones closely so that they do not overheat this summer and one thing about being teachers is that we will consistently have to travel in the hottest, busiest time of the year.

    - Besides the heatwave, there have been many brutally destructive storms along the east coast, and so we also have that to look forward to!

    - We will skip Southwick's Zoo, as maybe that will be for a future road trip. We rarely visit zoos that are not AZA-accredited, and I'm not saying that we won't in the future but I've found in the past that in general non-accredited zoos and aquariums are usually rather poor in quality in relation to those that are AZA inspected every 5 years.

    - It is time to stock up on a hearty breakfast at our Super 8 Motel...including hot food like eggs, toast and waffles. Maybe the kiddies will fill their bellies and then nap all morning in the minivan as we head out of Idaho and through the vast state of Montana.
     
  9. blospz

    blospz Well-Known Member

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    I give you credit for taking your trips in the summertime. I tend to get discourage going to zoos during this season as the crowds get on my nerves. Add the heat, and an experience can be ruined! I'm already for fall to roll around with cooler weather and kids back in school. Any zoo trips I do make is mid week where it's not as crazy.

    Looks like our trips to Virginia Zoo and Aquarium are somewhat near each other. I look forward to comparing our reviews to see what we both thought.

    Safe travels!
     
  10. BeardsleyZooFan

    BeardsleyZooFan Well-Known Member

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    Despite not being AZA-accredited, Southwick's is definately in the top 3 zoos in New England. It seems many improvements and new additions have been made since I visited, but if your schedule is too hectic or you choose not to, I completely respect your decision.
    Unfortunately, I won't be available from July 15-21. Not only will I miss a great chunk of your road trip, but that's also within your visit to all Connecticut attractions:(. I'm very sorry, and I hope you find despite Beardsley being small and in some parts outdated, somewhat enjoyable. I wish you and your family the best on your trip.
     
    Last edited: 4 Jul 2012
  11. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    I wonder why they would chose not to be AZA-accredited if they are investing in building a quality zoo? That Wildlife World Zoo place in Arizona is the same way.
     
  12. reduakari

    reduakari Well-Known Member

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    For the same reason the "Tea Party" has so many adherents--lots of animal collectors/exhibitors chafe against the perceived restrictions of a centralized governing (or accrediting) authority. That is most certainly why WWZ is no longer a member of AZA.
     
  13. azcheetah2

    azcheetah2 Well-Known Member

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    Not to get into an argument over zoos, but if Wildlife World Zoo was so into building a quality zoo they really should start with cleaning the trash from the walkways and preventing people from smoking while walking around. They should also stop breeding for white tigers and stop sending their cubs to roadside zoos. That is just my opinion, though. I won't go there anymore even though they claim to be building a new Jaguar exhibit, they have the best lemur exhibit in the state and I have a fun relationship with their spotted male Jaguar Rocco. ;)

    PS---the owner of WWZ has been AZA accredited in the past but has lost it due to selling 'surplus' animals to big game farms for canned hunts and poor animal management.
     
  14. azcheetah2

    azcheetah2 Well-Known Member

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    Snowleopard, I hope you and your family have an enjoyable and safe vacation and I look forward to reading more of your travels.
     
  15. DAKFan

    DAKFan Active Member

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    I hope you enjoy your visit to the Indianapolis Zoo. The new Encounters biome is completed and features a 5 bird aviaries.
     
  16. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    DAY TWO: Tuesday, July 3rd.

    Today was another driving day, and that meant a whopping 800 km (500 miles) was added to yesterday’s 700 km for a grand total of 1,500 km of driving on the first two days of the journey. The plan was for two more driving days but tomorrow could be the third and final hardcore driving day before the zoos come thick and fast if we get an early start and log a heck of a lot of kilometers. I allotted 4 days for driving as travelling with little children can be unpredictable and I wasn’t sure if they would be able to handle countless hours in the minivan. As it is for the most part they’ve been great, but there was a horrid hour today when both Jeffrey and Kylie hit their breaking point and we were still 45 minutes away from the nearest town. That was difficult (and loud) to say the least. It is also extremely difficult to venture into a sit-down restaurant as while our kids are well-behaved they are so young that they require nonstop attention and we can only enjoy our food (speedily eating) if we hit places like Taco Bell or other similar outlets. We'll have to get our fruit and veggies from grocery stores so that we do not succumb to fast food all summer long.

    Other than about 45 minutes in Idaho we spent the entire day in the vast state of Montana. It is the 4th largest state in the entire nation (surpassed only by Alaska, Texas and California), and so by driving 800 km today we still never actually left it! I type this from Billings, the largest city in the state with slightly over 100,000 people. Montana may be the 4th largest state but it is one of the least populous and that was plainly obvious to us as we followed Interstate-90 just as we did on the 2010 road trip. We are actually in a Motel 6 about two exits from Zoo Montana, a very tiny establishment that I reviewed two summers ago and it has sadly lost its AZA-accreditation and struggled since then.

    Montana is called “Big Sky Country” and it is stereotypically linked to cowboys and images of the Wild West. Interestingly enough there are plenty of towns that capitalize on the notion of the never-ending frontier, and billboards for mining museums, cowboy hats and leather boots can be found on the outskirts of small towns. Cattle and horse ranches are everywhere, the scenery is outstanding, the blue sky bouncing off of the green hills is wondrous, and rivers flow in all directions. Of the 20 or so brochures at the motel at least 7 of them are for different rafting expeditions and another 4 of them are horse-related. If you like the great outdoors then states like Montana, Wyoming, Minnesota, Idaho and others offer year-round activities, but there doesn’t seem to be a lot else going on besides monthly country music festivals if one is to believe the billboards.

    I won the “Hawk Count” with a score of 8-6, and there were a few bald eagles included in that total. We also spotted 4 white-tailed deer and 34 pronghorn antelope, and all of those animals were in little herds that were grazing at dusk. The antelope are beautiful to see, and they are usually to be found in small groups of 3-4 but tonight we did see one herd of about 14.
     
  17. ANyhuis

    ANyhuis Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    SnowLeopard family (Scott & Debbie),
    I know that you are headed towards South Dakota, Souix Falls and its Great Plains Zoo -- a zoo that was in my first book, but I haven't been there in nearly 15 years. So I look forward to hearing your updated review of it.

    Anyways, I don't know if you'll be driving through western South Dakota on your way to Souix Falls, but in case you do, here are some recommendations:

    (a) There are great prairie dog towns, with hundreds of the cute critters, in both Wind Cave National Park and Badlands National Park (and probably elsewhere too). When my children were young, they absolutely loved watching the prairie dogs, with some coming right up to their shoes. I'm guessing that Kylie would love this experience.

    (b) Also in the Black Hills area is Custer State Park. If you get a chance, be sure to drive through this park, as you'll see lots of wildlife, including large herds of bison. When we drove through, we had a herd of maybe 75-100 bison completely surround our car, so we got some close up views of these amazing animals. In this park you're also likely to see bighorn sheep and wild burros -- who will beg for food from your car windows.

    (c) Even though you're Canadians, you definitely should take in the view of Mount Rushmore, one of the USA's most iconic views. There are some great views of it from Custer State Park. I know that you, Scott, are an old movie fan, so you'll likely remember Mount Rushmore from the classic old movie, North by Northwest, starring Cary Grant.

    (d) Badlands National Park is an amazing place! Besides the wildlife (prairie dogs, pronghorns), the natural formations there are gorgeous. Our family (again when our kids were young) spent 3 days in Badlands, hiking and taking lots of pictures.
     
  18. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    DAY THREE: Wednesday, July 4th.

    Today was a day of covering 850 km (over 500 miles) and now our minivan has cruised past 2,350 km (1,460 miles) in the first three days of the latest Snowleopard road trip. As one can tell from looking at the itinerary I had originally scheduled the first 4 days as driving days but we have been motoring along due to the low number of vehicles on the road and the high speed limits allowed in the relatively empty northern states. Today we left Montana, spent a couple of hours crossing a section of Wyoming, and then the rest of the day was spent jetting across South Dakota. We passed Rapid City, which we visited on the 2008 road trip and there are many tourist attractions in that area. Mount Rushmore is of course iconic, and the Crazy Horse Monument is perhaps even more magnificent as it has been under construction since 1948 and is probably the world’s largest sculpture. This time around we jettisoned the idea of re-visiting those memorials as we wanted to fly like the wind so that we could cover as much ground as possible. We know that those larger-than-life memorials are of zero interest to a 1 year-old and a 2 year-old and so we'll save them for a future road trip.

    I type this from the tiny town of Chamberlain in South Dakota, approximately 2 hours from Sioux Falls in the same state. Tomorrow we’ll be up nice and early so that we can make it over to our first zoo of the trip, and it should be an exciting day as the Great Plains Zoo is an establishment that no one seems to know too much about. It is almost 50 years old and has over 1,000 animals and yet due to its location I cannot name a single ZooChatter that has visited in the past decade. I plan to extensively review it for anyone that cares to read my reports, and since the road trip will officially be a day ahead of schedule I will have room to tinker already.

    I already had tentatively planned for us to be ahead of pace, even though it might not happen again at all on this trip as everything else is pre-booked, so to speak. However, Friday we might just decide to visit a zoo between the facilities in Sioux Falls and Des Moines…and it is one that you all have surely heard of. Nothing is certain just yet, but if we do visit I can tell you that this zoo in question has arguably the largest rainforest complex in the world, the largest desert dome on the planet, the largest nocturnal house on Earth, the 2nd or 3rd largest aviary, one of the largest Madagascan zones in a zoo, one of North America’s best insect buildings, one of the best collections of reptiles, the largest cat complex on the continent, and probably one of the brightest futures of any American zoo. Hmmm…

    Today the “Hawk Count” was a tie with 11 apiece, and we also saw 1 white-tailed deer, 5 prairie dogs and 25 pronghorn antelope. The weather was muggy and rather warm, although we spent most of the day in an air-conditioned vehicle. Fireworks were everywhere, hotdogs were on special in the parking lot of the mega store Target, and Americans were joyous at receiving a national holiday and also celebrating the birthday of their nation. Forget about the fact that the land has been here for milieu, or that it was brazenly snatched away from First Nations people (of whom I have the deepest sympathy – I tell my students that I honestly have white guilt) but nevertheless today is a special day for a nation that has many wonderful zoos and aquariums. I celebrated by being thankful that all road crews had the day off and thus there were no delays due to construction. Today was a blessed day on the highways of America, but I cannot say the same for yesterday as near Missoula, Montana, we passed a horrific crash that involved a dead body covered by a sheet on the side of the road. Later we learned that a woman had flipped her car upside down and been killed instantly in a single-vehicle accident. Seeing such events in real life create images of stark reality that are never replicated on television.
     
  19. DavidBrown

    DavidBrown Well-Known Member

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    Sorry to hear about the car crash in Montana.

    Oh goody, another chance to debate the merits of the Omaha Zoo:) Do they really have one of the best collections of reptiles?! I remember some lizards and venomous snakes in the desert dome and the Philippine crocodile, American alligator, and freshwater crocs, but not much else there reptile-wise.

    I look forward to hearing if the Great Plains Zoo is great. Safe travels.
     
    Last edited: 5 Jul 2012
  20. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I never included Omaha's famous zoo when I made up my list of the 10 best American zoos for reptiles a couple of years ago, but I was informed by 2 different ZooChatters that in fact Omaha has in the last few years been listed in the top 5 zoos for reptiles and top 5 zoos for amphibians in the United States. I was shocked to learn that, but I suppose that between the Lied Jungle, Desert Dome, Kingdoms of the Night and Exploration Station there are a lot of terrariums throughout the zoo.