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Snowleopard's 2015 Road Trip

Discussion in 'United States' started by snowleopard, 12 Jul 2015.

  1. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    It is that time of year again when I hit the highway for a long, exhaustive yet thrilling journey through the zoological delights that the United States has to offer. This year's edition, if all goes well, will see me spend 26 days on the road and visit close to 80 different zoos. Rather than post my comprehensive itinerary (which I've spent an entire year tinkering with) I will just say that I'll rapidly make my way down from the Vancouver region of British Columbia, Canada, to the state of Texas. While half the trip will be in Texas (40 zoos), there will also be 4 zoos in each of these states (Oklahoma, Arkansas, Louisiana), 6 zoos in each of these states (New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada) and a few stops on the way back home in these states (California, Oregon, Washington). Exciting times!!

    IZES (Independent Zoo Enthusiast Society) founder Tim Brown and I are still planning on publishing a comprehensive guide to American zoos and aquariums and at some point that will be released to zoo nerds everywhere in 2016. I won't be posting enormous reviews of the major collections but nevertheless I will be writing a lot on this blog and I'm looking forward to typing out mini-reviews. To be perfectly honest many of the establishments that I'll be visiting are very tiny anyway. On last summer's road trip the final word document tally was 46 pages of text as I truly enjoy writing and reporting back to my fellow zoo nerds across the globe.

    Many of you are aware of several of my past road trips, but a very brief recap looks something like this:

    2014 - 65 zoos in 20 days
    http://www.zoochat.com/22/snowleopards-2014-road-trip-373143/

    2012 - 50 zoos in 50 days
    http://www.zoochat.com/22/snowleopards-2012-road-trip-278110/

    2011 - 24 zoos in 32 days
    http://www.zoochat.com/22/snowleopards-2011-road-trip-223080/

    2010 - 39 zoos in 46 days
    http://www.zoochat.com/22/snowleopards-2010-road-trip-160988/

    2008 - 30 zoos on this summer trip
    http://www.zoochat.com/22/snowleopards-epic-road-trip-20316/

    FAQ:

    1- When do I leave? Monday, July 13th.

    2- When do I return? Friday, August 7th. (if all goes as planned)

    3- Why so long? I had originally planned a 20 day trip, similar to last year, but my wife has travel plans with relatives and so I was able to extend my trip an extra week rather than come home to an empty house.

    4- What is going to be the most difficult aspect of the journey? Missing my amazing wife and 4 kids!!! Up until last year we always travelled as a family but with little ones that can be close to impossible and a road trip of this magnitude (and in the 100 degree sweltering heat of the southern U.S. states) would never work.

    5- How do I have the time to go on all of these summer road trips? My wife and I are both school teachers and so we have approximately 70 days off every single summer. It is a fantastic time to tour zoos as I always see the facilities in their summer glory, with many new exhibits recently opened.

    6- How do I afford all of these trips? A four-letter word: DEBT. :)
     
  2. zoomaniac

    zoomaniac Well-Known Member

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    Hi Snowleopard

    Wish you a wonderful and safe journey. I'm so jealous. And please keep us informed about your book.
     
  3. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    I didn't think there were six zoological facilities in Nevada! :eek:
     
  4. Pleistohorse

    Pleistohorse Well-Known Member

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    Sounds awesome...waiting with great anticipation.
     
  5. lintworm

    lintworm Moderator Staff Member

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    Safe travels and I am very interested in all your comments!
     
  6. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    I leave for my trip in a few hours and I hope to visit 7 out of the 9 Nevada "zoos" right near the very end of the long journey:

    9 Nevada Zoos:

    Animal Ark (Reno)
    Bonnie Springs Ranch Zoo (Las Vegas)
    Flamingo’s Wildlife Habitat (Las Vegas)
    Lion Habitat Ranch (Las Vegas)
    Safe Haven Rescue Zoo (Imlay)
    Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay (Las Vegas)
    Siegfried & Roy’s Secret Garden & Dolphin Habitat (Las Vegas)
    Sierra Safari Zoo (Reno)
    Springs Preserve (Las Vegas)
     
  7. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    DAY 1: Monday, July 13th

    As it is the only day of the 26 day odyssey not to feature any zoos, I’ll have to tackle some different topics. My trip across the U.S. border was uneventful and the guy at the border looked amused to learn that I was off to see, as he put it, “a million and one zoos”. I had an enormous day of driving, with the final total clocking in at 1,160 km (721 miles) and most of it was fairly uneventful. I did have one major scare when I was pulled over by a police officer for speeding (only slightly over the limit) after 3 hours and this latest road trip threatened to begin with a disaster. But, just like the officer who pulled me over last summer near Pueblo, Colorado, I was given a stern warning but yet again I avoided a ticket. The luck of a zoo nerd! Some of the speed limits are too low in the U.S.; 65 miles an hour (104 km) on major highways is too slow for my liking; I’m sure that many European ZooChatters would agree.

    I listened to three albums throughout the day, with Steve Earle’s El Corazon kicking things off; Neil Young & Crazy Horse’s Greendale taking center stage; then David Bowie’s Greatest Hits ending things off. All great stuff. I saw two deer by the side of the road and I drove through some fantastic landscapes. While heading south to Seattle I was surrounded by tall evergreens and gently falling rain as a stereotypical Pacific Northwest background greeted me. Then there was an abrupt change as parched scrubland was all around the eastern Washington area on the way towards Spokane. Idaho and the Rocky Mountains were full of steep inclines and fabulous mountain vistas; and I drove across Montana beneath gorgeous scenery and Big Sky Country in all directions. The humour of the day was supplied by many billboard signs advertising the 33rd annual Testicle Festival and via the University of Google I found out that it is simply a big party that involves wet t-shirts and bull balls. Maybe by visiting zoos each summer I’m actually missing out on intriguing festivals…
     
  8. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    The speed limits are dictated by each state, which does cause some inconsistency. You will be happy to know that once you reach Arizona the interstate speed limit increases to 75mph.
     
  9. zooboy28

    zooboy28 Moderator Staff Member

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    Looking forward to reading about your latest trip Snowleopard, should be very interesting.

    Do you keep a record of wild species you see at all? It would be good to know the sort of numbers of wild species (birds and mammals) you can see just from driving through the US, I suspect its quite a number. Were the deer you saw Mule Deer?
     
  10. Milwaukee Man

    Milwaukee Man Well-Known Member

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    Another summer road trip - best of luck, and I am so excited for the mini-reviews! :D
     
  11. devilfish

    devilfish Well-Known Member

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    Have a great time SL! :)
     
  12. sooty mangabey

    sooty mangabey Well-Known Member

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    An excellent choice of listening material!

    There is little better than a long drive with some great music - and a zoo or two at the end!
     
  13. Ituri

    Ituri Well-Known Member

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    I find this a little amusing as I am traveling through southern Alberta this week struggling to adhere to the 100 km/hr speed limits. My gas pedal foot just can't stay on 62 and 1/4 mph, it wants to go at least 65.

    That being said, the 65 mph speed limits on the interstates in Washington and Oregon drive me nuts! I much prefer the 80 mph of Idaho and Utah!
     
  14. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    We've got some 80s and 85s in Texas. So we win.
     
  15. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    I did quite a bit of driving in Texas the last few years working on my southwest zoo book. I never saw any speed limits that high.
     
  16. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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    The 85 is on Texas 130 around Austin.
     
  17. jbnbsn99

    jbnbsn99 Well-Known Member

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  18. Arizona Docent

    Arizona Docent Moderator Staff Member

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    Well don't get me started on those obnoxious toll freeways in Dallas. Arizona, for those who don't know, does not have one single toll road in the entire state. :p

    We are taking this thread off topic. However, since it is a road trip thread, I think it is fun to discuss the quirks found on the various state highways. I hope Snowleopard incorporates more of these observations along with his zoo reports.
     
  19. Drew

    Drew Well-Known Member

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  20. snowleopard

    snowleopard Well-Known Member Premium Member

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    @zooboy28: I do not keep track of species that I have seen in the wild. Also, I believe that the deer I saw were Mule Deer but there is the slight chance they could have been White-Tailed Deer as I went hurtling past at great speed.

    DAY 2: Tuesday, July 14th

    Lots to say! I always appreciate all of the comments on this “blog”, as well as the private messages and emails and I try my best to respond to everyone. At the end of a long day of zoo trips and driving I’m a busy man chatting with my lovely wife, saying hi to the kiddies if they are still awake, sorting out photos and typing up reviews and then this thread. I thoroughly enjoy it all and that includes as many questions and comments as my fellow zoo nerds intend to toss my way. Keep ‘em coming! I know some folks just like to read the mini-reviews of zoos and call it a day, while others actually prefer the more personal details of the trips. Each to their own is a good mantra to have.

    After all of the discussion about driving speeds I am embarrassed to say that I was once again pulled over by a police officer. It was near the end of the day and I had been going 80 miles an hour (129 km) through Wyoming for hours and I was on a side highway that apparently had a speed limit of 65 miles per hour (105 miles). Much of Wyoming has a speed limit of 80 miles per hour and I was still in that mode. Anyway, a beefy older cop with a handlebar mustache, brimmed hat and a piss-poor attitude pulled me over and I was very compliant. At first I thought that he was going to tear off his huge mustache and beat me to death with it but after a few minutes of listening to a patient Canadian zoo nerd he relented and I again did not get a ticket. He turned out to be quite chatty and I find that as long as one is kind and pleasant to police officers then generally they will go easy on you.

    Today I rather incredibly drove almost the exact same distance as the day before. Yesterday was 1,160 km (721 miles) while today was 1,168 km (725 miles)…rather extraordinary. Wednesday will likely be similar as the first 3 days are a real slog in terms of being behind the wheel. I saw a plethora of cool wildlife today, including a couple of beaver dams near the road in swampy waterways and the following animals: 5 mule deer, approximately 35 pronghorn antelope, 2 sandhill cranes, several ground squirrels and at least 5 plump prairie dogs. I never tire of attempting to spot pronghorn antelope as they are marvelous looking animals and the monotony of cruising through Wyoming was somewhat alleviated by my head swiveling around searching for the second fastest mammal on Earth.

    Music was supplied by 4 CD’s: John Mellencamp’s underrated 1989 gem Big Daddy; the soundtrack to the Cameron Crowe grunge film Singles; Bruce Springsteen’s Greatest Hits (good record but a poor representation of the Boss); and Bob Seger’s Greatest Hits. I spent the day in two enormous, under-populated states and to give my English readers an idea of what I’m talking about here is a mini-table:

    Montana – 380,000 sq. km (236,000 sq. miles) – 4 zoos
    Wyoming – 250,000 sq. km (155,000 sq. miles) – 0 zoos
    England – 130,000 sq. km (81,000 sq. miles) – 180 zoos?

    If Florida sets the pace in the United States with its 85-90 zoos, followed by California with 70 zoos, then Texas with 50 zoos…Wyoming is the only U.S. state with ZERO zoos.

    Today I drove to Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary knowing that its website and all of its brochures listed its opening hours as 12-4 during the week, but to my absolute joy when I pulled up at 9:30 I only had half an hour to wait as recent changes meant that the facility now opens at 10 each day of the week. I killed time by chatting with my wife and kids on my cellphone and I walked up a hill that overlooks the motley assortment of cages that make up the sanctuary. Once inside I spent perhaps 45 minutes touring the establishment as it is only a few acres in size and the enclosures are packed closely together.

    Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary:

    Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary is a non-AZA accredited facility located in Red Lodge, Montana, and it was founded in 1991. It was known as the Beartooth Nature Center for many years and in 2007 the society purchased 20 acres of land in nearby Roberts, Montana, and the long-range goal is to shift operations there. All of the animals are non-releasable native Montana species and the sanctuary is heavily dependent on local volunteers. The enclosures are all wood and wire contraptions and the animals are for the most part survivors of car accidents or ex-pets.

    Species List: American Black Bear, Grey Wolf, Coyote, Red Fox, Cougar, Canadian Lynx, Bobcat, American Bison, Rocky Mountain Elk, Yellow-Bellied Marmot, North American Porcupine, Domestic Ferret, Sandhill Crane, Turkey Vulture, Great Horned Owl, Short-Eared Owl, Swainson’s Hawk, Red-Tailed Hawk, Prairie Falcon, Raven, American Crow and Eastern Box Turtle.

    Since I finished much earlier than expected, and since the city of Billings was on my route, I stopped in to see Zoo Montana again. An extra zoo added to my insane trip!

    Zoo Montana:

    I toured this zoo in 2010, back when they were AZA-accredited, but since then AZA accreditation has been taken away (in 2011) and a trio of Grizzly Bear cubs and a couple of Amur Tigers were removed from the zoo. Make no mistake; this small zoo is clearly worthy of AZA-accreditation and likely within a couple of years the zoo will regain its status as for the first time in 5 years it made a profit in 2014. It was only because of financial irregularities that accreditation was taken away and that fact had nothing to do with the quality of the exhibits.

    This small zoo only takes an hour to tour and that is its major flaw. The entrance is very professional, the new map is excellent, the grounds are well maintained and rather beautiful, the stream running down the centre of the zoo is scenic, and there are a number of top-notch animal exhibits. The Discovery Center with its small animal enclosures and terrariums is a bit of a mess as the enclosures could be of better quality, but the rest of the zoo is well worth touring. Other than a farm zone, an amphitheater, a large playground, a picnic table area and a waterfowl lake there are only 9 animal exhibits in the sprawling 70 acre zoo. However, those 9 excellent habitats would not look out of place in San Diego, Omaha or anywhere else and they consist of these species: Grizzly Bear, Canadian Lynx, Grey Wolf, Bighorn Sheep, Bald Eagle, North American River Otter, Canadian Beaver, Amur Tiger and Red Panda.

    I’ve now visited all 4 zoos in the state of Montana:

    Grizzly & Wolf Discovery Center (West Yellowstone) - 2014
    Montana Grizzly Encounter (Bozeman) - 2014
    Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary (Red Lodge) - 2015
    Zoo Montana (Billings) – 2010 & 2015