My 60th Birthday Trip
My sister went to Tahiti for her 60th birthday. In April, I turned 60 and went to the Exotic Resort Zoo in Johnson City, Texas!
That sounds like I'm asking for sympathy. But in truth I used the excuse of a birthday to say, "Hey, Don! I know this is nuts, but I want to stay at this place." We've driven by it a million times and it was time to investigate.
This scene looks pretty lame when you think of African safari excursions... sleeping in lamp-lit tents, pitched in the expansive grasslands of Kenya or Zambia. (And yes, my sister has experienced that as well and I'm just a little jealous) But this place was a hoot and Don and I made a spontaneous decision to just go for a night.
This funny little 2-bedroom cabin with a tree growing out of the deck, was our home for the night. It totally cracked me up that our cabin was surrounded by 137 acres of critter inhabited land. Evidently 700 animals, (over 50 species) could mosey up to the fence and have a look at us, sitting on our porch!
These are our buddies who followed our tram. The guided tram tour price was $16. per adult. Since our $130. cabin included the tour, we really paid less than 100 bucks for our cabin. The whole experience was totally worth it, at least for this happy birthday gal!
Living in Harmony
It was so fun seeing the zebras and deer and camels and ostriches, all hanging out. Nothing like a good feast (or thrown feed) to bring a gang together!
I can't claim that Gomar is just my favorite. Don and I had to share the love of this charmer, who delighted a couple other families who joined us on the tram. He is known as the kissing camel and I'm afraid Don wasn't fast enough with the camera to catch my big kiss.
Don and His Buddy
We were glad we purchased a bucket of feed before boarding the tram. We did make a few extra friends with our offerings. Don especially loved this sweet buffalo!
It was a cloudy Monday morning when we made the quick decision to rent a cabin and take a tour. I have no idea how busy the "zoo" is on weekends and summer, but our tram was the only vehicle traveling the land. It was nice to see animals with interest! They happily followed our small group, since we had no competition.
The sweet beasts didn't seem frantic to rush towards us for handouts. If they had, I'd have worried over them getting fed enough. They just seemed pleased to see us as they followed along.
The pleasant temps made our 45 minute tram ride enjoyable. Our guide gave us lots of info, but mostly we all just enjoyed the numerous stops, when we got to lean over the railing and do some patting and feeding. What a treat, that the predicted rains held off until our tour was done!
More Space Than Needed
Our little cabin had some dated furniture, but it was clean and the cedar and antler decor was fitting. (Gotta love an antler towel rack) There were 2 rooms to choose from and we picked the one with the a.c. unit, that hummed us to sleep. There was a fridge and coffee maker and windows looking out over the pool and porch.
Had it been summer, we might not have enjoyed having a pool so close. This is a "resort" that attracts families, of course. But the pool was quiet and Don and I found a couple of lounge chairs on the pool deck to relax with some wine, while we watched the sun peek out of the clouds... and set, just over the kangaroos.
Don and I have had many memorable happy hours, at our unusual accommodations over the years. This one will go down as one of the oddest. I mean odd in a good way. We've never had a chance to sip wine on a porch or veranda, while being entertained by kangaroos!
Other Beasts at the Cabins
The cabin guests had their own petting zoo area and I fell in love with the donkey. Don was fond of the kangaroo that seemed to communicate through the fence.
While we were visiting the kangaroo, we were lucky enough to meet Marilyn who started this zoo with her husband nearly 30 years ago. She chatted with between a few chores and told us how the friendly little kangaroo had been raised in their home. She said she was very tempted to get some adult diapers and bring her back in the home. We spent a lot of time hearing how the couple from Louisiana started this Texas Hill Country zoo, years ago.
Don and I slept well with rain pouring down on the metal roof. It stopped enough in the morning for me to have a quick visit with a few animals. Then I sat on the porch, drinking coffee, while the rain gushed some more. In the distance, I could see some buffalo pushing through the sheets of rain.
I slept in a zoo. Well, actually I did that once before, with Girl Scouts in Omaha, Nebraska.
But this was a different kind of fun. I was afraid it would be hokey or that I'd worry about animal treatment. But it seemed pretty much like a win-win for all involved... guests, owners and animals. Mostly, I'm going to remember, I got kissed by a camel!
My New Year's Resolution for 2014 was to start documenting some of the memorable overnights I've had in some very odd and curious motels and hotels. Like the adventures in my Dining Blog, I have learned to enjoy the surprises that happen when you step out of the comfort zone, far away from the well-known chains.
I began with a few entries recalling my very first home away from home memories from my youth. Then, I started sharing about some of the quirky and unforgettable motels, hotels and inns that my husband and I have discovered in recent years.
The best part about this challenge was making some lists with Don and getting on the road in search of new overnight adventures. I gave myself a 2-year goal to write up 90 stories and the goal was met. Now we just keep on adding!