Monday, April 10, 2017

FTTA Rally at Lion Country Safari

West Palm Beach/Lion Country Safari KOA
2000 Lion Country Safari Rd, Loxahatchee, FL 33470
GPS: 26.713930o, -080.318188o

Time get the Cougar awake and moving again. This weekend we participated in a rally at Lion Country Safari held by our travel club the Fun Times Travel Association (FTTA). Rally Masters Frank & Jeanne Colca and Jack & Sandy Juba did an outstanding job with the arrangements and were exemplary hosts for the event. Our thanks to them for an excellent job.

This was a shakedown cruise for us and for the Cougar and we all needed it.

Friday, 07 Apr 2017

For the past several days, Michelle and I (mostly Michelle) have been working to get the Cougar cleaned up and restocked for this weekend and for our summer departure on 01 May. This morning, shakedown started in our garage and I visioned not being able to move the Cougar. Several weeks ago the techs from Eagle's Pride brought our rig home attached to their truck (a Ram 3500), which was several inches higher that my truck (a Ram 1500). We did not lower the landing gear before dropping the feet. So this morning when I tried to hook up to our truck, I did not have enough travel in the landing gear to lower the rig far enough to get all the weight off the landing gear.

After a brief period of frustration trying to figure out the problem, I called Eagle's Pride and one of their techs came out with the big truck. We used that truck to support the Cougar's weight while we adjusted the landing gear. In short order, the Cougar was hitched to our truck. Thanks to Eagle's Pride for a speedy response with quality service.

We got underway at 11 AM, an hour later than planned but still with plenty of time to easily cover the 158 miles to West Palm Beach without missing a beat. We pulled into our campsite at 3:30 PM after a four and a half hour drive including a lunch stop.

As I understand it, this West Palm Beach/Lion Country Safari KOA is recovering from a bad reputation. They are doing a super job accomplishing that. Check-in was flawless and we were led to our campsite by a skilled and pleasant campground employee – about as painless as one could ask for. It only took a few minutes to see that the campground is clean and well maintained.

We quickly went through our set-up checklist, relearning what we haven't done for so many months. It came back quickly but thank goodness for the written checklist. Without it, we would have been a disaster in the making.

Late afternoon socializing was followed by at Pot Luck dinner at the campground pavilion and some more socializing.
FTTA people are experts at socializing ...

... and eating

As an aside, I heard several complaints about traffic jams encountered by some of our club members trying to reach our location. We are in West Palm Beach – apparently within traffic jam distance of Mara Lago where the President spends his weekends.

Periodically, through the evening and night, we were greeted with the sound of lion's roaring from the adjacent park. I was impressed. After a while, however, we detected that the roaring was too regular in timing and duration, so we suspected that it was a recording. Later there was quite a discussion between the two camps – those who insisted that the roaring is real and those who believe it is recorded. Neither group convinced the other.

There was a definite nip in the air after sunset. More so than I would have expected for this time of year this far south in Florida. That's OK with me. We turned in early. It felt good to be sleeping in the Cougar again.

Saturday, 08 Apr 2017

Morning began with a gathering of the sleepy-eyed for coffee. It was chilly this morning, so gathering for morning coffee was a welcome start to the day. Our hosts outdid themselves with pastry and fresh fruit, even cold cereal, and, of course, an abundance of coffee.

Thanks to Jeanne, Sandy, Frank, and Jack for getting our motor started on a brisk morning

After my first cup, I returned to the Cougar where I got the second and third shake in our shakedown. I entered and pulled the door shut behind me. Part of the door handle came loose and disconnected and I was locked in. Waving to friends through the window to come and help just got me cheerful waves in return. Finally, I called my friend Jim Spain on the cell phone and he came and opened the door from the outside.

Inspection revealed that two of the four bolts holding the door handle/lock were missing. Where and when they fell out beats me. I couldn't find them anywhere nearby. That always raises the question: "What other screws are loose and about to fall out?" I found a couple bolts of the right diameter and thread but wrong head style and length in my miscellaneous hardware and used them as substitutes until I can get to a hardware store to buy replacements.

The third shake was when I tried to turn on the furnace and found our propane tanks to be empty. I'm sure I left them full. So do I now have a propane leak somewhere? That becomes a project for next week.

Time to spend the day at the park which we all came to see. This KOA is perfectly located at the entrance to Lion Country Safari. From the KOA entrance, the Safari ticket booth is less than fifty yards.

The main attraction is the drive-thru wildlife sanctuary. Jim and Bonnie Spain joined us for the ride. Jim and I sat in the back seat of the truck photographing like crazy, frequently being told by the ranger (in their own truck) to close our windows.

Days later, when I started building this blog post, I decided to construct it along the same lines as the welcome brochure they handed to us at the entrance. I was sure we saw and photographed all the animals. Seems we missed a few. To make the presentation complete, I cheated and downloaded some stock photos from Lion Country Safari website, and a couple from Wikipedia.

So here is the record of our safari. The park is divided into seven separate preserves and our safari began with:
South America expression for "grassland"

ALDABRA TORTOIS: Shell 5 ft long; weighs 500 pounds; lives 100 years

RHEA: 4 ft tall; weighs 50 pounds

BROWN PELICAN: Only species that dives into the water to catch their prey

SOUTH AMERICAN TAPIR: Weighs up to 650 pounds

LLAMA: Lives 25 years; raised for wool, meat, milk. Used as a beast of burden

Moving along we enter:
an unspoiled African wilderness

GREATER KUDU: weight up to 690 pounds; horns curl around 2.5 times and average 4 ft long

OSTRICH: World's largest bird; up to 8 feet tall

IMPALA: Weighs up to 145 pounds

Next we venture into:
named for a well-known national park in Gujarat, India

NILGAI: largest Asian antelope

BLACKBUCK: smallest member of antelope family at 3 feet tall

ASIATIC WATER BUFFALO: Up to 1.5 tons; lives 25 years; widely domesticated; few wild specimes remain

KULAN: Weighs 450 pounds; 4 feet tall; runs up to 45 mph despite short legs

Now we are approaching where the stars of the show live:
A famous African wildlife area in northern Mozambique

This compound is securely enclosed and heavily guarded – for our protection?, theirs?, maybe both?

We were told there are two prides. Each has it's time "on stage."

AFRICAN LION: males up to 500 pounds; live in family groups called "Prides"

His Majesty wasn't in the mood to provide a show today and frankly this part of the safari was downright boring. So I went to the website and pulled down some photos from better days. I know you want to see lions and I don't want to disappoint.

I understand completely the urge to get out and pet those big kitty cats, but we must move on while we still have all arms and legs in their proper location:

named for the most famous east African wildlife areas

WILDEBEEST: huge herds migrate biannually to find food and water; calves can run with mother shortly after birth

WATERBUCK: identified by target-like pattern on rump; elude predators by submerging in water up to their nostrils

ELAND: largest African antelope; weigh up to one ton; excellent jumpers despite their size

WATUSI: horns may span 10 feet

The literature claims that Lion Country Safari has Watusis. We didn't see any and thus no pictures. I took the above picture from the web and posted it so that we could see what we missed. I would have loved to see horns that spanned ten feet. Maybe next time and I'll sure keep my eyes open to see a Watusi anywhere else.

GEMSBOK: can last long time without water

More stock photos. We didn't see any Gemsbok.

From east Africa to Zimbawbe, we continue:
Largest game reserve in western Zimbawbe; located between Bulawayo and Victoria Falls

GIRAFFE: Tallest land mammal; height up to 17 feet; long prehensile tongue can extend 15 inches

Scarcity in some species is made up for with giraffes. Plenty of giraffes.

NYALA: weighs up to 300 pounds; non-territorial

GREATER KUDU: weight up to 690 pounds; horns curl around 2.5 times and average 4 ft long

WHITE-HANDED GIBBON: only primates which, like humans, move upright on two legs while running or walking

SOUTHERN WHITE RHINOCEREROS: weighs up to 2.5 tons; live up to 40 years
poor eyesight but excellent smell and hearing

GRANT'S ZEBRA: stripes unique to each animal; more stamina than race horse

CHIMPANZEE: primate mostly closely related to humans; share 97% of DNA

On to southwest Africa:
Dry plateau in southwest Africa approximately 100,000 square miles

NILE LECHWE: weighs up to 225 pounds; inhabits wetlands and flood plains; feeds in water up to shoulder height

OSTRICH: World's largest bird; up to 8 feet tall

SCIMITAR-HORNED ORYX: Lion Country Safari involved with study examining and quantifying
genetic diversity in large captive herds to help with conservation breeding

All of us big game hunters were worn out by the strenuous day out on the savannah, but we still had to rush to get ready for our special dinner at the Texas Roadhouse

Hey! That was "rush to get ready"

On the way to dinner, we stopped at Lowe's so I could pick up the bolts to repair my door lock. Thank goodness they were standard #10-32, 3/4 inch bolts. I am always amazed at how much non-standard stuff the RV industry manages to put in their products and happily surprised when something standard is the answer.

Texas Roadhouse was expecting a hungry group and had set aside the back of the restaurant for us. The food was great and so was the company.

Back at the campground, I was able to repair my door and still have time to socialize before dark. 'Home before dark' is one of the requirements of being a senior citizen.

At this evening's social, I learned that one of our group is a writer of children's stories. We enjoyed some shop talk and maybe I convinced her to try our TGO writer's group, 'Just Write', next fall when we are all back from our summer adventures.

Sunday, 09 Apr 2017

This morning we were back at it – a little slower that yesterday. After fortifying ourselves with our morning coffee, we headed out for our second day at Lion Country Safari. We went through a bit faster today, but animals had moved so there were different photography opportunities.

We spent more time in the 'walking' part of the park, where we could see smaller animals and birds up close.

Monkeys, but not up close ...

We saw some beautiful birds ...

... aah we saw some REALLY beautiful birds ...

... and all manner of creatures great and small

We sat in on one of their presentation at the amphitheater.

Early dinner or late lunch? Not sure which, but we had a mid-afternoon meal at the Wild West Diner. These folks gave us a private room and a delicious meal (ordered from the menu).

After this fine meal, we hurried back to the campground for an important meeting to discuss ...

... where are we going to eat next?

Like all important meetings, snacks were served.


Monday, 10 Apr 2017

No excitement or pictures today. Time to pack up and head home. We relearned our close–up routine. The checklist served us well. We stopped at the Wild West Diner for breakfast, then had an uneventful 158-mile ride home.

Getting the Cougar back in it's den was a minor adventure (down from major). Not so much getting it in, I've got that figured out, but rather getting it exactly positioned so that we can open the door and the slides. I need more practice at that – maybe I'll do that next November.

All ended well. It was a good weekend that got me itching for the summer to come.