Over the past few weeks since Britt was offered a position (still with IKEA) in Houston, Texas we’ve been doing what we do best…packing. Most of our stuff was still packed and sitting in storage from before we left for Finland over a year ago. However, since having been to Finland and India, with several months at home in-between, we have accumulated quite a few things! Regardless, we finished all of our packing, sent a PODS (portable on-demand storage unit) down to Texas, loaded up our car and said a teary-eyed goodbye to family and friends before hitting the road yesterday morning.
The weather was great the first 20 minutes we were on the road, then the clouds gathered and stormed like crazy for the next 5 hours. Lightning was striking all around us, and as we barreled down the highway with 2 metal bike frames strapped to the roof of the car I was anticipating getting struck ourselves.
We made it safely through the storms and were well into Arkansas by the time the clouds parted and we saw our first hillbilly. We were off of the main highway and driving through some pretty rural areas when we passed a man (shirtless I might add) sitting on his porch with a gun. No joke. And that’s not the only red flag that we were now in the South. The temperature outside was 20 degrees warmer than it was when we pulled out of the Chicago area earlier that morning. The bugs that were crashing into our windshield were getting bigger (some of them could have passed for small birds!). Last, but not least, the road-kill was changing. We no longer were seeing raccoons on the side of the road, but armadillos (which I’ve never seen in person, but hear they can do some pretty serious damage to your car if you hit one).
We pulled into Eureka Springs, Arkansas right after nightfall and made our way to our first rest stop, Turpentine Creek Wildlife Refuge (TCWR). My cousin is interning with the big cats at TCWR, which is how we found out about it. We decided to stay in the safari lodge tents, which was a bit of a risk considering we have stayed in lodge tents on St. John and had bugs crawling all over us all night! The Kilimanjaro Lodge at TCWR, however, was a very pleasant surprise!
The tent reminded us very much of a safari we had been on in Uganda, and with the big cats nearby moaning and groaning all night we felt like we were right back in Africa!
Turpentine Creek rescues exotic animals from people who have tried to keep them as domestic pets. They specialize in big cats, however there are several bears and one monkey who call Turpentine their home. This refuge has been open for over 20 years, and houses over 100 wild animals.
We had a blast staying at Turpentine Creek, and will definitely be heading back for a longer visit in the near future!