The Art of Vacation

I work a lot. I screw around on FB and play games too, but I work a lot. So, you’d think that one little overnight vacation would be easy to accomplish and enjoyed with relish, right? Uh, not so much.
Last fall I bought a Groupon for a winery tour, thinking it would be part of our escape. It expired last week 🙁 But the winery was still honoring what we paid for it, just not the super deal, so we decided that would be our first stop. As usual, I turned to Mapquest to figure out how to get there. My Mapquest-fu is not as powerful as my Google-fu, so I failed in printing the directions.
Oh, we certainly got there, but the way I took us involved two lane (sometimes) farm roads with no shoulder and farm implements being tansported along them. The roads were narrow, some of the bridges were single lane and I was cursing my failure to just stick to interestates. Though just for the record, I’d like to say a big thank you to the farmer on Missouri B yesterday who pulled off to let us get around him as soon as there was enough shoulder for him to do so!
Our first stop was Crown Valley Winery. As much as I love the Shawnee Wine Trail, our local wineries could take some lessons from Crown Valley. The winery is huge and gorgeous. They serve real meals, not just cheese and sausage or sandwiches. They raise the beef and bison they serve on combination of grass and grain. Their wines, at least some of them, especially the Peach, is amazing. Once we got there, the headaches of our route baked away in the summer sun.
After being gorgeous all last week with warn sunshine and low humidity, Friday was hot and humid. But that was just a minor inconvenience.
The next stop was also part of the Crown Valley community. At one edge of the vineyard and about five miles from the winery, the owners also sponsor Crown Ridge Tiger Sanctuary. For about 6 years, the winery has operated a big cat rescue. After the death (from age-related illness) of their white tiger last winter, Crown Ridge was left with four tigers and a lioness, all rescued from unhealthy situations.
Raja, Gracie and Thor are primarily Bengals and Izzy is their Siberian. All four were in danger of being put down when they came to Crown Ridge. Raja is Gracie and Thor’s mother. Gracie and Thor are sisters who look out for one another. Before they came to the rescue, they were forced to share one turkey between them as food. Thor was so good at protecting her sister that it took months at the facility before she would eat all of her food and not try to give it to Gracie. Gracie was born with an eyelid defect that caused her lashes to scratch her corneas. It went untreated for so long that big cat is virtually blind.
Izzy was one of the tigers that traveled to carnivals and fairs where people could pay to have their pictures taken with him. But by the time he was 3 months old, he was too big and too dangerous to stay in that line of work. His former owners were going to put him down, but he ended up at Crown Ridge instead. At just 5 years old, he is the biggest of the cats at Crown Ridge, well-over 500 lbs, and he loves to play like an oversized kitten.
Alexis, the black-maned lioness at the sanctuary, was kept in a small cage, never touching the ground until she came to the sanctuary.
The 40 minute tour of the sanctuary includes a discussion of efforts to protect the big cats and introduction to each of them. The sanctuary is an established tax-deductible charity and one of the best ways to contribute is what we did: Adopt-a-Cat. For a $50 donation, you get 4 tickets to tour the sanctuary, a stuffed tiger and an 8 x 10 photo of your adopted tiger. Not surprisingly, Thor and I opted to “adopt” Thor.
We finished up the tour with some Fizzy Izzy rootbeer, with bottles that feature the big tiger, and then trudged up the hill to the car. The path is steep and it was hot, but the tour was definitely a highlight of our trip.
If only the rest of the day had been as good…
It wasn’t bad, per se, just disappointing. We hunted for a gluten free restaurant in St. Louis and found the Old Spaghetti Factory. It was loud and overpriced and the gluten free menu was highly restrictive. The food itself was mediocre, but it may have been suffering by comparison to lunch at the winery. I did get GF pasta for dinner, so it’s okay, I guess.
Then, we went to our B&B. I cannot say enough about how nice the innkeeper was or recommend this place highly enough. The rooms were furnished with antiques, the chocolate shop was stupendous and…we couldn’t stay. Thor & I both have pretty intense allergies, worse this year than most, and the combination of flowery potpourri and fresh flowers in our room made it hard to breath. So, with a bag of chocolate from our kind hostess, we came home.
We crushed a lot of things into a small amount of time and made it home to our own bed for a good night’s sleep. So maybe we have the art of vacation down pretty well after all.

Leave A Comment