A very full day today. I didn't make it as far south as I'd hoped. Before 4PM I decided to grab a room just outside of Gainesville, GA, because I was feeling tired and didn't want to be hunting for a room in Athens, GA, ... after 5PM ... in heavy traffic.
I set out from my comfy room in Dalton, GA, at 8:30AM, figuring it should take about 90 minutes to get to Gorilla Haven. The detailed directions were very good, but the traffic signage not so much. I missed a turn and had to back track. Then, just as I was about to start up a winding, steep uphill road I found myself behind a big, slow truck hauling ... chickens. Hundreds of live chickens. Feathers were fluttering in the breeze like snow.
Despite the delays, I arrived at Gorilla Haven shortly after 10AM. As busy as she is, Jane D treated me to a full tour of the facility, including introductions to the two resident gorillas: Joe and Oliver. GH is quite an amazing place. Jane pointed out the many measures taken to protect the people who work there and the gorillas who will find a haven there. GH is not intended to be a permanent sanctuary. The idea is to provide a place to temporarily house individuals or groups who need to be moved out of their zoo situations.
We visited the veterinary and food prep facilities and she showed me the indoor living area under construction. It's designed to hold two gorilla groups but will allow a lot of flexibility for arranging groups. We looked out over the expansive outdoor areas (right) and at one point could see Oliver, looking very small far on the other side.
Then we went to meet the two boys. Both of them are gorgeous silverbacks. Joe (pictured on left) has no use for women (of the human variety) but deigned to accept the snack Jane brought. Oliver (pictured below right), on the other hand, adores Jane -- but he's not crazy about visitors. It took him a while to come out to get his yogurt while I looked on. Oliver lives with two goats. Really. Nothing kinky. They're just roomies. The goats are supposed to control the grass, but they seem to prefer animal crackers.
When I arrived I delivered a gift from April at PRC. Jane asked me to deliver some gifts to the other sanctuaries I'll be visiting. I'm glad I have room in my car. I feel like a little elf distributing cheer.
Shortly after noon I was on the road again. I wanted to take back roads and Jane showed me how to get to a scenic route going south. State route 60 between Morganton and Dahlonega is probably listed in books or articles about the best scenic drives in America. Little in the way of sweeping vistas, but the curvy up and down roads are fun to drive. Picture the road up to Timberline Lodge at Mount Hood, now imagine it 40 miles long. Along the way quite a few motorcycles passed me ... going well above the 45mph speed limit ... and in no passing zones. I guess it's considered a destination drive.
Well into the second half of the drive I came around a curve to find a line of traffic. About six cars lined up in the southbound lane. People standing outside their cars talking to each other or on cell phones. The line of cars went to the next curve, so I couldn't see what was holding things up, but someone said there was a wreck. Eventually we learned that a motorcyclist had hit a traffic sign. He refused to be taken by air lift (???) and eventually an ambulance showed up. We were probably there for 20-30 minutes.
Back on the road, I finally made it to Dahlonega and continued on to Gainesville. In Gainesville the traffic almost came to a stop. I figured this is what I was facing after 3PM on a Friday. As we crept along I caught sight of flashing lights, then I passed another accident, a really smashed up car in the middle of the street. Also on the way into and through Gainesville, I saw three more of those huge chicken trucks. I think it was three different trucks, but they all looked alike. maybe it's just one truck stalking me.
I'm going to get to bed early tonight. But I say that every night and never do. The plan is to drive on south on back roads and maybe make it into northern Florida. Gotta do the map math tonight to see where I need to be tomorrow night if I want to get the the Center for Great Apes by mid-day Sunday. If things get too tight, I can jump onto the interstate and cover the needed miles. Leave comments so I'll know someone is reading!!!