…they float gently on the wind, then drop nuts on your head
CatCon 4 Trip: Day 1, Part 1 We see turtles galore…barbecue is eaten…a house of driftwood is toured…we encounter Driftwood Jesus
Finally in the proper place and time, we rolled out of Orlando heading due west. The plan was to drive up the eastern side of the state to Pensacola, then go north to Interstate 10 and take that pretty much all the way to CatCon in Texas. Along the way, we would be stopping at various strange and/or interesting tourist traps & roadside attractions, most of which are “World Famous”. In fact, if you ever come to a roadside attraction that isn’t World Famous, you might want to think twice about paying to see it.
Winker: That’s right, folks, always look for the World Famous label before going to see strange stuff!
Flash: Our house ought to have the World Famous label!
Lucy & Abby: True dat!
So, about halfway to the coast, we see a sign for “Big Ed’s World Famous World of Turtles”. Now, even if I wasn’t a sucker for anything to do with turtles, I’d have stopped here anyway because it’s a World Famous Roadside Attraction, and that’s how we roll on this bus, baby!
The entry fee to Big Ed’s chelonian wonderland is a mere $5.00, so we all ponied up our money and went on in. The first thing you see is a really nicely made and planted pond full of ducks, geese and about a dozen species of North American turtles, mostly from the southern states. There were sliders and painted turtles galore, plus a few mud turtles, musk turtles and map turtles. A bit farther down the path, there’s a really nice habitat for box turtles, then another for desert tortoises, which is enclosed to reduce humidity.
Flash: Mmmm…tasty waterfowl!
Abby: Oh, Flash, you know those big geese would have handed you your ass.
The enclosure for the really big South American river turtles was quite impressive, since it also had exotic fish, birds and even monkeys in it. Our tour guide, Ed’s daughter Mandy, told us that it was the second most expensive exhibit in the whole place. The most expensive exhibit was the next one we saw, because it held a whole bunch of 100 gallon aquariums that housed 38 different species of land and water turtles from around the world. It was very cool to see that many species in such a well maintained setup.
Lucy: I’m not sure, but I think those monkeys were making rude gestures at us.
Winker: At least they weren’t flinging shit.
The final stop on the tour is the reality check for the whole place. See, for Ed to be able to afford to house and breed the more endangered turtles, he raises thousands of a much more common species (Chicken Turtles) to be exported as food to various Asian countries. The turtle farm has been there since Ed’s grandfather built it in 1933 to breed turtles for the pet trade. But in the 1970s, when the FDA banned the selling of baby turtles, Ed’s dad switched over to raising them for food.
Flash: Hmmm…I’ve never eaten turtle. I wonder if Mom would buy me some?
As long time readers of these con reports have already guessed, there was a gift shop and we dutifully bought t-shirts, postcards, fridge magnets, hats and toy turtles. Ed made a fist full of bucks off of us.
Leaving the land of turtles behind, we continued our drive to the coast, then turned north and began heading to the Florida panhandle. By now it was pushing 1 PM and we were all getting hungry. We were about 5 minutes into discussing what we all wanted to eat when the heavenly smell of barbecue wafted in the windows and up ahead we saw “Bubba Chuck’s Barbecue”. The discussion ended right then.
Winker, Lucy & Flash: BARBECUE!
Abby: BREAD, MAC & CHEESE AND MACARONI SALAD!
Bubba Chuck’s is an authentic barbecue shack sitting all alone by the side of a busy highway. There were about a dozen cars, as many motorcycles, 3 motorhomes, 4 big rigs and two police cruisers parked next to it. That’s a damned good sign that it’s serving some fine ‘cue.
We (including critters, because all seating is outside) descended on the place like hungry locusts and ordered up about two hogs worth of ribs, pulled pork, plus chicken and side dishes. It was absolutely delicious and we left a pile of bones that, if buried for a few million years, would be a paleontologists wet dream.
Lucy: Rib bones! Sweet Mother of Dog, everyone was tossing us rib bones! It was like some beautiful dream!
Winker: Oh wow, was that every a Yum-A-Thon! I thought my tummy would pop!
Flash: Chicken! Pork! Macaroni & Cheese! I may not eat until tonight.
Abby: Mac & cheese is yummy, but so was the bread and the macaroni salad and the beans and the rosebushes and the kudzu!
Full of slow cooked & smoked meat goodness, we continued on our way. I drove and chatted with Doc Mystery and Spike for awhile. Flash was snoozing on the dashboard, Abby was snoozing on the floor behind my seat and The Girls were snoozing in their doggy beds. In fact, most of the women folk decided to snooze, too. It was a full belly snoozy afternoon.
Around about 4 PM, I saw a sign up ahead that read…“World Famous Driftwood House and Giant Driftwood Jesus”
Hell yes we stopped!
The Driftwood House is a 3 bedroom two bath ranch style place and it is built entirely of driftwood and concrete. What’s really impressive is that since it was built in 1964, it has withstood 7 hurricanes. After the third hurricane, the owner/builder, Mr. Henry Norton, built a 60 foot tall statue of Jesus right behind the house. It has withstood the next 4 hurricanes.
The statue is pretty well done and old JC looks a lot more happy and relaxed than most statues depict him. We bought postcards and t-shirts, since that’s all they had for sale, then got back on the bus.
Flash: All of that driftwood stuff was cool and all, but once us critters were back on the bus, it was time for walking through the warehouse room with Miranda and Lauren.
Winker: We saw lots of boxes of stuff and an old tractor.
Abby: What about the 57 bicycles, all in different colors?
Lucy: And don’t forget all of those bags of old clothes!
We’ll be pulling in to the Pensacola KOA in a bit and spending the night there. Decisions might be made about altering our route a bit, since we still have 5 days before we need to be in Wilted Springs. Whatever we do, more reporting will follow.
Music: The Vulcan Science Academy Orchestra: T’vol Symphony #5
Destination Sign: Where You Least Expect Us