8.26.2007,12:28 PM
Sherpa on Safari
Ed on his XR250 joined Shepie and I on our inaugural ride and a safari hunt for big cats.

Recently learning about the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary in Boyd, it was on the top of my list of local adventures. And appropriate for Sherpie's first ride since Boyd is 'next door' to where I live; just in case of a mechanical breakdown.

I led the way on a route I ride often to Denton, Rhome, and Ponder: around the southern and eastern shores of Eagle Mountain Lake. Three-quarters of the ride is on secondary roads with the other quarter through municipalities of the typical Texas fare surrounding the burbs. A few fun curves thrown in to excite and tantalize, several miles of high plateaus, but too much construction. Everywhere.

I pulled off 1220 in Newark and into a gravel parking lot of a defunct cafe. I've always wanted to stop and photograph the wheeling motorcycle erected on the side of the road, but I usually fly by and miss it, turning my head as I pass and thinking "Damn, missed it again." This time I got it.


I also discovered then that a luggage system on the Sherpa is moved up in priority. The camera was stashed in a soft cooler and strapped to the luggage rack with a too-large cargo net and two bungee cords. Camera access was inconvenient and trying to attach the cargo net was a pain: it was too big.

On we went to find the Sanctuary on Hwy 114. I had passed it so many times and never noticed it. The entry is relatively obscure, with only a small sign designating the entrance. And who knew what 'IEFS' meant anyway?

Now I do. And in we rode.

We were a bit late. I'm used to the clock on the Whee, but no clock on the Sherpa and I don't wear my watch on weekends. Ooops. Nevertheless, we were guided through the first part of the tour by Rachael 2. Later joining the rest of the group led by Rachael 1. (No, they weren't clones.)

We had walked into a saint's sanctuary, where mistreated, abused, abandoned, and sick 'exotic' felines are provided shelter, food, veterinary care and love. Yes, all that. Sixty-two big cats -not the kitty-kitty kind that we are all used to, petting, fondling, and feeding dry food- call these 40 acres 'home'. Behind bars.



I squelched an anger inside as I saw these beautiful and dangerous large bodies with muscle and limbs that move with a grace equal to their power to deliver death to us bipeds which have dealt them a joker card in life. They have one purpose in life: to be wild. Let them remain wild, in their own habitat. They are not pets, they are not cuddly little kitties, they are not trophies to supplant any one's own status and power in their own insecure lives. They can not and do not deserve to be domesticated for our own selfish needs.

Leave them alone, in their own world. Let wild remain wild. We need the wild to remind us of where we came from and where and who we are now. Respect them as we respect ourselves.
Leave them alone.



We were instructed to respect their space. Many of those animals had been traumatized: shot, malnourished, abused, disfigured, caged in tiny spaces for days, months, neglected, abandoned. Some had been ill or contracted diseases, such as West Nile Virus, or their growth was so severely stunted during development that they could not have survived if returned to the wild. If they could. So they are provided for to live out their lives at the Sanctuary. They wished to remain undisturbed as much as possible.



It was a hot day and most of the cats do what most animals do in the heat: find shade and lay down. Keep energy expenditure low, keep cool; feline siesta. Many of the holding areas had pools, simulated creeks and waterfalls, and misters. We were hot, too.



Getting good photos of the cats was a challenge; people are not permitted to get close, crouch, make sudden moves or noises, even tripods are not permitted. All the photos I took of the cats show the bars of their confinements. At first it was disappointing that I could not capture images of them in their rightful dignity. But then I nodded to myself; keep the bars in as reminders of what we have subjected these animals to. They aren't free to roam. Let those bars be a reminder.



The sanctuary was conceived for felines but recently adopted three grizzly bear cubs. It was either offer them sanctuary there or they may have been euthanized. A very large habitat is being constructed with a huge oak tree and several other smaller trees and shrubs. It looks like a huge playpen. The cubs will be moved out of quarantine when the compound is completed.



When the tour was over, we thanked our guides and mentioned we would like to return during cooler weather when the animals are more active. As we walked through the grounds, I saw several areas in the shade with chairs and small tables. It occurred to me how nice it might be to spend a night on the grounds sitting there, watching, listening, being a visitor in their habitats as they go about their activities in the cool of the dusk and night. Be more a part of their world, as much as I safely can.

Now we were hungry. Regrettably donning our gear and instantly in a sweat, we rode into Boyd to find lunch at a small BBQ place, enjoying the AC, iced liquids and sandwiches.

After lunch we rode a boring 730 towards Weatherford, where I led Ed down a quaint country road that dead ends on my road. I always like riding my road home; it winds over creeks, under canopies of tree branches offering shade and coolness, and dancing patterns of shadows and light on the road with scents of living things encasing you as you ride.

Now having a feeling of riding Sherpie, our speed on the gravel was much faster than even when I ride the Whee. Riding on the grass, over the dips and around the house, we pulled onto the gravel and landed soundly, a grin on my face.


Ed loaded his bike for home and I drove into Fort Worth to pick up a battery for Whee. I'll install that tomorrow, take it for a test ride and hope that resolves the electrical problems I had Friday night. Then Sherpie and I will try a gravel road.
Maybe two.
Or three.



Click here for complete slideshow.

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posted by Macrobe
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