Last week, I said that sometimes a man's gotta do what a man's gotta do. Whenever a married man chooses to do that, he often has to make it up to his wife later. Such was the case this week; since I did not take my lovely wife the Rock Star on my roadtrip to Austin, this week it was time for a roadtrip of her own. (Married men often refer to this as a preemptive strike. If you are not familiar with this rationale, then you are either single or hopeless.) Luckily, a beautiful spring day dawned one Saturday, so my bride and I gassed up the car, Mapquested our directions, and headed out to Boyd, Texas, immediately northwest of the Metroplex, for some much needed animal therapy.
INTERNATIONAL EXOTIC ANIMAL SANCTUARY
First known as the Texas Exotic Feline Foundation, this wonderful place changed its name to International Exotic Feline Sanctuary about a decade ago after changing hands. Just recently, they have changed their name yet again to the International Exotic Animal Sanctuary. Reason? Once known as a haven solely for rescued big cats such as cheetahs, leopards, jaguars, lions, and tigers, they have since made like Judy Garland and added bears to the mix, thus they are now a sanctuary for more than just felines. Having taken care to first make reservations for a tour at their excellent website (www.bigcat.org), we joined the tour party at the sanctuary office, then spent the next 90 minutes or so walking up and down gravel paths looking at all the animals. Most of these creatures were rescued from people who tried to use them illegally as protection or pets, so they were often mistreated and living in inhumane conditions until they were brought to IEAS, where they now live the remainder of their days in happy comfort and security. Karen proved a delightful and well-informed tourguide, quick with answers to all sorts of questions on the feeding and recreational habits of the four-legged residents. IEAS suggests a minimum donation of $20 per person, and does not allow any children under seven. (The cats don't like too much noise.) They do accept donations and volunteers, and boast an excellent intern program; in fact, one of the staff members, Trish, started her career at IEAS as an intern, and has proven so indespensable that she has remained there ever since.
Hungry from our rugged walk, we soon hiked back to our car, and decided on lunch at a restaurant just a block or two away from the sanctuary.
TATER JUNCTION RESTAURANT
This establishment is just about the only restaurant in the tiny town of Aurora, Texas, right next door to Boyd, and has all the appearance of an oversize converted residence, with multiple dining rooms. Since we noticed highway patrol cars out front, and since we knew that constabulary rarely frequent mediocre establishments, we took a chance and went in. Definitely a small town place, with Western decor, right down to the once-ubiquitous barbed-wire map of Texas, there is actually a rather large selection of food. Lunch specials, featured on the blackboard, are a great bargain at $7.95 and come with salad bar, entree, and two home-cooked veggies. Both my wife's chicken fingers and my chicken-fried steak were smothered with very good cream gravy and featured very crispy breading; obviously someone in the kitchen was paying attention. My mashed taters (of course I had to order the namesake spud) and pinto beans cooked with bacon were excellent and my wife loved her homestyle green beans and crinkle-cut fries. We filled up quite nicely and also filled up a large to-go container for next week's lunches. Service was quite nice as well. No website, call 940 433-8117 if you need to ask them anything in advance of a visit.
Properly sated, we next ran a rather quick errand for my wife, and then finally reached the historic city of Grapevine for our final stop of the day.
Although wine stores are not at all unusual in urban areas, the vineyards themselves are often out in the country. Not so with Delaney. Real, authentic grape vines are growing smack dab in the middle of Grapevine, Texas and are used to make Delaney's Cynthiana varietal, while the rest of the grapes are grown in West Texas. When we arrived, a tasting was already under way and there was no more room at the bar. Not to worry, one of the employees brought us glasses of the Cynthiana, a nice, light red resembling a pinot noir without quite the complexity. In due course, we joined the delightful Francesca at the bar for our own tasting. We asked about Paolo, and she replied she hadn't met him yet. (It's a classical reference. Google it!) We sampled half-a-dozen wines, all of which were quite good, and later made a trip to the gift shop to make purchases for home quaffing. Delaney features Bordeaux-style blends, such as their Claret and Three Daughters wines, as well as the usual varietals. They also feature a Blessing of the Vines ceremony in April and a Grape Stomping in August, both open to the public. They also are a great place for weddings, and were in the process of setting up for just such an event as we were leaving. Website is www.delaneyvineyards.com.
Satisfied with our roadtrip and with our day, we happily chugged home, glad to be reminded once again that our very own Metroplex and the surrounding area can make for an excellent weekend getaway. Plan your own getaway soon, and remember:
LIFE IS TOO SHORT FOR MEDIOCRE FOOD!!!