There’s nothing quite like a motorcycle ride through the breathtakingly beautiful Zion National Park on a sunny September morning.
“You get a different perspective riding through Zion without a roof and a windshield,” said Rusty Roberts, one of more than 100 cyclists who gathered Saturday for Best Friends’ Third Annual Poker Run and Adoption Event.
Rusty and his wife, Suzanne, who make their home in Hurricane, Utah, with cats Romeo and Squeaker, took in the amazing scenery from their Harley Davidson 1200 Sportster.
The festivities began early Saturday morning at Zion Harley Davidson in Washington, Utah, the starting point for the poker run. Riders headed out on a designated route through the Golden Circle of Southern Utah, making five stops along the way, including a stop for lunch at Best Friends. Potbellied “hawgs” Harley and Sprocket (from Best Friends’ Piggy Paradise) were on hand to welcome the bikers to the sanctuary.
Bikers drew a card at each of the five stops along the route, giving them the equivalent of a poker hand by the time the ride wrapped up Saturday afternoon back at Zion Harley Davidson. Patrick Rogers ended up with the best poker hand, which won him $1,000 in Harley Davidson Gift Chips. Dale Aubuchon took home $250 in Harley Davidson Gift Chips for having the worst poker hand.
But the real winners Saturday were the five dogs and one cat who found forever homes at the adoption event at Zion Harley Davidson. Best Friends, Because Animals Matter, Providing Animals With Support and Sadie’s Safe Haven all brought animals to the event in the hope that they would find families to fall in love with them. And indeed, many of them did.
“The groups were all excited and happy with the event,” says Best Friends’ adoptions manager Danielle Aymar. The event also raised $4,300 to help animals.
All the motorcyclists who gathered Saturday share two things in common: They love to ride and they love animals.
Ross Hartill, Best Friends maintenance manager, says they are “loving people with big hearts.” Ross started the event three years ago with the help of fellow motorcycle enthusiast Paul Berry, Best Friends chief executive officer, and Zion Harley Davidson.
Take Mark Stefanowski, who traveled 800 miles from Boulder, Colorado, for the event. One need only look at his tattoos to see just how much Mark loves animals. The Best Friends logo is tattooed on the back of his neck. And along his right arm are tattoos of the paw prints of his dogs, Louise, Kili and Vaila, and his cat, Stash. Kili, a weimaraner, recently crossed over the Rainbow Bridge at age 11. Louise is one of the dogs Best Friends helped rescue from the 2006 war in Lebanon. “I was an animal respecter who married an animal lover, which made me an animal lover,” says Mark, who along with his wife, Kristin Bresnan, is a Best Friends ambassador and volunteer.
Paul says he was very pleased with this year’s turnout. “It’s lots of fun,” he said during lunch Saturday at the sanctuary. “Everyone’s having a great time.”
He was also happy the weather cooperated this year. Last year’s poker run got rained out, and while Paul found shelter from the storm inside Zion Harley Davidson, he traded in his Harley Davidson Sportster 1200 for a brand-new Harley Davidson Road King.
Ross, who rides a Harley Davidson Softtail Night Train, was also happy with this year’s turnout. “Today’s a perfect day,” Ross said. “There are a lot of happy faces.”
Story by Sandy Miller
Photos by Sarah Ause
To find out more about Bikers for Best Friends, visit the Best Friends Network Community.