Horse riding in the wild west & gambling in the number one place in the world, Arizona & Las Vegas July 2007

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July 20th 2007
Published: August 20th 2010
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I saw an article in a magazine about ranch holidays, they looked awesome I could just imagine it, just like the movie City Slickers, so I booked a holiday to stay at the Grapevine Canyon Ranch in Arizona, I’d only been on a horse once in my life before so was a little nervous. I didn’t want to stay at the ranch for two weeks as I imagined it would be quite hard work and let’s face it this was a holiday, so I booked to stay the second week in Las Vegas.

We flew in to Las Vegas and then had to catch a connecting flight to Tucson, when we landed we had about 6 hours until our flight so decided to check our bags in and go out for lunch in Vegas, it was absolutely boiling, the taxi driver said to us people make the biggest mistake when they look at a building they are heading for and think “I can see it, it can’t be that far away” but then you just seem to keep walking and not getting any closer, he was right.

We went for lunch at a Mexican restaurant near New York, New York and after a walk around we headed back to the airport, we were on a late flight and jetlag was really starting to kick in, I was asleep before the plane even took off, because we landed quite late and it was a long drive to the ranch we stayed at a hotel near the airport until we could get picked up in the morning, the bed in the hotel was one of the most comfortable beds I have ever slept in (or was I just letlagged?).

In the morning we were met by a guy at reception who I would describe as Curly from City Slickers, he helped us with our bags to his car, it was a real American muscle car, we asked him some questions about the ranch but he wasn’t very talkative, on the way he asked if we had boots and a hat “not yet” I replied, so he took us to a shop so we could buy some authentic cowboy boots and a Stetson. We were in the Wild West, I wasn’t really in to western films but this felt so surreal, I couldn’t wait to learn to ride.

When we arrived at the ranch we had a Polaroid picture taken of us and put on the wall in the canteen, they do this with everyone so that when you sit down for dinner you know who you’re talking to. The tables were shaped so that you were facing everyone, food was served on a tin tray, I felt like I was in a western movie, all the little authentic touches really made this place amazing.

I had booked for us to have a private lesson before our first ride, I learned how to turn left and right and how to stop then we were let loose on the open country side. I asked our guide how many rattle snakes she had seen whilst working there “none” she said, she said it’s not like you see in the movies on this ranch everything is in slow time, I was a little sad but thankful at the same time as I didn’t necessarily want to get into any sticky situations. Towards the end of the ride the horse in front of me made a noise and jumped into the air, the guide and another guest were over a crossing and the rest of us were behind it, a rattle snake appeared on the crossing and we couldn’t cross as the rattle snake could spook the horse causing it to gallop off. We found a small opening but had to ride up a hill to get over, the horse had to lope (canter) to get up the hill and over and I cut my arm going through the rough foliage. When we eventually met up with the guide, I said “that was awesome” she just looked at me, laughed and said “that is the first rattle snake I have seen since I’ve been working here”. I felt pretty good that when the horse began to lope I kept my cool, back at the ranch we all sat down to dinner before heading back to our rooms for some much needed sleep, needless to say after that I was hoping for more action.

The next day we went to Chiracahua National Monument, we had to ride up some pretty steep mountain side to get to the top but when we got their the views were breath taking, the balancing rock was awesome just like something you’d expect to see in a movie. We had lunch at the top then had to ride back down, it was much harder to ride down than up, the ride took about 5 hours in total, once at the bottom the guide asked me if I was ok to lope back to the van, I’d only done it once before but was willing to give it a go, we all started and I was so nervous but once the horse started it was actually easier than trotting. The guide told me not to tell anyone else back at the ranch as he could get in to trouble. The evening ride was a relaxed one, or so we thought until our guide spotted a rattle snake on the ride, “damn rattlers, I hate ‘em” he said, he got off his horse and got his gun out, “stand back I’m about to make him in to a new pair of boots” but the snake had gone, two rattlers in two days, we were doing well.

There were a couple of rides that were advanced only, I enquired about them and got told I’d have to take an advanced test in order to be able to go on them, I had to lope (canter) around a rodeo ring in both directions with no hands on the reins. I know I’d only actually loped twice before but how hard could the test be. So after our morning ride and with the rest of the group watching I started my test, I got my girlfriend Nikki to film me on my phone and I’m glad I did because watching it was soooo funny. My horse, Hank, was a big horse but was very lazy, I kicked him to go but he just trotted around, “kick him harder Chris” the guide shouted, I tried but nothing, the guide gave me a crop (a small whip) to hit him. I hit Hank with the crop and he loped around the ring, woohoo, now I had to do it the other way, I hit him again but he only loped half way around, I tried again and again, the guide said he’d give me one more chance, I had our group shouting “come on Chris rack him in the a** with that thing”, I tried one last time but this time I hit him several times and decided not to stop until we were all the way around, big mistake, he loped all the way around the ring but half way around he tried to buck me off, skilfully/luckily I managed to stay on “you passed” the guide shouted as everyone else was laughing.

The advanced rides were pretty much the same as the beginner rides with only a few trickier paths and we loped on the straights, the third day the pains started to really kick in, my whole body was aching but it was worth it, after the morning ride we had lunch, Jalapeno stew which was amazing (bit too spicy for Nikki though), then we went back out on another ride, it wasn’t enjoyable as we both had a slight rash from the friction and sweat and we both ached all over. We opted out of the morning ride the next day and instead booked a trip to go to Tombstone, a town that they have kept exactly the way it was in the 1800’s, it is where the shoot out took place at the OK Corral with Wyatt Earp. We watched a re enactment of the shoot out, went inside an old casino and went inside an old mine, it was awesome.

The afternoon rides are always a little more relaxed, we spent the ride rounding up the cattle in to a pen, I genuinely felt like I was in the film City Slickers, after the ride we had dinner and I learnt how to line dance (badly), one of the other guests at the hotel was trying to teach me how to gamble seeing as we were going to Vegas.

The next day on our last ride we went all out and loped most of the ride, Hank kept trying to overtake Nikki and her horse, the guide shouted “are you ready for the last lope of the ride” with that we all started to lope all of a sudden Hank had enough and pulled the reins forward and began to gallop past Nikki and then the person in front of that and the person in front of that and then even the guide, “whoooa” she shouted, I’d lost control of Hank then he tripped on a huge rock, I went flying into the air but tried not to lose grip on Hank otherwise I might have landed and seriously hurt myself. Luckily I landed on the saddle, although my feet had come out of the stirrups, I had pulled all of the muscles in my back and was in a lot of pain, after the best week of my life it was time to go, when we arrived and first got on our horses they took a picture of us, as we checked out they gave us a goodie bag, inside was a cookie with a note attached saying “something to make your journey home a little sweeter” also inside was the picture of us both on our horses, they had the picture put on a magnet and we still have that magnet on our fridge today.

Now it was Vegas time, our Vegas experience was probably different to most, we went for the sun and the shows.......and to try out gambling too I suppose. We stayed at the Luxor, the Pyramid shaped hotel at the start of the strip, when we arrived to check in the queue was enormous “want a free meal while you wait” someone said “what’s the catch” I said, “no catch”, I’m not going to say no to free food so I was just about to check my bags into a secure room when a guy that works at the hotel says “oh you’re going to the time share thing” arrrrggghhhh, I took my bags back and had a go at the person offering ‘free food’ serves me right for thinking I was getting something for nothing.

When we got to our room the view wasn’t amazing but I wasn’t complaining, we went out to explore and I saw someone had a drink was about a metre long, he had a neck strap to help him carry it, I had to have one! I found out they were an alcoholic iced drink, needless to say I was drunk by the time I finished.

Lunch at the Hard Rock was next on the menu, always good food, I love the Hard Rock, in the merchandise store they were selling queue jump cards, awesome only $20, bargain. After lunch I made the stupid decision to go to the Stratosphere Tower and go on the rides at the top, I bought my tickets at the bottom and if you pay for all three rides you get a discount, so I did. How scary can they be, I’ve done a skydive and bungee jump before, turns out very scary, there were three rides the first one I went on is a ride that goes straight over the edge at 35mph and then comes to a sudden stop whilst you’re dangling over the edge, it does this three times and on the third time after you have stopped and you’re dangling over the edgeit begins to fall forward a little further giving you the impression it has become attached. The second ride I went on, you are in a seat which rotates around eventually using the momentum to lift you up over the edge so you’re face the floor below, everyone on the ride was a male apart from one little girl that must have just been the right height to go on the ride, all of the guys were scared senseless but the little girl was having a great time. Finally a shoot straight up into the air on top of the tower, not a good idea to go here after lunch, if it’s possible I think after going on these rides I have actually developed a fear of heights! Lol

That evening we went for dinner at the Top of the World restaurant at the top of the Stratosphere, which is a revolving restaurant, we watched the sun go down as we ate, the food was out of this world, probably the best food I’ve ever had in my life. About half way through the meal the table began to shake, what the hell is that, then I looked up, it was the ride shooting over the edge of the tower, it bought back the memories of going on it and made me feel a little sick.

We also ate at a little restaurant just below Paris one night and decided to order a bottle of champagne with our meal, now before we had gone on holiday someone told me that whenever you buy alcohol in the states they ask you for ID, this had not happened to me at all but in this restaurant it did, I held my hands in the air and said “yes” followed by “does this mean you think I’m under 21?” the waiter said “no we ask people if they look under 30”, the food here was amazing, I can’t believe I have found the two best restaurants I’ve ever eaten in and both are in Vegas. Whilst eating dinner we got to watch the fountain display at the Bellagio, it was fantastic.

I decided to try my hand at gambling for the first time ever, I remembered what I had been taught and within 10 minutes had lost $50, I decided I wanted to lose my money slower and moved on to roulette, at times I was actually winning but by the end of the night and after getting very drunk on the free drinks you get when you gamble, I had lost another $50, it was worth it though as we were both drunk, we did actually gamble another night and even came away having won $23 but for a few hours of entertainment and again we were both drunk it was well worth it, we booked to go to see two different Cirque de Soleil’s, Ka and Zoomanity, Zoomanity was awesome, the sexual side of Cirque du Soleil, but I didn’t think much of Ka, they were all rigged up with safety harnesses, when I go to Cirque du Soleil I like to know there is a chance the acrobatic tricks they are doing are dangerous lol.

We went to the Venetian one night and the queue for a gondola ride was obscene but we both wanted to do it, we queued up and bought our tickets and then had to wait ages for our time slot but when we did eventually get on it was really cool, the person in control of the gondola sings to you whilst you go around and you get your picture taken, well worth the wait.

Half way through the stay in Vegas we went to the Grand Canyon, I wanted to go to the west rim as that is where the skywalk is, a clear glass walkway that you walk on over the edge of the canyon, it was actually a lot more scary than I thought it would be, again being the tourists that we are we got our picture taken there, in the background of the pictures the rocks look like they are in the shape of a sleeping dog and an eagle.

I think I can safely say that this holiday has been the best holiday I have ever been on in my life, I would highly recommend going to either place even if the flight home was the worst ever because of the muscles I pulled on the last horse ride.

Additional photos below
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15th January 2011

It is hot in July
Nice photos

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