It occurred to me today that I never did finish posting about our vacation.
After spending three nights in fabulous Las Vegas, we checked out of the Luxor and took a cab to the airport, where we rented a car and then started the three-hour drive to Yucca, Arizona.
Our drive took us past Lake Mead and over the Hoover Dam. We stopped for a quick lunch in Kingman, AZ, which is famous for being the heart of Route 66.
After getting off the highway and slowly driving over eleven miles of unpaved roads, we reached Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch
The next four days went very quickly. We ate, relaxed, rode horses for several hours each day, and went sightseeing in nearby Oatman, AZ, an old mining-town-turned-tourist-trap, and Lake Havasu, which was gorgeous and is the new home of the London Bridge (yes, that
London Bridge). It's also apparently the third most popular spring-break destination in the world. Who knew? We even managed to sneak off to California for a bit.
I can't say enough good stuff about Stagecoach Trails. The food was plentiful and delicious, and our three daily meals were included in the price of the vacation. All the guests ate together in the large dining room, along with the family who owns the ranch and the staff and horsewranglers. We were actually the only American guests there; most of the guests were British, and there were some Germans, an Italian couple, a Scottish couple, and a Welsh couple. It definitely made for interesting conversations. Did you know that most Europeans get at least six weeks' paid vacation each year?
One more thing: the night sky in the desert was incredible. We were so far away from any other sources of artificial light that it seemed like I could see half of the Milky Way!
We also got two horseback rides per day, one very early in the morning (6:30-ish) and one before dinner in the evening. I cannot describe how peaceful and beautiful the desert is, especially at sunrise.
I had a few reservations about riding a horse, but the wranglers at the ranch were awesome. Honestly, though, we didn't really get any heavy instruction on how to do it. The morning of our first ride, I mounted my horse and the wrangler told me, "If you want to stop, pull back firmly on the reins. If you want to go, give him a little heel in his ribs."
Then he walked away.
"Wait!" I called back to him. "Is that all?"
Just then, my horse came alive underneath me and I gasped. I was terrified on our first ride, but I quickly overcame my fear and then just fell in love with riding.
By the evening ride, we were trotting through the desert. And by the following morning, we were loping (not quite a gallop, but much faster than a trot) through the sandy washes. What a thrill! It was like flying. Actually, my first impression was that it was like riding a living, breathing, eight-foot-high motorcycle with a mind of its own. Just thrilling.
On Wednesday morning, the two of us went on a sunrise ride with just our wrangler Donald. He asked us if we wanted to lope, and we said absolutely! So we walked about a mile into the desert to a sandy wash and started running. We ran for a good bit, then slowed to a walk to cool the horses off.
Then Donald asked us if we wanted to lope some more, and we were off.
Unfortunately, this part of the sandy wash had some pretty thorny bushes and some sharp turns. Donald went first, then the Huz, and I took up the rear.
I watched Donald lean to the right in his saddle to avoid getting hit in the face by a thorn bush, then he disappeared around a corner.
Then I watched the Huz approach the same bush and turn. As he leaned to the right in his saddle, I suddenly saw him shift in his seat and realized that his saddle was coming loose!
He must've felt it too, because he started yelling for Donald to stop running. But Donald couldn't hear him.
Meanwhile, I was screaming hysterically, "Pull back on the reins! Pull back on the reins! Stop your horse!"
What happened next was both hilarious and incredibly frightening: the Huz was riding almost entirely on the right side of the horse because his saddle had shifted so far. Donald the wrangler was so far ahead of us that he didn't hear us yelling to stop.
Then the Huz decided to bail off the horse altogether. He slipped his feet from the stirrups and leapt off the right side of the horse, landing on his ass and then rolling several times in the deep sand.
Meanwhile, I was still running on my horse behind him. I watched him jump from the horse and immediately feared that my horse would trample him. So I pulled back on my horse's reins as hard as I could.
My horse stopped...but I kept on going! I flew up over the saddlehorn and sailed almost all the way over my horse's head. At the very last possible moment, I somehow managed to grab the horse's neck tightly enough to stop myself from going face-first into the sand. I wrapped both my arms and legs around the horse's neck and landed with my chin resting nearly between his ears.
Shocked, I looked over at the Huz, who was laying on his side in the sand and rubbing his elbows, coughing from the huge clouds of dust and sand that had been kicked up into the air from his sudden landing.
Then I started laughing.
I laughed so damn hard that my grip on my horse's neck loosened, and I wound up flipping over so that I was now hanging underneath my horse's neck. Still, I just could not stop cracking up!
Finally, between my sweaty palms and my uncontrollable laughter, I completely lost my grip on the horse and dropped flat on my back in the sand.
I laid in the sand for a few minutes, giggling helplessly. The Huz stood up and helped me up.
Looking around, I asked him, "Uh...where's your horse?"
Turns out the horse got so spooked by the ordeal that he just kept on going, and galloped right back to the ranch by himself, his saddle still hanging off him sideways.
At this point, Donald returned to us and asked us what had happened. We related the whole story to him and he asked us to stay put with my horse while he went to find the other one. Then he gave his horse a good firm kick and off he went.
A minute later, we were standing the middle of 85,000 acres of desert, all alone. My horse started pawing at the ground and making little grunting noises.
"Do you think we should start walking back to the ranch?" the Huz asked me.
"No way! He told us to stay right here and I'm listening to him. Besides, the desert trails all look the same. Our luck, we'd wind up getting totally lost and dying of heatstroke or something."
Twenty minutes passed and we could hear hoofbeats approaching. Donald appeared a few moments later, holding the reins of the runaway horse.
We remounted and walked back to the ranch just in time for breakfast. We were bruised and sore, but it made for such a great story! I only wish someone had captured it on video. We definitely would've won AFV's prize for it!
High noon gunfight in Oatman
Sunrise in the Mohave Desert
Sadly, Needles was more like South Central L.A.
Heading out on a ride
Tedd and Donald, two of the wranglers
Riding up Route 66 to Oatman
Labels: memories, vacations