Day 215 : Four lucky Cowboys and a beautiful Cowgirl!

17 February 2011

Hooters point: A very nice man called Cary lined us up with an early morning shoot at Hooters before we set off on our way. Only in Vegas! Thanks Hooters.

Hoover Dam point: We had to pay this magnificent piece of engineering a visit and we weren’t disappointed. What an awesome site it was too.

Amazing road point: the drive through the Arizona desert en route to the Grand Canyon was amazing and potentially even more incredible than the Pacific Coast Highway. The two drives couldn’t be more contrasting though; one set on the beautiful coast and the other literally in the middle of the desert.

High point: the welcome and hospitality we received from Susan, Ben and the gang at the ‘Grand Canyon Ranch’, coupled with a glorious sunset and the rising moon or Apache sun.

Magnificent musical point: Casey Adams singing country music (accompanied by his 12-string and harmonica) during dinner and later by the camp fire.

Burger point: the crew has hit the big 60 on the burger count as stage 7 nears an end. James looks uncatchable on 17 burgers unless Patty Battye can sneak four in when he’s not looking. Stage 8 will certainly take the total count over a century. In contrast to burgers, it was lovely to finally enjoy a proper meal at the ranch, where we were served a delicious steak with jacket potato and veg. Yummy.

It was great to be back on the road again, as always, following our ‘rest day’ (we couldn’t have fitted anymore into a day if we tried) in Las Vegas. As we departed, we knew where we were heading, but we didn’t really realise what was in store.

The diversity of stage 7 has been unbelievable and today was easily the most diverse day to date; Las Vegas and a photo shoot with the Hooters girls – to the Hoover Dam – through several remote villages – to the Arizona desert – through a 900 year old Joshua tree forest – ending up at a working ranch on the West Rim of the Grand Canyon that had real cowboys – finished with a sing-a-long around the camp fire with a legendary country singer. Amazing!

After a quick visit to the masterpiece that is the Hoover Dam, we turned off the main highway en route to the West Rim of the Grand Canyon. Our first pit-stop was a fire station near Dolan Springs. We were running low on fuel and the Captain and the crew kindly directed us to the nearest garage with diesel some 50 odd miles away in a town called Mead View. It is surprisingly hard to find diesel in the USA and we were not expecting to have to use one of the jerry cans we had in reserve.

The further we drove the more sparse the landscape became and we eventually ended up on the most remote stretch of road I’ve ever seen. The sun was beaming down on these very long straight roads with an impressive mountain view in the background. It felt like we were driving into the oblivion.

We finally arrived at the ‘Grand Canyon Ranch’ which is run by some of the nicest people you could ever wish to meet, including the managers Susan and Ben Thomson. James had contacted them a few days

earlier in the hope of a bed for the night near the Grand Canyon. However, what we had I store was truly magical and all thanks to their generosity and magnificent hospitality.

The Grand Canyon Ranch is one of the great western ranches dating back to 19th century. What happened here is the real deal, a slice of genuine Wild Wild West history. The first people to settle here were the Colonial Indians nearly four thousand years ago upon discovery of the natural spring that still exists. Today it remains a fully functioning ranch with hundreds of cattle and real life cowboys. They also accommodate tourists wishing to experience life on a ranch, horse riding, and the Grand Canyon.

Within seconds of our arrival it was clear we were in for a real treat as we were shown our rooms for the night, cozy log cabins! We dumped our bags and headed into the main ranch house where Susan kindly gave us cowboy hats which helped us fit right in. We were welcomed into the ranch with open arms and Casey was in full flow during dinner. He even sang some amazing new material he had made up on the spot about our expedition, referring to us in his lyrics as “four lucky [cow]boys and a beautiful [cow]girl”. Very lucky indeed.

We then hit the camp fire to toast marshmallows and sing-a-long to more of Casey’s magical music with Spirit Mountain and the moon sparkling in the background.

You couldn’t find anywhere more different to Las Vegas if you tried.


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