Alright, so the rest of our trip was “an experience.”
I knew that by this point on the drive we’d be sort of done with day after day after day of driving and unpacking and sleeping and repacking and driving some more, and so I built a three-night stop at a dude ranch into the plan.
OK, that’s a lie. I didn’t build it in because I thought we’d need a break. I built it in because it’s a DUDE RANCH. And, like everyone else who has ever seen City Slickers, I have allllways wanted to go to one.
We considered a couple of options in Arizona for our dude ranch stop and ultimately ended up at White Stallion Ranch mostly because it’s specifically family-friendly. Obviously riding is the big attraction, but there’s lots of stuff for kids to do, too (a pool, a petting zoo, a playground, a massive rec room with air hockey and a pool table and bazillions of VHS tapes (!), et cetera). The place is an old-school, Dirty Dancing-style resort in some ways – everyone eats three meals a day together, and there are nightly activities like art classes and stargazing parties – but it’s also just really well-run. The staff lets you do your thing – there’s no pressure to be on a horse all day if you don’t want to – but also clearly wants you to have a personalized experience: we were the only people on the grounds with small children for those particular days, and they were so helpful and sweet, bringing our daughter little cups of cottage cheese and giving our son food for the animals in the petting zoo and just generally making us feel completely welcome and comfortable.
Oh, and if you want a drink – soda, water, beer, cocktail, whatever – it’s on the honor system: you just make your own at the bar (which happens to have SADDLES FOR SEATS, which is amazing) and write it down on a “chit” and settle up when you check out. I love this for some reason; I think it sets such a cool tone for a place.
Oh my goodness, and the scenery.
Cactuses and blue skies and views for miles. (I took this shot during a horse ride through the desert.)
My one quibble with White Stallion: there was a fly who I named Alan, and would not let me sleep. Ever. He sat on my cheek whenever I closed my eyes, and I wished death upon him many a time, but alas: Alan is still ticking (or at least was when we left yesterday morning and he gave me a good-bye peck).
(FYI: The ranch offers all-inclusive rides every day except Sunday for guests ages 5 and up. Three meals a day are included, and riding lessons and massages can be purchased for an additional fee.)