Jim & Sue Lloyd at Rimrock Dude Ranch – Part I of “What I Did on my Summer Vacation”

It’s Summer, and with it comes vacation time. In keeping with that Summer vibe, we thought it might be fun to share a “What I did on my Summer vacation”  feature here on The Street Where You Live.

First up, our resident writer, Jim Lloyd, gives us an inside look at he and Sue’s adventures out West last month at a dude ranch. It’s good stuff. Enjoy!

Written by Jim Lloyd

Okay, let’s forget about town politics for the moment. In the first week of June of this year, my bride of nearly forty years turned sixty! She just does not look a day older than that wonderful September seventeenth when we met! Anyhow, she’s had a “bucket list” of things she wants to do before she “kicks the bucket.” Numero uno on said list was a visit to a dude ranch.

Well, her being the big six-o, what was I going to do? It had to be a surprise. For her fiftieth, a fantastic cruise (where a lot of our fellow passengers were convinced that we were ‘plants’, employees of Royal Caribbean on the cruise to make it more fun for those who were paying) was a total surprise where we left within twenty-four hours of when she got the tickets in her birthday card!

Let’s see…where to even begin? Dude ranches. Does anyone out there know how many dude ranches there are out west? What state? What size? How long the stay? Will I ever walk normally again?

I sat down at the old Mac and began months before. What state? Somewhere with topography not all mountains or plains. Too south, too hot. Too north, too cold. June is one of those months where you have to be careful. And lucky. Let’s try Wyoming. Northwest WY abuts Yellowstone National Park. The topography is right. Let’s try near Yellowstone. There’s a little town called Cody, after Buffalo Bill Cody. He’s no hero to me. He slaughtered hundreds of thousands of bison. But the town calls itself the rodeo capital of the world.

Well. Twenty some miles west of Cody (which has an airport) and twenty some miles east of Yellowstone lies a ranch called Rimrock. I called lots of ranches, but Rimrock stuck. Each time I called, DeeDee (the co-owner with her husband) seemed to not only remember me, but to assume we were coming and were going to have an unforgettable time. A ranch owner and a prophet. Many of the ranches I called could have one hundred or more guests. Rimrock’s limit was thirty-six. That first week of June (their opening week) we would make a total of twelve. Done. Crossing my fingers, I wired money, bought plane tickets, and planned a surprise party.

My wife has a close group of friends (the Goddesses) and they conspired to help with the surprise. Friday night went off without a hitch. The party was a surprise and a success. She had Saturday to pack. Then we were off Sunday to Sunday (June 3rd through 10th) riding horses in the Rocky Mountains.

We landed at Cody airport about noon and DeeDee had some errands to run, so after picking us up at the airport, she dropped us in Cody to have lunch. We noticed that the men all wore cowboy hats, and many carried a pistol. Right there on a belt worn for that reason. (Note to readers… there is practically no crime in Cody. Gee, I wonder why?)

After having an amazing lunch in the Emma Hotel, Built by Buffalo Bill a hundred years ago and staffed by folks in period costumes, I was off to buy a cowboy hat down the street. Proudly carrying my new hat back to our comfortable seats on the front porch, I was summoned over to an adjoining table where two cowboys (hats and guns) in a very friendly manner told me, “Son, You don’t carry your hat, you wear it, proudly.” Then they bought us a drink. Cowboys drink whiskey. We have an occasional vodka. They let that pass after they learned we were from Florida. I was beginning to like the west. A lot.

DeeDee finished her errands and picked us up. We were off to the ranch. Thirty-five minutes later and two miles up a shale road, we were there. Remote. But beautiful. Snow capped mountains and valleys and vistas that made it difficult for Floridians to focus or have any perspective of distance. We had a great meal (first of many) and turned in. I sleep better a mile and a half high.

Monday was meet your horse day. We owned horses years ago up north. Her favorite is a black and white paint. I prefer a solid, big bay, like a quarter horse on steroids. Dee had asked about this during our conversations, but I had not expected her to come through so well. The wranglers kept a close, expert eye on the pairings, could the guest ride, how well, too much horse, etc. Ours were dead on perfect. Sue got a huge black and white paint, King.

I got a huger quarter, Wind River Charlie. Love at first sight.

For the week we rode and rode and rode. Monday we got acquainted with two and a half hours in the morning…lunch and hot tub (for the girls)… and another two plus hours in the afternoon. Tuesday, we left early, rode up into the sheer cliffs an hour and a half only to discover a big campfire in the wilderness (bear, elk, moose, big horns, cougars, and deer) all around with their mouths watering over an eight course breakfast including freshly done blueberry pancakes (how’d they get them so perfect over a campfire… a campfire??), bacon, sausage, the absolute best hash browns ever served in the western hemisphere, omelet, and coffee like they made before electric. Toss in some cut fruit and fresh baked rolls and cookies and I was ready to let the cougars eat me.

We then did the return ride only to white water raft all afternoon down the Shawnee River. Cold, cold water.

Wednesday we chose to ride, (you could go in to Cody and shop or visit museums) but we chose to ride. Maybe we shouldn’t have. Rimrock is a geological term (so I was told) which refers to what is left of the central molten core of a volcano after millions of years where the outside rock has worn away and the core has begun falling apart as well. What you have left is an impossibly steep mountain (up cropping) that the local cowboys (wranglers) think can be ridden upon. There are even paths seven or eight inches wide in the hard shale four or five inches from the three or four thousand foot precipice proving that many suicidal greenhorns in the past have bought the whole improbable story. The problem is, once you’re up there,(having ridden the trail with numberless ‘switch-backs’)(way too steep to just climb) you can’t dial 911, there ain’t no cell service in the middle of no where. Survival instinct compels you to drop the reins and just clutch the horse’s mane, holding on for dear life. But you can’t do that. The women…the wranglers…what would everyone think?

Eventually you lose your fear of death and begin to think that if you do live, it’s going to be one heck of a story. Then you start down. As I said, the trails are shale. Our noble steeds assume a sitting position and shuffle their hindquarters (just clearing the shale) to and fro attempting their own form of switch-backs. When we got to the bottom of a particular trail branch, there was always a creek. Most of the horses just strode through. Charlie loved jumping them. This requires a radical shift for the rider from an extreme laid back position to an extreme forward leaning, jump position. You learn quickly. What fun.

Thursday was the all day ride. We were in the saddle from nine to five-thirty. There were magnificent mountains way, way over there that the wranglers would look at us with a great degree of sincerity and say…that’s where we’re a-goin’. WHAT?? It is difficult for a Florida person to take in perspective. Especially if that perspective is thirty, fifty, or even more miles away! We rode and rode. MAGNIFICENT! Ears popped ‘til they couldn’t anymore.

The head wrangler finally said in a way too casual manner that maybe we might stop for a bite. Everyone had enough for four very hungry lumberjacks. We were at a little over ten thousand feet above sea level. (Sea level. God how I missed that BLESSED height!!) (I have flown much. I’ve had friends with planes. There’s a point where you need oxygen!) On the good side, the trails up here were wide and gently sloping. I got in several good altitude induced naps.

Next morning bright and early was Yellowstone Park. Yellowstone. The biggest oldest park imaginable. With rock formations, and bears, and bubbling mud, and elk and moose, and busses full of Japanese tourists, each with ten cameras slung around their necks. And Old Faithful. My wife’s favorite nickname for me. ‘Nuff said.

What a park! And that lodge! Constructed of enough lodge pines to have housed all of the Native Americans ever. Or so it seemed! And of course we got surrounded by bison while driving through their territory. Who do they think they are? They’ve been here forever in the many, many millions. We’ve been here a hundred or so years in millions. But we’re humans! Get out of our way, or like Buffalo Bill, we’ll just shoot ya!

Saturday was a ride to the Holy City. This was a giant rock formation resembling ancient Jerusalem.

No one in the group had been to ancient Jerusalem but we took our wrangler’s word for it. While we’re talking wranglers, just let me say this… young cowboys… wearing chaps…leather chaps… fit, handsome, and POLITE. Here was a half dozen early twenties cowboys that never got past ‘heck’ or ‘darn’!! To them, ‘rap’ is what you do on a door to get in. They were the greatest bunch. And my dear wife was in heaven.

So that night was an open mike night where the guests tried their best to entertain. It was fun. And then, as they had several nights that week, the cowboys got out their guitars and strummed and sang. All in front of the open fireplace. It was a Tom Cruise movie. We sang and laughed and shared a real connection that most families don’t. And deep inside, everyone realized that the end was near. That this was the last night of a wonderful adventure that nobody there knew it would be. We rode horses through an environment totally foreign to where we live. And overwhelmingly beautiful. And now, pouff, through the magic of jet transportation, we would be back in the sub-tropics in less than a day.

We slept well that night. And in the morning, one final huge country breakfast. Good-byes were hard. I don’t like long good-byes. We were driven to the Cody (Yellow Stone Regional) Airport which had three incoming and three outgoing flights per day. And Bang… we were back in Florida. Don’t get me wrong… I love Florida, but…

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If you have any images or stories from how you spent or are spending your Summer, or a “what I did on my Summer vacation” story, please send them in. Whether it’s photos with captions and a short description of what you’ve been up to or a full story, please feel free to pass it along via the email address in the sidebar, and include the words “Summer Vacation” in the subject line. You’re up next…Where did the Summer take you? We’d love to hear about it, Lake Park.

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