By Jane Van Berkum on January 3rd, 2011
One of our Colorado dude ranch guests wrote a great article about her experience at Rainbow Trout Ranch in Mommy Magazine of Sarasota, Florida.
I guess it’s true: Some of us have always had wanderlust. Instead of posters of Leif Garrett, Michael Jackson or Bon Jovi, my teenage hangout featured world maps (and vintage horse tools, but that’s another story!).
For years, I dreamed of traveling to exotic places. I just graduated from high school when the movie “Summer Lovers” came out starring Daryl Hannah and Peter Gallagher – Santorini, Greece was definately at the top of my list.
Fast forward a decade. And then another. Marriage. Kids. Mortgage. Careers. You get the picture. Loved being a mommy, but missed my old visions of escape. And so I made a plan. I thought of the one major trip I really wanted to go on… a dude ranch vacation with my husband and kids. Before I turned 40.
My short list included being allowed to gallop, a great kids program, herding cows, learning to fly fish, wide open spaces, and swimming a horse across a river.
And then I took the next step. I opened my own savings account and started saving for the trip. I researched ranches from Wyoming to Montana to Colorado and sent for brochures that I filed alphabetically in my dude ranch folder. If I had a particularly tough day at work, I would run a bath, light candles, and settle into the tub with a new ranch packet from the day’s mail, letting the steam open the envelope and savoring each word and photography.
“So, Kerri, how did you end up at Rainbow Trout Ranch, ” asked David Van Berkum over cowboy coffee at 13,000 feet in the wilderness of Antonito, Colorado.
“Honestly, Dave, I have to say that this trip is a dream come true. I planned it for years, chose this ranch, and then my grandma, one of my most favorite people in the word, died and left me some money. So we were finally able to come.”
From the gray wispy fog at the early morning campfire, folks got quiet and looked my way. Doctors. Lawyers. Bankers. A couple who flew their private plane to the ranch from Martha’s Vineyard. With my faded jeans and cowboy boots from Goodwill in Osprey, Florida, I felt something wonderful: an overwhelming feeling of gratitude and thankfulness at what I had just said out loud. My dream really came true.
Now, I know there are good people out there who take these kinds of fanciful vacations once or even twice a year. We are not in that crowd. And that’s okay, because I don’t think I ever appreciated every moment of a trip like I did at the ranch. In fact, I gained seven pounds in one week. I said yes to everying, including extra dessert(s).
At the end of the week, my husband, James, on his horse Eastwood, won the “Most Improved Horseman” award. James is not a horse person, let’s just say, but he said he would give it “150 percent,” because he knew it was my dream.
Our daughter, Julia won the “Talking Mountain Goat” award because she chatted the entire way during a half day ride to a waterfall. And our son, Sam, trotted his horse around barrels in the final day rodeo, something we never thought he would be able to do.
As for me, I got to ride a buckskin mustang named Ford for the week. He and I accompanied a small group of riders on the overnight trip to a campsite 13,000 feet in the clear, cool Rocky Mountain air where we could see the Continental Divide. I took my sleeping bag outside that night and slept in the grass. I didn’t want to miss a thing.
Together as a family, we square-danced, rode in a buckboard wagon, cast fly rods, sang, hiked, laughed, played with hummingbirds, and swam our horses across a river. Each Christmas, we add our RTR rawhide bolos with our names wood burned on them to the Christmas tree, along with other memorable souveniers from trips together.
I don’t know if you heard or read about it, but last year, there was a big hullabaloo around research regarding money and happiness. As reported in a Boston Globe article, the consensus is that people should buy memories instead of things. It seems that experiences make people happier than material possessions. And that a big, fat happy memory becomes even happier as time goes by.
What’s your dream trip? Even in these anxious financial times, dream big, plan, send for information (don’t forget the hot bath and candles!) and start saving now. Hopefully, we won’t have to visit the land of “Staycation” for long. And someday, no matter where your dream destination takes you, make a toast, even it it’s just cowboy coffee (it means there are grinds at the bottom!) to dreams that come true.