I love to travel. I love visiting new places, experiencing new adventures and making new friends along the way.
That’s what made my trip to Las Vegas last month so special. Annette and I went to see and hear George Strait in concert, and that was, hands down, the best part of the trip. But way up there in a tight race for second place was horseback riding in Red Rock Canyon and making new friends from Texas, Illinois and Ireland.
|Diana Hood, Annette Greaves, Elaine Miller|
gather around Barbara Garza.
Annette was already Facebook friends with Barbara Garza. She and her husband, Joe, live in Bloomington, Illinois, about three hours from where Annette lives in Streamwood (near Chicago). We had tried to hook up with the Garzas when we were in Texas for the GSTRC last year. They were headed to Del Rio and stopped for the night in San Antonio, but we left for Bandera before we could meet.
In Vegas, we had brunch with Barbara and Joe, along with Diana Hood of Austin, Texas, at the MGM Hotel Sunday after the two weekend concerts. Diana has followed George since his honky-tonk and dance hall days at the very beginning of his career. We enjoyed listening to her stories about some of the nice things he has done for some of his loyal, long-time fans.
|The horses were saddled and waiting.|
That afternoon, a van picked us up at the hotel for our Sunset Trail Ride in Red Rock Canyon. It was just half an hour from the Strip, but in that short time we made three new friends among our fellow adventurers. Sam and Irene Marshall and Sam’s sister, Gwen Tener, were from Ireland, I love an Irish accent, but had a little trouble understanding what Sam was calling his wife. It sounded like “Iron,” but it was spelled, “I-r-e-n-e.” We had a wee laugh about that.
The five of us exchanged Facebook monikers, email and snail-mail addresses. Sam and Irene are planning to come back to the States next year for a three-month motorcycle tour of the South. Naturally, I extended Southern hospitality by inviting them to stay with me when they come through Alabama. They reciprocated with an invitation to Annette and I to stay with them should we get to Belfast or Bangor, County Down, in Northern Ireland. I was sincere in my invitation, and so were they.
The trail ride was supposed to last an hour and 45 minutes, followed by a cowboy dinner. We had such a good time, just moseying along at a gentle pace and looking at the spectacular scenery, that it didn’t seem that long. Perhaps the greenhorns thought differently, but I could have ridden another two hours.
Red Rock Canyon was named a National Conservation Area in 1990 and is run by the Bureau of Land Management. Known for its rock formations and their vivid colors, it would be worth exploring by car, foot or a longer horseback ride. The color of some of the outcrops in those Aztec Sandstone cliffs is due to the presence of iron oxide or hermatite. Exposure to the elements caused iron minerals to oxidize or “rust,” resulting in vivid red, orange and brown-colored rocks.
Spiky cacti lined our trail as we wound through the Mojave Desert. We saw lots of Joshua Trees, which are just as interesting dead as they are alive. Oh, and a desert bunny hopped along with us for a while.
Of the eight people who paid for the ride, plus the three trail guides, I’d say only two of us weren’t eating steak. “What kind of cowgirl eats fish?” someone asked me, in a good-natured chide. But man, that salmon was good. It was cooked with a special seasoning that the trail boss makes and sells online. I think he’s missing a grand opportunity by not selling it on site. The salmon had lemon slices on top and was wrapped in aluminum foil and cooked on the huge outdoor gas range where the steaks, corn-on-the-cob, potatoes with onions and cowboy beans were cooked. I’m drooling all over my keyboard as I write. We finished by roasting marshmallows over a fire pit and pressing them between two chocolate-chip cookies for a variation on S’mores.
When Annette and I discovered that our new Irish friends were staying at the same hotel we were in, we invited them to one of its bars for a drink and a chat. Sam went up to his room, leaving us women to ourselves. Annette drank water, but I introduced Irene and Gwen to an Italian margarita. During the hour we were perched on those bar stools, the three of us bought a round each! Irene decided it was her new drink, and later posted a picture of herself in her red-white-and-blue cowboy hat drinking one in the Vegas airport.
It was a great ending to a great day.