United States, Arizona, Phoenix-Scottsdale-New River
I spent a few of my formative years going to college at the University of Arizona in Tuscon, so a return to the West is always a homecoming. The cactus forests of the desert are magical, but you will never find me walking through it at sunset - snakes are not my friends.
This was a girls trip, so the first thing we did was go shopping at an outdoor mall. At Kierland Commons, I stumbled across a three-wheeled car that holds one person named Solo. She is manufactured in Canada.
My years in Arizona were some of my best car years - spent most of my time between a blue MGB with New York "Go Mets" plates, a Porsche 914 Sports Edition, and a triple-white VW bug convertible.
I adore the little cars and would love to have one in Alaska, but hope soured quickly when I found that Electric Meccanica suggests that you don't drive Solo in the snow. In fact, they expressly recommend against it. Spoiler alert: it does snow in Arizona.
She goes 80 mph, but only has a 100 mile range which would be an easy day of driving around Anchorage and would leave me stranded on the side of the road trying to get home to Seward. Non-starter for me.
The curbside sales staff wouldn't let me take her for a test drive and asked me not to "clown them" in this post when they kindly took this photo of me with their car. Solo starts at $18,500 but apparently can't qualify for the federal EV tax credit. Impulse buy fail.
Not to be confused with the same-area Wild West Ranch, I had a difficult time locating contact information for Wild West Trail Rides because their website is jacked. It is well worth the effort to text the congenial former movie-star-cowboy owner directly and tell him what your needs are - 602.316.3360.
Since I was going with a group of less-experienced riders, some in tennis shoes or high heeled fashion boots, I was expecting a slow-paced head-to-toe trail ride over a well-worn dusty path on a bored-to-death horse.
It was pleasantly not that experience. The horses were mostly Quarter Horses with a few local mustangs mixed in - retired ranch horses that were push button to ride. My gelding let me know that he still had some get-up-and-go left in him, but behaved himself well on the two-track trail when I expressed my regrets and obliged the group's walking speed.
All of the riding was done on the owner's private ranch, which we were told is one of the largest in the North Phoenix area. It felt very exclusive, very professional, and the experience was well tailored to our group. The operation moves to the mountains in the summer.
Our wrangler was reputed to be a multi-time national champion bull rider, all cowboy-ed up, full of swagger. He told trail tales as we rode - which this group soaked up. Yes ma'am, the charm factor was high and his horsemanship was demonstrated when his horse slipped and fell during the ride. I was directly behind him when this happened, the cowboy did everything right going down and afterwards. He kept his cool the entire time and put his horse's safety first.
Talking points included natural history, for example, that palo verde trees only grow in the Sonoran desert, live for hundreds of years, and have the deepest roots and most leaves of any tree on the planet. The history of the area was expressed in the relics we passed by, mostly a busted up moonshine operation. The cowboy took advantage of his baritone voice to regale the ladies with several romantic western-themed ballads during the ride. Home run hit.
The ranch owner suggested that we go to the local watering hole after our ride, and the my tired and dusty ladies begrudgingly agreed. Cowboy-world really isn't their thing.
Dunking deep-fried beer-battered pickle spears into jalapeño ranch dressing in the open air seating by the outdoor bar one would never guess that by the time we had given up on the super greasy Arizona Cheese Steak sandwiches and started thinking about Dirty Bird Nachos the live western band would start playing, the dance floor would fill with young people who looked casting-ready for Yellowstone, a large pallet-board bonfire lite the night, and the bull riding would have caught the attention of my ladies...mostly because they wanted to support our wrangler should he be competing.
I spoke with the informal bull rider wives club who offered typical western hospitality and allowed our group to have a couple rows in their bleacher so we could watch the outdoor event while maintaining a proper social distance.
We bought every version of the Roadrunner sweatshirt to keep the girls warm - the desert can get chilly at night.
Their bumper sticker says the Roadrunner is Known for A Buckin' Good Time. All I can say is that my verified city slickers had so much fun they want to go back again, and scheduled another trip to the area the next quarter.
This is a first. They rented us a larger house assuming more friends would want to join our party having heard about this experience, they doubled down on the horseback riding, the bull riding, and scheduled a trip on the first day to buy cowboy hats. Who knew?