Our Marlboro Ranch/Crazy Mountain Ranch Adventure - June 28-July 1, 2013

Yes, there really is a Marlboro Ranch. And yes, it's that Marlboro. My husband smokes their cigarettes, much less than he did when he first met me. He told me about the Marlboro web site, so I registered him and me and began entering their contests. Over the years we have won a boatload of things, from ashtrays to horseshoes to customized tee shirts and pint glasses and a NASCAR Hot Laps Experience (we got to ride shotgun around the track and drifting in brand new Mustangs - the cars, not the horses). I began entering us every day to possibly win a trip to the Marlboro Ranch, which always seemed like a fantasy place to me.

Well, we won in May 2013. A Fedex envelope came two days after the "You won" notification on their web site, with documents for us to sign. They would be paying for everything, from travel to food and lodging and more. All we had to pay was taxes on the trip, estimated to be almost $5,000. That's doable, considering neither of us have had a vacation in years and we never had a honeymoon when we got married in 2008. So this would be our belated honeymoon. Turned out my husband's drivers license was due for renewal, so we went to the local bureau. The Internet was down (yes, we live in a very small town), so we had to drive to the closest division. But, his photo ID wouldn't come to him for a week or so, so that meant that some of the activities he wanted to take part in would have to wait until his license arrived and he could fax it to them. We next got a packet with our travel documents, preliminary activities list for the two full days we'd be there, plus two debit cards for $25 each that would pay for one checked bag. Travel days were June 28th and July 1st. We had selected fly fishing, skeet shooting, off-roading and I wanted to do the cattle drive (my husband won't get on a horse) and were told in the letter that we could add activities when we got there. Cool beans!

We were flying Delta from Boston, so I went online to get the full itinerary and seat assignments to make sure we were seated together. We were. One note - my husband, Chris, has never flown in a plane before in his entire life, so he was terrified. I've flown many times and kept trying to reassure him. We got his license, faxed it to Marlboro and then a package came with suitcases (oversized duffel bags) in red and black and two black hats with "RH" embossed on them. The "RH" stands for Ranch Headquarters. We were asked to wear those on the plane so that when we landed in Bozeman, Montana, the Marlboro folks could identify us.

We were getting really excited. I did some research online about other folks who had been at the ranch and it sounded like a dream come true. Finally, Friday, July 1st arrived. We had to be at the bus station at 530 am. As we just got onto the highway, I realized I'd left my iPhone at home, so I sped back to get it, kinda freaking out. But we go to the bus station early, got on the bus and were headed for Logan Airport in Boston finally! At the airport, we checked our two bags curbside, then went to wait at the gate. My husband was starting to panic:

I gave him a Xanax. We boarded. He had his headphones and music on his iPhone. I relaxed with a magazine and an audiobook. The takeoff was a bit jarring for him, but once we were airborne, he seemed okay. He wasn't crazy about the landing, but hey, we were almost in Montana! Our flight landed in Minneapolis a little late, so we ran to the gate. They were already boarding the flight. I saw folks with the "RH" hats and nodded to a few. I guess we were all too shy to get to know each other yet. No worries! We were now seated across the aisle from each other. Chris seemed a bit more relaxed:

We landed in Bozeman without incident and were immediately met by Marlboro cowboys dressed in red and black with white Stetsons:

We were told to go upstairs for a private lunch and Chris got five $1 coupons redeemable for five packs of Marlboro cigarettes in the store downstairs. After a quick lunch and getting the cigarettes, guess what almost everyone did? Smoke their cigarettes, of course!

Once on the bus, Security Jim gave us the legal mumbo jumbo about drugs, alchohol and weapons, then we were on our way to the Marlboro Ranch!

The ride was about an hour and then we were there - some cowboys on horses rode alongside the bus:

Here's a short video of the cowboys alongside us.

Here is a map of the town:

When we got the Stage Stop, we were assigned our rooms. We got the Jackson room at the Rock Creek Bank. There were presents on our bed! We walked through town, attended the horse orientation, then it was Happy Hour, then time to eat dinner at the Saloon. Talk about way too much food! Also plenty of water and Powerade. Plus the booze was free from 530-closing (around 2 am) as long as you didn't overindulge. We were overwhelmed! There are no phones or TV in the rooms, but there is a community phone to call home if you wanted to. And there was wifi in the Saloon and Livery to post photos or go online.

The photo booth was fun - you can see we had a good time with it:

They did have a cool setup in the Saloon for their fans and a 360 degree view of the Saloon:

Here's a video I took of this.

You can see all the photos on my Facebook page at Day One. You must be on Facebook to view them unfortunately.

Day Two at the Ranch: We went to the Stage Stop in the morning to get our activities straightened out. We ended up choosing fly fishing, canoeing and the sunset hike for the day. That was in addition to everything else scheduled:

We ended up adding the Wagon Ride while we were wandering around after fly fishing, then went to the Saloon for some water and sat outside talking with some of the staff for quite a while. Everyone was so nice there! There was a big thunderstorm, so we were forced to stay in the Saloon and drink. Haha. We had a little bit too much to drink this night, but it was a blast!

Here's the album for Day Two on my Facebook page

Day Three I did the cattle drive, which include an orientation to make sure we could steer our horses, then two hours to herd the cows and their calves to another pasture. That was more than fun! My horse, Doc, was a bit ornery, but we did pretty well rounding up those doggies. Afterwards, one of the wranglers said we did a great job and I told him I bet he said that to everyone. He got really serious and told me no, they don't say that to everyone and we really did do a great job. Wow! That made my day. After lunch, we did the Ranch Tour for two hours, then off-roading in military grade Hummers, then it was Happy Hour and dinner again. They had Kowboy Kal who has the Guinness Record for the largest lasso hoop, a magician, cattle roping (not on real cattle) and putting a brand on a piece of leather. They had a scavenger hunt during our stay and we won a horseshoe from one of the horses on the ranch! Considering the ranch is 18,000 acres, we saw most of it between the Ranch Tour and the off-road. And on the off-road, YOU get to drive. If you do this, be driver #2 - that was the most fun drive of the adventure (in my honest opinion).

Here's the actual drive and yes, we did have to drive that slow. Here's the schedule for Day 3:

Here are a few photos from that day:

If you want to see the rest of the photos, go to my Facebook album.

Day Four. Time to say goodbye to the Ranch and everyone there. At the airport, our bags were checked in and we didn't have to pay for them, plus we were given vouchers for lunch from the restaurant so that we good take lunch with us on the plane. We made some great friends with others who won the trip and with the staff. We were sad to leave the blue skies of Montana, but glad to be headed home. Maybe I'll win a trip to the Ranch next time! Here's to hoping!

View all the photos from Day Four on my Facebook page

For those who have won a trip to the Ranch:

If it's the summer trip, pack jeans, especially if you plan on doing any horsebackriding. Pack shorts, tees and some light long-sleeved shirts to wear in layers. Tank tops are okay, too. You don't need to dress up. This is basically like a cruise, except it's on land. You don't need to tip or pay for anything at all. You don't have to do an activity if you don't want to. You can go anywhere in town on your own, but not outside of it, unless you're on a hike or other activity, but believe me, you'll be so busy you won't need to wander. Relax, enjoy and have a wonderful time like we did!

The following photos are copyright The Marlboro Ranch:


Messa said…
I'm about to go and we are so excited!
chelleboz said…
Messa wherr u from ? Im going to!!
Jayne Hitchcock said…
We're from Maine - where are you from?
Anonymous said…
We're invited! Why do they ask for both social security #'s? We're nervous about this.

Jayne Hitchcock said…
One, for tax reasons for the winner and two, to make sure you're a real person. Don't be nervous - you'll have a blast
johnbagels said…
I just received the fed ex package in Thurs and mailed it back weds how long do you have to wait before you hear back?I have done a lot of reading on the trip and have not read one bad thing I am really looking forward to it
johnbagels said…
I would assume its to make sure you are who you are and for tax purposes I just filled mine out also
Jayne Hitchcock said…
I honestly don't remember how long, but maybe a week at most? Don't worry, they will take care of you. They pretty much hold your hand the entire process and you can always call the phone number they gave you if you have any pressing questions.
schellyb15 said…
John, it took three weeks and two days for my round 2 paperwork. Join the rest of the summer winners on https://m.facebook.com/ranch2014?ref=m_notif&notif_t=feed_comment
Johnbagels when are you going. We ate going July 13 through the 16. We can't wait
Johnbagels when are you going. We are going July 13 through the 16. We can't wait
Winston VT III said…
Heading there in June 9 - 12 and can't wait!! Thanks for sharing the details. One question: I'm taking some horse riding lessons before going to be sure the cattle drive isn't too much. Did it require a lot of horsemanship skill?
Jayne Hitchcock said…
You really don't need to take lessons. They give you them an hour ahead of the cattle drive and it's an easy ride, no skills needed at all. Just relax and have fun!
stephen c said…
Hey Winston. My son and I are going June9-12.. where will you be coming from? We are coming from Raleigh nc
.maybe we will meet up...
jim w said…
going to the ranch June 28,2014
coming from Boise
anyone else out there going then?
MY husband and I are heading to the ranch on June 25th. Anyone going then?
My husband and I leave on the 25th to the Crazy Mountains of Marlboro. Anyone else going on that date?
Ray R said…
Marlboro must obviously have a constant revolving guest schedule. I see some say June 28th, some June 25th. My date is June 22nd arrival. With a 4 day/3 night stay, I assume there is overlap of guest stays, people coming and going all the time? Odd.
Jayne Hitchcock said…
There is never any overlap. When you leave in the morning to go to the airport, new folks come in that afternoon sometimes. Other times, there is a week in between guests.
Quick question. Me and my husband won the trip for summer 2014 we received a check in the mail and now unable to go. What do we do with the check?
Jayne Hitchcock said…
Lauren, You need to call Marlboro to let them know you are unable to go and ask them about the check. There should have been a number in the package/envelop they sent you.
Anonymous said…
What do you do if you only want to do an activity or two? I just won a trip and was wondering. Also, could I do an activity and not my guest? How does that work?
Jayne Hitchcock said…
You can do as much or as little as you want. Just pick a few things ahead of time and when you get there, you can change your schedule. They are very easy to work with and have some fun things to do.
Anonymous said…
did u have to pay anything or taxes on plane flight or anything at all ? Goin summer 2015 waitin on fed ex
Jayne Hitchcock said…
You have to pay taxes on the whole trip, but the send you a check to cover the taxes. You should be getting more info from them soon.
katy faber said…
I am going this summer and so excited!!! Still waiting on the dates, but found out I won in April 25th. Random question.. I know everything is free, but I saw you wrote drinks are from 5:30-2am.. so no alcohol is allowed before 5:30pm?
Jayne Hitchcock said…
Katy, no drinking before 530 pm and don't try to sneak alcohol in.

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