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