Leaving Mexican Hat we went to Santa Fe and Taos in New Mexico, both very stylish little towns, engulfed in history and art, many artists moved into the area a long time ago and as a result have become big tourist attractions. Moving further south the look changed and cowboys are everywhere, in the southern parts of New Mexico and in Texas stetson hats and cowboy boots are now the norm. To date we’ve sampled the cheese-melt steak and beans sandwich with the “lot” (check my waist line) but we are still hungry for something more traditional with a taste of the real west; the answer came to me as “Rodeo“.
Checking google we found the “Turquoise Rodeo Circuit” featuring wild-horse bareback riding, steer wrestling and the awesome bull riding which if I had a chance would… get Malene to do. We hurried to Las Cruces for Saturday night’s event, it was being held ten kilometers out of town and as as I imagined in a bit of a dust bowl, the setting was perfect.
Like rag dolls
We were there early and had a word with some of the locals including Miss Turquoise Trail 2014 and the man promoting the Dodge RAM trucks who sponsor the event. On their advice we made our way to the stands ahead of time for a good seat. Everyone was really friendly and just at the mention of Australia they broke into big smiles and big handshakes, by now we were as exited as kids and when the show got on its way it did not let us down.
It starts with a parade, then the anthem, girls riding horses at neck-breaking speed bearing flags, a welcome speech and finally a prayer to gods-only country. The first wild horse came out bucking and kicking and its rider was thrown around like a rag doll, I have no idea how he survived the few seconds he was on there?
The aim is to stay on the horse’s back for eight seconds with your legs held forward just below its neck, this irritates the horse and ensures plenty of good high kicks and bucks. If there’s any real cowboys out there and I have any of this wrong, I apologize but we gleaned most of our information from the kind people around us and from the kid’s brochure, which we were the only adults to read.
Then came the bulls, this was the highlight for me.
Below: Keep you eye on the bull after the rider comes off!!! He is the star and he knows it.
Bull riding, as far as we understand has the same basic rules. The rider has to stay on the bull holding on to a rope with just one hand for 8 seconds, the higher the bull kicks and bucks the higher the score, sounds simple!! So all you youngsters out there try this at home using dad as the bull to practice.
Below: The Rock and Rolling Bull!!!!
The clown who came on between the events asked around for any foreigners and much to our delight it was clear we were the only true foreigners there except for one exchange student who was there for a year from Finland. This was the true local affair we were searching for.
Below: Kids try this next clip at home using mum or dad as the the little steer.
The speed at which cowboys can bring down a calf is amazing, each time a calf got brought down the crowd went wild and us with them. But a quick look around and suddenly we felt under-dressed and without the right gear, especially the dusty cool looking boots. Jeans were the other order of the day and many men wore Pink shirts!!!! but we guessed it was in support of breast cancer charity.
Below: I’ll meet you in the ring & Sea of hats
As for lassoing the calves it all happens in a flash, the lasso is thrown, the cowboy dismounts and the horse breaks and keeps the rope tight all in one fast move. Don’t try this at home kids, mum or dad might just choke.
Outside the Rodeo shed when the sun went down the fairground was in full swing with exotic looking drinks on sale, giant turkey drum-sticks, sarsaparilla and bull riding practice.
Nature also put on a sky show of its own, but I think this time the bulls won “hooves down” and to be honest the big skies have been a trademark of our entire US drive.
We were reminded along the way to the Rodeo that bulls and wild horses are not the only guys in the area that can take you for a ride.
After our cowboy christening in Las Cruces we continued south to El Paso where New Mexico ends and Texas starts, it’s also on the boarder of USA and Mexico. We intended to spend time in El Paso but after more favorable comments about San Antonio and Forth Worth we changed plan. We drove straight through El Paso navigating our way on its 20 lane interstates and space age junctions and hit the 600 miles of desert to San Antonio where the speed limit is 80ish miles/hour or so.
We covered the distance in a day, about a nine hour drive. In downtown San Antonio there is an area recently developed called the Riverwalk, here a canal winds its way around downtown giving it a somewhat European but also an artificial feel, it has wall to wall restaurants and cafes filled with tourists many of whom visit San Antonio to see “The Alamo” (where David Crockett and the Texans fought the Mexican army), some of which still stands in the heart of downtown SA.
Unfortunately the rest of downtown is a little tired and un-cared for. The “market square” which is mostly Hispanic with Latino food and Latino entertainment had a nice vibe, the street band played Mexican tunes and the bar was serving margaritas, I could have spent hours there listening to the music. Americana was everywhere and the old car display and Elvis said it all.
Below: Latino Elvis /Cinderella (tourist ride).
Below: Real Latino Cinderella from a nearby restaurant / McDonald’s Law (please leave your guns outside).
“Fort Worth” the last US adventure.
Five hour drive north and you get to Fort Worth outside Dallas.
Northside or the Stockyards at Fort Worth is the preserved part of town from where the Texan cattle trade operated during the last 100 years. Arriving at Northside FW is like riding into Dodge City of yesteryear, a totally cowboy town, with saloons, Honky Tonks, a dodgy looking Law office, the works… Each day cattlemen drive a small herd of Longhorn cattle through town as reenactment of the cattle drives but despite not being genuine it’s a great sight. The few tourist there for the drive were mostly from other parts of the US and overall the tourist numbers in Northside were low.
We visited a few of the “big name places” including Billy Bobs Honky Tonk (Country and Western bar) with a capacity of 5,000 and a weekly indoor rodeo. It was quiet that night but we downed a few super good $5 margaritas before Malene decided to partake in a Bootscooting dance lesson, another margarita and I followed. The instructor in his hat could have been a bad guy from any old western movie.
Below: Spot Malene on the right
The next evening after a few more bars and we were dancing in The Longhorn Saloon, we started to feel like locals. Dusty from the range some of them still had their spurs on whilst on the dance floor, I guess it was a case of a quick drink and dance after a day on the ranch.
Below: New sport -Beers and who can stay on his saddle the longest
By night but even by day it had a great feel, we visited places mostly frequented by locals and it’s great to see them still enjoying the old-west ways. I could easily have spent some more time in this quaint part of Fort Worth but my partner and I had to move on, we had a plane to ride the next day.
Below: The Law Office and looking down the side-walk in early evening from the Longhorn Saloon
Chip’s car let him down twice that week, I held back from making him an offer for the Chevy, it was so authentic. Unfortunately this is the end of a great adventure, it’s been packed with so many spectacular sights, it never let up, they just kept coming one after the other, but there is still a lot more of the USA that I would love to explore.
Below: Chip and his Chevy and all the places we saw in 3 weeks
If you decide to visit just look out for this guy because if you don’t behave the new (and corrupt) Deputy Marshall will run you out of town