Sorry, but an almost-non-stop schedule and limited internet access set our live blogging schedule behind. We arrived at the Stagecoach Trails Guest Ranch late Thursday night with mild concussions from the 15-mile dirt road approach. This was about the only time we regretted having the RV, which varied from hydroplaning on the loose dirt to bumping up and down on the washboard contours of the more hard-packed sections of the road.
Why did we visit a ranch, you ask? Well, Scott set it up and we are a bit suspicious that he was just looking for an excuse to wear his cowboy boots. Whatever the reason, it turned into a great visit with lots of interesting small business issues.
After a less-than-full night’s sleep, we were up and ready to go at 6AM. We started the day by shadowing the wranglers as they cleaned and saddled the horses. Quiz: What is the ranch’s head wrangler’s name? Yes, you guessed it – he’s Tex. While it may seem a bit cliché, it fits him well. Tex is the consummate professional wrangler with lots of great stories and a natural rapport with the horses.
After Tex got the ranch guests off on their ride, it was our turn. Ranch owner Carrie Rynders is a rather unconventional dude ranch owner having she spent most of her life near Milwaukee. But she had a dream and she went for it, moving her family out to the desert. Carrie wanted to take us out for a ride and lesson in the surrounding desert once we had gotten comfortable in the saddle. This wasn’t so hard for Paul and Scott who, though not exactly in the running for the Olympic Equestrian team, had ridden a few horses in their day. Mike, on the other hand, was a total newbie. When Scott explained that he had done a bit of riding in his youth because his father grew up on a farm, Mike quipped, “My father grew up in Brooklyn.” But Carrie got Mike up onto Cherokee and off we went.
Mike’s dismount wasn’t exactly pretty — and we hope our cameraman got a shot of it so we can break up the business lessons with a bit of slapstick — but he was none the worse for wear.
Throughout the time on the ranch, we caught lots of great video footage showing off the scenery, the amenities of the ranch, and, most importantly to us, all the interesting business issues that Carrie and her team face. Her big challenge is to get people to show up at the ranch. She certainly doesn’t get any drive-by or impulse purchasing. TripAdvisor reviews and relationships with tour operators (especially those in Europe) now keep a steady flow of guests coming as she has established a great reputation in the dude ranch market. But establishing that brand and getting the flow started were huge challenges. We also talked about limits to the ranch’s growth due to its service orientation and the difficulties of hiring. We think this is going to make a great video small business learning opportunity so be sure to check it out when it’s ready.
We took off from the Stagecoach ranch right after lunch, as the thermometer added a third digit. Hoover Dam was on the way, so we pulled the RV over for a look. Wow! It’s an awesome structure (we loved the beautiful art deco water intake towers) but unfortunately there are few small business lessons to be had. We simply couldn’t justify a leisurely tour.
From there, next stop was the Vegas airport where we said our farewells to Mike who had to get home Friday night. Then Paul, Scott, and the camera crew headed to the Strip, where we found an outdoor table across from the Bellagio, toasted our successful trip, and caught the water show. Things spun out out of control from there, but what happens in Vegas…