Well, fortunately my entire mini-vacation to Southern Cross Ranch didn’t get rained out. Thankfully none of the rides got rained out, so it could have been a lot worse. It waited until late at night both nights I was there to rain, so unfortunately, we were never able to trot or canter on the horses. This trip was my 4th time to the ranch. My first trip was March 2000, the 2nd was in May 2003, and the 3rd trip was last May in 2013. I was actually originally scheduled to go last month from May 14-16th, but I rescheduled to this past week because Madison, Georgia’s forecast was giving 100% chance of rain on May 15th, and with it being as expensive as it is for all-inclusive, I wasn’t going to sit in my room an entire day and not ride. Last May, there was a lot of rain before my trip, so out of the 8 rides I had then, we were only allowed to trot in 2-3 of them and canter in one. Needless to say, I was disappointed I had to miss out on this year – again.
First, let me begin by saying the Toyota Corolla is NOT a comfortable car to ride in. This was the car I was given at the rental agency (because I am skeptical about mine making such a long trip successfully), and while it looked a lot more appealing than the Ford Focus I got last year, the Focus was much more comfortable for the 3 1/2 hour drive. I know I will never own a Corolla!
About an hour into my drive Tuesday morning, traffic stopped on the interstate. I was worried there was an accident, but thankfully it was just a 10 minute delay. It looked like a tree had fallen over the interstate, but I’m not sure if that was the hold-up. When I passed through it, I never saw a crew doing clean-up or clearing it out. I’m just grateful it wasn’t a major delay!
I left my house at 8:00 AM and arrived around 12:40 PM Georgia time (Eastern time). They’re an hour ahead of us, so it took me about 3 hours & 40 minutes to get there. The ranch is about an hour east of Atlanta. I actually enjoyed the drive, though it got rather uncomfortable towards the end the Corolla. If I had thought ahead of time, I would have rented an audio book from the library before leaving. I love those things!
I arrived in time to unpack and eat lunch, which is served at 1 pm every day. I have to say, I remember the food being a lot better last year. I was severely disappointed in the meals this time. I don’t know if they got a new chef or something, but the food was rather bland, and a lot of the meat dishes tasted like they used the same seasoning each time. I couldn’t even eat half the food on my plate for dinner the last night I was there because it just didn’t taste good. I’m also a big dessert person, and the desserts they had this year were lacking any type of appeal. I was pretty disappointed because I remember everything being so good last year!
There are two advantages to going in early to mid-May versus June. 1) There were pretty much no kids in early May since they’re still in school. This was my first trip in which there were no other guests by themselves. And 2) There are no horsefly issues in early May. The horseflies were pretty bad this trip, and I don’t ever remember them being a problem in previous years. And for those of you reading this with children, don’t take offense to me saying there were no kids around in early May. I’m not a kid person, and that’s my preference and why I don’t have children of my own. Most of the children present this year were well behaved, and I have no issues with that – except when I’m trying to relax and read by the pool and they’re yelling and screaming while they do whatever it is they’re doing in the pool.
Southern Cross Ranch is a beautiful place though!
It’s a house that has been renovated into a bed & breakfast with each room themed differently. Each room has it’s own unique name that goes along with how it’s decorated. There are just 3 complaints I have regarding the accommodations. 1) The walls are very thin, so sound travels exceptionally well. There are times you can hear what others are saying around you. 2) For it to cost what it does, you would think they’d have decent toilet paper. The toilet paper they have in the bathrooms is equivalent to what you’d find in gas station bathrooms. 3) They have Wi-Fi, but if you want to upload any pictures to a social media website (such as Instagram or Facebook), it will take forever, and sometimes you’ll have to retry 4-5 times before it actually uploads. I tried using the Internet on my phone by by-passing their Wi-Fi and using 3G, but most of the time, my phone showed 1x for my signal, so it wasn’t possible. I just thought I’d let anyone know about these things in case they’re super important to anyone thinking of going.
Here are a few pictures I snapped during the long walk up to the barn for the first ride and some pictures taken in the barn.
I got Tiffy for my first ride Tuesday afternoon. She was a gorgeous horse – but a really slow one.
Each ride is about 2 hours long. Our guide was from Germany, so it was interesting to talk to her while we rode around on the trails. There were 2 very brief (30-45 seconds) instances where she let us trot, and I felt even more comfortable doing so this time than any time before. I couldn’t wait to canter to see how I did. About a year and a half ago, I took a couple of riding lessons just to get more comfortable with trotting on a horse. In my first 2 visits to Southern Cross Ranch, when we did trot or canter, I just held onto the saddle horn for dear life. Even though the lessons were for English riding and Southern Cross is western riding, it helped because last year I was able to canter without holding onto the saddle horn, except the one time Encina would not stop and I almost bounced off her! I really wanted to see how I did with cantering this time, but it never happened. 🙁
Here are a few pictures I snapped on the walk back to the house after the first ride was complete. At the bottom of this post is a video with a collage of snippets from the trip, including our trail ride through the creek during this first ride.
I contemplated going for a swim when I got back, but it really wasn’t that hot. Last May was miserable, and I did a lot of swimming after each ride just to cool down. I decided to hang out by the pool and just relax until dinner time (an hour away).
This sweet baby was on the porch outside the dining room hall after dinner. One of the employees said he was about 13 years old now.
After dinner, I went for a walk and snapped some more pictures. I thought for sure it would rain while I was outside because of the dark storm clouds overhead (and distance thunder and lightening), but it held off. I have never been outside in wind this strong. You had to lean into it a little to keep from being pushed.
After my walk, I took a shower and decided to read out by the pool. It felt absolutely amazing outside for it to be June in the south! Because of the storm clouds passing over and the threat of rain at any given moment, no one else was outside in the area, so it was so peaceful and quiet (video snippet at the bottom of this post). I wish I had a place back home like this to sit and read at night. Words can’t describe how nice it was to sit and read and just relax like this. I really needed this.
My view as it got darker…
I finally retired to my room around 9:30, and it wasn’t long after I got to my room that it started raining. I knew our chances of trotting the next day were not good, but the first day of my trip was just so nice, I was still happy.
I woke up with my phone showing the temperature was 64° at 7 AM. For those who don’t live in the south, that is AMAZING for June! I sat in the swing by the pool and enjoyed my cup of coffee, and this little kitty stopped by and kept me company for a few minutes.
The forecast was showing a 60-70% chance of rain for the entire day, so I’m glad it actually held off while we were riding. My view while drinking coffee was so pretty.
This time, I grabbed one of the bicycles to ride up to the barn for the morning ride. If it did rain, I didn’t want to have to walk that far back in the rain. And let me just say, I cannot even remember how long it’s been since I’ve been on a bicycle, so I was a little rusty for the first minute. And they don’t make these things for short people, do they! I about fell over on the bike trying to get going because I couldn’t sit on the bike and have one foot on the ground at the same time.
I got a different horse this time because Tiffy was too slow for me. This is Shantee.
When riding the day before, the guide asked me which horses I rode last time, and I couldn’t think of any – besides crazy Encina. I completely forgot I’d posted pictures on my personal Facebook last year, so earlier in the morning on Wednesday, I checked to see who I’d rode. I’d rode Shantee, but I couldn’t remember how she’d done, so I guess that’s good. LOL Well, she doesn’t like getting behind in the group, so she walked pretty fast. I had to pull her back and slow her down a lot, so after this ride, I stuck with her the remaining 2 rides. Next time I visit, maybe I’ll get to see how her trot and canter is. Unfortunately, the morning ride was walking-only because it was pretty muddy. The horses were slipping more than I was comfortable with, so I had a few mini-heart attacks during the 2-hour ride.
Here’s a picture of the guest ranch from the back, on horseback from the pasture.
When I got back to my room, I was too tired to venture out before lunchtime, and my tailbone was beginning to complain rather loudly. So I just flopped down on the bed and tried to post a few pictures to Instagram when the Wi-Fi would actually work.
I had an easier time getting on the bike for the ride back to the barn after lunch. I stopped and snapped this picture on the way. It seems this guy thought the grass was greener on the other side.
This is Tinkerbell, one of the guide’s horses. She’s beautiful – and huge! I love the light cream color with the dark mane & tail.
One of the employees showed me how to do the knot for the girth while I was getting Shantee ready. At this place, you brush off your horse and go get the saddle, pad(s), and bridle yourself. I’ve always had an employee just do the saddling up part for me to make sure it’s done correctly. This guy showed me, and it actually didn’t look that complicated. This was a walking-only ride as well, and I just couldn’t take it a whole 2 hours. My tailbone was sore from the constant rocking back and forth in the saddle, and the trails were getting boring just walking around. I decided to leave the group and head back to the barn 45 minutes early so I could go for a good swim. If you ride the entire two hours, by the time you get your horse situated (you take off the bridle, saddle, & pads & put them away and take your horse back to where it was beforehand), get back to the house, and change into a bathing suit, you have less than an hour before meal time. Cutting out of the ride 45 minutes early let me swim a little longer and just lounge by the pool. Lord knows my legs could use more sun! I’m working up a nice tan on the arms, but I’m still white as a ghost on my legs.
After dinner, I took a shower and packed up anything I wasn’t going to need again, and then I headed to the pool to read again. This time, since there were no approaching storms, the pool had a daughter/father swimming around, playing a game. I really wanted to put duct tape over the guy’s mouth. He was louder than the child was. I think he’s one of those people who doesn’t have an “inside” voice, so I was more distracted while reading. I envy those people who can tune out the world and read. I can’t. One of the ladies I’d talked to yesterday evening stopped by to chat for a while. She was there with her 2 daughters and mother-in-law. Really sweet family! Karen and I wound up chatting for a good hour; I just love it when you meet people you really click with. I retired to my room at 9:00, and like the night before, it wasn’t long before I heard it pouring down rain. My heart sank because I knew it wouldn’t be dry enough to do anything but walking rides the next day.
I was awakened on Thursday morning at 6:20 by the sound of someone running/stomping across my ceiling a few times. Twenty minutes later, a cat somewhere close-by started meowing rather loudly. I figured it was time to get up.
This gave me time to get ready and get 90% of my stuff packed and ready to go. It was an amazing 64° outside, and this must be the little fellow that was meowing. He was in a chair on the deck when I came out of my room.
Unfortunately, I couldn’t sit on the wooden swing by the pool because all the furniture was still wet from the night before. At least all the water around the pool and on the furniture had dried by the time I got up the morning before, so I knew without a doubt there would be no trotting for the last ride.
So I decided to go for a leisure walk while drinking my coffee.
I ate breakfast with Karen and her family and then went to the office to do the whole check-out process. Fortunately, no one was checking into my room that day, so I was able to leave my stuff in my room until I got back from the ride. Once the checkout was complete, I set off on foot to the barn for my last ride.
These two furbabies greeted me at the barn. I miss having a dog. They’re such affectionate, sweet animals!
Ready for my last ride on Shantee.
Karen & I. I rode in the group with her and one of her kids, as well as another family of four.
This last ride was walking only and in the pasture only. I was actually glad for the change of scenery. My intentions were to ride just an hour and split early. However, my tailbone felt MUCH better that morning, and I enjoyed talking with Karen. Alex and I are supposed to meet up with her and her husband next month in Atlanta to try a Persian restaurant Alex and I haven’t ate at yet and have been wanting to try. We’ve heard many good things about it.
Here are some pictures I snapped during the 2-hour pasture ride.
The temperatures were perfect for the visit! If it hadn’t been for the rain preventing us from trotting and cantering, it would have been a perfect mini-vacation (aside from the not-so-great food). The temperature on my phone at one time said it was 69°. I couldn’t ask for better riding temperatures, and with the clouds offering shade while we were out in the pasture, I don’t think I even broke into a sweat.
I will definitely ride Shantee again next time I visit. She’s a good horse!
This is where the current guest horses stay.
They rotate them out about every 3 weeks so each horse doesn’t have to go out with guests constantly. Right now, the ranch has 239 horses, though I’m sure at least 15 of those are foals, and I don’t know how many are youngsters. They don’t start training them as a guest horse until they’ve reached at least 4 years of age.
Here are a few more pictures before heading home.
I was finally on my way by 12:10, making a small detour to head to Persepolis Persian restaurant for lunch. They have an amazing lunch buffet! It may not look that appetizing, but it tastes so good! The green stew stuff (ghormeh sabzi) is my favorite!
And thank GOODNESS for smart phones, Google, and YouTube! I stopped at a gas station on the way home, and I had no idea how to get the gas tank cover opened on the freaking car. So I Google’ed it and found a YouTube video!
I’m sure I would have figured it out eventually, but it would have taken me a while to look to the left of the seat towards the floorboard. I had already looked just about everywhere else, and I felt like an idiot at the gas station! I doubt anyone noticed, but still.
I made it back to the car rental company around 4:15, with a 440 mile round-trip. Even though the rain put a damper on things, it was still a much needed get-away, and it was so relaxing! Next year, I think I’m going to the beach! Now I just need to start working on losing some weight for real.