This is a tongue-in-cheek account of what happened when my dysfunctional family went horse riding in California. It’s got a dead lion, aliens, and demonic transport…
It was a long post, so I’ve broken it down into sections to help my hard-of-reading friends from Hull…
- John Wayne’s Zombie (This bit)
- Celebrity Ranch Dressing
- Our Meaty Transport
- Talking to Bob
- Do Lions Taste Like Chicken
- Should I take the red or blue pill?
Happy reading, and please let me know what you think via the comments section at the bottom of the page!
Part 1 – John Wayne’s Zombie
Whilst we were planning our California Road trip, Angela announced that we all had to try new experiences outside of our comfort zone.
The problem is I have panic attacks – even thinking about exercising freaks me out, worse still, I might be trapped with two grumpy teenagers without wifi.
Angela proposed a few options:
- Flying across the Grand Canyon – maybe, but I’ll have to sell a kidney (preferably one of the kids)
- Skydiving – no, we might die
- Angela driving on the right – no, we would die
- Cycling across the Golden Gate Bridge – maybe, cycling is better than having to walk it
- Segway tour of San Diego – yes, it doesn’t involve exercising
- Swimming with sharks – no, Angela would just scare them away
- Surfing – yes, at least we’d be safe from sharks
- Our teenagers smiling – unlikely, their faces are hormonally challenged
- Las Vegas gun range – maybe, but only if I can use two arsey teenagers as targets. (I’ll try to miss their kidneys)
While I was searching for potential experiences, Chanel, the perfume company, aired an advertisement showing a guy riding a horse through the surf on a beautiful white sandy beach.
In the advert, his gorgeous girlfriend, jumps on his horse, sniffs the lucky buggers neck, and they gallop off into the sunset.
So I thought… Just how hard can horse riding be? I know bugger all about horses, but we’d be on a beach, so I couldn’t crash it even if I tried. And unlike the rest of our California road trip, dying in a fireball is unlikely.
I imagined myself galloping along Hornsea beach sat astride a horse wearing nipple high Spanx (me not the horse). I thought the Spanx would be a good way to keep my wobbly parts under control, or I’d just look like two sumo wrestlers shagging in a duvet.
In my head, I translated the million dollar Chanel perfume advert into the East Yorkshire version.
Me: “Oi love – wanna croggy on me ‘orse ?”
Angela: “Do I have to?”
Horse: (Dude – She’s not getting on too)
Me: “Do you like my new aftershave? Its posh”
Angela: “All I can smell is seaweed and stables”
Horse: (Seriously dude – tell her to fuck off)
Me: “We’re going to ride into the sunset together”
Angela: “No we won’t, this is the East coast dickhead”
Horse: (I’m only going as far as Floral Hall)
Me: “Giddy-up horsey”
Angela: “You know how to drive this thing right?”
Horse: (FFS – I don’t get paid enough for this)
Angela: “Don’t ever say that again”
Horse: (Dude – you need to know more people die falling off horses than shark attacks – I’m just saying like…)
Nevertheless, horse riding was added to the California bucket list…
selling the dream
Unfortunately, the family had mixed feelings about the whole cowboy experience. I did a few John Wayne impressions to get them into the spirit, but I didn’t receive the support I was quite hoping for…
Amelia had no idea who John Wayne was, so I searched for his movie ‘True Grit’ on YouTube.
She appeared underwhelmed at my enthusiasm for the movies plot until Wayne’s character got called “a one eyed fat man on a horse”, then she looked me up and down and said “Ah – NOW I get it”.
I fast forwarded the video hoping to find some classic Wayne dialogue to inspire her with. Unfortunately, I restarted the movie it just as Wayne’s horse dies. In hindsight, it wasn’t the best scene to show a vegetarian.
She responded in the way disappointed teenagers do – by delivering a parental soul crushing sigh. But on a positive note, at least this time she didn’t shout out “Mum, dads being a dick again”.
Ross was as sceptical as his sister, he’s also older and has had way more exposure to my ideas. This isn’t always a positive thing. He mused over the concept for a few moments trying to anticipate how I might end up embarrassing him. After a short contemplative delay, he announced that any attempt by me to use an American accent, or referring to them as ‘my posse’, would result in one of us being left to die in the Arizona desert.
I asked him whether I could wear a Stetson and sing ‘Rawhide’, but he just mumbled something about a shallow grave – so I guess that was a no then.
The kids were worried I might embarrass them by turning up dressed up like the Lone Ranger.
I was hugely disappointed hearing them say that I ‘might embarrass’ them… Of course I would – I excel at it, it’s written into my job description as their dad. This probably isn’t going to end well when they’re picking me a care home.
Angela didn’t need persuading – I had her at the word ‘Chanel’.
When we reached Southern California, I Googled places we could hire some horses – the options were:
- The sand dunes on Pismo Beach – Where the beach had over ten miles of beautiful sand dunes stretching half a mile inland. It was so laid back, even the horses wore flip-flops.
- The Santa Ynez mountain range – Which had a cowboy ranch, 1100 acres of land, a spa, and sold wine
The kids vetoed the beach venue; The pasty-faced youth (Ross), doesn’t ‘do’ sand, and my spare kidney carrier (Amelia) was worried her phone might get wet.
Kylie’s stand-in (Angela) announced she hadn’t brought her anti-frizz serum and it would ruin her hair. The kids just looked at me and silently mouthed the words, “It’s the wine“.
So my dream of riding across beautiful soft sand dunes was scuttled, and instead, I was press-ganged into the realm of steep gradients, spiky plants, and pointy toothed critters.
On the road up to the mountain ranch, we drove through a small town and I spotted a cowboy store. It looked a bit like a Tescos Express, but for weaponised farmers.
Despite the kids protestations and the threat of being ostracised, I parked up outside store. I’d never been into a saddlery before – Hornsea shops just sell buckets, spades, and old people mobility scooters.
I was giddy with anticipation, whereas the kids just shook their heads, looked at me with pity, and went back to their phones. They muttered something about being glad the windows were tinted, and refused to leave the car.
The store looked a bit like a barn, and it had lots of cows outside – well, to be more accurate, it had the ‘outsides of cows’ dangling over some railings.
It wasn’t a tourist trap either; it was the genuine article. It sold everything a ‘real’ cowboy could want.
I was salivating… but Angela realised my dark humour Tourettes was about to kick in and immediately warned me not to say anything daft to the owner. Damn… I’d had a series of spittoon related questions lined up; ‘can you buy beginners versions‘, and ‘do they really make the ping noise like on the films…‘
Even if I had said spoken to him, I don’t think that he would have replied anyway – he’d already recognised I was just a tourist. I’m not sure what gave the game away, but I’m guessing it was my pale blue-white knees, or the fact I was carrying an enormous feckin camera.
The store owner completely ignored me, I was disappointed. I considered that if our roles had been reversed, and he’d walked into Tescos carrying a rifle, I sure as hell wouldn’t have ignored him, and I bet my legs would be just a hazy blur too as they frantically transported me down the fruit and veg aisle.
Angela took hold of my hand, and looking a lot like my carer, guided me away from the armed man behind the counter.
The store had lots of animals – all nailed to the walls, and they kept staring at me as I walked around the store; after a short while their unblinking gaze started to freak me out… It also explained why they were dead… I’d have shot the buggers too if they’d done that to me in the woods.
In one corner there was an enormous stuffed grizzly bear. It was stood on its hind legs with its arms outstretched. It also had a big snarl on its face, it reminded me of the day I forgot our wedding anniversary.
There were also hundreds of saddles, and more shiny leather straps than a Walkington swinger’s party.
bits of a cow
Angela decided she wanted to take a cow hide home. They are bigger than I imagined, but I haven’t been up close to any cows in that particular configuration before. Up until this point most cows I’d seen had been 3D and not 2D, and others were surrounded by a bread bun.
I’m not sure how she thought we could get one back to the UK. Bearing in mind we already had to sit on our suitcases to close them, taking a hide home didn’t seem feasible. But logic, and the laws of physics, have never stopped Angela previously.
“Maybe we can make some room” she said… “Amelia has got the most space“.
I agreed with her… but only if I could be the one that told our resident vegetarian we were going to dump her clothes to make room for Daisy’s anorexic cousin. …and, If I couldn’t be the one that actually told Amelia – I wanted to film her reaction when she found out.
There was £250 from ‘You’ve been Framed’ waiting for me right there…
…The idea got dropped.
The store felt so wild west-ish John Wayne could have walked in. Granted, he’s been dead for over 30 years, so he’d probably be a zombie… But that didn’t matter, they had enough small arms to hold off the ‘Walking Dead’ apocalypse.
There was lethal stuff on every wall; some pointy, and lots that went bang. More than enough to sort out a zombie – even a famous cowboy one.
I’m part magpie, part lemming, so I’m naturally attracted to anything shiny and dangerous. Sadly, I don’t have access to anything lethal at home. (not counting Angela’s Saag Aloo recipe)
Before I met Angela, I bought myself a large red penis extension in the form of a Swiss Army penknife. It wasn’t your average one either, it was feckin enormous. If Dr Emmett Brown had developed a weapon for the Hunger Games – this would have been it.
My Swiss made man tool had everything: multiple blades, screwdrivers, a fire starter, even scissors for opening the bags that porn mags come in.
The bonus prize was carrying it around in my front pocket made my willy look bigger too – win win!
From the perspective of a single bloke, my penknife had all the critical tools I needed to survive: a spork, a can opener, and a corkscrew. I just needed to add baked beans, wine, and the TV remote – and I was set for the night.
Plus – if I licked the plate clean afterwards, I didn’t need to wash up.
…and then I met Angela…
Angela replaced my ‘man tool’ with something ‘more practical’. It had a cuticle scraper and a nail file, and I HAVE to carry it around when we go out just in case she declares a ‘nail emergency’. It sits in my jacket pocket, along with her emergency lipstick and Tampons…
If I ever get hit by a car, it won’t just be clean underwear I’m embarrassed about.
That was the just start of my emasculation journey.
Angela spotted me gazing lovingly at the wonderful arsenal of ‘toys’ for sale, and immediately banned me from going anywhere near them. Its ok for her to have shiny dangerous stuff… like her car keys or saucepans, but I can’t have a f***ing sparkler without a health and safety assessment.
Some people think limiting my access to dangerous stuff is a good idea. Apparently, if Angela had access to my weapons stockpile, me and my dark humour Tourettes wouldn’t reach retirement age.
I’ve watched all the Rambo films; even the crap ones. I loved the idea of running amok through deadly swampland. All I’d have is an old tarpaulin, a mean stare, and an enormous great knife clenched between my teeth… But I don’t like spiders… If one crawled up my leg while I was holding a knife, it would just end in tears and a big scar.
So… If John Wayne’s zombie had walked into the store, someone else would have had to finish him off – I’m not even allowed a pair of scissors unless they’ve got rounded ends.
There was one obvious candidate for the job – Angela… She’s got the least to fear from a hungry zombie shuffling around mumbling “brains… brains…”