A big part of our California road trip was to try new things that were out of our comfort zone; like Ross smiling, or me cuddling Angela whilst sober.
While I was searching for new stuff to try out, Chanel, the famous 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, smells the lucky buggers neck, and then they gallop off into the sunset.
So I thought… How hard can that be? Its just a beach – I can’t crash into anything even if I tried, and unlike the rest of our California road trip, dying in a fireball is unlikely.
The tricky bit was I know bugger all about horses… I’m fairly sure they don’t catch fire, but I might need to wear nipple high Spanx just to keep all my bodyparts wobbling in sync.
In my head, I translated their million dollar perfume advert to the Yorkshire version…
Me: “Oi love – wanna lift?”
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 f*** off)
Me: “We’re going to ride into the sunset together”
Angela: “I’ll be pissed off if you get my hair wet”
Horse: (I’m only going as far as the pier)
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, I added it to my California bucket list…
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 found the movie ‘True Grit’ on YouTube.
She appeared underwhelmed at my enthusiasm for the 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. Unfortunately, I played it just as his horse gets shot. In retrospect, it wasn’t a great scene to show a vegetarian.
Ross was as keen on the idea as his sister, and further warned me that any attempt to use an American accent, or referring to them as ‘my posse’, would result in me being abandoned and left to die in the desert. I asked him whether I could wear a Stetson and sing ‘Rawhide’, but he just Googled ‘California sniper weapon hire’ – 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 lunch might get wet.
Kylie’s stand in (Angela) said 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 instead of riding across beautiful soft sand dunes, I was press-ganged into the realm of steep gradients, spiky plants, and critters with pointy teeth.
On the road up to the mountains I spotted a large cowboy shop. It was sort of a Tesco’s for weaponised farmers.
Despite the threat of being ostracised, I parked up outside. I’d never been into a saddlery before – Hornsea shops just sell buckets,spades, and old ladies knitting wool.
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’ hanging over the 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 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 funnels‘; ‘are they pre-filled‘, and ‘do they really make the ping noise like on the films…‘
I don’t think that he would have replied anyway – he’d already recognised I wasn’t a real cowboy. I’m not sure what gave the game away, I’m guessing it might have been my pale blue white knees, or the fact I was carrying an enormous feckin camera.
If our roles had been reversed, and the owner had walked into Tescos carrying a rifle, I certainly wouldn’t have ignored him – and I bet my white legs would be just a blur too as they rapidly transported me down the produce aisle.
Angela took hold of my hand, and looking like my carer, guided me away from the man behind the counter.
The store had lots of animals too – mainly nailed to the walls, and they kept staring at me as I walked around the store; this completely freaked 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 grizzly bear. It was stood on its hind legs with its arms outstretched. It also had a big snarl on its face like Angela 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 many cows in that particular configuration before.
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 a enormous. If Dr Emmett Brown had developed a weapon for the Hunger Games – this would have been it.
My man tool had everything: multiple blades, screwdrivers, a fire starter, even scissors for opening the plastic bags that top shelf magazines 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 added baked beans, wine, and the remote – and I was set for the night.
Plus – if I licked the plate clean, I didn’t even need to wash up.
…and then I met Angela…
Angela replaced my ‘man tool’ with something that had a cuticle scraper and a nail file. I have to carry it around when we go out just in case she declares a ‘nail emergency’. It goes 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 lovingly gazing at the wonderful arsenal of ‘toys’ for sale, and 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.
This is probably a good thing, if Angela also had access to a weapons stockpile, my dark humour Tourettes wouldn’t allow me to 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…”