USA cowboy holiday: Bonanza, a sequel

Ride ’em cowboy: Wrangler Rich athis property. Photo: Ben Groundwater Ride ’em cowboy: Wrangler Rich athis property. Photo: Ben Groundwater

Ride ’em cowboy: Wrangler Rich athis property. Photo: Ben Groundwater

Ride ’em cowboy: Wrangler Rich athis property. Photo: Ben Groundwater

For those with dreams of embracing the wild, wild west, this is how you do it, writes Ben Groundwater.

‘Being a cowboy is a hands-on experience,” says Wrangler Rich, pausing to adjust his big hat, tipping it back to face the Nevada sun. “It’s fitting saddles, brushing horses, shovelling poop … that’s what it’s all about.”

If that’s true, then right now I’m a cowboy. I might not have a hat to match Wrangler Rich’s, but I do have a big steel brush in hand, and I’ve been stationed next to my steed, Poncho, and ordered to brush him down. It’s partly getting to know the horse, and partly getting to know being a horseman.

Scrape, scrape. I brush down a fairly nonplussed Poncho for a good 10 minutes before Rich calls me over to the shed and points out a saddle. It’s a huge, heavy leather ensemble, and it’s all I can do to heft it back out to the stable and throw it over Poncho’s back.

I’m taught how to strap it on, cowboy style. I check the fit, then walk over to the fence to grab a bridle.

This is a hands-on experience in true cowboy country. The sky is big and blue here in Carson City, the Nevadan state capital set in a wide valley below the Sierra Nevada mountain range.

Those snow-capped peaks tower above us today as we walk around the R&D Ranch on the outskirts of town.

This is the place Wrangler Rich now calls home. One of the area’s most famous cowboys, Rich was the last remaining employee on the Ponderosa Ranch, a nearby old theme park based on the Bonanza TV show. These days he’s semi-retired and runs horse-riding expeditions and quad-bike adventures from his Carson City domain.

It’s hands-on and it’s real, which presents a slight problem for me. While I’m feeling professional and calm brushing down my steed and fitting the saddle, when it comes to actually riding a horse I’m much more “coward” that “cowboy”.

Regardless, I’ve come this far, and it’s time to mount up and walk out onto that beautiful Nevadan plateau, a valley of sagebrush under a sky criss-crossed with jet-stream scars. As we hit the track, Wrangler Rich pulls his feet out of his stirrups and spins around in his saddle, sitting backwards to face me.

“Now, you don’t want to just do a nose-to-tail walk,” he says. “That’s boring! Today we’re gonna do it all. We’re gonna trot, we’re gonna canter, we’re gonna go through a river … It’s gonna be a great day.”

I’m still a little nervous, but underneath me Poncho strolls nonchalantly along. If I tilt the reins left, he walks left. Right, he turns right. Give them a little tug and he comes to a patient halt. Wrangler Rich just laughs. “Boy that horse is makin’ you look real good Ben!”

For those with dreams of embracing the wild, wild west, this is how you do it. In prime cowboy country, close to the rodeo town of Reno and the old gold-mining hub of Virginia City, Wrangler Rich offers a small slice of Western life.

True to his word, he soon has me encourage Poncho into a trot (uncomfortable), and then a canter (scary), before we approach a steep drop into the river that cuts the valley in two. It’s here that I get to appreciate just how finely trained my steed is, as Poncho allows me to slowly ease him, one short step at a time, down the ravine.

“Now you’re a proper cowboy,” Rich yelps.

But our riding experience today won’t be limited to horses. That afternoon the two of us pile into Rich’s truck and drive – to a soundtrack of Marty Robbins country and western songs – out to the mountain range behind Reno, an area home to herds of wild mustangs that we’re here to view from a couple of quad-bikes, or ATVs (All Terrian Vehicles).

Now this is a beast I know how to handle. Nevada residents love their toys, Rich says, which is why plenty of people come up here to ride ATVs or shoot their guns. The mountains are riven with rough tracks that allow us to explore for many miles in any direction.

And so off we go, the pair of us roaring through the barren, rocky hills on four-wheeled stallions, pausing every now and then as Rich spots herds of mustangs. “Get your camera out!” he yells at one point. “This is National Geographic stuff!”

Whether it’s the well-trained steeds on the ranch or the wild stallions of the Reno hills, the common thread here is Rich’s passion for horses. His eyes gleam as he talks about the mustangs, pointing out the alpha males, explaining the group behaviour, picking herds out from afar.

Rich is a cowboy to his core. And today, if only briefly, so am I.

The writer travelled as a guest of Travel Nevada.



Fiji Airways flies daily from Melbourne and Sydney to Los Angeles, via Nadi. Connections to Reno are available from LA. For bookings and information call 1800 230 150 or see fijiairways南京夜网.


The historic Gold Hill Hotel is about a half-hour drive from R & D Ranch, in Virginia City, and has double rooms from $92. See


Wrangler Rich runs horse-riding and quad-bike adventures from his ranch in Carson City, Nevada. The two-hour “Cowboy 101” horse-riding tour costs $110 a person, while wild mustang tours on an ATV cost $163. See


Reno Rodeo A local favourite, this 10-night event is visited by about 140,000 people every June. Nevada’s finest horsemen come out, and it’s a great place to take in cowboy culture. National Finals Rodeo. The nation’s top 15 horsemen competing in a range of events in Las Vegas. National Cowboy Poetry Gathering Held annually in Elko, Nevada, this celebrates the cowboy trade through poetry, music and stories.



Drive from Los Angeles to San Francisco: Take the long route

Monterey Bay sea otters. Santa Cruz’s Giant Dipper.

Hearst Castle.

California’s scenic coastal route is worth the extra time, writes David Whitley.

Kalyra Winery feels as though it’s on the wrong side of the Pacific. A surfboard decorated with Aboriginal art is proudly mounted on the tasting room wall, which looks suspiciously like an Australian beach shack. Reg Mombassa prints cover the walls, and the pinot bianco made here goes down dangerously easily.

The connection lies with Kalyra’s owners, the Brown brothers, who received their education in South Australia’s Barossa Valley before upping sticks to the Santa Ynez Valley in California’s Santa Barbara region. Kalyra got a boost when Hollywood paid a visit, too, using the winery as a location when filming the box-office hit film Sideways. The movie instantly made the wine region hip.

As first stops go on a drive north from Los Angeles to San Francisco, Santa Barbara is pretty agreeable. The city’s Old Mission church harks back to the Franciscan order that set up shop here in 1786, but the city itself is thoroughly modern and has its share of rollerbladers whizzing past yoga devotees and surfers on the beachfront promenade.

These are among the sights you’ll miss if you drive from LA on State Highway 5 for the six-hour run to San Francisco. California richly rewards those who take the long way, using the Pacific Coast Highway and US Highway 101/State Route 1 with overnight stops en route.

For much of the journey, nature provides the thrills. Birdlife teems on the Sahara-meets-sea Guadelupe Dunes. Pristine forest backs the wild surf along the Big Sur stretch of the coast.

One extraordinary sight, however, is man-made. On the hills above San Simeon lies Hearst Castle, an object lesson in how to build a dream home if you’ve got unlimited money to throw at it. It was the beloved baby of publishing magnate William Randolph Hearst, who spent 28 years adding ever more lavish touches to this pile. On trips to Europe, Hearst saw antiquities he liked and bought them. In the grounds are ancient Egyptian statues, lion fountains from the days of Richard the Lionheart, and wooden choir stalls from mediaeval churches in the Pyrenees. Rubens tapestries hang in a room where Hearst played Monopoly with fellow billionaires. Roman marbles are dotted about, almost as afterthoughts.

David Niven, just one many of Hollywood celebrities invited to stay at the estate, described the vast, temple-like outdoor pool as “an elegant place to drown”.

On a tour of Hearst Castle, the elements that drove the man become apparent, and are as fascinating the property. Hearst expected guests to have his relentless energy, organising day-long programs of activities. He was a Democrat, served two terms on Congress, and ran for the US presidency in 1904. His policy of giving women the vote is widely thought to have been his downfall. Rarely does a tour make you so eager to rush out and buy a biography.

A few miles up the coast from Hearst Castle, near the Piedras Blancas lighthouse, is a beach that you’ll have trouble stretching out a towel on. It’s chock-full of elephant seals, once almost hunted to extinction for their blubber. Visitors use the viewing platform above the beach, watching the wildlife picking fights with one another or nurturing their young. There’s an awful lot of honking going on, too – both in terms of noise and smell.

More sea life is in evidence on the waters of Monterey Bay. It’s a major stop on the whale migration route, and the big beasts are usually fairly easy to spot. But Dorris Welch, on-board marine biologist for Sanctuary Cruises, understands their reticence.

“The whales are shy when orcas are around,” she says. “They feed on the whale calves.”

Orcas may be spotted, too, and may flit around your tour boat – until they spot a harbour seal. What happens next is both a privilege and a horror to watch. The orcas treat the seal like a plaything. They stalk it as a pod, corner it and slowly tear it to pieces. This is nature as directed by Scorsese rather than Disney.

On the way back in, however, there’s a merciful dose of cute to balance out the visceral scenes of aquatic savagery. Sea otters, gorgeous whiskery faces bobbing on the water, form an adorable honour guard for the returning sailors.

For the last leg of the journey to San Francisco, a decision needs to be made. Head inland, and you’re in John Steinbeck country. Many of the Nobel Prize-winning author’s novels, including Of Mice And Men, were set in the agricultural lands around his home town of Salinas. His house and the National Steinbeck Centre are in Salinas itself.

Stay on the the coast road and you will reach Santa Cruz, as close to the archetype of seaside Californian charm as you could wish to find. At the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk, a faded hippie, surf-bum culture meets nostalgic family fun at the amusement park, where the Giant Dipper rollercoaster – a fixture since 1924 – takes visitors up high for million-dollar views before plunging.

Taking the time to go the long way between key cities in California has never seemed more right.

The writer travelled at his expense.



Qantas, Virgin Australia and United Airlines operate direct return flights from Sydney or Melbourne to Los Angeles. See qantas南京夜网; virginaustralia南京夜网;united南京夜网


Spanish Garden Inn, Santa Barbara. Rooms from $280, see spanishgardeninn南京夜网. El Colibri, Cambria. Rooms from $145, see elcolibri南京夜网. West Cliff Inn, Santa Cruz. Rooms from $200, see westcliffinn南京夜网


Most rental companies won’t charge one-way fees for pick-ups in Los Angeles and drop-offs in San Francisco (but do check before confirming the booking). San Francisco has excellent public transport, so plan to drop off the car as soon as you can.


visitcalifornia南京夜网; carrentals南京夜网

EDITORIAL: A time for calm and leadership as terrorism threats uncovered

JUST days after security officials raised the national terrorism alert, hundreds of police have swooped in Sydney and Queensland, arresting suspects accused of plotting violence.

It has been alleged that some people associated with Islamic extremist groups were urging others to commit violent acts, including – it is said – the beheading of innocent Australian civilians.

These chilling allegations will find ready enough acceptance, given the bloody recent record of the extremist movement worldwide.

It may take some time before it becomes clear how well-formed this alleged criminal intention was at the time of the arrests.

In the meantime, feelings on all sides have become even more inflamed than they already had been after Australia’s decision to join the coalition of nations involved in military strikes against Islamic extremist fighters in Iraq.

Some Muslim groups have begun organising demonstrations against the arrests, and police are warning that people who take their protests too far and who break the law will be severely dealt with.

Following on the heels of media reports of abuse and threats levelled at members of the Australian armed forces and at members of churches, all the ingredients are present for some nasty confrontations.

Nobody could criticise the police and security authorities for acting quickly and firmly to prevent violent crimes if they had good reason to believe such crimes were being planned.

Some will complain that innocent households may have been targeted along with the potentially guilty, that some innocent people may have been unfairly traumatised and that outrage at the police raids may create new activists and enemies to civil order.

If the case for the arrests was sound, however, limited collateral discomfort will be deemed acceptable, as always when preventing crime is the intention.

If tensions escalate, the heightened polarisation of the community will probably help steel national resolve to back Australia’s military action against extremists in the Middle East.

Sadly, some will regard that as a desirable propaganda goal in itself.

But the tighter the spiral of anger and distrust winds, the harder it is for moderate voices to be heard.

Indeed, such sparks as this event may sometimes start self-perpetuating conflicts like those that plague so many nations but which have been largely absent from Australian society.

This is a moment when good leadership – in government, mosque and church – can and should be called upon to calm fears and tempers on all sides.

It serves none but the narrowest and worst of interests to fan the flames of hatred and anger in times like these.

Newcastle’s Melbourne Cup bid for 2014: Protectionist, Terrubi

BACK FOR MORE: Jamie Lovett, left, and Luke Murrell at Broadmeadow yesterday. Picture: Ryan OslandTHREE years after running third with German stayer Lucas Cranach, Hunter thoroughbred syndicators Jamie Lovett and Luke Murrell are planning another European assault on the Melbourne Cup.

Lovett and Murrell, who are directors of Australian Bloodstock, are hoping to make a two-pronged attack on the $6.2 million, 3200-metre race with rising German star Protectionist and well credentialled French galloper Terrubi, but the latter is in serious doubt.

Australian Bloodstock have secured a major interest in Protectionist, and the horse’s owner, Christoph Berglar, has retained a stake.

Protectionist will remain with his German trainer, Andreas Wohler, for the Melbourne campaign before moving to the stables of premier Newcastle trainer Kris Lees.

Protectionist is a four-year-old entire by Monsun, which sired last year’s Melbourne Cup winner, Fiorente.

A winner of four races from eight starts, Protectionist has never missed a place and won the group 2 Prix Kergorlay over 3000m in Deauville, France, on August 24.

That followed group 2 success in the Hansa-Preis in Hamburg over 2400m in June.

The Prix Kergorlay has become a key form race for the Cup. Americain won the 2010 Kergorlay before going on that year to become the first French winner of the Cup.

Subsequent Melbourne Cup winner Dunaden and runner-up Red Cadeaux also came through the French race.

Terrubi, a four-year-old entire by Dalakhani, will be trained by David Payne.

Terrubi was last in the group 1 Grosser Preis Von Baden in Germany onSeptember 7, his first unplaced run in 10 starts, including three wins.

That failure followed a group2 victory over 2800m in the Prix Nieuil at Longchamp. Second in that race was Brown Panther, which won the Irish St Leger (2800) at its next start and ran eighth in last year’s Melbourne Cup.

Lovett said Terrubi was found to have a back strain after his latest run but is with Protectionist in the Newmarket quarantine and due to leave for Australia on September 27.

‘‘When they jumped he threw his head up, and when they got him back the next day they couldn’t even run their hand along his back,’’ Lovett said ‘‘They will shockwave him and he might be right in two days, or it might take two weeks, and they can’t miss two weeks’ work this time of year.

‘‘Protectionist is spot on and we hope to have two in the race, but Terrubi, we’ll have to see how he travels.

‘‘We haven’t totally discounted him. He’s such a nice horse and we’re not going to risk him if he’s not right.

‘‘We’re just going to have a look at him when he gets to Australia, see how he travels, and if he’s still sore, we’ll pull the pin.’’

The Melbourne Cup setback is nothing new for Lovett and Murrell, who have had two previous runners in the race that stops a nation.

The pair syndicated British stayer Illustrious Blue, which finished ninth in 2010, and Lucas Cranach, which was third behind Dunaden in 2011.

They had high hopes for Lucas Cranach, but an injury on race eve left them wondering what could have been.

‘‘He got a foot abscess and just wasn’t right,’’ Lovett said. ‘‘He was spiked when he twisted a plate in quarantine on the Saturday before the race, and he was never quite right after that, but that’s racing. He was a really good horse.’’

Lovett said the 2014 buys were ‘‘as good a horses as we’ve had since Lucas’’.

AAP reports: Melbourne Cup favourite The Offer will be out to make a spring statement in the Underwood Stakes at Caulfield on Saturday.

The Offer delighted connections when he hit the line strongly for fifth in the Dato Tan Chin Nam Stakes first-up, confirming his position at the top of Melbourne and Caulfield Cup markets.

Roger Elliott, trainer Gai Waterhouse’s Melbourne representative, exuded some of the confidence his boss is renowned for by declaring he would not be surprised to see the imported stayer triumph in Saturday’s 1800m group 1 race.

‘‘On his work and the way he has been, I think he is a winning chance, for sure,’’ Elliott said.

The Underwood is short of The Offer’s preferred distance as he has not won over less than 2200m.

It will be an important spring marker as he meets star New Zealand mare Silent Achiever and weight-for-age performers Happy Trails and Foreteller.

Catholic Church names Bishop Anthony Fisher as Cardinal George Pell’s successor

Bishop Anthony Fisher at El Phonecian Restaurant in Parramatta in 2011. Photo: Steven SiewertThe Bishop of Parramatta, Anthony Fisher, has been appointed the ninth Archbishop of Sydney, replacing the controversial Cardinal George Pell.

The Vatican announcement comes several months after Cardinal Pell was appointed to a newly created Secretariat for the Economy in Rome, charged with cleaning up the Vatican’s finances.

Bishop Anthony immediately committed the church to “doing better” in its response to victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests and brothers.

“Victims of abuse and all young people must come first – no excuses, no cover-ups. The Church must do better in this area and I am committed to playing a leading role in regaining the confidence of the community and of our own members,” he said.

The comments come after Cardinal Pell was widely criticised for his appearance last month at the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse, where he likened the Catholic Church’s responsibility for child abuse to that of a “trucking company”. If a driver sexually assaulted a passenger they picked up along the way, he said, “I don’t think it appropriate for the leadership of that company be held responsible.”

Bishop Anthony, while praising the “strong foundations” laid by Cardinal Pell, took a more conciliatory tone.

“The Catholic Church in Australia is going through a period of public scrutiny and self-examination. I hope it will emerge from this purified, humbler, more compassionate and spiritually regenerated,” he said.

The Archbishop-elect was born in Crows Nest and attended Catholic schools at Lakemba, Lane Cove, Ryde and Riverview. He studied history and law at the University of Sydney and practised in a city law firm before entering the Dominican Order.

He was ordained a priest in 1991 and completed a doctorate in bioethics at Oxford, before teaching at the Australian Catholic University.

“Growing up in the south-west and then the north of Sydney, working as a bishop in the east and then the west, I feel a deep affinity for every part of this wonderful city and a deep concern for its people,” he said.