Roy Rogers had his Trigger, The Lone Ranger his Silver and Issy has… me. Hi ho! But no away.
Issy is pulling to the right while my posse heads left. Great cowboy me.
The outlaw will be safely out of Dodge before I even get a trot on.
My home, home for today is on The Home Ranch, above Steamboat Springs in Colorado where Cowboy Mike is trying to teach me how to ride.
The problem he tells me is that I’m pulling back instead of releasing the reins and I’m confusing poor Issy.
She should be in charge.
And isn’t that always so?
And then, all at once, gently, graciously, Issy decides she is ready, and steers me across HER ranch.
In the foothills of the majestic snow-capped Rocky Mountains.
The sun is beating down on the Western plains and I have no place to get to and I’m gettin’ there slow.
If this is what they call the pioneering spirit, then saddle ’er up and call me Jimmy.
Another Jimmy, Civil War veteran Colonel James Harvey Crawford was brimming o’er with pio- neering spirit too back in the day in Missouri.
After reading in his local newspaper of a hermit with a story,
Joseph Westcott, who lived among the Ute Nation in the North-west Coloradan valleys below the Rockies.
Way out West
And waxed lyrical to the reporter who came upon him in his travels about his idyllic surroundings.
Reading of the reporter’s adventures that day, James Harvey Crawford decided to uproot his family and go in search of the fabled hermit.
You can learn more at the Tread of the Pioneers Museum about James and wife Maggie, who discovered the hot springs.
It is quite a story of how they built the community of Steamboat Springs where we’re staying.
And you’ll also learn about Edward Curtis who came to curate the life of the Ute Nation in the early 20th Century.
And whose photographs and narrative were lost to us for decades, until they were unearthed in a Boston bookstore cellar in the Seventies.
Then there’s agent Nathan Meeker whose zealotry almost destroyed the Ute way of life. Thankfully, he failed, and the Ute now thrive in Southern Colorado.
But what of the New Pioneers, Carl Howesen, the Flying Norseman, Barnum & Bailey’s Ski Sailor who brought ski jumping to Steamboat?
And of the Olympic ski champions, among their number Billy Kidd (no, seriously).
Alas, we do not get to stay Home, home on The Home Ranch.
Where the deer (we spy one crouching by a tree on our horse trek, she didn’t bat an eye lid) and my horse Issy and her friends roam.
At $8,000 a week for a couple with every frontiersman’s activity included, you’d better hope you win the lottery.
But we did get to view the Western-themed cabin rooms with their ‘take-home with you’ views of the Rockies.
If they had ever thought of placing TVs in the rooms they just as quickly dismissed the idea.
And just as well too, although if your kids want to stay connected to the unreal world (families of four can stay for $15,000) then there is wi-fi!
We hardly slummed it though, staying in the comfortable Holiday Inn in Steamboat.
Spring into action
The power showers are reviving, although I would recommend bathing outdoors.
In the Colonel’s hot-water natural springs under the starry Colorado skies.
It is the perfect way for a cowboy to ease his saddle sores after a day riding the plains.
I only hope though that Issy is enjoying a good relaxing wade in the cool Rocky Mountain waters.
We also get to enjoy the Embassy Suites in Boulder and the Elizabeth Hotel in Fort Collins where you’ll even get a record player in your bedroom.
So, what of hipster university town and home of Mork & Mindy, Boulder?
I’ve got this covered
It is a gentle coach ride from Springboat, a pleasant ride through gorgeous country.
Even better on board Issy. Maybe next time!
We were more than happy though with our driver Michael who was calm and charm personified.
As he drove us along this enchanting route and stretched his time schedule to breaking point to let us to take shot after shot of the Rockies.
Being greeted as Sir may seem old-fashioned in our overfamiliar age.
Here for the beer
But mannerliness is just the Colorado way.
We found it in Avery where brewery beer archaeologist Travis (I want his life) and Park Rangers Josh, Wade and Dakota entertained, exercised and fed us in Eldorado Park.
And in the sumptuously bearded Mike (it’s a mountain name) and David.
They welcomed us to Chautauqua Park and the Flatirons, the five rock features that were thus named by the pioneering women who settled here.
Coloradans, I figure, must have been first in line when God was giving out the gifts.
Handsome, charming, sporty (old or young, they can rock-climb free-hand, buck broncos, ride horses, ski, of course, kayak and raft, and more of that later).
And cook. Man, can they cook.
In fact, every second adventurer seems to run a restaurant when they’re not out conquering the Great Outdoors.
Back Indoors and Laid-back Lenny has brought us chi latte, in his Tajikistan Dushanbe Teahouse.
The Teahouse is a cultural curio, a gift from Boulder’s twin city in the former USSR (who knew?).
In the interests of of internationalism, I am working on getting him to put Lyons and Barry’s on the menu too.
Lenny and his fellow Coloradans truly are culinary pioneers.
Clark, of bespoke dining experience, Local Table Tours shows us more on his grub crawl along Pearl Street.
Fennel salad in one, shrimp in another, all washed down with the best Colorado wine and their famous IPA craft beers.
Each pit stop throughout Colorado has a dish you’d want to take home with you.
Salt & Lime in Steamboat restored my faith in Mexican food after a student summer selling tacos in Boston.
While Dakota’s rhubarb cookies were another highlight and one I vow to make (or get the Indomitable Mrs M to make).
I take a turn, as unlikely as that is, at baking in Fort Collins, in Ginger & Baker.
Bake me a cake
Under the watchful eye of Deb who takes guests for a class and then serves you up your own creation after your meal.
A real slice of American pie.
While these new pioneers of cooking and baking continue to make waves in their crafts, it was time for us to make ours.
On the very French Powder river where trappers transported hides and furs on flimsy wooden rafts in days of old.
Thankfully, we have modern rubber rafts and we have safety in numbers…
Seven of us clinging to the side of our tub rowing like Furies, as the river rocks us.
We finish our day as all cowboys do, drinking beer, eating beans, singing and dancing by a camp fire.
Or in the absence of that, on the coach to the airport where the Chinese members of our party lead us in bus karaoke.
Taylor sings Fly Me To The Moon, ably accompanied by Sarah and Coloradan Jennifer, our new family for these three days.
Before Chinese Judy channels her inner Coloradan with a rousing John Denver which I try to sing along to but find myself choking up.
Frantically looking for the words to Home on the Range over intermittent wi-fi I pass my go.
We are a party of Chinese, Jordanians, Australians, Germans, French, Danish, Canadians, Americans, of course, Irish and one Irish-Scot.
Heading out West on our wagon, singing songs and filled with dreams. We are the New Frontiersmen.
HOW TO GET THERE: Jim flew Aer Lingus Dublin-London return and British Airways London-Denver return. Try €1,461.72 as a paired economy ticket for sample dates of July 12-19 (subject to fluctuation). Irish airports allow you pre-clearance from customs before you land. (http://www.aerlingus.com).
WHERE TO STAY: The Embassy Suites, Boulder (www.embassysuites3.hilton. com), king bed non-suite room. From $249 a night (€210); Holiday Inn, Steamboat Springs (www.ihg. com) from $204.25 (€172.737), king bed, Elizabeth Hotel, Fort Collins (www.mariott.com). From $177 (€149) for king room.