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The day of departure dawned and for once there was no rush to get to breakfast in relation to needing to sort out things for a ride. I still couldn’t have much of a lay in as I had to ensure I made breakfast as there would be a few further goodbyes for those leaving early and there is a limit to how long they serve breakfast for.

Additionally I had another reason for not wanting to be too tardy in the morning and that was the heat. The temperature rises dramatically during the day and I had a mission I wanted to undertake. The previous day I had spied my missing glove out on a trail. While it wasn’t at the furthest possible point, it would still be a reasonable trek to retrieve it. As I had an evening flight and a lunchtime check out, it would give me time to collect it, but that was not something to be done during the heat of the day.

I think some at the ranch felt I was mad, but being a regular walker, I know what to do in terms of liquids, shade and pacing. I also knew I needed to make sure the staff both knew what I was doing and knew when I had returned. Everything in place and a lot of liquid with me, I headed out of the ranch on foot for the first time. I’d been given some shortcut advice and that helped. As I walked out along a wide desert path that the hay wagons use into a quiet and unused desert (there is no riding on Sundays) my inner geek came out and I couldn’t help but be reminded of the judges in 2000AD who would take ‘The Long Walk’ into the desert, not to return. Obviously the latter part of that wasn’t on my agenda, but the landscaping and the aloneness was a clear parallel. Finding the glove wasn’t difficult. I’ve always been good with directions and bearings so I knew exactly what paths to take and with the glove back in my passion it did not take too long to be back at the ranch and checking in to let them know I was safely back.

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The missing glove

As I’d mentioned earlier, I had plenty of time before my flight and the plan was for some pool time and then to finish packing and vacate my room. I’d been told that it wasn’t being used so could take my time. Upon checking back from the desert walk, I double checked this and unfortunately there had been a change due to last minute bookings and the room was going to be needed. I was given a good period of grace and thankfully had packed most of my stuff so was able to be out of the room in plenty of time at the cost of a little bit of pool time. That was still achieved and, as they were last time, the ranch has an excellent policy for people checking out late with using other facilities to get ready so that the pool, gym, etc. can all be used even if you don’t have a room anymore.

I was leaving after midday so was able to grab a nice sandwich lunch before sorting out all my stuff and saying my final farewells to staff and friends. Some were staying for an extra week, some for some extra days. The ranches shuttle then whisked me off for what would be a final new experience for me on this trip.

Previously I have always flown in and out of Tucson. This has meant a lift to the airport. This time I was leaving from Phoenix and with that being quite a bit further I wasn’t going to be offered a lift all the way to the airport. The ranch’s shuttle does do a run to the airport shuttle stop nearby that would get me to my destination. Everything had been booked in advance so I just had to turn up to the airport shuttle’s office (a porta cabin in a car park) and check in.

Waiting inside to avoid the heat my attention was drawn towards a priest (I assume they were a priest as they had a dog collar on) also waiting. Turns out they were waiting for their lift from the shuttle office onwards rather than for the shuttle itself. What was particularly amusing was how the priest seemed to match the clichéd image that you would see in the films when they were portraying a priest as a shady character. The rather muscular gentleman who came to pick him up and the sunglasses the priest was wearing just added to that.

As we rattled along the interstate 10 it was nice to have a look around at some new scenery. I was surprised by what I noticed that I recognised. Two locations particularly stood out. One was an ‘aeroplane scrap yard’. It may not be the same one as I see on a national television promotional trailer, but it certainly had a lot of planes that didn’t look as if they were going to be flying again. The other was connected to the baseball team I follow. I had forgotten that the Angels play their spring training matches in Arizona until we drove past Tempe Diablo Stadium with its promotions for next years matches.

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Scapped aeroplanes in the distance

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Tempe Diablo Stadium

Space in the USA is not a major issue, especially if you are looking outside of the main city areas, and obviously that is where the international airports are based. Coming into Phoenix I was struck with just how large the space that they use for the airport is. Arriving at the terminal it was a struggle to even see where the other terminals were located. This is the opposite of the case in the UK where the terminals of the biggest airport are walkable with one exception, and easily visible from each other.

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Evening moon with plane heading under the transit connecting terminals.

I had a good deal of time to spend here before my flight back home, and with no connections to worry about I could have a good look around. As with all the airports I use, I had done my homework on what was on offer and had decided to do the self-guided walking tour that would take me from one end of the horseshoe shaped terminal to the other. This was useful as it takes up a good period of time and highlight good locations for photographs. The distance to be walked was measured out at just under a mile, which is a good size and one that means that the airport terminal police get around on bicycles. Thankfully the terminal walkways are easily wide enough to accommodate this without causing risk to travellers or employees. What was a nice surprise was also on the walking tour was a hall of fame for aeroplanes, charting its history with engraved images of important planes from history on the walkway windows. It was a fitting walk to have at an airport and a nice final one to take before boarding my plane.

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Window etching of a 747, the plane I would be flying home on.

As I sat on the plane, looking back on the holiday, I began to realise that with the repeat visits to the ranch, the friendships developed with staff and others, this place was becoming a ‘second home’ and the people there were becoming part of what you might consider an extended family. I know that might sound extreme, but I genuinely mean what I have said. The atmosphere there just encourages it.

2015 is going to be the ranch’s 50th year trading as a dude ranch. I can only imagine that it will make a special place even more special. One this is certain, I’m not going to be missing out on that! The only question that remains is how long it’s going to take me to book my next visit!

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