If you've always dreamed of being a cowboy, then Texas is your place. However, in order to get away from City Slickers stereotypes, you should keep in mind that there are Dude Ranchescatering mostly to touristsand places like the "Bar M" Cattle Ranch. This is a working cattle ranch, where you won't see any singing cowboys, but you might actually get to "cut" cattle or hear wranglers' tales of the real cowboy life. Located about one hour's drive outside of San Antonio, Bar M Ranch is situated in Texas Hill Country and has only one guest apartment, sleeping up to four. Guests can choose to cook for themselves in the apartment's kitchen (buy provisions in San Antonio where groceries will be cheaper), or they can dine in the nearby town of Bandera, the "Cowboy Capital of the World." When on the ranch, you'll have the chance to saddle up and trot through a rolling landscape of wooded hills, pastures, and creeks. Here, in land that could be straight out of a Cormac McCarthy novel, you may be lucky enough to run into snakes, foxes, raccoons, deer, or even a prowling mountain lion.
(www.amtrak.com/holiday.html for full details)
ROUTE: Miami, FL (via Orlando, FL) to San Antonio, TX
LINE: Sunset Limited
DURATION: 43 hours (departs only on Sunday, Tuesday, or Thursday at 7 a.m.)
PRICE: $267 to $500
SCENERY: Three-hour layover in New Orleans for some leg stretching and jazz
ARRIVAL TRANSPORTATION: Rental car to Bar M Ranch. Enterprise Rental Car (1-800-736-8222) will pick up customers at the Amtrak station.
OUTFITTER: Bar M Cattle Ranch: (830) 796-9096; www.bar-mranch.com
WHAT TO BRING: Food; jeans, boots, and gloves for riding
DURATION: Horseback riding trips last one to five hours
PRICE: Horseback riding (guided by professional wranglers) costs $25 to $106 per person. Accommodation is $60 per night with a two-night minimum ($50 per night for stays of more than seven nights).
DIFFICULTY RATING: Easy
WHEN TO GO: Fall or spring (summer is very hot)
Details mentioned in this article were accurate at the time of publication