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Ranch Life

HoneyTrek Rides Into Sandy Valley Ranch


Last weekend we had the pleasure of hosting our friends Anne and Mike Howard of HoneyTrek. They joined us for two adventure-filled days at the ranch.

The Howards embarked on their honeymoon 8 years ago and have been traveling and sharing their secrets to finding and enjoying the best destinations ever since. They document their adventures on, Facebook, and Instagram. They’ve also written two amazing books, Ultimate Journey’s for Two: Extraordinary Destinations on Every Continent, and Comfortably Wild: The Best Glamping Destinations in North America.

A fortuitous meet up with the proprietors of our tiny houses and tipis at the Glamping Expo, helped facilitate Anne and Mike finally making the trip to the ranch.

After spending a few days at Joshua Tree National Park and the nearby Mojave National Preserve, HoneyTrek rolled in with their 1979 Toyota Sunrader nicknamed “Buddy”. They were set up in our newest tipi called Raven’s Nest.

We all enjoyed a great dinner at the ranch house and we started the next day with a trail ride over the mountain. After a nearly two-hour ride Mike and Anne wanted more and finished up with some team cattle penning. That’s a lot of riding for anyone, but HoneyTrek were obviously no strangers to riding a horse and looked like legit wranglers.

A big thanks to Anne and Mike for joining us and everyone at Sandy Valley Ranch for making their visit so memorable.

photos: Steve Makowski

Boss Lady Interview in the Desert Companion

Marilyn Gubler - Boss Lady

The Boss Lady AKA Marilyn Gubler was recently interviewed in Desert Companion magazine. Marilyn shares some details about how she first started the ranch, as well as her experiences riding horses in the early days of Las Vegas.

Marilyn Gubler recalls the first time she hauled her horse trailer over the winding, two-lane road into Sandy Valley, a hidden expanse of working ranches, pickup trucks, and conservative rural values that straddles the Nevada-California line. Gnarled Joshua trees. Jagged mountain vistas. Wide-open spaces. It was 1997, and she realized right away that she’d found a little patch of cowboy heaven, a community where the only bar is called the Idle Spurs Tavern, where people attend church on Sunday, and not all the roads are paved.

Gubler is a Southern Nevada native whose parents helped transform Las Vegas into a major tourist destination. She’s Stanford-educated, politically connected, yet proud of that little “twang” in her DNA — and Sandy Valley was just about the finest sight she’d ever seen. “That first day, I knew this was it,” Gubler, now 75, recalls. “The whole place reminded me of the Western spirit of my childhood.” (In 1944, the year she was born, Las Vegas counted barely 10,000 residents; during her childhood, cattle thundered down her street, and she and her girlfriends occasionally rode their horses to school.)

You can find the full interview here.

An Old Friend Returns

Shinichi was one of our fledgling ranch’s first guests, first joining us as a young man many years ago. Recently, this tall handsome medical doctor re-appeared from Japan at our Ranch House door, and we were speechless. He looked like he had just materialized from the West of the 1800s. He came to do our Cowboy for a Day adventure, which he has done many times before.  He loves spending a day actually living a cowboy’s life, complete with the excitement of driving an unruly herd of cattle across the rugged Mojave Desert.

The Cowboy passion Shinichi shares with us has brought him back several times, each time leaving us with wonderful memories.

Shinichi, we salute you.

What the Heck is Mexican Rodeo? 

Although I had been involved with horses since I was a small child I had never seen a Mexican rodeo or met anyone that did Mexican rodeo. I didn’t know it existed, until about 10. years ago. That is when one of my employees took me to one. I was mesmerized. I was fascinated. I loved the music. I loved the beautiful costumes. I loved the gorgeous horses. I especially appreciated the entire families with grandmas aunts uncles and lots of kids all together celebrating their culture. I was hooked.

So we built a Lienzo (a Mexican rodeo arena), got it certified by the Federation National de Mexico and have been doing rodeo ever since.

Here are pictures of our men’s and women’s teams. You’ll see what I mean by beauty and pageantry.

A Day in the Life of Jimmy

Jimmy (James) Shannon is our longest standing employee. He’s been with us over 17 years. Have a mechanical issue…he’s your guy. Want a big hole dug…yep. He and his dog Zeus are on the big Case digging machine in a minute. Have guests who want to do some shooting…he’s right there.

Today I needed 2 sinks plunged and a very heavy Native-American totem made especially for the Ranch hung in my dining room. A dear Native-American friend of ours created it.  It’s a horse skull beautifully and brightly painted and adorned with sage smug sticks. It’s guaranteed to detect negative energy so we can avoid it.

I gave Jimmy a call and he appeared in minutes ready to work.

Thank you Jimmy.


Sandy Valley Ranch Escaramuza


We are very excited about our escaramuza team! What is an escaramuza team? You ask. It is a group of eight women wearing beautiful Adelita dresses so full that they cover the backs of their horses. They perform intricate drills on horseback. And they do this riding sidesaddle.

The escaramuzas are the tenth event of a Charreada or Mexican Rodeo. The tradition goes back hundreds of years to the Mexican war of independence against Spain. The Mexican army was sadly out numbered, out horsed, and out gunned. So the women were enlisted to ride out and create dust to fool the Spanish army into thinking the Mexicans were coming from that direction when in reality they were attacking from behind. Women to the rescue hundreds of years ago, and the tradition is lovingly preserved.

Our team is one of 197 teams in the US and one of only 8 of those teams to be invited to the world finals of Mexican rodeo in Hidalgo Mexico. What an amazing accomplishment!!! They are only a three-year-old team and were competing against teams that have been in existence for decades. Plus they had to use borrowed horses because it wasn’t feasible to import their own horses.

Watch this link and you’ll know why we are so proud!!! WE LOVE YOU CORONELAS DE SANDY VALLEY RANCH!!!!!

We Love Our Guests

One of the things I  love most about Sandy Valley Ranch is our amazing guests.  We have had people from all over the world come and enjoy our little piece of the great American West. 

If they stay the night in one of our tiny houses or our covered wagon, Tommy D and I get to join them for a BIG Ranch breakfast.

Afterwords  we take them down to the corrals where they can pet Fireball, one of our two huge rodeo bucking bulls. Have you ever been licked by a 2000 lb bucking bull?  It’s not for the squeamish. At Sandy Valley Ranch you can join that elite club. Just don’t shake hands with  anyone right after. I’m proud to say I’m the one who trained Fireball to lick. (That’s what we call a cowboy fairy tale).

One of our favorite regular visitors is from the UK. He is unique in that he was born with no arms. You can imagine that the first time he walked in, we were pretty amazed, shocked even. But no worries,  It doesn’t slow him down one bit. He’s a wonderful rider with great balance, and gallops so well on Chex that Luis can hardly keep up.  Fortunately Luis managed to catch up long enough to film this. 

We’ve hosted some fabulous riders from the Middle East, Dubai in particular.  One was an endurance rider. We took him on a 2 hour gallop over the mountain.  

This is not to say everyone who comes out has to be an experienced rider, or have no arms. A French family showed up a couple of evenings ago with 8 year old Olivia. The adults all rode and we popped my grandson’s little saddle (he’s 5) on our mini horse Rock Star. Rocky for short, but shhh. He thinks he’s a big horse. Check out her big smiles. What’s not to love?

Hola Diablo

My son-in-law, Timothy, who “wrangles”  our website, has told me that we need to have a blog on our website. Since I’d rather be on a horse than at my computer I was tempted to say phooey, but then good judgment kicked in. So here goes….

We have a charming little petting zoo on the ranch that houses chickens, pigs sheep and goats. The goats are real characters, and they reproduce like rabbits.  We had five babies this spring so if anybody out there needs a goat give us a call.  My son Matthew did manage to put one of them to good use as a goat scarf.

Apparently five more goats wasn’t enough, so when I was out riding and saw a really beautiful longhorn goat at the ranch across the street, I just couldn’t resist and bought him. 

What do you think???

I should have known better. People say pets tend to take on the characteristics of their name and that’s true. It didn’t take Diablo a week to destroy the beautiful Victorian street lamp that I had in the pen. After taking on that little job he commenced to butt the heck out of his galvanized water trough. It’s done for.  

Finally Luis, our head wrangler, came up with a good use for the rascal.