USA Escorted Ranch Tour: What to know

We are getting closer to the Escorted Ranch Tour!!! This is your general information for the trip, what to pack, what to expect, timetable, and a few things about travelling to the US. The information is written for those who have not travelled before/recently inside the US. If you have then some of the information will seem a bit silly and overboard – but if you haven’t it’s nice to be aware of what you might encounter.

You will also receive our waiver – you can either sign/scan/email or sign and bring it with you.


Helmet or Hat:

Riding with a helmet or a hat is completely up to you at the Ranch. Please note: there are NO riding helmets provided at the Ranch, if you prefer wearing a helmet for riding you will need to pack your own (or you can ship it there/back or purchase a new one online and have it shipped to Ranch before). Double check what your insurance states about riding with helmets as well.

What to Bring to The Ranch:

1. Slick soled boots (Western or English) or slick soled shoes with a heel for riding.
2. Layers for clothing while at the Ranch is a must – weather can be changeable. Long sleeve cotton shirts are great as they are cool but offer better protection from sun, insects and brush.
3. Jeans or riding pants & clothes
4. Hat is a must! If you are wearing a cowboy hat you will need stampede strings (can be purchased in Salt Lake – they keep your hat from flying off). A baseball cap is fine and practical.
5. Riding helmet if you prefer to wear one while riding.
6. A light jacket in case of wet weather. No disposable ponchos while horseback riding – they flap and may spook the horses.
7. Sunscreen, lip balm and insect repellent. You will find you can burn quite easily at high altitude.
8. Phone/Camera, extra memory card (Ben will be taking photos too).
9. Water bottles (a ‘sip top’ one is very handy)
10. Any medication you may need. If you have any ongoing
conditions we should be aware of – please inform us before the trip. This information will be confidential.
11. The Ranch and most hotels have laundry facilities.
12. We will stop in Elko for any special snacks or drinks you might like while at the Ranch.
13. If your family needs to get hold of you in an emergency via phone while at the Ranch: 775-472-0453 is for the lodge.
14. There is wifi at the ranch – so you can catch up on life at home and make your friends jealous with a few pics.
15. The Ranch does not serve alcohol, but is BYO – we will stop in Elko for people to buy what they would like to drink
during the week. There is no drinking of alcohol prior to any horse activities.


Feel free to bring your camera along. We will also have a camera with Ben at all times to capture the trip – we will give you a photo USB afterwards so you all have a good memory with yourself in the photos (not just behind the camera).

We will also be updating our Instagram/Facebook Fans with photos during the trip. If you would rather not be pictured on social media – please let us know ahead of time.

For your own social media photos – use #escortedranchtour


Dietary & Medical:

Please let us know, if you have not already, of any major dietary issues and allergies that the Ranch kitchen should be made aware of beforehand. Also, you will see on our attached waiver, a part with medical conditions – this will be kept totally confidential and should only be something that Ben might need to be aware of in case of emergency while out riding (eg allergy to bees…we do not need to know any private issues).

Airport & Flights:

Just a few reminders if you have not flown to the USA recently…

You are not allowed to carry liquids larger than 100ml in your carry-on luggage. If you do take some small items in your carry on, these must all be in a clear ziplock bag. If you like to have your own water on the flight you can take an empty drink bottle through security and fill it at a water fountain on the other side (bottle fill up stations near bathroom in Auckland Airport) – alternatively you can buy water inside the terminal before the flight.

**Just a note – when we flew out of Auckland in Feb the line in security was massive and it took us 3hrs from drop off to gate where we boarded straight away. Check with your own friends/family or online for security times in May**

You will be flying into SFO or LAX, which both are on a huge scale to the cute little Auckland Airport so I thought I would pop down a few things to expect. When you arrive from Auckland you will go through US Immigration. They now have machines, where you enter your own details and scan your own passport, take your own finger prints and photo. If you have not visited the US in the last couple of years, you may be guided through to a person. It all looks very overwhelming (as there could be 1000 people in line) but stay calm – you move through pretty fast.

You will need to write down an address in the US, so you can use the ranch:
Cottonwood Ranch
Oneil Route,
Wells, NV 89835

If you do talk to an immigration person – expect them to be very serious (even if you make a joke about your ‘bedhair’ having just hopped off a 12hr flight). After Immigration you have to retrieve your luggage and go through customs – please declare ANY food items – same as in NZ, packaged items are fine to bring, but declare everything. Fruit/vege/meat is no-no in California! 


The majority of meals from the time you meet Ben in Salt Lake City to the official end of the Ranch Tour are covered in your package price. There are just a couple that you are responsible for – listed below.
Sat 25th – lunch in Salt Lake City 
Sun 26th – lunch in Elko
Sat 1st – lunch on the road to Salt Lake
Sat 1st – dinner at Rodeo

Fort Herriman PRCA Rodeo:

The Fort Herriman PRCA Rodeo is part of a 3 day celebration. Ben will take you to the Rodeo on Saturday late afternoon. You will be able to purchase fair type food there if you want for an authentic experience.
You will be asked to stand for the National Anthem and take your hats off (do this). The crowd will probably have a hand over their heart as they sing (you don’t have to do this and you do not have to sing – just be respectful). If you go to any sporting event in the country they will start with this and I always find it moving how patriotic it is – I think NZ misses that a little bit.


Meet Up:

The first night you will be staying at ‘Tru by Hilton’ Salt Lake City Airport, 206 N Jimmy Doolittle Road, Salt Lake City, UT 84116, Ph 18017833170. They have a free airport shuttle from Salt Lake International Airport (this may be a combined shuttle for other hotels). Head out to the airport shuttle area and check for the ‘Tru’ sign on the shuttle.

We will have all the rooms ready and assigned in your name at check-in. 


Fri 24th – Meet Ben in hotel lobby at 5:30pm, ready to head to the welcome dinner
Sat 25th – Shop till you drop with Ben in Salt Lake City Western Stores, after lunch you will start the trip to Elko, check in at hotel, meet Ben in Lobby at 6pm for dinner
Sun 26th – breakfast at hotel, pack up and head to Cowboy Gear and Arts Museum. After lunch we will tour and shop at historical JM Capriolas before heading to the Ranch
Mon 27th – Riding week at Ranch
Sat 1st – Breakfast, pack and leave ranch for Salt Lake City, check in hotel, meet Ben in Lobby at 5:00 ready to head to dinner and the Rodeo
Sun 2nd – Breakfast, pack up and leave hotel
**Apart from the very first dinner – meet up times are subject to change and up to Ben – he will let you know**

Hotel Breakfast:

Breakfast is included at most hotels in the US. Sometimes this can be excellent and sometimes this can be ‘interesting’. Some hotels have a full cooked breakfast, others have self service with different cereals, yogurt, toast/muffins, pancakes/ waffles, fruit, some hot items (perhaps eggs/sausage), juice and of course the American standard….. COFFEE!!! If you happen to be a tea drinker – its wise to bring your own tea bags.

Shopping in Salt Lake City & Elko:

We are going to have Saturday morning in Salt Lake City where Ben will take you to a couple of ranching tack & clothing stores. Saturday afternoon we will drive to Elko, which is 3.5hr drive time – Ben will make stops along the way – including the famous Bonneville Salt Flats (where our own Kiwi Burt Munro raced in 1967, broke the world record which still stands today). Sunday you will get to visit historic JM Capriola’s in Elko where they make spectacular gear. 

Altitude Sickness:

Us Kiwis living at sea level can sometimes feel Altitude Sickness. Salt Lake is not very high (4200 ft), Elko a little higher (5000 ft), and the Ranch a little higher still at 5600ft. There is nothing to worry about – generally altitude sickness doesn’t occur till above 8000 ft. You may feel a slight shortness of breath if you exert yourself (like running up the stairs) as the oxygen level is less than what you’re accustomed to. Some other symptoms may be tiredness, headache or a little nausea. *Keep drinking lots of water – at altitude you actually need to drink more to keep from dehydration. A sip-top bottle may come in handy and water in hotels is safe to drink.

Cottonwood Ranch:

The Ranch is very remote and we will not be doing a trip back to town during the week – so you need to make sure you bring everything you need personally.

Wifi is available – it sometimes has quirks, but should be enough for you to use wifi calling to home and to post some photos to make all your friends jealous….use #escortedranchtour

In case of emergency at home in NZ, your family can call the lodge on 775-472-0453.

There is a washer/dryer in the lodge you can use – just double check with the chef (Joe) first to make sure he doesn’t need it.



Further Information:

In the US you will encounter ‘free refills’ of standard drinks (soda, coffee, ice tea) where ever you eat. A good waiter will see you are nearly done with your soda and bring you another before you have time to ask. You may always ask for another if you want one, feel free to check with Ben that it is a ‘free refill’ or not. Alcoholic drinks are same as in NZ – pay per drink.
A few things when it comes to drinks that I have discovered as a Kiwi (normally by trial and error) – if you ask for ‘lemonade’ you will not get Sprite, you will get old fashioned lemonade (which is actually delicious). If you would like ‘water’ then you need to ask for ‘wader’ (with a ‘d’ not a ‘t’ – they can’t understand our kiwi accents and you will end up getting soda/coke/pepsi). Hot Tea – if you are a big English tea drinker, you might be wise to take a month off or slip a few tea bags in your suitcase, in general Americans are all about coffee and a good cup of hot tea is hard to find – however – ice tea is a must to have there, sweetened or unsweetened depending on your taste and try a flavour (raspberry ice tea is super yum).

Most Kiwis have a bit of a hard time with this concept as we are just not used to tipping – it’s just a part of life in the US. Some travelling Kiwis feel a little intimidated by it, not wanting to offend and might leave a $10 tip when $1 would be fine. The main place you will find tipping is in restaurants (anything sit down with a waiter/waitress – not fast food joints or self service/take out like coffee/sandwich shops – although I do find now their machines ask for tips).
As wait staff get paid less than minimum wage (generally $3-4 per hour) they do not have their wages built into food cost. As a general rule 15% of your meal cost should be left as a tip, you can either leave this in cash on the table, or add it to the bill. If you have an extraordinary time with great wait staff – we like to practice generous giving.
If someone carries your bag at a hotel or you use a valet parking service the general rule is $1 per bag or $2 to the valet.
We have already added in the cost of tipping to the meals we cover in your package.

Tax is not added into the cost of items on the tag price in US. Different states and different cities have different tax % rates (just to make it confusing). If in doubt – you can always take the item to the counter and ask the total cost with tax. 

Alcoholic Drinks
At the Ranch, Alcohol is BYO – Ben will stop the van in Elko at a liquor store and you are welcome to pick up anything you would like to drink for the weeks stay. The main thing to remember is no alcohol before riding and make sure you drink lots of water during the day – nothing worse than being dehydrated for a day in the saddle.