My Itchy Travel Feet | The Baby Boomer's Guide To Travel

Learning to Drive a Stagecoach in Paso Robles

2010/08/16by Donna Hull

harris-stage-lines-tommy-debby-harris

Tommy and Debby Harris of Harris Stage Lines

The vehicle creaked and swayed. I grabbed a leather handle to keep my balance as we veered around a sharp curve. Alan, riding shotgun, called down from above, “Are you okay?” What kind of baby boomer adventure is this? Why, we’re experiencing the old west on a stagecoach ride at Harris Stage Lines in Paso Robles, California.

Did you spend your boomer childhood sitting in front of the TV on Saturday mornings watching Roy Rogers and Dale Evans or The Gabby Hayes Show? Maybe you held your breath—or spilled a bowl of Cheerios on the living room floor—as the Cisco Kid raced to save the stagecoach from being robbed.

Would you like to relive those baby boomer childhood memories? At Harris Stage Lines, Tommy and Debby Harris run a ranch adjacent to the Salinas River that’s powered by horses instead of machines; but their passion is keeping the culture of the old west alive.

“We’re losing our western heritage. We’re forgetting where we come from,” Tommy Harris says as hitches up two horses to the full-sized Concord style stagecoach. The coach is shaped like an egg for a smoother ride as it rests in hand-made leather braces. In fact, everything about the stagecoach is hand-made, including the iron work. The gold leaf trim? It’s real.

On this visit to Harris Stage Lines, Tommy invites Alan to ride up top to observe what it’s like to drive a stagecoach. He grabs the reigns to both horses, then talks them around curves and through the course. After Tommy makes the first circuit of the Harris property, he briefly hands the reins to Alan.

Later, I climb inside the stagecoach. Closing my baby boomer eyes as it begins to sway, I imagine what it must have been like to travel across the Old West with four to six people crammed together in the small compartment. According to Harris, stagecoaches traveled from 15 to 25 miles before stopping to change horses. After 100 miles, the journey was over for the day.

If you’re visiting the Paso Robles area, satisfy your inner cowboy or cowgirl at Harris Stage Lines. Stagecoach rides are $200 for one to six people. The experience includes watching the horses being hitched to the stagecoach and all the Western memories that Tommy and Debby Harris have time to share.

Harris Stage Lines also offers horsemanship classes, horse camps for children and other western events.

What’s your favorite baby boomer western memory? Does it include riding in a stagecoach? Post your comments to tell us about it.

Discolsure: This travel experience was provided by the Travel Paso Alliance and Harris Stage Lines.

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A boomer travel and lifestyle authority who is exploring the world one activity at a time. Besides writing and publishing My Itchy Travel Feet, she also writes about boomer travel for My Well-Being Powered by Humana, Make It Missoula and is the author of My Itchy Travel Feet: Breathtaking Adventure Vacation Ideas.

{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

Anonymous August 17, 2010 at 2:45 pm

This looks like something everyone should do ONCE!

Reply

Jamie August 17, 2010 at 3:15 pm

I like these kinds of random adventures! I’m putting this one on my list.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
August 17, 2010 at 6:24 pm

Jamie, it’s fun. If you try the stagecoach experience at Harris Stage
LInes, please come back to post a comment about it. Thanks!

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
August 17, 2010 at 6:25 pm

Sandy, the stagecoach ride really brought history alive. Can you
imagine traveling that way? I can’t.

Reply

kerrydexter
Twitter:
August 17, 2010 at 6:25 pm

In the old west, I wonder how training went to drive a stagecoach. You’d have had to know routes and such as well as how to handle the rig…

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
August 17, 2010 at 6:26 pm

And, where to find water, what area was the safest place to stop, how
to protect yourself against bandits, just to name a few more.

Reply

Frugal Kiwi August 17, 2010 at 8:15 pm

Sounds fun for an experience, but makes my bones jitter thinking about it!

Reply

sheryl August 17, 2010 at 9:04 pm

It looks like fun – except I wonder about how this feels to those of us who are prone to car sickness..but I guess if I could take a helicopter ride up to a glacier, I could do this, right?

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
August 17, 2010 at 9:43 pm

Sheryl, I’m prone to motion sickness and I think you’d be fine. My
worries would have been about the heat and dust, especially since
ladies back then wore such heavy clothing.

Reply

Susan Johnston August 18, 2010 at 12:44 am

What a neat experience! One year at summer camp, I slept in a covered wagon, which felt very Little House on the Praire.

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Doris August 18, 2010 at 4:41 am

This looks like so much fun. I lived in California for 8 years and didn’t know that such an experience was available. A new mode of transportation I’ll just have to try.

Doris

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Anonymous
Twitter:
August 18, 2010 at 11:54 am

I think I’d rather be up top than crammed inside with 5 other people! Great info on the mileage from the old west…absolutely fascinating!

Reply

Jane Louise Boursaw August 18, 2010 at 4:39 pm

Donna – This sounds like an absolute blast! Plus I love reading anything about the Old West; I just can’t imagine what it must have been like for people traveling cross-country like this. Those women were saints!

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Jennifer Margulis August 18, 2010 at 6:32 pm

Looks like you had such a good time! It’s never too late to learn to do something fun. That’s the lesson I take away from this adventure (You always have the best adventures!)

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MyKidsEatSquid August 18, 2010 at 7:30 pm

I thought maybe you’d have a chance at the reins. What a cool experience.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
August 18, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Jennifer, glad you enjoyed reading about our stagecoach rides. We love
our adventure, too.

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
August 18, 2010 at 9:48 pm

The stagecoach lesson gave Alan a chance to be involved. I chose to
video instead, which was fine by me.

Reply

Anonymous August 21, 2010 at 6:52 am

I rode a stagecoach several summers ago in California Gold Country for an article I was researching. What fun! Our ride even had a staged hold up.

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Anonymous
Twitter:
August 29, 2010 at 6:17 pm

It looks a bit bumpy and uncomfortable for any length of time – thank goodness we can travel in more comfort these days

Reply

Dorothy March 13, 2011 at 1:12 pm

Omg I would love to do this. I’m all the way on the east coast but plan to take a trip to the west pretty soon. I also would like to see ghost towns with old “saloons.” Do you have a post for that?

Reply

Donna Hull
Twitter:
March 13, 2011 at 2:34 pm

Dorothy, I haven’t written about ghost towns yet, except for the old
mining camps that we found in Colorado’s San Juan Mountains on a 4-
wheel-drive adventure. But here’s an Arizona site that lists ghost
towns which I found by Googling. http://www.stjohnsaz.com/ghosttowns.html
. Be sure to let us know how your trip out west goes.

Reply

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