Rocking Horse Ranch review – Spring 2013

My family and I went to Rocking Horse Ranch in Highland, NY from Sunday 3/31/13 to Tuesday, 4/2/13. Overall we had a great time and would definitely go back again. I was a little apprehensive about going, since a friend had gone and complained that it was “boring and old,” but that wasn’t our experience at all.

We left Long Island around 11 AM and arrived at the ranch around 1 PM. Check-in was scheduled for 4 PM, but we got our room number around 2 PM. It’s important to keep in mind that on your check-in day, breakfast and lunch are not included, but dinner is. We were aware of this (RHR states this plainly) but when we were eating lunch on our check-out day, we saw lots of people who had just checked in trying to get in for lunch and acting shocked that they couldn’t (on your check-out day you have breakfast and lunch, but not dinner, so you get all the meals you’ve “paid” for).

So we checked in, parked the car, and walked around. The snow tubes were open and we spent about an hour doing that. My wife, 7-year-old son and I LOVED the snow tubes. There’s a conveyor-belt lift that takes you up the hill (maybe a 3-5 minute ride) and there was no line at the top. It was our first time doing anything like that, and it was around 50 degrees so the snow was kind of slushy and not super fast, which was great for newbies, and also meant we didn’t have to bundle up in full winter gear.

After that, our room was ready so we went and checked in. We stayed in room 220, with some friends staying in adjoining room 222. There was a shared door between the rooms and our kids loved that. The room itself wasn’t anything special, but was adequate. There was ~32″ Dynex LCD TV and a Cablevision cable box. The TV isn’t connected to the cable box via HDMI, and we didn’t get HBO, which wasn’t a huge deal except that Sunday night was the season premiere of Game of Thrones, and I’d hoped to watch it, but I had it DVRed at home so that wasn’t a big deal. The only time the TV was on was right after we woke up or right before bed, so that wasn’t really a big concern. There were two queen beds in our room. In terms of comfort I give the bed a C+/B-. There weren’t enough pillows (two per bed) and they weren’t fluffy, which led to neck pain and bad sleep. If we go back I’ll probably bring my own pillows.

After checking in and unloading the car, we played a short game of baseball in the field next to our building. Gloves, bats and balls are all free to use. We then went back to the snow tubes for another hour or so. After that we went to the bungee jumping area where the kids had a great time jumping up 20 feet in the air and doing flips. We then headed over to the Fun Barn (about 40 feet away) where there was an inflated bouncy house, foam-ball-shooting “arena,” makeshift badminton court, “infinite” rock wall to climb, and three or four ping-pong tables. The adults played badminton for a half-hour or so while the kids entertained themselves. We then went to the 5 PM dinner.

One of the complaints I’ve seen about RHR was the food, and this is one of the things that worried me. Fortunately I found these complaints unfounded. The food spread was impressive, and the quality was good. The main entrees for Easter Sunday were lamb, ham, and prime rib. I had the ham and prime rib and both were very good/excellent. Other items available included a vegetable medley, fresh mashed potatoes, basmati rice, beef barley soup and a full salad bar. For dessert there were lots of cakes and pies. Most of the stuff was very good, and the prime rib was excellent.

After dinner, we took the kids to the pool. The pool isn’t huge but we had a good time. The main pool is about 2.5 feet deep on the shallow side, and 4 feet deep on the deep end. The deep end has some floating blocks that kids can try to cross by jumping from block to block while holding on to an overhead rope – they enjoyed that. In the upper level of the pool area is a mini water-park for young kids (mainly 5 and under) and a huge water slide that goes outside the building. The entrance to the main slide is about 4 storeys up, and the kids got a great workout going up and down. I think my son went up 30 or 40 times the first night. Needless to say, they loved it. After we got the kids in bed, my wife and I went down to the lobby (“The Hunt” room) where there’s a coffee machine and a selection of muffins and pastries available all night and had a quiet cup of coffee.

For breakfast the next day it was a buffet again. The breakfast selections included fresh fruit, scrambled eggs & huevos rancheros, bacon, sausage, pancakes, french toast, corn-beef hash and home-fried potatoes. You can also order eggs from the kitchen however you want – omelets or sunny-side up, etc.

After breakfast we walked around a bit, made our reservation to go on the horse trails, then went on the paddleboats for a little while. This was fun, but it was still kind of cold. After that we played a round of 9-hole mini golf. The mini-golf course was actually pretty good compared to some of the ones I’ve played. I forgot to get a scorecard but fortunately there are plenty of iPhone apps that make keeping score easier than using the little pencil & card. By now it was time for lunch already so we headed back in.

Lunch was a buffet and consisted of a full salad bar, a tray of cold-cuts to make your own sandwiches, hot dogs, hamburgers (with a nearby fixins bar), french fries, mac & cheese and other staples. One review I read said the hot dogs were “dried out” but that wasn’t the case for me. They weren’t exactly fresh off the grill but they were fine.

After lunch I went on my horse ride. I hadn’t ridden a horse probably 25 years so I went on the beginner trail. It was great and my horse (Rustler) was nice, though I had to keep him away from the horse in front of me. It was cold though, and I was only in a hoodie, which was stupid, but it had dropped about ten degrees since the morning. The ride was about 45 minutes to an hour.

After that we went back up and did some more snow tubing, then went on a horse-cart ride, during which time we chatted with one of the employees who works in the stables who was very friendly. I should mention that all the staff we encountered while we were at the ranch were extremely friendly and helpful, which really contributed to the overall great experience we had. After that, the kids went back to the pool and then we went to the 7:00 dinner seating. Dinner was from a menu, and I ordered the flatiron steak, which was thick and good, and the chicken orichiette, which was mediocre. The sides were mushroom crostini and baked artichoke dip, both of which were good. The buffet tables had mashed potatoes and other sides and the salad bar open. In addition to the previous night’s desserts there was an ice cream station with a make-your-own-sundae section.

After dinner, we went downstairs where a DJ was having a dance party for the kids. At 9:30 there was a magic/comedy show that was also great for the kids. We went back to the room and went to sleep around 10:30 or 11.

On day 3, we went to breakfast and then hit the pool for a little while, then checked out and loaded up the car. The kids played on the playground for a little bit, and then we went down the snow tubes a few more times. Since it had dropped down to 30 degrees overnight the tube rides were MUCH faster and more exciting than Sunday and Monday when it had been in the 40s and 50s. After that, we had a quick lunch and headed home.

This was our first “formal” vacation in two years and as I said, I was a little worried based on some of the reviews I’ve seen online, despite RHR’s 5-star rating on TripAdvisor. But my whole family had a great time, and as I said, we’d definitely like to go back, but maybe during another season. Being on the edge of winter & spring may not be the best time, since it’s too warm for the real winter activities and too cold for others, and minute-to-minute you might be too hot in your coat or too cold in your hoodie.

As I said, the staff was excellent – friendly and helpful. The room was ok, not wonderful, but I wasn’t expecting a palace. The food wasn’t exactly gourmet (not that I’d want or expect that on a horse ranch), but was overall very good. I should mention that the chef was very accommodating to my wife’s gluten allergy – if you have any kind of allergy make sure to tell them this when you book your reservation and speak to the chef when you arrive. My only complaint about our experience was that it was rather expensive (it came to about $1200 for our 2-night stay), but since we had such a great time I can’t complain about that too much — I’d rather pay extra for a great time than save a few bucks and have a miserable time.

Hurricane Transistor Radio

With hurricane Irene passing through this past weekend I quickly shopped for an AM/FM radio. I found this one: Sony ICF-S10MK2 Pocket AM/FM Radio. Cheap, runs on 2 AA batteries, and worked great. A++, would buy again. I actually bought 2, one for my mom. I ordered them on Friday and paid the $8 to bump each one up to overnight with Prime, and they were both delivered Saturday morning. Unfortunately I wasn’t home to receive it, and the package weathered the storm on my front step.

Times like these you learn the real value of low-tech. iPhone, useless. The only way of getting information was this wonderful $10 AM/FM radio. Thanks Sony and WLNG!

Chaos theory and Google’s crawler

I’ve been moderately perplexed by the recent spike in traffic on basically unrelated keywords. Apparently this site is currently the #5 result for “fedora 15 beta download” despite my having never written about Fedora 15. In an attempt to funnel people to a useful page I created the previous post with links to the FC 15 ISOs. I feel bad if people come here looking for an answer that’s not to be found.

In looking into this issue I searched Google for the keywords and saw this: is blockable is blockable

There’s a “Block all results” link under my site, but there’s none under any of the other sites. What the hell? Does my site somehow qualify as a spammer or content farm? Why do I get this dubious distinction? Ugh.

My first trip to Walt Disney World – March 2011

Last week I returned from my first trip to Walt Disney World. We had a great time, and I figured it might be helpful to relay some of the things that helped make the trip better.

  • Walt Disney World with Kids 2011 – I had my doubts about this book but it had lots of good info for someone who’s never been to Disney World before, like which rides are best for kids. If you’ve never been to Disney World, this is worth reading. I didn’t know Fastpass existed until I read this.
  • Disney World Wait Times Free iPhone App – GPS-integrated iPhone app with wait times reported by other app users. Very helpful.
  • Disney’s own mobile phone site – Disney’s smartphone page. They have wait times here, but I found them to be pretty inaccurate. E.g. the page may say a wait time is “see now” (i.e. no wait) but there’s actually a 15 minute wait. However, this page was very useful for finding character locations and Fastpass availability.

The best tip for maximizing park enjoyment is to get there as early as possible. We got to Magic Kingdom at 8:30 AM, which was already kind of late compared to the book’s suggestion of arriving 30 minutes before the park opens, but the lines were pretty moderate and we got almost everything we wanted to do (Dumbo, race cars, Philharmagic, Buzz, a few others) done by noon and spent the rest of the day walking around exploring.

Update: I forgot to mention that if you stay at Disney’s resorts, there is no wifi internet. This was a big shock to us, since the hotels we stayed at on the way down (and up) all had free wifi. Disney’s resorts charge $10/day for internet access, which is available through a single ethernet port in each room. There are usually a couple of ethernet ports, but only one works for data (the phones use RJ45 connectors as well). This was pretty annoying because we had two computers and only one port, and the 3G signal in our room was pretty weak so I would have liked to connect my phone to wifi. If you want wifi at a Disney resort, I suggest bringing your own router. I’ve been having good luck with the TP-Link TL-WR841ND Wireless-N router, which Amazon usually has for under $40. I haven’t tried this at Disney so I can’t say for sure it works, but it’s worth a try if you want wireless.

Back to Cablevision (upcoming downtime)

So the credits are finally wearing off my FiOS bill. I was paying $49/month for about 8 straight months for all 3 services plus HBO & Cinemax (a ridiculous price) with great phone & internet, plus HMDVR and 2 boxes. My most recent bill was $127 which includes a $40 credit that ends this month, so next month’s bill will be $170 or so.

Cablevision’s been beating down my door for weeks to come back, but they couldn’t come close to the deal Verizon had given me so it was easy to fend them off. But after this recent bill I gave them a call and signed up for the Optimum Triple Play. They have a special deal for people coming back from FiOS: $69/month for all 3 services plus Boost (30/5 Mbps) and a DVR. I added another box and HBO and it came to $100.30. So as of Friday I’ll be on Cablevision and this website will probably be down until I find a new home for it – maybe

I'm pissed.

Learned something today that pissed me off. Makes me wish I had an anonymous blog so I could actually bitch about it.

I’m pissed.

Learned something today that pissed me off. Makes me wish I had an anonymous blog so I could actually bitch about it.