As the blazing desert sun rises over mountaintops, chasing cool night breezes into their daytime hiding spots, a lone figure steps out into the horizon. His black Stetson hat and loaded holster form a silhouette in the glowing dawn, and the quiet hush of his presence is broken by the sound of his boots crushing gravel below as he steps with purpose toward his steed.
This isn’t an ordinary cowboy. This is Cave Creek’s own Johnny Ringo. He may not be as dangerous as his famed namesake, but around these parts, he’s just as notorious. With his trademark mustache and cowboy hat, he has been raising a ruckus – in a good way – for 25 years, attracting locals and visitors alike to enjoy his romance with the West.
Ringo’s company, Johnny Ringo’s Carefree Adventures, is as unique as he is. Jeep tours may seem to be a dime a dozen, but Ringo’s excursions are not just tours: they’re experiences. The same beauty and ruggedness that lured miners, cowfolk and even ancient Native Americans to the Southwest is still alive and well, and Ringo knows not only how to get there, but how to bring the past alive.
“I love sharing knowledge of the beauty and passion of the desert landscape,” said Ringo, his eyes twinkling beneath the brim of his John B. “For those of us who live here, opportunities pass us up every single day to enjoy it, but if we keep our hearts and minds open, we can find it.”
A transplant from New Jersey, Ringo grew up watching spaghetti Westerns and dreaming of cowboy adventures. He dabbled in the corporate world for more than a few years, then traded his suit coats in for leather vests and his razor in for a mustache brush. Off he went to live his dream. It wasn’t simple, though.
He tried his luck as a starving artist, but realized quickly that the “starving” part wasn’t much fun. He came to a fork in his road and sat down to contemplate it – quite literally, in the middle of the desert. Three days in a row, Jeep tours passed him, and by the third day, he decided it was a sign. The rest, as they say, is history.
Behind Ringo’s success is a small army of guides equally as passionate about the desert. Each has his or her own character and passion, and each has gained a following among loyal fans who come back year after year.
After 25 years in the business, Ringo has seen his business and his life (it’s difficult to separate the two) come full-circle. He’s grateful to the clients who have made his business thrive. To his delight, a recent visitor booked a tour with her family, then explained she’d taken a tour years ago as a young teenager. She’d remembered Ringo and the fun they had as a highlight of her childhood, and wanted to share the experience with her own children.
Carefree Adventures may not be the cheapest operation out there, but as Ringo explains, you get what you pay for. His matter-of-fact attitude is coupled with down-home hospitality, and he and his guides work hard to cater each tour to the folks who are joining him for the day.
He lights up when he talks about experiencing gold mines, volcanoes, archaeological ruins, and other hidden treasures of our local desertscape with visitors to the area, or even with neighbors who weren’t aware of the cache within their reach.
Corporate clients are also a favorite because, as Ringo explained, “There’s nothing more fun than seeing a bunch of people who normally dress up in business suits come out here and live their childhood dreams. It puts smiles on their faces, and mine, too.”
Business trips, family outings, birthday parties, holiday events … any time of year, any day of the week is a great day for an adventure. In fact, if you’re looking for a good Valentine’s Day gift, check out Johnny Ringo’s Carefree Adventures’ “Mine, Wine and Roses” tour. No one is too young or too old to experience Johnny Ringo’s Carefree Adventures. They’re exciting, picturesque, memorable and above all, fun.
“You don’t have to drive to Sedona or the Grand Canyon,” Ringo said, sunlight softening his features and warming his laugh. “You’d be amazed at what’s in your back yard. You would be amazed by what’s out here, so close to us.”
As the sun hovers high in the noon-time sky, once again, Ringo ambles off into the distance. With the tip of his hat and his six-shooter by his side, one can’t help but wonder if this carefree cowboy just may be the real deal. We’ll leave it for the adventurers to decide.