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Archive for Wednesday, April 24, 1996

COUNTRY INN OFFERS TASTE OF RANCH LIFE FOR CITY SLICKERS

April 24, 1996

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An area couple plans to open its own version of a "City Slickers" ranch near Lawrence.

Relaxing on the beach is out. Adventure is in.

And next year you'll be able to find that adventure about eight miles north of Lawrence in Jefferson County, where Mary Beth and Mitchell Stevenson are building a country-style bed and breakfast on their cattle ranch.

The Circle S Guest Ranch and Country Inn is scheduled to open next April.

So where's the adventure? It'll come from cattle drives and care and feeding of animals on the farm.

For the veteran farm hand, it doesn't sound much like a vacation. But for city folks who rarely get away from traffic jams and busy corporate life, a weekend at a ranch might be a great getaway, Mary Beth Stevenson said.

"I hope fence building is a really popular activity," she joked.

Those who have seen the movie "City Slickers" know that a working ranch with amateurs at the helm isn't always a smooth operation. Mary Beth said their guest ranch will be similar to the movie's, but visitors will be much closer to home and won't have to sleep on the ground.

"We'll have warm, comfortable accommodations. Rough work during the day, but only if you want it, and good food and a nice warm shower at the end of the day," she said.

"You can do as much or as little as you want to do," Mitchell said.

If chores don't sound like fun, visitors can try hiking or mountain biking on new trails, fishing in one of the more than 20 ponds on the ranch, tending to the vegetable garden or watching the stars, the couple said.

Mary Beth describes the bed and breakfast as a country inn with eight to 12 bedrooms. The inn will be in a valley out of sight from the road. Construction is scheduled to begin in August.

Each guest room will have a bathroom, with a whirlpool and possibly a fireplace, and will be decorated in a historic Kansas theme. The 4,000-square-foot house will have an indoor pool, library, greenhouse and living-room area.

During the winter months, Mary Beth said the ranch will continue to serve guests but may change its focus. Instead of ranching activities, the country inn will be opened to special activities, such as cooking classes, relaxation weekends or family fun, including sledding and cross-country skiing.

Mary Beth, 29, who grew up on the 1,400-acre family ranch, will teach horsemanship and other ranching duties. Her first student was Mitchell, 33, who said he learned all he knows about ranching from his wife.

Currently Mary Beth manages and operates the ranch full time while Mitchell works at an environmental consulting company in Overland Park.

In addition to peacocks, barn cats, an Irish Setter named Casey and an abundance of natural wildlife, the ranch has a herd of cattle and several horses.

The guest ranch will cater mostly to adults but will offer special weekends for families.

"I've heard a lot of people say their most memorable vacation was on their grandparents' ranch or farm," Mitchell said. "Now these baby boomers are working in corporate America and want to get back to their roots once in a while."

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