VIRGINIA CITY " Most travelers in the 1800s only got a ride like this if the bad guys were chasing them.
But people today can take a short trip on a 19th-century stagecoach that can only be described as a Wild West thrill ride.
Gary and Nancy Teel operate the Stagecoach on the property of the Comstock Gold Mill, across from the Virginia & Truckee Railroad station on F Street in the historic mining town.
They have 26 acres of a route that takes visitors past the Savage mine and across the mostly flat area east of the railroad station, where Teel gets his horses going as fast as they safely can, which is about 25 mph.
With the stagecoach bumping along as those vehicles did in the 1800s, the rides seem a lot faster.
The ride lasts about 10 minutes and Teel said that's enough for most people.
"Believe me, it's all they could want," he said. "After we go down the road, coming back I open it up a bit."
Though he admits he goes a little slower if he has very small children or elderly passengers, most of the time he shows them a real hard and fast ride.
"You get a real feel for the 1860s and how they rode back then," he said. "It bounces you around. It's a piece of nostalgia that's dying away."
Fortunately for passengers, the seats in the stage are cushioned, and Teel said they were in the 1860s too, though then they probably used horsehair rather than foam.
He said he has had no complaints about the bouncing and most people enjoy it.
"You can take a ticked off and sad person and put them in that coach, and they are happy when they get out," he said. "Some of the most hesitant people get more excited and talk it up most when it's over."
The four horses that pull the 3,000-pound stage " Bullet, Pistol, Trader and Tuffy " are all paints, and between 6 and 11 years of age. Teel decided to go with paints for marketing reasons " they were flashier and attracted more attention than bays.
Teel said he thinks he is the last one in the U.S. that gives the hard-and-fast stagecoach ride.
"The one at Knott's Berry Farm has two worn-out horses and they just walk around," he said.
The 60-year-old from Oregon said he has been around horses and wagons all his life and for awhile kept his stage at the corner of Highway 50 and State Route 341, but he likes it better in Virginia City.
"It's a good place to run, easy on the horses and cooler," he said, adding that he can leave the horses in the corral at the Comstock Gold Mill as well.
Rides are $10 a person, and Teel said he would negotiate a price for a family, depending on the number and size of the children. The stage holds about six inside, and one can ride with the driver.
"People come in with a bunch of kids, and they can't afford $10 per kid, so we'll work with them," he said.
Teel said it costs $18,000 a year just to keep the horses and stagecoach, and he can only work during the summer, though he hopes to go well into October before he quits, depending on the weather. The stage runs from about 11 a.m. to about 5:30 p.m. daily.
He said his price was very reasonable, considering a person can go to a fast-food restaurant and spend $10 on a burger, fries and a drink, "but this ride will be with them in their memory forever."
- Contact reporter Karen Woodmansee at email@example.com or call 881-7351.