The East Bay may be home to some of the yuppiest, chic-est, most expensive stores and restaurants in the nation, but just over the hills east and south is a thriving, hoe-down cowboy culture. Yes, they do wear cowboy boots, big hats, and embroidered shirts in this scene, and they spend weekends riding horses and line dancing.
One of the best kept secrets in this Dixie Chick universe is Hillcrest Farms (5358 Sheridan Rd., Sunol, 510-651-7208). The stunning fifty-acre ranch offers riding lessons and horse training. Located just off I-580, the stable teaches English and Western styles in individual and group sessions for cowboys and cowgirls as young as five. More experienced riders flock here too, for lessons on showing and jumping. Hillcrest has two covered arenas, one indoors and another outside, along with two round corrals. The ranch has stallions for breeding and cattle for cutting lessons.
The accoutrements for this Westworld can all be obtained at Clayton Stoves and Saddlery (6200 Center St., Clayton, 925-672-6100). This store is like a bit of the Old West just a few hills over from the Bay Area's high-tech havens. Here you can buy your stallion some apple pellets or a gorgeous, custom-made saddle, or outfit yourself with show clothes and equestrian boots. Horse owners come here for grooming products like Mane 'N Tail Conditioner and Cowboy Magic Shampoo. And for those special occasions, the shop also sells Twinkle Toes hoof glitter.
Once you have the cowboy look down, head over to Fremont's The Saddle Rack(42011 Boscell Rd., 510-979-0477), a country and Western bar that fills up nightly with patrons who want to line dance, hear live bands, or compete in singing contests. This legendary country music hot spot, originally located in San Jose, may be the only place on Earth where you can ride a mechanical bull and order a latte. The 18,000-square-foot club has two dance floors, four bars, and the capacity for more than nine hundred people. Admission is $5 on weeknights, $10 on weekends, and three nights a week the club offers free line-dance lessons. Cowboy culture doesn't merely survive in the East Bay, it thrives.