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Are You Ready For Some . . . Swimsuits? - DC.com

Discussion in 'Off-topic Zone' started by Lord Sun, May 30, 2004.

  1. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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    [IMG]

    By MICKEY SPAGNOLA, DallasCowboys.com Columnist

    [IMG] SAN JOSE del CABO, Mexico - Just for the record, been doing this work for nearly 30 years, going way back to college writing part-time at a local newspaper.

    During my career, I've been to Super Bowls. Been to Final Fours. Been to The NBA Finals.

    Been to Tokyo to cover a Cowboys preseason game. London and Mexico City, too.

    Been to Seoul for the Olympics, and Calgary, too. Pretty sexy assignments.

    Oh, and I've been to remote places you probably have never heard of to cover games, too, paying my dues in such tucked-away places as Glasgow, Mo., and Walhalla, S.C., and Kosciusko, Miss.

    But you guys, this one takes the cake. Right now, as we speak, I am on Flight 357, this Adventure Tours charter pointed straight south at the moment, headed toward San Jose del Cabo, Mexico, close neighbor of Cabo San Lucas, and no this is no vacation. This is work. Hard work.

    [IMG]

    Because surrounding me at the moment are 22 of the best looking women you'll ever see on one flight, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders, and me, Mickey Spagnola, must spend seven days in the Baja's southern most city documenting the 27th Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders calendar shoot, and the 12th to one of these tropical locations. Plus, the big boys at the bike rack tell me they wear swimsuits for these shoots.

    Aw, eat your hearts out.

    I'm telling, ya, the lengths I'll go to just to entertain you guys, to give you a behind the scenes perspective of another key component of this organization.

    Now seriously, you're going to find out something about these young ladies who come down here to this Mexican paradise hoping their photo shoot is worthy of a month on the 2005 calendar. What a kick it must be.

    "You just hold your breath," says third-year veteran Adrianna Butler, who earned a month in this year's calendar.

    Do the math. There are 22 cheerleaders on this trip. There are just 12 months in a year. Ten don't make it. You would think this would be big-time competition, a lot of cutthroat stuff going on.

    I mean, after all the reality TV shoved down our throats over the past few years, could you not imagine a lot of sabotaging going on over here the next six days. Stealing your roommates makeup. Maybe turning a sunlamp on the girl next door when she's sleeping to turn her skin a camera-unfriendly beat red. Hiding suntan lotion. Turning off the alarm clock. Just anything to get a, uh, leg up, on the competition; to somehow eliminate 10 people so you're a shoe-in.

    But so far, I detect none of this pettiness. And from the camaraderie displayed at Gate 35 of DFW International late Saturday afternoon, and then aboard a flight delayed on the ground, sorry, don't think we'll be getting any juicy back-biting like that. Just a lot of All-American stuff. Just a lot of smiles and good nature.

    Maybe most of all, though, a whole lot of stares if the stay at Gate 35 and the welcome party on the beach of the Melia Cabo Real Saturday night are true indications. No, no, not me, and certainly not the three photographers, the makeup artists, hair stylists or the TV camera crew all on this trip. The cheerleaders. Come on guys, you have seen them on the sidelines at Texas Stadium. You've seen them on stage. You've seen footage of their USO Tours.

    You don't dress 22 of 'em up in heels and leg-enhancing skirts, prance through an airport and onto a charter flight, and then onto this beach without being noticed. Please.

    Funny thing happened at the check-in counter at DFW. Two couples were in the process of checking in, and the ladies of the group were feeling pretty good about themselves, thinking they were looking pretty spiffy, and you know, maybe they were. But darn, should have seen their jaws drop when they got to the gate to find 22 of Dallas' finest sitting there waiting for the same flight.

    Then there was this guy sitting with his female partner at the gate. Oh, probably in his mid 30's. He couldn't help but watch the parade of legs going into the women's room as we waited for our flight crew to clear customs for its return trip to Mexico. He evidently had been so mesmerized by the cheerleaders, when he got up to go to the bathroom, darn if he didn't walk right past me into the women's restroom, much to his chagrin as he embarrassingly walked right back out a few seconds later saying something like, "I must have lost my mind watching them," all leaving his good-natured lady friend laughing with him.

    Or there was this older, unsuspecting gentlemen sitting next to me at a table on the beach here Saturday night after we arrived, two tables of cheerleaders behind him and two others, Brandi Redmond and Kari Laywell, at our table eating dinner. Summoning all his inspective powers, the guy very discreetly leaned over to whisper, "What is the nature of this trip?"

    Brings new meaning to paradise, doesn't it pops, and so, too, for the guys here on bachelor's party, probably thinking they had died and gone to heaven about 9 p.m. Saturday. And shy they were not.

    Ain't life grand.

    Wish, though, I could have said that about for this other poor soul. While waiting for the ground crew to reposition the luggage under the plane, two Dallas policemen walked past us down the aisle another 10 rows or so, a 50-ish guy in a straw hat their target. A few minutes later, they walked off the uncomfortably air-condition-less jet.

    But darn if they weren't back five minutes later. Same guy. But this time, Dallas' finest had lost their patience, escorting the guy off the flight. Our friends in the back of the plane said the man, who might have began his vacation in the airport terminal a tad too early, if you know what I mean, had been ragging on the flight attendants about the delay and lack of air conditioning. And he wouldn't quit until . . . .

    Anyway, just before take-off, the captain thanked everyone their patience, and pointed out there is no "tolerance for any belligerence."

    Another first for me.

    But I'm sure this was only the beginning. Like, I've never been to Cabo San Lucas before. Never been to the Baja, or south of Tijuana for that matter. Never been deep sea fishing for Marlin, but plan on doing so if the trip goes off as planned.

    Never been to a real photo shoot with models, and you should know not only are there photographers here for the calendar and yearbook magazine shoot, but there is a crew of TV cameramen here, too, filming the hour TV special documenting the Cowboys Cheerleaders' shoot to be shown on ESPN and EPSN2 later in the summer in HD for the first time.

    Man, should have talked myself into this gig long time ago. I mean, DCC director Kelli Finglass and sidekick Judy Trammel don't just go anywhere for these shoots. Last year it was in Cozumel. The year before right here, based at the Melia San Lucas. Before that Aruba. They've shot in St. Kitts, Nevis and Costa Rico, too.

    And heck, for a guy who watches training camp practice after training camp practice year after year, season of games after season of games, don't think I've even met a Cowboys cheerleader in like forever. Maybe longer. But standing in line to clear security at DFW, one of the young ladies actually recognized me from the website. I kid you not.

    "Amber," she said, shaking hands.

    That would be Amber Gosdin. You would know her from this year's calendar. She's the one posing with the stern looking Mexican federales in Cozumel.

    Then there was Brandi. You would know her from the 2003 calendar cover. She really said she makes a point of listening to me on The Ticket mornings to catch up on her Cowboys news.

    Get outta here.

    So here we are, like 50 strong, ready to descend on this resort town, heading to remote mountainous desert locations, beaches and villas to produce the best 12 months you've ever seen in the next six days. And, oh, don't worry, we won't neglect football. I know June 1 is right around the corner, and the Cowboys are sure to make some news. My partner, Nick Eatman, will make sure you guys don't miss a beat.

    Me, I'll be grinding away down here in Baja California, facing those 4:30 a.m. wakeup calls for sunrise shoots, chasing those sunsets on the beach, being forced into jeeps rolling over rugged terrain for shoots at the hard-to-get places and having to interact with a dozen or so swimsuit-clad cheerleaders on a snorkeling trip.

    Hard work, but somebody has to do it.
  2. TruBlueCowboy

    TruBlueCowboy New Member

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    That Mickey has a tough job.
  3. ddh33

    ddh33 Active Member

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    I hate Mickey...

    Actually, I don't, but for the first time I have a reason to.
  4. billknows

    billknows New Member

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    test :) test Hello boys fans
  5. Sarge

    Sarge Red, White and Brew... Staff Member

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    Welcome aboard.
  6. Hostile

    Hostile Peace Zone Supporter

    118,492 Messages
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    Welcome to the forum. Hope you enjoy it here. Post a lot.
  7. tyke1doe

    tyke1doe Well-Known Member

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    All he can do is look.
  8. Charles

    Charles Benched

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    [IMG]

    For once I totally respect and envy Mickey's job.

    Imagine hot, sweaty Mexico with young beautiful women. :cool:
  9. speedkilz88

    speedkilz88 Well-Known Member

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    Just another reason to hate Mick! ;)

    What a look he is getting!

    Amber Gosdin
    [IMG][IMG]

    [IMG][IMG]
    [IMG][IMG]

    Adrianna Butler
    [IMG][IMG]
  10. jumanji

    jumanji Member

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    now i'm really pissed
  11. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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    O. My. Sweet Blessed Lord.
  12. ghosttown cowboy

    ghosttown cowboy Wyoming's #1 boys fan

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    Goodness Gracious!!!
  13. ghettogandhi

    ghettogandhi Member

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    wow-............................................... :p
  14. jacs

    jacs I'd Hit It

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    dam i could have gone down there and beat Mickey up and not get in trouble for it (just kidding) plus i would get to see the cheerleaders
  15. Skeptic

    Skeptic New Member

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    Hate to say this, but I swear to God I just got back from back-to-back Florida and Mexico vacations.

    Pretty girls in bikinis....ah.
  16. M'Kevon

    M'Kevon A Love Supreme

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    I could cry. Lucky #$&*$.
  17. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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    A Stunning Baja Sunrise Debut

    SAN JOSE del CABO, Mexico - Piece of cake this modeling stuff, right?

    Throw on a string bikini. Find a nice background. Smile. Pout. Zip, zip, zip, and there you are, in living color, you picture on the month of May.

    Yeah, right.

    Because after Monday, and I suppose it was not Memorial Day down here in this southern Baja resort town where the bluest of waves splash against the desert terrain, I have a newly-discovered appreciation for what goes on during one of these photo shoots. The amount of work. The manpower. And what the model-hopefuls go through.

    This was an eye-opener, and you might call it three-D after tagging along on my first photo shoot here for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders 2005 Swimsuit Calendar. Gosh it was pitch-dark early. That was one. Gosh the young ladies are stunning in their swimsuits. That was definitely two. And brother, this was hard work - for them.

    Please, I kid you not.

    And for you non-believers, come see this shoot through the eyes of Kari Ann Laywell, a 24-year-old Dallas Cowboys cheerleader from Dallas by night, an administrative assistant by day, on her very first shoot of any kind. I mean numero uno if those family studio shots or school pictures don't count.

    "I'm feeling good but we'll see when I get into the water," said Kari a second-year member of the DCC, trying her best to mask the nervousness covering her face that she would admit in the end. Of course she was, because no matter what you got, the camera doesn't lie, and that for the rest of us, is a cruel arbitrator of reality.

    So why don't you come along for this shoot so that in the end you will have a better understanding of what really goes on for the 12 cheerleaders deemed worthy of a month in the coming calendar year.

    Sunday, 10 p.m.: After a group dinner at the Melia Cabo Real, which overlooks the Sea of Cortez in this neighboring town to Cabo San Lucas, the cheerleaders head back to their rooms, the ones scheduled to shoot nervously awaiting their times. Kari finds out she has the early shoot at Chileno Beach, about a 10- to 15-minute drive south of the hotel. "So after we found out, we picked up all our suits that we got at a fitting day at Stanley Korshak to get ready," Kari said. Not much more you could do to prepare, other than peruse through some swimsuit catalogs and some magazines to get the feel for poses, as some of the ladies were doing on Saturday's flight down.

    Lights out for her at 11:30 p.m.

    Monday, 3:30 a.m.: Wake-up call. No kidding. Photographer Wade Livingston pictured Kari in the morning light. He didn't want to miss a minute of sunrise, which hits the beach out here about 6:30 a.m. So up she was, doing what a girl needs to do to get herself ready for someone else to make her look fabulous.

    4:30 a.m.: Make-up call. And that's 4:30 a.m. sharp. One thing the DCC doesn't put up with much is tardiness. Kari heads to the make-up room, where Kelly Whaley, one of professional make-up artists on the trip, along with a professional hairstylist Greg Asher, go to work, pampering on the young lady as she probably never has been pampered on before for free. "They give us an hour for make-up and hair," Kari said. "It's kind of crazy. I felt like I should have been helping them."

    5:30 a.m.: Be down in the lobby ready to go. That's right, 5:30, and let me give you an idea of how early in the morning 5:30 really is. Pitch black was the color of the sky. The birds chirping above was the only noise interrupting the morning quiet. And get this, while we were waiting for our van drivers to pull up, here comes a cab, and out jumps four young guys clutching the final swigs of Corona before calling it a, uh, night. Here they were, and this is never a pleasant sight, all standing there counting their pesos, trying to pool together enough money to pay the driver. That done, chug the last swig, and as they were heading in, here comes Kari and her handlers getting ready to head out. Now that's early.

    6:05 a.m.: Our vans roll up to the gate that is supposed to be open. It's not. Locked tight, a chain fitting snuggly around the pole and gate. The two Mexican drivers survey the situation, nervously talk amongst themselves, and then spring into action. They tug on the chain, typical guy thing, right, when not knowing what else to do. Then they started kicking as the skies were beginning to lighten. If Kari was excited and nervous all at the same time, you could see the anxiety rush over her face. She knew the sun was coming quick and time was a wasting, instantly placing her first photo shoot in jeopardy. That is, until cooler and more cleaver heads prevailed. The chain-link fence was separated from its post, so we simply rolled back the fence enough to slip people and equipment through, making the like 100-yard walk down to the prettiest, most rock-scenic beach you'll ever see.

    6:20 a.m.: With equipment being set up, Kari's handlers go to work again, primping her hair, applying the last touches of make-up and smearing tan colored body cream over her already well-tanned body. Wade tells her, "You've got tan and shiny skin, and beautiful eyes," which was no stretch of the truth as he was trying to extract the anxiety from her first shoot. "That's a good thing.

    6:30 a.m.: On the beach, Kari's back to the Sea of Cortez and a stunning sunrise that yanked the sun right out of the water, as if an oil fire on the horizon. With the soft light and made-to-order background, Wade starts shooting . . . and shooting . . . and shooting.

    6:55 a.m.: It was bound to happen, sitting on the beach that close to the rushing water. Splish. Now that's cold. But hey, that's also part of the deal. When you shoot on the beach, you want water shots. And when you want early-morning light and want water, no quarter is given to the water temperature or your skin retracting in protest. You tough it out - sit in the water and move to Wade's command. And darn it, you smile, too, and act nonchalant, as if you've been there before.

    7:10 a.m.: The water shots completed and the sun having fully risen, Kari finally gets out of the water. "Now I'm chilly," said the unbelievably good sport. The handlers sweep back into action, getting the hair just right, redoing make-up as Wade searches for a new sight. They pump her with confidence, calling her "Brigitte Bardot in Mexico."

    7:15 a.m.: Time to change swimsuits. And hey, this is the Baja. Remote, don't you know. There are no cabanas, no public restrooms out where we were. Just a jagged edge of a rock formation and the photographers scrim (light shade) for a make-shift dressing room. Kari was a trooper, did what she had to do, no problem.

    7:30 a.m.: Wade finds this neat location next to her erstwhile dressing room, the rock formation framing a great picture looking into the sea. Kari suddenly starts warming up to the camera, relaxing, and while trying to rest her back, ends up on all fours stretching for comfort, only to catch Wade's eye. "Stay there," he instructs, and he swings into action, and for the next hour this was the location of the shoot. Wade shot and shot. I mean his shots probably outnumbered your odds of winning the lottery. "I was just trying to rest to take the pressure off the rocks digging into my knee," Kari said of the happenstance pose, and understand the beaches out here are more crushed rock and shells than soft sand. "But it was great. The more you stayed at a location, the better you figured out what clicked." She stayed there so long, changing poses from smiles to eye-catching stares, that finally her facial muscles, too, began to revolt, the edge of her mouth and eye starting to quiver.

    8:35 a.m.: One last swimsuit change, a stunning blue leopard pattern. Wade happens into another background, that same rock formation, but this time with Kari sitting on the jagged edges while trying to sexily pull up the strings on stiletto hills. At 9, now she has both shoes on, and she's standing unsteadily on this rock, one missed-step away from ending the shoot and probably any chance of a second shoot this week. Scarred knees are not a camera's friend. And have you noticed, there were no breaks during this shoot, other than the suit changes? And no water. Hey, take a swig of bottled water, and you got to reapply lipstick. This level of meticulousness reaches to burying the tiniest of dangling suit strings, rearranging one wayward strain of hair and, for sure, brushing off all unwanted specs of sand.

    9:20 a.m.: Last shot. For real. This went on for three hours, and oh, did I mention the temperature went from probably a nighttime 65 degrees to a shirt-removing (for me, silly) 85 by time Wade figured he'd had enough shots of Kari to give her a legitimate chance of earning a month in the calendar. The shoot was complete, Kari finally allowed to come down from the rock and out of those heels, no longer on stage. "I thought it was going to be hard and awkward with all the people staring at me," Kari said, a definite downside to any self-consciousness since there were eight of us there with nothing else to do but watch her poses. (I know, tough duty.) "But when he showed me the Polaroid's (the proofs before he shot a series of photos), I figured out what was going on and what he was looking for." A couple last sentimental shots for posterity sake, and off we went.

    10 a.m.: Our group arrives back at the Melia Real Cabo, breakfast and water top priority. What was anxiety nearly five hours ago had lapsed into exhilaration for Kari. "It was a lot of fun," Kari said. "I just want to do it more and more," not knowing if she will get a second shoot since the DCC brought 22 veterans on this trip, all scheduled for at least one photo shoot during the week.

    So see what I was talking about? This whole shebang is pretty involved, and I mean the photographer, Wade Livingston, worked his tail off and up a sweat out there. And who knows how the shots turn out, or if Kari has that certain "it" to be one of the chosen dozen. This whole ordeal might have been for naught.

    Except for the experience and thrill this 5-foot-5 brunette gained.

    "It was wonderful," Kari said of her first shoot of any type. "It was amazing.

    "How did I do?"

    Here's to looking at you, kid.
  18. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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  19. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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    [IMG]
    [IMG] [IMG] Second Time Around Pretty Sweet

    SAN JOSE del CABO, Mexico - She sat on the patio ledge of Casa Morgan, the Pacific Ocean, downtown Cabo San Lucas and the Sea of Cortez her breathtaking, late afternoon backdrop.

    Smiles, come-hither looks, disarmingly soft glances alternated as she posed every which way, her black-trimmed white swimsuit a stunning contrast to her tanned skinned and the blueness of the sky and ocean. She laughed, she clowned, she played to the camera, having the time of her life during Monday's photo shoot for the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders 2005 Calendar.

    And Amber Gosdin has her mother to doubly thank - literally.

    See, when Amber was three, her mother Billie Gosdin was a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader in 1979. Obviously that made an impression on a little girl growing up in Euless, Texas. At the edge of 18, not quite out of high school yet, Amber herself became a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader, debuting the Super Bowl season of 1995.

    She lasted two years. That, she says, was not the time of her life. She had little fun, and when you're getting paid peanuts, the frustration and angst is just not worth being known as the DCC's first - and only - mother-daughter cheerleading combo. Amber never even tried to make the squad a third year.

    "Maybe I was too young," she said, sitting poolside at the Melia Real Cabo earlier in the week.

    But as Amber and Billie participated in a DCC alumni affair at a game during the 2002 season, mother sensed something as mothers do about her now SMU-graduated, 25-year-old daughter.

    "Mom came up to me while we were out there and said, 'You're not done yet are you?'? Amber recalls. "I was having so much fun that I made my mind up to try out again.

    "Just going back and seeing everyone. Now I had my life in order. I had graduated from SMU. I wanted to come back and this time have fun; to enjoy every moment."

    So the two-year veteran successfully turned into a lapse-of-time third-year veteran last year, making the squad again and staying true to her convictions. She had fun. In fact, she had a blast, admitting cheering during the 2003 season was "more fun than (the first time around), and there was no Super Bowl.

    "And if last year was so awesome, I had to come back again. Now I don't want to be 35 and still struttin' my stuff, but . . . ."

    Of course she had fun. Cheerleading now had become a hobby, not who she was. Now, more mature and more grounded, she would rather not be introduced as a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader. She works as a financial sales manager for a North Carolina-based bank, selling auto finance packages to dealerships.

    Funny how things work out; that she would somehow be involved in the automobile industry. Because at 15, with her dad in the dealership business, she worked part-time at Westway Ford for three years and then another five years at Park Cities Ford selling used cars on Saturday's at the dealership her dad has part-ownership in.

    "I was a good opener, but not a closer," Amber says. "My dad used to get so made at me."

    But the experience paid off, helping her develop into who she really is these days, all a part of allowing her to further enjoy this second time around with the DCC, since this time she's part of the squad for the games and the friendships.

    "And I'm a football fan, too," Amber said. "It's so much fun. It's my hobby now, not who I am."

    And who she is - the self-proclaimed "girly-girl" - has added to her experience this time around. Amber did her first calendar photo shoot last year, and that time, unlike the picturesque settings of this week, there she was in this white swimsuit with the uniformed Federales from Cozumel her backdrop. All were looking very serious, but you know the young lady had to be dying inside at the incongruity.

    That's not all. Coming back also became her vehicle into reality TV. No, she wasn't looking for a husband or a million dollars or to escape from a precarious position. She was chosen to participate in "Switched Up," the reality show which took two people from polar-opposite lifestyles and let them walk in the other person's shoes for four days, a film crew by their sides.

    So here it was, Amber Nicole Gosdin, the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and SMU grad heading off to Laramie, Wyoming, of all places, to switch with Stacy Johnson, a volleyball-playing rodeo gal who lived on a ranch with her parents in, of all things, a one-bathroom house. Amber was charged with learning to rope a calf. Stacy would become a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader.

    Amber says you should have seen the looks on their unsuspecting faces upon arrival in their new environment - Stacy met at the airport by the Dallas Cowboys bus filled with 30 Cheerleaders and Amber being driven out to this ranch house with few amenities and the whole town knowing what was up.

    "This girl had to put the uniform on and actually walk out for introductions at a game, and she had never even worn make-up," Amber said of the 18-year-old college student at the University of Wyoming. "Me, I had to learn to rope a calf in two days . . . and I'm a two-shower a day girl. I don't do ATVs and I don't get into the water," glancing up at the rather rough Sea of Cortez.

    But there she was, for four days pitching hay, shoveling barn manure and learning to rope, all a laughable contrast to being a Dallas Cowboys Cheerleader and "a girly-girl."

    So it says something about Amber that she did learn to rope; that she did learn to ride a cutting horse; and that she achieved her goal by riding a horse and actually roping the calf, short of leaping off her new-found ride to tie the calf's feet together - all documented nicely in a "Switched Up" episode that aired this past March.

    If those Wyoming cowboys could have only seen their manure-shoveling ranch hand a little later on Monday afternoon posing at the pool's edge of this villa owned by a guy from Little Rock, Ark., her shimmying black, center-cut swimsuit lit by the setting sun. This wasn't Laramie. And she sure didn't look like no ranch hand.

    But then this, too, was far from reality, the finance sales manager playing model at this had-to-be-there-to-believe villa perched high above the rocky Pacific shores where gentle white caps and what appeared to be seals floating by. And she played it very well, by the way, but true to her convictions, was having a blast toying with the camera lens.

    "I felt better this year," Amber said of what just could become a successful second hobby if she has indeed has retired the possible third of calf roping. "But a professional model, I'm so not."

    OK, we can debate that, but as hobbies go, these she has now are pretty sweet.
  20. Lord Sun

    Lord Sun New Member

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    [IMG]
    CABO SAN LUCAS - They say this neck of the woods is paradise, and if you were sitting where I was Tuesday afternoon on the patio deck of Da Giorgio, you would have no beef with that.

    Right now, I'm overlooking the Sea of Cortez bay, a cruise ship docked for the day here at one end and a few fishing boats ripping through the bluest water you'll ever see at the other. This is where the Francisco de Ulloa, navigator for Spanish conquistador Hernan Cortes, must have landed when he first discovered this tip of Baja California in 1537, long after Cortes discovered Mexico and defeated the Aztecs to declare it a colony of Spain.

    I'd have stayed, too, some 1,000 miles south of San Diego where the rock formation El Arco becomes the divide between the Sea of Cortez and the Pacific Ocean, also known as Land's End for obvious reasons. This is it, as far as you can go in Baja California by foot, a most splendid location for 22 Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders to descend upon for their 2005 swimsuit calendar.

    But there is another side to the peninsula, a part I'm figuring most tourists don't ever get to - or want to - see unless they are overly adventurous. The real Baja, and just as you had imagined it - rugged terrain, hot, dry, mountainous, cacti galore and whatever other vegetation and species that can live without water. If the shorelines of Cabo San Lucas and San Jose del Cabo are margaritas, then inland is a shot of tequila - no lime.

    Why the natives here tell me in July and August the temperatures reach 140 some afternoons, but never ever less than 110. They say it gets so hot the banks change their hours, opening from 4 p.m. to maybe 3 a.m. instead, at a time when it's fit for man to stir outside. And this is on the shoreline. Imagine the heat inland, all giving clearer meaning to siesta.

    Well, we saw the Baja up close and personal one afternoon, myself and like 10 of the Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders venturing out on an ATV excursion through the sand dunes, dirt roads and trails, at times the dust so thick and mean I understood why our guides gave us goggles and handkerchiefs to pull up over our mouths and noses, making the cheerleaders look more like a band of banditos than the show-stoppers they really are.

    Soon, I came to understand the helmets, too. And by the grace of God, and the driving skills of who turned out to be my personal ATV chauffer, Shenythia Frazier, I lived to write about the two-hour trip through what amounts to a desert rising out of the sea.

    Imagine my anxiety, having heard of a recent ATV accident before even heading down here for the calendar shoot. Imagine how that multiplied when this third-year Cowboys Cheerleaders came clean, saying she had never driven one before and had never driven a stick shift, either, let alone come close to working a five-speed foot peddle.

    Nice.

    Then, too, these four-wheelers with balloon tires were not made for passengers. Very little excess seating. There was this bar from the rear cargo rack coupling with my tailbone, and by the way, the only thing to hang onto that didn't have a waist was the front or sides of the wide rack.

    Then there was the sign Shenythia saw down by her left knee, the picture of a passenger on the back of one of these things with a line slashing diagonally through, meaning "no" in any language.

    Too late, though, we were in the Baja. My knuckles had turned white, and not from holding on so hard, but from the constant dust of the other ATVs kicking up a storm in front of us. And it was hot, the guides stopping but once for the water they had tightly secured in a cooler.

    Maybe I've lost my sense for adventure, but hard to believe DCC director Kelli Finglass allowed her well-maintained troops not shooting that day out for what's known as a "day activity." Should have seen her face when I gave her the nitty-gritty. All I could imagine was one of the ATVs turning over, cutting the number of contestants vying for a month on the calendar from 22 to 20 in a big hurry. Scars don't look good in living color I suspect.

    Most of all, I worried about my ownself. See, the hills were steep at times, and if the gear did not compute, the ATV got stranded half way up. So now the girls had to learn to back down, which was another story in itself. And like any hill, once you go up, you've got to come down, at times leaving you at the mercy of the ATV in front of this conga line snaking through the desert pulling its weight.

    But Shynethia, from Terrell, Texas, was a trooper - and a quick learner for someone who insists is shy. We never got stuck once. Never wavered from the beaten path, not even on the tight curves around rocks and bushes just waiting to autograph a knee. And that girl, I'm telling ya, when she had a chance, the communications and marketing coordinator of a private company in Dallas coordinated well with fifth gear. Should have seen us go.

    "You probably saw more than me, because I was concentrating so hard on driving and keeping you safe," said Shynethia, her priorities definitely in the right order.

    So she probably didn't see the number of unfinished houses standing in some of the most unlikely places. Like why in the world would you build one there? But I'm told the way it works here, unlike in the States, loans are hard to come by, so people build when they have money, stop for a while to save up and then start building again when they can. Which totally explained why this sawed-off trailer was basically strapped to the back of a half-finished house shell.

    Should have also seen us on our somewhat triumphant return back to downtown San Jose del Cabo. Now my legs had turned white, caked with dust. Shenythia, exhibiting considerably more common sense than I, wore some of those tight-fitting grey workout pants. They were turning brown. And hair - theirs of course - oh, you should have seen the beating it took.

    "The bumpy ride and the dust, that's what I remember," said Shynethia, whose company is putting her through college, only 14 hours to go after taking this semester off so she could continue working and participating with the DCC. "And that I probably could write my name on my arm from all the dust - oh, and that I had a great passenger who helped me when it was time to switch gears."

    But we made it, all safe and sound, and now ATV veterans, better off for seeing the real Baja, not just this resort town where Shynethia had her multiple-location shoot on Tuesday, where the view from the restaurant's sprawling patio into the cliff rocks a photog's dream.

    Scheduling confusion moved her shoot around, landing for awhile on Black Widow Beach, where she alternated posing in the water, on the sand - covered with sand and lengthy hair soaked in water.

    "I'm really shy," although you would never have known that from watching her attack the Baja in that ATV. "But I thought it went well. It's good to come away from (the shoot) feeling good about yourself."

    An amazing transition from ATV-ing one day on the Baja to a beauty on the beach the next. If only Cortes and his buddies could have seen Cabo now.

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