Today is Thursday, July 20, 2017

Tourists cowboy up at Twin Oaks Ranch

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Deep in the heart of Wilson County, Deb and Dave Ward offer a ranch getaway experience at their Twin Oaks Guest Ranch. They describe the atmosphere as “Nashville cowboy West.” It offers horseback riding aplenty while guests also may opt to explore Music City, a 30-minute drive away. The ranch has attracted tourists from across the U.S. and Europe. KEN BECK Photos by Ken Beck
Former pro rodeo bull rider “Cowboy Dave” and telecommunications whiz Deb Ward smile from the Twin Oaks Saloon where the décor includes cowboy hats, saddle bar stools and rodeo memorabilia. Their large barn also serves as a makeshift dance hall. KEN BECK
These buckaroos enjoy the wide outdoors and the horses and dogs at Twin Oaks Guest Ranch. Visiting from Chicago, from left, are A.J. Thanos, Spencer Hoarle, Ava Thanos and Isabelle Hoarle. In the background is the ranch house. KEN BECK

Vacationers from around the globe are going giddy-up over a cowboy hideout deep in the heart of Wilson County at Dave and Deb Ward's Twin Oaks Ranch.

This 50-acre Western getaway promises horseback riding aplenty along with a luxurious bunkhouse that provides a laidback place to kick off your boots. Meanwhile, back at the ranch's large barn, there's a mini-saloon where weary riders can sip a spell and knock off the trail dust. And, before hitting the hay, an evening around the campfire (with music and smores) may just hit the spot for tenderfoots and old-timers alike.

The 2,600-square-foot guest house features four bedrooms, each with a queen-sized bed, and sleeps eight. The Lone Star Suite has one bedroom with two beds and a bathroom, while Wrangler Room mini-suites offer a bedroom and bath.

A 40x84 barn boasts 12 stalls, a tack room, the saloon and a hallway that serves as a swell makeshift dancehall. The livestock menagerie includes a dozen horses, five border collies, seven cats and a hutch full of rabbits. The dogs, by the way, have their own bunkhouse.

"A lot of our guests will go to Nashville and stay a day and come back and say, 'We just want to stay on the ranch.' People say this is more country and western than downtown. Here they get a real flavor of Nashville cowboy west -- a blending of Western cowboy and the country music of Nashville."

Twin Oaks Ranch opened for guests in March 2016, and folks have been stampeding it here from the start. Most discover the ranch via social media and word of mouth.

Deb said, "I think the key is Nashville has become such a destination city."

That sentiment is reflected in a review one guest left on the ranch's Facebook page. It reads: This is truly a one-of-a-kind place and experience!! The ranch is secluded and peaceful and yet you can be in the middle of the night life of Nashville in under a half hour. We enjoyed the old country town of Bell Buckle, the amazing wine country vineyards, and of course the 15minute away outlet malls in Lebanon Tennessee. Horseback riding and horseshoes, volleyball, swimming all part of the fun and what better way to finish a day than by the campfire just outside the Twin Oaks Saloon! The smores were awesome!! Accommodations are 5 star and Cowboy Dave and Cowgirl Deb are friendly, down right country and WOW can they cook and bake! We will be back and making this a family tradition! Also a great spot to use as a halfway point for Canadians like us between home and Florida.

Dave and Deb met 12 years ago at the Academy of Country Music awards show in Las Vegas.

It was Dave's cowboy hat that roped her attention. That was followed by his smile and personality. "He was the real deal," recalled Deb, who grew up in the farming community of Camarillo, Calif.

"I became acquainted with Nashville 20 to 25 years ago. I've been coming year after year and fell in love with it. When I found my cowboy, I brought him here, and we agreed to move here lock, stock and barrel and have never looked back."

Straight out of high school, Deb got a general contractor license and began buying distressed properties to rent and re-sell. Later, she dove into the telecommunications industry. Today she is CEO/founder/owner of Televergence Solutions Inc. (TSI) and serves as the first chairwoman in the history of INCOMPAS, the leading trade association for competitive networks.

Cowboy Dave, 69, grew up on a beef cattle ranch near Orangeville, Ontario, and began rodeoing while in high school. He competed off and on for 24 years, most of that stretch in a rodeo circuit in the northwest U.S. and Canada.

He estimates he's ridden or fallen off more than a thousand bulls and survived six concussions, a crushed jaw and more broken bones than he can count.

His last competitive ride was two years ago at an extreme bull rodeo event at the Wilson County Fairgrounds. The result was a big ouch. Even so, he says he's still cozying up to the idea of being able to say he rode at bull at 70. (Check back next year.)

With a degree in architecture, he had another career as a master planner for large land developers in Alberta, California, Texas and Colorado.

After tying the knot, the couple, who share five adult children and five grandchildren, settled in a California suburb. A few years ago, Dave suggested they buy a ranch.

"We agreed, so the next question was where do we go? Where's the best place? We looked all over but kept coming back to Nashville and Tennessee. This is where we wanted to be," said Dave.

They had been focusing on property in the Franklin area when Dave found this piece of land while searching on the internet. Deciding that Franklin had too much traffic and too many people, they settled near Lebanon.

"We ended up getting this place and the guesthouse next door," said Dave. "We didn't intend to go into the rental business. It happened by accident."

Deb said, "We had family and friends and customers visit, and they said, 'You ought to run an Airbnb.' We did some advertising and people found out."

Dave noted, "So now a year later, we got it up, and it's gotten crazy."

Deb added, "We've had people here from New York to California, Europe and Canada. Of course, we're close to downtown Nashville. It's about 30 minutes from our gate to downtown."

The ranch also has become a site for wedding rehearsal dinners and family reunions.

A stay at the guest ranch requires a minimum three-day reservation, and Deb reports that some folks stay from two weeks to a month.

While Cowboy Dave handles the horses and ranching chores, Deb, who runs her telecommunications business from here, also does a bit of baking. When guests arrive, they will discover some of her baked goodies and a handwritten welcome note.

Saying adios can be difficult.

"Most kids don't want to leave. They have tears in their eyes," said Deb. "But this is our staycation. This is paradise. Why would we want to leave?"

Nobody gets to be a cowboy forever, but Deb and Dave will give it their best shot.


Twin Oaks Guest Ranch boasts a 2,600-square-foot guest house that accommodates eight with four bedrooms, each with a queen-sized bed. Price is $395 a night with a three-night minimum. The ranch also features the Lone Star Suite, a 600-square-foot southern log apartment that accommodates four with one bedroom, a queen bed and a queen pull-out sofa bed, living room fireplace, bathroom and full kitchen. Price is $210 a night. Guests may arrange for meals in advance for a fee. For more details, go online to: airbnb.com/rooms/6511705 or facebook.com/twinoaksguestranch/ or call 1-800-470-4911.

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Dave Ward, Deb Ward, Ken Beck, tourism, Twin Oaks Guest Ranch, Wilson County
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