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You’re tired of those sissy getaways, aren’t you, big guy? Weary of outlet malls and tearooms, fussy B&Bs and lavender-scented spas. Isn’t it time you spent some quality time with the boys, doing what real men should be doing: gambling, driving fast, trapping game? Of course it is. These six activities- all in our region- are sure to reunite you with your long-lost masculinity.

Ride a bucking bronco

For too long Western men have cornered the market on machismo. Sure, it’s easy to be a man out there, surrounded by barbed wire and prickly cacti and Orrin Hatch. But what if all you know are double mocha lattes, town centers and Babs Mikulski? Luckily, an authentic taste of the West, Wicked R Ranch, isn’t that far away. It’s even located in Wyoming- Wyoming, Del.

Wicked R hosts real live rodeos every Monday night April through October and every May, proprietor Randy Ridgely, a former Northeast bull riding champion, leads a bull riding clinic for riders of any experience.

Greenhorns start off with classroom discussions and a thorough review of equipment and chute procedures before riding “Mighty Bucky,” Wicked R’s mechanical bull. Bareback horse rides come next to help riders learn their center of balance and, more importantly, to get used to the feel of a live animal beneath them. “Then they get on as many bulls as they can stand,” says Ridgely.

And yes, people do get hurt; this isn’t Ultimate Frisbee. “We haven’t had a clinic yet when the ambulance hasn’t come,” Ridgely says, matter-of-factly. “Usually someone breaks an arm or a leg or loses some teeth. But the kind of bulls I have here are weak or older or slower. Then I have some top-notch bulls for guys who really want to get it on.”

Your weekend comes with a complimentary videotape of you in action- proof positive of your rugged, East Coast cowboy experience.

WHAT IT’S GONNA COST: Wicked R’s next clinic is May 14 and 15, 2005. The $250 fee includes all equipment and training, a cookout Saturday night and accommodations in the ranch’s 12-person bunkhouse.

MANLINESS RATING: lllll No other activity proves you’re a tough SOB like having a pissed-off, 2,000-pound animal between your legs.

CONTACT: 302-492-FEAR, http://www.wickedr.com

Drive a vintage sports car

Feeling a little emasculated in the minivan? Don’t fret, Shirley. John Pollock of Sportscar Rentals in Batesville, Va., rents a fleet of vintage convertibles to help you feel like King of the Road, not King of the Carpool Lane.

Located just southwest of Charlottesville, Va., Sportscar Rentals’ well-tuned vintage convertibles include a ‘57 Austin-Healy, a 1960 Triumph TR3, and a ‘72 Triumph Spitfire in British racing green. There are seven cars to choose from- the ‘77 Fiat even has a column shift for those of you still suckling from the automatic transmission teat. If you want to cruise in Bay of Pigs-era style, rent the 1961 metallic green Cadillac coupe with flared fenders as long as a hockey stick. The best part of renting from Pollock is that the sports-car perfect Skyline Drive- and all its scenic twists and turns- is just 10 miles away. 

WHAT IT’S GONNA COST:  Rental fees run $95 per day or $180 for a weekend- a small price to pay for cruising the open road in style.

MANLINESS RATING: lllll All great men should drive a great car (at least once). 

CONTACT: 434-823-4442, http://www.sportscarrentals.com

Reassert yourself as king of the food chain

Nothing screams “masculinity” quite like “animal carcass full of buckshot.” Hunting brings man back to his primordial self. The thrill of the chase, the kill, the, um, rigors of gutting and cleaning an animal. Pure machismo. At Pintail Point, a sprawling playground on the Eastern Shore, you don’t even have to get your buck knife bloody. The upscale outdoorsman’s lodge offers hunting on its 1,800 acres bordering the lazy Wye River.

Consider Pintail Point a good option for your first hunt: Professional guides equip you with everything you need- from hunting licenses to guns to dogs and decoys- and help point the way to pheasant, chukar, goose and Hungarian partridge. Released mallard hunts ensure you’ll at least have something to fire at. Deer hunting doesn’t take place on property; guides accompany you to other locations in Queen Anne’s County. 

When it’s time to bunk down for the night, you can relax in style at one of Pintail Point’s two B&Bs, one a circa-1936 Tudor manse, the other a rural farmhouse that sleeps six and can be rented for groups.

For those of you not quite ready to go after the real deal, Pintail Point’s clay pigeons make for an equally challenging, albeit less tasty target.

WHAT IT’S GONNA COST: Wild waterfowl hunts are $200 per person, plus equipment rental. Come with a group of at least four for the “businessperson’s special” and it’s $125 per person for up to 20 birds. Pintail Point also offers charter fishing boats, fly-fishing and access to an 18-hole golf course for the complete outdoorsman package. B&B rentals run $185 to $350 per night.

MANLINESS RATING: lllll Nobody has ever called Ted Nugent a wimp.

CONTACT: 410-827-7029, http://www.pintailpoint.com

Learn how to really play poker

If you think the only difference between Texas hold ‘em and Omaha hold ‘em is where they play the game, then you need Tom Gitto, manager of the poker room at Atlantic City’s Taj Mahal. Gitto and other Taj staffers offer basic instruction in all forms of poker, from five- and seven-card stud to hold ‘em games, currently all the rage on televised poker shows like Bravo’s “Celebrity Poker” and ESPN’s “World Series of Poker.”

Gitto schools players on the basics: which hands win, how and how much to bet in certain situations, raising, as well as more advanced techniques like bluffing, check- raising and looking for “tells” when players subliminally give away their hands. “A lot of times beginners will react the opposite of their hand,” says Gitto, who helped establish the Taj’s poker room in 1993 when the game was legalized at New Jersey casinos. “If it’s a strong hand, they’ll act disinterested or grimace; if it’s a weak hand they’ll do the opposite. An experienced player will pick up on that right away.”

You can watch how the pros play it during the U.S. Poker Championship, Sept. 20 through Oct. 8 at the Taj. And if you’re wondering just how popular watching people play poker is these days, you should know that the Taj used to pay ESPN to broadcast the poker championship. “But now,” says Gitto, “they just signed a five-year deal- and pay us.” 

WHAT IT’S GONNA COST:  It’s free, baby. Free! Just ask about poker lessons when you check in. Rooms at the Taj start at $150, but high-rollers can look for comps. If you fancy yourself more the James Bond type, Atlantic City’s Caesars and Resorts casinos offer baccarat lessons, in addition to other table games.

MANLINESS RATING: lllll Sure poker is hot, but the game seemed so much more rugged when Steve McQueen played it in old Westerns than Scotty “The Prince” Nguyen on ESPN2.

CONTACT: 800-825-8888, http://www.trumptaj.com
 

Speed where it’s legal

Here’s a place to make all your NASCAR fantasies come true. At West Virginia’s Summit Raceway, you can take your Beemer, Porsche, Viper- heck, you can even take your beat-up ‘81 Honda Civic- on the track and race it against other hot rodders every Friday. Before heading out onto the two-mile, 10-turn road racing course, rookie drivers receive both classroom and in-car instruction on ocular driving, skid control and cornering techniques.

Hard-core speed demons can register for the Skip Barber Racing School, held spring through fall at the track. The Introduction to Racing course is a three-hour program with classroom instruction and 60 minutes of lapping in a 2.0 liter Formula Dodge race car, capable of propelling you to 60 mph in under 4.5 seconds. If you like the feeling of your underwear sticking to the seat, sign up for the three-day racing school, which provides all the basics you’ll need to start your career as a racing professional. You’ll never want to drive that ‘81 Honda again.

WHAT IT’S GONNA COST: Friday at the Track runs $195, pre-registration required. Skip Barber’s introductory racing course costs $695; the three-day racing school is $3,495.

MANLINESS FACTOR: lllll To misquote a famous film from the ‘80s: “Speed is good.”

CONTACT: 304-725-6512, http://www.summit point-raceway.com; http://www.skipbarber.com

Fish on the fly

Fly-fishing demands the stealth of a spy, the arcane-but-impressive-at-cocktail-party knowledge of an entomologist and the overpriced gear of a man performing a far more dangerous sport.  Bryan Kelly, co-owner and fishing guide at the Angler’s Inn, possesses an excess of all three.

Even better, Kelly’s circa-1880 Victorian inn, which he operates with his wife, Debbi, just happens to be located in Harper’s Ferry, W.Va., at the confluence of two of the Mid-Atlantic’s greatest fly-fishing rivers: the Potomac and the Shenandoah. (OK, so this isn’t Montana.) Still, Kelly, who has fished these waters for almost 20 years, says his clients regularly catch 20 to 30 feisty smallmouth and bigmouth bass, walleye and maybe a tiger muskie per outing.

Kelly also treats his clients in style. In keeping with the Victorian theme of his inn, guests fish from beautiful Mackenzie drift boats made from Ponderosa pine, the same kind of boats used since the 1870s when Robert Mackenzie, the famed explorer and fur trapper, built the first one to navigate the Pacific Northwest. “With all of our high-tech engineering you still can’t make a better boat,” says Kelly. “You can load it with 800 pounds and it’ll go through 4 inches of water. We drop them off a hillside and get them to places no one else can get to.”

Kelly provides all the training and equipment for first-time or experienced anglers, and Debbi reportedly makes a mean packed lunch of West Virginia apple-baked ham on homemade bread.

Their inn, located in the heart of the historic district, has four rooms with private baths and the requisite fishing ambience. After a day on the river, return for a beer on the house’s wraparound porch. Or enjoy a glass of port in the parlor adorned with antique fly rods and debate the merits of the caddis fly.

WHAT IT’S GONNA COST: Fishing/B&B packages start at $350 for two.

MANLINESS FACTOR: lllll Fly-fishing is very much an equal-opportunity sport; Kelly says half his clients are women.

CONTACT: 304-535-1239, http://www.theanglers-inn.com

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