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“Tanks” for the Memories: Justifying Large Expenditures

My Father-in-Law (Bob) celebrated his 70th birthday earlier this year and since we see it as a milestone birthday, so we wanted to do something special for him. We thought about a lot of different things we could get him, but he has pretty much anything that he needs or wants. So then we thought about some experiences we could look into for him. He has had some back and neck issues the last few years, so even those adventures would be limited for what we could do. Then, Mrs. SSC came across a website that we thought would not only offer a great present but also an excellent place to make memories. (not an affiliate link by the way, I wish, lol)

It’s Tank time! German Leopard we drove and I rode on in the turret.

Bob has been a pretty big WWII history buff and has read a lot about that time period so we thought this could incorporate that passion of his as well. What did we stumble across that would fulfill this passion, while providing a great gift and awesome memories? Ox Ranch, a place where you can literally drive a tank on one of their designed tank courses. They have over 18,000 acres, most dedicated to exotic animal hunting, but a large part is also dedicated to tanks and machine guns, because, Texas. They also offer you the chance to shoot the tank if you want to spend that kind of coin, we didn’t. Plus, there are options to shoot almost any type of WWII machine gun if you choose. We offered if he was interested, but Bob didn’t take us up on any of those options, whew… We had an excellent time and even got an upgrade on the tank we got to experience due to a delay caused by the History Channel shooting on location that day. Woohoo for little wins!! Even though we try to be frugal in a lot of areas in our life, this was one thing that we could justify paying for a memory making experience.

Keeping Costs “Low” 

If you go to the website, which I recommend if you’re a tank/machine gun buff, the first thing you’ll probably notice is that this is not a cheap endeavor. We found it to be fairly expensive and grappled over whether it would be worth the cost. The price range of options we put together was under $1k which meant we were looking at only 1 true tank option, with the other vehicles in that price range being “tracked guns”, armored infantry vehicles, and that sort of thing. Even wanting to do something special we didn’t think that the 50% cost increase to a German Leopard was worth it, so we tried to keep costs lower in that regard. Because of that, we also gave Bob the choice of shooting a machine gun or so if he wanted. I drew up a nice powerpoint highlighting the options that he had available and we let him pick and choose his own adventure. Yes, I really did make a powerpoint for someone’s birthday.

Bob didn’t want to cash this present in during the heat of summer, and since we traveled for a lot of it anyway, that was out. We waited to make the schedule for when I had a Friday off and could travel out there with him, and when the weather was cooler. That happened to be last weekend for us. We actually got snow in Houston on Friday – snow!!

It was epic!

Back to affording the present. We had asked around the family if anyone wanted to split it with us or contribute towards it and while we got a lot of enthusiastic replies, to date we’ve seen no money. That’s okay, it was worth it to us and here’s why.

See Wildlife

First, you get to bring 5-6 people with you to the Ranch, which is also an exotic animal ranch that lets you pay to come shoot whatever exotic animal you want to shoot. Not my thing, but to each their own. Driving into the Ranch, we got to see Zebra, Elk, White Elk, Axis deer, Barasingha, Fallow Deer, Antelope (multiple varieties), Kangaroos, Camels (I don’t think they shoot those, but you never know), and well, you get the idea. It was cool in the sense that the animals were just roaming free, so hanging out at the lodge for check-in we saw the kangaroos hopping around, some desert star tortoises, and some deer, elk, and turkeys walking close by. You could even pet them if you were careful enough and didn’t startle them. Hunting at its finest – eyeroll… Once checked in we went up to the Tank area of the Ranch and this is where the fun started.

You Get to Experience Tanks, and Guns!

There was a 152mm artillery gun out front being worked on, evidently a “tank killer” that was cool to see. Then we walked into the warehouse and my mind was blown. I’ve always been a big tank fan, and besides spending countless hours playing World of Tanks Blitz, they’ve always fascinated me. Inside the warehouse I saw a real M4 Sherman, like the one in the movie Fury – excellent movie even if you don’t like anything tank related – a German Leopard, a Russian T34-85, a tracked motorcycle, a German Halftrack, an armored Russian infantry carrier, multiple anti-tank artillery pieces, and a whole wall of WWII era machine guns. They even let you handle the machine guns as long as you only held one at a time.

I’m holding a German MG 42!

My 6 yr old loved the wall of guns! It was over 40′ long!

A Russian T34-85. Super cool!

Where else do you get to see or sit on a tracked motorcycle?!

An aerial view of a quarter of the warehouse. Yeah, there are 3 more sides, like this… A Sherman in the foreground, a Halftrack in the middle, and a German Leopard at the top of the picture.

We asked a lot of questions with our guide, who would show Bob how to drive the tank, and he answered every question we had very well. He was pretty patient with us too because we had loads of questions! Midway through this part I asked about getting a picture of the Sherman and he said, “Well, you can get in it if you want.” I couldn’t believe it! As long as we didn’t click any switches or hit any buttons we were free to climb on, in, and around all those vehicles I mentioned above. I felt like a kid in a candy store!

AQn aerial view of the M4 Sherman. You mean I can get in this?!

I climbed in the Sherman and helped my son get in, and Bob climbed in the drivers seat for the Sherman. It was pretty tight in there, let me tell you. I didn’t mind because it was SO cool. Plus, getting to share that experience with my son and Bob was amazing. Mrs. SSC wasn’t too keen on checking anything out, to that level of detail, but she did accompany us on the tank ride later. I thoroughly enjoyed getting to climb in each of those tanks and ask our guide all kinds of questions, and Bob and I kept marveling how compact and tight fitting each one was. The Russian T34-85 was the roomiest of all with one big open chamber for the commander, gunner, and driver.

Sitting in the Commander’s seat!

Look out, a 6 yr old is operating the turret!

Should 2 kids really be playing in a halftrack?! Yes, if given the chance.

Inside view of the Russian T34-85. So roomy compared to the others…

Leopard we got to climb in and on.

Then we went outside and got set up on a Leopard to drive the tank course with. It was a free upgrade due to waiting on the History Channel who was there filming for a new series they may shoot. It was amazing getting to ride around in that. That tank let 4 extra people ride, so Mrs. SSC, myself, and Bob’s friend that came along all rode, with Mrs. SSC, our son, and myself riding in the turret part. Excellent!!!

During the ride, up in the turret!

All in all, it was one of the coolest experiences I’ve had in my life, and it wasn’t even my birthday present. At the end, I had no qualms about paying for it, whether we get money from other family members or not. We had a great bonding time with the family, Bob, his friend, and we made a LOT of memories. After the Tank time was over, we were free to hang out at the lodge and they had a fire going in the fire pit, so we ate our picnic lunch we packed and then hung out beside the fire for a few hours before heading back home.

Worth It? Hell Yes! 

Was this something that we would do yearly? No way. It was worth it, but too spendy to do often. If I end up with some good stock picks with my allowance money, I may come back and drive a tank instead of riding, but that’s not too likely. It would also be fun to shoot a round out of the tank but at ~$400 a shot, again, it’s not too likely. I had an awesome time with the experience that we all had together and most likely will leave it at that. While it was one of the better experiences I’ve had in life, it’s not something that would probably be as magical or amazing on a repeat visit. But then again who knows?

What about you? Have you had an experience that was spendy, but worth it for the experience and memories that came from it? I’d love to hear about it!

26 thoughts on ““Tanks” for the Memories: Justifying Large Expenditures

  1. Fervent Finance

    That’s awesome Mr. SSC, good for you and Mrs. SSC. That’s what’s great about the path to FIRE, it gives you the flexibility to spend money how you see fit and maybe even brighten someone’s day.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I think as far as “bang for the buck” even though it was a present for Bob, his best friend, me, and my 6 yr old all felt like it was one of the best days ever. 🙂

      Yep, being in a position to have the flexibility to splurge on something like that, which was totally unnecessary, was pretty cool.

  2. Accidental FIRE

    Cool post, awesome thing to do! If you’ve ever seen the movie “Kelly’s Heroes” which is a cult classic, I was picturing the scene where Oddball is rolling into town on top of the tank while I was reading this.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      OMG, I hadn’t heard of that movie until now, but reading the plot line for it, it’s on the must watch list. Thanks for the suggestion!

  3. Mrs.Wow

    I ‘ve thought about gifting people rides in fancy cars or motorcycles before, but I’ve never even considered tanks or something as such. Totally agree that it is pricey, but those memories will last for a lifetime. I mean, how many people, outside of the military, have actually ridden in a tank before.

    We’ve definitely done our fair share of expensive experiences. A few years ago, Mr.Wow and I went to the Superbowl in New Orleans when both of our teams were playing. It was WAY expensive and more than I would ever think to spend on a football game/ weekend, but it was totally worth it and something that we always think about every year around the big game. The beauty of FI is allowing you options to spend money on things that add value to your life, regardless if it is cheap or expensive.

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      I forget how exactly we stumbled across the tanks site, maybe during one of my World of Tanks Blitz games I might have suggested it, or Mrs. SSC found it and asked me and I was like, “OMG, that would be AWESOME! Oh, and for your dad too, lol”.

      How crazy is it that both of your teams would make it to the SAME Superbowl?! Like that game for you guys, we definitely won’t be forgetting about this experience. It was worth every penny for sure. 🙂

  4. MrWow

    Two things had me cracking up:

    The most Texas sentence I think I’ve ever read: ” They have over 18,000 acres, most dedicated to exotic animal hunting, but a large part is also dedicated to tanks and machine guns,”

    And the second most Texas thing: Walking up behind an animal to pet it… then shoot it. “Hunting at it’s finest!”

    Regardless you have a point. Life is too short to beat yourself up over doing some stuff. There’s a balance between YOLO and setting yourself up for the future. Make the big changes to your life so you can splurge when you need to. This are things you will look back on for ever. And if it’s special it’s worth it. If all you ever do are special things, then nothing is special.

    We did end up at a SuperBowl, and it was way too expensive and it was worth every cent, we might have paid double: http://wafflesonwednesday.com/that-time-we-spent-too-much-on-a-football-game/

    1. Mr SSC Post author

      Hahahaha, I mean when you have 18000 acres of land, you can’t dedicate it all to shooting exotic wildlife. surely some part of it should be set aside for tanks and machine guns, right? LOL

      Seriously, while we were hanging by the fire pit, there were hunters all camo-ed up wandering around taking a break from the morning hunt, before the afternoon hunt, and a few were petting the white elk babies that were wandering around, and then a group of turkeys came over and they were petting them, and a couple were feeding/petting the kangaroos. I thought, “Um, how is this hunting when all of these animals are tame enough to be petted? It’s like, Awww, look Bambi… I’m gonna shoot it!” bwahahahaha
      Texas. 🙂

      I know I won’t forget this experience and my 6 yr old either. He was running around that place like he’d died and gone to heaven, just fascinated with everything in that warehouse. Just like me, Bob, and his best friend. 🙂 Like you, prior to this trip, I wouldn’t have paid double, but after going there and experiencing it, yeah it would still be worth it at twice the price. It was just that awesome!

  5. Brian

    Looks amazing? What was Bob’s overall reaction? As a WWII buff, he must have been pumped. Sounds like a great place just to hang out and see the sights. For my Son’s 15th birthday we took a biplane ride over the Central Coast of Californa. Nothing like have the wind in your face of an open cockpit, while flying over the shoreline. A bit pricey, but well worth the memories we made.

    1. Mr. SSC

      Bob loved it! It was awesome just getting to hang out there, ask our guide all sorts of historical questions, not just tank related ones and have a great experience.

      The biplane ride sounds awesome too. I’ve always wanted to do that.

  6. Revanche @ A Gai Shan Life

    The tanks and guns sound like a lot of fun but I blanched a bit at the “hunting”. I’m old school, petting the animals that you’re going to shoot later for sport seems wrong. But I also grew up believing you hunt only what you will use, and use everything you hunt, so it’s hard to get behind the fake big game hunts. Not much skill involved there!

    I think our big splurge is consistently going to SDCC every year. We go as a family, and have done for years, and we don’t spend a ton of money but it adds up! It’s a lot of time and effort, with tons of planning going into it many months before the event. I hope that JB grows up to appreciate our little tradition, because it’d be sad to have to stop going or drag a sulky kid to it, though!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Yeah, it seemed really offputting with the animals just wandering around the ranch house and fire pit. Granted they have 18k acres of ranch, so those weren’t exactly the ones being shot, but knowing their sole reason for being on that place is to be “hunted” was a little sad.

      SDCC sounds fun. My step-brother used to go religiously but then he let life take over and well, now not so much. Good luck with continuing that tradition!

    1. Mr. SSC

      Let us know if you get down that way. We might be out in Canyon lake at the new casa by then, or even if we’re still around Houston, it’d be great to meetup. It was a really cool time, and by 202, they plan to have up to 10 more tanks! 10!! There may even be a History Channel show about them finding them, buying them, fixing them, etc… as they were there filming that day for the series.

  7. ChrisCD

    Paid a small fortune for 5 out of the 8 of us to do a series of Spartan Races together. We tend to spend a little extra here and there on our vacations where we can.

    That tank experience looks amazing. Thank you for sharing.
    cd :O)

  8. Jacq

    That sounds like an awesome experience for everyone!
    On our family trip last year we went zip lining, and it was mom’s first time. Yes we had go pros but I spent the money for a set of 3 of their photos. Worth it for the perspective of the shots.

    1. Mr. SSC

      It was pretty sweet! The zip line experience sounds great too! I bet they had some cool shot perspectives you wouldn’t be able to get with the go pro. Sounds like a great time.

  9. Mrs. BITA

    Sounds like much fun was had by everyone involved. I’ve ridden a tank once before, when I was around 10, I think. My uncle was in the Armoured Corps in the Indian Army, and he took us all out in a tank when we were visiting. I’m not (and never have been) much of a tank/gun enthusiast, but I do vividly remember enjoying my extreme popularity and coolness when I got back to school after the holidays and was the badass who rode in a tank.

    1. Mr. SSC

      There was a lot of fun had by everyone, even Mrs. SSC who isn’t into guns or tanks. 🙂 I bet getting to ride a tank at that age would vault you up in the coolness/popular category. That had to be fun even if you weren’t too much into tanks or guns at the time.

  10. Laurie Blank

    Oh my gosh – that place looks freaking awesome!!!!!! Who knew? But then again, it is Texas. We have some dear friends there that we are hoping to come down and see soon. Would love to take a tour of that place!!!!

    1. Mr. SSC

      It is awesome, and even if you just do the tank ride, you can hang out in their ranch house, which is like a mcmansion in size and bring your own picnic lunch and they don’t run you off the ranch as soon as your tank ride is over. It was cool. They had a fire in the firepit and free booze/beer and snacks around the ranch house. Overall, a very cool and chill place to spend the afternoon after we did the tank part.

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