Perched on the throne of his wagon seat, Pete Acevedo is lord of all he surveys in Carmel Valley Village.
Acevedo, 71, started Happy Trails Wagon Tours in the village this month, offering daily trips around the village area with stops at its 11 wine tasting rooms.
For $20, riders get off-and-on passenger privileges on Acevedo's spanking new, varnished farm wagon drawn by Bill and Bob, two matching black Percheron draft horses — "ride along, sip, sun, savor and shop," says his brochure.
Happy Trails is just the latest turn in a varied career pursued by Acevedo, who began work as a child "being dragged in a cotton sack behind my mom" in the San Joaquin Valley, working as a youth on a farm that used draft animals rather than machines — "I learned to plow with a team at 8." After a stint in the Air Force, he worked as a forest firefighter, a packer and tracker in the Sierra Nevada, and later obtained a commercial pilot's license and worked as logistics manager for a Cessna Aircraft dealership.
He also was in the construction business and sold produce in Carmel Valley, and for a time managed Holman Ranch near the village.
Acevedo said he acquired his matching team from a firefighter in Ben Lomond, who used them to pull antique fire apparatus in parades "until his knees went bad."
Bill and Bob weigh in at 1,800 pounds each, compared to 1,000 pounds for a standard-sized horse, and consume six flakes of hay plus grain and "flax seed for the hooves."
He keeps the huge, lumbering animals at a walking pace to spare their feet on hard pavement, and at 5 years old, Bill and Bob are still growing.
The stately horses clop steadily and stolidly through the village, unfazed by roaring Harley Davidsons, impatient motorists and other distractions, responding to Acevedo's voice commands as much as to pressure on the reins.
The team was bred and trained by Amish farmers in Pennsylvania, he said, "from when they were babies. They'll be tied alongside their mommas when they were in harness."
The gleaming black leather harness with nickel-plated hardware was also custom made for the horses by Amish, Acevedo said.
In addition to hauling wine tasters from merlot to sirah to zinfandel, Acevedo also provides wagon tours for other events and rides for children's birthday parties.
He keeps a running patter going with passersby, offers guidance to those wandering afoot with wine shop tour brochures in their hands and lets them know there's an easier way to get around.
He and his wagon and team are out seven days a week, weather permitting, starting at noon each day.
Kevin Howe can be reached at 646-4416 or firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you go
· To make a reservation, call Happy Trails Wagon Tours at 970-8198 or email email@example.com.
If you go