Mechanical Bull Riding at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill

I never thought I'd say this, but I had a really great time at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill in Mesa last night. And I lasted eleven seconds on one mean mechanical bull.

Every Wednesday night, Barrel Boy from local country station 102.5 KNIX hosts a "Queen of the Bull" competition at Toby Keith's, where daring amateur female riders don their hottest cowgirl outfits and straddle the back of a mechanical bull for as long as possible. I'm not a fan of country music, but I'll "cowgirl up" if it involves watching women conquer beer and beast.

The inside of Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill is spacious, modern, and flashy. Plasma TVs hang everywhere. There's a massive sculpture of a guitar (painted red, white, and blue, of course) sprawling the length of the bar, two separate dining areas, a merchandise shop, a stage, and a dance floor.

The mechanical bull's housed in a pen that's heavily padded on all sides with red mats. He's painted dark black, and his bright red, acrylic eyes don't look raging, but rather like those of a creepy toy that always seems to be staring at you.

I signed a release of liability form that promised I wasn't drunk and I wouldn't sue if I were to say, throw my shoulder out, bust my tailbone on the saddle, or stub my toe on the stirrup.

Around 9 p.m., Barrel Boy asked everybody who signed up for the bull riding contest to line up near the pen. About a dozen other women signed up for the night's contest, in hopes of winning the "Queen of the Bull" grand prize: four VIP passes to the Toby Keith concert at Cricket Pavilion on August 8.

I was first and my mechanical bull ride went in stages. At first, it felt like trying to hold onto a lawnmower while running downhill. After a few seconds, the bull began slowly bucking, like it was drunk and had the hiccups. Then, it started whipping around furiously, and I felt like I was trying to straddle a Volkswagon while spinning in circles.

My wrists hurt slightly from clinging to the rope. It felt like playing the game "Mercy" with someone, but I didn't dare let a hand go. Eleven seconds into the ride, the bull took a swift downturn to the right, and my butt slid off the saddle. Faced with trying to pull myself back up onto a thrashing hulk of metal or letting go, I let go.

I lasted eleven seconds. Most of the women who went after me did better (like 14 or 16 seconds). And they were serious about the "performance" part of the contest, driving the crowd of 70 or so crazy. A few were wearing skirts with matching cowboy boots, and many of them were riding with one hand, leaving the other arm to wave circles in the air.

Maybe Toby Keith's should start handing lassos to the ladies.

The "Queen of the Bull" contest takes place every Wednesday through August 4 at Toby Keith's I Love This Bar & Grill, 1065 N. Dobson Road in Mesa. Call 480-844-8629 or visit www.tobykeith.com/mesa for more information.

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