On March 1st, 2010, my friend Walter and I set off on an adventure with my Arabian horse, Sojourner. I rode Soj across America and Walter drove our little truck (with no trailer). The trip began in Los Angeles, California and successfully ended in Bath, New Hampshire 8 months and 14 days later. It was a 3,700 mile ride.
We rode in celebration of family and as an outreach to those dealing with divorce-related depression.
This ride tells a tale of love in many forms - through the people we meet along the way, our connection with the horse, with the land, and with each other.
As this blog goes on it gets more and more in depth with tons of photos and experiences. Snuggle in with a cup of tea and read this like a book. I have switched the blog around so it reads start to finish so you don't have to read backward (except the first entry).
Here is our story...
over the last few days
Let's see here...where to begin....
We are at James and Kelly's house and it's the evening before we are supposed to leave. Walter walks out of the house and says, "family dinner at Sizzler".
We ate far too much thinking it would stay in our systems awhile since we were trekking into the desert the next day. That doesn't work though. It just sits like lead in your stomach and hurts for a while and the next morning you're hungry again. Walter and James showed off their "food babies" to us. I'm sure those food babies were just lovely when they hatched.
I was taking lots of pictures...
This is Kelly saying "if you take another picture I sware I'll...!!!!!!"
Walter and Kelly. They said, "please take a picture of us" so I took this picture. Don't be deceived by their expressions. Alright, fine. Maybe they didn't ask for this photo.
The next morning we said goodbye to James and Kelly and Pat at the Left Boot Corral in Joshua Tree. It stunk to say goodbye, but they are people who will always be in my life now so it's okay. I'll see them again. James and a lovely friend of James and Kelly's took me out on some trails and pointed me in the direction to go through the desert. James had warned me about massive ant hills and it's a good thing he did because I knew what it was when Sojourner and I fell into one. The thing is, the ones I saw with him were black and the one Soj and I hit later on was the same color as the sand. We went in just above Sojourners knees. It was about 4 feet by 4 feet so once he sunk we still had to get out of it, but Soj was calm (all things considered) and worked his way to harder ground without too much of a problem. Now I'm more careful when I get off the road and take short cuts through the desert though. We are on Hwy 62 now, 48 miles to Parker, AZ!
James guiding me to the desert before we parted ways...
At one point after just leaving James, Soj and I came across our worst enemy...the fence. James had told me there was a man who was part of a group called the Black Cowboys who rode his Thoroughbred through the desert. Those Thoroughbred tracks followed the fence with me so I just followed them figuring he had to have come and gone from somewhere so hopefully....hopefully....1 mile in, 2 miles in (oh man, I'm thinking, I don't want to have to turn back now) and then....phew.
Break in the fence
Found this couch in the desert after leaving James on the way to Wonder Valley
That day the temperature of the air was perfect. During the day it reminded me of Florida and it made me crave my Grandma's egg salad sandwiches. Later on in the evening it felt just like a summer evening in New Hampshire. I was daydreaming about getting there with Sojourner, walking down our long driveway. I think I will get off and lay in the grass the second we step on our land. Soj will eat his heart out. I remember when we moved to New Hampshire from Texas and I was amazed at how fine the grass was. I LOVE New Hampshire grass. In Texas the grass was so meaty and dry and the roots were partly above the ground. New Hampshire grass is fine and green and fluffy and magnificent. It's like lying on a cloud. Sojourner will be so happy. I started thinking about the waterfall by our house and riding through the covered bridge for the first time with Soj. Oh! It's going to be amazing!! Brianna and my sister will be there and we can swim and eat...
The desert is bare feet and barbeques and people who aren't afraid to tell you they love you. It's amazing to be here, and on my horse at that.
Sojourner is settling into things nicely. I was going to get some Platinum Plus (even though it's a million and a half dollars), but I wasn't able to get it before I left so I'm going to try and get some in Parker. There is a feed store there. It's supposed to be an awesome supplement. Paula and James spoke highly of it.
We rode 33 miles from the Left Boot Corral to Wonder Valley through the desert. During the day the boys went and filled the trailer with hay. They were able to fit 23 bales. The trailer is packed full and a couple bales are strapped to the sides of it. One is in the truck and one is on the hood of the ambulance.
Hay hay and more hay. Thank you so much to Paula and Jeff!!!!!
That night we stayed with a woman named Cheyenne who was very kind to us. The boys slept out in a cabin and I slept in the ambulance near Soj. I didn't really sleep at all because it was so windy so I figured Soj wasn't sleeping which stressed me out. Cheyenne told me Soj was calm out there though. He is getting to be pretty bomb proof. The next morning I was really tired and I had to walk to where the boys were with the truck that had hay in it. The trailer which is attached to the ambulance is full of hay, but it's all wrapped and the open bale was in the truck. I walked the 1/4 mile down to them and somehow (maybe because I was so tired) drove in the opposite direction that I had just walked and got lost. I can't believe I did that. I drove out to the main road and then drove all around trying to find a road to the house. I could see the house, but no road to it. Ah, it's too hard to explain-you had to be there to realize what I did. This just makes me sound like a fool. Which....well....I suppose....I was tired!!!!
So we rode off that day and stopped in the desert to camp 29 miles later. Walter and Jordan and I have decided it's a good idea to stop around 1pm when it's really hot to take Soj's saddle off and give him lunch. We just put the two trucks up against each other and then rope off a little place for Soj.
I was so incredibly tired yesterday. I almost fell asleep on the horse. Soj was tired too. We both fell asleep after we ate for about an hour. The break mid-day has worked out really well. Soj actually knows the truck now. It's amazing because so many cars pass us on the road but when the white truck comes Sojourner whinnies! It's so funny...he knows break time is near.
Sleeping in the truck. Jordan told me Sojourner stayed right there and slept with his head in the window the whole time I was napping.
When I woke up, Jordan asked if I was hungry and I was but I said I was fine and he made me an egg sandwich anyway. Soj would not stop trying to eat it!
Soj begging for food the next morning. I really should just feed him my food. He would be happier with that.
Anyway, we took our lunch break and then I was to ride another 10 miles or so to where the boys were going to set up camp. Well, the sun started to set (which was spectacularly beautiful) and then the moon started to come out...and then it's very dark, but it was actually so amazingly beautiful. The stars are so bright out here and the moon was half full. The mountains looked black against the moonlight. It was awesome. The boys were supposed to put a flag out so I would know where to turn off the road and into the desert to find them, but there was no way I was going to see a flag now. I called them both. No answer.
Earlier a woman and her husband pulled over on the road and said they had seen us in the paper and that my support crew was stuck up ahead in the sand. Now it's around 9pm and it's dark and I figured they were okay but probably still stuck. There was no way I would be able to find where they were so I was starting to think I would just go somewhere into the desert myself and just sit there with Soj all night. I didn't want to walk all night because that would be too much for him and we both needed water big time.
After thinking like this for a bit my phone rang and Walter said he was coming out to us and that some stuff had happened. The ambulance and trailer had gotten stuck in the soft sand and they had spent the last three hours trying to get it out. Thankfully a tractor trailer truck eventually stopped and pulled them out.
We ended up finding a great spot to camp and woke up to beautiful surroundings this morning. I stalled a little and made coffee and enjoyed the morning.
campsite in the desert
Soj and I were off to a nice start. He was walking at a great pace and I was playing guitar and wrote a whole song. About 45 minutes later the boys show up in the truck and said, "you might want to stop". I had taken a right instead of a left out of the camping spot and was riding the wrong way. So I lost 4 miles today when you count the distance I rode and the distance I had to ride back. When I passed the camping spot later on I looked at my watch and shook my head.
Ready to go...just before setting off in the wrong direction.
Shoot! After that truck story it sounds like I'll never find my way to NH! No wonder Soj was walking at such a good clip. He thought he was headed back to the Left Boot Corral!
Including the mess up, Soj and I went 23 miles, but we actually only went forward 19 miles. Today was such a treat though. Well, I forgot to mention that we woke up this morning to a completely flat tire on the ambulance. The boys had to drive all the way back to town to get another tire, but it ended up being a good thing. First of all there was no charge because Jordan had told the people in Texas about the ride so he just called them and the Ford dealer there is covering the cost. The other great part is that the boys came back with bagels, bread, coffee, CREAMER!!, half and half, ice, eggs, english muffins, Subway sandwiches, and a Naked mango orange smoothie drink (my favorite). I was psyched.
Nancy, if you're reading this...I have been dreaming about a hot cup of coffee with cream ever since I read your lovely comment the other day. I imagined you with your coffee in your hand and I wanted one too so badly!! So, the boys fulfilled that craving for me.
The ambulance had a rough night.
Back in Business
We had a wonderful fire again tonight and I made us an Alfredo dinner with sun dried tomatoes and spinach. All things my wonderful mama and Stephen packed for us a while ago. We had coffee with hazelnut creamer too. Oh! And I took a shower! Jordan warmed the shower bag today and set it up for me once Soj and I rode into camp this evening. It was amazing. My hair was really greasy and I was thickly covered in desert sand, Soj dust, hay, and everything else. It felt SO good to have that little tiny stream of water...and then the nice coffee after that. Mmmm perfect.
Jordan getting wood for the fire
writing in my journal so I wouldn't forget things since we didn't have internet service
It's already midnight on Wednesday night and I have a pretty long day tomorrow. I am probably going to ride 25 miles give or take tomorrow and do the same the next day to get out of California. I can't believe we're almost through our first state! That's cool...
It's 5:25 the next morning. I just fed Soj and I am going to try and go back to sleep here in a minute. I hardly slept a second last night. I thought Soj was upset because every once in a while the ambulance would bang and move so I thought he was knocking into it. The second it would happen I would whip up and look out of the window to see him just standing there. Now I realize Walter is sleeping in his sleeping bag up on top of the ambulance. It would move every time he would shift from one side to the other. He had mentioned sleeping up there but he has mentioned that before and he usually ends up staying down by the fire. I figured he probably changed his mind and slept by the fire again. When the ambulance would move it did cross my mind that Walter might be up there, but most of me figured it was Soj. I'm glad to know it wasn't and that this corral set up is still working out well.
Walter asleep on top of the ambulance.
Oh man, I'm tired. Definitely having a big cup of coffee and I'm definitely going to go sleep now for a while. So much for my early start.
Oh! I remembered something last night as I was trying to fall asleep. I remember this sporadically throughout different days but I always forget to write it. Anyway, Sue and Sally, if you're reading....there is a road that leads to your place (the first dirt road I rode up before turning right) and on the right hand side of that road there was a house that had tons of very old John Deere tractors in the yard. I wanted to take a picture to send to my friend, Wayne, in Redlands, but my camera was dead. I would love to get their address to see if any of the tractors are for sale because Wayne just loves old John Deere's. He said I would probably see a lot of old tractors as I travel across and to let him know about tractors for sale. Of course I didn't have my camera and took a different road out from your ranch so I wasn't able to get the address! Would you mind emailing it to me so I can pass it along to Wayne? Wayne might be interested enough to call in over there and inquire about those tractors. There were so many of them and they were so old and rusted, I bet they would sell some of them!
Alright, now it's a little past 8am. I'm starting late today. Looking out the back of the ambulance here I think I can cut off a lot of the road by going straight through the desert to cut through to the hills and meet up with 62 again. Yes, that's what I'll do. That reminds me, I saw a big snake the other day! It was awesome. I don't know what kind it was. It wasn't a rattle snake though. It was light colored like the sand with some design coming up from it's belly. It just laid there warming itself and sticking it's little snake tongue out.
Thursday, the 25th. 8:48 pm
We rode another 25 miles today and are now about 22 miles outside of Arizona! We have to be at the radio station by 4pm tomorrow. I think I might be playing live. I'm not sure though....I might just be playing songs from the new album, but either way I will try to pop on here and let you know if you can listen on-line. I'm just going to ride Soj right up to the station and tie him outside.
Today was a wonderful, wonderful ride. Soj and I cut through the desert away from everything-it was incredible. There were no human sounds whatsoever. I was far enough away from 62 that I couldn't even see the cars. It was just land all around as far as the eye could see. Sojourner and I came to this spot that must have had water running through it at some point because there was a strip of trees. We went down into the wash and it was so beautiful. The earth had washed away so the roots of the trees were above the dirt. I took my flip flops off and tied Soj up to a tree and just enjoyed it for a minute. It really was incredible. I wished the boys could have seen it.
Amazing tree in the beautiful spot in the desert
After I untied Soj I was leading him on a long line and he decided to roll. He did that once on the side of the highway too. Did I mention that before? It was crazy. We were on the side of the highway and down he went because there was some deep soft sand on the shoulder. This time it wasn't so bad but all of our water opened up so I had nothing for either of us to drink. Half between this incident and the boys I gave Soj the only liquid I had left which was my bottle of Gatorade that had survived the roll inside my saddle bag. He just loved that. He was lapping the last bits up like a dog.
We had lunch at an old run down gas station in the middle of nowhere. I had to fix Soj's easy boots which have been a massive pain in the neck, but after Walter and I messed around with them and put in a different screw, they seem to be working better. For now anyway. They are wearing down surprisingly fast though.
I am now riding Soj in just his halter and I can really feel a difference with him. You know how dogs seem to know when you're sad? Animals are able to sense each other really well and I can actually feel that Sojourner is so happy to not have that bit in his mouth. He is so responsive now. I really don't need it. James showed me some tricks while lunging him which helps to get him in the right mind set in the morning.
He is pretty in tune with what I do with my body now. It's funny because he notices little subtle things I didn't even realize I was doing. The way I shift my weight just before I'm about to take my feet out of the stirrups makes him stop every time. Sometimes I just want to take my feet out to ride with them dangling but once he feels the muscles in my legs flex whatever way they flex against him, he stops. It amazes me how in tune he is. He's always, always listening. I pretty much don't say a word through most of the day but if I clear my throat or sigh or just do anything that little ear comes back at me. So, being so in tune, he doesn't need the bit anymore. He is just as responsive with just the halter as he is with the bit. I'll put it on in cities to be safe in case he spooks, but out in the country like this it's great and I can really feel how much he enjoys the freedom. Honestly I think he would be fine in the city in just the halter as well, but for you, mama, I will put in the bit so I have more control.
We are camping again tonight. We had a nice dinner again. Walter grilled asparagus that Jordan had picked up back in Joshua Tree at the little Farmer's Market. It was the best grilled asparagus I have ever had. I made an egg scramble with onions and sun-dried tomatoes and cheddar cheese. The cheese was moldy but I just cut off the mold and it was fine. We grilled bagels and had coffee too. Yeah, I suppose it was breakfast, but breakfast is the best meal anyway. Breakfast makes a good dinner.
I am going to put up some older pictures that I like and never posted down here....
The animen taunting me by the fire.
This is in the L.A. area but I never put this picture up and just came across it. Dogs. Dogs and more dogs.
Walter cleaning out a tub so I can take a bath