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...
somewhere in the desert in Arizona....
...oh okay, actually we are 8 miles West of Vicksburg. Walter just told me.
I can't post any pictures tonight because the internet is extremely slow out here.
Going back to yesterday...After leaving Brenda's place in Parker, Sojourner and I rode 11 hours to Bouse. We were making really great time. I got up at 4am to feed and was in the saddle by 6:30, but after riding about 5 miles I realized somewhere along the line I had lost my SPOT. SPOT is a GPS system that keeps my mama from worrying. Walter and my mom and Stephen know where I am every ten minutes with this thing. This is not the first time I have dropped the SPOT. Last time I dropped it I lost it because it wasn't where it said it was. It turned off. I guess someone took that one. Luckily we had insurance on it so we were got another and the SPOT company even donated an upgrade after Stephen told them about the ride. So anyway, here we go again, new and improved SPOT missing.
I called Stephen to get on-line to see where it was and he turned on his computer and said it was all the way back where I started, but I hadn't turned the tracker on, so it wasn't giving a constant update. So, back I rode about 2.5 miles and found it on the road. I was so happy to find it, but I added 5 miles to an already 28 mile ride which really, really aggravated me.
You see, I hadn't gotten a lot of sleep the night before. I smashed my toe so hard climbing up a bank on the side of the Colorado River that I thought I was going to lose my toe nail because it was so bruised underneath. After a day of swimming in the river and going to see our new friends Melissa and John at the Desert Bar, I packed and folded everything and eventually got into the ambulance to go to sleep. It was early, maybe 10pm and I thought I would get a good 6 hours of sleep. My toe killed though! I kept saying, "it's just a toe. Sleep" in my head, but I couldn't. I tried for a good 2 and a half hours though because I so badly didn't want to get up into the cold, but finally I did. I went to where the boys were to get the truck key from Walter. Now it's 12:30am and they were watching a movie on the computer. I went to the truck and took some Aspirin and then I wasn't very tired and it took a while for the Aspirin to kick in. So anyway, long story that I didn't make very short, I fell asleep around 2 and got up at 4 to feed Soj. It was SO hot the next day. I had left early to beat the heat, but then lost the SPOT and, you know.
So I'm hot and tired and I called Stephen so frustrated to tell him the SPOT was gone.
"Stephen. I am so annoyed with this stupid SPOT. It doesn't stay on the saddle no matter how I clip it. I can't handle this".
"Okay! Okay! I'm turning on my computer!! Let me see! Hold on!" Stephen says in an exasperated but cheery voice because he knows I am right at my wits end.
(Ah! A big spider just crawled up my computer screen!!)
Anyway, my point of this rambly story is that I was a big grouch to Stephen and I wanted to find the SPOT just so I could set it in the road under a tractor trailer truck so it could be squashed for so annoyingly slipping off my saddle again, but it got me to thinking about how people are snippy only to the people they know they can be snippy too. That's one thing family is great for. You know you can leash out if you have to and they are still going to be there when the smoke clears. So thanks, Stephen.
So...now I'm walking along the train tracks and I am so incredibly hot and tired so I dismount because I've decided I'm going to ride in my underwear. You see, when I get THAT hot, I HAVE to get cooler. I was a little ways away from the road so people wouldn't really see me in my undies, I mean, sometimes they did but I really don't care. I couldn't get to the boys to bring me shorts because I was on the tracks behind a barbed wire fence and they were a ways off anyway.
I drooped my jeans over the saddle, put my shoes and socks in my collapsible water bucket and rode on. Now I've ridden an hour or so and I think about my knife. I just realized that it was in my jeans which...yes, just as I thought, are hanging upside down with now empty pockets.
Now you see, I had this knife once before. Yup, just like the SPOT, but I was never able to find it again after losing it off the saddle that time so my mom bought me a new one. I told myself I would NOT lose the knife this time.
So, "okay Soj, back the way we came".
We rode about 20 minutes back and I found it lying in the dirt thankfully. This time I wasn't mad though. I knew it had to be back just a ways and I already went through the whole "you shouldn't get so mad about things and be so grouchy" speech to myself after the whole SPOT incident.
Now we're riding on and I realize I am going to have to get off the train tracks and get onto a road, but wait a second...What is it you ask??? No PANTS!!!
I hadn't tied my pants on and they had slipped off the gosh darn stupid God forsaken saddle.
So, grrrrrrrrrrrrRRRRRRAAAAAAHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!, I go on a pants hunt and a while later I found my jeans and put them on and couldn't get out of the fence.
I hope I don't get in trouble for writing this and I feel bad about it and won't do it again, but after all those turn a rounds and the horrible heat I just couldn't bare to ride on past my turn until God knows when to find another way out when I realized I was locked in behind that barbed wire fence...so I cut myself out. Rather Walter cut me out, but only because I told him I had to get out of there and didn't give him much of a choice. I tried to not have to cut it. I used my knife and pried all of the 4 wires off of the poles but they were just too loose on the ground and it would have been too risky to try and get Soj over it. Oh goodness, one of these days I'll repair a downed fence to make up for it.
(Ah! This spider just crawled up my leg....)
I got on the road and a little while later a wonderful woman named Susan shows up in the distance in a white jeep that holds a cooler in the back full of beer, soda, and Gatorade. She got out and immediately cracked and handed me a beer and we sat and cooled off for a bit. Soj took a nap while we were talking. Both Soj and I were SO tired. I told Susan I had my eyes closed for half of the ride and to tell you the truth that is probably an understatement. I would open one eye just the tiniest bit to make sure we were still going the right way and then I would close it again and trust that Soj would get me there.
Susan let me know I only had about 6 miles left to go and so Soj and I were off again.
When we finally got to the BS ranch, we were greeted by tons of fantastic people and a big turkey dinner with all the fixin's and homemade pies! Susan directed me to the shower and Susan even had a fantastic tub that I regretfully didn't have time to relax in, but the shower was awesome. She also did our laundry this morning (which was ready to crawl away) and made us a big pasta lunch.
The flowing wave of generosity that has been rolling around Soj and I did not stop at the BS ranch. A woman named Stephanie with an incredibly kind heart went to her trailer and just handed me thing after thing. She wouldn't take no for an answer!
"I've got three of everything!" she would say and "I only have one horse and look at all of this stuff!"
The stuff she was handing over was beautiful and stuff she easily could sell, but she insisted it belong to Sojourner. Soj now has a beautiful wool and sheep's wool pad, a wool blanket, leg wraps, another lead rope and halter, more liniment, more electrolytes, a new head stall and snaffle bit, 2 new reins...oh, it goes on and on...
We were also given some easy boots!! Thank goodness! A woman named Barb (who also baked the pies) gave us easy boots and also pads to go inside them. Maybe that's why Soj had more pep in his walk today, because his boots fit better.
((Paula!! If you are reading, there is a woman at the BS ranch and I think the two of you need to meet. You would just love each other! I can get you her contact info. James and Kelly...I'll give it to you.))
They were all incredibly generous and wonderful, so much so that instead of leaving around 7 or 8am like I usually do, I left at 12:45pm today...BUT I didn't leave until after, guess what!!??
After going on a SPOT hunt!!!!!! YAY!!!! Favorite thing!!! Time to do the favorite thing!!!
I tacked up Soj around noon and went to turn on the SPOT for the day and the stupid thing wasn't there. This time at least it was in "tracking mode" and when Walter went on-line he could see where it was. We drove a few miles down the road and there it was on the shoulder.
There was an old cowboy at the ranch called "Ugly Dog" and he told me stories about the war and stories about his 2 deceased wives. His real names is James, but when he was about 5 years old his mother came out to him crying as he stood in front of his brother.
"You see", James goes into the story, "my brother and I used to fight every day when we was kids. Mama hollered out the kitchen winda one day and she said 'you boys quit that!'
She came out the screen door and Daddy was in there havin' coffee and she came out, leaned against the porch post and she says 'now, what in the world are you boys fightin' fo'? I wanna know this right now!'
Well, my brother put his hands behind his back and stuck his head in the air" (he hums a little tune and imitates the way his brother would put his hand behind his back) "hmmm hmm hmmm like he always did and mother stepped off the front porch, walked down, put her arm around me and she gave me a tug and she said 'Jimmy darlin', what are you and Bubba fightin' about?'
And I said (he raises his voice into a childlike, high pitched tune), Mama he called me ugly dog! And she didn't say a word; she didn't even laugh. And my brother, he kinda grinned, my sister she come out on the porch and she just grinned and I'm sure Daddy was grinnin' in the kitchen and mama just took her arm down and never said nothin', didn't even turn around and look at us. She walked back up on the porch, she reached for the screen door and opened it up and she say 'well, Jimmy darlin'. I hate to say it. When you came into this world you were the ugliest thing I ever did see in my whole life!'
And Daddy cracked up in the kitchen, my brother cracked up, my sister likely busted a gut on the porch and that's how I got my name, Ugly Dog".
I said, "and you kept the name!? Even though it made you cry?"
He said, "well, that's what my whole family called me after that".
Ugly Dog said when he went in to the army they used to call the soldiers "mud dogs" to get them all riled up and he didn't mind one bit! The officers would kick them down in the mud so they wouldn't get muddy. He said, "the trainin' sergeant didn't wanna get muddy".
He continues, "and so the reason for that was so when we went to the trainin' and they shot that machine gun over top you didnt' stick yo' butt up. One guy did and he got hurt pretty bad".
"Now they don't do that now, they use blanks, but not back in my day".
**I have a lot of stories from the BS ranch, but I think I will save them for later. I am so tired tonight. In fact, I decided today that I will probably write a book after this. There is just so much stuff to tell and I try not to censor too much for this blog, but I have to to an extent and I can be more open in my book. I have so much video footage already as well. It's awesome. I will try to start putting up little clips soon, but it's hard to find the time to do everything after I ride all day...this blog is just a tiny taste of the days. I've got to give you more when I have time to get it all out!!**
Ugly Dog gave me a belt buckle that he won in 1952 for riding a bronco bare back. I am so happy to have it. It's awesome! I also have a band for my cowgirl hat now that he made as well. He gave me the compass he used in the war and a sweater I'm wearing now. I was saying that my leather shop is going to be just full of people and memories when I get home and decorate it.
(Oh no!!! Susan! I didn't give you all sage!! I had sage for you from Bob! Oh man! Darn it. I was in such a rush at the end because it was getting so late in the day. Okay, well, I will get Bob's sage to you someday. Oh! Walter just came and read over my shoulder and said "I gave Susan sage". Good good.)
Today was a nice ride. We didn't trot or canter at all, but Soj walked out the entire day at a great clip. We only rode 18 miles today, but it was a nice relaxed day (nothing lost off the saddle) Oh! That reminds me, Jordan made this awesome little case for the SPOT out of leather so I won't lose it anymore. I'll post a picture soon. It's cool.
So we rode 18 miles and saw an incredible sunset behind plateaued mountains and the sporadic tall cactus and spindly tree. It was gorgeous. Sojourner saw the ambulance and trailer before I did (as always) and perked up heading straight for it. Walter was sitting at the end of the road by the cattle grade to let me through the break in the fence. Now I am in a beautiful camping spot that the boys found. I am sitting outside on Soj's saddle pad and Soj is right here next to me chomping away at his hay.
Oh, Soj and I saw a dead young mountain lion today on the side of the road. It looked like something out of national geographic. I thought maybe it was a bob cat, but it was kinda big for a bob cat and really looked like a lion. I felt sad for it. Stupid cars.
Anyway, I should get some sleep. It's 11:30pm. Hopefully I can upload some pictures tomorrow.