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...
2 states down, Texas bound.....yo.
We are now in New Mexico. We crossed the Arizona/New Mexico border on Saturday, the 24th after leaving Kay's at the St. John's RV Park/Apache Fairgrounds in St. John's, AZ. We rode on CR 6040 which is a dirt road that travels 63 miles to Quemado.
We went about 24 miles that first day and camped just on the other side of the border. We were advised not to go on this road because it was dangerous. There is no one out there. We met nearly every person that lives out there while we rode, but apparently there are people who hide out in that land ( "cedar rats" and "meth heads" ) were the names we were given. We were told there were 5 homicides in the last year.
We met a couple of men who stopped as we were having lunch to see if we needed anything and let us know where they were should we find ourselves in need.
We finished up lunch and after riding about 45 minutes or so they pulled up again in their truck and asked me if I had a gun. They said I really needed to be careful. "Just be smart", they said. I told them I had a knife and mace and they shook their head with a slight grin and said, "even us nice guys carry a gun". At that moment he pulled out a big hand gun from the pocket of his door and pointed it forward. I said "oh" and just looked at them waiting for whatever was next.
They were great guys and both gave me their numbers (although I was riding to where there was no service whatsoever). It made me feel better to know they weren't too far away if we needed them, but I wasn't feeling too worried anyway.
Road 6040 was 1,00o feet lower than the other option of going down to Springerville and it was also shorter so we took it. We didn't hear about the murders until half way through the ride otherwise we might have gone to Springerville after all, but as it turned out we rode through gorgeous land and met nothing but wonderful people.
When we camped we hid ourselves pretty well so no one would have been able to see us unless they were really looking. There was one day that I didn't see a single person other than Walter. This area is really, really secluded. It's nothing but land and cows. We didn't have cell service for 3 1/2 days and had to get our water from the windmills.
It was great riding and the best camping ever. Walter and I found the most beautiful places to camp overlooking mesas and huge open fields. I was very tired on Sunday so we only rode 12 miles and got into camp early. At this point we had heard about the murders and it was our third warning so when this nice man called Nichi drove up in his truck and offered his land for us to camp on, we took it. It was only 6 miles away and I had only ridden 6, but I was tired and happy to have a safe place on private land.
This is the homemade corral Walter and I made before Nichi told us to go up a little further so we would be on his land. We thought we went far enough, but we hadn't so we had to abandon out rein/wood corral.
Nichi brought some grain and hay down for Soj and put him up in one of his cow corrals. Walter and I camped next to Soj for the night, but before that we went up to Nichi's and had a shower and visited with him a bit.
Walter and Nichi
Walter and I went back to camp and fell asleep before the sun went down without dinner. I woke up before the sun was up and got Soj fed and ready early. We all needed that sleep. It was 25 degrees that night but all of us slept close and stayed pretty warm. Soj and I were riding by 7:30am and had one of the most beautiful rides yet that day.
As far as I could see it was just land and mesas and rolling hills with this long grass that looks like fine, soft, leaning golden hair from a distance.
At one point we stopped at a windmill for water where a ton of cows had congregated and they all moo'd and moo'd like crazy when we showed up! They surrounded us and watched us curiously.
At the water tank under the windmill with the cows
That night we camped up a dirt road that led to BLM land. We had ridden 20 miles that day and got into camp really early again. It was perfect. We made a little fire to cook over and let Soj loose to hang out and eat next to us. He finished his late afternoon snack and laid down right next to us while we ate dinner. After an hour or so long nap in the sun he was up and asking us for some more food.
Walter and I read a little more of "A Farewell To Arms" to each other, had some dark chocolate, and fell asleep pretty early again. The next day (yesterday) we rode 27 miles to where we are now which is The Horseman's Retreat, near Pie Town, NM.
We had a good ride yesterday, but ran into some loose horses between two cattle guards that got Soj a bit worked up. I was riding him in just a halter which is usually fine, but these horses sent him into a horse mode I had never seen him in before.
Soj really wanted to canter so I went ahead and let him, but wanted to keep it at a slow lope because the ground we were riding was choppy and had lots of ant hills and gopher holes in it. I thought he was just full of energy. I hadn't see the other horses yet. He decided a slow lope was not what he wanted to do and picked up his speed triple fold. I couldn't stop him.
I pulled his head as far to the right and then to the left as I could but he was just so powerful and continued to move at a gallop. I didn't know what had gotten into him and then I looked to my side to see 4 horses galloping along side us. I would have sat back and enjoyed the ride with them, but there were so many holes in the ground and we were going at a very unsafe speed. Soj wasn't thinking about holes, he was only thinking about running horses.
I was constantly looking ahead and then down directly in front of his feet, ahead, down, ahead, down super fast so I could try my best to navigate him around the gopher holes. They are deep and much like that ant hill we fell into a while back in California. It could very possibly break his leg if we fell in at a gallop.
Finally I was able to turn his head enough to get him to stop and let the other horses pass. Soj was bonkers! Walter was behind us in the truck and I yelled to him to grab the bridle. We could hardly get the bit in his mouth. I had to lunge him which helped a lot. I was then able to get the bit in his mouth and back up again. We took off at a controlled canter and after about 8 miles with a few loud whinnies and huffs from his nostrils we settled into a calm ride again.
I just took a break from writing this to go out and see Soj and press some pressure points using the McLaren method of Treatment. He had a bit of a stomach ache this morning. We both rode in yesterday feeling a little run down. I have had a stomach ache for the last two days and this morning Soj did too. He is okay, but this morning he didn't eat like he usually does.
Thankfully we are with very knowledgeable horse people and they taught me some of these pressure points and came out with me to check his temp and pulse. Both are normal. His capillary refill was at 3 seconds but is now at 1.5 seconds and he's eating.
I walked him around this morning and he had a nice good poop, peed, and started to eat when we got back to the corral. These are all very good signs. We have had some changes over the past few days and I think it all added up. We have climbed to 7,500 feet and last night was the first time in a long time that we weren't right next to Soj. There are other horses sometimes on the other side of the fence, but they have 6,500 acres to run on and at night they go off. We went off as well into our room to sleep and Soj probably felt left behind. If I thought this was going to happen I would have slept out next to him, but I didn't think he would be bothered.
When the horses came back in the morning, Soj went over to where they were and laid down to sleep. I am guessing he waited all night and so this morning he was overly tired and worked up from being alone. Oh man, it breaks my heart to even think about!
Larry (who we are staying with) and I talked about how social horses are and how they really don't ever want to be left alone. Tonight we are going to put Soj in a stall with a little turnout and put another horse next to him. Larry went and got another horse to join him today as well in the corral so he has a little more company other than just the horses on the other side of the fence who come and go as they please.
I was pretty stressed this morning because Soj has never shown signs of discomfort in all the time I've been with him, but he quickly got past it and I think after a good days rest and a buddy to hang with he will be fine. Larry and Jenny are extremely kind and generous and have opened their home to us for as long as we need so I think we will rest tomorrow as well and possibly the next day if needed. We'll be on the road Friday or Saturday though.
I had long, quiet days to myself over the good part of last week and I thought a lot about a lot of things, but I think I will write more about that jazz tomorrow or something...I think for now I am going to take advantage of the bathtub that is right next to me. :)
I am working on "I would walk anywhere with you, part 2" as well so I think I'll put a little time into that this afternoon as well...
We do have internet here now. I just had to download something that works with this internet stick Jenny gave me...so I'll update regularly over the next couple of days....
This is Tuko. He's a traveler and makes jewelery. I met him on the main and only road in Quemado. He got out of his truck that was hauling a trailer with his Arab, Racer, in it. He walked toward me and asked "where are you coming from?" I said "Los Angeles." He said "Wait. Los Angeles?" I told him I was riding across the country and he stopped in his tracks and said he had a dream about meeting me. At first I thought, "oh, here we go..." but he ended up being an awesome guy that I wish I lived closer to. I told him about Ricochet Ridge and said he needed to bring his horse there to ride. He has a cool ranch in Utah up on a Mesa though which sounds pretty perfect, too. Soj and Racer had lunch together and Tuko said, "Look at that! I love it! It's like he's having him over for lunch. This is his first time having a friend over for lunch!" Tuko rides around with his horse and cat, but sadly had just lost his cat hours before I met him. The cat had jumped out of the truck window and got spooked and took off. He said he waited a long time and had just gone back again to look for him but he wasn't around. He figured a bird had gotten him. He said he was going to go look one more time though. Tuko doesn't have a computer or internet, but I have his number and hope to ride with him one day. When we said goodbye he said we should take the fact that he dreamed he would meet me and we in fact did meet as a good omen for the ride...that I'm on the right track.
I said to Walter "this sand feels wonderful! Take off your shoes!" and then I stepped right on a stick that was sticking straight up and it actually hurt so much I couldn't walk that day! I had to stay on and ride. I couldn't believe how much that little stick hurt! It really went in though...
After a day's ride. Cooking dinner
Relaxing in the sun with the sweetest boy