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...
Well, Get 'er done!!!
I like spotted animals.
Click on this picture to make it bigger. The land on this road was so amazing. We went from Pine trees to this in a days ride.
“We have a special. Pork Chops, two eggs, toa……….”
The waitress throws a couple menus down on our table and finishes speaking the special as she walks to the next table.
The two joke that when she comes back they will order one coffee, split, served in a tablespoon as to keep it constantly hot with endless refills, but when the waitress comes back she is ever so slightly kinder which softens them up a bit.
“We’ll just get a couple coffees. Do you have any cream?”
“We have packets”, the waitress says.
“Packets? Oh, half and half?”
Her eyes direct me to the little non-dairy packets on the table.
“Oh, I’ll just have milk, please. Thank you.”
“Get ‘er done” is actually used for real here. There are no coffee shops. Well, there was one, but it’s no longer in business.
We are staying with a wonderful family. They give Sojourner generous amounts of grass hay that we mix with our hay. This morning we had pancakes with Keith’s wife, Darlene. Keith and Darlene have ten kids, but only one daughter is still at home. She is a ball of fantastic energy with striking eyes.
Darlene and Keith have 21 grandchildren, soon to have 23. Darlene made us the most wonderful blueberry pancakes in their beautiful kitchen that has huge picture windows overlooking their fields.
Walter and I both had well needed showers last night and I was asleep before Walter even finished his.
Sojourner and I rode 38 miles yesterday. We trotted and cantered a lot too. It was a great ride because there was a little dirt road made by a four wheeler or a tractor that ran along side the main road pretty much the whole way.
The road was just gorgeous. The days before we climbed to nearly 7,000 feet in elevation, but now we have dropped about a thousand feet and the land has gone from Pine trees to a more desert like landscape again. There are some weeping willow trees and other large trees and streams still though, so it’s different from the desert before. Equally beautiful.
So…let me go back to where the last legitimate entry left off. We left Robbie and John’s in Payson, AZ on Saturday morning, April 17th. I planned on being out early because we had a long ride that day, but by the time we said our goodbye’s and finished up some last minute packing, it was closer to 11am by the time Soj and I walked down their driveway and turned East.
We said goodbye to Jordan who seems content with everything that has happened. Jordan says he hopes to meet us in NH when we ride in, so we’ll be looking forward to that. He really was such a huge help and a big part of this ride.
The trailer and hay are back at Robbie and John’s until Kelly (who donated the trailer to us) comes to get it. She is traveling about 400 miles one way to get that trailer and bring it back to Joshua Tree! I am glad Robbie and Kelly will get to meet because they both have huge fantastic laughs and generous hearts. They will like each other.
That first day (Saturday) we rode to Christopher Creek, which was 23 miles from Payson. It was the best camping ever! Soj was perfectly tied between two trees so he could comfortably lie down and not get tangled. We all camped close to our fire. It was pretty cold. We were at 6,000 feet that night.
We got up in the morning and made coffee, pancakes, and eggs over the fire and played Andrew Bird and oldies (oldies like Gin Blossoms, Prodigy, and Nine Inch Nails) on the truck stereo. Do you think those will be our oldies someday? Nah, oldies will always be Sam Cooke and Billie Holiday.
Anyway, the Ipod was on shuffle and was stuck on the 90’s. Walter and I exchanged times when we listened to so and so song over and over again. I remember when my friend, Tyson, showed me the song “Perfect Drug” for the first time. We were on a school bus on some sort of field trip. I listened to that song a billion times after that. Tyson was always the best at finding new music. He still is…well, next to Cait. Cait could give him a run for his money.
So we ate and packed up ready for a serious ride up some serious hills. We rode 29 miles and the majority of it was uphill. We went up 1,700 feet that day. It was a gorgeous, gorgeous ride and the weather was perfect. The only downfall was the road. It wasn’t too bad, but the shoulder was small at times and the cars and trucks went by too closely. At one point we had to just canter, we even got close to a gallop, just to get past this stretch of road that had no shoulder. This one car stayed pretty much right beside us because we were moving at such a fast clip. Soj’s shoulder was chugging away right next to the person in the backseat of the car on the passenger side. It must have been a cool image for them. We really were just inches from the car.
Later on, Walter sent me a text saying he had found a place to camp on forestland with an old abandoned corral on it. We got up there and set up camp and then a truck pulled in driven by a man called Bob.
Bob said he just wanted to see if we were okay and pointed to where we could gather more wood for our fire. We told him what we were doing.
“Where’s yer animal?”, he asked.
Walter brought him over to see Soj. Bob secretly told Walter that there were bears that used to come to that area. He didn’t want to say it in front of me because he thought I would get scared.
I learned a lot from my short visit with Bob. As it turned out, the land we were on was his land that he leased. He never once said, “this is my land, you know”. He came to us with a smile right away and simply wanted to see that we were okay and to offer help.
I thought about how I would have been if I pulled in to my home to see people camped out with a fire going and food cooking and a truck with supplies spewing out from all sides, and to top it off, a horse in my cow corral. Of course, I would be nice, but to be honest I would probably let them know they were on my land. Not anymore. I was really taken by the way Bob was.
So many of us have such a need to say, “okay you can stay here, but it’s because I am allowing you to”. It’s an ego thing, I guess. For some reason many of us like to let it be known that “this is mine and you have it because of me”. I hate to put myself in that category, but if I really think about it, I don’t think I would have the purely sincere response of “Well hello! Welcome!” I think before I would (as nicely as I could) let it be known that it was my land they were on. Not anymore.
People like to be asked first. Not Bob. From now on I am going to practice being like this. As people have said: no one really owns the land, we just occupy it for a little while, but to say it is actually ours is just silly. Of course it’s not ours and we should be as open and giving with it as people like Bob are.
Walter and I talked about this and Walter said it was just so natural for Bob. He doesn’t have to think about being the way he is. I told him that he learned that way from someone and now we have learned it from Bob. At first I might have to remember him when I have the desire to tell someone “hey, sure you can use this…but you do know it’s mine, right?”, but eventually it will become second nature. Not to make myself sound like a jerk face. I really wouldn’t mind if someone was on our land, I just want to make sure I offer help before inquiring why they’re there. It’s an amazing way to be.
Bob has been going to that piece of land his whole life.
"The cattle come in on June one", he said.
He is from Texas and he joked with Walter about being a Yankee…
“You want a shot a whiskey?”, Bob asked.
“Well, only if it’s not any trouble”, answered Walter.
“He’s a Yankee, ain’t ‘e!?”, Bob yelled, looking at me.
“A man asks you if you want a shot a whiskey and you say if it ain’t no trouble!!!? Whatdya mean?”
Walter laughed and grabbed the whiskey offered to him from Bob’s outstretched hand.
Bob fought in Vietnam. He said he doesn’t trust people. He only trusts marines and I can’t remember the other thing. I wish I could. Walter can’t remember either. I think it was cows or something. I told him marines are people and he said, “They are not. They’re SOLDIERS”.
Bob had a different sort of laugh. It was kind of a quick snort out. He did this after he said “They’re soldiers”.
Even though we were on Bob’s land he told us he wasn’t trying to be nosy. He just wanted to make sure we were okay. He had lost his wife a year ago. He joked that she left him with five kids to remember him by and he was mad at her for it, but you could sense the sadness in his mention of her, even through his laugh. He said he has no desire to be with anyone ever again. I didn’t question him. It seemed to soon to ask.
As Bob pulled away in his old truck he told us coffee was ready at 6 and first light would be at 5:45. He told us to come up for some bacon and eggs and a warm bed if we needed it, but I knew I had a long ride and headed out pretty early the next morning. Walter went up to thank Bob again and gave him some sage. Bob was unsure about the sage at first until Walter explained what it was and from whom it came and he said “alright” in a Bob kind of way and took it. He gave Walter some route suggestions and then he went back to bed. Such a cool old cowboy…they really are still out here. The cowboys movies are made from-they are out here alive and well and talk just like you would imagine.
Sojourner and I were already headed up the hill to start the 38 mile ride we were to travel that day. We didn’t know it was that far. Soj and I thought we were going about 30 and that extra 8 hurt a bit. Soj was strong, that horse is amazing, but I was a little beat by the end of the ride.
I forgot to mention, we met a ranger on our lunch break before the evening we met Bob. He was a wonderful guy who we hope to meet again one day. He wished he knew Soj was coming so he could give him carrots and apples. Walter was telling him about all the wonderful people we’ve met.
“Kinda restores your faith in humanity, huh? Sometimes you can look around at people and think ‘what is this world coming to’?”
Walter told him it really has.
When we explained to Bob what we were doing he said, “well you haven’t gone very far!”
Bob is a cowboy himself and it’s interesting to get the different reactions from the old cowboys. People on the street say “Holy Moly!!! You’ve come from where?! Los Angeles??!!” , but the cowboys give a little nod and with a twinkle in their eye, they understand. It’s just another day to them.
I told Bob, “Well, we stopped for a week in Joshua Tree.”
He said, “I’ve been to Joshua Tree, whadidya find there that would keep ya a week?”
I said “incredible people”.
He said, “well, you’re bound to find them all over the place. Yup. They’re all over the place.”
I said, “Yeah, you’re right. They really are…it’s pretty awesome to realize that”.
And by the way, this waitress is really nice. Sometimes you have to give that crusty shell a minute to crack a little.
And all that I want, and all that I need
and all that I've got is scattered like seed.
And all that I knew is moving away from me.
(and all that I know is blowing
Soj, meet Mr. Elk
This is the teeny little bridge I took Soj over. I was really proud of him because he was a little shaky at first but I told him it was okay and he very calmly walked over it. The water rushing under it was really loud too. I was so proud of him that I said "that was great, huh?!!" to the guy on the other side. He was wide eyed and said "I'll say!"
This 3X5 foot sign that looks like it's been suffocating the land under it for weeks now reads "paid for by 'this politicians' committee". I wonder if this committee, or even better the politician herself, will go out and pick up this (now) litter that lies amongst it's peers of squished McDonald's cups, beer cans, and Styrofoam to-go containers. Such a shame.
Sunday, leaving Christopher Creek
This is that massive snake I saw a few days back. You can't see how big it is, but it was gigantic.
Riding in last night to Keith and Darlene's ranch
From desert to this...