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...

An unreturned wave...


...can leave a sort of empty, maybe even a bit of an embarrassed feeling inside, but this is not a feeling you will experience in Fort Sumner, New Mexico. Everyone you pass smiles, waves, or honks. Even the trains (and there are bazillions of trains) will offer a little toot! toot! as we trot by.

The Engineers aren't typically wearing Conductor hats either, they are in the usual Eastern New Mexico garb of a cowboy hat and plaid shirt. They lean out of their massive train with 4 locomotives in front and a few more in back and offer a giant wave to me and the little Arab.

This really is Cowboy country out here. Fathers and Sons team rope, a trait taught to them by their Grandfather which was long ago taught to him by his. There is more history in New Mexico than one would think for such a young state.

We stayed with a wonderful family who own the feed store in town called Cortese Feed and Supply. Arron Cortese was the one I mentioned in an earlier blog who whistled at Soj and I as we plodded down the road slowly in the heat on Tuesday, the 25th. I didn't know then the wonderful friendship that was waiting to be formed between us and Arron's family.

At Arron and Shara's house, we played a lot of basketball in the early evenings with Dorian, the little man of the house. Walter and Dorian both had their trademark shots. Walter's was standing back 40 feet from the hoop and throwing the basketball over the roof of the house and down into the basket. Dorian's was a wild little layup (spinning, eyes closed, and tossed sort of behind his head). It went in nearly every time!

the block....
the shot.

Walter still couldn't reach this little man's rainbow throw....over his head, in the hoop.
Lots of boys and balls.
Shara and Arron had a new little baby that Walter said he couldn't walk by without stopping to have a little chat with (although she only really says "Daddy"). They said she was the easiest baby ever and they were not kidding. She just smiled and played and smiled and played.

Sojourner, as you know, left his soulmate with them. Right now we are with a few other horses that are living right next to Soj and it's just not there...not even a little bit. I don't know what it was about that mare, but he just loved her and she him. Walter said we should go back and pick up the powder blue trailer in Joshua Tree and buy that mare off of them. Oh my goodness....I can't imagine bringing that present home to Soj. I think he would have heart attack if he saw that black horse walk out of the trailer in NH.

The night before we left we had another game of basketball while Shara sat outside with the baby laughing her wonderful laugh the whole time and I was sitting on their itty bitty four wheeler. Arron asked if we wanted to go see some baby horses so Arron, Walter, Dorian, and I headed over to Arron's dad, Knox's, ranch.

I had met Knox for a minute when I first rode in, and then again at the local lunch place called, The Rodeo Grill.

Sojourner parked outside of the Rodeo Grill while we ate lunch.

We passed Billy the Kid's gravestone, passed the fishin' hole, passed beautiful Willow and Cottonwood trees, down the dirt road, and stepped out of the truck at Knox's place. We were greeted by peacocks, perfect air, and lots of horses.
Soon after we got there, Arron's nephew, Tristan, and Knox came out to show us around. I was so taken by the gentleness and kindness that came out of them. Tristan took some shots with Walter's cool camera and Knox talked to us about how he came to live at the ranch.

His Great Grandfather and his brother, Pokey, came over from Italy speaking broken English to work in the coal mines and eventually homesteaded that land. Many of the buildings on the property were built by Knox's Great Grandfather.

Knox and Dorian
I love seeing land that has been passed down from generation to generation. There is comfort and solitude in it...as if the land has become so acquainted with the people walking on it that it too has settled into a more peaceful manner. The people and the land have come to know and love one another.

There was just such a feeling of calm...

And then!!!!

As we said our goodbyes, Knox told us we always have a place to stay when we pass through there again. That's one of the things I love so much about this trip...all of these people to see again someday.

When we got back to the house, the smell of muffins and cookies wafted toward us. Shara had stayed behind and made us muffins and cookies to take with us the next day. Ummmm....they were delicious.

Knox and Arron donated a bag of Equine Senior to us for Soj, and Shara's father gave us four bales of hay. It was a wonderful "pit stop". All three of us, even little Soj, left a little piece of our hearts in Fort Sumner, New Mexico.

Shara was sitting outside with sweet Juliane when she said "it's going to be hot today!!", and it was. We said goodbye to the air conditioned house and slowly walked away from Soj's love and our new found friends.

The ride was 20 miles that day to a little pink horse place called "The Pink Pony". A vet named Dave Horten donated a night's stay there for Soj and we camped out next to him. There were two baby horses there who sounded like little birds when they whinnied. Actually, there was only one who whinnied. He was an especially friendly little guy and every time Soj would whinny this little one would whinny, too. It was adorable and so funny.

The little whinnier.
(Walter and I are at a cafe right now and I just guessed what the guy behind me is wearing and looks like bit by bit just from hearing his voice. Fun game.)

We rode on the next day in pretty serious heat. Although I have lived in CA for a while, I still have a little NH blood running through me and it prefers to run a little cooler. So off go my long sleeve shirts and on go the tank tops, off go the boots and on go the flip flops (or bare feet) and off go the jeans and on go the bike pants.

Walter and I are pressing flowers from each state so I can incorporate them into leather things when I get home.

Speaking of bike pants, I had told Knox,

"all you cowboys should switch to bike pants!! It makes a world of difference!"

Knox's smile shone as he laughed out loud and we both imagined cowboys in bike pants.

I am going to write about my next experience because I think it is a big part of life that we all face...

"Be nice....BE niiiice"

was said after minutes of our meeting and the little brick wall of armor started to build around my skin as these words prepared me for whatever unkind words were about to come.

I am not going to go into real detail here out of respect for people who fed us and shared their home with us, but the feelings that I had and the experience is something I feel I should talk about because it's an example of trudging on even when someone gets you down a bit.

Walter and I quietly listened to long stories of a great cowboy (not to be confused with a rancher, for he was a rancher AND a cowboy).

"She doesn't know the difference, be nice, she doesn't know", as he edged closer to me to clarify my silly question.

And maybe it was a silly question, because this was no regular rancher. He had ridden and roped all over the country. We saw incredible photos and memorabilia from Boston Square Gardens, Madison Square Gardens, and other huge arenas where he had tackled Steers in front of massive crowds.

Then here I come in my bike pants and flip flops, and the eye brows furrowed.

Out of nowhere I was asked....

"Why are you riding in bare feet??!"

I said that I just get too hot and that it's comfortable for me. I figure when I'm riding this many miles I might as well be comfortable. He said if they saw a woman out riding with bare arms like that they would know right away that she was NOT a hand.

I told him I supposed I wasn't a hand. (I mean, I'm not a hand. So....)

He then began to talk about how people can't ride out there like he can on the ranch. They want to come and "work on the ranch" (said in a mocking, high pitched tone), and the next day they realize it's not for them as they limp from their aching muscles and saddle sores.

He said out there they trot for 5 miles straight. They don't just walk along the road (like Soj and I do...which we don't actually do either, to tell the truth).

There is a pause and a stare as he waits for me to show some sort of amazement, but I just look at him waiting for what he has to say next...

This forces him to ask the question, "do you think you could trot for 5 miles?", as doubt and ego fill his aged face.

I knew this was coming. This was after many "Be nice"'s and back handed remarks to me. This was kind of the last straw. After all, I did just walk or ride every single step of the 1,100 miles to get to him.

I told him that I really didn't like to boast and I didn't feel any need to say how far I can trot, but yes, of course I can trot for 5 miles. In fact, I added, I could trot a lot farther than that if need be, but what's it matter anyway?
(I mean, so could anyone if they had been riding long days nearly every day for almost 3 months!!)

I made it clear that I wasn't there to judge anyone and that I didn't want to be judged anymore either, if that was alright.

I tried to turn the other cheek instead of getting up and walking out of the kitchen. I had made my point and even though I wanted to leave I just waited for what was next and *SLAP!*

"She's just a young woman. She has a lot to learn...as a woman", says his wife.

So what are you to do when both cheeks have been slapped?
Ah, yes!!! The other cheeks!

So, just as a horse does when they've had enough, in my mind I turned my other cheeks to them and let my face cheeks regain their natural hue.

But as I said, all that was said and all that led to this breaking point isn't so necessary to get any deeper into. The point is that it brought me down, but I got past it and chalked it off as a learning experience.

It feels at times one negative experience can have a deeper impact than a hundred positive ones. That sounds pretty backwards, but being judged and obviously viewed as lesser than can really hurt your spirit. I shouldn't say it's deeper, but it chips at you a little.

I went to bed pretty frustrated and Dr. Walter healed my wounds with kind words and a pat on the back (he had been in the shower for most of this so I vented it all out to him once we were alone to the fitting soundtrack of blaring trains every 10 minutes or so outside our window).

You really can't do anything alone and that's the beautiful reminder that came out of this experience. Someone knocked me down and someone else picked me up. The getting picked up part feels pretty good and stretches light years beyond the fall. And Sojourner, riding chaps or bike shorts, that little guy is fit and ready to take me wherever we want him to go, ears forward and not a care for words.

My mom giggled as I told her the stories and Stephen said he would make me a gold star badge that listed my riding abilities on it that I could pin to my tank top. All of this made me laugh and remember that there is always going to be someone who tries to belittle you and you just have to stay true to yourself and take it with a grain of salt. In this case it needed to be salted and deep fried to be palatable, but that's what we did....threw that sucker in a bottomless skillet.

I also thought about the fact that there are different feelings wrapped in different peoples' life experiences that cause them to react in certain ways. The organizations that this man rode in had strict rules about riding attire. I don't agree that someone who is not in that attire should be judged, this is a different circumstance, but at the same time I can see where it came from.

It's natural to place judgement on something or someone. All animals do it as a survival mechanism. This person even mentioned a time when a bunch of "Gays" at an arena looked down on him because he was a rancher and they were riding English. With God on his side a small poison was placed inside him for bisexual people that has transcended into the last years of his life and unfortunately will probably go with him to his grave. Those riders may very well have tried to make him feel small, but he turned around and did the same thing to me.

As we were leaving the next morning, the old cowboy/rancher thanked us for listening to him. His brain sent a fierce signal to his arm to pound the counter, but age had softened his blow and only a gentle thud came across as he expressed his frustration with the world today.
He said everything is "too fast, too rushed, no one stops to listen anymore..."
With each "too" more passion grew inside him making him shake a little.

As I walked away I thought about the fact that he never stopped for a minute to listen to me or Walter.
Not for one minute.


  1. I suppose there's just no reasonable alternative to killing those rattlers when they get near the house/barn, huh? I've never lived near them (we just have one type rattlesnake here in Michigan and I've never seen one). I suppose for the safety of pets and children it has to be done, but I hate to see that.

    I'm quite fond of the saying - "We don't see things as they are, we see things as we are."

    Everything we perceive, and how we respond to these perceptions, is filtered through our entire life experience. Hopefully, we continue to grow as individuals over the course of our lifetimes so that our perceptions and corresponding thoughts, words, and actions become more wise, charitable (loving), and accurate. Unfortunately, the rancher/cowboy who insulted you stopped his personal growth somewhere along the way, and for this, we should feel sorry for him. He has pent up anger, prejudice against at least one segment of our society (gays), a whole lot of misconceptions, and he completely missed out on an opportunity to share in the wonder of your adventure. Just think how the four of you (the rancher, his wife, you, and Walter) would have laughed and shared stories if his mind and heart had been open. That’s really an unfortunate thing to miss out on.

    His remarks were completely out of line, but nothing personal. He’d say that to anyone. He probably isn’t going to experience much more personal growth in his lifetime, and that’s unfortunate, because he picked a bad place to stop. Although it’s completely unacceptable to insult others the way he probably does regularly, he’s suffering the most himself. The moments of joy he experiences in his life are probably quickly robbed with thoughts of somebody/something that has angered him, which then causes him to lash out at his perceived antagonists. And since resentment eats at the one doing the resenting, not the resented (usually), it leads to suffering. I think this poor man probably suffers quite a bit although he wouldn’t see it that way and might even be happy to offer me a punch in the nose for saying so. :)

  2. "Well said, Tom."
    That's what Walter just said after I read your comment aloud to him. We were saying the same things...that at some point he just stopped.
    But Tom! The snake wasn't killed! I wouldn't have posted that. The funny thing was that the rock totally missed and ricocheted off the wall. I wanted to show how loud they are, too! And little Dorian's "I'm scared" in the background is pretty cute.
    In fact I was just talking to a local about how they're actually kind of nice to give such a fair warning. Of course, they don't always and you're exactly right...people kill them for the safety of their kids and animals. It is so sad...that one made it unscathed though...

  3. Thanks for the kind words, Walter and Linny. I appreciate them very much.

    Also, thanks for pointing out that the snake got away. I did notice that in the video. I was just sort of wondering if there is an alternative. I definitely won't judge people in areas like that, though. I would guess that a child or a dog that was bitten might not make it to medical care in time. That's a pretty big deal if one lives on a ranch in the middle of nowhere.

    Ride On! Be sure to stay hydrated!!!

  4. Wow, I've felt this "cheek" business so much in my life :P
    So many similar scenarios (especially lately).
    Seriously, I needed to hear..... rather read this little gem today!

    In some of these derogative situations, I get so defensive.
    I feel I have resolved quite a lot of my own trauma/ history from childhood and adolescence. I even went to a very helpful treatment center for PTSD.

    The therapy and "reparenting" myself, having healthy boundaries and relationships have jettisoned me into a place I never would have imagined several years ago that I could be. I USUALLY love myself.

    I sure didn't use to and I had to unlearn that. Somedays I get caught off guard. Others, I'm just off and not connected mind and body.

    It takes a strong person to get knocked down and not internalize it/ take it on as a truth. Sometimes I still "eat the Sh*t sandwich" someone is trying to feed me and TOTALLY think I deserve it.

    I'm so glad you saw the "sandwiches" and realized how sad it was they missed you and Walter's true company.
    They missed that light of your souls because they were so busy judging themselves by acting "better than" and projecting onto you.

    In ten years they just may think you're the coolest people they've ever met.
    Or they may not change at all. Either way, you'll be remembered as something that scared or inspired them. Perhaps they will question why something bothered them. Maybe they're just not that creative.
    But you're still a story! How cool is that?

    Thanks so much!!

  5. You got it girl, they are missing out on you and Walter and Soj bringing a whole new light and experience into their lives, but then isn't that partly what your journey is about? Because there isn't love and life and laughter and rediscovering oneself and one's own strength without some downsides, some harsh words, some things that make you step back and say "hey, wait a minute!" before you remember that is just one person, and as mentioned above, that one person is probably lashing out because someone ELSE hurt them before. So you trot out for miles and miles in your bike shorts with pride, and when I run barrels in my English saddle with my Arab I will give a "hoorah!" for you guys and us horse people who do fun things in "inappropriate" attire!

  6. Thanks, girls! I will wear them in pride then. :) I've just got to, to tell you the truth! I went for so long in jeans, but I don't know if it's the heat or what, but it's just too rubby and rough now...my skin rejects the jeans. ;)
    Now I am cushioned and padded.
    That guy was a stinker, but like you said-it's part of the ride and you're so right, you need the downside's that make you step back and look at things...that's so true.

    And Darcy-my Pop always said "every knock is a boost". I love this saying and it's so true.
    You sure do appreciate the next beautiful person who comes along and puts the light back in your step again, too. There is never a story where someone wasn't doubted. I've been told flat out into my eyes before I left that I wouldn't make it. Then there are others who believe in things you do so fully...you just have to put your energy with them. It's a tough thing. People have so much power both ways-they can lift you up and they can pull you down, but most lift and I try to focus more on that...
    There's really no one in this world who is better than you, too. People can try all they want to make you think otherwise, but there's only one you. My Poppy always used to say that as well. He didn't have an ego, but so much confidence and it was simply because he believed in himself and what he had to offer. He just so purely and truly BELIEVED. I think that's one thing that made him have such a huge impact on all of our lives-he made each one of us feel like we were the best in the world and there was not an ounce of doubt in him. To him, I could conquer the world if I wanted to, and you can bet your bottom dollar, he could too...and he knew it.
    So, yes! Love that beautiful body that carries you around and the mind that operates it because it's you...perfect and unstoppable. ;)

  7. Your dad sounds amazing! I think that confidence and self love is so very important. Thanks for your sparkle! You're a neat lady and I hope to meet you and your horsey family someday!

  8. Linny's "Poppy" was her grandfather. He certainly was everything Linny writes about him.