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...
Ha! Gotcha! Just kidding, sort of, never stop dreaming...BUT.....
...the other day Walter came to me with a pep talk that we both needed. It was hot and neither of us slept all that well the night before because it was so humid and hot and the blanket in the tent was sticky.
I was kind of plodding along with Soj down a hot paved road thinking about the 24 miles of riding still to go and then Walter pulled up next to me in the truck.
"Alright", he said as he opened the truck door.
"I've been thinking. I don't like my attitude over the last day and a half."
He continued to say that the two of us have gotten into a bit of a habit of dreaming about what's ahead. We talk about the rivers we can swim in and the cafe we want to open someday, getting a puppy and maybe a baby horse that I can raise, getting chickens and maybe a goat, more rivers and lakes, what we would like to do to the house in NH, getting to NH and what it will be like when we actually pull into that beautiful little town....
on and on....
He said, "but today we're here, in this little town in Texas on this road, and yes it's hot, but this is amazing and this is where we are right now."
We both agreed that someday we will both say, "man, I wish we were out on the road."
So here we are right now out on the road and no matter what is happening, we have to keep our minds there. It's so easy to look ahead and miss what's right in front of you. There are people here and smells here and feelings here that we can't overlook because they, too, in their own way hold beauty that is nowhere else...nowhere but here, now.
I always think about this old man in Charleston, SC when I am reminded of things like this. I was out by the water and I was looking at my feet as I walked down the dock. I almost ran into this man who was walking toward me and he said, "People are always looking at their feet. You miss what's going on around you when you do that. Look up, darlin'."
He said it in a very lighthearted, sweet way and ever since then I have made an effort to keep my head up and see what's around me. He was so right! A dolphin could have gone by and I would have only seen my toes!
Sojourner always reminds me of this, too. That boy doesn't miss a beat.
When I left off last we were in Muleshoe, Texas. We spent our last day at Steve Friskup's house with Sojourner. We kept our feet in a bucket of water and read our books in the barn.
The heat that day was record breaking so we didn't ride until about 6:30pm. We got into the next town, Earth, at midnight and set up camp.
The ride at night was nice. I got a little tired, but then got a second wind and enjoyed the much cooler air and incredible stars. We were back on a county road so Walter could stay behind us using the headlights to light the road ahead. We wouldn't have been able to see otherwise. There was no moon and the land was black.
The stars were incredible though and as we cantered down the road at a pretty good clip I kept my head up looking at all of the constellations. I thought about Walter behind us in the truck and the fact that it was late at night and most were asleep and here we were running down the road thinking about stars and sleep and food and still having to brush my teeth.
I always think about brushing my teeth when I'm tired and just want to go straight to sleep when I get in, but then there is the "ugh, but I'll have to brush my teeth first."
But anyway, I thought about that movie "Garden State" when the girl does a wiggly little move and says she does things like that once in a while just so she can know that she is the only person in the entire world doing that right then at that moment. I think I may have been the only girl cantering down a county road and Walter may have been the only boy lighting a horses way at that moment, which was kind of cool.
Soj has a new fear of cows. There was a time earlier in this ride when I thought Soj might have talked to the wrong horse and received some bad advice and I think that may have happened again....
"Cows?? You ride by COWS?", I believe they said..."You've got to be kidding! RUN FOR YOUR LIFE next time you see a cow! They EAT horses ALIVE you FOOL!!!!!!"
We have passed Texas Longhorns and other giant cows without a problem, but not as of late.
This new fear caused Soj to break through the electric fence with me on him and bolt into a full on gallop towards the irrigation system in the middle of the field.
I was about to bail because we were riding in just a halter like we usually do and I was having trouble stopping him. It wasn't so bad though. I can kind of bop his nose by releasing and popping and releasing and popping with the lead rope and I actually reached forward and pulled his head to the side by grabbing the side of his halter as well.
He's a power house though and when he feels a horse eating cow is coming for him, he's not an easy train to stop.
But he did stop and let out a massive snort as if to say "what do you think of THAT!" to the cows.
I was mad and brought him right back to those cows and made him face them. He did this little bolt again later (thankfully this time there was no fence to break through) and I had to bring him back to the cows again.
I think I am going to ride in the bit again for a little while until this new cow fear has passed. Stephen reminded me that Oklahoma has more cows than people so this silly habit of his can't go on.
Other than that, Soj has been wonderful. He has been such a little trooper and never wanders off to thoughts of rivers and puppies. He simply walks on to the next feeding. :)
The night before last, we stayed with a wonderful family in Olton, Texas. Shelly Rose fed us some fine Texas cooking and Steve Rose gave us a halter for Soj he had made himself. It's such a beautiful gift and sits perfectly on Soj's pretty face.
That was one of the only nights I slept entirely through. The next morning Shelly made us a delicious egg souffle accompanied with fresh, hot biscuits, coffee, and juice.
Shelly and Steve said WB was wanting to stop by and say hello. I didn't know who this was, but not much later an old cowboy with his horse in back pulled down the driveway.
He was a wonderful man with kind eyes. He told me to get up on his horse to give him a try. This horse had a fantastically fast walk and was extremely responsive. WB said he had come from rounding up his cattle, branding them and vaccinating him.
I said, "already this morning??"
He said, "Yes! Already this morning" with a light hit to my arm and a gentle laugh.
WB said people ask him when he's going to stop riding.
"I don't expect I'll ever stop" is his answer.
I told him that I never could understand while people insist on putting a time limit on everything or a stopping point. WB is 81 years old and you would never, ever guess it. I told him it was because he never concluded that because he was reaching a certain age that he would stop doing things.
He knew this, of course, and said if he were to stop then that would be when he would start getting older. Then it's over.
I think the mind is pretty powerful. It can enable you to do things and it can act as a massive barrier...whatever "you" decide to tell "it" to do.
His brain tells him he feels good and there is no reason to stop riding and so he mounts his horse with total ease and carries a sparkle in his eye.
Right now I am waiting for a reporter to show up. I am in this great old fashioned rocking chair on the front porch and Walter is next to me shooting hoops. Roberta and Steve Turner went out of their way to find a basketball for us. This hoop is higher than the one Dorian rules back in Fort Sumner so it has taken some getting used to. Walter did a fancy little shot in honor of little Dorian though...back handed, eyes closed, super shot.
Last night we had a wonderful dinner together and were given the full run of the upstairs to this beautiful home fashioned after a plantation home in the Southeast. Roberta is from Louisiana and she didn't want to move to West Texas, but if she could bring the South Eastern home here, then she would agree to go. Steve agreed, they got the blueprints, and the result is an incredible Southern home right out of Southern Living.
Last night I was in the bathroom talking with my mom on the phone and I could hear Steve and Walter's voices in the bedroom. Steve had come up to bring me some Advil for my back. When I got off the phone and stepped out of the bathroom there were three books on the bed next to Walter that had been signed by Dr. Turner.
"To Walter and Linny" it reads.
He is working on his fourth book now. Walter told me Steve had read a passage from the book aloud to him and tonight we will get to hear a bit from his latest book as well.
What a wonderful thing, don't you think? One minute we are hot and sweaty and longing for home and the next we are cool and clean in a newly made friend's bed having a passage from a book read to us. It's a beautiful and miraculous thing that amazes me every second. There is just so much to be told and shared.
Steve's books are all about his family history dating back to his Great Grandfather's Great Grandfather.
Back in Olton with the Rose's, Steve Rose brought us into his bedroom which was set up like a little museum of his family history. There was his Grandfather's saddle and spurs, photos, hats, and knick knacks. He had surrounded himself with his family as we all do.
Breakfast this morning on the back porch. Can you see little Soj back there?
WB and Steve.
Steve and Shelly had these two little babies in the barn. Hence, my puppy dreaming.
Shelly, Southern cook extraordinaire, with WB.