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...

Maybe it's a sign


“When you hit a road block, go around”, is what the sign in the ladies room read at the little restaurant called “Shorty’s” in Marble Hill, Missouri.

“Hm”, I thought.

Dennis would laugh at me because I kept saying, “well, maybe that’s a sign…maybe that’s a sign”.

“If you start looking for signs, you’ll get into trouble!!” Dennis replied with a smile and a wagging finger.

Well, I walked out of the bathroom, through the little restaurant, sat down across from Dennis and said, “the sign in the bathroom said, ‘when you hit a road block, go around’. Maybe it’s a sign”.

“Quite literally”, said Walter.

“You should have taken a picture of that one”, said Dennis.

This “sign” talk started when this guy showed up…

Walter and I named this pup Ozark. Dennis and I rode out early on Saturday morning from his and Joann’s home in Van Buren, MO. Dennis has a favorite little place he eats breakfast at that is about 10 miles from his home in a town called Ellsinore.

And this is the little one that was at Dennis and Joann's...

When we reached the little town of Ellsinore Dennis and I parted ways so he could get his biscuits and gravy and I could finish the days miles. About 7 miles after saying goodbye to Dennis, I met this wonderful dog Walter and I later named Ozark.

I have dogs join up with me for bits of the ride all the time, but they always turn back at some point and head home. Not Ozark. He stayed right next to me and Sojourner and worked that skinny little body out like I doubt it’s ever been worked before.

He traveled 15 miles with us until we came across a man called Kenny and his son, Chris, leaning against their fence in front of their house.

“I wanna talk about his shoes!” Kenny called out pointing to the Soj’s boots.

I crossed the street and told him about Sojourner’s Easyboots and he and his son invited us to dinner that night. Many of his family members have a birthday in August and they just so happened to be having a big cookout that night. We had only traveled about 18 miles that day, but it was ridiculously hot and even more humid so we decided we would go ahead and rest for the night at Kenny’s place.

The cookout at Kenny's.

We put Soj up in a nice corral across from the house and decided to go get Ozark some food and a collar. I wasn’t sure Ozark would stick around while we left for town, but when we got back he was still there resting in the shade.

I wasn’t sure Ozark would stay through the night either. I figured if he did have a home he might wander back down the road in search of what he knows better once we weren’t around. But he didn’t. The next morning I headed out to Soj at 4:30am and there was Ozark guarding the truck. He kind of woofed and paced back in forth in front of the truck until he realized it was me and then he wagged his tail and walked toward me. He was already guarding for us!

Oh, Ozark. I wanted to keep him so badly, but there was that wonder if he wandered from someone’s home (although he’s so thin, I have my doubts) and it really would be hard to have a dog with us on this ride. So Dennis and Joann kindly took him back with them (after he traveled 45 miles total with us) and put his picture up to see if his owners would come for him. If he is a stray, then they are going to find a good home for him.

Walter said maybe Ozark will find his way back to us. I told Dennis that if Ozark somehow shows up on the road again behind me one day then that will definitely be a sign and that dog will be with me forever from then on out! He laughed, “Yeah, that would be a sign.”

So right now Ozark is safe and sound at Dennis and Joann’s and we are safe and sound at Joann’s sister’s house in Jackson. I have only just met Joann’s sister, Elaine, and her husband, Lanny. Joann and Dennis took us out for lunch at The Red Lobster, showed us around the town of Cape Girardeau, checked out the bridge to make sure it has a decent shoulder, and then dropped us off here.

Walter and I were all set up with our computers at the kitchen table when Lanny and Elaine got home from work.

Now, you might be wondering why Dennis and Joann (who we stayed with back in Van Buren) are still with us all the way in Cape Girardeau. Let’s go back to that sign in the bathroom…

The question was a trailer ride. Sojourner has already had little spurts here and there in a trailer to get us out of some bad situations. The very first time was back in Texas when three different people were telling me to get off the road because a tornado was coming. I said I couldn’t because I had the horse. One guy said to leave the horse and get in the truck because I needed to get out of there fast. Of course I couldn’t do that so instead I kicked Soj into a full gallop down the highway to try to beat it with the blackest sky you can imagine right behind me, hail, incredible (and incredibly close) lightning all around, wind, and rain. I realized this was stupid and I couldn’t beat the storm so I turned Soj around and ran at a full gallop right back into the heart of the storm. I had seen a corral a couple of miles back and was going to let him loose in there so I could get in the truck. We got to the corral and it was locked.

I got in the truck with Walter and held onto Soj through the window. He was really calm and just put his head down to keep it out of the rain. I thought a tornado was coming and told Walter to google on the phone what to do in a tornado! Well, instead we called the people we were staying with up ahead and decided it would be best for Soj if they came and got us. In the end we weathered the entire storm and by the time the trailer got there it was sunny and bright. We took the ride anyway because Larry (the man who came to get us) had gone through the trouble of hooking up the trailer and had already driven out and also because I was just tired and soaking wet and Soj was the same. That was an 8-mile trailer ride. The tornado ended up hitting ground 10 miles behind us.

That was a huge decision because we had gone 1,325 miles without stepping foot in a trailer, even with people telling us we were in serious danger and about to get swept away. I still didn’t want to do it, but in the end it always comes back around to Sojourner (who can’t speak and say, “please get me out of here”).

Sojourner was developing some swelling in his hind leg at this time, too, but wasn’t showing any pain so I went ahead and rode him on the next day. Usually the swelling went down after a bit of riding, but this time it was staying pretty swollen. I was getting worried and when our next stop (David Fox) called and said, “Darlin’, how about I send out a trailer for you so you can give your horse a rest and get out of this heat”, I said okay.

That brought us to 28 miles total in a trailer. We were in Vernon, Texas.

Now, if you have been reading from the beginning then you know that this was a scary time when I didn’t even know if Soj was going to be able to continue. He never showed pain, but we still thought something really bad might be wrong with his fetlock. My mom and I were already looking at other horses but my heart wasn’t in it because Soj is really the only horse I want to do this journey with.

Well, we took him to the vet at the Four 6’s ranch and everything turned out to be okay. We took a good 10 days off and kept Soj in a sweat wrap until the swelling was all gone. It is swelling in the soft tissue that is probably from an old injury.

But the biggest challenge has been the heat.

In total now 100 miles of this ride (which is now at 2,250 miles) have been in a trailer and I’m writing about it because it has been a big decision for me every time. Most of those trailer miles came just recently thanks to Michael back in Mountain View, MO, and Dennis from Van Buren.

I almost didn’t even write about this because to tell the truth we have ridden over 100 miles (no exaggeration) in driveways, but I feel like it’s something to write about because it shows how sometimes you have to make difficult decisions and bend your idea of what you want something to be in order to make it a success.

I also was questioning writing about it because we have ridden through so much of this horrible heat (and I mean, it’s horrible). It’s heat like I have never felt in my entire life (and I lived in Houston for 10 years!) so to feel like we already suffered through it all and then to get in a trailer when fall is finally just around the corner is kind of hard.

But I always have to keep a close watch on Soj’s mannerisms and his health and what has been really beating us up for 11 solid (and I mean solid, there has been zero relief) weeks has been this heat. We have been riding in a heat index of sometimes 120 degrees. For over two months it has almost always been above 100. Everyday we’re in record-breaking heat. All the locals say, “This isn’t normal, it’s never this bad”, but we keep telling ourselves it will lift soon and it just doesn’t!

Nobody else is ever outside, but with no home of our own to go to, Sojourner, Walter, and I don’t have much of a choice but to ride through it. Families we stay with are always so open and generous and offer us a place for as long as we need, but the problem there is that this ride is ending in New Hampshire and so we have to keep the weather on the other end in mind (which is the exact opposite). So we ride on. And I tell you, after so long in this heat I was just at my wits end because it’s not just my comfort, but the added weight of worrying about Soj.

I had planned that this ride would take 6 months and we are in our 6th month now and in Missouri instead of new Hampshire. We have changed our NH arrival date to some time in November instead of late August. I’m happy to still be out here riding. A lot of people are shocked that we have ridden this far on only one horse, but the reason we have been able to is because we stop and rest if he seems like he needs it.

The things is, every stop puts our arrival time in NH just a little bit further back. Basically the one trailer ride that Michael gave us from Mountain View to Van Buren allowed Soj to rest 5 solid days instead of one day off, then ride a day, and then 3 days off. So that was a pretty easy decision because I wanted him to have a good rest. It also allowed us to spend a day with Angela and Michael and ride on those cutting horses which was such a cool experience. I can’t see the point in rushing past people when we have an option that will allow us more time with them.

We had a wonderful stay in Van Buren with Dennis and Joann.

We floated down the Current River and Stephen got us a cabin in the park for one of the nights. I loved that little cabin so much, but we were both so tired that we actually fell asleep at 4 in the afternoon and didn’t wake up again until 8 the next morning. We were at the cabin for 19 hours and slept 16 of them! It was still awesome though. Those 3 awake hours were a blast and I have never been one of those people who say, “I’ll sleep when I’m dead”. I love sleep and think it’s as nice a thing to do as anything!

Dennis even insisted that the truck get some shut eye...

...and had us drive his truck around town...

They played 9 ball pool as well to include me. I didn't win, per say, but I almost did.

We rode away from Van Buren (met Ozark) and met up with Kenny at around 11am after 18 miles of riding. We put Sojourner up, went to get Ozark a bag of food, and came back to Soj absolutely soaking wet just from standing in the field. Walter and I didn’t really know how to get out of the heat other than sit in the river but we were also so very tired and just wanted to sleep.

We decided to go back to the river and set up our tent near it to try and sleep some of the day. First of all, we got a lot of sand in the tent, which I hate, but didn’t really care about at that time, but secondly I sweat while I was lying there trying to sleep like I have never sweat before. Have you ever been just so tired it’s all you can think about? That’s how I felt, but I was so HOT. We were in a shaded spot, but we were both sweating like we were running horrible fevers. I thought it was because I had sunscreen on which maybe was causing it to build up, but Walter was just as sweaty. It was just so humid! I looked at Walter and shook my head and said, “I don’t want to do this anymore. I’m tired and I just can’t be this hot anymore.”I didn't mean the ride, just the heat. I didn't want to be in the heat anymore.

It’s really hard to be that hot and not have a home to go inside. Usually we have a place and almost always an offer to stay longer, but there is always a little ticking clock in my head reminding me of the cold in NH. NH doesn’t just get sort of cold, it’s frigid.

So we packed up the tent and sat in the river for about 2 hours. When we went back to the house we met the rest of Kenny’s family and ended up having a wonderful visit and dinner with them all. They treated us like we were family and treated Ozark like he was family as well!

In the end, Kenny’s daughter-in-law, Stacey, told us they weren’t staying in the house that night and offered their room to us. It ended up being one of the most incredible beds ever and it was really hard to get up when that alarm went off at 3am. So we didn’t. We hit the snooze button a million times until I finally said “alright, let’s do it”, at 4:30am.

This was a mistake because we missed the early morning hours and were stuck in the heat. It was just so hot and humid with a heat index of 114. Dennis was coming that night because we were to stay at an RV park so he was going to bring the trailer so we could sleep in air conditioning. We decided to ask him if he could just come earlier and trailer us the rest of the way.

Riding Sojourner was like riding a sack of potatoes and there was no shade on the road. He was dying hot, I was dying hot, and Ozark was absolutely killing himself trying to keep up with us. He would cut down under every bridge we went over looking for water to get in, but every river was dried up.

Finally we came to a big puddle and he stayed in it for about 10 minutes until Soj and I walked on again.

Dennis came out and got us and brought us up ahead to the RV park. Again Walter and I were drained from the weather and went to sleep for a few hours during the heat of the day in the air conditioned trailer. We awoke later to feed Soj and visit a while with the owners of the RV park, Don and Margie Ezell, who were good friends of Dennis and Joann’s.

Rummy with breakfast.

At the RV Park this morning. We are checking my itchy legs for chiggers.

Before going to sleep after Dennis brought us to the RV park, we went out to that little restaurant called Shorty’s and talked a bit about all of this trailering business. Dennis thought it would be good to go ahead and take us the 35 miles up to Cape Girardeau. The heat was supposed to break in the next day or two and it would probably be best for Soj. I told him all of my concerns, how it’s hard to trailer when you know you’ve already ridden the worst of it, how I don’t want our efforts to be at all diminished when we’ve ridden so many miles just because we got in a trailer a few times, and how I don’t want to disappoint anyone.

Walter said, “you haven’t disappointed me”.

“Well that’s most important”, I said.

“Has she disappointed you?” he asked Dennis.

“Absoluuuutely not”, Dennis said shaking his head.

“So the people who are in closest proximity to you are not at all disappointed”.

“Okay”, I said, “Thanks.”

Now of course, today we woke up and it was so much cooler. It was actually a very nice morning, but plans had been made and Dennis and Joann were coming back to take us to Cape Girardeau.

This allowed us more time with them, though, that we were so happy to have. We walked around Cape Girardeau and had a wonderful lunch together.

This ride has been about overcoming challenges and being able to bend and figure things out when things get a little tough. But the biggest theme of this ride has been that no one is alone and that you can’t do things without the help of others.

Dennis, Joann, Walter, and I went into a jewelry store and this is the quote that was in the book the jeweler gave to us. You can click on images to make them bigger...

So this 3,400 mile ride is actually going to be 3,300 true miles. Maybe I would prefer that it was 3,400, but why? This ride has been about the people who have helped us and about this horse that I love dearly who I never want to push to his absolute limits. There are no rules to this ride and I think this has been a good lesson in realizing that your dream isn’t always exactly what you make it out to be. Sometimes it has some twists and turns and sometimes those twists and turns can throw you off and make you say, “No, this isn’t what I wanted”, but maybe it is exactly what you wanted and exactly what you needed. You can never predict the future and how things are going to turn out. You have to just go with it, accept the help when it comes, give it back whenever you can, and smile because life is about the ride, right? It’s not about getting there this certain way or that certain way. It’s not about what you thought it was going to be. It’s about what it is. At every moment at every corner it’s going to be whatever it’s going to be and you just have to take it all in as it comes because it might actually be even better than what you dreamed.

Right now I can hear Elaine downstairs bustling in the kitchen. It’s 10 minutes to 11pm and she has been down there baking for at least 3 hours. She’s making us chocolate zucchini bread and coconut apricot bread for the road. It’s incredible smell has made it’s way up here and into this bed with me. I feel like the Grinch when his heart grows 20 times it’s normal size because he is so filled up by the little elvish people and all of their love down in the town. Not that I was ever the Grinch, but you know what I mean. Every time I hear a clang down there something in me melts a little and my heart pushes against my chest.

Tomorrow is supposed to be cooler. Today was much nicer. No more trailers for us. 100 miles total for this ride is our limit! Done with that nonsense!! Just kidding but not really. Anyway, we have a 32 mile ride tomorrow and we cross the Mississippi river into Illinois! I’m pretty excited.


  1. Linny and Walter, A few miles in a trailer may just be the difference in finishing the trip, and in no way diminishes your purpose or accomplishments. Um, I hate to tell you, but I think Illinois in mid-August is pretty miserable, too. Got to admit you've got guts to do this; but if you try it again, may have to have you committed to the nut house!
    Doc and Roberta

  2. Really great writing, You really have captured and shared the essence of your ride. It really is so amazing.
    Boy that little puppy friend of yours seems like a good one. Love you Mom

  3. Don't beat yourself up too badly over the trailering. You and Soj are a team, like the Lakers. If someone on the Lakers isn't feeling well and they take a break, the refs don't stop the game and send everyone home. "Oh crap, Kobe's got a hangnail, everyone go home game's over!" :)

    Trailering just means you love your horse...and that's a good thing.

  4. My Dearest Jacqueline,
    You have gone over 2000 miles on that horse and that IS AMAZING! You are amazing, when I read the part about you guys in the tent and you saying you didn't want to do it any longer (meaning the heat) that got me. Everything in me understood how hard it was and knowing how strong your will, discipline and idealism are I know you had a hard time making that choice.
    BUT 100 miles is NOTHING! by it's self, and when compared to everything you have done and all of the people and experiences you have had it doesn't have a whisper of importance. No one could ever be disappointed in you while on this ride because no one would ever have the right, not even you! That word shouldn't even be in your vocabulary:)
    Especially when you're taking a three thousand four hundred mile long journey, which in spirit miles equals about 18,194,299,394,000. So! when you trailer 100 miles it really doesn't even count because your spirit is still traveling those miles.

    I have never even driven across country because when I think about it, I think oh geez I'll just fly there. This trip isn't about going cross-country because you have done that many times by car and plane. It's something so much more meaningful and full of depth that numbers and words float upon.
    I love you with a cookies baking in the oven feeling in my heart. Love, Bri

  5. Linny~Why not label yourself a bit OCD and give yourself a 400 mile trailer allowance? That way you can keep the trip to 3000 miles even. Nice and round number, isn't it? Won't those 300 extra miles drive you a bit batty? In fact, my foot starts to twitch when I think 3400 miles... 3000, 3000. There, all better! Heck, that time spent in a truck pulling the trailer can be spent learning about the person you are with!

    Our family of four along with our Welsh pony and Russian Arab can't wait to meet your little tribe! Take care~Juli H.

  6. A dream with good sense always is a success. If you stopped today... we'd all cheer that you made it this far. What's important that you have practiced compassion for Soj, among all else. Trailer again as needed :)

    ***HEY TOM*** when you read this, tell this community here about your horse dream...and how you bent that to suit your dreams now... It's a good story. It too, involves a trailer.

    Linny--- please tip your hat when you cross that bridge. Three long riders crossed there before you...

    I'm originally from Illinois, and yes, the heat is just as dreadful. Also spent about 120 days in Cape teaching there... quaint little town, big heart and as you have experienced.... GREAT PEOPLE.

    Have someone, if there is time, take you to LAMBERTS CAFE in Sikeston -- home of the "Throw'd rolls".

    Ozark...what a great name for a dog. It's awesome and special when THEY PICK YOU... Hope he finds his way back to you...and surely that WOULD be a sign.

  7. Oh.. one last quote from a song by Garth Brooks

    "A dream is like a river, ever changing as it flows"

  8. Lenny, you continue to amaze me with your strength and determination. Love reading your posts. I almost feel apart of your journey & I guess in a way I am because I'm following you through it. Looking forward to the days that lay ahead for you three. Hopefully no more tornados or hail storms. Soft cloudy days with peeks of sunshine & rainbows for you my dear friend on her journey. Christ's Peace to you

  9. Wow, I can see why you consider Brianna to be your best friend and keeper of your heart (you mentioned that back in the CA desert). Lots of wise words on this thread, but none moreso than Brianna's. That's a BFF if there ever was one. I just got a call from mine yesterday, we've been that close for over 40 years now!

    Although you have obviously had to struggle a bit with your decisions to occasionally trailer Soj, I'm so glad you have. This isn't some sort of endurance race where one must adhere to rules or be disqualified. It's a life journey about many things, all of which are more important than whether you load up Soj and zip down the road a ways now and then.

    Look at how much you've gained by being willing to be flexible with something important now and then. That's one of the most important pieces of wisdom I have gained in my 50 years. If I am willing to "go with the flow" when doing so makes sense, I virtually always end up a richer person as a result. Besides, have you ever met someone who was an absolute stickler for rules, but seemed calm, content, and happy? I haven't.

    My story that Meg alluded to (Thanks, Meg!) involved a dream that I had to do lots of camping with Buster. It was what I always wanted to do when I got a horse.

    When Buster came into my life, I had a great job, so I bought a brand new Sundowner gooseneck trailer (!!!!), got my truck set up to tow it, bought all the accessories for camping, and was ready to go.

    But when the opportunities to actually follow this dream presented themselves, I didn't feel like doing so. Buster and I were perfectly content on the farm. And when there was an opportunity for a trail ride, someone always volunteered to haul Buster for me. So there the trailer sat as a super-expensive tack room.

    I wasn't afraid of going camping. This wasn't a fear I felt that I needed to challenge (I believe in confronting fears if one wants to do so). Buster and I were just so happy riding on the farm and seeking out the best tasting grass on lazy afternoons.

    So I talked to my wife, and without remorse or guilt, I sold the trailer and the camping equipment. I lost quite a bit of money, and I'm sure some people had a word or two to say about me acquiring all of that stuff just to let it sit for a few years and then sell it, but I was/am happy. Had I forced myself to follow my initial plans to go horse camping, I wouldn't have been happy. I just know it. I needed to be honest with myself, and comfortable with changing my plans.

    Now, Buster and I play on the farm as happy as cna be, and I bought a kayak to fish with on the beautiful rivers near my home.

    So, I'm glad you trailered a bit, and I hope you won't hesitate to do so again if it seems right. When you get to NH, you will have ridden across the country. Absolutely no doubt about that.

    I just love Ozark! I'll bet it was really hard, but you did the right thing by sending him back home. He may have a family there who cares about him, and you should wait unti NH to add a dog to your life. It was a terrific adventure for him whether your paths cross again or not.

    Ride On!

  10. Oh Linny,
    Number 1, stop beating yourself. If you trailer, it's obviously needed. As has been said, over and over, there are no rules. If you were reading your entry as a bystander, what would you suggest to the hot, weary, courageous, determined and just plain stubborn young woman? Get off your high horse??? That's not you but you get the message. I think I wrote about getting on a bus after a terrifying day plodding the roads of Spain.... that led to the opportunity to stay in a harbor village that I wouldn't have been able, if I hadn't been riding a bus and seen a sign that was on the highway but not on the trail. I would have walked right by the hidden village, not knowing it was there. There will always be alternative opportunities, depending on which detour you take.
    I had to laugh when I read Megan's entry about Lambert's Cafe. We took a family trip cross country in '94, renting a motorhome and driving from Colorado to Washington DC. We kept seeing these billboards advertising "Thrown Rolls" and it became a family contest to see who could spot them first. When we finally got close to Sikeston, we made a detour, just to see what all the fuss was about. It was a riot to be in the restaurant and have the waitress literally throw a roll at you. The boys thought it was one of the highlights of our Missouri time. Of course, when you are 8 and 11, the novelty of flying bread in a restaurant, makes an impression. Great marketing, albeit the food itself lacked California hippy infusion of fresh veggies. Can't figure that part out. Everyone had gardens and lots of beautiful produce but you couldn't find a vine ripened tomato or crisp string beans on a menu. All the vegetables came out of a can or were so over cooked, they looked gray and had no taste. Maybe things are different now.
    Wish I could send some of our cool misty fog your way. Would love to see some blue sky and pretend like it was summer. It's been down right cold!! I even put socks on a few minutes ago and it's almost 4:00 in the afternoon.
    Love to you all.

  11. Thank you everyone!! I want to respond to you all individually, but I only have 3 hours in this cafe and to get a blog done in three hours would be record time for me! I don't have any photos edited or sized yet and sometimes I write in WORD ahead of time, but I didn't get a chance to do that either...

    Anyway, all is well. We're feeling good.

    Ozark is with a little girl. My heart is a bit broken to tell you truth, but I am sure he's making a little girl happy...ah, I'll go write about it now...

  12. Wow.. I just found this blog through Twitter and am floored by what you are doing. I'm a huge Arabian horse fan so this is extra fun to read about, knowing that you are relying on a good friend who can clearly get the job done.

    I will keep following your adventure!

  13. Linny - You haven't disappointed me! In fact, the one thing I have always been impressed by you is that you have ALWAYS put the well being of Soj first. THAT is the mark of a TRUE horseman(woman). God bless!