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...

Poor Obsessive Mammoth Jack

9/14/10

Leaving The Saunders' place. I'm giving Lori a bundle of Bob's sage.

Saying goodbye to Soj.


Saying goodbye to us...



There is a "poor obsessive mammoth jack" who lives here in Carlisle, Kentucky. He was pampered and loved on as a baby and now he has turned into a giant, fuzzy, too cuddly for his size, whistling, hawing, hunk of animal.

I have not met the massive jack ass, but he was one of the stories Jennifer, who works at the 4-H camp here in town, told us. Jennifer got us set up here at Clarebrook Farms where we are staying in a lovely little cottage on some of the most beautiful land we have seen yet. I have to say, if I'm not in Mendocino, CA or Bath, NH, I think this might be where I am.

View from the cottage...from one window the barn, from the other the cows in the field.

The living room in the perfect little cottage we're staying in.

Yesterday was a tough day with a happy ending. The town of Carlisle and the people in it were the silver lining around a dark cloud.

The hastiness of the world hit me hard yesterday and screamed in my ears with each car that whizzed by.

"What are you doing on this road?" one woman said as she slowed in the lane with her window down, constantly looking in her side view mirror concerned about a fast approaching car.

The road was fast and the shoulder overgrown, but there was a shoulder and compared to what we have been on this week it wasn't all that bad. I was also on the phone with my mom when this woman started talking next to me.

"We're okay, thanks" I responded. "We've ridden from California and sometimes roads like this are the only option."

Her ears heard the words. They must have, I was kind of yelling so my words would reach her, but her brain didn't.

"I'm a rider and you couldn't pay me a million dollars to ride on this road!" she said with an upset face and a "you're crazy" tone.

Now, that's where we differ. If someone offered me a million dollars I would ride it for a solid month back and forth and back and forth if that's what I had to do to!!

"Well, okay", I said, "ummm..."
What does one say to this?

She stayed there with her mouth slightly open, her brows as furrowed as those brows would get.
My mom was talking to me through the phone and this woman was still slowly moving her car next to me. Now I too was getting a little anxious about the fast approaching car behind her.

"I'm fine, really, thank you!"

She shook her head disapprovingly and pressed on her gas pedal. Gone. Disappointed in me for some reason. I told her why I was there. I told her that we've ridden a long way to get there, but she didn't hear, didn't understand, she only knew that she was a rider and therefore I was a nut.

So there was that.

Other people pulled over offering a trailer ride on up the road. They were very nice. I declined because the road really wasn't that bad. Like I said, not that bad compared to what we've been on. Soj was fine and steady and so was I really, other than feeling sad, anxious, frustrated, and tired...

...other than that.

At one point Walter made a right turn into a driveway in front of me to pull over and wait for us. The man in the truck behind him slammed on his brakes and then swerved around him as if he'd never seen a blinker indicating a right turn. This was the second time that happened that day. Another woman in a hybrid was like a tiny little dragonfly behind him looking to latch onto the truck's back and fly away together connected as dragonfly's do. Or maybe she was a bee wanting to sting him, that would be more accurate. Walter pulled to the side to let her by and she swerved around him in a fury. Such frustrations we cast upon them with our slow speeds and right turns!

Soj and I stepped over so much road kill as the cars zoomed by beside us. A little spotted deer, a full grown deer, skeletons, countless raccoons, two birds.

"This world is too fast for you guys", I thought.

...and a shake of the head from another person in another fast car, "What are you doing, girl? What's the matter with you?"

...and another dead animal. Soj snorts at it and eyes it as we step around. Another person yells at me from their car window. I wish people knew that I can't understand them when they yell as they pass. It's just a big noise that makes my heart skip a beat because I'm not expecting it, but it never sounds like words.

One man was whinnying. He sounded a lot like a horse so I looked. We were right in town waiting at a stop light. The man was leaning out of the driver's side window whinnying, mouth wide open, over and over and over again.

"Stop it", I thought. I took a look at the silent animal under me and then looked up at the whinnying, open mouthed animal in the car next to me.

Aiyiyi.


I missed the big open wide West and I missed the peace and quiet of the land. I felt anxious and didn't want to talk to anyone. Here I am out in this big country with my horse and I felt trapped and held in by a fast road on one side and a fence on the other and so much noise and death under us and it hit me hard.

Our planned stop for that night as it turned out was 5 miles out of the way and Walter told me that people wanted to come out and ride with us. I couldn't do either of those things. I was overwhelmed and discontent and I just knew I couldn't talk, not right now.

"I can't do it, Walter. Can we just find a building to camp behind? All we need is a tree, just a tree to high-line to. Can't we just ask someone for permission to use a tree up ahead on this road? Oh God, I hate this today. A woman shook her head at me without knowing a thing. I told her, but she didn't listen. She just knew she wouldn't do it, but why can't she accept that what is scary to her isn't scary to me? Why do people do that sometimes? I'm getting honked at and men are yelling at me and I'm so sleepy. Maybe I should drink a gas station coffee."

Poor Walter.

He was a hero though and went ahead and found Jennifer who set us up at this farm. But I was still worried about the people who were expecting us for that night and I felt sick inside that I wasn't able to ride with the people who wanted to come ride.

And then I met them. I met Steve who we were originally supposed to stay with and Lisa, who Soj was to stay with and I was put to ease. Lisa brought Soj some treats and Walter and I some treats as well. Then we went to have dinner with a couple who serve dinner by appointment only out of their home. Steve joined us there. We stayed there until 10pm chatting about the ride, but also about the town and their lives. That little town and the people in it wrapped around us and gave us a little hug. And then all was okay.

...
"Take your time", the man on the motorcycle said as I quickly chewed my sandwich.

We were pulled over on the side of the road taking a lunch break. "Most of the day is done", I was thinking at the time, "thank goodness."

I saw the man on his motorcycle watching Soj. Slowly, he inched closer and closer. He was curious about the saddle.

I took one last bite and walked to him. He asked me a question in a German accent and I chewed fast. He put his arms out and lowered them slowly while saying "No, take your time", in a soothing voice.

"Okay", I thought, and I chewed at a more natural pace.

It was a funny thing to have happen because the day's events up to that point had tensed me up so tight I was like a rubber band stretched between a hyper little kid's fingers, ready to fling through the air and sting someone at any second.

Then here comes this man out of nowhere on his bike with his soothing voice telling me to take my time. He had also come from San Francisco and had been out on his Harley for 5 weeks. He rode down to L.A. as well and has pretty much taken the same roads we have. He's headed to New York and will fly home with his bike to Germany, back to his beautiful little daughter, who I saw a picture of.

"Would you like to see a picture?" he says as he reaches into his back pocket. "Oh you must, you must see a picture".

There she was in a little pilot's hat in the passenger seat of his old English sports car. His little rosy cheeked treasure.

Ralph had sold his office in San Francisco and was going on a little adventure through the states before heading home.

"Safe travels", he said to me as he pulled away.
"To you, too!" I said.

A like mind and a soft voice just when I needed it. We had 6 miles left ahead and I could feel something inside that had flitted around like a ping pong ball come to a rest.

"Oh yeah", I thought "I remember."

And then the day turned around and we had a wonderful ride...
"Ah ha, bad day!! Take this!!!"

Soj and I passed a big old incredible house that was falling apart but still looked so grand. It was like Tara from "Gone With The Wind". I called Walter and told him he should go back and explore the old house. He did...



Imagine the gowns that must have once rustled down these stairs and the stories told under this chandelier. Once full of life, now just whispers in the falling walls...



...

The night before last we stayed at a very interesting place. It was a Center for Women in Racing. The woman who started it all, Sandra White, is taking a little time for herself and has shut the Center down for the time being, but it is her dream to get some more land and expand the center and what a dream it is!


Walter and I contemplating staying, trying to do something to help, but we have such little time now and I've got to finish this ride. We went back and forth about it for a while though.

In the front yard of the center...


I am going to post the pictures of some of the women who have resided at the center and the descriptions that were hanging all over the walls there. If you click on the pictures you should be able to make them big enough to read the descriptions.




...
IN the little town of Carlisle at the "Cafe On Main", we sat in the old home and talked about the young Opera singer on America's Got Talent and Walter and I listened to Ed, Jan, and Steve talk about ideas of a talent show there in their little town. After having a delicious dinner of Salmon, rice, and okra, all cooked to perfection, we began to yawn and soon were nestled into the little cottage next to Soj.

Ed and Jan in "Cafe On Main". Ed had banged his head on an open cabinet and was bleeding a little. He didn't really care and never even wiped it.
"What do we owe you?" Walter had asked after the delicious meal he prepared for us.
"Owe me?? Nothing!" Ed responded.
Walter asked if he could help with the dishes then or something.
"Oh no. I don't even let my wife in my kitchen!" he said in good humor with a huge smile.


We have decided to stay an extra day here. It's a pretty hard place to leave and we want to explore a bit, take pictures, and just enjoy the day and the beautiful weather. I feel so much better today. The same thing that scared me, having to talk and socialize, ultimately brought me peace and calmed me. Sometimes I get overwhelmed and want to retreat behind a closed door in a room nicely lit by myself, but then, like a medicine I think is going to taste bad, what I was scared of was exactly what I needed to make me feel better.

"I saw a door and I walked through it", Temple said with an excited smile.

"Yes..." the woman said back returning her smile, "...and I held it."

-from the movie, Temple Grandin



6 comments:

  1. Great entry and amazing photos. I know what you mean about having a hard time around people and their misunderstanding of you. I love to live in the country and I am not a hugely social person. Sometimes I try to reach out and participate more in social activities and often feel a "well, now that is why I don't do this more often!" feeling at the end of it. But sometimes things work out in ways you wouldn't expect, or you only dared to hope. Hope you don't mind a little side story: Today was my first day volunteering with Handi-Riders, the local therapeutic riding program. Now, I am not very social, and I am not at all comfortable around kids! But I started riding at 5 yrs old at a stable that did lessons and therapeutic riding, and something about it stuck with me. So I put aside my kid-anxiety (and that isn't a joke) and did it..and it was amazing! That feeling that stuck with me as a child was brought back and fully realized today. To see children who can barely walk, or can't walk, riding tall and proud on big (and small!) powerful animals...it is truly amazing. There is a complete lack of ego with the kids, as they are sometimes not verbal and certainly not concerned with "looking cool." And so there is this freedom and joy, and yes, fear, but you just hold tight to their legs, or the lead rope, and they work through it and before you know it they are grinning hugely and saying, "This is my favorite day!" (a quote from a little boy today after his first ever lesson). At the end of the lessons the the instructor always says, "now how do we thank our horses for taking care of us?" And the kids lean down from their saddles and throw their arms around the horses neck and give them a big hug. You cannot watch that without the biggest smile in the world coming over your face!
    Anyway, as much as we sometimes want to just retreat and do what we feel is natural or comfortable, sometimes those extra efforts or ideas really end up paying off, soothing us, bringing us just what we need. Glad your day turned out well in the end.
    Cheers to you, Soj, and Walter, from sunny Bangor, California!

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  3. Awww, I think I have a new saying to live by, Bird - "This is my favorite day!" What a beautiful thing for that little boy to say. I can just hear Winnie the Pooh (one of my favorite all-time role models) saying that.

    Bless you for volunteering. I'm sure it was so gratifying. I volunteered a bit at a therapeutic riding center when I was a pre-teen. That's nearly 40 years ago now and I still remember it fondly. I'll do it again someday for sure, but there isn't a place nearby at the moment.

    Sorry you had such a hard day, Linny. I guess those are inevitable once in awhile.

    The speed at which so many people go charging through life is very distasteful to me. And over 90% of the time, there isn't anywhere they have to be that's urgent. It's just how they go through life, and really quite sad.

    For one thing, it's just pretty cool to see a person on horseback. Even a non-rider/enthusiast can appreciate that. It's a good opportunity to slow down and enjoy the sight for a moment while passing. Unfortunately though, I'm afraid that these people go through the vast majority of their lives without ever really "seeing" what's around them. I'm guessing they aren't too familiar with people Henry David Thoreau and John Muir. :)

    The guy whinnying is just a jerk. People like that will put me off humans in general (which isn't really a good way to feel) for awhile. I've met a few on long trail rides who get drunk and are so obnoxious. Ugh!

    I'd like to meet that massive jack. Pokey the mule (where Buster lives) is a lot like him. She's such a sweetie, but can be a bit pushy sometimes. I really love her, though.

    Thanks for the great update as usual. Happy Camping!!!

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  4. Bird!! What a sweet story! Your last paragraph is so true. Like Tom said, "guess those days are inevitable sometimes". I was just so run down feeling and when you get totally exhausted like that the idea of having to talk a lot if so difficult for me. So much of the time it makes me feel better though because people can really comfort you. Most days are not at all like that as you know from reading.

    I would love to volunteer at something like that. You're doing something that means so much to them.

    Oh gosh, Tom. That guy whinnying was just so ridiculous. It didn't make me mad or anything, he was didn't mean anything by it-it just made me a little disappointed. I mean, when the horse is silent and the human is making the "horse sound" so loudly...well, as Walter would say, "some ting wong".

    I'm confused, Megan! I'm sorry, but I don't understand your comment!

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  5. Oh, maybe I was a little too hard on the horse whinnying guy. :) I thought he was doing it in a "wolf whistling" way. But still, he could have used the standard greeting known the world over - "That's a magnificent horse!"

    I can hear Walter saying "some ting wong". You two must laugh all day long (on normal days). My wife and I are like that. I never had any idea of JUST HOW MUCH we laughed every day until I broke a bunch of ribs. I got home from the hospital and was ready to begin the healing process when "all laughter broke loose". It was utter agony and we both had to learn to really check out daily banter for awhile because it would wipe me out. :)

    Ride On!

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  6. Funny you mention Temple Grandin. She was my neighbor as a kid and the same age as me. Temple did not go to any of our schools and I remember my grandmother not wanting my brother and I to play with her. So, she was different, yes. And in the long run, she made a difference. Thus, being different gets you/one ridicule or a certain kind of banishment by those who don't bother to try to understand someone who thinks outside the box. A little knowledge is almost worse than no knowledge. Temple could ONLY think outside the box. Oh, and she had a sister, Isabel, and a cool trampoline in the back yard!

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