A couple of twins came over to see Soj so we gave them a little grocery store parking lot ride.
We stayed in Gore, West Virginia at Evergreen Stables a few nights ago. It was a beautiful facility. This cat lived there and Walter thought it was one of the best cats he had ever met.
"Oh, Winny came to check your horse!? Oh! He's our vet! He's such a wonderful vet!" This was the response from everyone I mentioned Dr. Winiford Masset's name to. Talk about a good reputation! He was great, too. Packed full of knowledge.
"This plate has the brownies with the edges and this plate has the brownies cut from the middle of the pan", said Patty.
Walter had been talking to Patty about brownies. He told her that they even make an "S" shaped brownie pan so all the brownies can have an edge. Walter likes the edges. Not me. The gooier the better for me.
So Patty split them up so we were all sure to get our favorite bites.
Patty was also very good at keeping a secret. Walter's birthday was the next day and there was a lot in store for the soon to be 29 year old, support truck driving, joke cracking, messy haired, loving, sweet, meteorologist.
A fancy pants place called The Nemocolin had donated a night to us. We also were to be there at 1pm for a massage and dinner was at 7 at a fantastic, nearly all green (they're still in the process of switching over) restaurant called Autumn. After finishing our meal a beautiful cake was brought out. It came from a bakery called Nonna's. They also brought out a basket of apples and carrots for Soj. The cake is incredible. We still have a little corner of it left that we will probably finish off today.
It was all amazing. Neither of us could believe it happened. We were both a little shell shocked. Talk about going from one extreme to another!!
The cake has become our teaser. Walter will say, "Alright, in 5 miles we'll have a tea and cake break!" And for Soj, rice bran and grain. We all move a little faster then! This is us warming the cake in the frying pan.
Stephen contacted the Wilderness Voyageurs in Ohiopyle, Penn. and got us a trip on the river white water rafting the next morning! It was so fun!! A picture says a thousand words so I'll let these do the talking...
The time at the hotel was a time that we don't usually get, one full day and night to ourselves, and a lot was flushed out.
This ride is not without it's challenges. In fact, it has come to a point where it is nearly just a challenge, or at least it feels that way on some days. The West still has a strong connection to the horse. Most people are in cowboy hats and many ranchers still work their farms from the back of a horse. Out here the relationship with a horse is much more restrained and confined to the arena or more organized events. I am not saying one is better than the other, but what I am doing is a little more odd to people out here than in the West where people wouldn't think twice about taking a horse on a long trek.
We had a vet out a few days ago and Sojourner was deemed not only very healthy, but very happy. Soj is super laid back and we all joked about how he's a California hippy. It's not something that everybody believes though. Even though he looks fantastic, some are still skeptical. I should say though that for the 3,037 miles we've come now this opinion is pretty rare. Most people don't consider that Soj is a victim, but even those few can still get to you. Especially when I love this horse so much.
The only reason I sold my last Arabian in college was because I didn't have the time to ride him. He was a horse that needed to be ridden. It seemed like he was sinking into a bit of a depression. It was one of the absolute hardest things I have ever had to do. When we moved from Texas I was just under 10 years old and my dad said he would get me a horse when we moved to New Hampshire where we would have land. Cherokee was what I had always dreamed of and to let him go was like throwing my heart against the wall. I can remember every feeling I felt when I hung up the phone agreeing to sell him. Every single feeling.
Sojourner is the same way. He needs affection and needs to be ridden. Any physically active, healthy human being could walk across the country in nearly 9 months and horses are far stronger than we are. I am about ten percent of his weight which is like one of us carrying a light backpack. Soj isn't loaded down at all because Walter is in the support truck. He eats more than any horse I've ever met and gets great exercise. It's healthy, not unhealthy. He is with us all the time and we all have a very strong bond to one another. It's a good thing for the horse, but because some of us are so trapped into a closed mentality of only what we know and only what is the norm, it is assumed that this must be bad.
With that said, we also talked about how a thousand different people can write about how wonderful this is and then 3 out of those thousand can say the opposite and then it becomes so easy to dwell on those 3. You want them to understand. You want them to see your side, but they won't and they can't and so you've just got to let it go.
We had an "off-duty officer" tell us we couldn't be on a trail. Juli, who we were headed to up ahead, had gotten permission for us to be on that trail. I said this to the woman, but she was coming at me with all of her claws out and wanted me to know she had reported me. I told her whoever she reported to was ready for her and that her complaint would be ignored. She wanted my name and I walked away from her because every word that came out of her mouth was said in such a harsh, sergeant-like way. Walter even asked her why she was being so hostile. I decided there was nothing that could be resolved with her so I continued walking. She said I was ignoring an officer and that it was a violation and I needed to come back to her and give her my name. Then I got a little mad. This was too much. I already told her we went through the necessary steps to be allowed on that trail. So I walked back and told her that I had no reason to believe she was a cop and that if she was she was extremely unprofessional. I asked to see her badge and she stuttered a little in her anger and told me she didn't have it on her.
So I walked away and she fumbled back on to her bike in all her bike gear and pedaled away as fast as she absolutely could saying, "We'll see about all of this in about three minutes!" I was on the trail for another 2 hours and nothing ever came of the bike lady cop.
But still-such negativity-what a pain. All of that is hard to let roll off your back. I mean, we all do let this kind of stuff roll away, but it settles in you for a second, like bad food, before you can get rid of it.
I also have a sort of obsessed internet stalker who as my sister so perfectly put it, sounds like the Dr. Bronner's bottle, but mean. And as Walter would say, "some ting wong!" She's a sick woman who has never met me, but has latched on with a vengeance. So if you see a comment that looks like Barney the Bear wrote it after taking tons of hallucinogenics and becoming ferociously angry at the world with a touch of twinkle toes, that's her. Let it go by the wayside.
The roads have been tough lately. They're not fun to ride at all. Walter has to get behind us a lot of the time with flashers. Day after day we really just try to plow through to get to our next stop. I feel like my dream has been accomplished-the dream of just wanting to ride and ride, to build a real bond with an animal I have always loved so much, and live out with the land. We did that and it was just so perfect and amazing, but now we are in a big challenge. It's just a challenge to get to the end. Which is okay. We are all healthy and we're crossing into Pennsylvania later today so we're getting there, but it's tough. My dream now is home.
Speaking of dreams. I got Walter a book on Christmas Tree Farms for his birthday. Since he so wholeheartedly has helped me with my dream I am going to help him with his. One of his dreams is to have a tree farm.
I don't mean to make this sound like we are not enjoying our days out here now because we are. We know that this will end in the not too far future and we will look back at what an absolutely magnificent journey it has been. The frustrations, the different mindsets, the stares, a cooky girl here and there, it's all part of it and it makes me look at myself and work on the best way to deal with these things. It's all good and even though Walter and I both might have broken down a little when we had a place to ourselves to finally break down in, it was a bit of a catharsis and something we needed.
I truly believe that if you go at life with good intentions and always with kindness, aware of your own ego, then you will succeed.
Right now I am in a big bed and Donna (who we are now staying with in Bruceton Mills, WV) is in the kitchen making us a veggie egg scramble with turkey bacon, homemade bread, fruit, and tea. Walter just brought in two cups of Vanilla Almond tea (my favorite...decaf) for us. When things like this are happening my heart feels like it could explode out of my chest and all of my worries are put to rest.
These are the majority of the kind of experiences we have, just total kindness every. single. day.
But the small little difficulties and the few people who come at you for whatever reasons they have can upset your stomach before you are able to let it pass. Much like bad poop.
Oh! I forget one thing! After having the run in with the angry bike lady a woman pulled up in a truck yelling at me, "What are you doing!? WHAT. ARE. YOU. DOING? This is a road! This is a ROAD. You should be in an arena!"
I told her I was from California and we were riding across the country so sometimes we have to be on roads. She made a face, rolled her eyes, and said, "Figures. I should have known you're from California". I said, "Oh!! You're a mean person!"
She rolled her eyes again and kept going on and so finally I just turned Soj and continued on. As it turned out it was our next host, Juli, playing a prank on us!
I thought about it a lot once I learned it was Juli. It was a perfect prank to play because it was the kind of attitude I was becoming defensive to. I was glad I didn't go off on her because I really did want to. I was already frustrated from other things and I'm always tired which doesn't always allow for extreme patience. But I didn't go off thankfully.
I think all incidents like this should be approached as if the person is going to all of a sudden say, "Surprise! It's actually me, a nice person!" It's so easy to want to tear into someone but it is always coming from a weak place and in the end it always feels better to try to approach everything with grace and calm. Oh man, it's hard to do-and I wish it were more natural for me to be that way, but at least I have been taught to be aware of it and I'll just keep practicing. I'm sure I will get more opportunities to practice!!
Vicki is quite the knitter. She showed me a lovely scarf that she is working on. It made me think about Soj's pad and how it has a little tear in it that I needed to repair. Vicki ran and grabbed her box of threads and needles and we got to work.
Today is cold. The weather changed so quickly! Soj is in his little booties and a blanket and I am going to have to layer on a bunch of sweatshirts. We have a 25 mile ride today, but things are looking up because Donna found all back roads for us to go on (although it is already noon and I am still in pyjamas because I have been at this computer and Soj is still untacked).
We have so enjoyed Donna and her beautiful family. Donna and Juli are friends and became quite the dynamic duo when it came to making sure we had a wonderful time in West Virginia. They, along with their lovely families, filled us up with wonderful food and great conversation. They have definitely given us an incredible bon voyage as we leave West Virginia.
This is separate from the blog, but I'm not going to get a chance to get to my email. I know I haven't responded to messages in so long, but I will get to them all soon. I just haven't had the computer time lately. I am so far behind in email stuff that it's a little overwhelming! I just need a full day at a nice cafe and nothing else to do so I can sit down and read through them all and respond. I think a lot while I ride, though, and all of you pass through my mind throughout the day.
Spirits are up and we're ready to take this on. I only am trying to share a bit of the reality of how harsh this can be at times, even when 95 percent of it is so magically good. I am trying to write more in my personal journal as well which sometimes, I think, takes away from time with the blog, but I do want to write a book-this has just been too amazing, too complex, too crazy and incredible, to not write a book.
I need to eat something. My stomach is eating itself. Then we should pry ourselves from this lovely home and get back out there. We're crossing into Pennsylvania today and hope to be in New York in three weeks. I want to stay with an Amish family in Penn. Hopefully we can. I have a thousand questions for them.