We left Hayward, CA. on March 1st, 2010 to trailer Sojourner down to Los Angeles, CA where we would start what would turn out to be a 3,700 mile ride to Bath, New Hampshire.
Two days ago on November 14th at around 4:30pm, eight months and 14 days later, Sojourner, Walter and I stood at the end of the long driveway that led to my childhood home.
I can remember the first steps on Foothill Blvd. in Los Angeles. Every single person who passed by looked at us with their mouths open and most of them with gigantic smiles and I was thinking, “Well, here we go, Sojer. 5 steps down, and about a gazillion to go…”
And now we’re here.
Sojourner in the back field
And then he had a nap...
I slipped down from the saddle and put my face close to Sojourner who was looking down the driveway. "This is my home, Soj. This is where we've been riding to all this time. Thank you, my sweet boy, thank you so much.”
Right now I’m sitting on my living room floor in front of a fire burning in the little wood stove. I thought about this moment a million times on the ride. “What will it be like? Oh, how much I want to be there now”…things of that nature. And now here we are and I can’t really say exactly how it feels.
It kind of feels like it always feels (which is wonderful, but…). It’s not until I read comments and emails from people we met along the way or people we never got a chance to meet, but found this blog, or my friends and family who helped to make this all possible, that I really feel it. That’s when that little sparkly feeling that floods through your jawbone when you are trying to hold back tears comes. That’s when I look at Walter and Sojourner and think, “My God, look what you’ve done”.
So let’s start there.
Sojourner was not the horse most thought would be able to make a trip across the entire continent of North America. He was scared of his own shadow and he hadn’t really made a solid connection with a human being. The first time I rode my first Arabian, Cherokee, I felt a connection with him instantly. Not when I first rode Soj.
I liked him. He was pretty and nice enough, but he was more concerned with other horses than me and he was so, so very spooky.
“He’s not your horse, sweetie.” Henry, who boarded Soj in Hayward, would say. “Take my Cantero.” Cantero was his sturdy Quarter Horse Stallion who was as solid and calm as they come, but Sojourner had shown me signs of trust and efforts that made me always come back to him.
Sojourner had spooked when I was taking Cait on a little ride down the driveway. She went off and had a seizure from hitting her head on the ground. It was the worst moment of my life. I hated Sojourner at that moment. Of course, I knew it wasn’t his fault and he just spooked, but when something like that happens you don’t think rationally and I didn’t want the animal anywhere near me.
It was Caiti who said she really loved Sojourner and thought I should keep working with him. She told me this while she was in the ER lying on a bed with her head bleeding waiting for a CAT scan.
The next day something was different in Soj. It was that day that I knew he was going to be okay. Something had snapped in him. He was extremely affectionate with us and was much gentler to ride.
Caiti kissed him on the neck when we put him in the pasture here at his very last stop two nights ago and threw her arms around him. He stood quietly and gently curved his head toward her forming a little nook for her to nestle in.
Sojourner was the gentlest, sweetest, funniest, and most willing horse I ever could have made a trip like this with. He has an ability to trust and overcome fears that will serve as a lesson to me if I am ever scared or distrusting. He has shown what can happen when you step past what you believe your boundaries are. You can go anywhere your mind will allow you to go. Your feet are always ready-it’s getting the mind to cooperate that can be the challenge. But Sojourner always overcame his fears and was always conscious of Walter and I. He was our partner and our friend and the love I have for him is immeasurable.
Heading up the hill to home.
Walter and I often times didn’t know where we were riding to the next day. We just knew we were going to be about 25 miles closer to home by the end of it. Sojourner didn’t even know that. He just went. His ears were always forward and never missed a thing. I saw the country better than I would have if I were just walking because his ever-curious eyes would spot things my busy mind would have otherwise missed.
He was present and uncomplaining. He was and continues to be an example in so many ways-of strength, peace, awareness, energy, perseverance, courage, humor, love, beauty, and innocence. He is a horse unlike any other I’ve ever met and he came to me from a woman who also exemplifies these qualities.
Lari Shea of Ricochet Ridge Ranch in Mendocino, California called me one day and said, “I think I have the horse to take you across the country. His name is Runnin’ Rebel.”
Runnin’ Rebel is Sojourner’s registered name. I wanted to name him after one of my hero’s-a woman named Isabella Baumfree who changed her name to Sojourner Truth. Sojourner Truth never wavered on her beliefs and what she knew was right. She withstood the greatest horrors a mother could imagine and still used her energy, presence, and words to teach, move, speak, educate, and make change.
When I went to Lari I was a piece of the person I was before…or maybe in a way I was more, I don’t know. After all, I had added sadness, pain, anger, doubt, and loss to my repertoire of emotions. I had felt these things in ways I had never felt them before and it had quieted something in me.
The way I felt then is so far away from me now that I have to squint and study in order to try and accurately describe it here. Time does heal, but at that moment I was heartbroken. And although time has healed so many things, there are always bits floating around inside like little shards of glass that can slice if I think about them too hard. That’s normal, I think, and in a way good because it allows for more empathy and understanding.
My parents called me one morning when I was 24 years old with the news that they were getting divorced. It was so totally out of the blue from all that I knew. We had the most beautiful upbringing. My mother and father were (and still are) such wonderful parents and had a true love for one another. They never fought and it was obvious that there was nothing one wouldn’t do for the other.
The lives we have before we meet each other cannot be changed, though, and the difficult life my father had as a child always made him doubt the success of his future. When the successful future came and was the present, he broke it himself.
This is a whole other story, one I hope to tell one day because I feel like it could help a lot of people, but one I want to tell along with my father and in his words. He has an incredible grasp on words and expression and his mind is one to be admired. What is important to focus on now is that what was broken then has slowly and carefully started to repair itself.
My father and mother have allowed me to be open about our lives and in their selflessness with what some would prefer kept private, they have helped so many people going through similar situations. To me, this is the greatest form of generosity.
My dad said to me the other day that he is a much sadder but wiser man now. Maybe one can’t be gained without the other. In the world we live in today, to be wise is probably also to be sad. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. Because being sad doesn’t necessarily mean being unhappy. Happiness and sadness are two emotions that, I believe, can live side by side.
My mother moved out to California after the divorce and I was soon to follow. I wanted to be near her and I wanted nothing other than to be back with horses.
I had a horse in High School and college and whenever I was upset I would jump on Cherokee and he would erase any negative feelings I had with the ferocious power of his galloping body under me. All of a sudden I was flying and afterward I would walk back inside the house excited to tell my parents how amazing he was.
“We ran so fast!” I would say. “Oh man! That horse is amazing!”
When my parents divorced I needed this again and a dream that came to me when I was just a tiny little girl came back again stronger than ever and I was gonna do it!
…I’m going to find a horse and I’m just going to ride. I’m going to ride and ride and ride and really feel my days, feel nature, feel the horse, feel the air, feel the nights, feel my life…
It’s funny how things happen. I thought my whole world was collapsing, but little did I know the next piece of it was being created at the same time. As if the floor I was standing on was about to give way, but I would fall and land on an entire city that had been built underneath; a city full of new paths, new ideas, new people and emotions that I never would have known if that first floor didn’t break.
Lari was in that new city. She was there and would go to get the horse that would then one day come to me and take me on the adventure of a lifetime. She would get me to sing again and she would get me to ride again. She also would never truly know what she means to me. She would never truly know her impact. She was the start to my heart’s recovery-her, her horses, and that magnificent Mendocino coastline.
With the horse and the ocean came a calm inside of me, but at the same time that part that had quieted felt like it was awake again. I always wanted to ride across America, but now I didn’t just want to do it for myself. The horse has an incredible healing power and I wanted to bring that to people, even if it was only for a moment as he passed by.
Guiding the entire trip back in his home office outside of San Francisco was my stepfather, Stephen. He charmed the people on the line of the continent that we traveled with his witty jokes and sincerity. When we stepped up on our hosts doorsteps they already knew who we were and laughed with us when they recalled their conversations with Stephen.
“Oh! We talked for about an hour on the phone the other night!” so many of them would say. “We’ve been talking to each other all week! I don’t know what I’m going to do now after you guys go! I’m going to miss our conversations!”
Stephen was always a few days ahead of us making phone calls and finding stops for us. It was figured that he made one phone call for every mile we walked. That’s a lot of phone calls.
I called him after we walked down Danlin Hollow’s driveway and told him I didn’t really know what I felt yet.
“I don’t really know what I feel yet either”, he said, “It’s going to take a little while to sink in, I think.”
This whole trip had been like a second job to Stephen. He and Walter were always on the phone figuring things out.
“Oh…wait…wait…what’s that little “U” there?” I would say as we looked at the map with little dots that marked our up-coming stops on it. “Do we really have to make that “U”? Can’t we cut that to make a straighter line?”
And then they would go back to the drawing board and try to straighten the line as much as possible. Somehow Stephen was always able to find incredible stops exactly on our route. Maybe this is because incredible people are everywhere, but still it was an awesome feat.
I never made a phone call. Stephen called everyone initially and once the stop was secured, Walter took over from there.
Stephen was another person who was there when my heart felt like it had lost its hope. He got me interested in leather work. He had worked with leather for 20 years and still had all of his old tools, tons of incredible old belt buckles that he handed over to me, and the energy to teach. I completely fell in love with leather work and it has since become my career.
Before taking off on the ride, Stephen told Walter and I that he would be able to help us through Southern California because it was his “old stomping grounds”, but after that we would have to be on our own because he just didn’t know the areas we were headed to.
“Okay”, I said, “We’ll take it from there”.
We never took it from there.
From the very first stop to the very last stop, Stephen was behind it.
The ride ended up being a small way to connect my family. My father worked tirelessly on the pasture and stall here at home so it was perfect for Soj when he got here. Stephen was in California tirelessly making phone calls. “You can call me any time you need to”, he would say, “I always have my cell phone with me”.
As we ventured farther and farther away from California and hit the East Coast, that’s exactly what happened. The time difference caused Stephen to have to answer the phone at as early as 5am. This never bothered Stephen though, and if it did, I never heard about it.
Nobody ever takes the place of anyone else. Ever. It’s not possible. I think this is something that has to be remembered when families change and grow and morph. At the same time, the heart is capable of loving so many and in so many different ways.
I fell in love with one of my closest friends of 11 years on this trip. Walter has a spreadsheet of every day of the ride with little notes next to the day. March 30th says, “camped highway 72 in McVay, AZ. Slept on ambulance. Looked at you the right way.”
Walter and I met as freshmen in college and we were a couple of goofs. He was my go to guy if I wanted to laugh and was feeling a little crazy. He is always up for anything and has very few restrictions.
Walter knows about every guy I’ve ever dated and I know about every girl he’s ever dated. In fact, he carried me in my high heels and a bikini with a black trench coat covering me in the middle of the winter to a boy’s house that I liked. I was carrying a pizza that said “I Like You” in pepperonis.
Walter placed me down at the doorstep of the guy’s house and then jumped behind a snow bank. I knocked on the door and when the guy answered I handed him the pizza and said, “they told me the way to a man’s heart is this (hand the pizza) and this (drop the trench coat)”. I laughed and laughed and flitted off back to Walter. He picked me up laughing with me all the way back to the dorm where we waited to see what would happen.
The guy called. We dated for half a year or so….but you know…Walter and I should have eaten that pizza before it even got to that doorstep. He was always the one.
You can’t just make those feelings happen though. Neither Walter nor I ever even once had those feelings for one another. We have spent so many years together just laughing and being the best of friends and talking about people and relationships and life and ourselves…but there was always a little clause in there…
“What are you thinking?” Walter asked me one evening in Arizona as we camped out under the big, giant open sky.
“29”, I said.
Walter has always been my “if I’m not married by this age” guy and I have always been his “if I’m not married by this age” girl. The number went from 50 to 45 and sometimes we would even say, “well, maybe 35.”
He knew exactly what I meant when I said 29.
Although…let’s not jump the gun-nobody here is getting married at 29…it was just my way of letting him know…
I have never been one to settle down into a relationship. My mind has always been so all over the place. I want to see things, do things, and meet different people in different places…
Walter was always there though. I guess everything has it’s pace and natural course. When my parents divorced one of the first things I said was, “I’m never getting married. I just don’t believe in it anymore.” I can remember my mom saying, “No, no Lin, don’t say that.”
It’s something that I was unsure of actually before my parents divorced. I was never the little girl who dreamed of a wedding and having kids. I didn’t really care all that much about either one. I wanted my freedom and I wanted to explore.
I feel very lucky to have Walter who thinks so similarly to the way I do. He also has a constant itch to get out and see things and learn things. He took off for China with a group of friends and then decided he wanted to head over to Thailand. He went by himself.
Above all, I just love him, plain and simple. I look at him and smile and feel so lucky. He is one of a kind to say the least with the heart and spirit of a lion and the lightheartedness of a jester.
Walter had no experience with horses before this ride. He and Soj have a bond now that I like to just sit back and watch. There is a very obvious mutual admiration between the two of them.
And then he wrestled him to the ground...
I just took a little break to go into the bathroom to wash my face, brush my teeth, and put on a little mascara. Walter walked by the open door to the bathroom.
“There are no words for you”, I said.
It’s the truth. Those of you who have read along know what it is I’m trying to say. He is my patner and my love and he will have my heart forever.
We are heading over to the The Hibbard House in a minute to get ready for the reception on the 20th. The house is grand and beautiful, but it needs a little life in it before people come. We are just going to dust and fluff up the beds, maybe make some cookies and light some candles.
I will have many more thoughts as the days pass, I’m sure. It’s hard to say everything I want to right now. We are still in the hustle and bustle of trying to get pictures ready and the house ready for the reception. After this all settles down I think I will have more time to reflect and really write.
This blog will continue on even though the ride has ended-just in a different way. My focus is going to be back on my art and leather. I’m sure our day-to-day life as we settle in and figure out what’s next will have an influence on my future creations and I will be excited to share them with you. There will still be plenty more ride photos and videos to come plus an “I would walk anywhere with you” Part 3 is coming soon as well.
I don’t really know what’s next. All I know is we’re here, we’re healthy, and we’re ready for whatever comes. What I do know is that I want to live gently with this incredible land I got the chance to know a bit more intimately than I had known it before. There is a lot to be done and a lot to learn.
After walking through the covered bridge by my house..steps away from home.
I have focused on the beauty in this world because there is just so much of it and it needs to be focused on, but I don’t have a disregard for the neglect and destruction that continues to happen along side all of that beauty. My goal now is to figure out what I can do to make a difference. I want to grow and eat my own food. I want to create the most beautiful art I can possibly create. I want to learn more about horses and how we can work together on a farm I hope to someday have. I want to study more about people and their connection with animals. I want to write more songs.
There needs to be a return to the land and the pace of our lives needs to slow so that we can enjoy what matters most to us. I am so sure of this, but I don’t believe change is possible by saying, “Now do this and do this because I say this is the way…”
I think the best thing I can do is try to practice what I preach, smile at every person I pass, and live every day trying to give back as much as I have been given…which is an awful lot.
There are so many I need to thank. Manna Pro and Kent Feeds are two companies that I will always stand behind. Sojourner is at a perfect weight, has incredible muscle, and plenty of energy. Not only do these companies supply a fantastic product (that we definitely put to the test), but their customer service is outstanding.
Sojourner made this entire ride wearing Easyboots. He was barefoot underneath. His feet are perfect. Easycare, Inc. is a company that truly cares about horses and their health. I can’t thank them enough for their generosity and concern for us as Soj traveled across America in their shoes.
A very, very special thank you goes out to Jordan Cheline who helped us through the desert in his big orange ambulance. He was a friend to us and offered a tremendous amount of help carrying gallons and gallons of water.
Walter and Jordan were always off gallivanting together in their costumes or playing some sort of game of the day. Sojourner and I had a lot of one on one time then. It was a beautiful time-very simple, but challenging, and packed full of adventure.
To all who have read and commented…I read every single comment that was ever posted. Sometimes I didn’t have the time to respond, but I took in every suggestion and every word of encouragement. It really is what kept us going on days that were tough.
Two blog followers, Jeni and Tom, were a great deal of help to us. Tom secured a sponsorship with Kent Feeds and Easycare and Jeni got Arabian Horse World Magazine interested in the ride.
Arabian Horse World put out the most beautiful and accurate articles that have been written about us on the entire trip.
And a special thank you to Bob, who gave us bundles and bundles of sage that he had dried and wrapped himself to pass along to anyone who was kind to us along the way. We have a sage trail across the entire country thanks to Bob and his beautiful idea.
And a never-ending thank you to Henry Gonzales. Henry would joke that he was going to go with me and not let me know where we were heading. Before I knew it we would be in his hometown in Mexico. Then he would let out his joyful giggle with his perfect smile. He gifted me the Charro saddle I rode in and took us down to Los Angeles to start the ride. He would never accept a thing like gas money. He didn’t even like the idea of me paying to board my horse at his ranch. I had to sneak the money to his wife.
“No, sweetie, don’t hurt my feelings.” That was his response whenever I would offer him any money.
I have gone from night to morning to afternoon, from my living room to a bookstore in Littleton, to now being here at The Hibbard House with this computer and this blog entry still in progress.
My mother is in the room next to me polishing the furniture here at The Hibbard House. I thought about my mom so much on the trip. She was the one I called when I was so tired and hot or upset. When my skin was rubbed raw and I had sores where no one wants sores, I called my mom, “Oh, Ma. I can’t even sit on the saddle. I’m dying here. Anything I wear hurts. It’s so hot, I’m so chaffed…”
Days later there was a package in the mail with bike shorts and body butt’r. It fixed me. She fixed me…just like she always does. I could fill an entire book about my mother and her greatness.
My heart and my thoughts go out to so many people. It would take a year to thank every one and find the right words to express what they mean to me.
I’ll leave though now with this…
If there is something you want to do, do it. No matter what your beliefs are with life and whatever comes (or doesn’t come) after- we are only in this very life once. My best friend, Bri, knew the trick that would get me to do anything. All she had to say was, “Come on, Jack!! You only live once!”
With that said, I would swallow whatever doubt was holding me back and I would do it. This life is ours just as our dreams are ours. Who knows where they come from or why they come, but they are one of the only things that is truly unique to us. Nobody tells you what to dream.
Or how to dance....dance dance dance!!!
Walter, Soj, and I were never harmed, harassed, robbed, or mistreated in any way on this ride, in fact, quite the opposite. Every single state we passed though welcomed us and everyone we met opened his or her homes without a bit of hesitation or question. I think that says a lot for this country and shows the care we have for one another.
There’s a lot of love out there and there are a lot of people to get to know. Walter and I would often say, “This is incredible. If we are running into this many people who are melting our hearts like this then just think of how many others are out there who would do the same. If only a lifetime was enough time to meet them all”.
A lot of change needs to happen-a whole lot of change, but what incredible beings we are…what a capacity to love we have.
“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” - Margaret Mead