"Vermont is about 2 miles away as the crow flies", Lloyd said at breakfast this morning.
We are now resting in Jackson, NY before we cross over into our second to last state tomorrow-the fabulous Vermont.
Sojourner didn't get to dress up for Halloween like I had hoped. I wanted him to be a Knight's horse or maybe dye him green and call him lucky, but we got all caught up in the ruckus of a "rest" day and didn't have a chance to do any Halloween stuff.
Well, Sojourner took matters into his own hands and maybe he's a few days late, but today he is the infamous Black Stallion (although not totally anatomical...it is just a costume!)
I got a little whoosh of energy when we were talking about how close Vermont is. We went home a couple of weeks ago for a day and I thought being home before the end of the ride might take away from the rush we would feel when we actually arrive with Soj, but I could feel from this morning's conversation that it won't at all. Having Sojourner right outside and knowing we are steps away from Vermont feels pretty unreal and pretty darn amazing.
What a horse he is to get me safely here on his back. To write this makes my eyes water. What an exceptional, beautiful animal he is.
Sojourner was in a barn with a bunch of mini horses last night and when we let him out in the corral he bucked and carried on wanting to be closer to them again (they had been moved a few fences over). How quickly they bond! I was happy to see how much he loves them because I really want to get Soj a buddy, but I don't know if we're ready financially for another horse yet. A mini might be doable though. I don't think he would have any objections.
Although...remember the black Quarter Horse he was so in love with back in New Mexico? Could that have something to do with his pick for a Halloween costume? Quite possibly. Hmmm...maybe we should go back and get that old mare. I wish I could get her for him.
Last night we had dinner with the most wonderful couple. Pat prepared a vegetarian pasta with Portabella mushrooms just for me and everyone else had chicken with spicy rice and sweet corn. Lloyd steamed some artichokes and made a delicious chipotle dip to go with it. It was all washed down with red wine and our "dessert shelves" were filled with apple crisp. My sister coined that term a long time ago. No matter how full you get, there is always room on the dessert shelf (especially when the dessert is homemade apple crisp). It just can't be filled by other foods.
When last I wrote we were at the SUNY Equestrain Center in Cobleskill, NY. As we were leaving that morning, the Director of the Center, Therese Garufi, asked if we would be able to come back and talk with the Equestrian students in the future. Of course I said we would be happy to, but I am not sure the request still stands.
Earlier that morning I looked over in Sojourner's stall and saw a black top hat that had a sign hanging from it which read "Old Tricks". Not really, but I would have thought so after feeding him that morning.
When I first got Soj he developed some pretty silly habits. He was pretty nervous about having his hooves picked up so every time someone would try he would drop to his knees. I don't think he did this at the ranch before coming to Hayward, CA, but he certainly picked it up somewhere along the way.
"Ah! He's going to fall down! Drop his leg! Drop his leg!" I would say to the farrier back in Hayward.
"No no, sweetie", Henry would say, "He needs to learn he can't do this."
Anyway, slowly but surely he kicked this habit and now he hands over his hooves without a problem. On this fine morning, though, an old memory clicked in his horsey head and when Walter lifted his hoof, the other leg bent and down he went.
I was a little concerned for a minute hoping that his knees weren't giving way from all of the hills we were traveling on, but he proved as we rode later that this wasn't the case. Plus, there was no heat or swelling and this is not something I haven't seen from him before in the past.
We feed all of his grain under water to keep him extra hydrated and right after falling to his knees and getting back up again he grabbed his bucket full of water and tipped it over. This is another thing he used to do that we broke him of (at least until this fine morning when everything came loose).
I don't tighten Soj's cinch until I'm ready to get on him and when he stays in stalls I like to walk him out a bit in the morning before hopping up and riding. Needless to say, I didn't tighten the cinch, got distracted saying my goodbye's, and headed off with an ever loosening cinch with every step Soj took. I could feel that he was walking funny through the lead rope in my hands so I turned to see why. The saddle had slipped and was under his stomach. He was stepping kind of wide to keep it from whapping his legs. Therese was over by her office watching.
"Oh! I forgot to tighten the cinch!" I yelled to her.
Walter pulled up beside us in the truck and we laughed as we plodded away down the road.
"She's going to think we're frauds!", Walter said as he drove up next to me.
"Come on now, really." (He imitates Therese's voice). "Where did you guys from, huh? Oneonta or something?"
"I know!" I laughed, "Oh man. Geez Louise."
What a bunch of clowns.
From there we rode to probably the most beautiful Bed and Breakfast I have ever seen called Halcyon Farms B&B. If you are ever in the Amsterdam, NY. area, this is the place to stay. Hands down. No question.
June and John Leonard serve an incredible breakfast in the morning, too. They donated a room in their lovely home to us and Soj stayed at their neighbors house with barn animals who had never seen a horse!
As we were riding out of town we met up with the Mayor of Amsterdam at the City Hall. We had dinner with Mayor Ann Thane the night before at a great Italian place called "Shorty's". The mayor and the town of Amsterdam did so much for us. We were put up at the beautiful Halcyon Farms, had an incredible dinner, and were given gifts from people around town including two big cards from the kids in the area. A 50 pound bag of Safechoice was donated to us from the feed store in town as well.
The kids at the Amsterdam Elementary school put together a couple of beautiful, huge cards filled with little notes and all of their signatures. It blew me away. I hope some of you are reading...thank you from the bottom of my heart.
From there we rode on to Saratoga Springs. Sojourner stayed at the race track and we had a room waiting for us at The Holiday Inn that Greg Dixon from The Chamber of Commerce donated to us.
Saratoga is one of my favorite towns, but we decided we would take a drive to Schenectady, NY that evening and go visit Frank at his restaurant.
Frank was the amazing man who left food for us every evening back in Worcester, but we never actually got to meet him. He is a very successful restaurant owner and breeds the most beautiful Weimeraner puppies. His restaurant was packed with people, full of incredible smells, and had lots of strong New York accents bouncing off the walls.
"Hey!", said Frank with a kiss to my cheek and wide open arms as we entered the beloved Pentagon 1978.
"Now you need to eat your pizza nice and slow", he said. "This is real pizza just like they do in Italy! Best pizza in the whole tri-state area! You like fresh mozzarella? Let me go fix you some mozzarella. We make our own cheese here".
After visiting with the ever generous, lively Frank Popolizio, we headed back to The Holiday Inn and fell asleep pretty early. The next day was a bit rough. It was freezing and rainy. The temperature was under 40 degrees and the rain smelled like snow. It was just above cold enough to snow though.
I was fully saturated by about 9am and we had 26.5 miles to go that day. I think the first 5 layers of my skin were soaked through.
Walter and I traded off throughout the day so one could thaw out while the other walked. Then we would trade places again. Thank goodness my Aunt Mary Lou brought me gloves and a scarf not that long ago!! You know how it is when it's warm (or this is how I am)..."Ah, I'll be fine..." but when the cold actually comes I kick myself in my own shin for not preparing earlier.
Thankfully after 8.5 hours of riding in the rain we pulled into where we are now...heaven?
We are staying with Lloyd and Pat at The Eagle Crest Farm. Pat is knitting a scarf and a hat for me out of Alpaca wool from her own Alpacas!
But we'll hate to say goodbye to Pat as well tomorrow and leave this warm, wonderful home. We'll be seeing them again though. I'm sure of it. Just like I have a feeling we'll see most everyone we've met on this trip again one day. Everyone has touched us so deeply.
Oh good...just as I was writing this Pat volunteered Lloyd (Lloyd isn't here now...ha ha ha ha) to come help us build a barn for Sojourner! We have seen Lloyd's handiwork and it is absolutely top notch beautiful. Hopefully he agrees to his new obligations (I tease) and they both stroll in to Danlin Hollow in the not-too-far future.
Tomorrow we ride to Vermont. I can't believe it. I just can't believe it.