Ahhhhh! The comfort of real pillows and my real bed! Yes, I have finally completed my dream adventure, riding 1350 miles, the length of California. Along the way and since returning home, I have been asked hundreds of questions such as, “What was it like? What did you learn? Was it harder than you thought it would be? What’s next?” And the most common question, “Does your butt hurt? “
As I read what I have posted in the past, I realized there is so much that I haven’t included. Over 1000 miles were covered since my last update. Many towns and lots of wonderful people and incredible views of California. After a week-long camping trip, most of us have lots of stories to tell. But after 100 days of riding and camping, my stories take longer than most people have time to listen. Some lessons I learned are hard to explain, and I struggle to not play them down or over-dramatize the hardships.
My trip was more than I expected in every way. The adventure could not be explained in a few words or paragraphs. It was as much an emotional journey as a physical one. Away from the daily distractions of modern living at the pace of Silicon Valley, California is beautiful and full of wonderful people and wildlife. My focus was not on malls, freeways, stock markets, and local business news, but, more on the beauty of life around me. Of course, I was closer to those instinctual survival skills since the basics are what I dealt with daily. “Where will I sleep and what will I eat?” was the mission statement of each day.
The education I received could never be learned in an arena or on a weekend camping trip. The lessons I learned were important because there was a test every day and mistakes could be more costly so far from home.
The bonding formed with my horses is greater than I ever expected. People commented daily on how my horses and I had a language of our own and how dependent we seemed on each other. Being together day and night for 100 days, each day bringing new obstacles and challenges, made us all sensitive to each others’ behaviors.
My horses were challenged daily and they passed every test they faced. They were asked to ride hard and face “sensitivity tests” each and every day. Bridges of all shapes (some with only grates for floors); other animals they had never seen before; strange shapes and colors everywhere; and large tons of steel making huge amounts of noise as they came towards them at incredible speeds (the notorious horse-eating semi-trucks). Trails were often narrow or filled with snow, and water was not always there when thirst arose. There were never any barn-sour attitudes as we just kept venturing farther from home. My horses are the true heroes of the trip.
In “Be Tough or Be Gone” Tom Davis wrote, “When you travel by pack train you get a whole new perception of the goodness of people.” (Tom is a cowboy who in 1976 rode his horse and led a pack train 4,500 miles from El Paso, Texas to Fairbanks, Alaska.)
I depended on this goodness of people for living quarters almost daily and they always came through. Many others came along and gave me help, in many forms. Sometimes they gave water, directions, food, or words of encouragement. Those who just gave me a chance to talk to another human being helped more than anyone but I knew. I depended on my support team to bring the correct supplies at the correct time and place. I depended on friends and family back home to care for my animals and possessions I had left behind. And I depended on my horses of course. It was not a trip I could have done alone and done the so-called “survive off the land” thing that is often spoken of. The fact is, I had a dream adventure I will never forget and I will always be in debt to those who helped to make it happen.