I must admit that I was feeling less than fully confident as I rode out of Tonopah with Jesse James and Finehorn – but without Gryph and Daisy and Cowgirl. Even my spectacular new hat didn’t quite make up for feeling like we were moving on as half a herd. How would people respond to me, traveling “solo”? What had Gryph been saying to people when she knocked on their doors and secured us a place to stop for the night? How was I going to get supplies without leaving the ponies alone? So much of the trip has been based on teamwork – and we’d learned a lot about how to make things work for the 6 of us in terms of daily routines and protocols over the 5+ months on the trail.
My first night out I got told “no” 3 times before I finally found a place to stay. That had never happened before! But the place that said “yes” was a really good stop – 3 generations of Mexican men at Silverado Ranch took me in and treated me like family – feeding me pork from a pig they’d raised themselves and sharing stories into the night. The ponies shared a pen and alfalfa with some goats, I enjoyed a sheltered camp spot and coffee and breakfast in the morning. There was joy in my heart as I rode down the lovely Hassayampa Wash.
The next day I had reason to be grateful that my siblings are on Facebook! I had gotten a pretty intense sunburn on my south arm and was in need of a light weight long sleeve shirt so I called my long-armed brother (who used to live in Phoenix) and a man that he knew from Food for the Hungry (in Bolivia) offered to drive down with his daughter and bring me a shirt and some sunscreen. AND an unschooling family that my sister “knows” on-line were coming with a bale of hay and a picnic. I rode past a very fancy equestrian center and rodeo grounds in search of the Gila River – which I could see on the map, and planned to follow through the next stage of my journey. As I rode around some graffiti’d barricades a man in a white pick-up truck passed me. I waved, trying to signal him to stop. He half-waved back and kept driving. I came around a bend in the road as he pulled up next to another big truck. A large hispanic man emerged from the other truck. The man who had passed me turned out to be a small asian man. They were both wearing bullet-proof vests and had multiple guns and seemed to have plenty of ammo. I tried to act normal and asked if they knew the area. “No.” “Do you know how far it is to the river from here?” “It’s a long way – you should turn back.” They didn’t have to tell me twice – this was obviously no place for a family picnic! I rode back to the equestrian center and asked an equestrienne if she knew of a place I could camp with the ponies for the night. She directed me to a near-by lake (which wasn’t on the map!) and I followed her directions – and then called my visitors to let them know where to find me.
That evening was really fun! 8 people had driven over an hour to be helpful – the spot on the lake was perfect – the ponies were charming scroungers – it was exciting to have “company” and the picnic was long on fruit (which I had been craving.) I think everybody wished they were camping with me that night – and in the morning the sunrise was so beautiful that I stayed up to watch it rather than go back to sleep after a late night.
The next day was challenging – I got lost – twice! Once by following an ATV trail for miles up an eerie and beautiful wash – only to have it turn around a clump of trees and stop – by a pile of spent shotgun shells. I returned to the last known water, asked some kids who were fishing to help me with the map, and wound up riding through a posh AZ housing development – fancy houses cheek-by-jowl – each with their own little swimming pool nestled within the high-fenced oasis of the back yard. People driving home from work stuck smartphones out of SUV windows to take my picture as they drove past without so much as a wave – I felt like a zoo exhibit. Then I discovered that the road I was following turned into dirt and disappeared into a mountain. At my absolute wits end I was rescued by a couple on bicycles – who were patient and kind and didn’t run away screaming when I dealt with an overly aggressive photographer by charging him with the ponies when he wouldn’t stop taking photos after I’d asked him to desist 3 times. Instead they went out of their way to find a place to put the ponies for the night (bringing alfalfa from a different farm) – and then they invited me home to meet their kids, shower, eat nourishing and delicious food, wash laundry and get a good night’s sleep. And they gave me a tent to replace my beloved ancient pyramid, which was rapidly giving up the ghost – which has served me admirably through the Rez (despite a few issues with elastic and glue from having spent 3 summers in an AZ garage -> nothing a little duct tape couldn’t handle.)
The next day brought an invitation from a couple driving by with a truck and trailer, who gave me directions to their house and offered not only a day of rest for the three of us, but helped me get the vaccines that the ponies needed before the end of the month, and convinced me that the safest, sanest choice was to load the ponies into their trailer for a ride up to Globe (and after seeing the road I was really glad I’d heeded their wisdom!) Meanwhile my mom had sent a care package to a cousin I hadn’t seen in 10 years, and she came down with her 3 kids to deliver it – we went to Dairy Queen for ice cream while we caught up a bit – and the ponies were in a safe place to allow that to happen – hurrah!
One other wonderful surprise that transpired that week – which I only found out about in retrospect – was that my friends down in Manhattan Beach threw a Free Range Rodeo party – sponsored by Rookie Brewing – and raised enough money that I was able to order an MSR Mutha Hubba tent – which fits all my requirements, and will hopefully last the rest of the Journey. I’m hoping to find it at the PO tomorrow morning!
So – that was the first week sans Gryph. I found myself missing her most when things got strange – or beautiful – not having someone there to share the numina (things that can be perceived with the mind, though not with the senses). I am aware that Finehorn considers me a poor substitute – but she’s adapting and Jesse is paying more attention to her as well. I am learning that I can do this Journey solo – and that even without Gryph this ride is what I most want to be doing with my life. Blessings on the Journey – Blessings on us all!