That’s what I wanted to ask my laptop when it was finally back in my hands. And yesterday, when I was howling to Gryph, “How do I catch up on 2 1/2 months of this Journey? What do people want to know!?” I thought that perhaps an answer to the ‘where?’ question might be a logical place to start. I’ve been in Texas and Oklahoma and back to Texas. I’ve been in schools and grain silos and guest rooms and wheat fields and rodeo grounds and spare apartments and stock pens and trailers and hot tubs and BBQ joints, a hospital and a country club, bachelor pads and barns. I’ve slept in my tent and in the Turkey Hotel, an airplane hangar and a man cave, an abandoned vet clinic and a concession stand that hadn’t been used (or swept out – I was sweeping up dead birds!) in 9 years. I’ve been in wind like you wouldn’t believe and flat country and hill country and a terrible drought that’s been going on and on and on.
Gryph has been back for a month and on some levels that’s still a novelty while on others it feels like she never left. She picked up a small book about stars and planets back in Altus, Oklahoma and we’ve put an incredible amount of mental energy into figuring out how and why we (and China!) always see the same face of the moon. Last night, after white wine and raspberries, we twirled about the floor of the Camp House we’re staying in until we finally got it. It turned out that the key to understanding lay in each of us taking a turn at being the moon and grokking how incredibly slowly the moon turns on its axis (one rotation a month – which is the same amount of time it takes for the moon to orbit the earth) and which (when you actually, physically sort it, 90 degrees at a time) leads to a situation where it really doesn’t matter which way the earth is facing as it rotates on its own axis once each day. We are also groping towards a visceral understanding of the reality that the sun doesn’t set – what we’re actually seeing is the horizon rising. In the morning it falls away so that we can once again see the sun. Lots of sun these days!
I’ve had the strange experience of having several people drive by, stop and insist that they had seen me on television – when I’d never yet been on television! I subsequently learned that one of the major TV stations had just done a piece on Bernice Ende, the Lady Long Rider from Montana. Since in the photos I’ve seen she’s riding a paint and leading a dun Fjord pack pony I can understand the confusion – but Bernice has been at this a Lot longer than I have (8 years and 17,000 miles!) and she rode North this year – up into Canada. You can find her blog at: endeofthetrail.com if you’re curious. Somehow even stranger was the experience of actually being on television, viewing the segment in our host’s home that evening, and not recognizing myself. We were interviewed by two newspapers and a man from the TV all on the same morning and the whole next week we were stopped by people who already knew about us from the media exposure. We were even asked for autographs! A time consuming form of flattery? And are we becoming famous or infamous?
Entering the second year of the Journey allows for a bit of perspective. Last year at this time I don’t think “fun” would have been an adjective at the top of my list, although there were certainly moments that made everything worth doing. We were still struggling to find a way to actually Ride across the USA rather than one or both of us leading our mounts as we walked the roads wondering where we’d be able to stop for the night. We tried calling newspapers and were told that we weren’t news. We were doctoring leg wounds and waking up in dense clouds of freezing fog most mornings. We were stressed out and grumpy and trying to act braver and more confident than we were. Finehorn was still the fastest shrug-off in the West and we weren’t much further than San Francisco.
By this point things have pretty much smoothed out into a routine. I have the confidence of 13+ months and 5 states worth of dealing with whatever the Journey has tossed my way and realizing that most of it has been really, really good. I was slightly worried about how the trip would change with Gryph’s return but that’s been excellent as well. Finehorn has decided that she’d much rather have Gryph on her back than carry the packs and Gryph is riding with more confidence. In both Texas and Oklahoma we’ve been taken in and passed along, treated like family and spoiled rotten. The hospitality and generosity and warmth we’ve experienced in this part of the country has been epic. The weather is holding, life is good and we’re having fun!
The other side of the coin is a deep and abiding exhaustion. This is not confined to the humans in the herd. A week or two ago I said to Gryph that I still wanted to finish the Journey, I just wanted a brand new body to do it in. A few days later I was wondering out loud why Jesse James seemed kind of sad and slow. Gryph reminded me that he probably wants a brand new body too! The Long Riders’ Guild recommends 2 days of rest out of 7. Early in the trip we didn’t tend to rest much. We were running from winter, rest stops weren’t offered very often and we were shy about asking. Often, what felt like a rest to us wasn’t a great situation from the perspective of the ponies and vice versa. It usually seemed easier to pack up and move on, and on, and on.
As the trip has progressed, I’ve thought about the link between ‘duration’ and the sort of ‘endurance’ needed to survive and even thrive on a two year adventure. I’ve accepted that both ponies and humans need quality down time in order to maintain good health and good attitudes. I’ve started taking people at their word when they ask if we need anything and if there Is something we need I’ll ask for it. The wonderful rest we’ve just enjoyed feels like a miracle of wish fulfillment! The ponies are reveling in a large pasture with their very own tank (that’s a man-made pond for you East Coasters) which Finehorn has been rolling in to the point of constant rumpled dampness. In the middle of the pasture is a house which Gryph and I have had to ourselves for 3 days, with visits from the ponies. We got fresh fruits and veggies during a grocery run to Mineral Wells and have been eating well! Tomorrow we’ll ride on, clean and rejuvenated, hoping to make it to the small town of Dublin, TX (where Dr. Pepper was invented) in time to pick up our General Delivery mail by Friday afternoon.