The past 5 weeks have been wonderful, exactly what the ponies and I have needed, perfect, insanely frustrating and Not According to Plan. My mom called today to remind me that it’s been almost two weeks since my last blog post and that’s not a good way to keep an audience. I know! It just seems silly and sad to keep writing “a little better today, progress is slow but steady, nope, not quite yet, getting hotter outside, big thunder storm today, the ponies are bored, i’ve fallen in love with two baby goats, learned to make Chevre (‘real’ goat cheese), reading a lot, went to the Tractor Supply today, mr.James is improving steadily, nope, not quite yet… ) Maybe if I were a better writer I could contrive to make that fascinating, but much of life just isn’t! This week I’ve received a help-offering ‘phone call and two friendly e-mails assuming that I’m back on the road again and wondering how far we’ve gotten and how we’re doing. Tomorrow is the first day of summer (although by the heat and humidity around here you could have fooled me! ;-)) 20 weeks from tomorrow the ponies and I have a date to keep with Minot, Maine – 1400+ miles from where we are today.
Tuesday I looked at the calendar, again, and the map, again, and did the math, again, and reached a firm decision that it’s time to head out and at least see what’s possible.
Yesterday I cut two holes in the beautiful, brand new, thick and cushy, weight-distributing saddle pad that a friend in Texas bought for mr.James. They’re directly over the “problem spots” and I carefully beveled the edges (to the best of my ability) with a razor blade.
Today I saddled up and rode for an hour and a half, ponying Saint Finehorn who was NOT going to be left out of even a minor adventure. I followed Lucy and Amber on a long loop that led over the creek and almost all the way to Walmart. Lucy heard a kittten crying along the creek and stopped to rescue it. Finehorn’s lead rope was used more to restrain her forward motion that to encourage it and Jesse didn’t complain once. We got home and, with no little trepidation, I removed the saddle and pad from Jesse’s back. The one remaining pink spot (which I’d smeared medicine on before we left) was beautifully untouched but there were two raised areas, one on each side, exactly the same size and shape as the holes I’d cut. Within half an hour these were back to normal and Jesse and Finehorn both enjoyed being hosed down before going out to graze. I think that the raised areas are like the temporary marks from a bra strap or tight jeans, just horse sized. I have no real clue if this is likely to cause problems up the road.
Jesse James still has one pink spot the size of a quarter on the left side of his back. It has two small (size of a pencil eraser print) areas that were oozing a tiny bit until Tuesday when I switched over from Corona to Furazone Ointment. The rest of his back looks good and his hair has grown back and he doesn’t complain any more than usual about being groomed. He felt strong and willing under me today and glad to be out doing something. I’ve dropped a stone (that’s 14 pounds) in the past two months and reduced Finehorn’s pack weight by about the same amount. In an ideal world we’d probably wait another two weeks before heading out again but it’s getting hotter here every day, Maine isn’t getting any closer and frankly, funds are running a bit low. It’s been my experience that it costs more to stay still than it does to keep moving. The Journey, much to my amazement and deep gratitude, seems to be strangely self-sustaining as long as the ponies and I keep moving. It’s become a life changing point of faith for me that everything I’ve needed has been provided exactly as I’ve needed it. At this point I’m down to $75 plus 6 days of food. There have been tighter moments in the past 20 months, but it’s definitely time to get back on the road!
The other challenge with the change of season is going to be the HEAT! There are days when it’s hard to breathe through the moisture in the air by 10am. My pattern had been to ride “between the rush hours”. It seems to be the safest time to be on the wee back roads we favor and means that we’re looking for a place to stop for the night about when people are getting home from work. In the colder months it’s been nice to be getting up and out after the sun has risen and gotten to work warming things up a bit. I don’t think that’s going to be my best plan through the next several months. My current thinking is that I’ll get up at first light and be packed and riding by 7am. (It takes about two hours from opening my eyes to setting foot in the stirrup.) I’ll alternate riding and walking Jesse, depending on how he’s doing (and how I’m doing) and hope to be looking for a place to stop by mid-day. I think the real challenge will be getting to sleep by 9pm! I’ve also realized that riding and walking and camping in rain, while still soggy and less than comfortable, is at least not in any way life threatening and is substantially cooler.
Lucy has offered to come and retrieve me with her horse trailer if we run into trouble with Jesse’s back (or anything else) in the first three or four days. That’s a HUGE relief in terms of my mental state. It’s a strange and ridiculous thing, but every time we’ve had a rest stop for any real length of time I start to lose faith in the Journey. I know in my head that I’ve been doing this for over a year and a half and it’s been working and it’s possible and actually fun and good most of the time, but towards the end of a break it just all starts to seem insane and ill-advised and scary all over again. I know from past experience that by day two I’ll be back in the groove again – but having a “rescue wagon” on call, especially under the current circumstances, is a huge blessing.
One other fun thing – my folks are going through Minot, Maine en route to a teaching gig at a camp at the end of June. They’ll be meeting with the people putting together the “end of the trail party” and hearing about some of the plans. AND, I promise, starting tomorrow, to update the “Daily Update/Contact Info” page on the blog every day that I have internet access – which should be most of them. AND to get back in gear on facebook w/ photos and route updates – like: does anybody know anybody who has knowledge of the ferry that crosses the Ohio River at Augusta, Kentucky?