My brain likes numbers. For instance, this is my 136th blog post. I’ve got 237 followers on the blog and suddenly 603 on facebook! I’ve been on the trail 22 months and have 13 weeks before I’m due in Minot, Maine. The blog has received 61,368 hits (the most in one day has been 490) and we’re up to 103 countries! (Africa is a bit underrepresented, if anybody has connections to spread the word there ;-).) Tomorrow I’ll be entering Pennsylvania, state #11. I find these sorts of numbers very reassuring because they keep progressing, quickly or slowly, in a direction that I consider to be positive. However, they really don’t tell much of the story. They don’t have anything to do with life is like. So – what’s going on?
Sunday was a good day, perfect weather, ponies fresh and feeling good. My stitches came out in the morning, Finehorn’s feet and Jesse’s back are doing really well and packing went smoothly. (One side note regarding Jesse’s rainrot: the thing that seems to have solved the problem once and for all was a tip I got from an Amish farrier and healer (Nate Miller) back in Kentucky – I fed Jesse 1/2 tsp. cream of tartar (hidden in a treat) every day for a week and washed his back with a 50% apple cider vinegar solution daily as well. By the end of the week his back was 100% back to normal, no more bumpiness under the hair – much rejoicing!) Coming into Holmesville I discovered a hitching rail outside of the gas station and ran in to grab a coffee and an egg sandwich. The ponies were not amused, pointing out that there was perfectly good grass in the park next door. I took the hint and we went over there for breakfast. As we were heading in the direction of the “bike and buggy” trail I’d heard about a truck pulled up and a couple got out and asked the usual questions. Turns out they knew a woman named Pam Kline who lives not far away and had done a similar Journey 20 years ago. They invited me back to their place, Windy Hill Farm, where they train and sell horses (they’ve got about 90!) but since I’d only come 4 miles and they were behind me I decided to press on. They were super encouraging and still wanted to help so they posted about my Journey to their 5000 facebook friends asking if anybody along my route could help with lodging and/or route finding as I came through their area. I’ve since been contacted by quite a few lovely, friendly people and have several new stops planned along the route And it’s looking like a group of 4H kids who work with rescue horses up in Maine will be coming to Minot to ride in the parade! Social networking in action – wow! And it speaks volumes about the reputation of Windy Hill Farm that they have a community like that. I guess it goes to show you never know who you’ll meet by the side of the road. 😉 The bike and buggy trail was brilliant! Well used by both categories with one lane devoted to each (I guess walkers get to take their pick?) the 5 miles were pleasant and easy and the ponies were delighted. We came out in Fredericksburg and I suddenly realized I had no idea how to get from wherever we’d come out (the trail isn’t on my map) and Salt Creek Road. No problem – along came 4 Amish men on bicycles, as if they’d been expecting me. Not only did they put me back on course, two of them had biked a month from California to Oregon last summer And they were part of the family I’d been planning to stay with two days hence. Happy meeting and I proceeded with more confidence. Not much farther on I was hailed by a family who offered water, carrots and apples for the ponies as we chatted. I continued on and about 20 minutes later a van pulled up ahead of me and that same family got out, carrying a bag. The kids had decided that since they’d fed the ponies it was only fair that they offered me some food as well and they’d packed a picnic for my dinner! As I rode along I passed a large Amish house with a bunch of kids playing outside. As I rode up the driveway the kids giggled, squealed and scattered. Eventually a few women came out and I learned that I was heading in the wrong direction from town to find the Amish farrier I’d been told about as a possible place to stay. At the next house some boys said that I was welcome to stay in the school yard across the street. School was out for summer, there was plenty of good graze for the ponies plus a pump for water and an outhouse – perfect! They loaned me a water pail for the herd, I rode up next to the school and untacked the ponies under a tree. Soon I had an audience – about a dozen kids – who sat in the shade of the school and watched in silence as I set up camp. Finally everything was done and the ponies were grazing so I sat down in the grass and I watched them back. Eventually questions started flowing both directions and we had a good visit. Adults started showing up as well with more questions and answers – lovely peaceful evening in a really beautiful spot. I was given a piece of yummy fruit pizza as well as fresh eggs and sweet rolls for breakfast – and a list of names and addresses to send postcards to when I arrive in Maine. 😉 The next day I continues on towards Pioneer Equipment, an Amish company which makes quality horse-drawn farm implements, wagons, buggies, etc. The ponies were turned out in a big pasture and I was invited in for dinner, asked numerous questions and shown to the comfortable guest room. The hot shower felt great and I fell asleep quickly. Several hours later I woke up feeling sick. By morning I was empty and went out to let my hostess know what was going on and ask if I might stay a day while I recovered. She graciously agreed and I disappeared for the rest of the day, sleeping most of the time and emerging once in late afternoon, weak as a kitten, for a bit of yogurt and a few saltines. It was a blessing to be left utterly alone in a quiet room with attached bath – so grateful not to have been camping right at that moment. The following morning I was given a tour of the factory where everything is crafted from raw materials sourced as locally as possible. It was fascinating to see wheels being constructed and my guide was very patient with my many, many questions.
Later in the parking lot a big truck pulled up and the driver recognized me and called me by name. Turns out he’s somebody I bought hay from when I was staying at Meriwood Farm back in Tennessee – what are the odds of that!?! Fast forward a few days and you’ll find me picking up my mail in Minerva (including my New York DeLorme Atlas and Equerry’s Choice horse vitamins), grabbing a few supplies at the store and visiting Lana Bella Alpaca Farm. I’ve had an alpaca scarf along the whole Journey – it’s warm and fuzzy and waterproof and I love it. It was great visiting with the alpaca herd and getting to ask all sorts of questions (turnabout’s fair play). I was given a pair of socks to test and I’ll be letting you know how that goes in the next weeks. There’s more to tell, but for now I’m up way past my bedtime and tomorrow I’m en route to the Pennsylvania border. There’s a lot of fracking in this area which means large gas and oil trucks on small roads and since my dear mr.James is having rather extreme issues with large trucks lately we’re getting trailered out of the affected area rather than risk becoming a fracking casualty.