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Re: 1999 Summer XP - VERY long!

DreamWeaver wrote:

Karen, I'm so happy that you can type after seeing your arm Friday!!
Good recovery!

> This ride began with a little different beginning (and ending) than most
> multiday rides do (for most people)....

This multi-day ride (50 miles a day in 5 days) was different from any
ride of any sort - a neat difference. Ride Manager F.W. Duck's (Dave's
nick name - a good story) rules and ride culture work great with this
tough crowd of campaigners and campaigner-mentored greenies like me. I'd
heard that Dave (The Duck) and vet Barney watch how riders manage their
horses, assess the overall condition of the horse, and treat them
accordingly. Pre ride literature handed out on Friday clearly states
what should be the case for all of us at all rides: "... the
responsibility for the safety and well being of the horse rests with the
rider, not with the  veterinarians."  and  "... the veterinarians are
here to help, not to be ride policemen...".

My Pony Express / XP adventure began last Friday morning when I drove 6
hours from Gilroy CA to Fallon Fairgrounds (western NV) to meet friends
Brenda Speer, Dee and Jenny - four women driving Dodge trucks! Lynne,
you should have been number five! We had a great time eating, drinking
and talking through the hot Nevada evening as the sunset lit up the
cloud strewn sky in a riot of color. 

I was the sole multiday newbie in the group and picked brains nonstop.
Saturday morning I showered, gave Sam and Gav baths and departed
separately, taking route 50 east from Fallon to Ely on the far eastern
side of the state, close to Utah, almost 250 miles. The significance of
that distance wasn't lost on me. It was how far we would ride on Dave's
great trail layout. I tried to ride every mile as my rig "ate trail",
mentally marking off water holes, lunch stops and fifty mile marks. 

As Saturday stretched out behind me and my Dodge chugged up mountain
pass after pass, the reality of the days to come sank in. I would be
riding this distance on Gabby! I never questioned that he could do it,
but my respect for the distance and terrain grew, as did my respect for
the horses and riders who would test themselves on such a ride. The sun
was brighter and hotter than California, even though the temperature was
not as hot. The air was sharp as a knife, and the clean atmosphere
accentuated the jutting mountains, abundant clouds against the stark
blue sky, sharp rock outcroppings snow streaked peaks, and extensive
alkali and salt flats.

Not too deep into Nevada, I tried the radio... the "search" mechanism
speed through the bands to locate one AM station with religious
programing, and one FM station that was pure cowboy music. The mile
markers whipped by as I crooned along with the music, laughed at the
corny DJ and flipped my lights at the flirting truckers that rolled by
me. For a reconstituted country kid stuck in the Big City, this was all
the action I needed. For now! I wanted to meet The Duck and Annie, and
see what secrets the canyons held for me.

Nevada landscape was a surprise; a series of very flat desert plains
bounded by steep rocky mountains. Many of the peaks were capped in ice
and caped in tendrils of snow sunk deep in the cuts and higher canyons.
This snow fed acres of deep grasses, vibrant flowers and cottonwood
trees. Where Nevada is flat - it's VERY flat and very dry. And where
it's not flat it's challenging - California mountains will never seem
the same. They looked young and vital, before, but now are softer, more
forgiving. Nevada demands respect; a tough state on people who don't
respect it. I like that. No "but's" about it. If you aren't prepared,
stay in the cities or stay home.

The biggest surprise? With the exception of several very small towns, I
counted 5 buildings along that very long stretch of road called "the
Loneliest Highway". I passed very few cars going in the opposite
direction, and even though I drove a modest 35-65 mph (driving a '95
Dodge diesel pulling a huge rig at altitude is a humbling experience) I
was passed by very few cars going my direction. There were 7 or 8
mountain passes, and each valley was unique, totally different
landscape... except for that it was, like it's predecessor,

Somewhere near a stretch of Toiyabe National Forest I fell in love with
Nevada. God created Nevada for fools like me. I was singing unrequited
love songs at the top of my lungs with Alan Jackson, George Strait,
Wynonna and Cheryl Crow, and soaking up the emptiness like beach bunnies
soak up sun. I love adventure, and a new experience like this is very
strong fertilizer for the soul.

As I left Ely, turning north off of 50 and heading out of town, I almost
wrecked my rig when I spotted the home of some unidentified endurance
rider off to the right - a neglected looking '70's mobile home
(turquoise and white?) with a small barn in back and a brand new (fully
loaded) Sundowner 3 horse slant gooseneck with full living quarters
hitched to a new Dodge parked in the driveway... a $100k rig and a $20k

Forty miles north of Ely, "Schellbourne Station" is a small wooden
structure stuck in the middle of nothing but flat desert surrounded by
towering mountains. As I arrived, a cowboy lookin guy led his horse up
the steps and onto the wooden western-town porch so they could both peer
in the dusty windows of the bar - where is that camera?!! 

I was ecstatic with that unstaged introduction to Ducks playground!
Later in the week, one of our esteemed members (Mr. Maynard Munger) took
his horse in the bar. What's the first thing a horse does when you load
it in a trailer? Right, it drops a load of manure, which is what
Maynard's horse did. After that episode, a nice wooden sign was posted
to the tune of "No horses in the bar". Dogs were underfoot at the bar,
but horses were banned... too bad, Gav would have loved that crowd.

I met so many friends as I got settled in... multiday rides are *very*
different from "normal" endurance, and one of the differences in the
opportunity to spend so much time together. In that remote desert
outpost, riders from Washington, California, Utah, Oregon and Idaho
congealed quickly into a solid community. Ely is an hour away, 7 days is
a long time, and time itself is at a premium, so trading and giving
started early; beet pulp for cobb, hay for futures, coffee for smiles...
and (thank you Dave and Ann) hot showers for fresh air. The very best
sharing was Otti sharing her wonderful crew - Ronnie. He has crewing
down to a fine art - he crewed for 3 to 6 of us each day, and barbecued
at night - what a guy! I told Otti I have dibs on his brother!

Gav did fantastic for the first four days - I was astounded to discover
that his chest expanded a full three inches by the end of the third
day!! This is a horse that I have trouble keeping weight on? Yep. I told
Dave that his reputation was at stake if my horse actually got fat on
his ride! He didn't gain fat, but he didn't lose much - if any - weight.
He now has withers that remind me of El Capitan peak across from the

... and scratches that remind me of the alkali flat at the beginning of
day three!

I'd planned on doing all five days, and by Thursday night I was damned
smug about it. He looked *very* good,  and had more energy at the end of
the ride than at the beginning even though I'd let him move out more
that day, finishing in the early 20's. He'd partially disassembled his
new PVC corral on Wednesday night rubbing on it, so was left trailer
tied (as he had been on dozens of other occasions) while I enjoyed the
company at the bar. Returning to my rig at 9:30 pm, I was greeted by
Brenda's distressed "Gav's been hurt!" - S**T! 

If you've ever met Gav, you know how much he enjoys scratching and
rubbing - he offers his head imploringly to anyone to get his chin
scratched. Well, Mr. Itch went at an ear (my guess) with his right rear
leg, and let the foot down a bit early, and when those tender scratch
swollen fetlocks hit that rope, that rope broke pony broke the rules and
fought a short battle that the rope won. Not bad, but open rope burns
meant that my five day dreams will have to wait a year for realization.
I **will** get a five day jacket!! 

The next morning I looked him over, and except for the mild scratches
and rope burn, he looked great. I hadn't padded or used easy boots
because I was planning to be conservative, and he was sound as a dollar,
even with the rope burn. His legs still were tight, no filling except
for in the pastern and fetlock area, which looked like the result of the
scratches and rope burn. The rest of his leg looked great. I don't ice
or wrap - at all - because I still ride Gav easy, and will only wrap and
ice if I ride hard. 

Four 50's had left him looking strong and robust, lots of fat in
reserve. There were a few horses in camp that were looking like Susan
Garlinghouse's 2's, but not many. Most horses were, on her scale, 4's or
4.5's. The skinny horses were showing the stress more than the others,
and I threw more hay and grain at Gav.

How does a horse gain weight going 50 tough miles, day after day? They
eat like pigs at night! And there is a secret about Nevada... those
foreboding mountains look barren and dry, but the canyons and heights
are lush with rich grasses - even the desert has abundant grass! Horses
go crazy for this grass if you let them, and because Gavilan is only 7,
we went slow and he ate an amazing amount on the trail.

Day One, I struggled to maintain a trot on the flat prairie at the
beginning of the ride. Karen's awesome Rocky was an inspiration, and
even Brenda's Dusty was a handful. Gav wants to do the easy terrain as
fast as he can; not surprising. I don't have control problems on tough
rides, but while I can still easily control him in that rope halter on
the flats, it takes focus and determination. And some swearing. When he
realized that he had a soul mate in Rocky, he was a real handful! Like
the little brother that wants to show off. As the climbs began, sanity
set in and the real ride began.

I won't explain the ride in detail except to say that the footing ranged
from fantastic to sandy to pretty rocky to hard and flat; every days
trail had enough "steep" to satisfy this horse and rider, who thought
Castle Rock and Wine Country back to back was an achievement. The
terrain was a little of everything; some areas were very hot, dry and
parched with cactus hiding in the sage, some were verdant windblown
alpine slopes climbing miles through "lupine" landscape that caused a
sane man to yodel songs from "The Sound Of Music" as we gazed across the
valleys between us and Utah. There are knee deep muddy mires disguised
as trails or meadows, some that wander through tight jungle vegetation
for 50 feet or more, desert washes of deep dry sand, and some stretches
of snow as well. There were lush meadows of knee deep grasses thick with
tall wild iris so spectacular that I wanted to paint it (I can't paint),
and acres of wildflowers and unforgiving rock strewn slopes. There was
water and grass everywhere at this time of the year.

On Day Two, I rode the whole ride with Otti and we became good friends.
The water trough (the one that wasn't there last year and that we all
sincerely appreciate!) that almost got helmet less Karen laid claim to
both Otti and myself. Almost there, Gav snorted that there was a boogie
ahead, and joking with him, I told him to "go get it", and let my
shoulders get in front of his balance wise (very stupid)... Gav does a
fair job of slamming it in reverse, toeing a rear foot out, sinking and
spinning when I work him at it; when his life is threatened by a water
trough? The next thing I knew, I was flipped over his head and hit the
trail flat with my back. Otti caught a glimpse of "the fastest turn I
have ever seen a horse make - I swear it!" before her own horse did a
fair impression of it and she joined me in looking at white pine from a
reclining posture. I later found out that "the trough" snagged several
other riders also. 

At the end of the day, I was certain that I wouldn't ride the next day,
or the next week. My lower back had spasmed and I could hardly move. I
ran 4 miles in the hills 4 days after a hysterectomy - drugless - and am
*not* a wimp!!! I've endured pain, and am pain savvy. But I was hurting
bad as a bronco broken cowboy, while it was "just" a severe spasm and a
mild sprain, I was virtually immobilized with pain. 

Ann smiled and promised that drugs would appear. She was so confident
that nothing like loss-of-vision-from-pain would slow me down! Suddenly,
as if she'd uttered the magic words "Let there be drugs!" all around the
camp vials of pills spontaneously popped from drawers, pockets, saddle
bags - just like a Disney movie! I opted not to get started on the
Endurance Riders Drug of Choice (Vicadin), and tried something new...
Naprox? It worked. The next day, in pain while walking, I cautiously got
Gav saddled, climbed on my trailer fender and mounted. That felt okay.
Asked for a walk... hey - not too bad! YaHoooo!!! TroT! Yes!!! I could
never walk out of the mountains on my own, but I could post and sit
Gav's nice trot, and I prayed that I wouldn't have to set foot on the

My friend Otti had taken a harder fall than I, and was still sleeping in
her trailer when I left... I worried for her, then wondered if maybe she
wasn't the lucky one. Or the smart one!

That day, Day Three, I again rode with Karen and Rocky. When Karen rode
Weaver, they seemed to evaporate in the dust ahead - some day I'll try
and keep up! Rocky was testing Karen like Gav had tested me on Day One,
and coming down a canyon on the way back in, I smiled as she released
him to do that flow-into-the-distance thing that she does so well. Gav
shrieked, snorted and whined that he could keep up, and I promised him
that some day I'd let him. We'd been riding with Karen (is it
"Stendoff"? Can't find my year EN!!) from Idaho, and she and I backed
off to be joined by Linda Taylor. Karen started identifying some of the
many flowers for me - wish I could ride with her more often!

Day Four I finally rode with my friend Dee and her neat "has come so
far" gelding that I keep wanting to call "Cisco"... we were joined by
Howard from Utah, then Malcolm from England via Canada. Malcolm is a
*blast* to ride with, and he and I did that "fade into the distance"
thing that Karen had been doing. We were backtracking on a rolling trail
with good footing we'd used on an earlier day - racing towards the
Trough of Terror! Reaching it, we were greeted by Dave and Pat with the
water truck, who lifted an eye brow and informed me that I was in top 20
- too much fun! 

Four days into this ride, Gav knew where we were and was having a ball -
wanted to race every step! I had twice as much horse under me as I
started with! He was so strong and eager that I kept choking back my
disbelief, and slowly took my hands off the brakes - wheee! I'd ridden
very slow so far, staying just in front of Trilby on Day Two, and
staying in the back half of the pack on the other two days, so Gav
needed to move out for his brain AND his back, which was... not
sensitive but 95% vs 100%. Too much sitting and gawking at splendor!

So the burst of speed was a relief! A little slack rein to reward him
for being such a cool horse to ride. After lunch, Malcolm, Dee and I
were joined by Steve and Debby, and we all booked back towards camp at a
nice clip. Not nose-bleed speed, but fast enough to plaster occasional
smiles on our faces because these horses felt and looked so good. Steve,
Debby and I finished together 21,22 and 23. Friday was going to be slow
for me, and Gav looked great. I was floating!

You know about my Thursday night trailer tying episode. Tough break.
Unable to enjoy the riding, I had a blast getting to know Corky and the
rest of the folks that run the lunch stop. I played with Sam, crewed for
Karen, Brenda, Debby and Steve, and anyone whose name or face I knew.
Multi day folks are so self reliant that they're easy, and this is an
easy ride to be self reliant on. There is a squadron of great folks
working the lunch who provide a variety of fresh sandwiches, chips and

Roasted Gilroy Garlic was served at the Friday dinner (I had said I was
going to roast it, which was proof that I had NO clue about multiday
rides!), and at the ride meeting held in front of the bar after dinner,
some gals sung the "Trilby Song". I'm getting the words sent to me via
snail mail and will post it; what a riot! They can really sing, and I'm
thinking of writing a "Ducky Duet" for the next XP - I can't sing but I
can tug on the tail feathers of the Duck! 

Dave told a few good stories... we need to start collecting these
"endurance legends". This is such an inspiring sport, and we ride in the
trail dust of some very notable characters. The Duck is one of them!
What a hoot to have him come roaring down the trail on a dirt bike! Gav
was snorty at first, but we chased Dave off into the bushes a few times
(he didn't know it) so Gav now likes the Bike that Backs Down - chases
it like a fast calf.

I'm making a Fort Schellbourne Cheat Sheet detailing what I need to
bring for the ride (brought, begged or borrowed it this year) - bottles
of bug juice, tubes of zinc oxide, not enough variety in the grain
department, how much hay. Some years there is snow, and chains are a
good idea. CD player was a must! It was a cool and windy Friday night,
and long sleeve shirts and wide brimmed hats are a must for the sun (I'm
strawberry blonde), and I slathered on tons of sunscreen and lip

I still got a huge blister on the inside of my lower lip; all of that
smiling exposed the tender area that chap stick doesn't stick to!
Nevada. Don't laugh at it. If you go there intending to smile giddily,
hide it under a bandana.

Back home, I went to a large bookstore and in the *many* hundreds of
books on states and cities that most people deem worth going to, there
were three thin books on Nevada. One was on Reno, another on Las Vegas.
One tiny book on everything else, what Nevada really is... 

That cinched it. I'll take Nevada.

Thanks for the great time, Dave and Ann. I'll be back next year, and if
I can get to Utah or the Grand Canyon, I'll see you there too. And then
there's the Outlaw Trail, and... shucks, I need to figure out a way to
earn a living and ride multidays at the same time!

 Happy Trails!  -- Linda and Gavilan


  Linda Cowles
  Lion Oaks Ranch 
  Gilroy CA

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