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GERA, Part deux (kinda long)

I'm getting closer.  I see the sign to Dawson Forest and know I'm almost at 
my temporary home.  My horse needs to get out of the trailer and I need a 
beer, even though it is ten in the morning.  OK, maybe I'll wait till eleven 
for the beer.  I figure I'll be one of the first ones there so I should get a 
Prime Camping Spot.  I see the GERA Classic sign, make a right turn and 
realize that I was wrong about being one of the first ones there.  
Horse-Trailer City has already been created and it looks like I'm going to 
have to live out in the suburbs.  

I get into a line with about 6 rigs in front of me, climb out of the cab, and 
hope to see a friendly face.  I find a really nice lady who leads me to a 
great shaded spot and tells me how much room I can take up.  Dance Line has 
come alive and is pounding and making noises, introducing himself to his new 
neighbors.  I think he really enjoys camping out and making new friends.  I 
start setting up his portable corral, cause I want a place to put him before 
I unload.  I notice how much cooler it is up here in northern Georgia, 
compared to central Florida, and am extremely grateful for the change in 

I soon discover that the ground here is kinda hard and sure isn't Florida 
sand.  My plastic rods are bending up at the pointy end that is supposed to 
go into the ground.  This is not a good thing.  A lady next door tells me 
that this part of the forest used to belong to the military.  She, also, 
threw in that they used the land for burying nuclear wastes.  I can't tell if 
she's making it up or not, but this information doesn't deter me and if she's 
trying to get me to relocate she'll have to do much better than that.  

I finally set up the corral, unload the horse and start on my tent.  I want a 
nap so bad, I forego the beer for now, knowing it would knock me out better 
than any sleeping pill.  My Wal-mart tent is supposed to sleep six, so I 
figure I might be able to actually get my air mattress into it.  I take my 
time erecting my brand new shelter, not wanting to cause a horse stampede 
from the flapping noise.  With a little help from another neighbor, we 
actually get the tent erected, in spite of the instructions that are written 
in Klingon.  

I offer my neighbor a beer, he accepts (this is a good sign) and later I'm 
off to bed, after pumping up my air mattress.  I'm almost asleep when I 
suddenly hear this "BRAYYYYYY  HEEEEE HAWWWWWW BRayyyyy HEEEEEE HAWWWWW" that 
continues for atleast 5 minutes.  Seems like I got a couple of Jackasses for 
neighbors living behind me and they don't like the idea of me resting up.  
Either that or they were just welcoming me to Georgia.

I wake up a couple hours later, feeling rested and awnry.  I look up and am 
amazed that my tent is still standing and even looks like the owner (me, 
Rookie Camper extraordinaire) knew what he was doing.  As I leave my tent I 
take a look around at my surroundings, knowing that nothing makes me happier 
than what I'm now seeing.  This place has come alive with horse people (the 
only kind I seem to be able to relate to lately), horses, mules, donkeys, and 
some ponies (oops, I think they were Arabs actually).  Just kidding about the 
ponies; grey Arabs rule here as usual.  

I wander over to the check-in table to register my horse for the 25.  This 
ride also offers a 50 and, something kinda new to me, a 10, for newbies.  The 
head manager checks me in, her name is Angie, and she turns out to be 
extremely funny.  She had me laughing so much I didn't even feel the pain of 
writing the check to get me in the race.  This lady would make one heck of a 

This ride seems to have more men in it than most I've been to, but the ratio 
is still almost 8 to 1, in favor of the ladies.  Since my wife won't let me 
out of the South, I'm not sure if this is normal or not in the other regions, 
but I find myself adjusting and kinda like all the female company (gotta make 
sure wife doesn't read this paragraph).

Well, let's jump to the ride briefing.  Angie's running the show, and she 
still has her humor with her in spite of registering over a hundred riders.  
For those of you who think the 25 LD isn't part of endurance, it was the ride 
with the most riders.  I really think you'll lose a lot of them if you 
eliminate it (the 25) or keep slammin those who enter it.  I'm starting to 
think they may be the main brunt of your rides, but, hey, I'm still a Rookie, 
so what do I know?  The numbers are about 60 riders in the 25 mile and 33 in 
the 50 mile.  I think there were about 15 riders in the 10 mile run.  There 
were al lot of groans when Angie mentioned the forest people (Rangers, I 
guess) expected us to take the horse manure back home with us, but when she 
said, "Just do what I do," and she simulates rubbing it into the ground with 
her foot, the groans turned into laughter and we got the idea.  Angie 
mentions there will be a controlled start cause the first part of the race is 
uphill and kinda narrow, some more groans came out, but they seemed serious 
about it and the subject was not open for discussion.

I mosey over to one of my neighbor's campsite, have a few beers and lotsa 
laughs with them (they're fellow drunks and like to party) and then go to my 
tent for an early night's sleep.  The horses & jackasses (human & donkey) 
have settled down and were the most quiet I've ever heard at one of these 
things.  I actually got some sleep and did not wake up until I heard the 
car/truck horn blasting and traveling down every side road/trail making sure 
any creature that sucked in oxygen was wide awake. As Angie mentioned, this 
person did an exceptional job and if anyone slept thru it they should get 
their hearing checked right away.  

After I'm awake for a few minutes I realize that I don't have one basic 
necessity that could be key to my survival here.  COFFEE!!!!   I forgot to 
bring any and start freaking out.  Then I smell some brewing from my 
neighbors, the ones who like to party, and mosey on over and beg for a cup.  
Kay, the wife/girlfriend of the guy (Bernie) who helped me set up my tent,  
says I can get up off my knees, it's really no problem, and she provides me 
with a big ole cup.  God really knew what he was doing when he invented 
Southern women.  I'm so damn happy now I go over to my truck, turn on the CD 
and play the Cowboy National Anthem.  Yep, you guessed it, Toby Keith's 
"Shoulda been a Cowboy" rang thru my section of ridecamp that morning.  None 
of the horses, jackasses, or riders (some of these may be related to the 
jackasses) complained.  

OK, the actual ride story is coming.  But if you 50 milers and 100 milers 
don't kiss & make up, I'm not going to send it.  You have me feeling that a 
25 ain't worth writing about!

sincerely yours,

Rookie Rider

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