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Nick Warhol's Twenty Mule team story

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From: Judy Long for Nick Warhol 

20 Mule Team 60 / 100  1999

After my near death experience at Death Valley (Okay, I was not THAT sick,
but it sure felt like it) I was looking forward to the 20 mule team 100 down
in the desert in Ridgecrest.  Jackie and Jim Bumgardner have been putting
this ride on for a while now and have a good course laid out that is nice as
far as the desert goes.   Yes, there are some rocks, but that's the desert.

Judy and I made the 8 hour trip to Ridgecrest with Warpaint and Shatta on
Thursday before the ride.   We got in just after dark in yet another wind
storm.  Damn!  Last year I brought Shatta here for his first ever 100.  We
finished it in great shape but not without being quite miserable after
dark. Wind, rain, rain, wind, cold, and just yucky weather after dark last year
made it quite a challenge.  Not this year, though.  The wind quit on Friday
and we had perfect weather for the rest of the weekend.   Lots of regulars
came out this year and the ride quickly started looking like a local 50 mile
ride.  There were 65 horses starting the 100, something like 80 in the 60,
and another 30 or so in the 30.  That's about twice the normal amount of
riders for this ride.   Judy and I went out for a warm up ride over to Jim
and Jackie's place and out into the desert.  Shatta seemed really energetic-
his conditioning program seems to be making him even stronger.   I was very
optimistic about our chances as I got him ready for the night.   Judy was
wondering if Warpaint would be okay since she had not done much riding since
his 4 days at Death Valley.  She was after the Fire Mountain Excellence
award and wanted to get through this ride.  Besides- it was at this ride a
few years ago she lost Warpaint in the desert after a few miles and didn't
get him back for 12 hours or so.   

We got underway Saturday morning at 6:00 am sharp.  I love the fact that
Shatta just walks over to the start and looks around.  He'll stand there,
walk, stop- he's relaxed and not hyper at the start like so many horses are.
The first excitement was at the 100 foot point in the ride- I looked up and
saw a horse bucking and crow hopping across the desert.  I then noticed the
rider (it turned out to be Lari Shea) sitting on the ground in pain.  An
amusing thing happened next- the horse was just going to go along with the
rest of the horses on the trail.  I watched from behind as the horse trotted
along with a group of riders who just kept going until a woman behind me
good thinking.  They did, and the horse was grabbed and returned.  Lari
broke a couple of ribs and had trouble shifting her manual transmission into
third when driving home.  She could pull the stick, but not push it.  

Shatta and I took off and started moving forward through the pack.  He was
strong, strong, strong.  I could see the first few riders up ahead of me
when the controlled start ended and we hit the desert.   I trotted along up
the gradual climb with a few different riders and paused while Kat Swiggart
got back up on her horse after a short stop.   The horse wasn't crazy about
standing still but Kat hopped on and we rode along together for a while.
Judy caught up on a feisty Warpaint but decided to hold him back while I
went on ahead.   The trail dropped down the back of the hill and started a
nice, long gradual downhill across the desert.  It was so beautiful out
there, jamming across the land on my big, powerful horse.   We stopped at
the water trough and waited a while until Judy showed up.  Perhaps a
mistake, but when we took off Shatta and I kept pace with the spotted wonder
when Judy let him out a bit.  Man, he boogies.  In no time we were at the
first check after passing a bunch of riders.   Here's where we would get
separated since Shatta was at 56 when we hit the P&R people, and it always
takes Warpaint a few minutes to come down to the good criteria of 60.
Barney had me trot Shatta twice since he saw a little something on the front
but it was not there on the second trot. I scooted out of the check in the
top 15 and took off all alone, just me and the beast trotting across the
desert.  I rode for almost an hour or more without seeing anyone or any sign
of anyone.   Suddenly Shatta perks up and shoots a look behind him.  There's
Warpaint!   Judy was on the gas trying to catch us, and catch us she did.
We rode together (a rarity on endurance rides) through the rocky section
before a welcome water stop.   Both horses drank a whole lot.   We settled
into a fast pace that saw us catch 2 horses without being caught by anyone
else.   Jackie changed the ride to avoid the long, deep sand wash that we
rode in last year.   MUCH BETTER!  Thank you, Jackie.   We got to ride right
along the Black Mountain wilderness area, looking at old mines that still
have deep shafts.    Once we hit the long, soft road into check 2 we
absolutely flew, having only to slow them down once the racing got out of
hand.   It's neat to move along that fast.   

We hit the second check at 35 miles in 12 and 13th place, about 45 minutes
behind the leaders, just as the leaders on the 60 caught up.   We walked in
for the last quarter mile or so, meaning Shatta was down when we reached
the P&R people.  Warpaint took his time again so Shatta and I went to the
vet.   Much to my aching heart Shatta was off a little more consistently.
It was slight, but it was there.   Mike Tomlinson (who ended up helping vet
instead of being an FEI observer) suggested I bring him back n 30 minutes.
After waiting inline for 25 minutes Shatta was still off.  We were done.
Had it been 90 miles I might have walked him in, but no way at 35.  Dennis
Souza graciously helped us out since he was crewing for his wife and
daughter.    Warpaint finally met criteria, passed the vet, and began to
annihilate all food in the area.  I was just plain bummed as I saw all my
friends come in and go on.  Judy got to go on, Val Weizer and Brian Reeves
came in and went,  Jack and Diane Enderle as well, Karen Chaton on Rocky
continued, Shatta's dad Bob Edwards continued the ride on Shatta'a half
sister, Cathy Campbell and Laura Fend came and went- the list goes on and
on.  Except I wasn't going on.   Oh well- I can handle lameness. I don't
want any metabolic problems.  Shatta was eating and drinking as well as he
ever had.   Lots of energy, okay, I'll stop now.   At least my good buddy
Gary Fend came to my rescue and gave me a beer.   That does not seem so
significant but boy, it tasted good.  

That's where my problems started.   I got pulled at 10:15 am or so.  By noon
just about all the riders had come and gone.  There were 9 horses pulled
that needed a ride.  I got in line for the first trailer and would have been
the 6th out of six horses in.   Suddenly a woman tells me that this other
horse has to go in the trailer, and that I'd have to wait for the next one.
Huh?   "How come?" says I.   "Because she was pulled before you."   I
thought about it for a moment and realized that I was probably the first
horse pulled out here.   "I don't think so,"   I said, a bit miffed.  "Was
she pulled from the top ten on the 100?" The woman thought about it for a
moment, muttered something, and loaded the horse.   Oh well, so I wait for
the next trailer. 

That came at 4:30 pm.   I was out there with two other horses for a long,
long, long time.   I got to meet two real nice people from Southern
California- Robyn from Chatsworth, and Jerry from somewhere near there.  The
three of us just sat and talked all day. Jim was out there with us, so I
guess we didn't have anything to worry about. We started to worry when the
radio guy left.   That's okay, We'd just flatten Jim's tires if we had to.
It would have been a LONG walk in from there.   A BLM ranger showed up and
spent a while chatting with us.   And as luck would have it for one unlucky
rider the trailer showed up a minute after he appeared on the course,
leading his horse back in after the horse suffered a cut on his fetlock.
I didn't realize it at the time, but I ended up getting really dehydrated
out there in the sun after all those hours.  I found Lori Olsen's ice chest
and broke into it, just as a bear would do in Yosemite.  We pillaged the
last bit of Gatorade and some grapes as our "lunch."  We finally loaded up
as the sun was beginning to get low in the sky.   The trip back was
uneventful, with one major exception.   The driver heard something, pulled
over, then extracted a saddle that had fallen from the pickup bed and had
gotten wedged between the trailer and the highway.  He said it was not too
bad, just scuffed, but he didn't really examine it.  

We did when we got back.  It was Jerry's SR Enduro saddle, that was now
nothing more than a few hunks of leather and stitching.  Total write off.
It was the saddest thing I have seen in a long time. We were all just sick
about it.   I suggested he contact his insurance about it, and Jackie was
going to try and pass a hat for donations.   I silently thanked Dennis
for taking my SR back to camp with him.   

I was out there so long I missed Judy at the 60 mile lunch stop.   I put my
horse away, cleaned up, then took a nap. Judy made it back in after 90
miles at about 9:45 or so, just after the winners had come in.  She came up
to the truck with a long face.  Warpaint had passed the vet check but when
she trotted him back towards the truck he was dead lame, like 3 leg lame.
She was done after 90 miles.   OUCH!  I can relate, being pulled at the
finish line at Tevis in 97.   She was really bummed but took it well.  Mike
cut away Warpaint's pad and found some sand between the pad and his hoof.
We took care of her spotted boy and crawled off to bed.   

It turned out to be a tough ride with a really high pull rate- over 50% of
the 100's got pulled.   John DePetria won with Southern California speedster
Jennifer Oltman hot on his heels for second, and BC.  Jennifer is doing okay
so far on her last few rides-  first at the Las Vegas 2 day 100,  first on
BOTH 2 day 100's at Death Valley, and second here.  What a Horse!    Brian
pulled himself at 90 miles after his horse Goofy took a fall out on the
second loop after dark.   Val made it in on Copper at 5:00 or so for a long
day in the saddle.   Mary Capistrant pulled at 90 miles also, I believe.    

On the way home we got to drive through the Tehachapi Pass in a windstorm
that made the camper feel like it was going to blow off.   That was ugly.
It was a depressing trip home for both of us.   Oh well- Barney the vet said
it best:  "there will be lots of other rides."    It was really fun for a
while, anyway.  Jackie will have to get some more help for next year if she
sees this kind of attendance.  That's what good ride managers do- put on
rides and learn from them.  Oh, and the course was marked so well it set a
new standard for desert rides.   (at least the first 35 miles)

Nick Warhol
Hayward, Ca. 

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