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Thursday June 12 2008

How I got to Vxj Sweden is this. I noticed that on the weekend after the Dutch Championship ride there was a ride in Assissi, Italy, and Vxj, Sweden. Assissi - been there done that (ha) last year (oh, and it was so warm there); why not go to Sweden for endurance riding (where it should be cooler!)? But where to go? How to get there? Who to stay with?

I just met Bev Gray 2 weeks ago in Idaho. Steph remembered that Bev knew two Swedish riders, so I emailed Bev. Yes, Bev knew Gun and Gunilla Carlson ("super folks"), who came to ride with her on the Grand Canyon XP last year. I just happened to meet Gun at Assissi last year! That right there showed I was on the right track. I emailed Gun, who answered: she would not be at Vxj, but here was the name of a rider who lived near there: Yvonne Ekelund.

Yvonne emailed me and invited me to stay with them... I was in! Off to the Amsterdam airport at night, where I'd fly to Copenhagen in the morning, and take a train to Alvesta, Sweden.

Now, Amsterdam is a great airport to hang out in overnight, work on the internet, and snooze... IF you are on the Other Side of security. You can't check in the night before your flight to get to the Other Side, so you are stuck on this side: single seats, hard seats, and mean policemen who come around and poke you into a sitting position when you doze off draped over two chairs or a table and two chairs.

Hrmph.

Then when you think you can check in two hours ahead of your morning flight, finally get into the Other Side and get 1 1/2 hours of dozing in on comfortable chairs that you can legally recline in or over, your plane is delayed an hour. So you can't check in for another hour.

When you finally check in, security for your gates is not yet open, so you still can't get into those chairs. You waste another half hour. Your security gate finally opens, and you go through, and find one of those soft chairs to doze in only a half hour, and get up and walk to your gate to find... the flight has been delayed another hour.

I'll have to rethink the overnight stays in the Amsterdam airport.

But anyway, in another half a day, the Raven and I stepped off the train in Alvesta, Sweden, into a cool little rain shower. I was picked up by a friend of Yvonne's, Magnus - who'd be crewing for his wife Lena at the ride - and taken to Yvonne and Michael's house, and immediately swept up into the pre-ride social festivities. Yvonne and Michael were in the middle of making dinner for a big table full of riders and crew who were either visiting, sleeping there, or leaving their horses there overnight for the ride: Danish sisters Maria and Maja and brother Matthias and crew Beatta, and Indian (now Danish) Alam (all whom I saw at the Ermelo last weekend), Swedes Magnus and Lena, Ingrid (a former multiple Dutch champion) and Matts, and Norwegian Ellen and her parents Sven and Andalouisa Suhr. I did ask them if they knew our Julie Suhr, and they said, "Of course!" They are not related, but they have emailed. And you couldn't leave out Yvonne and Michael's towheaded boys ("vikings!") Mons and Emil.

I'd just gotten well-used to the sound of Dutch (and could pick out a few words) - and here were 3 totally new languages: Danish, Norwegian, Swedish. Everybody talked and answered in their own languages, which I found fascinating! They spoke English for Alam and me on occasion - while Alam speaks 7 languages, these three were not among them!

It was one of those dinners where everybody felt like family, and, of course we were - one big endurance family coming from around the world to get together to talk and ride horses.

That's all the same language.
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