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Monday, August 31, 2009

To plan or not to plan...part 2

On Sunday I knew I wanted to go riding. I just didn't know where. Actually, I didn't really want to go riding. I really wanted to spend the day on the couch. But I knew I should want to go riding as the days are growing short and my weekends are very full for the next month.

Idea #1: My first thought was Red hills. In fact I was so certain that this was going to be the place I brought lots of extra water (see below), loaded up the waypoints and tracks in the GPS, didn't bother bringing small change cash (it's a free location) AND left my Ohlone trail pass home.

After walking the 25 yards from my apartment to the truck, I decided it was too hot to go to Redhills.

Idea #2: I'll go to Livermore Del Valle (maybe...)! This might require the Ohlone trail map, so I went BACK up the stairs and grabbed my trail pass. I loaded up the horse and off we went. I still wasn't 100% sure where I was going, but I had narrowed it down to 3 choices: Del Valle, Sunol, and Dinosaur Point. Redhills was officially off the list as I was going the opposite direction....

Livermore was attractive because I could play in the lake and cool off. I'm bored of the location though, so I decided I would do the ride bareback. I briefly entertained the thought of checking out Sunol, but figured I would be tired of driving by the time I got to Livermore.

Idea #3: Once I reached the exit for Livermore I realized I was still enjoying the drive so on an impulse I decided to continue to Sunol. The Ohlone trail connects the 3 areas - Del Valle, Sunol, and Mission Peak - and is a great area for trails, hiking, camping, bird watching etc. I have thoroughly explored the Del Valle/Livermore side and it would be exciting to check out Sunol.

My low gas indicator went off. In the middle of nowhere. Well, maybe I can make it.

I get within 4 miles of the trail head. I decide to look up where the nearest gas station is. I realize that it is going to be cutting it REALLY close to drive to the trail head, and then drive BACK to the nearest gas station. Especially because I've already gone 15 miles since the light went off. New bright idea:

Idea #4: Get gas. I stop, put the rest of the gas from the gas can I carry in the back of my truck in the tank, check on the horse, and then turn around. The nearest gas station is actually further up the highway than where I exited. Of course, I can't make the left turn that my GPS tells me to which means I take a scenic tour though a residential section, complete with speed bumps (burning MORE gas...) before making it into the gas station.....where I discover that, due to construction, I cannot PULL THROUGH. I'm desperate though so I get gas and then back out of the gas station, through the parking lot, etc. with the trailer. Then I look at my map. It turns out that I'm actually now *very* close to the Mission Peak trail head!

Bright Idea #5: As I hate turning around and retracing my steps, I thought that this was the perfect solution....continue down the road and explore the third Ohlone trial head!! I can't make the left turn out of the gas station (concrete barrier precludes this....) I make a right and once again tour the neighborhoods of Fremont before ending up on the same road, in the same direction, that I can in on. At this point I'm looking at the clock since I got started later than I wanted. I figure I have time for 1 hour of riding. I arrive at the trail head. It's a parking lot. Full of cars. On asphalt. Supposedly, in addition to parking, this is an equestrian staging area. Uh huh.....The parking lot is complete full. I can't even park. Even if I could I would have to unload on asphalt. If the parking lot was more empty, I could have, with creative parking, wrangled my trailer against the curb and unloaded on dirt. What a stupid staging area. So much for the trail labeled "horse heaven". I wonder how it could possibly be "horse heaven" if horses can't even get to it! I leave my truck idling and grab a free trail map from the information kiosk and explore my options.

Brilliant idea#6: Drive home. I briefly entertained the notion of swinging by the Sunol staging area to make sure it didn't have similar limitations but decided I was officially sick of driving and I just wanted to go home. After being in the trailer 4+ hours, I'm sure Farley was shocked when I opened the trailer doors and she was back home. 200 miles, 4+hours, and 0 hours of riding.

I went home and knitted socks.

To plan or not to plan....part 1

Sometimes not having a plan goes well. Other times, after a fruitless 4 hours of driving I try to convince myself that indeed, driving around in the heat of the day with the horse in the trailer was much better than sitting in my chair knitting socks. Uh huh....

Part 1 - Saturday (the day that DID go well).
Saturday, Mom and I headed up to Redhills to do some hiking.

This was our first official hike together. I was pleasantly suprised to find that our perferred hiking speeds are about the same. This bodes well for an overnight trip together.

It was very hot, dry and dusty. I, of course, ran out of water about 30 minutes from the end of the hike. I did have a miox system with me, but there was not way I was doing any sanitizing of the water out of this trough!
We did about 5 miles in 2.5+ hours. Saturday night we went to a work-related party (across the street from my house, featured Jay Leno and Super Diamond - my feet still hurt from the heels I was wearing...)
to be continued...

Friday, August 28, 2009

Guest Blog - "Of Horses and Dust"

My sister "redgirl" has graciously written a post about her experience at the Tevis. This being the "non-horsey" sister, I found it rather entertaining. (OK - I admit it, I snorted coffee up my nose as I read this).

Redgirl's story:

Listen all ye, and listen well
I tell of two, a precarious ride
Take note! Take heed! Of Red and Gerbil!

"Of Horses and Dust"
Those horsey endurance ride thingies can be dangerous.

See, the horse people know this (or think they do), but it becomes a moot point because they don't care. I'm talking to the rest of humanity. The sane. The ones that go see a doctor when their Achilles tendon hurts more than is reasonably acceptable. (*cough* Mel *cough*)

You see, I was Master of Finishing Ceremonies. I had a vested interest in seeing that my rider made it to the finish line so that I could run onto the tarmac clapping furiously while simultaneously hollering "Sqeeee!! Sqeeee!!! Yay for Mel!! No Plumping, ya hear?!" and dancing an Irish jig. I was of two minds about this. One being that I would (of course) LOVE the opportunity to do and/or say something while having the confidence that Mel's dismount time would allow me chance for a getaway. The other side of my brain kept saying, "Are you nuts??!! Four o'clock in the morning??!!"

"Down!!" I shushed it. "Or I shall eat you with mushrooms and butter!!" I further quenched the voice through copious amounts of my mother's homemade ginger ale as the crew and I lounged under the awning at Forresthill. This is the life.

And it was the life. Until "Watch-Wearer", aka "Father" aka "Lord and Master" made an executive suggestion. "Bethany, why don't you and Gerbil (Aunt) go up to Chicken Hawk and take some pictures?"

Me: ""

That's when I found out it wasn't a suggestion.

It took Gerbil and I about 35 minutes to drive over to Chicken Hawk. I struggled with this. Chicken? Hawk? The Hawk was a chicken? Hawks taste like chicken? And Mel works for Foster Farms, soo.... Maybe it was like the Red-Tailed Hawk--in reality a turkey buzzard. So then, do Red-Tailed Hawks taste like turkey? Would dinner be turkey or chicken? When was dinner? Would there be dinner?

We pulled up and parked on the paved trail area a hundred or so feet from the entrance to the trail, ominously barricaded with cones and purple-shirted people. (read: volunteers) They waved us in. I checked my watch. According to the last known gate-and-go check in time of Melinda, we had 15 minutes.

Me: How far is it to the crossing point?

Them: Oh! Not far. <---cheerful...TOO cheerful

Me: Like...a mile? Half a mile? <----hopeful...TOO hopeful

Them: Oh, maybe half, three quarters <----LYING

Me: Oh! Okay! <----Sucker

Gerbil and I take off at a fast trot (trot! trot! See, I know horsey lingo!) and soon realize that it's at least a mile. With hills. And dust. We know this because we both know how long it takes for us to walk a mile, and we are capable of basic math. And logic. In our heads. That's right.

1 mi = 14 min 27 sec

Red and Gerbil's time = 15 min

=Red and Gerbil have walked a mile.

Red and Gerbil have not yet sighted the end.

=d > mile

The end gambit consisted of vets, then pulse-ers, then horse's front ends, then their hind ends. Angry people.Tired people. Muddy people. Ack! Mud! Clocking people. No people.

It was at this last area we decided to wait for our rider. We knew her horse color: Brown. We knew her hair color: Blond. Her Jersey color: White. What more could we ask for?

Try: chairs, less mosquitoes, and a time travel machine. Because, 367 horses later, we saw her. All of our previous practice cries to the other riders of "Yaaay!!! You made it!!! and No Plumping!!!! Go Foster Farms!!!" were in earnest now. I noticed right off an interesting and (to me) pleasing fact. My sister, usually hard-driven and scary looked frail, delicate, and dare I say; waif-like. This all no doubt due to her pale face and dark, sunken eyes. Of this I took many pictures, one in particular that Watch-Wearer and Horse-Butt-Masseuse both called the "hundred yard stare". I received this stare myself when attempting to get too close with my camera. Think spine-chilling with a bit of quivering fear tossed in.

She and the (brown) horse take off for on the next leg, and we begin our trudge back .

After 3 minutes, a white SUV comes by. He slooooowes waaay down, pops the window and yells: "I'd give you a ride...but the truck is stuffed!!!"

Geee, thanks for the sentiment. I'd cling to your bumper if it meant not walking back.

25 seconds later...big 1 ton flat bed work truck rolls up in a cloud of dust. I recognize one of the vets in the passenger seat. Driver yells: Want a ride?

Gerbil: Sure!

Me: (Already climbing on back giggling)

And vaROOOM! That beautiful brown truck takes off in a cloud of red mountain dust. Of course, we were going fast enough that we didn't have to breathe it. The other path-trudgers did. Driver-man did stop at one point to offer two older ladies the chance, but they said "it's not much further, we'll walk." As we drove the mile onward, I was thinking "silly people..."

Ahead I could see the T-off into the paved part of the trail. The truck sped get over the hump of asphalt.

Or so I thought.

They hit that paved part of the road operating at optimum drive train efficiency. At this point, I'm waving wildly with one arm, clamped firmly to the truck with the other screaming wildly in a shrill petrified voice "We're back here!! We're HERE!!! STOP!!"

Truck doesn't stop.

For this locus in my mental journey, I'm trying to accustom myself the the thought of Gerbil and I agglutinating with the metal bed as we flew at 65 down the highway, no doubt to be flung at some point into a tree or over the side of a 297 ft cliff.

Then I see the whites of now-terrified driver's eyes as he slams on the breaks. Gerbil "drives" (ha ha. Ha!) the point home by doing a 9.8 score backward somersault in the bed. I looked over, and we were stopped precisely next to the vehicle we arrived in. Success!!

Driver leaps out of truck. "I'm sorry, I'm sooo sooorry!! I just forgot...I'm sorry...(repeat)...Don't tell anyone!!!" I'm on an adrenaline high right now, and bonus is the fact I don't actually have to walk to the car. "I'm good! Thanks, for the ride and all. Good thing we had a vet on board, eh?" He finally gets back into his truck. The vet never did get out, and after the initial offer of ride, has made an obvious conscious effort not to make eye contact.

First thing back? We told everyone.

My ultimate forgiveness rested in my action of pretending I didn't notice him at the next stop, right after he affected not to notice me.

Cheers for the Tevis!


I just turned into one of “those” people. I have never once knocked on someone’s door and asked them to turn down the music. Ever. But there I was, watching TV and knitting socks (sure sounds like the intolerant annoying person of the apartment complex doesn’t it?). And suddenly I could no longer hear my movie due to the loud bass of music playing. I waited and waited for the loud-music-loving person to realize their mistake and turn it down…..and waited….and waited. Finally I investigated and realized the music was coming from next door. Mmm….Now I’m a music lover and I also pride myself on being able to tune out almost anything. The bass music has now deafened me, loud is annoying, but a strong bass is impossible to ignore. sigh. I march out in my bright blue riding tights (I’m headed to the stable in 45 minutes) and my sock-clad feet and stop in front of the doorway. Knock knock knock. I try not to make it sound like the impatient, middle-aged, exasperated knock. I’m not sure I succeeded. The music stopped as he opened the door. I tried to smile, be nice, even winsome (sorry, couldn’t resist a GRE word). I’m not sure I succeeded.

Off to the stable where Farley doesn’t care I’ve turned into a frumpy “adult”.

Thursday, August 27, 2009


Another one of my family members has started a blog! My mother is writing Food Adventures etc. . I quietly put it on my sidebar a few weeks ago, but recently she stepped up and allowed one of the posts to be published on the California Bluegrass Association's Website, so the "cat's out of the bag".

Currently, she's allowing food to tell stories of both past and present, but the direction of the blog could change (the "Etc." in the title allows you all sorts of freedoms I guess...). If you are looking for a good recipie you could try tonight, try the homemade gingerale. It's absolutely divine.

Ignore any strange words popping up in the blog....I could barely restrain myself from putting something pretentious such as " the old axiom states, the cat's out of the bag..." or "the current posts are not necessary an auguary of what is to come in the blog...". I'm studying furiously for my GRE general test, which is in 6 weeks.

Studying vocab is the best way to raise a score, so I'm learning 50 words a day. And when I say learning I mean learning the dictionary definition, which can be a wee-different from the common usage. Very interesting. Really.

To tell the truth (resisting urge to insert all words that mean "to tell the truth"...) my verbal score is just fine, as I'm already in the 70th percentile. What I really need to drill is my basic math. Who knew that basic algebra could be so difficult for someone that is (*preening*) good at Calculus and even (*gasp*) enjoys it? On the other hand I took exactly 1 year of basic alegbra - in 8th grade - and 3+ years of Calculus in highschool/college. Repeat after me - the square root of 1 is 1, the square of 2 is 1.4, the square of 3 is 1.7, the square of 4 is 2....

Update on the horsey front - the instructor that I was trying to contact for lessons hasn't gotten back to me, so I've contacted another person in the area that I inquired of about a year ago. I really just want to get started on the lesson thing. I'm probably reinforcing all sorts of bad habits, both me and the horse the more I ride in the arena.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A funk

I can't believe it's been a week since I last posted!

I'm in a funk. It's short of being in a complete torpor but definitely nothing blog worthy.

Do you want to know what I've done?

  • Housework

and after that was done......

  • knitting socks - in front of the television watching the DVD season of "Numb3rs" a friend lent me. And eating an occasional cookie.

At least it's a recognizable funk and not the dreaded cloud of indifference towards life and suffocating depression. Nope, this is the funk that comes after almost every marathon I do. Maybe there's a post-100 miler funk too? I certainly don't feel this way after endurance 50's or running 1/2 marathons. It's the funk that says "relax - you deserve this - you finally actually did something that you can justify just taking some time off".

It hasn't helped that I've been suffering from what I believe is viral pneumonia since 8/16/09. Once I figured out what it was, it was too late to do anything besides sit tight and hope I didn't get anyone else sick. I was able to do an easy run yesterday and didn't completely die of coughing, so I'm getting better. I'm sick so very rarely that it's a novel experience - unpleasant but exciting that I have the excuse the laze around and be nice to myself.

I'm still excited by my goals and taking steps to make it just seems like everything is slowing down a bit. An example - I called and left a message with the dressage instructor so I can start lessons (has been on my to-do list for 18 months) but I haven't gotten a call back yet. It will happen, I'm staking steps, it's just moving at a slower pace right now.

(*off to knit socks, finish numb3rs, start a pot roast, a brew a pot of hot tea*)

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

National Cavalry Competition

I was hoping that this post would be my annoucement that I was going to the National Cavalry Competition (click on current events on left hand side bar) in September.....on a horse! Unfortunately it is not to be this year.

I was going to borrow a CHAS horse named Glory. Glory was my mount a couple of years ago as an outrider for the artillery team and she is incredible. She's the only mount in CHAS that isn't a Standardbred. We think she's some sort of Arab/Quarter horse mix. She has no fear, neck reins, jumps, does gun fire and cannon fire, sword work, and if you want to do that all bareback - no problem! I knew that me and this awesome little horse could do very well, if not win our division at this year's National Cavalry Competition at Fort Robinson, Nebraska.

It was imperative that this event be stress-free for me - after doing Tevis, I just wanted to relax. This is also one of my only "true" vacations I take - a road trip with sightseeing and hanging out with my Dad. Glory was easy because she already knew everything (no training needed, no reflection on my training abilities), and since she wasn't my horse I wouldn't be as stressed about every little thing when it came to travelling from CA to Nebraska with her.

Six weeks before the event I called Fort Robinson to reserve my stall for the event. Can you believe that they were all full? I tried contacting the Cavalry association to let them know that the stalls was full, and to see if there was alternative stabling arrangements. I have not gotten an answer. To tell you the truth, I'm a little surprised that there's no more room - it will be interesting to see the level of participation this year compared to last year - I would have considered last year as a small event (compared to "typical" horse events I attend) but maybe that's pretty normal and that's what they planned on this year.

I finally had to conclude things were not working out smoothly enough to do it. It had to be easy for it to happen and now it isn't - My weekends are typically full and the weekend I had planned to go pick Glory up, I couldn't because I didn't have an answer on the stabling - not sure when I can schedule another weekend. I also need enough time prior to the event to get a Coggins, proof of WNV, and a health certificate done - not to mention some practice sessions!

So in conclusion - it would have been fun to bring Glory and cleaned up (*evil smile*), but on the other hand, I have the license to relax even more because I don't have any regrets about not being able to bring a horse - I tried! I don't get to travel much out of California, so I'm really looking forward to the road trip. I had a GREAT time last year. Fortunately, I have so much on my calendar, it's hard to get disappointed when something doesn't work out - For the rest of this year I'm looking forward to dressage lessons, schooling dressage shows, 1-2 more endurance rides and then the 2010 AERC season starts! How exciting!

Monday, August 17, 2009

Gettin' Away Part II

After the adventure with Erin went so very well, last weekend I tried it again!

I've day-hiked the Ohlone trail and ridden Farley on it in the past. In fact, I consider it part of my essential Tevis training because of it's extremely challenging elevation changes in the first 5 miles. I figured it would be a good place to do my first overnight backpacking adventure because:

1. I knew the first half of the trail I would be hiking
2. There are designated camp sites
3. Permits were required (and enforced)
4. I was unlikely to see a bear or cougar because even though the trail is very secluded, it is in the middle of the bay area.

So how did it go?

This picture was taken before the sign in. It took my 1/2 hour to go one mile.....No biggie, I *knew* the elevation changes were the worst in the first 5 miles according to my trail map and having day hiked it. AND I had checked my hiking book and this was rated a *4* for difficulty on a scale of 1-5. My hike with Erin had been rated a 3, so this wasn't going be *that* much harder right? (remember this...)

I made it to Strommer spring in one hour. Pretty good considering the climb.

Here's me looking cocky. I knew I needed to go UP to Rocky Ridge, DOWN to William's Gulch, UP UP UP big burn to Schliper's Rock (or however you spell it), and then I was golden to Maggies 1/2 acre where I would spend the night (having hiked almost 10 miles).

So it ended up that the elevation map showed only gross changes to major landmarks and failed to mention the HUGE mountains in between them......*sigh*. I would have known this had my topographic map reading skills not been a wee bit shaky.

It was hard - harder than ANYTHING I've ever done before. I found myself cursing the trail, cursing the trail maker, cursing myself for this stupid idea, and wondering if I could talk myself out of the misdemeanor if someone found me camping on the side of the road, *not* in one of the designated camp sites.

I fact, I was feeling quite sorry for myself (I was at mile 8) when I almost stepped on this:

Yep - that would be a rattlesnake. In the middle of the trail. This picture does nothing to show you the scale of this sucker. Easily the biggest rattlesnake I've ever seen - it was between 4-5 feet long and was so big around, I couldn't have put my hand around it.

It was in the middle of the trail, I was walking on the side. Since it was a wide jeep road, that was clear, I was not as diligent about my snake watching as I should have been. I was wearing shorts, walking along, feeling sorry for myself. My trekking pole was between me and snake, and I probably have it to thank for avoiding a snake bite. The snake struck at me, missing me probably because it was distracted by my pole. The pole then gave me an additional point of balance as I instinctively lunged to the side. It was a very very close call. The closest I've ever been to getting bit, as I'm usually very consciousnesses.

I finally reach the camp after 10 miles of hiking. Very very good time for a very rough 10 miles. I found myself muttering about a "4" and how I thought I was in better shape. In fact the thought that this trail was only a 4 is what kept me going - after all, it wasn't like it was a 5 or anything....

Here's where we get to jump ahead. I checked my book again after getting home after the hike, and actually this hike was a FIVE - meaning it was extremely challenging. I feel better about my "performance" after reading this, but I'm glad I didn't know it at the time. If I knew it was a 5, I probably would have spent more time resting and I really didn't have time - I wanted to get to camp in time to eat and set up before dark.

The night was uneventful and I woke up feeling surprisely fresh - especially in light of the fact I knew this was going to be a much easier trip back. When people thru hike this 30 mile trail they usually hike it the direction I would be going back, as it's considered easier.

Packed up and ready to go!

I took my time going back, taking some side trips to Murrieta Falls (all dried up this time of year), and to see one of the other campgrounds.

At one point I looked behind me and saw something following me....

I didn't know they had burros here! Just one male, with a BLM brand on his neck. He was very cute - looked more like a mule than a burro or donkey.
The trip back was 12 miles and took me ~ 5.5 hours.

A very enjoyable, if tiring weekend. I think I'm ready to see the trails from the back of a horse again.

Gettin' Away Part 1

The weekend after Tevis I planned a hiking trip with my cousin and friend, Erin.

Tevis took intensive planning and my main objective was to get away, spend time with Erin, and most importantly, MINIMAL PLANNING.

The minimal planning actually took effort - well meaning family kept trying to pin us down and give us advice about where to go, concerns about the driving time etc.

We decided to go to Mineral King - a long drive, but since we both considered the drive as part of the trip and an opportunity to catch up, it wasn't a hardship at all.

Both of us were born in the area and either grew up here (Erin) or spent an enormous part of our time here (Me), but neither of us had ever gone to Mineral King!

Once at the ranger station, we looked at the maps and options and decided on a hike to Monarch Lakes. A hike described as "Moderately Strenuous" and 10 miles round trip sounded like just the thing.

I elected to carry a full overnight pack (~20 pounds before food and water) for conditioning.

At elevations of 8K feet, rising to over 10K feet in ~4.8 miles, it was doable, but a workout too. I haven't spent a lot of time over 5K feet, so I was a bit trepadacious - I shouldn't have worried about it - I felt fine. I just made sure I stayed hydrated. I always get very thirsty at elevation.

Erin and I took our time and ambled along.

The scenery was superb.

We saw lots and lots of Marmots. I'd never seen one before! Very odd.

We spent lunch at the lower Monarch lake and then headed back to the parking lot.

Including a 45 minute lunch, we managed the 10 mile hike is ~ 6 hours. Exactly what I needed after the hustle and bustle of Tevis.
It was absolutely PERFECT. In fact, so perfect I attempted to do it again the next weekend...(stay tuned).

"John Adams" - a review

I read a lot of books. Very quickly – much to my friend Catherine’s dismay as she tries to keep me supplied with books. Periodically I read a book that I actually remember after I finish. “John Adams” by David McCullough will now join the ranks of my favorite books.

My foray into American revolutionary history began with “1776” by the same author. My education is woefully incomplete during this period of critical development of the USA, and finally, prompted by the Armstrong and Getty Show during their annual 4th of July beratement of the “sheeples” of America for knowing nothing about the founding fathers (Melinda raises her hand here….), I went to the library.

“1776” is a light read, encompassing only the period of American history that occurred in 1776. It dumps you in the middle of the war, and seems to assume at the end of the book that you knew how the war ended (besides America winning of course)…As I didn’t, I looked for my next book that would provide a more comprehensive history. A biography of either John Adams or Benjamin Franklin was suggested by a good friend, and I chose “John Adams” by David McCullough, as I thoroughly enjoyed his “1776”.

“John Adams” is a much different read from “1776”. While “1776” was short and fast, “John Adams” took me several weeks to complete. “1776” had me proclaiming to people I knew (and didn’t know…) that this was a "must read" because I felt everyone should understand this critical period. “John Adams” left me reflective and reluctant to recommend because of the depth and reading level. Without some sort of background (such as what “1776” provided) I think the reader may get lost and bored.

The points that made the biggest impression are as follows:
1. This country came very close to never existing many, many times. (by “existing”, I mean in the form it is today). It seems that when this period of history is taught, or discussed, the fact that the war would be won by America seems a foregone conclusion. It was far, far from that. Many people (I am not a historian, so all my “facts” in this post can be seen as my personal conclusions from reading) saw the formation of the country and victory over Britain as divine providence (or “luck”), and I now have a tendency to agree.

2. I’m not sure I would have been a revolutionary if I lived during that period. What they did was certainly against the law, absolutely treason etc., but I don’t think, before now, I really understood what they did. Victory by Britain seemed certain, the concessions/pardons they offered more than fair, and the devastation, (by both sides) looting, and raping unspeakable. The whole country was certainly not behind the efforts of the revolutionaries.

3. The vicious attacks against politicians, the behind-the-scenes wrangling and vote-fixing, the lies and rumors deliberately spread, the press, and the strong differences of opinion of what direction the country should go was just as present in the early days of our country as it is now.. It has been here since the beginning and isn’t likely to change. The attacks against George Washington and John Adams in particular were absolutely appalling, even in view of our national politics today. It gave me some comfort and perspective regarding the present issues facing the country, as our country has survived and flourished so far, even with a turmulent and shaky past.

4. I am immensely, indescribably proud of my country. And not just because I happen to think this is the best place to live in the world – but because of the knowledge of our history.

I could relate to the personality and character of John Adams better than any biography I have read to date. I thought that his personality and perception of life was remarkably close to mine. How exciting! I do not presume to be on John Adams level at all – he was brilliant and knew that he was going to be someone in this world from an early age, but it was very interesting to learn about someone who had a huge influence in the making of our country, and realize that I could relate to him! As any good biographer, McCoullogh also points out the Adams weaknesses, and those too I could relate to. I live in a different time than Adams and may never have the opportunity to do the great and influential things that he did on such a grand level, but I can strive to do worthwhile and meaningful things within my sphere of influence.

John Adams had the need to write and left an amazing amount of letters, correspondence, and documents behind. He was passionate, straightforward, honest, loyal, and could be a bit impulsive. He was also reflective about himself and his behavior. I can relate! How many times I have sat and wrote in a journal about my shortcomings and vow not to fall prey to them! John Adams had similar writings.

I found myself not liking Thomas Jefferson or Benjamin Franklin. It’s complex, but in a nutshell, John Adams had problems with them both and I can TOTALLY see it. T. Jefferson had no self-control when it came to personal finances (I have a hard time feeling kindly towards these kind of people), and Benjamin Franklin played the political game very well (which made him an excellent Ambassador, which I can admire, but don’t have to like).

Abigail Adams, John Adams wife, sounds like a delightful person that I wish I could meet and talk to. I’ve never felt the keen sadness of living in a different time than another person before.

I look forward to learning more about John Adams and the time period in history. I hope you join me in exploring the roots and origins of our country.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009


I did not fall off the face of the earth - I'm in Alabama again for work, and I have two days next week to prepare for a major audit at my plant in California. I have many great posts coming up, stay tuned and I'll post when I can (airports/planes can be good for that!). After next week things should get a little less hectic.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Tevis - '09 Last thoughts & and looking forward to '10

I was a little conservative sponging her this year. She was really hot, but I felt like she would chill easily so I sponged lots on her flanks, shoulders, belly, neck, but didn’t sponge her back or hindquarters. It never got really hot, but think she built up too much cummulative heat. After the race she did seem very hot and was dissipating a lot of heat, the veins stayed visible for a long time, so I think next year I will sponge more aggressively, but also bring lots of coolers to try and balance cooling her off without getting chilled. She didn’t sweat much except going up the canyons.

I did electrolyte more aggressively on the trail previous to Robinson than I did after Robinson. I think she may have benefited from another dose or two after Robinson.

I think our pace was perfect – exactly according to plan.

I LOVE my skito pad – especially now that the trim is stitched up. I wish the pad wasn’t so long though and there was a way to shorten it.

I may switch to front packs for part of the race. I like pommel packs better, but one vet said she was starting to get a sore back and I worry that the packs were causing pressure, even though they were light. At the next vet check she got all A’s on her back though, so maybe it was a non-issue.

My crew didn’t have any suggestions except that we will continue to make the fairgrounds the base camp. (As opposed to Foresthill).

I think I’ll ride with front boots during next year’s Tevis to try and prevent what happened this year. I did have some rubs from the hind boots, but I think being more conscious about getting them, and the legs completely clean would help with that.

How I’m going to prepare better for next year:
This years prep went like this: 55 in November, 4 LD’s at Death Valley, 65 at 20 MT, 2-50’s at wild west.

2010 Tevis prep will look very similar, but up the ante a bit more: 50 in November (Oroville?), 4-50’s at Death Valley, 100 at 20 MT, 3-50’s at Wild West. I’m going to start letting her go a bit faster too. I’ve really held her back all this year. I’m not going crazy, and you still won’t see our name in the top 10’s (probably), but during the speed negotiations, I’ll let her have more of a say.

I think I’m done with Tevis thoughts for 2009. On to my next event! National Cavalry Competition (information coming soon…).

Tevis Story

I thought about editing it for length and interest, but when I was planning to ride the Tevis, I found that the more details people included, the more I learned, so don't look at this as a typical to-entertain story....

Farley and I headed up to the Auburn Fairgrounds on Thursday, found our stall and settled in. I had brought 2 tents – a bigger dome and a backpacking tent – so that I could set up camp at the fairgrounds and have everything ready when I finished on Saturday, and still set up a smaller camp at Robie the day before. The atmosphere at the fairgrounds was relaxed and friendly and I easily fell in with some other Tevis riders who were also camping out.

With the heavy traffic predicted for I-80, I wanted to get as early a start as possible. I took a nap while waiting for my aunt Terry and brother Tristan to show up. At ~10:40 we headed to Robie. We must have timed it well because we didn’t have any traffic. Many hours and millions of gravel roads later we were at Robie. Farley looked awesome – absolutely 100%.

I must be finally “getting” the endurance thing because everywhere I turned around I recognized people. Vetting in was uneventful. Farley was completely relaxed and pulsed in at the low 30’s. I tried going to the new-riders briefing, but have a hard time sitting still and I wasn’t getting anything out of it. I did learn that the completion rate between newbies and veterans was exactly the same, which was interesting.

My friend Dan and I planned to start and ride together. While finding his camp we ended up going in circles completely lost. (Literally going in circles…)

The night was uneventful is you don’t count rattling trailer doors and hysterical girly giggling throughout the night.

I saddled up in the morning and headed for Dan’s camp. Farley was forward but calm. I let Terry and Tristan (and my cousin Eleanor) do the camp pack up. I refused to be OCD about it and told them I didn’t care where they put stuff (*deep breath*). Dan and I walked to the start line exactly according to plan and got to start by ourselves at 5:30am. We immediately started passing people. Both our horses were totally calm, in control, and alert. It was going to be a good ride. The plan was to walk up hills and trot everything else. Both of us being impatient people, we kept each other on track. Everything went according to plan and we were right on schedule, coming into Lyon Ridge at 9am.

From the beginning my tights rode up underneath my half chaps, all the way to my knees. It was driving me crazy.

The bogs were absolutely crazy. I thought they were much more challenging than the canyons. It wasn’t the actual bogs that were bad – it was the vegetation that had grown over the trail so you couldn’t see where you were going. It might have been that I was riding this part of the trail with one contact lens. Farley started to fight me here and tripped and stumbled more than she ought to. I found myself thinking “how many times can a horse stumble and trip until it catches up to them?” She would do better if we were by ourselves, but sometimes you just have to deal with what you’re dealt. Coming out of Redstar (or whatever the first gate and go was) Dan and I got caught behind a long line of riders and Farley REALLY started fighting me. Grrrrr….At cougar rock everyone in front of us stopped to do the rock, so we went around. Farley managed to bash my knee into the wall as we went around. I said some unladylike words and thought it had fractured, but it ended up just being bruised with some blood. (I think – as I write this 5 days later it still really hurts.)

Robinson went well. I could not have done it without my crew. Even with vetting my own horse in for the Vet check and the exit CRI, I still got to sit down for 30 minutes and relax. The vets said she looked awesome. I replaced my left contact and was looking forward riding the trail with TWO contacts! I also duct taped my tights to my socks. Dan was having some trouble with pulse at the exit CRI so I waited 5 minutes for him and then took off. (he later made it through and was ~15 minutes behind me. He finished!). The exit timer was not well organized and that delayed me at least another 5 minutes.

I flew down the trail, mostly by myself. I visited with some ladies from Canada who were having the time of their lives, and met Sue, whom my aunt was crew for. This portion by pucker point is my favorite part of the trail.

At Last Chance Farley refused to drink. What????!!!! She wouldn’t stop eating and take time to drink. Finally I moved on. We flew down the first Canyon in 15 minutes, and then up up up. We passed the scene of the tragic fall (it had happened probably ~5 minutes in front of me) and went up to Devil’s Thumb. She drank well and I took the extra time to sponge her and let her eat. It was only a mile to Deadwood, so I hand jogged/walked her in.

When I jogged her out for the vet, he said she was intermittently lame on her right front. What???? Her old bow is on the LEFT front and is what I obsess about. The vet and I checked her legs and couldn’t find anything and he cleared me to go on. Her pulse during the CRI was 50 and she recovered immediately coming into the gate and go like she had all day.

I kept a close eye on her after Deadwood. The intermittent lameness only showed up going down hill. On flats and on hills she was sound. She stayed very very strong. I knew that I probably would pull at Foresthill unless there was a miracle, and wanted to give her the best chance possible to come out of this ride as sound as possible with no lasting damage. I decided to run down – on foot – the entire second canyon. Yes it was hard, yes it was worth every step. Here’s the deal about Tevis – maybe you can get through it being in not so great condition – but can you do the best thing for your horse if something unexpected comes up? I had not planned on getting off and running down down down hill for a ways, but fortunately I had the fitness to do it and still feel fresh when I got into Foresthill. I remounted for the bridge and going up the other side.

Someone called out that the cut off for Michigan Bluff was 6:15. As I didn’t have my cut-off card with me, I couldn’t verify that information. It was 5:30 and we were only half way up. The people at the head of the line couldn’t/wouldn’t speed up or couldn’t/wouldn’t let us pass. I took deep breaths and practiced patience. Right before Michigan bluff, they let us pass and I cantered into Michigan Bluff strong at 6:00 (in fact everyone was commenting how strong she looked from the bottom of the Canyon through this point). I saw someone I knew, who sponged my horse. Farley took a good drink and then cantered off to Chicken Hawk. I found out later that the 6:15 was a GUIDELINE only for Michigan Bluff, something I could have easily verified if I had my card with me. I’m not unhappy how things turned out – Farley had PLENTY of gas in the tank (excellent thing to know) and even with the running about, her lameness did not get worse – it stayed intermittent and only down hill. We walk/trotted into Chicken Hawk and pulsed down immediately. I knew that with the lameness we were borderline and I also felt like she was starting to get a bit stiff so I vetted through the check as fast as possible. Some of my crew made a surprise appearance here, which was GREAT! They didn’t slow me down at all and were able to call into my Foresthill crew and make a report of how Farley and I were doing and that I was thinking I would be pulling. I REALLY didn’t want to get pulled before Foresthill because of very long wait for a trailer. Much nicer to pull into Foresthill, have my crew there, take a shower, eat lots of goodies, and drive back in my own trailer.

The vet at Chicken Hawk I think felt I was blowing him off, but I wasn’t. I knew about the lameness, I knew down hill was where it showed up, and I was managing it the best I could. He asked me if I was OK – probably because I looked like a little dirty waif (my sister’s description was holocaust victim but that’s not very nice) who wasn’t comprehending everything he was saying. But honestly I knew what needed to be done and was preoccupied. I was tired, but not exhausted and was contemplating the trail between there and Foresthill and was planning my ride. I left Chicken Hawk at 6:30pm.

The ride to Foresthill was uneventful. Farley charged up the last canyon wall like a runaway locomotive (OK – it wasn’t that bad, but she was determined and strong I’ll say that) and before we knew it we were in Foresthill at 7:15 – exactly when I told my chicken hawk crew I would be there. Farley walk/trotted up Bath road and pulsed in immediately.

As a side note, one of the volunteers I know told me that some people were taking as long as 25 minutes to pulse in at Robinson and Foresthill? I can’t imagine. I guess everyone has their own challenges on the trail. I’m grateful that I never felt stressed for time because I could breeze through the gate and gos.

At this point, when the crew was sponging her legs off, I noticed blood on the inside of the right leg, high up, right below her knee. Aha! Finally I might have an explanation of why she’s ouchy! There was some localized swelling by the blood and I was SO relieved. So much better to have a little localized pain (caused by hitting a rock?) than tendonitis or other tendon/ligament etc. injury.

I showed the injury to the vet and trotted her out. Yep – intermittent lameness, no worse than when it was first discovered. On her re-trot out (so another vet could look) they commented that she was starting to look a little stiff in the hind too. Unless she looked much worse on her recheck, it would be my decision to pull her. I took her back to the crew set up and iced her right leg, messaged her, and walked her. She looked done to me and she still wasn’t drinking as much as I would have liked, to make up for missing Last Chance. After 45 minutes into the check, I tried trotting her out and decided we were done for the day.

I let the vet know that I was rider optioning and asked his advice on buting/lameness evaluation etc. He advised me to bute no earlier than the morning to allow for sufficient rehydration. If the bruise on the inside of the leg was the culprit, she should be sound within 7-10 days. If not, take her in for a lameness evaluation.

While waiting for the trailer to come from the fairgrounds I showered! It felt SO good. Mom had everything set up for me, including hot water. I felt totally refreshed. A grouchy, crabby, tired Melinda went in, and a smiling, laughing, able to ride another 32 miles, Melinda came out.

About 1 hour off the trail Farley started draining buckets and I knew she was going to OK. When I unloaded her at the fairgrounds she attempted to trot back to her pen, and then bolt past me at a “scary monster” so I started to lose a little sympathy for my “tired sore pony” and decided that I was too tired to ice her other front.

In the morning we celebrated my Dad’s 50th Birthday with a brunch. Most of the crew members came back and I got to hear all the stories. Farley was still muscle sore (didn’t want to turn in tight circles, I think her shoulders were sore) but there was very little filling (she usually always has filling) and she was alert, looked hydrated etc. Overall I was happy with my first attempt.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Tevis Crew

My next post title will be "Tevis Story" - I promise!

This post might be helpful for those of you thinking about doing the Tevis or any big ride. I rarely get to ride with a crew so I surprised how well it turned out. No one got in any one's way, everything got done, and everyone had fun. This is how I organized my crew (and yes - this is a big crew, you could get away with less).

The crew book:
This had everything -
  • All the maps from the rider packet,
  • An introduction/thank you letter
  • Contact list with every one's name, e-mail address, and phone number (cell/home)
  • Overall schedule complete with when I would be coming in to checks and what time they should start waiting for me
  • A schedule of items to be done at each vet check
  • A list of duties for each crew person
  • A map of the auburn/Folsom area
  • The Tevis Forum magazine
  • The Foster Farms magazine (my sponsor)
  • The parking passes

I made a master crew book with everything in sheet protectors and then a couple of stapled packets that contained the same information

The Crew

The Gerbil (was originally the "Gopher" but she didn't like the name, wanted something more fitting, so I chose another small rodent. She stopped complaining, probably worried about what my next choice was....) - Drove with me to Robie, drove my rig to the fairgrounds, picked up my sister from the train station and did any other odd errands into town. Since she had no specific duties at the vet checks, she was able to meet me at Chicken Hawk without worrying she would miss me at Foresthill. Picked up my trailer from the fairgrounds when I pulled at Foresthill.

The finish line coordinator - the job for my not-horsey sister who still wanted to be involved, is a people person, AND a night-owl. Her job was to make sure everyone was up with I finished, plan the festivities etc.

The film/documenter - filmed the whole thing for a project. Hitched rides wherever he could get the best footage. Also a non-horsey person.

The t-shirt, transportation, and food coordinator - was the carpool vehicle, planned the menu, did the grocery shopping, fed the crew and kept them happy, silk screened the back of the t-shirts and distributed, force-fed the rider during the vet checks, and made sure there was a shower tent at Foresthill. Did any odd non-horsey jobs that came up that I couldn't handle because of the overwhelming stress, like coordinating the people needed to get the t-shirts to her in time for silk screening. Thank you Mom!!!!

4 horse people - these 4 people took care of my horse. They were all experienced horse people, with one being an actual endurance rider. Each person had a list of specific duties that they needed to do like: carry tack from pulse in, accompany Melinda in vet line, bring horse food to pulse, hold horse, sponge, apply fly spray, apply desitin, clean girth, clean blanket, refill saddle bags, refill electrolyte syringes, refill bottles, etc. I didn't have to do anything at all during the check!

The transportation

The Gerbil rode with me to Robie and helped me vet in. The documenter/filmer decided to go to film the start. After I started they drove the rig to the fairgrounds, hung out at base camp (an RV belonging to the parents at the fairgrounds), picked up the finishline coordinator and then went to Foresthill to catch up with the rest of the crew. The Gerbil and Finish person then went to Chicken Hawk.

The rest of the crew met at the fairgrounds on Saturday morning and drove up to Robinson together. They met me there and then drove down to Foresthill, set up and met me there.

If I had gone on, I suspect that the Gerbil, and at least 2 of the horsey people would have come to see me at no-hands bridge.

I really liked seeing the 2 crew members at Chicken Hawk - they were able to call my other crew at Foresthill and let them know when I would be there and what was going on, as well as my general mood. :) Only people who can be spared at Foresthill should meet a rider here though. Same for no-hands bridge - I don't know if I would count on those people seeing the rider at the finish, depending on speed.

If anyone wants copies of the detailed instruction sheets that I put in my crew book, just ask in the comments section and I'll e-mail them to you.


I did have 2 "auxillary" crew members - a cousin who at the last minute joined us (her mom was crewing for someone else), and Kathy - who made it possible for me to pre-ride a large portion of the trail prior to the race and deserves to be included with the crew and the benefits that entailed (t-shirt and bottomless icechest of food/drink). Eleanor kept everyone company during the long waits and was my entertainment the night before the start. Kathy - in addition to everything she did prior to race day - also kept me posted on my friend's progress and coordinated leave times between me and my friend (we had different crews and never saw each other during holds).


Melinda and horsey doing just fine! (actually horsey is doing fine, Melinda is limping around on her busted knee).

(Pictured: tent set up with screwdrivers as stakes at Robie)

I'm working on the ride story - I've gotten to Robinson, only 30+ miles to go!

(Pictured: Farley before the race)

I took Farley out on the lunge and she trotted sound both directions with a surprising amount energy. The trot was a little flat with less "bounce" than usual.

Farley has NO FILLING in her legs. She ALWAYS fills after a race, and yet, after the hardest race of her life, she has no filling. I'm very very pleased. The little bit of swelling on her inner right front, where the blood was, has disappeared.

My knee hurts - a lot. I'm wondering if it's possible that there's a fracture after all. It hurts the same or a little worse as the day I did it. Same as the horse - I'll give it 7-10 days and take it easy. I really wanted to go running this morning, but I guess I'll settle for a walk.

I'm kind of unpacked. Below is my sister helping me pack my truck and trailer before heading home on Monday. I live on a second story apartment so the idea of hauling stuff up with my knee does not appeal. I'm compromising and bring 1-2 items up at a time, each time I leave my truck.

Want to hear a funny post-tevis story?

I spent Sunday night at a friends house. Sometime during the night in my half asleep state, I thought I was on the tevis trail. I had already mentally converted the brown fuzzy curtains into part of the trail. I had a glowbar on the table next to me (green light from a electronics charger) and I looked "up the trail" (which was several switchbacks above me in my mind) and saw another "glowbar". I couldn't figure out how to get to the second "glowbar" and I was confused....I also half knew I WASN'T on the trail - but in bed, but couldn't make my half awake self and my dreaming self agree.....the compromise was to babble incoherently and shout "WHAT IS THAT?" in the middle of the night (referring to the second "glowbar). My friend woke up ready to shoot something...I woke up and said "oh - it's the smoke detector" and fell back to sleep.

Yep - the tevis isn't in my blood or anything.....

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Tevis Pictures

My brother is producing a DVD. If it goes on Utube, I'll let y'all know. In the meantime, here's a mini slide show.
Vetting in at the start.

Crew waiting for me at Robinson

Crew Rick mixing my mash. He had specific instructions on how to mix and the other crew members tried to offer suggestions which were ignored.

Melinda arrives at Robinson bright eyed and bushy tailed.
Crew gets to work on Farley on the way to the pulse in. She was described by one member of the crew as a "doll". That would not have been the crew member holding the hay. In that case he had to be careful not to lose an limb as she attacked the hay.
Continuing into the Robinson check.
I'm relaxing I swear! Ice is on the knee from where Farley slammed my knee cap into the rock wall at the cougar rock bypass. I took the bypass because there was a line to go over cougar rock. I wasn't going to wait in line. I believe I was giving the royal order to have Mike massage Farley's butt (that went over well...)
I don't believe I need to give this photo a caption.
Farley and Dad discussing the attractive attributes of the neighboring crew camp.
Saving money by using dirt for eyeliner. I believe my sister's exact comment was "I'm trying to decide whether your eyes are sunken in, or if you look especially glamorous". (yes - this was redgirl from the blog on the right).

Exit CRI at Robinson.

Leaving the exit CRI to go to the out timers with on of my best friends, Katy.
At Chicken Hawk checking her pulse.
Deciding it's time to pulse through at Chicken Hawk.

Pulsing in with the extremely nice volunteers. My flying nun scarf came off :( In the heat the duct tape melts off of it. Mom is going to do something fancy with velcro for me!

Explaining to my crew at Foresthill that I think I need to pull and deciding to evaluate after the end of the hold.

Mom's shower tent (with warm water!). She put a orange home depot bucket (with lid) in the sun all day and it was the perfect temperature. That would be redgirl snickering outside.
Post-shower at Foresthill, still sporting the dirt makeup. I think I had made up my mind to pull by this time, but I was still in the clothes I had planned to finish the race in. Relaxing and joking with the crew.

My wonderful crew. I couldn't have asked for better.
Top (left to right): Mom, Mike (friend), Bethany (sister), Eleanor (cousin), Kathy (friend)
Middle (left to right): Katie (friend), Terry Jean (aunt), Tristan (brother)
Bottom (left to right): Rick (friend), Dad

The next morning at the trailer we celebrated by Dad's 50th birthday with a lovely brunch prepared by my mom and swapped Tevis stories.

Real ride story coming soon.