Thursday, January 01, 1998

My Stupidest Day - Susan Evans

> anyone big enough to admit theyve made mistakes out there? (other than spelling that is, after all, who cares!!)....

OK, I`ll bite, mostly because now it`s funny but at the time it was a nightmare, and I bet I can win the Stupidest Endurance Rider Award, too.

The second fifty I decided to try was the first day of Death Valley Encounter.

Mistake Number One: I entered without bothering to ask what a "point-to-point ride" was and so showed up at ride camp alone sans an extra driver. BTW, "arriving" was somewhere around nine or ten at night because the borrowed truck I was pulling with had died in Lancaster requiring a battery-jump, I had gotten lost and had started out late in the first place because I underestimated the time it took to find and load everything, including the horse. By the time I got there, the ride meeting was over and after finding out when picking up my ride packet that having a driver along is a nice convenience at point-to-point rides, I threw myself at poor Jackie Bumgardners feet, who, bless her fuzzy little heart, promptly went and shanghaied a driver for me from someone`s else`s crew (talk about stealing HAY from another crew, I stole part of the crew!)

Mistake Number Two: Death Valley in December is a whole lot different from Death Valley in summer. I was so cold my teeth were chattering all night long, huddled under three sleeping bags in the back of the horse trailer. The next morning my saddle pad, slightly damp from being washed the day before, was frozen solid. My syringe of electrolytes, which I had so cleverly mixed with molasses was...well, moving about as slowly as molasses in December.

Mistake Number Three: When you borrow someone else`s truck, look the gift horse in the mouth. Specifically, make sure the spare tire actually fits the truck and isn`t just there as ballast. When I got to the lunch stop, there were about ten people standing around my rig, pondering the very flat tire. Bless every last one of them, they told me to go take care of my horse, somehow "they" (practically everyone in camp) would get my truck to the finish line. They did by borrowing a tire off another truck, driving into town to fix my tire, driving back to the lunch stop to switch tires back to rightful owners and THEN everyone tearing off to the finish. Meanwhile, I suspect the word was out that unless everyone on the ride took this idiot babe-in-the-woods well in hand, they`d all be saluting my bleaching bones during next year`s ride, so I spent the next 25 miles riding with Hugh Vanderford and Julie Suhr, two of the nicest and most down-to-earth people you`d ever want to meet. I had a great ride and not once did they point out the glaring truth that wannabe endurance riders like me shouldn`t be allowed out in public without a keeper and a short leash.

Mistake Number Four: Never attempt to ride fifty miles in bras designed to be more decorative than functional. `Nuff said on that subject.

Mistake Number Five: Death Valley doesn`t get any warmer the second night. As promised, my truck had gotten to the finish line, but poor Mikey was wet and shivering and I had like an idiot let him tank up on freezing cold water. To make things even more of a Laff Riot, a hotdog fighter pilot from nearby China Lake thought it would be fun to buzz the camp low enough for us to see how close he`d shaved that morning. A few seconds later when the sonic boom hit, every horse in camp flattened in terror and several broke their leads and went galloping off into the desert. OK, I`d had enough. I piled several blankets and sleeping bags on top of poor shivering Mikey, loaded him into the trailer and headed for home.

Mistake Number Six: When owners of borrowed truck say the gas gauge works, check it out for yourself. I ran out of gas despite the gauge reading half full and had to coast downhill without power steering or brakes to (luckily) a gas station at the bottom of the hill. Angels protect fools and endurance riders and I qualified on both counts. The pumps were closed, but the very kind manager opened up again for me to fill my tanks, just in time to discover that my battery had died again and I had no cables. By this time I was ready to shoot myself if someone had just handed me a gun, and was wondering how Mikey would like running free with the mustangs. Lo and behold, a huge RV pulls in behind me and a perfect stranger ( a non-horseman who thought I was delirious when I tried to explain what an endurance ride was) saved my bacon once again for about the fortieth time that day. He got my truck started while his wife (an RN who recognized a sorry looking speciman when she saw it) dragged me into the RV and stuffed hot coffee, soup and a ham sandwich down my exhausted, wet, dirty, miserable throat until I was at least able to drive the five hours home.

So, aside from responding to the post of My Stupidest Day, at last here`s my big chance in public to say THANK YOU to everyone that helped me at the `89 (?) Death Valley Encounter. If I hadn`t gotten all the help I did that day from so many people, I never would have finished the ride (the least of my worries) and probably would have gotten myself and my horse into some very serious trouble due to my incredible naivete and stupidity. So here it is:

THANK YOU CHRIS THE DRIVER (and whoever I stole you from)

And I guess the Moral to this Tale is that despite all the posts of who-stole-hay-from-who and who-was-nasty-to-the-ride-vet, you cannot convince me that when the chips are down, endurance people will not bend over backwards to help out a newbie, no matter how idiotic. These are GREAT people!

Susan Evans

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