Well what can I say? I arrived home at 1:30 am this morning after dropping George off with Ed in Lake City and Roxanne and Shar-Po off in Micanopy. It was really difficult to give George up. He's a strong & independent horse, and at times he can seem indifferent to your attentions, but that is all part of what makes him so tough.
WOW, is all I can really say. I'm somewhat drained from the trip, but overall, my experience was absolutely wonderful, and the memories will last a lifetime for sure...I journaled every day from two weeks prior to the trip, so very soon I will write a memoir tale of Tevis using excerpts from my journal.
Everyone was so wonderful to us both before, during and after our trip. We met nice folks all across these great United States; from mechanics to waitresses, to gas station attendants, to the veterinarian who stitched Shar-Po, to AERC members whom we'd never met who put us and our horses up at their home in Cheyenne, Wy this week.
Staying at Pete DeCarlie and Judy Houle's place in Pilot Hill, CA was the best though. Our horses arrived in time to rest and recuperate, and they entered into the Tevis ride refreshed and ready to tackle the tough trail ahead. We had the pleasure of camping near Steve and Dinah Rojek, and Tuesday evening before Tevis Roxanne and I hosted the most wonderful steak cookout which was the perfect precursor to the ride.
My good friend Rachel Carr Aschmeyer came from San Francisco to be my personal crew, as she's the lady who got me into distance riding 24 years ago! She truly was my salvation during the event. She doted on me like a mother hen, and when George and I rounded that last bend into the Auburn fairgrounds and I heard her "owl" call that we had used in the woods 24 years ago, I just about died with elation that we had done it! It was then that I heard Rachel, Kathi, Ed and Jackie screaming and hollering, and all my woes from being sick to my stomach during the long night ride through the canyons disappeared.
The Tevis was everything I had dreamed, studied and expected it to be and more. The challenges of getting there and home paled in comparison to the wonderful experiences I had.
I will never ride a horse the same again. From the high country in the Granite Chief Wilderness with it's horrible boulders and rock strewn footing, to tackling Cougar Rock, the ride gave me confidence beyond belief. I used to dream of riding Tevis, but was scared with all my being to go over Cougar Rock. Not so now- just put your faith in God and a good horse's footing, and you can do anything.
The beauty of Tevis is in-comparable to anything I've ever experienced on a horse before. The breath-taking views and high mountain country is extroidonary! When Mac Greely, (a free-lance journalist who has followed my story for some time now), approached me at Robinson Flat with a microphone for an interview, I remember shouting to him as we walked to the vet check; "gorgeous, the most incredible territory I've ever seen"! And it was true- I will never forget that feeling of being there.
No enchantment can ever compare to trotting a good horse through the night while leading a string of a dozen horses along a canyon cliff trail with your moon shadow cast on the sheer rock wall only inches from your shoulder...George and I were about the only ones without glow sticks, and I never took my flashlight out of my pack even one single time. He boldly led the way for two hours as we picked our way to Francisco's vet check. Even when I was so sick to my stomach that I could hardly mount up at Lower Quarry ninety-four miles out, he patiently waited while volunteers held my stirrup and fed him hay on our way out of the check.
As I crossed no-hands bridge, I cried as I knew we might actually accomplish this crazy adventure I had set out upon sixteen months ago. I even met and got to ride a very short while with my hero Julie Suhr who actually remembered me by name at the pre-ride briefing the night before. Her book was my final inspiration to just "go for it".
I want to thank the whole southeast region for their support, and especially my hubby who really cares nothing about endurance, but patiently feeds my horses when I'm gone and supports my cause without complaint. I also want to thank my good friends Ed and Kathi Kilpatrick for loaning me their incredible mustang Gorgeous George.
Also, my riding partners Anitra Peterson and Maris Ramsey who rode and trained with me the most and put up with all my crazy notions about Tevis for a long time. I'd like to thank Dinah Rojek for all the coaching she gave me especially in the early months while I was trying to get my horse Miles ready. Our truck driver Gerry Ryan hauled Roxanne's trailer with his new F-350 all the way from Iowa to CA. Since I'm sure my truck would have never made it, we couldn't have done the trip without him.
I also need to include my veterinarian Donna Woelfel for all she does for me & my horses and for lending me her ear on many occasions. Also my farrier Trish Williams who can shoe a horse as good or better than any man I know and who can take a horse she's never seen before and shoe him for Tevis with only two prior settings eight weeks before the ride.
I want to extend my heartfelt empathy to Roxanne for not being able to finish on Shar-Po. She was a real trooper throughout everything, and she and I learned to travel together pretty good for being such total opposites!
I will chronicle my adventures with excerpts from my journal in the near future. I had heard in the weeks prior to Tevis from reliable sources that there were bets on my head that I'd never even make it to Tevis much less finish...My CTR background and perfect pacing is what really got me through Tevis, not necessarily endurance,
So just remember always: "If you can dream it, you can do it, but it takes people to make that dream a reality" (Walt Disney)