Sunday, August 13, 2006

Tevis 2006 - Pam Bowen

by Pam Bowen This was my first time riding Tevis, the previous 2 years I crewed for my
husband, Don. About 2 weeks before, I was overcome with fear, from what I
was never sure. Everything was falling into place, but I was scared to
death. Was it turning things over to our crew? That would be silly as we
had the best crew anyone could ask for, Becky Glaser and her daughter Lena.
Was it the start with 200 other horses? I was riding a seasoned horse,
Whyatt, who completed Tevis the 3 previous years, was I worried about Don
and Willy and that damn Kaput Springs they fell from 3 years ago? I'm not
sure I'll ever know the answer, I'm not a wimpy rider so it will likely go

I left work early on Wednesday and drove to Auburn to meet up with my
husband at the BBQ. Afterwards, we went back to our friend's at Michigan
Bluff where Don had been staying the week. We spent the night and got up
early to head to Robie. We got good parking and set up camp, horses were
doing well, my insides were still turning, but really found we didn't have
much to do as I had done most of the preparation and organizing ahead of
time. Friday came, we checked in and vetted through. There were a lot of
distractions during the day, but my insides were still occasionally turning.
For some reason, one particular person stood out that I just can't shake
from my head, it was a gal that was riding through camp nearly all day
bareback on a gaited horse. Everywhere I turned, she was there, gaiting her
horse through camp. It was in the afternoon that I realized her horse had a
number on its butt so was entered. I couldn't figure out why she wasn't
resting the horse and allowing it to tank up. We passed that horse
relatively early in the ride, I don't think they finished. Also, Greg
Kimler came to see Willy, he was one of his rescuers. It was very emotional
to watch the reunion.

Our rig driver showed up, Debbie Parsons from Florida, with her new friend,
Chip from Minnesota! Long story, but it was such a pleasure to have these 2
young women join our crew, they were both absolutely wonderful and a joy to
have around. Don and I went for a pre-ride and as we were coming back to
camp I found Becky and Lena driving through camp. Things were really in
place now! The 6 of us went to dinner and the ride meeting. Becky and Lena
left with their truck and my Jeep that was already packed with crew supplies
to get parked closer to Robinson. Time to sleep, yeh right! I think I got
2 hours? We were up and in the saddle without a hitch, once in the saddle,
I had to take deep breaths, insides were turning.

We were assigned to pen #2. I think the RM had a good idea that needs to be
refined, it was the riders that failed to follow instructions that botched
things. We had been instructed to keep the horses moving in the pen, then
assemble in order at the 2 minute warning and exit the pen in pairs and
maintain the 2x2 at a walk to the start. Folks in our pen started clogging
the entrance right away, and no sooner did we come out of the pen riders
started rushing and passing at a trot, to go where, I don't know. And then
the start, and the horrible back up at the trickle crossing. Folks giving
trail was a problem all day, but this was ridiculously rude, folks that
couldn't get their horses across refusing to yield and riders from behind
trying to push through when we were just as stuck as they were. I hated
them all! When we finally got to the trickle, ours just calmly walked
across, eager to move out. I never felt like puking after that, I was cured
from whatever was bothering me.

It was a beautiful, but tough ride. When we were climbing to the top, I
asked Don where Lake Tahoe was, he said behind me. Good thing I asked :).
I looked behind and it was the entire view! There were a few bogs in
Granite Chief, but mostly just a lot of rock, still pretty though, and
Whyatt was grabbing snacks of God knows what along the way. The snow bridge
was interesting, Cougar rock was fun, Willy refused, but Whyatt went up all
business, no real drama, but it is steeper than what it looks in pictures.
We got to Robinson and found the entire crew, so all was well. We had 4
people catering to our every need. Becky was in charge of the horses
though, she went over them with a fine tooth comb and made sure of what they
were eating and drinking. We left on the "new" trail, yuk! They said it
would be slower but prettier, the last thing Tevis needs is slower, and I
couldn't see anything for the dust! I vote for the old road, even though
I've never done it! When we were on the trail going over Pucker Point, Nick
Warhol was behind us, I was so glad because he pointed out just the right
times to look between the trees at the gorgeous views. I saw the
waterfalls, the river and the sheer drop offs, thanks Nick! We also teased
about giving trail, who should go on the right side :). We ran into more
problems with riders yielding on the way to the swinging bridge, don't know
why they won't yield when they get to good spots, perhaps they are tired and
not thinking clearly? The swinging bridge was fun, Whyatt decided to trot
to catch Willy, so we had a good boing-boing going (I love this horse!), and
I waved to Arnie who was down below cooling his horse in the river!

We were finally at that moment, Don crossed Kaput Springs on Willy, he
called back to tell me just as Whyatt started over. There is enough to
drink from, but I'm with Don, we don't stop there, nor did we dally to
survey the accident scene :). But tears came to my eyes, Willy beat this
spot, the unfinished business was over at last! On to Michigan Bluff, where
we found Debbie and Chip. They did everything they could for us, Whyatt is
a little heavier this year so needed a little cooling to pulse in, the east
coast girls were good at this one! Took a few minutes and he was good, of
course it's not like he was cooperating, he was on a mission to find the
best grub! Off to Foresthill, emotional going up bath road with the
cheering and finding your crew. Horses pulsed right in, straight to the VC,
Whyatt was at 48. Becky had prime parking, and we found ourselves next to
Leigh Bacco, another of Willy's rescuers, more emotional moments. Becky was
all over the horses, Lena was human intake control, Debbie and Chip did
every odd job. Becky had wash cloths and eye wash (to get that "new trail"
dirt out of our eyes, mine were nearly swollen shut). Becky has been dubbed
the "soup lady" after a comical episode between her and the horses. I have
to admit, I am very impressed with both horses, neither hit a wall the
entire time and both ate like champs.

Off in the dark, I didn't like this part. Very emotional moment going
through the town of Foresthill, even little children were cheering us on.
Later, the trail had been sabotaged at one spot and we were lost for a half
hour. I especially didn't like it that Don made me go first because he said
Whyatt knew the way. I really didn't like that one trail on the super steep
mountain with the loooong switchbacks, with a view of the American River
glowing in the moonlight, taunting me, no shore to be seen, a good clue to
the steepness is when you are riding by treetops! Whyatt led about 20
people down that section, it was very quiet, no complaints about speed,
Whyatt was power walking and trotting. There was one time that I asked
Whyatt to go left, I saw the trail (but I was also seeing extra horses and
people walking that didn't exist), he jerked the reins from my hand and
headed right, whoa, flashlight, drop-off to the left, trail to the right,
mental note, don't do that again. We got hung up again several more times
with slow riders that didn't want to yield.

We finished, Don and I both, what are the odds of that? Becky and the
entire crew were at the finish, Becky made sure we celebrated with champagne
and Martinelli's (Don had the cider, I had the champagne, 3 glasses!).
Becky and crew took care of the horses, we were sent to shower. Chip was
picked up by her cousin after the Haggin judging, Becky and Lena went home
after the awards, Debbie joined us when we returned to Michigan Bluff, at
the home of our wonderful friends, Gary and Judy Hall. We had a simple
meal, in the basement/bar, Gary faded first, then Don after sitting in the
hot tub, then us girls went to bed.

I have to thank my horse first, TR Whyatt was awesome, 4 Tevis completions
in a row, he surpassed 4k miles at this ride, his HR hit 160 only once
during the entire ride, the rest of the time it was remarkably low, Whyatt
taught me what to do in tough terrain, which was nothing, he has my utmost
respect. My crew, money couldn't buy what we were given in that department,
thank you to the awesome laid-back Becky, Lena, and my new friends Debbie
and Chip. To Kim Fuess, for pushing and mentoring me to get to the 100 mile
start, the hardest part. And to my husband, who has the Tevis experience
and had the good sense to put me up front in the dark and let Whyatt lead
the way, can I cry now?

Will I do it again? Don't know, but I know I don't have to, I have a
buckle, I did it................................

Pam Bowen

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