Tevis...One Wild Ride, or, Just another Ride. It really is just that.
Come Fairies, take me out of this dull world, for I would ride with you upon the wind and dance upon the mountains like a flame!
|Photo by Lynne Glazer Photography|
Squaw Valley now behind us, we headed into the Granite Chief wilderness. The trail was a nice single track that rode along the ridge. Rock led with plenty of vim and vigor, making me rate him. He was telling me all about how he could make a dash for the front. No, Rock, we do this pace, my pace. He agreed to behave, giving me a shake of his opinionated head when he thought I was holding him back too much. We entered one of the "boulder fields" and I looked down to check his feet, and at that moment realized I had committed one of the mistakes that Michele Roush had warned me against! I had a moment of panic, then had to recover and hope that Rock would forgive me for forgetting to put on his rear interference boots that morning. I beat myself up for several miles about this and fretted all the way to Robinson Flats. I knew my awesome crew had boots with them. I just had to get my horse there unscathed. WHY oh WHY didn't I velcro those boots to my saddle, like I ALWAYS DO??? Damn rookie mistake anyway! Nothing to do now, but keep going. Rock took long swallows of water out of a couple of the natural creek crossings on the trail and swiped bites of high mountain scrub grass. Oh how I love this brave fit horse!
We saw Lynne Glazer up there taking pictures, and Rock assured me it was ok to spread my wings and fly. What better place to soar than through the Granite Chief on a beautiful strong horse who can drive just fine without me! He must sense a camera a mile away because he smiled for the camera, as he always does, and then we continued on down the trail at the steady clip he had found.
Near 20 miles we came to Hodgson Cabin which was full of water tanks, horses, and some hay. Dr. Jamie Kerr was up there to watch the horses trot by. We went to the last tank which had no horses in it and Rock drank long and deep. In that time a man on an appy approached the tank and pushed his horse in to drink. The horse had other ideas, however, and insisted on nosing Rock, who was still trying to drink! I politely informed the rider that I had a very polite stallion on my hands. He said his horse was thirsty, all the while it was busy nosing Rock instead of drinking! Rock finally struck at the tank, earning himself a solid whack from me and a wet hoof for his efforts. I glared at the inconsiderate rider and backed Rock away from the tank. A volunteer held him while I dashed behind a tree near the tank. I was seething, but this was no time for a tantrum. I will never understand why people can be so rude and inconsiderate with their horses! Our horses grabbed a few bites while we took turns in the trees, and then soon enough, we mounted up and did our trot by, and headed back onto the trail. Some of the riders never left while we were there. I think we passed several people right there!
Several of the Tevis vet trots outs are different than the average endurance ride. You pick up a time slip with your number and your arrival time on it. You take this to the vet, give it to the scribe along with your ride card. They go over your horse, make their notes, and hand it all back, asking you to trot out. You trot one way, and then look back for their approval. If they say, "Go!" you move on to the water tanks and ample feed, and eventually the out timer.
Max and I watered our horses. Volunteers quickly filled our water bottles. Michele and Sharon had instructed us not to take more than 15 minutes in these checks. After using the bushes again, we moved to the vets and requested to trot the boys together so Ramone would trot happier. The vets were happy to oblige our request. Both horse and mule received good scores. Rock's pulse was 48 to my astonishment! Our cards and time slips returned, we were ready to trot. At the trot, both moved out forward and easy. I turned at the bottom of the trot out and looked back up to the vets. "My" vet was Dr. Tom Timmons from the NW. He yelled at us to "Send the mule back!" WHAT?? NO!!! WHAT? "SEND THE MULE BACK!" This can't be happening. Max turned Ramone and I shushed him a bit to get him trotting back up the hill since he was reluctant to leave Rock. Three steps into his return trot and I knew what was going on. Max and Ramone were getting pulled! My favorite big red mule was off in the right hind. I fought back tears and a momentary panic. THIS IS NOT HOW WE PLANNED THINGS! This can't be happening! I was helpless for about 5 seconds, when the survivor instinct kicked in and I knew I couldn't follow mule and rider back up the hill. Verboten. I turned, found Ron, who asked where Max was. I told him that Max was pulled. He was as surprised as I was. We had both followed the mule over the last 28 miles and there had been no sign of lameness whatsoever! We steeled ourselves, looked at our time, gave our horses the remainder of the 15 minutes we had allotted them to finish eating, handed our time slips to the out timers and mounted up. Robinson Flats or Bust, here we come. The Brothers, Rock and Warrior, moved out smoothly. It was nearly 8 miles to Robinson and at the Tevis, information and time can travel slowly. We took turns in the lead and our boys just held a nice steady pace into Robinson. We caught up to Danny Grant again, riding together for a bit.
Heading for Last Chance and the dreaded canyons, Rock felt strong and forward. I drew from his strength and moved forward. Ron wasn't far behind me and soon we were headed down Mosquito Ridge Rd at a good clip, both horses strong and forward.
I was breathing! I was at TEVIS, and this incredible horse of mine had just passed the Robinson Flats vet check. We had a better than 50% chance of completing this thing if we rode right and took good care of our boys and kept the Gremlins at bay.
|Approaching Pucker Point|
Ron, Warrior, Rock, and me, left Foresthill in the near dark. The cut off times were on my mind, but Michele and Tracy didn't bring them up while we were at Foresthill, so I became determined to just keep trudging on and get this thing finished. When I was trying to drag my sorry arse up the first canyon the thought had crossed my mind, WTHWIT?? What WAS I thinking?? This is a tough ride! And yet, my horse was making his way through it like he was bred to it (He IS! His half brother is SAR Tiki Stranger, after all! AERC 5000 mile Super Horse!).
Tracy had warned me about the "dust fog" that might envelope us as we headed out of Foresthill. Because we were relying on the "glow eyes" that had been clipped on Rock's breast collar, and NOT my headlamp, (that I relied on so much at the Big Horn 100 in 2010!), I was completely trusting Rock to get us from vet check to vet check safely. Ron and Warrior clip clopped on behind us. I was shocked more than once to look behind me and see Ron on foot again! Me, No. Rock was on his own from here on out. I was close to wiped out. Kathie Perry caught up with us, and passed us. We had already been passed by a few of my heroes, among them, Barbara White, daughter to the Grande Dame of Tevis, Julie Suhr. It occurred to me that I had begged Barbara for one of her many Tevis buckles IF I finished this WTHWIT ride! I couldn't even think about that right now because there were so many miles to get through. Many of my friends and mentors have been pulled between Foresthill and the finish! I know it's not a guarantee to finish if you clear Foresthill!
So, we're trudging down this hill, after Ron had asked me, quite simply, and without explanation (which I DID NOT ask for), if I was willing to ask Rock to lead the last 30'some miles of this ride. "Yes" I answered, "Rock has it in him". He told me that if Rock needed a break, that he was sure Warrior could do it. I thanked him quietly and we rode on in silence for a few miles. We were winding downhill and Rock was progressing at a nice jog trot, just getting the miles done. Three times though, Rock did something quite amazing in the dark out there. He stopped. Abruptly. The first time he stopped I was confused, so I turned on my head lamp (After the 2010 Big Horn 100, I will NEVER embark on a 100 mile ride without a headlamp!). When I turned on the light, I was surprised to see a wall of brush in front of us. I looked to my right and realized we were on a switchback. Rock had lost track of the trail in the dark and quite simply...stopped. I love him to pieces for being so smart. When I turned on my light and looked to my right, and realized we were on that switchback, he realized it simultaneously, and dove to his right and continued on down the trail. The second time he stopped, I turned on my headlamp and saw nothing but Tracy's DUST FOG!! I looked and looked, leaning off Rock to see what had caused him to stop! Finally, I got off and was hunching down to see what the hold up was. When I was nearly face to the ground, I realized there was a very small creek crossing the trail and a craggy rock passage. I showed it to Rock, who eagerly LEAPED up it, stomping my sneakered left foot with his rear foot in the process! OUCH!!!! Ow ow ow!!! Walk it off..."Uh, hey, when it's safe, could you folks step aside and let us by?" REALLY??? WE'RE ON A SINGLE TRACK TRAIL IN THE DARK!!!!! REALLY??? Ahem, "uh, sure, as soon as it's SAFE, I'll move over and let you folks by. Ron said nothing, which is rather out of character for him!
Too soon, our horses, who were moving along freely and nicely, butted up against a crowd of three horses (THOSE THREE!) who would just stop and walk for no good reason. I kept my mouth shut and walked along behind them, telling myself that the rest was good for Rock and Warrior. They took off finally, and left us in peace.
We were in the trees, in the VERY dark, and all of a sudden, popped up on this road! I don't know...what I do know is that I was feeling light headed and queasy. Rock and Warrior drank eagerly from the tanks offered. I think Ron and I gave them a dose of electrolytes. Getting back on took effort, even from the side of the tank! I was light headed and queasy, and not quite sure why! I reflected on this for quite a while. I had drank a ton of electrolytes, ate judiciously, and tried, in general, to take good care of myself! I decided I couldn't waste time fretting about it, I just had to take as good of care of myself as possible and press on. Rock felt amazing, so I decided to draw a little strength from him. Danny Grant passed us again on his amazing mare. He gave us much needed encouragement. I knew that if we were still within shouting distance of The Danny Grant, that we still had a good shot of finishing on time. Pretty soon we were trotting along what I knew to be a beautiful piece of side trail, emerging from the twisty technical trail we had been on for quite some time.
About this point, we were high up on this side trail, and I kept catching glimpses of some bright lights down, WAY DOWN, below us. I thought to myself, "There is a truck down there, doing about the same speed we are!" One thing I think I know for sure is that a horse, like a car, will go where you are looking. If I spent too much time gawking at the bright lights down there, I might well convince my horse to look down there too! I decided to take a risky chance and look. WHOA!!! It was the full moon reflecting off the American River!! I realized that in a split second and relayed my discovery to Ron, who may or may not have appreciated it fully at that moment. Hard telling. He was pretty quiet.
We moved into open ground, still on blatant side trail. I was aware of hillside to our immediate right, and sharp downhill side to our immediate left. What was incredible was the full moon on that river. That was my first favorite moment of this ride. I wanted to look down and take it all in, but I was afraid I'd encourage Rock to look down and he was going along at about 8.5mph, which was WAY TOO FAST for my liking. One thing I know about my horse, though, is that if I check him when he's rolling along happy, he'll throw his head sideways in protest. I also know that horses will tend to let their bodies follow their heads when they are feeling froggy. Rock was letting me know, in no uncertain terms, that HE HAD THIS, and I was to sit up there obediently and let him do his job. The job I paid him to do, which was keep us out of trouble in the dark. I was starkly aware of the trail going by so fast in the full moonlight! Ron and Warrior were completely quiet and business-like behind us. I will say again, that full moon on the American River, well, it's an unparalleled sight. Simply amazing.
We entered a quick stand of trees, catching up to the riders who had passed us in the dark on that narrow trail earlier. Danny was there too, telling us, I think, that we had reached Bath Road and that Francisco's was imminent. Their horses were walking, and Rock and Warrior pretty clearly told us they preferred to jog up this road. Fine with us! LIGHTS!! We reached the top of this road and it was awash in lights and horses. We had reached Franciscos, and the fact that we were now 85 miles into the TEVIS CUP was not lost on me. I was weak, I was nauseous, and I was ready to be off this horse for a minute, even though his behavior was absolutely stellar to this point! Me...I was weak. I admit, I was about to my buckling point. It was after midnight now, and I was a whooped pup!
My horse pretty much breezed through this check point, while I, on the other hand, had fully hit the wall. Rock pulsed in with a 52. I can't even imagine what my pulse might have been, but I'm pretty sure I was on the way to a major tie up! MIchelle had preached over and over to make sure to not waste time at these checks. We had 15 minutes to pull ourselves (MYSELF) together, get back on and get a' goin. I presented Rock to the vet, right behind Danny, who was so damn cheerful, and Rock did so damn good! The vet did cram her had under his saddle, which he took offense to. He earned a "C" on his back/withers for that one. I nearly cried. I was so damn weak at this point, that I was dreading the trot out. I psyched myself out though, and faked it. Yes I did. I told Rock I was fine, I lifted my knees and trotted us through that vet check like I owned the damn thing. It nearly dropped me. My beautiful amazing horse got all A's on his gut sounds at this check. When we were cleared, we made our way through this melee' to find a pan of mash, one of the only remaining pans of mash and Rock ate heartily. A wonderful volunteer made sure my horse's pan was full, and held onto him while I used the bathroom and went to find the food table. They had made sandwiches, turkey, veggie, and ham for the riders. And, lots of cut up watermelon. I gobbled a cup full of watermelon and took half a sandwich, which, the very though of nauseated me. I heard Ron calling my name in his big voiced, All Bark No Bite, way, and located him in the herd of horses. Warrior's nose was also buried in a pan of mash. Ron offered me a turkey sandwich, which the very sight of made me want to hurl! "No thank you!" I gulped, and ate more watermelon. I spent much of that vet check hunkered next to my brave horse, trying to get my strength back.
I will just come out and say it. I felt nasty, but I hunkered next to my horse and willed him to keep eating. He didn't need any encouragement from me! I told Ron it was time for us to move towards the out timers. He agreed, and we worked our way though the crowd. I was humbled since I had watched a man come in, hand his horse to a volunteer, and say that he quit. He didn't think it was fair to ask his horse to carry him to the finish. He had lots of horse and no rider left. In that moment, this man was my hero. Me though...I hadn't quite reached this point. I drug myself up onto someone's pickup tail gate and got myself onto Rock's back. Carol's wise words about not letting my own weakness bring my horse down, I worked hard to ride right and let Rock know I had his back. I wouldn't let him down after all he had done for me. He was already moving, as if to tell me to quit my whining. We had miles to do! Ron pulled himself up on Warrior. Clearly we were in about the same shape, but he never whimpered, never complained, never gave any indication that he might be suffering. Warrior took up his cause and had decided to get them to the finish, no matter what. Ron and I...we were quite a pair to draw to at this point! We were cleared for take off by the out timers. Our horses picked up a nice jog, and we were off.
I'll just come out and say it. I got spoiled by those "every 5 mile" check points back at the hellish canyons! When I was told it would be NINE WHOLE MILES to Lower Quarry, I nearly cried...again. Rock pretty much told me to suck it up. He felt SO good leaving that vet check! Me...not so much. I realized after we had left that I had forgotten to fill my water bottles. Sad face. I knew it wouldn't take much to dehydrate myself. I comforted myself with the fact that it was only a few miles to Poverty Bar and the American River Crossing. Ron was still very quiet and Warrior just moved along amiably with Rock. Ron and I agreed on the every five miles thing though! It seemed like it was a long ways to Poverty Bar, but the moon was up, and very bright. We pretty much walked the uphill and trotted level and any slight downhill. We hit a spot where it was a two track road and the Boys picked up their pace. As we approached the spot, we knew we were there by the loud music and happy people running the check! I decided right then, even in a haze of exhaustion, that if I ever get to go volunteer at the Tevis Ride, I want to go to Poverty Bar! Those people had the music up high, a few beers goin' on, and they were having fun! One of them asked me if I needed my water bottles filled, and did I want a beer! Oh man, usually, I'm not one to turn down a good beer, but um, heck no!! I wanted water!
Max had told me we'd see the Lower Quarry long before we'd get there and he was right! It looked like a small city off in the distance. We were nearly finished with the Tevis Cup!!! My heart quickened and for the first time in a few miles I felt good again. Full of hope and excitement! Those lights sustained me for awhile.