Our plan was to ride into the Roanoke valley and find a place to rest the horses for several days. We have been pushing hard with long miles each day through the Appalachians due to the difficulty in finding places to camp. But after days of networking and making phone calls, we had yet to come up with anywhere to rest the horses near the city. So when both Mary and Jack as well as Mike and Sharron offered to host both us and the horses for a rest, we were overjoyed.
We had only planned to stay for 4 days, but due to weather, delayed packages, a tremendous amount of catch-up work from having no access to technology for over a month in the mountains, challenging logistics to get to and through Roanoke, and opening day of hunting season (that we chose to avoid riding in the woods during)- we ended up staying for a full week which we split between the two families.
Despite being quite busy, the week was very blessed in many ways. Our first full day was spent mostly relaxing and resting. I was surprised to learn that Mary was the author of a book I own- “Starting and Running Your Own Horse Business.” I wished I had the book with me for her to sign! We enjoyed brunch with Mary and Jack and their guests from his work. Then in the evening, they had a party with a group of friends in their just-finished (two days prior) refurbished historical landmark cabin. It had originally served as a slaughter house, but they had refurbished it with the government approved materials to it’s relatively original state and were planning to use it as a gathering place, and upstairs, as a bunk house for guests coming for clinics and classes that Mary taught to missionaries. The cabin was cute and picturesque, complete with a kettle in the fireplace, log chinking, and wood pegs instead of nails. It was sort of a Halloween celebration for us a couple days ahead. Jack also gave us the farm tour of the other 8 buildings with historic designation, including the outhouse! He proudly pointed out the unique construction of the barns which were made with rough hune logs, ‘z’ joints (an old fashion splicing that doesn’t use nails), and wood pegs. It was pretty cool actually. I was particularly amazed to see the pictures that compared the big barn in it’s original purchased state- which was falling down- to it’s fixed up and painted current condition. So few old barns or salvaged- they are usually left to fall down and rot- that it was special to see a historical barn that had been saved.
We enjoyed church with Jack and Mary on Sunday, and then they took us on a drive through southern Virginia’s pride and joy- Virginia Tech college. Over the next few days, we continued to work fervently on catching up with phone calls and computer work. Meanwhile, we moved over to Mike and Sharron’s house to be closer to our horses so we could work on our gear and trim horse hooves.
Then we had another visit with our new friends friends from Tennessee, Barbara and Jerry Lake. They drove up to see us for a couple days again, and let us use their computers, oiled our saddles, and kept us company while we did the grueling work of trimming horse hooves. They also drove us to Oasis Chiropractic in Roanoke who donated two adjustments to Richard and I, as well as got to watch the vet from Virginia Tech who donated her time to come give the horses and Bella a chiropractic adjustment as well. There was an immediate improvement in the horses after she worked on them- Fiddle, who almost never goes faster than a trot in the pasture, was running around like a sassy colt after her adjustment! The Lakes, as well as Richard and I, enjoyed getting to know our host family, who fed us delicious home made meals- portions of which they had canned or harvested themselves- indulged our curiosities in the details of log barn and home building which was Mike’s profession, and were joyfully entertained by their daughter Olivia who gave us a sneak peak at her ballet dancing talent and Richard who helped her spin by remembering some of his childhood ballet training!
The day after we trimmed horse feet was incredibly painful for me. If you remember, my back- well more accurately, the muscle under my shoulder blade- pulled badly just after we rode through Elizabethtown, KY. It never fully healed and after the strain of trimming hooves, it pulled again the next day- worse than the first time. I could hardly sit up in bed, let alone walk, move my neck, or my arm. It was stabbing, excruciating, and took my breath away. Not exactly condusive to getting back on my horse. Unfortunately, our backs are pretty thrashed from being so long in the saddle (I believe I’ve explained before how riding in the same direction at the same speed has become a repetetive motion) Essentially, this is a repetetive motion injury, which take a long time to come on and are very difficult to heal from- especially when you are still doing the activity. Please pray for me that my back will hang in there until we finish so I (and Richard too) can then work on a personal physical therapy ‘program’ to get our backs in shape again.
For the next couple days, we worked on logistics of getting to and through Roanoke, which thankfully, meant spending alot of time in the car trying to find the right people to get permission to pass through properties. It was painful for me around every corner and over every bump, but at least it was a mild activity I could do while my back was in pain. Our choices to get to Roanoke were either to ride over the two mountains between us and the city, or follow Mt Tabor Rd out to 311 around the mountains which would cost us an extra day’s ride. So you can imagine that we worked really hard to find the shortcut!
We were indeed successful at aquiring permission from the property owners who had old and largely unused dirt roads (that were on our map!) that would take us directly over the mountains into Roanoke. We were excitedly anticipating the next riding day that would take us over the mountains. It is likely that those will be the last trails and quiet woods experience that we have on the rest of this Ride Across America. From here on out, it looks like roads and city until the end.
We finally located and re-routed our missing packages to our current location. It was quite exciting to open our package containing our winter gear, as well as a full box of new Renegade hoof boots for our horses. Like Richard and I, the horses’ boots were plumb worn out, so this new shipment should be enough to protect their hooves all the way to the coast. And with winter gear, we shouldn’t be caught so badly in any more winter storms! Additionally, the western supply store called Crazy House from Kansas who had previously given us needed items, donated and sent us a shipment of new jeans and Redwing lace-up boots for each of us, which we were desperately in need of. After having set a date for the finish this week, receiving all our much needed gear in the mail, and making a plan to get over the last of the Appalachian peaks, we were starting to get a surreal excitement that we were on our last leg to the ocean!