It was nice to wake up in our peaceful campsite after what we went through the day before. When we put the horses out to graze, they immediately went for the tall grass with all the burrs in them. They were covered from head to toe with the sticky things- just look at this picture of Chance! It took Richard and I nearly an hour to get them off all the horses before putting saddles on them, and honestly, I don’t think either of us were all that upset about it. We weren’t in any hurry to get back out on the road because it was clear from our map and just looking down the valley that there would be many more curves to face today.
The day started out better than we anticipated. The curves were sweeping rather than sharp, so there was plenty of time for trucks to see us and slow down. It was quite beautiful too. But then we passed signs that warned of explosions and the day went downhill from there. I wrote in my journal, “Today was very, very, very, very, oh- and very stressful.” The coal truck traffic was nearly constant and several met us on blind corners. Thankfully, we were not on steep hills today, so it was easier for them to stop. And I can’t blame them; most of the drivers did their best to be respectful of the horses. But I also have to mention the positive: for as many coal trucks as met us on blind corners, there were at least twice as many blind corners where there were a couple cars behind us as buffers (and a longer line around the corner so the obstacle could be seen ahead) and corners where no one came at the wrong time. We felt it was an answered prayer of safety around every single one of those corners. There were guard rails and no shoulder almost the entire day. Looking back at the pictures, it was really quite pretty, but we didn’t have the luxury of enjoying it because we couldn’t take our focus off listening every speck of every minute for traffic, trucks, and looking ahead for any possible place to pull out of the way. At least there were no explosions in the mines right as we were going by!
As we came out at one road junction near Meta, we stopped and asked a local fire station about any shortcuts where the road took a several mile bend. It made our day when he told us that there had been a road put in since our map was made, so we could just follow our nose and save several miles! That was an unexpected bonus! Despite the non-stop traffic on the road, we did smile a bit as the kids went crazy over the horses going by the elementary school as it dismissed. I know we ended up on U-Tube over that one!
Up ahead we could see this insanely huge and high bridge going up a mountain that we were almost certain we would have to ride. We both had such tattered nerves that we didn’t know if we could handle that right then, but there was no place to camp. Rush hour traffic was upon us, but we had to keep riding and riding because there was only room for road and river in the narrow
valley- no camping spots at all. It soon became evident that the bridge was not on our route and we breathed a sigh of relief, but a mile down the road I was wishing we had to ride the bridge instead. We rode right into mining and factory row. The coal mine we rode past and under was huge, very busy, and extraordinarily loud. There was a non stop stream of coal trucks in and out of the place, all kinds of constant and intermittent loud noises, moving machinery alongside and overhead, and rush hour traffic to boot. This picture was taken before we got to the heart of it. If you could only have seen the intense concentration on our faces and heard my thoughts, “Just breath, just breath, just breath.” With every puff, pound, strike, blast, beep, bong, and screech noise I found myself near tears again. Here we were riding horses of all things, brave but sometimes flighty, right through the heart of a mining operation on our right with rush hour traffic and non stop coal trucks whizzing by inches from our knees and no where to go if the horses got scared. The grass in the picture- that wasn’t there in the heart of the mess.
As we finally passed the whole mining scene and got out of earshot of most of the noise, we found a small spot of grass and pulled off. We both got off our horses and nearly fell into each others arms shaking with nerves. We gave each other a long moral support hug, hugged and pet all the horses, and stayed on that safe grass for nearly a half hour composing ourselves. As we talked about what we had just ridden through, we were overcome with love, appreciation, and honor at the horses God has given us to care for. While we were wound tight- knowing the possibilities and praying for safety- every single one of the horses walked along like nothing was any different than any other day. Not one of them looked to the right or the left, hesitated, jumped, or skipped a beat in the slightest. We were so proud of them!
When we managed to get up the nerve to get back on the road, we started smelling the most amazing bakery smell and fantasizing over home made donuts. We were slightly disappointed when we rounded a corner and saw a Kellogg’s factory! It smelled amazing and wasn’t near as scary or loud to ride through as the mine! We were in the mode of just riding and riding until we found somewhere to stop when we were pulled over in the wide spot of the road by a gentleman flagging us down. “You have my permission to stay at the riding arena up ahead- if anyone gives you a problem, you just give them my name!” I promptly wrote his name on my hand- we were more than ready to accept his offer and get off the road! Then another truck pulled over to offer us a place to stop the next day, and then a third van pulled over! But the couple in the van shocked us the most.
“Hi! You must be Jeannette. We are Barbara and Jerry Lake and we’ve been following your progress and reading your blogs for a long time. We are from Tennessee and drove 3 1/2 hours up here to meet you!” My jaw literally dropped at this one! It’s been a long time since someone drove out to meet us from a great distance. They kindly offered to follow us with flashers the rest of the way to the arena. We were greeted there by a very kind and hospitable group of horse lovers who promptly made sure we were spoiled with an amazing home cooked meal for us and our Tennessee guests, hay for the horses and the ring for them to stretch out in, and a sleeper compartment of a horse trailer for us to
get out of the impending rain. After Natasha and Cody and their parents gave us an open invitation to be fed and rest at their house for the next two rainy days, we decided our nerves could use the break. Besides, it gave us a chance to get to know them and to visit with the Lakes who had driven so far to meet us. We spent long hours hanging out with them, discovering our common interests, and enjoying their company. I don’t know if I’ll every get used to meeting people who already know everything about the last year and a half of our life, but it’s very freeing because we don’t have to explain everything- we can just visit! We had a wonderful time with them and a much needed break from the road.