We made one really good decision as we neared the finish line. The last few days were to be very short mileage rides. Sure, we could have finished 3 days sooner, but the challenges that arose right as we got close to the end demanded endless hours on the phone putting out fires.
This was an 8 mile day that didn’t get started until after noon. One of the challenges of the morning was that the Virginia Beach Mounted Police were planning on escorting us on the last day. The ‘plug was pulled’ on that by the Virginia Beach Police Department due to budget cuts and concerns for appearing frivolous. The Sargent of the Mounted Police stopped by the farm in person to apologize about the change of plans. His genuine concern and humble apology were touching and it left no hard feelings on our end. However, the Mayor of Virginia Beach was later informed of the decision, which he overrode and requested that the Mounted Police would indeed escort us. Kudos to the Mayor and to our special supporters who wanted to see us stay safe in a special way in those last few miles!
Then we had many phone calls concerning our route to the beach, if it was safe, if it was visible, if the city approved as well as us, if it did not allow us to see the beach until we turned down the last street, etc, etc. (We were adamant about not riding alongside the beach where it was visible but heading straight toward it where we could only see it the last few blocks!) Phone calls went back and forth several times until we all agreed upon the route. Then it was getting it in writing, getting it signed, getting it faxed to the right person, getting the permits signed…. lots of paperwork!
We had several changes of plans of where we were keeping the horses the night we finished due to more red tape in the city. Lots more phone calls on that subject. Thank God for Mark and the SEAT group as well as other special helpers who did alot of this legwork for us. We would not have stayed sane those last few days without their considerable time spent helping!
I truly lost track of how many challenges arose, phone calls were made, people were contacted, and plans were changed during the last few days. We barely had time to ride! We were exhausted from it all, but our poor helpers weren’t used to this kind of non stop logistics, dealing with people, and arising challenges of riding across America. It gave me a new perspective on how much stamina God really did bless us with. You would think naively that riding your horse all day would be fun and stress free, but after seeing how tired they were from dealing with things we dealt with often, I was humbly thankful for the endurance God gave us. It truly was not done on our own strength.
When we finally got on our horses for the day, Chance got one last “freebie” trailer ride and lead the procession, followed by us and the remaining four horses and Bella, our “CAUTION HORSES” tailing vehicle, and our lovely volunteer ‘pooper scooper’ ladies from SEAT. (It was required to pick up the poo within city limits. That consisted of all of the last 3 days.)
There were a few sketchy spots on the roads that were narrow and cars were trying to pass (unsafely of course- so what else is new!), but we got over and let traffic by as often as we could find a place to do so. Overall, it wasn’t too bad- just a couple miles of that. Shortly after we crossed over into the actual Virginia Beach city limits (WOOOHOOO!) ,we were pulled over by the Virginia Beach Police, who apparently had not been informed that we were coming through. After determining that we weren’t completely loco, they allowed us to continue on our own but did not offer an escort. We even got to see an “Oceanfront” sign! All these little things you don’t think about when you are driving, but I’ll tell you what, they were exciting landmarks for us! Soooo close!
The last mile got pretty congested and we got off the roads just before the main part of rush hour. We arrived at Virginia Beach Boarding Stable to the welcome surprise of lots of helping hands for unpacking plus a pot luck dinner in our honor in the barn with the owners and boarders! We were blessed by this sweet group of people who so warmly welcomed us to their barn, their home, and their city.