***Since yesterday was a scary story and today isn’t a whole lot better, please be comforted by the fact that we are well past these dangerous areas and are riding on much safer roads at the current moment.***
After the Lakes headed back to Tennessee, Richard and I waited for a break in the rain and went on a scouting mission. The Halls, who took great care of us on our stop at the arena, kindly lent us their four wheeler so we could go exploring. The goal was to check out the train track. Our map showed that the next several miles of road were more dangerous curves- and it was clear that we were still in the heart of coal truck traffic. Natashia had taken Richard earlier in the day to talk to the manager at the mine about riding along the track. They informed him that they were not expecting another train until the following late afternoon. So we went for a long walk on the tracks to see what it was like, how difficult it would be for the horses to walk, and if it was worth the risk. We decided to go for it- the track would get us around 4 miles of the worst curves and as an added bonus, would save us a mile too. Besides, it was worth
risking one unexpected train over dozens of garenteed coal trucks.
After we were packed up in the morning, we were greatly relieved to see a crew working on the tracks. That gave us a greater comfort level of our safety knowing that we were riding on active tracks. But no matter how much information you have gathered that points to the tracks being safe to ride for the morning, it was still very unnerving to ride our horses through the two narrow 300 foot long passages blasted through a rock face. There was maybe enough room to pull horses off in the event of an unexpected train, but it would have been reminiscent of 2 days prior and the coal truck coming down the mountain- not enough room for real safety. It would have been entirely stupid to ride the tracks if we hadn’t done our homework, but we felt as confident as we could that it was the safer choice. Nevertheless, it was still a bit scary.
It was the least scary part of the day.
Back on the road it was the same thing all over again. The corners weren’t quite as bad and the hills not as steep, but the drivers were worse. We shouldn’t be surprised by now, but it still shocks us to see how bad many people drive. Time and again we watched as cars and school buses flew by us giving us only inches ON A BLIND CORNER! Not only that, but they would stomp on the gas to pass even as oncoming cars were very close to us, careen at the oncoming car full speed ahead, and I guess their hope was that the car (who had the right-of-way to begin with) would stop or run off the road to avoid being hit head on right next to the horses. There were near misses of inches by both oncoming cars and cars passing the horses. That had nothing to do with us blocking the road- they didn’t even wait for 2 seconds and we would have gladly pulled out of the way. Instead, they just flew by without looking like they owned the road and everyone in their path better get out of the way. And it wasn’t just one or two- it was tons of cars that did that on this stretch. Unbelievable! If I had cell reception I would have called the police. Kudos to the coal truck drivers were polite and did their best to slow down at short notice, but many in this area passed so close I pulled my elbow into my side and held my breath as they passed at what I’m sure was nearly twice the speed limit. We were again in a position to put our faith to the test and resist the urge to shout profanity to the worst drivers. Just being honest- only Jesus was perfect. I wrote in my journal, “It was hard in California to suffer this kind of danger for a day, but to go to sleep knowing we have to do it all over again tomorrow… and the next day… for another week plus- is not what I would call fun.” Perhaps this would be a good place to insert a reminder- all pedestrians and horses have the right of way IN EVERY STATE and are legal to be on ANY road other than limited access and where it is posted otherwise. (with the exception that some cities have ordinances against horses within city limits.) PLEASE drive safely- a few seconds is not worth someone’s life!We managed to get through another day intact. We again send out a heartfelt thank you to everyone who has been praying for us, has passed us safely on the road, and who has helped us in any way. Lately, our very lives have depended on it!
On a lighter note, the Halls got us “Horton II” to ride along on the pack. He survived almost the entire day, but right at a guard rail section on a sharp curve, I think the stress got to him and he rolled off the pack to his very definite death under the coal truck right behind us. The truck honked to alert us that we had lost a precious item, but we knew he was doomed and in a moment of weakness, we abandoned our mate to his flattened fate. (Had it been Bella- I think we’d have stopped the truck with our bare hands and saved her!) But alas, we said goodbye to Horton II and decided that all of his kin would do best to stay far away from this roadside crew!
We had a difficult time finding a place to camp (what with our mourning over Horton and all)- and besides- the valleys were so narrow, there just wasn’t much other than hill-river-road-maybe one house-and hill. No grass, no flat spots (except the road!) So while we were standing off to the side at one small intersection where there was a little more room trying to figure out where in the world we were going to stop for the night, several nice individuals stopped and offered their assistance. It wasn’t long before the nice lady who had taken pictures of us across the street let us stay in her chain link
fenced area, two bales of hay were brought, and two complete suppers were delivered! It was an unusual pavement campsite where the horses were tied to the fence- reminiscent of Nevada- but we were exceptionally grateful that day to have a safe place to sleep off the road. Before we started to set up camp, we got to sign our very first T-shirt- which put my spirits in a much more fun mood! It’s amazing how little things can brighten a person’s day.