First, we nearly gave up right as we got started after Richard fell off the cliff. Then we had a nasty argument in the Rockies and were tempted to go home again. Besides, Wyoming was straight north and we were done with the fun part of riding across the country on trails and in wilderness. But we persisted, but again in Kentucky, we fell apart physically and almost were forced to go home, and would have if it weren’t for the kindness of strangers (now friends of course!) But at long last, it really was time. We had accomplished our goal and dream.It was time to go home.
We just had no idea how.
Since our truck at home was not running right and our horse trailer was too small for 5 horses, we had to come up with a different plan than our original. Funny thing how two-year-old plans don’t work anymore! It was obvious that before Christmas, we were just beating our heads against a wall trying to make plans. So having given that up until after the holidays, we went back at it full strength when we arrived back at RRR Ranch. My voice was literally almost gone after 5 days of being on the phone for nearly 12 hours each day, plus several additional hours each day after that. We called horse transports, previous hosts, horse organizations, rodeo grounds, vets, horse traders, personal friends, trailer companies, and contacts of contacts of contacts. Ideas were plentiful, but our challenge continued to be cost. Anyone who transports horses understandably wants to be paid for their time and gas at a profit. We only had enough money left for gas.
It started to become obvious to me that the only people who were truly willing to help us without profiting from it were our previous hosts. Each one I called was, without fail, encouraging and willing to help. “Just let me know when and where,” was the answer I kept getting. This began to confirm the gut feeling I had had for months that we would indeed be going home via a relay. So we started to focus our efforts on calling our old friends. We got out the atlas that my uncle gave us (we only carried one state at a time), and started to plot our course. We continued to call previous hosts all across the country until we had plenty who were willing to drive AND had access to a large enough trailer. Then we got down to the details- where we were meeting, how many miles each person was asked to drive, how long it would take, where we would meet the next driver and at what time, how far we would go each day, where we would stay for the night, etc.
In the meantime, we were also working on acquiring blankets for our horses. Being used to the balmy 40-60 degrees in Virginia Beach, it was going to be a shock to all of our systems going home to single digits and likely 20 below in January! There was no way they had enough hair growth to protect them from these temperatures, so we needed to get blankets. We’d never blanketed our horses before for any weather- they are tough mountain ponies! But there is a first time for everything! Joy from Petersburg was absolutely a God-send in this project. We did the hours of research learning about horse blankets, how to measure for sizes, how to know if they were tough or warm, understanding the ratings, and searching for the best prices for the best possible blankets. Joy, however, did everything else. Her friends and horse connections pitched in generously for the purchase of these blankets, and Joy collected all the money and made the purchase! What a blessing her hard work was and the horses will appreciate all of those ladies’ generosity for months to come.
By January second, we had all the drivers in place except for two holes- the very first leg in Virginia, and the very last leg from Colorado to Wyoming! Our goal was to leave on the fifth. Several drivers had commitments on certain dates, but if we could leave on the fifth, we would actually time the relay perfectly to be in the areas on the right day when drivers were available! I’ll tell you what, God is a God of details!!!! He even made this possible around nearly a dozen different schedules in three different time zones and during a dozen days! I knew in my heart that He would take care of these last two holes in our plan.
By Tuesday night, we had a driver who was willing, but they were only available on Wednesday, the fourth. We called our second driver and host who promptly offered to change his plans and was excited that we would get to stay with him for two nights in stead of one! We still had several days to figure out the last leg, so in faith we decided to start the relay. Richard and I stayed up late packing since we were not expecting to leave so quickly. We crammed our stuff into the smallest amount of space we possibly could. It was quite a challenge actually, with all of our gear that we had left behind now with us, our new Christmas presents, gifts we had received at the shore, food for the trip, and all of our equipment that we had finished the ride with! We used every bit of our packing skills to fill every inch of space in our bags so that it would actually all fit into goose-neck trailer or a truck bed!
Wednesday morning bright and early, we said our goodbyes to Richard’s mom who was heading to catch her plane, the kind RRR Ranch staff, and our new friend, Mark. We were given one last gift to fit into our stockpile by Mark- a solar electric fence charger! Having that pricey charger means that our flexibility with where we can keep our horses (on a long term basis) just became exponentially larger. What a gift! So waving goodbye at last to the Atlantic Ocean, Virginia Beach, and the ‘end of the land’, we loaded our horses and belongings into the trailer and hit the road.