Our first drivers were Danny and Margaret a husband and wife from Elberon Virginia. He was the one who brought us a heater when we slept in the garage behind Adam’s Peanuts. We enjoyed our 3 and half hours with them, but it was definitely surreal trying to wrap our minds around the fact that we were going west and heading for home! We recognized alot of things along the way on the route that we rode, but it’s just so different going at a much faster speed.
We met our next driver, Allen Dunagan from Princeton West Virginia in the parking lot of Tractor Supply in Farmville, Virginia at 12:30. Our timing was almost impeccable- both parties arrived there within 10 minutes of each other with several hours of driving from each direction! We pulled the horses out of the trailers, walked them around for nearly a half hour, got them some water to drink, let them snack on the grass, packed all our gear from one truck to the other, and loaded the horses back up. It was a tight squeeze in his two door truck, so Bella had to lay across all three of our laps for the whole afternoon! Allen drove us 4 hours to his home where we put the horses back in the pasture they had stayed in once before, and we found our way back to their dining room table where Paula once again fed us a delicious home made meal. Since we were to stay at the Dunagans for a day, Richard and I worked on trimming horse hooves- determined to get it done where we could take advantage of warmer temperatures- then Allen took us on a scenic local tour, and I took Bella for a great hike. That evening we were blessed tremendously by a large get-together at a local restaurant with their friends and many of the people who had hosted us or helped us in some way get through that area. Pete and Donna Hagerman were our next drivers, and we were so grateful they were able to come that evening with the kids because we wouldn’t have otherwise been able to see them. It was like a little family reunion and we were so grateful for the thoughtfulness of Allen and Paula arranging it.
We left at 9am with Pete and Donna. They had brought a trailer, but they came up with a brilliant idea- they just hooked up to Allen’s trailer so we wouldn’t have to move all our gear again since they had to come right back in order to go home. We had a wonderful 3 hour visit with them, and it didn’t seem long enough. That family is so dear to us and they have truly accepted us as part of their family. Such a blessing. You would remember them as the ones who invited the musicians over for an impromptu evening of bluegrass. We remember them as our new family and friends. I never imagined we would acquire new ‘sisters’ and ‘brothers’ across the country, but we are so blessed with those we have met along the way. It was with tears that we hugged the Hagermans goodbye at the truck stop just inside the Kentucky line where we met up with Cowboy Pastor Dewayne Waldrup.
For the next 6 hours we enjoyed the company of Dewayne. We have alot in common with him, and it was a joy to just yack the afternoon away. In fact, we got so lost in conversation that we missed a turn that cost us a good 45 minutes! I was actually holding the map, so I guess that’s the navigator’s fault! :\ He drove us all the way to McQuady, Kentucky where we were greeted by more ‘family’- the Bashams who hosted us for two months when we were recuperating- complete with a “welcome home Richard and Jeannette” sign in the front yard.
This time though, Ronnie and Talli weren’t back yet from a vacation so we stayed with Kenny and Linda- who had horse fence already up anyway. We had decided to stay there for the weekend so we could go to church with them and leave on Monday, giving Ronnie a day to recuperate from their vacation before driving to Kansas. However, Ronnie and Talli completely shocked all of us when they showed up just in time for dinner Friday night- a whole day earlier than they were planning to come home! They didn’t want to miss a single minute of hanging out with us. We were so thrilled and excited to see them! And Bella- Ha! She went absolutely nuts when she saw Talli- and then even crazier when she saw her best friend, Ben!!! Until she is at our house for a while, the Bashams are the closest thing she has known to a home, and she definitely has a best bud in Ben! It was so fun to watch them play. We also spent time with Steffanie, Rick, and Ariel as well. It was such a wonderful weekend and it went by way too fast. These are some of our dearest friends in the whole world now, and another two days just didn’t seem like enough. But, we had a schedule to stick to, so after many tears of goodbye, we headed out bright and early with Ronnie and Kenny as our drivers.
We can’t thank them enough for their constant generosity. They drove us all the way from the middle of Kentucky into Kansas- over 600 miles and 12 hours one way. We got to spend some more quality time with them, but it is never enough. The horses did really well for that long of a day, and we made sure to stop every few hours at a truck stop, get them out to walk around, eat, and drink. It was well after dark when we finally arrived in Humboldt where Dave Gant was to host us. Ronnie and Kenny immediately liked Dave, but they chose to leave immediately after we were unloaded rather than putting off saying goodbye. So once again, with hugs and tears we watched them drive away. We were, however, very grateful to hear from them in the morning that they had made it back home safely- even without stopping to sleep.
Dave was just as we remembered him- fun, hilarious, warm, inviting, generous, and a great host. When Carrie got home, we had fun with her as well. Their guest bed was the only Tempurpedic we slept on during the entire trip, and it reminded us one of many reasons why we were so looking forward to getting home- to our bed! It even made us want to have a Tempurpedic for our guest bed eventually. Why not treat your guests like royalty! We had decided to give our horses a day off in between the really long trailer rides since they weren’t used to it, so Richard and I spent the next day while the Gants were at work just completely relaxing. There’s no internet or phone reception at their house, so it’s wonderfully peaceful. We slept in, watched a movie, took a long walk, hung out on the deck by the pond, and just chilled. The only work we did was packing our stuff, including the gun that Richard had left behind in Dave’s safe, into his trailer. It was great! I had only one silly concern- we were only a dozen miles from where Bella started following us. She sniffed the air immediately like she remembered something in a way I’d never seen her do before. Was she going to run away from us after all this time? I was admittedly worried about it. But she had chosen to come with us nearly a year ago- of course she wasn’t going to run away now! And of course, she didn’t.
In the morning when Dave was done with his essential work at his business, we loaded the horses again and headed for Garden City. As always with Dave, we had great conversation and a good time, and we all had fun talking about our favorite subject- horses. I just wish we could collect all our favorite people from across the country and make a town where we could all live near each other! As we drove across Kansas, Richard and I marveled at how atrociously windy and bitter cold it was- and how on earth did we ride our horses outside in this same wind and cold- not to mention a whole lot more snow- during the same month of winter? We were definitely less worn out then, but there is nothing that can convince me otherwise that the main reason we did it is because God was our strength and He was with us on this journey and He helped us succeed. There’s no way I’d go out there now and ride in that kind of wind and bitter cold! It chilled us to the bones in just the 20 minutes we had the horses out of the trailer and we were walking nearly sideways just bracing against the searing wind! No thank you. Once is enough for me! We pulled into Garden City after a good 6 hour drive and quickly unloaded our stuff into the next trailer and put the horses in their enclosure for the night so Dave could head home right away. It was sad to say goodbye, but I bet we’ll see him one of these days at some ‘extreme cowboy’ competition!
Rob and Joyce Adams were there to welcome us with open arms. We made ourselves at home in the guest bedroom we had used for our first Christmas on the trail and enjoyed our visit all evening. Dave cooked steaks special for us, and Joyce made a pie. She is so excited because she gets to retire this year and she is planning out her year of endurance trail ride races. That evening, we went and checked on the horses because we were concerned that they would be too cold without blankets on in that wind. But we were trying to hold off blanketing them as much as possible so their winter coats would grow in more. Thankfully, livestock owners in Kansas are quite familiar with their windy winters, and there was a large stack of hay strategically placed as a wind block and the horses were doing just fine.
Having said goodbye to Rob and Joyce, we loaded the horses into their neighbor and friend’s trailer who was to be our next driver. I think Rob had volunteered him, but he was enthusiastic to help us on our journey. It was fun getting to know him as we drove the three hours to Pueblo, Colorado where we were going to stay with Lonnie and Theresa. They weren’t home when we arrived, but we knew the drill. This is where the horses had stayed for over two weeks to rest after we rode down the last mountain in the Rockies. We got the horses settled and unloaded our gear, thanked our driver once again for his time, and went in the house to relax for a bit. We loved visiting with the whole Martinez. Their three girls were happy to see us and have always been supportive of our ride. Theresa and Lonnie are special to us not only as hosts, but because they introduced the “Total Money Makeover” book to us by Dave Ramsey and I know it will really affect us for the rest of our lives. I highly recommend the book and we are so grateful they gave us a copy. We got to visit with Bev while we were there too. She and Ann were the ones who hosted Richard and I while the horses rested at the Martinez’s. Bev was at Virginia beach and watched us finish, but it was nice to get just a few quiet hours with her. We also got to see previous hosts Dale and Johnna who drove over to visit for a little while. Our last night in Pueblo was spent with Theresa, Lonnie, and their girls where they treated us to a PBR Rodeo. It was a fun was to end our time in Colorado.