I have a feeling that finding the right words to describe the emotion in these last few days is going to be difficult at best, and more likely very lacking. How can I put into words how we felt on Tuesday morning as we were preparing for our last full riding day? We just had to get through 18 miles (my current thoughts were more like ‘suffer’ through- read previous blog to explain) and then the rest of our days to the ocean would be short. It was exciting, surreal, and elating. Our last long day! Is this possible? Are we really almost done?! I can hardly remember when life was anything other than grueling days of riding, camping, and planning.
What added to the excitement was starting to meet people we had essentially made friends with over the phone- people who had helped us for months. We had met Mark over the weekend, and Tuesday morning while we were packing, we finally got to meet a gal who had been very instrumental in the last months with planning, organizing, logistics, and energetic and dedicated support and encouragement. She had driven far to help us in person during the last week, and she had brought her amazing kids, Vickie and TJ with her. A huge yellow and black “CAUTION HORSES” sign was attached to the back of her car so she could follow us through the city, and Mark led the way with Chance in the horse trailer nervously looking behind him to make sure his buddies were keeping up.
Riding through Suffolk proved very easy and uneventful. There was only a short mile of busy traffic in town and then we were out on 460 again, only this time we had plenty of shoulder. The highway took us through the Dismal Swamp and it was the primary route between the coastal areas and Suffolk. You can imagine that this close to a major population center on an artery road that it was high volume traffic with lots of trailer trucks thrown in for spice. We were quite grateful for the wide shoulder and the chaser vehicle, though it was far less intimidating than the previous few days we had ridden on 460 with zero shoulder.
But the day held other emotions besides excitement too- such as anxiety, uncertainty, and feelings of ‘don’t you dare stop me now!’ Before we reached the Chesapeake City limits, we were contacted by the police. We had been in touch with them about our ride and our plans to ride through the city. Thankfully, Mark had done much of the leg work with the police departments for us, so we had reduced stress with the challenges. Understandably, the police department was highly concerned about 5 horses and a dog walking the streets of their city. We heard all about how many accidents and deaths they’d had in the last year, and how they didn’t want to include us in the count. Being unfamiliar with horses, we could sympathize with their concerns, but they did not return the understanding that we had just ridden across the United States- through several cities- and this was ‘not our first rodeo.’ Mark had submitted a route plan that we approved that skirted the center of the city, that avoided rush hour, and that utilized small side roads. But they determined that if we wanted to ride through their city, they were requesting us to purchase a police escort, which we felt unnecessary given that we had very noticeable chase vehicles. Ultimately, the SEAT organization did us a huge favor by pulling out the laws that proved that horses were legally allowed on the roads and there were no ordinances against them. Apparently some members had the law memorized for instances of harassment for riding horses on the road! After a short investigation delay, they determined that we were correct and they would allow us to pass through the city. What’s more, they through in a FULL escort for the entirety of each day we were in their jurisdiction! We were shocked at their 180 degree switch of cooperation, but I guess that’s a classic “If ya can’t beat em- join em!” But in all fairness to them, the Chesapeake police department did a great job keeping us safe. Their presence freed up our helpers during the day to get other preparations under way, and the officers who actually did the escorting were positively wonderful. They were supportive, friendly, and excited to be a part of the last few days of our journey.
We were treated during the day by Mark with ‘drive-by’ Subway (he held it out for us as we passed!) We made really good time that day, even with my powder stops! The ladies at the barn on Old Mill Rd. where we stayed helped us unpack the horses and doctor Chance’s leg. A local farrier gal stopped by who we really enjoyed talking with, and she ended up giving us some jeans to replace a couple of our thread-bare ones. Then Lisa brought us and our helpers inside for a warm meal, a hot shower, and a good night’s sleep.