But it was the horses’ turn first! Virginia Beach local, Dr. Posey, generously donated many hours of her time on Monday and gave all 5 horses a thorough work-over with chiropractic, massage, and other body work. To our great relief, she declared that they were in tremendously better condition than she expected, and that we had done a really excellent job taking care of them across the country. We had heard this from other horse physical therapists along the way, but it was good to hear the final verdict at the end that, though they were in need of rest and recuperation, all considering, they were in excellent shape.
When she was done, Marilyn from RRR Ranch drove up with a horse trailer in tow and we loaded up the horses and all of our belongings and headed for the RRR Ranch where we would spend the remainder of our time at Virginia Beach.
Tuesday morning found us at Ambiance Salon and Day Spa for our promised donated spa day in honor of finishing our ride. Richard and I were pampered all day by the friendly staff with a couple’s hot stone massage, facials, pedicures, a catered lunch, manicures, a hair cut and style, and more! It was an absolute joy and a total blessing to be spoiled so much after a very rough 21 months. We cannot thank the staff at Ambiance enough for their generous support and donation of their time and services. It was greatly enjoyed and appreciated.
All relaxed, Richard and I then made our way to our donated hotel for the night, where we checked in and gawked at our amazing view of the Atlantic from our balcony trying to take it all in. We were at flight level with the seagulls, and they actually would fly over to the 15th floor (something like that) balcony and take bread out of your hands in midair! Plus, from that height, we actually got to watch a pod of dolphins migrating down the coast!!! Such an amazing view. I’d been having movie withdrawal, so that evening we decided to walk a few blocks to the movie bistro where we ordered our dinner in the theater and enjoyed a good flick. We slept well despite it being our very first night away from Bella EVER. Mom babysat her grand-dog at RRR Ranch so we could have a date night, and though she laid on our stuff all night, she reported that Bella did well. It’s going to be a bit of an adjustment to both her and us as we ease back into regular life where she can’t be with us around the clock. But she did get to come pick us up in the morning and we took the opportunity to play with her on the beach for a while.
Our hope was to visit family for Christmas, but those plans were pending figuring out how and when we were getting home. Being short on personal finances after two years out of work meant that we had to get real creative in coming up with ideas. We’d made literally hundreds of phone calls to various transport companies, horse traders, and individuals to come up with some of the craziest plans. At one point, the idea was to got from Virginia to Texas to Minnesota, to Montana, to Wyoming! The discount price for this insane routing was not a big enough difference to be worth it so we scratched that idea and kept looking. Bottom line was that we could hardly get ahold of anyone right before Christmas, so we threw up our hands, left the whole mess in God’s hands, and decided to go visit family and forget about trying to get home until after the holidays. The generous folks at RRR Ranch, the non-profit kids camp and ministry, kindly offered to house, feed, and care for our horses while we drove with Richard’s mom in her rental car up to New England. Sue is such a generous mom. There were certain very huge logistics of being able to leave home so long that would not have been possible to overcome if it hadn’t been for her generosity. Even still, she rented the car and willingly stayed for three weeks in Virginia Beach, not only to watch us finish, but also so we could have ‘wheels’ to go up to visit our friends and family in nearby states. Sue, you truly are a blessing and we know that this dream would not have been possible without your generosity. Thank you. So we left most of our belongings at the ranch and proceeded to drive in the next two weeks almost half of the distance we had just ridden in nearly two years!!! What a crazy new perspective on time!
The first stop was at my parents in Connecticut where we had an early Christmas with both my brothers- only one sister-in-law was missing. We ended up with two Christmas’s worth of presents to add to our gear to take back to Wyoming with us! It was a nice visit; of course great food when it’s cooked by your mother, fun getting to see everything that’s changed since we were last there a couple years ago,spending time with aunts and uncles and cousins in addition to immediate family, and we even got to visit one of my dear high school friends. Additionally, I got to spend some much anticipated quality time with both of my living and elderly grandparents. I was so worried being out of touch for almost two years at their age, and God blessed me greatly with once again taking care of all the details and making sure I got to see my grandparents again.
The next stop was in Massachusetts where we visited my high school friend Lisa and her husband for the afternoon. She has been a great cheerleader for us all the way across the country and we were sure to stop and appreciate her for that. I was very proud of her too, because she has completely changed her lifestyle and attained several of her goals in the last couple years, one of which she has lost all of her weight and she is thinner than me now! Way to go Lisa!
Onward to Cape Cod where we stayed with Richard’s dad and step mom for several days. We exchanged gifts, enjoyed a wonderful day out on the bike trail with Bella running for all she was worth to keep up, sampled the local restaurants, and got to visit with Richard’s step sister and brother-in-law as well. It was one of the best, most enjoyable visits we ever had with his dad.
From Cape Cod, we headed down to Pennsylvania where we spent actual Christmas day with our friends Jon and Michelle and their three young children. Once again, Bella helped a little girl learn that not all dogs are scary. We had a wonderfully blessed Christmas day with amazing home made food and great company. We miss our east coast friends alot and it was wonderful spending quality time with them. We finished the day with an evening of the game “Wizard”, which ended up in hysterical fits of laughter until 2 in the morning.
For the next several days in Pennsylvania, we hurried from home to home fitting in everyone that we could. We carved out a full day and another partial to spend with my cousins and aunt and uncle from Alaska. It was so great to see the kids again too. They’re growing up way too fast when we only get to see them every couple years. We had a long brunch with our friends Sarah and Tammy, spent an afternoon with our horse-and-buggy Mennonite friends Lamar and Lorraine, and an evening with Jon and Erin, who are expecting their first child together! We swung by several other friends as well, and unfortunately it was quite rushed, but alas, tis the breaks when you haven’t visited in years somewhere where you love so many people.
At last, we had to say goodbye to PA and make our way down to Maryland for our last stop at my aunt and uncle, Joe and Kathryn. It was our first time at their new house, having moved from Rhode Island since the last time we saw them. Bella had a blast playing with their dogs, and we had fun playing nerf guns with my cousins. Joe treated Richard, his mom, and I all to a fabulous, fresh Lobster dinner on the shore where we felt like we had our final “hurrah” for finishing the trail. I’ve dreamed of lobster for long months now. Before we left in the morning, we got to spend time with the whole family and had the grand tour, insider information and all, with my uncle who is in upper management at the local zoo. It’s a great little zoo and it was probably one of the most enjoyable and fascinating tours I’ve ever had! Gotta love knowing the ‘insiders’ and getting a private tour.
Finally we headed back toward Virginia Beach by way of the Tunnel Bridge (which is quite a neat drive if you’ve never done it.) We had heard word during our trip that our little ponies were naughty while we were gone. Apparently while the cats were away, the little mice played… alot. Fiddle jumped out of the pen, then broke boards to get out, then for a third time took the whole herd with her out onto the grassy lawn. Upon closer inspection, the barn managers noticed that the large bale of hay provided for them was not very good, so they were probably getting out because they liked the grass better. So the horses were all transferred to their pasture, where they then broke through to another pasture and later, into the road. Finally, the horses were all brought back to the barnyard where they had to move their ranch herd so they could put ours in a pen that they’d have a very hard time breaking out of. Upon inspection of the pasture, it was much more barren than the girls had realized, not providing enough food for 5 horses. The one thing about having horses that know how to survive- they WILL survive even if that means breaking down the fences so they can eat! We graciously appreciated the girls for watching the horses as we remember well how it is to be very young and learning about proper care and observation of livestock. We couldn’t have visited our family without their generous help. But I couldn’t entirely blame the little ‘mice’ for escaping, so as promised, Richard and I spent the first couple days back at the ranch fixing fences!