Sunday, April 1, 2012

Endurance driving: barn tours

Just got back to the house from an 830 mile road trip. That's 440 miles of there and back and 390 driving around there.

I got up Thursday, dropped Cers with the boarding kennel, and drove to SF. I went straight through the city and down to Pacifica, where I called First Barn Manager and got directions down to her first property, right on the PCH between Pacifica and Montara. As you can imagine, the views are breathtaking. There's a bit of Bus Plunge Highway, with switchbacks between rock-slidy cliffs going up and crashing-surf cliffs going down, but after just a couple miles it flattens out into a scenic drive along the coast. FBM showed me three properties she manages, and they were all similar - I'd call them mostly paddocks with shelters. There was some pasture, but the horses out there are all supplemented with grass/alfalfa so that's no good. The second of her properties had a couple of available paddocks that were long, skinny, and drained pretty well, so if I ended up there that's what I'd choose. They all backed up into Open Space land with established trails, and they were reasonably priced.
Barn 1 HMB
Barn 2/3 HMB

Then I drove down into Half Moon Bay and over the hills north into the peninsula (another bus plunge road). When you zip up to the top of the hills, you're in this long skinny zone of undeveloped land where the San Andreas fault is, with a huge rift lake (Crystal Springs) running east-west along it. Shockingly beautiful.
Crystal Springs Reservoir
Crystal Springs

I-280 runs along the fault, and it's got to be the most beautiful interstate in America. It's 8 to 10 lanes, divided, and everybody goes about 85 mph, but you can't see a damn bit of human habitation. It runs along the southwest side of the Santa Cruz hills, so you can't see the intense development in the peninsula or the less-developed coast. Just you and a hundred other people driving as fast as possible through rolling green hills, with a lake beside you.
View of the lake and 280:
Skyline Blvd looking toward 280

I took 280 out to Woodside and stopped off at The Horse Park At Woodside. I wanted to see how long it'd take to drive from out there back into the city, and The Horse Park seemed as good a place as any to turn around. The Horse Park At Woodside is the kind of place that demands initial capitals any time one mentions it, and it is categorically not the place for Dixie and me. It is a place for Andrea. (Or maybe pre-Texas Andrea - I think she is slowly but surely becoming a redneck. Welcome to the family!) Anyway, I pulled in there, looked around, and pulled right back out and went back up 280 to 101 and into SF about 5 pm. It took me about 20 minutes to tear-ass back up to South SF and cut over to 101, about 20 minutes to zoom up 101 to the Potrero exit, and about 20 minutes to make it to my exit, one mile further up the road. Oy vey. Bridge traffic is bullshit.

I parked the truck at G's work, met up with him, and we taxi'd over to the apartment and went to the little Vietnamese joint across the street from his building. Everybody's been saying it's not a good year for crab, but dammit I wanted crab, so I got crab, and... it wasn't very good. I couldn't get the meat out of the shell. I didn't care! It took twice as long as usual but I ate every bit of it.

The next day, I rolled promptly out of bed and trucked on down to Portola Valley, to meet Second Barn Manager. This one is in Arastradero Preserve, which looks like it connects to Foothills Park and all the Open Space stuff up in the hills. If we get a house down that way, that's definitely where I'm boarding - they happen to have a one-acre pasture where the horses are already eating grass hay, with an opening because a pony passed away. One acre is bigger than she has now! The people seemed nice - I talked to a couple of boarders before SBM showed up - and it's not too fancy, very reasonable rates. I don't know if we can get a house out that way, but I'm going to call the manager tomorrow and send her a deposit to hold that space in the pasture for me. Pasture plus grass hay plus trails is absolutely perfect.

After that, on to Third Barn Manager, on Skyline Bus Plunge Boulevard near the Bus Plunge to Half Moon Bay. This was easily the fanciest barn on my list - stalls run $850, and most stuff is a la carte (blanketing, grain, trailer parking, lessons, etc.) But they had pasture board with grass hay, and trail access, so I went to go see. I got there way too early and watched the owner give jumping lessons to his ... office staff? working student? and a couple of boarders. Lovely covered arena, with seating to watch people work, and blankets and a heater. The heater was necessary because it was 50 degrees with a brisk cloud moving through! A beautiful facility though, and TBM was really quite polite and friendly. About 150-250 more than Second Barn, but grass hay and trail access. No requirement to be in training, and no requirement to use their trainer (one jumping trainer, two dressage trainers). I do not think it's really where I need to be, but I wouldn't hesitate to recommend it, and if I ended up there Dixie would be perfectly happy. My biggest worry is that it's very cold up there all year - while part of me thinks that'd be just peachy I think Dixie would suffer if I took her down to some hot endurance ride, and that road is too hairy for me to haul out regularly.

I drove down from the hills and out to Foster City on the bay to have lunch, then drove around looking at neighborhoods. As far as I can tell, it's kind of like the east coast of Florida - unbroken development, with a new city name sign every couple of miles. Totally amazing that only two miles away there's all this beautiful undeveloped land. Everything's just crammed in and the zoning doesn't make intuitive sense to me.

Fourth Barn - I really liked it. Beautiful horses, a beautiful barn but most of them were on pasture, a dressage arena built into the side of the hill so as you rode it looked like you were looking over a cliff down to the ocean far below, tons of pastures built into hills... and no trail access. And no grass hay, just grass/alfalfa or wheat. And no way to haul out!
Uncool driveway to awesome barn

The barn was up a mile of potholed switchback gravel road, off of La Honda Road. Here's a screenshot. I dunno if I put the marker in exactly the right spot, but it was somewhere along there...

Most of the horses there are retirees or older horses, and I wouldn't hesitate to send my retiree there either! We realized pretty quickly that I wasn't a good fit and had a nice conversation anyway - she told me about the area, some places to look to find private boarding if I wanted, that kind of stuff.
Awesome barn in La Honda

Then back into the city and out with G's work friends for a little while, then off to bed.

Saturday we got up and headed out for another heroic day of driving. The last barn was a place that had been closed for several years and is getting ready to reopen. It's 5 miles south of Half Moon Bay, up a warm and sunny little canyon - the BM says she grows tomatoes, so it can't be too cold and foggy! The property is a tiny little space running up a hill - the owner's house overlooks the barns. There's one barn that will have stalls, three or four individual paddocks, and three two-horse paddocks. The paddocks are all graveled, so no standing on soggy ground. About 10 minutes' ride up to the end of the canyon takes you to a trailhead into Purisima Creek. Grass hay, trailer parking, wash rack, reasonable rates. If we end up in Pacifica / HMB, that's my choice down there.

After looking at that barn, G and I drove around the peninsula all day. We looked for a shoe store, got infuriated with the GPS, got snappy with each other, ate lunch and made up, got coffee in HMB, and parked by the ocean and watched the tide come in. Eventually, we went back into the city and met up with friends for dinner. I was super tired and came totally unglued when the place we were going to eat dinner at said a two-hour wait. I mean unglued like I was bawling on G's shoulder when two of his friends hopped out of a taxi to meet me for the very first time. It was such a good first impression. But I pulled it back together and we went to a bar with Asian food and had a good time anyway. (Fried rice with pork belly and kimchee! OMG so good!)

And today, back to Reno! The cats survived on kibble, the neighbor took great care of Dixie, and Cers was just delighted to see me. (But the kennel told on her - she also had fun while she was there!) This week I've got a property manager coming to look at the place and two moving companies to give me estimates, and I need to fit in some riding.

The next AERC ride is High Desert, where we did our first fifty last year, but it was not an easy ride. I am thinking about doing the 30 at High Desert (lots of hills and rocks, but only for 30 miles) and doing the NEDA ride in the same area the next day (20 miles, pretty flat). I'll get 50 miles in a weekend and will feel ok to tackle a 50 at Washoe at the end of the month. I know I have got to quit dithering and just enter a 50 at some point. I know. Real soon. I just want to cry when I think about Dixie limping to the vet check. I will suck up and do a 50 soon.


  1. Holy moly woman I do NOT know how you get everything done...

    Now about that 50... just remember that is in the past. I'm sure you & Dixie can, and will, be able to do it this year!
    But that said I know how it feels, not in endurance but in barrels. Voodoo, my black horse, fell coming out of 3rd barrel last year. (of course it was shaping up to be a smoking run! lol) I managed to land clear of him for the most part but he did land on my lower leg. I was sore but ok, my poor boy was pretty darn body sore for about a week. I rode him and worked cows on him, even did some practice runs, but I was SO damn scared to actually make a competition run.

    1. Loud music. That's my secret weapon. Loud, trashy music.

      I went back and found that post - ugh, what a nightmare! How'd you finally get over it? Going to dig some more... ;)

  2. "Loud, trashy music."

    See? We are twins.

  3. Hectic weekend! Hope your move works out well for you :)

  4. Loved the barn tour. Can't wait to see where you end up. If its HMB, you can come ride with me quite easily. The drive from the 280 side is a lot more hairy.

  5. Board is EXPENSIVE out there. That's all I can think about. Dayum.

  6. krysia@stanford.eduApril 2, 2012 at 10:03 AM

    We keep our ponies in Woodside, ride mostly Huddart and Wunderlich parks with occasional forays up Windy Hill. Looking forward to seeing you in the neighborhood.

  7. "My biggest worry is that it's very cold up there all year - while part of me thinks that'd be just peachy..."
    LOL! I think you and I might be twins - I feel the same way!

    Wow, what gorgeous scenery you'll have in CA! Sounds like you certainly got around and found some great options to choose from.

    Good luck!

  8. I gotta admit, when I saw "endurance driving" in the title, I was picturing Dixie to cart! ha-ha!
    So nice you have a couple of good choices in barns. Dixie will flip when she sees that green grass.

  9. I'm exhausted just reading about that trip! I'm glad there are some good boarding options. Boarding is always a compromise, but I guess so is keeping your horses at home!

    I feel for you on your worry about Dixie. I know I'd be the same. I think your plan sounds good, and if you are at all doubtful, I find nothing wrong with erring on the side of caution. A worried rider won't help the horse! You and Dixie want to be riding those trails for a long time to come.

  10. It look beautiful out there, but I can't believe how much board is! Wow! Sounds like a successful trip, and you'll have a couple options to choose from depending on where you end up. Dixie is going to love it out there!


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