Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Barn's burnt down / now I can see the moon

When I was a kid, maybe in the early 90s, my parents had that saying tacked up on the tiny corkboard over the phone.  Barn's burnt down / now I can see the moon, from a Zen-saying-a-day calendar.  I always liked it, and I saw it a lot in those days.  (Remember when you had to pick the receiver up from the base to answer the phone, and if you wanted any privacy at all you had to buy an extra-long cord so you could drag the phone into your bedroom with you?  Gah, like, I really didn't want my stupid parents to hear me talk about my Rock Star Boyfriends.)

When we left Ohio, I made a promise to myself that I'd say yes more often.  Ohio was a real low point in my life - I couldn't find a job of any kind, my gelding Champ died, Dixie was more psychotically unrideable every day, and I didn't even do anything while I was there.  I didn't go to any horse events - shows, day trips, camping trips, nothing.  I didn't go people-camping or hiking or even the water park I drove past on the interstate most days.

I couldn't do anything about Champ or the economy, and I didn't have a trailer to go places, but I promised myself that when we got to Nevada, I'd seek out horse people and if they offered to do stuff, I would say yes unless I had a compelling reason to say no.  Obviously, I had no idea what I was doing with my horse, but surely if I just kept doing stuff with her this whole mess would get better.

And thus began a new phase of my life.  I rode with ~C.  I rode with the crazy lady I boarded with.  I rode with the crazy lady's neighbors.  I went to Vegas to meet two of my internet friends.  I slowly met more people, slowly got invitations to go ride with them, and I always said yes.  It never seemed like a good idea at the time, honestly - I'm a quiet, shy, only-child introvert by nature, and I've spent my life fighting that tendency to hide from people. But I kept doing it, and it slowly got easier, and I've had so many awesome crazy adventures just from saying yes.

After TRR, my friend S was like "I think I might ride VC for the first time this year, and we should ride  the Cottonwoods loop ahead of time, and you should come stay at my house."  Of course I said yes - it's almost habit at this point - and we decided I'd come over on Friday and we'd ride Saturday and Sunday.

Then the Rim Fire exploded, and the wind blew the smoke north to Reno, and I almost backed out. Half of my friends were like "you are fucking insane do not come to Reno this weekend."  But S was like "come anyway, we'll go somewhere not smoky and ride," and NOAA said the smoke might shift Friday night, and I decided to stick with the Just Say Yes plan.

I drove into a smoke-pocalypse.  (If you think I haven't spent the last five days trying to figure out a more clever name than that, you don't know me at all!)  It looked like a big cloud...

Then I drove into the big cloud and the sun turned orange.  It looked like the dying world in The Magician's Nephew.  This is when the barn was burning down, btw.

The smoke was unbelievably bad.  We drank margaritas and ate excellent food and made contingency plans on Friday night, and when we got up Saturday it was just as bad.

Dixie and Taz got along like gangbusters.  She squealed and threatened to kick him in the head, and he fell instantly, deeply, permanently in love with her.  With mares it's touch and go, but I can't think of the last time Dixie met a gelding who didn't worship her unworthy hateful self, LOL.

Saturday morning we double-checked all the weather forecasts and decided the only place to go was west.  We could've ridden out of the Auburn Fairgrounds, but I knew it'd be really busy and I steered us toward Skillman instead.  Two years ago I went people-camping there with Mel, and while I still can't get properly excited about riding Wild West I really wanted to ride the trails.

By the time we figured out a plan, headed out, stopped at the ag station, stopped to pee, stopped to check on the horses, turned down a logging road instead of the campground and had to find a place to turn the trailer around, and finally got set up in the day-use area at Skillman, it was almost one, but by god we'd come this far and we were going to ride.  In a nod to the possibility that we'd get lost and spend the night in the woods, I brought a flashlight and my new Spot, and S brought two candy bars.  We are epic explorers, yall.  We saddled up the horses in a state of great excitement and headed off down the one trail I knew.

We'd forgotten to give the horses any water, but at least the sky was blue and there was a campground not far off with faucets.
Skillman has some truly lovely speederbike singletrack, and the next time I go back I'll bring the helmet cam, cause there's no way to video that with a handheld camera.  Taz was like "awww hell yeah let's do this" and Dixie just tucked in and roared along after him.  We zipped up to the people campground.

S had brought a little scoop for Taz to drink out of, and I put a plastic bag in my helmet to make a water bucket for Dixie.  I was pretty proud of my little psycho pony - she didn't even bat an eye, just stuck her face in up to her nose and slurped like five helmet-fulls of water.
We headed back and went down Hallelujah Trail, and right at the point where I thought "Wow this is really bushwhacking, even for us" the trail just died.  Dixie had to step sideways over a foot-high pointy log into a dry stream bed composed of head-sized boulders to give Taz room to turn around, and then we were off again.  Taz threw a boot (one of many - I am so grateful that Dixie's boots inexplicably fit her fucked-up feet so well) and when S got off to pull it, he was like "oh you're tailing?  Grab on let's go" and he took off without her.  Impressively, she ran like a quarter mile up this steep "trail" yelling for him.  He stopped at a switchback like, "What? I thought you were tailing, stupid" and away we went again.
We got back to camp at three.  We'd only done about ten miles, but it was gloriously pretty.  I started doing the math in my head and decided I absolutely had to leave at four, so we walked around camp and found the other trailhead, then tied up the horses.  The camp host came back by and offered us maps, so we went over to his little compound and talked to him for a bit.

Turns out he's a retired sword swallower from the Ren Faire circuit.

Now he makes steampunk instruments and vehicles.  I photoshopped these guitar pics (fixed the levels so that the guitars are visible and the background isn't washed out).

He made the Unhipster Bike, too - a vintage bicycle, with a 35 cc gas engine strapped to it - but the wheel came loose while he was hauling ass down a hill and it's broken right now.  
Eventually I had to go, so I flung Dixie back in the trailer and headed west.  I got her home right at sunset, which was actually scenic for once.  If you embiggen the picture, you can see SF across the bay - this is coming back down the hill from Dixie's barn.
Any time any of yall want to go camping at Skillman, I'm in.  Awesome, awesome trails.  I might even brave the too-packed campground and try to ride Wild West next year.  

Then Monday morning I found out that the renter in Reno had burned down the garage/barn.  
None of my stuff was in it, and it's adequately (but not extravagantly) insured, so it shouldn't be a big deal... except it is.  I kept it together talking to all the insurance people, but I bawled when I saw the video.  There's such a big difference between the metaphorical "you can never go home again, a la Heraclitus and the river" and "hey some jackass burned part of your home down and you'll never have it back."  It's not like we were planning to move back to that house, but... shit.  

I'm trying to see the moon, yall.  


  1. Dude.

    It's like the newscaster was trying to be a jerk about it to you.

    "Funder, your barn is a total loss after a fire this afternoon..."

    No wonder you feel upset about it.

    Besides - I don't know about you, but more happy times occur in a barn than a house. It probably would have hurt less if the house burned down.

    I'm really sorry :(

  2. Wow, I didn't see that end coming even though you mentioned it in the beginning... I thought it was methaphor or something. Thank goodness you didn't have any of your stuff in the barn and that it is insured. But still. It would kill me if Aspen Meadows burned and it isn't even ours anymore.

  3. Damn about the barn. You can't go home again...but you want to be able to. The quote is actually very lovely, though hard to put into practice. I'm sorry.

    But I'm so glad you got to ride at Skillman! One of my favorite places! I love the zoomy single track, love Hallelujah hill. The trails aren't that well marked, but when I've camped there I've been able to find my way around pretty well now after a few times. And new new camp host is great too.

    Saying "yes." What a basic but great concept. That is VERY hard for super introvert me. But it leads to new adventures. I may give this idea some thought.

  4. I hope you see the moon again soon. A barn has a 'feeling', a personality of its own - perhaps more so than a loved-in, lived-in house does. I've spent many contented hours just sitting in a barn unwinding from a stressful day, and there are few things better than that.
    Now, up here if a barn burns down on a rental property, we immediately think "Grow Op" - which can also invalidate the insurance. Hopefully the fire wasn't caused by anything stupid the tenants did. :)
    Look for the moon - it is out there.

  5. " I'm a quiet, shy, only-child introvert by nature..."
    HA! Having met you (and being an introvert himself), Allan says you must be doing a good job of acting "unnaturally!" Gotta say, I kinda share his disbelief in your statement (or you've really come a long way, baby!).

    1. Me from three years ago would've gotten ulcers just thinking about flying to Washington, camping with strangers, riding strange horses, and staying with different strangers. Practice makes perfect!

    2. LOL...Back then it was a big deal for you to come into Reno just to meet me...So YES...You've come a long way baby!! (two thumbs up)...Of course, I will say...that visit may have been a little tough for anyone to walk into. Not everyone is enthusiastic about walking into a huge herd of bikers. ;-)

  6. I am very sorry about the barn - it's always hard to lose something and dealing with insurance companies is always a pain. Glad you got in a good ride, smoke and all . . .

  7. Wow - there was so much in this post, I'm having a hard time figuring out what to comment on!:) I love your philosophy about saying yes - what a wonderful way to live! I struggle with feeling uncomfortable around people I don't know, but since I started getting into trail riding/endurance, I've met such great people.

    It sounds like your Yes plan is working and I'm a bit jealous of your crazy ride near the fires. And I love your idea of the plastic bag in a helmet for drinking. I'm definitely stealing that one...and the one about bringing 2 candy bars:)

    I'm so sorry about your barn. It must have been brutal seeing it on the news. But I'm glad no one was hurt and that it wasn't Dixie's barn. Although it sounds like she can handle herself no matter what:) And I love your comment about geldings falling in love with her. I think it must be some kind of biological thing because a friend of mine has a totally bitchy mare that geldings love too!

  8. What Becky said.

    Also, what Gail said. And Laurie.

    And all y'all.

    Thanks for saying it. Apparently, I haven't got words of my own today. Take a picture, yeah?

  9. This might be my all time favorite post. Its so touching and relatable on so many levels. I am so glad we went camping, its like that little thing that you shrug off but prepares you for the future. Wild west is beautiful and worthwhile and less crowded than in years past. That being said there was more keep roads this year than in the past which was disappointing.

    Looking forward do vc!

    I must say that everytime I've ridden at Woolman I've had an adventure...bears, hornets, getting lost......but except for the high country in the first third of tevis its hard to best the beauty

    When my parents sell the property I'm currently living on and the new owners demolish the trailer I live in and carry it off in pieces I suspect I'll feel the same as you. The mobile home I lived in as a child is gone (down by my grandparents) and there is still little hole in my heart even thpugh I was young when we moved and my aunt who bought the property tore it out shortly after that.

  10. Fun side note: the town we're moving to shortly is Skillman! Wrong side of the country though.

  11. Not the kind of "news" that anyone wants to hear, so sorry for the loss of your old barn... but the memories remain! Just amazing trails! Envy! The guitars are really works of art. Do they play as well as they look? As to Yosemite burning --- breaking my heart...

  12. Your barn got its 15 minutes of fame. Sadly : )
    - The Equestrian Vagabond

  13. Hey, our stupid tenants back in Cork set our house on fire two weeks after moving in! I never blogged about because the first thing that b**** said was "I've been so traumatised by the whole incident" we were afraid she was going to sue us because the batteries in the smoke alarm were dead.
    About $5000 dollars worth of damage... and yeah, emotionally it hurt like hell. When you've put a lot of yourself into a place you hate to see some jerk damage or destroy it.

  14. I always say 'yes', you never know where it might lead you to. Fabulous posts, keep up the good work.
    Angela - author of

  15. There's no end the havoc knuckleheads will wreak... sorry Funder.

    Keep saying "yes"... sounds like it was worth it. (I should try Dixie's gelding attraction technique. I think I see what I've been doing wrong.] ;D


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