Sunday, November 24, 2013

An extra-long ride at Briones Reservoir

I'm one week out from our next 50, this coming Saturday at Gold Rush Shuffle (pdf link).  I'd wanted to do one last 10-15 mile ride, just to check that all systems are still go.  What I ended up riding was a full LD, all alone, racing the clock as always.  But it was a beautiful day on a lovely trail with my best girl, and - bonus! - I didn't even wreck the trailer!!  Woohoo!

I got a late start on Friday, because BART wasn't running. I knew traffic would be even more horrendously fucked than usual, so I hung out at home til 10 am.  By the time I picked up the trailer, then the horse, then drove out to Briones Reservoir and got saddled up, it was noon.  There's a 13 or 14 mile loop around the lake, which was just perfect for my plans, and I figured I'd be back at the trailer by 3 at the latest.

We'd had a huge windstorm over Thursday night.  I commented to G that it was "Reno windy" outside, but our power didn't go out so I didn't really pay much attention.  It was still windy on Friday, but two and a half years in Nevada means that I don't pay much attention to wind anymore.  If it's gusting more than 60 mph, I won't ride, because that's hard enough to knock you out of the saddle if you're off balance, but any less wind than that is just "windy."


The sign-in sheet warned that the reservoir closes at sundown, and that they'd ticket your dumb ass if you were there after dark.  Fair enough!  I signed us out, mounted, and rode down to where the loop trail (another pdf) T'd off.  I looked left, looked right, shrugged, and turned left.  We'd go counterclockwise, keeping the lake on our right, and in about three hours we'd be back at the trailer.

It was really, really pretty.
There's a few hills, but it's less than 1,500' of total climbing in the 14 mile loop, so I'd call it "fast and flat."
It's pretty dead looking in November.  But the sun was shining!  I rode most of the day in a tank top, yall.
So we plinked on around the lake at a pretty good clip.  We'd started at the Overlook staging area, and we worked around the whole reservoir, past the Bear Creek staging area.  The trail was open and wide for the most part, but the last couple miles of Bear Creek Trail are single-track, with a very steep wooded hill on one side and a sheer drop down to the lake on the other.  At 2 pm, we trotted around a corner, just a couple miles from the end of the trail, and came to a sudden halt.  A tree was down, and I mean a whole tree was down completely blocking the trail.  

We'd walked over or through several large limbs on the trail so far, but this was the entire crown of an oak tree, blocking the whole trail.  I looked at that damn tree for about thirty seconds, running through all my options:  Dismount, tie the horse, and try to hack a path through with my Leatherman.  Go back up to Bear Creek staging, cut onto the road, and ride 3-4 miles down the road to Overlook staging. Call for help.  Or just go back the way we came.

We went back.  It wasn't much of a choice, really.  The sun sets about 5 at this time of year, so we had three hours to get 12 miles back to the trailer - more than enough time, even if we walked most of the way.

Dixie will go off-road just fine, but there just wasn't anywhere to take her on that section of trail. It was too steep and wooded on the left, and too steep and lake-y on the right. I haven't driven all of Bear Creek Road, but what I had seen was twisty two-lane road with no shoulder, and that's entirely too dangerous for the situation we were in. Calling anyone for help would've left us standing around til after dark, and leaving her tied or in a cattle pen and hiking to the trailer would've also left her standing around (alone, poor thing) until after dark.  So the best choice was heading back the way we came!

Dixie thought it was all bullshit. It wasn't an endurance ride, because there were no other horses or hay or carrots.  This was clearly all my fault, but she sighed and carried me back the way we'd come.

I was pretty disgusted by the day's turn of events, too, and I quit taking pictures on the way home. Except this one - if you click to embiggen, you can see the Bay between the closer (East Bay) hills and the further-away (North Bay) hills.
The footing was perfect.  I'd booted all around, but really, it's entirely doable barefoot.  It's a low-traffic area, and we only saw one hiker and one coyote all day - just me, my horse, and a billion birds.  I hiked and jogged quite a bit, and at one point I got tired of actually leading my horse, so I just took off without her.

We've been talking about jogging with horses in the Rider Fit Facebook group, and one of the members said that she's jogged with her horse loose behind her.  "Damn," I thought, "I bet Dixie would probably just trail along with me, but it's entirely too busy at our park."  And then two days later I found myself in a deserted park, with fences and gates keeping her from running seriously away from me, and I just did it.  I hooked the reins to the pommel, hollered "ok let's go!" and took off without her.  Dixie trailed along behind me as I slogged up and down the hills, doing about like I expected her to do:  she didn't run off without me, because she's inherently lazy, and she didn't let me run away without her, because she likes me ok.  It was just fine.

(If you're a rider who's trying to get more fit, and you're on Facebook, you should join us.)

I insisted on constant forward motion on the way back.  We walked the steep bits and "trotted" (gaited) everything else, and the miles actually flew by pretty fast.  Neither of us was very excited about our bonus miles, but we got it done and made it back to the trailer at 4:33.

Dixie was like, "thank god, there's food." And, honestly, I was also like, "thank god, there's food." I'd actually bought a powerbar and a gatorade that morning, just on the off chance I'd be slightly peckish after an easy three hour ride. I brought water on the trail, of course, but I'd left the food at the trailer and I was very, very glad to see it that afternoon.
Such a cutie.
We'll do easy walking rides or hikes for the rest of this week, but that's it, we're as ready for Gold Rush as we're going to get.  Sorry about the bonus miles, Miss D.  You're a champion.

Tuesday, November 12, 2013

Gearing back up

So last week I got to pick up Adventure The Trailer from the repair shop.  They welded in a new "stud" and remounted the hi-tie on it - it's quite good work up close.  Yay!  Let's never do that again, Funder!
 And Evelyn, the Tights Lady, made me new tights!  After VC, I'd emailed her to see about getting the silver-stripe tights patched and getting some fleece tights for my next inevitable "and then it started snowing" ride story.

"Oooh!" she said.  "I've got just the pair in mind for you.  They're really crazy, but they'll be perfect for you!"

"Aiight," I said.  After you've spent two years in neon smiley face tights, "really crazy" is no longer a scary term.

They showed up today and they are incredibly comfortable, warm, and really crazy.  

Yellow full-seat.  (I am sparing you the butt pic.)
 Blue stripe on the left.
Purple stripe on the right.
It's gonna look awesome with my blue-and-purple gear!  BRING IT, SNOW, I'M READY NOW!

(Please, please, gods of snow, stop tormenting me now that I have the right gear?)

Anyway, if all goes well and I don't crash the trailer or lame the horse, I'm off to a day or two at Gold Rush Shuffle over Thanksgiving.  If I manage to avoid frostbite and not inexplicably chicken out and quit, I should get Dixie's and my 500 miles there.  Fingers crossed, please!

Monday, November 11, 2013

A flurry of updates 3: trimming thoughts

I've gotten a lot of barefoot trimming questions over the years, and I've been meaning to put up a megapost about trimming for quite a while.  But I'm the queen of Impostor Syndrome - I can't possibly be doing it right, so how can I explain to anyone else how to do it right?

One of the things I'm being forced to work on this year is, uh, owning my accomplishments?  I still feel like a fat, uncoordinated, clumsy nerd.  I'm a redneck who wasted a bunch of money on a pretty horse, and any minute now someone's going to show up, demand that Dixie sidepass on command, and confiscate my equestrian card.  I can't run, I always hurt myself.  I'm not a trimmer, I just bumble along trying not to fuck up Dixie's hooves.

But I have accomplished a lot.  I don't want to act like I'm a BAMF, but I also don't want to act coy and self-deprecating - that's really irritating too.

I got X-rays of Dixie's front feet last week, and you know what?  I'm not ruining her.  They're pretty healthy.  I'm proud of myself!  There's a good deal to argue about if I were out drinking with a bunch of pro trimmers, but in general, these are Good Feet.

Of course I didn't take pictures before the xrays.  I trimmed in mid-October and got the rads at the beginning of November, but here's basically what they look like, inside and out.

Mid-October trim.  The black stuff is glue from the glue-ons at VC, not some weird fungal infection or something.
 Probably the right front.

Early November rads:

I think, from talking to people who have a lot more experience than me, that they're pretty good.  She has a LOT of sole, and a LOT of wall.  Her digital cushion is really nice, especially after her rough start in life.  The outside of the right is a little high.  I can keep wailing away at her toes without worrying about taking too much off.

(You know what else is pretty cool?  That horse is pretty cool.  She just sighed, deeply, and stood patiently on the little blocks like a circus horse.  "You want to do what?  And I just have to stand here?  Ok, fine.")

Anyway, I've put up a page on trimming, and I'm not sure what else I should say.  Go take a look, please, and tell me if there's something else you'd like to see addressed?

Saturday, November 9, 2013

A flurry of updates, part 2: I went back to Memphis

G and I hadn't been home at all since 2009, and that was a two-day pit stop as we moved west.  We hadn't visited our friends in Memphis since 2008!  It was long overdue, but we finally flew home for a week at the end of October.

I took a ~few~ pictures.  There's a little bit of riding in here, but mainly it's vacationing, so skip it if you're only here to absorb my endurance knowledge ;)

So I've been gone from "home" long enough that everything is confusing.  I didn't feel like Oakland was home, and I didn't feel like Memphis / The South was home, and I haven't lived in Reno (my true home) for a year and a half, and I was rootless.

We wandered through the Oakland airport, checking out the consumer electronics stores and burner* kiosks.  Our flight was delayed FIVE HOURS, so we had a lot of time to look at all the goods and services for sale in Oakland.

*You know, pay-as-you-go "burner" cell phones.  You watch Breaking Bad, right?  Don't make me explain it to you.  ;)

Eventually, our plane showed up and we flew to Nashville.  (Much, much cheaper than flying direct to Memphis.)  We deplaned at 11 pm or 2 am or something, I don't know, time zones are confusing. The airport was mostly shut down at that hour but one of the first things I saw was this:

That's a makeup kiosk.  From burner kiosks and vending machines that dispense iPads to MAKEUP KIOSKS.

Anyway, it was very late at night and the rental car people were like "you can have a free upgrade, what would you like?"  G looked speculatively at the SUVs, but I focused on the only appropriate car for one's birthday vacation:  the Ford Mustang.
That's right, I was rollin' in my 5.0 with the ragtop down so my hair could blow.

Except we couldn't roll very fast, because the fascist racist cops of Middle Tennessee were out in full fucking force.  It's just under 200 miles from Nashville to Memphis, and we counted sixteen cop cars. Maybe four of them were state troopers; all the rest were local cops out to harass people.  Only two drivers were pulled over with all their shit strewn all over the side of the road getting bullshit drug-searched, though.

I do love Bucksnort.
Just after Bucksnort, I picked up my very own asshole cop!  My shiny new sports car rental had Colorado plates, so I was driving extra-carefully, but I wasn't surprised when a black SUV with a cop spotlight fell in behind me.  He followed me for a couple miles, running the plates.  Then he got in the left lane and followed me in my blind spot for a couple more miles.

Another cop, in a cruiser, came up behind him and he got behind me.  The other cop passed us and the SUV-cop got back in my blind spot.  I had fucking had it with him, so at the next exit I got off.

I carefully stopped at the sign, signalled, turned down the random road, and found a driveway (at a junkyard) to turn around.  I pulled in, stopped, and waited.  Would you like to speak to me, officer? Why are you still following me?

The cop - who'd exited behind me - drove very slowly over the overpass.  G and I smiled and waved at him.  He turned off on a side road and disappeared, never to be seen again.  I signaled carefully, got back on the interstate, and continued my little road trip.

I really, really hate the local southern militia.  They all need consent decrees.

I'm a law-abiding white woman, no longer poor, accompanied by my white male spouse, so I'm not all that intimated by unmarked cop cars.  But if it was night and I was alone?  I'd have called 911 to tell them that some car on I-40 was fucking stalking me.  If I was poor?  Or brown?  Or traveling with my same-sex partner?  That's a nightmare scenario.


Anyway, look, cotton!  Hadn't seen that in a minute.
We ate a lot of barbecue.

I thought about trying out some other joints, but Central BBQ has never done me wrong.  They might not have the best 'cue in Memphis metro area, but they have consistently excellent product.  We ate there five times in seven days:  the perfect ratio.
So my mom - who has been a painter for like 40+ years - has taken up sculpting.  She's got a lot to learn, but it's all technical stuff - what kind of clay to buy, how to fire it, what does a particular glaze really look like.  She's got the artistic part of sculpture nailed, I think.

Here's some elves.

 More sculpture.  I really liked this one, even though it's a work in progress - Mom hadn't done the arms or head yet, but I just loved the unfinished fluid quality of it.  I tried to convince her to fire it just like that but I think she finished it off.
 One of Dad's bottle trees.
 Dad's barn.  This started life as a pole barn, where the pony we briefly owned lived.  (I was 8, and my parents didn't have a clue about training or keeping a pony, so he moved to another home pretty fast. He lived there til he died at 30+ years.)  Anyway, after its short-lived horsekeeping purpose, it became my Dad's shop.
 I stole this sign from Mary Baldwin College when I was like 16.  Surely the statue of limitations is up and I can post my crime on the internet?
 Dad makes awesome birdhouses.  He sells them at regional craft shows.
 Six foot long shed skin from a king snake that lives on the property.
 The little water garden, between Dad's barn and Dad's new little workshop.

 It's like a suit of armor, but it's made from tin cans and it's mounted on a stake below a bird feeder/house.

I don't even know; my parents' house is strange and wonderful.
 View of the barn from the house.  Yep, that's a Red Wings neon sign that says Funderburks - my dad used to own a clothing store.
 The house from the barn.
 The big water garden has seventeen goldfish and a couple frogs and a ton of plants.
 Hey, I stitched those!
 Paintings by my mom.  Metal tree by unknown; metal horse over mirror by Merri Melde.
 Barn's burnt down / now / I can see the moon.
They're pretty cool, those vintage 60s cool kids.

Mom did a copy of Fishing Boats on the Beach at Saintes-Maries by Van Gogh.  Unfortunately, she really likes it, and I haven't been able to convince her to give it to me yet.  One day she'll get bored with it.
 Most of my ride pics languish in dirty ziplock baggies, but a few of them find nice frames in my parents' house.

I did manage to ride twice - non inconsequential, in a week-long vacation!

James was my partner when I first got into horses - we boarded together and he was the only dude I ever met who wanted to ride as long as I wanted to ride, right up until 2009 when I moved to Nevada and really got into endurance.

James is awesome.  He's 31 years older than me, a Vietnam vet, and a great guy.  I learned all of my basic (and basically cowboy) horse skills from him - he's heavier-handed than I am, but his horses are affectionate toward him, obedient, and broke broke broke. 

The spotted horse on the right is SSB.  She's a couple inches shorter than Dixie and a year younger, but when I'd just bought (and was completely overwhelmed by) Dixie, he'd just bought SSB.  He was working on getting SSB broke as I tried to, you know, mount my horse.  (Getting Dixie broke took me so long, argh.)

Anyway, these days, SSB is as much of a good citizen as Dixie is.  I rode SSB and James rode the black on the right.  The first day, we just went out in a cotton field and hauled ass around the edge of it for two hours.

A couple days later, I made it back and we went out again.  We rode down the road, cut across the highway, and headed back up into the trails we used to ride together, back in 2008.  It was awesome. Very, very cool to ride the same trails, with the same guy, on one of the same horses, five years later. Four hours later, we made it back to the barn - it was James' birthday, and I had more people to see.

Highway 51.  Rode across here, across the field, and back up to the left toward the river.

I promised James that it won't be five more years til I see him again!

I saw more friends and ate more smoked pork products, but we were out of time too soon and away we went.

The makeup kiosk was doing a brisk trade when I made it back to the Nashville airport.
And I think that's the moment when I realized I was in the airport to go home.  Oakland's a fine home. It suits me.  Nobody expects me to wear makeup, but nobody bats an eye at my half-shaved head and big arm tattoo. I can bail out of this stupid 8 million person metro area and go ride the Central Valley for the day, or the Sierras or the Great Basin for a weekend. Oakland's all right with me.

Next post - back to endurance with some in-depth horse stuff.