Monday, July 22, 2013

2013 Tevis Crew Story

My fourth Tevis Experience is in the bag!  This was my first time Officially Crewing for someone - in previous years I've volunteered with the webcast and just pitched in to crew with my friends unofficially.  This year, I crewed Mel's third attempt - she got her first buckle in 2010, but she was lacking a Cougar Rock picture, so she had to go back.  ;)

In some sort of misguided attempt to convince the indomitable Amanda that endurance is the best horse sport, I dragged her with me again.  We left the house bright and early on Friday morning and headed across the street to the Chevron for ice, beer and gas.  Amanda pumped the gas, I got the ice and beer, and we hopped in the truck to zoom up to Truckee.  I started the truck, hit the gas, turned the wheel hard left and crunched into the concrete pole guarding the gas pump.  Where the fuck did that thing come from!?

I was briefly tempted to wait and see how long it'd take G to notice what I'd done, but I went ahead and put that shit on Facebook immediately.  :golf clap:

It didn't crunch the gas filler-upper area, and it didn't bend anything bad enough to make irritating noises at high speeds, so I'm probably just going to call it a battle scar and leave it alone.  At least it's not as bad as the time I shot my truck...

We headed up to Robie Park and found our team around noon.  Our crew-mates were Mel's sister Loreleigh and brother Tristan, with trailer transport provided by boyfriend Matt.  They'd all been through this rodeo before, and I'd go through that rodeo again with them.

We spent the afternoon going through Team Farmel's "paperwork" - entering, vetting, checking tack and stuff, and fiddling with boots.  I found some of my usual friends - ~C was taking pictures for the webcast, ATG was selling tack, Lucy and Ashley were crewing for Kaity and her half-Arab half-Appy Kody.

American Trail Gear
 Vetting in.
 Isn't Kody beautiful?

Then it was time to bail and get back to civilization.  C and I have a tradition (can you call it a tradition after three years?) of drinking lots of margaritas eating at a tex-mex place in Truckee the night before the ride.  There were five of us this year and we had a great time, even getting to sing Happy Birthday to C's awesome kiddo on his 11th birthday.  We got a room in a historic inn for the night and turned in.

Kind of.  The hotel was no-for-reals historic, right on the main street by the train tracks, and they run a lot of freight up that railroad at night.  And there was no AC.  And it was still 80 or so when we crashed, so of course we had to leave the windows open or suffocate.  I grew up a hundred yards from a railroad, so I slept like a baby, but the others said they woke up every ten minutes when another train roared through town.

We were up and at 'em at 5.  The webcast team headed off to the Highway 89 crossing, and Amanda and I went back to 267 and I-80 to wait for the rest of the team.  Matt was moving the trailer to the fairgrounds, and he stopped and dropped off all most of the gear and Tristan and Loreleigh.  We zipped down to Robinson Flat, just over 100 miles by vehicle, in a couple of hours.

I may have roared past a state trooper at 80 mph and only gotten away with it because the dude behind me was going 85.  As one does.

We schlepped the necessary gear up from the parking area to the actual check and got set up with an hour to spare.  We did a terrible job of taking pictures of each other, but I found this one on Facebook.  Look, I really was at Robinson.

Mel came in right on schedule and we took care of business.  Farley pulsed down fast and vetted through looking good.  The vet thought maybe he saw something on the trot-out, but we figured it out pretty fast - she'd managed to mangle a boot at some point and she was standing partially on the side of it.  Swapped that one out, swapped out the necessary gear, got the rider back on the horse and got them gone again.  

We headed down to Foresthill to settle in for the long wait.  It was pretty hot by then and we didn't like each other very much, so we set up the easy-up for shade and split up for a couple hours.  Since we only had the truck and no trailer, we got a nice spot in the trees along Bath Road.

I threw my sleeping bag down in the shade and settled in for a nap.  But I was rapidly reminded of why I don't like camping - ants were wandering over me.  I decamped to the back seat of the truck, which was only like 10 degrees hotter than outside, but it was somewhere between 95 and 110F outside so I just lay in the truck sweating.  Maybe I passed out or maybe time just rolled by. Eventually I gave up and wandered over to get food.

Previous years I've been at Foresthill, there's been a dude selling hamburgers.  This year they had a new food vendor with a huge crew of fantastic cooks.  For $10 I got pork tips, rice, veggies, potato salad, watermelon, and lemonade!  They also had hamburgers, hot dogs, green salad, lemon chicken, garlic bread, cobbler, and chips - it was A+ food.  

My nap spot, prior to the arrival of the ants.

I didn't take any more pictures at Foresthill.  Just look at last year's Tevis and substitute your favorite riders for the ones in those pictures.  ;)  

At 5, the sun was headed down and the heat was slightly less oppressive.  We all felt more charitable toward each other by that point so we drove up to Michigan Bluff/Chicken Hawk to see what there was to see.  I knew we couldn't drive in to either check, but I was hoping I'd get to see Michigan Bluff. The road was closed with cones so we went a little further and found a creepy cult.  

We drove up to this gate at the end of the road and said, "If we go in there they are going to capture us and brainwash us."  I backed down the road to a gravel turnoff and got turned around and we fled.  

Yeah, that's not spooky at all.
Wikipedia backs us up on this one, yall.  Creepy cult retreat center.  

Mel came rolling in right on time, at 7:30 or so.  I was expecting her to be pitifully whiny, but instead she was ragingly angry, which I took as a good sign!  She'd been eating and drinking and electrolying herself, and it showed.  She slithered off Farley (who looked great) and announced that she hated everyone and was never doing endurance again.  I was like, "yes dear, let's walk over and vet Farley and you can tell me all about it."  She begged the vet to pull Farley while I trotted the mare out, but alas, the vet told her she had to go on.  

We offered her hot food, expecting her to puke on us for asking, but instead she said she wanted some. Amanda got her a plate of pork tips and rice while she changed, and she fell upon it like a starving wolf.  We all sort of blinked and looked at each other, like "where'd nauseous, crying, headachey Mel go?"  Mel wanted a different saddle, but there was no string girth for the Aussie, so we put the Wintec back on and re-equipped it.  Farley ate for a while, took a power nap, and had one more snack of an entire baby watermelon.  Mel announced that she might possibly continue if we gave her Vicodin.  I said I'd give her Vicodin and beer at No Hands Bridge if she'd just get back on the horse and go.  We got Mel's headlamp and glowsticks taped down, snapped the glowsticks, shoved the rider back on, and got them out two minutes after their hold was up, at 8:48.  Victory!

I found ~C and checked my hazy memory of how to walk to No Hands, then helped finish flinging crap in the truck and we were away again.  We got stuck in the usual traffic jam headed down to Auburn, but honestly, it's one of my favorite parts of Tevis.  Seeing all these people, coming from all over the country to drive hundreds of miles for their riders is just breathtaking to me.  There's so much love that goes into this ride - the riders are insane, yes, but they love the trail.  The crews love the trail and their riders enough to caravan around the Sierras all day and all night.  And the volunteers are the best of all.  It's a whole community of people who work hundreds of hours behind the scenes, getting the trail in shape, getting all those checks set up and manned and broken down - it takes my breath away, every single year.  

Of course we went to In-n-Out.  

Of course it was amazing.

Then we found the trailer, moved some crap around, found Farley's stall, and got set up for their arrival.  None of this was particularly easy, since none of us had stopped at the Fairgrounds on the way up and I had only the vaguest memories of where things are, but we got it done.  I set an alarm for 2:15 and Amanda and I settled in for a nap in the truck about midnight.  

I didn't fall asleep, just lay quietly with my eyes closed.  Eventually it was time to go, but I got lost getting out of the fairgrounds, then I got stuck in an epic construction traffic jam on the way to the overlook.  Somehow I got out of my truck and there was a woman showing me a cool red and white color-morph of a cottonmouth snake.  I was like, that's cool and all lady, but I gotta go.  She came chasing after me insisting that I touch the damn snake and I did, and it didn't even feel like a cottonmouth because its scales were smooth, not keeled like a real cottonmouth, and oh duh Funder, this is a dream.  Thank god my alarm went off because who the hell knows what would've happened next.  

I sat up gasping and groggy.  Loreleigh had walked over to go to No Hands with us and Amanda was sitting up looking really confused.  I turned off my phone alarm and I had a text from C - Mel was pulled lame at Franciscos.  Fuck!  

We wandered around the fairgrounds for a while, trying to figure out where she'd appear when they transported her back.  Sherri from American Trail Gear was out walking Roadie one last time and she dragged me into their Winnebago for an icy shot of fireball whiskey.  We talked for fifteen minutes or so and I left so Diana could get some sleep, and Mel and Farley appeared.  

Farley didn't look like she had a tendon injury - nothing was puffing up or really hot.  We started icing both her front legs, in case.  I got bored and headed over to the finish line, where I got to see Kaity and Kody finish - goooo Kody!  I headed back up to Farley's stall, laid down on a bale of hay with a hoodie wadded up under my head and a sleeping bag draped over me, and had a pretty epic power-nap.  

When I woke up, a rider who shall remain nameless snapped at me within ten seconds of my eyes opening, so I went off to my truck to sulk and unload.  I got my good nature back eventually and drove back around to the barns for an extended farewell.  

Mel allowed as to how maybe she doesn't entirely hate endurance, and perhaps as soon as next week she'll love it again.  (This is entirely normal for the day after a ride.)  Farley looked very good.  She's still off at the walk and trot, but it looks like maybe it's higher up in her leg, like she strained a muscle above the knee - much, much better than a tendon injury.  I finally got to meet Irish Horse - she got to sweep way up high, from the start to Red Star, so she had a hella long day Saturday too.  

Then Amanda and I left.  Without picking up my fleece stirrup leather covers from ATG, again - I forgot to pick them up at Renegade, so we said we'd meet up at Tevis, and damn if I didn't forget them yet again.  They'll have to mail them to me!  

We had a quick and pleasant trip back to the temperate Bay Area.  

Hahahaha, I am a funny, funny woman.  Actually, we had an excruciatingly slow trip through the hell-like Central Valley into the bullshit congestion and ridiculous fog of Oakland.  At one point it took me 30 minutes to go two miles.

But!  I didn't run into anything on the way home and we eventually made it!  I had the most epic shower in the world and spent all day napping on the couch.  Graham said every two hours I'd sit up in a panic, look around for a few seconds, and collapse again.  I begged him to order food before I passed out, so there was Vietnamese bun waiting when I woke up at 8, and then I went back to sleep in my own bed at 9.  

If you're curious, it's about 250 miles if you're crewing, from the Auburn Fairgrounds to Robie to Robinson back to the Fairgrounds.  I did 509 miles door to door.  

I can't wait to go back next year.  Maybe I'll even ride?  And even bigger maybe I'll finish?  Either way, riding or crewing, I'll see you next year, Tevis.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

2013 Renegade Rendezvous: volunteer story

Renegade Rendezvous Volunteer Story
What I Did On My Summer Vacation
by Funder

So a couple months ago I was talking to Aarene and she was like "come to Renegade!  It'll be fun!"  I thought it over and decided to go.  I knew I didn't want to haul Dixie that far, or even drive that far, but we have a lot of Southwest miles, so I could fly for free.  I booked a flight to Seattle and a rental and got on with all my other rides.

Thursday I headed over to the Oakland airport and flew out for Seattle.  I didn't want to check a bag, so I just crammed some stuff in a messenger bag and planned to borrow whatever else I needed.  An adventure!

I theoretically rented an SUV, but it was just a jacked-up station wagon.  Oh well.  Since I wasn't towing anything, I could take the scenic route to the ride.  I picked up 410 and drove into the mountains
and stopped at a "scenic" overlook to take pics of the rain.

I think you're supposed to be able to see a view from here.

 It was very pretty.  I took a random selfie too.
 Eventually I got through the mountains to the eastern side... kinda.

Weather in the western half of North America is really simple, compared to weather in the mid-south.  Everything comes from the Pacific, hits a range of mountains somewhere, and dumps a ton of rain or snow.  The eastern side of the mountains is always more arid, and the weather systems keep moving and gathering up more moisture to dump on the next range of mountains.  Renegade is held just outside of Naches, WA, on the eastern side of the Cascades, but it's still pretty wet, as you will see.

 I found a Dragon!  This is Fiddle.
 And here's Hana, Fiddle's soulmate and only friend in the world.
Camp was huge, in a beautiful meadow surrounded on three sides by rolling forested hills.  I slept on a cot in that trailer on the right side of the pic.

I am really starting to loathe AT&T.  I've had the same carrier and number for almost fifteen years, so it's kind of the devil I know, but their coverage outside of western metropolises SUCKS.  I lost service when I left Kent and didn't get it again til Naches (which I persist in pronouncing "Nachez" instead of "nachos" or whatever the hell those people are saying).  People with Verizon had at least a few bars of crappy service at camp and on the trails.  I am tempted to buy out my contract and switch carriers, because I can't go anywhere and get service.  

Friday morning I drove into Naches for some time with my precious iPhone and hot wheat-free breakfast options and I found this creepster.
Do not be afraid.  If you're in Naches, find this dude and eat at his restaurant.  Just don't let him touch you inappropriately.  It's a truck stop/diner on the south side of the road, and it's great - except it doesn't have showers.   
I also found the dry side I'd been expecting.  Crazy basalt hills covered in cheatgrass and sagebrush.  Ahhh, love you, medium-high medium-desert.

I headed back to camp to ride a horse.  I still had some time to kill so I took a nap face-down in the backseat of the little station wagon I'd rented.  Aarene was appalled that I was sleeping in the heat, but it's sort of familiar and comforting to me.  I've lived in so many situations where I didn't have air conditioning, or where I didn't want to turn on the horrid noisy window unit, and when you're hot as hell there's not much to do but nap.  I had really vivid and weird dreams about the ride meeting (which made the real ride meeting a couple hours later kind of surreal).

I don't know how hard I should try to protect people's privacy, so I will default to initials.  Most of my interactions were with Aarene's Usual Suspects, so if you read her blog you know them already!  Anyway, S had been tasked with making sure one of the loops was properly marked, so she was headed out on one of the RM's horses to re-ribbon the trail, and I got to go with her on another of the horses.  S got the big hot Arab and I got the Spotted Couch - a black and white paint built like a sofa.  She tried to bite me when I went to get on, so I went all Al Pacino cussing on her and after that we got along great.  (I love mares.)

Sadly, we only made it out a mile or so before we had to turn around.  The Spotted Couch had managed to truss herself up on her high-line earlier that week and she had some rope burn on her back leg, and we knew she was iffy.  We climbed for maybe half a mile, and at the first little downhill stretch she took two really bad steps in a row and I hopped off.  I checked her feet, but she didn't have a rock in her shoe, so we were done.  S hopped off too and we jogged them back to camp.

S saddled up her beautiful Ariana and headed out to check the trail and I helped pack the Usual Suspect gear bags.  Only three of them were riding:  S on Ariana, D on Hana, and M on a friend's Arab.  They were all in the 25, as was C on Farah.

Aarene wasn't riding due to a chronic hip thing being very unhappy, but she popped me up on Fiddle and let me check out one of the loops.  That was probably the highlight of my trip - Fiddle is awesome! She's like Dixie, except even more wicked at heart, and I got along great with her.

When I was up, she took off at a trot to see if perhaps I was faint of heart.  I said yeehah, more! and she dropped to a walk.  I asked her to trot again and she thrashed her head and kicked with her back legs, so I asked her to walk a few strides then asked for a trot again.  Same thing, so we walked another few steps and I asked again.  She thrashed her head and said ugh, fine, you win and away we went.  I didn't ask for anything close to the Big Trot, just a slow jog for Fee, but it was super fun.  We went up and down a switchbacked gravel road, then Aarene pointed me onto a blue trail that went the long way back to camp and I ambled on in.  Fiddle tried to convince me that a stump would eat her, and she tried really hard to convince me we should cut off the trail and go straight to camp, but I paid her no mind and she did great.

Saturday, I slept through the start for the 50s (and the one 75) cause I was on vacation, dammit.  But I did get up and take some pics of the LD start, which went quite smoothly.  People knew where they wanted to be and started appropriately - a few exactly on time, a group a few minutes later, and the rest of the field trickled out over the next ten minutes or so.

Warming up.
 Ariana and Hana, with their derpy humans :)
Farah looking great!

We all piled in the beige station wagon and headed up to the out check.  I found C when she came in on Farah and hung out with her for her hold, then found M and B and hung out with them, then saw S and D back on their horses and out.  We headed back down to camp and I went back to Naches cause I really like checking my email.  

My friend was still there.  You think he's creepy?  You haven't seen anything...
On the way back I got a picture of the pedophile boat, Pedo Rabbit.  Eeeeek!
When I got back it was raining so I sat in my car.  I am not a soggy swamplander and I try not to get wet if I can help it.  Turns out I was merely postponing getting wet!
Eventually the rain stopped and I got back to the serious business of holding down a chair and waiting for "my" riders.  C finished second - read her blog!  GOOO FARAH!  and I talked to her and her husband for a long time.  D came in 10th, but got pulled at the finish for lameness - Hana had gotten kicked earlier that week, so maybe she was nursing a pulled muscle?  S and M were still out there. Eventually S came in overtime, in a lot of pain - she'd been remounting on the trail and Ariana took off and S fell flat on her back, poor thing.  M was still out there on Khema and we were starting to get really concerned.  The rescue trailer had gone looking for her, but they hadn't found her on the road where they looked.

As it turns out, bad things were happening.  

I can only tell my part of the story.  I don't know any more details or anything about the timeline of events, just what I saw.  I was chilling at the finish line when a 50 rider came in hollering that there was an injured horse up the trail that needed a vet.  I was afraid it was M, and I figured if nothing else I could hold the horse or help out somehow, so I went jogging off with a ride vet down the road.  We scrambled up a really steep trail, halfway up a hill, and found M with Khema.  She'd been riding very conservatively all day, but Khema had slipped and done a Bambi-on-ice and when she stood back up she couldn't walk.  The mare was three-legged lame and trembling with pain, and M had already pulled her tack and was standing with her.  Somehow I ended up holding the lead rope as more people came and went.  

One of those ham radio dudes appeared with a bag full of emergency supplies, and the vet gave Khema some banamine and Ace.  D's husband appeared and went looking for an easier trail to get the mare down.  She was totally non-weight-bearing and refused to even try to move, and there was absolutely no way to get her down the trail we'd come up.  The mare's owner appeared from another direction - she'd been out hiking looking for M.  The treatment vet showed up, examined Khema, and wrapped her legs.  He gave her another painkiller but she still couldn't walk, so they splinted her leg with a couple of sticks and extra polo wraps.  

I just petted the mare and offered her grass and promised her we wouldn't leave her to be eaten by wolves.  

It started to rain so I turned off my phone and gave it to Santa Jim to stash inside his backpack.  It rained a lot.  

The splint and extra drugs worked well enough to get Khema limping, and the other rescuers had found an easier, but longer, trail down to the road.  The owner had gotten her trailer down the road and turned around, and she was back up with her horse and we were ready to move.  I pulled and begged, and M and the owner pushed/supported her hindquarters, and we slowly limped Khema off the mountain.  

When we got to the trailer, we had no fucking idea how we'd get her loaded on it.  We were debating between trying to park it in a ditch versus all of us trying to pick the horse up when she made a heroic leap and loaded herself.  I was so incredibly impressed by her heart and willingness and spirit.  

Everybody piled into the trucks and we went back to camp.  It was still raining, and I was about as wet as I could possibly be, so I rode in the back of the RM's truck.  Wheee, I do love riding in the back of a truck!  My inner redneck is never hidden very well.  

Back at camp, the vet and humans were working on Khema to get her stabilized enough to travel - gave her IV fluids, that kind of thing.  I went with M and helped pack up their camp, and eventually she and the owner headed out with both horses.  

I peeled off my wet shoes and socks and dried my feet for a while in the trailer I was camped in, and the Usual Suspects trickled in and sat with me til dinner.  Eventually we decided we were as dry as we'd get and we headed back up to the RM compound.  Dinner was a huge spread, potluck with grilled salmon and BBQ boneless ribs, and let me tell you, that was the best barbecue I've had since I left Memphis.  The rib tips had a smoke ring that went almost the whole way through and they were just deliciously rubbed and sauced and I ate a truly embarrassing amount of them.  

During dinner we found out that Khema had a broken leg and she'd been put down.  I cried, talked to people, cried, drank vodka and coconut rum, and headed back to cheer for the winners and finishers.  Farah got a well-deserved BC on the LD, woohoo!  Fiddle's half-brother completed the LD, and I think a TWH finished too, but I'm not sure.  

I'm still crying about Khema, but overall, that was an excellent ride.  The parts of the trail I saw were incredibly well marked, with plenty of lime and a truly absurd number of ribbons - I was never out of sight of a ribbon.  The FS roads were, you know, gravel roads, not much to say about them.  But the singletrack was the product of years of hard trailmaster-class work - nicely banked and designed. There were ham radio people at the away check and at some water tanks along the roads, checking numbers.  No trail map, but if I had GPS tracks of the ride I'd ride it.  

The next morning, I helped pack up all the soggy tents and said my goodbyes to everyone.  They were awesome, and I can't wait to go back - maybe next year?  I headed down the road into Yakima around noon.  

I saw more weird stuff
and awesome Welcome signs.
 I was headed north, to Ellensburg to crash at Evensong's ranch, so I took a windy canyon road along the Yakima River.
 It was pretty hot, in the 90s, and the river was full of people floating down it having fun.  Jealous!
Ellensburg is a wonderful little town.  In the South, most of the small towns are either slowly dying or exploding in unsustainable bedroom-community growth, so it's always really heartwarming for me to see a small town that's clicking along happily.  Their downtown was mostly occupied with a nice mix of businesses.
I'd bought more trail gear from American Trail Gear, and my wet dirty clothes had expanded, so I needed a bag to check.  I found a thrift shop (poppin' tags!) and bought a small wheely bag for $4.50, then headed down to a park on the Yakima and read my Kindle for an hour.  Then I went back into town and met up with L and headed out to her place.

Ellensburg grows stuff, mostly hay but some rotational crops too.  It's a big valley, only a couple thousand feet of elevation.  It looks, to me, like Fallon would look if Nevada got more rain.  Everything's irrigated and green, and the low hills around the valley are dry sage and cheatgrass.  I immediately wanted to borrow a horse and ride to the top of one of the hills, but I was almost out of time.  (I know, you're like will this post ever end? Yes, it's almost over!)
I met Kate and Maddie!  They are sweet girls, short but stocky, and they're even prettier in person than on the blog.  RT is adorable and Misty is super sweet.  All the horses looked great and Evensong's property is first-class.
After a much-needed shower and dinner, I was done for.  I crashed early and slept in the pop-up camper, with a lovely view out of the window.  I fell asleep listening to the girls eat their hay and the coyotes singing.
Just another valley shot, plus I'm in awe of Evensong's fencing ability.  Those are some nice fences she's built.

And then, finally, it was time to drive back to Seattle and fly home.  Look, mountains!  The Snoqualmie Pass is pretty low, only 3k feet, but it's got some pretty views.  
I stopped in Renton to fill up the rental and get more iced coffee, then headed to Seatac and came home.  Everyone in Seattle was disturbingly pale, and they were all gasping for breath and sweating profusely in the high 80s heat wave.  In Oakland, it was also in the 80s, but we are of sturdier stock down here in the south.  ;)

I got a cab home (life is more interesting with BART on strike) and settled in on my balcony with a well-deserved beer.