In what seemed like no time at all after our May Mt. Adams adventures, Kenny and I found ourselves back at travel buddy T’s last Wednesday evening for another endurance undertaking; this time we were Oregon bound with a night LD and maybe more on the agenda. T was bringing Rex, her home raised 6 year old chestnut Morgan gelding and another friend in OR was planning to join us at the ride with her chestnut Morgan gelding, so it was set to be a very entertaining chestnut Morgany good time.
Before we even left the driveway on Thursday morning a tire pressure check by T’s dad revealed that the passenger rear LQ tire was holding 0 PSI–ruh roh! He gave us a refresher on tire changing putting the spare on, with the fabulous ramp we pack that make PITA jacks unnecessary–which was fortunate considering the adventures yet to come! Horses, gear, and ice made their way on board, plus an air-up of the suspect 0 PSI tire, and eventually we were on the road. We had smooth travels for about 200 miles and were making good headway in Oregon when a passing car staring at us caused us to critically re-evaluate mirror contents and I caught sight of the passenger front LQ tire waving at us, totally blown. We didn’t feel or hear a thing, but there it was, so we pulled over on the side of Hwy 97 with semis blowing past us and got to work. We quickly found that the open bottomed tire changing ramp sunk into the deep gravel alongside the road; after not producing a chunk of wood adequate to fashion a bottom and prevent sinking, we settled for scraping the gravel away down to hard pack for both the ramp and to make space for the tire application. The tire now on was the one that had been at 0 that morning, and sure enough it turned out to not be holding air reliably after re-inflation, so we googled our way to the next Pilot station for fuel, Fix a Flat, and air, then made our way another 40 miles to a Les Schwab in La Pine for the one new appropriately sized trailer tire they had to sell us. The geldings hopped out in the busy tire bay with wide eyes but got right to their self care, sucking down water buckets and enjoying the grass and shade out back while the trailer got the first of it’s new shoes for the weekend. Here we committed a fairly significant error, as it would have been entirely logical and our men folk reminded us to get the leaky spare we’d had to put on to get there patched. We didn’t. And it bit us in the bum later!It was evening but still daylight when we pulled into ride camp outside Prineville, directed in with clear signage and impressed by the grass in all directions despite the heat. Ride literature had cautioned that camping would be snug and with attention to keeping our horses to the inside of a fenced area due to wild Mustangs who had caused some trouble at the ride the year before, but we still found accommodations quite roomy compared to California ride camps. The boys couldn’t wait to get their graze on and all walks for the weekend were punctuated with much green consumption. T and I have a solid camp routine down and before long we were all settled in for the night, marveling at the high bright moon and eager to be riding under it the next night. By Friday morning our buddy who had also been inbound Thursday hadn’t appeared. We had last heard she had some sort of brake sticking issue and we were concerned but were also cell service-less and knew she was self sufficient, so we saddled up mid morning and headed out to check out the trails. The footing was immediately very friendly and the boys moved out cheerfully–so cheerfully that while cantering across what I found out later is known to some as Concussion Meadow, I let Kenny choose his path and he veered snappily off to the right with his usual Let’s Do Something My Way attitude ever to hoof. I rolled with it until he was well off track, then began circling him back towards T’s progress–whereupon he hunched his little back and started bucking! Fortunately he wasn’t rodeo quality and is short, so I managed to step off, surprised, still holding the reins which caused him to dramatically zip backwards in a half rear, thrashing his head. I released the reins, he stopped and blinked at me casually. I remounted, swatted him between the ears, and on we went, with nary another issue all weekend. Ponies, man. There were some truly dusty spots on trail but overall they were shady and beautiful with some really fun winding dirt single track and nothing rough to speak of so T and I rode our geldings barefoot with Hoof Armor for the events. Both of our horses train barefoot on rough terrain at home; Hoof Armor provides a protective coating against excessive wear while promoting hoof health with antibacterial qualities, but will not provide cushion for horses accustomed to shoes/boots. The hoof has to be conditioned just like the body, so just like a horse in pasture has some fitness but not a lot, a horse barefoot in pasture has some hoof toughness but not necessarily a lot. It requires time under saddle, barefoot, to get the body and hoof to a level of competition, and it is certainly easier to have tough hooves and use Hoof Armor in dry climates, though HA can be applied with aid of a heat gun if necessary. Not long after we returned from our pre ride we saw people start to rush the boundary fence we had parked near, flags in hand. A ripple of excitement accompanied by WHOOPWHOOPS had us looking hard across the meadow and sure enough, the Mustang stallions were coming! A shiny healthy looking herd of 3 bachelors which caused T and I to tourist out enthusiastically while the locals drove them off most effectively with a quad. Last year one of the stallions had come into ride camp and gotten a corral panel stuck over his neck, freeing a horse and running off into the night with the panel on. He was tracked and the panel removed, but against such potential trouble the ride officials were very diligent on protecting camp all weekend. Our buddy H rolled in to camp after the Mustang show, her brake issue addressed, and Friday afternoon saw us vetted in, numbered, Hoof Armor’ed, and off to a 5 pm ride meeting for a 7 pm start. This was the first time that Bandit Springs held a night LD ride and it was so well received that they have decided to add it to their annual schedule. There were close to 20 riders and we all received glow necklaces to wear, which was really fun and helpful for following buddies later that night!
The first loop of the evening was 10 miles of good fun, mostly stellar forest footing that we moved out on, cruising back into camp around 9:30, where Kenny pulsed and vetted right through and got down to eating. All three of the Morgans took stellar care of themselves throughout the weekend and the vet remarked that our group had some of the loudest gut sounds that she heard.Heading back out for the 15 mile loop it was getting near dark and a huge, stunning moon was rising. Our glow necklaces and my friends’ neon green/yellow tack made for some track-ability and it was an utter adrenaline ride getting that loop done out in the dark! I’ve done some night riding here and there, including a lonely desert wander at 20 Mule team this year, but not enough for it to be anything less than disorienting, exciting, and occasionally seeming like a bad idea. My allergies had been in overdrive since arrival at ride camp and my stomach was decidedly not my friend after dark but I kept forcing down micro amounts of water and food and mostly just enjoyed the heck out of that night loop. We were redirected at one point to take a road back to mutual trail as they didn’t have enough glow sticks for us to safely navigate a meadow crossing, but the redirect was clear and we found our way quite nicely back to trail we recognized from earlier. The final miles back to camp found us whooping in hysterical laughter as the horses trotted UPDOWN through stomach churning whoop de whoops in darker spots of the forest and we vetted out at 12:30 am with happy horses and satisfied humans who also kinda felt like crap. To Bed!! I’d entertained various notions of what I would do after completing the Friday night LD, i.e. ride the next day or ride some distance Sunday. After falling into bed at 1:30 am Saturday and waking feeling pretty rough, Saturday was off the table for sure. We pretty much ate and napped and ate and napped all day, and I tried all my tricks to get rid of the nagging sinus headache that was coupling with that time of the month to make me feel like utter dog crap. Finally around ride meeting time Saturday evening H gave me 600 mg of ibuprofen and in thirty minutes I was reborn. H and T were both planning on the Sunday LD and we had to leave for California after riding; part of me felt that I *should* ride the Sunday 50 since he’s been doing 50s this season, but in the end I decided that what I should do was have fun. After feeling rotten that day and with another hot day forecast the next, I opted for the LD again. It was the same course as the night LD but with the loops reversed, so we knew we could get it done and in fact planned to get it done a little faster, in the name of conditioning and getting on the road as needed. T and I took the boys for a final longer walk Saturday evening but were retrieved by the four wheeler patrol who said the stallions weren’t far away, so we hustled back to camp inside the fenced area under the rising moon.
We got to use the same vet card for both days and vetted in with a trot by Sunday morning, heading out on the loop that had been our dark time excursion Friday. We were pleasantly surprised to find that it wasn’t near as steep or rocky as it had sounded/felt riding it in the dark, and zipped our way through the 15 mile loop efficiently.Vet checks went smoothly for the group and we all scarfed PBnJ’s during the half hour hold before heading out onto the second loop that we knew had even better footing. It was warm and dusty on trail by that point but the water troughs were plentiful, grazing was always available, and our Morgans ate, drank, pooped, and peed their way along to three Top 10 finishes in a field of 19 (Kenny was 5th 🙂 ). It felt like great conditioning to move out at speed more than I would on a 50 and with more sustained trotting than I generally manage training at home and with a vet card full of A’s and pulses lower at the Finishes, I was very happy with Kenny’s efforts–the rest of the gang all rocked it, too! T and I collected our sweet completion/Top 10 awards (a ratchet/screw driver set, vet card neck ditty, and the flask with the ride name on it, in Kenny’s colors!) and had camp broken down in no time; our first stop was Prineville’s Taco Bell where burritos were calling our name and we knew could check in with cell service for the first time in days. And oh boy, was cell service a revelation. My phone immediately blew up with messages as I learned that on Friday afternoon a 5,000 acre fire had broken out less than 5 miles from my house, with my rig left at T’s up north, leaving my husband home alone with one rig, 4 1/4 horses, dogs, cats, pigs, and us the last house outside the mandatory evacuation zone. As I frantically caught up with my Inbox and online I learned that multiple friends had rushed to my husband’s aid with trucks and horse trailers, and he had had all animals loaded and ready to evacuate in 25 minutes. Fortunately the fire had turned from us and he hadn’t had to leave, but he’d done a dry run loading all animals and my tack(!), and good people had been there at his back. The gratitude that I feel towards all who came and checked in can’t entirely be expressed, but I hope that it is understood. Meanwhile, our own rig adventures weren’t done yet! We had made it back to our old friend La Pine when T stated that she could see an LQ tire on the driver side waving at us this time. Not again!! Fortunately we immediately spotted and pulled into a small market with a big parking lot and one tree casting shade, and began our now-familiar tire changing dance. Except remember that we hadn’t fixed that leaking spare on Thursday. And now it was Sunday so everything was closed. With the option of fix-a-flatting and limping air to air on the table, we gave USRider a shot, hoping they would bring us out a tire as other’s had reported they would. After much phone time, T was informed that the only person available was three hours out and would only patch the leaking spare. Unimpressed, we went for the fix a flat and limp air to air method for a few nerve wracking 40 mile increments, but ultimately the tire was holding less and less air, daylight was fading, and faced with a long airless stretch of road we pressed the Adulting Now button in favor of parking in T’s family friend’s driveway for the night and starting over at the tire store Monday morning. The noise of the highway and train couldn’t compete with the annoying clatter that was two Morgans tied next to each other that night, but getting off the road was the right call despite our disturbed sleep! Klamath Falls Les Schwab claimed much of our time and T’s money on Monday but by afternoon we were rolling with a total of 5 tires purchased in as many days, the four on the LQ now a higher rated 14 ply in hopes of not repeating these shenanigans any time soon. Our Morgan passengers were stoically making their way through the endless stops, drinking bucketed water any time it was offered and munching their way through packed hay bags. Our favorite burger stop in Worden just before the California border filled our bellies, water buckets, and fuel tank, and at last we rolled into T’s to collect my truck Monday evening. The gear and horse transfer was as efficient as two exhausted grubby endurance riders can huck things and Kenny and I made it home a little before midnight after encountering some road closures due to the fire. PHEW!
After six days on the road in the heat, 2 barefoot LDs, and a few breakdowns, Kenny was his same old Kenny self back home, trotting snarkily out of pasture in hand for a bath and looking pretty good if I do say so myself! 😀
Up next in our Never Been To/Completed This Ride Before Tour: Chamberlain Creek 50 miler, West Region, September! 😀