How NOT to Prepare For an Endurance Event

Some people should not be allowed out of their yard.

I’m considering buying myself one of those electronic shock collars that buzzes me every time I set foot out of my yard. I can take it off for responsible trips, like going to the grocery store, or the DMV. For everything else, when I start approaching the perimeter, I will be able to hear a series of warning beeps, and then finally an electric shock will be administered that warns me to stay home, because I am not nearly organized enough to ever safely leave the house.

I went to Renegade Rendezvous this past weekend.  It was awesome.

The week before I left, the ever helpful Aarene from Haiku Farm sent me some wonderful driving directions. They were perfect – detailed, with landmarks and a thorough explanation of how to get there.  She deliberately gave me directions that would take me through The Gorge (something I haven’t seen yet), gave me specific street names, and even told me where to stop and buy fruit.

“This is great!” I said, scanning it quickly.

“What’s great?” asked the Bean.

“The directions Aarene gave me to the endurance ride – they’re really detailed.”  Well, they looked really detailed.  I mean, the directions had lots and lots of words, so they had to be detailed, right?  I didn’t have to read them thoroughly yet.  I could do it later.

“Hey, what are you going to sleep in while you’re there?” asked the Bean practically…. and pointedly. We definitely didn’t have money in the budget for a new tent, and the only tent we have is one that we’ve only used once, and for good reason.  It was a very well-intentioned Christmas gift from my mom, who is as un-detail oriented as me.

Tent for two?  Yes.

On sale?  Yes.

“Children’s Tent!” written in bold, yellow letters on the bottom of the box?  Unfortunately yes.  Our one camping experience sleeping in it was not exactly comfortable.  Oh well.  It’s the thought that counts, right?

“Oh, uh, I’ve got it handled,” I said breezily, giving him my “I’m a mature person, don’t question my mature decisions” look.

“Okay,” the Bean said dubiously, heading off to the living room to watch the evening news. Discreetly, I grabbed my laptop and quickly googling “Tents for Rent” in the Portland area.  Before I got very far I got lucky when the insanely-sweet Jamethiel graciously offered to let me borrow her tent.

DOUBLY AWESOME. I actually did have this handled.

With the sleeping situation handled, I immediately set off to start packing, like the  mature, responsible person that I am.

Ha. Ha, ha, ha. I amuse myself sometimes.

I didn’t pack a single item until TWO HOURS after I said I was going to leave town. Hey, at least I can say I’m consistent, if nothing else. The other problem I had with packing is that, well, I wasn’t really sure what I needed to pack.

Tent? Check. Sleeping bag? Check. Pad for underneath the sleeping bag? Check.

Food? Uh…. What kind of food?   Pursing my lips I thought about it… then shrugged my shoulders. I’d figure that out later. I’d just pick up some food at a grocery store near the campsite.

The next step was clothes. Jeans, shirts, socks, and unmentionables. How hard could that be?

Well, it would have been simple, if a very stupid and very selfish mouse hadn’t CRAWLED INTO MY CLOSET AND DIED RIGHT ON TOP OF EVERYTHING I WAS GOING TO BRING WITH ME.

Our closet is weirdly shaped, and the shelves I keep my shirts are hidden at the back of a deep recess.  As  I reached my hand and pulled out a shirt, I noticed it smelled funny. Lifting it up to my nose, I inhaled deeply.  

What on earth? I could swear that was the “dead mouse” smell. I remembered that smell – I’ve been around horses and tack rooms too long to not know exactly what that smell was… Except that was impossible. This was my closet, in my bedroom, and we didn’t have any mice.  Maybe I was wrong?

I pulled out two more items of clothing, held them to my nose, and breathed deeply. Hmm. The scent was faint.  Maybe I was just imagining it?  Maybe the closet was just moldy? I pulled out one of the shirts that was coming with me to ride camp, and noticed a small splotch on it. Pressing my nose firmly against that small splotch, I breathed in deep. Yup. There was that scent again—what WAS it? My brain kept telling me it was “dead mouse”, but that couldn’t possibly be right. Trying to figure it out, I sniffed it again. And again.

I sat there for a better part of a minute, burying my nose in dead mouse scent, smearing my face back and forth against the stain created by whatever gooey things dripped out of it as the little rodent as it died, inhaling big lungfuls of the delicate aroma of rotting things.

I was not a happy camper when I emptied out my closet and found its disgusting little body. I swear I can still feel the scent clogging my nostrils.

Anyone want a kiss?

Free kiss from Becky! Come press your face against the girl who rubs dead mouse guts on her face!

Anyone?

What… no takers?

With most of my clothes smelling of little bitty mouse death and no time to do laundry, I did what any self respecting person would do: I stole clothes from my husband’s closet.

Hi, Bean! Thanks for the use of your shirts!

Tent, sleeping bags, clothes, boots, jacket, a can opener (I learned this one the hard way), and a loaf of gluten free bread.

Man, I was READY. Impressively ready.

I put the finishing touches on a color-coded meal chart I had created to help the Bean feed the boys over the next few days, complete with helpful hints about their napping schedule and how to get the Squidgelet to actually eat his food….. and then closed my computer without actually sending it.

Sorry, Bean.

I also accidentally packed both can openers.

Doubly sorry, Bean.

After one last quick stop at my local library for an audio book I was on my way, only five hours past the time I said I would originally depart. Woot! A new record!

The directions Aarene sent me had me going through Portland, but since I actually live in a small suburb outside of Portland, I checked my map and – hey! There was a route that would knock at least thirty minutes off the drive time! I used my phone to take a quick glance at Aarene’s directions again, and then logged out, figuring I could just write them down when I stopped for groceries.

Feeling smug about my new route, I crossed over the bridge into Washington, found the 5 freeway, and started driving. I figured I could stop at a city about an hour away from my destination, grab a few groceries, write down the last few instructions, and be on my way.

I mean, it was a three and a half hour drive. There would be several cities on the way there, right? I didn’t need a big city – just a town with a two or three large grocery stores to choose from. There should be tons of those along the way.

Ha. Ha, ha, ha. Come on, native Pacific Northwesterners….. you can all laugh at me and my city-dweller naivete.

Southern California idiocy aside, the drive itself was gorgeous.

I’m not sure I’ll ever get accustomed to all the green here.  It’s beautiful, but don’t the trees look a little creepy?  You may have carved a path through us with this highway, but we’ll get even.  Just you wait.  We’re patient… we’re trees, after all.   Don’t mind us…we’re just going to lean in and hover ominously.

There were a lot of neat little rock faces like this – most of them had chain-link fencing on them with an ominous, single-syllable sign saying “ROCKS”.  I’m sure the fence and the sign was supposed to make me feel safe as well as alert, but to be honest, it just made me nervous.  The tiny mesh chain link on the sheer cliffs looked kind of like a frayed, tiny rope on an angry bull elephant – you know it’s not really going to do any good if anything bad goes down, and somehow it just makes it spookier.

As far as I could tell, this biker was about 512,000 miles from the nearest town. I wanted to roll down my window and holler “Are you CRAZY?“, but his calf muscles were so big I was scared that he might actually be able to pedal and catch up with my car even if I floored it.
I took most of these photos through the windshield of my car.  This is not a photography blog.  If this were, you would look at the picture above and go “Oooh!  Aaaaah!  So beautiful!  So spacious!  How magnificent!”  All I can say is that the mountain range in the distance is REALLY far away, and that’s a LOT of empty, pretty land.  Just use your imagination, okay?  Pretend it looks kind of Lord of the Ring-ish.  Can you “see” it now?  Isn’t it pretty?

That’s Mount Rainier in the background of the picture.  I am kicking myself for not stopping at the lookout point and taking a picture on the way up – it really did look like something out of a movie.  I was planning on taking a picture on my way back,  but because I’m still new to this whole cloud cover thing and I took the brilliant blue skies for granted.  Unfortunately, it was shrouded in clouds on my way home.
Here, here’s a picture of Caradhras from Lord of the Rings. Just pretend that’s Mt. Rainier in the background, and that instead of The Nine, it’s me in a Honda Civic.  It pretty much looked just like that.  Wasn’t it gorgeous?

This lake  (Rimrock Lake) went on FOREVER… or for six miles, according to Wikipedia. That’s a lot of water.

About an hour and a half into my drive, I started to get nervous. I’d been driving up Highway 12 for quite awhile…. And it was still looking decidedly, uh, rural. Like, REALLY rural….The kind of rural where all you have for company are trees, and maybe some rocks and a few cute little mice who haven’t selfishly died in your closet all over your clean clothes. I hadn’t seen a single Albertson’s , or Safeway, or even one of those really cool Fred Meyer stores that I’ve fallen in love with since moving up here.

If you want to pause and take a moment to laugh at me again, I understand.

Luckily, when I slowed down to drive through a small “town” (composed of two cars and a house off the side of the road), I caught a glimpse of something down a quiet little back road.

Hallelujah! A market! People in Washington DID eat!

I pulled into the parking lot, ducking my head to ignore the “Who the heck are you?” stares from the locals in the parking lot. I grabbed a basket and headed down a small aisle. I threw in a couple of cans of Dinty Moore, a can of corn chowder, some peanut butter and jelly, a couple of bananas, and some Vienna Sausage into the basket. It wasn’t nutritious, but at least it would keep me fed. Grabbing a flat of water, I headed to the front counter…. 

Where the lady rang me up for almost $40.

I tried not to whimper too loudly.

As she bagged my groceries she gave me a wide smile.  “Hey, for spending so much, you get a free two liter bottle of Pepsi product!”

Lugging my “free” bottle of Dr Pepper and small bag of canned goods out to my car, I threw it in the trunk and started down the road again.

About twenty minutes later, I realized I’d forgotten coffee creamer.

CRAP.

Thankfully, I hit another tiny, out of the way, oh-mi-gawd-these-prices-hurt-my-teeth store and grabbed some vanilla creamer before heading back down the highway.

About thirty minutes later I realized I’d forgotten coffee.

CRAP.

I found another tiny little store and walked in, but they wanted $9 for a small can of Folgers coffee. I looked at the bigger can, thinking maybe they’d drop the price for the economy size, but it was almost $16. I just couldn’t bring myself to do it. Surely…surely someone in camp would have some coffee I could borrow. Since I felt kind of conspicuous about putting the coffee back after I looked the price and I didn’t want to walk out the door empty-handed, I picked up some firewood.  If you’re going to get firewood you might as well get some lighter fluid, since you never know how damp it’s going to be once you get there.  Hunching my shoulders as the cashier gave me my total, I miserably handed over my credit card again.

I had promised The Bean I’d spend less than $40 on supplies. “It’ll probably be closer to $20…maybe even under $20,” I’d assured him.

Triply sorry, Bean.

And seriously, how do people in rural Washington afford to eat?

As I dropped down out of the National Forest, I came down into some of the prettiest landscapes I’d seen so far.  Maybe it’s all my years of living in a relatively dry area, but there was something about the mountains in the hills above Yakima that really stirred my soul.

As I got closer to my destination, I realized I’d learned two things during this drive:
  1. Drivers in Washington have a bigger “space” bubble than I am used to.  Whenever I settled in behind a driver, setting cruise control so I could follow along at what I considered a safe distance, the driver would pull over so I could pass them.  It was terribly polite of them, but I actually didn’t want to pass them – I figured I could use them to flush out deer and gauge the speed of the curves ahead of me.  I lived in the mountains for a couple of years when I was in my early 20s, and provided you didn’t have two or three cars lined up behind you, “caravaning” was considered a safe way to travel roads you were unaccustomed to.  My Californian “polite distance” I was giving them was consistently misinterpreted as a “get the hell out of my way” distance.  It took several cars before I figured it out.
  2. LOOK AT THE FREAKING MAP AND WRITE DOWN YOUR DIRECTIONS BEFORE YOU GET IN THE CAR AND START DRIVING.  At the very least, read through the directions completely.

As I got close to my destination, I realized I didn’t really have any idea where I was going.  I hadn’t had any cell reception for over three hours, and I didn’t want to have to drive all the way to Yakima just to backtrack.  Maybe I could just wing it?  I knew I was going to hit an intersection…. was I supposed to take a left?  Maybe a right?  After that wasn’t I supposed to turn down a road…. was it FS 1400?  FS 1600?  Was it on the left?  Maybe?

I don’t know what I would have done if I hadn’t gotten really lucky and found a tiny little store five minutes before it closed.  Armed with slightly better directions (“I think you head down this road for about five or ten minutes?”) I actually made it to the meadow.  Since it was empty except for Aarene’s rig and one other trailer, and I wasn’t exactly sure where I was supposed to set up camp, I headed over to the other rider to say hi and ask for advice.

And thus I met The Dude.

His horse was very sweet, and The Dude did let me know that I could put my tent wherever I wanted.

Interestingly enough, within five minutes of talking to him I knew exactly who he was, even without any references to winning the Tevis cup.

And that’s all I have to say about that.

Thankfully, about fifteen minutes later Aarene returned to camp and showed me the space she had saved for me and I set up camp.

(I did fix the rain cover after I took this photo.)

The tent I had borrowed from Jamie went up easily, and after a little ribbing about how late I was, I settled in for a nutritious dinner of Dinty Moore. I was just about to pop open the can when someone handed me a pulled pork sandwhich.

Pulled pork versus cold Dinty Moore straight from the can? Score.

This was actually a common theme throughout my entire stay in camp. When I go camping, I tend to eat things out of cans. If I really want to be fancy, I put a hot dog on a stick and cook it over the fire. This is how you are supposed to eat while camping. Any food you don’t catch with a fishing pole must come out of a can or be in the shape of a hot dog or a marshmallow.

This is not the case in an endurance camp.

“Becky, would you like some ratatouille? Perhaps you would like a fresh-charbroiled hamburger? Feel free to add some organic spinach leaves and condiments to it. Perhaps you would like to make yourself a salad?” 

“Becky, here is some hot oatmeal. I’ve diced up some locally grown cherries, and have some fresh blueberries, if you would like some. Tomorrow we will have eggs fresh from the farm, served with shredded cheddar cheese and hot sausage links.”

“Here, Becky, you’ve been working hard. Would you like some tender-grilled pork loin? Take a double helping of the shrimp pasta in arrabiata sauce – it’s quite delectable.”

Every time people got together to plan a meal I gamely tried to pitch in.

“Would you like some Dinty Moore stew? How about a can of Vienna sausages? Maybe a 2 liter of Dr. Pepper? Would that go well with the shrimp arabiatta? Uh… how about some Dinty Moore? I have two cans of that. Want some?”

Strangely enough, nobody took me up on my offer.   They claimed that they were happy to feed me because I was “working”, but I spent several days in camp and not once did I do a lick of work.

“Here, Becky, get on this horse and go take a leisurely ride in the mountains.”   

Does that sound like work to you?  Me either.  How about:

“Becky, would you like to go on a refreshing hike and help us straighten up the trails?” 

Or:

“Becky, take this axe and go chop some tree roots. While you’re doing it, sit there and ruminate over the fact that only a little over than a month ago you were still stuck in a tiny office in Southern California, wearing uncomfortable business clothes and stressing over deadlines.” 

Well, okay, maybe they didn’t exactly say that last bit, but the “work” tasks they gave me were ridiculously simple. Riding trail and marking it with streamers on a clothespin? That’s not work. That’s something I would pay to do.

My favorite “job” happened on Friday. As people started to roll in and make their way over to the vet check, the ride manager  set me loose to go color on horses.

Seriously. That was my job.

“Here, Becky. Here is a tupperware box full of giant waxy crayons.  Go look at every horse that comes in, pet it, and then draw on it.”  My inner five year old was doing cartwheels. Technically my “job” was to put the numbers on the horse’s heinies, but I think we can all agree that getting to pet and color on horses isn’t exactly a hardship.

On a side note, there was something primitively satisfying about seeing my handwriting on every horse in camp.  It made me feel like throwing back my head and bellowing, “MINE!  THEY’RE ALL MINE!  BWAHAHAHAHA!” to the sky.

Do you know what might have been an actual hardship? Listening to me all weekend.

“Oooooh! Look at that horse! That’s a pretty horse!” 

“Oh, wow, pretty!” 

“What a pretty horse!” 

“Hey, Aarene, look at that horse! That’s a pretty horse!” 

“Hey, wow, look at that one! It’s pretty!” 

To be honest, I’m not sure if endurance riding just attracts pretty horses or if it’s simple deprivation. Maybe I’m like the creepy hard-up guy looking for a date at last call, and I just have my “horse goggles” on? I even started to annoy myself after a little bit, but I couldn’t seem to make myself stop.

If I sound a little gushy about my weekend, it’s because I am. There was a real camaraderie in the ride camp that was amazing to see as a first-timer. Everyone was so…. so… so NICE. It was almost eerie. I kept expecting someone to pull a brochure out of their pocket and try to sell me a timeshare. I mean, nobody’s that nice without a reason, right?

This post is ridiculously long, so I think I’m going to have to make it a two-parter.

To Be Continued…….
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9 thoughts on “How NOT to Prepare For an Endurance Event

  1. Hahahaha… sorry, I'm laughing with you and not at you. I tend to do exactly the same as you with directions. And somewhere along the way I started panicking terribly, especially if I have passengers, and even if I'm sure I'm going to right way.

    We have some breathtaking scenery here in South Africa as well, very similar to your pics.

    I would also have been willing to pay to do that “work”! Glad you got to have such an awesome weekend.

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  2. I've missed you! But this blog was worth the wait. Hee, hee, hee (okay, had to get that out of my system). 🙂 Can't wait for Part Deux.

    I have to give you a serious “mom” lecture though. Never, EVER go into the wilds without knowing exactly where you are going, how to get there, and leaving someone at home who knows exactly where you are going and how to get there AND when you'll be back. It's seriously a RULE in these here parts! That way someone knows if you don't show up on time to come looking for you and in what general area to START looking for you. I'm totally serious, Becky. You have to be really careful.

    I know that Californians (and sometimes people from other states) think that all of our roads eventually lead somewhere. They don't!! Also, don't trust your GPS, as sometimes it shows there is a road, when it's just an old logging road that leads to nowhere. There are TONS of roads that just “peter out” into a deer trail, or become impassable by regular cars. We have had several out-of-staters in just the last few years and in my county alone who have gotten lost on these roads (mostly old logging roads) and have DIED before anyone found them! It's always terribly heartbreaking. One was a young family and fortunately the mom was able to nurse her older baby and toddler to keep them alive until they were rescued. But the dad didn't make it.

    Also, always keep an emergency pack in your car when you're heading off to the hills of stuff you'd need if you got stuck and had to spend several nights in your car. Emergency flashlight, water, blankets, a couple cans of food (and a can opener or two. LOL!) and a map of the area are the bare minimum. TP is always nice to have too. 🙂

    So, just be careful, okay?? Sorry to go all “mom” on you. 🙂 I'm glad you had a wonderful time and are enjoying the great outdoors!

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  3. Awesome. Where exactly was the start of this ride? What's it called? I did a few endurance races back in the day in southern Idaho.

    I love that you're loving the PNW!

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  4. Half Dozen Farm gets two gold stars for cautionary statements AND citation of sources. Srsly, folks: those jokes about GPS directions sending people into occupied cow fields and off of cliffs originated in the PNW. And it's true that a lot of our Forest Service roads don't go anywhere–some are access points to helicopter points and logging stage grounds!

    On a lighter note, we had a ton of fun in camp with Becky and I was really sorry that she left on Saturday morning. For one thing, she missed the grilled ribs and barbequed salmon with fresh salad and melons that we served as ride-day dinner to everyone in camp!

    >g<

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  5. Half dozen farm, omgosh, if you only knew….my very first endurance crewing adventure, i drove up the entire mountain in a honda accord, missing ride camp entirely. i was driving on the ride trail! then the year my man came to renegade, we decided to drive up a mountain to find a geocache with the horse in the trailer, and totally, totally regretted that. it just petered out into nothingness and sheer cliffs, and no way to turn around, and my truck still has the marks from the trees pressing in.

    becky, i *LOL*d so many times i regretted not keeping count.

    the first time was when you said, “I just figured I'd stop at a grocery store near camp.” oh dear. and that is so familiar. i ended up buying so much food from 76 stations in the middle of nowhere! for so much $$!

    the canned food, omgosh, my breakfast of choice in ridecamp (when i'm alone) is spaghetti-Os over my campstove. dinner: nalleys beef stew. i always had campbells chicken and stars and bean with bacon in my camping box. i was the canned food camping queen!

    coffee: i was a miserable mooch, mostly at orienteering rides, but the old cowboys loved it when i asked for a mug off their campfire kettles (you know those old percolators?).

    i had friends with sophisticated camping kitchens/menus and i never could get them to enjoy my spaghetti-Os in the morning: )

    so, what about aarene and jim's sweet grog? that is really something huh?

    oh what i wouldn't give for a pyramid ale right now…

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  6. my husband's first impression of yakima (on the way to renegade): “there's nothing here – what is all this land used for?”

    “nothing, i think.”

    yah, nothing there. i love how you can tune in to spanish radio stations suddenly out there. i always , always did, to get into ths spirit of yakima.

    but i have to tell you, it's the same in oregon. one of the prettiest places i've been is called Enterprise, Oregon. in the northeast. cool name huh? oregon has so much awesomeness for you to see! but i love seeing my home through your camera and your writing.

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  7. You are welcome for the tent. You brought tears to both Tristan's and mine's eyes. Also had Kaeden laughing hysterically, because we were laughing. That is a great way to start life in a new place.
    Also, your post is making me rethink our upcoming trip to the Bandit Springs ride. I just showed up at HOTR and Grizzly and Nicole Miller's group took me under their wings; I slept in their camper and ate their food (at least I brought some food to Grizzly!) This time around, Tristan and Kade will be with me, so I think some more planning will be needed, in terms of food and sleeping space. But at least I'm aware of the fact that I have to have food before I leave home….”I can just stop at a grocery store!”…I should have warned you when you said that, but you sounded so very…cute and innocent I hated to bust your bubble 🙂

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