Mugwump/Big K Clinic: The Drive

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“Are you packed yet?”

Someone asked me that about four days before I was due to leave for the clinic.

Ha.

Ha, ha, ha.

Wednesday the 24th was my birthday.   It was also the day I was due to start the roadtrip. 

I honestly couldn’t think of a better way to spend my 32nd birthday than heading out to Montana with my horse.

COUGH.  HEADING TO MONTANA TO SPEND TIME WITH MY HORSE.  COUGH.

Y’all are going to get real sick of me repeating “my horse” and “I went to Montana” reaaaaal quick.  I’m like that barely pregnant chick who walks around with her hand on her still-flat belly, simpering about “the baby”… or the newly-dating couple who constantly drops “my BOYFRIEND/my GIRLFRIEND” hints  every other sentence.

Feel free to hate me a little – it doesn’t mean I’m going to stop.  I’m just saying that you can hate me if you want to

Anyways,  instead of blowing out candles on a cake, I spent my birthday running around, sweating, and trying to shove various articles of clothing and tack into whatever bag I could find.

Actually, that’s not quite right.

I spent the morning running errands, doing laundry, and hanging out with my family…..

 and then about two to three hours before Summersmom (we carpooled to the clinic) was due to arrive I started frantically shoving stuff into suitcases and bags, dashing to the grocery store for food, speeding to the barn to get hay, etc, etc, etc. 

One day. 

One day I will pack things ahead of time, and spend the day of a trip lounging and relaxing  as I wait for my departure time to come around.

Of course, one day I’m also going to have tan, toned thighs… so if I’m imagining the “I packed ahead of time” scenario, I might as well imagine me in a cute little pair of short shorts, getting appreciative whistles from everyone who drives by.

Also, my hair isn’t dry and I don’t have any frizzy split ends.

I mean, if you’re going to imagine something, make it good, right?

Moving on.

By the time I was ready to head to the stables to meet Summersmom and load Caspian into the borrowed trailer I was a frazzled mess.  I had my stuff packed – at least, I thought I did.  I wasn’t  really sure what I had in my bags.  It might have been helpful if I could have referenced the cute little packing list I’d made a couple of days ago… but who the heck knew where that was?

I will say that it could have been a lot worse – my mom and stepdad drove up to help me take care of the boys, so I was actually able to get stuff done without having to keep the boys alive at the same time. 

Let me take a moment and say three big cheers for them – it made the clinic go SO MUCH SMOOTHER knowing my boys were in great hands.

And while we’re at it – three cheers for The Bean, who not only agreed to this crazy venture, but funded it through lots of overtime.

I mean, think about it.  How many husbands would agree to the following?

“Hey babe, I want to go blow almost a thousand bucks hauling a horse we can barely afford to a clinic up in Montana.  Huh?  How will we afford it?  I’m not quite sure.  I’m sure we’ll figure something out. 

What is the clinic?  It’s a reined  cowhorse clinic.  What’s that? It’s a horse sport.  No, I’ve never talked about it before because I don’t ride reined cowhorse, why do you ask?  What do you mean ‘Why go to this clinic’?  Are you high?  IT’S THE MUGWUMP CLINIC!

Huh?  Who is Mugwump?  Well, it’s some chick I know through the Internet – she wrote some blog stories about some dude, so I figure I should go travel almost two thousand miles round trip so they can tell me how to ride better.

How am I getting Caspian and I there?  Oh, I’ll be sharing a trailer with some other chick who has a blog –  her name’s Summersmom. She seems nice – I mean, from what I’ve read, at least.  We’re Facebook friends, so that means we’re, like, practically sisters… at least in the Internet world.

Who is hauling the horses?  Well, that chick I am hauling with once met some dude from the Internet, and he said he’d be interested in going if we paid for the diesel. so we’re going to go get in his truck and head off to Montana.  I’m sure he’s nice, too.  What’s that?  You want to know if it’s a safe vehicle?  Of course it is.  It takes diesel.  That means it’s big.  All big trucks are safe.  Really, after so many years in the car industry, I shouldn’t have to explain stuff like this to you. 

Where am I staying?  Well, the first night we’ll be staying at my carpool buddy’s  in-laws.  Who are they?  I dunno.  They’re her in-laws. What a silly question – how am I supposed to know who they are if I haven’t met them yet?  Where do they live?  Somewhere in Washington.  I’ll text you the address once I see it. 

Oh, you mean where’s the ultimate destination?  It’s in Montana, silly.  I told you that.  What’s that?  You want more details?  Umm… it’s on a ranch?  Does that help?  I’ll get you an address later.  I know it’s outside of Roundup…. Where’s Roundup?  I don’t know – I’m not responsible for driving.  I already told you it’s in Montana.   Geez, what’s with all the questions?”

Etc, etc.

Poor Bean.  I bet he daydreams about being married to a nice, sedate, organized little housewife who gets all hot and bothered when she gets to balance the checkbook and arrange the canned goods in alphabetical order.

Anyways, back to the story:  I pulled up to my barn about five minutes after Summersmom and Owen (the guy with the truck) arrived.  It would have felt weird, saying hello….  Except I was feeling too guilty about running behind.

I caught a glimpse of them as I scurried past – and was vaguely disappointed to notice that Summersmom was wearing a cute little outfit and was really quite pretty.  If I’d known we were allowed to be pretty I might have taken a little more time – but we were on a horse road trip.  I thought it was against the rules to wear makeup. 

Anyways, after saying hi to Summersmom, her cute little paint mare,  and her ridiculously intelligent little boy (the kid JUST turned four and reads better than most fourth graders), I met Owen… and Owen’s dog, Gracie.  Summersom had warned me that Owen would be bringing his dog on the trip.  Considering he had a giant diesel truck and a brother who lived in Montana, I expected to see a shaggy ranch dog – some kind of heeler or border collie mix.

Imagine my surprise when this came trotting up to me:

Gracie was the most disgusting, adorable little dog in the world, and she made the drive a lot of fun.

I’ve never met a dog who could so thoroughly disgust me… and yet still make me want to pet her.  She sneezed on EVERYTHING, farted, burped, snored, and had a strange habit of wanting to press her little bunghole against you. 

See?  GROSS.  And yet… I still wanted to hold her on my lap.

She was a seriously cute little dog – mellow, happy, and just a likeable soul.

While Gracie cavorted around our ankles, we finished introductions and I ran in to the barn grab Caspian from his pasture and lead him to the trailer.  We let him and Summer sniff noses, and I was pleasantly surprised to see only a polite, friendly interest from both horses.  Sweet – we were off to a good start.

“Is he good about loading?” Owen asked, as I led him up to the trailer.

“Well… we’ll see?  I’m assuming yes, since he came off the trailer just fine earlier this week.”

“You don’t know?”

“Nope. I don’t really know him.  I’ve only owned him a week – he seems nice, but I really don’t know what to expect from him on stuff.”

I’m sure that look on Owen’s face meant he was happy for me and my new horse… it looked suspiciously like the “Oh, crap” expression I’m so used to on The Bean’s face, but I’m sure I was just reading it wrong.

It turns out that Caspian loads trailers like a dream – he stepped right up ,with zero hesitation…. And then stepped right back out when I directed him, because even though it was a slant load it was physically impossible for him to fit in one slot – Summersmom and I had taken into account height when figuring out which trailer to use, but I honestly hadn’t considered how LONG he is. Whoops.

Thankfully it was a four horse trailer, so we had plenty of room to pull out a divider and give him two stalls while still having enough room for hay and tack.

Owning a BIG horse really is a new experience for me.

A couple of bits of tack and a little rearranging later, and we were on our way…..

Right into downtown Portland traffic.  Drat.

It took less than ten minutes in traffic before I turned to Owen and asked him what he did for a living…. And had my suspicions confirmed that he hauls (He used to be a truck driver and now started his own business.)  It was obvious from the way he handled the trailer that he had a LOT of experience hauling things – the trailer never jostled once, even when people cut us off.  If you’re ever looking for someone to move your horses for you, I heartily recommend him. 

I quickly sent out a text to The Bean: “The guy who is driving is a professional truck driver – like, semi trucks and all that – so yaay!  You don’t have to worry about us anymore.”

See?  The Bean’s a worrywart.  I obviously had everything under control.

The first night’s drive up to Summersmom’s in laws  (the Tri-Cities area of Washington) was uneventful… and tons of fun.  To be honest, half the fun of the clinic was the drive.  The three of us hit it off and had a LOT of laughs on the way up, and even when the conversation slowed or stopped, it was a companionable silence.  It’s been awhile since I’ve been on a fun road trip like that. 

We arrived in the Tri-Cities area a little later than we had hoped (closer to midnight), and after we unloaded the horses and got them set up, we didn’t get to bed until closer to one in the morning.

Despite the comfortable air mattress they had set up for me, I had a little trouble falling asleep. When Summersmom woke me up at a little before 5:30 in the morning, I was pretty groggy.  I stumbled off to the shower, hoping it would wake me up….. but it didn’t.  I finally gave up, and shut off the water.  I pulled back the shower curtain to grope sleepily for the towel.  I couldn’t seem to reach it, so I leaned over further….

And promptly fell out of the bathtub onto the floor.

I want all of you to know that when I fell, I floated gracefully to the ground, like a dainty fairy elf.

I did NOT sprawl out of the tub and slam onto the floor with a giant grunt and flop around like a beached seal trying to get to my feet.

Also, since we’re talking about stuff that didn’t happen, Summersmom definitely didn’t start making fun of me the second I got out of the bathroom.  She also didn’t share what happened with her in laws.  And Owen.  And Mugwump.  And The Big K.  And, basically, everyone who was at the clinic.

We left her son at her in laws  and got on the road at a decent hour – which was good, because it was a loooong day.  We stopped every three hours with the horses, giving them a break, and offering them food and water.  Neither pony was interested in drinking water until late in the evening, which was a little concerning….. but we soaked beet pulp and rice bran in a LOT of water (basically turning it into runny gruel) and got liquid into them that way. 

The drive was long – not gonna lie, but WOW, it was beautiful.

 The Gorge in Oregon:

A beautiful photo of Wednesday night’s giant full moon cresting the hill – isn’t it magnificent?

Yeah.  I don’t know what I was expecting, taking that photo.

The drive on Thursday did get a little boring at times.

Some of us slept through the boring parts.

Others of us amused ourselves:


Aarene (from HaikuFarm) loaned me her hat when I visited back in June… and I accidentally brought it with me when I left.  Since I kept forgetting to mail it back, it went with me on a roadtrip to Montana.

As we left big cities behind and headed deeper into more rural territory, it got a little…..different:

(This billboard contrasted so much with the “Botox now!” and “Free breast enlargement consultation!” signs I was used to in SoCal that I just had to take a picture.)

A truck hauling a trailer hauling a boat.  How the heck do they back it up?

And now for a confession:  I have to admit – I’ve been kidding myself ever since I moved to Oregon that it was as beautiful as Montana. 

I’m sorry Oregon.  You know I love you, baby, but… yeah.  You’re not Montana.  You’re Montana’s easy-going sister – you kind of look the same,  and you’re more chill to hang out with, but it’s obvious you’re not the beauty in the family.

In order to fully understand, these photos are all Montana – taken with a cell phone with a blurry camera (weird – cell phones and their cameras don’t seem to like being dropped in toilets.  Whodathunk?).  I took them from the backseat of the car, through a dirty windshield.  Also, those hills in the distance are actually mountains in most of the photos – the sky of “Big Sky Country” is just so clear that the distance is misleading.

I had to stop myself at some point, because I didn’t want to take 600 photos and fill up my memory card.

With all the stops for the horses, we didn’t get to Roundup until really late.  The Big K had us call once we hit town so we could ask him for directions….. which was a little silly, since our GPS worked just fine, and the directions Mugwump wrote on her blog were clear as day. 

I was all for just using the GPS and  blog directions…. But Owen drove the ENTIRE way, so I owed it to him to sit back and relax and allow him to do what made him feel comfortable… and what made him comfortable involved following K’s directions to the “T”.

This involved quite a bit of “I don’t see that street sign… it’s closed off for detours. We’re on Fourth Street now, but I don’t the turn you’re describing isn’t there….”

I sat in the backseat, fidgeting, and doing everything I could not to howl “JUST PAY ATTENTION TO ME – I KNOW HOW TO GET US THERE.  HANG UP THE STUPID PHONE AND GO WHERE I SAY!”

I don’t know about you, but I deserve +10 life points for refraining.   I’m normally more patient than that, but by that point I just really wanted out of the truck.

Finally, FINALLY (Did I mention FINALLY?) we pulled up to the ranch.  By that point I think we were all over the excitement of the road trip, and just wanted to be out of the car and in bed…. Or maybe it was just me. 

One of the hardest part about becoming a parent, for me at least, is the lack of alone time.  I really enjoy hanging around with people… provided I get some time to myself.  I prefer at least an hour or two each day, but I’ll settle for five minutes, even if it’s just five minutes of hiding in the bathroom from the children.

The road trip was TONS of fun… but a truck is not a big area, and there’s really no chance to be by yourself when you’re trapped inside it with two other people and an adorable, farting pug.

All this to say… by the time we parked the truck and unloaded Caspian, I was in a foul mood.

I know, I know.  I should have been giddy at being at the clinic, and ecstatic to be in Montana, and thankful for my horse and family who made it all possible, and overjoyed at the blessings in my life…..

But I wasn’t.

I was in a sour, nasty, no-good, very bad mood.

I wanted to be left the hell alone. 

I wanted to be by myself, in silence, to settle in my horse, and take a few breaths.  Basically, I needed to find my center again.  I felt like my skin was raw from too much contact with other people – even if they were people I genuinely liked.

Of course, that wasn’t possible.  We had to get the horses settled, and the tent set up, and a whole host of other stuff.

Basically, this means that the first time I actually met Mugwump, all I could think was LEAVE ME THE HELL ALONE. Don’t look at me.  Don’t touch me.  Don’t even get near me.  I don’t want to say hi.  I don’t want you to have an actual face that I need to look at, or a voice I need to listen and respond to.  GO THE HELL AWAY BEFORE I HIT SOMEONE ON THE HEAD WITH A ROCK.

Nice, huh? 

I could tell I was being a complete jerk so I did my best to stuff it down and just avoid eye contact.  I’m not sure how successful I was – probably not very.

Both horses unloaded like a dream, with no drama.  Caspian did give one call when we arrived, but frankly, I love to hear him neigh.  Jubilee had a silly little whinny – he sounded like a weanling filly. Caspian has a deep, almost sexy neigh.

Yes, I said sexy.  And yes, I’m totally in love with my horse.  Nooo, not like that.  You know what I mean. 

Anyways, aside from being a teensy bit stocked up on the leg he had to brace with (his stall was doubly wide, so he couldn’t lean on the sides), he seemed fine.  The Big K had set up large pens inside an enormous indoor arena, so Summersmom and I tossed our ponies in pens next to each other and made sure they had feed and water.  Caspian walked into the pen like he’d lived there his whole life, rolled, and started eating and drinking.  He seemed to be doing great, so I left him alone to have some peace and quiet (at least one of us got some) and went with Summersmom to set up the tent.

The tent.

That idiotic, who-the-heck-designed-it tent.

I feel like I shouldn’t complain, because it was a lovely tent, and even better, it was borrowed (yaay for free things!)  As far as comfort goes, the tent was incredible.  It felt like a Harry Potter tent – it was large from the outside, and absolutely palatial inside.

But, oh lord… setting it up. 

We opened up the box it came in…. and out fell three large bits of canvas, 712 strange-looking poles, and a bunch of stakes.

Normally I can figure out tents easily – but this one was confusing.  Now, in addition to a blurry picture on the front of the box it did come with an instruction book… an instruction book that started on step 7, contained a picture of an already set-up tent, and showed how to stake the already set-up tent down. 

Gee.  Thanks.  That’s very helpful.

The problem with figuring out the tent was that while there were slots for the poles to thread through at the top of the tent… but there was nothing for them to attach to on the sides or on the bottom.  I wish I’d thought to take a picture of what it looked like. It was weird. Every tent I’ve ever set up had slots for the poles to go through that went all the way down to the bottom, and then the bottom of the poles connected to little tabs in the tent.

Not this tent.

This tent had poles that sort of attached at the top, and then just kind of balanced on the ground – completely independent of the bottom of the tent.  The way you stretched out the bottom of the tent was to physically pull it out and stake it down.

The way the poles kept it upright is that there were three upside bars (Imagine an upside, square “U”).

The center upside down “U” was vertical.

The left and right upside down “U”s balanced at a forty five degree angle, with the top leaning to the outside, and the legs leaning towards the center of the tent.  There was no set angle for them to be at – you just wiggled and adjusted them against each other until it felt like the tent was going to stay up by them “pulling” against each other.

Weird, huh?

It seemed like such an unstable design that I just couldn’t believe that was the way it was supposed to be set up.

To make it a little more stressful, the whole time we were setting up the tent I felt like The Bad Neighbors.  It was late.  Like, really late.  We had to use the lights from Owen’s truck to see things, so he couldn’t go to sleep until we did.    Also, as a diesel, his truck made enough noise to raise the dead, so I’m sure Gittyup and her husband had a fun time trying to sleep through the ruckus.

Basically, in Aarene’s book Endurance 101, she has a chapter where the Bad Idea Fairy pulls into ridecamp… we pretty much followed the entire script, only we substituted a diesel truck for a generator.

Sorry, Gittyup.

More than once, Owen hinted that we should consider just sleeping under the stars and figuring out the tent in the morning…. But Kacy was in a good mood (frickin’ night people) and said she didn’t mind trying to get it set up tonight, and I was in a pissy I’VE DECIDED I’M GOING TO SET UP A TENT AND SO THE TENT IS GETTING SET UP EVEN IF I HAVE TO DIE DOING IT mood (frickin’ morning people), so I ignored him.

Setting up that tent took over 45 minutes, and by the time we were done I’d thrown all civility out the window.  “PICK UP THAT POLE AND PUT IT OVER THERE.  MUGWUMP, GRAB THAT CORNER AND PULL.  I DON’T  CARE IF IT’S DIFFICULT WITH ONLY ONE HAND, JUST DO IT BEFORE I EAT SOMEONE. ”

Finally, FINALLY, we got the tent set up.   We dug out our sleeping stuff and tossed it in. 

I was really excited about my “bed”.  In addition to normal sleeping bag and pillows, I’d brought an old queen-sized futon I’d found in a “Free” pile at a garage sale.   Sure it was bulky, but this was my extravagant vacation – why not indulge a little, if we had the space to bring it?  I was really, really excited to stretch out by myself, all alone, on my beautiful queen sized “mattress”.  The thought had warmed me those last few hundred miles – I just had to hang on, and soon I’d be all by myself on my little futon.  Summersmom could sleep on her little air mattress waaaaaaaay on the other side of the tent, and I could be by myself in my little corner.  It was going to be wonderful.

Unfortunately…. none of us felt like trying to find, much less figure out how to inflate Summersmom’s air mattress at past midnight.

“I’ll just roll my sleeping bag out on the ground for tonight,” she said, cheerfully.  “I need the air mattress for my bad back, but I’m sure I’ll be fine for tonight.”

I glanced at the lumpy ground, with the rocks clearly visible through the bottom canvas of the tent…..  and then glanced at my spacious queen sized futon mattress.  And I seriously thought about it.  I seriously thought about ignoring her, and letting her sleep on the rocky ground, so I could be “by myself”.

Because deep down inside, when it’s late, and I’m sleepy, and grumpy…. I’m a jerk.

But at least I’m not a total jerk. 

“Fine.”  I stifled a sigh. “You can sleep on my futon with me.  Just DON’T TOUCH ME.”

“We’ll be snuggle buddies!” joked Summersmom, smiling broadly.

“No.  I’m serious.  DON’T TOUCH ME.  You stay on your side of the futon, and I’ll stay on mine, and DON’T TOUCH ME.”

And no, sadly that’s not an exaggeration.  That’s exactly what I said, and at that point in the evening (morning?) I meant it.  I’m not sure what I would have done if she had tried to touch me – probably snarled something incoherent and dragged my sleeping bags out of the tent, or something. 

For the record:  Sorry I’m such a pill sometimes, Summersmom.  I promise I’ll be nicer about sharing my futon at the next clinic.  I was just having a… a “moment”.

I realized I sounded like a pissypants, so I tried to soften it.  “It’s okay if you touch me.  I mean, that sounds weird.  That’s not what I meant.  I mean… oh, never mind.  We’ll make it work.  We’ll just have a nice nap, and worry about it in the morning.

About that point Mugwump decided to head back to her trailer to get some sleep.  “Morning comes early.  I’m glad you called it a ‘nap’, because that’s what it will be. See you tomorrow.”

With Brockle trailing at her heels she headed back down the road.  Summersmom and I zipped ourselves into our sleeping bags (with me wedging myself onto the absolute furthest corner of the futon to avoid any accidental contact)… and lulled by exhaustion and the sound of the wind in Montana grass, I passed out and slept like the dead until my alarm went off at 6 the next morning.

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16 thoughts on “Mugwump/Big K Clinic: The Drive

  1. Becky, you are a genius, I cannot WAIT to hear the next installment. I could see it all. Thank you for making me feel like I was there & see what I was missing, Caspian the Great, puglet Gracie, Miss Crankypants and all.

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  2. You left out the part where I chased you around (not realizing you were in such a horrible mood) repeating “I'm not touching you!” with my finger millimeters from your arm. You really need to work on your snarl, its closer to a meow 😉

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  3. OMG Summersmom, you sound just like one of my brothers when we were kids and I'd say “don't touch me!”

    Becky, I'm so very happy to hear you're a total jerk, otherwise my jealousy would be giving me a headache. I'm also glad that you're in love with your horse. I hope you have the next installment ready to go, I can't wait to hear about everything and everyone. My God, Montana is beautiful. I might have to go take an aspirin.

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  4. Had I known she was ready to bash someone's head in with a rock, I would have hidden in the trailer and slept on a pile of Caspian's monstrous manure. But naive, annoying me who apparently ignores all normal social signals kept trying to poke the bear.

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  5. Yay – thank you for sharing! I can't wait to read the next installment.

    You must be an introvert Becky – you like people yet REALLY NEED alone time too. Read the book Quiet if you have a chance.

    I love Montana too, but if it makes you feel better about living in Oregon, I can always point out unpleasant things about Montana. 🙂

    Caspian is such a cool horse!

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  6. This is such a great story, I am very much looking forward to part 2. How could you leave out the part about summersmom taunting the bear with “I'm not touching you!”?!?! I might have rolled off the chair with laughter if it hadn't been forgotten!

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  7. your photos are incredible. the prettiest place i've been in america is the rocky mountains in montana – glacier park. they look exactly like the swiss alps. there's a road called Going to the Sun that i drove up. it's the road in the opening of the movie The Shining. hey, doesn't starbuck live in montana? pity about the speed limit thing. they were such rebels. i was actually there when they had no speed limit. (daytime)

    i'm glad you love your horse. i am ambivalent at the moment about mine.

    she would have reacted….badly….to montana.

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  8. I read my husband the part about you telling Bean where you were going/who you were going with/etc. Direct quote: “Oh yeah. That's not like horse people AT ALL!” Translation: “That poor, poor man. I thought I was the only one married to a lunatic.” HAHA!
    I just read a post about how to handle an introvert and I'm sorry to tell you but you fit the description to a “T”. Sorry. Must have time by ones self to recharge is a big part of that.
    Glad you had a great time and proved you were human. 😉

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  9. This is the best. I've never road tripped with a horse but yes, with a pug – everything you said is TRUE! We have a family joke that when we road trip we keep driving until I start crying, then we look for a place to sleep. Nice eh? Thanks for writing about this because I need to live vicariously and holy crap Montana is the most beautiful place on the planet.

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  10. Finally getting around to your epic adventure story! Yes, Bean will be a great horse husband. G does not even waste the energy looking appalled when I tell him I'm picking up “my internet friend” and going “somewhere in the mountains” and I'll be back in three days or maybe four and if my cell phone works I'll let him know when I get there.

    Pro tip: cot. Cot, in the trailer (you can sweep out the manure if you're feeling classy) with an extra comforter on top of your sleeping bag.

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  11. Becky !! You left out so much of the fun stuff !! That was a really good trip, I actually had fun. Other than the lack of sleep of course !! And FYI, Summersmom called the guy and then handed me the phone for directions in. I wanted to use my GPS. But couldn't just hang up on him. We got there….. LOL

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  12. Becky, you just haven't seen enough of Oregon yet! I liked Montana, and Glacier National Park was stunning, but none of it could hold a candle to the Umpqua Nat'l Forest, Crater Lake, the Rogue River, the Steens, etc., etc. (I could be biased, but I don't think so) 😉

    I can't wait to read your next installment of the clinic!!

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