The Great Adventure

I love a great adventure. The anticipation, the rush of getting ready, the exhilaration of pushing your comfort zone and experiencing all that is foreign adds to the thrill. There’s nothing that compares to stepping into the great unknown and pushing your boundaries to the limit. That excites me. So at any given moment I’m always ready for the chaos that comes with being spontaneous. It’s my nature.

The Call

Last Friday, I got the call. Steve in Little Orleans, MD had heard about me four years ago when I rode through his town, in the western part of Maryland, during my cross-country trek on horseback. Steve tracked me down on Friday. Did I know of anyone with a horse trailer who would trailer a horse to West Virginia?

It seems a long rider had left his lead horse with Steve for six weeks while the horse healed. In due time, the rope burn on the horse’s hock had finally healed and the horse was ready to be reunited with its owner.

The long rider, whom Steve described as a short Atilla the Hun and whom I’ll call Jack, started his cross-country trek in Harpers Ferry with a lead horse, a pack horse, and two other men and their horses.

The Journey

It probably took Jack five days, give or take a day or two, to journey the 100 miles to Little Orleans. A trip that would normally take an hour and 38 minutes by car takes five days for a long rider on horseback. The long rider’s horse is imperative to the success of the journey. Trying to make 4000 miles over the long-haul, means the long rider needs his horse to pace at 20 miles a day. For me, that averaged out to be three miles an hour—with breaks, fan fare, interviews and the like, I was in the saddle for eight or nine hours a day. Long hard days, but there’s nothing like seeing America at three miles an hour.

The first three weeks of any long rider’s journey are the hardest. Those weeks make or break the long rider, the horse and the journey. It’s not an adventure for the faint of heart. Jack’s companions bailed on him when they arrived in Little Orleans. After three weeks of staying with Steve while his horse was healing, Jack made the decision to push on with his pack horse, alone. Would it be possible for Steve to make arrangements for the horse to meet up with Jack when the horse healed?

The Plan

That’s where I came in. Did I know of anyone who would trailer the horse to Jack? You betcha. Me. It was a fellow “wanna-be” long rider in need. So I texted my partner, who was in the Doctor’s office on a late Friday afternoon. Did he want to join me? The Plan—to head out with the truck and trailer with an overnight stop at the Little Orleans Lodge, au gratis, from the owner Steve. In the morning we would load Jack’s horse and head out to Davis, WV where Jack and his pack horse were staying overnight. The trip would take a total of ten hours. Five there. Five back. I had no choice. I had to “pay it forward” for everyone who had been so kind-hearted in my time of need on my journey. This I had to do for them. Plus, I love a good adventure.

My partner, being the great sport that he is, was game. He’d be ready to leave in two hours. With a spring in my step, I packed up, made a picnic dinner to eat in the car and grabbed a great bottle of red, two wine glasses and a corkscrew. After all we were going to be staying in a rustic bed and breakfast for the night.—why not take full advantage of the evening?

The Host

We arrived well into the evening, greeted by Steve, an affable retired post master, who had worked on the lodge since buying it for his wife and children back in the early 70s. When he retired, Steve turned it into a B&B on the C&O canal, a 184.5 mile long trail that winds around the Potomac River following the towpath of the Chesapeake and Ohio Canal. Steve was happy to host the eclectic group of trail-goers who by chance stumbled into his lodge on foot, bicycle or even horseback. Over a glass of wine, he shared the stories of those in his register: hippies, loners and couples, all who had set out on a journey to find themselves.

After a morning breakfast of two eggs over easy, sausage, potatoes and the most mouth-watering, sweetest biscuits I ever had, we loaded up Jack’s horse and headed on down the road to Davis, WV to meet up with the long rider, Jack.

The Discovery

Steve was wrong. Jack looked more like Johnny Depp in the Pirates of the Caribbean. He acted like him too. In spite of himself, you couldn’t help but like him. Jack was a 31 year-old man with a black bandanna and tongue piercing, trying to figure life out from a horse’s point of view. He was ecstatic to have his lead horse back. I knew the feeling. Rocky, my lead horse, had injured himself when another horse kicked him in Illinois. I had to leave him behind to heal. Parting with him ripped my heart out. When we were reunited three weeks later, the joy in having him back defied description. I was lost without him. I knew the elation that Jack experienced in being reunited with his horse on their great adventure.

Before leaving, Jack asked me to write in his journal, to offer him advice or wisdom that I had garnered on my solo trek. I simply wrote, “Discover the joy, discover the journey, discover yourself.” Because that’s what it’s all about—on any adventure.

The Adventure

Tomorrow I head out on another adventure. Australia. For two weeks. Part of the journey will be a 4WD trip to the Outback where I’ll be backpacking, tenting and dining with the Aborigines. Wish me luck and hope that I discover the joy, the journey and perhaps even myself. When I return from this Aussie Adventure, I’ll certainly share with you. Till then, G’day mate.

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