Ain't nuthin like ridin' a fine horse in a new country - Augustus McCrae – Lonesome Dove

Saturday, January 30, 2016

Grandson Ben is 16!

Detailing Ben's truck~
This milestone is a huge one - both for Benjamin & for us!  It seems like yesterday - that bright January day when he was born!  Our first grandchild & first Grandson!  There was absolutely not a baby in the whole world any cuter!  :-)
Papa with Ben~
Ben lived close enough that we could see him several times a week.  It wasn't long before we had our weekly Thursday overnight stay.  Ben was so charismatic that when we took him to the local restaurants - he charmed the wait staff to the point that they had his appetizer; of black olives & mozzarella - ready by the time we walked in the door.  He learned all the animal sounds & entertained everyone by reciting them.   One of his first words was;  "Ball!" - he usually carried one with him & "Hi!" was a close second.
Ben & Jas 2001
 He was on Jas from the very first & she kept a close eye on her favorite boy!  I swear if he'd tried to fall off she would have caught him!  :-)
2002 - Ben operating the track hoe with Papa~
 He loved getting to operate the heavy equipment that Butch had on a job site :-)  There wasn't much of anything that he wasn't willing to tackle!
2003 - Ben & Grammy
 He's the apple of our eye - the eldest of our now excellent group of five Grand-kids!  The start of some of the happiest, busiest years of our lives!   As my friend Petra was so fond of saying;  "The gift of old age!"

To celebrate, we met with the Peters, in Mukilteo to race Go-Karts at Traxx!   Wow!  Did we have fun!  It was frigid cold in the building - I could have easily worn my thermals - so decided to take the pictures.
Here they come!  Ben, Uncle David & Papa
 Uncle David won the first heat, he's the video game Wizard & his driving skill was first rate!  Ben enjoyed sliding out on the turns & scaring me!  :-)  He also got the warning flag a couple times!
Ben sliding around the corner!
By his second race though - he had it down & took second place, even against some experienced racers that included his Aunt Courtney - always a lead foot!  :-)
Leaving home, Ben at the wheel
So...  It was a little bittersweet to get in the cab of our grandson's truck for my very first ride with Ben at the wheel!  I had to ask myself - where did those years go?  They seem to have flown by in the blink of an eye!  At least until today - when I looked back at some of the photos.  As many as I take - there are never enough to capture all the happiness we enjoy as Grandparents!
At the Diamond Knot Alehouse~
As we were sitting at the dinner table yesterday - I realized that not just Ben, but Mason & Cassidy too - are moving right into their teenage years!   Skyla & Josie are our second-generation of grand-kids & even though they are now farther away - we plan to continue to enjoy each & every year, each & every minute we can with all five of our Excellent Grand-kids!   

Thursday, January 28, 2016

Good News for our Lineal Trails!

Proposed New Parking Area~
I've been very appreciative, of being elected as this year's Chairman of the Centennial Trail Coalition.  The first time - I think, that an Equestrian has held this position.  Of course Russ, Division Manger at Snohomish Parks had a rue smile on his face.  He knows well, that my main goal is to obtain further parking for all user groups - but especially for our horse trailers!

The last year or so has seen the advent of an influx of a few homeless tents, trash etc. just east of where the Whitehorse Trail converges with the Centennial.  The park Rangers do their best to keep the mess picked up.  The Sheriff's dept. has moved the squatters off on several occasions.

A private property owner has built a ramp up from the Cemex property to & over the Whitehorse Trail.  One of the park Rangers, spoke to the managers of Cemex - to find that they are interested in increasing the availability of access for trail users.  The hope is that with more use, the area will be less inviting to the homeless...
Tent on private property~
 My last ride there in December - I saw only one tent & a few piles of trash.  I know several people who refuse to walk through this area.  When the river rises, the homeless move to higher ground, which is the trail.

So, with diligent work & the prospective cooperation of the private, corporate & county entities - we may someday have a place to park that will give us access to the length of the Whitehorse Trail going east toward Darrington & the Centennial Trail - for almost 7-miles north to the Nakashima trail-head.  Both beautiful stretches of trail well suited for horses.  Fingers Crossed!

Monday, January 25, 2016

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet~

Not Good News~
I headed up to Victoria today - another clear weather day & I wanted to ride!  I'd hoped to get in some faster work for Farah & increase our distance a little too.  When I pulled into the parking area - the sign above greeted me.  What a shame, since the days are getting longer & I love riding the afternoons & into the late Winter sunsets.
Western Red Cedar
 We left on the roads, past the newest cutting of the Cedars.  A cedar starts to buttress at 80 years.  That makes the tree that grew here well over 150-years old.  A longer life than any of us will live...
Cloudy & Cool
 It wasn't the sunny day that yesterday was - but no rain works!  Farah hit her trot early on & seemed so happy to be out.  Since we were the only ones about - we could do a little  galloping too.  She stopped for water but otherwise was very motivated!  It had been a busy weekend for Butch & I - more on that in another post, so I think she felt my happiness too.  It became apparent - that my girl is still gaining in overall strength.  Her brain was in place today too, no spooks & no temper tantrums :-)
Beige & Chocolate!
 These next couple months - will start the spring molt & the lighter beige will be lost to the dark chocolate that I look forward to :-)  It's hard to believe that we're coming to the final months of our fifth year together.
Gorgeous views~
 We hadn't visited the Monument our last ride here & it had been quite a while.  It was beautifully quiet.  Farah found enough grass to keep her occupied - but I was glad to be standing close, as she went down & was planning on a roll when I yelled!  :-)  Yes - she was sweaty!  We met up with Linda as we were leaving & she was arriving!  Time for a quick chat, but I had to keep moving to finish the portion of my original ride plan that was still doable with the reduced time frame.
Rain moving in over the top of the far mountain~
 I never tire of seeing the changeable weather over these peaks.  Good thing - since it's one of the few areas close enough to home for us to appreciate often.  After seeing the signage - I had a sinking feeling - how easy it seems for areas to be closed to us...
Mt. Rainier
As we came back, the big mountain made it's appearance just under the increasing cloud cover.  There was one truck across the road from the Bronco - but otherwise we were the only ones riding today.  Great to get out & hopeful that sooner or later the rains will let up!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Getting Back in the Groove~

To Victoria~
It had been a while - Dec. 11th to be exact, since I'd ridden at Victoria.  That was my fourth ride in the new Stonewall Sport.  Today makes nine rides in the saddle & every time I saddle up, I'm very thankful that after such a long search, I found something that seems to be working so well for us both.
Tree of my Stonewall Sport
When you look at the width of this tree & amount of spine clearance - you can see why these saddles have been so successful, for so many riders over the years.  Even as lightly ridden as Farah has been lately - she wasn't the handful that she would have been before.  More forward than up & that works for me!
Gray day - clouds cap Mt. Washington
Linda & Count met us at the parking area, we ran into Kathy, Darlene & Susan on their way back as we were going out.  We stopped to chat for a few minutes.  It seemed much colder than the temperature told us it was...  Probably low 40's up there, but with a bite to the breeze, fog & low clouds, it felt much colder.
The fog~
 A couple times, Linda put Count into a good trot.  The hackamore worked, I had to be careful, just using a quick pull on one side to ask for a more moderate pace - but we did do some up/down galloping behind them :-)  Only the second time I've used it when riding with others.
Farah was happy to be out & glad to have company.  She settled in much quicker than I'm used to - no doubt that a comfortable saddle helps her attitude, as it does mine!  The hackamore too - has really helped to calm her under saddle.  That was a relief to me, since I still seem to be at somewhat of a low ebb since my trip to CO.  She still looks for the bit when the headstall goes on, but has figured out the name of this game :-)

Linda was kind to me, we just did the usual winter road loop.  Both of us happy to sit in the cab of Linda's warming truck to eat a snack before heading home~

Thursday, January 14, 2016


Mt. Pilchuck~
It was truly a stellar day!  My last day on the road & first day home yesterday - with the dark gray skies & pouring rain...  I was beginning to wonder if I had imagined how much I love this state?  But today - Washington redeemed itself!
Here we are :-)
New goals for a brand new year.  I had plenty of time driving across a few of our big, wide, western states to mull over where I want to go & what I want to do with my mare.  I think I've mentioned before, it's time to take a few steps back - both physically & mentally.  We've done a lot & there's a lot more I want to do.
The beautiful woods~
What we're going to work on is calmness.  I've been a type A for so long - always, it seems, on the run & I know Farah has picked up on this.  She on the other hand, is a type A mare :-)  Both of us have the issue & I hope to change the dynamic.  Maybe my upcoming birthday has something to do with this too - but most of the riders I know, put safety first when riding.  As I started breaking safety down into components - it seemed to me that calmness should be the first thing that could contribute greatly to safe riding.
Young buck?
We'd just gotten up onto the power lines when we spotted this beautiful young guy.  Pretty sure he's a he - because he was very gutsy!  The doe was long gone, but he stuck around & seemed fascinated by us.
Ice on the Wetland
I've been told that it was bitter cold while I was gone & the remaining ice layer proved that.  Every time Farah's energy escalated, we'd stop - stand - then move on.  Several times, both of us took a deep breath.  Once when she tried to burst up the hill & buck - I really put some grab on the hackamore.  Worked Great!  We walked most of the ride.
Heading back~
Going home, is usually one of her issues.  If we turn onto a different trail, that's fine - but if we're on the way home, she gets excited & used to chomp her bit.  Now that the bit is gone - the energy is still there.  I never like it - especially when we're on the paving & a steep downhill ahead of us.
Before I dismounted~
I dismounted, we've been practicing backing up three steps then dropping her head, leaving it there then moving forward.  She will usually try to drag me along if I'm on foot.  That's going to stop.  Today - the minute she moved ahead I stopped her, backed her & asked her to drop her head.  I think we probably did that about ten times on our way to Pat's.  Through Pat's yard & both gates, more of the same.  By the time we were heading up our hill, she was walking like a lady.
Three Fingers~
The days are already so much longer!  We were home just after 4 p.m. & there was still plenty of daylight left.  I finished chores & looked up to see the glow on the big mountain.  I walked up behind the barn & took the photo above.  Almost a new year rite of passage!  Oh so good to be home & So good to be back in the saddle!  A saddle that works at that!

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

Missoula on Home~

The final leg seemed the longest of the trip.  I'd slept the night before & enjoyed the very nice room.  I woke an hour before my alarm, took my time & watched the weather report.  Freezing rain near St. Regis had me worried, so by the time I called Butch - I'd stopped at Starbucks for a hot tea & was already on I-90.  Pretty much the only car on the road.  I had some interesting radio stations that I listened to along the way!  The Bear, the Wolf & the Eagle!  I'd listen until I ran out of the range of each station, early in the mornings anyway.
As the day lightened, all it did was to show me how icy in spots the roads were.  I just maintained my speed, kept the wheel straight & didn't make any sudden changes.  I'd wait for the straight stretches to pass any trucks.
Near St. Regis~
By the time I was near St. Regis - the road was down to one clear lane, but with no traffic - I had it to myself :-)
Rest Area~
I made a very short stop here - up on the pass.  No lack of snow in the Tamarack Forest!  Some of the trees look almost dead in winter, dropping their needles.  Coeur d'Alene was the next goal & the WA state line after that.
Coeur d'Alene
Filling up whenever I got down to half a tank worked out well.  That usually took two-hours & by that time I was ready for a short break & stretch.  I pulled off for gas at Liberty Lake & was right back out on the road heading for Ellensburg, when I realized that the tank wasn't totally topped off.  Oh well, if it got too low - there was always Moses Lake.
Central Washington State~
 On such a slate gray day - the monochromatic views were far from inspiring.  I'd started the trip doing about 70 mph.  Once in Montana - with the 80-mph speed limit - the Bronco just seemed to go 80 all on it's own.  That's the speed we did all the way across, so at least we were making time.  I stopped at the Schrag rest area & did a few jumping jacks just to get the blood flowing!
The Columbia~
Views of the Columbia, gave me at least a little of the scenic interest I was using to enjoying!  I didn't get a photo of the lit, blinking sign that greeted drivers climbing the hill on the far side.  It read;  "50+ Elk killed in a year, over the next six-miles."  Believe me - I kept both eyes open through there.
At Ellensburg, I stopped at the truck stop & asked about the pass.  The truckers were worried & wondering about it as much as I was.  It started snowing lightly while I was there & lasted for a few miles out of town.
Leaving Ellensburg~
Now, so close to getting home, I sure didn't want to be stopped on the pass!  Friends let me know that the eastbound lane had been closed due to an accident.  It was noticeable - hardly any traffic coming eastbound.   It started raining about half way up!  Rain!  Hadn't seen any of that since I'd left!  :-)  The worst part, was on the down hill grades - the lanes were narrowed for the construction & had No shoulder!  With snow packed up against the barriers - there was maybe a lane & a half of space.  No fun...
Eastbound Emergency Rigs~
I didn't have much of a chance to get a photo - but What a Mess!  The backed up traffic went on for miles & miles...
Trucks line the shoulder of I-90~
More trucks were off to the side than I'd seen my entire trip...  Just a way further & the wind struck!  Huge gusts blowing the rain right at us in sheets.  I took the Fall City exit & let me tell you - following a car at 35 mph. seemed like a crawl!  I stopped at daughter Courtney's for a minute - to tell her I was back & took the back roads home!

I just have to brag up the Bronco.  Purchased in April of 06, after my other one was totaled, we bought it with 117,000 miles.  It was almost impossible - even then, to find one that was in decent condition.  We've always taken good care of it, maintenance when needed etc.  I drove it on this same trip in July of 2012 - to see my Dad, so this was our second long-distance haul.  Not one single problem the entire way!  The engine just purred & purred!  The harder I worked it - the smoother it ran.  I think the Bronco enjoyed his vacation from pulling the horse trailer & all the short around town trips that constitute the work week :-)  Our total mileage was 2,808 & I was gone nine days.  Of those nine, only three weren't on the road.  I still feel like I'm moving today!   The cold/wet of the great north-wet has already settled back in my bones :-)

P.S.  The one thing that I noticed the most - in every state I traveled through - was the lack of snow.  All the way across - there was maybe 3" of windblown snow, nothing like the Winters of old by the time January rolled around...

Monday, January 11, 2016

Sheridan to Missoula~

Leaving Sheridan~
The days are getting longer!  Last week when I was heading east - it was still dark when I left Sheridan at 7 a.m.  This morning, there was light!  I'd worried that the roads would be icy, but it was warmer than yesterday morning's six degrees!  Sunday morning the sun was shining & it was so pretty out.  I went out to the Bronco to get my camera & the minute I opened the door, the cold hit me!  My fingers went numb in an instant!  I rushed back to the house to the loud laughter of my family!  :-)  Even my tea was frozen IN my thermos!
Racing the train :-)
 After taking a day off - I was back on the road.  Over a week of mostly traveling, I'm actually getting used to it!  Watching the country roll by is almost like being in the middle of a travel video.  The higher the sun got in the sky - the more beautiful the day became.  Stunning blue, wide open sky, a high layer of clouds & the dazzling white of the snow.
East of Livingston~
Soon though - I had another challenge...  Wind!  It hit like the blast from a bomb!  Sweeping the snow across the road with a fury.  I had to keep the wheel tilted to the outside to even begin to stay in my lane.  It was brutal & the Bronco was bucking like his namesake!  My gas gauge was dropping fast!  I'd planned to stop in Bozeman, but hadn't seen a mileage sign for quite a while.  Instead - Livingston was coming up & I decided to get off there.  Oh My Gosh!  What a BEAUTIFUL place!  The mountains were all around & so amazing!  The guy at the mini mart was so friendly, I told him he must really enjoy living in such a beautiful place.  He had been born & raised there.  He said that they used to get lots of snow, that now & for the last few years, hardly Any snow.  Instead - he continued;  the temperatures have been colder for longer.  Weeks of sub-freezing temperatures.  Across the street was a jeweler.  In my hurry to leave home I'd forgotten a ring & my watch.  I walked in & asked the sales person if he had a ring with a local stone for a reasonable price?  He took me to a case with an amazing ring with three small Montana Sapphires.  The first I'd ever seen & the exact color of the river below!  The cost was a paltry $3,500.  :-)
Missouri River
 The river was Montana Sapphire blue - darker than the beautiful afternoon blue sky.  It's a long haul across to Butte, but my audio book helped & so did a dry road over the pass.
Almost to Butte
Finally - another town to check off.  Another quick stop for gas, another shorter pass & up ahead the day's goal, Missoula.  I was surprised at all the haze in the air.  Not sure what kind of plant is putting the up the plume of steam?
I was happy to see the exit for the motel come up.  Another fill up & check in.  The staff remembered me & after hearing the distance I'd traveled since they'd seen me last week - they upgraded my room.  Four flights of steps, I ask for a top room on an end of the building next to the stairs.  I actually enjoyed going up & down those steps - at this point - any exercise is Oh So welcome! 
The Bronco below
Tomorrow - Washington & HOME!

Saturday, January 9, 2016

The Long Road Home~

I-25 Heading North
Unexpectedly, I found myself heading back home.  It was mid-day & I hadn't even checked the weather report.  I called Butch & told him I planned to make Sheridan my destination - but since I had no idea what the road conditions would be like, the plan was to go as far as I could.  If I couldn't - to stop & spend the night wherever I ended up.  I could see a gray pall in the air up ahead, as I traveled north.  Soon, light snow was flying through the air.
Wyoming State Line!
It didn't last long & by the time I was at the state line the sun had reappeared!  Traffic was light after Cheyenne.  Soon though, I started hitting patches of ice.  One section was several miles long & I was the only one on the road.  I slowed the Bronco Way down & luckily ran out of it just before Chugwater.
South of Chugwater
Just a few trucks were coming south, I could see clouds again up ahead.  I called my Aunt, she had checked the road reports & said I was due to come into a very bad area.  She was right!  From shortly after I took this photo - all the way to Douglas - the highway was covered with a deep layer of ice & snow with slush on top.  Bitter cold too. Northbound was down to just the right lane, a long line of trucks & cars trying to stay in the ruts, treacherous doesn't describe it.  As Douglas came up I needed a break & decided to go ahead & top off the tank.  The exit ramp was a solid sheet of ice.  Pulling into the Broken Wagon Wheel truck stop I  was amazed to see the outside of the Bronco!  The wheel wells were full of frozen slush!  So frozen that I couldn't knock it off.
Frozen Slush
I talked to the people working inside - who told me it was only going to get worse all the way to Casper, north of that the roads were reported clear!  Back on the road - the sun was setting & the sky turned pink & purple!  Amazing colors, but I was way too busy staying on the road to get any photos.  I carefully re-entered a line of cars & trucks - that went on for miles.  White knuckle driving - Casper couldn't come up quick enough.  Wyoming weather is so changeable & just as I'd been told, as we entered the edge of town, the sun set & the roads cleared!  I called my Aunt to tell her that I was going to continue on.

Traffic thinned & I had Sheridan in my sights - it was a relief to turn onto I-90 & finally be heading west!  Auntie was keeping dinner warm & said she'd be waiting up.  I didn't want her waiting forever so didn't waste any time.  Taking the Sheridan exit I decided to gas up.  Getting out was like walking into a deep freeze!  12 degrees!  Yikes!  There was never a more welcome sight than seeing my Aunt watching for me from the living room window!  Her esp is still working! :-)
The afternoon after!
Dinner never tasted better!  Sleeping never felt better - I was instructed that my husband & my Aunt decided that I was not going anywhere for at least a full day!  :-)  No way was I going to complain!