August 6, 2013
5 weeks until I depart for SHLEP! (Soul-search, Home-search, Liberating, Equestrian, Party) I’m busy fixing all the deficiencies I learned on my test trip.
I went on a pre-trip-test trip. It took me a week to recover from.
Because of delays in actually getting my new trailer I had zero time to actually learn how to drive it. It was trial by fire as my mother used to say. Its 32′ long. Driving it home (Norco to La Canada) I hit a curb and blew out a tire. I had planned on loading and leaving in a few hours. That was delayed until AAA came and put on the spare which got me home but without a good spare. Jason with a mobile tire service came from Chino in a few hours to change the shredded tire out. He also said that 2 of the tires were cheap Japanese tires and not strong enough. The 2 other ones were old. So four new GoodWing tires later (ouch they are not cheap) I left with Tommy, my 20 year old son, my 2 mares and my dog Tucker. It was dusk by then which was a blessing driving thru the notoriously hot central valley to our first stop, Cordoniz Wildcat campground on Eastman Lake. I drove like a snail & swung wide!… and it was dark when we got in. I had to back up for the first time into our site which was paved and lined with boulders on either side. With Tommy’s guidance I did it uneventfully. There were no other campers in the equestrian area which I found out why when the sun got up. It was hotter than hell. I hobbled the horses in the morning and they had the run of the place which was really beautiful rolling hills of dried grass and oak trees. They loved it. When Tommy got up we went for a ride down to the lake which is dramatically low now. It was a beautiful place to ride but way too hot this time of year. That night we packed up and took off for Placerville for my EAGALA clinic part 2. I had already missed day one due to the trailer delivery delay and will have to make it up, but I wanted to at least do the rest of it. I drove like a snail again and we arrived at 3am. Tommy was sleeping as I headed down the “oh shit a dirt road”. I passed the ranch entrance by mistake but did not realize it. A 90 degree left hand turn…trailer got hung up on burm, but back and forth got out of it…a 90 degree right turn…”oh shit” again. At this point I should of stopped and parked. But I didn’t and got stuck in the ditch. I thought if the horses were out I had a chance of getting the trailer unstuck, but the back doors were blocked by the ditch now, so we figured out how to take down the dividers and took the horses out the emergency exit. In an emergency this would not be fast enough especially since I had no idea how to do it. We had to unload all the horsey stuff out of the forward stall, unbend the dumb cotter pins, then hammer up the big pins to release the dividers, which are very heavy (esp the first solid one) and could easily fall on the horse next to it. This is a two person job, thank God Tommy was with me. By the time the horses were off neighbors on this dirt road came out to see what was going on. Eventually Mike (the owner of my missed destination) got me unstuck and miraculously turned around at the last property. It took 3 hours. Mike drove a fire truck for a living and hauled horses his whole life. He was so kind and helpful, especially since it was 3am and the clinic participants would be arriving at 8. It took several hours to get us parked on his property. However he could not get the trailer to uncouple so it was hitched the rest of the trip, leaving me dependent on others to go to the store a few times for propane (man that generator eats it up with the ac on!) and test strips for Tommy who is a type 1 diabetic. Meanwhile I walked the horses back to the corrals he had waiting for us. Day one of the clinic was a blur. Its been a long time since I have done an all-nighter, and it was super hot. My head kept dropping. Everyone knew what had happened and was sympathetic. I felt stupid and tired but was so inspired and touched by the help that the entire neighborhood (3 houses actually) provided us.
My plan had been to make 2 more stops after the clinic, at Loon Lake (near Lake Tahoe) and Horse Camp then go home. Mike & Jill talked us out of this plan probably because I was such an obvious failure at driving the rig. I had little confidence left and did as they suggested. Besides the entire area was so frigging hot Tommy and I had lost our enthusiasm for the adventure.
Sunday at 4am we headed out. 2 hours south of Sacramento we stopped for gas. I was nervous about swinging wide and being able to get in and out of the lot. On the exit I discovered another thing I should be concerned about…low spots created by steep aprons in the driveway. I used to think about this all the time as I scrapped my way thru them with my old prius which has a low bumper. We came to a stop as Tommy yelled STOP…too late. The trailer was hung up on the pavement. Now I should of unloaded the horses and tried to get out without their weight. But was told by someone…a passer by? or Tommy? or my imagination? to just try to gun it. Bad idea…off came the new ramp I just had installed and out came the entire lower right corner of the back door creating a hole large enough for Dreamy’s leg to drop thru and break. Out comes the horsey shit in the forward stall, down come the dumb dividers (I’m getting pretty good at this now). I tied the horses to the handicap ramp railing at the gas station and they mowed the lawn. I didn’t know who to call or what to do. I called AAA, do I need a tow truck? I explain what happened to several operators, god knows what they are going to send. Someone stops to help and suggests calling 911 since animals could be in danger. I never saw any of the rescuers called…along comes the most amazingly helpful good samaritan I have ever encountered. “Do you need help? I have a shop a mile from here and I happen to be a pretty good welder.” I walked the horses down a country lane to his house, he drives the trailer and Tommy gets to drive this man’s hot 4 wheeler! We meet at his house/shop where his wife, 4 kids, nephew and father all pour out of the house to help make us all comfortable and to fix the bent up trailer. I was awestruck not only by their kindness but by the love and respect they had for each other. 6 hours later we are on our way. They will not take any money! I am not used to this..I cry for the next hour on the road I am so moved. This is the kind of person I want to be…this is the kind of family I had hoped for for my children…I am so sorry…I failed…Tommy is so sweet and tells me that its the past and to just concentrate on the future.