Saturday, July 11, 2020

Hot New Release! Turn Right at the Sarcophagus

July 7 2020

Hot off the e-press!

Turn Right At The Sarcophagus: An Egyptian Adventure is my latest travel adventure e-book. It's already a #1 New Release in Egypt travel!

This one isn't just a book about horses. But horses are a reason I ended up in Egypt. If you're a horse lover or a travel fanatic, this travelogue taken from my journals of my first trip to Egypt will give you a little entertaining taste of both. 

You'll meet Maryanne (many of you know her!) and her zany, entertaining animals, ride horses in the countryside, visit the Giza Pyramids and the Khan Al-Khalili market, explore the backroads of Giza, tour the Sinai, climb Mount Sinai and wake up uner Mount Sinai in a Bedouin camp, and gallop a horse through the desert around pyramids.

The print book should be out August 10.

Happy armchair travel-reading!

Monday, July 6, 2020

The Umpteenth Owyhee Fourth of July Parade

July 4 2020

Way up a crick from a tiny little town in Owyhee the best little July 4th parade in America takes place. 

For the umpteenth year, rain or shine (it’s always shine), Parade Mistress Linda and her random Critters put on a homemade parade for a few select guests. 

Each year, you never know quite what the parade will bring (neither does Linda…). Linda may have plans, but her horse, mule, miniature horse, a randy mini-mule (who was gelded shortly after that one year’s parade), donkey, jackass, dogs, etc, get dressed up, but they all have free choice to participate in whatever capacity they choose.

This year Linda, aboard Ted the Wonder Horse, carrying Our Nation’s Flag, ponying Hattie the Spotted Mule, led the procession of assorted dogs, and was joined by our dog Luna and, briefly, my horse Stormy until Hattie the Mule kicked him and he left, no longer interested in parades. Linda’s goats didn’t come all the way up this year, (we missed them!) and the pigs simply refused to leave Linda’s driveway.

But as usual, it was the best parade ever, the best kept secret in Owyhee.

Friday, June 26, 2020

Hillbillie Willie: City of Rocks...Dynamite...Ninja Attack

June 26 2020

I rode a lit stick of dynamite for 6 miles.

Well, one could hardly blame him for being a hot crackling explosive. City of Rocks was Standardbred Hillbillie Willie’s first endurance ride of the season - his last one was last October.

Rooting his head (and the bit) up and yanking it down and jerking it to the sides… no amount of (exhausting) leg-leg-leg or rein jiggling or one-rein pressure or rein wrestling or pleading got him to stop doing that for the first 6 miles of trail in the 50-mile ride. Giving him a loose rein would have put him 5 minutes ahead of the front runners even though we started 10 minutes late. 

It was Day 3 of City of Rocks in Almo, Idaho. Willie did all 3 days last year, but this year just one day was best for him, since he’d been away from endurance so long and wasn’t as fit at this point as last year, and this is a tough ride, and he’d be going hard as usual, and wanting to go faster than I wanted him to.

Willie rode with his mentor, Master Yoda Jack (and Deb), and his former ranch mate Smokey (formerly Steph’s but now Nance’s horse). 
I knew they’d set the perfect pace for and match strides well with Willie, because those two rode Day 1 together. Jack’s always the consummate professional, always calm and steady, a good influence on Young Jedi Willie. Of course, Willie ignored him for the first 6 miles because his former racehorse memories and instincts were in the forefront of his imagination, even though most of the other horses and riders were far out of our sight. Willie plumb wore me out. I could put him in front, in the middle, or in back of our group, and for 6 miles I got yank, pull, root, head toss, mouth open or bit chomp.

But somewhere near the border of Utah when we turned a corner onto the Boise-Kelton Stage Route, heading for the stage station ruins and the intersection of the California Trail in City of Rocks National Reserve park, 
Willie transformed into the endurance horse I know, settled down and moved along at a steady long trot, loose rein, ears forward and relaxed. (Whew!) The three compatriots cruised the two 25-mile loops together through the park, climbing on loop 2 to 7500 feet at Indian Grove.

All was smooth sailing… except for the lunch break, when I was waiting to go back out with Deb and Nance, and I tried mounting Willie by stepping up onto an almost-empty water tub… which collapsed into Willie (i.e. attacked him, dousing both of us with the water left in it), and I fell into him (resembling an attacking Ninja warrior) and scared the bejeezus out of him, and he panicked and flew backwards, and I kept holding onto his rein hoping he’d stop and recognize me for the clumsy human I was, but he didn’t, and he kept backing and dragging me face-first in the dirt, and we created a huge dust cloud and attracted a cluster of shocked people, and finally I had to let go, and ouch my kneecaps hurt because that’s what I’d landed on first, and when I plowed to a stop and lifted up my head out of the dirt and looked at Willie, he was 15 feet away from me snorting, head down with HYUGE eyes, wondering, Why did you attack me? Brian picked me up out of the dust and humiliation, then I had to approach and comfort Willie and assure him that it wasn’t intentional and I hadn’t really attacked him! (Oh, I see a cartoon in this.)

And then all was well for the rest of the day… except my kneecaps were bruised and it took two washings afterwards to get the dirt/mud out of my tights.

Monday, May 18, 2020

What's on Your Travel Bucket List?

Monday May 18 2020

In this bizarre, incomprehensible earthly time of not traveling, I'm savoring a lot of memories of travel that I've been lucky enough to do throughout my life. Starting with my first 6-week backpack trip in Europe in 1989, an adventure that opened up my eyes and mind to - well, a whole new world, I've come to learn that travel is in my blood. I love maps. I love travel adventure books. I love discovering unknown (to me) places. I love travel.

There is nothing that compares to experiencing new cultures and places and people. Nothing else feels like waking up in a new country and smelling the morning scent of a place on the other side of the world. Each one is unique and lodges in your memory cells, and decades later, a photograph from that place can trigger those smells and feelings again.

I like how adventure traveler Mark Jenkins described it in To Timbuktu: A Journey Down the Niger, how he felt after living for a year in Europe as a kid: 

"We were just dirt and snow kids from the high plains of Wyoming when the rest of the world got lodged inside us like an arrowhead too close to the spine." 

That same travel arrow lodged in my small-town Texas spine. I've spent several cumulative years of traveling (some horse related, some not), to some 36 or so different countries, and it never fails to intrigue and fascinate me, to quicken the pulse and have all my senses on high alert to all the possibilities, when stepping off a plane or train or bus in a new country.

Ever since that first trip to Europe, travel always seemed natural. See a picture of a foreign place, think, wow, I want to go there - and you just go. Our world is here for the visiting - go see it!

And note, I'm less an adventurer than a traveler, though plenty of unexpected adventures often tended to come my way. For the first backpack trips I always went solo, but most often met up with travelers along the way. In my backpack travels, I've hiked the Himalayas, 
sailed in Norway, walked in Alexander the Great's footsteps in Greece and Turkey, rode a camel on a multi-day trek in the desert of Jaisalmer, India, ridden a mad-house solidly-packed third class train across half of India, paddled Zimbabwe's Zambezi River through crocodiles and hippos.

Some travels were completely horse-related, and I've met cool horse people around the world. I've ridden a beach in New Zealand, 
galloped by pyramids in Egypt, ridden a horse on the sacred Curragh in Ireland, tolted beside an ice-covered volcano in Iceland. 

I have more horse stories to tell. I have many travel stories to recount. Some of my travel journals will make their way into book form. My first travel book, which should be out soon, will tell the tale of my first visit to Egypt. 

And there are sooooo many more places on my Travel Bucket List, so much more of the world to visit: I want to trek to K2 basecamp in Pakistan, tramp through Greenland, hike Patagonia, ride in Argentina, ride in Lapland. 

What's on your Travel Bucket List?

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Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Happy 29th Birthday Stormy!

Tuesday April 14 2020

Wow. My old man has turned 29. 

I've had Stormy for 21 years now. Besides being a former racehorse (who earned his keep at Yakima Meadows, Playfair, and Emerald Downs in Washington - I was his groom at Emerald), Stormy's been a trail horse, a pack string leader, a pet, and a lawn mower. He still does the latter and works most diligently at it, even though he's lost a good number of teeth.

He's earned his several mashes a day, and he gets the run of the place - he either wanders about the property grazing, or he hangs with the herd and either follows or leads them on walkabouts up the canyon. And he can still turn on the turbos, sprinting after the herd if they've left without him.

He's got the dream life all retired Thoroughbred racehorses would love to have, and I'm so happy The Most Beautiful Horse On The Planet is MINE!

Happy Birthday you old duffer!

Thursday, March 26, 2020

Owyhee Cow Drama, Part XVIII (or wherever we are in the ongoing saga)

Monday March 23 2020

It's rogue cow season. You know the time of year - when cows escape off their BLM grazing allotments because the grass is greener on the other side (and the fences probably aren't maintained in the best condition).

In the private pasture next to us, owned by B, 5 black cows and 1 brand new black baby had been hanging out for a week or so. The law is Fence 'Em Out here in Idaho, but these cows were 2 fences over from where they were supposed to be. The rancher had been called, but nobody was in a hurry to come get them. The cows were sure in no hurry to leave, because they had yummy native grasses to eat in a small protected oasis, and a convenient running crick in the drainage instead of having to walk miles for water.

So one afternoon, I heard a calf bawling, off in another direction, away from the pasture of rogue cows. His bawling went on, and on, as if in distress, so I went out there and discovered a new red calf, maybe 2 days old, lying in the brush, in no-cow's land between the private pasture and the allotment pasture up the hill on the flats.

I could see the rogue black cows and baby up in the far end of B's pasture. I hiked up the trails toward the closed gate on top leading to the allotment, looked everywhere, saw no mama cow that might've had a baby, saw no cow tracks on the trail, saw no downed or broken fences; so no cow had came through that way. So I sat on the ridge up there a while and watched the black cows in B's pastures to see if anybody was going to come back for this bawling baby. They all happened to be wandering downstream, towards the bawling calf, and they all came down to drink, close enough to all hear the unhappy calf.

One mama cow turned and look toward the bellerin' calf, and then she turned and walked back upstream to where the rest of her herd was. They could all hear him, but nobody responded. 

I kept thinking - where on earth did this calf come from? Did one of the black cows make her way out of B's pasture to have this red calf and then just abandon him? Did another rancher's cow from down-crick escape her pasture, come all the way up here, birth him at that spot, and then wander off to either sneak back home or die (I have never found a dead cow anywhere nearby). Did a cow have him up on the allotment, and he slipped through the fence and made his way downhill to that spot? Was he just a product of spontaneous combustion? Any explanation seemed just as plausible as the other. Perhaps he was related to the mysterious Baby Jesus Calf from a couple springs ago.

Hours later, the calf was still out there bellerin', and then I saw him stand up and start walking toward the mountains. Maybe he knew his mama was over that way, or else why would he head that direction, though I had seen no sign of her at all, dead or alive. 

At dusk I was going to hike up that way and see if I could see where he went and if he'd re-united with his mama, but as I walked into our back yard - THERE'S THE CALF IN OUR BACK YARD. 

I could not have been more surprised if i'd come face to face with a cougar sitting in the back yard looking at me! The calf just stood there and stared at me. I just stood, flabbergasted, and stared at the calf. Instead of walking all the way west to the mountains, he had, somewhere along the way, made almost a 180-degree turn, walked almost a mile back this way, crossed through 2 fences, wandered past our scary bone-yard-junk-yard, and wound his way into our human-smelling back yard. The clear expression on his face was - and I am not anthropomorphizing - I need help.

And so what could I do, but help him.

I jumped in my car and drove down to the neighbor rancher who has a bunch of cows on his place. He was home, and I told him what was up, and he said he pretty much has all his cows contained at his place; and all those rogue cows in B's pasture belong to another rancher. He gave me that rancher's number and I called and left a message, about all his escaped cows and the abandoned calf in our backyard. (I never heard from them.) Then I called Regina next door, and she called Cowboy Paul from the Joyce Ranch (whose cows also run on this allotment, though they usually stay miles away from our place), and at 8:30 PM, dark, he said, "I'll be right over to get it."

He was true to his word. He arrived at 9 PM, and with flashlights, we saw the calf was still lying down in the back yard at the same spot. He was so weak (and scour-y) that Paul was able to just grab him, didn't have to rope it. 

So Paul took it home to his milk cow. 

I named it Wilbur.

I talked to Paul, who said calf is doing well with its adoptive milk cow mama!

Thursday, March 19, 2020

Stuck at Home? Read one of my short e-Books - Free!

Thursday March 19 2020

Since the country is on restrictions right now because of the Coronavirus, reading is something we can still enjoy while keeping our social distances. How many re-runs can you watch on TV, anyway?

International travel is out of the question right now, so armchair travel is our only option. If you are craving adventure, here's an alternative. 

In honor of the older-than-dirt tradition of reading for entertainment, and to give back just a little spark of joy to people for a brief time, my short Kindle single, The Other Side, will be free on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday of next week, March 23-24-25. It's the adventure story of my trek in Nepal's Himalaya on the Annapurna Circuit, conquering Thorung La pass at 17,872 feet. It was a doozy, and the scenery just stunning. I chose this one because it's one of my best-ever adventures and one of my favorite ones that I wrote. This story is horse-free, but intrepid nonetheless. 

Brew yourself a cup of coffee, grab a free copy of this ebook, and sit back and get ready to be amazed by the Himalaya and to be out of breath for a while.
(If you don't have a kindle, you can read it with Amazon's free app - click on "Read with our Free App" below the kindle price box.)

Enjoy the escapade, and stay healthy! 

Here's the link to the ebook, FREE on March 23-24-25: