Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Riding with Saiph, part deux

You may remember that I first rode with Saiph last February at the Manassas Battlefield (and if you do, you are way ahead of me, because when Saiph told me that's when it was, I couldn't believe it had been almost a year!).  We had been meaning to get together for a ride in December out in her neck of the woods, i.e. Maryland, but then there was a bit of excitement going on in Saiph's life, with a barbed wire cut for Lily, a concussion for Saiph, and some neurological testing for Gracie.  We decided to postpone our ride until Saiph and Lily were both healed.  We were finally able to get together this past Saturday out at the Rachel Carson Conservation Park.

The weather has been generally crappy this winter.  Nothing like what New England is getting, of course, but it's been dreary and gray and wet and chilly for weeks and weeks and weeks, without the usual 2-3 day bursts of warm, sunny weather that we usually get each month.  Which is why I got pretty excited when I saw the temperature was supposed to hit 50 on Saturday.  I imagined warm sunshine and spring crocuses (crocusi?) blooming and a general feeling of spring in the air.  Apparently the entire state of Maryland did not get the same forecast I did, because it was still dreary and chilly when I pulled into the parking lot at 11 am.  Also, I would like to note that while my trip involved traveling on I-66, which typically backs up at some point or other due to poor design and just too many damn people, and the Beltway (I-95 bypass that goes around Washington, DC), the most challenging part of the trip was the last two turns where there were no street signs to indicate the name of the road.  This irresponsible road signage is also common in Virginia where I live, so it didn't confuse me as much as it might have newcomer, but I did have to use the parking lot of a florist to turn around at one point:)

I texted Saiph to let her know I was at the parking lot, so she and Charles (her husband) could ride over from where Lily and Gracie are kept a short distance away.  Meanwhile, I made sure Nimo got something to eat after his hour and 50 minute trailer ride and then got him saddled up.  The logistics worked well because just as I was getting ready to get on Nimo, Saiph and Charles were in sight.  You can just see my rig with Nimo next to it in the picture below.  (Note: Almost all the pictures in this post were taken by Charles and Saiph who were kind enough to share them with me because I truly suck at taking pictures on rides.  The only picture I did take was somehow accidentally a one-second video of Saiph talking about something completely random.)

Photo by Saiph
We quickly greeted each other and got under way.  I have to admit that I was pretty excited about the ride because Saiph and Lily have done a couple of 50-mile endurance rides, and I know they condition at a pretty good pace.  Nimo and I tend to lack a little discipline on the pace front, so having someone push us a bit was a great way to start ramping up our conditioning work for the season.

I did have to laugh, though, because a short distance into our ride, we encountered a decent-sized creek that none of the horses wanted to cross, probably because there was a steep descent and some ice along the edge of the creek, but all three horses have plenty of experience crossing creeks.  After Lily refused to cross, Charles got off to break up the ice, but Gracie wouldn't cross.  So I tried to get Nimo to cross, and he clearly communicated that if 2 other horses wouldn't cross, who was he to argue with their logic?  So, I got off and eventually got him to go into the water on his own.  He still wouldn't cross under saddle, though, and the water was too deep for me to lead him through.  At this point, Lily had had enough of the delay and braved the icy creek, leading the other horses through.

We continued on our journey through mostly forest and Saiph did a great job leading us through the trails, which were not always marked well and barely visible in some places (I would have been food for wolves if I had been out there on my own).  We alternated which horse was leading every so often, with even Nimo leading a couple of times for short distances.

Photo by Charles

And we crossed a lot of water.

Photo by Saiph
Photo by Charles
Photo by Charles

And yes, that is a giant orange helmet cover on my helmet.  It looks ridiculous, but a friend got it for me for Christmas because I often ride in places where people might also be hunting and she didn't want me to get shoot.  I also don't want to get shot, so I wear it:)

Then we went through the Swamp of the Dead, or so Nimo thought it was called.  There was a large pond on one side and a swampy bog (yes, I get that swampy bog is redundant, but I couldn't commit to only one word) with a raised trail through the middle.  The picture below is just before we hit that point.  Nimo was in front and then totally freaked out because apparently he somehow watched the Lord of the Rings movies when I wasn't paying attention (doesn't he know he always gets nightmares?) and realized that dead bodies that come to life and grab you lay in wait under water like this.

Photo by Charles
Luckily Lily knew there were no dead bodies, so she took over the lead.  And she led us up steep hills at the canter (Nimo insisted cantering up hills is not necessary, and he possibly cried a couple of times, but the workout was great!) and even over some logs that Nimo may possibly have sort of jumped over at least a couple of times.

And 11 miles after we started, we were back at the parking lot.

Photo by either Saiph or Charles
I had such a wonderful time, and I know Nimo really benefited from having other horses with him to help motivate him.  But after we chatted for a few minutes, it was time for me to get Nimo his mash and then load him up for the trip home.  I was hoping to get back to the barn before dark partly because I hate unloading in the dark and also because I was STARVING!  I had brought a sandwich and cheese stick for after the ride, but apparently sitting on Nimo while he was doing all that work really made me hungry!:)

My trip back to the barn was remarkably uneventful, until we were on I-66 just outside of Centreville.  The traffic was fairly heavy, but moving well and then all of a sudden, the road in front of me was clear.  And a split second later I realized why.  There was a loveseat-sized package of something on the left-hand side of my lane.  I was boxed in by cars on both sides and going 60 miles an hour, so there weren't a lot of options for me.  I braked as suddenly and hard as I dared while praying we wouldn't get hit from behind and eased the truck as far over to the right of my lane as I could without hitting the car next to me.  My hope was that the package would ricochet off of the truck without seriously affecting our path forward, because if my rig went out of control on an eight lane highway (four lanes in each direction) in heavy traffic, bad things were going to happen to everybody.  Obviously, if the package moved though, it would likely be in someone else's way, so I couldn't see a happy ending to this situation.  And within 2 seconds of when I first saw it, we hit it. 

Road hazards are pretty common in this area as are deer, raccoons, foxes, and other assorted wildlife.  I count myself lucky (and am now knocking on wood and throwing salt over my shoulder) that I have never hit a deer or been in an accident because of the crazy crap that falls off of people's vehicles.  And I am still one of the lucky ones.  While the package was huge, on closer inspection it was full of what looked like sheets of pink foam insulation.  So, it bounced right off of the truck and miraculously skidded to the side of the road near the median without causing a problem.

After I took a breath, I picked up the phone to call 911 to report the hazard.  In the smaller town where I live, road hazards are taken pretty seriously, but in Fairfax County, they apparently do not constitute an emergency because when I explained the situation to the operator, she connected me to the non-emergency line and the police operator I talked to barely listened to me before half-heartedly promising to check it out.  I do get that in more metropolitan areas, things like burning buildings and dead bodies are more exciting, but I figure prevention is better than what could be a catastrophic accident.

Anyway, one close call was enough for the day and we made it back safe and sound.  And I felt so good about our fantastic ride and our survival on the highway that I managed to take this picture of a gorgeous sunset on my way home:)

UPDATE:  You can read Saiph's perspective on our ride here.


  1. We had a great time and as always with your write-ups I found myself bursting out laughing while reading. :D Nimo has turned into such an even-keeled guy with all of the trail work you've been doing for the last 2 years!

    And OMG that's crazy about the box of insulation but I'm so glad it was just that and that you, Nimo, the truck and the trailer were all okay! Next time we meet for a conditioning ride we should find a halfway point!

  2. Sounds like a fun ride! And holy crap on the close call...I probably would have had to pull over and take a breather at the next exit. So glad you and Nimo are okay!

  3. HOW FUN! So happy y'all got to ride together <3

  4. Weather aside, that sounded like a wonderful ride!