One woman. One horse. 48 states for Domestic Violence Awareness

Check back often for the latest updates and stories from Meredith and Apollo as they journey 10,000 miles on a four year ride around the USA.

Horse Travel 101: What to Wear?

The Centauride’s YouTube channel has been revived! Starting with today’s new video, I will be posting new content regularly.  Want a video about something specific? Comment or contact me and I’ll do my best!

I’ve decided to begin the relaunch with a series I’m calling “Horse Travel 101,” discussing specific things about my ride that are unusual or curious about horse travel (versus other kinds of horseback riding activities).  My first topic is “What to Wear,” wherein I talk about everything I have on - all of which was chosen for safety, comfort, and durability.

Watch the video here - Horse Travel 101: What to Wear When You’re Riding Across The Country
The following is a list of all the products discussed in the video (and a few I missed).  Links with * are affiliate links or otherwise support my journey.  I only use products that withstand a lot of hard use and are otherwise of good quality.

Helmet: Tipperary Sportage low profile western riding helmet. *
Helmet visor: Salamander black visor. *
Helmet mirror: Tiger Eye Carbon Fiber Mirror *
Helmet identification: Equestrisafe Rescue Facts Identification for Humans

Safety vest: Radians SV55-2ZGD *
GPS tracking device: SPOT Satellite Messenger *
My favorite snack bars: GoMacro variety pack *
Multi-purpose tool: Leatherman Rebar Multitool *
Waterproof journal (not mentioned in video): Rite in the Rain all-weather spiral notebook *
Waterproof business card holder (not mentioned): Wiltz *

Centauride t-shirts and other goodies (please note when ordering women’s shirts, they run a size small): *
Sports bra: Brooks Moving Comfort Uplift Crossback Medium Impact Sports Bra *
Pants: Stickyseat
Half-chaps: Ovation Ladies Suede Ribbed Half Chaps *
Boots: Ariat Terrain H20. *
Socks (not mentioned): Smartwool PhD Outdoor Medium Crew *
Gloves: Heritage Performance Gloves *

Making our way through PA

Pennsylvania was our 28th state, and what a state it was! While it was a nice change of scenery to have finally left the mostly-flat midwest, the many hills of western PA were certainly challenging.  Yet almost every day brought new breathtaking scenery and super friendly people.

We started out in Washington County, southwest of Pittsburgh.  I was able to take a beautiful rail trail (Montour Trail) for part of two days.  It was so peaceful riding through the forest!

Along the Montour Trail, Apollo went through his first tunnel! Just to be on the safe side, I led him through it, but he was just fine. We went through two more tunnels further down the trail, which I was able to calmly ride him through. Even after so many miles, we still come across new experiences!

Pittsburgh area is very hilly, and I spent the whole day hoping on and off of Apollo for the steepest of the many hills.  I imagine if an ant were walking on bubble wrap, it would feel about the same for the amount of ups and downs. Apollo and I rode through a lot of neighborhoods that looked like this, with red brick houses perched on the side of the hills.

In Pittsburgh (yes, in the city), we stopped to visit the Center for Victims.  What a great shelter! They help domestic violence victims, but also any other victims of violence. They have a lot of awesome services available, including several therapy dogs on staff!

Here we are outside the Steelers’ training field, on the south side of Pittsburgh!

We stopped the next two days at Victory Stables, where I was invited to have a booth at their open house.

We had to get two police escorts in the greater Pittsburgh area (one in the city, and one on the Tarentum Bridge, pictured).  So much traffic! Good thing this was not our first rodeo!

For the fourth day in a row, we stopped to do another event to talk about domestic violence and the ride.  The last of these stops was in Tarentum, in the northeast Pittsburgh area.  This was one of our best events ever, because it wasn’t just for the shelter staff and clients.... the whole community came out to attend! Several people from the local government, more from the HOPE Center, a few from law enforcement, and a bunch of townspeople who had heard about it.  The kids at the center made me this poster!

Once we finished with the Pittsburgh area, we rode north through more rural areas and a few smaller towns.  Here is the town of Butler, with an awesome horsey mural.

My most unusual experience in PA was learning to throw hatchets!  After a bit of practice and probably a lot of luck, I managed to get a bullseye.  This is way more fun than throwing darts!

 Here’s a pretty scene! We rode around Conneaut Lake, a very popular spot for boating.

When we reached Erie, Apollo and I visited the kids, clients, and staff of SafeNet. This is one of my all-time favorite pictures from an event.

The northern edge of western PA - Lake Erie! If you’ve never seen the Great Lakes, there’s a reason they’re called great.  They are so big that they look like oceans, complete with waves.

Apollo and I visited Apollo PA! Unfortunately I didn’t ride through the town so I couldn’t get a picture of him with the sign. Still, pretty cool.

Apollo also met another horse named Apollo! “Polly” is a Morgan gelding. I’m sure they had lots to talk about.

He made lots of other friends, as usual.  One of the most fun was a pasture he shared with a playful mini and a lamb.

Of all Apollo’s new friends, he has never been so inseperable from any other as he was from his young mini friend shown here. That little guy followed Apollo everywhere, grazed nose-to-nose, and played together all weekend long.

The Centauride FAQ

Nearly* everyone whom I meet has lots of questions about my journey, and reasononably so.  When else have you met someone who has travelled over 7000 miles on a horse?

Sometimes, though, people worry about asking me questions, because they’re sure I’m tired of answering them.  I’ll admit that a few of these FAQs do bore me, but for the most part I don’t mind answering questions or telling stories.  New stories happen to me every day, so my answers - or at least my examples to the answers - do change as I go, which keeps the telling more interesting! 

What’s your favorite state?

This is the only question that I really do get tired of.  I think that is because it’s not so simple to pick a favorite when you’ve travelled this much.  Favorite in what way? The scenery? The food? The people? The culture? The weather? The roads and ease of traveling by horse? The interesting sights and fun adventures?  

The other problem with this question is that people expect a one-word answer. I can’t do that though (obviously, as I’m now in my second paragraph of explanation!), because I have too many favorites for different reasons. Also, I’ve had awesome days visiting a town or area of some states (like Kansas and Idaho), not to mention having met exceptional people in each state, but which I wouldn’t pick as a favorite overall.  So, in no particular order, here are my top five states that I’ve most enjoyed visiting:

New Mexico, Oregon, Washington, Wisconsin, ... and can I just say “almost all of the midwest”? 

What is on Apollo’s feet/legs?

Apollo wears bells on his “ankles” while we travel.  There are a variety of reasons for this, but predominantly to alert people and wildlife that we’re approaching.  

He also wears boots instead of metal horseshoes.  They are Cavallo brand.  I prefer boots for my ride because they protect the bottom of his hooves better, keep his hoof wall stronger (no nail perforations), have the ideal traction and some cushioning on pavement, and are easier for me to deal with than metal shoes (such as finding a farrier as I go).

How far do you go in a day?

I travel an average of 13 miles per day, which is just under a hundred miles per week.  As of today (August 9, 2019), I’ve gone 7500 miles with Apollo.

However, because I take backroads and am staying at people’s homes who are not in a straight line, my route is often more miles from Point A to Point B than in a car; in other words, although I may find a direct backroad each day, on average I go 50% further than the direct car-route over the course of a week.   

Do you take breaks? Have you been home since you started?

Typically I schedule my weeks so that I ride 4 days and then take 2 days off.  The days off are necessary at this frequency so we both can rest, and also so I can keep up with non-riding tasks (such as blogging!).  Sometimes I have to extend my stops due to dangerous weather (I ride in bad weather but not dangerous weather) or as needed for my own or Apollo’s health. 

We do not travel in the snowy months. At the end of October each year, I find somewhere safe to board him, and fly home for the holiday season. When the daytime temperatures are consistently above freezing wherever Apollo is staying, I fly back again and we keep going.  

Do you ride south for the winter?

No.  It doesn’t work that way.  I travel too slowly to make such a strategy possible. Although I of course prefer to not be in the far north when winter comes, I can only go as fast as I go. The previous two winters were spent near Kansas City and Chicago. 

Where do you stay each night? Do you just camp on the side of the road?

Mostly I stay with nice strangers who invite me to stay.  Often - but not always - they are horse owners.  However, Apollo has also stayed in backyards, fairgrounds, cattle pastures, pig pens, and a basketball court. For myself, I am typically invited to stay indoors (couch, RV, guest room, etc), but also carry a tent for the rare occasion that something more comfortable is not offered or available.

I never ever set up camp on a random point along the road.  Most property in the US is privately owned or requires permission to camp (with the exception of BLM lands and some other federal property, but I rarely ride through those). Also, random places along the road rarely have access to water for Apollo.  For the reason of water and food for Apollo, I also rarely stay at campgrounds, as I do not pack his water or feed.

Interested in helping us out with a place to stay? Read about what we need, and then contact me! (Please do not comment with an offer on this blog because I do not get notifications) 

So what DO you carry?

I have about 60 pounds of gear and supplies.  This includes basic camping stuff (tent, sleeping bag), granola bars, four days worth of clothing, supplements for Apollo and myself, toothbrush and other sundries, first aid kit, grooming supplies, a ride’s worth of water for myself, phone charger, tablet, flashlight, repair kit, fly mask, and knitting. 

How big is Apollo? How old is he? What breed is he? How long have you had him?

Apollo was born on April 2nd 2008, in Nevada, and is just shy of 16 hands.  He had several owners before I met him in early 2014. He is half mustang, half Peruvian Paso. He was born in captivity, only his sire was wild (although some days...)

In human terms, he is 5’2” at the top of his shoulder/highest point on his back (called the withers), the same height that I am. In years, he is currently 11 which is 36 in people years (also the same as me).  This year, we’re twinning!   

I bet you’ve met a lot of interesting people! 

That’s not a question!  Yes, I certainly have.  I have been invited to stay with people of all ages, and have met plenty more along the road too. At this point I couldn’t begin to guess how many people I’ve talked with. 

I’ve also met a lot of dogs, cats, horses, donkeys, goats, chickens, etc! 

How far are you going this year? When and where will you end? Will you ride all the way back to California? 

I started in 2017 with the goal of riding to all 48 states in four years.  So far, I’m staying on schedule to do that.  If everything goes more or less smoothly, I should reach the east coast this October (I do not yet know which state I’ll stop at for the winter).  Next year (2020), I’ll ride the rest of the east coast and the southern states, ending in Tennessee. What month that will happen is TBD, as there is too much that can happen from now until then to calculate a more specific end date.  At that point, I plan on hauling Apollo back to CA - I think 48 states and 10,000 miles is plenty! 

What are you doing to raise awareness about domestic violence? 

What a great question! Mostly by talking with individuals that I meet, by answering questions, sharing experiences, and helping with finding local resources.  Also, whenever possible, I ride to shelters, churches, community centers, schools, clubs, and any other group that would like to have me talk, to share about my ride, my story, and my mission. I also try to get coverage on local news, to reach as many people as possible. Of course, there’s also this blog (have you seen my resources page?) and Facebook.

Are you raising money? How do you afford to do this? How can I support your ride?

This is not a fundraiser, it is an awareness ride.  I am not running a nonprofit organization, nor am I affiliated with one.  That said, it is not free to do this, and NO I am not rich (except in experiences.  And love. And other such good things). Some of my equipment is sponsored, and the rest of my expenses are met through the kindness of strangers. If you would like to help financially, please visit my GoFundMe page. The best support, though, is to tell everyone about what I am doing and why, to support your local domestic violence resources by donating or volunteering, and to do your part in ending the violence.

For my favorite stories of the ride so far, check out “Have Horse Will Travel” - my short story collections - on Amazon.

* “Nearly everyone” is linguistically accurate.  Occassionally there are folks who have no questions at all.  Those people are weird. 

Six times the fun in West Virginia

To cross from Ohio to Pennsylvania, my route took me across the narrow northern arm of West Virginia... about a day’s ride in our 27th state. Circumstances would again prove that idiom about the best laid plans, when instead of being in the state for one day, Apollo and I stayed six days.

Apollo and I crossed the Ohio River at Wheeling, WV.  Our first stop was at the Wheeling YWCA, where their summer camp kids all came out to meet Apollo and ask all their questions about horses.

Our stop for the night (or as it turned out, nights) was in Bethany.  Apollo stayed at the Bethany College equestrian center, and I stayed nearby with Amy, one of their staff members. The college is beautiful, and Apollo enjoyed his giant pasture.

Apart from the college (which takes up the majority of the town), Bethany is known for being the place where a Christian denomination (First Christian Church, Disciples of Christ) was founded.  I visited the home of its founder, and saw the historic second church location as well.  This was of special interest for me, because this was the church denomination in which I was baptized!

Then, the weather turned dangerous.  A major heat wave was hitting the region, with a heat index (temperature plus humidity, similar to “real feel”) in the 100’s.  It was way too hot to safely do anything outside except sit in a swimming pool.  So that’s what I did, and also a bit of sightseeing: the lovely old buildings of Wheeling were a highlight, as well as the market district and historic Oglebay.

Of course I also had to eat, and enjoy the local flavors! In this area, they serve salads with fries on top.  I tried one with waffle fries, it was a delicious idea.

Finally, the weather improved and we were able to get back on our way.  It was a fun week, and I’m grateful I was able to experience so much more of West Virginia than I had planned!

Oh, Ohio!

It took me exactly one month to cross Ohio, from Cincinnati to Wheeling West Virginia! It was a month full of fun adventures, delicious foods, and pretty landscapes.

Apollo and I began our ride across our 26th state with a sugar-filled detour.  For the first week, we circled Butler County to do the Donut Trail! It was a fun break from our normal "get it done" schedule, not to mention being a week full of delicious donuts.

In Lebanon, we stopped to chat with some of the staff at the Abuse & Rape Crisis Center, who are doing an excellent job not just with helping victims but also with prevention through education.

In the Dayton area, I was treated to a visit to the National Museum of the Air Force, which was huge and very interesting! It took hours to walk through, and even then my host and I skipped half a hanger of planes because we got tired!

I love classic cars, so I was really excited when I got to go along to a car show in Xenia.

One of my favorite Ohio days was because of the great conversations and friendly people I met during the ride, starting at the historic Clifton Mill where I was invited to join a family for breakfast, chatted with more folks in the parking lot, and then talked with even more nice people in the next town I reached, also.

For the Fourth of July, I actually got to spend some time with my own family! Here's me and Apollo with cousin Shirlee.

Although Apollo stayed on the outskirts of Columbus, I got a ride into the city to see the capitol and more.

My favorite war memorial of the ride so far was in Zanesville, where instead of the usual list of local soldiers who lost their lives in war, had a pile of engraved helmets, one for each soldier.

I was treated to an afternoon at The Wilds, a fantastic wildlife park where visitors get up close to the free-roaming rhinos, zebras, takins, and more.

Apollo got a new and much needed accessory: a fly bonnet! Big thanks to Angel for donating and JoAnn for altering the ears to fit.  I added the purple beads since that's more domestic violence awareness themed than rust-colored.

Apollo made a lot of new friends, too, including this palomino who - except for the length of mane, and having two full ears (Apollo's is missing a tip) - looks like his twin!

Finally, I enjoyed visiting the Tri-Counties Help Center in St. Clairsville, for one of the best domestic violence awareness "meet and greets" that I've been invited to do so far.  This center is one of the best local resources for domestic violence services that I've seen!

There were plenty of pretty landscapes across Ohio…. which, by the way, is not all flat cornfields as some who have not been here assume.  Here's a few of my favorite photos from across the state:

A virtual step into my shoes

It’s a break day for Apollo, and I was just sitting here working my way through my typical hefty to-do list when it occurred to me you might like to know what all I do on this journey apart from ride Apollo! The actual ride is only a small part of my day/week schedule.  Apart from the occasional local helper (such as hosts that help out by contacting their local news media for me), I do everything myself. Even my "days off" are usually packed! You might notice that the following lists do not include a nap!

My riding days typically go like this:
- Wake up and get myself ready and packed
- Get Apollo fed and saddled
- Walk/ride for 4 to 8 hours (average 6, but depends on how far I have to go, the weather, the number of people and places I’m stopping to talk to, etc)
- Unsaddle and get Apollo settled in.
Then, in no particular order:
- Shower (when available) and otherwise get myself situated for the night
- Sort my photos of the day, back them up if I have WiFi access, and post them on social media
- Journal my day’s mileage and other data, and stories (the old fashioned way, on paper).
- Take care of emergency repairs to gear, if any.
- Get a ride to the store, post office, etc, if needed.
- Do laundry, if needed.
- Return calls and reply to messages from the day, and add any new host offers to my paper map, Google map, and calendar.
- Socialize with hosts. (Not a chore, but it does take time).
- Eat dinner.
And finally,
- Sleep.

My days off are just as busy.  In addition to taking care of Apollo several times a day, and my own basic necessities like eating and sleeping, I have the following regular chores.
- Repair any gear that got put off during the riding days (there’s almost always something).
- Contact all news stations and local papers for the next section of riding - a section being the time until the next break, typically about 50 miles.
- Search for and contact all domestic violence centers close enough to the next section’s route to see if they’d like me to visit.
- Network and search for places to stay every night for the next section, if not already arranged.
- Write a new blog post for this website.
- Order any supplies I can’t get locally, and have them shipped to a future stop.
- Sort any new photos, back them up if I have WiFi access, and post them on social media.
- Edit and post a new YouTube video, if needed and if WiFi is available.
- Get a ride to the store, post office, etc, if needed.
- Do laundry, if needed.
- Return calls and reply to messages from the day (and less urgent messages that had been put off for lack of time), and add any new host offers to my paper map, Google map, and calendar.
- Socialize with hosts.
- Take care of anything else I’ve thought of during the riding days but didn’t have time for.
- Make a note for my next break day if I have too much to do to finish the list.

Is that all?! Phew!

Check out our new page of DV resources!

To make this website easier to navigate to the important stuff - domestic violence resources and information - I have added a new page.  From the page, you can navigate to all kinds of other pages on this website (older blog posts with DV info, etc) and to external resource pages such as a directory of local shelters and national statitistics.  

A new way to a new state

I made it to Kentucky, my 25th state!

Not only did Apollo and I check off another one, we got there in a different way than usual... by ferry! Apollo has taken a ferry before, to Bainbridge Island in Washington state.  However, that time he was in a trailer.  This time, he was on his own four feet: a much bigger challenge.

He didn’t think it was much of a challenge, though.  He wasn’t certain about stepping onto the clanging metal ramp, but he only had to think about it for a few seconds before walking up it and calmly standing on the ferry for the whole seven minute ride across the Ohio River.

As soon as we got onto Kentucky soil, the skies let loose with torrential rain.  We still had a full days ride to go, though, so Apollo and I resigned ourselves to being wet.  All that water had one benefit, though, because the whole ride was so lovely and green.

We rode through one town in Kentucky, and it was a very special one.  Rabbit Hash is a tiny historic town along the river, and is one of the quirkiest towns I’ve ever been in.  Their mayor is a dog (a pit bull).  When the general store heard I rode there on a horse, they said to bring him inside - and I don’t think they were joking! He wouldn’t have fit through the doors though, so I didn’t try.

Although I only spent one day in Kentucky, it’s definitely on my list of states I need to revisit someday to explore further.  I loved the tiny bit of the state that I did get to see!