One woman. One horse. One goal: 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.

Reading for the road in the Pacific Northwest

I am a total bookworm.  Though my packs have to be as light as possible, I cannot possibly travel without a book.  That is just one of my necessities.  When I finish the one book I'm carrying, it becomes a Big Deal for me to find a replacement.  I went three near-panicked days in January without a book. While I will occasionally read e-books on my phone, its' not as nice as a paper copy (and hard on my battery - there's no phone charger on my saddle!)

As I ride through each state, I try to find books that are about that state, or fictional works that are set in that state.  Here's what I read for Washington and Oregon:

The Oregon Trail by Rinker Buck
     Perhaps my favorite of the list, and the most applicable to my own travels.  A few years ago, Rinker and his brother Nick hitched three mules to an authentic restored covered wagon and retraced the historic Oregon trail.  Unlike other modern trail reenactments, they did it without a support crew or caravan of trucks, for an authentic, harrowing and entertaining journey from Missouri to Oregon.  The book is full of equine wisdom, trail history, and good fun.

The Golden Spruce by John Vaillant
   When I first started reading this, I thought I might not bother with it.  Too boring, I thought (and this from someone who likes nonfiction and classics above most "bestsellers").  But I stuck it out for a few chapters, and am I glad I did.  This is a fascinating book, and so chock full of information about the Pacific Northwest that I almost feel like an expert just for having read it.  Though the book is "about" the ill-fated Golden Spruce off the Canadian coast, it is even more about the history of the PNW, from precolonial times to the modern state of the logging industry and its impacts on the land and its people.

The Boys in the Boat by Daniel James Brown
   Another non-fiction work, about the crew of young men from University of Washington who fought the odds to win the Olympic gold medal for 8-man rowing in 1936 Berlin.  A very thorough account of not just their lives, but also the social and political events that shaped them and the world as they knew it, as well as delving into the history of pre-war Nazi Germany.  Even if you don't care about rowing (I certainly didn't), you'll go away with a deep appreciation and understanding of this sport.

The Twilight Saga by Stephanie Meyer
    Feeling like I was one of the few people left in the world who hadn't read or seen Twilight, I figured that it was high time to see what all the fuss was about.  It is set in coastal Washington, on the Olympic peninsula.  I can't say I like these books, though I read the whole saga of four.  They were entertaining enough, but the plot twists were all obvious and the relationship drama obnoxious.  It actually made me sad while reading this that so many people find the relationships in here romantic; the "romance" is so deeply flawed that at times it borders on abusive, and in real life such relationships (looking past the vampire aspect) are unlikely to have the books' happy ending.

The 50 Shades of Gray trilogy by E.L. James
    50 Shades was written as a fan fiction for Twilight, removing the vampire-and-werewolf element and adding a BDSM twist.  Also set in Washington, but this time in Vancouver and then Seattle.  Although I read the whole trilogy, it was because I kept hoping against hope that it would get better.  It didn't.  The best I can say is that it was interesting, from a writer's viewpoint, to see how James incorporated story arcs, plot devices and character development from Twilight into her otherwise completely different book. 

One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest by Ken Kesey
    One of the most famous fictional stories to be set in Oregon, this was one modern classic which I somehow missed out on reading in school.  At the end of the first chapter, I was pretty sure I wouldn't bother finishing it.  But the more I read, the more I liked it.  Some of the dream and delirium sequences are tedious, but otherwise a very thought provoking read.

Goodbye Again, Oregon!

I've made it to Idaho, by way of eastern Oregon.  I had already travelled through Oregon earlier this year as I headed up the coast to Washington.  It was shorter for my route to "repeat a state" as I head east... and Oregon is good state to visit twice!

Eastern Oregon is just as pretty as coastal Oregon.  Maybe even prettier in some places! The eastern side of the state has the reputation of being all desert, this is not accurate.  Sure, a lot of it is, especially in the rain shadow of the Cascades (such as Pendleton and Bend).  But as I travelled even farther south east I was pleasantly surprised to find verdant green meadows and forested mountains.  Quite different from the sagebrush that this side of the state is known for. 

Much of my ride through eastern Oregon followed the historic Oregon Trail.  My route was dotted with old buildings and barns, and historic markers.  The people too maintain that good old fashioned hospitality.  And just as it has since the area was settled in the late 1800's, rodeo is still the thing.  I was lucky enough to stay at the grounds of the largest of them in Pendleton, and then to attend one in Union. 

Even though we've now been doing this for almost half a year, there are still experiences for Apollo to learn about.  This time, it was trains.  We've been getting progressively closer to passing trains throughout the ride.  But until Pyles Canyon, we were lucky to have a train-free track whenever we were right along side one.  It was inevitable that would last though, and Apollo finally got up close to a moving train.  Actually to three of them, although the first was closest - and noisiest, as it was coming around a bend where it passed us, with horn blaring and wheels screaming. Apollo was nervous but didn't try to run away, which is a big success for a brave road horse!

Here's my favorite landscapes and moments from eastern Oregon.  So many pretty places!


Goodbye, Washington!

Apollo and I spent a lot of time in Washington.  So much that some days it felt like we'd never see another state border again.  Three whole months, in fact! But if I had to be stuck somewhere, Washington was a good place to be.

We crossed into the state in the pouring rain, aboard a truck & trailer due to a lack of safe options to ride over the Columbia river from Portland Oregon.

We rode up the western side of the Cascades, straight to the state capital of Olympia. 

Washington, like Oregon, has drive through coffee kiosks everywhere.  We stopped at a lot of them!

As we neared Seattle, Mount Rainier occasionally peeked out of the rain clouds.  What a magnificent mountain she is!

We got waylaid in Seattle area for two months waiting for the pass to stop looking like this.

I enjoyed my "Seattle vacation."  It's one of my favorite cities in the world, and I had plenty of time to explore to my heart's content.

And eat to my heart's content...  There is so much good food in Seattle!  My favorite, naturally, was ice cream filled donuts (at Chick5 near Mill Creek, for you Washingtonians that now need to rush out and eat one).

Apollo also enjoyed the time off!

My "vacation" was not all idle sightseeing and eating.  I also helped with the crafting and cooking for my friend's bachelorette party, attended her wedding, took martial arts classes (kali/escrima and muay thai kickboxing), and repaired and resupplied for getting back on the road.

Apollo and I also took a ferry ride... Bainbridge Island Historic Museum, to talk about the historic Overland Westerners, as well as about our ride and about domestic violence.

Finally it was spring and we could get back on our way.

We crossed the mountains, where I finally got to use my tent in dry (but a bit chilly) weather.  The last snow of the year had happened only half a week earlier but was melted by the time I got to snow level.

What an interesting and diverse state this has been!  We started off along the coastal side of the Cascades in the rain, where everything is green.

And then headed back south on the east side of the mountains, where the irrigated land is green, and well known for producing grapes, hay and other crops...

...but the natural state of the land is dry, sagebrush-covered high desert.

Now we're in Oregon (again)! So goodbye Washington, it's been great getting to know you.

Aloha, Hawaii!

48 states may be enough for Apollo, but this week I added the 49th to my four year journey!  While not technically part of my ride, since I travelled there sans horse, I had the good luck to be able to spend a few days in Hawaii soaking up some sun.  Meanwhile, Apollo stayed with an extremely nice horsewoman near Seattle, Martha, who deserves more thanks than I can possibly express.

The reason for my side-trip was because one of my best friends was getting married there.  Since the timing coincided with my Seattle break, where I’ve been waiting for the pass trail to clear over the Cascades, I was able to take the time to attend the wedding. 

This was the first time I’ve been to Hawaii, and I must say it exceeded all my expectations.  It is a beautiful state, the beaches are amazing (and I don’t even normally like going to the beach), and the weather was simply perfect.  Oh yeah, and the wedding was nice too!
Arriving in Hawaii - I never did see a Welcome to Hawaii sign to take a selfie with, but this was close enough!

Naturally I had to try as much island food and drinks and I could squeeze into my tummy and schedule

My view for most of the week

The bride with her mom and flower girl

Bride and groom with us friends and family

At the wedding!


Why I Walk

As strange as it is to see a horse on the road, it is even more strange to see the rider not-riding.  So it is a common question asked of me "Why are you walking? Don't you ride?"  

Yes, I do ride Apollo (see?).

But I also walk.  A lot.  This is for many reasons, and sometimes several reasons at once.

Sometimes the question is rephrased as "Is your horse ok?" because one of the more typical reasons to not-ride is if your horse has become injured.  In my case, I sometimes choose to walk to prevent injury.  Both for Apollo and for myself.  On a 10,000 mile journey, his back and my legs can get sore if I stay mounted for too many hours.  Me walking gives him a break and also gives my muscles and joints a chance to move and stretch differently. 

Another major reason I walk is for safety.  If we are traveling along a busy road, or a road with a fast speed limit, or a road with no shoulder (in other words, no margin of error to stay away from traffic), or in a situation where me falling off would be particularly dangerous (such as on a bridge) or where Apollo is likely to get frightened (such as near a train), we are both safer if I am walking.  This gives me better leverage if he suddenly moves or tries to run, and keeps me from falling into traffic (or over the side of a bridge). It also helps me keep Apollo safe from suddenly moving in a dangerous direction because he is more likely to follow me when I'm walking, and it is quicker and more effective for me to correct him if he starts to go the wrong way when I am standing next to him. 

Some days I have to walk all day or nearly all day, some days I can ride as much as is physically comfortable for the both of us.  It depends on where we are and how Apollo is feeling. 

Almost Forgotten Heroes: The Overland Westerners

On May 1, 1912, four horsemen rode up to the steps of the capitol building in Olympia Washington, as the official start of their 48 state capital tour.  They had left the small town of Shelton a few days before, from which they had set out on a tour of the US that they hoped would make them rich and famous.  No horsemen had ever previously completed such a route, and as the age of the automobile dawned, these men thought the public would love such a spectacle. 

Unfortunately for the Westerners, their successful ride of 20,000 miles made over the next three years did not in fact enjoy any public applause.  In those days, horses were called "hayburners," a derogatory term indicative of their status as slow yet expensive transportation when compared to the much more desirable automobile.  When they eventually rode into San Francisco after hitting the last of the 48 capitals, they were told to get their horses off the streets.  The Westerners shipped themselves home and resumed their daily lives, their feat quickly forgotten by nearly everyone.

Happily for us, there were a few who remembered, and their accomplishment is now the focus of two museum exhibits: an award winning exhibit at the Bainbridge Island Historic Museum, and another exhibit at the Mason County Museum (located in Shelton).  Here, some of the Westerners photo documentation and journals are preserved for the public to enjoy.  These long riders are also recognized by the Long Riders Guild, where you can read more about their journey.

Apollo and I were able to visit both museums to pay tribute to these horsemen while on our ride through Washington.  At Shelton, we were greeted by museum staff and city officials who braved the pouring rain to learn about the Overland Westerners and the Centauride.  In Bainbridge, we had a warm welcome from the museum, the YWCA, and over a dozen people (thanks in part to the nice article in the Bainbridge Island Review).

It was quite an honor to be able to ride to these towns and walk in the footsteps of those historic horsemen!

Apollo looks at the Shelton home of one of the Overland Westerners
Q&A time at Bainbridge

Giving my "talk"
Apollo and Meredith at the Bainbridge museum

Bainbridge Island event on April 29

You're invited to the Bainbridge Island Historical Museum event that will be held April 29 at 2pm.  Come out to see this lovely island just a short ferry ride from Seattle, and meet Apollo.  We will be there to recognize the 105th anniversary of the beginning of the historic Overland Westerner long ride, of which two of the riders were from the island.  Get all the details and spread the word on facebook (here) or read about it on the museum website (here).

Saturday April 29, 2017
Bainbridge Island Historical Museum
215 Ericksen Ave NE, Bainbridge Island, Washington 98110
For info, call (206) 842-2773 or email the museum

A Real Life Nightmare

One of the most misunderstood aspects of domestic violence is "why doesn't she leave?' 

This simple sounding question has a very complex answer, although of course the specifics vary by situation.  There are many reasons why a victim may stay with her abuser, even if she fears for her life while around that person.  These include not having a safe place to go (if the alternative is homelessness, especially when children are involved), not having a job or other financial resources to move, and perhaps most commonly, the threat of greater harm to the victim (and/or her children) if she leaves. 

For myself, the last was my biggest fear and obstacle to getting out.  Even once I had a plan, and a backup plan, for where I would go and how I could make it work so I didn't lack for food or shelter, I was afraid of putting it into action.  It's one thing to live in a dangerous home, knowing you will be battered daily.  It is another to step into the unknown territory of leaving - what if your abuser can find you? 

Leaving is statistically the most dangerous time in an abusive relationship.  When the abuser loses daily control over their victim, they are more likely to murder them in retaliation.  And the victim knows this: she will typically have been told this, either directly or by suggestions, throughout the relationship. 

A clear example of the threat under which a victim lives has recently been made available by a British policeman who shared a photo he took when they responded to a domestic violence call.  Check out the photo and article here.  Then imagine living in that home, and the clear threat of what would happen if you tried to leave and failed.