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.






The Fastest Holiday Cookie Ever


It's been almost a month since I reached the end of my 2017 route, and I had expected that by now I would have gotten all caught up on everything I couldn't do from the saddle and all those repairs and improvements that need done to my equipment before spring.  Alas, this has not been the case.  My holidays are just as crazy as usual.  Of course it doesn't help that I've booked extra holiday activities like teaching wreath making workshops, making and selling stuff at craft fairs, and of course working at a normal job.

I'm not complaining, oh certainly not!  I love the holidays and I love being busy.  But sometimes (ok, a lot of the time) I do have the tendency to overstretch myself.  I figure that if I can walk/ride half way across America in 10 months, of course I can achieve whatever fun thing I want to squeeze into my packed schedule!

So when it's time to whip up something sweet for a holiday party or what-have-you, I'm so glad that I have this recipe.  I adapted it from another recipe I cut out of the local paper years ago, which was adapted from a recipe on cooks.com.   I call them cookies, but what they really are are no-bake, no-fuss, flavor-packed little balls of holiday joy.

 

Orange Nut Balls


Combine in a large mixing bowl:

A full 11 oz box vanilla wafers, pulverized into small crumbs
1 cup finely ground pecans (presumably other nuts such as walnuts would work too)
1 cup confectioners sugar (aka powdered sugar)

Once it's all mixed into a uniform flour, add:

1/2 cup orange juice
3 Tbsp agave or corn syrup
1/8 tsp orange extract (or for you essential oils fans, 8-10 drops internal-use-friendly orange oil. Or, for a grown up treat, substitute orange liqueur)

Mix it all together until it forms a dough and no dry parts remain. 

Pour some powdered sugar on a plate.

Make balls of dough approximately the diameter of a quarter.  Bigger or smaller is fine, as you like. Just don't go crazy because these are very rich, plus they tend to crack and fall apart if you make them huge. At the size of a quarter, this recipe will yield about 3 dozen cookie balls.

Roll each ball in the powdered sugar to thoroughly coat.  Arrange them on a plate, or better yet place each one in a mini cupcake/confectionary paper wrapper to prevent them sticking together.

If you will not be serving them immediately, you may want to wait to roll them until a few hours before serving, because otherwise the powdered sugar will absorb into the balls and they'll loose the snowball-look.

You can serve these immediately, or refrigerate for at least an hour to firm them up a bit.

A Centauride Mini-Documentary

Earlier this year, film maker Sebastian Teagan came out to film Apollo and I for a few days when we were passing through western Washington, including our stop at Bainbridge Island museum where we celebrated the historic long rider team The Overland Westerners.  Click here to see the long awaited mini-documentary!


How You Can Support Domestic Violence Awareness


"Giving Tuesday" is just days away.  This year, please support the domestic violence awareness efforts, shelters, and advocacy groups in your neighborhood!

To locate organizations and agencies in your area, visit this website - it has the most comprehensive list I have found yet, for every state... and other good DV info too.

Here are a few ways you can support DV awareness and help victims through your local nonprofits:

* Donate stuff.  Call your local shelter to find out what they need most - women's and children's clothing, hygiene products, food (nonperishable or homemade), home supplies, toys... Anything you use on a daily basis is probably something the shelter needs more of!

* Donate time.  Nonprofits of all kinds are notoriously overworked and understaffed.  Domestic violence groups are no different! Whether you have a specific skill to share (such as teaching an art class to the kids, or yoga to the women), or feel more capable working in the office, there's probably something you can help to do!

* Donate money.  Of course, cash and gift cards are always welcomed.  There is never enough money to help all the victims who need assistance.  Donations big and small go a long way to helping another woman get safe.

*Share your story.  Stop the violence by breaking the violence! The more we talk about it, the more victims can be helped... and prevented. 

* The Centauride needs your help too! The easiest thing you can do is share this website or the facebook page with your friends and family.  Or contribute to ride expenses on my GoFundMe site.

Oklahoma - It Was OK!


For our 13th state, Apollo, Hermes and I crossed the Oklahoma panhandle.

The whole week of riding through the state, I had the musical Oklahoma in my head. 

Plen'y of air and plen'y of room,
Plen'y of room to swing a rope!
Plen'y of heart and plen'y of hope!
Oklahoma, where the wind comes sweepin' down the plain,
And the wavin' wheat can sure smell sweet
When the wind comes right behind the rain.


I don't know about the rain part (luckily) but the rest sure is accurate!


In the western part of the panhandle, most of the land is cattle ranch.  Mile after mile of barbed wire edged grassland, dotted with windmills to bring up water for thirsty Angus.


The roads are long and straight here, with little reason for them to curve since it's so flat!  The panhandle is called "No Man's Land" because it was the last part of Oklahoma to be claimed by the state (or any of its neighbors), and being outside the law it was naturally a land of outlaws. Now it's peaceful, but still a land with very few people.


Though we had to travel the highway most of the way, there are plenty of nice country dirt roads to ride.  The panhandle is only 34 miles north-south, but the highways run on diagonals so we actually spent closer to twice that many miles crossing the state.


There is not much to see; the farms and ranches are huge and so the scenery changes very slowly.  This was my favorite sign in Oklahoma, this table was the only thing around for at least 10 miles in any direction!


Of course I cannot do a state summary without mentioning the local cuisine.  In Oklahoma I tried many new things to eat (although I avoided the calf fries - in other places called rocky mountain oysters).  Spaghetti slaw was the most interesting by far.


The Oklahoma panhandle is a beautiful place, full of friendly folks and sweeping views.  If I wasn't trying to beat Old Man Winter to our winter stop in Kansas, I would have loved to travel a few more of those nice country roads!

The Realities of Horse Travel



Recently I was insulted on Facebook with a comment calling me a “lard ass” and telling me to ride a bike instead.  Although this language was uncalled for and slightly shocking, that is not the point of this post.  I would like instead to address the misunderstandings of horse travel and of horseback riding in general that I think are behind the comment.


 False: The horse does all the work

True: Horseback riding, and especially horse travel, is a physical activity.  My days begin with shoeing, saddling, and packing Apollo.  By the end of this hour long process, I am ready for a nap and my back hurts.  Then, I walk with him for several hours a day, and often the whole day long.  That is usually 10 to 15 miles.  Five days a week.  If that’s not a lot of work, I don’t know what is.  Then, when I am ready to drop, I have to take care of all his needs for the night – unpacking, unsaddling, unshoeing, toting feed and water, often walking the fence line.  Then Apollo rests while I take care of Hermes.  And then set up my tent and make dinner.  Maybe then I can sit down. But not before checking on Apollo again.  Sometimes I wish I had a bicycle!

 

False: The horse is unhappy with working, especially with horse travel

True: Horses like to have a job.  They don’t all like the same jobs, but when the right horse is picked for the right job, they enjoy the work.  Apollo is a good long ride horse.  He usually waits by the gate to be caught, walks happily along with me, and especially is thrilled when some passing stranger stops to pet him.  He enjoys looking at the scenery as much as I do (although he does not understand my need to stop and take photos).  Having spent so much time with him, I do know when he is unhappy! And it’s not when he is working a normal day.  Often on his days off, he continues to take himself on walks around the pasture – not from stress, but because he likes his job!

 
False: The rider is lazy and just sits there

If you ride horses and think this, you are doing it wrong.  A good rider moves with the horse’s movements.  They are limber, flexible, athletic, and have good core body strength.  A good rider on a horse is called “active weight” or “live weight” which is exponentially easier on the horse than a rider that sits like a lump and is just “dead weight.”  (Dead weight also refers to anything attached to the horse – saddle, packs, etc).  Riding for long stretches is tiring, in a full body sort of way.  If the roads are good and Apollo is not tired, I may ride a six mile stretch, at the end of which I am certainly ready to walk again!

 
False: The rider is fat and out of shape (presumably because of just sitting there)

There are obese riders, for sure.  But there are no overweight long riders.  There is just too much exercise every day! Most long riders have reported losing weight during their rides, and those that didn’t were those that had no extra weight to begin with.

 
In summary, if I was truly lazy and bent on taking the easy way to travel to 48 states, I would probably buy a bicycle.  At least then I could coast downhill!  Or more likely, I would drive, preferably in a luxury RV.  But instead, I choose to grind my feet down almost every day, sleep poorly from the full body pain or deeply from exhaustion (but never normally), see the world slowly, and in the company of my horse friend Apollo.

The 2017 Centauride By The Numbers

 

Route Data

307 days.  January 1 to November 3.

4520 miles.  Due to inaccuracies in mapping, this is probably within 50 miles of the actual total.

14 states travelled: CA, OR, WA, ID, NV, MT, WY, UT, CO, AZ, NM, TX, OK, KS

Supplies (used up, broken, or lost)

My boots - 2 pair
 
Apollo's boots - 5 pair
 
Sunglasses - 1
 
Donuts - many dozens
 
Protein bars - too many to count
 
Pens - 5
 
Mechanical pencils - 2
 
Batteries (all sizes) - 26
 
Tubes of sunscreen - 4
 
Jacket - 1
 
Towel - 1
 
Rolls of artificial sinew for repairs - 1
 
Headlamp - 1
 
Apollo's tail lights - 2
 
Journals - 7
 
Books (read) - 53

Howdy, Texas


The biggest of the "lower 48" was successfully crossed in only two days of riding! This was our 12th state on this ride.


And we also crossed into a new time zone!


No cheating and no trailer rides, just 12 hours of country roads through the Rita Blanca grasslands in the northwest corner of the panhandle.


We crossed into the state at Texline (such a creative name, no?).  This little town has the best cinnamon rolls I've ever eaten, at the Top of Texas store.  Got a picture of the store, but the rolls were eaten before I remembered to capture them on film too.  Should have gotten more...


The national grasslands are huge, flat, and of course grassy.  However, they are not as empty of human life as I had expected.


There are farms and ranches scattered all throughout the grassland.  Sunflowers, milo, and corn are the most common crops in this area. 


There are also lots of big bugs in the grassland! Tarantulas, walking sticks, grasshoppers, wooly caterpillars and other crawling critters crossed the road in front of us.


A few miles from the Texas-Oklahoma border, I camped out at Thompson Grove, a really nice (but primitive) campground in the middle of the grasslands.  There were a half dozen people from a university also camping there, doing a gray fox study, and they invited Hermes (and me) over for s'mores around the campfire.  A sweet end to visiting another state!

An Almost Forgotten Long Ride: The 3R's to Oregon



While I was travelling through Kansas I had the unexpected opportunity to spend time with long rider Robin “Rob” Hull.  On April 13, 1980, when he and his buddies Roger Dunn and Randy Brooks were in their early 20’s, they set out on a 139 day ride from their home near tiny Rolla, Kansas.  Their destination of Scio, Oregon was 1,700 miles away.  They called themselves the 3R’s and their ride The 3R’s To Oregon.

The 3R’s were riding because they felt gas prices were too high – 89cents/gallon! -- and wages too low to afford it.  Plus, they wanted to experience life like it was in the old days.  They all came from ranching and rodeo backgrounds and knew how to ride and pack.  So with a riding horse and a pack animal apiece, they set off for the ride of their lives.

They had four horses and two mules between them: Sorrely, Gray, Mistake, Stoped, Jack, and Jenny.  Stoped was originally named Spotted but the name was misspelled on the bill of sale and it stuck.  Mistake was named by one of the rider’s fathers, the local preacher, who thought the ride was a bad idea.  Fortunately the horse (or the journey) did not live up to the name.

They set out following rivers first into Colorado, then northwest into Utah, Wyoming, and Idaho before crossing into Oregon.  Interestingly, they were on the road heading into Burley on July 14, the very same day that I was at that spot heading out of Burley 37 years later! 
 
They mostly rode across wilderness and country fields, avoiding roads and towns when they could.  Even still, they managed to meet quite a few helpful and interesting people who would invite them to supper or hand them all a beer and a sandwich as they went by.  In Idaho, there were so many friendly people that they never had to cook their own supper once, and sometimes had to turn down invitations for having received too many!
 
By sticking to the rivers, they avoided any problems with finding water for themselves or their mounts.  Sometimes grazing, or food for themselves, was scarce though, especially when they hit snow in the Colorado Rockies and when they got to the deserts of Utah.  Many of their own meals consisted of only beans, as food supplies dwindled.  Riding by a town or filling station was a welcome opportunity to get fresh food and cold cokes.

 Their journey was full of adventures and the stuff that makes great stories.  One night, they had to chase loose horses wearing only their cowboy boots.  Often they were up until midnight shooting the breeze with friendly locals over beers around the campfire.  Then there was the time they ate too many beans and cokes, and were along a busy highway with no bushes…

Having started off with one green horse and one mule that had never packed, an argument over the merits of carrying a heavy cast iron dutch oven, an early spring start before the weather had actually cleared, and perhaps a lot of youthful enthusiasm and testosterone than sense, these three men made their journey in a remarkably short amount of time without serious mishaps. Rob told me that he never once regretted the decision to set out from home on his Wild West adventure. 
 
A newspaper clipping from their ride through Grand Junction, CO

Adios, New Mexico


How can I not love a state with an official cookie (Biscochitos)?

Even without the cookie, New Mexico is my favorite state so far.  It has beautiful desert landscapes,


Great food (red or green sauce? choose both and enjoy Christmas any time of the year!)


Beautiful mountains


Great food (chilis on and/or in everything, no "mild" spicy food here!)


and lovely old towns.


The history, too, is fascinating.  There are ancient pueblos to walk through,


and historic trails to follow - I rode parts of the Santa Fe Trail (pictured), El Camino Real, and the Spanish Trail


Even the cookie cutter homes in subdevelopments are often charming here!


Santa Fe was my favorite town, where the old plaza comes alive with traditional music.


Apollo is in fine form, and feeling spunky as the weather cools down.


There were lots of nice roads and trails,


and a bit of cross country navigating (thanks Google Maps - you only sometimes steer me wrong!)


As the weeks wore on, I had some rainy day weather delays


Hermes was an excellent role model for how to spend those chilly days off!


Finally, after crossing one last canyon in the mountain foothills,


We made it to the eastern plains... and the end of all of the most mountainous terrain we will face throughout this ride!

A Quick Ride Through Arizona


Here we are in Arizona, our 10th state! 

We travelled to the Arizona state line at Four Corners National Monument.  Although I was not allowed to ride him onto the monument - and thus could not put a hoof in each state at once - the park service allowed me to bring him into the park and ride him around the perimeter of the buildings. 

It took just under four minutes to ride through Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Utah.  This was the first recorded instance of a long rider visiting the monument, and thus the fastest four-state travel time by horse.  Way to set a record, Apollo!