Your goals are the road maps that guide you and show you what is possible for your life.
And so the planning continues…
I had been debating about whether to plan the route along roads or trails, roads being easier to meet people and talk about my mission and also easier to resupply, while trails being easier to ride along. I have settled on taking the more challenging ride with traffic, but without the need to carry so many supplies since I’ll be able to find stores every few days as I pass through towns. This has also eliminated the need to consider buying and training a pack animal.
I have decided on RideWithGPS.com for my maps, though I will also be getting paper maps from AAA. I had used Ride With GPS for my book “Along the King’s Road,” and while they are designed to be for road cyclists, it’s also suitable for my longride planning since I will be taking roads and bike paths. Their maps are built off of Google’s maps, but with features that Google doesn’t offer. The Google platform makes it extra nice for me, because I can use streetview every few miles to make sure that the road will not be too busy, too narrow, or otherwise too unsafe for horse travel.
I had spent the last month on building my maps, and had gotten as far as state#25 out of 48 when I realized that I’d been going about it all wrong. I had done the states in the wrong order - this had caused me to have nearly half a year extra ride time over the total distance! While it would have worked in that order, there is no need for me to take extra-long at this ride, which I already estimate will take at least two years, and more likely three. Maybe more depending on how long the winters are and where I end up stopping over for the cold season.
So now it’s back to the drawing board, quite literally! This time, though, I have my whole route pre-planned so I know which order to go in, and I don’t think I’ll have to start over a third time!
The route planning is slow, because I need to make sure that the route is going to be as safe as possible. I also have to make sure that I know where there will be towns, especially towns with feed stores for Apollo (all towns have people food, but not all towns have horse food!), campgrounds, and other such amenities. And of course domestic violence shelters and centers. Of course, this route will not be exactly the one that I follow. Theoretically there will be helpful strangers along the way who will provide a yard to use for the night, and other assistance that will cause some deviations from the plan. But it should be pretty darn close.
For some parts of the route, these are in abundance, and in others (even populated areas!) there is a shortage or complete deficit of some or all of these. Campgrounds, as I already found when planning the mission bike route, are few and far between. Feed stores, interestingly enough, are not always available in rural centers (where do those farmers buy supplies? Even when I lived in the boonies, there were three feed stores closer than a grocery store). DV resources seem to be more plentiful in some states than in others, with no correlation to population (for example, very few in northern California, and very many in Minnesota).
With luck and hard work, I should have this all mapped out in a month or two, and then once I know the more precise distance of the full route and all of its segments, I will be able to better plan everything else. At this point, I am tentatively hoping and planning to begin the ride on New Years Day 2015, with an early plan of Thanksgiving of this year, and a late plan of St Patricks Day of next year (yes, this is also symbolic – it’s when we celebrate St Patrick driving the snakes out of his country). There is a chance it might be as late as next Independence Day... But gosh darn it, no later!