replied 5 years ago.
Interviewer: I want to thank you so much for taking time out. I won’t take up too much of your time.
Interviewee: You take whatever time you need. I know how hard it is to get these school projects done. They come up when you have time to do them, either.
Interviewer: I want to find out more about you and your ride. I read your book and it was very interesting. I felt like I did the Tevis myself, in about three hours.
Interviewee: That’s the way to do it, from the comfort of your favorite chair.
Interviewer: I didn’t have to go through all the challenges that you went through. After reading your book, I know that there were a lot of different challenges. What was the most challenging part of the whole ride?
Interviewee: The most challenging part was dealing with my riding partner. Let’s put it this way. We don’t ride together anymore.
Interviewer: Wow, because that didn’t come across in the book at all.
Interviewee: Of course not. That’s not the story. I was asked in a radio interview what I learned the most about riding the Tevis and I said one of the things I learned the most is you have to ride your own ride, and you shouldn’t commit to trying to do the whole ride together with somebody else. In that ride, there are so many different variables. There are variables that you cannot possibly control. I would say unless you’re riding with family, you just need to ride your own ride.
Interviewer: I do remember you saying that in the interview, but I didn’t put together with anything from the book. That’s interesting. In the book, I know that it was the 49er Crossing in Chapter 14m that you realized you were going to make it, or was it not? Was it when saw those lights that you knew you had made it?
Interviewee: I think by the time we hit the 49er Crossing, I knew it wasn’t that much farther and that we would make it. By that time, my riding partner had kind of figured it out. She came out of her stupor, or whatever she was in, and realized where we were and that we really needed to kick it in gear or we would not make it.
Interviewer: I saw that she held back a lot during that portion of the ride, kind of not wanting to trot, or keep moving, at a steady pace.
Interviewee: When were at the Lower Quarry, that check, which is the last vet check before the finish, she didn’t really fall asleep – that’s what I said in the book – but she actually passed out. I was pretty worried about her. At that point I didn’t know what was the matter, and I was so glad that she woke up and realized that she needed to get back on her horse, which I don’t think she really wanted to do. I think she was ready to just drop.
Interviewer: Did they call her back because of her, or was really because of the horse that they were checking?
Interviewee: No, it was really because of the horse. They don’t care so much about the people but they won’t let you hurt your horse.
Interviewer: That’s a good thing. We have to be responsible for ourselves.
Interviewee: They can’t regulate the people but they can regulate how you take care of your horse.
Interviewer: Have you ridden the Tevis again since that win?
Interviewee: Yeah. I rode last summer. Well, it wasn’t the summer. They had to postpone it until the fall because of the snow, and then it snowed again before the second date of the Tevis, so the Tevis last year was not the same trail that I wrote about in the book. It was not the traditional Tevis trail, because the traditional Tevis trail, all the way from the start of the ride ___ Forest Hill, was under snow, so they made up 100 miles so they can still do the “Tevis” but it was not the traditional Tevis.
Interviewer: Did you finish that year?
Interviewee: I pulled Tahoe at mile 62 because he wasn’t pulsing down the way he normally does, and he didn’t act like he wanted to keep on going. He passed his vet check but I didn’t like the way he was behaving. It was a red flag to me. I mean, he hulked down soon enough to pass the vet checks but that wasn’t good enough for me. So I discussed it with your Aunt Susie and the rest of my crew, and everybody was unanimous that I should pull, so I did. It wasn’t worth the buckle for me to push my horse when he didn’t feel good.
Interviewer: Are you going to do it again?
Interviewee: Yeah. I’m planning on doing it again this summer.
Interviewer: That would be so cool to actually ride in that endurance ride.
Interviewee: It’s pretty amazing. There is no other ride in the world like it. It is the granddaddy of the whole horse endurance riding.
Interviewer: I don’t know if I read in your book or where exactly it came from but it said that you moved to Northern California from the Bay Area. Was it your sole intention of moving just to ride the Tevis?
Interviewee: The Bay Area is also in Northern California. That means the San Francisco Bay Area and they still call it Northern California. But yeah, I moved up here to Grass Valley because I hadn’t remembered how pretty it was when I had crewed for my friends back in the ‘80s, when I crewed for the Tevis for them, and I thought, well, it’s been on my bucket list. I want to retire somewhere.
I don’t want to live in the city. I’m a country kind of gal, so yeah, I moved up here because of the Tevis, and then I thought, well, I should definitely train and ride the Tevis. Training for the Tevis means you do a lot of conditioning rides and endurance rides, which I enjoy, but it was also an ulterior motive because I thought it would be a way for me to stay healthy, get fit, and really enjoy this spectacular horse that I have.
Interviewer: Speaking of Tahoe, I know you said that you wanted to pick your own horse and train it yourself, fully trained from a foal. You wanted to train it from the start?
Interviewee: Yeah, I did, and I was doing that but then I got hurt, so that put the end to that. I put him in “school.” He went to school and he worked with a professional trainer to learn ground manners and how to carry a person on his back and learn some basic trail manners. He was in school for somewhere between six months and a year, and then I took lessons with Tahoe, with the trainer, because I was terrified. I tried not to be afraid of him but I really was.
I had to determine whether or not I could ever have a relationship with this horse again, even though the accident was not his fault. I almost died, and I just couldn’t help myself. He was just as afraid of me as I was of him because he didn’t understand what happened. He just knew something bad happened to his person. So it took awhile for us to establish a relationship again.
You know, in retrospect, I think that’s one of the most beautiful parts of the story because both Tahoe and I overcame huge fears and gained trust between each other again. That was a very long, challenging process, in and of itself.
Interviewer: I know that you mentioned that, and I don’t know if I read it or heard it in the interview. Do you mind me asking what happened?
Interviewee: I can’t remember if he was two or three years old. Yeah, he was three, and a lot of things were happening that year. We had to take my mother out of the house we all grew up in and put her in a nursing home and it was really difficult. It was around Thanksgiving that year, in 2003, and my mother’s birthday is XXXXX Thanksgiving, so I didn’t want her to be alone on her birthday so I flew down to Southern California to be with her.
Then, she didn’t want to be alone for Thanksgiving after her birthday so I brought her up to my house, and we had Thanksgiving. It was about a week and a half I hadn’t been out to the ranch where I boarded my horses to see them, to know if they were okay, so I asked my mom, “Do you want to go out to the ranch and see the horses? I just want to check to see that they’re okay.” She said, “No, no, no. I’ll just stay home.”
So I went out to the ranch, and I just threw a saddle on Reno and I rode him, and then I was just going to put the saddle on Tahoe and just have him run around the arena with a saddle on and handle it. I tied Reno up on the side of the arena and went out to the pasture and got Tahoe, and he was literally infested with ticks, all over his body. Nobody had ever seen anything like it. The horses in that particular pasture were a mess.
I thought, “I can’t get all these ticks of this horse. There’s no way. I’ll be here for days.” So I just decided I was going to pick all the ticks off his belly and underneath his armpits and leg pits, and then put him back out in the pasture, and there was no way I was going to put a saddle on him because he had these ticks all over him. So I was pulling ticks, pulling ticks, pulling ticks, and it got dark, because it was winter and the days were shorter.
I was almost done picking the ones off that I was planning on picking off of him, but I was too lazy to go turn the lights on in the arena, so I got the flashlight out of my car. I went back to him and he was standing there, ground-tied, like he’d been tied, good boy. I was so tired from bending over and twisting my torso upside down to get these ticks off, I thought, I’m just going to get down on my knees and work underneath him and get the rest of the ticks off. Stupid me. If I’d have seen anybody doing that I’d have read them the riot act.
So there I did, I went down on my knees and I turned the flashlight on and shined it under his back legs. He’s such a good boy I forgot I hadn’t ever shown him the flashlight or what it does, at all. So I shined that light saber underneath him and he kicked up at it, and I couldn’t get out of the way fast enough. I moved up and I saw his two feet coming right for my face, his feet landed on my face, and then apparently I got dragged for a little ways, all tangled up.
You know, they don’t want to step on that person at all, but he was afraid of the flashlight, and then he couldn’t get himself untangled from me, because I went limp, I guess. I don’t know. Anyway, that was bad, really bad.
Interviewer: That sounds really scary. So you guys have come a long way together to get to where you are and riding the Tevis together.
Interviewee: Yeah. I was in a coma for awhile, and then when I woke up I had a lot of damage to my face and some broken bones in my chest. I had brain damage, what they call traumatic brain injury. It was several months before I could even put two sentences together, and then, at that point they started me in speech and cognitive therapy. It was a long road to recovery before I could go back to work and do all those things. I wasn’t even allowed to drive a car or any of those things. It was a very long, difficult process to get all my speech back. I got a good portion of it back. And to be able to walk and talk and function normally and to not have stuff drip out of my mouth because I couldn’t control muscles in my face for awhile, all that kind of stuff. It was defiantly a huge challenge.
Interviewer: It sounds like a huge challenge.
Interviewee: After that, I figured I could do Tevis. It couldn’t be that hard.
Interviewer: Is that one of the things that you’re proudest of, is just getting through that point in your life, or are there some other things that are far more important to you?
Interviewee: You mean coming back from brain injury?
Interviewer: Yeah, and just getting your life back together?
Interviewee: Yeah. I don’t recommend that for anybody, but I learned a lot. I completely changed my outlook on life. I do not sweat the small stuff anymore. I understand I’m living on gifted time, and I want to contribute to the world. I want to make sure that I am a good person in that I help people, and actually, because of a series of strange events, I ended up being a counselor for people who had friends or spouses or whatever who were dying, because I almost died and I had all this near-death experience sometime when I was comatose.
I can explain what dying feels like and that when that happens, if it happens like it was happening to me, that it’s not a scary place to be. It’s a place that is hard to describe, but I did see this bright white light that was very, very comforting. It’s like all your trouble vanish. You feel complete complacency and at peace, and it’s a hard place to come back from because it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced in your life. It’s a feeling of complete freedom and peace.
So anyway, I’ve talked to people so that they don’t feel bad about dying. These are like hospice patients and stuff, that are passing. I’ve been able to help a lot of people that way, so that was an interesting byproduct of the whole accident.
Interviewer: It sounds like it. You’ve been through a lot.
Interviewee: You know, that wasn’t the point of the book. The point of the book was to talk about the Tevis.
Interviewer: Right. It’s just that there’s so much surrounding it.
Interviewee: You have to challenge yourself in life to be able to reach the potential that you can reach, and you have to set goals that are achievable but challenging, and then work towards those. When you accomplish those things, you feel good about yourself. It’s very self-affirming, and people need that. The other thing about the Tevis is you do not do it alone.
There’s no way I could’ve done it without the support of the wonderful crew that I had, because all those gals, they would check in and say, “How’s your strength coming?” “We’re here for you.” “We’ll do everything you need,” even the things you don’t even know that you need when you’re riding the ride. It was so nice to have these veteran horse-women, Tevis riders, that were there just for me and Tahoe. It was just amazing. It was amazing.
Interviewer: That’s awesome. The only thing that nobody knew you needed was that shower at the end, right?
Interviewee: Yeah, and then come to find out, which I didn’t know when I was writing the book, is there are showers right there at the fairgrounds that you can use. Nobody told us that. I didn’t know that. Oh man, I’m still mad at that.
Interviewer: Mad at that and your bandanna.
Interviewee: Yeah. It all happened so fast, that Cougar Rock thing. I was so freaked out by doing it, I didn’t dare take my hands off. I was hanging on the mane and hanging onto the reins, and really focused on getting us over that without any trauma. I didn’t want either of us to get hurt. And I was so focused on what I was doing, I didn’t realize until after we’d gone over Cougar Rock that I had that stupid bandanna over my nose still.
Interviewer: But that was an awesome picture.
Interviewee: Any time you see those horses going over Cougar Rock, you know that’s the Tevis because that’s the only time you can get that picture.
Interviewer: That is really awesome. What was your favorite part of the book? What was your favorite chapter?
Interviewee: I don’t know. My favorite chapter.
Interviewer: The end, when you were done?
Interviewee: No. Not necessarily. I don’t know what my favorite chapter was. I’ve never even thought about it like that. I mean, the whole ride was such an experience. I didn’t actually divide the book up into chapters until after I’d written it. The whole book was one long chapter until I thought, “I’ve got to divide this up.” I just kind of chopped it up into chapters in a way that I thought made some sort of sense, so I didn’t really write the book in chapters, so maybe that’s why I don’t have a favorite one.
Interviewer: Let’s see. I have a few more questions for you. This is really fun. I’m learning a lot. I like this.
Interviewee: I just wanted to say that I never intended to write a book about this ride. What happened was I finally got home and I slept, basically, for two days straight. Then, after two days, I felt pretty good, actually. I still felt a little stiff but I felt good, so I thought I had to write down my memories of what happened, because if I don’t, I know me and they’re just going to evaporate. I figured 10 pages max.
So I started typing on the computer, and I kept typing, and I kept typing, and I had way more than 10 pages. I had almost all of Chapter 1 typed out, and the outline of the whole rest of the ride done, and then I started doing some proof-of-content readings. I read to the crew and the other gals on the crew, and to some people who didn’t know anything about horses, and everybody said, “You have to turn this into a book.” So that’s when the work really started.
I thought, “Okay. I have to write a book now, and that’s real different than just a brain dump of writing my memories.” That’s when I got a hold of Susan Dickerson. She read the manuscript I had so far and she said, “Oh, yes. It has to be a book. I will be your editor.” It just all came together very nicely. Everybody that was involved in the book was absolutely generous with their time, and really believed in the book, in the story, and the whole concept of putting something like that together. It was a huge community effort. It really was. Writing the book was as much a community effort as riding the ride.
Interviewer: That makes sense. Did you learn anything in particular from writing? I think I heard you say in your interview that you’ve written other books. Is that true?
Interviewee: Yeah, but they’re all been technical, scientific things in my field of expertise, but none of them have been something like this. When you do technical writing, it’s very different. There’s a whole set of rules that apply to how you do your writing, and it’s very different from creative writing.
Interviewer: Did you learn anything from writing this book?
Interviewee: Did I learn anything? Yeah. I learned that I shouldn’t set impossible deadlines for myself. I wanted to get the book published before Tevis in 2011 so it could be for sale, so I rushed through. Now, of course, since the book is done, I see there are things that I should have included in there that I didn’t. Like I don’t feel like I talked that much about my mental preparation.
I talked a lot about the logistical preparation and all the conditioning, but I didn’t really say much about my mental preparation, and I think that’s an important thing that I left out. If I had just let the manuscript sit for three months, and just chilled out and thought, there were some other things that I would’ve included in the book that aren’t in the book. So I learned not to rush myself.
Interviewer: Not to rush. That’s a good philosophy to have. I know that I’m constantly rushing myself. I did get a reprieve on my deadline on this particular paper. It was supposed to be due on Sunday and he gave me until Tuesday, so I’m lucky. Just a couple of fun questions, and then I’ll let you go. Today, in this world of uncertainty that we have, what do you now know, after everything you’ve been through – and that’s been a lot – what do you know, beyond a doubt, is true?
Interviewee: That life is fleeting, it’s precious, and you just can’t take it for granted. Love is fleeting, it is precious, and you can’t take it for granted – and the two go hand in hand. Those are the two things that are the most important. Okay, three. Let’s go life, love, and friendship.
Interviewer: Life, love, and friendship. That’s awesome. I think I know the answer to this question. You said one of the most difficult things, but not just one thing but toughest thing you ever had to do as you rolled through life. Not just getting through the brain injury or training for the Tevis. Just one of those things that you had to do that was really hard, as you’re rolling through your life.
Interviewee: Make it through your teenage years are the toughest. I don’t know how I survived. I don’t know how any teenager survives. I think those are the toughest times in life, being a teenager.
Interviewer: I think it’s the toughest time for parents, too, mind you.
Interviewee: It really is. When I was a teenager, my parents were the stupidest people on Earth. It wasn’t until I was much older that I realized they weren’t. Before, I thought they were square and dumb. When I was in high school I thought, “Oh, they’re so Stupid.”
Interviewer: You know what? I think I’m one of those stupid people right now because I have two teenagers myself.
Interviewee: Yep, you are.
Interviewer: It’s awful to be so dumb, but hey, we get through it, right?
Interviewee: Right. There’s a Mark Twain quote and I can’t remember exactly how it goes. It’s something about how he was the smartest person around until he turned 21, and then he realized – that’s not how it goes but it was something like that.
Interviewer: I’m going to look that one up.
Interviewer: One last question and then I’ll let you back to your day. What are you incapable of living without?
Interviewee: The things that are most important.
Interviewer: Those three things?
Interviewee: Yes. I think if I were missing any one of those ingredients, my life would be very hollow.
Interviewer: Well, I want to tell you that I really appreciate having the time to talk with you. I learned a lot that wasn’t in the book, and a lot that I didn’t read on the Internet, or hear in your interview, and it was very nice. Thank you so much for your time.
Interviewee: You’re welcome. If you’re missing anything and you need more information, I will be available until about 5:30 on Sunday. I’ll be driving to Reno to pick up stuff. But it turns out I’ll be home all weekend until Sunday evening.
This was due this morning, I will add an extra 10 if you can get it to me!!!!!