Monday, July 20, 2015

Unpredictability's My Responsibility, Baby

(No, I am not going to address the fact that I abandoned my blog for six months and am now picking up like nothing ever happened.)

Anyone up for a spin in my DeLorean?

August began with a family day trip to Newport to celebrate Mom's birthday. Cyndi and Rich had come down the day before and spent the night at a hotel, where Josh and I met them for breakfast. Mom and Ron stopped elsewhere for breakfast along the way, then we gathered in the parking lot so Mom could open her gifts. After vaguely planning our day, we headed for the cliffwalk; I navigated the snazzy new route I had learned through the side streets so we could avoid traffic. We spent a couple hours traversing the rocks and pathways along the ocean, stopping several times to take pictures, to watch surfers, and to gawk at mansions. Just before the final turn, we took the last exit onto Bellevue and walked for what seemed like forever back to our cars. Next stop: the visitors center for affordable parking, restrooms, and a few precious minutes of air conditioning. Once appropriately regrouped, we meandered along Thames and America's Cup, maybe doing some shopping, maybe just chatting, definitely anticipating our next destination - the Red Parrot. Fittingly there was no Rolls Royce this time, either...but that's a different story for another day. After lunch we walked back to the wharf and boarded a harbor cruise. It was quite enjoyable and informative; a relaxing way to wrap up the afternoon. Once off the boat we stopped at Ben & Jerry's. Josh and I were content just to breathe in the aroma; we had ice cream waiting for us at home. It was nice to just linger by the dock, but eventually the time came to return to our cars and head home. It was another great day for the record books.

As I said previously, I spent quite a bit of time away at horse shows in August, the first of which was in Northampton. I have spent a lot of time in that part of MA, and I love it there. I discovered a beautiful bike path and committed myself to exploring it during my stay. I should mention that by this point in time I had pretty consistent pain in my left knee, sometimes sharper than others. From what I can tell I did something to it in Michigan; at least that's when it started hurting. Unfortunately I did not stop to think about what it could be until after I had probably 15 miles, several applications of thermaflex, and a few doses of Tylenol under my belt. I was determined not to let anything slow me down that week, so I just put my knee brace on and went. The pain subsided to an odd numbness after a while, which was manageable. However, by the last night of the horse show I could barely walk to do my rounds and the pain was taking center stage. I took an educated guess and figured I sprained my MCL. I finally conceded that I should rest and was thankful for the two days off I had before the next show. As I hobbled into the house Sunday afternoon, Josh passed no judgment but wouldn't let me leave the couch all night, making sure my knee was iced and comfortable. He took such good care of me and I am grateful for his support. He even almost got me to go the a doctor. Almost. ;)

The next week was Fairfield and the CHJA Finals, which was the biggest show I attended all summer. The facility itself is sprawling; I drove back and forth between the barns and tents to save time during my rounds. There were over 300 horses stabled there - triple what I got used to at Westbrook. I spent four long nights roaming the grounds, making friends with a few of the braiders, giving pep talks to the horses, reading and even writing a bit. In the mornings I was thankful to be staying at a double tree with a most comfortable bed and a nice hot shower. I explored the area a bit, hung out at the horse show, and made good on my promise to take it as easy as possible. I'm sure I walked a couple miles each night during my rounds, but aside from that I tried to rest my stupid knee.

Sunday was our family reunion, which was fun as usual. Odie joined us this year, because I was spending too much time away from him already and could not bear to leave him when I had just gotten home that morning. He was a very good pup, and we even got to walk over to the rough board barn and visit Natalie for a while.
Tuesday was Maddy's birthday; I decorated Brantley's stall while she was at work and met her back at the barn later with Allie's doughnuts. It was a good time.

My third and final night watch job in August was in the middle of nowhere, CT...ever heard of Morris? No, not the 9 Lives cat. The horse show was tiny...never more than 40 horses in the tents, and that was when they were full. As I was getting the tour from the show manager (who is the most organized person on the planet, God bless him!) something made me say, "I am also a braider. If you know of anyone looking for one, have them call me." Well, immediately he told me of a trainer in need, so I called her and booked her client's horse for the next two mornings. I braided his mane and tail when I finished my rounds and then headed back to MY BEAUTIFUL SUITE at the cozy Victorian bed and breakfast where I was staying. I seriously couldn't believe my luck when I checked into this place...if you ever get a chance to visit the Litchfield Inn, DO IT! Anyway, I got my free coffee from the lobby and had barely shut the door behind me when my phone rang. It was a truck-in looking for a braider, was I still at the show? I told her I'd be there in 10 minutes, thinking hey, one tail is still $30 more than I had, and it's good business to say yes. I ended up doing 3 tails, and almost fell over when she paid me. She was so happy that I had come back out just for her that she tipped me $50! Braiding is expensive enough all by itself; tips of any kind are rare, even from regular clients. The return business and referrals are the real perks. But this generous She even had more tails for me on Saturday morning, so we agreed on a time to meet and I just about floated back to my hotel for (free) scrambled eggs and homemade waffles. As I lounged out on the patio with my coffee and wondered if this was seriously real life, I planned my day. There was a conservation center just down the road that was recommended to me by a braider friend I had seen the night before, so I thought I would check it out. My knee was doing better and I thought it was high time I went for a walk.
The first day at White's Conservation, I bought a trail map (best $3 I spent that week) and kept it to a dull roar. I took my time exploring a couple of the shorter loops and thoroughly enjoyed my surroundings. Woods and fields and wetlands, oh my! After some time, my stomach reminded me that the waffles were long gone, so I decided to treat myself to dinner out. I got a sandwich and a beer at a little pizza place and tipped the waitress $15. No reason I should be the only one on cloud nine. I didn't stick around to see her reaction, but I hope it made her happy.
The next morning I ate my delicious breakfast, savored my coffee, and fell asleep on my plush king sized bed for a few hours. Fortunately since the show was so small, I had been able to catch a decent amount of zzz's throughout the night. I couldn't wait to get back to White's, and I spent a few hours traversing new paths and enjoying the hell out of myself. I had also found out about another place of interest called Action Wildlife, so I left myself enough time to drive the half hour or so and check it out. As soon as I arrived and saw the herd of bison grazing in a field, I knew I had struck gold. I adore bison, especially after witnessing them up close and personal at Yellowstone in 2013. I stopped to get out and snap a few photos up close; an older couple had the same idea so we struck up a conversation. They were from out of state (where I can't remember now), and they were so friendly and sweet. I drove toward the entrance just ahead of them and told the lady at the gate I'd like to pay for the couple behind me. They later found me inside the park and tried to pay me back, but I explained that someone had been very generous to me and I was paying it forward, as I hoped they would as well. I spent hours driving and walking around the massive park, which was home to so many animals from deer to cows, elk, goats, and even a zebra. Up on a hill was a taxidermy lover's paradise - a warehouse sized building with literally hundreds of stuffed animals. Here's the kicker: the man who owns the collection has spent who knows how many hours in the wild, watching these creatures and has created scenes based on things he has actually seen. So we're not talking a moose standing in a fake pond with a badly painted backdrop. We're talking a moose meeting his maker at the hands of a grizzly bear, a pack of mountain lions chasing down goats, and a zebra being torn apart by hungry predators. That's just to name a few. I was in absolute awe and took so many photos that people must have thought I was nuts. I would go back in a heartbeat, and I totally recommend taking the trip out there. Well worth the $10 admission fee.
The next morning, Saturday, I had tails across America. Seriously, I hit the jackpot with the truck in lady. There was one pony who was so opposed to having her tail braided (of course it was a mare!) that she double barrel kicked mid braid and I barely jumped out of the way in time. A few choice words later, I entrusted a firmly secured lip shank to someone who could actually control the beast, rather than the sixty pound kid who had first taken the job. Start over, braid faster than you have in your life (thank God the thing is twelve hands and has a short tailbone), and get the hell away. When I finished with that trainer's menagerie, I picked up one more tail and then headed back to the hotel for a much deserved nap. Did a little exploring in my car and hit a few more trails at White's, but I pretty much took it easy because I knew I had a long day ahead of me Sunday.
I had maybe five more tails my last morning at the show and then drove home with just enough time to shower and head out to Abby's play. I think this one was Bye Bye Birdie. The storyline did nothing for me, but the kids did a good job.

Considering it took me approximately forever to complete this post, I will quit while I am ahead. This draft literally sat open, haunting me, for months. It was three quarters of the way done but for some reason I just couldn't finish it. Did I mail it in a little at the end? Sure. But it needed to get done, because I'm back in a "I want to write" phase and for fuck's sake, I'm still stuck on things that happened a year ago.

I may never finish 2014's review, but a) you're not missing anything and b) if you are reading this odds are you had a play by play as I was living it anyway. It was really nothing special.

Here's to finding enough inspiration to visit this page perhaps slightly more often than I have been known to do.

To quote Gonzalo LeBatard, "Cheerios, cheerios!"

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