It's amazing how when you have to get up for work early, you drag but when you have to get up for horse stuff, you can leap right up, wide awake. Chip and I got up and started breaking camp while Paul and Ron got ready. Once they tied their horses to the trailer, we pulled down and loaded the corral panels. We were ready to pull out before the horses even left. We told the guys to get going at about 4:40. They rode out and we walked down towards the pen areas. It was very quiet where we were parked but as we neared the main part of the camp, you could hear the movement of horses, the jingle of tack, and the murmuring of voices. You could feel the excitement in the air. There are 3 "pens" at Tevis--the first group usually consists of faster riders, the 2nd less faster, and the 3rd slower or riders with fewer miles/experience. This was the 2nd year that they used a seeding system for the start. Last year with the problems at the ditches, those in the latter groups lost time in the backups. This year it seemed to work better and without the ditches to cause problems, I didn't hear the complaints that were voiced last year. Another thing the eased some of my concerns--I'm sure I'll end up in the 3rd pen should I ride Tevis in 2008 because my ride season will be limited due to the lack of extra vacation days. Pen 2 had already left by the time we got to the road but we were able to watch Pen 3 make their way down the road towards the start. With the use of the pens, they've managed to get almost all the riders across the start line at 5:15am with a minimum of fuss. Pretty good for close to 200 horses starting at once.
So our riders were off and it was time to get going ourselves. We waited patiently to after the mandated time for starting our vehicles. As the rigs started moving out, I realized that Paul had nicely parked his rig but it was set up to go out in the wrong direction. Great! In the direction I needed to go, there were a few small trees and shrubs. I worried about cutting to the right. I've managed to jack knife my 27 foot RV into my 2 horse trailer once while backing up but hadn't had such an issue while towing the larger 3 horse slant. This RV was 5 feet longer which translates to 5 more feet behind the rear wheels. Sweating bullets in the coolness of the morning, I waited for a break in the "traffic" and worked my way to the right. I had to back and pull forward a couple of times but finally just went for it, hoping for the best. It worked and we were on our way creeping out as the sky began to lighten up. Chip pulled out behind me in the rental car I had (it was hardly the type of car I'd have picked for a trip to Robie Park--a Chevy Cobalt, 2 door, bright red, with low profile tires and a spoiler on the back but it did the job).
Did I mention the dust??? Well, imagine 185+ horses moving down the road followed 15+ mins later by a hundred or more vehicles. It was a mess. Thank goodness it was dark because at least you could see the tail and head lights. Slowly we crept along. There were actually 2 vehicles trying to swim upstream against the flow of rigs pulling out. I imagine they had to wait quite some time to make it into the camp. Once we got onto the main road, I was able to relax. We got to the rest area to wait for Dovey before 6:45. There we waited, and waited, and waited. A Jeep Liberty pulled in with a lone lady in it. I walked up and asked if she was Dovie. She looked at me strangely. Oops! Guess not!! I explained myself so she wouldn't think I was a total nut case. Turned out she was a Tevis groupee and had stopped at Hwy 89 in Truckee in hopes of watching the horses cross the highway. She had only seen a few but was heading toward Foresthill (we saw her a few times later during the day).
Chip and I waited and pondered what to do. I tried the one# I could find for Dovie--it was her home # so that wasn't any good (note to self: next time exchange cell phone #s! DUH!). We decided to wait until 7:30 and then continue on to Auburn. I thought maybe we could save some time by hauling on up to Foresthill and then putting the crew stuff into the car and driving on up to Robinson Flat. It would have been interesting to do that as the car didn't have much room in it even when empty. At 7:20, Dovie pulled in and we quickly tossed all the stuff into her car. She said "I'll follow you to Auburn" at which both Chip and I cried "NO!". We told her how to get to Robinson Flat and apologized for all the work she'd have to do but at this point we didn't want to risk missing being at Robinson Flat when Paul and Ron arrived. Dovie went on and we lumbered out to head to Auburn. It is a pretty drive between Truckee and Auburn--lots of awesome views. The interstate has all sorts of signs directing truckers how to handle the grades along with the gravel run off spots. Kinda nerve wracking when you are driving an RV with a horse trailer behind! Soon we were in Auburn (it's about 70 miles from Truckee). I parked at the top of the hill above the stadium. Turned out we were next to the RR track but it wasn't that busy of a track so not a big deal. I was worried that Dovie may have to leave after we got to Foresthill so I pulled my suitcase out of the trunk in case we had to haul the crew stuff back to Auburn. A quick stop for fuel in the car (another note to self: refuel in Truckee before going up to Robie Park; 2nd time I've made this mistake and I had told myself on the way to Truckee to stop for gas but got too busy catching up with Chip and forgot). We made another quick stop at the Foresthill grocery store for bananas (the guys had requested some) and continued the drive up to Robie Park, being careful to stick with the speed limit since I've heard the police have been known to tag flying crew! We were getting close to Robinson Flat when we saw it . . . a California bear loped across the road about 300 ft in front of us. We squealed with glee--can you tell we are easily entertained?? It was the first bear sighting I've ever had! I was excited. I've seen bear tracks in the Ocala Forest and had heard of them being spotted at night during the 100 mile ride there but last year I was pulled at 65 miles in the late afternoon so no bear sightings for me. You'd have thought we had spotted a celebrity with all the excitement the bear generated in his few fleeting minutes in our sight. But, hey, it was just plain cool!
We caught up to 2 of the "rescue" horse trailers on their way up to Robinson Flat. We were relieved because now they were the cause of us going slow (another car had caught us and since I'm very cautious driving in the mountains, lest Chip end up on my lap since her side was on the dropoff--that really makes it difficult to drive!). And the added bonus was that they would now be the buffer and warning for oncoming vehicles. Last year a dually had come flying around a corner as we were making our way up to RF, scaring us to death. At least this time, those trucks and trailers would be taken out first! Finally we got to the stopping point. We had to wait for the "follow me" truck. We could hear the volunteers discussing an incident in which someone had failed to "follow me." This is a recipe for disaster because the road is narrow and vehicles are parked on the mountain side of the road (leaving the side with NO GUARD RAILS free for the taking!). This year, the bus was back in service. Last year they didn't have a bus due to some insurance snafu but apparently something had been worked out. This permitted non-crew to park at Sailor Flat and get a ride up (although you can usually jump in the back of a truck and save yourself that way as it is all uphill!). The follow me truck arrived and up we went. As we got to the turn around spot at the top, we had one of those "duh!" moments. We didn't have any crew stuff so we could have parked at Sailor Flat and ridden the bus up, saving time! Oh well. Down we went back to park alongside the mountain. The bus came along and we got in it. Up the hill we went to the drop off area, still marvelling at our lack of brains. I blame the altitude. Seems like a good excuse to me. So, if you are crew but don't have stuff to cart and the bus is available at Sailor Flat, take the bus!
We walked into the crewing area and there were our riders being tended to by Dovie. Thank goodness we had done what we did (but perhaps had we not stopped to wait at the rest area and instead drove up to Foresthill and then up to RF, we'd have made it; still better safe than sorry). Both riders were doing well and pumped. Somewhere along the line, Ron had parted with Barukh but was OK and remounted, continuing without a problem. They had taken the bypass around Cougar Rock (and after watching the video someone took, that was a wise choice!). The horses were eating and we nagged the riders to eat as well. As time passed in the hold, it got warm so we moved the horses next to a dumpster that made some shade and sponged the horses a bit. Both were doing well. Paul had placed Bosana boots over Piper's shoes (he didn't have pads while Ron had pads on all 4 of his horse's hooves). He had lost one Bosana boot along the way and replaced it with an Easyboot Bare. Now I use Easyboot Bares over bare hooves. I call them the "not so Easy Boot Bares to put on" but I do really like them. I was very impressed that Paul was able to pull on a Bare over a shod hoof along the trail. Finally it was getting close to the out time so we nagged the guys to tack up (nagging is our job as crew). They had to do an exit CRI. Paul went through without a problem. Then it was Ron's turn. The trot looked good but there was discussion at the end. Oh no!!! Chip went down to see what was happening. I saw them walk over the vetting line. My heart sank! What was going on? They got to the vet who did a check and talked to Ron. Another trot out and CRI. Then the card was handed back to Ron and he went over to leave the park. Hurray! Turned out that Barukh was shivering after his little CRI trot out. Everything else was fine; he was just a bit chilled I guess from being sponged in the shade. While it didn't seem cool to us, it was air at altitude so it may have felt cool to a horse used to humidity. We watched Ron leave out and went back to pack up the stuff and help Dovie get it back into the car. It took more than one trip for the 3 of us to get the stuff to the road! Dovie did a great job managing all of that on her own!
On to Foresthill for the long wait. We got the stuff set up pretty close to the vet check area. Right next to a dumpster . . . . I can't believe someone let such a "plum" place go untaken!! We took the chairs down to Bath Road and found a nice shady spot on the curve were we could see the horses coming up from the bottom of the road and then look up to the top of the road. Perfect. One of my riding buddies was on a road trip in the west with her 2 sisters and had planned to stop by Foresthill that day . . . another amazing coincidence! Ha ha! But no matter where I went, I couldn't pick up a cell signal (hmmm, that ridgeline must be the spot on the CA map I see that shows no service!). I was bummed but there wasn't much I could do. I was walking back down to the chairs after checking the rider board when I heard my name and there was Kay and her sisters! Turns out Kay didn't have her phone on anyhow! So we were all able to visit. Eventually Kay's nonhorsey sisters disappeared--they went into Foresthill proper for a beer (smart girls!) but Kay was able to see the first few horses come into the hold. Kay's horse is a Quarter/Arab cross and looks a lot like Barukh, to include the size. This coming ride season Kay, it is time to take that big boy on a 50!
Finally, we saw Paul. We ran down and pulled Piper's tack and got him cooled down. We figured Ron was at least 45 mins behind if not further from the last check at the riders' board so we had plenty of time to devote to Paul. He vetted Piper through and we got to the pile of crew stuff and let them both eat. Dovie and I went back down to the road just in case Ron came in. Chip had gotten Paul a BBQ sandwich. She said his celebrity status made it difficult for him to stop talking and to eat but she was bossy enough to nip all that nonsense in the bud! Plenty of time to be social at the banquet. Ron came in about the time Paul was leaving. We did the same thing with him and he quickly vetted through. More nagging for Ron--eat, be quiet, drink this, eat, be quiet, drink this! Poor man must have thought he was being punished by having 3 nagging wives! Ron did get to see Paul for a moment when Paul came back in--he'd forgotten his helmet! Oops! Bet the breeze felt good though! Barukh ate well like Piper and caught little naps in between eating. Soon it was time for Ron to go out. After he left, we all breathed a sigh of relief. The odds are pretty good that once you go out at Foresthill that you will make it to the end. We packed everything back into the Jeep and drove down to Auburn in the dark. There was a long procession of cars heading down and I was thankful that it wasn't me who was slowing down those who like to go faster! We saw a large deer standing by the side of the road in the dark. Thank goodness he stayed where he was and didn't dash across the road. Nothing like seeing a deer by the road to get the adrenaline running!
We got down to Auburn and unloaded the Jeep. Dovie had to get back to Reno to tend to her herd so we said our goodbyes. We got the stuff put away and then put up the corrals as the guys had elected not to use a stall. Once we had feed, water, and hay in the corrals, we set about to fixing the RV for our riders--we knew they'd be beat at the end. After setting up the sofa bed and making sure the sheets were at the ready, we grabbed a a shower and then a nap (we had to make sure that both beds were worthy of our riders, didn't we?). I don't know how well Chip slept those few hours but I kept hearing the loudspeaker in the stadium and worrying I'd miss hearing my watch alarm so I didn't get much of a nap.
Paul had guessed he'd be in around 2:30. He called my cell phone from the last vet check at 94 miles and revised it to about 3:15. Too bad my cell phone was in the car! But we were there in plenty of time, waiting in the dark. At about 3:20, there was Paul and Piper! They did their little trotout at the finish and we started towards the fairgrounds. You have to cross the RR tracks to get the fairgrounds and yes, a train came along! I think it only took about 5 mins to clear the tracks but it seemed longer than that. Paul did the final vet . . . he was done! He did his victory lap with a big smile on his face. We got Piper tended to and sent Paul off to the shower. He wanted to go to the finish to wait for Ron. We went on ahead and stood in the dark waiting. It was the final hour before the time was up. Riders were coming in pretty frequently now. We were waiting when the volunteers held up a radio for all to hear the #s of the riders who had left Lower Quarry along with their times. Ron's # was one of those called out! We were standing by some people and telling them how last year we had "assisted" a waiting crew by yelling "Bob" into the darkness. I had seen Bob that weekend and told him about the fun we had had the previous year. He said his crew had been fueled by tequila (they didn't share though!) and that he had heard his name being called through the woods as he approached the finish. This year, Bob was standing at the finish, having been pulled earlier. We called over to him . . . "Bob" is such a great name to yell out! Everything got quiet and I just couldn't resist . . . RON!!!! Then others joined in calling their riders. A few minutes later, there was Ron!! Woo hoo!!! He did the trot out and was given the OK to continue down to the Fairgrounds. This time, no train. Ron said that after he crossed Hwy 49 (about 4 miles from the end) he heard the sound you don't want to hear--a shoe coming off. Barukh had lost a hind shoe and a good portion of hoof wall with it. But on the final check, he was good enough for the completion. Ron got back on and walked his victory lap, enjoying every minute of it. Barukh strode out like he had plenty of energy left. It was a great moment and the culmination to a wonderful day!
We steered Ron towards the shower and he was out for hours afterwards. Paul got some sleep but got up to watch the Haggin Cup judging. Both horses were resting and recovering. Chip and I were worn but happy. We have a 100% completion rate as a crew--2 riders last year and 2 riders this year. Our catch phrase became "It's ALWAYS like this at Tevis" from our VAST 2 years of experience there! There's nothing like watching the riders you've crewed for come out of the darkness at the finish. Well, nothing perhaps except for actually being that rider!