Bridgeport, California – November 13th 2017

From Fjord to Ford

My old ’69 Ford crept up the steep, long incline like a steady chug-a-chug train, 30 mph. An exquisite, “Ahhh….” came from my lips expressing both the gallant work my little blue truck made, and at the view presented as I crested the top.

Eastern Oregon from Pendleton to Prineville is big and windy and open. It pitches up and over giant rolling hills now brown from a dry summer. The roller-coaster road–newly paved, dark, smooth, and shoulder-less. “Keep to the middle if you can,” I say to myself, with reservation at the drop off.

Yet, beautiful as it is, it simply does not compare to the long, slow climb on horseback–or most often on foot, as I lead the horses uphill, giving them a much needed break. A hill like that, I thought, would have taken us at least 45 minutes to complete on horseback. With a truck and trailer 10 minutes max.

Time, lots of time. That’s what equestrian travel takes, and in that time the smallest details can be absorbed. Smells are shoved up your nose–nearby cattle, exhaust fumes from cars and trucks, the horses’ sweat, and road kill. I hear the steady sound of hoof beats, or a red tail hawk shrieks over head at the intruders down below. Maybe I am startled and jump because a rattlesnake shakes out a warning or a darting rabbit rushes by–both coming out of no where. The wind steals my hat, I tighten my stampede braid. The horses breath on my arm, my heart beats heavy in my chest, and I lean a bit forward, plodding one foot after the other. All of this is lost in truck travel, even at the speed of 30 mph. All passes by much too quickly. So much can happen as I slowly but steadily climb to the top of yet another momentous hill on horseback.

But it’s not a huge jump from Fjord to Ford. They have many similarities when I think about it. Both are legendary, tough, and built for the long haul. But, so much will be missed as I roll along on smooth, paved surface–however necessary if I am to make my appointed times for slideshow presentations and book signings. So it goes.

Horse travel… 20 to 30 miles a day. Truck travel… 200 miles a day.

If you take the “j” out of Fjord you get Ford. My 1969 baby blue Ford has a rebuilt engine, front end, new brakes, bearings, seals, battery, and tires–there’s more, I just can’t remember what all the mechanics back home did to the truck. Thank you Wayne Bozarth, his son Tim, and apprentice Jamie, from Eureka Auto for bringing the truck up to traveling speed. Like a champ, running like a champ, gentlemen!

Never without my Benchmark Maps giving me a clear route.

My old Ford (which I refer to as “Bills Old Blue Truck,” was given to me by Bill Griffin’s widow. Bill and I were good friends for many years. The blue Ford spent its entire life, until now, running Bill and his old dog, Whiskey, around the tiny community of Trego, Montana. Bill bought it new in 1969 in Kalispell, Montana.

A fifty-year-old Ford is, I am learning, a head turner. Not by the young so much, but by those fifty and older. “This was when they really made trucks,” said a man helping me at the Heppner Fairgrounds. “My Dad had one just like that, same color,” came another remark at a gas station stop. An elderly man came over with his new Ford while I parked one afternoon, leaned out his window and said, “Best damn truck Ford ever made.” I suggested we trade straight across for the 2017 white super-duper Ford truck he was driving.

It’s easy to romanticize old trucks, like equestrian long riding. But really, truth be told–the new trucks are quieter, faster, have more power, get better gas mileage, pollute less, and are far, far easier to drive. The only thing “not” better is the price of a new truck. I think Bill paid something like $7,000 for the ’69 Ford, new.

And don’t think for one minute that I would not also be driving a new truck if I had such money, but I don’t. And so, here comes “The Lady Long Rider Book-Tour-Mobile.” Just smile and wave.

The weather is warmer heading south, as I leave Pendleton, Oregon behind. Sunsets linger in shades of orange, pink, and red–something I miss deeply at my Montana cabin where the sun rises and sets behind mountains, hiding the colors of sunrise and sunset. I feel like I’m climbing up and over the backs of giant brown dinosaurs. I forget how big this part of our country is, how “cowboy” it is.

Steve & Audrey Ullakko long time friends from Naselle came to visit in Pendleton. Steve is a Ford Man and likes the sound of the old truck.

Now two weeks into my book tour, I’m beginning to realize like other long rides, that this will take more than I’d bargained for. I must pull tenacity and single-minded determination from my saddlebags. I must call to my will power, all the while reminding myself, “Don’t forget about the love and longing of the ride.” Remember it is not in getting there, but rather all those singular steps required in making the journey.

Our stop in Pendleton, Oregon included a visit with Rebecca Adams. Rebecca donated Liska Pearl to my rides last year and approved of Liska’s new life.

I had once thought, “Oh, this is really just another long ride–a little different, true. My horses travel in a horse trailer pulled by a ’69 baby blue Ford pickup.” But it’s not–it’s not at all like long riding. I am pulled in a dozen different directions at once–distracted by truck, traffic, and speed! Long riding is methodical, slow, deliberate. My hands are on horses, not machinery. 

Hat, blue sweater, wrist socks and feet socks by Jeanne Grace,. White tin cup by Rosie Rollin. thank you ladies.

Before each of my rides I have said, “It’s all a lot of talk until we actually do it.” That includes me and the truck. Happy Trails.

The Lady Long Rider’s Book Tour schedule and full story about the truck is on her website (truck story, is under current page, scroll down you’ll find it). www.endeofthetrail.com & www.farcountrypress.com