We weren't lost.
We just didn't know quite how to get home.
Well, Consolation probably did. She mostly agreed with me about the appropriate direction to take -- but what she didn't know (or wouldn't admit) was that an impassable drop-off ending in a 30-foot wide irrigation channel blocked our way.
But we'll get to that.
Rewind to last Friday. On the phone with Ironman, who is in California doing cool stuff and getting paid for it, I complained of my fear that Consolation wouldn't be ready for the 50-mile ride at Owyhee Spring on May 1. Tumultuous weather and my equally tumultuous job have cut into our conditioning time, and the weekend ahead was forecast to be stormy yet again.
Already irritable due to a nasty surprise at the office, I hesitated to mount up that Friday evening. Strong-willed and noble as she is, handling Consolation demands absolute fairness, and I wasn't sure I was in the mood. Target practice in the back pasture sounded much more appropriate. On the other hand, we really needed to get in some miles, especially if the weekend weather wasn't going to cooperate. So, I saddled up a blessedly easygoing (for her) Consolation, and we enjoyed a quick eight miles before sunset.
That put us at 30 miles for the week. We'd spent the previous Wednesday afternoon exploring new territory across the highway, railroad tracks, and river. Here's the view from Parma Ridge Winery, where we crested the ridge before heading home.
Nice view. But...just 30 miles. In a week. Not good enough.
We've done a few 20-milers since mid-March, but none back-to-back. Nothing to convince me that Consolation was ready for a 50 after a winter off. I went to bed Friday night with all fingers crossed for enough decent hours to squeeze in some miles the next day.
Saturday dawned frosty and calm, but the wind came up with the sun. I passed the chilliest hours writing Nightlife posts, then took my rasp and new farrier chaps (hooray!) out to touch up Consolation's hooves.
And then we saddled up. The sky was heavy with rainclouds buffeted by wind, but we would do 12 miles, come hell or high water! We did, too. We trotted 12...then went straight instead of turning to make 14 (why not?)...then went straight again to make 18 (what the hell!)...then kept going on the big loop for a total of 21 (huzzah!).
The rain hit on our last few miles, but not hard enough to wash off my grin. Here we are somewhere along the road, paused for a few mouthfuls of grass, en route to Mile 51 for the week.
"I'm going to saddle up and see how she feels," I told Ironman Sunday morning. "We might go for an hour. It might be three hours."
With one eye on the sky, Consolation and I crossed the highway again. And the railroad tracks. And the river. We found our way to the base of the ridge and trotted along an irrigation maintenance road that eventually dropped us onto a graveled road dotted with large, well-maintained, 1960's style homes whose siding and shingles peeked from behind massive trees just budded by spring.
The road led us to the top of the same ridge we'd ascended on Wednesday, but several miles further southwest. I was pretty sure, having studied the ridge from below, that there weren't many roads down it. The winery road we'd traversed on Wednesday, however, ought to be easy to find.
(Yes. This is the "we weren't lost" bit. And we weren't. Not precisely.)
I was sure the winery road lay to the northeast. But which route would get us there?
The miles ticked by. We followed the agricultural grid, with intersections every mile, jogging east toward the ridge at every opportunity and otherwise moving north. Though Consolation seemed to feel fine, I was keenly aware that we were still roughly 15 miles from home and hadn't encountered water in a long while. We really needed to get down to the lower plain soon -- preferably on the winery road, because I knew it would lead us to river access.
East. North. East again. Each intersection plodded into view, accompanied by a pang of disappointment when the road signs failed to name the winery road. I doubted my own sense of direction when Consolation started pulling west. At every intersection, she insisted. So did I, praying I wasn't wrong. Rainclouds burgeoned, we were both tired, and even when we did find the winery we'd still be nearly two hours' trot from home.
Finally, at long last, we rounded a curve to find the road name I'd been waiting for. But...where was the ridge? Could we really have drifted that far west? There was nothing to do but follow the road and find out.
It twisted and turned, changed to gravel, and finally wound through some hop fields to a spread of vineyards. Ah-ha! Please be the right vineyards...please be the right vineyards...
They were. We trotted triumphantly past the winery just in time to catch a face full of rain-scented wind. Turns out the ridge is not straight as it appears from below, but a vast curve that lengthened our journey.
But never mind. Consolation and I were back on the same map. She turned up the speed and I didn't discourage her. We stopped briefly at the river (this photo is from our sunnier Wednesday ride) and hustled home just in time for the evening feeding.
Because Google Earth has been crashing my computer lately, and because I was terribly curious, I actually got in my car to drive our route to determine mileage.
A 47-mile weekend. 55 if you count Friday evening. What a way to wrap up a 77-mile week!
Now, that was the weekend we'd needed: lots of miles stacked one atop the other. If Consolation can do 50 in a weekend, she can do 50 in a day. And she was sound, strong, and ready to coast through a few vacation days while I returned to the office chaos.
Today, I got back on for an easier weekend than last. Just 12 miles under the sun, barefoot in the hills. Consolation has never felt better -- and neither have I.
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