Saturday, June 7, 2014

Home at last!

   We are home now and trying to get back to normal life.  We left Wind River with heavy hearts having to say goodbye to Durango and to all of our friends at Wind River.  We miss Durango and hope to see him later this summer.  I felt really bad leaving him with people he didn't know yet but I know that there are horse wranglers there who are hopefully getting to know him and spoiling him and I hope he is getting to be friends with his "herd."  As amazing as this journey was, I was so excited to get home to my own bed!  It is amazing the things you take for granted like SPACE and a toilet that you don't have to go empty every few days!!!  I ended up having to turn down the movie I was supposed to start working on because they needed me to commit to a start date a month ago and honestly I don't think I could have started working immediately on a movie working 16-18 hour days.  Luckily, I was able to go and celebrate my mom's 70th birthday celebration and her retirement from 46 years of teaching!  If there is anything I have learned from my brother's death and Jonathan's, it is that life is short.  Faith, good health, good friends and family are the most important things in life, work is not.  Don't ever give up life things in place of work.  It simply isn't worth it in the end.  Work will always be there, your family may not be.  Appreciate every moment you have with the ones you love. 

     We are thankful for every person we met on this journey and for all of the experiences that we will never forget.....Never.  Winston and I are both changed by this journey and we can only hope that we will be able to continue to share this story with others.  We have been contacted to do a presentation to a group already and we hope to do more of that.  I made a slide show of my favorite photos from the journey which I have included a link to below and which I am sure we will use when doing presentations.  I am also working on the photo book that was one of the rewards for our highest backer category and hope to have that finished in the next month or so.  The framed photos are also in the works for our next category of backers but it was really hard to choose from the photos!!  We are still talking about publishing my blog possibly in the photo book or separately and Winston has been diligently writing the novel about the journey and about his friendship with Jonathan.  All I can tell you from what I have seen so far is that you will not be disappointed!  As I have said before, he is an amazing writer and I know you will all love the book when it is completed.  We are looking into publishers right now and hoping to get someone who can help market the book nationally and internationally when it is done.  If we get proceeds from the book, we have a few organizations in mind to make donations to.  He is still working towards the March 2015 release date.

     I have been so touched by the emails, texts and facebook messages asking me what we are doing because you miss the blog and miss knowing what we are up to on a daily basis!  Believe me, we miss you all too.  We achieved Glory and fulfilled a final promise and we will try every day to relay that message to anyone that wants to listen to our story.  I know Jonathan is proud of Winston and I know he is still with us every day.  

    These are a few photos from our last day at Wind River and me when I got to my bed!!  I am sorry that we missed photos with Don and Rob on our last day so I have also included the group photo from the building dedication.  And the link to the slide show.  Hope you will all enjoy reliving the journey through photos!  We sure did enjoy reminiscing and remembering all of the people we met in each of these places!  We will keep you posted on the progress of the books! 

Love, Donna (aka the Trail Boss!)

Link to slide show of photos from the journey:




Wednesday, May 21, 2014

We made it!!! Glory!!!!!

I am so sorry that it took me so long to post the final update.  It has been a whirlwind since we arrived at the ranch.  And Monday was clean the RV day and Tuesday we had to return it so I am just getting to post this.  Since we got into the mountains on Saturday I have had limited cell phone service so I apologize if I didn’t get to return text messages and emails yet.

Night 65 – Friday, May 16, 2014

     Well, the rain continued through the night but Winston, Don and Nick decided to brave the teepee.  They let Winston sleep in the four poster bed fit for a “princess!”  I joked with him that it was a princess bed and Don and Nick said he could have that one!  When they went to bed, they told me that Winston was sharing lots of stories about the journey with them and then they were sharing memories about times at Wind River with Jonathan.  There were no lights in the teepee and Don and Nick said when they were finally about to go to sleep, they heard Indian flute music!  They didn’t know that Winston had cued it up on his phone!  They had a good laugh about that and then went to sleep.  It rained all night so we weren’t sure what time we would be able to get out.   I had just looked at the forecast for the next two days and it was just rain most of the day both days.  As I laid there listening to the rain, I prayed to God please let us have good weather days for these last two days and please keep us safe and deliver us all safely to Wind River.  Then I said the same prayer to Jonathan and to my brother.  We knew it was supposed to be raining at 7am so we were going to try and get out by 8 to avoid the rest of the rain later in the afternoon. 


Day 66 – Saturday, May 17, 2014

     We woke up to wet ground but no rain.  We got packed up and the guys got saddled up and then we took photos by the teepee and then headed out.  We were so excited that we were starting the final two days of the journey.  Winston’s mom was driving up to be with us on the final day.  I was sad that my family wasn’t going to get to share this moment with me but I knew they were cheering us on from Louisiana.  Jonathan’s wife Lindsey had let me know that her brother Jay was going to be working at Wind River and so her whole family was going to be here this weekend so we were really happy that they would be there to share this moment too.  Winston let Nick lead because he wanted them to set the pace for Durango hoping he would want to keep up with his new friends.  They trotted for a while and then Durango just decided he would go at his own pace.  It was like he was saying, “Hey fellas, what’s the hurry? I have walked over 900 miles in the last 9 weeks!”  They walked along Hwy. 66 as we headed towards Lyons.  There were some tricky parts where they went off road to avoid the traffic and would hit a dead end and then have to come back.  I waited for them up ahead.  Then when they got to Main Street a sheriff deputy named Mitch had been watching for them and wanted to shake Winston’s hand and they got a police escort right down the middle of main street!  He escorted them all the way down Hwy 7 to the point where Emily Herold, Nick’s wife, was waiting with a horse trailer to trailer us through the construction on the mountain road that was wiped out during the flood.  We weren’t allowed to ride horses through there.  As we were riding through the canyon it made me so sad because it was so reminiscent of Hurricane Katrina with people’s belongings all in piles with debris.  The destruction that water can do is mind boggling.  They are rebuilding and my prayers go out to them as they go forward with recovery.  Emily brought their three kids with them and they are so precious!  Their names are Ike, Rayna and Zane. 


     We got to the road where the guys were going to head into the mountains where I couldn’t go with the RV.  I was going to head into Estes Park to Don’s house to visit with his wife Sara and their kids until we knew what place we were going to go for the night.  Emily was going to go check with a ranch that Don wanted them to stay the night which was a beautiful setting but he wanted to make sure it was okay with the owner Gary Williams at the Trevarton Ranch.  Gary let us know that it would be fine.  I got to play with Don and Sara’s kids Lena and Cason and we had so much fun!! Sara was cooking food for all of us for dinner and I was going to deliver it.  Sara drew me a map of how to get to Gary’s place but I wasn’t sure I could find it.  When I drove out there, I got to a spot that I wasn’t sure where to go so I went one way and didn’t think it was right and just kept hitting the call button on the walkie talkie hoping Winston would answer.  He finally did answer me and I said that I was at the “Y” in the road and so he said they were about a mile away.  Well, I waited and waited and then couldn’t get him again on the walkie and I had no cell phone service to call anyone for directions.  Finally they called me back on the walkie and said they were at the “Y” in the road.  Then I knew we were at different places.  Don got on the walkie and gave me directions of where to go.  I couldn’t believe how far back I was going.  I kept going up the mountain and the road kept getting more and more narrow.  There was a big drop off to my right and I tried hard not to look at it.  Then it seemed to get even smaller and a deer bounded across the road in front of me.  I finally got up to the spot where they were waiting and then I rode behind them to the ranch.  When we came out of the tree lined small road, it opened up into a scene from a movie.  It was a wide open field with green grass and mountains in the background and a herd of elk in the deep background of the mountain.  It was truly beautiful.  I could not have imagined a better place to spend our last night on this journey.  Don told me, “Just wait until you see the old barn.”  Gary came out on his four-wheeler to see what we might need and he was so nice.  As Winston, Don and Nick rode along this grand vista with their horses Durango, Maximus and Zim I looked up to heaven and said a prayer of thanks to God and Jonathan and K.C. for giving us this beautiful day to ride because it was magical. Three days before they had 17 inches of snow up here and I was not sure we would have been able to come to Gary’s ranch on the road I was on today.  But today was a great day to ride.  I was so glad that Winston had the chance to ride with these two amazing Christian men today.  I know it is something none of them will ever forget.  They shared stories all day.  During the day Nick had found a pair of goggles on a tree with one lens missing and rode up to them and said, “Safety First!”  They had a good laugh about that!  After a few miles we arrived at this beautiful old wooden barn with a red roof and there was still snow piled up next to it.  I took photos of them and then they took the horses to the creek for water and then I laid out the food Sara had fixed for us.  We had a picnic on the rocks outside and Don put the root beers in the snow to cool them off!  Our own outdoor refrigerator!  The food was delicious and we had a lot of fun sharing stories from the day.  Winston told me that when he had heard me call him on the radio they were at the top of the mountain we were looking at.  We couldn’t believe our walkies worked that far since we struggled with them working even on the wide open plains at 200 yards.  Maximus kept trying to bite Durango so they had to move DB to his own pen.  I hope they start liking each other soon.  Winston called me over to see all the horses in Gary’s pasture come thundering in by the corrals.  They ran in from up the mountain and it was something to see.  They were beautiful. 






     Winston, Nick and Don decided to sleep outside on their bedrolls and I was going to sleep in the RV next to where they were.  I asked Nick if he wanted a pillow since he didn’t have one and he said, “No, I’m good- I have my pants to sleep on.”  I said, “Nick, you’re killing me! Are you sure you don’t want a rock or a log?”  He said, “No, I am good with just the pants.”  Winston and Jonathan used to try and emulate Nick in so many ways and I couldn’t picture either one of them sleeping on their rolled up pants.  It was a cloudy night and I could hear them telling stories and Nick was reading the Bible to them by headlamp and then Don told me that Winston said, “I wish those clouds would clear up so we could see the stars.”  Within minutes, the clouds parted and they were blessed with a beautiful star filled sky.  They were all very grateful to God for the gift they had just been granted.  Later they were cutting up like teenage boys and laughing so hard and I knocked on the RV walls to get them to quiet down but they didn't even hear me!  Boys will be boys though.  We all slept well and couldn’t believe that the next day would be our last day of the journey.

Day 67 – Sunday, May 18, 2014

     God delivered us a beautiful, crisp morning full of sunshine and we knew without a doubt it was going to be “a great day to ride.”  It was a bittersweet day because Winston knew it was his last day to saddle Durango and ride him but he also knew he was about to fulfill his final promise to Jonathan.  We started packing up and Winston’s pillow was frozen and Nick just laughed and said his pants were nice and warm.  Gary's son-in-law had a bulldog that came out to meet us and his name was Winston!!! The guys got saddled up and then Nick said a prayer for all of our safety and we all headed out.  Durango has been a trooper because at the end of a 6 day week and over 900 miles he had to climb almost 4000 vertical feet in his last two days.  But, he came through with the spirit and determination of a mustang.  We were really proud of him and I know Mandy, his trainer, would be too.  His unflappable tolerance of traffic and dogs is all due to Mandy’s training of him and Winston is so grateful for all she did to get DB ready for this journey. 




     When they started heading out, I decided that I would go up ahead a little ways and take pictures for a while before they headed up the mountain.  We had a meeting point set up on Hwy. 7.  When they got out into the open meadow in the morning sun we looked in the distance where they were going to ride and there was a herd of elk that were in the field just before them.  It was so beautiful with the mountains in the background that we had to take a moment to soak it all in.  I put on the theme from Lonesome Dove and I went over and held Winston’s hand and we cried and cried looking at the mountains and couldn’t believe that we had made it all the way here.  He looked down at me and said, “WE did it!”  And I said, “Yes, we did. We are all going to make it there together.  The four of us!”  Then it was time to get going and I looked at them and said, “On to Glory!”  And they said it right back to me and off we went.  After my first experience with that road, I told them it might take me as long as them to get out of the forest and to Hwy 7!!  But, I got up there and pulled into an empty spot by a cabin and waited for them.  I was uploading photos and cleaning a little when I saw a little boy by my window and I looked at him and thought that little boy looks just like our little friend Keldon Allen from Dalhart.  He was tapping on my window that was half rolled down and said, “Excuse me mam, could you tell me how to get to Wind River?”  Then I knew it was him and I jumped out of the RV and picked him up and hugged him and then Tawny and Trevor came out of the car and I couldn’t believe they had come all the way out here to see him ride in.  I was so touched and I knew Winston would be too.  They said they were headed down to Estes Park but would be back at Noon to see him ride into the gates.  Then our friends Lee and Lynn stopped by and then Emily Herold came by on her horse River and was going to join them for the final ride into the gates.  The guys got there and they were a little early so we rested for a little while by the RV and then set out at about 11:30 towards Wind River. 













     Don had planned all of this route already and it was so nice to not have to worry about it at all.  We were so grateful to him for arranging our last two days. They rode along the highway and some places rode in a meadow with the snow-capped mountains in the background.  I could not have picked better backdrops or a better day for the final day of this journey. 


     I was in the RV when I heard knocking on the back and I went out and my friend Meme Gay was there from New Orleans!  My mom taught her daughter Ann in grade school!  And Ann was one of our original backers of the journey.  Meme had been in Denver visiting her cousin Patricia and Meme said she wanted to come see the end since she had been following along.  We took a photo with Winston and I was so happy that she came to share this moment with us.  There were little signs the last few miles that Shellee Eudy and Vanessa from Wind River had made.  They were so cute!  They had one that said, “Knock, Knock.”  The next one said, “Who’s there?”  And the next one said, “You are!!!”  Another said, “He’ll be coming round the mountain!”  Then there were lots of others that they put out so that Winston would know how excited they were for him.




     When we got close, I drove ahead so that I could get photos of Winston and Durango Bobwire coming in the gate.  I could see all the people lining the road and the entrance to the gates and I couldn’t believe how many people were out there.  I started crying looking at all of them and when I pulled in I saw my Mom and my Aunt Jackie!!!!  Then I really started sobbing.  I was so happy that they were there to share this moment with us because I know that I will never forget it until my dying day.  I jumped out and hugged my mom and kept saying, “We made it!  We made it!  And I can’t believe you are here!!!”  I really wanted my family to be here but I didn’t want them to feel bad because my mom was retiring so I knew she had lots to do at the end of school.  But, my dad wanted her to come and so he treated my mom and Jackie to come and it meant the world to me.  When we started the planning of this journey my mom and dad were very concerned about the dangers of such a journey and I think did not want me to go.  I couldn’t understand why they weren’t excited for me to be a part of it and my dad wrote me a long letter explaining all the dangers he was worried about.  He told me at the end of the letter that prior to writing the letter he had made a large donation to the journey but his greatest fear in life was losing another one of his children.  And then I understood his fears and his worries.  My whole life I had always been afraid of losing one of my parents and never did I think I would have to know what it was like to lose a sibling since I was the oldest child.  But, my brother’s death taught me to live life every day and I knew there was no way that I could not be a part of this journey.  I knew what it took for my mom and dad to support us on this journey but I also know that they worried every single day.  I love them so much for believing in me enough to support me on this journey that meant so much to me and to Winston.  As I said before, if I would have had a chance to fulfill a final promise to my little brother; I would have moved mountains to do it.  It makes my heart happy to know that I helped Winston fulfill his final promise to Jonathan.  Winston’s mom also surprised us by bringing her sister with her, Winston’s Aunt Sandy!  Everyone had signs and one banner said A promise Fulfilled!  My mom and my aunt had made a victory wreath for Durango that looked like what they win in the Kentucky Derby and it said Welcome Home Durango and Glory! 


     Don, Nick and Emily stayed back and let Winston ride in alone and when he came down the rise of the hill and saw all the people and when he saw the gates of the ranch, he started crying.  I tried to take photos but then I just had to go to him.  I gave him Durango’s wreath and then when Durango got under the ranch sign he whinnied so loud and everyone started laughing.  It was like he knew he was home or that he was the center of attention.  We put his wreath on him and walked him all the way to the barn and the people followed along.  It was by far one of the most emotional and rewarding moments of my life.  I will never forget it.  I know some people thought we were crazy for even trying this and I am sure many doubted that we would achieve it but we always believed that if we all stayed healthy we would make it here.  We visualized this day so many times but never did I imagine it would be as emotional and as amazing as it turned out to be.  Winston tied DB to the hitching rail and hugged him and gave him a kiss on the nose for a job well done.  I went over and hugged Winston and we were both crying because we couldn’t believe that we were finally here.





     I went back and calculated all of the miles.  I had made notes for times when Winston would ride down an embankment and then hit a fence and have to come back up or times when I could take a short route with the RV but he would have to go around.  So, the mileage on the odometer was what I called our forward mileage since it was the distance I was traveling on the road but that didn’t account for when he would have to go around or double back so those were the actual miles ridden on the horse which included all of those detours.  So, the actual miles that he moved forward on the horse ended up being 988.8 miles and the total miles that he rode the horse was about 1012. 2 miles and the total miles traveled on the trip with the times we had to be trailered for weather or bridges was 1145.4.  Pretty impressive no matter how you look at it.  Durango could not have done this journey without Winston and Winston could not have done this journey without Durango.  They made a great team and I know they are both relieved to be here.  I know that Jonathan must be really proud of Winston ~ I know I surely am.  And I have no doubt that Jonathan was riding with Winston when he crossed through those gates and was smiling his beautiful, megawatt smile.   As Winston crossed under the gates I could almost hear Jonathan saying, “Glory!” And then, “You did it Hartford.”  Yes, you did.  You fulfilled a final promise to your best friend.  He deserved it and you delivered it. 

     When we look back on this journey, we will be reminded of so many things…..a kept promise; brotherhood and friendship ties that even death cannot sever; God’s eternal light and protection; strangers that are now friends; overwhelming kindness at every turn; and that if you want to achieve glory than you must seek it.  My mom and my aunt Jackie gave Winston and I a book that says, “It always seems impossible until it’s done.” Amen.  And then in the introduction it has a quote from poet Johann Wolfgang van Goethe, “Whatever you can do, or dream you can, begin it.”  I think Winston and I will be forever changed by this journey and that if there are things we want to do or dream of doing, we will just begin to try and achieve them.  This journey taught us the truth in those words. 

     Once Durango got settled into his new pen he rolled in the sand and was so happy.  We were so glad to say, you are home and this is your barn and your herd now.  We are going to miss him so much. 

     Wind River had planned an amazing lunch for all of us and we enjoyed a meal on the patio.  The food was delicious and we loved talking to everyone about the journey.  Winston’s mom had a surprise for us.  A lady from her church, Sharon Pinckney had drawn a picture of Durango for us in chalks and Winston’s mom had it framed for us. It is absolutely beautiful and we will hang it in our home so we will never forget Durango Bobwire and we hope he won’t forget us.  After lunch, Winston went into the barn and the Los Lonely Boys song “How Far is Heaven” was playing on the radio in the barn.  For those of you who have just joined the blog, in 25 years of friendship the only concert that Winston and Jonathan ever went to together was a Los Lonely Boys concert.  It was just another little Godincidence that reminded us that Jonathan was here.



     On Monday, we had to clean the RV out and we spent about 10 hours cleaning it until it looked like new.  The twins Lee and Lynn came and helped us clean.  And then we went down to Estes Park to do my favorite job one more time!  Winston asked me when we were standing over the sewer dump, “Do you have any last words for this momentous occasion?”  And I said, “Yeah, good riddance!”  If I never dump another RV for the rest of my life it will be too soon! We got that done and then to the car wash and then came back to see Rachel Mack Cummings and her kids and her mom, Marianne who had come to take us to dinner.  But, we just couldn’t do it since we had worked all day and we wanted to visit some more with Winston’s mom and aunt who were leaving tomorrow. 

     Tuesday, we went to return the RV and when Winston was driving there he turned on the radio and the Los Lonely Boys song “How Far is Heaven” was playing!!  He couldn’t believe it!!!   We got to the RV rental place and got the bad news that we not only lost our damage deposit of $300 but had to pay $1000 towards the repair of the scratch. The girl Tanya that helped us was very nice and gave us a small discount but there was really nothing she could do about the extra costs for damages.  Then the rental car company that we rented the vehicle to drive back in wouldn’t waive our one way fee so that was another $1300.  But, we just decided that it is what it is and we made peace with it. The blessings of this journey far outweigh the expenses of it. 

     On the way back to the ranch we stopped at the Church on the Rock and it was so beautiful.  Because it was built on solid rock it was untouched by the mud slide and flooding. 


     This morning (Wednesday) after lunch, Wind River dedicated the staff housing building to Jonathan since he designed it and helped build it.  I am so glad that we were here for it.  Jonathan was such a talented architect and his handprints are all over this beautiful ranch.  We had an intimate group of people that knew and loved Jonathan and it was just beautiful.  We all shared stories about him and memories and it was so emotional yet healing.  Wind River sustained substantial damage from the flood and mudslide last year.  They are still recovering and everyone is in frantic preparations to get ready for guests that arrive next Sunday.  If you and your family want a great, fun place to come and spend time together in a beautiful setting with Christian values consider coming to Wind River Ranch this summer.  They still have some openings available.  And if you can’t come, consider sending them a donation for the recovery efforts.  This ranch is where Jonathan and Winston formed their bond of friendship and brotherhood that shaped their lives.  I helped paint and stain porches today and we are hoping that the rain will stay away so that they are ready for their opening. 




     I have received so many messages and texts and phone calls congratulating us on finishing the journey or saying that they will miss the blog and we have appreciated every single one of them.  I will post blogs periodically to let you know how Winston is coming on the book which will be released next March 2015.  We are bound by our agreement with Kickstarter to deliver the book by that date.  We are hoping to have it out by then.  And we are talking about publishing my blog from the trail.  Meanwhile, we both have to go back to work for a while to catch up with bills and Winston is taking me on a trip for my birthday but not with an RV or a horse!!!! 

     We could never thank all of you enough for your love, your support, and your help in making the completion of this journey a reality.  We have friends now all across Texas, Oklahoma and Colorado as well as people who have been following along from all over the country.  We will never forget you and we thank you from the bottom of our hearts for the extreme kindness showed to us on every step of this journey.  We sought out Glory and you helped us achieve it!  My hope is that by this journey people will live life to the fullest every day; love with all their hearts; appreciate the little things and most of all will set out to achieve their dreams.  You can only fail if you don’t try.  We are so glad we tried and that we conquered this amazing journey.  So, until we meet again I will leave you with one word……Glory!!!!!

Lots of love from the “Trail Boss” aka Donna (And Winston, Hart and Durango too!)