Night 42 – Wednesday, April 23, 2014
Well, Winston went to sleep and I was trying to finish up typing the blog and about 1am I heard this crash that sounded like the saddle stand falling over outside. The wind had been whipping for a few hours. Winston woke up when he heard it too and he tried to go outside to check on it and the 40 pound saddle had blown over on the saddle stand and was blocking the door. It blew from the front of the RV to the middle of it by the door! He put on his “dust prevention outfit” and tried to squeeze out the door to bungee everything down. We had been unable to get weather alerts or radar that day because of bad signals out where we were and obviously we were surprised by this sudden wind storm. When Winston thought it might be getting worse we checked the phone again and in certain spots in the RV we could get a signal and we learned there were gusts of 55mph and they were expecting rain. DB did not have cover but he did have a barn type structure he could back up against to break the wind. Winston tied the saddle and stand to the back of the RV bumper and covered it with a tarp and we hunkered down to wait out the storm. It stormed for two hours and we knew it would be a mess in the morning with the mud all over everything. We were able to finally go back to sleep around 3 or 4am and then we were getting up at 6:30am to get going since it was supposed to be 20 miles to the next stop.
Day 43 – Thursday, April 24, 2014
When we woke up this morning and went outside, we couldn’t believe it…..there was no evidence that it had even rained. The ground was not wet and there were no puddles. It has been so dry here that I guess it was immediately absorbed. We did have wet mats and pads that were outside but thankfully the RV was not stuck in mud or anything. We started cleaning up and feeding DB and then I called Paul Moses whose place we were staying at tonight. He was so sweet on the phone and he told us that he was actually only 11 miles outside of Boise City so we were happy to know we wouldn’t have as long of a day since we didn’t get a lot of sleep. For all those worried, my toe is a lot better today! Tawny’s gel is working and I hardly have any bruising or swelling today! I am a lot more mobile today! And when I look over at the flowers she gave me to feel better, I know they are working! She even had them make it the size to fit in a cup holder. How perfect for me!
I was looking at comments on the blog which sometimes I am not able to get to for a few days and our friend Antha Guidry from Gatesville posted the sweetest message and I wanted to share a part of it with you. She said, “…I give thanks for all of the sweet souls you’ve met on the way that have helped you on this journey…..I feel at the heart of it all, the lasting tribute to Jonathan will not be the trip, which is in and of itself monumental. It’s the loving, giving spirit of all those you meet along the way. They are the very embodiment of what Jonathan was….a true friend to everyone he ever met, ready to lend a hand and a smile to loved ones and strangers alike. Thank you for allowing us to come along with you on this journey through your words and pictures. I’ll never forget it as long as I live just like I will never forget Jonathan.” It was so sweet and oh so true about her description of Jonathan. That is the Jonathan that we love talking about to people who did not have the pleasure of knowing him and loving him.
We got started around 9:15am and I went to town to get more feed and hay and tried unsuccessfully to post the blog update but the internet at the truck stop wouldn’t let me post it. I picked up some lunch for us and headed back because I didn’t want to leave them out there for too long without more water. Paul was going to find us on the road so he could show me where his place was. He was heading out at 2pm to go see his grandson compete in an Area Track Meet in Abilene in pole vaulting and run in some relay races. When I caught up to Winston, Paul had found him and had already played him a song on his harmonica. Winston asked him if he would play the song again for me. The song was called The Final Ride and he wrote it, then sang it and played the harmonica. He said that he sings it a lot at funerals for his old cowboy friends. It was beautiful. I hope I can figure out a way to share the song with you later since he gave me a CD of it. His mom gave him a harmonica when he was a little boy because he loved music. She told him when he was first learning and messing around with it and not making great sounds out of it, “Paulie, I hope you either learn to play that well or throw it away.” But now he does play it well and has been playing it for over 70 years. He is 78 years old and he still rides horses and ropes. He says it keeps him young.
He took me to his land to show me where it was and it was 1500 acres on Hwy 385/287 and I was not expecting how beautiful it would be! The pens for Durango were set up on a bluff and then there was a train track in front of them with a tunnel going under them to the back part of his land. There was also a large pond in the front part with water in it! It was really pretty. He told me the differences between buttes, plateaus and mesas and he showed them to me on the landscape that we could see from his land. He also showed me a little canyon behind the train tracks where he has a little picnic area set up where he hosts Boy and Girl Scout troops and church groups. He said the kids love coming down here and they have cookouts and make Hobo stew for them and he plays music for them and they love climbing the rocks and exploring his land. I can imagine how much they would love exploring this land. He said there are arrowheads all over here because Native American Indians used to live on this land until the Santa Fe Trail came through here and then the railroad in 1880. He has pits to cook in and roast hotdogs and grill meat and he has a shooting range where he teaches the kids how to safely shoot a 22 gauge rifle. We drove up from the canyon to the highest point on his land that he calls Mt. Carmel. It has two trees and a prayer bench made from stones from an original homestead on the back of his land. We sat on the bench together looking out at the vast tableau before us. It was easy for me to picture Indians roaming this land and teepees set up and then later wagons rolling along the Santa Fe Trail with cowboys on horseback. He asked me if I had a favorite hymn because he wanted to play it for me. He said he sits up here on Mt. Carmel and writes songs and poems. I told him I had several favorite hymns but one of my favorites was “Just As I Am.” He started playing it for me and it was beautiful. Then he said what about the greatest hymn ever written, “Amazing Grace.” He played it and it was so moving to hear the sound of that harmonica in the silence on that lookout point and then he said, sing along with me and we sang Amazing Grace sitting on the prayer bench looking out on God’s beauty and it brought tears to my eyes. His deep voice combined with my higher voice in the silence made such a beautiful sound and it was so emotional. It was hard for me to believe that I just met this man 30 minutes ago. After we sang together, he said, “How ‘bout you and I go on a musical tour in that RV of yours!” Ha! Love it! He played me one of his favorites called “Where he leads, I will follow.” And then he said I have one last song for you and I dedicate it to you and Winston. It was a song called “God Bless You and Keep You Untill We Meet Again.” Well, that one did me in. I was crying, but happy tears because it was so sweet of this man to think of us and give us this wish. I told him that we talked about having a reunion tour of all the places we had visited on this journey but without a horse next time! And I told him that maybe Winston will have a concert somewhere midway and we can invite all of our friends that we have met along the way! I learned that Paul also plays the mandolin and that he goes every Sunday to the jail and the hospital to entertain them. He was so disappointed that he had to leave and go out of town because he would have liked to stay and play music with Winston and visit with us. I doubled back to find Winston and then we said goodbye to Paul and thanked him for sharing his land and his talents with us. I was so sorry that I didn’t get a photo of Paul. I told Winston that he was not going to want to leave Paul’s place because he was going to want to explore it all.
When we were on the highway going to Paul’s place, I was pulled over in the grass waiting for Winston and a Oklahoma Department of Transportation truck pulled up and asked if I needed help since I was pulled over. I said, “oh no I am good. My boyfriend is on a 1000 mile horseback journey in honor of his friend who passed away last year and I am just waiting for him to catch up with me.” He looked at the door of the RV where we have the magnet with Journey for Jonathan on it and he said, “I was just reading about this story on facebook!” He held up his phone and our blog was open on his phone! I asked him who we were friends with that he knew and he said he had seen it on the Superintendent of Felt Public Schools facebook page! Then I realized that the class that came out to see us yesterday with Mrs. Smith must have shared it with some of their friends at school. Anyway, his name was Lloyd Coble and he was so nice and asked me questions about the journey and he just thought it was an amazing thing to do in honor of a friend. He said he saw on the blog about some of the adventures they had taken together and he said he knew Jonathan must be with us on this journey and I have to agree. He said he wouldn’t stop Winston since he knew we had to move along so he just waved to him as he passed him and then we moved on to Paul’s. While I was stopped I also got a message on facebook from a man named Paul Davis. He said that he had seen about the journey on someone’s facebook page and he felt as if he could be a better friend and person and wanted to contribute to our journey because he thought we were doing something awesome in honor of Jonathan. I wrote him back and thanked him for his heartfelt words and told him that I hoped he would follow along and see if we made it all the way to Wind River and that we believe that we will!! He wrote back the nicest message that said that he had no doubt we would complete every mile we set out to but that we have already “made it all the way!” He said that we are winners no matter if we travel 10 miles or 10,000 miles. He said he was so excited to follow along for the rest of our journey and he felt that if every person could hear this story of friendship, we would live in a much better place. He closed by saying that he was sending a donation to us and that we have changed his heart and he is so thankful for that. He shared it with some others and they feel it will affect their friendships and relationships from now on too. He is the president of a builder’s association and he is sharing the story on his president’s newsletter. I think this is so appropriate since Jonathan was an amazing architect. This message from someone we have not even met truly touched our hearts and it is definitely something I think Winston loves that Paul got out of this Journey for Jonathan. I think Jonathan would love that it is making people think of the friends and loved ones in their lives and to appreciate every minute you have with them. Thank you, Paul, for sharing your thoughts and feelings with us. It meant so much to us and we appreciate you kind words and your donation.
Winston got to Paul’s place about 3pm and we got DB set up and then we walked down to the canyon so I could show it to Winston and then I took him to Mt. Carmel to show him the prayer bench and the view. When we got back up to the pens, Eddie Allen was there and had brought a hot meal for us that his wife Coleen had cooked. It was delicious and we were so grateful! We had learned from Paul that there was an RV park with a dump station in town so we headed that way. We dumped the RV (nope, still isn’t a fun job yet) and then I decided to try one more time to post the update to the blog. Eddie told us that in front of the library you could get Wifi so we sat in front of the library and it worked! Yaaayy!! While we were sitting there, Lloyd that had pulled over earlier saw the RV and stopped to talk to Winston. He lived down the street from where we were. He told Winston that he was reading the whole story on the blog and he loved the adventures that he and Jonathan had shared together. Lloyd asked Winston about their trip to Mexico and their time at Wind River. Winston told stories from their times together. Every time I hear him tell stories about his memories with Jonathan and he gets so animated telling them, it makes me realize all over again how much he misses his best friend and their friendship. He loves telling people their stories and it makes him smile through the sadness of his loss of Jonathan.
We saw a sign in town that said to Denver….228 miles! We know Estes Park is further but it seemed close if they had a sign for Denver! We headed back to the RV and we were reflecting that if we just kept driving we would be to Wind River in 4 or 5 hours! But, we can’t leave Durango behind. We would miss him! So, we will just keep plodding along making our way north to Wind River! We have no cell or internet service so we are praying there will be now more wind storms tonight and we are hoping Durango gets used to the train passing every hour right past his pen! He wasn’t crazy about it at first but seems to be getting used to it.
Today marks the 18th anniversary of my Aunt Connie’s death to breast cancer. I think of her often and miss her love of life! I had the honor of going with her to Mexico when she sought alternative therapy treatments when modern medicine could do no more for her. I will never forget the time that we spent together there. I am thinking about and praying for all of her family who still miss her every day like I do.
Day 44 – Friday, April 25, 2014
We slept great and Winston got DB fed and saddled and we set out towards Campo, Colorado! Within two miles we were at the old Santa Fe Trail crossing. It made me sad to read a quote on one of the markers from an Indian chief who once lived on these plains. He said he didn’t want to live in the houses that would be built for them. He loved roaming over the wild prairie where he was happy and free. When I look out over the land I am sure the land itself looked almost the same as it did when he roamed here. I can understand his sense of freedom in this wide open country.
We met a man named Clyde Rogers in the rest area and he custom makes spurs. He showed us some samples and they were beautiful. He said he lived in Campo and told us about how far we were from the border. We were getting excited about getting to Colorado! We crossed the Cimarron River which was dry and knew we were really close to the Colorado state line!
I drove ahead and was parked right at the Oklahoma sign where we could see the Colorado State sign. I had cued up the theme song for Lonesome Dove that Winston loves because it always reminds him of Colorado and the mountains. I parked the RV with the open window facing him and when he topped the hill I had it blasting out the window! As soon as he heard it, he raised both his arms and was pumping them in the air because he could see the Colorado sign!! We both started crying listening to the song and looking at the Colorado state line! We couldn’t believe we had come so far. I told him we have a long way still to go but we have come a long way too!!
Believe it or not, after all this waiting, we had lunch before we crossed over the line because it was a safe, big spot to park and a place for DB to rest. Then after lunch we crossed over into the long anticipated state of Colorado! I was thinking that if Winston and Jonathan would have had to ride horses to Wind River each summer to work they would have missed the summer since the travel there and back would have been over four months!! We met two people at the rest stop named Janet and David and they were visiting from England! We welcomed them to America and talked to them for a while and they were very nice and wished us good luck on our journey.
We are not sure if we have a place tonight with pens. Tawny gave me a contact there but phone service has been spotty and I left a message but haven’t heard back yet. But, Clyde told us that the people we were looking for were related to the man who owned the truck stop in town. We gained an hour today as we crossed into mountain time so we will get to Campo around 4pm I think. We are crossing over the Comanche National Grasslands. We are considering taking our rest day tomorrow if we have pens since we have ridden 76.4 miles in 4 days and it is my birthday. Winston promised me a bed and breakfast that has bathtubs and conveniently has horse pens behind it!! Yeah Right!!! We are hoping at the very least for a nice place to have a birthday dinner!
I arrived in town and stopped at the truck stop and asked the owner Clarence Jenkins if he was related to the people we had been trying to get in touch with. He said he was and that he would try their cell phone for me. We got a machine and then he said, well you could use my pens across the street if you want. I told him we would really appreciate that. So, I went and cleaned out the pens from the tumbleweed and set DB up with water and then Winston arrived about an hour later. After we fed DB we went to check out the town and see if we could eat somewhere. There was only two restaurants in town and both were closed. The Campo Café said that its hours were 5:30am until 2pm. It looked as if my birthday dinner was not going to happen tomorrow unless it was lunch! We talked about traveling on to Springfield tomorrow so that we could have a dinner celebration but Winston was really tired and sore and it just didn’t seem worth it since we didn’t know what was there either. Then we saw the forecast for tomorrow and it was winds of 25-35mph with gusts of 55mph so we decided it was best to stay put. Oh well, maybe we can celebrate later.
We watched our first Colorado sunset on the back of Clarence’s land. It was beautiful and we could almost picture mountains in the distance. On our way back to the RV, Winston carried Hart because he was getting so many stickers in his feet! Now that is true love! He is no skinny minny! When we got back to the RV Winston did make up a great song to cheer me up called Busted in Campo which he played on the harmonica! It was hilarious and made me laugh! There were lines about not washing your hair for days and dirt blowing non-stop! It was really clever and I wish I would have written it down! Then we played name that tune on the harmonica. He would play a song and I would have to guess it. I wasn’t very good at it. Don’t tell him but they all started sounding the same! He is way better on the piano!
Happy Birthday to my godchild Kelsey Cahill who turns 13 today!! I love you so much!! And Happy Anniversary to my sister Stacey and her husband Jonathan!
Day 45 - Saturday, April 26, 2014
I woke up to a text from my mom!! She is sad she is not with me on my birthday and it makes me sad too that I can’t hug her and the rest of my family! But, we will celebrate later! I received lots of texts from friends and family and really sweet messages on facebook which I was able to read because we discovered that there is better reception in the top bunk in the RV! Who knew!!? Anyway, then Winston played Happy Birthday on the harmonica for me! At least he said it was happy birthday!! And he gave me a really sweet card that he got when we were in Dumas. Since we had decided to rest today we had chores to do but many we couldn’t do since there are no stores or coin operated laundries in Campo! But, Winston did start cleaning the RV. It is sometimes a futile effort with the wind though. We decided to go have lunch at the Campo Café. We asked about the restaurant next door and if it was possibly open tonight and they said it used to be open at night but hasn’t been for several weeks. Ok, well at least we will have a good lunch! We had great food and met Cheryl and Frida and our waitress who was so nice to us! Winston’s sister Sarah loves the Josh Abbott band and when we walked in we saw they had a poster for the band and then saw they were selling tshirts from the band. We asked if they knew them and Cheryl said that the fiddle player Preston Wait was their nephew!! He grew up in Campo!! We saw them perform in a concert in San Angelo with Sarah.
We left the café and went to the park to have a little birthday party with the cake that Tawny bought for me! It said, On to Glory! Happy Birthday Donna! I loved it! It was really windy but I managed to blow out one candle by myself but Winston had to shield it with the lid from the cake! I then opened my card from Tawny and she made me cry and she is all the way in Mexico right now!! She said such sweet things to me in the card and I was reminded again how lucky I am to have her for a friend. Then she and her mom, Kim got me a present and it is a beautiful James Avery silver charm bracelet that they started for me. My first two charms are a horse in honor of Durango and a state of Texas with a heart in the middle of it. She said that she hoped the horse charm always reminded me of this amazing journey and of Durango and that the charm of the state of Texas she hoped would always remind her of the many lives, including theirs that we touched through our ride through their great big state! So sweet and such a perfect gift for me. I absolutely love it! I will definitely add to this bracelet in the future but will never forget the two sweet ladies who gave it to me! The wind did not cooperate with the party so we went back to the pens to have our cake! It was chocolate and decadent and heavenly! I had three pieces right off the bat! If I am not going to get to have a birthday celebration then I will certainly have cake!!
Happy Anniversary to my cousin Cassie and her husband Carl who got married on my birthday!
We talked to the lady at Blue Rose Horse Rescue who is just outside of Springfield and we are going to be with them tomorrow night. The owners are John and Cheryl Webb and we are so appreciative that they are willing to host us. We will probably just eat some soup and a sandwich in the RV tonight since the wind is whipping and there is nowhere else to go! We need to get an early start tomorrow and the sun will be up an hour earlier in Colorado!! No good!!! My night owl life style is not cut out for these early mornings!
Oh and people have been asking what our new route is and here are the towns we know so far that we will be heading soon! We are in Campo headed north on 385/287, then Springfield, Lamar, Wiley, past Queens State Wildlife Area, Eads, Kit Carson, Wild Horse, Hugo, Limon and then North on 71 to Last Chance. After that we are looking at two different routes so that part is TBD! If you know anyone with pens on these roads send me a message or email me at ChanceDLC@aol.com.
Well, we are in Colorado so we are getting closer to our final destination!! On to glory!!!
Love, Donna (Winston, Hart and Durango too!)
Hey everyone! Winston here! I don’t normally write for the blog but I wanted to take some time to write about a very special occasion and brag about a very special person. Today is Donna’s birthday!! We are camped today in Campo, Colorado. The wind is blowing 35 mph with gusts of 50 and there’s dirt everywhere. Days like today remind me what a sacrifice Donna has made to be a part of this journey. She could be anywhere in the world right now for her birthday but she has chosen to be with me, Durango, and Hart in the vast and endless Comanche Grasslands of southeastern Colorado. (with nary a restaurant for fifty miles to have a birthday dinner.) Since we started, Donna has pretty much given up the luxuries we all take for granted like a normal sized bed, a bathroom bigger than a phone booth, and trees. She has handled the dust storms, cramped conditions, dry weather, mechanical problems, and daily uncertainties with the spirit, grace, and strength of a real pioneer woman! She has even persevered through getting her toe stepped on by a 900 pound horse! That’s no small “feet”!
What makes her part of this journey all the more amazing is that she is unselfishly here to support me in my attempt to fulfill my final promise to Jonathan. She took a promise I made to Jonathan and made it her own – which is the most unselfish and loving act I have ever personally been shown. As we’ve made our way across Texas and Oklahoma and into Colorado it has become evident that this Journey for Jonathan would have been impossible without the love and encouragement (and RV driving skills) of Donna. Sometimes when the road is seemingly never ending, and the wind is blowing to the point of driving me insane, I’m encouraged by the tiny RV parked on a rise in the distance and the voice of Donna coming over the walkie-talkie encouraging me. Sometimes I play her the Billy Joel song “You’re My Home” and tell her it reminds me of us. Out here on the trail, more than ever, I’m reminded that Donna is my home and she and I together can do anything we set out to do. I don’t say it often enough and I don’t say it loud enough – and if I were anywhere near a mountain right now I would stand on that mountain and shout it out - I love Donna with all my heart! Despite the weariness of the trail, it doesn’t diminish her inner beauty which everyone instantly recognizes. I’ve seen people literally all the way across Texas in truck stops, radio stations, churches, and even pizzerias open their doors and hearts because of the beautiful person Donna is; letting her light shine while sharing the story of my friendship with Jonathan. Some of the people we’ve met have cried saying goodbye to Donna after only knowing her for 48 hours! People know true beauty when they encounter it, and Donna has graced all those we’ve met with a rare kind of beauty that sweeps through their lives like the wind and changes people.
While this is easily the least glamorous birthday Donna’s probably ever had, we both know in a greater context our Journey for Jonathan is something for the Ages, a lasting testament to the power of a friendship and the good things of life; love, faith, family, honor and the common humanity we all share. I’m moved to tears thinking of all the friends we’ve made, and how our journey has changed us and healed us. I said it before we left and I’ll say it again, there’s no one else in the entire world I would rather be sharing this journey with than Donna Chance! What is unfolding in front of us as we journey is a metaphor for life - what matters isn’t where you’re headed or where you’ve been but who you’re sharing the journey with that matters. I love you Donna and am grateful beyond words every day that we are sharing this Journey together! Happy Birthday!!! Love, Winston