No Frills 55 2015

Yes, there is a trail forus going through these boulders. Can't see it, can you (HA!)

Yes, there is a trail for us going through these boulders. Can’t see it, can you (HA!)

Oh boy – those of you that have read my book will know that I have not done this ride since 2005 and I vowed to NEVER do this ride again.  For those of you that do not know this ride, it is considered to be the toughest trail in the NE Region and if you have this ride under your belt, you’re good to go for the rest of the season.  I personally will have to rate this trail against Big Loop Boogie trail from last year because I was pretty sure BLB trail was much harder with the steep climbs and descents through bogs.  I do enjoy the scenery in the Shenandoah Valley area so I’m half excited to be doing No Frills, just for the scenery.

041915I have to insert this little side note here.  I had bought a new saddle over the winter because I was sure that I was not going to be able to keep riding Miss Daizy in a treeless saddle for hundreds of competitive miles.  (this is a picture of the new saddle – note that it is much too long for Miss Daizy’s short little back) I am a very crooked rider due to my back/hip injury from the car accident in 2010 (read story here).  I didn’t get a lot of miles in that saddle on Miss Daizy due to her injury at the end of January so I found out, just one week before this ride, that Miss Daizy HATES HATES HATES her new saddle.  Steel loves it and asked me to only ride her in that saddle.  Miss Daizy demanded I never put that saddle on her again because it interferes with her shoulders and she will refuse to do anything but a walk when we’re going the slightest bit down hill.  So, I am coming to this ride, a most difficult terrain of up and down and boulders ride, wearing a treeless saddle and my crooked riding self.  I am hoping that we do okay and I don’t make Miss Daizy sore or worse … get her pulled … (fingers crossed)

I reached out to Dom and said we could either do Cheshire CTR on Sunday or No Frills on Sunday.  Dom talked me into No Frills so we’re preparing to go to Old Dominion Virginia to do 55 tough miles with no crew – because the crew is not allowed in the vet holds.

Fun times!  Let’s see how much stuff gets lost at the holds.  I absolutely will send out what my horses need, but everything that is going is going to be “spare” stuff – just in case…just in case.  And this is the link to Dom’s story and marvelous photos from the ride.

I saw a post on Facebook from Skip about bags with our rider numbers on it.

Me:  Hey Skip, I have everything for my two horses hold stuff packed in a large plastic tub, can I just put my rider number on the tub?

Skip:  We can put the tub in a bag, how’s that?

Me:  I get it (chuckle) I’ll transfer the stuff to the bags.

Skip:  See you Saturday!

Then I text Dom about rain gear.

Me:  Make sure you bring your rain gear, we’re probably gonna get wet (sigh)

Dom:  Uhm I din’t even have any rain gear 🙂

Me:  That’s okay, I have enough rain gear for half the riders going out.  We’ll figure it out.

Dom:  It’s not gonna rain.

Me:  (snort)

Dom:  La La La La La


I am in a serious quandry the five days leading up to going to this ride.  Forecast?  RAIN 90% on Saturday (camping day) 100% Saturday night and 80% Sunday (ride day).  And cold, in the lower 50’s.  Every day it changes, percents go up, percents go down … and I had to make a final decision by Friday morning, because if I was going to bail on going, I needed to let Dom know.

Friday morning, percents are down and they changed the Sunday rain to just in the early morning, to being cloudy the rest of the day.


Okay, we’re going and I have packed all my rain gear, all Marc’s rain gear, all Poe’s rain gear and now there is no room in the truck for me and Poe.  I let Dom know that I had enough rain gear for everyone but if she had any extra rain sheets for horses, tha would be bonus.  She didn’t because like me, her horses go butt naked year round, so Miss Daizy and Steel will just have to do with one rain coat each.  In fact, one of them hasn’t even been taken out of the package from when I bought it (LOL) because I like my horses buck naked.

I check and recheck all my gear.  I check and recheck that I have the exact amount of food for me and  the horses for the holds.  I check that I have enough elytes and applesauce and syringes and carrots and water and Gatorade and Ensure etc etc etc.

Saturday morning!  I throw Poe in what little space is left in the truck and we leave!  YAY, on our way and they’ve changed the weather forecast once again that we may not get any rain at all on Sunday, but it is going to pour the rain on Saturday evening and Saturday night.

I’m driving, singing to the radio and a text comes in so I pull into the truck stop to fill my tank and look…

Marc: Hey?  Did you need these propane tanks on the kitchen table

Me:  (slap forehead)

Me:  Shit

Marc:  No, propane.

Me: (slap the phone)

Change person to Dom

Me:  Hey!  When you get on the road can you stop and pick up a propane bottle so we can USE the stove?

Dom:  Not sure what that is or where to get it, but I’ll try

Me:  Oh, Walmart, Target, KMart, Cabelas …

Dom:  Okay

Me:  I’ll try a couple truck stops on my way, too.

Dom:  Okay

(Dom doesn’t say much in her text messages)

So after filling the tank and letting Poe empty her tank, I go in the truck stop and they have nothing even resembling camping stuff.  In fact, this truck stop pretty much has nothing in it at all.  I’ll stop at Flying J up the road, they’re huge.

I get in and drive an hour and stop at Flying J’s.

I see on the shelf where it SAYS proane tank but there isn’t any there.  I ask the person behind the counter and she says they’re out and they won’t have a refill until Tuesday.  I should come back after Tuesday.

Really?  “Cause like, I’m traveling, stopping at a truck stop and you think that I’ll just happen to come on back this way on Tuesday to get a propane tank?


So, I let Poe out one more time to empty her tank and we have a very uneventful drive to John Crandall’s farm in Star Tannery, VA.  In fact, the drive went so smoothly, it got me a bit worried.  I always have an adventure on the drive anywhere over an hour from my place.

The adventure started when I pulled into the drive at 1:15 pm.  First, the drive was blocked by a rig that had no driver.  I was greeted by Lindsey, who was timer for tthe Saturday 30 LD riders.  She gave me the low down on the parking areas.  I asked if I could park out the lane where Jen’s rg was but got the big


So I backed my rig back around the turn in the driveway and waited until the ghost driver of the other rig moved.  I had an interesting conversation with Jen while I waited.  I also took a walk to the management trailer to check in but was told they were not checking people in until 4:00 … didn’t I read the email that they sent me?


So I texted Dom that when she got here, after 4:00 (grin) she should stop at the management trailer and get us checked in so we could vet in before the rain started.  (They were predicting 4:00 rain fall time)

At 2:02 I finally got through the drive and parked on a nice wide open and relatively flat area.  I was pretty pleased with it.  I did eyeball the area in front of the run in shed.  My thought process was that I could use the corral panels to corral off the shed and put the horses in there.  Then I thought, and it would be my luck someone would come make me take it all down at about night fall and move it.  That would be a mess because the sky was trying to rain now, what was it going to be like at nightfall?

camping in the rainSo, I quickly set up camp.  I had everything organized and accounted for before I left so it only took me one hour to get everything set up, unpacked, and ready to go.  Amazingly, Steel settled right in to eating her hay instead of weaving back and forth and getting all worked up about being in a corral away from home.  WELL NOW, that’s a great improvement over last year’s camping adventures.  She may make a good endurance horse yet!  She’s got the trail stuff down and now she seems to be working on her mental stuff.  Good Girl!  (For those of you following the blogs from last year, you will remember that Steel did 100 miles in her stall overnight before she ever did the ride the next day.)


PoePoe was a great helper.  She showed me exactly where to put everything for her convenience.  For those of you that are unaware, Poe is my new puppy.  She is 13 weeks old and a black standard poodle.  This is her first camping trip.  My little pink poodle, Pixie, passed away in February and Poe is now my new travel companion.  Poe did remarkably well as a camper, very quickly learning where the camp boundaries were and never straying away from them.  I was very very proud of her!

So I didn’t get a text back from Dom about checking in so I decided to take Poe on a trip and we walked up the hill, then up the long drive to the base camp headquarters and knocked on the door.

Lo and behold, Skip is in there and says come on in.

Of course, that took 20 minutes because the fella in there ahead of me had about 50 things he was trying to do and … well … Skip takes his time.  I had Poe on my lap so she didn’t make any messes while I waited and she fell asleep.  So did my left leg.

Finally got my paperwork but couldn’t get Dom’s paperwork because she owed a couple things for the ride paperwork completion.

dang it

I text Dom again that I was checked in but she needed to check herself in.  I am wandering around base camp saying hi to various people I know and then stopped to see Roberta and get the pad I bought from her for Miss Daizy.  Miss Daizy is very particular on what pad she likes under her saddle and Roberta just happened to have one in her taste.  It is purple, but the way I see it … everything goes with yellow so purple will be just fine.

After her busy day, Poe was all pooped out and had to rest with Mike in camp.

After her busy day, Poe was all pooped out and had to rest with Mike in camp.

Poe was having a blast because everyone wanted to pet her or pick her up … it’s a puppy thing … and Poe was an immediate hit.  I am going to try to get a picture of her at every ride this year so we can all watch her grow up in camp!

It’s sprinkling now and I am hunkered down under the canopy reading my Kindle when here comes Mike and Dom!


Hugs, laughs and no propane tank.

more laughter

tentApparently, the rider parked next to me had a similar thought process as myself about using the run in shed for her horse … but Mike beat her to it with his tent.  He set up their tent in that run in shed so they don’t get drowned or swept away in a flood.  I told him what my thoughts were when I first pulled in and then I suggested I might set up my tent next to his so we could be snoring neighbors.  That’s when I found out he didn’t snore, and since I do snore (snort) I decided not to bother their sleep … and I was very comfortable in my truck, as always.

Dom and I get the two horses up to the vet to get vetted in.  Miss Daizy thinks the ride is starting so she’s dragging me up the hill.  Steel thinks Miss Daizy is leaving her so she’s dragging Dom up the hill.  For the entire weekend, that was the easiest walk up that hill I experienced.  I will tell you that it really isn’t much of a hill, but after you walk it 500 times, well …


The ride meeting and food is supposed to be around 6:30 … we sat under the canopy and listened to the rain tip tapping.  I felt badly for Miss Daizy and Steel so I broke out the rain sheets and put them on.  Steel was like “WHAT IS THIS???” and was running away while I was trying to get it on her.  That was curious because when I got Steel, it was middle of winter and she was wearing two blankets.  Maybe she didn’t like the sounds of the rain sheet.  (shrug)  Miss Daizy was like “Oh yeah, superstar clothes.” and didn’t even bother to stop eating while I dressed her up.

Being an experienced person has it’s benefits.  I have two umbrellas in the truck.

It’s almost 6:00 and we saw a person walking down the hill with two plates of food in their hands.


Me:  Let’s go get some food

Dom:  Num num num

Me:  Do you want my other umbrella?

Mike:  No, we’re good.

Dom:  Num num num … food …

Me:  See, being an experienced woman, I no longer thinks it’s “not cool” to use this umbrella!

Mike: (little grin)

Dom:  Num num num

We start towards that hill again and I see Kelsey coming down the hill with Spot.  I had thought that the small gooseneck trailer Mike was commenting on across the way from us was Kelsey’s but I’m so terrible about stuff like that I didn’t say anything at the time.  Guess what?

Kelsey is all bubbly and happy.  Spot is like “Whee!”.  They completed the 55 and only got a wee bit rained on.

Kelsey:  The first loop of 20 miles is pretty nice.  The second loop however …


Kelsey: … took us over 4 and a half hours to do 25 miles …


Half the second loop was on trail like this.

Half the second loop was on trail like this.

Kelsey: … because we practically had to walk the whole thing,  It was just rock, boulders and more rock …


Me:  The second loop is 25 miles? (gasp)

Dom: LA LA LA LA LA LA I can’t hear you LA LA LA LA

Kelsey:  Yep, and it was horrible because you trotted ten feet then picked your way through boulders, then trotted 10 feet, etc etc.


Me:  Oh, I know that kind of trail.  When I rode my walkers up here they used to beat feet through that stuff.

Kelsey:  We were really kinda losing our mind because it was taking so long.

Dom: LA LA LA LA I can’t hear you LA LA LA LA

Me:  So, then the last loop is just 10 miles?

Kelsey:  Yep, and it’s mostly service road so it goes pretty fast.  We were on that when it started to rain.  Finish line is across the road so remember that if you’re in a pack when you cross the road.

Me:  Did you have fun?

Kelsey:  WE DID!!!!!

Me:  Are you ready for the OD 100?

Kelsey:  I sure think so!


And so we go on  up to get some food.  And boy, have you ever seen a huge vat of goulash?  Like so big thay have a boat paddle to stir it with?  And a huge spoon with a four foot handle to ladle it out with?

Nope, I’ve never seen that before, either!  And it was sure tasty!  And hot!  Let me tell you…by this point, the rain is cold and the air temperature has really dropped so it’s chilly chilly chilly.  That goulash was marvelous.  Shame that the salad table wasn’t under a canopy because all the salads were drenched in rain water so I skipped that part of dinner and gobbled up the goulash with a healing mound of cheddar cheese on top.


I introduce Dom and Mike to several people at the food area who are standing around waiting for the announcement of completions or waiting around for the ride meeting for Sunday’s ride.  Evelyn rode Amadeus in the Saturday 30 LD and she top tenned.  I knew Amadeus had it in her, but she just didn’t click with me which is why I sold her.

Evelyn starts telling us about some of the trail on the 30 mile ride.

Evelyn:  There’s this one place where there is a slide rock and you …

Dom: La La La La

Evelyn: … have to literally slide you horse down the rock ….

Dom: (quiet)

Evelyn:  And another place where the trail looks like you can trot but it’s all rocks and boulders with grass growing over the top so the horses ankles ….

Dom: La La La La I can’t hear you La La La

Evelyn:  … are going every which way.  And it totally isn;’t necessary to send anything to the holds because they have grain and hay and everything.

Me: (holding up hand to stop her)  Oh no, I am sending my own food out to the holds …

Evelyn: But …

Me: (shaking finger at her) No, because on a ride you never change anything especially their food.

Evelyn: (shrugs)

I’m not sure, but I think I might have insulted Evelyn because I really was short with her about this subject.  I learned the hard way to never change anything and always give your horse what their accustomed to eating while doing a hard ride.

In the meantime, while we’re waiting for Skip to come out and give us a ride briefing, Dom and Mike are getting soaked to the bone.  The two canopies were already full with people stuffed under them like sardines in a can so they had to stand out in the rain.

I had a second umbrella!

Skip comes out and briefly says some stuff about the trail – RED first loop, WHITE second loop, BLUE third loop.  Then it sounds like he’s done.

WAIT!  We have questions.  About five of us, myself included, wanted to know more.

Skip gives us a little more details and then remembers to tell  us that the red trail for the 55 people will have a small section of white ribbons because they ran out of red ribbons. (Remember this for later … a small section … )

WAIT!  We have more questions.  More of us start asking questions.

Vet parameters for pulse is 60 at the holds.

Someone in the back pipes up:  What?  Really?  Not 64 for a difficult trail like this?

Skip says he’ll let the vets talk now.

Vet was very very brief.  60 pulse parameter and they’re doing the hold checks in “the box” so they can practice for the National Championship ride in the fall.  This means no courtesy checks, once you’re in the box, you’re doing your official check.  BUT!  The bonus of this “in the box” setup is that at the same time you get your pulse, you are getting your out time, too.  So we won’t have to make a special trip to the out timer to get that.


Oh, and saddle on or off, rider option.  But all leg protection has to be off for the trot out.


Ride meeting over and people disappeared like smoke in the wind.  By this time it is really raining hard and it’s chilly damp cold.

We walk down the hill and Dom and Mike decide to take a trip up the highway to find a Walmart so they can get a canister of propane for the camp stove.  We really were going to want something hot to drink, it’s horrible out.  I snuggle up in the truck with my Kindle and Poe and start reading.

It gets dark and they’re not back  yet.  I am a little concerned that Dom decided the rain was going to be too much and she told Mike to just keep on driving back home.  Well, they left their tent here so I guess I have a new tent now!

I check on the horses and (of course) neither one of them is the least bit concerned by the weather, or by my umbrella (LOL – there is a good story about my Arabians and the umbrella, remind me to tell you about it some time.)  I give them their dinner, which is quickly turning to soup in their pans because the rain is beating down on us.

I take Poe for an empty her tank break and she stays right between my feet under the umbrella.  how smart is that.  She almost peed on my shoe, I’m glad I was paying attention.

We get back in the truck and I start it up to run the heat a bit and I see headlights.

YAY!  Dom changed her mind and Mike brought her back.  AND THEY HAVE PROPANE!

It’s dark, it’s rainy, and they drop off the propane and go to bed.  me, too.  I’m going to bed.  Tomorrow is going to be great because I looked at the weather one more time (oh yes, I have internet connection here in camp, amazing!) and it says the rain is going to stop by 2:00 am.

MEEP MEEP MEEP – my alarm goes off promptly at 5:00 am.

WOW, I slept all night except for one brief, kinda awakening when the rain stopped and it all became still and quiet except for Poe scratching at the window and whining.  I thought she had to go out potty but realized she wasn’t scratching at the “out” window, she was scratching at the “camping window”.  I sat up and looked out and could see something moving around.  I grabbed the flashlight and shone it out the window to find a small raccoon trying to get into my cooler.


The light scared him away so I was unable to get a picture.

I shone the light out towards the corral and could see Steel munching on hay.  I knew Miss Daizy was back there because about that time I felt her climb either in or out of the trailer.  Oh  yes, she loves her corral to be at the back of the trailer with the door open so she can hop up in there to poop.  She barely poops in her corral, it’s all in the trailer.

I jump out of the truck to quick pee and let Poe pee and then hop right back in and snuggle under my covers.  In five minutes I was back to sleep…until the alarm went off.

I throw Poe out of the truck so she can do her business and I pull my ride clothes from under the covers and slip them on.  Then I put another layer on top of those before I get out of the truck.  I can feel how chilly it is because I left a window open so Poe and I didn’t carbon monoxide ourselves while sleeping.

Mike had told me that their phones might die over night and they didn’t have a charger with them so if they weren’t up by 6:15 am I should come up to their condo and get them up.  After I fed the horses and took off their rain sheets so they could dry out a bit, I started the stove and boiled water for coffee.


Poe is so smart, she sat by her food dish, which was under the camp table, and patiently waited for me to give her breakfast.  Then after she ate, she ran way out past the corral panels to get rid of her breakfast.  And promptly came back to the camping area to sit looking around.  She is a self taught puppy.  I haven’t had to teach her anything yet.

I had told Dom that we were going to mount up at 7:00 am (that is the official trail open time for the ride) and we would walk out of camp around 7:15 am.  At 6:15 am I am looking up towards their condo to see if they’re awake and I see movement.

Okay.  Time to get stuff going.  I turn on the water again so they can have tea or coffee (I always bring both because I never know what I want).  I brush off Steel and Miss Daizy and this sets Steel in motion.  Apparently, brushing means we’re getting ready to go so she was getting anxious and started weaving.


Miss Daizy was like, “Just stop it, I’m eating here.” and was snapping at Steel.

Mike and Dom come down and have coffee, we talk a bit and now I’m getting anxious.  The start of the ride is always unpredictable for me.  The horse could be good, the horse could be bad.  I have already stretched out as many of my muscles as I can but the first couple miles are hard on my back and hip and if the horse is being bad I’m in trouble.

We saddle up.  Steel is ALL WOUND UP and Dom is having trouble getting her bridle on.  I had given Miss Daizy to Mike to hold while I went to get rid of coffee.  I come back and put my finger in Steel’s face and she went instant still for Dom to finish bridling.

Uh huh

I give Dom my cell phone to put in her zipper pocket.  Her phone is dead, mine has a full charge, but it’s too warm for my coat and my jacket that I’m wearing does not have safe pockets.  I won’t be able to take pictures since the phone is in her pocket, but we’ll have connection if anything goes wrong.

I hop up on Miss Diazy and she instantly drops her head into the grass and starts eating.  Steel on the other hand is doing circles and Dom is struggling to get her still enough to mount.  I bark “Steel!” and she goes instantly still.

Uh huh

startWe’re up in saddle, it’s 7:01 am and I am NOT running on Dodie time.  Steel and Dom look amazing together.  I know Steel loves Dom as her rider, she is always so frisky and perky when Dom is on  her back.  I did confuse Dom a bit because I forgot to tell her that Steel went yellow over the winter so Dom didn’t have anything yellow.  That’s okay, remember what I said earlier?  Yellow goes with anything.  In appreciation for Dom being with me, I wore my riding tights with the pink stripe to match her pink helmet.

We walk up the hill, down the lane and give our numbers to the out timer.  WAIT!!!!!  They do not have Dom on the horse/rider listing for the day.  WHAT???  We checked in, we vetted in, she has her ride card.  What the heck?  So we stand there for a couple minutes while all the vets update their sheets and the checkers update their sheets.  And believe it or not, Miss Daizy was actually standing still, patiently waiting during all this.  I can’t believe it.

We get that all straightened out and leave for trail.  Miss Daizy and Steel are walking out the lane on a loose rein and Dom’s friend, one of the vets for the day, sees us and comments how nice and relaxed a start we’re doing.  I commented that is the ONLY way to do a start and he was highly amused by that.

Aye yup

ON TRAIL … whee …

out on trailWe go up and up and up on a service road for about a mile, then we’re going down and down and down on a service road.  THANK GOD neither of my horses are runaways because this is the absolute perfect kind of death road that a runaway horse would chew up and spit out.  I commented to Dom that if I had been on Flame, we would have died by mile two because she would have run away with me and I would have had to bail off the saddle.

Dom chuckled and said she couldn’t picture me bailing off anything.

Uh huh

Loose rein, they’re working a good 11 mph trot and Steel has her happy flag tail going.  Miss Daizy is on a mission, ears forward and her happy Arab trot (ouch ouch ouch)  We come to the turn off and all of a sudden, just like that, my hamstrings released and relaxed and my back went into place and now I’m enjoying myself and Miss Daizy’s happy Arab trot.


No forging from Steel.  Renee and I got that fixed now!  Mostly.  We didn’t put her bell boots on for this ride because I’m sure she’s going to do just fine without them.  We did put on her rear interference boots because she still clips her inside ankles.  We have that down to a minimum but you can’t change conformation all that much.  it’s all good.  Steel looks marvelous and she’s moving freely and happily and …

… she’s keeping up with Miss Daizy.  WOW!

We’re going up and up and suddenly we see white ribbons.  Oh yeah, Skip did say we would have a wee bit of trail on the red loop with white ribbons.  But wait, there is a rider coming back down the trail towards us with an unhappy face on.  She looks confused.  Just as I’m about to say something, a truck is coming down the hill behind her and she stops to ask the driver about the ribbon color because she went up the trail about a mile and it’s still white.

The driver of the truck says we’re good.  Just keep on and the ribbons will turn back to red when we turn off the service road onto the trail up the mountain.

Oh thank goodness that truck came along because those white ribbons went on much further than “a wee bit” as Skip put it at the ride meeting.

And thank goodness Rachel was all confused and came back because we rode the entire ride together.  The Three Zombies.  And we had the absolute most fun ever!  All three horses worked together on a loose rein, about the same speed.  Dacarr (I have no idea how to spell his name) was a great leader for the walking parts because he walks fast and Miss Daizy was a great leader for the “move out” parts because she can move out and Steel was the beauty queen.  Indeed, Steel looked most beautiful the entire ride, even at the end, she was regal and queen-like.

I can hear the question in your mind … Three Zombies?

Well, we’re moving along trail and it’s the most beautiful trail ever.  We’re going up and up and up and the views are just breath taking.  About halfway up, three riders caught up to us and Dom, Rachel and I are all talking and giggling about being afraid of heights and doing this ride. Dom made a comment about falling from the top of the world and being dead and I commented back that dead is good, especially if you’re a Zombie (being a huge Zombie fan, that just popped out of my mouth) and we could hear the three riders behind us get all quiet like … I’m sure they thought we were insane … so the rest of the ride we called ourselves the Three Zombies.

So, we lost the three riders behind us pretty quickly when we got to an open trail.  Miss Daizy took the lead and motored along, deftly missing basketball sized boulders and stepping just so to keep us at a good pace.  We’re talking about all the rides we’ve done and our mishaps and

Suddenly Rachel says (she did this trail last year in the pouring rain so she is pretty familiar with it)

Rachel:  We’re almost to the hold.

Me:  (big eyes) That’s not possible.

Dom:  Really?

Rachel:  Yep, I recognize this part, we’re gonna come down this trail onto a service road and then we’ll be there in a minute or two.

Me:  Wow, that 20 miles flew by.

Steel:  Yippee

Miss Daizy:  Whatever, I see riders up ahead of us, let’s go pass them.

Me:  Hup hup hup, slow down, we want your pulse down for the hold, dummy.

Steel:  Yippee

Dom: I need to pee

Me: (smack forehead with palm)

Rachel:  I need to pee, too!

Me: Okay, I admit it, me too.

We come into the hold almost quiet.  Those riders in front of us actually stopped so we passed them and Miss Daizy did actually come down to a walk about 50 feet from the hold.  I love that her pulse comes down so quickly, regardless of how she storms into a hold, but if I could teach her to walk a little more quietly, I would be much happier.

Now, walking down this hill to the vet in, I notice that Steel is gimping a bit on her left hind.  earlier we had a little skiing incident where we had a switchback, but Steel decided to ski into the tree instead of turning.

It was kinda funny because we must have just picked up signal

Dom: Ohhhhhh

My phone: Uh oh

Me: What? (I turn to look and all I see are Steel’s front legs sliding past Miss Daizy’s butt, headed right for a tree.

Dom: Ahhhh (she reaches for the tree)

My phone:  Uh oh, Uh oh, Uh oh

Me: Are you okay?

Dom:  Yes but what is that?

Me:  Oh, a couple texts just came in

Rachel:  What is it saying?

Me:  Uh oh

Rachel: (chuckle)

Dom: How appropriate

Me: laughing

Back to the hold…..

We come in and I can see Steel is breathing a little hard so we pull off the side and let them eat a bit a grass.  NO COURTESY CHECKS so I want to be 100% sure that they’re heart rate is down before we go in there and (of course) my heart monitor is in the bag, in the hold, up the steep hill from the vet checking area and I’m not about to walk up there to get it.  I know Miss Daizy is down because she’s munching grass and barely breathing.

Rachel takes Decarr in to be checked and I’m watching Steel.  She starts to relax and eat grass so I tell Dom, I think we’re okay now.

Whoops!  As soon as we get into the vetting area, they separate Miss Daizy from Steel and Steel goes ballistic.


I ask my P/R person to stop and my P/R person says it’s okay, she has the pulse and it’s 56.  I quickly take Miss Daizy over to Steel.  Instantly, Steel takes a deep breath and relaxes.  Her pulse is 60.


They let us do our trot out side by side.  The two girls look awesome, I know because I’m practically running backwards so I can watch Steel’s trot out.  I was concerned that she was favoring her left hind a bit.  Dom took off her boots before we trotted out and I saw that she had a rock wound on the back of her left hind, but her interference scabs were actually still intact.  I wondered if the boot was rubbing against the boo-boo on the downhill.  Steel tends to tip toe when she goes down hills (looks pretty funny from behind, like she’s a ballerina … or a Queen)

Trot out is perfect, we get our cards marked, get our out time and we head up that steep hill into the hold area.

OH MY GOD, my legs are not happy to be climbing this hill.

A smiling  young man greets us as we enter the hold are and asks us our numbers.  My bag is here, Dom’s bag is way over there.

OH NO, get that bag over here.

He is so sweet, he runs over and grabs Dom’s bag and bring it to us.  Rachel is a little up the hill from us and we can all see each other.  The hold people are FABULOUS!  They fetched and carried and brought us water and snacks and hay for the horses and refilled our water buckets and they were absolutely wonderful.

happyWhat a treat.  Last time I did this ride, I was not impressed with the hold people.  it was a horrible experience in 2004 which is why I vowed never to do this ride again.  Now, with 11 years more experience in this sport, I look back and see that I was as much to blame by my actions as the hold people by their actions.  I expected too much … my bad.

This go around I am not only impressed, I am so grateful that I am thanking everyone in sight of me profusely.  Miss Daizy (who is always a pig in hold) is doing her best impression of a vacuum cleaner.  Steel, bless her heart, is eating very well, despite Miss Daizy snapping at her every 30 seconds.  Not only is she eating well, but she drank from her bucket, almost half of it.  We had a lot of trouble last year with Steel eating and drinking.  She practically refused to drink on trail until she was so thirsty she couldn’t stand it anymore.  To see her eating and drinking like a pro at this ride makes me smile inside.

rocky trailFor those of you that do not know … Steel is 16 this year.  I got her as a pasture potato at age 14 and told her she had a new career.  She did hunter/jumper/dressage as a very young horse then was put out to pasture for 10 years to have babies and eat grass.  I came along and changed all that.  This is only her second year doing endurance and she’s had to learn it beside Miss Daizy, who is a speed demon.  Steel is NOT a speed demon and last year we would lose her on the first loop because she couldn’t keep up with Miss Daizy.  She also wouldn’t eat and drink properly so she fatigued by the end of the ride.  At Big Loop Boogie, she didn’t pee until the 50 miles was done.  That’s not a good thing.  miss Daizy?  She pees about 10 times on a ride (chuckle)  a couple more times than I do.

Okay, so Decarr’s time out is 10:30 am.  Miss Daizy’s time out is 10:31 am and Steel’s time out is 10:37 am.  Obviously, I am going to wait for Dom and Steel.  Rachel said she would go out and let Decarr tell her whether or not they would wait for us.  She did crack a big grin and say that she was SURE we would catch up, regardless which way it went, because Miss Daizy was a machine.

very big grin

I thought I was being a good girl.  I ate half my P&B sandwich, drank a full bottle of water while riding so replaced it with a fresh one and I drank an Ensure in the hold.  I also took two Tylenol because my back was starting a bit of an ache and I wanted to stop the pain before I had to chase it.  We elyted Miss Daizy and Steel.  And they ate tons of food … I felt good about the next loop!  I really did!

leaving first holdDecarr leaves, Miss Daizy looks up from her vacuuming session, wiggles her ears, then goes on alert.  She’s ready to go now.  I feel pretty good after that 20 miles.  In the back of my head I’m thinking about what Kelsey said about the next 25 miles.  Dom has no clue because she was LA LA LA Not listening LA LA LA so I just keep my concerns to myself.  25 miles is a long loop, and this is the toughest part of the trail, and although I am having the best time ever riding with Dom and Rachel, I keep replaying Kelsey’s run-down on this trail in my mind and I should have been like Dom and went LA LA LA instead of listening.  Trepidation is not a good way to start a big long hard technical loop!  I keep my concerns to myself.

We get the horses ready to go and Dom notices my one billet strap is twisted.  I had made a decision not to tighten my girth earlier because I felt good and balanced.  Apparently, that twist in the billet strap was just enough tightness and when I fixed it the saddle was loose.  I hear the timer holler out trail is open for us so I hop on without tightening the girth and we go.  This picture is us leaving the hold.  See Miss Daizy?  She is so happy with her job.  See me sitting crooked?  More on that later.

WHEEE .. .we’re out on the second loop and Steel is a bundle of joy.  Her tail is up, she is movign freely and she’s keeping up with Miss Daizy.  WOW.

We very quickly catch up to Rachel and Decarr, so the Three Zombies are once again a team.  We are going up and up and up and


All three horses sstop and drink deeply.  Even fancy pants Steel drinks and drinks.  YAY!  Elytes are working.


And all three horses drank.


And all three horses drank.  Oh that reminds me, let me drink some of my water while we’re standing here.  I have a couple sips then Miss Daizy is ready to roll again.

Then we’re going up and up and up – we are almost on top of the world and can touch the sun.  Oh yes, we have sun!  And puffy white clouds and the most beautiful deep blue sky.  Eventually I will get photos from Dom and can put them in here.  The views are stunning.  We are doing a lot of walking, thank goodness, because my saddle is loose and whenever we trot I feel like I’m going side to side and I’m having a hard time balancing for Miss Daizy.  I thinka  couple times to ask to stop so I can tighten it up, but then I think that might not be a wise idea on this narrow, bouldery, trail with drop offs on both sides.

steelUp and up and up and up, walking then trotting then walking.  I am laughing with the sheer joy of the views and the conversations.  I am having the absolute best time ever and all of a sudden, we’re at the host station, which is about halfway through the second loop.

WHAT?  How did that happen?  I kept waiting to hit all the terrible trail that Kelsey was talking about and sure, there was a lot of walking but the trail was great.  We went through a stand of trees with purple flowers (I sure hope Dom got that picture) and it was like riding through a purple tunnel.  We saw farms way down in the valley and they looked like little kid toys.  We say a huge bird in a tree and I have no idea what it was but it was HUGE.  We were having the most delightful time.

I was glad to get off Miss Daizy because I was feeling way off balance and floppy riding her that past 12 miles.  In fact, I was beginning to doubt myself that I was strong enough to finish the ride.  I felt like I was riding on Jello and I could not stabilize myself.  I was sure I was harming Miss Daizy with my flopping around and shifting the saddle back into position constantly and I was really working myself into a mental frenzy of shame for being such a poor rider.

halfway in second loopAs promised, Daryl was at the Host station and he was a most excellent host – with his helpers – and the only thing that disappointed me was he promised to be a cheerleader, but he forgot to bring his pom-poms.

Rah Rah Rah

No smoking on trail so I grab a nicotine fix while Miss Daizy tried to eat everything.  She is SOOO RUDE!  Sticking her head in the grain bag, snatching cookies off the people food table, sticking her entire head under water in the water tub while other horses (like Steel) are trying to drink.  Oh my gosh, she is a monster.  We were not obligated to stay here for any length of time, it was just a check point with some goodies.  We did sstay  here for 10 minutes though – and we all used the culvert behind Daryl’s truck to hide and pee.  I needed to pee but wasn’t having much luck.  Oops, need to drink something so I drank a half a bottle of water while here at the station.  I also took this opportunity to tighten Miss Daizy’s girth a notch.  I rode on a loose girth on some of the toughest trail ever (mostly at a walk, thank goodness) and I now learned this … always tighten Miss Daizy’s girth at first hold.


Because when we left this host station, I felt perfectly balanced again and the saddle was in perfect harmony with me and Miss Daizy.  And all my trepidation left me, gone, poof, and I was perfectly content with my riding skills again.

Dom decided to ditch her coat with the zipper pocket where my phone was.  I seriously think she did that because she was tired of hearing “UH OH” a million times every time we got to a point that my phone had signal.  I didn’t know what to do with my phone, I was afraid to put it in my saddle bag in case me and Miss Daizy separated at some point.  Daryl says (what a good host) “Hey, I have a phone holder for you.” and he loaned me his.  My phone fit perfectly in there.  I notice that my battery is starting to get low, so I turn the phone off.

At one point, about 3 miles from the host station, Rachel turns to me and puts her finger to her lips.

bridgeRachel: Shhhh

Me (turning to Dom behind me) Shhhh

Rachel: (in a bare whisper) We’re at 35 miles

Me: (slap forehead with palm) Oh, Dom’s fun-o-meter check point.

Dom: Happy Happy Joy Joy

Me: (chuckle) Yep, still got us a fun-o-meter

Rachel: laughs

Miss Daizy: Whatever, do you see that open trail ahead?  Let’s go

Steel:  Wheeeee

This was a long tunnel of blooming Red Bud trees and it was AWESOME riding through it.

This was a long tunnel of blooming Red Bud trees and it was AWESOME riding through it.

And we have some nice grassy straightaways where we can practically ride three abreast.  Miss Daizy turns on her motor and kicks into 6th gear.  The breeze is flowing over me and I’m smiling so big I’m sure I”m gonna pulls a facial muscle.  I can hear Steel’s bells right behind me, WOW shes;s keeping up. After 12 iles of mostly walking and a little trotting, the horss are thrilled to be able to stretch their backs and legs and canter along.  I am perfectly balanced in my saddle in a nice two point so I’m not banging on Miss Daizy and I feel great!!! I always forget how fast Miss Daizy really is.  She’s so tiny at 14.1 hands but moves so big and I love speed so I forget about everyone else around me and just go for the joy of going.

We are going along, creeping up the speed a little at a time, going from a center to a hand gallop and I hear

Rachel: Can we slow down a wee bit

Me: Hup Hup Hup (and rein in Miss Daizy to a big trot)

Rachel:  I’m sorry

Me: (waving a hand at her) No problem!  None at all!

Rachel:  I just needed to get Decarr a little better handle and we were really starting to get fast.

Me: (grin) No problem.  You will never insult me and I ride however everyone else needs to.

Rachel:  You can go on ahead if you want and go faster.

Me:  Nope, I’m good.

Dom: Me, too, I’m good.

Me: (hands up) See, we’re all good at this big trot.  Let’s do this.

Steel:  Wheeeeee

So we finish out that couple miles in a bog trot and turn into the woods.  Hey, we’re going up and up and up again.  And look, we are now PAST the pine trees,  We are really going to get to touch the sun today.  Howe awesome is that?

Soon, I can tell we are making some descent.  We come down below the pine trees and we’re in woods again.  The views are incredible and although we have a good move on, I am taking in as much as I possibly can while we’re going along at about 8 mph.

We take a hard left and I hear

Rachel:  Almost back to the hold

Me:  What?  You’re kidding?

Dom:  Wow, that went fast

Me:  Really?

Rachel:  Yep, we’re going to hit that lollipop in about a mile.

Steel: Wheeee

Okay.  Note to self.  Learn from Dom and when someone starts giving their opinion of trail, start singing LA LA LA LA because everyone’s opnion is just that … their opinion.  That seecond loop of 25 miles flew by.  We did it in four hours, which means we were moving an average speed of 6 to 7 miles per hour.  Perfect.  And the trail was techincal and had some “fun spots” but what is a ride without “fun spots”?  Boring, that’s what it is.

Into hold and here are those marvelous helpers again.  We passed Bryna and Jen a couple miles back walking because Bryna’s horse lost a shoe.  I let the timer know they were coming.  We also passed an older couple riding.  I had no idea what placing we were in at this point because we started after everyone left, passed three horses right in the beginning of the ride, and have now passed several more.  I ask the timer and he says 8th, 9th and 10th.

WHAT???  Seriously???

We vet in and Miss Daizy is 60.  She’s a bit sweated and her vet says to me to cool her down because she’s sweating more than most the horses he’s seen today.

Really?  I look at her then look at Steel and Decarr and they all look about the same.  Miss Daizy isn’t breathing hard and she’s trying to eat every blade of grass she can in this vet check.

She’s fine.  We just did 25 hard miles, of course her pulse is a bit higher than expected. She made parameter so I’m not worrying about it.

I eat another half of my P&B sandwich and drink and ensure and drink half a bottle of water.  I feel like I need to pee but when I go to the bathroom, only a little dribble and it’s dark yellow.


Time to drink more.  I force myself to finish the bottle of water and drink some of a gaterade.  I don’t really feel thirsty so it’s a battle to get it down.  I eat a cookie and a cracker to dry my mouth so I can drink a bit more water.  I am starting to feel a bit fatigued and hot … I’m always hot … so I strip down and sit down while we wait for our out time.

Steel has become a vacuum.  She is eating everything in site.  Miss Daizy found someone’s leftover alfalfa pile and I dropped her reins to let her gobble it up. She’s not going anywhere.  I lay back in the pricker bush and rest … Dom is awfully quiet for Dom so I ask her how she’s doing.  She said she’s starting to get a bit sore on her leg she broke.

Uh oh


That reminds me.  Elytes for the horses.  I always hate to give it to them until a minute before we leave because they tend to stop eating after I give it to them.  I always chase it with applesauce and water, but that taste in their mouths is like EWWWW

I remember that my phone was blowing up before so I turn it back on and I do have a signal.  There are 22 text messages.  WHAT???  A personal emergency was happening at my home with my husband and my mother-in-law and he had been texting me to keep me in the loop.

Oh my.  I’m having the best time of my life and he’s having the worse time of his.

The Three Zombies are all one the same out time so we start getting ready together.  There is a young couple in hold with us (Nick and a girl I didn’t catch her name) They went out about 15 minutes before we did.  When they left we were all alone in the hold and the volunteers started dumping water tanks and we heard on the walky talky to use the porta-john now because Skip was on  his way to get it.  About that time, Jen and Bryna came in and went straight to the farrier after their vet check to get a shoe for Bryna’s horse.

Wow, last 10 miles … here we come!


Miss Daizy is a monster truck.  We no sooner get past the vetting area and on the trail and she kicks into high gear.  We’re moving.  She has her big road buggy trot going and I’m like – HOLY CRAP where did that come from?

Did she totally understand me when I told her only 10 miles to go and we were done?

Service road.  Down hill.  Big trot.  Wait, there’s Steel, passing MIss Daizy in a nice relaxed canter.  Bigger trot.  I can see Miss Daizy’s front feet snapping out in front of her.  Little uphill grade and Miss Daizy kicks into a nice easy canter and catches up to Steel.

I look back.  Oh no, where is Decarr and Rachel?



Miss Daizy almost threw me over her head as she stopped and twisted tot he elft to grabs along drink out of that puddle.

Holy pamoley Batman.

on trail with decarrSteel is drinking and I see Decarr cantering up behind us.

Miss Daizy whips off to the right, almost throwing me to the ground and starts moving.  I rein her in and wait for Steel and Decarr to drink.

And they’re off.  Miss Daizy and Decarr in the lead, Steel running a close second.  Headed down the home stretch.

Steel once again passes Miss Daizy.  I look down at my GPS and we’re doing almost 15 mph.  Can that be right?  At the end of the ride they have THAT MUCH ENERGY?  I look back behind me and

Where the heck is Decarr.



I want to sponge MIss Daizy a bit as she is now kicking up a sweat.  She’s drinking and telling me NO NO NO sponging, I’m drinking.  because I don’t stop sponging, she throws her self out of the stream and starts trotting again.  (She hates to be sponged while riding)

Cantering.  Wind whipping by, Steel is going head to head with Miss Daizy.

We come up on those two young riders and pass them.


We cross the road and Miss Daizy goes on again, Steel hot on her heels.  Decarr is nowhere to be seen and those two young riders are far behind us.

All of a sudden I see the finish line.  I look at my phone and see that we just did 8 miles in 35 minutes.  The last 8 miles.  Of a tough ride.  On horses that were acting like it was the first 8 miles.


Steel was amazing!  She stayed right with Miss Daizy and even passed her by a couple times during the ride.

FINISH!  5th and 6th at 4:19.  (Remember we didn’t even get on trail until 7:20 pm, a full 20 minutes after trail opened) That’s a ride time of 7.5 hours for one tough trail.  Remarkable.  But the timer is taking SOOOO LONGGGGGG to get our ride cards marked.  I’m watching the clock because now we have to get back to base camp, which seems 50 miles away from the finish line, in 30 minutes.

Why?  because we only have 30 miuntes to get our pulse after we cross the finish line.  Holy crap …come on timer!  This is taking too long.  In fact, it took so long that Nick was able to tell us the entire story about the time he did No Frills after eating bad food and how every bush was his personal bathroom.

Ewwwww … I’ve heard about riding until you puke, but puking while you’re riding … not fun, not fun at all.

Literally, even though it felt like half an hour, it was 8 minutes for him to mark four cards.  As we got our cards back (thank you Nick for dismounting for this portion of our adventure because I don’t think if I got off I would have got back on), here comes Rachel and Decarr.  YAY!!!!  We’re all together again!  She’s finished 9th.

And we’re off … we’re riding and riding and riding and it feels like we’re going miles and miles and then we see Mike!

HI MIKE!  He takes this beautiful shot of us.  And then we ride more and more and we’re like “Did Mike walk all that way just to get pictures of us???”  What a champion Mike is!

And there’s the camp.


finishedI get off, drop Miss Daizy’s saddle and immediately drop her reins so I can lay flat out on the ground.  I truly am a Zombie at this point.  All of a sudden, I feel achey all over and I don’t know why.  My head is pounding and my ears are ringing and I just want to lay down for a minute.  I was fine 5 minutes ago, what the heck jsut happened???  I DON’T KNOW!!!!

Mike is holding Miss Daizy (thank you Mike)

Dom:  Uhm Dodie, we have to get our pulse

Me:  (laying on the ground mentally begging my hip to stop spasming and my ears to stop ringing) What time is it?

Dom: 4:40

Me:  We have 9 minutes, let them eat some grass a minute.

Dom: Oooo kkkk aaaa yyyy

Mike:  Can I get you anything

Me: Nope

Dom: 4:41

Me: (struggling to get up) Okay okay

Dom:  No problem

Mike:  Can I help you?

Me: Nope, Come on Miss Daizy.

final vet checkSteel is still very energetic and happy.  She doesn’t look at all like she’s done 55 hard miles.  Dom and her make an excellent partnership!  I am so happy to have Dom riding her … especially because Dom makes me happy, just to be around her.

We go to the vet to get our pulse and MIss Daizy is at 46.  Steel is at 60.  I think Miss Daizy is a Zombie.  They check them out, we trot out together again, and they get their CRI Daizy is 42 so her final vet score is 46/42 with all A’s across the board.  Dr. Art commented that she looked ready to do another loop.  I commented I needed an ambulance.

Steel’s CRI is 60.  So her final vet score is 60/60 with a healthly mix of A’s and B’s and an overall A..

WAY TO GO STEEL!  And you did it all at Miss Daizy speed.

I’m asked if I want to stand for BC.


Not only have I never finished top 10, I have never had the opportunityt ostand for BC … you betcha I’m gonna stand for BC.  I won’t win it, but by the gods, I am going to stand for it!

Steel photo bombing (again)

Steel photo bombing (again)

Dom declined to stand for BC knowing full well with A and B and a 60/60 she’s not going to be in the running.  She did patiently wait with me, as I curled in the fetal position around my saddle to relax my back, so that Steel kept Miss Daizy company.  Mike was kind enough to hold MIss Daizy while I wimped out on the ground.  John came by and concerned by my fetal curl on the ground asked me what I was doing.

I grinned and said I was waiting to do BC.  John replied that was a mighty strange way to wait for BC.

I finally got myself up and took my gear for weigh in.  191.4 … Hmmm, lost some weight.  Night before I had weighed myself with gear because the (conveniently) had a scale there and I was at 199.7.  I changed my division this year because I lost some weight last year and I was glad to see that I made the correct decision in changing from HW to MW.  I was right under the line for the MW division.

Wait a minute.  Did I drink?  My body was starting to ache as I brought my saddle back to where Miss Daizy was.  I checked my water bottles in the saddle bag and they are both unopened.


I quick drank down both bottles in two huge gulps.

Now I have to pee.

Nope, went into the porta-john and only a dribble and it is bloody looking.  NOt good, not good at all.


I come out and ask Dom how she’s feeling.

She says good.

Ahhhhh … 5:19 pm – one hour after we finish and time to go get Miss Daizy’s vet check for BC.

No way this horse looks like she just did 55 miles.

No way this horse looks like she just did 55 miles.

I tell the vet I have never done this before so I don’t know the procedure.  She is very kind and educates me on what we’re going to be doing.  Part of it included trotting straight, a circle and a circle and back.  I look at Mike with pleading in my eyes.  He immediately comes over and does Miss Daizy’s trot out.  She’s a machine.  She trotted right past him, tail in the air and ears all forward and doing her happy little Arab trot.


Wish I felt like that.  I was feeling a bit better since I drank those two bottles of water.

Dom took pity on me and put Miss Daizy’s saddle back on her so we could walk to the camp.  Mike, bless his heart and muscle, carried both the hold bags back to camp.

I come into camp and holler out to Poe who jumps up wagging her tail and so happy to see me.  I put Miss Daizy in her pen and promise (promise) to brush her off in a bit.  Dom brushes off Steel and her and Mike start breaking down their camp.  I told them I had homemade jumbalaya to heat up (now that we had PROPANE) and to please join me for dinner.

I drank a full bog bottle of gaterade before I start heating up the food.

Poe is happy happy happy I am back.  Mike said she was a perfect camper while we were out on trail and mostly slept in her little bed.

I am starting to perk up and my back and hip fell better and the ringing in my ears and head pounding has gone away.

I decide it is safe to take two more Tylenol.  And drink another bottle of water.

Dom did want to get on the road right away, but since I stood for BC and she hadn’t found her jacket she left with Daryl, she decided to stick around for some food and then the top 10 awards.  Mike commented wouldn’t that be sweet if I got BC.  I chuckled and told him that probably wasn’t going to happen but yes, that would be a nice surprise.

awardWe eat and then mosey up to get our Top 10 awards.  They are VERY NICE, thank you Skip.  My old cooler is getting very worn out so it’s nice to have a new one.

Then they announce the finishing placings.  I did not get BC … but I did get High Vet Score and just the fact that I finished Top 10 was thrilling … to get High Vet Score is like icing on the cake.  And to only miss BC by two points is like sprinkles on the icing on the cake.  I’m glad Dom stayed to get her cooler award.


Now, Dom and Mike are leaving.  She found her jacket and she’s happy again.  I am sad to see them leaving, but I totally get the “gotta work if I’m gonna play” and they both have to be to work Monday morning.

Not me, I took the day off in anticipation of not being 100%.  Actually, after eating and drinking over a gallon of fluids, I am feeling much better.]

Note to self.  DRINK WHILE RIDING!

Gawd, I am so bad about that.  I completely dehydrated myself and even after drinking over a gallon of fluids and eating, I didn’t pee again until the next morning.

Dumb dumb dumb

Rachel came over and sat and talked with me until it got dark.  I really enjoyed her company.

I had the best ride ever.  No Frills was a Many Thrills ride for me this year and I will come back next year.  I am sure I will be fleshing this story out for a while, and I apologize for it being so long, but I just had to tell you everything!