Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Van woes, mitigated by happy horse fun.

So, earlier this month, my alternator came off its moorings, leaving me stranded at the side of the freeway with no power steering, and ended up setting us back nearly a thousand dollars, once we paid the outlandish towing fee to the police-summoned tow truck ("we have to charge more, because we're required by law to be on call for police emergencies only") and the charges to have my alternator brackets re-attached. Yeah. Have a Holly Jolly Christmas there, Homer. You're getting coal in your stocking this year. No premium grade oil and engine treatment for you! And you can forget about that new pine air freshener to hang from the rear view mirror, too!

Imagine my absolute joy, then, when the little orange "engine block" outline drawing lit up on my dash board last night on the way home from getting groceries.

Let's check the Honda Odyssey owner's manual...

Oh! It's an Emissions System Malfunction Indicator. "Do not continue to drive your vehicle, or you will do irreparable damage"

Yippee, Skippy, Homer! You're making mommy so happy!

So I parked Homer in the driveway, and called Honda at 5:35pm, the minute I got home.

"Oh, I'm sorry, the Service Department closed at 5:30. Please call back in the morning."

I swear, I was batting a thousand.

So this morning, I stole Ken's car to take Kelly and her friend Adria over to the coast, to attempt a beach ride. It was miserable weather at the house. It had been stormy all night, and just as we left the house, the skies started spitting at us again. But Adria was going away for the rest of the vacation, and Kelly really wanted to ride with her. Fingers crossed, then, as we took the Purple Princess over the hill, hoping that the socked-in clouds would lift, or at least stop pouring torrential rains down on our windshield. The girls spent the whole 20 minute drive with their fingers crossed.

And we got out to the coast, and it wasn't raining any more, but it was pretty grey. And the ranch gates were closed. And there were no horses on the line.

Not a good sign.

But the kiosk was open, and there were lights on, so I had hope that at least I'd be able to talk to a real person as to whether there was a chance of a beach ride this morning.

Just as I had nearly given up hope (we'd gotten to the ranch gates at 7:45, because the web site says "You must be at the gates before we open, in order to take advantage of the Early Bird Special", and you KNOW that I am all about the early bird special), the ranch manager came to the gate, opened it up, and said 'Yes, there will be rides." And lo and behold, right behind her were the guides, leading a string of horses up to the line.


(note. 85mm f/1.8 lens, rented from I think I'm in love. I used it to photograph the eclipse, too, and I'll be taking it to the wedding next weekend. And after the coupon, it's the best $30 I ever spent on a 3-week rental... I think.)

Kelly was given the manager's niece's favourite horse, Fiesta. Kelly rode it the other time she went to this ranch, too.

psst. I love you best of all of the horses on this ranch...

And Adria was given Estrella, a bigger horse than she'd ever ridden, but Estrella is wonderful and gentle.

It was threatening to rain, and it had rained a lot in the night, so the trail was muddy. It would be a slow and careful ride today. No cantering, and probably no trotting, either. They'd be getting their full 2-hour and then some. I like to think of it as 'getting my money's worth'.

Hmm. Looks like Fiesta has a mind of her own... I bet you wouldn't let Eddie get away with that, Kelly.

OK, and now I would like to talk about Poplar Beach.

This is the place that I drive to, and then run down a steep trail to the beach, so I can be on the sand, photographing the horses as they arrive.

Well, I hadn't factored in the rain. And the fact that the bluffs are primarily composed of clay. And that when clay gets wet, like super-saturated wet, it turns into gumbo.

Slick, slick gumbo.

I was up at the top of the bluffs, and I thought "I should just climb this two-foot slope to the edge of the high-high bluff, so I can have a better vantage point to watch for the horses", and i put one foot down, and then the other, and the treads on my hiking boots were immediately full of clay gumbo, turning my shoes into frictionless platform boots. My feet went out from under me backwards, and I fell fowards with a great deal of rotational momentum. Um, yeah.


Fortunately, I'd hidden the camera (with the rented lens) inside my jacket, where it whacked against my sternum, giving me a lovely bruise. It'll go nicely with the road rash on my left hand, the gumbo-caked disaster on my right elbow, and my new pair of gumbo-clay knee pads that are now firmly attached to the knees of my Levis.

After making sure there were no broken bones, I navigated the steep slope down to the beach at a crawl (I probably SHOULD have crawled. It would have been safer. And I did already have the dirt knee-pads in place), and waited for the horses. My heart was in my throat, though, because I truly thought "If I, with my fancy-pants hiking shoes with deep tread, slide down the slope and nearly kill myself, how in blazes is a horse with four slick metal horse-shoes going to do any better. This will be the day I lose my daughter in a tragic riding accident, and what will I ever tell Adria's mother????"

Yes, because I always go to the Worst Case Scenario.

The horses finally appeared at the top of the bluff, and I held my breath the whole time they came down the slope.

Oh, the kids looked cold!

Mom! I'm FREEZING! And the rain is dripping off of my helmet!

"Oh, do you want to turn around, and quit the ride?"

What? No way! This is GREAT!

Oh... the Honda guys just called. I'll have an update when I get back from getting the van.

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