My first morning sharing the journey with Eric and his bicycle—day 4 on the road—I decided to ride Smokey for the first time.
Sure the half-wild pony had caused havoc the prior evening breaking a tap and inundating the RV park with water, but it just felt like it was time.
“Get your camera ready Eric, we may have a rodeo in a few seconds,” I announced before I jumped into the saddle.
Tensely, my pony trotted around a few minutes while I turned him left and right. When he seemed to be a little calmer I asked Clara to pass me Mac’s lead rope. This is what worried me the most.
“What is he going to do when he feels that lead hit his ass,” I thought to myself while Clara walked the big horse over.
I grabbed the white lead rope with my right hand, took a tight grip of the leather reins with my left, and squeezed my legs. Again Smokey took off at a trot and Mac followed behind. I walked around the lawn for a few seconds before I announced, “it’s time.”
Without looking back, I aimed Smokey for the RV park’s main entrance and we were off.
While studying Google maps the previous night, Eric and I saw that there was a shortcut we could take south by following a power line. It cut a path down a forest of spruce trees that ran as straight as an arrow. Since Eric’s bike was designed for off roading we decided this would be the best route to follow.
Boy were we wrong.
The trail took us up and down these giant hills all morning as we climbed up a small mountain. We traversed through tall grass and large trees that had fallen over as the mosquitoes tried to suck pints of blood from our tired bodies.
“It keeps going up brother, we’re screwed,” I said to Eric after he finished pushing his bicycle up yet another hill.
“Holy… these mosquitos are driving me crazy,” he said swatting back and forth with his hands.
When we finally got to the end of the trail, where it met the Alaska Highway again, we faced yet another problem. We had to get off this mountain down an extremely steep face.
“Can the horses make it down,” Eric asked as we analyzed the problem at hand.
“Oh yeah, these are mustangs brother, plus there is no way I’m riding 10 kms back to where we started,” I said before we began fighting our way down.
I walked, falling over and over again next to Mac and let Smokey do his own maneuvering down the steep mountain. We slowly snaked our way down, zigzagging from one side to the other.
“Shit just ripped my legs apart,” Eric yelled after one of his many falls.
Finally at the bottom, after about 30 minutes, we let the ponies graze while we looked up in awe—both of us sweaty, itchy, and tired.
“Welcome to Journey America,” I said to Eric making us both laugh out loud.
Smokey did great for his first day! Climbing that mountain, far away from the car traffic on the highway, was a huge help. Eric’s bike, “Old Wise Grey Horse,” also helped give the inexperienced mustang some confidence. Both Mac and Smokey believed Eric was also riding a horse and would follow him over bridges and any other obstacles that scared them.
“Just follow old wise grey horse boys… no need to fear,” Eric joked while Mac and Smokey followed the photographer over a small bridge they had refused to cross seconds earlier.