From Toronto, Clara and I flew to Calgary, Alberta.
“Welcome to Calgary brother,” said Zane Aitken before offering me a firm handshake.
Zane, the son of Marie and Rocky, picked us up from the airport and drove us 2 hours south to his parent’s ranch in Clairsholm.
Driving down highway 2, the same road I took when I left Calgary on horseback in 2012 headed for Brazil, brought back a lot of memories. These were the first kilometers in my first journey. And now to be back to this area on route to my third long ride felt simply unbelievable… like I was in the middle of living a dream.
Before we pulled into the driveway I already saw our new home. The 1990 Ford Econoline was purchased by Marie and her husband just for our journey. She had sent photos of the old motorhome a few days before I left Brazil.
“Marie, I will never be able to thank you properly,” I said to her after we hugged.
“I know you would do the same for my children and I just love what you are doing,” the horsewoman and nurse said fixing her glasses.
Truth is, I really won’t be able to ever thank this family properly. Who does this? Who goes out of their way, spends their money, just to help another human being?
Marie and Rocky were about to change my life and my horses’.
At 25, when I rode out of the Centennial Stampede Rodeo on that scorching July morning in 2012, I had never gone on a long ride before. I had no idea where I would sleep that night never mind how I would actually manage to make it to Brazil alive.
All my equipment had to fit in my pack saddle and weigh less than 150 lbs. I travelled for 803 days, mostly alone, to my hometown in Brazil with the bare minimum. From my toothbrush to my underwear, to camera equipment, to horse medication, everything had to have a real value or it stayed behind.
This meant that if we couldn’t find water, my horses and I didn’t drink. It was both dangerous and painful – especially the solitude I endured at certain points.
On this expedition, Thanks to Marie and Rocky things will be different.
In the motorhome, driven by Clara, we will carry panels to build a corral for the horses every night, plus water, feed and hay and I will be able to sleep in a real bed and have a real shower.
I am so blessed to have these angels in my life.
Marie gave us the tour of our new home and Rocky went about explaining the mechanics. After a delicious steak dinner, we began unloading our clothing and equipment.
“Socks go here, shirts hang in that closet, food will go in this cabinet,” Clara fired off orders as I tried to keep up with her.
In the end, we had four empty bags and an organized motorhome. It felt exquisite.
The following morning we drove to Lethbridge to get the motorhome insured and certified. It should have been a simple process. Unfortunately, it turned into a nightmare. This is Journey America after all… nothing comes easy.
“Your motorhome has been written off sir, you need to take it through an inspection by a licensed technician before we can certify it,” a sour-faced man in his mid 40’s told Rocky.
It was a silent dinner back in Clairsholm.
Less than 24 hours after putting our socks into the drawers of our motorhome – our new home that we would inhabit for the next year and four months – we were taking them out and packing our bags again.
Just like that we no longer had a home.
“I talked to Marie and you guys need to get to those horses, take our truck and we will see what happens with the motorhome. If it passes the inspection next week we will drive it out and if it doesn’t you can borrow our truck and use it as a support vehicle,” said Rocky while we sat in their cozy home.
It was the only option. So we packed our things into the back of their white Ford F-150 and drove over the rocky mountains to southern British Columbia. The drive ended up being one of the most beautiful I have ever taken in my life. Clara and I took 2 days to drive the 731 kms, simply because we stopped so much to film and take photos. It was worth it.
“Welcome to Penticton you guys,” said Sara before we hugged tight.
She immediately began to cry. Her mare Deedee had passed away a few days earlier. She knew I understood her loss. Deedee was one of the horses she used to ride with me for a month into Nicaragua.
I immediately gave her a bottle of Crown Royal I had purchased for her and we picked up where we last left off.