Thursday, October 27, 2011

Brown County- YEEHAW!

I met up with my Aunt Tamie and cousins Mandy, Tori and Brodie (and half of their neighbors) in Brown County, Indiana, just south of Bloomington, in order to ride horses and camp out.  I left with a sore ass and greater appreciation of a country lifestyle.

I arrived on October 20th, my 29th birthday, and greeted the family.  Brodie instantly made me a drink and I was never without one for the rest of the trip.  I met the country crew and my bright ski attire clashed against the dirty browns of Carhartt gear.

As the night wore on and the drinks got stronger, the boys hitched up a scoop shovel to a horse with some rope.  Rides were given for the rest of the evening with everybody's rears dragging through the wet grass.  It was certainly a spontaneous source of fun as my cousins yelled out, "You need to change your britches!"  Where am I?

Now I have to say I've seen a fair bit of this world and have experienced some very different cultures, but the cowboy culture consists of a special breed of people.  They are a people who work hard and play hard.   They treat their animals, well, like animals and there is not a vegetarian in sight.  I have always admired my cousins for their way of life and it was fun to indulge with them in it for a weekend.

The next morning we fried up bacon, sausage, potatoes and eggs for breakfast and packed the saddle bags full of dear salomi, cheese and beer.  That should hold us over for the day.  We saddled up and headed off into the huge trail system back in the woods. 

I learned how to hold the reins and a beer simultaneously and was made fun of for wearing a backpack like a tourist.  The rest of the boys had on chaps and cowboy hats.  I had a good horse, Cody, and was comfortable even when he decided to gallop (which usually freaks me out).  We talked about anything and everything and passed around bottles of whiskey and peppermint liquer.  Nothing was taboo and the Fall weather made us relax and enjoy the sunshine.

I now understand the term "A long day in the saddle" because after 10 miles of riding, my butt was in sore shape!  All our bodies were hurting, so we drank a little more. 

I haven't eaten so much red meat since I was a kid.  Every meal consisted of sausage, salomi or hamburger meat.  And again, all washed down with a beer.

Our second day in the saddle took us to the quaint little town of Story, Indiana.  It was a cute village with one thing to do: get a drink at the bar.  There were so many horses hitched up there when we arrived we had no place to park!  Finally a tree opened up to tie the leads to and into the bar we went.  We stayed for a few hours and racked up some tabs and as dusk approached, we decided it was a good idea to get back to camp.  My cousin, Brodie, got on his mule and a few feet up the trail fell off of it.  We had to get him a ride back to camp and lead his mule back with us.  Then, a neighbor who celebrated her birthday with a few too many white russians, puked all over her horse.  We were certainly a junk show, but our trusty horses led us back all in one piece.  It was a little funny riding a horse drunk, but I'd have to say it's much safer than being on a bicycle in the same situation! 

We made it back and sat around the campfire.  It was cold weather, but the trailers had heaters and so provided a bit of comfort.  We packed up early in the morning and got the last stubborn horses into the trailer for the long ride home.  I went my separate way back to Kentucky while the fam headed back up to Northeastern Indiana. 

I love that I had the opportunity to be with my family.  We talked about anything and everything and just enjoyed being with each other and the horses for the long weekend.  As I adjust to life back home I realize that this is what it's all about.   

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Horses and Gorges

Kentucky is beautiful, especially in the Fall.  I feel as if I am rediscovering my childhood home.  It's amazing how much you don't explore and discover in a place you've known your whole life; it's just there.  Now that I've returned, I picked up a Lonely Planet on the Bluegrass State and have since discovered that there is a lot of history and a lot of beauty here in Kentucky.


So I finally went to a horse race!  Keeneland takes place in Lexington and my sister and I caravanned down on my way to the gorge.  We got dressed up, watched the horses race, drank bloody marys and ran into neighbors and old high school friends.  There was a certain charm and tradition in the air with the gentlemen donning suits and ties and the ladies in their finest dresses and fabulous sunglasses.  Bets were made as the gates flew open and the horses ran their fastest to the finish line.  What a sight that everyone should see.

The Red River Gorge

Famous for climbing and its sandstone arch formations, I had the opportunity to meet up with Laura Wolff, a Michigan Law student and former ski instructor at Squaw Kids.  She and about 25 other law students rented a cabin in the gorge (about 2 hours south of me) and I drove down to meet a bunch of strangers and camp for the weekend.  Man it made me feel like myself.

Being home has been a big adjustment.  It's nothing like how I left it and I'm nothing like when I left.  My friends are mostly married and some with kids, a very different lifestyle from spontaneous and young Tahoe.  I've been missing an available crowd to experience adventure with because it's still well alive within me and I've realized I never want to lose that.  You just have to work a little harder for it around here.  Enter Michigan Law students.

Laura's group of friends were fantastic!  Every conversation was insightful and witty and the weather in the gorge was absolutely perfect.  The leaves were changing and the air was cool.  We slept outside, bonded around the camp fire and just enjoyed walking in the woods.  And this is where I can be myself.  This is where I am happiest and feel the most fulfilled.  I can get this fulfillment anywhere in the world, as long as I'm with the right people. 

Ever since I moved out West, I always wondered about this quote: "It's not where you are but who you're with that really matters."  I always thought it was one or the other.  What's more important?  Where you are?  or who you're with?  How can you have both when I love travel and my family simultaneously?  But I've come to realize that where you are develops the relationships you are most happy with, and so you can have both.  Where I am helps me seek out who I want to be with.  In the wilderness, I meet the people I want to be around and I become the person I want to be.  I can find that anywhere, and I am so happy I'm beginning to discover it here in Kentucky.