Archive of ‘Travel’ category

House on Wheels

Our story begins, more or less, in May of 2019. A year prior I had seen a photo taken by Gretchen Pelham on the cover of The Chronicle of the Horse during the MFHA Hark Forward tour when they foxhunted in my hometown (Miles City, Montana) and I nearly lost my mind to learn that it happened AND I WASN’T THERE! I immediately found Gretchen on Facebook and contacted her to find out how/if/when they would hunt in MCMT again and how I might go about obtaining an invitation to join the fun. Fast forward back to May 2019 and I find myself headed from Fort Worth to Miles City for a week of fox hunting!

When driving to MCMT from FW with a horse I prefer to layover at The Greenhorn Horse Hotel in Pueblo, Colorado. It is nearly exactly half way and is right off the highway so easy to find. Since I was traveling alone with just Simon and 2 of my dogs, I didn’t want to stay at a hotel and had planned to just sleep in the nose of the gooseneck of my trailer. I had brought along pillows and some blankets and thought nothing of it, Until it was about 11p and I was FREEZING cold! In my ingenious planning I forgot how cold it gets at night in May in the Rocky Mountains. Added to that I hadn’t brought anything to provide actual cushion for sleeping. Needless to say we hit the road again at about 5a the next morning mostly just so I could thaw out my extremities.

Chivas in our not very cozy, rather uncomfortable and decidedly not warm enough sleeping quarters.

The trip back to Texas was even worse. It started blizzarding in southern Wyoming, I barely made it to the horse hotel (I found out later the roads were literally closing behind me because of the snow) and REALLY froze that night. I’d like to point out that this was in late May, 4 days before Memorial Day weekend. I went on at least two additional fox hunting trips that would have been easier to have my own accommodations. I was starting to make new friends who fox hunted and traveled to hunts all through the season and would stay at some locations for a week or more.

I don’t know what flipped the switch, but I got to talking to Boot City about it more and more this summer and basically woke up one day and decided I NEED A LIVING QUARTERS TRAILER!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I’m guessing the coronapocolypse was a contributing factor, but it was not the deciding factor.

I ordered my current 4 Star trailer in 2013 from Wayne Hodges Trailers and have loved it from day 1. 4 Star trailers are the best made trailers I’ve ever owned (Featherlite, Sooner, and Lakota) so I knew I wanted to get another 4 Star. I had never previously seriously entertained the idea of an LQ trailer because I assumed they were all at least $100,000 and I don’t want to pull some monstrosity of a trailer around. With my newfound interest in the LQ’s I started by looking at the inventory of the dealership where I got my current trailer and lo and behold they had a lovely (brand new) 3-horse LQ trailer that was around $50,000! I know, it’s not cheap, but it’s also not $100k! I reached out to the salesperson from whom I got my first 4 Star and so the journey to get an LQ began.

Karen is a delightful salesperson and she knows 4 Star REALLY well! She asked me all kinds of questions and we talked about what I liked and didn’t like about the trailer they had on the lot. By the end of our first conversation I had a pretty good idea what was on my must have list and my really want list, as well as my don’t want list:

Must Haves

  • Permanent rear tack
  • WERM flooring in the horse compartment
  • Horse stalls long enough for my not-small horses
  • Full shower and toilet
  • An awning
  • Three horses
  • Mid tack room
  • Hydraulic jack
  • Hay and feed storage for long trips

Really Want to Haves

  • Generator
  • As custom LQ as possible (not western in style!)
  • Hay storage
  • Plenty of storage in the LQ

Do NOT Want

  • Doors from the LQ to the mid tack to the horse compartment
  • Rubber mats in the horse area
  • A ramp
  • Anything longer than about 26′
  • Screen door
  • TV
  • Stove top

I decided to get a 3 horse with a mid tack instead of a 4 horse like I have now. I don’t think I’ve ever hauled 4 horses and after having my current trailer for nearly 7 years I think the mid tack would provide better space to use the way I want to use it; for feed storage and keeping things like buckets and muck tubs. Plus the mid tack allows me to haul 3 horses if I want to and I can still fill the mid tack room with hay if I’m going on a long hunting trip or something. Right now I can only stack hay in the 4th stall as high as the divider or it’ll fall onto the horse hauling next to it.

This is the drawing of the trailer after about three rounds of edits. It isn’t to scale as the mid tack is wider than any of the stalls!

Another thing I’m trying with this new trailer is 60/40 doors on the back. Boot City suggested this as it might make the trailer more inviting for loading if the horse opening is bigger. To get more LQ space AND to make the horse stalls longer this trailer will be 8′ wide and the one I have now is 7’6″, so that gave me 6 more inches to have and therefore I’m not losing the full 10% of the space on the rear tack area.

The mid tack will have 2 wide bars to hang blankets on as well as a bunch of hooks. I don’t think a horse trailer can ever have too many hooks! The floor in the mid tack will be rubber mats and the walls just aluminium so it’ll be easy to clean after hauling hay and other messy things. It’s big enough to store my tack trunk, buckets, muck tub and all that stuff. When looking through my trailer this past weekend I had a minor panic attack when I realised how much stuff I currently have in the dressing room of my trailer that will need to find a home in the mid tack or rear tack of the new trailer.

We went back and forth on a few more things and this is the final drawing of the trailer as 4 Star will build it:

This one is more to scale. Isn’t it so pretty?!

One thing you can see on the final drawing that we changed was the door to the rear tack will hinge on same side as the horse door. I’m silly excited about this because I’ve always hated how that door opens towards the road. And, if you have a horse tied on that side of the trailer the door can swing out and hit it.

The horse head side of the trailer will have drop windows with bars over the opening, which I also love. It allows me to drop the windows for air flow when it’s hot, but not have to worry about the horses sticking their heads out. The butt side will just have slats that will come with plexiglass in them. I’ll probably take out the plexiglass for most of the year because it’s hot in Texas, but we’ll see.

We also made the gooseneck drop a teeny bit shorter. I had to measure how high is the bed of our pickup to be sure we had enough clearance, but this will give us about 2″ more headroom in the gooseneck where the bed is located. Which brings me to the LQ part of the trailer.

It isn’t ginormous, but it has everything I think I will need! This is just a stock picture of the ProLine for the size trailer I’m ordering.

The LQ has what they call a 6’8″ short wall, which is the wall on the driver side of the trailer. On that side is the 64″ sofa and the wall has a small window with cabinets above the sofa. On that wall in the bathroom is a small closet to hang clothes. The curbside wall has the sink with the counter and a fridge under the counter. I could have had a stove top, but that seemed like wasted counter space. There is a microwave and a small cabinet for storage above the sink and counter. The bathroom has a pocket door and the shower is on the curbside wall. I find it quite amazing how much they can fit into a small space!

The last two things that I changed just before placing the order are Boot City’s influence. The first is to insulate the roof in the horse and mid tack areas. I’ve said it 100 times, it gets really hot in Texas and the insulation should keep it about 10 degrees cooler inside. The other thing I added was a hay rack on top. I REALLY didn’t want to have a hay rack on the top because I often find myself driving through low and narrow trees, but when I last went to the trailer dealership to look at some units they had on the lot we had a long discussion about where the generator could live. The old school option is in the rear tack, but evidently that is less than desirable because it takes up so much space. The second option was to have it in the mid tack room. I’d have to add a door on the driver side wall and Boot City would later have to build a box to cover it and all that would add about $1,500-2,000 to the cost of the trailer. The final option, and the one most LQ trailers these days have, is a hay rack on the top where the generator also lives. I’m opting to buy my own generator and Boot City will install it because getting added to the build was nearly $7,000 and I KNOW we can save money on that. The LQ company (Outlaw Conversions) will wire to the hay rack and then Boot City can hook it all up when we get the trailer.

The new trailer is 24′ long, so not even 2′ longer than the trailer I have now. I’m VERY excited about that. I’ve thought about added a foot or two to the LQ, but I think I’d rather have the shorter trailer and just make the outside area more lovely for living wherever I go. This is how I found the Airstream Supply Company where you can find the CUTEST RV things! Most are Made in the USA, too.

The trailer is estimated to be completed in mid December. Coronapocolypse has slowed down production for 4 Star AND they have more orders than usual, hence the long wait time. I’m SO excited and already have at least 2 long trips planned with the new trailer next winter and spring, barring any unforeseen events to prevent them (I’m looking at you COVID-19 and horse soundness).

My current trailer the day I brought it home. I LOVE this trailer and if it made sense I’d just retro-fit it with living quarters.

I’ll either sell the current trailer or trade it towards the new one when I get closer to the new trailer’s arrival. It looks like my 2 horse Lakota should be sold this week, so I’ll need to hang on to this one until the new one gets here. I’M SO EXCITED!!!!!!!!!!
I’d love to hear stories from readers about having an LQ trailer. Do you love it? Hate it? What would you do differently? I know there will be things I wish I did different, but I went with my gut on most everything and feel good about my choices.

Traveling During a Pandemic

In late June I went to North Dakota to visit family. Ordinarily a trip like this would be just another plane ride, a few meals out, some social functions, some events, then a plane ride back home. However, this trip was during a pandemic, so things were a bit different. I am originally from Eastern Montana and have quite a lot of family in Western North Dakota as well as in Montana, but I live in Texas. At the beginning of 2020 the plan was to take Simon to Montana for a fun week of fox hunting culminating in attending the World Famous Bucking Horse Sale. Coronapocolypse changed those plans (as well as myriad others) causing the fox hunting and the BHS to be canceled. I still wanted to see family this year and it’s a milestone birthday year for me and my Mom, so we settled on 4th of July weekend when more of my family would be in town. To prepare for my trip I only went to work, the feed store and did curbside pickup for groceries for two weeks leading up to the trip. Since I was coming from a known hotspot of cases I absolutely did not want to risk exposure.

It seemed weird to take pictures in airports and on airplanes, so you’ll have to just take my word for the experience and enjoy some lovely photos of North Dakota. Texas has been experiencing a significant spike in COVID-19 cases, but when I left there still were not masks required except in certain cities or counties. Nearly everyone I saw at DFW airport was wearing a mask and wearing their masks correctly. I saw a couple people doing that weird thing where they have their mask over their mouth, but not their nose. I avoided those people. The airline required all passengers to wear masks and from what I could see all passengers abided by the rules. People always say the air on airplanes is bad, but with the HEPA filters and rotating air out and into the plane I’ve always believed them to actually be safer than say a classroom or small nail salon. At least the air moves and is filtered!

The airport in North Dakota was a very different story. Only a few people wore masks outside of the secure area for boarding. North Dakota was not seeing anywhere near the spike in cases that other states were seeing. The area to where I traveled has had very few cases, so the locals were noticeably lax about masks and social distance. It felt very odd to me.

I don’t recall seeing these before, but we drove by lots of fields of canola. They were SO pretty!

 

I spent most of my time in small rural areas with my family and the only place I regularly saw people wearing masks was at the grocery stores. Some retail stores had signs and were limiting the number of shoppers, but things really looked like business as usual. I did notice that most store employees were wearing masks, especially at stores that were large, national chains.

We hiked up to this pond on a lovely North Dakota summer day. I’d go back there in a heartbeat to get away from these triple digit temps in Texas!

One very interesting horsey tidbit was a rodeo we attended. It was a PRCA rodeo and it was during the 4th of July weekend, which is referred to as Cowboy Christmas. The weekend is called Cowboy Christmas, not the actual rodeo. In a normal year cowboys and cowgirls will travel all over the United States going to 4th of July rodeos on the weekend of the 4th in hopes of winning money towards their qualification for the National Finals Rodeo in December. This year was a VERY odd year for 4th of July rodeos and there were only 6 or 7 rodeos to attend in the entire United States when there are usually dozens to pick from. That meant that the rodeo we attended in a generally sleepy rural town was the biggest rodeo of its 97 year history! It ran almost non-stop for 3 days so that everyone who entered could compete. I grew up going to 4th of July rodeos, so it was pretty fun to attend one with all the current rodeo greats in attendance from all over the U.S. As for corona prevention, it was a pretty safe venue in that there were not many spectators and it was outdoors. Attendees brought their own picnic blankets or chairs to watch the action.

This picture is in one of the grocery stores we visited. Ray Schnell was my great grandfather!

By the time I headed back to Texas the Governor had issued a requirement for people in counties with more than 20 cases to wear masks. My flight back to Texas was very full, I don’t think any seats were empty. Everyone was wearing a mask on the flight and when I got to DFW hardly anyone was there (thankfully) and everyone was wearing a mask. The lack of people made it easy to keep social distance, which I was grateful for because I checked a bag and had to wait a bit for it to get to baggage claim. I also parked my car at the gate rather than in the Express or Remote parking areas to limit the amount of time I had to be in close quarters with other people. The parking garage was more full than I thought it would be, so perhaps travel has picked up a bit.

Another pond where we went hiking. No one thinks of this when they think of North Dakota, but it really is a beautiful state with very diverse terrain.

All in all I’m glad I went, it was really lovely to see so many of my family members. If my travel plans had been later in the summer I might have changed them due to the continuing spike in cases in Texas. Many of the family members I was visiting are over 60 and while they are generally a very healthy bunch, I’d feel awful if I was an asymptomatic carrier and got them sick. I felt like the airlines and airport did a good job of upholding CDC and state/local guidelines. I’m sticking to my pre-travel self-quarantine for a bit and only going to work, the feed store and doing curbside groceries. Just to be safe. And I’m really glad I went to a place that is MUCH cooler than Texas in the summer and had a very local COVID diagnosis rate.

No trip to North Dakota in the summertime is complete without a trip to the Medora Musical. They were selling seats with built in social distance and running two shows each evening to allow more people to attend with the limited number of seats. And those are real horses and riders on that hill!!! 

Longchamp (not the handbag)

To continue our horse-centric French rendezvous we made a day of going to the horse races at the Hippodrome de Longchamp.

Longchamp 4

I have a love/hate relationship with horse racing. I love the stories of horses like Seabiscuit and see them at the track in person, but I’ve been close enough to the sport to know that racehorses are to most of their owners and handlers (I know there are exceptions) not much different from cattle. Once they are done, for whatever reason, they are gotten rid of in the quickest and most lucrative fashion. I’ve seen my fair share of legs broken on the racetrack and my dad ran a stockyards when it was legal to sell horses to the killers in the US. Quite a lot of the horses on those trailers were from the track. However, there is a spirit in many thoroughbreds that nothing can fulfil other than racing. It is powerful to watch such majestic creatures run their hearts out because it is what they were bred to do. It was with that spirit that I found myself at Longchamp.

It was easy to tell the moment we laid eyes on the horses in the paddock that they were extremely well kept. Their coats glistened, their hooves were shiny and, to our surprise, most all of their manes were braided. I don’t know that I’ve ever seen a racehorse (in person) in the US with it’s mane braided. Their tails were also thick and banged (cut bluntly). I definitely have not seen many American racehorses with a nice tail! The paddock itself was lovely. Lots of green grass and beautiful flower beds.

The paddock at Longchamp

The paddock at Longchamp

One of the differences between French and American horse racing that first struck me was the lack of pony horses. At all tracks in the U.S. racehorses are led onto the track, while on the track and often when leaving the track on pony horses. Meaning that someone riding another horse leads the racehorse. Pony horses are usually calm and put up with a lot of racehorse shenanigans. There was not a pony horse in sight at the French racecourse. The first race we watched were three-year-olds and they walked, pretty calmly I might add, from the paddock to the racetrack all by themselves. Most had a human handler or groom walking alongside, but they were pretty much on their own.

Headed to the track

Headed to the track

The other difference was that the track at Longchamp is turf (grass). All of the Triple Crown races in the U.S. are run on dirt tracks. Most American tracks have a turf track, but more often run on the dirt. I thought it was a curious difference. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe race is run at Longchamp and is the second richest race in the world. The turf does make for a much lovelier view than does dirt. At first it made me a bit nervous because grass can be very slippery. In none of the races we watched did any of the horses have issues with the footing, thankfully.

Running on the turf around the bend to the homestretch

Running on the turf around the bend to the homestretch

We stayed for six of the eight or nine races being run the day we attended. We were there on a Monday afternoon so the stands were rather empty. We noticed a few other tourists, but most of the spectators were men and were betting. We had hoped to have a lovely picnic on the grass in the infield, but we couldn’t figure how to get to the infield so we settled in stands and enjoyed getting to watch the horses and general racetrack activity.

A small crowd made for great views, up close and personal.

A small crowd made for great views, up close and personal.

My favourite part of each race was how calmly and orderly the horses left the track. The jockeys would ride them about 1/8 further down the track than the finish line, then turn their horses around and canter back to the same gate from which they rode onto the field. None of the horses jigged or pranced as they left the track in a single file line back to the paddock. I’m not sure that my 7-year-old thoroughbred (whom has never run a race in his life) would have done it so calmly.

Calmly leaving the track after running a good race.

Calmly leaving the track after running a good race.

All in all it was an enlightening and enjoyable experience. The horses were gorgeous, the racing was good and the weather was absolutely perfect. The Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe was to be run a few weeks after our trip. It would be fun to see one of the fancy races in Europe, but I’ll hold out for Ascot one of these trips.

American Tourists in Paris

Paris in less than four days; do it! We did! WAY before our trip we had a few “planning” dinners at Saint-Emilion in Fort Worth. We felt the authentic French atmosphere really helped us get into the groove to plan our trip in France. The amazing food and wine was just an extra added bonus. We agreed that we weren’t going to focus on doing the most Parisy of Paris things while we were there. No Eiffel Tower. No Louvre. No love lock bridge. Our focus was on horses and fashion and eating. However, we did happen to fit a few touristy items into the agenda. My partner in travel had been to Paris within the last year and had some destinations undiscovered that she wanted to experience so we focused on a couple highlights and let the rest fall into place.

In keeping with our hunting theme we first headed to the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature (Museum of Hunting and Nature). Other than the arbitrary contemporary art exhibit that was there on a temporary basis, this is my favourite museum ever. Small enough to get through, but interesting enough to spend hours. I feel like I could go there 5 times and immerse myself in a completely different part of the museum every time. It had incredible hunting art, guns and knives, taxidermy and fantastic explanations of the focus of hunting through French history. Our most favourite was Reynard sleeping in a chair.

Reynard is an often used name for the fox being hunted by hounds.

Reynard is an often used name for the fox being hunted by hounds.

After our few hours at the Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature we decided to do the touristy of touristing and visit the Notre Dame. We were visiting on a Sunday and, to my delight, were able to go during mass. I felt tacky touring through the Notre Dame during an actual religious mass, but it was well worth the visit. You can’t help but feel some kind of spiritual presence in such a magnificent building. The mass was in French, but the emotion of the priest was palpable without fully understanding the words he was saying. And I’d be lying if I said I didn’t want to hit the tourists being disrespectful and talking as they walked around the building.

Inside the Notre Dame during a Sunday Mass

Inside the Notre Dame during a Sunday Mass

Destination number three for the day was the Luxemburg Gardens. Have I mentioned how perfect the weather was during our entire trip? Lots of overcast skies, but nary a drop of rain and the delightful temperature almost every day of around 72F. PERFECT weather to visit parks and gardens. We knew before going that Luxemburg Gardens are home to one of, if not THE, oldest carousels in the whole wide world. My Mom LOVES carousels so I really wanted to see it during our visit. We wandered around the entire garden and watched at the adorable pond where kids were sailing little sailboats around and people were camped around in the grass with picnics. There were a lot of picnickers in Luxemburg Gardens. We came across this breathtaking bronze of some stags. With the green grass and sharp colours we had to get a photo.

Stag family in Luxemburg Garden

Stag family in Luxemburg Garden

We followed the sounds of a plethora of energetic kids to find the carousel. It was much smaller than I imagined it would be and there was no one around it. There were signs that said 1.5Euro, but the gates were closed, not locked, and no one seemed to be attending the ride. While the gates were closed, they were not locked, so we took it upon ourselves to open the gates and head in to get a closer view and photos. Just in time for a small Asian man to come hustling out of a little room and chastise us for going through the gate. It was hilarious! I thought he was telling us no photos, but turns out he was telling us no rides (or something like that). There was no way I was going to try to ride one of those tiny carousel horses, but it makes for a funny story. Right?! Interestingly, all the tails from the carousel animals have been removed. Perhaps from age the have fallen out over the years, or were taken off for reasons of durability.

Very old carousel at the Luxemburg Gardens in Paris

Very old carousel at the Luxemburg Gardens in Paris

We headed back towards our hotel and opted to wander down the Champs Elysees. Let me tell you, it is highly overrated. Full of American chain stores and overrated “high” fashion. My favourite part of the Champs Elysees was the car removal we watched. They evidently don’t tow cars like we do in USA, which I can understand considering the narrowness of most streets. However, I can’t say I’d be all that confident in this guy moving my car from it’s parking space. He bumped the sides and bumpers of this poor chap’s car a few times before he finally got it out and situated on the trailer. Nevermind the large crowd that gathered to watch. It was pretty hilarious.

This is how your car gets towed in Paris

This is how your car gets towed in Paris