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2008 Bandit Springs
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Sunday July 20 2008 - The Morning After (Bandit Springs)

Look at the finish percentages for the ride:

100% on the Ride N Tie
86% on the 30
89% on the 50
85% on the 80
76% on the 100

Oso was found! At 7 AM Max Merlich was back out searching on the 4-wheeler for the lost chihuahua, and running towards him on the road was Oso... being chased by an antelope! That was enough to terrify Oso into seeking out humans as a refuge again. Darlene didn't let go of him after that!

I did notice a significant number of riders NOT WEARING HELMETS! That deserves another exclamation point - ! Of course wearing a helmet is entirely a matter of choice, and everybody probably has harder head bones than I do. Except for Juniors: don't even think about riding without a helmet. When you're of age, say 65, you can make a choice.

Talk about quick thinking: in lieu of the silver Tevis Belt Buckles that some 100 milers might have won at Tevis, Janelle was able, on the spur of the moment, with the help of her young son, to come up with special Bandit Springs belt buckles for the 100 mile finishers! It was a plain little ol' skinny buckle for a skinny belt, with a special, handmade, handwritten tag: "2008 Bandit Buckle." It wasn't THE TEVIS buckle, but it will always be a unique reminder of the year of the No Tevis: Bandit Springs ride.

These in addition to the other generous prizes given to every finisher. Everybody was called up to come get their completion awards; the 30 miler was peppered with "Go Gaiters!" cheers many times, for the at least 11 gaited horses that completed the ride. (As a side note: two unique 'gaiter' participants were a McCurdy Plantation Horse ridden by Elayne Barclay, and a Kentucky Mountain Saddle Horse ridden by Tiffany Sampson-LaPlante.)

Like in the Oscar speeches where the winners try to squeeze all their thanks to all who helped into too short a time, Janelle gratefully thanked the many many many volunteers who helped to put on this ride. Janelle lives 5 hours away from Ridecamp, so she couldn't have done it without them.

And - the ride wouldn't have happened again without the riders who showed up. Hopefully Tevis will carry on next year, but with the good trails and scenic setting in the Ochoco National Forest, and the friendly and relaxed atmosphere, while Bandit Springs isn't THE TEVIS, it sure is a fine alternative.


Saturday July 19 2008 - 2008 BANDIT SPRINGS

Well, I HAD good intentions: I set my alarm to get up to see Nance and Jazzbo off, with 16 other starters, on the 100 mile start at 5 AM (along with seven 80 milers). I DID open one eye, and saw that it was too dark to take pictures, so I closed that eye after re-setting my alarm for the start of sixty-six 50 milers at 6 AM.

I opened both eyes for that one, and saw the light was good for photos, but it was oh-so-chilly outside - frost on the ground and inside my tent! - and I was so warm in my sleeping bag, so I missed that start too.

I did finally get out of bed for the 7 AM start of the forty-three 30-milers - including Bruce and his daughter Belle, and the four teams of 30-mile Ride N Tie. The sun was up and had melted the frost, and the grounds were quickly warming up.

Hundred mile riders started coming into camp off their first 20 mile loop at 7:10 AM. Some of the front runners got lucky and saw some wild horses; and in fact Nance and Jazzbo were followed briefly by a stallion, which might have not been so lucky if the stallion hadn't lost interest after a while.

After the 30-minute hold in camp, I jumped in Jim Archer's pickup, and we headed out of camp - picking up Jim and Gail from Seattle on the way - for the out vet check in the middle of the second loop at 30-miles. Jim Archer was crewing his wife Vicci and for Nance on the 100, and for Bruce and Isabelle on the 30. Jim and Gail's daughter was riding her first LD with her friend - all newcomers to the endurance sport.

The directions to the out vet check were probably pretty simple - for most people, involving only one or two turns along the way. We did read the directions, but, probably due to telling too many stories on the way, we managed to get lost. Then we had no idea where we really were, so we blindly guessed the rest of the way, and ended up driving into the vet check with just a few minutes to spare before Bruce and Belle rode in. Belle is a petite junior - made to look even smaller riding Nature's Kruschev ("Krusty") - Steph Teeter's BIG, WIDE, black Orlov trotter (we weighed him on a truck stop scale on the way home: 1250 pounds!) that competed in his earlier days all around the US, and in the 1999 Pan Am Championships in Canada, and in a World Championship in France in 2000, and the World's Most Preferred Cup in Dubai in 2001. He seems to be enjoying his semi-retirement, squiring around a junior for her first rides in endurance.

Out here at the second vet check, at 35 miles, I attached the Raven bag to Captain Calypso's saddle, and stuffed the Raven in the bag with his head sticking out, and off they rode, Melissa the Aussie and the Raven II, on an endurance trail adventure together.

You'd have thought the drive back to camp would have been easy, but, we managed to get lost again, and quite turned around, until we noticed that somebody had, lucky for us, come along and put pie plates up pointing the way to the Vet Check. We used these as a crutch, looking in the rear view mirrors, to get back to camp.

It was still a reasonably cool day - which was good during the hills the horses had to pull on the 1st and 2nd loops - as the limited distance riders began arriving at the finish. Out on the trails the horse and deer flies were bad - swarms of them in places, biting not just horses but people - but we were blessed around camp with no insects at all. Michelle Green on her palomino Saddlebred came high-stepping into the finish first. Karen Brauer on Frodo came in first on the 50 mile ride.

The first of the rugged Ride N Tie teams came in, Liz Perkin and Darcie de Feritas on Punkin. I saw all the runners come in, and a bit later, one runner going back out. Wow - somebody elevating? To 60 miles? Maybe the Ride N Tie rules had some new options? No... it turns out that the team of Ben Volk and Tim Rubin had passed their horse that was tied up down the trail - like 8 miles or so down the trail! They'd been in first place, but one of them passed the horse right up. (I hear this is not so difficult to do when you're concentrating hard on running and the competition.) They could have gotten a ride out to pick the horse up, but the runner who passed the horse ran right back out to get him and ride him back - giving them a completion. Those were the Really Rugged Ride N Tie'rs!

Meanwhile there was another race, or chase, of sorts going on. Darlene Anderson's chihuahua Oso decided he wasn't interested in the Ridecamp Leash Law (Janelle offered to sell $5 baling twine leashes to those who didn't bring their own), and he escaped. I was by the road taking pictures when I heard a bell rustling through the grass, and saw, occasionally, a pygmy dog popping up like a jumping bean 3 feet out of the tall grass to get a view. I called the dog but he ran away, swallowed up by the grass, on an apparent mission. A couple of young girls came searching for the dog; and as soon as Darlene finished the 50 mile ride in 21st place with Max Merlich on Junior (who had been entered in Tevis) and 3 other riders, she and Max and others joined the search, on foot, on 4-wheelers and in cars. It went on into the night before he was spotted again about a half mile from camp, though he still wouldn't let any humans get near him. Darlene, worried sick, was going to camp out near him.

Meanwhile, as it neared dark, Frank Elmer - who won the Bandit Springs 100 last year - came in first in the 80 miler, with Hugh Vanderford coming in second while riding alongside Gloria and Haily Daeumler. In the 100, Katie Gliwaski narrowly led Naomi Preston and her husband Lee Pearce, all of whom had ridden last in the Sunriver 100 a month ago. They had a comfortable lead over the rest of the 16 riders - only Dick Root had pulled so far, earlier in the day.

Melissa and the Raven had hooked up with Tony Benedetti and were riding together in 4th and 5th place. Melissa was keeping a close eye or hand on the Raven - "I'd ride a hundred yards, then reach back to make sure he was still there. Then I'd ride on another hundred yards, and check back again!" Going out on the next to last loop, in the dark, Melissa about had a panic attack a mile out when she reached back and didn't feel the Raven head poking out of the Raven bag. She thought she was going to have to tell Tony to stop, until she discovered the Raven had slipped all the way down into the bag. She kept him well stuffed down inside with the bag cinched up tight for the rest of the ride.

Nance and Vicci's horses were looking well as they came in for their vet checks... only Vicci looked to be in pain from bruised shins. She didn't complain - she told Nance on the trail, "I don't want the whine bottle!" - but she did have her shins wrapped up in horse cool wraps by Susan Favro's bottomless pit of Healthyasahorse supplies, which happened to be right next to where the Archers and Wormans propitiously and conveniently set up their crewing area. Ridecamp was strung out a long way on the edge of the meadow, and instead of wasting 10 minutes at each vet check walking to and from the horse trailers, it was much more convenient to set up by the Favro's - Susan fed us all both nights with tortellini so she couldn't get rid of us anyway.

Vicki Giles had joined up with Nance and Vicci Archer for the last two loops of the hundred. Vicki was riding the mighty mustang Robin Hood (over 13 seasons of competition: 8765 miles, 21 wins, 24 BCs, 4 Tevis finishes, only 6 pulls), and they both appreciated the company at this stage of the ride.

At the 5th vet check, 90 miles, Lee Pearce and Naomi Preston had caught up with Katie Gliwaski. Katie vetted through within minutes and passed the vet check, but later, she returned to the vet and withdrew her horse, as she just wasn't feeling right. Gloria Vanderford was pulled for lameness, leaving her great granddaughter Haily, a junior, looking for a sponsor to ride with. Kelly Nutter picked her right up and they rode through the dark together on the last loop.

Compared to most endurance races around the world, it's pretty low key here in the Pacific Northwest region. Aussie Melissa's husband Steve commented on the competitive, but casual atmosphere (they were enjoying it). Most of us like it that way. No big spotlights that you can see from outer space at the vet checks (a set of lights was hooked up to a generator, but the lights didn't work at first, so people pulled out their flashlights and headlamps and pointed them at the horses, and a pickup's headlights was turned onto the vet ring) - though we did have a nice big bonfire going for roasting s'mores. No mellifluous announcers broadcasting the riders and horses coming in.

It was Lee and Naomi arriving first in the dark, the full moon just rising over the ridge and throwing long tree shadows across Ridecamp, with Lee himself announcing, "Hundred milers coming in!" That brought cheers from the bonfire gang and the generator was turned on for the lights that were now working. Both horses looked great trotting out for their completions, in a ride time of 13:33, and again an hour later for their BC exams.

I was sort of hovering around the finish line with Steve and Ernie. They were of course waiting for Melissa and Captain Calypso, and I was waiting (not anxiously!) for the Raven. And an hour later, we spotted some swinging lights emerging from the dark - the swinging glowsticks from the breastcollars of Melissa's and Tony's horses. They agreed to tie for 3rd, and vetted through looking good, and the Raven was still smiling, stuffed down in his Raven bag. I guess he only did 80 miles, but since he rode with an Aussie friend, I think he gets Extra Special Credit for a hundred mile ride.

I tried my best but couldn't stay up much past midnight for Nance and Jazzbo. It was getting quite chilly, with a little breeze - one that would feel good on the riders and horses, but that made the waiting crews either crowd around the bonfire or huddle under horse blankets. Nance and Vicci Archer and Vicki Giles arrived in camp later than expected - at 1:30 AM - Robin Hood had lost a shoe on the last 10 mile loop, so they spent some time covering the foot with duct tape - they didn't have an easy boot that fit over his big hoof - and walked the entire loop. And after 16 hours and 47 minutes in the saddle, and covering 100 miles, dismally, Vicci Archer's horse vetted out lame at the finish. Argh!

Fifteen minutes later Kara Nutter and Haily Daeumler rode into camp and successfully completed; and next, an hour later, came the first of 3 generations of the Yost family riding in the 100: Chris and Kara (celebrating her birthday on Saturday!), followed a half hour later, at 3:18 AM, by Chris's son Gentry, his wife laura, and their daughter Chandler, finishing her first 100 miler. They'd had a wee bit of trouble finding their way on the trail - the first 5 miles had, at twilight, been overabundantly marked with glowsticks, and the last 5 miles, a slight underabundance. But they all eventually found their way with no mishaps, and all passed the final vet check. Chandler didn't get a whine bottle today either. Throughout the day, her grandpa Chris kept asking her, "Do your legs hurt? Does your back hurt? Does this hurt? Does that hurt?" to which she replied No, no, no, and no. Chris wasn't whining, only commenting, when he said "Well that all hurts on me!"

For the rest of the night, if you could call it that, Ridecamp settled into its peaceful dead quiet that comes after a good days' ride.

Friday July 18 2008 - No Tevis: Bandit Springs

Like a great number of other people, my plans for going to Tevis changed when the decision to cancel because of the smoke and fires was announced. So I headed off to Bandit Springs, Oregon, with Idaho locals Nance and Bruce Worman and Bruce's daughter Isabelle, where for the 18th year an endurance ride took place in the Ochoco National Forest on the eastern slope of the Cascades Mountains.

While ride manager Jannelle Wilde was sorry about the cancellation and smoke and fires and headaches (and worse) for many people, she was tickled that at least 15 extra riders that had been headed for Tevis decided to give Bandit Springs a try this year. There were plenty of rides to choose from: 100 miles, 80 miles, 50 miles, 30 miles, a 10-mile trail ride, and for the very intrepid: a Ride N Tie. And not only a 30 mile Ride N Tie, but an elevator - if you didn't get enough at 30 miles (!), you could elevate up to 50 miles, 80 miles, or 100 miles.

The distance were covered over 3 loops, of 10, 20, and 30 miles, with 90% of the trails on single-track dirt, and the rest on 2-track logging roads. There would be a good chance of seeing wild horses on loop one, and maybe a stray elk or two on all of them. You'd be riding over or near historic and prehistoric archaeological sites and trails, old cabins, camps and mines. And you'd have a bit of the full moon if you were doing the longer distances.

And, icing on the cake: it would be a pleasantly cool day with no fires to worry about. Veteran endurance riders the Vanderfords - Hugh and Gloria, and their great granddaughter Haily Daeumler - arrived on Tuesday, to get out of the smoke and fires in California. "We've had lovely blue skies and white clouds, and no smoke!" Gloria said. Hugh would be riding the 80 miler ("I'm a wimp"), and Haily - 14 years old as of today - attempting to complete her 4th 100 miler, with Gloria.

Ride camp was in horse heaven: a meadow with horse-belly-high grass that you couldn't pull the horses' noses out of as soon as you unloaded them from the trailer. And oh I've missed the forest - I love the desert, but it's the forest that really gets to me: here in the dry eastern slope forests, there are the blooming flowers - purple lupines, white yarrow, red Indian paintbrush, orange columbine; there is the smell of the firs, and the Jeffrey pines that when you stick your nose in the cracks of the bark, you smell vanilla (I hugged one of them!); there is the sound of the wind in the pine needles (which is different from wind in leaves), and cheeseburger birds (the chickadees that sound like they're saying "cheese-burger!").

Coming from furtherest away - and diverting here from Tevis - was Melissa Longhurst from Australia. She'd be riding Ernie Schrader's National Show Horse, a big paint named Captain Calypso. The first thing she asked me was, "How's the Raven?" I'd met Melissa last year at the Imbil ride in Queensland, Australia - by which time I'd lost the Raven I. So while she and half of Australia knew all about the Raven and his exploits up until his disappearing, Melissa had never actually met the Raven. That changed when I told her I'd brought Raven II along - I was hoping to pick up a horse to ride here at Bandit Springs at the last minute so brought the Raven and the Raven bag along. I produced the Raven for an introduction, and Melissa said, "Maybe the Raven wants to ride with me!"

Gasp! The Raven riding with somebody else - why, it had never even been considered - the idea never even conceived! And riding with someone representing another country with a big Raven following - what a great idea! I told Melissa, "It's a B - I - G responsibility you know," and very solemnly Melissa said she was well aware of that. So with a few butterflies, the kind I don't get when I ride, I agreed to attach the Raven in his Raven bag to her saddle sometime tomorrow.

There were, at first glance, a good number of lame-looking horses at the vetting in. Only they weren't lame; they were gaited horses - Tennessee Walkers, Rocky Mountain horses, Missouri Foxtrotters. Many of them didn't trot - they paced (instead of diagonal legs moving forward simultaneously, the legs on the same side move forward simultaneously) which produces a sort of rocking and rolling motion, or they had a running walk, a unique 4-beat gait. I've ridden and packed with Missouri Fox Trotters, and while the pace to me feels awkward at first, it gets to be a very smooth, ground-covering gait to ride. Several of the "gaiters" were asked for a second 'trot out' - but all of them were sound. And they all made me want to hop on them and try them out!

At the ride meeting, after outlining the basics, Jannelle handed out half a dozen empty wine bottles to people. "I want you to hold on to these bottles. And if you hear anybody whining tomorrow, hand them your Whine Bottle!" Endurance riders don't usually do too much whining, and with the heavenly setting and good group of Northwest endurance riders and others from further away, it didn't seem likely the bottles would change hands too much over the weekend.