Sunday, July 27, 2014

The Journey Continues: "East Bound and Down Polo Tour"

The Journey Continues… “East Bound and Down Polo Tour”

I’m breaking my blogging silence.   There has been much I’ve thought to share with the blogosphere in the last 2.5 months but decided to use Sabbatical Goal #1 as an excuse to take a break from writing: “Wherever you are, be all there.”  So here’s the annotated table of contents of entries I never got to:

“Change of Pace” – detailing my long but seemingly successful road to recover from my Achilles surgery.  I’m officially boot-free but have a ways to go to get rid of the “hitch in my git-a-long.”  I would also mention how amazing physical therapy is and how if I had even an inkling towards the medical field (towards which I have none), I would enroll in PT school tomorrow.  Thanks to Carrie from Ascent Physical Therapy in Avon, I’m well on my way towards getting back to my usual pace. 
My "Wheelie Cart" preserved a level of insanity.  A must for lower extremity disabilities!

The moment of freedom from crutches!

“Summer Lovin’” – recounting the celebrations of marriage of 3 awesome couples.  The first wedding on the calendar was my little brother’s, Luke to his beautiful bride Rachel on Memorial Day weekend.  Family and God’s faithfulness were major themes of the day.  To catch an incredible glimpse of their memorable day check out this highlight reel.  Two weeks later the Weaver Family made the trek to Franklin, Tennessee to join the Wagoner side of our family to join in the celebration of love between my cousin Olivia to the man of her dreams, Brian.  I’m so happy for Liv and excited to watch them begin their new lives together.  Two weeks later, I was invited to be a stand-in “date” for my friend Julz and attend the perfect mountain wedding for Vail friends, Lauren and Travis.  I pray for nothing but love and blessings to each of these special couples as they begin their lives together with a new commitment to one another. 

“A Life Well Lived” – remembering the life of my grandfather, Robert Avery Weaver.  I got the call that Gramps passed away early on the 4th of July.  I arrived back in Peoria from Vail the next day.  As people have offered condolences, I accepted them with thankfulness but have then commented that Grandpa’s passing is one of celebration, knowing that he lived a full, remarkable life.  The opportunity to be with the entire Weaver family, all 55 of us, was a sweet time of togetherness and remembrance of a man who loved the Lord and loved his fellow man.      
Gramps and Me, Summer of 1981

Gramps and Me, Summer of 2008
“My Mountain People” – sharing the love for the community I’ve been blessed to be a part of for the past 11 years.  The past month in the Vail Valley helped me to realize just how much this valley has become my home and where my heart is happiest.  You won’t be surprised to hear that it is mostly because of the people I’ve been blessed to live life with during this past decade.  My time was filled with breakfast, lunch and dinner dates lasting a couple of hours each.  I cherished each of those dates but it also made me realize that 2 hours isn’t enough time to catch up on a year of life and actually living life with these people is something I’m looking forward to doing again a year from now.     

And, now I’m writing from the heart of upstate New York.  How I got here, Lord only knows.  But the story goes something like this…

Ten days ago I got a voicemail from my Uncle Chuck inviting me to join him and Aunt Laurie and their polo horses on a 3 week road trip around the East Coast.  Now, I can’t think of many travel opportunities that I’ve ever turned down, but this one was particularly hard to resist for many reasons.  One being I had recently counted up that I only have 10 states in the U.S. left to visit and this road trip would knock off two of them: Vermont and Connecticut.  Two: I’d get to be back on the road again and continue on an unexpected journey.  Three: I would have the opportunity to learn more about a rather obscure but fascinating sport, polo… and get back in touch with my horse roots that I abandoned back in 1999, the last time I competed at the Walnut Hill Driving Competition in Pittsford, New York.  And lastly, but most enticing, I’d get to have the opportunity for some quality time over 3 weeks with two of my favorite people in the world, Chuck and Laurie.  In the end, I didn’t need to be reminded by Chuck that this was a trip of a lifetime.  But it didn’t hurt in helping to make the decision easier.

So, I upped my departure date from Colorado by a day, hopped in my car at 3:15 AM on Tuesday morning to make it to Peoria at a decent hour.  I arrived at 7:30 PM, just in time to give my nephew, Hudson, a goodnight kiss, do a load of laundry, repack, catch up on the latest with Moms and Pops, and make it to the farm Wednesday morning for a 6 AM departure with my new best friends Stephanie, the Polo Manager and Grace, Stephanie’s right-hand lady… and a horse trailer with 11 polo ponies.  Destination: Skaneateles, New York.  1,755 miles in 48 hours?  Why not?  (“Why Not?” is another blog post I’ve been wanting to write since I first heard this as a common response to requests made in Nepal, then Tanzania and again in Israel and Jordan… hence the need for this picture in the middle of Petra, Jordan.)

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So here are some of my first impressions of the “East Bound and Down Polo Tour” (™Travis Weaver)…

Steph’s got skills.  Can I tell you how cool it is to be riding in a brand new, off-the-lot, Dodge Ram 3500 pulling a 36 foot trailer, being pulled by a chica?  The stares, and comments, she gets at truck stops are priceless.  Bottom line… this girl has no fear, knows how to get stuff done, loves life on the road and makes the most of experiencing the culture of the destinations her horse-life has taken her too.  Traveling with this girl is going to be fun. 

Grace is a trooper.  Nick named “Little One” by Stephanie, I have to be reminded that she is only 13 years-old.  Grace has an incredible work ethic.  She’s been learning the ropes of polo horses by hanging around the farm, nearly in her backyard, for the past 3 years.  This girl would work dawn to dusk if asked to and her attitude is nothing but positive.  And, I’ve found a little student to spout off random historical facts to along the way.  As long as she at least pretends to be interested, I’ll take advantage of my captive audience and get my teacher-fix along the way. 

Grace, Stephanie and Ash on Skaneateles Lake
The “Stuff You Should Know” podcast is a life-saver.  Laurie suggested it to me for my drive out to Colorado in June.  During my first “SYSK” marathon I learned “How Sugar Works”, “How the Placebo Effect Works”, “How the Space Race Worked”, “Why is Venice So Wet?”, “Archaeology in a Nutshell”, and “How Temper Tantrums Work”.  Another “SYSK” session commenced on the way back from CO.  I then shared my new found love for “SYSK” with Stephanie and Grace.  I think they were at least mildly entertained.  But my love for “SYSK” has only grown deeper as I have taken up the task of “cleaning tack”.  Tack includes the leather bridle and reins that are used on the horses to play polo.  Cleaning the tack includes rinsing it with water and a sponge and then using the same sponge to rub a substance that is essentially lotion for leather into the tack to condition it.  Easy enough… but monotonous as all get-out.  (I don’t even know what “all get-out” means but I think it’s a good way to describe this task.)  Enter: “SYSK”.  My love for learning has been fulfilled while accomplishing what I am told is a very important task that needs to be completed.  Consider it done.  The Peoria Polo Club is gonna have the best darn looking tack this side of the Mississippi, as long as I have “SYSK” podcasts to listen to.  I’ve made it through podcasts dated to January, 2009 so it looks like I’ll be entertained for the duration of the tour.  I’m particularly excited to learn “How Fire Breathing Works” but that podcast is dated 12/26/2013.  Makes me look forward to cleaning tack. 

My "office" view while cleaning tack

The Finger Lakes Region is a beautiful part of the country that I’m excited to finally have the experience of visiting.  I first became familiar with the Finger Lakes (what a funny name) while completing a project in Mrs. Guariglia’s 6th Grade Social Studies Class in which we had to make a tourism brochure.  I contacted the local chamber of commerce for more information (pre-internet days) to complete the assignment.  Too bad I don’t still have the brochure.  “Roadtrippers” app to the rescue!  (Check it out… super cool resource for food, lodging and things to do and see along the way to your destination.)  Stephanie, Grace and I used a combo of local recommendations and online resources to make the most of our stay in Skaneateles (another funny name pronounced “Skinny Atlas”, named by the Iroquois and translated “Long Beautiful Lake”).  Pleasantly surprising food stops included typical “greasy spoon” fare at the Cedar House Lanes bowling alley for breakfast, lakeside dinner at the Bluewater Grill (excited for some tasty seafood in this part of the world!), breakfast at the same place the next morning because we were so pleased with our experience the night before, and then some awesome tasty treats from the Skaneateles Bakery.  We also managed to fit in a visit to the Fort Hill Cemetery in Auburn where Harriet “Moses” Tubman (conductor of the Underground Railroad and escaped slave who risked her life by sneaking back to the South 19 times to help more slaves escape) and William Seward (Secretary of State during the Lincoln and Johnson administrations and most famously known for orchestrating the purchase of Alaska, known as “Seward’s Folly”) both buried.  Our trip also was timed perfectly to catch the Skaneateles Antique Boat show.  We took the morning to peruse the antique wooden boats, some dating back to the 1920’s.  Conclusion: The Finger Lakes is a majorly underrated tourist destination. 

Skaneateles Panoramic

But really… this is the East Bound and Down POLO tour.  So some polo must be played.  Stay tuned for “Polo 101” with Uncle Chuck. 

Uncle Chuck, warming up on the Skaneateles Polo Club field