Epic Tevis Adventure, 2014 Edition: Part Two A: Prep – Robinson Flat check

This is getting away from me…I’m making this a long and detailed write-up, which may be boring to many, but I do know when I first started crewing, I would have loved to have access to the kind of blogs and online resources that are available now, and any little information bit helped.

Part A Details the Thursday and Friday before the ride prep through the first crewed vet check at Robinson Flat, 36 miles into the ride.

Part Two: Tevis Time!
THURSDAY was packing and prep day. It was a fairly lazy morning – no riding, so we didn’t have to get an early start. Lucy is very good at making lists and crew instructions, and Kaity and I have both crewed for her before, so there wasn’t much new/different to go over. Lucy’s crew box was packed with all of the dry goods necessities for Robinson Flat (fleece blanket, spare spare boots, feed, brushes, electrolytes, syringes, spare tights for Lucy), buckets were sorted and counted, bins were filled with pellets and feed for Fergus, hay bags were stuffed, water jugs were filled, tack sorted.
After getting the trailer ready to go, Kaity and I headed out to food shop. Lucy had a creative plan involving bento boxes for storing small amounts of a variety of foods in bite-size pieces that would hopefully be appealing on ride day, and we went armed with a list of food items to buy that would hopefully tempt our rider.
From my memory, things that went in the boxes (some were a hit, some weren’t): small boiled potatoes, bites of lightly seasoned cooked chicken, mini chicken-apple sausages, melon (cantaloupe and watermelon), chocolate whipped yogurt, hard-boiled eggs, pasta salad, varieties of cheeses, lightly seasoned rice, and energy gummies, squeeze applesauces, and string cheese to re-stock Lucy’s saddle packs.
*Ashley’s Egg Salad recipe*

16 oz elbow macaroni
one bunch green onions, thinly sliced
half a dozen hard-boiled eggs, chopped
1 c mayo (start with less and add to taste…may need more if you like a very “mayo-ey” salad)
olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Cook the pasta until desired doneness (some like it more mushy, some like it al dente…it will soften as it sits in the container, too) and drain. Place in mixing bowl and drizzle a tiny amount of olive oil on it and stir. This’ll help keep it from sticking together.

Add the green onions and eggs and stir to combine. Add half the mayo and stir. Add small amounts of mayo until it reaches the desired taste/consistency.  Salt/pepper to taste. Store in refrigerator/ice chest.

Fed one Tevis rider + two crew people for approximately 2 days.
Thursday evening was dinner with friends – always fun to catch up with people I don’t get to see nearly enough, and outside of the immediate, more stressful environment of Tevis itself.
FRIDAY was Departure Day. The plan was for Patrick and Lucy to drive the rig, and Kaity and I follow behind in Kaity’s truck, which was the designated crew vehicle. Food and drink coolers were packed and loaded, Fergus got a bath, clothes were packed, and we were on the road to Robie Park by noon.
scenic drive: heading east on I-80
A couple of stops along the way for road snacks and gas, construction in the canyons, and being in the middle of a bubble of bad traffic with idiot drivers meant we didn’t actually catch up to the rig until Robie Park, but no matter…that was where catching up counted.
We got Fergus unloaded and beautified , then headed over to get Lucy checked in and Fergus vetted. Slacker Crew R Us never actually looked at Fergus’s vet card, but he looked phenomenal on his trot-out…
We took Fergus back to the trailer to get his mane braided and to tack him up for Lucy to do a quick leg-stretcher pre-ride. While she rode, Kaity and I wandered around the vendor area. Not that I need anything…but it’s fun to browse.
vetting in

Fergus floats
Friday dinner before briefing was a bit of a let-down…we had tickets ahead of time, but by the time we got there, they had run out of all food except salad. We got the dinner tickets back, and hopefully Lucy is able to get a refund…because I’m pretty sure the point of pre-selling tickets is to get an accurate count ahead of time and know how much food to have available. Fortunately, we had extra pasta, sauce, and sausages back at the trailer, so I was able to feed all of us after the ride meeting.
The Tevis ride briefing really is unlike any other ride briefing I’ve attended. I think because so much information is published and available ahead of time – the trail, the checkpoints, extensive rider and crew info – they don’t waste time reiterating it at the meeting. Tevis riders are a group of experienced people, so there’s not the need for extensive information and explanations as there would be for a local ride that might be drawing a larger crowd of riders new to endurance.
Ride briefing also wraps up pretty fast, with enough daylight left to head back to the trailer. Lucy and Kaity worked on the final packing of her saddle packs while I put together dinner, then we all did a final run-through of what was to come while working through bowls of pasta and sausage.
In an ideal world, we would probably all be in bed by 8:00 at night…but let’s face it: this is Tevis. It’s a whole weekend full of “far from ideal” circumstances, and yet, we manage. Bedtime was closer to the double-digits hours, but Kaity had pitched her tent, it wasn’t too cold out, and I know I slept soundly until the alarm went off at 3:30 Saturday morning.
Kaity prepared coffee, I got Fergus a mash, then we stood around, sipping coffee and slipping Lucy bites of breakfast until it was time to saddle up Fergus. While Kaity took down camp, I walked with Lucy to her Pen 2 start.

one more bite for the road…
For those that aren’t familiar with it, Tevis utilizes a “pen” system: Pen 1 is basically the 60 or so horses who, based on their previous year’s ride record, qualify to be up towards the front because it’s likely they will be riding faster than someone who may be starting at the back of the pack and riding just to finish. In the last number of years they have been using this system, it seems to have helped with some of the start-line congestion, to get the faster-moving horses sorted out and at the front of the pack at the starting time.
Everyone still starts at 5:15, the pen system just helps get everyone sorted before that time, on the road down to the official start, so you don’t have a bunch of front-runners trying to jostle up from the back of the pack immediately at the start.
Everyone else who didn’t get selected for pen one is in pen two, and it isn’t mandatory – someone who wants to start at the very back, for example, can hang back at their trailer and leave a couple minutes later. Only rule is that everyone must be out of Robie Park by 5:30.
So I walked – and half-jogged/half-stumbled in the dark after Fergus, following Lucy to pen two. My red headlamp also earned a “red light district” quip. Yeah, that’s right – endurance edition!
At the entrance to pen one, I tightened Fergus’s girth, wished them a final good luck, told Lucy I would see her at Robinson, and told Fergus to take care of Lucy. I hung out off to the side, out of the way, until they released pen two to head down the road. Lucy got out in a good position – somewhere in the first third of the pen.
After she was on her way, I headed back to the trailer, and Kaity, Patrick and I waiting until the magical 5:30 hour when vehicles could be started and moved – because the horses go down the road in and out of Robie Park to the start, no vehicle traffic is permitted until all horses are clear and on the trail.
Our parking spot at Robie is a pretty good one (no, not telling where…) in that it allows a decent exit on Saturday morning. It’s a bit of a hike for anything in the registration/vetting/vendor area…but the leg stretching and walking exercise is good, right?
We got what I suspect was a pretty big jump in traffic, and everyone was quite polite and reasonable this year. Last year, water bars had been recently installed on the forest road in to Robie, and it slowed down traffic big-time, and rigs had to basically crawl over them. This year, they were better bedded-in and much smoother to drive over. The conga line of trailers flowed really well, and it took us about half an hour to reach pavement.

the annual Robie Park trailer race
Once we hit pavement, it was smooth sailing all the way to the Foresthill exit. We grabbed food and McDonald’s to go, jumped back in the truck, and headed straight to Foresthill. All of the crew gear had been packed in Kaity’s truck ahead of time, so we never even had to stop in Foresthill. Patrick would take the rig to Foresthill, park it, then head home on his motorbike (parked in the trailer) to check on the dogs before heading back to Foresthill later in the afternoon.
They have started instituting a time cut-off for vehicles in to Robinson Flat – which made sense after I saw how they now let you drive straight into the check and dump your stuff of the road, versus before, when they would stop you at the entrance to the check, let you dump your stuff, and turn you around there on the road. Cut-off this year was 9:30 and we made it at 8:30.
on the road heading to Robinson Flat

waiting for the caravan of vehicles
Once we were allowed up to the check, Kaity dropped me and the stuff, and while she parked the truck, I found a crew spot and started setting everything up.
For those interested in what was hauled/set up, we used Lucy’s large hay cart (big and bulky, but fits lots of stuff). She utilizes a crew box to contain all of the smaller items (more spare boots, rasp, spare tights, sponge, horse food, extra people water, electrolytes, syringes, fleece blanket, stiff brush, carrots and apples, washcloth and neck cooler for Lucy), stack of buckets (one large, 5 small, one large feed pan, one small feed pan), medium-sized cooler, two folding chairs, gallon-sized jug of people water, and a hay bag with glass and alfalfa.
They don’t open up the water truck until the first horses are already in – before then, you can use the hand pump at Robinson – so while I was waiting for that and for Kaity to return, I set up: large feed pan with Elk Grove Milling pellets and LMF Gold feed – water would be added to those closer to Fergus and Lucy’s ETA, small feed pan of same for F to eat in the vet line, flake of alfalfa, set crew box within easy reach, set cooler in shade, spread chairs out to save our space.
water rationing at Robinson — troughs were for drinking
only; water for cooling had to be obtained from the pump
or water trough, then sponged out of buckets — no
indiscriminate dumping of five gallon buckets at a time
Once Kaity got back, we fetched buckets of water – large one for drinking, and three small ones (clean-up, horse feed soaking, extra) – and hauled them back. The large feed pan got started soaking, water was added to Lucy’s clean-up washcloth and neck cooler and those were placed in the shade to cool, and we prepped the cart (two small sponging buckets, sponge, pan of feed, part of a flake of alfalfa) to meet Lucy out on the road that riders come in on.
I love watching riders come in to Robinson. Normally endurance isn’t what one would consider a “spectator sport” but for those who are endurance riders, being at the Tevis vet checks can be some pretty good spectating. It’s organized chaos – and the degree of organization varies, depending on the number of crew people, experience level, advanced planning, etc.
waiting crews, incoming riders
Lucy came in right on schedule, just after 11. Kaity started sponging while I stripped tack and Fergus munched alfalfa, then I trundled the cart and tack back to the crew spot while Kaity went with Lucy to pulse and vet. Since I wasn’t at the vet area, I didn’t see in person how it went, but everyone was smiling when they came back.
here they come!
into Robinson Flat to get pulsed and vetted
I took over Fergus at that point – my job was to get as much food into his as possible during the hold. He’s a pretty good eater, but he’s so large (16.2 hh), his intake requirements are pretty significant, and it’s a constant game of catch-up during this ride trying to get enough food into him. He doesn’t make things any easier by being very distracted by other horses, so he basically needs someone at his head reminding him to keep eating.
Fergus’s personal servant
The only problem with crewing Fergus is tacking up – he is tall and I am short. As in, Fergus is actually taller than me. Consequently, it is usually a two-person job, with preferably the taller person (Kaity) doing things like checking to make sure the saddle pad is straight.
Once he was saddled and bridled and Lucy’s needs were all taken care of, we whisked them away to the out-timer and waved them off down the trail. Once they left, we cleaned up the crew area, packed everything onto the cart, and headed back to the truck. We were parked probably close to a mile down the road…but at least it was all downhill.
action shot!
hand-off of the out-time slip
and they’re off 

Next up: Tevis afternoon – Sunday wrap-up

When I Don’t Ride…

…I cook.  In between all the other necessary tasks of life.  Like sleeping.

I love to cook.  And I’ve probably explained over a dozen times why I don’t want to make a career out of it: It’s something I really enjoy doing.  The kitchen is one of my happy places.  I don’t want to ruin that by having it become something I have to do.  Maybe that’s weird — after all, isn’t the pinnacle of job searching finding something you actually like to do and then get paid for it?  (Says the perpetually self-employed, jack-of-all-trades freelancer.)

But I digress.

Where was I?

Oh, yeah…I love to cook.

We’ve been having a colder and wetter earlier than usual winter this year in Arizona, which has sent me scuttling into the kitchen for warmth and sustenance.  Today’s offering?  Red Velvet Hot Cocoa.  I love all things red velvet, and even have a pancake adaptation.  So this ended up being right up my alley.  I’ve already been making homemade hot cocoa, so it was easy enough to adapt the basic recipe and turn out this delightful treat.

(No pictures, sorry…one, I’m a bad food photographer.  Two, my camera and computer are temporarily not speaking to one another.)

So I’m sort of a bad person to get recipes from…my approach to cooking is very much that of an inexact art versus measured science.  (Except baking.  I still measure when baking.  Otherwise, I subscribe to the “pinch of this, touch of that” method.)  So I tried to guesstimate on amounts when recreating this recipe.  Adjust the agave to your preference…I don’t like my cocoa super-sweet.

Red Velvet Hot Cocoa
(per serving)
3/4 c milk
2 T unsweetened cocoa powder
2 T blue agave syrup
red food color
heavy cream (less than 1/4 c)
1 T cream cheese

Heat the milk in a saucepan on the stove. While it’s heating, mix the cocoa powder and agave together until it forms a chocolate syrup. May need to add a touch of water, or more agave to taste. Add food color to get desired shade of red. Stir into milk and keep heating until steaming. As it’s heating, whip the cream cheese into the heavy cream, along with a drizzle of agave. Keep whipping (or use electric mixer) until you get whipped cream. Pour chocolate mix into a mug, top with the whipped cream — the cream cheese gives it the “cream cheese frosting” effect.

It’s a fabulous “special occasion” drink.  Rather rich and I certainly couldn’t drink it frequently.  But it’s the kind of recipe that would lend itself well to to being a holiday tradition sort of drink.  Red Velvet Cocoa for Christmas Eve, anyone?
I’m going to start posting a few recipes here and there, especially things that I’ve found work really well at rides, either as pre-ride dinner or on-trail food.  I can’t survive on the Gu-and-Gatorade ride diet, so if you’re looking for real food idea, check back here!