Thanks to everyone who encouraged me to write about our journey from Albuquerque, New Mexico to Lexington, Virginia. Here you go.
On December 6th, after months of planning, we were ready to drive across country. We had gone to closing on our house the day before and the new owners were scheduled to move in at Noon.
Knowing that 1,700 miles would put significant stress on the donkeys, we made the decision to hire a professional hauler to move them from Albuquerque to Lexington. Celso Rubio of Sin City Hauling out of Las Vegas, NV is an excellent hauler who took extremely good care of our herd.
Celso arrived in Albuquerque at 6 a.m. ready to load donkeys onto his rig. It was bitterly cold and snow covered the ground. He backed his trailer up to our corral and we were able to run the herd onto his trailer. (One of the things that we mistakenly allowed the movers to pack and take with them was all of our tack, so we had no choice but to run them in. I felt horrible.) Poor Gracie was the most visibly affected as she stood in the trailer shaking like a leaf. I wondered if she thought she was going through another roundup situation. As we said farewell to Celso, I hugged him and burst out sobbing as I said, “Please take care of my babies!” I knew he would (thanks to the recommendations from our friends Dorothea and Paula), but the thought of not seeing them and knowing that they’d be under stress for a couple of days was more than I could bear at the moment. Watching him drive off with our herd was surreal.
After saying good-bye to our old house and farm, we loaded the dogs and Meggie Moo into our vehicles and got on the road around 9 a.m. I was in my truck with my mom (who had flown from Maryland to help out and drive back with us) and four dogs, and was pulling a trailer with Don’s motorcycle. Don was in his truck with Whisky and was pulling our horse trailer, which was filled with bales of New Mexico hay and Meggie.
Driving out of Albuquerque and up into the East Mountains, I watched the temperature plummet. As we drove through Moriarty it was minus 5°F – not counting wind chills – and I felt so bad for the Moo. We sat in accident traffic (a tractor trailer had careened off the road) for a couple of hours before crossing the border into Texas.
Pulling into a truck stop in Amarillo, we had to navigate a pothole that spanned the entire entrance. Don’s truck and the horse trailer slammed into the hole with enough force to first unlatch the trailer then bounce it off the ball hitch. Dragging the trailer by its safety chains, we got it to a flat spot and had to figure out a way to get it back on the truck. The trailer jack – even extended all the way – was about two inches too short, so we ended up using the jack from Don’s truck to get the trailer up high enough.
We had planned to make the trip to Virginia in two nights/three days, but took a day longer due to unforeseen circumstances and the weather (we were in the middle of winter storms Cleon and Dion). Instead of making it to Little Rock the first night, we stopped in Oklahoma City.
December 7th was the worst day of our trip. We woke up to more frigid temperatures and continued ice and snow on the roads.
Because the roads were so treacherous, we were convinced that Oklahoma doesn’t own any snow plows. Thankfully the roads were virtually empty and we were able to plod along I-40 at about 20 miles per hour. I can’t tell you how many cars and trucks we saw that had spun off the highway and how many tractor trailers that had jackknifed or flipped. It was heartbreaking. I’ll never forget seeing a big RV that had smashed into a million pieces in the median and the family that was picking through the wreckage. They might as well have lived through a tornado from the looks of it.
The road was literally a sheet of ice:
We stopped that night in Brinkley, Arkansas – about 70 miles east of Little Rock. I’ll be forever grateful to Motel 6 and their pet-friendly policy, because Meggie stayed in our rooms with us all three nights on our journey east. There was no way we were leaving her out in the trailer overnight – she needed to get warm and she needed to know she wasn’t alone. She did great in the rooms with us, even if it made things a bit circus-like. Here she is sleeping standing up in the room in Arkansas:
December 8th. We woke up to more ice; freezing rain had fallen overnight. I seriously questioned whether I could drive another day in those conditions. Because we knew Celso was planning to get the donkeys to Lexington that day and because we were expecting our furniture to be delivered on December 10th, we pushed on. As we got out of Arkansas and into Tennessee, snow and ice turned into rain and fog. It was so foggy in Memphis we couldn’t see the Mississippi River as we crossed it. After Don had a fishtail incident and I watched him and the horse trailer almost permanently lose control, we decided to stop in Knoxville, Tennessee that night. That was the night I caught Meggie eating toilet paper in the Motel 6 bathroom and I was so happy to think that we would finally be “home” tomorrow.
True to his word, Celso got the herd safely delivered to Virginia late the evening of December 8th. Because we knew that Celso would arrive with the donkeys before we did, we made arrangements for him to deliver them to the Virginia Horse Center, which is just down the road from us. They were so kind and accommodating and took such good care of the Boyz, Gracie and Harriet.
We can’t recommend Celso – and his heart of gold – enough. He provided us with constant updates throughout the trip, which was a godsend.
December 9th. After about five more hours of driving, we finally arrived in Lexington. One of the first things we had planned was to go and get the herd from the Horse Center and bring them home. Unfortunately, because it had rained so much the previous few days, Don’s truck and the horse trailer got stuck in the mud at the barn when we drove down to unload hay. We knew there was no way we could take the trailer with the weight of seven donkeys down the hill, so we had to come up with a new plan.
We went to visit the herd at the Horse Center and vowed to get them home the next day. After a trip to Tractor Supply to buy new halters and lead ropes, we planned to bring the herd home in two trips rather than one. We put Bernard, Patrick, Buck and Harriet in the first load because we knew we could park the trailer up at the top of the hill and lead them down to the barn. Sure enough, we did… with no trouble at all. We then went back for Ellsworth, Nigel and Gracie. Without a doubt, Ellsworth would have walked down the hill with the others in the first load, but Nigel and Gracie needed him for moral support. When Ellsworth got right on the trailer at the Horse Center, we hoped that Nigel would follow. Nope. Nigel refused to get on the trailer, no matter how hard we tried to persuade him it was okay. We ended up letting him go and letting Gracie out to see what she would do. Gracie jumped right into the trailer and Nigel followed right behind. Whoo-hoo! When we got them home, because there wasn’t as much weight on the trailer, we were able to back them down to the barn and release them right into the pasture.
What an adventure! ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥ ♥