For the 75th DC Ride, it will be an amazing 55 years that the Honkers camp will be part of this great ride. For the 2022 ride, it will be my 7th ride, but wait is it my 6th, does the 2020 Ghost Ride count, how do I count 2021, ride or no ride, damn this is confusing! I think I will only count the rides that I actually was on a saddle for a week in the Sonoran Desert, so 5 it is.
Despite being one of the “newer riders”, I have a surprisingly large amount to talk about. So many stories of how each of us got involved in the ride. For me it was the summer of 2015 in a business meeting in Tokyo, of all places. I sat down in a conference room, the guy next to me opens his laptop and I catch a glimpse of his desktop picture, he in a cowboy outfit on a horse in the middle of nowhere. I asked him “What’s that picture from?”, he says “I do a horseback ride in Arizona every year for a week and this picture is from my 14th year.” I say, “Tell me more”. Five minutes later when he said, “And our bar is a coffin”, I said I’m in! That guy was Scott Stevens.
Little did I know what a wonderful experience of tradition, camaraderie, and appreciation for this great land we live in I was about to get myself into, but then I met Scott’s dad, Joe Stevens! If anyone carries the Honkers torch these years I’ve been involved, it’s Joe.
First, mandatory Greenie meeting at Joe’s house Friday night, only to find a table with more bottles of Tequila than I’ve seen in any bar (we used to call this hazing back in the day). Saturday to get acquainted with Wickenberg, purchase anything we think we need but didn’t really need, followed by a Honkers party that night, only to be woken up at the crack of dawn on Sunday to cook breakfast for the DC Staff loading up the trucks, followed by picking our horses and El Presidente’s Party. Geez, I’ve drank and eaten more in 3 days than I do in a week, and we haven’t even started the Ride yet!
The indoctrination process for a Greenie is interesting. First you get sized up by the ‘tenured’ riders (from every camp, by the way). Things like “Where you from…”, “Ever been on a horse…” and many more. Let’s call this the dating phase. Then like all great events in life, partying levels the playing field and the actual guidance and help shines through. This is truly special and the start of building life-long friendships. I love the fact that once we get to that point, we are all one. It doesn’t matter where you are from, what you do for a living, whether you wear chaps or not (as long as you wear pants with your chaps), etc.
Some of the best advice all Greenies should heed: 1) keep your flask size to less than one liter, not only will it be a nuisance to carry, but you will get drunk by noon, 2) unless you want to experience the ultimate chafing experience, if you decide to wear padded biking shorts under your Wranglers to lessen the pain of sitting on a saddle, do not put them over your tighty whities, 3) when on a narrow trail on the edge of a drop off, with a very long way down, don’t look down and trust your horse, he wants to fall down that cliff less than you do!
What memories I’ve created in only a few short years of the ride, from the procession on the way out through Wickenburg with the cheering family, friends and onlookers, having the honor of being asked to be a flag bearer, the awesome Saguaro cactus that only grows in these parts, the friendships that start building as soon as you come off the pavement and onto the desert, the horses following each other in a long line, then speeding up to get to each camp because they know our fat asses will be getting off and they get alfalfa while we get nightly camp parties, the pin and acknowledgement ceremony the first night, the great expanse that Cooper’s Ranch offers us for 2 days, rubber duck races (how awesome is that!), chicken shit bingo, campfires every night, traversing some of the most amazing scenery this great country has to offer, settling back down the hills into town, and picking flowers for our sweeties as we come back into Wickenburg.
I am proud to be a Honker for life, but equally proud to be a Desert Caballero for life. I can’t wait until 2022 when I can again sit on my horse as I look over the desert and say, “For the love of the Ride.”
Honker for Life