My last two days at Michael's were filled with good rides, more wandering about looking for things to keep me busy (including a manicure session with some of my friends on the Paralympic Team - super cool!), and then laundry and packing and hitting the road early Monday morning.
I show Thursday and Saturday to Justin's Friday and Sunday. Combine that with the extra 6+ hours to drive from Illinois to New Jersey to Virginia versus just straight from Illinois to Virginia, and I'd decided I wanted to drive separately. Michael thought this was a bad idea, and boy, did I hear about it all week.
"What do you care about spending two extra days away from home?" Michael said. "It's just two days! And a young lady like yourself shouldn't travel alone!"
When Michael brings out the Young Lady stuff, my inner Betty Friedan digs in her heels. I was going alone, damnit.
So, naturally, two hours into our trip, one of my tires blows up. Michael, to his enormous credit, does not whip out an I-told-you-so, and in fact takes the opportunity to change one of his own tires that looks shady, and on we go.
The rest of the drive is easy-peasy. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana fly by. No traffic, only a few bits of construction. And when we cross into Illinois, where I grew up, I'm giddy. I recognize things. We pass the exit off the interstate that would take me to my childhood home. And just as we're half an hour from Lamplight, the sun setting, a cup of coffee I picked up as we crossed from Indiana buzzing through my system, I'm stoked. We did it. I did it.
Which is, naturally, when a second tire blows up.
And now we're off to the races. Half an hour from Lamplight, I'm stuck in a restaurant parking lot while US Rider (thank GOD for US Rider!) works their magic. They procure a tire for me and a mobile repair man to come and attach it, but this takes time, during which the sun sets, the world grows dark, Michael and Justin move on, Midgey loses his cool, and (of course) in the middle of the worst drought the Midwest has seen in 50 years it begins to rain.
I'm pissed, of course. I want to be the Big Mother Trucker who needs no help, who can go it alone. I want to be at Lamplight unloading in the fading light before the storm moves in. I want to get my horse off the trailer so he stops dancing around. I'm angry and impatient and glad that no one walks by and says "Ooh! Can we pet your horse?!" because I'd probably kill them.
But as the tire fix-it fellow fires up the compressor to get to work and Midge does a nutty, his eyes white with fear, shaking, I come back to my senses. This is not an inconvenience. This is a danger. It is a miracle that neither of the exploding tires caused me to swerve or drive off the road. It is a miracle that this happened right before an exit to a nice big, well-lit parking lot. It is a miracle that, earlier in the trip, the semi that nearly crashed into me didn't. It is a miracle that we covered hundreds of miles today, and indeed cover thousands every year, without calamity.
And it is a series of miracles that my weird little horse and I are here at all, en route to the National Championships at Grand Prix.
My head and my butt become separate body parts once again. I hold Midgey and coo to him, telling him it will be OK. My Tire-Fixer-In-Corduroy-Armor reattaches my new tire and turns off the compressor. Midgey's heartbeat slows; he returns to himself. And half an hour later (in a blast of rain that, naturally, ends as soon as the trailer is unpacked), we pull into Lamplight, safe and sound.
Today, Tuesday, I'll just hack Midge around, let him stretch and recover from the trip, and see all the rings. And I'm going to treat myself to four new tires for the trailer. They'll certainly help, and I am now more desperate than ever for the arrival of my new Jamco  trailer, the top-of-the-line for safety. The rest is just a roll of the dice, I guess.