Sunday, February 27, 2005

Trail riders

Saturday was the first day of the Houston Rodeo, which always means... trail riders!

The riders start coming into town on Thursday and Friday, setting up camp in various spots both inside and outside the city. Some of the camps are just blocks from where I live, so every year I get to spend a weekend with horses and people in cowboy hats wandering my neighborhood. On Saturday morning the riders line up with their horses, wagons, buggies and carts and ride or drive down Memorial into downtown where they join in the parade that kicks off the three week long rodeo.

So even though I could've done a bike ride in Humble Saturday morning, the threat of rain and the promise of trail riders kept me in town.

I started with my usual bayou loop. I hardly saw anyone out there. Most runners were probably downtown for the 10K Rodeo Run. Hey, I can go farther than 6.2 miles and do it for free! In spite of having the trails mostly to myself, I only saw one rabbit and no other cool wildlife. But when I came up the hill that takes one from bayou-level to street-level at Sabine Street, I found several trailers and a lot of horses standing around. Cool. The trail riders, busy gearing up for the ride into downtown, waved and said hello. I'm always impressed by how friendly they are.

I went up Sabine to Allen Parkway and headed back toward Shepherd in a happy mood, even though my legs were stiff and not really feeling up for this run after only two miles. Well, too bad. The dogpark at Montrose was empty, which surprised me. But after I crossed Shepherd and headed west up Memorial I saw what had happened. Everyone from the regular Saturday morning dog-walkers to the neighborhood families had come out to watch the trail riders go by. Most of these folks chose to congregate on the sidwalk outside the new Starbuck's, so I had the choice of running in the street on busy Memorial Drive or running in the parking lot. I value my life, so I chose the parking lot.

I reached my turnaround point and headed back to Shepherd, where police were starting to close off the side streets and horses and riders were beginning to line up. I avoided all that and turned in to River Oaks where I ran among the rich folks for a few miles. It was raining by the time I came back to Memorial and headed for home, running along the trail with the horses ambling down the road beside me. I was already wet by this point, so there was no point caring about the rain. I just settled in to finish my run and enjoy the last of the trail ride. It was great fun and there were some beautiful animals out there-- palominos, appaloosas, pintos and a lovely buckskin. As always I was very impressed with the children who were riding. It takes discipline and experience to sit a horse well and especially to do a trail ride. Some riders come from hundreds of miles away. The fact that so many children do this impresses me greatly while leaving me with little patience for the undisciplined brats I sometimes see in restaurants. But let's stay on topic here...

To me, the trail ride symbolizes some of what is best about Texas and about America. It's an embracing of both past and future (modern trail riders sleep in well-equiped campers). Most trail riders are black or hispanic. Some groups come from Mexico and include Mexico's flag with the Texas and American flags on their wagons. Some riders come from Louisiana, playing the zydeco music of the Cajun people. (For my foreign friends-- Cajuns are former French Canadians who emigrated to Louisiana when Canada became British.) The trail ride is about the people who made this state, formerly an independent republic. And it's about the people we are today.

And pretty horses, too!

Weekend Workouts
Saturday: Run, 14.5 miles
Sunday: Bike, Spinervals 9.0 Have Mercy, 2 hours

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