CLYMER - The American Dream has always been to go west, but Sea G Rhydr has never been one to follow someone else's dream, anyway.
So instead, she's forged her own dream, and embarked on a 25-month journey on horseback, of which she's already completed 23 months, from Philo, Calif. to Minot, Maine.
And, much to the pleasure of the village's residents, Rhydr made a brief stop in Clymer to rest herself and her horses. Although Rhydr has gotten used to sleeping outside, her time in Clymer was spent in the comfort of Linda Oldani's home.
Sea G Rhydr and her horses, Jesse James and Saint Finehorn, recently passed through Clymer.
"My sister-in-law lives in Green Bay, and she's a horse person," Oldani said. "She was following (Rhydr's) blog, and she sent me an email stating how (Rhydr) was currently in Ohio, and how (Rhydr) didn't have any connection in Chautauqua, and therefore didn't have anywhere to stay. It didn't pose that big of a problem for (Rhydr), because she's used to staying outside ... but there was a phone number attached to (Rhydr's) blog, so I decided to give her a call to see where she was passing through. When I found out she was coming this way, there wasn't a second thought about asking her to stay here."
According to Oldani, Rhydr has opted during her trip to travel along roads which receive minimal traffic, so the backroads of Clymer were ideal. Rhydr utilized several rails-to-trails routes on her way to Clymer, as well.
Oldani, who runs a dairy farm in Clymer, said that she looked forward to meeting Rhydr just as much as Rhydr looked forward to having a home in which to stay.
"Life is just kind of monotonous," Oldani said. "You just kind of do a lot of the same things, so when an opportunity comes up to meet someone cool, I'm certainly not going to pass it up.
"Anything she needs, she's got it," Oldani continued. "Whatever I can do for her - if she needs food or things for her horses, it's the least I can do."
Rhydr has been following a pattern of riding for five days and resting for two, but Oldani said that since she is toward the end of her journey, she's been trying to give her horses a little more rest. Rhydr arrived at Oldani's farm on Wednesday night, but for the aforementioned reason, she might leave on Friday, or she might wait an extra day and leave on Saturday.
"If she's here for two days, it will be two days that we certainly will never forget," Oldani said. "Otherwise it would have just been another few days of the same old, same old, that would have just blended in with the nothing. I just hope we were able to leave a small impact upon her, because her stay has certainly impacted us."
In 2011, Rhydr read a book by Mesannie Wilkins called "The Last of the Saddle Tramps," which described her 1954 trip from Maine to California. On her trip, she brought with her horse, Tarzan, which cost her $5, and an additional $32 in her pocket.
Inspired by the book, and facing her own set of looming hardships in California, Rhydr decided to take her own trip across the country on horseback, nearly 60 years after Wilkins did. After almost two years of riding, her journey still isn't complete, but she hasn't looked back once.
"The trip has been amazing," Rhydr said. "It's been grueling - there have been hard parts, there have been absolutely brilliant parts - I have no regrets about doing it at all. At one point I fractured two vertebrae and got a concussion - I'm not saying it's been an easy trip, but it's been 100 percent worthwhile."
Rhydr said she cannot place enough emphasis upon how well complete strangers have taken care of and accommodated her during her travel.
"During the whole trip, American people have taken me in, looked after me, have been kind and welcoming and generous and interested, and it's just been such a heartening thing," Rhydr said. "In 22 months I haven't met a single bad guy and I've never felt threatened. There have been some people who were not comfortable with me camping on their lawn, and that's acceptable. But most nights, I ride up to someone's house, I knock on the door, I explain who I am and what I'm doing, and I ask if I can stay the night. Ninety-eight percent of the time, people say yes."
Rhydr said that there is a strong belief in this nation that there can be no trust between neighbors, much less strangers, and she completely disagrees with that. She said that, in her experience, most people are simply looking for an opportunity to come about for them to help.
"It's been the grace of god and the kindness of strangers," Rhydr said. "There have been people who have fed me, vets who have donated services ... anything I've needed has been provided exactly as I've needed it. I've been given donations ranging from $2 to $500, and I've never asked for money once, it's just been given. I'm at a point in my trip where I have such faith in people that I haven't even met yet, that I already know everything is going to turn out well. And it's really been that way the whole trip."
Although Rhydr has seen America in all her majesty, she said that she was very impressed by the aesthetic quality of Chautauqua County and the kindness of its people.
"It's gorgeous," Rhydr said. "I came up from the border on a rails-to-trails path, and from a pony's perspective, that's a dream come true. There were wild apple trees that grew along the trail, and the horses loved that they could eat from the tree without having to bend down to the ground. I've come to very much appreciate the places where the Amish have chosen to settle, as well, because people are much more cognizant of horses (sharing the roads with cars). I've come to really love and appreciate the Amish people. They've been so helpful to me along the way. When I started, I knew nothing about the Amish, but that has since changed. No one has treated me poorly along this trip, but it seems like the Amish just never know when to stop accommodating for me. All of my experiences with them have been wonderful, and I think it says something for this area that they've chosen to settle here."
When Rhydr arrives in Minot, Maine, on Nov. 8, she'll be greeted with a welcoming ceremony and parade, partially to pay tribute to her trip, and partially to celebrate the original horseback trip taken by Wilkins in 1954.
Although Rhydr has loved every minute, including the bad, of her trip, she said she is very much looking forward to finally arriving in Maine.
"I'm exhausted," Rhydr said. "The ponies are exhausted. We've been doing this for a really long time. The riding is still wonderful, the people are still wonderful - I'm getting really tired of packing my bags every day. My pack pony is tired of visiting with people. We're all wearing out in our own ways. I'm looking forward to the end of the trip."
Following her trip, Rhydr will begin writing her own book about her journey, much like Wilkins did. Although she has never written a book before, she's logged countless hours of practice, as she's chronicled aspects of her journey already in her blog, freerangerodeo.com.
"I've worked very hard on the blog, but I'm not planning on just copying the blog," Rhydr said. "It's going to be stories that are completely new and different."
Rhydr wanted to thank the Long Riders' Guild and everyone who went out of their way to help her make it safely across the country.