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Coast to coast for cancer

Delp arrives in Somers on horseback

August 15, 2012
By JOE SUTTER (lifestyle@messengernews.net) , Messenger News

SOMERS - When Tracy Delp arrived at Dan and Janet Bird's farm outside of Somers Tuesday afternoon, she didn't know where she would spend the next night.

But that doesn't bother her.

Delp is riding across America with her dog to raise awareness and money for cancer.

"We're still trying to figure out where I'm going to land," Delp said, when asked where she was going the next day. "Southeast, or south or east."

So far, she's made it almost 2,000 miles on horseback by taking things one day at a time.

Delp's mother was a survivor of colon cancer, but then died of pancreatic cancer. She also has lost friends, uncles and aunts, and dogs to cancer.

She decided to do the ride a year after her mother died. Delp spent another year figuring out how to make it work.

"I got to the point where I just went, I've either got to do it, or I've got to stop thinking about it," she said. "It's easy to become overwhelmed. It's easier to think about why you can't do something than why you can."

Janet Bird said they'd just found out about Delp a couple days ago.

"We got a call from our friends Mary and Martin Janssen, and we didn't have any idea," she said.

"Each place she stops, we hopefully know somebody within riding distance," said Janet Christiansen, of Fonda, who hosted Delp once and then helped line up more places to stay.

"You can't dwell on what ifs," Delp said. "Because on this ride, I'm so busy living in each moment that I can't. I can think, 'Well what about tomorrow.' But if I don't find water, I'm not going to be able to worry about the next day."

Delp's journey began on Mother's Day 2011 when she took off her boots and stepped into the Pacific Ocean in Ocean City, Wash. She planned out a basic route, but didn't have any of the details, and even that quickly changed.

She only made it across Washington when her traveling companion decided to turn back. She drove him and the animals home, and re-planned the whole trip which only included herself, her horse and her dog.

She crossed an Idaho mountain pass in November, just days before it was blocked for the winter by heavy snows. She overwintered in Idaho until April, then began making her way across the country.

She travels with a truck and horse trailer, but has no one to drive it. Sometimes the people she meets drive it for her, as was the case Tuesday; other times, someone will drive her back to pick it up.

"I've only had to hitchhike twice," she said.

Delp averages two to three miles per hour on her ride, traveling farther when the heat is not so intense. On Tuesday, she rode 23 miles in about seven hours.

Delp plans to end her ride when she wades into the Atlantic Ocean in Cape Henlopin, Del.

Delp has a lot of time to think, spending seven to 14 hours on horseback every day, and said she kept coming up with analogies between her ride and an experience with cancer. You don't know what the future will hold, she said, but you have to just plan for each day.

She's been amazed by people's willingness to help her out.

"It's the little things that make a difference. To me this is huge," she said, of the Birds' hospitality. "A shower is huge. A meal is a really big deal.

"It's like with cancer, right? You find out a friend or family member has cancer, and you want to do something, but you don't know what to do so you wait for people to mention what it is. It's the meal that makes a big difference, or cleaning the house."

Delp got her background in long horseback rides working as an outfitter in Washington.

"You take people into the back country on horseback, in the central north Cascades," she explained. "I would pack people in, pack hunters in, day rides, kids camp."

Those experiences taught her how to react to quickly changing situations, as well as how to survive on long trips.

One of the biggest challenges is staying hydrated and staying cool during the summer. She carries water for herself and her dog each day, but she must find it for the horse.

"The dog knows how to find water. Bonus." she said. "We were in Montana, and I ride (the dog) on a giant flexi leash most of the time. All of a sudden she pulled me, and we started going down this ditch, and I'm upset because it's a good deep one. Well, there's water in the bottom. I never would have noticed it, but it's like she can smell it."

Delp said one focus of her ride was empowerment, to encourage people to be bold and fearless when confronted with cancer.

"If I can ride a horse across the country, people can do a lot more," she said. "The first three letters in cancer are 'can.'"

 
 

 

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