|Seasoned Long-Rider Pauses in Pike Co. on Mule Train Ride from Pacific to Atlantic|
“The joy of the ride is the people”
Balancing on a steel beam 100 feet or more off the ground was a cakewalk for Gene Glasscock...child’s play.
High-rise construction work wasn’t what Glasscock chose. It chose him.
"It’s what I could do and make a few bucks," the native Texan said. "And, it was interesting work…challenging."
Glasscock was a young man when he ventured into high-rise construction work. But his greatest challenges were decades away.
Glasscock has been on horses since he was a baby in diapers.
As he entered his "mature" years, he became fascinated with the long ride. And, he has earned his stripes as a seasoned long rider — an equestrian who rides a thousand continuous miles on a single ride.
Glasscock was on a long ride from San Diego to the Atlantic Ocean in early winter and his route took him through Pike County on his way to Georgia.
He had pulled his wagon off the road on rural Alabama Highway 10 to give the girls, Kitty and Kate, a short rest. They were on Glasscock time and that’s just like no time at all so he had time to hitch the mules, find himself a sunbeam and enjoy a chance to reflect on this long ride and others he has taken.
Glasscock cocked his head to the side, stroked his white beard, but didn’t speak for a long thought.
"People. The long rides are all about people," he said.
The answer was simple. Too simple, really. But it was probably the best explanation as to why a man 77 years of age would be driving a mule-drawn wagon from San Diego, CA, to Brunswick, GA, — from coast to coast.
"At one time, I thought the long ride was about meeting a challenge, seeing the country and learning about different cultures, but, no, it’s about the people. That’s it," Glasscock said. "I’ve met so many really good people. They are the joy of the ride.
"The joy of the ride is what’s important. That’s why I don’t keep a clock. I did that once and, when you’re on a time clock, that puts pressure on you and takes every bit of joy out of the ride."
Glasscock’s latest "joy ride" started in San Diego on Sept. 7, 2010, and it will end when it ends.
"When I get to the Atlantic Ocean, that will be the end of the ride," Glasscock said and, again, stroked his beard that all but hid the smile creeping across his face. "That is unless President Obama does some more of his silliness and gets me a team of seahorses to ride and then I’ll head out across the Atlantic."
If anybody could ride a team of seahorses across the ocean, it would be Glasscock.
He has a couple of long rides to his credit.??
"Back in the 1980s, I rode from the Arctic Circle in Canada to the Equator in Ecuador," he said. "Now, that was a ride — 12,000 miles and it took me two years and two days. Should have taken me longer, but the media kept asking me how long and I’d say two to three years. So, they started printing two years and I pushed myself. I will never do that again. It took the joy out of the ride."
That was not the only thing that took the joy out of that long ride.
"That ride killed one of my horses and almost killed me," Glasscock said. "A polar bear spooked my horse and I ended up in the Klondike River for starters. I had a brush with armed robbers and was imprisoned by the Sandinistas in the Nicaraguan civil war."
Glasscock spent several weeks hacking his way through the dark jungles connecting Central and South America.
That would have been enough to cause even the bravest "or dumbest" man to seek the safety of a sky-high steel beam, but not Glasscock.?A service in a small Baptist church brought perspective to the journey.
"At that little church, I realized the journey was all about people and it was there at that church, too, I was drawn to missions," he said. "In Latin America, the people touched my heart."
And, years later, Glasscock returned to Paraguay to teach English to the people.
To raise awareness of the plight of the people of Paraguay and funds for a scholarship program to bring young people from Paraguay to Pensacola Christian College to study, Glasscock embarked on a 20,000-mile long ride taking him to every state capital in the 48 adjacent states.
"The scholarships are awarded on the condition the students will return to Paraguay and help their people," he said. "That long ride started in 2002 and took three years. It was worth every mile of it to be able to help the people of Paraguay."
Glasscock’s current 2,500-mile long ride from coast-to-coast is a short trek compared to other long rides he has taken. But, it’s significant.
"It’s my last go around," he said with a smile. "I’ve got 6 children and 41 grandchildren who worry about me and, too, I’m 77 years old. The Lord has been good to me. He’s been with me all the time and all the way. Of all the things I’ve done, the one thing standing out most in my memory is the day I accepted Christ into my heart."
Glasscock said what he has gained from the long rides can’t be measured in dollars, but rather in the blessings he has gotten from the journeys.
"This is what I’ve got today — Two mules and a wagon. But I wouldn’t trade my world for anybody’s," he said with a smile of assurance.
Jaine Treadwell is a freelance writer from Brundidge.