I went to the Nationals rally in Augusta, New Jersey because both my girlfriend and her sister ride in the Intermediate division (different teams) and the Nationals Rally was the closest to my hometown (since she resides three states away in the summer).
After waking up at 12:30 on Friday to basically watch NHL free agency for a couple hours, I managed to get out of the house at around 3 PM, making my first real use of my new GPS unit. I had forgotten how gorgeous the scenery is heading down I-81 south towards Pennsylvania. Lots of mountains, hills, and a few stomach-rolling drop-offs from the highway.
Pennsylvania was a bit of a different story. While also beautiful, I was a bit sick of the scenery at that point. And Pennsylvania drivers are slow as fuck, but at least it made them easy to pass. The bridge into New Jersey had tolls on one side, so I guess you can get into the state for free, but you need to pay to leave. Touche, New Jersey. In all honestly, I think NJ is probably like every other state I've been to, gorgeous countryside, gross cities.
The event was held at the Sussex County campgrounds, which from what I could tell were pretty well suited for the event. They had multiple rings available to house five lanes of Games teams and pretty good, if spread out, camping facilities.
I hadn't met my girlfriend's mother or sister up until that point, but we knew enough about each other to make the experience mostly a formality and thus anti-climatic. I got along with them well right from the start and genuinely enjoyed spending the weekend with them. (Boy isn't that a change from my previous relationship.)
With her events for the day having finished early in the morning, we had the afternoon and evening to get situated in the tent that we shared. Alone. (Again, a change from sentiments in my previous relationship.) My previous camping experience had been relegated to spending one night in a tent in my back yard, and another two nights in a cabin (no electricity) in the middle of
Some people react pretty poorly when thrown out of their element, but my prevailing thought was, "this is fucking awesome." I like cozier spaces, so small tents are perfect for me. Plus I was really excited to be sharing the experience with said girlfriend. After dinner we spent the rest of the night in the tent---
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On to the interesting part and the whole point of this entry, the mounted games themselves. I was woken up at some god awful morning hour by my girlfriend and her dog and spent about twenty minutes fighting the urge to murder everyone in the tri-state area. (Not a morning person.) After that I got up and walked over to the main ring to watch the upper echelon Masters Division.
They were, in short, fucking impressive. The entire sport is fucking impressive. Essentially you've got teams racing on horseback in a variety of events that involve anything from weaving in between poles slalom style, to jousting at targets, to relaying balls and bottles from rider to rider, to having to dismount and pick things up before vaulting back onto their horses and riding off. It is an impressive combination of skills, not to mention controlling an animal that could easily put you in the hospital if it felt so inclined. (This happened once while we were there, but I didn't see it.)
The scoring system was pretty simple. Three heats in three days of 8, 12, and 15 races, with each team getting 1 point for finishing, and 1 point for each team they beat. For my girlfriend's division of five this made for a max of 5 points per race and a minimum of 0 (if eliminated) and 1 if finishing in last. My girlfriend's team was head and shoulders above the rest of their division so they built up a big lead in the first heat and ultimately never looked back.
After two days, the score was:
- Gf's team - 178
- Gf's sister's team - 127
- Decent team that had a habit of screwing up a lot - 122
- Young team - 113
- Younger team - 77
Random aside: if you like girls and you're not creepy like me and can actually pick them up, then go to an event that involves horses and them actually doing something (i.e. not showing). Hot girls as far as the eye can see...it's not something you can be out of shape and do. Of course, I would also recommend that you either be a minor, or make sure you check IDs since most of them are jailbait, but still...
Moving right along... We spent some time with the girlfriend's team, but not a lot. Neither of us are really people-friendly and we prefer not to be bothered by others, but it was nice to get to know a few new people. We spent the second night much like the first doing-
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Then came the rain-pocalypse. At around three in the morning on Sunday the sky just opened up. Pouring rain, thunder, lighting, the works. I thought that the tent would keep us relatively protected. I was wrong. There was a small leak where one of the supports met the fabric and duct tape only helped in keeping the water from dripping directly onto me, not keeping it out of the tent altogether. As the morning progressed and the rain continued, the wet spots pushed my girlfriend and I further and further into the center of the tent.
You'd think that being in what amounts to little more than an enlarged backpack, it would be kind of scary with it sounding like the world was ending around us and rain battering the tent like a run-away drum set, but I actually got quite a bit of sleep. I figured if lightning was going to strike the tent and melt us together we probably wouldn't feel any pain. Take comfort in the little things.
Though the area around us was pretty well flooded, the tent behind us collapsed, and the tent next to us's rain cover failed completely, we escaped with nothing more than a few wet spots on the air mattresses. The rain turned the ring into a disaster area, but I gained further respect for mounted games when I learned that the rain would not be deterring the day's events. (Unlike fucking baseball.)
Unfortunately thunder and lightning would and the Intermediate Division Finals were cut short in favor of making time for the Masters' Divison. The girlfriend's team was a runaway winner by a score of 208-155-141-130-88 (same order as above) and took home a pretty impressive trophy.