Life Is a Long Ride
Drifter Passes Through Livingston and Bozeman on 16,000 Mile Ride
BY EMILY McKEE
After seven years travelling 16,000 miles, at 4 miles per hour with horse and dog, Bernice Ende, the Lady Long Rider, embodies a lifestyle reminiscent of Western history. She is a strong woman who radiates curiosity and love for life. An explorer, wanderer, writer, and influential woman, she has the perspective of a 21st century nomad.
Ende is currently on the last leg of a 6,000 mile trip, having stayed the winter in an empty barn outside Forsyth, and in early May travelled through Livingston (entering town from the East on Old Clyde Park Road) and Bozeman (leaving May 17) on her way to a cabin in Trego. Her team is made up of Claire, her loyal and fearless dog, and two horses, Essie Pearl and Hart.
The day she rode the Old Clyde Park Road, the sun shone from a blue sky in the fullness of spring. The temperature broke into the 70s, and Bernice's ride was graced by the wonder of a beautiful afternoon. After the photographer (who shot the photo above) remarked to her about the beautiful weather, Bernice said emphatically, “It's all about the weather.” Indeed, the weather turned just days later on her ride to Bozeman. Rain pummeled her dog, two horses, and Bernice the entire way. Temperatures at nignt settled into the 30s, and one can't help consider the courage required to embark upon and continue such a journey.
Ende was raised on a dairy farm in Minnesota, and riding has been an integral part of her life. She moved to the west coast in 1973, taught classical ballet, then for 10 years owned the community dance studio in Trego. However, her relationship with Montana goes much deeper. “Montana has been in my head for as long as I was able to think,” she said. “My mother, father and grandparents all had ties to Montana. As a child I paged through a black and white photo album my mother put together from the years her mother came from Minnesota out to Montana as an 18 year old looking for adventure. She taught school, married a local rancher's son, wrote and illustrated a book called The Little Gray Cabin, and gave birth to my mother before they all went back to Minnesota. My mother went to Montana after serving in the Navy to work at Glacier Park as a waitress, when she met my father (also from Minnesota) who was working as a maintenance man and wrangler at the park. So, Montana has been floating around in my head and heart from the get go.”
In Trego, Ende reflected on some of the things that brought her joy as a child, and one was horseback riding. Drawn back to riding, Bernice felt the pull of the open road and adventure inherent in serious riding. Her mother, Cornelia Ende, is an inspiration for Bernice and Bernice dedicates each ride to her.
“I grew up on a small dairy farm that my father's grandparents settled in Minnesota in the early 1900s. Basically we were poor dirt farmers and my father had little time for anything but work. From him I learned the art of improvising and the determination of can-do-ness. (He also liked to talk, got that from him, too). But it was Mother that added color, embellishment, remem-bered holidays and birthdays. She gave us music and encouraged us to look past the horizon. She was not an exceptional woman by any means; she simply had a heart of kindness and curiosity. She said 'Live your life to inspire others and you to shall be inspired. Inspiration comes from within, Bernice—inspire yourself.'” With her mother's words in mind, the open road calling, and with curiosity about the unknown, she embarked on her first ride May 5, 2005.
“Approximately a 2,000 mile ride from Trego, Mont. to Albuquerque, New Mexico,” she said. “Rode down to see my sister Mary Ann. You know I am not sure how it all got started, there were so many reasons that drew this hand, I think the bottom line was that there was a void and a window of opportunity, a moment that said, Jump—go now. It was an idea that sat down in my living room and screamed relentlessly, until I…committed to the ride.”
Taking on such an adventure, Bernice jumped in with both feet and found beautiful challenges and surreal opportunities awaiting her. Little did she know at the time, her first 2,000 miles began to unwind a path that would lead her to 14,000 miles more over a 7-year time frame, and she is far from finished.
Her second trip, May 2006 to September, took her 5,000 miles through the West and Midwest.
Her 2008 trip totalled 3,000 miles, from Nevada to Trego, MT.
In the fast-paced lifestyle we 21st century folks tend to live, Bernice has had the opportunity to spend many of her 7-years of long-riding moving at 4 miles per hour.
“Well, at 4 miles per hour, I can see between the rows of corn, the rich black earth from which it grows. I see thousands of dead animal carcasses hanging, caught in fences, struck by the speed of people. Deer, antelope, racoon, porcupines, dogs, cats, coyotes, cattle, rabbits, armadillos—you name it. The ditches are unmarked graveyards. I feel like the days and nights are not clearly defined, a week is a very long time.”
Bernice continues to perfect her way of living, as the draw of the open road always calls her back. Beyond the welcoming dandelions, the teasing horizon, and the drive that keeps her moving, people have been an important part of her journey.
“One of the most frequently asked questions I get is, How have people treated you? I feel that if there is a message in any of this—it’s that we are a country of good people, of cultural diversity and beliefs that challenge us to be free and open and to live together under one nation. That is not always easy. Well, it is never easy, but I meet such good people everywhere I go, people who care about their families and communities, people who are good neighbours and committed to their faith and friends. I meet intelligent young people who are eager and looking forward to the future of this country, this world. I remain hopeful.”
According to Bernice, small towns are the heart of the country and she is continually amazed by the kindness and generosity of the people she meets along the way. Sometimes she is offered a place to stay by a passerby, if not she pitches her tent on the side of the road or in a ditch.
Passing through Livingston and Bozeman in May, the last leg of her 2009 to 2011 ride, she will finish once she gets to northwest Montana.
“Bozeman, Montana,” she said. You get a Blue Ribbon award.”
“Bozeman has been....friendly. Exceptional Senior Center. Bustling, open air feel of the historical downtown. Huge fairgrounds; well kept and great location. Dog friendly. Bicycle friendly. Many small clean parks. Mountain views. An obvious commitment to the people that live here to create a quality community. What can I say....but Thank you I had wonderful visit... Happy Trails”
Ende has no phone, computer, credit card, or GPS. She stops at libraries and community centers where she connects with loved ones and friends and updates her website: endeofthetrail.com. With a personality that radiates she has met many people, and many who love and care for her, and who follow her journey on the internet.
Beyond a genuine love for what she does, Berncie has found that her experiences, insight, and perspective have created an opportunity to reach out to others through public speaking. More than just an animated storyteller, her adventures and honest determination have been inspiring to thousands, often leading them to pursue their own dreams, just as she has pursued hers.
“I do hope that in some small way my rides might in some way inspire other women to reach, to go past their debilitating fears, to seek out that which moves them. We are all on long rides, be it motherhood, school, marriage, jobs... Life is a long ride. How are you going to ride your long ride? That is a question nearly all of us can ask ourselves. I am a reminder of the past, a living history. To many the long rider is a symbol of freedom. Not a day goes by when I am not filled with gratitude; I know that hundreds of kindred spirits ride vicariously in my saddle each day. I have had hundreds of people say, I wish I could go for so long a ride, I have always wanted to do a long ride, or I wish I had done that when I was younger. Do not let life race past without participating in your own long ride.
Ende is hoping to arrive in Trego before the end of June. Next year she has her sights set on Canada, a 6 month, 3000 mile ride.
“No I am not looking at stopping this foolishness any time soon,” Ende says while packing up her things at the Bozeman Fairground.
Visit endeofthetrail.com to learn more about Bernice or email emily@endeofthetrail for information on Bernice's whereabouts.