La Mula Mil-part 2: Between a Mule and a Hard Place. January 16, 2014

This mule gives me the stink eye as I angle in for just the right shot.

This mule gives me the stink eye as I angle in for just the right shot.

Prospero Nuevo Ano  readers, I hope this finds you all healthy and hale. Our 1000 mile mule ride, La Mula Mil, is at the half-way mark now both in terms of time and distance. We have had some interesting challenges along with some amazing and heart-affirming experiences. The actual telling of the day-to-day journey can be found on our Facebook page, Twitter account, Olivia’s bilingual blog and in a more esoteric way, on my own wrrldgrrl blog. We will be producing a book sometime in 2015 as well. The articles I write for for this magazine are geared towards a business perspective, so I encourage you to read our other material as well to enjoy the rest of our journey. 

In our first article-Building A Team of Leaders, November 2013 we talked about how we had structured our leadership team to meet our four goals of: 

successfully recreating the Meling Expedition of 1963/64 as a 50th anniversary tribute

producing a coffee-table book of photography and stories that overlay the two expeditions

celebrating the people and the pueblos of Baja California and thereby promoting tourism in Baja California Mexico

raising awareness of and funds for our three favourite non-profit associations. Coins for Classrooms, Living Roots Baja and Mujeres del Golfo 

As of then we had ridden from San Jose del Cabo to Todos Santos and most of the way to La Paz.

On November 14, the entire La Mula Mil team of Trudi Angell, Olivia Angell and myself, ended up driving in to La Paz and spending two full days and nights there. Not only were we behind where we needed to be with the mules, but we were already behind with our writing and social media deadlines. We also had a meet and greet evening set up due to public request. As well we needed to get supplies for the next leg of the ride. It was a hectic two days, but we did catch up with what needed to be done in the city. Our time in La Paz though nearly came with a heavy price. 

I had less-than-willingly agreed to taking on these other obligations . My vision of the trip was more of a quiet journey, with just two or three of us; hiring a guide when we needed to, but doing everything else on our own. However, in order to meet the needs of the rest of the team, and quite honestly, to help fund it, we needed to run it with paying guests. 

This need to meet outside obligations, put me in a very difficult place. I had made a personal commitment to ride the Baja peninsula, to me that meant riding every mile. But I had also reluctantly and in some cases, after the fact, agreed to the other obligations in order to help make the trip work. And I take my commitments very seriously. Once I have put my mind to it, that’s it, there is no dissuading me. But now both of these obligations needed to be met and only one could be. I could either get off my mule and go into La Paz, meet the writing and publicity goals or I could stay on my mule and ride all the miles. There was no way of doing both. 

So, how does one decide between personal and team goals? As businesswomen, this is a choice many of us make on a daily basis. 

My own sense of personal integrity drives me to do what I said I would do. But I couldn’t do both. It was physically impossible. In the end, I chose to support the team goals because if I didn’t, I would be letting down more people than just myself.

This was a very difficult decision for me, especially as it was not my original concept of how it would be done. I was frustrated at having to let go of my dream of riding every mile, frustrated that I hadn’t stood firm on wanting to do it without external obligations, frustrated that having agreed to different terms, the technology required to do so, had failed us along the trail. And frustrated that I had to get out of my “trip head” and into a “city head” something I had not wanted to do. I had wanted to be one with the land I was walking, riding, sleeping on. I wanted time to reconnect with myself. I wanted to travel with these women that I thought I could get to know deeply and intimately. But once again I had agreed to do things a different way, a way that took care of more people than myself. So mainly, I was frustrated with myself: I hadn’t stood firm on what was important to me. 


In the meantime, one of long-term riding guests, Teddi Montes, our cowboy Chema Arce, our invitado (invited guest who may or may not have prescribed duties) Don Nacho Chiapa, and a short-term guide Neechee, had continued to ride. They moved the mules and our gear another 50 miles north over two long days of riding. Our usual pace had us covering about 8-12, sometimes 15 miles a day, not 25. They were running short on food, we were unable to communicate with each other and to top it off, Don Nacho’s two mules had run off and only one had returned. 

We all had a general idea of where we were meeting up so once they got there, they found a ranch with a corral and water for the mules. The owner wasn’t there, but hospitality is never refused to those in need, so Teddi and the vaqueros set up camp and waited for us to arrive. 

Late in the evening of November 16, Olivia, Trudi and I arrived. Trudi’s assistant, Drew was with us as he was picking up the hired help and driving them out to join other jobs or to have a break. Trudi still had to run her locally-operated tourist company while she was on the trail and this was prime season. 

When we got there, Trudi went straight to Teddi’s tent to see how she was holding up. As expected, and understandably so, Teddi was very upset. She was ready to leave the trip. This would not only leave us short of funding but leave us short of Teddi. Although I had met her on previous trips, I hadn’t gotten to know her well. But in these first ten days, I had really come to appreciate her and her passion for the area, and in particular her drive to drive to map the DNA of the original Spanish settlers and trace their descendants. And to top it off, she is a great horsewoman, skilled at working with the animals and teaching others to do the same.

We all gathered at Teddi’s tent and just listened. Thank goodness we had agreed on active listening skills just the week before, so we were able to actually hear Teddi and to let her speak until she was done. She was upset that she had been left out of the loop, and shared with us her secret wish to actually BE part of La Mula Mil. She couldn’t ride the entire length, she needed to miss the month of January, so she hadn’t shared this with us before. All it took was for Trudi, Olivia and I to look at each other and nod. Until Teddi had said something, we hadn’t articulated it, but for us, she already was part of the team, we just hadn’t really known it fully yet. 

We were able to end with a smile and hugs all round, our team was back together and ready to ride again. In our next Monday meeting, we officially welcomed Teddi to the team and after talking amongst us, it was decided that Teddi’s job was to be the wrangler and camp assistant when we didn’t have hired help. She took on the role of saddling and unsaddling animals, helping load pack animals and assisting with tents and other assorted odd jobs that cropped up over the course of a day. Teddi’s contribution was going to lighten the load for all of us, now it would be a little bit easier for each of us to work on our own areas of responsibility.


If this article triggers something for you, please do comment or share your experiences of balancing personal and business goals. We’d also be interested in hearing about whether you think our way of handling this challenge was uniquely female or simply human.  


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