The Big Sandy Mountaineer -

The Road Trip


February 2, 2022

Editor’s Note: Continuing story first ran January 19 page A5.

What could possibly go wrong?

If you read the previous article, you will probably have guessed many things could go wrong on this arduous trip. Before we could pull out of the driveway, I had hired some men to load the truck. Everything was loaded on except for some bedding. The morning of the leaving, I was racing through the house, making sure everything was packed. Getting birds and the cat into travel containers was especially fun. One parrot( Plato) clung with desperation to the side of the travel container giving ear-piercing shrieks. Fortunately, I had a towel handy and wrapped her up, and into the carry case, she went. Towels are great when getting a parrot to go where they don’t want to go.

We were loaded! JC had the cat in the back of the truck with the parrots riding upfront with him. Fortunately, parrots like to travel, and they can see the road from their cage. Cats, especially Pussy Gato, who was traveling with him, cried the whole way. I did not hear any mewing, but JC swears it went on for every mile for three days. I’m sure he was exaggerating! Shirley and I followed in a Mustang convertible with five dogs and a goldfish swimming in its bowl at Shirley’s feet. It was crowded, yes it was. Fortunately, all the dogs were good travelers, and no one got car sick. The first problem arose when we had to take dogs out for a potty break. All had leashes on, but they, of course, got entangled in the drive. So Shirley and I were trying to untangle leashes and stop dogs from escaping. “Don’t tip the fish over!” I’d scream at Shirley as she was trying to manage her quota of dogs from her side of the car. Tense moments. At one stop, Santan wriggled free from her collar. I later realized due to her small neck and head, she needed a harness to keep her on a leash, but all we had were collars on hand at this point. Out she ran, across the highway, having a grand old time. Back and forth, with me trying to slow traffic down so the darn fool dog wouldn’t get hit. I was just despairing of her survival when she jumped into the back of the car. She was ready for the trip to proceed. We sat back in the car, sweaty and tense, and friendly words between the two human passengers were not exchanged. I’m not sure what Shirley was thinking, but I thought she was pretty darn clumsy for almost knocking over the fish, and I sure could’ve picked someone faster with untangling leashes.

Before the trip, we had discussed driving, and Shirley had said she would drive part-time. That didn’t happen. It turned out she wouldn’t drive in the rain, mountains, or heavy traffic. She was also a new-ager, and I had made a strategic error in taking her to Sedona! If you don’t know, Sedona is a beautiful place with many beautiful things to see and do. It’s also considered a vortex for spiritual energy and has a thriving business of new-age paraphernalia, including crystals and pendulums. You can see all manner of spiritual practitioners such as psychics. Shirley, of course, loved it and purchased some crystals and a pendulum. Unfortunately, I later discovered the pendulum was to be swung many times during the trip. This was to decide whether we were to stop now or later, or was it time to eat, or would we survive this trip? Let us just say that the pendulum was overridden several times, and we damn well did what I decided. Are you surprised? This led to hostile feelings in the cramped car, but we drove. No one had a choice at this point; it was pretty much do or die.

Each night there was the motel dilemma. We all needed sleep; my god, did we need sleep. We had picked animal-friendly motels, but the question was, of course, how friendly to how many? One of us had to go into the office and book rooms. Both of my less than happy travel companions refused to go in and try to get a room with a cat, five dogs, two birds, and a fish. No pendulum was swung this time. Hostile eyes were trained towards me. Well, do or die, right? We had to sleep, and so someone had to do the dirty work to accomplish this. I thought a bit and formed a plan. I would go into the motel office with my two smallest dogs, one a little over two pounds and the other seven. I would look friendly and helpless, turn on the Irish charm. I just said,’ as you can see, I have pets.’ Big smile. I then would pick a room at the back. No one asked if there were more pets. Mission accomplished. JC did not participate in the nighttime settings. It was up to Shirley and me to take animals in and out and, of course, water and feed everyone. Organized chaos. One place we stopped had a room in the back, but it was up a flight of stairs. Picture two already tired women traversing up and down twice before bedtime with five dogs of different sizes and varying abilities on stairs. People had to eat too, of course. Slightly ill from all the Cheetos and chocolate bars consumed on the daily pilgrimage, we had to have something substantial. The animals could not be left alone, so I chose to stay behind. Shirley and JC would go out and eat at a table in a civilized manner and bring back food for me. It worked for everyone. Shirley and I had some time away from each other, and JC had someone with which to eat. The dogs loved the motel rooms. I will add that not once did any make a mess in the room, and when we left, no one would be the wiser about just how many were sleeping in the room. Shirley had never slept with a dog before. That changed. Not happily, but Koda, a largish Australian Shepherd, would not take no for an answer. He didn’t give a damn about pendulums either.

I had no GPS at that time and certainly no room for a map. As a result, we played follow the leader for 1,681 miles. JC was, of course, the leader. Naturally, some pit stops had to happen for us during the day, and most went by uneventfully. However, we were at a truck stop at one stop on the second day. We had to park on the opposite side of the building from JC. We were in and out of the bathroom when Shirley decided she had to get some snacks. In the meantime, JC thought he saw us moving in behind him and took off. It wasn’t us! We thought we knew which direction he had gone, but of course, we didn’t. After a few miles and no sign of the slower moving truck, I decided best to head back to the gas station. Indeed, he would notice we weren’t behind him, and he’d head back to square one. The cells weren’t working. There was much praying and pendulum swinging. Fortunately, he figured out something was amiss and headed back to discover us at the gas station. Thank god. I’m sure he was less than pleased, but he just nodded when he saw us and turned around. I followed closely from there on in. It turned out Shirley, and I were very different types of drivers. I was too fast, followed too closely, and was sure to get us killed. I offered her the wheel, but that was refused. We drove on; the atmosphere could not have been cut with a knife. Probably a good thing no one had brought a gun.

Shirley had offered some time back (when we were happy with each other) that I could stay with her at her cottage at the lake for the summer. This would give me time to find a place to rent or buy. I had decided best to rent at first and take my time picking a house to buy. I also wanted to be close to my daughter and be in a spot where I could keep my horses or at the very least board them close to me. As a result, I had no job lined up as I had no idea where exactly I would be. I arrived in Canada with plans up in the air except for Shirley’s offer.

What could possibly go wrong? Stay tuned.


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