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mother of josh, richard, and mutt. lover of books, yarn, and the quiet places. spinner, knitter, kayaker, survivor, vandweller, warrior.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

mutt's petsmart adventure

i am not the only one who has adventures on the road. mutt has adventures, also, and not just by default of being with me.

since we hit the warmer weather of the south, he has been blowing coat all over the inside of the van. i hate dog hair when it isn't attached to a dog, or part of a sock, so within 24 hours of hitting texas, i was looking to get our boy groomed..... as in shaved. i tried to find a small grooming place, hoping to get a cheaper deal than petsmart, but it was monday and all the non-chain shops were closed. when i called petsmart, they could take him in a half-hour, so off we went, led to our destination by ron.

now, mutt loves petsmart, when it doesn't involve the groomer, so he was very crestfallen to see that we were headed for the chamber of grooming horrors. little did we know.....

i gave the usual instructions and contact info to the staff, provided them with his rabies and vaccination records, and left to go do some food shopping and to go to a car wash to vacuum the van. they said he would be ready in about 3 hours, at approximately 3:30.

around 3 o'clock, i received a call from petsmart, informing me that there had been a power failure partway through the grooming process. they hoped to have power back up soon, and they would finish mutt's shave, and call me. that's what is cool about living in your van, you are always home and can find stuff to do, even if it's just taking a nap.

just before 5 o'clock i drove to petsmart because i was starting to worry. my cell phone rang immediately after i parked out front (the orange kayak being a dead giveaway) and the groomer informed me that the power had not come back on yet, and they had made arrangements for mutt's grooming to be completed at another petsmart 7 miles north. they drew me a map, and brought out my dog. this is what he looked like.........

oi, eh? this was taken in the parking lot outside of the first petsmart.
but mutt is oblivious to the fact that he looks hideous. i mean, look at that smile! all he knows is that he's survived another trip to the groomers and won't have to go back for many months.....but little does he know......

the look on his face a few minutes later when i led him in, yet again, to another petsmart, to be led by another groomer to yet another chamber of grooming horrors...... he looked back at me with a look of such betrayal......i didn't know whether to laugh or cry. so i giggled. which clinched in the minds of all the bystanders that the woman with the weird dog was..... well, weird. remember, they have no idea about the aborted grooming due to the power failure. they probably assumed that my dog looked like that on purpose. it never occurred to me to explain.

two hours later, after a record 7 awful hours, mutt was brought to me again. they gave me a discount and a free leash, and offered mutt a free pigs ear, but he wanted to go home, and didn't stay to collect. he looked naked, but normal, and nary a loose hair fell from his coat.

mission accomplished? nah. twenty-four hours later, san antonio experienced an unusual cold snap, and mutt and i both were freezing. i was able to layer on the fleece and the longjohns, but mutt was quick to remind me with accusing looks that he USED to have a warm coat.
this is mutt naked. i can't tell if that is a look of abject suffering or he's blinded by the flash.
but just in case, i stuffed him in my sleeping bag. snug as a bug now! tomorrow, after some jerky and the temperatures climb, i think i will be forgiven.......

Monday, January 26, 2009

heading for warm

well, the first week of the trip has passed in a flash. i was determined to get to warm as quickly as possible, but did take some time to meet up with a few vandwellers on the way. i got to meet judith in north carolina, and she is sweeter and gentler in person than she is online. her place is tucked into a quiet piece of woods, and mutt was delighted with a little off-leash time there. i got to see bernie and mar again....i had met them at the mini vandweller convention in early november at john nomads place during my first kayaking adventure with michael. while at judith's we spent time touring and comparing our different rigs.....it is always such a learning experience and very inspirational to see how everybody is set up. judith seemed to like the astro rondyvan for it's compactness and good gas mileage. it sure was cluttered at the time from my frenzied pack job the day before.....

the next day i met possum in south carolina for breakfast at perkins. it is amazing how comfortable i feel with people i have never met in person before, having only established on-line friendships, but possum and i were yakking like the old friends that we were, chowing down and surfing the fastest wifi i had ever seen. it was so good to finally meet up, possum!

now the trip gets a little fuzzy here. i drove straight through the day and evening. it turned out that by altering my trip south to I-10, i would be able to meet up with phoenix near baton rouge. i know i passed through atlanta that night.....the skyline of the city was breathtaking. what i can't remember is if i made baton rouge that night, or if i had a stop in between. either way, i finally met up with phoenix at the tiger truck stop, where i had my first cajun food. it was good, except the part where he told me that the crayfish etoufe had frogs in it! ewwww. our visit was, as always, too short!
something about gas pumps makes people spit out their gum. look at this gum universe. i never see that anywhere else. this truck stop is called the tiger truck stop for a reason. there is a tiger there. things in cages really grieve me, and i had to be convinced by phoenix not to set the tiger free. the next morning, i was excited to see a sign that said "save the tiger" but when i got closer
it was nothing about saving the tiger, it was about saving the profits they made by having an exotic animal in their truck stop :-(
tony has never known anything but captivity in a tiny cage. he has no tiger family, no companions, no purpose. while i was there, he simply paced, around and around, in an endless circle to nowhere. it was a stark reminder of the gorilla in "ishmael" who banged his head slowly and endlessly on the bars of the cage, not knowing what freedom was, but instinctively knowing there was something else beyond this existence.....
i hate cages of any sort, but a zoo would be a blessing for tony, with more room to move and other animals around. i hope they lose their bid to keep the tiger in grosse tete.
okay, on to happier stuff. i was having a hard time keeping the kayak from shifting to the right and off the siderail of the roof rack. a little duct tape, and a hammer, and that baby hasn't moved in over 2,000 miles :-)
the "islands" in truck stops are mutt's oasis. we always park with the sliding door next to one, so we can look out at something besides asphalt. this one was in mississippi, and one of the prettier ones i've seen.
and finally, texas! in a truckstop outside of houston, i traded out my mukluks for my teva sandals! one of my first "vandweller" dreams actually involved a horse and saddlebags, where i would roam the west with what i could pack on the back of my horse. of course, i was in grade school, and mad to meet johnny yuma, but the same essential theme repeated itself throughout my life, trading the horse for a bicycle and panniers, or a stick and a bandanna, a backpack, or a van....it took a few decades, but i'm living my dream, and it makes every day kinda breathtaking.....

stay tuned, because on my way to austin, i stumble across my first cowboy and the coolest house of worship i have ever seen......

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

on the road again


i was going to wait for the spring. i really was. but i got cabin fever, and a small windfall that enabled me to pay off a bunch of medical bills, and it was suddenly a possibility to go again. fellow vandwellers sweet mike and my "numees" (that's sister in algonquin) heidi were anxious for me to join them. when ron told me the temps in texas, that clinched it. the pacific coast via san antonio would cure what ailed me.

then i was going to wait for monday. i really was. but impulsiveness ruled, and when i got up saturday morning, i knew i had to go. i had to tweak a few financial issues, and blow off an appointment with joe on monday, but i knew if anybody could understand the geographical cure, it was joe. and when i called him on sunday to say i wouldn't be in on monday at 11:00 because i was already in north carolina, he did. thanks, joe :-)

so here i was on saturday morning with two days preparation left to do, and about 4 hours to do it. my kayak was covered in snow, it was 2 degrees out, and a storm front was headed our way. i started cramming stuff into the van like a crazy woman........oh, wait! i was!

the rear doors of the van were frozen shut. i had to get them open to get at the cam straps to secure the kayak to the roof rack. i had to run the heaters full blast in the van for a half hour to get the doors open. the cam straps weren't there. my brother showed up and asked if i could wrap some christmas presents for him. ah, keith. he even missed russian christmas this year. ya gotta love him. they were the weirdest shaped presents i have ever wrapped, including some antlers. i am not kidding. they kept poking through the tissue paper. i swore alot.

i finally found the cam straps. got the kayak on the roof. stuffed the rest of my gear and the dog in the back of the van, grabbed my passport, and we were off. i was frazzled, and half-sick with anxiety. what a crappy way to start a trip. but i had an appointment down the road. i just didn't know it yet.

*************************************************************************************

i heard her coming before i saw her. she was sobbing, her breaths a mix of terror and exertion. i had pulled off the interstate around 8pm to let mutt go pee in some bushes behind a mcdonalds. she was barefoot, running in a crouch, with a trash bag of belongings and a purse in her arms. clothing spilled out as she ran, and i remember thinking that whatever was after her would track her by the garments, like giant bread crumbs, strewn along the pavement from the little motel down the hill.

"whatever" turned out to be her boyfriend, and he was going to kill her. please, did i have a cell phone? i could hardly understand her through her moaning and crying, but she wanted me to call her brother, and crouched down in the bushes next to us. when i got her brother on the line, he knew immediately what was wrong, and said he was on his way. the urgency in his voice was apparent. i was really scared at this point.

her name was sharon, or shannon, i couldn't tell through the sobs. her terror was palpable, and she kept saying "he's going to kill me" and "i'm so sorry", until she said" he's going to kill us" and i suddenly realized that i could end up like the victim in one of those news stories, gunned down in a domestic dispute, just an innocent bystander in the wrong place at the wrong time.

i begged her to get in the van, but she refused, saying he would see her in the light, "just get down" she begged. i pushed Mutt into the van and shut the door, then got down next to her. it was almost like i was outside my body, looking at myself calmly crouched in the bushes behind a mcdonalds with a woman who believed she had just minutes to live. i was terrified inside, but i remember leaning up to her and saying in a conversational tone "my name is katie, and that was my dog Mutt. he's a nice dog". it sounded idiotic as i said it, and she showed no signs of hearing me, so lost was she in her terror. as i talked to her, i hit speed dial on my phone. i wanted to let someone know where i was, if i died here in the bushes in some town along the interstate. i got ron's voicemail, and continued my conversation with her while speaking into the phone, asking her the name of the town we were in, and did he have a weapon? i was pretty fixated on knowing how we were about to die, but she never did answer me, just continued sobbing and patting her purse and the trashbag, in front of her on the ground, with the flat of her palm in an odd, repetitive movement. i was struck by the way she did this, over and over, as if to reassure herself that they were real and hadn't disappeared. twice she reached out towards me as if to touch me in the same way, but pulled back without making contact. i wished she would touch me, because i would have liked affirmation of my existence, somehow.

minutes later, her brother and his friends pulled up, and as they pulled her from the bushes, he clapped me on the back and said "thanks, lady". as they led her to the car, she stopped and reached out her hand and touched my arm, with her palm, much as she had touched her bags on the ground a few minutes before. "thank-you, katie" she said, and then was in the car and gone.

i felt for a moment like the velveteen rabbit, when he became real. there was so much love and gratitude in that touch, and i was deeply moved by knowing that after all, she had heard me there in those bushes, offering her all that i had. no real sanctuary, no salvation.... just my presence, no matter what comes. a friend had taught me recently that all we really need to do in life is show up. that was all i could do for her, and that was enough.

i shook for a long time, heading on down the road that night. i thought alot about the velveteen rabbit....how in the story, he becomes real only after he was shabby and tattered from the wear and tear of life with The Boy, after practically having the stuffing loved out of him. i felt really real that night.