Saturday, December 8, 2012

Rockin with River - A Road Trip through Washington and Oregon


Today is the day I take River on a week-long road trip. I have reserved a cheap car rental and have reservations at Motel 6 in Olympia, WA and Eugene, OR. I’ve also got some classes and workshops set up along the way.

My goal is to find a way to travel all over the country and teach my classes and see my clients without leaving River at home. He’s a medium sized dog (45 pounds) so he’s not going to fit under the seat in front of me in an airplane. I suppose some people put their dogs in the cargo area of an airplane. But so much can go wrong, and the dog can be fairly well traumatized by the experience, so I’m not considering that an option. Likewise with train travel.

A few months ago I experimented with traveling in a motor home. It was awesome and so much fun, but in the end, I determined that it was more like a vacation and less like a lifestyle. It was far too expensive and the vehicle itself was so cumbersome that it didn’t make sense for a long-term solution.

So this time I’ve got a little car. I packed the trunk with three days worth of food in a cooler, my clothes and River’s paraphernalia. He sits in the room with me when I’m teaching class, so I brought his crate with us. I also brought an assortment of leashes and harnesses so we can walk, run, ride in the car or do whatever we want while remaining safe and legal. 

Motel 6 is surprisingly pet-friendly.  They claim to be the very first chain that advertised as such, and they have pet-friendly rooms in almost all of their lodgings. They also have the best prices of any chain I have seen. (Or any individual hotel or motel, for that matter.)

So this morning, I woke up in Seattle and took River for his morning walk. I usually feed him a meal at this time, but because we were going to be driving today, and he gets car sick, I only gave him a few bites of my apple. I figured he’d be able to digest that quickly and have an empty stomach for the car ride.

After the walk, I set him up with one of his play toys with peanut butter smeared on the inside to keep him occupied while I went to the airport to pick up the rental car. Two hours later, I returned with the Ford Focus. 

Packing up the car was more of an ‘event’ than it seems like it should have been. It could be because I’m not quite used to it yet, but it didn’t seem like something that I would want to do on a regular basis. In my mind, I had the notion that having a car was going to be my ticket to freedom. I figured any time I wanted to go somewhere, I’d just throw River in the passenger seat and go.  But now that I’m in the midst of it, it turns out, it’s not quite that simple.

One of my main concerns is eating.  Since it’s just me and the dog, I can’t really stop at restaurants or grocery stores, and I don’t eat the types of foods one usually can find at drive-thrus. So my solution was to cook up a few days worth of food and store it in an ice chest. Then I’d only have to worry about shopping and cooking every three or four days rather than every time I was hungry. 

I spent a couple hours last night, baking three sweet potatoes and roasting a butternut squash. I sauteed a pork chop and two chicken breasts and hard boiled four eggs. I loaded the cooler with that and also fresh broccoli, kale, lettuce and celery. Then I filled the top section of the cooler with four apples, four pears, four bananas, two avocados and a bag of cashews. I also brought some peanut butter and a few granola bars for snacking. Of course I had to bring my special coffee beans and pack River's food, too. It seemed like a lot of work at the time, and I was beginning to have second thoughts about the validity of the whole idea. 

But eventually, I got the car all packed.  I worked up quite a sweat doing so.  So I had to take a quick shower before finally getting in the car and out of the garage. I mistimed my departure perfectly so that I’d be sitting in the maximum afternoon rush hour traffic.

River gets better in the passenger seat every time we drive. He seems more at ease with the situation, even though he does still get queasy. After driving for about half an hour, I pulled off the highway into a parking lot so we could get out of the car and walk around a little. And then we ran a little bit. I let him sniff all over the grass and the parking lot dumpster and we checked out what appeared to be the spot where the employees from the restaurant we were behind took their smoking breaks. After a few minutes of that, we got back on the road. We drove for another ten minutes before he started making that rhythmic smacking sound that I know so well. And he gets this sour expression on his face that lets me know “I’m gonna hurl”.  I told him, “River, that’s the whole reason we pulled off the road back there.”  But it didn’t make any difference. He lost his apples. (Curiously, even though I had fed him the apples five or six hours earlier, they looked practically unchewed and undigested.)

The good news is, once he barfed, he was able to relax and he actually fell asleep for the rest of the ride to Olympia. 

We checked into the hotel and went on a nice long fun walk around the grounds and around the block. I was able to feed him on this walk. We ran into a lot of hotel guests and he was very popular, making new friends all along the way. 

I was surprised and delighted to find that there is a microwave oven in the room, so I didn’t have to have cold chicken for dinner. I heated up a chicken breast and some squash and kale and cut and ate half an avocado with it. Then I had an apple and half of a granola bar for dessert. I washed my plate in the bathroom sink. 

So, I guess the first day went pretty well. I can’t complain about a little barfing, which was really the only thing that didn’t go ideally today.  I’m settled into the room now. River is sleeping in his crate. At first it seemed like he wasn’t going to be into it.  He kept asking to come up on the bed with me, but I didn’t let him.  I sat on the floor and cuddled with him for a while, until he got sleepy and went into his crate. 

Tomorrow we’ll take a nice long drive to the Olympic Penninsula and meet some new friends in Port Townsend. Getting an early start and not eating anything before hand will help River have a more enjoyable ride. 


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