Friday, April 26, 2013

Home Sweet Home

We went to bed early last night and slept in this morning. I guess we were tired. We slept until about half an hour before checkout time, so I had to pack up the car quickly. Fortunately, I’d been doing it almost every day for a month, so I was pretty good at it by now.

I had just finished loading the car and we were coming back from our trip to the grassy area behind the motel, when the maid came out holding my glasses. I guess I had left them on the bed. 

We drove out of town and headed home. 

As I crossed over the river into Washington State, I was reminded how beautiful it is. It is such a green area. Green everywhere.

The drive wasn’t too long today; only about three hours, which is perfect.

I was surprised at how non-plussed River was at our arrival home. He simply settled into one of his favorite spots and rested.  Although, you'd think after being constant companions for about four weeks, he'd want to venture more than two feet from me after arriving home. But no, he's determined to be right under my feet as I put everything away and get cleaned up and settled in.

The whole trip ended up being just over 3600 miles. I learned a lot about how to travel; and a lot of stuff I did right this first time. The biggest lesson is in keeping those driving days shorter and allowing a lot of time to stop and see the sights. 

In five days I leave for New York. This will be a flying trip. But then, in June, we’ll hit the road again. I’m already starting to plan that trip and set things up for our tour of the Mountain Region states.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

PDX Redux

Drive, drive, drive, drive, drive. Geesh.  Yesterday and today seemed really long. I think I’m getting a bit weary of all the driving. When I plan these trips, I have to remember, even though it may not seem like much, there’s a big difference between a four hour drive and a six hour drive. I do much better with the four hour drives. I think River gets a little frustrated, too. On the longer driving days, we sometimes have to have a little discussion before he’ll get back in the car. 

Anyway, as I said, we drove today. Woke up in Medford and didn’t waste any time getting the car packed and on the highway. I stopped at a Starbucks a few minutes into the drive, and left River in the car. He was still seat-belted, and the windows were half open. I could see him in a reflection, but he didn’t see me.  So I got to observe his behavior in my absence. To my delight, he just sat there, looking around, seemingly calm.

I contacted a friend I had made in Eugene and told him we were driving from Medford to Portland and would be in his area around lunchtime. (dropping a major hint, which he immediately picked up on and invited us over for lunch). 

River was playing with Akiel, Bob’s greyhound.  A few weeks ago, he was playing with this same dog in his typical, dominant assertive way, but today he was much more playful and interactive.

At one point, I was feeding River his kibble by hand, like I often do, and I offered some of it to Akiel. Bob says Akiel doesn’t like any food and he can’t get him to eat. I wanted to see if he’d like this stuff. River sat patiently and watched me give it Akiel. And he wasn’t quick, either. He smelled it first and then verrrrry slowwwwly took it into his mouth and chewed it. It was a fun lunch. They played very nicely together. The first time we had visited, they eventually had to be separated.

Bob made a salad and some pizza, we ate and visited for a bit, but we both had busy days, so we didn’t linger long. I got back on the road within an hour and a half.

And drove drove drove some more.

We hit some stop and go traffic about three miles from the motel in Portland, so I got off the highway and followed the city streets the rest of the way. I figured, if I’m going to be going 30 MPH the whole way, I at least want to pass things more interesting than more cars on a highway.

I had the possibility of a Nia teaching / coaching gig here in Portland, but I don’t see any evidence of it materializing, so I may just have a night off, which is fine, because ever since I ate that pizza, I’ve needed a nap in the worst way. NOT a good thing when driving down I-5.

I don’t know if I mentioned this, but when I was sitting at the Marine Corps benefit car wash, just south of Laguna Beach, it took longer than I thought it was going to. So I took the opportunity to get finally get connected to Syrius Radio. Thumper came from the dealer with a one year free trial to Syrius, but I had never gotten it hooked up, as I was always so busy trying to figure out the rest of the car, (or driving) when I was in it.

So I was first listening to a station called Alt Nation. So it seems that in the 90’s, after New Wave had , there was a new genre called Alternative Rock.  And I actually like some of it. Weezer, The Goons, and there are others but I can’t remember. I don’t know if those are new bands or 90’s bands to be honest, but the DJs were introducing songs by saying “here’s new music from...”

But then it all started sounding the same, so I switched to First Wave. Which was New Wave music, but I guess it’s not ‘new’ anymore? Remember?  that FIRST WAVE? “you mean that one in the 80’s?” Richard Blade was a DJ. Remember him? He was that British celebrity DJ on KROQ.

Then one JD announced that Cheech and Chong were being interviewed on channel 99, and she hoped that I stayed on that station, but if I wanted to go over there, she’d understand. So I went and listened to it. It was interesting. They were actually pretty amazing. They talked about how important it was to keep in good shape and how comedy was like jazz music. They’re very intelligent and were way ahead of their time. They were the first to discover Jim Belushi, Dan Ackroyd and Paul Reubens.

And when that was over, this comedy station started playing bits of stand up comedy routines. Hilarious.

Anyway, I think I like Syrius radio so far, but only when the windows are rolled up.

I can’t hear the radio very well when the windows are down and I love to have them down. I spend a lot of time on the highways going 55 - 70 MPH and the wind going by can be pretty rip-roaring. I wish I could have the insular silence of rolled up windows with the fresh air and brightness of the windows rolled down. 

There is a bit of a thump, in the car, in certain circumstances. Depending on what speed Thumper is going, and which windows are up or down, the air pockets get very violent and make a huge, bass-y thump until one of the conditions change. I can actually feel the thump in my eardrum tissue.  

And another thing I think I’d change is the roof. It’s just a preference, but I don’t think I like having a glass roof. I believe that the sun’s damaging rays still get through glass, even though it doesn’t look bright or feel hot, so on a full day of driving, I am basically sitting out in the sun all day long if it’s not cloudy. I like having the option to open it up, but I think that when I do close it, I want it opaque. 

I love cruise control and am getting better at it. All the controls, in general seem to be coming naturally, but there is still one lever on the steering wheel I haven’t explored.

I’ve improved my gas mileage. it’s now averaging 29.5 MPG. I noticed that when I drove on a long stretch of I-5 that had a 70 MPH speed limit, after a while my average dropped to 29.4 MPG. But other than that, it seems to be mostly tied to how much I drive on the highway versus driving around through towns and traffic.

I still sometimes grab for the stick shift for a split second. Not all the time. And not even that often. But I’ve done it at least twice on this trip.

I’ll be so glad to be rid of that temporary license plate taped to the back window and get my real plates. It’s almost been taken away by the wind many times.

River and I went for a walk to the park as I was writing this. He gets that look sometimes that I know means, he wants to go do something. And I figure since he’s so patient with all the sitting around in the car all day thing, I could stop and take him for a little play time. We’re still keeping off of the leg as much as possible, but the kid has so much energy to run off, it’s really hard to completely rest.

I took him to a local park and put on the long leash and let him sniff every tree and mark some of the best ones.  A couple of places even warranted a few scrapes with his back legs. A young pup spied us from across the park and came running towards us, dragging his leash behind. I could see in both of their body language that we had two alpha dogs. But this pup was half River’s size, and obviously very young, so I was curious what would happen. River sized it up and then deferred to the pup’s innocence and took off running. I could sense that River wanted to stay and fight, but his sense of maturity took over and he thought it best to let the pup think he’s tough. 

We tried to play running games, but the pup was interfering. Finally the owner noticed that her dog wasn’t with her and called out, “Bossy! Bossy!” A perfect name for what is going to grow up to be a very dominant dog.

After the park, I had a delicious take out dinner from a pub called Mac Menamuns.  I got the BBQ pork shoulder sandwich and a cobb salad. And I never ate the chocolate bread I got with my coffee at Starbucks this morning, so I ate that for dessert. 

Looking forward to heading home tomorrow.

The Long Road to Medford

We didn’t waste any time in San Rafael this morning because it was going to be a long day of driving. We stopped to get some coffee on our way out of town.

We drove for less than an hour before I wanted to stop at a vista point in Sonoma County. I also returned a phone call and set up an appointment for later that afternoon in our destination, Medford, Oregon.

We stopped at a rest area after driving for about three hours. It was time for lunch. I had the rest of the delicious meal I had ordered for dinner the night before at a place in San Rafael called Sol Food. It was a Puerto Rican restaurant and it was yummy. It filled me up last night to the point where I still had enough left over for lunch. And it was even still yummy cold the next day.

And then we got back on good old I-5 and drove and drove and drove. I can’t describe how profound it was when, at some point, the direction on my navigation said, “In 306 miles, turn left.”  Just to know that I was going to be driving for five hours on the same road gave me such a sense of ease and simplicity. 

We stopped at another rest area for a quick pee break but basically we didn’t stop much until I needed to refill the tank.

Just under the majestic and gorgeous snow-covered Mount Shasta, we rolled over the 3000 mile mark for this trip. Shortly afterward, we stopped in a town with the lovely name, Weed, for a gas refill and to clean the bug guts off the windshield.
Thumper and Mount Shasta as seen in Weed, California

At this point, we had been driving for about five hours and I had a hard time convincing River to get back into the car.  He just wanted to walk around sniffing trees. I promised him there would be trees to sniff in Medford, so he finally got in the car. And we were off again.

We arrived in Medford at about 4:30. I called my potential client and he came right over. He directed me to a great place to eat called Marco’s Pepper Grill. I got some jambalaya and cole slaw and some bread pudding and I was in heaven as I ate it. I’ve been lucky to find such incredible food of late.

I did my laundry and paid some bills. I answered my emails and then I went to bed. Tomorrow we head up to Portland.

Monday, April 22, 2013

Driving North and ROCKIN in San Rafael

According to Google Maps, today’s trip would take about 6 1/2 hours. my tendency is to make a lot of stops and to take scenic routes, so I usually increase the time stated by Google by about 25%, which would put me at about 8 hours. So I wanted to get an early start.

I had packed up and showered the night before, so as soon as I woke up, I brushed my teeth and checked out and we hit the road before 9am.

We drove for about an hour and a half before I realized, I didn’t have my coffee that morning. So I got out my Urban Spoon and found the nearest Starbucks. The stretch of highway 101 that I was on wasn’t offering anything in the way of businesses, so the nearest one was about twenty minutes east in a town called Lompoc.

River waited in the car while I got my coffee. It was hot in Lompoc. I can see how it could get really uncomfortable for a dog in a car really fast. Without the moving air, there’s nothing to cool himself with. Luckily I was in and out fast and, after checking my trusty Gas Buddy, I found that the cheapest gas in the area was on the same block, so I quickly filled up before getting back on the road.

We drove for another couple of hours until I had to pee ferociously. And even then, it was a good 45 minutes before the next rest area. By the time we passed Paso Robles, we were in the midst of the 90 degree heat of the San Joaquin Valley where were stopped and had a picnic in the sun. I spread some more avocado and this time added kale to the cauliflower on top of the pizza. It was a wonderfully refreshing and filling lunch. River drank from the tupperware container that used to hold the ice in the cooler but was now full of cold water. I laid the blanket down under the table so he could chill out while I ate. We hit the men’s room and then got back in the car for more driving.

Once we got around San Francisco, the fog returned and the temperature dropped a good twenty degrees to a comfortable mid 70s. We hit some traffic, but not as bad as LA. River got to drive over the Golden Gate Bridge for his second time, and was interested in all of the sights and smells as we drove through the city of San Francisco.

It was about 5:30 pm when we finally got to the motel room in San Rafael, so I was right in my estimation of about eight hours. I had all of these avocados still, so I used three of them and mashed them up into some finely chopped cauliflower, broccoli and kale. It was pretty good, but I would have loved to add something spicy. I was kicking myself for not saving the red chili flakes from last nights’ pizza delivery. But the good thing was a chocolate bar given to me by one of the FreeDance students. It was the perfect topper to the day. 

I don’t know why driving makes me feel worn out. I think it’s because of having to pay so much attention for so long, without a break. It is mentally exhausting. But I have no obligations for the rest of the evening, or for tomorrow.  I have a Nia class to teach at Move Me studio, and then a client who needs a massage after class at 8pm. Until then, I have nothing to do and have decided to go to bed early. 

The next morning I woke up to glorious sunshine streaming in the window on my naked butt. I guess the motel guests got a free show. I helped myself to the Motel 6 free coffee, but I’m noticing lately, that this coffee is terribly weak and has a strange flavor. Even at FREE, it’s not really worth the price. I have been visiting Starbucks the past few mornings, and this morning will probably be no exception.

And unless I want to have avocados for breakfast, I’ll have to find something else to eat out there. Since I had avocados for lunch and dinner yesterday, I kind of don’t want them. I only have two left; I wonder if I’ll get to them before they go bad.

We took a little drive to Starbucks and met a woman who wanted to stop and pet River.  She sat down next to me and we talked like we were old friends. The guy at Starbucks who helped me was also very, very friendly, telling me I ordered the best sandwich in the place, that he was going to have one on his next break, and he loved my shirt. (Angry Mickey Mouse). I asked the woman about local parks and she directed me to a nice waterfront park called Pickle Wood Park.

River and I took a walk on a trail that bordered the bay? lake? lagoon? slough? Let’s just say it was a big body of water and we had a good walk and even a little bit of a roll in the grass. I was observing River as he walked and there was no sign of any limp at all.

On the way back to the motel, I stopped to fill up with gas and was given attitude for not having my shirt on. But that’s something I’m used to. One of the burdens of being a shirtless kinda guy.

Back at the motel room, I had a client come over for a massage, and afterwards, I went to check my phone and noticed that the battery had died and I couldn’t find my charging cord anywhere. So I made a quick trip to Radio Shack to replace it.

Funny enough, Radio Shack is only a few doors down from the Move Me studio, where I’ll be teaching tonight, so I dropped in and chatted with Sarah and she told me about an organic cafe with outdoor seating that was just a block away, which saved me from a lot of searching around.

I had a delicious chicken curry wrap and then went back to my room to relax and prepared to ROCK in class.

I had a great time bringing my ROCKIN routine to San Rafael. There were quite a few Nia newbies in the room, so it was fun to bring them kind of a different flavor of Nia. We got sweaty, we laughed, we played air guitar.

Then I came back to the room and showered off, had another massage client and went to bed.

Freedancing in Ventura (and River becoming more car-confident)

It was a warm morning in San Diego as I packed up the car once more. River decided that he didn’t want to make all of the trips between our room and the car to load all the luggage and stuff, so when he refused to get back out of the car, I just let him stay there. It was the first time he was in the car by himself, and I love that it was his idea. I had to make about three more trips, and he sat watching me as I came and went.

Finally the car was loaded and we hit the road. It took a while for me to adjust to finding the northbound freeway entrances. So far I’d always been coming south.

We weren’t going to cover a lot of miles as the crow flies, today, but because I wanted to make a point of passing through the beach cities, that added some time. Driving through Los Angeles was a huge buzz kill. The traffic was thick and the air was hot and sticky.

As soon as I could, I transfered over to the Pacific Coast Highway and then I was able to enjoy such cities as Laguna Beach, Seal Beach, Newport Beach and Venice Beach.

By the time we hit Venice, I was hungry for lunch and I had to make a bathroom break (and I’m certain River did, too). Unfortunately, the city of Venice Beach wasn’t too accommodating to car drivers just passing through. It’s a city of tight streets and inadequate parking. The only lot I saw was asking for $30 to park, so I didn’t stop. I do love the city, though. It’s such a funky place and everyone is so unique and putting themselves on display. I wish I could have stopped and showed River off. He would have loved Muscle Beach. 

After coming up empty as far as beach parking, I saw a dog park on the way out of town.  But, again, the parking was non-existent, so I didn’t stop.

We kept going until finally, driving through Santa Monica, I found an open spot next to a parking meter with a park right across the street!  Perfect. The only drawback was that the limit on the meter was 20 minutes. So, I grabbed a blanket and my cooler, dropped 50 cents into the meter and crossed the street for the fastest picnic in the world. We returned to the car with four minutes still left on the meter. I got to eat, and River got to pee, so we took care of the majority of our issues. My bathroom break could wait a bit longer.

Right about Malibu we hit some pretty serious fog and the weather completely changed. The temperature dropped and the sun was blocked by a grey haze. It remained that way all the way into Ventura, which was foggy on the coast (near where our motel room was) but sunny as you went inland.

For dinner, I had no microwave in this room, so I combined a bunch of raw vegetables from the San Diego farmers markets with some Thai spare ribs I picked up at a local restaurant in Ventura. I called ahead and went to go pick it up. Since River had already shown that he was OK waiting in the car, it was no issue.

In the morning, we took a walk to the beach together. I’m still resting his leg, so all we did was walk to the edge of the water, stand there for a while contemplating the vastness and infinite beauty of life and sniffing some rocks, and then walk back to the room.

I had breakfast at Starbucks, utilizing River’s newfound coolness with waiting in the car. His new level of comfort with the car has really opened up a lot of possibilities for me. I’m glad he finally made that leap of faith.

I arrived at Kate Nash’s beautiful studio called Cosmotion: A Nia Studio about half an hour before noon. River immediately made his first impression by taking a leak on her gorgeous floor. I quickly rushed him out the front door and amazingly, he stood there as I grabbed some towels and mopped up his accident. Kate then took over the cleaning duties with her rubber gloves and a spray bottle of bleach, while I took River out to a nearby tree to finish the job. I love that he was just standing outside the door waiting for me.

During the FreeDance Playshop, River slept quietly in his crate. Most of the ladies loved him, but there was one woman who, upon seeing River, changed her mind about attending and left rather ceremoniously. Kate told me later that she does everything ceremoniously. I figured it was for the better that she wasn’t there. 

As it was, the playshop was awesome. Kate’s got a really eager and talented group of Nia dancers, and as it always is, it was such a thrill and a joy to see the transformation of this group as the FreeDance Playshop unfolds.

By the end, they were asking if I could move to Ventura. LOL. But we settled on my promising to come back and teach another playshop as soon as I can. Since my 2013 is pretty full, I’m thinking probably another west coast tour in 2014 is in order.

I ordered a cheese pizza with jalapenos and had it delivered to the room. I chopped up a bunch of raw cauliflower and spread some ripe avocados over each slice. Yum, it was good. I couldn’t finish the whole medium pizza. Usually I can, but I think the avocados were filling me up. So I put the remaining three slices in some tupperware, restocked the cooler with ice and was all set up for lunch tomorrow.

That night I slept like a rock. A good day of Nia dancing will do that. Tomorrow is a big driving day.

Saturday, April 20, 2013

The Turnaround Point: Way Down South

After dropping Zeke off at Long Beach airport, River and I were off to find a farmer’s market. I checked the Internet and found a listing of San Diego area farmer’s markets that were open on a Friday.  I called ahead to inquire about dog friendliness and got the go ahead, so I drove to Fallbrook to buy some vegetables.

On the way to Fallbrook (just outside of Temecula, California) we rolled our trip odometer over the 2000 mile mark.

At Fallbrook, the produce selection was disappointing. There were only two stands devoted to actual farmers. The rest were arts and crafts. I didn’t want any mushrooms, so I was only looking at one stand. He had some great kale and Swiss chard. I got some of each. On the way back to the highway, I passed a guy selling bags of avocados for $5, so I couldn’t resist that.

My next stop was actually the southernmost point of our trip: Imperial Beach. There was a Friday farmers market there, too. Right on the beach. I picked up some broccoli and cauliflower and bought a raspberry bar for dessert. River and I stood on the promenade and shared a head of broccoli in the sunshine. 

By this time, I was pretty hungry and ready for lunch. So I drove into San Diego and checked into the room so I could make a salad with the greens, some carrots and celery I still had left over, and the tuna my cousin gave me, topped with olive oil. It was delicious.

After eating, we went for a walk and stumbled upon a great dog supply store called City Dog. I bought River a harness that fits him better, a super long 50’ leash for running in parks and beaches, and a nice collar that I can clips his registration tags to. And I got a leash that’s super fancy, made of hemp and the handle is lined with fleece.

In the evening, I had a massage client, who’s fee paid for everything I mentioned buying on today's adventures, including the cost of the motel room. And I still have enough cash left over to fill up the tank in the morning before I finally start heading back up north.

Disneyland Resort: According to River

DAY ONE: Disneyland

The humans brought me to a place they called “Disneyland”  They arrived half an hour before the park opened and we all went to the Disneyland Kennels. I saw them give $20 to a nice lady whose voice sounded familiar from a video my human has watched. We all went back into a room and went in. They laid down my blanket and gave me a bowl of water and my chew toy filled with food. I thought it was going to be a pretty great day.

But then, they surprised me by stepping outside the gate and closing it, without letting me pass through. I watched them walk away as they told me they’d “Be Right Back”. I called out to them, but they didn’t seem to hear me. I tried it again. And again. They just kept walking and then soon, I couldn’t see them anymore.

Eternities passed.

And then I ate my food.

And minutes passed.  And then more eternities.

I don’t know how long it was, but I didn’t like it. I thought the chain link fence walls of my cage looked pretty flimsy so I spent some time trying to chew through them. But then that nice lady came and sat near me, so I wasn’t quite as desperate. I stopped chewing and just sat and pouted for a while.

Another eternity was just about to pass, when I smelled them! They came back! I was so excited, but sat perfectly still, watching that spot where I last saw them. And then they reappeared! And they came inside the cage with me, but I just wanted to get out and try something else! They seemed to want to stay, and to go further into the room, so I followed them, exuberantly.

There was a place to pee and to run back and forth a few times. My human ran with me, it felt so good. And then my human put his hands on my chest, which lets me know I can release my anxiety, so I let it go!  I made crazy howling sounds and snarled and pretended to bite all over his arm. OOOO It felt so good to let it all out. I did that for a few minutes and then I was relaxed. I reclined on the humans, basking in our reunion. 
They fed me.

Then, I wondered what was going on in the kennels, so I hopped off the humans and headed for the door. They responded by clipping a rope to my head and leading me back to the cage where my blanket was. We all went inside and my human removed the ropes. I was sure we were all going to walk out together this time, but again, he blocked me and shut the door with me on the wrong side! I whimpered to let him know he had made a mistake, but he didn’t understand. They left again. I called to them. nothing.

I was so alone! I tried crying, I tried calling out a few times, but nothing seemed to work. I was getting the impression I was going to be here forever. 

Forever passed. 

And then again.

The nice lady left, and another lady came and sat where she was sitting.

Another eternity passed.

And then I smelled them again! I sat up and stared at the spot that contained them and finally, THEY APPEARED! I was so happy! And yet, the scene that I described above was repeated almost exactly. I did get a treat, though. My human had found a piece of bread and brought me some of that. ooooo how I love bread! And once again, I was fed, but left alone. 

After a few more infinite spans of time went by, the scene repeated, only this time instead of going to the pee area in the back, we all went back out the front and into the bright day with all the people walking in herds, in and out of gates. Children were running, playing, screaming and crying, adults were sauntering slowly looking haggard and smelling of fried sugar.

I was so happy to see real grass and plants and real sunlight and live people and to be free to run and walk and roll in the grass. And the grass, did I mention the grass? 

We walked for a good, long while and then we were back in our new home from yesterday. My crate was there, and all of my humans’ clothes. We ate some food and when it was dark, we slept.

DAY TWO: California Adventure

In the morning we started the day with another glorious walk. We retraced our steps from yesterday, which I love to do! We even went as far as those same Disneyland Kennels, met the same lady and walked back into the same long room. This time, the energy in the room was a lot less anxious. And I felt better about it, too, since I’d been here before and it wasn’t so bad.

But then, the humans surprised me again. I was once again on the wrong side of the closing door. I watched in silence as they told me to be good and that they’d “Be Right Back”. I was flabbergasted. I just stared at them as they walked back into oblivion forever.

The day went pretty much exactly like the first day.

When the humans got home, I heard them talking about the differences between what they called California Adventure and Disneyland. It seems that Disneyland garnered the use of words like ‘nostalgic, classic, detailed, fantastic, magical, unique’ and the California Adventure, words like ‘novel, thrilling, impressive, Six Flags, entertaining’. To be honest, I don’t know what any of those words mean.

But in the discussion I overheard, as I laid in my crate, they said that the California Adventure was more impressive than they had expected, and it was extremely enjoyable, but, that the next day would be devoted to returning to the classic, Disneyland.

DAY THREE: Disneyland

The day started out exactly like the previous two days, but it was cut short. On the second visit, instead of going into the pee and run place for some more food, we did the thing where we walk back outside and see all the people in herds. It was brighter and warmer, the sun was higher in the sky, and yet we were already making our walk back to the home.

As we relaxed, I heard the humans discussing something about their new discovery, the Single-Rider line. It seems that if you don’t mind riding the ride alone, you can skip waiting 60-75 minutes and get in this ultra short line that gets you on the ride within 5-10 minutes. The Single Rider line cut out so much line-waiting time that the humans found that they had done everything they wanted in about three hours less time than usual. 

I don’t know what any of that means, I just know that I like to eat and I’m so happy when we’re all back together. I didn’t sleep much during the day when I was in the Disneyland Kennels because I had to keep watching the spot for the humans’ return. I might have dozed off a few times, but not for long at all. It feels really good to sleep now.

Sometimes the humans let me lie in the bed.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Uncle Tommy and friends

Today started with a walk to the Carpinteria Beach. The sky was very overcast, but it didn’t stop us. I put on my shorts and my windbreaker and knit cap and we headed for the shore.

There weren’t many people, but it seemed like almost everyone there had a dog. Some we ignored and some engaged with us. In between meetings, we ran a little, fetched a little, and sat in the sand a little. I swear, I could sit on the beach and just look out at the ocean all day.

Eventually we headed back to the room to get ready to drive back into Santa Barbara; this time to meet my Uncle and his wife and some of their friends for dinner.

They also had two dogs. One of which was a highly dominant, large female border collie mix. She had TONS of energy and was actually a match for River, who submitted to her.

As the humans got caught up over chips and salsa and veggies and humus, the three dogs played roughhouse inside and out. This went on for about an hour until River finally had had enough. He attempted to let Violet know that he was done by giving her an angry snap, but she retaliated with an even angrier, “No! I say when we’re done!” It didn’t take long for this to escalate and finally the humans had to pull them apart. Violet was put outside for the rest of the evening, while River came to my lap to recuperate.

I was a bit concerned for his leg as the roughhousing had always made it worse in the past, but i wasn’t about to take away the fun he was having. He so rarely gets to play ‘full on’. And, as I suspected, as soon as all the dust settled, he wasn’t putting the foot on the ground at all. It hung off of his hip like a piece of meat in the butcher’s window. 

We had a delicious dinner as River lied on the floor nearby and after dinner, River limped with me back to the hotel where I met a client for a massage in my room.

It was a full day with lots of activity and we were both konked out.

Fortunately the next few days were going to be very easy on River and he would have lots of time to heal before we hit the beach again. The next few days will be Disneyland, and he’ll be staying in the Disney Kennel.

Re-uniting with Aunt Dorothy

I woke up early this morning so I could go to the Santa Barbara farmer’s market. I was still fairly stocked up from shopping a few days ago in Pacifica, but my Aunt Dorothy wanted to take me, so I thought I could get a few things but mainly go for the experience. She was going to take an exercise class and then meet me afterwards.

So I drove into Santa Barbara and saw the “No Dogs Allowed” signs at the market. I hate that. Why can’t farmers markets just be farmers markets? Why do they have to sell lasagna and candles and baskets like an arts and crafts show? I just go to support the farmers and buy their produce. I could go to a supermarket and pay a bit less, but I like to support the farmers. But when the farmers markets get too fancy, we’re not allowed to bring dogs and the point of the whole thing is gone. I say if you want to have an art and craft fair or a food fair, go for it, but don’t call it a farmers market if more than half of the things being sold aren’t grown on farms.


So it turned out that my Aunt slept in instead of going to her exercise class, so I just went back to my motel room and made my breakfast.

But shortly after that, I went back to Santa Barbara and spent the day with my aunt and my cousin. We talked about old times and deceased relatives. We looked at pictures, went on walks through the old neighborhood and ate some homemade enchiladas and banana bread.

River was mostly well behaved and kept the house totally cat-free the whole time we were there. At one point, one tried to sneak in, but River spotted him and spooked him away.  Strangely, though, he did growl at my cousin at one point. Jonathan was with us all day and River loved him enough to want to sleep on his feet, but after dinner, Jonathan took a shower and changed his clothes and when he came back out, River didn’t recognize him and growled as if a stranger had infiltrated our little party. Even when Jonathan held out his hand for River to sniff, he still wasn’t too happy about it, but finally relented.

By the time we all piled into the car to head to the beach, River was cool again.

As any good aunt would do, Dorothy sent me off with plenty of leftovers. It turns out to be a good thing I didn’t get the chance to buy any food from the farmers market or I wouldn’t have had room in my cooler for all of it, and probably wouldn’t have been able to eat it all before it went bad.

So now, I’m stocked up with some enchiladas and rice and beans and a whole loaf of banana bread (minus the two pieces I just ate). She also gave me a baggie full of carrots for River, because she was so tickled that my dog loved eating his vegetables. And my cousin is a commercial fisherman, so he added a jar of home caught and home canned tuna fish to the bounty. I have food for days!

And I just got a call from my Uncle Tommy, who also lives in Santa Barbara. He couldn’t come meet us tonight as he had previous plans, but he wanted to see me so he invited me over for dinner tomorrow night!

I had a feeling, even though I was going to be in Santa Barbara for four days with hardly any plans, that I would find plenty to do.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Return to Goleta

I was not prepared for how nostalgic I was going to get as I drove into Goleta. Just north of Santa Barbara, it was the city I lived most of my formative years. As we approached the northernmost Goleta highway exit, I was drawn to exit for no reason other than to drive once more on these old, familiar roads. I was still half an hour from my destination, but I ended up taking three hours to get there.

I drove down streets just because I recognized them. I followed Cathedral Oaks, Hollister, Glen Annie, Fairview, and many other streets that seemed like old friends. I drove past my high school and was flooded with memories and emotions. I was impressed to see a brand new performing arts center in a spot that I eventually figured out used to be a parking lot and extended driveway for dropping off and picking up that we used to call The Circle.
DPHS sign, with the brand new performing arts building in the background.
As I walked around the perimeter of the campus, I was struck by feelings of how young I was when I walked the halls. It didn’t make me feel old, but it did make me feel very wise and mature. It was strange how well I could recall my naivety of the high school years. I took River past the wrestling room, where kids were grappling away inside, and I took him up the stairs that we used to have to run up, carrying a teammate on our back, during some of our grueling practices.
So many memories in this building, my high school gym. That's the wrestling room on the left.

Driving into town, on the same road I used to walk, take the bus and then eventually drive to and from school, was also fraught with so many memories.

I was struck by how beautiful Goleta is. The colors, the landscaping, the sky, the architecture. It is all so perfectly manicured. I never noticed nor appreciated this when I lived there as a kid.

I drove past my junior high school, and then my grade school, going back in time and deeper into my childhood memories. I drove past “the club” where I used to swim and play tennis, and past some of my childhood homes.

I drove River to Isla Vista, which is a little mini-town that basically serves as a home base for UCSB. I spent many days and nights there. Every street I drove past held a boatload of memories. I had to park on the main party drag, Del Playa. This street used to be mecca when I was a boy. It was where all of the UCSB frat parties were. We used to go there every weekend, and just go up and down Del Playa looking for parties we could crash. But even if we didn’t find any parties, just being on that street was enough. Every night was like Mardi Gras in Isla Vista.

I parked Thumper on Del Playa and was going to take River on my familiar walk, but I was struck by how much broken glass there was in the street and on the sidewalk, so we turned around and instead went down the steps to the beach.

I was going to play with River in the waves, but after a few minutes, I was reminded of an aspect of the beaches that I grew up detesting; tar. Within minutes the entire bottoms of my feet were covered with black, sticky residue from the many off shore oil rigs that leaked into the water. It was something that just came as part of the gestalt of the beach when I grew up, and I accepted it as a necessary evil. But now that I’ve been to many other places and I know more about the world, I see the tar as heinous and sickening. I wasn’t able to stay. We walked back up the stairs and I sat on a bench removing tar from my feet. It was another trip down memory lane.

I got back in the car and continued to explore, until something very powerful and unexpected struck me. When I drove to an old home, on Dara Road, I parked to take it in. As I sat there in my car, with River in the passenger seat, I realized that this was the very image I had in my head when, just a year ago, I would say, “I want to get a dog and then get a car and drive him around the country.”  I was obviously inspired by a memory of living in this house, when I had my dog, Barney and my yellow Datsun pickup truck. I guess this new era of my life, with Thumper and River, was my recapturing those free wheeling days of my youth. As I sat there and took a picture, I was overwhelmed with joy and a sense that I am living my dreams. Simple, I know. But true.
River, where Barney once was

I took River to one of the parks I used to play in with Barney. And I took him on a hike in the creek. I was amazed that all of the sites were still there. Even the one missing rail in the bridge that allowed us to climb off the trail and down into the creek. We followed the banks of the creek to a place I remembered. I used to come down to this place just to be alone and explore bugs and rocks and nature and stuff. It was fantastic to be there again. I almost took a picture of a patch of iceplant where we used to come and drink beer, because I noticed that the plants were still tramped down like we used to do. I guess kids are still going there to drink beer.

I spent three hours just driving through my old town. I didn’t want to miss a street.

Finally, since check in time was at three o’clock, and it was about 2:45, I got back on the highway and headed for Carpinteria.

In between SB and Carp, there is a place called Santa Claus Lane. I loved it as a kid because there was a giant Snowman and Santa Claus on top of two of the stores on this lane. As a teenager and young adult, I learned to dislike Santa Claus lane as I was now able to see them as dirty relics of commercialism and not at all appropriate in a city called Summerland. I was glad to see that Santa and Frosty are both gone.

We pulled into the motel and checked in and I made myself a big meal and then we took a short nap. We ended the day with a walk to the beach. The motel is about twenty minutes walking from the beach, but we took the walk and were playing on the sand as the sun went down.

River had an encounter with a dog on the beach.  The dog was off leash, but River was on his 30 foot leash. The dog approached straight on, which is a challenge in dog language. The polite way to approach would be circularly so we could see the side of his body. River responded by going down into a play crouch. This is all fine. I watch River’s back for signs of distress. If I don’t see the tell-tale strip of fur standing on end, I know we’re just playing. The dogs interacted nicely for a while, until the other dog started to bait River. River was ignoring it at first, but before we knew it, the dogs were in a full on scuffle. I pulled River out and laid him on his side to let him know I was unhappy, but in all honestly, I don’t know that he did anything wrong.

Here’s the thing. In most cases, it isn’t River that starts the problems, but because almost all of his encounters with other dogs end in a brawl or a tussle, I have to deduce that River is the common denominator. River must have some kind of attitude or some energy that causes other dogs to want to attack him. Either that or he’s a big bully, and he’s skilled at hiding his goadings from me and at looking innocent when the other dogs finally lose patience. I hope he outgrows this before someone gets hurt.

Anyway, the beach was great. There was much less tar than in Goleta, even though I could see more oil rigs off shore. We saw a dead seal and I was glad that River didn’t roll himself in the carcass like Barney used to do.

We walked back to the motel room and chilled for the rest of the night.

Southern California: long drive #2

This was the second day in a row with a super long drive. I’m thinking I need to limit our drives to four hours a day. Those are the most comfortable; especially considering the fact that we stop at least every hour, dragging a four hour drive into easily six hours. When I was planning the trip, a six and a half hour drive didn’t seem like it was long, but in reality, when stops are included, it becomes a ten hour driving day. It might be fine to do once in a while, but two days in a row was a bit rough on me.

River handles it fine. At times, he likes to sprawl out on his seat and actually reach over and put his head on my lap. And at other times, he’s curled up in his round, doggie sleeping position. And then sometimes he likes to sit up and stare out the windshield with me. But it was only very recently that he’s discovered the joy of leaning against the door and hanging his head out the window. But now that he’s discovered it, it is becoming one of his positions.

We drove for about four hours before we lost the sunlight. We did stop at one beach for a little romp, but I tried to limit myself. It was hard not to stop at all of the beautiful places we passed through, including Davenport, Big Sur, and so many other parks, beaches and vista points, but I knew the more we stopped, the more we’d have to drive in the dark of night, so I kept driving.

I did have to stop in Santa Cruz, though. I hit some 5 oclock commuter traffic leaving the city. I sat in it for a while and then I concluded that it was stupid to sit here in traffic when I didn’t HAVE to. Instead I took the next exit and drove through Capitola to the beach. I sat and ate some of my food in the car and took River on a very short walk on the beach. Then I consulted my Mini Navigation for an alternate route, avoiding the traffic. She led me through town and deposited me back on the highway after the congestion had cleared.

So onward we rolled. We drove and drove. It was dark and the coast highway is not well  lit. It was all blackness and curves. My life was those reflectors in two rows (one white and one yellow) that defined the road for me.

Mini Nav said I was due to arrive in Carpinteria at 12:15. At about ten, I started getting road hypnotized. I found that I was spacing out for short periods at a time and I was struggling to keep my attention on the road. I was physically restless and mentally checking out of the driving process. I knew I wasn’t good for two more hours, so I made a decision to stop at the next Motel 6 I passed.

I entered it into my Nav System and she told me there was on in Buellton, only about ten miles from me. And as luck would have it, they did have a room available for me.
I checked in, we ate some food and crashed.

In the morning, I got up, refilled the tank, and headed for Santa Barbara.

Northern California: long drive #1

We woke up early in Eureka, prepared for a long day of driving. After our ritual morning walk and shower, we packed up the car and hit the road.

We stopped many times along the way, but some of the more impressive ones were in the Avenue of the Giants, and on the cliffs of the coast of the Pacific Ocean.

I had run out of food, so I got a bit hungry on the road. I stopped at a ‘town’ which was nothing more than a few stores in a cluster on the side of the highway, but the Thai Food sign caught my eye. I’m not very good at making split second decisions to pull over; and I’ve missed many vista points, turnouts and rest areas that way. By the time I’ve processed what it is and whether or not I want to stop, it’s too late; we’ve passed it.

But this situation was different, I was already slowed down to 25 MPH, as is the law in these roadside ‘towns’, and after seeing the Thai Food sign, there was a big, gravel parking lot a few yards down the road, so it was perfectly timed with my slow decision-making process. And the verdict was “YES! I do want some spicy Thai curry!”

So, I hung near the door with River in tow and got someone’s attention and asked them to give me a menu so I could make a to-go order. I took it and ate it in the parking lot, sitting in the back seat of my car, while River lied on a blanket in the dirt outside the car, waiting for my scraps.

The scenery was breathtaking and glorious, but the day was fading into night and I was still winding and twisting my way along the coast. It’s much less fun in the dark. I plugged on, and finally made it to my destination by about ten pm.

I drove through San Francisco and was pretty excited that River got to see one of my favorite cities. But he was curled up on his seat and didn’t care much.

I met my brother and his dogs at his favorite beach spot. We wanted the dogs’ first meeting to be on neutral territory to reduce alpha-dominant behavior as much as possible. It went well, so we all went back to his house.

It was great to see that part of the family again. My niece, Ashley, who is a completely different person in real life than her facebook persona (thankfully!), chatted with us for a while, but went to bed early because she gets up at dawn to catch the bus for school. And my sister-in-law went to bed, too, because she was feeling sick. So my brother and I stayed up late talking about all kinds of stuff. 

I was amazed to learn how much we have in common. Our concepts of spirituality are almost identical, even though we were raised as Christians. We both share a deep respect for nature and animals and we both have a dream to drive an RV across the country.

In the morning, I got up early to hit the farmers market, but upon getting there, I learned that dogs were not allowed. So I went back to Jeff’s house and dropped River off and made a trip to Safeway, the gas station and the car wash. While I was gone, my brother took this photo of my dog, waiting for me to return.

Jeff, his dogs, River and I, then had a quick breakfast and took off for one of my brother’s other favorite spots. This one was a park in San Francisco with a big cross in it. He was impressed that the cross was featured in Dirty Harry. We did a small hike to the top of a hill that not only offered the giant cross but a pretty impressive view of the city. 

River got into a scuffle with another dog up there, and in said scuffle, came out without his tags. I didn’t notice until later than night, but now he’s running around without his license.

River in the foreground and Oscar in the background. Oscar was the Alpha Dog of the house, so River and Oscar butted heads a few times; especially because Lucy, Oscars doggie housemate and friend, is blind and needs protecting.

This is the last photo of River with his dog license tags.  In the back ground is my brother, Jeff, his dogs Lucy and Oscar and some hippies having lunch.

I had another long day of driving ahead, so we only had a brief time at the park. At around three thirty, I was again packing the car up and hitting the highway. My plan was to take good old California Highway One (Pacific Coast Highway) as far down as I could.  Next stop, Carpinteria.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Another Beach, Another Injury, Lots More Beautiful Views

We woke up in Coos Bay and I was delighted to finally see the sun. After my weekend in Eugene, I was about ready to start building an ark. But the wet spell was broken, just in time for us to enjoy some really nice coastal driving.

We stopped at many places along the route from Coos Bay to Gold Beach. There are some breathtaking sights along the way. I could have stopped every ten minutes.

We stopped at a beach front park to run a little bit and have lunch. I made a salad in my pie plate and ate it sitting on a park bench while watching the waves. 

After eating we went for a little beach excursion, and I brought my camera:

It was at the very end of this walk that River climbed up on the top of a wall and then walked along it as it got higher. Then he jumped off on the high part. I didn’t know it at the time, but I think this is when he hurt himself.  He was limping pretty badly by the time we were in the motel that night.

Another stop we made along the way was a town called Bandon. They had an “Old Town” section of town, that I couldn’t resist stopping for. I was just going to drive through town, but when I saw some art sculptures that were so compelling to me that, I decided I had to park the car and go for a walk.
This is about seven feet high.
It was so impressive, I parked my car and got out to get closer to it.
These two pieces so impressed me when I drove by that I parked my car and got out to get a closer look at them. The closer I got, the more it became apparent it was just pieces of plastic. I got emotional as I stood and looked at it.
A seal sitting on a rock.
Both of those sculptures were made entirely out of plastic that had been collected out of the ocean.

It was sunny and nice out and the town was so cute, it was almost like Disneyland. We walked all over taking pictures and meeting people.
Showing off his striking red head harness
 River got lots of looks and compliments as we walked through the town and admired all the public art.
River has to wait while JAG uses his iPhone
 It was so nice to be able to take my camera out without worrying that it's going to be rained on when I take a picture.
River sees himself a farm dog

There was art on every corner of Bandon.

River is fascinated by his namesake
 We also walked out to the end of that dock that you can see in the back ground of the above picture. We couldn't go out onto the breakwater though, because one of us is a dog.
furniture? art? nature?
 This reminded me of a table my dad made when I was a kid.
River is especially fond of art on the ground

JAGs favorite was this squid
At one point, as we were walking through Old Town Bandon, River’s attention was suddenly and strongly pulled toward a group of four teenagers and a woman. I couldn’t figure out why the sort of attention usually reserved for other dogs, or cats, would be garnered by this group of humans. But then I heard the woman call out as the boys ran from her, “River, get back here!” and one of the boys turned and slowly walked to her. Later, I walked past the boys and asked the kid if his name was River. He said it was, so I said, “So is his!” Everyone enjoyed that.

We got to the Motel 6 in Gold Beach, and I was surprised to see that it looked like a chalet lodge. I was used to the typical motels that look like apartment buildings, but this one was a bit fancier, with wood accents and rustic touches. It was situated right on the Rogue River and looked out over it and the historic Rogue River Bridge.

It looks like there are some beautiful walks to be had around here.  But since both of us are limping, we decided to chill in the room.  River spent most of the evening in his crate, and I was here, at the computer, catching up on my emails, facebooks and blogs. I’d been so busy traveling, I hadn’t had time to be online.

Tomorrow, we’ll be sure to take advantage of this scenic beauty, with a nice leisurely stroll before motoring off. But we don't want to tax our legs too much, so we'll avoid a lot of running, and stick to walking and maybe some sniffing of things. We have a good chunk of road to cover tomorrow, as we want to cross over into California and end up in Eureka. It's a two and half hour drive straight through, which could take all day when you're driving through the Oregon coast and the California Redwoods.

I am going to need to get a driving hat. Today with the sunshine, and the roof open, I realized, I'll be sitting in direct sunlight. So what kind of hat would be right for motoring in a Mini?

The Eugene Weekend

We rolled into Eugene just hours before I needed to be at the studio to teach. I had enough time to transfer our luggage into the room, shower and eat.

The whole weekend of classes and playshops at Eugene were dynamite. I love teaching to this community. They’re so receptive and enthusiastic. I felt really good about delivering a good ROCKIN time on Friday, creating some Level Masters on Saturday and sharing my KNEE AH routine and helping facilitate some Super Humans on Sunday. 

Friday, after class, I met up with a man who answered my ad on Craigs List. He said he’d love to meet me and River and offered to make me dinner. He ended up sending me home with belly full of chicken and dumplings. He also made me a pecan pie from scratch and sent that home with me in a glass pie plate.

Funny enough, a plate is something that I forgot to pack. So i’ve been eating off of my acrylic cutting board and wishing I had something that would serve as a cutting surface and an eating surface and would be microwave safe. And, as if he had heard my request, my new friend, Bob, handed me that pie dish and said i could keep it. It was perfect. And the pie was good too. (but i didn’t eat it all myself, I shared as much as I could).

Saturday morning, River and I hit the Eugene farmers market and I stocked up on veggies and got some goat cheese. Then, after the Level Masters playshop, I met my friend, Katie at her house and we grilled up some salmon, chicken and beef and roasted some squash and ginger in the oven. We ate some of it and I packed up the rest in my cooler for the next few days. 

River tried to chase her cat, and growled at her teenage son and his friend. He was just lucky that our host was so gracious; it’s not like River wasn’t straining our welcome. But we got out of there before anything bad happened and I put some ice in my cooler when I got back to the motel. 

That night I couldn’t find my phone. I would still be able to teach in the morning, using iTunes on my computer, so I wasn’t panicked. But I was upset at myself for being sloppy and for the expense and inconvenience it will create. Especially in the middle of this trip. 

But then my friend, Amy, had the idea that I should call it. I couldn’t call it myself, because it’s long distance from the hotel room, but I put on Facebook that I needed someone to call my phone. My friend, Andrea did, and that’s when I discovered it was under the seat in my car.

Disaster averted.

This particular Motel 6 was unique in that it did not have a laundry facility on site, so my pile of stinky sweaty clothes was growing ever bigger and ever more ripe.

Sunday morning, I was invited to breakfast at the lovely home of Amy and Sara, who were also the producers of the weekend. I met Sara’s charming daughters and we had a nice fresh, egg and pea sprout scramble with home made biscuits and some veggies. And strong black coffee! 

River was being rambunctious that morning and besides chasing their three, innocent cats away from their own home, he stole someone’s chocolate from upstairs and ate some of it, and then peed in the girls’ bedroom. River’s timing was impeccable so that I had to rush to clean up after him and was barely able to make it to the studio in time for my Knee Ah Nia class. I was unable to give him the proper time to pee that morning, so the poor guy had to release his bladder again, inside his crate. While I taught class. I could tell that someone odd was going on, but I didn’t know exactly what it was. Oops.

After class, I still didn't know what was going on, but River seemed really agitated. In addition, the teacher and students for the next class were beginning to come in and a man's voice from across the studio was making River growl. I let him out of his crate and put on his head harness so I could continue to pack up and get out of there without losing control of him. As always, he responded beautifully and just walked by my side.

Some of the young girls gathering to tango seemed to avoid River as he passed them. After a few near encounters one of them finally asks, "Is he a dangerous dog?" I said, "Oh not at all. This is just a least that doesn't choke his neck." And I explained how it controls the biggest part of his whole body and I showed how his mouth can still open. Then they all petted him and were surprised at how soft his fur was.

So now, in addition to my stinky workout clothes, River’s bedding was urine soaked. Fortunately, my friend, Bob was able to have me over again. He made me another meal and another pie (lemon coconut this time) and he let me use his washing machine and dryer. He also gave me some aspirin and ice for my ankle and a quick massage to help me heal.

It was almost dark when River and I finally left Eugene on Sunday night, headed for Coos Bay. It was raining, off and on all night. The road was winding and it was dark. It was exciting. I was buzzing from the high of the weekend in Eugene and tired and ready to crash, but hopefully, not until I got to a bed. 

Obviously, we finally made it to Coos Bay.  River was acting very strangely in the room. As soon as we get into any room, he runs around and smells everything once. But in this room, he remained focused on one section of the dresser. It was as if something were behind the dresser or something that was there on the dresser had left a strong scent. And when I picked up his harness or his leash, he LEAPT up, ready to get out of the room. He is usually thrilled to go on walks, but I don’t usually see him so seemingly desperate to get out. And it wasn’t as if he had to poo or pee, because he had already relieved himself just a while before.

I have to admit, it was the first motel 6 room that I thought had a creepy vibe to it. It felt like the people who had stayed in it before, left some residual energy that we could both feel.

But I was tired. I made my food, cleaned up and just went straight to bed. I didn’t even bother packing River’s crate into the room. I let him sleep up in the bed with me. He has been sleeping in his crate every night, and except for the first two nights, hasn’t even complained about doing so. But since I didn’t have a crate for him to sleep in, I felt it was fair to let him up with me.

Twisted Ankle in Lincoln City

After Rocking Nia HQ, the following day was a day off. And we didn’t have to be in Eugene for two days, so River and I headed to the coast.

River facing the wind storm.
We stopped in Lincoln City and went to the beach there, where it was so windy that it almost knocked me over. Needless to say, River, who weighs a quarter what I do, was also being tossed around a bit. It was almost scary, but fun. We ran and ran and he chased his toy and we played tug-of-war and ran to the water. It was cold, so we didn’t stay in it. 

It was during this run that I injured my ankle. My driving ankle, wouldn’t you know it. On the top of the joint. It feels like it over dorsiflexed. Now it hurts to run up hills. It’s very red and swollen. I’ve put some ice on it and will elevate it later, too.

It was raining a lot, so we stayed in the hotel. I spent most of the evening putting together my final lesson plans for the weekend in Eugene.

I also soaked in the bathtub while listening to the playlist for the Nia routine Soul.

In the morning River and I walked to the local vet. Mainly because I wanted to get River a can of dog food, but also, I was going to see if the doctor was available to look at River’s toes. He has had what looks like it might be a wart developing between two toes on his front left paw, and while we were running in the sand yesterday, it must have grinded it up really bad and caused it to open and bleed. 

We got the dog food, but the doctor was in surgery so no one could look at him.

We just got back in the car and headed to Eugene.

I love driving this car. The lights come on when it’s dark and go off when it’s light. The windshield wipers detect when there is water on the windshield to keep it clear without my having to do a thing. It has cruise control. I can set it to keep the temperature at 72 degrees inside the vehicle at all times. There’s a remote sensor in the key, so I don’t even need to take it out of my pocket to unlock the doors or the hatchback or even to start the engine! There’s a feature called Ambient Lighting, that is a few carefully placed accent light bulbs that slowly rotate through the all the colors of the rainbow. The navigation system is so convenient. I love just driving straight until I hear her voice say ‘Prepare to Turn Left”. I only wish I could set it so that she’d have a British accent.

I feel sorry for River, though because the stereo system has such a booming bass, and when I play my music loud I can see him reacting with his ears. So I refrain from doing it too loud.

So far it looks like I’m averaging 27 miles / gallon.

The one thing that I don’t understand about the car is the SPORT button. I test drove them both, but I bought the Countryman S instead of the Countryman because it had a turbo engine and was much more responsive that the non S, which just seemed sluggish by comparison.

This is the first known picture of the three of us together. JAG, River and Thumper
So now I’ve got this button in my Countryman that basically switches on the S. When the dealer was describing everything in the car to me, he got to that button and i was confused. I asked, “So, what’s the downside to having it on. Why would I even not switch it on?”  He said he didn’t know. 

So, every time I start the car, I have to remember to engage the SPORT. Or I’ll be driving sluggish non S. Sometimes I’m driving for a while and I think, “gee, this hill seems to be fatiguing Thumper more than ....” and then I look and see that the green light is not on and there is no S next to the D on the dashboard. All I do is flip that Sport switch and my power comes zooming back. 

I wonder if that feature is just to continually remind us why we paid extra to get this feature.

Rockin Nia Headquarters, Portland

Last night I kept the window and the blinds open for fresh air and a sunrise awakening. But what I didn’t count on was River responding so strongly to the birds that started singing around 5:00am. So, even though he did sleep through the night without bothering me, he got up early and didn’t really fall back into a deep rest. So, we got up at sunrise and took a walk. 

I did a load of laundry at the Motel and caught up on my blogging and preparing for classes in the weeks to come. I had a guy come over for some body tuning, and then River and I took a long walk to a park to play some more. 

But the highlight of the day was certainly to come.

In the late afternoon, I packed up River’s crate in the car and headed downtown. Portland got me a little turned around. Like Seattle, you have to know the specific direction name of the street or you’re in a totally wrong part of town. So I accidentally drove to SE Yamhill St. and the studio is on SW Yahmill St. But thanks to my Mini On Board Navigation System, it was a breeze to get there, once I entered the correct address. WIthout the Nav system, I would be quite literally, very lost... often.

So I get to downtown Portland and start looking for parking. My idea was to leave enough time before class to take River to a park and let him run around a bit before he had to nap in his crate.  But it took so long for me to find a parking spot, that it ate up our park time. I parked and we headed straight for the studio.

River loved the space and was much more calm that I expected him to be. I’m glad he was. It’s a very special and important space for me. I often feel like I’m going home, in a way, whenever I return to this studio. And teaching here was such a thrill. I’m glad I had River to help ground and diffuse some of my excitement.

I was told at the front desk that there was a woman who was deathly and irrationally afraid of dogs. She was a regular to class but probably wouldn’t attend tonight because of the presence of River. But later I discovered that not only was she in class, and not only did she yell “WHOOP!” when Light My Fire started up, but she told the front desk afterward that she was amazed because River was a very well behaved dog.

THAT was music to my ears. Considering all the work I’ve done in helping River to acclimate to society, I’m glad to know that someone with dog phobias felt comfortable around him and vice versa. He was actually loose and running around off-leash before and after class; chasing his ball and greeting Nia students.

The class itself rocked. Often when I teach, I set myself a private ‘teacher’ focus. And my focus for this class was to “Stay In My Body and Breathe!” I knew it would be helpful to remind myself of that, considering how enthusiastic the group was and how excited I was to be teaching them.

It was actually a big day, and since we didn’t get a lot of sleep the night before (coming back late from my friend’s house and then rising with the birds), I caught up on some more blogging and went to bed early.

Thursday, April 4, 2013

JAG & River Road Trip: Getting to Portland

We woke up in Olympia. One thing I forgot to say about yesterday was that after my client left we had a few hours before having to be at the studio, so we went for a walk. I put on River’s 30 foot leash and we walked along a frontage road that separated a quiet business district from the highway.

We walked for about twenty minutes and came to a grassy field. It was a gorgeous day and the big stretch of grass was so inviting, so I made a little pile of my shoes and socks and the things from my pockets and I sprinted to the other side of the field. River was so fast that one point, I thought he was going to pull me forward on my face, but I kept up. We rested a bit and then sprinted back to our home base pile of things.

We had done that five times (and River was having a hard time keeping up with me by now) when a couple of trucks pulled up onto the other end of the field where the baseball diamond was. One guy started smoothing out the dirt and the other guy, in uniform, started setting up the bases. We made our final sprint back and I started to get dressed. By the time we had finished our last sprint, the baseball player had started walking over towards us, and by the time I was dressed, he was with us, playing with River and telling me about his dogs. River rubbed his back on the grass with his tongue out. I told him we were just leaving, but we were far enough away from the diamond that he said they wouldn’t care, he just wanted to meet the dog.

So that was yesterday.

This morning, I wanted to let River run out his energy before we got on the highway, so we went back to the beautiful park I saw from the front of the Motion in Balance studio last night.
Again, it was a giant expanse of grass, but this one was manicured and at the other end was a big lake and sitting on the other bank was the capitol building.

I walked River from the car to the park with his nose lead. I have SO much more control over him this way. He doesn’t quite like it, and keeps trying to shake it off or push it off with his paws. But it doesn’t hurt him, it’s just annoying because it gives me so much control so he doesn’t want it on. There’s no pressure on him at all when he’s walking by my side, but if he strays at all, it pulls gently on his nose rather than by the neck as a collar typically does, or by the chest, like the harness that he usually wears. Once we arrive at the park, I switch to the chest harness with 30 foot leash, but when we’re walking through an urban setting, I have him by the nose.

There was a picnic table for me to claim as home base, and I set everything down but the leash and a rubber, S shaped toy. He chases it and brings it back to me and then teases me with it. He holds it out for me to grab and when I reach for it, he shakes it around so I can’t get a hold. Its wet from the dew and his spit and it’s slippery. I’m pretty fast, but he’s faster. Finally I’ll get hold of it and it becomes a tugging match. I always try to let him win at tugging. I’ve found its more fun for both of us that way. But at some point, I can hold up my hand as if gesturing STOP. Or if I tell him to DROP IT. He immediately drops all the intensity, drops the toy and looks up at me. He watches casually as I reach down to pick it up and throw it, sending him chasing once again.
We entered from the corner on the right and ran in the big, center grassy area.
There is only fifteen minutes of free parking in downtown Olympia, and I didn’t have any change and wasn’t comfortable going into a bank that a don’t have an account in, with a dog, to ask for change for a dollar. So we kept the park time short and intense. He was very connected to me and it flowed great. Even as interested people watched us and children ran through our play area, he kept focused.

At the edge of the park, there was a very attracted dog shopping with his owner, across the street, so I lost River’s focus. I switched him back to the nose lead, which took a while because I didn’t want to force it on him and it was hard to get his attention from the dog to giving me his nose. But we finally made it back to the car without a parking ticket.

River slept all the way to Portland.

At Motel 6, you never know what you’re going to get. The way I see it, its just one step up from camping. Technically, all I really reserve is a bed in a room with bathroom facilities and clean linens. But I am a loyal Motel 6 customer for many reasons:

ONE: They are exceedingly pet friendly. It is a dog and cat and people motel. Every one I’ve been to so far has a big, grassy area with a few trees and some bushes and a section that’s all gravel and a dirt section. Not haphazardly done, but these elements were worked into the landscape. I’m sure it’s no accident. Because dogs have peculiar preferences, based on scent and then from the substrate under their feet. So to satisfy all dogs’ needs, they have all those options.

TWO: They are the cheapest thing going. And since I’m fine with going no-frills as long as I have the basics, its great to know that I’m getting the cheapest price in the area.

THREE: They over deliver. I find their system very efficient at check in and check out and the staff is always very helpful. Sometimes in the room, there will be extras, like a refrigerator (and I can give my cooler the night off). Sometimes they throw in a microwave (and I can have hot food). I’ve sometimes gotten two beds and free internet, or...  like today in Portland,I got a studio with a couch, coffee table and dining table, refrigerator and microwave, giant TV and a vanity area outside the bathroom, (which I love because I tend to use that as part kitchen/part bathroom) and free internet.

So we went to a nearby park for a little play, but he was more interested in smelling the trees. After that we crashed in the room for a while.

That evening, I got hold of a friend of mine who lives in Portland and took River over to his house. He has two cats, and this would be a first for River. He’s only had a few encounters with cats. Mostly they run from him, which he loves, and responds by chasing them. But this was going to be his first indoor cat encounter.

He wasn’t out of control, but there were a few times, as my friend and I chatted, when River lunged after one of his cats. I’m not sure of his intention, but I am quite aware of his capabilities, so I never let go of his six foot leash, except for one moment towards the end of the evening, when I was showing off all of River’s tricks for my friend.

That night, I don’t remember being nudged in bed at all. I had set the alarm to wake me up because when those Motel blinds are shut, it’s so dark, I can sleep until noon. And when I woke up, he was still in the crate. I don't remember being awakened at all. So.... wow.