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TRAVELS WITH ACE

“Travels with Ace” was a continuing account of the year Ace and I spent criss-crossing the country in search of dog-friendliness, people-friendliness, ourselves, and America.

Here’s what we ran into during the first six months.

Click the photos or links below for the full stories

 

Introduction: 

Ohmidog! is hitting the road … Restless, poor, unemployed and finished with THE BOOK, I — along with my two co-dependents, Ace and ohmidog! — am hitting the road. For a month, or six, or twelve, we’ll be traveling the country — or at least those parts of it that are dog-friendly and in the red zones of that Verizon wireless map …

Week 1: Southbound

May 25/Baltimore

And we’re off … The first leg of our journey around the country has begun — almost. There’s one more load of last minute items to drop off at the storage unit, then a car to reload with what Ace and I will need for our month, or two, or three on the road …

May 26/Winston-Salem, N.C.

First stop, North Carolina … What is it about moving day that turns an otherwise adequately functioning brain into a sieve? …

May 27/Huntsville, Ala.

All the way to Alabama … Your guess is as good as mine, but my guess is the person in charge of rest areas in North Carolina is a cat person.Why else would have they created this giant litter box, installed at an I-40 rest area west of Asheville? …

May 28/Decatur, Ala.

Alabamer glamour … When you get off the Interstate Highway system, the country becomes a far more interesting place. We finally did that today, leaving behind all the monotonously lookalike exits to get a taste of yet-to-be homogenized America, where some character still exists …

May 29/Florence, Ala.

Class of 2010 … Ace didn’t get to go to my son’s high school graduation, but we let him wear the cap for a while afterwards — stopping short of awarding him a dog-torate degree …

Week two: Around Alabama

June 2/Florence, Ala.

What’s in a Name? Ask Young Boozer … Does what you name a dog shape that dog’s personality? Will “Killer” turn out to be one? Of course not. Dogs, or for that matter, people, don’t always live up to their names, which is fortunate for Young Boozer …

June 5/Russellville, Ala.

Beware of the sleeping gas pump dog … Hopelessly lost in Alabama — a road map might have been a good investment — I pulled over at a sad- and sleepy-looking gas station, just north of I have no idea where, to ask directions. A big yellow dog was sound asleep at the foot of a gas pump. He didn’t wake up when I walked by. Nor, when I opened the door and walked in, did the proprietor  …

June 6/Tupelo, Miss.

Boston Terrier wins Elvis Lookalike contest … Ace and I have been avoiding all things Elvis — not easy to do when one is between Memphis (home of Graceland) and Tupelo (birthplace of The King). Still, I would be remiss if I didn’t pass along this news:  A Boston terrier named Boomer won the Elvis Pet Look-A-Like contest at the 2010 Tupelo Elvis Presley Festival …

June 6/Florence, Ala.

Big mane on campus …  Lots of sports teams call themselves Lions, but the University of North Alabama boasts the only live lion mascots in the country — two of them …

June 7/Cherokee, Ala.

A visit to the coon dog cemetery … Ace stepped lightly between the tombstones, paused to sniff a clump of artificial flowers, then moved on – past Flop, Train, Daisy, Black Ranger and Bear. He paused at the final resting places of Patches and Preacher and Bean Blossom Bomma, then sauntered by Smoky, Squeek and Easy Going Sam, whose rusting collar is looped over the cross marking his grave.

June 8/New Albany, Miss.

Dogs and the fine art of freeloading …It occurs to me – tooling down the highway tends to make things occur to me – that in my current journey, with my dog, across America, mooching off friends and family and, given the opportunity, complete strangers, I am, in ways, taking on the role of dog …

Week 3: Mississippi to Texas

June 9/Biloxi, Miss.

Biloxi’s beaches: Dog and oil free … Mississippi’s coast has so far been spared from BP-sponsored black tides, with most of the oil that has leaked since the rig explosion appearing to be headed for the coastlines of Florida and Louisiana. Despite that, Biloxi’s wide white sand beaches seemed relatively empty when Ace and I pulled into town yesterday …

June 10/Waveland, Miss.

From sea to grimy sea … We didn’t cover too much ground yesterday — progressing only from Biloxi to New Orleans, but we did get in some beach time in a town called Waveland, Mississippi. Good thing, too, because it was a sweltering day on the gulf. Ace splashed about on an isolated sliver of beach in Hancock County, where dogs, on leashes, are allowed and unleashed ones don’t raise too many eyebrows …

June 11/New Orleans 

St. Bernard: The imperishable parish … If you don’t think dogs are being hurt by the BP oil spill, perhaps you need a lesson in the trickle down – or, in this case, ooze down – theory of disaster economics. And there may be no better place to learn it than St. Bernard Parish. Left underwater by Hurricane Katrina, it’s now feeling the ramifications of the oil spill, the ripple effects of which reach all the way to the family dog.

June 12/Atchafalaya Swamp

On music, memories and the open road … My drive through Louisiana to Houston triggered a lot of memories, most of them induced by the radio. Music, like old friends revisited and roads previously traveled, can be a powerful trigger. Music and roads, in fact, have a lot in common …

Wonderfully mysterious: That’s my dog … In my current nomadic phase, as in my previously still life, Ace — my “Big Ass Dog” — draws a variety of responses from humans. There are those who experience love at first sight, those who cross to the other side of the street to avoid him, and, most of all, those who want to solve the ongoing mystery … What Kind of Dog is That? …

June 13/Houston

Going back to Houston … You can go home again – whether you’re Thomas Wolfe or Dean Martin —  just don’t expect it to look even vaguely like it once did. That’s the case with Houston, where I spent my puberty – from 1965 to 1970. (It was a long puberty.) …

The journey so far … Today –19 days and 1,750 miles since our journey began — Ace and I pull out of Houston, destined for Bandera, Texas (population 975) and points west. We’re over budget, sick of fast food and a bit weary and leery of cheap motels — though thankful for the air conditioning they have bestowed upon us. I don’t want to say our most recent motel was a fleabag, but …

June 14/Houston

Dog parks blast off in Houston … Yesterday, I took Ace to the largest and most amenity-laden dog park he’s ever been to — Millie Bush Dog Park, with 13 acres to romp and two cool blue lakes to swim in. And here’s what he did …

Week 4: Texas to New Mexico

June 15/Hill Country

Utopia Ranch … Yesterday, as can happen in life, I took a wrong turn on the way to Utopia and ended up on a dead end dirt road. So I turned around, drove back through my own dust, took a different road and finally spotted the driveway I was looking for — the one into Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch, founded by mystery novelist, musician, social commentator, humorist, columnist, guru, gubernatorial candidate, good old boy, singer, songwriter and purveyor of both cigars and salsa, Kinky Friedman …

June 16/Hill Country

Hanging with the Kinkster … Three years ago, author and musician Kinky Friedman had six dogs — not counting the 50 or so awaiting homes at his Utopia Animal Rescue Ranch. Today, he’s down to two — Chumley and Brownie, who, though brothers, spend an inordinate amount of time making out …

Adios, Bandera … Now we can call him Ace reporter. For the past three days — thanks to the gracious staff of the weekly Bandera County Courier — Ace, while he’s gotten no scoops, has been able to beat the heat and get the vast quantities of attention he requires in the offices of the weekly newspaper …

Don’t mess in Texas … Not unlike the one we showed you in North Carolina, Texas has some ridiculous designated dog areas at its highway rest stops, too, like this one we encountered while driving down I-10. Call it the cage of poop — almost totally unshaded, lined with large hunks of rock that can’t feel good on the paws, and about the size of a prison cell …

June 17/Kerrville, Texas

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s Harley: Thunder in the Hills Biker Church, on the southern edge of Kerrville, Texas, was closed when Ace and I rode by yesterday. So we snapped a picture, said a few praise Harley’s and were on our way …

Roadside Encounters: Charlie … The first in our series about dogs and humans we encounter in our travels — this one a golden retriever we met at a rest area in Texas …

Alienated in New Mexico … Ace and I finally made it out of Texas yesterday, and as far as Roswell, that land of UFO myths — or covered-up alien visits, if you prefer.  It’s a town of many motels, only a handful of bars and numerous aliens — from statues like this one in our motel lobby to inflatable models that blow in the breeze in front of downtown storefronts …

Rest area disenchantment … Add New Mexico to our list of states with tiny, paw-unfriendly, less than inviting pet areas at their highway rest stops. Land of Enchantment? I think not, at least not for dog owners whose otherwise pampered pets are restricted to gravel pits in which to pee and poop.

June 18/Somewhere in New Mexico

My awesome one-sided tan … One side benefit of my new gypsy lifestyle — in which the dog and I have given up our housing to spend some time exploring America — is that I am now a bronzed God. Not all of me, mind you, just my left arm, which has been resting out the open car window as we make our way west …

Roadside Encounters: Bear … Meet Bear, whose family was stranded on an exit ramp — out of gas, out money, out of luck … or so they said …

The road to Albuquerque … The road from Roswell to Albuquerque — not too long, not too winding — seems paved with misfortune. Highway 285 has long stretches of emptiness, and is dotted with small dusty towns, like Vaughn and Encino, where even “New Menagement” apparently couldn’t save this place …

June 19/Albuquerque

Couchsurfing in Albuquerque … It’s not every day I spend the night with a 25-year-old woman. But, on Thursday night, that’s exactly what I did. A “complete stranger” invited Ace and me into her home, went out to dinner with us and let us sleep in her spare room. For this, I can thank couchsurfing.org, a website that unites people looking for a place to stay with local people kind enough to offer one — on a global scale …

June 20/Albuquerque

Roadside Encounters: Tobias … Tobias, a Chihuahua, is 13, has no teeth and has a malformed leg, likely the result of being abused before he was rescued by his new owner in Albuquerque …

Highway Haiku: Sometimes You’re the Bug … The first in our continuing series of haikus about being on the road, all written from behind the steering wheel.

Roadside Encounters: Domino … When Domino’s owner fires up the RV, Domino is happy to ride along. Domino gets restless about every three hours, though, and wants to get out for a walk. Domino’s owner, who lives with his daughter, hits the road for two or three months at a time, seeing the country and drifting where the spirit moves him. “I call it tumbleweeding,” he says.

Week 5: Arizona’s highways

June 21/Phoenix

By the time we got to Phoenix … It was 104 degrees. Too hot for dogs, in Ace’s view — even though I pointed out to him it was a dry heat. Too hot for fleas, too. I’m told. Temperatures get so high in summer, that pesky species doesn’t even bother to book reservations. Survival is impossible …

June 22/Phoenix
 Highway Haiku: Vultures … Our second attempt at haiku, this one prompted by the common sight of vultures feasting on roadkill along the road in Texas, New Mexico and Arizona …
 
June 23/Phoenix
 
Should Siberian Huskies be Deported? … I’ve been trying to catch up with the latest on SB 1070, the new law that will turn Arizona’s police officers into immigration officials, requiring them to check the citizenship of anyone they confront in the course of their duties. The law applies to humans, but what if it was applied to the dog kingdom? …
 
 June 24/Phoenix

Phoenix’s Cosmo Dog Park … How do you go from drainage pit to the nation’s top dog park? You take a giant leap. Of course, it also takes imagination, planning, dedication and money. But with enough of all four — as was the case with the birth of Cosmo Park in Gilbert, Arizona — the results can be impressive …

June 25/Phoenix

When Will Our Journey End? … One month ago today, a man and his dog left the comfort of their Baltimore rowhouse and set forth across America on a journey with no firm destination and of no definite duration. An unemployed Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and soon to be published author (the man, not the dog), he decided he could keep doing his website and look for jobs just as easily on the road as he could from home — and in the process feel a little less dejected and rejected, a little more alive …

June 26/Phoenix

Locked Out in Arizona … One pitfall of freeloading, I’ve learned – at least twice now – is that every person’s home has its own quirks, whether it’s a toilet that’s tricky to flush, water faucets in which the hot and cold are reversed, or doors that lock behind you when you step outside. The latter caught me again this week …

June 27/Phoenix

Bidding farewell, for now, to Roscoe … As much as I love dogs, and love dog lovers, I have to admit — being one — that there are times many of us tend to view canine behavior anthropomorphically, interpreting what dogs are doing in terms of what we, as humans, would like to think it means. Such was the case the other day, as I prepared to leave the home of my brother, a visit during which Ace and Roscoe, and Roscoe and I, formed a new bond …

Week 6: Up to Utah to visit Best Friends

June 28/Sedona

An unrushed Sunday in Sedona … Giving ourselves plenty of time to get to Utah, Ace and I spent an unrushed afternoon in Sedona yesterday, figuring it would be the sort of place that I could unleash not just my dog, but possibly my chakra …

June 28/Flagstaff

Trying to score some grass in Flagstaff … Ace, while enjoying the wide-open West, seems less than pleased with one of its characteristics. He — and I could be wrongly reading his mind now — is tired of the blistering hot pavement and the pebbles, large and small, that most folks around here opt for when landscaping …

June 29/Vermillion Cliffs

Taking the road not previously taken … Yesterday I came to a fork in the road and, boy, did I ever make the right choice. Highway 89 A, as in alternate, all but took my breath away, partly because we were getting up around 8,000 feet, partly because it was so stunningly beautiful. In addition to the Vermillion Cliffs, we saw a huge rock that looked like Dick Cheney …

June 30/Kanab, Utah

Giving and getting at Best Friends … It’s probably the closest thing there is to heaven on earth for dogs (and a lot of other animals, too), a place where — despite abusive pasts, ill health or handicaps — dogs, cats, birds, horses, pigs and more can be rehabilitated enough to find new homes, or, if not, spend the rest of their days in the tranquil, sun-dappled canyons of southern Utah …

July 1/Kanab, Utah

Kanab: Overflowing with dog  friendliness … Kanab, Utah is by and large a dog-friendly town. About a third of its motels permit dogs, as do most of the restaurants with outdoor dining. You can hardly drive down the main street of this one-stoplight town without seeing someone walking a dog …

Red dogs, green dogs, shy dogs, mean dogs … It was, mostly, a red collar crowd. My time at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary, helping out as a volunteer, was mostly spent among those dogs who, due to their unpredictable behavior, have been assigned red collars — meaning only staff can interact with them.  I drew duty at Dulcie’s School of Dance, an octagon-shaped structure whose residents, for the most part, misbehaved either before or after their arrival at the southern Utah animal sanctuary, and who — though red collared dogs can be adopted under the right circumstances — in many cases will live out their lives there …

Week 7:  Arizona again

July 1/Page

Living large on the Street of Little Motels … Life is good on the Street of the Little Motels. Wednesday took us from Kanab, Utah, past Lake Powell and into Page, Arizona, a destination chosen only because it was where we were by evening, once again facing the prospect – having not planned ahead (ahead, of course, being the best way to plan) — of finding another dog friendly motel …

July 2/Glen Canyon

Overlooked: Scenic but deadly Glen Canyon … It took eight years to build the Glen Canyon Dam — far less to construct the scenic overlook that sits 400 feet above the river, on the edge of the canyon. Spectacular as the view is, the overlook has also proven deadly. Here’s the sad saga of Cisco and Sadie, two dogs who took their last leaps there, leading their owner to do something about it …

July 6/Phoenix

What would JS do? …  Would John Steinbeck — who served as our inspiration for this trip — have blogged? As he crossed America with his poodle Charley, would he — were the technology available — have logged into his computer, jumped on Facebook, Tweeted what he ate for dinner? Or would he have viewed it all as a massive waste of time — time that could have spent connecting face-to-face with fellow humans? …

July 7/Holbrook

We coulda stayed in a wigwam …  Had I done a little research, or taken 10 minutes to tour the town first, I would have seen it earlier. Now, I’ll have to wait until the next time we pass through to stay at that kitschy monument to thinking outside the box — the Wigwam Motel. It’s a glorious sight — especially in the modern day world of look-alike, smell-alike, sound-alike motels: 15 individual concrete wigwams perched on a dusty lot …

Highway Haiku: Dancing Clouds … Shadows cast by clouds / Slow dance on red canyonsides / Terra cotta waltz …

Roadside Encounters: Maya, Zoey and Snoopy … This threesome was traveling back to Phoenix after a visit to Colorado. All three dogs ride in the back seat of their family’s Ford Mustang …

Week 8: Sitting pretty in Santa Fe

July 8/Somewhere in New Mexico

Highway Haiku: Oversized Load 2 … Wide load camouflage? / Now you see me, now you don’t? / Explanation, please …

July 9/Santa Fe

Back with the pack in Santa Fe … Meet my new posse — Sophie, a nine-year-old great Pyrenees who recently had one of her front legs amputated due to bone cancer; Charlie, an affable, seven-year-old golden retriever with a congenital respiratory disorder and a severe fear of thunderstorms; and Lakota, an 11-year-old bulldog with issues both behavioral and gastrointestinal. He’s prone to snapping (especially at Ace) and known far and wide for his frequent, most audible and highly pungent flatulence …

July 11/Santa Fe

Highway Haiku: Reptilian Reps … Enjoying the first not swelteringly hot weather of our journey, we worked outside during our stay in Santa Fe, kept company by dogs and lizards, leading to another attempt at poetry …

July 12/Santa Fe

Seven things you can’t avoid in Santa Fe … There’s one thing you can’t avoid in Santa Fe, and that’s dogs. They are everywhere — tall dogs, short dogs, big dogs, small dogs, black, white, brown, red, yellow and brindle dogs. Santa Fe calls itself “the city different,” for numerous reasons, but perhaps nowhere is its diversity more noticeable than in its dogs …

Roadside Encounters: Maxwell … Maxwell was the only survivor of a litter that contracted Parvovirus. After four days at the vets’ office, he was pronounced healthy and adopted by a Santa Fe resident who takes him to the dog park daily …

July 15/Santa Fe

Highway Haiku: All a Twitter … Oops, I accidentally doubletwittered, or, in haiku form: My word for the day / When you Tweet the same thing twice / You “tweeiterate” …

Properly treated, thanks to K-9 Kraving … For every stop we’ve made as part of our continuing “Dog’s Country” tour, K-9 Kraving, Baltimore-based maker of  raw diet dog food, has shipped a package of treats to our hosts. It’s my way of saying thank you — without actually paying for it …

Confessions of a petsitter … I have not let a water bowl run dry. I have not missed administering a single dosage of doggie meds. My agreement to pet sit for friends in Santa Fe, in exchange for getting to enjoy their tranquil home (mountain views and wind chimage included), is working out well …

July 16/Santa Fe

Soaking up Santa Fe … Santa Fe’s renowned spa, Ten Thousand Waves, allows dogs, both in its cottages and in its private baths, and that, in case you’re wondering, is how I ended up buck naked in the mountains of New Mexico. But not with nightingale poop on my face …

July 17/Santa Fe

Where to next? … As we ponder where to go next on our road trip, we’re feeling drawn to Texas — where two stories this week have piqued our curiosity. First is the tale of the Methodist pastor who’s calling for a stray dog hanging out behind his church to be shot, and the ire that has raised. Second are the two recent sightings — and subsequent terminations — of alleged Chupacabra …

Week 9: Cats, dogs and Cadillacs

July 19/Madrid, N.M.

Giving dogs a brake in Madrid … Madrid — the one in New Mexico, pronounced MAD-rid — wants you to slow down. It’s not just to make you less likely to run over a valued tourist. No, the advice — to many, at least — is aimed at protecting dogs. Because, as the sign says, Madrid loves its dogs …

July 20/Cerrillos

The cattiest bar in New Mexico … In the once-thriving mining town of Cerrillos, the paved roads — even Main Street — turn to dirt. Hook a right at the first stop sign, and you’re at the front porch of Mary’s Bar, one of a handful of businesses in town and one where, on most days, there are cats than clientele …

Santa Fe’s dog-friendly eateries … Santa Fe is big on rules and restrictions. It’s also big on dogs. And, in more than a few cases, dogs have won out. During our time in Santa Fe, we visited three dog-friendly restaurants (at least one, bird-friendly, too) — where dogs are permitted on leashes in the outdoor dining areas ….

Leaving Santa Fe … I’ve seen my last sunset in Santa Fe and, after an idyllic ten days, Ace and I are headed east — first to Oklahoma to visit another ex, my ex-cat …

July 21/Tucumcari, N.M.

Tucumcari tonight … Route 66 through Tucumcari is like Route 66 through a lot of places — a step back into the past that leaves you wondering if the old road and the motels that line it have much of a future. Bypassed decades ago by Interstate 40, they fought to survive — and many have managed to do so nicely — but the economic downturn has made that a far fiercer fight …

July 21/Tucumcari

Roadside Encounters: Alex and Run … Run and Alex are perfectly content in the back seat of their Buick as they travel with their owner, Marty, and her friend, Chris. “They always go where I go,” Marty said. In the backseat, she added, they’ve got everything they need: something to chew on, water, food and each other …

July 22/Amarillo

Ace adds his tag to the Cadillac Ranch … In 1973, Stanley Marsh 3 partially buried ten used Cadillacs in the ground — head first, with their hind ends jutting into the air — at his ranch just west of Amarillo. Since then they’ve been replanted, and tagged by numerous graffiti artists, including Ace …

July 23/Waynoka, Okla.

A moment in Oklahoma with my ex-cat … Not that visiting my ex’s is a recurring theme here, but this week we checked in on another one — a homeless cat I first encountered underneath a stairway in Baltimore, next door to a bar, took into my home, then struggled to find a forever home for. As it turned out, forever would be in Oklahoma, and therein lies a story …

July 24/Somewhere in Oklahoma

Highway Haiku: A Grave Choice … Riding along backroads in Oklahoma, there are a lot of cemeteries. One passes far more dead people than live ones. When I encountered this sign, it inspired another haiku …

July 25/Somewhere in Texas

When God is on every station … The bigger the void, or gap, between towns, the more rural one gets, the tinier the towns, the more likely one is to pick up religious music — sometimes only religious music — on the radio. Such has been the case in the most recent leg of my road trip – through New Mexico, Oklahoma and Texas: God is everywhere …

Week 10: Strip clubs, Vick dogs and kudzu

July 26/Somewhere else in Oklahoma

That’s how he rides … On particularly hot days, Ace has taken to moving up closer to the front of the car and resting his head and paws on the front seat console, so that he might absorb a little more coolness from the air conditioner vents. This puts his head just inches from the dual cup holders. So, when I am mostly finished with my Big Gulp, extra large iced coffee or other mega-beverage, I can easily hand feed him ice cubes while I drive. He likes this very much …

Trying to beat the heat – and losing … Pulling into Oklahoma City, with temperatures near the century mark, I was eager to find a motel and jump in the pool. But, as we found, our Internet research had left us — unlike the pool — something less than completely filled in …

July 27/Dallas

The strip club with a heart of gold … How did Ace end up next to the stripper’s pole at a gentlemen’s club in Dallas? It’s a long story, but the main factors are these: The decline of American journalism, Newt Gingrich and dogs. Our connection to The Lodge — an upscale gentlemen’s club — goes back about eight months when, while researching an ohmidog! article, I got in touch with the strip club’s public relations man, or, as his business card puts it, the club’s “Writer-in-Residence” …

July 28/Dallas

Vick dog finds happy home in Dallas … I never expected our “Dog’s Country” adventures would include Ace riding in the back seat of a car with a former Michael Vick dog. Then again, I never expected we’d be hanging out in a strip club, either. But our visit to The Lodge in Dallas led us to meet Mel, a still meek and fearful, sad-eyed, pit bull — small in stature, short on confidence, and sweet as pecan pie …

July 30/Pumpkin Center, La.

Gourd is great, gourd is good … Here’s an exit sign that piqued my curiosity — enough to make me veer off the interstate to figure out just what makes a pumpkin Baptist, and why they need their own center. Are Baptist pumpkins preachier? Do they go all fire and brimstone? Do they achieve life everlasting, or is that dream just pie in the sky?…

July 31/Oxford, Miss.

Sit, Kudzu Dog, sit … I came across Sitting Kudzu Dog as I approached Oxford, Mississippi. Tell me you see him, too. Otherwise, I might start thinking I’m crazy — for all the things I see in kudzu … and clouds. Nature’s ink blot tests, that’s what they are. It reminded me of my plan to establish my own roadside attraction somewhere in the south: The Kud-Zoo…

Week 11: Happy campers, fading memories

August 4/Rutherfordton, N.C.

Ruffing it at Four Paws campground …It took a couple from Germany to show America the true meaning of dog-friendly – at least when it comes to campgrounds. The husband and wife proprietors of Four Paws Kingdom call it America’s first “dog-dedicated” campground …

Ace, astoundingly, aces agility … When we showed up bright and early for agility class at Four Paws Kingdom, the dog-dedicated campground in North Carolina, I had low expectations for Ace. Ace is graceful, maybe, but, given his size, about 130 pounds, I never considered him agile. I was wrong. His name now stands for: Agility Canine Extraordinaire …

August 5/Winston-Salem, N.C.

Keeping things ducky at Arbor Acres … Residents of Arbor Acres love their ducks. So when the duck populations started dwindling at the retirement community, Bo Bowers ordered some babies, raised them until they were old enough to survive on their own, and, much to the delight of residents, held a ceremony to release them …

August 6/Winston-Salem, N.C.

Roadside Encounters: Soula … A Catahoula leopard dog mix, Soula showed up as Ace and I were sipping coffee at a Starbucks. Trying to teach the eight-month old pup, adopted from a shelter, not to be too territorial, her owner let Ace enjoy some whipped cream from her cup as Soula watched enviously … 

Someday her prince will come … 

We told you residents of Arbor Acres love their ducks, but one resident — who happens to be one of Ace’s biggest fans — had a close encounter with another form of wildlife. Jo Cochran was sitting on her couch when a housekeeper noticed something moving beneath her sheets. The housekeeper found a frog, which apparently had spent the night there …

August 8/Wilmington, N.C.

Roadside Encounters: Jolie … Jolie’s owner had three previous boxers before her — each one different from the last, each one, he says, a precious gift: “God really knew what he or she was doing,” he said, “when he or she made dog” …

August 9/Figure Eight Island, N.C.

At last, Ace gets some beach time … Figure 8 Island near Wilmington is a private paradise – not accessible to the beach-going hordes, private enough that celebrities (usually) find solace there, and dotted with mansions that seem to think they’re big enough to defy hurricanes. Exclusive is what it is — the sort of place I’d be prone to make fun of, unless of course, I was invited in. Once Ace and I were, we didn’t want to leave. Ever.

August 9/Figure Eight Island, N.C.

Highway Haiku: Pelicans … Falling somewhere in my top three favorite things about the beach is the pelican — regal and prehistoric looking at the same time, and definitely haiku-worthy. Here we explain how they got their long beaks …

August 10/Raleigh, N.C.

Home is where the Hyatt is … Yesterday, I went searching for a piece of my past and found Hilton and Hyatt instead. The house where I spent my seventeenth year – not quite 40 years ago – is gone without a trace and replaced by a Hyatt Place hotel with, for your pleasure and convenience, Starbucks coffee and ample parking …

August 16/Greensboro, N.C.

Roadside Encounters: Baby … Motel 6’s allow dogs — just not in the pool. So Baby’s owners, spending some time at the motel while between houses, hooked her leash to the gate so she could watch — longingly — as her family cooled off in the water …

Week 12: Sweet Charlotte

August 18/Charlotte

Chasing the blues away at The Dog Bar … And here is my idea of paradise. It exists, after all, in Charlotte, North Carolina, where five years ago two dog lovers got together and opened a bar that takes “dog-friendly” to new and unfettered bounds. At The Dog Bar in Charlotte’s NoDa neighborhood, it’s not uncommon to see a dog behind the bar, a dog on top of the bar, a dog on top of a dog on top of the bar. Here dogs can be dogs. They can romp, run, drool and even — as Ace and that German shepherd appear to be doing in our slideshow — flirt a little bit …

August 19/Charlotte

Old dogs, new tricks, good times … Hung out with some old friends and met some new ones in Charlotte — including Winnie, a golden retriever mix who can both open and close the front door of her family’s home, and demonstrated it for me, three times ….

August 20/Charlotte

We all need somebody to lean on … Skyler and Pierce, two white Great Danes from the same litter, weren’t all the breeder wanted them to be. One was blind. One was deaf. When it appeared they were going to be put down, a Charlotte couple (before they were even a couple) stepped in. Now they’re together forever in a loving home — the couple, and the dogs, who serve as each other’s eyes and ears. They, you might say, complete each other…

Roadside Encounters: Charles, the Mayor … They call Charles Edwards the “Mayor” of NoDa — also known as North Davidson, a former mill area that’s now an up and coming arts district. Charles, who hit it off with Ace right away, has lived there all his life  – except for a month in Philadelphia, which he didn’t much care for.

Week 13: Northbound, through Virginia

August 21/Norfolk, Va

Roadside Encounters: Raj and Hug … I was taking Ace for his after dinner walk, when — as we passed through a parking lot, behind a mobile home park — a car slowly pulled up alongside us. “He looks just like my dog,” the driver, speaking in a thick Indian accent, said. He introduced himself as Raj, and insisted I come to his trailer to meet Hug …

August 22/Somewhere in Virginia

That Waffle House ambience … Being on the road with a dog, there aren’t that many opportunities for a sit down meal, or at least a leisurely sit down inside a restaurant meal — meaning I, in my travels below the Mason-Dixon Line, have been missing out on that southern culinary and cultural delight: The Waffle House …

August 23/Somewhere in Virginia

95 songs for I-95 … Since I decided nearly three months ago to get on the road again — that I was going mobile — I’ve reached a few conclusions: Life is a highway. Every day is a winding road. And, though I may not be a highway star, or king of the road, I have been runnin’ down a dream, and I think, just maybe, I can see paradise by the dashboard light. Or is that a Waffle House?…

August 24/Norfolk

Scenes from a Motel 6 bedspread … Here’s who I’m sleeping with: A fisherman. A snow skier. A bear and a dog (not counting Ace). Some eagles, a pink flamingo and a cactus. They are all there on the Motel 6 bedspread. Because I have stayed at so many — it being the only chain consistently cheap and dog friendly — the Motel 6 bedspread is now emblazoned, if not on my body, at least on my brain…

Highway Haiku: McMuffin … Easily available, a highway staple and an always reliable source of cholesterol, the Egg McMuffin has become my good friend — maybe more…

August 25/Smithfield, Va.

Visiting the Vick house … I’m not sure why I wanted to visit 1915 Moonlight Road – the former (and available) house of Michael Vick. Maybe it was for the same reason people visit Nazi death camps, Ground Zero and other scenes of slaughter — in part to pay respects to those who died and suffered, in part to remind ourselves of how evil man can be – that whole business about keeping history fresh enough in our minds that we don’t allow the mistakes of the past to be repeated…

August 26/Somewhere in Virginia

Seeking Tom Wicker … Every once in a while, if not more often, you just have to follow your hunches. I had one the other day — the feeling that fate had led me to turn onto an isolated country road in Virginia; that it was meant for me to drive down that road; and that, by doing so, I would end up meeting one of my idols, Tom Wicker, the famous writer…

August 27/Richmond

Kudzu dogs and trivial pursuits … Ever since hitting the deep south, and the not-so-deep south, I’ve continued to see dogs in the kudzu. Maybe it was just the power of suggestion — that after seeing that first one, it made me tend to see more, whether they were there or not. Perhaps one sees in kudzu what they want to see, or perhaps I’ve been writing about dogs too long. I became a little obsessed with kudzu dogs. Here are some of those I encountered …

Roadside Encounters: Rocky … Rocky, a beagle-Rottweiler mix, has been a guest at the Motel 6 across from Richmond’s airport for two years. He lives in a second floor room with his owners, a painter named Dave and his daughter, Jessie. When you pay by the week, it works out about the same as rent, Dave says. Besides, he adds, “I like motels.” Rocky’s routine is to hit the motel office for a treat in the morning, wander the grounds, then head back to his room …

August 28/Richmond

A big ol’ bucket of water … On our way out of Richmond, we stopped for some lunch at Nacho Mama’s — a restaurant that, judging from the size of the bucket of water they gave Ace on the patio, warmly welcomes dogs. The good thing about Mexican restaurants is there are always plenty of tortilla chips to tide you — and your dog — over.  After lunch we rode up Highway 301, avoiding the dreaded I-95, and stopped for a bit in Fredericksburg …

August 29/Fredericksburg

Old dogs and undying love … Puck’s family thinks their aging dog has lost most of his senses. He’s deaf. He’s blind in the one eye he has left. And if you put a treat on the ground in front of him, he can’t seem to hone in on it by sniffing. It’s more of a random search. He may or may not taste his watered down food. But at least one sense remains — not one of the big five, but an important one all the same — his sense of dignity …

Week 14: Back, briefly, in Baltimore

August 30/Baltimore

Rolling back into Baltimore … Ten thousand miles and three months later, we’re right back where we started. Ace and I rolled into Baltimore Friday, and he couldn’t be happier about it. About the time Raven’s stadium came into view, he sensed we were home  In the rearview mirror, I saw his head pop up. He sniffed the air, got up, stuck his head out the window and looked around excitedly. I don’t know how to break it to him that this, most likely, is just a pit stop…

August 31/Baltimore

On Darcy, teachers and the American worker … Upon my return to Baltimore — having given up my home for the purposes of our continuing road trip – I turned to the dog I once babysat, and her schoolteacher parents, for shelter. They graciously obliged, and — though not on purpose — taught me some things about teachers …

September 1/Baltimore

Roadside Encounters … We ran into Gus and Pete, father and son Bouvier des Flandres at jazz concert in Riverside Park…

Did absence make his heart grow fonder? … He didn’t bring her flowers, but when Ace met up again this week with his old friend Fanny, he did tolerate her — and to a far greater extent than ever before. The behavior he once found so annoying that he would go upstairs to avoid her — where Fanny feared to tread — Ace seems to now find mostly endearing …

September 2/Baltimore

Roadside Encounters: Gotti … It had been a few months since I’d run into Gotti, a tiny dog named after a big organized crime boss. We saw him again over the weekend at a jazz concert in Baltimore’s Riverside Park …

Talking the talk in Dundalk … Gotta love Dundalk. It’s Baltimore at its blue collar, unpretentious best, and it’s where, as our wandering continues, we’ve hung our hat (and leash) for the past three days as we attempt to figure out what to do next. Once again, we were in the home of an ex (no bridge-burner me) — a modest little house on a traffic circle, across the street from the Dog House …

September 4/Baltimore

Dog-friendly Locust Point … Revisiting my old south Baltimore haunts while I’m briefly back in Baltimore, I made a point to stop by Miguel’s Cocina y Cantina – partly because it’s on my shortlist of dog-friendly local eateries, but mainly for the guacamole. Between their ever-so-fresh guacamole, cold Mexican beers, dog-friendliness (in the outside dining area) and its proximity to Locust Point Dog Park, Miguel’s is hard to pass up …

September 5/Baltimore

Happy birthday to me … Wish lists are a waste of time — they lead one to get so focused on what they’d like to get that they fail to appreciate what they have gotten. They tend to itemize the material things, while leaving out the more important ones. In my case, in the last three months, what I’ve gotten has been a lot. With the possible exception of when I got my first dog — that’s him and me in the picture — I’ve probably never been happier…

Week 15: More more Baltimore

September 9/Baltimore

Dear RV Manufacturer … As our layover continues in Baltimore, we’re plotting the next leg of our journey, in which Ace and I plan to go to the tippy top of Maine, then proceed westwardly once again. A review of last month’s budget shows — gasp! — we way overspent, mainly on motels, so we’re thinking the solution might be something like this, or …

September 10/Baltimore

More adventures in freeloading … After three days in the South Baltimore home of Mister Kitty, who never seemed to warm up to our presence, Ace and I are packing up for our next destination — a boat. Since returning to visit Baltimore, we’ve already been bobbing around a lot — from Federal Hill to Dundalk to Federal Hill again. Next we’ll be bobbing in the Patapsco, in the sailboat of an old friend, who used to live on it himself…

Barney gets his last wish … This one’s about a dog named Stella, a carny named Barney and the woman who sort of adopted them both — a Nashville photographer who motored up to Baltimore last week to carry out Barney’s last wish: that his ashes be spread upon the grave of his mother. Susan Adcock became enamored with carnival workers more than a decade ago, and continued to count them as her friends long after she completed a newspaper assignment documenting their lives in photos…

September 13/Baltimore

Fun with boat names … Ace and I are several days into our stay on a sailboat — a sturdy vessel named “Grendel,” sleek and leak free, and with four different sleeping nooks to choose from. Ace and I have tried them all and decided we both prefer the big one in the front (Bow? Wow!). So we share it, getting gently rocked to sleep as we listen to a lullaby of sloshing water, flapping mast lines and assorted mystery creaks …

September 14/Baltimore

Fun with feral cats … During our stay aboard a sailboat, docked at the marina at Nick’s Fish House in Baltimore, I expected to run into my old friends Ned and Kay Uhler, who used to drive down from their home everyday to feed the feral cats that call Nick’s parking lot home.  I wrote a poem about them once …

September 15/Baltimore

Dockside encounter: Chopper … Chopper made the transition from desert dog to boat dog several years ago — relocating from Kingman, Arizona to Baltimore, Maryland, where he now  lives aboard a huge yacht (compared to mine, anyway) docked at Nick’s. He’s a white dog — until he gets wet, then he becomes spotted. He’s owned by Travis Guthrie, a yacht carpenter,  and Magdalena Sudnik, an artist. Both live aboard the Lucy Maru, which they are restoring…

Week 16: Baltimore to Philadelphia

September 16/Baltimore

What makes a dog remember? … Ace remembers. He remembers the park he used to play in, the places he liked to poop, the street he used to live on, the people who gave him treats. Ace remembers which rowhouse windows cats lived behind, which dogs once snapped at him, where his favorite bar is, who’s a friend, who’s a foe and, most of all, how to get a handout…

September 17/Baltimore

Last day on the boat … As much as we’ve enjoyed life on a boat, both Ace and I will disembark with a few bumps and bruises.  Speaking just for myself, I think I’ve bumped almost every body part I have: head (four times), knees (three times), toes (two times), elbows (two times). For Ace, I think it has been even tougher. He’s fine once he’s settled on the deck, or ensconced in the cabin on a cushion, but — being sneakerless — getting around on the boat’s slippery surface has been more difficult for him…

September 18/Baltimore

We love visitors … In our week living aboard a friend’s 30-foot sailboat in Baltimore, we’ve had some visitors, both friends and fowl,  and I’ve enjoyed sharing what’s not really mine — the river, the boat, the sunsets … pretty much everything I offered except for Ace’s company, my beer and my now empty box of Cheeze-Its …

September 19/Baltimore

We’ve got to stop linking like this … Ace got a nice mention — and I didn’t fare too badly, either — in our friend Susan Adcock’s “Carny Dog” blog last week. Susan and her pit mix, Stella, came to Baltimore from Nashville last week — a pilgrimage prompted by the last request of a carnival worker named Barney, who Susan befriended as a photographer. She made it back home safe and sound.

September 20/Harrisburg

The proverbial brick shithouse … How the term originated we do not know, but, alas, we stumbled upon one — in a park well outside of Harrisburg, Pa., where Ace and I stretched our legs on a drive to visit some puppies at an Amish farm.

September 21/Hershey

RV having fun yet? … I took a first, tentative step into the RV world over the weekend, hitting what’s billed as the country’s largest RV show in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

September 22/Lykens

Popping in on some Amish pups … I was on my way to see an Amish man about a dog. Not because I want another dog — Ace is more than enough, especially during our current nomadic phase — but because I wanted a first-hand glimpse of what an Amish-run breeding operation is like. It wasn’t quite a puppy mill — at least not anymore — as this particular breeder, like many others since Pennsylvania’s Dog Law went into effect, has downscaled his operation considerably …

September 22/Philadelphia

Leaving the city of brotherly love … Pardon my haste, and the typos I’m sure will follow, but sitting here in the tranquility of the Grover Cleveland Service Area of the New Jersey Turnpike, hoping to pop off a quick post, I notice my computer’s battery is quickly draining. Not mine, though. It has been recharged by my time in Baltimore and Philadelphia, reuniting with old friends and, I’ll admit it, hoisting a few, by which I mean beers, not friends …

Week 17: On to Long Island to follow Steinbeck

September 23/Long Island

Following Steinbeck’s trail … From the waterfront Long Island house where John Steinbeck wrote “Travels With Charley,” and in whose yard Charley is buried, Ace and I shoved off for the second phase of our six month trip today– 50 years ago to the day after Steinbeck began his cross country journey with his soon to become famous poodle …

A source of discontent … The former Long Island home of John Steinbeck is smack in the middle of conflict that branches out in nearly as many directions as the mighty oaks in his former front yard. It’s a modest two-bedroom bungalow, scenically set amid gigantic oak trees, on two acres that jut into Noyac Bay in the town of Sag Harbor – the house where Steinbeck wrote “Travels with Charley,” the house behind which Charley is buried, and the one we left from yesterday to retrace, at least in part, the route of the author and his poodle …

Roadside Encounter: Samantha … Arriving in Sag Harbor to start retracing the route John Steinbeck took with his poodle Charley, the first dog we encountered was, strangely enough, a poodle. Samantha belongs to Mark Brennan, who works during the week on Wall Street and spends weekends in Sag Harbor …

September 24/New London, Conn.

A doubly singular idea … On the ferry to Connecticut, I found out I wasn’t the only one currently following in John Steinbeck’s tire tracks. Bill Steigerwald — though he’s doing it without a dog — is blogging his recreation of Steinbeck’s travels as well, and writing about it for the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette …

September 25/New London, Conn.

On the way to Cape Cod … With the sun in our faces, a coffee — both venti and bold — in my cupholder, and a gas tank half empty, we’re departing Connecticut for the 3-hour drive (we hope) to Provincetown, located at the wispy tip of Cape Cod. We won’t be making it in time to see Provincetown get its official award as the dog-friendliest town in America, but we’ll be pulling in at some point …

September 26/Provincetown, Mass.

The dog-friendliest town in America … Once again, we’ve stumbled upon a little piece of paradise — and that applies whether your a dog or a human. Between its natural beauty, its abundance of dogs, and the respect townsfolk seem to have for both, Provincetown is the sort of place you don’t want to leave, but can’t afford to stay. But stay we did, over a weekend that was the culmination of Pet Appreciation Week in Provincetown, recently named America’s “dog-friendliest” town by Dog Fancy magazine …

September 27/Dunes’ Edge Campground

Campsite encounter: Duke and Truman … Duke, a black German shepherd, and Truman, a Rottweiler mix, showed up at the campsite next to mind. They were headed back to Tennessee with their owner, after a trip to Canada …

The mighty campers pitch a tent … Heading up to Provincetown, after familiarizing myself with motel prices in this part of the country, I realized it was time to finally find a campground, pitch  my tent, and test my outdoors skills, albeit in the highly civilized climes of Cape Cod. I’ve camped maybe four times in my life, always with company; Ace has camped once, and was pretty much a nervous wreck, getting startled by every little sound and seeking the solace of a sleeping bag, even if it was occupied. How’d we fare? Read on …

September 28/Provincetown

Dockside Encounter: Finley … We ran into this magnificent beast — a Landseer Newfoundland — on the pier in Provincetown. He far outsized Ace, and barked at him a few times. We walked on and I tied Ace to a post, going back to get acquainted with Finley, who was as friendly as he good be with me…

Another place that’s hard to leave … I’m not sure if it was an overdose of dog friendliness, or the camping experience, but Provincetown wore Ace out. But before leaving we dragged our weary selves to Race Point, standing at the spot of which Henry David Thoreau once wrote: “A man may stand there and put all America behind him.” I tried that, then turned around and realized all of America was in front of me … and we were on the road again …

September 29/Provincetown

Gulls will be gulls … I was enjoying a cup of clam chowder — yes, another one — and Ace was laying at my feet, halfway under the bench on a pier in Provincetown, when I decided this seagull was picture-worthy. Sure, they are scavengers, but I like watching them — whether it be soaring regally through the sky or picking through trash like hungry hobos. They can also, I would soon see, be kind of territorial…

MILF alert … We came across this sign on our way out of Cape Cod, on Highway 6. Quirky signage being part of any road trip blog, we had to pass it on…

One last look back at Provincetown … We’re out of there, but we left with good memories, and some extra photos we never used. So here are a few more P-town dogs, and some words to live by, courtesy of Pilgrim Bark Park, where they were among several sayings engraved in stone…

September 30/Portsmouth, New Hamsphire

Pay toll or die … Since I was in elementary school, I’ve had trouble distinguishing New Hampshire from Vermont. I know one of them is fat at the bottom and skinny at the top and the other is skinny at the bottom and fat at the top. I know one is directly east of the other. I know one is the “Live Free or Die” state (though it has always struck me as a rather bold assertion, coming from a license plate)…

Week 18: Mainly Maine

October 1/Portland, Maine

Spending big in the frugal state … Rolling into Maine, about the same time fall decided to, we’ve decided to lay low in Portland a few days, dry out from our camping experience and perform a little maintenance — on the car, the dog and myself — before we head north. Among those things needing to be dealt with: broken eyeglasses, dirty laundry, soggy gear and a shaggy and unkempt appearance (me, not Ace) …

October 2/Portland, Maine

Change — spare, and otherwise … Trying to beat a storm, Ace and I got up early to take in the sights, sounds and smells of Portland’s waterfront. On one street, we got a handout — a restaurant employee gave Ace some day old sausage balls. On another street we dispensed one — to a woman panhandling on a corner in hopes of coming up with her rent. Portland, like some other harbor cities, is a mix of old and new, shiny and weathered, destitute and upscale …

October 3/Portland, Maine

Dry at last, we head north … After three drippy days in Portland, Maine, we took off yesterday to see some more of the state, and eventually work our way, like John Steinbeck and Charley did, to its northernmost reaches. Finally, everything was dried out, so it was just a matter of loading up my new rooftop carrier and heading for the next stop — Bar Harbor …

October 3/Rockland, Maine

Today’s color is red … Autumn’s colors were out in full force as we made our way up Maine’s coastline — but the reds one out. They were everywhere — trees, shrubs, vines, barns, even running through the fluffy white meat of my lobster roll …

October 4/Acadia National Park

Ace and the American sunrise … Ace was the first dog in America to see the sun rise yesterday. Atop Cadillac Mountain, the highest elevation in Acadia National Park, we sat on a broad flat rock and saw the sun pop up over the Atlantic Ocean. At 1,500 feet, the summit of Cadillac Mountain is the highest point on the Atlantic Coast, and, for much of the year, the first place in America the morning sun becomes visible …

October 5/Bar Harbor, Maine

More gull talk … I got intrigued with a pair of seagulls again – this time two that I was sharing a parking lot with as I sat in the car and blogged. The brown gull drew my attention first, with a sing-song tweet-TWEET-tweet that proved far more reliable than my Internet connection. It reliably emitted the call every four seconds as it searched the ground around my car for food, and continued to as he got in the other gulls face, eventually prying its beak open and performing a thorough search inside its mouth …

Now THAT’S a dog park … The philanthropy of John D. Rockefeller Jr. and family — donors of much of the land that would become  Acadia National Park — included ensuring that there would also be a place on the island where dogs can run free. And you don’t have to be a Rockefeller to go there. Dogs on leashes are permited in Acadia National Park, but if you ever head up that way with your dog — and by all means you should — you need to know about the trail around Little Long Pond, where the leashes can come off and dog’s can romp and splash to their heart’s content …

October 6/Northern Maine

Reflections on our time Down East … The coast of Maine is one of those places that, even once you leave it, stays with you. It has been two days since Ace and I departed — to venture up to the northeasternmost part of the state, like John Steinbeck did 50 years ago — but our trip up the coast of Maine, onto Mount Desert Island and around Bar Harbor and Acadia National Park has got to be one of the highlights of our four-plus months on the road so far …

 October 7/Madawaska, Maine

Of moose and men … It was the end of the first week of moose hunting season when Ace and I arrived in Maine’s northeasternmost town. I borrowed a chapter from Steinbeck — who tied a red Kleenex to Charley’s tail when he got into hunting territory — and tied Ace’s brightest red bandana around his neck …

October 8/Aroostook County, Maine

Following the potatoes … Given that there’s not all that much else to do in Aroostook County, Maine, Ace and I followed the potatoes. For it was potatoes, mainly, that brought John Steinbeck and his poodle Charley 50 years ago to the state’s largest and northernmost county — a place he’d never been. Neither had I, and though we’re not precisely following the path Steinbeck took for ”Travels With Charley,” this piece of it seemed worth duplicating …

Highway Haiku: Directions in Maine … They say one should never ask a Mainer for directions. In “Travels With Charley,” Steinbeck mentions the lore that many of them will intentionally mislead you. I didn’t find that to be the case. Directions I received — and I got lost often — were terse, to the point and accurate, leading me to wax poetic again …

Week 19: New Hampshire and Vermont

October 9/Acadia National Park

Highway Haiku: Putting My Faith in You

October 10/Lancaster, New Hampshire

Highway Haiku: Nature’s Fireworks

October 11/Vermont

Ephemera, anyone? … The high winds were blowing leaves, at the peak of their color, off the trees, and sending them swirling across the highway like swarms of bees – signaling that nature’s most beautiful and all-too-transitory season would soon be coming to an end. As I whizzed along through the drizzle, one particular antique store caught my eye — though not in time to stop — because, among the other things its sign advertised, was: “Ephemera.”

Oct 12/St. Johnsbury, Vermont

Dog Mountain lives on … Stephen Huneck is gone — he took his own life earlier this year – but his love for dogs remains firmly and artfully stamped on a mountainside in Vermont. His studio, in a giant red barn, is silent. Stacks of wood sit uncarved and untouched. But the gallery he built, the dog park he created and, perhaps his greatest inspiration, the Dog Chapel, remain open on Dog Mountain – an ongoing testament of one man’s love for dogs, and to what dogs add to our lives.

Mountainside Encounter: A celebration at Dog Mountain

October 13/Lancaster, New Hamsphire

Revisiting some old friends at Rolling Dog Ranch …  Three years after we first met them at their home in Montana, we hooked up with some old friends Monday — in New Hampshire. We reunited with Travis, who, due to a rare disease, has a jaw that’s fused shut; with Patty, who lost both of her eyes when she was assaulted with a shovel; and with Soba, whose neurological disorder, known as cerebellar hypoplasia, makes getting from one place to another an arduous task as she wobbles, flails and jerks about …

October 14/Lancaster, New Hampshire

John Steinbeck didn’t sleep here … Two journalists, each independently seeking to chart the course John Steinbeck took 50 years ago with his poodle Charley — including figuring out where he slept when — have come to the conclusion that the highly respected author may have taken some liberties with the facts in his classic work of non-fiction …

October 15/Whitefield, New Hampshire

I didn’t sleep here … In my time bouncing back and forth between New Hampshire and Vermont – being as it coincided with peak fall foliage — rooms were hard to come by, and hard to hold on to, resulting in Ace and I staying four different places. This wasn’t one of them …

Week 20: Back to my roots

October 16/Saugerties, New York

Recapturing the past, one cow at a time … There were no iPods, cell phones, text messages, or hand-held video games back in the days I was a child in the backseat of my parent’s car, counting the miles to my grandparents house — so my siblings and I played games, one of which involved picking a side of the road and counting the cows. That involved looking out the window — something I don’t notice too many children doing anymore …

October 17/Saugerties, New York

Grandpa’s house is for sale … Stopping at my grandparent’s old house, I found my memories reinstilled by the sight, smell and sounds – the hollow thud of my own footsteps on the wooden porch, the giant, climbable sheaths of slate near the back of the property, the highway traffic roaring by, more now than when I fell asleep upstairs, waiting for the next passing car. I also found that the old homestead is for sale, and I want it …

October 18/Saugerties, New York

By the time we got to Woodstock … When one leaves my grandparent’s former house, they can — and I’d recommend doing it very carefully — turn left or right on Highway 212. Left is Saugerties, a tidy little village that’s like stepping into the distant past. Its main claim to fame, nowadays, is antiques. Every block downtown seems to have several. Turn right and you end up in Woodstock, an art colony that gained more fame when its name was used for the legendary 1969 concert, which was held 40 miles away. “By the time we got to Bethel” wouldn’t have sounded nearly as cool …

Sign, sign, everywhere a sign … We’ve some pretty hard to decipher signs on our journey, but “No Swimming Dogs Allowed Littering” was one of the most bamboozling ones yet …

October 19/Saugerties, New York

Reflections on an American icon … In addition to lusting after my camping neighbor’s reconditioned 1960 Airstream trailer, I noticed that, in its shininess, it served to provide a vivid, interestingly distorted view of the fall foliage that surrounded me. So I invented a new art form …

Things were AOK at KOA … Seeking shelter in Saugerties, Ace and I opted for a KOA campground, just down the road from my grandparent’s old house. This time though, rather than pitch the tent, we upgraded to a “Kozy Kabin,” which, while it didn’t require kopious amounts of kash, was priced slightly over our limit at $50-plus a night, plus a dog fee. But it was pretty much perfect for our needs — those being something close to warmth, something soft to sleep on and a place for Ace to romp …

October 20/Saugerties, New York

Where have all the kudzu dogs gone? … With leaves getting past their peak, turning brown and taking a dive — at least up north — my journey is losing some of its luster. And I’m losing one of the ways I pass the time while driving: Soon, the kudzu dogs will be gone …

Highway Haiku: Airstream Dreams

Week 21: Waterfalls, close calls and border crossings

October 21/Niagara Falls

We survived Niagara Falls … I almost lost Ace at Niagara Falls — and in the worst imaginable way. Amid all the attention he was drawing from tourists, and the squeals of delight of one little girl, he jumped over the protective railing, to the grass on the other side — about six feet of which was all that separated him from the sheer drop off …

October 22/Ontario

Shortcut through Canada … We took the shortcut John Steinbeck couldn’t. Steinbeck, once seeing Niagara Falls, had hoped to scoot west across southern Ontario, re-entering the U.S. at Michigan. But Canadian border officials told him that, while Charley was welcome in Canada, the author might have some problems getting his poodle back into the U.S. …

October 23/Lansing, Michigan

Dad’s Inn … Sometime this summer a motel changed names in Lansing, Michigan. With the simple switch of one gigantic yellow plastic backlit letter, what was once a Days Inn, became Dads Inn …

October 23/Lake Michigan

Another shortcut … Trying to make up for lost time, and not all that keen — no offense, Chicago — on driving through the Windy City, Ace and I strayed from John Steinbeck’s route again and got from Michigan to Wisconsin by ferry boat …

October 24/Wisconsin

Highway Haiku: Rumble Strip … I’m picking up good vibrations …

October 25/DeForest, Wisconsin

Of siblings, the 60′s and sappy songs The year Steinbeck started his trip with Charley, there were some pretty sappy hit songs — “Teen Angel,” for one, “I’m Sorry,” for another. My sister used to sing them to me, much to my continuing displeasure. At 61, she’s still at it …

October 26/DeForest, Wisconsin

Bonding with Oscar … My sister doesn’t have a pet, but she does have Oscar. Oscar is a trash can, with a mind, it seems, of his own. Walk by Oscar, as they’ve named him, and (thanks to motion-detecting technology) he opens wide, accepting whatever you toss in his mouth. A second or two later he closes his lid and sits quietly until feeding time comes again.

October 26/Sauk Centre, Minnesota

The road to Minnesota … Sinclair Lewis was supposed to be riding to Minnesota with me. Instead, I had to settle for Garrison Keillor. My original plan for the drive to Sauk Centre, Minnesota — where Sinclair Lewis grew up and which he mercilessly skewered in his book “Main Street” — was to listen to an audio version of the book on the six hour drive …

October 27/Sauk Centre, Minnesota

From black sheep to favorite son … The signs at Exit 127 of Interstate 94 in Minnesota let drivers know what’s ahead: McDonald’s, Subway, Jitters Java Cafe and the Sinclair Lewis Interpretative Center.  What weary motorist couldn’t use a jolting cup of Joe, a $5 footlong and a peek into the life, times and works of a long dead novelist?  …

October 28/Fargo, North Dakota

Flinging French fries in Fargo … There are things to do in Fargo, North Dakota. We’re just not doing any of them. Instead, we’re holed up in a Motel 6, where I’m flinging french fries into Ace’s mouth. Why? Because it’s so damn cold …

October 29/Fargo, North Dakota

All the world’s a stage — even Fargo … John Steinbeck, as he tells it in “Travels with Charley,” didn’t stop in Fargo. He kept Rocinante rolling another 40 miles until he stumbled upon a more idyllic setting — this one along the Maple River, near the sleepy little farming town of Alice. There, he just so happened to run into what would turn out to be one of the book’s more colorful characters, an itinerant Shakespearean actor …

October 30, North Dakota

Copse and robbers … The winds that swept through North Dakota this week were relentless, cold and mean. In a word, they were criminal. When I pulled out of Fargo, I was certain any visions of fall colors were over. Those winds, like a heartless gang of thieves, surely stripped them bare. But, as Ace and I traveled west, there were a few bright exceptions: groves of yellow-leafed trees — birch or aspen — that, by virtue of being tightly grouped together, still sported their fall colors. The only way I can figure it, they were saved by the copse …

October 31/Beach, North Dakota

Badlands or cream puffs? … The Badlands? They weren’t so bad. In fact, thanks to a premature winter blast that left them lightly dusted with snow, they looked more like cream puffs when Ace and I passed through Thursday, making it as far as Beach, North Dakota …

October 31/Eastern Montana

Highway Haiku: Bad Route Road … Whoever named this road must have wanted to discourage people from passing through. No matter how badly you might need a rest area, do you really want to exit on Bad Route Road? …

November 1/Butte, Montana

Tilting at windmills … I couldn’t figure out what these long tubes I kept passing in Montana were. Airplane wings? Parts of some secret weapon? As it turned out, they were windmill blades …

November 2/Butte Montana