We took the shortcut John Steinbeck couldn’t.
And it wasn’t because he didn’t have Mapquest. It was because he had a dog.
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.
Steinbeck lacked papers documenting that Charley was vaccinated against rabies, and — 1960 being pre-email, pre-fax — getting sent an instant copy wasn’t a possibility. His only choice, other than waiting on the U.S. mail, would have been to drive back into America and get Charley re-vaccinated.
So he opted to turn around. Even that proved problematic. While he never got through the gate to Canada, he got a good grilling once he was back at the entrance to the U.S., and, from the sound of it, got it bit frustrated with the U.S. officials. Steinbeck didn’t like government bureaucracies. “Government can make you feet so small and mean that it takes some doing to build back a sense of self-importance.”
Ace and I on the other hand would have no problem on either end. I had his paperwork, but wasn’t asked for it at any point.
We zipped right through Ontario, traveling less than four hours, and under 200 miles, as opposed to the seven hours and more than 400 miles it would have taken had we stayed in the U.S., veering south and north again.
The scenery, once we got outside of Niagara Falls, wasn’t much different than what Pennsylvania and Ohio would have offered — a lot of the same flat land and fast food franchises. The only real difference was the money and the metric system. I stopped for some 99-cent gas — even though I knew it was that much per liter. And even though it cost about the same to fill my tank, it still felt good to get something — ephemeral as it was — for under a dollar.
I popped inside the gas station to get some cigarettes, and asked when I didn’t see the standard racks of them behind the counter. The employee pulled open a big drawer — law requires them to be kept out of view — revealing numerous brands I’d never heard of in funny boxes. I asked her what was cheap.
She recommended “Next.” I paid in American, got change in Canadian. The pack’s government-required warning — one of several really hard-hitting ones — showed a burned cigarette, with all its ash hanging on, though in a very limp manner, and a written reminder that the cigarettes I intended to smoke could make me impotent.
That not being a big factor in my life right now, I lit one up. They were shorter than American cigarettes, which is how America would want it, but there are more to the pack.
I would have liked to spend a night in Ontario, smoking my Nexts, and the only reason I didn’t was fear of big roaming charges if I got on my phone or my computer.
Leave it to America to come up with roaming charges (I’m assuming we invented them). What’s next? Freedom fees. Wanderlust taxes? Curiosity tolls? America seems to like us to stay put and spend money, and if we go somewhere, have a destination and reach it, thruway style. Do what the GPS lady says. Don’t you dare stray from the path. Stay within the parameters of your network.
I’m sure there are good reasons for roaming fees, I just don’t like the name. The word “fees” should just not be attached to a concept as free and wide open as “roaming.”
I feel a song coming on:
Oh, give me a home, where the buffalo roam (fees may apply)
And the deer and the antelope text.
As a society, partly because of our increasing tendency to take directions from computers, we have grown less likely to be vacilando. It’s a Spanish word, from the verb vacilar. As Steinbeck notes in Travels With Charley: “If one is vacilando, he is going somewhere, but doesn’t greatly care whether or not he gets there.”
Steinbeck said there is no English equivalent for the Spanish word. I would argue “roaming” comes pretty close, though.
Vacilando as we’ve been on our journey, we didn’t wander much in Ontario, and managed to get to Sarnia and the U.S. entry gate just as the sun was going down. There was no search, there were no seizures, just a flash of the passport, a peek at the dog and a few polite questions about whether I’d purchased anything in Canada (“Just these funny little cigarettes,” I replied).
We stopped for the night right there — in Port Huron — and took off the next morning for the other side of Michigan and step two of our shortcut: a ferry ride across Lake Michigan.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 22nd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, border, bureaucracy, canada, charley, cigarettes, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, gas, government, john steinbeck, metric, niagara falls, officials, ontario, papers, rabies, road trip, roaming, roaming fees, sarnia, shortcut, tourism, travel, travels with ace, travels with charley, vaccination, vacilando, wandering
Dog feces is being used to keep the lights on — well, one light, anyway – at a park in Cambridge.
Conceptual artist Matthew Mazzotta, through an MIT-funded project known as Project Park Spark, is the brains behind the scheme, in which a “methane digester” is used to to convert freshly scooped dog waste into methane.
Dog owners simply collect their dog waste in a special biodegradable bag and throw it into an air-tight cylinder. The feces are broken down by anaerobic bacteria. The process produces methane, which is then released through a valve and burnt as fuel — in this case to power an old-fashioned gas-burning lamppost in the park.
Mazzotta is open to other suggestions on how to use the flame, and suggestions have included a teahouse, popcorn stand and shadow-projection box.
It’s a pretty brilliant use of dog waste, which, when it goes into landfill, releases methane into the atmosphere. Harnessing it is a far better idea, considering methane is a potent greenhouse gas more than times more harmful than carbon dioxide, WIRED reports.
Mazzotta hopes to install permanent underground digesters in parks throughout the United States.
(Photo: Project Park Spark)
Posted by jwoestendiek September 16th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, art, digesters, dog, dog feces, dogs, environment, feces, gas, lamp, light, mathew mazzotta, methane, mit, park, pets, poop, power, powered, project park spark, science, waste
An Amish commercial kennel owner in New York rigged a hose up to a farm engine to euthanize 93 dogs that he had been ordered to have tested and treated for brucellosis, according to the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
“Depopulating” is how David Yoder, owner of Black Diamond Acres kennel in Romulus, described the process to a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector.
Yoder, according to a report on Philly Dawg, said he created an airtight chamber out of a wood whelping box (where nursing puppies are typically housed with their mothers) by fitting the opening with a metal door with a small hole for an exhaust pipe which was attached to a 3 horsepower farm engine.
He gassed “approximately” 78 adult dogs and 15 puppies in groups of five or six, then buried them, Yoder told a USDA inspector in July.
Yoder said he left the barn during the gassing because he had a headache from the carbon monoxide fumes.
“The manner of mass euthanasia caused potentially high levels of behavioral stress and unnecessary discomfort to all the dogs in the kennel,” said the USDA report, written by inspector Andrea D’Ambrosio after a July 15 visit to the kennel.
It is against federal law for a licensed kennel owner to perform their own euthanasia.
Mary Anne Kowalski, a board member of the Seneca County SPCA, told Philly Dawg she was not aware of anyone from the USDA reporting the case to local authorities. The dogs were killed sometime after a June 29 inspection where Yoder had been ordered to get his dogs tested and treated for Brucellosis and before the inspector returned on July 15.
Kowalski discovered the report of the gassing on the USDA website, and reported the incident to the sheriff and district attorney in the hope that cruelty charges will be brought against Yoder.
“I hope these dogs did not die in vain,” she said.
Romulus, located 60 miles southeast of Rochester, passed an ordinance last year outlawing commercial kennels, or puppy mills, but Yoder was allowed to continue operating because his kennel was grandfathered under the new ordinance.
Yoder breeds poodles, Bichons, Maltese and Boston Terriers.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 15th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: amish, animal, animals, black diamond acres, breeder, brucellosis, cruelty, david yoder, dogs, euthanasia, euthanization, euthanized, gas, gassed, gassing, hose, inspection, kennel, mass, new york, pets, puppy mills, report, romulus, seneca county, united states department of agriculture, usda
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, perhaps, even, at 56, a little less old.
Don’t get him wrong, he loved his routine, and so did his dog — but within routine, you can also find the word rut, and sometimes there’s not much different between the two.
Rather than pay for housing, he decided to pack up his website, his dog and himself and hit the road, documenting their adventures — a la John Steinbeck and Charley, but with the modern-day benefits of Mapquest, Google, WordPress and cellphone – all while trying to get by on the amount he once paid for rent, roughly $1,000 a month.
After one month, and 3,300 miles, he — who, in case you haven’t figured it out, is me — can report that he nearly met that goal; that his dog, himself and, we hope, the website are all better for the experience; and that the journey is going to continue for a period that, like the man, will be indefinite.
Life on the road has its downside — the constant packing and unpacking; the where did I put my so and so; the heat; the where am I going to stay tonight; the expense, which we try our best to mitigate; and the uncertainty, which can be both good and bad.
But the gypsy in us — and there’s more gypsy in us than perhaps we thought — is loving it as we drive across America, through cities large and (preferably) small, checking its pulse (it still has one), revisiting some people and places and getting acquainted with some new ones.
So far, I can report, Ace, car and I are holding up well, though just this week a “Malfunction Indicator Light” started flashing (on the car, not me or Ace). It’s a little disconcerting since we’re contemplating crossing a few empty deserts in the week ahead, and according to my owner’s manual it could be a sign of major engine or transmission problems, or perhaps nothing at all. I think I’m glad I don’t personally have a malfunction indicator light.
So far, healthwise, my only problems have been dental, even though some have questioned whether they might be mental.
A trip to the dentist would have sent me over budget, so I decided on do-it-yourself dental work. Since no pain was involved, at least if I refrained from eating, I bought a product called Dentemp O.S., and, after locating my detached cap in a pocket of last week’s pants, glued it back on. I used some more of the product to fill the cavity.
Health insurance for me, like a lot of Americans, is still — despite all that reform (is it done yet?) – something my finances won’t permit.
Looking at our overall spending since we departed, our biggest expense has been gas ($580 worth), followed by lodgings (eight nights in motels at $334), then food, which — if you subtract the amount spent on buying dinner for those who took me in (about $200) – was $120. That comes out to $1,034 — less than I was spending on rent and electricity during my stay-put existence.
The key to staying within my self-imposed limits is going to be mooching accommodations when I can, camping when I can, couchsurfing some more, continuing to avoid dentists, and not covering so much ground that gas eats up my budget.
Ace and I have both lost a little weight — not a bad thing for either of us — and he seems to be enjoying the trip so far. He’s as eager to meet new people as he ever was, and with all the new dogs he has met, he’s becoming even more sociable and reliable.
No matter where we are, he has taken to giving me a look around 11 a.m. that — and maybe this is just my imagination — seems to ask, “Is it checkout time?”
He’s getting used to being a rambling dog, and next week we plan to get motoring again, heading out of Phoenix for a while and going north and then west, or maybe west and then north.
We’re trying to set up doing some volunteer work at Best Friends, the Utah animal sanctuary, hoping to visit the Circle L animal rescue ranch in Prescott, and maybe will venture into California, where I’ve been feeling the urge to revisit Salvation Mountain — a man-made, hand-painted, mostly garbage monument (to God, not Dog) I wrote about nearly two decades ago when I traveled the country (sans dog) as a newspaper reporter. It’s near the Salton Sea in an area known as Slab City, which attracts an interesting mix of vagabonds and nomads.
Our trip may or may not be a neverending journey, and it may or may not someday evolve into a second book, but this much is for sure, there’s a neverending supply of stories — dog ones and people ones — out there.
And we’re off to find a few more of them.
Posted by jwoestendiek June 25th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, america, animals, arizona, camping, dog friendly, dog's country, doggin it, dogs, dogscountry, expense, food, freeloading, gas, highways, home is where the dog is, john woestendiek, lodging, miles, motels, new mexico, ohmidog!, pets, road trip, salvation mountain, slab city, travel, traveling with dogs, trip
Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, hoping to tie down the dog lovers’ vote in his re-election bid, appeared at the 109th International Kennel Club Dog Show in Chicago Saturday and spoke out against a bill introduced by his likely Republican rival, state Sen. Bill Brady.
Earlier this month Brady, introduced legislation that would have allowed mass euthanizations of unclaimed and unadopted shelter dogs.
Brady, after objections from the animal welfare community, later backed off the bill, which would have allowed up to 10 dogs at a time to be gassed to death with carbon monoxide.
Quinn, attempting to keep the controversy alive, appeared at the 2010 Chicago dog show at McCormick Place over the weekend to voice his displeasure over the proposed legislation, the Chicago Sun-Times reports.
“As long as I am governor, we’re never going to pass any kind of legislation that allows cruelty toward animals, whether it be dogs, cats or any other living things,” Quinn said.
“The governor has a veto pen and we’re going to make sure we protect our animals from any kind of cruelty,” he said, then added, “There are some folks in our society unfortunately they have dollar signs for eyes, and that’s all they think about is money. We’re not going to let that kind of monetary compulsion get in the way of treating our animals in a proper, dignified, friendly manner.”
Asked if that was a shot at Brady, Quinn said, “That was a terrible piece of legislation and I think everybody in Illinois knows it. A bill was put in to allow a mass killing of dogs and cats in the gas chamber. Putting all those animals together … for them to be subject in their last minutes on earth to that kind of cruelty, is just plain wrong … There may be firms out there that think they can make money by mass killings of dogs, puppies and kittens. But that’s not what our state stands for and that law will never be approved.”
Quinn, who owns a 13-year-old Yorkshire terrier named Bailey.
Posted by jwoestendiek March 1st, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, bill brady, carbon monoxide, chicago, dogs, euthanasia, euthanizations, gas, governor, illinois, killing, legislation, mass, mass killing, news, pat quinn, pets, politics, proposal, proposed, senator, shelters, spca international, unadopted, unclaimed