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Tag: motorhome

Polar Express: All hail breaks loose


With just two days left before Santa comes down the chiminea, even Arizona has decided it’s winter.

The last few days in Cave Creek — where I’m living in a (contradiction in terms alert) stationary motorhome — have been wet and cool, with temperatures plummeting at night to around, prepare yourself, 50 degrees.

We get by, and so far without turning on the heat. Instead I use three blankets and Ace. Normally, unless he’s feeling unusually needy, he’ll fall asleep with his head down by my feet and his rear pointed at my face, which is not without ramifications.

On the cold nights though, and there have been a couple, I reposition his 130 pounds so that we are side by side, pointed the same way, so that I might better absorb his warmth.

He puts up with it for a short time, then goes back to his old position.

Last night, as I reached out to give his head a final pat, only to get a handful of butt, we fell asleep to the pitter-patter — I’m pretty sure I heard both pitters and patters — of a gentle rain falling on the trailer roof, only to be awakened an hour or so later by tremendous pelting thuds of hail on the roof.

A hailstorm can be disconcerting in a real house, but in a trailer — without the attic or the insulation — it’s a lot more personal; every thud seems amplified, and a heavy hail sounds like machine gun fire.

Those whacks were enough to get Ace anxious, and when thunder and lightning rolled through he left the bed in search of a more secure hiding place.

It was as if one roof over his head wasn’t enough, and he was looking for a back-up one. He tried under the dinette table, but that was too cramped. He came back to the bedroom and crawled under the tiny ledge the TV sits on, then decided that wasn’t good enough, either.

He went to the front door, but I assured him that — given the falling hail, though I didn’t see it, sounded about golf ball size — wasn’t an advisable option.

So I invited him back on the bed, where he was more than happy to snuggle up as close as he could possibly get, pointed the same way as me, for the duration of the storm.

I threw my an Indian blanket over him, and he seemed to like that even better. I put my arm around him, and that is how we woke up this morning.

I’ve yet to go outside to check my car and my the chiminea for damage, but looking out my window as the sun comes up, the sky looks like maybe it will finally clear up today, and maybe our last few days in Arizona will bring us more sweet sunshine.

On Monday, maybe Tuesday, we’ll start the trip back east, totally unexcited about, and totally unprepared for, a taste of real winter.

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; so we need to avoid motels as much as possible in the months ahead.

The hope is to somehow secure, for the next several months, something like this:

More likely, if we succeed at all, it will be something like this:

Nevertheless, in pursuit of a motorhome — more specifically, the free use of one for a month or two or three — we are headed up to Hershey, Pennsylvania next week for what’s billed as the country’s largest RV show.

If nothing else, we will at least become a little more familiar with the RV world — just how much, when it comes to traveling America’s roads, things have changed since the days John Steinbeck, and countless others, threw custom made, and later factory made, camper shells atop their pickups and hit the road.

Today’s motorhomes come equipped with GPS, flat screen TVs, DVD players. They can Tweet, text and drive themselves at the same time (OK, I made the last three up, I think). I — being one who am still dazzled by the cupholder — will surely swoon over the technology of today’s modern RV’s, or at least get confused by it.

Despite all the high tech improvements, though, what RV manufacturers are missing out on is the dog-friendly craze. Not a single one, as far as I could find, has designed and marketed a motorhome as dog-friendly, much like Subaru does with its Forester, and Honda does with its Element. That’s odd because many of those tooling around the nation in RVs today, I’d bet, opted for them to end the ongoing headache of finding dog friendly and affordable lodging.

So I — assuming the RV show itself lets dogs in — will explain to them that 14 million of the 75 million dogs in America today regularly with their owners, and I’ll point out how, if I may mix my metaphors, their industry seems to be missing the boat. Then I will explain how, by loaning me an RV — but not a huge one — to serve as temporary ohmidog! headquarters for the next three months, a savvy manufacturer could heighten their dog-friendly profile.

My hope is that if I describe what I’m doing, and offer some advertising on the website, an RV manufacturer will take pity on me and my poor, cramped dog and offer up a state of the art motorhome for a three month test spin.

Speaking of websites, we’re building a new one — one designed specifically for our posts about our continuing trip. It will focus specifically on my travels with my dog, and your travel with your’s. TravelsWithAce.com is coming soon. You’ll still be able to read about our trip here on ohmidog!, but our travel posts will be carried in their entirety, along with other features, on our new site.

Two other websites are in my future as well, in connection with my new book — dogincthebook.com and johnwoestendiek.com (my requisite author page) are coming soon. The book, “Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend” is being released in late December.

In connection with all that, our stay in Baltimore will probably last another week as I go about more housekeeping — housekeeping being all the more difficult when you don’t have a house.

At the outset of our journey, we set a goal of spending about what we normally spent a month  for rent and utilities. The first two months, we met or at least came close to that goal. This past month, we went way over the limit.

While we spent nearly half the month in various Motel 6’s, and finagled eight days staying in the homes of friends, we also ended up paying some heftier room rates in August. Though we try to stay under $40 a night, we ended up paying $60, $70, even $80 a night for dog-friendly lodging. August saw us go over the $1,000 mark for motels alone, while spending $430 for food and $530 for gas.

Three months and 10,000 miles ago, we started out under the theory that one (and one’s dog)  can explore America as cheaply as one can settle down and live in it.

Now we need to put our lack of money where our mouth is, to start cutting back, tighten the belt and — assuming no one comes through with a loaner RV — begin using that tent that’s been riding atop my Jeep Liberty, unused, for three months.

Addendum: Pets are not allowed at the Pennsylvania RV & Camping Show.  That deals a severe blow to my plan to charm an RV manufacturer out of an RV, because, of the two of us, Ace is the one with the charm. And while my lack of charm is a handicap, that doesn’t make him a service dog. Those, of course, are allowed at the show.

(Show officials say they have made special arrangements with Hersheypark and Dad’s Pet Care Barking Lot, a kennel located just outside the park. Pet owners can drop their dogs there for a daily fee of $10.)

Candle blowin’ time: My birthday wish list

For my birthday, which is today, I was thinking of writing up a wish list — all the things Ace and I need to continue, for the next three months, our travels across America.

At the top would be use of a state of the art motorhome — not one of those gas-greedy, road-hogging behemoths, but something a bit more compact and economical, where I won’t constantly be worrying about how quickly my wallet is draining or whether I’m in my own lane.

After that, I’d ask for a continuation of the cooler weather that has finally shown up, reasonable gas prices, an end to any and all weight limits and “fees” charged for bringing a dog along anywhere, health insurance (for me and my dog), world peace, and that Ace and I manage to continue to avoid life’s potholes. Cash, of course, is always nice, too.

Yes, as our financial situation grows bleaker, sending us back to the 401K to continue our journey– assuming there’s still something left of the 401K — I could work up quite a wish list.

But 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.

I think I was about 10 when it was taken — apparently in the days before focus had been invented. You’ll just have to trust me when I say we were a good looking team. I’m not sure what happened to the snappy red blazer, but Tippy — a gift for my 5th birthday — died, as all dogs do.

Since then, another 45 years passed — as have about a dozen more dogs. There were jobs, and wives, high points and low ones, honors and criticism, thrills and disappointments, challenges and victories, all of which led to where I am today. Specifically, that’s in the house of a friend in Baltimore, who has gone to the beach and offered me lodging in exchange for feeding her cat, named Kitty, who so far has just hidden underneath a chair making noises like a constipated aardvark.

Or at least what I’d imagine a constipated aardvark would sound like.

Where I am, in the broader sense, is: 57 years old, unemployed, without a home (mostly on purpose) and halfway through what I hope to be a six month journey, weaving back and forth across America. With, of course, my dog.

Right now, I am actually in several states: Maryland, Flux, Uncertainty, and, perhaps the most scenic of all, Disarray. I am attempting to make some sense of the jumble of paperwork, books, shoes, clothing and garbage that inside of my car; and fighting off the nagging insecurity of not having a real home, a real job, a real bank account. I am tired of Motel 6’s, fast food and tailgaters.

Yet, for some reason, as Ace and I simultaneously ponder the wisdom of, and rest up for, the next leg of the journey, I am more thankful than ever for all I have — my dog, family, friends and the last three months being at the top of that list.

Ace has truly dazzled me with his ability to adapt to new situations (though we’ll see how he does later this week when we attempt to spend a few nights aboard a not very large and difficult-to-climb aboard boat). He has adjusted with ease to everything so far — new accomodations, new dogs, long drives, curly fries,  hot weather, canned food. Being with each other pretty much around the clock, we’ve become even closer, more co-dependent than before, which may or may not be an entirely good thing.

Family and friends have opened their homes to us as we’ve hopscotched the country — and so, on occasion, have complete strangers. We’ve met authors, and Michael Vick dogs, we’ve “couchsurfed,” visited ex-wives and ex-cats, spent time at shelters, rescues and sanctuaries that are doing wonderful things, and had some fantastic encounters with everything from space aliens to strippers.

I’ve learned that people are good, dogs are even better, and America — mired as it may temporarily be by the bad economy — remains, like the old song says, beautiful … and by that I mean both its landscape and the people who occupy it. I am lucky to have seen so much of it and met so many of them — the latter, more often than not, being made possibly by my amazing one-of-a-kind dog.

So, to heck with the wishes;  it is a happy birthday; we are going to push on; and the cat under the chair, as I wished, has stopped making noises.

Really, the only thing Ace and I need to continue our journey across America is each other.

On the other hand, if someone insists on providing us with an RV, we will accept.

(“Dog’s Country” is the continuing account of one man and one dog spending six months criss-crossing America)