On our last west coast afternoon, Ace and I were wearily headed back to the motel after spending the day touring Monterey when the beach beckoned.
Knowing our route was going to take us inland, that there’d be no more Pacific Ocean views in our travels, I decided we should soak in all we could before we left. Ace didn’t object.
Marina State Beach was nearby, so I pulled in, only to see a sign that said dogs weren’t allowed. Hang gliders have dibs, it seems. So I headed north, probably less than a mile, and saw two trails leading to the beach. With more than an hour until the sunset, I grabbed a dog-hair covered blanket from the car and we hiked up a sandy path to the highest dune I could find, overlooking the ocean.
Winds had blown its surface smooth, so there was not a track anywhere to be seen, except those we left behind us.
I curled up under the blanket, and the sun came out from behind the clouds, providing some warmth, but not quite enough considering the cold winds that were blowing. I also noticed, even with my eyes closed, that something kept blocking the sun out — not for long periods, like clouds do, but in quick flashes. I opened my eyes to see what it was — a hang glider.
Then I re-situated myself, head on my camera bag. Ace curled up next to me, then nosed his way under the blanket. I rearranged it so it would cover us both.
I thought a pre-sunset nap was in order, but Ace, after a few cozy minutes, felt otherwise. He decided it was playtime, so he started squirming around under the blanket, then sat up and looked me straight in the eye. I stared back, knowing that he was in perfectly still alert mode and that the slightest movement I made he would interpret as playing.
So I got up, and he ran circles around me. Then he repeatedly charged at me, veering at the last possible second, looping around and coming back again. It’s our version of bullfighting — violence, blood, bull and cape free, though he does sometimes playfully snap at me when he passes by.
After 30 minutes of that, the sun began a quick descent. Ace lay still on the dune — which our playing had turned into a pockmarked mess — and watched with me.
Part of me, a very small part, felt as if I should smooth the dune out before I left, like I should have one of those little sand trap rakes golfers use and return it to its original condition.
The larger part of me said, naaaah, they were joyous divots, and merely temporary ones. Overnight winds would blow the dune smooth again — just as sure as the sun sets over the Pacific.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 25th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, bay, beach, beaches, california, coast, dog, dogs, dunes, hang gliding, marina, monterey, nature, ocean, pacific, pets, photography, play, road trip, sunset, sunsets, travel, travels with ace
After hanging out with David Love and his pit bull, Kitty — during which time my dog waited in the car — I owed Ace some fun, so I stopped at a smokehouse outside Brookings to pick up something to eat, then looked for a scenic place to eat it.
I toted my lunch — smoked salmon, a hunk of cheddar cheese and a bowl of clam chowder — to the beach and found a weathered and washed up tree trunk that was big enough to seat us both.
Smoked salmon is my new favorite thing. It may even be better than cigarettes.
I nibbled and sipped my soup, tossing hunks of cheese and pieces of salmon, including all the skin, to Ace. The ocean roared. A cool westerly wind made my food wrappers, and Ace’s ears, flutter. The sandy beach sprawled before us, empty except for pieces of wood washed grey. The sun, finally, was out.
Between the lulling surf, the warming sun and the full belly, I decided a few horizontal minutes might be nice — and the log was big enough to oblige. I stretched out atop it. Ace sat at the other end. And I fell asleep, just for 15 minutes or so. When I woke up, Ace was still sitting at the end of the log, staring out at the ocean.
Sometimes, I can’t tell whether Ace likes a place or not. If there are loud noises, big crowds, strange sights, he gets a little jumpy. But this one seemed to suit him just fine.
He seemed, almost, to be thinking — about what I have no idea, maybe when are we going to get home, how much longer do I have to spend in this car, what has become of my life. As we near the six-month mark on our road trip, I’m thinking more and more that, exciting as all these new sights and scents have been, he wants some familar surroundings, a routine.
I’ve spent a lot of time wondering if he’s enjoying himself as we cross America — does he give a whit, for instance, about the kind of scenic beauty that Oregon’s coast showed us? Does he care so much about where he is, or only who he is with, and when that person might come through with some dinner?
I don’t know. But there, on that beach, at that moment, he seemed perfectly content.
I was too, and could have easily fallen back asleep on my log bed. Instead we got up and walked a ways and played chase and danced at the edge of the surf, eluding the incoming waves. He darted around and took in mouthfuls of sand, as he does when he’s at the beach.
We stopped in the first town, Crescent City, and spent the night in a room with the most badly stained carpet I’ve ever seen. Ace sniffs out every new room, but he spent even more time on this one — going from spot to spot for a good 15 minutes.
Then he jumped up on the bed with me.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 20th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, beach, brookings, chrissey state park, coast, coastal, dog, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, logs, noise, ocean, oregon, pets, photography, quiet, rest, road trip, rocks, shore, sleep, smoked salmon, surf, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, waves
We are moving very slowly down Oregon’s Coast.
Majestic as it is, it’s the only way to do so.
With its sheer cliffs and magnificent rocks, crashing surf, and multitude of breathtaking vistas, one would be a fool to rush through, even in the rain and fog, and we had plenty of both. Even then, it was dazzling, the sort of place that, back in the days of film, you would quickly run out of it.
While fully recovered from the diarrhea that plagued him for a few days, he seemed a bit wary as we walked over the sand, dodging the occasional wave that would creep up higher than the others. Maybe the loudly crashing waves had him on edge, or there were just to many pieces of driftwood and washed up sea vegetation to sniff.
I, while awed at the beauty, wasn’t in the mood to frolic, either.
We got back on the highway, passing through several more quaint towns, and stopping at scenic overlook after scenic overlook. I don’t think we overlooked a single overlook. We weren’t covering much ground, but that which we did was stunning, right up there with Maine’s coast, which, scenic beauty-wise, has been my favorite part of the trip so far.
By early afternoon, I started looking for an inexpensive and dog-friendly motel, and pulled into what appeared to be one in Rockaway.
From the road, the Sea Haven Motel didn’t look like much — with its modest little sign, six rooms, and a hostel next door.
Why the rush? Because I had something similar to what Ace had, if you get my drift — and if you were in Room 5, you might have.
For two days, other than a trip to the store, I stayed inside, eating only chicken noodle soup and toast, and becoming so familiar with the bathroom that I could describe it for you in great detail.
But I won’t, except to say the Sea Haven was probably the nicest, coziest, amenity-laden motel I’ve stayed at on this trip — and the perfect place to be sick.
The room had a full kitchen, fully equipped, including a little basket of treats — cookies, crackers, teas and coffees, popcorn and more, none of which I ate, but some of which I stole when I left.
I slept, sipped soup, watched the log trucks roll by, viewed some television and soaked for hours in — thanks to a bathroom well stocked with amenities, too — an ultra-moisturizing foaming milk bath.
Ultra-moisturized, I slept some more in the big fluffy, satin-sheeted bed.
The next morning I felt almost good to go — as long as I didn’t go to far. We drove a few more hours, about half of that spent stopped at pullovers gawking at the sea and the rocks and the perpetually crashing clash between the two.
At times, the view disappeared, and road, cliff, sea and fog all became one big blur, leading me to squint my eyes and slap myself awake, and making my belly roil a little more.
We only got as far as Coos Bay, where the rhythm of the roils told me to stop. We Motel Sixed again.
We plan to continue down the coast tomorrow, probably another two hours worth of driving, which — given “rest” stops, as they say, and given all there is to overlook — will take four.
One of these days we’ll make it to California, but I’m in no hurry.
Posted by John Woestendiek November 16th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 101, ace, america, animals, beauty, cannon beach, cliffs, coast, coastal, coos bay, dog's country, dogscountry, highway 101, ocean, oregon, pacific, pets, road trip, rockaway, rockaway beach, rocks, sea haven motel, tourism, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace
I was enjoying a cup of clam chowder — yes, another one — and Ace was laying at my feet, halfway under the bench, when I decided he was picture-worthy and took out my camera.
Sure, they are scavengers, but I like watching them — whether it be soaring regally through the sky or picking through trash like hungry hobos.
The seagulls around Provincetown have pretty good pickings, but — kind of like the humans outnumber the parking spaces — gulls far outnumber the posts in the water, which seem to be the perching spot of choice.
I’d only taken a couple of photos when a fellow gull looked down from above and, apparently either wanting the spot, or feeling he was American’s next top gull model, swooped down and bumped the first off the post.
After I finished the chowder, and Ace cleaned the cup, gull No. 1 — apparently wanting his perch back — swooped down and knocked No. 2 off.
Then he sat there a few more minutes, looking proud as an eagle.
When some fishermen on a boat were cutting bait, he vacated the post for a closer look, hovering in the air and being pushed backwards by the wind.
He’d flap his wings to get closer, hover, float backwards, and flap his wings again.
Then, seeing no handouts, he went back to his post.
Seagulls kind of have it all figured out. I was forking over money at every turn in Provincetown.
Seagulls? They pay for nothing. They scavenge scraps, sleep wherever they want, squawk whenever they feel like it, and park for free. I salute them.
Posted by John Woestendiek September 29th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, beach, birds, cape cod, dock, dog's country, dogscountry, gulls, massachusetts, nature, ocean, photography, pier, provincetown, sea, seagulls, travels with ace, water, wildlife
No other place — and I’m just speaking for myself now — is, at once, so stimulating and soothing. Give us the sound of pounding surf, the sight of gliding pelicans and the smell of salt water and, of course, access to some air conditioning, and we are happy souls. All my senses, and perhaps even my brain, seem to to work better at the beach.
And this wasn’t just any beach. This was — in what was perhaps my biggest freeloading coup to date — a gated beach community, part-time home to North Carolina’s rich and famous, good old boys like Andy Griffith and not-so-good, not- so-old ones like John Edwards.
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.
I’d made a point to time our continuing travels so that we’d be able to take advantage of an invitation to visit my former University of North Carolina classmates Steve and Louise Coggins, year-round residents of the island who were holding a mini-reunion for some college friends, most of whom I hadn’t laid eyes on in — as someone felt it necessary to point out — 35 years.
Steve, a lawyer, and Louise, a psychotherapist, are hard core dog lovers, and hard core people lovers as well. Earl, their Cavalier King Charles spaniel, is the latest in a long line of rescues. If rescuing dogs weren’t enough, Steve has also hauled some humans out of the ocean, and I’m guessing Louise, in her job, has pulled a few humans back from the riptides of life they were caught in as well.
They, and the other old friends I reconnected with, seem to remain just about as wacky as they were in college — Louise, who once tracked down Paul Newman on the island and talked him into posing for a picture, in particular. They seem to remain — despite all you hear about the vanishing idealism of my greying generation — just as idealistic and committed as they were then, too. Maybe even more so. If there’s a liberal cause, or a Democratic candidate, you can probably find its, his or her bumper sticker on the back of Louise’s car. (“Who would Jesus execute?” was my favorite.) And, beyond lip service, both she and her husband seem still up for a fight when it comes to what they think is right.
That, to me, was even more refreshing than getting slapped and tickled by a cold ocean wave, though I must report that the ocean is not cold at all. It’s the warmest I’ve ever felt it. (This continues to be the summer I came to believe in global warming.)
Ace and Earl hit it off immediately — Earl being a low key little dog who likes to sit in a lap, or other comfortable spot, and observe the humans, often with a quizzical stare that makes you think he’s still trying to figure out the species.
Ace — though he’s not big on swimming in the ocean, prefering to wade, was in his element, too.
He seems most content when among multiple friends, kind of like Steve and Louise. Their beach house — rebuilt after Hurricane Fran claimed their first — seems to have a steady stream of visitors coming and going. If it were a bed and breakfast, it would be doing a thriving business. I think there are long stretches between the times only they and Earl are there.
I hung around for two days, evening out my one-sided driving tan and pondering how I might extend my stay. I offered to become Steve and Louise’s live- in gardener — especially appropriate because, at their wedding, I, having gone attired in blue jeans, was mistaken for a gardener. I considered altering the dates of my visitor’s permit, or stowing away on the island, sleeping on the decks of unoccupied mansions during the night, frolicking in the surf by day.
But finally, and with great effort, I tore myself away.
Ace was even harder to tear away. For the first time on this trip, he didn’t come when I called him to jump in the car. Instead he walked up to the front door of the beach house and sat down — not the momentary, ready-when-you-are-sit, but that determined, try-and-budge-me sit dogs do.
But after taking in two days of good friends, good food, good sun, good surf, and a breezy oceanfront porch swing nap that — until Ace came over and started licking my hand — was perhaps the most restful nap ever in my entire history of napping, we forced ourselves back in the hot old car and headed north, headed in search of another piece of my past.
That story is coming soon. Suffice to say that — unlike my college friends, and their principles — it didn’t hold up so well.
Posted by John Woestendiek August 9th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace does america, animals, beach, cavalier, college, community, democrats, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, exclusive, figure 8 island, freeloading, friends, gated, king charles, liberal, north carolina, ocean, pelicans, pets, private, reunion, road trip, shore, spaniels, traveling with dogs, wilmington