Tag: road trip
Shuffling through dry leaves
One of life’s distinct pleasures
Wet ones … not so much
(All our Highway Haikus can be found archived here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek November 5th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, autumn, crunch, fall, haiku, highway, highway haiku, leaves, poetry, road, road trip, shuffling, travels with ace, verse
“Ode to October”
If ever I’m told
I’ve only one month to live
I’ll choose October
(You can find all our Highway Haikus archived here.)
Ace’s Halloween treat? He got to hop in the back of this funereal-looking vehicle.
It’s a 1955 Cadillac owned by my neighbor, and Ace’s new best friend, Al, who likes to take it out of the garage around Halloween time and show it off a bit.
Ace, when he’s outside, always keeps one eye on Al’s door, five units down from mine. If it moves at all, he bounds off, expecting treats. Al always has one, and if he doesn’t he raids his own refrigerator. Sometimes I worry the leftovers Al’s giving Ace — chicken, fish, steak – are that night’s dinner.
At one point, Al asked if he was being a bad influence on Ace. With the last bag of dog treats he bought, Al, who is dogless, volunteered to give them all to me so Ace, who normally stays put in the front yard, wouldn’t go running off down to his house.
Smart as that would be, discipline-wise, I said no. Having noted the spring in Ace’s step everytime he sees Al, and vice versa, I decided to let the bad habit continue.
As a result, Ace will do anything Al asks — including, it turned out, hopping into the back of the refurbished, ghostly silver vehicle that, back in its prime, served as the last ride for many a human and floral arrangement.
In exchange he got — you guessed it — a treat.
Posted by jwoestendiek November 1st, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: 1955, ace, al, america, animals, bad habits, cadillac, discipline, dog, dogs, flower car, friends, funeral, halloween, hearse, neighbors, pets, road trip, travels with ace, treats, trick or treat, vehicle
The quietude of our sleepy little neighborhood has been shattered.
We are under attack.
I mean hundreds every hour, and that’s just counting the ones that pelt my roof. It started about a week ago, and has been gaining intensity ever since, as if working up to some nutty grand finale.
Ace, who doesn’t like loud noises — and believe me, it’s very loud — is starting to get used it. Only during the worst, like when 50 or so bombard us over the course of, say, 10 seconds, does he look up, wondering what’s going on.
But it’s a daily and day-long event — thousands of acorns, both green and brown, falling from the sky, pelting the top of my car, rattling the roof of my house, pinging off my grill and air conditioner and slamming onto the sidewalk.
In almost every case, they lose their cute little hats in the process.
I’ve lived among oak trees before, but I don’t remember ever seeing an acorn fall, and definitely not anything like the barrage underway on my street.
Huge oak trees line the whole block, and their limbs hang over the housing units. But none of them seem to be raining acorns like the ones hanging over my place.
When I was planting my pansies Saturday, at least five acorns –and usually you can hear them coming, ripping through the leaves on the way down — smashed to the ground at my feet.
I’m hoping it won’t still be raining acorns on Halloween — because given the distance they are falling from, and their hardness, they could do some damage to young heads. Or old heads for that matter.
I haven’t been hit by one directly yet. I’ve had a few bounce off my grill and hit me, and many land at my feet. Ace has also escaped thus far, even though he spends a lot of time laying under the trees in the front yard.
The acorns pose a double threat. In addition to the possibility of getting beaned by one on the way down, there’s the hazard of sliding on those that have already fallen, especially when they’re hidden under leaves.
Most often they just crunch underfoot, but every once in a while there’s a group that are particularly hard and stubborn, and it’s like trying to walk on marbles.
There are those who believe that an abundance of acorns is a sign that the coming winter will be severe — that somehow nature is able to figure out how many acorns squirrels will need to get through the season and, accordingly, instructs the trees on how many they should grow and drop, so that there’s always enough for everyone.
That’s a little too neat and tidy, trickle-down and happily ever after for me to believe.
We can’t and shouldn’t try to dictate and control it. We shouldn’t ask it to change the song. And when we do cut in, we should do it gently and with respect. After all, we we’re lucky just to be invited.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 13th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: abundance, ace, acorns, america, animals, autumn, bombarded, control, danger, dogs, fall, falling, hazard, nature, noisy, north carolina, nuts, oak, pets, road trip, squirrels, travel with ace, trees, winston-salem, winter
Ace slept through the whole thing, but I, at least, was honored to be a guest on Animal Cafe this week to discuss my year-long, penny-pinching, Steinbeck-inspired, dog-motivated journey across America.
You can listen to the podcast here.
We talked about “Travels with Ace” with Edie Jarolim, pet travel correspondent for Animal Cafe.
As Ace snoozed on the futon, I recounted, by phone, how — having finished my book, and languishing in a state of unemployment — we came to move out of our home in Baltimore and not come to a stop until 25,000 miles later.
Part of that time was spent retracing the route John Steinbeck took with his poodle in “Travels with Charley.” But unlike Steinbeck, who spent three months on the road, we ended up taking a year before we semi-settled back down.
When Edie asked me if our traveling was over, I had one of those schizoid moments. Responsible John answered yes, they pretty much were. But Freewheeling John was there on the other shoulder, urging that we hit the road again.
I told him to shutup — at least for now.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 10th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animal cafe, animals, dog inc., dogs, edie jarolim, john steinbeck, john woestendiek, pets, podcast, road trip, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley
It’s clear to see — or maybe it isn’t — that Ace has found his new bar.
Ever since departing Baltimore, though he makes up for it by being social in other ways, I think he has missed his regular corner bar, which we never identify because dogs in bars are illegal in the city.
And it was there, once he got big enough, that he first learned to jump up and, sensing something might be going on that involved food (even if it was only a lime), lay his front paws on the bar, as if waiting to be served.
The habit only became more entrenched during our year on the road, during which, in hopes it might get him a treat, he plopped his front paws on scores of cheap motel check-in counters.
Wednesday night, Ace (quickly ascertaining during our previous visits that Katie was a soft touch) must have jumped up on the bar 20 times, and if she wasn’t there with a treat, he’d drool on the counter until one came.
At one point, when he did it, there were three people taking pictures of him at once (damn puparazzi), including this non-blurry one (taken with her cell phone) by an actual award-winning photographer, Lauren Carroll:
We’ve started showing up there most Wednesday nights ($2 Yuenglings), and after about five visits, we’re to the point that there will usually be three or four people who remember Ace by name.
It’s partly a small town thing; partly, I can only assume, because he is so memorable a beast, unlike his master. (“Hi Ace! And what was your name again?”)
Recreation Billiards welcomes dogs inside and out. They’ve always got treats handy (or at least they did before Ace cleaned them out Wednesday night), and are quick to offer a big bucket of water.
They draw a diverse mix of customers, unlike the homogenized crowds at some other local bars, and offer pool tables, foosball and darts, as well as the requisite TVs tuned into sporting events.
Ace doesn’t care about those amenities, though. In fact, I think he could do without the sounds of billiard balls smacking into each other, much like the sound of baseballs hitting bats.
But for all the attention and treats he gets, I can only conclude that he concludes it’s worth it. It may be mostly about the treats, but I don’t think it’s all about the treats. When bartender Katie took a break, he joined her, and lingered at her side even when she explained there were no more — going so far to sit on her foot, his way of saying “please don’t ever leave.”
What can I say? He’s a social animal.
Posted by jwoestendiek October 6th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, bar, bar dog, bars, behavior, dog bar, dog friendly, dogs, dogs in bars, north carolina, pets, recreation billiards, road trip, social animal, socializing, travels with ace, treats, winston-salem
Once again it’s time to get out the metaphorical crowbar — metaphorical ones being far lighter and easier to use — and dislodge ourselves from the beach.
And once again, pry as I might, leaving isn’t easy.
Though the sun was making only intermittent appearances — which didn’t really matter, because even rain is better at the beach — Ace and I had a great four days in the Wilmington area.
Our appearance went well at Pomegranate Books — a fine little bookstore that pulled in an equally fine crowd. Ace got to meet a lot of people. I did some reading and talking and signed lots of copies of my book, “DOG, INC.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend.”
Our hosts, Steven and Louise Coggins, and their dog Earl, were hospitable and otherwise magnificent, somehow making time for us between their jobs and all the noble work they do, for a variety of causes, on their own time.
In connection with one of those, I got to go along to see a screening of the new documentary “Nefarious: Merchant of Souls,” the first of a planned three-part series on human trafficking.
As with my previous visits to their home on Figure 8 Island, I marveled at the amount of good-deed-doing they manage to squeeze into their lives — generally doing so while I was lazily sitting on a rope swing or lounge chair.
On Wednesday, leaving Ace and Earl behind, I went with another visiting friend to Wrightsville Beach, and lunch at a place called the Oceanic. Though muggy, we sat outside on the pier, sharing it — the pier, not the lunch — with the seagulls.
“Don’t feed the birds” signs were everywhere, as were the gulls, waiting to swoop in for the leftovers when diners departed.
As soon as I sat down, this one (above) landed right behind me, and managed to snag a french fry from the neighboring table just seconds after it was vacated. A waiter quickly came by and covered the basket of fries with his tray. Party pooper.
On Thursday, the sun was out in the morning, but then storm clouds rumbled in. For a good hour, though, the beach side of the house afforded sunny views, while, on the inland side, it was grey and dark, with flashes of lightning.
Earl, a Cavalier King Charles spaniel, didn’t seem bothered at all by the thunder, while Ace, five times his size cowered with every rumble.
The rain and sun fought it out all day, both winning several rounds. Late in the afternoon, a drizzle was falling when I walked Ace and Earl on the beach. When we turned around and began walking back, into the wind, Ace fell into step behind me to keep dry, sometimes stepping on my heels, sometimes bumping into me when I stopped, which I did a lot, so he would bump into me.
This morning we packed up the stinkmobile for the trip back to Winston-Salem. My first day here, I had left my windows down, to air out the car. Rain left both front seats soaked, which only made it more pungent, and required I cover them with my collection of dog blankets, my towels, and some of Steve and Louise’s.
Finally, they seemed to have dried out.
I just hate leaving the beach.
It makes me feel a little like the seagulls, after the french fries are covered up.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 23rd, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, appearance, author, beach, book signing, dog, figure 8 island, north carolina, pets, pomegranate books, road trip, travels with ace, wilmington
Dental repairs — not mine this time, but my mother’s — took me to nearby Pfafftown last week, about a 15 minute drive, during which I annoyed by mother by repeatedly prouncing the first silent “f” in the North Carolina town’s name.
The correct pronunciation is “Poff-town.” But I kept calling it “Puh-foff-town” and she kept correcting me, not realizing, at least at first, that I was doing it on pfurpose.
Dropping her off at the dentist, I returned to a spot we had passed by, which, though I had only gotten a brief glance, appeared to be an enchanted kudzu forest.
Just as I suspected, I found three canines. (There is no kudzu patch in which I cannot spot the shapes of dogs — though some, admittedly, are clearer than others.)
First, I saw a pfair of kudzu wolves, howling at the sky:
Back at the dentist, my mother was done and waiting for me, and, as pfate would have it, I learned a return trip was going to be necessary in the afternoon.
Ace, who mad missed out on the first jaunt, came along on the second, and after again dropping off my mother, we followed some signs pointing to C.G. Hill Memorial Park.
The park is a beautiful setting, with winding trails and a duck pond.
It also contains a hollow poplar tree in which, according to the county, a farmer once hid his cow and calf to save them from being poached by Union soldiers during the Civil War.
It has also been dubbed the “Loving Tree” – but we’re not sure, and the county’s website doesn’t say, whether that’s because it lovingly provided shelter, or because of hanky-panky that may or may not have taken place within its confines.
Looking at it, I’m not sure how it could have held a cow and calf, much less an amorous couple. Why the space is no bigger than an airplane’s restroom.
Rather than imagine the hijinks that might have occured within the tree, I pfocused on the pfair of ducks, becoming pfascinated with the pfretty rings of color around their eyes:
While at the park we ran into Thor, a three-year-old Chihuahua-rat terrier mix.
She filled me in on where people commonly let their dogs run unleashed — even though park rules require leashes — but, suspecting my mother might be pfinished with having her dental work installed, I didn’t have time to check it out.
One the way to drop her back home, I told her about the pfark, just down the road from Ronald Reagan High School. Now there was a pfresident.
“It’s pronounced ‘poff-town,’” she corrected me for the tenth time.
“Puh-false,” I retorted. It’s Puh-fofftown.”
She rolled her eyes, as if in pfain.
That was her signal she had pfinally had enough of that game.
I’m going to keep pronouncing it Puh-fofftown, though, with apologies to all the Puh-foffs that live there and who it is named after, because, just like dentists, I sometimes like to strike a nerve.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 16th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: animals, cg miller memorial park, chihuahua, dentist, dogs, forsyth county, kudzu, kudzu dogs, loving tree, north carolina, pets, pfafftown, pronunciation, rat terrier, road trip, thor, travels with ace
One of Ace’s biggest fans — though she has never met him — sent us a gift this week, and it arrived just in time for my birthday.
It came in a huge box that, when we found it on our doorstep, got us both curious. I lugged it into the house, assuming it was for me, and Ace sniffed while I searched for scissors. I opened it up and pulled out what was inside, causing foam peanuts to spill everywhere.
Ace, determining the foam peanuts weren’t edible and finding them a little intimidating went into the next room — until I was done removing the contents and cleaning up the peanuts.
“Hey,” I hollered. “It’s for you.”
He came back in, sniffed some more, and took a look at the pictures on the sides. They were of him. It was a custom made feeding station, decorated with photos of some of our favorite moments on the road.
It was from Sue Kottwitz in Missouri, a loyal reader of Travels with Ace, who advertises her company, For Love of a Dog, on ohmidog! She and her husband, Gary, had built and decorated it — not just an incredibly thoughtful gift, but a much-needed one.
I’d bought Ace, after he started experiencing back problems, a plastic feeding station — but even though it was for big dogs, it wasn’t really elevated enough for a dog of his stature. And of course I wrote about it.
Sue took note, ordered me by email to take his measurements, and asked me for a list of my favorite moments during the 25,000 miles of traveling across America Ace and I recently completed. Then she notified me something was coming my way.
The feeder has huge photos of Ace on both sides, and the front is decorated with photos of some of those favorite moments — meeting Mel, a former Michael Vick dog, in Dallas; watching the sun rise on Cadillac Mountain in Maine; visiting Rolling Dog Ranch in New Hampshire and Dog Mountain in Vermont; volunteering at Best Friends in Utah; paying our respects at John Steinbeck’s grave. And of course, kudzu dogs.
Now, everytime Ace is fed, which is twice a day, I, who still sometimes hunger to be back on the road, get to relive the trip. Ace — more interested of course in what’s in the feeder than on it — gets to eat comfortably.
Thanks, Sue and Gary, for a gift that feeds us both.
Posted by jwoestendiek September 5th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, birthday, dog, dogs, feeding station, for love of a dog, gift, memories, pets, road trip, sue kottwitz, travels with ace
Backstory: Ace was in serious need of bath — has been for a couple of months now — so we popped into a self-service dog wash in Winston-Salem. That’s where we met Moses, looking every bit as full of wisdom as his namesake.
Moses weighs 150 pounds, according to his owner, Jennifer. She’d already washed Moses’ sister (though not by birth), a Samoyed, who waited patiently, barking from time to time, as her human completed the far bigger job.
Jennifer, like me, had some trouble with the token machine, which was not taking credit cards, as it usually does. She had to pack both dogs up — the wet one and the dry one — and drive to the bank and come back. I used up all $10 of tokens wetting Ace down and applying shampoo. He waited, all lathered up, while I tried my last $5 bill in the machine. It didn’t like it. So I had to go next door to a dry cleaners to break a $20. Final cost, counting the dryer: $20. Lesson learned: Get all your tokens beforehand.
Ace was cooperative, until I tried the blow dryer on him. He squirmed, but put up with that. It’s a pretty handy way to wash a dog — and with Ace’s recent mystery back and leg issues, I didn’t want to put him in the slippery bathtub at home. At the dog wash, I just walked him up the ramp, into the giant tub with a rubberized bottom, then washed, rinsed, conditioned and rinsed — all with the nozzle provided.
Moses was even more patient than Ace. He seemed a very mellow dog, sitting perfectly still until his owner was done. Then he decided he needed to shake. A wet otterhound, when he shakes, really parts the water, or I guess, technically, the water parts him. It went everywhere.
(Roadside Encounters are a regular feature of Travels with Ace. To see them all, click here.)
Posted by jwoestendiek August 18th, 2011 under Muttsblog.
Tags: america, animals, bath, breeds, dog wash, dogs, encounters, go dog wash, moses, otterhound, pets, photography, road trip, roadside, roadside encounters, travels with ace