It’s time to pull out of Petite Acres, say goodbye to Arizona and make our way back east.
We’ll hit the road tomorrow morning – bound, eventually, for Baltimore — having accomplished most of what we stopped here for.
First on the list was sleep, and I got lots; followed by catching up on work, at which I was somewhat less successful; and getting organized, a goal I didn’t fully reach, either.
We had our recreational vehicle experience, staying four weeks in a camper in the desert – though, come to think of it, I didn’t recreate in it. Nor, it being a detached trailer, anchored in a trailer park, did I use it as a vehicle.
Nevertheless, we got to spend Christmas with family. (And, yes, they all liked their regifts.). We got the car washed, our clothes clean, and did some hiking in the desert.
I peered out the window of my camper before I went to sleep and saw three of them, about 30 yards away, walking through the shadows of the trailer park, appearing almost comical with their giant heads and tiny legs. They walked in a row, one behind the other, from trailer to trailer, looking like a family shopping at the mall.
It was one final offering from the desert, in whose wild side I find serenity. I’ll miss it.
I’ll miss my little trailer, which – with its pop-outs popped out — actually is quite big; I’ll miss Petite Acres, my modest trailer park, which actually is owned by a millionaire, who lives in a trailer, too; I’ll miss Cave Creek, which transforms from a quiet little town during the week to a hopping destination on weekends.
I’ll miss my neighborhood bars – the Hideaway Grill (the biker one) The Buffalo Chip (the cowboy one, with live bull riding two nights a week) and Harold’s (the Pittsburgh Steelers one).
Crowds gather at Harold’s when the Steelers are on TV, and, with their cheerleading led by a guy on a microphone, I can hear them from my trailer: “Here we go, Steelers, here we go.” Once you hear that phrase chanted 300 times, it tends to keep replaying in your head, long after the game is over.
I stopped in for a beer there last Thursday, not knowing a game was about to start. When I took a seat at the bar, I learned that they were all reserved. People buy season tickets to sit at the bar and watch the game. Each stool had a placard with a name on it, and I had inadvertently taken “Wild Bill’s” spot. I thought about moving over one stool, to one marked “Brenda,” but decided if Wild Bill showed up – hopefully without guns a blazin’ – I would just explain I was keeping it warm for him. Wild Bill never showed up, but then I only stayed for the first quarter, as the game, against the Carolina Panthers, wasn’t much of a showdown.
Ace seemed to enjoy the break from traveling – tune in later this week to learn more about his feelings on that – especially his visits, several of them unauthorized, with my closest neighbor, Ramiro, who dispensed a few treats, including slow-cooked pork and a tamale. Ace, not understanding Mexican culture, ate the corn husk, but returned it later, in my yard.
Knowing a soft touch when he sees one, Ace would station himself in my yard, waiting for Ramiro to come outside. When I wasn’t watching, he’d sneak over to Ramiro’s, taking a seat at his feet and leaning on him. Ramiro, who thought Ace looked like a lion, called him “leon,” which is Spanish for lion, or would be if I knew how to make an accent thingy over the “o.”
Before leaving, we’d like to thank, first off, our landlord, Tami, for providing our housing, teaching us the ropes of trailer life and showing us around town.
Thanks as well to Desert Foothills Library – the first library on earth to get a copy of my new book, “DOG, INC.” They – in addition to being where I checked out free movies to watch in my cable-less trailer — allowed me to use an office and landline for a radio interview.
Thanks also to the Sonoran News for letting me do another radio interview there.
The book — about the cloning of dog, and the marketing of that service to bereaved pet owners — officially comes out Dec. 30, and promoting it is the main reason for my return to the east coast. Assuming we make it across the country in one piece, I’ll be in Washington for the Diane Rehm Show Jan. 5, and in New York for the Leonard Lopate Show Jan. 7.
In between, with help from The Book Escape in Federal Hill, we’ll be squeezing in a couple of book signings in my old south Baltimore neighborhood – Jan. 5 at the Idle Hour, 201 E. Fort Ave., and Jan. 6 at Captain Larry’s, 601 E. Fort Ave.
(Javelina photo from BisbeeBirders)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 27th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, arizona, baltimore, book, captain larry's, cave creek, cloning, desert, desert foothills library, diane rehm, dog inc., dog's country, dogscountry, home, idle hour, javelina, leonard lopate, petite acres, promotion, return, road trip, signings, sonoran news, the book escape, tourism, trailer, trailer park, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, trip
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.
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.
Posted by John Woestendiek December 23rd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, animals, arizona, behavior, camper, cave creek, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, hail, lightning, motorhome, pets, sleeping, sleeping with dogs, storm, thunder, trailer, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, warmth, weather, winter
“Don’t Call Us Trailer Trash”
Like your roots can’t rot –
That’s how it feels, when living
In a house with wheels
(To see all of our Highway Haikus — attempted poetry, composed from behind the steering wheel during our 20,000 miles of travel — click here.)
Posted by John Woestendiek December 12th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: haiku, highway, highway haiku, lifestyle, living, poetry, road, road trip, roots, rot, trailer, trailer park, trailer trash, travels with ace, wheels
Say you forked over $650 to spend the month in a trailer in the desert – actually one of those big pull-it-yourself RV campers with popouts – and when you arrived the next day to move in, a little earlier than expected, you saw that not only were the pop-outs popped in, but the trailer was hitched to a truck, appearing as if it was ready to hit the highway.
(A) Immediately assume you’d been scammed?
(B) Shoot first and ask questions later?
(C) Politely inquire as to what might be going on?
Fortunately I chose (C) when Ace and I pulled into Petite Acres last week to move into what, after six months on the road, we’d arranged to be our home – we presumed, a stationary one – for a month in Cave Creek, Arizona.
As it turned out, my landlady wasn’t hauling the trailer away, only moving it a few feet over so that I might enjoy my entire concrete slab patio, as opposed to just the half of it that the trailer wasn’t resting on.
After a week of trailer life, Ace and I (though I shouldn’t speak for him) couldn’t be happier.
I can sit at the dinette (across from the kitchenette — midway between the bedroomette and the living roomette) and blog while looking out my windowette and enjoying a view of the mountains, strutting quail and rabbits everywhere. At night, I hear whinnying horses and howling coyotes and a few other sounds, and soundettes, I haven’t identified yet.
He has learned, somewhat, not to wander off to visit other trailers, though twice I’ve caught him at the homes of my two closest neighbors, where he tends to venture when they are cooking or eating.
One of them, who introduced himself as Romero, informed me that he didn’t mind Ace dropping by, but asked that I pick up any poop he might leave there, which, unknown to me, he had done yesterday. I apologized, and Romero, who was slow cooking some pork on an outside stovetop, was very nice about it.
Romero’s dinner smelled so good that I couldn’t be too hard on Ace for the transgression. Besides, it had happened hours before.
We’ve yet to encounter any javelina, those wild pig-like creatures who roam in the desert nearby, but I thought one morning I heard some snorting outside the trailer. We have a woodpecker friend who hangs out on the telephone pole in my dusty yard, and other birds — since I generally keep the trailer door open — have wandered inside to look around.
Yesterday, I went outside to absorb some sun — not to tan, just to bake out the morning chill. I’d just about dozed off on my lounge chair when a bird landed on me. Feeling little webbed feet on my thigh, I jerked awake, scaring him off before I could see what kind it was.
I found my temporary home on Craigslist, and, though it’s a trailer, it’s actually wider than my former rowhome in Baltimore — at least when the pop-outs, in the living room and bedroom, are popped out. I worried a little bit about hitting the wrong switch while in bed and getting compacted — hydraulically turned into a John-ette — but it turns out keys need to be inserted for the pop outs to move.
My landlady, Tami, has been wonderful, jumping on any problems that arise, showing me the ropes of RV life, and intent on making sure — though I’m only here for three more weeks — that I feel at home.
She took me to the library to get a library card, introduced me to some of her dog-loving friends and left me stocked up with movies on DVD, since there’s no TV reception. She invited me to join her and some friends at the American Legion Hall last night.
Ace and I have checked out the biker bar next door, The Hideaway Grill, enjoying some nice time there before being informed that, because of a recent incident involving a customer tripping over a leash, dogs are no longer invited to sit on the patio, at least not on busy nights. Last night, I visited the next closest bar, The Buffalo Chip, where Wednesday nights feature bull riding. Not mechanical bulls. Real ones. Dogs are welcome there, but not on bull riding night, or Friday nights, so Ace stayed home. I didn’t ride a bull. Maybe next week.
In addition to not getting TV reception – maybe a good thing — we don’t get mail delivery, and I have to walk my trailer trash down to the Dumpster next to the biker bar.
We’ve had some minor plumbing issues — the trailer, not me — but they were quickly resolved. (Oh, and that missing dental crown? I found it on the car floor while unpacking, and have reinstalled it in my mouth.)
I couldn’t imagine pulling this trailer — it’s a late 90′s Sea Breeze — down the highway, getting it leveled and hooked up at every stop, but, sitting still, it makes for a cozy little home that sways only slightly when Ace jumps on or off the bed or the couch.
I’ve thought I should give it a name, like John Steinbeck did with his camper, Rocinante. (Feel free to submit nominations.) There’s one I like — it’s both modest and Spanish-sounding — but it isn’t original. I saw it etched into a sign at a gift shop:
Posted by John Woestendiek December 9th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, almosta ranch, america, animals, arizona, bars, buffalo chips, bull riding, camper, campers, cave creek, desert, dogs, english bulldogs, hideaway, javelina, john steinbeck, mobile, monthly, name, neighbors, petite acres, pets, pop=outs, quail, rabbits, rental, restaurants, road trip, rv, steinbeck, trailer, trailer life, trash, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley, wildlife, woodpecker
We are a two-legger and a four-legger on a three-legged journey.
Leg two, as of this week, is complete. Leg three begins with sitting still for awhile.
Ace and I, as of yesterday, have moved into Petite Acres (partly because we loved the name so much), a trailer park in the otherwise mostly upscale — but not pretentiously so — town of Cave Creek, about a half hour north of Phoenix.
Here — in what appears at first glance to be colorful, not overly crowded, dog-friendly territory — we will spend December, or most of it anyway, resting some, gathering our thoughts and catching up on some things we have let lag, like cleaning the car, emailing friends, eating vegetables, social skills and personal grooming.
After six months on the road we felt the need to slow down, not that we were moving that fast.
We left Baltimore in May, traveling through Virginia, North Carolina, Georgia, Tennesee, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah and back. That — with all our stops along the way, the people we met and the stories we told — took three months.
Then, we spent another three months on the move, leaving John Steinbeck’s former home the same day he did 50 years ago and roughly following the route he and his poodle took for “Travels with Charley” — up to Maine’s northernmost tip, then west to Seattle, and down through California.
Unlike Steinbeck, who gave short shrift to Arizona on his way back east, we’re going to give it long shrift. We will linger for nearly a month before returning to the east coast. Step one was getting the car unpacked, which took two days.
Ace’s crate, which has ridden folded up and unused for six months, is back in business, though he uses it more as security nook than anything else. I set it up on my cement patio that abuts my trailer. The rooftop carrier is off my car (though not unpacked), and the car will get washed, and more importantly vacuumed.
In cleaning out the car, I found Ace’s toy, and my other travel companion — bobble-head Jesus, who started the trip off in my cupholder, but ended up buried beneath shoes and garbage behind my car seat. No disprespect intended. I still have not found my missing dental cap.
I hope to be entirely unpacked, and have everything squirreled away in the various nooks of my trailer by the time it’s time to start packing again.
Shortly after Christmas, we’ll head back east to an undisclosed location — undisclosed only because I haven’t figured it out yet — in time to meet my obligations for promoting my new book, “Dog, Inc.: The Uncanny Inside Story of Cloning Man’s Best Friend,” coming out at the end of this month.
Until then, we’ll continue blogging, having some new adventures and writing about life in Petite Acres and Cave Creek — a town I’m eager to explore.
Ace will be learning more about cacti, for sure. He’s already started showing them some respect. He’ll likely learn too about javelina, a wild, pig-like creature — though some contend its actually a monstrously big rodent — that one living in more remote parts of the desert confronts fairly regularly, I’m told. You don’t want your dog messing with them, especially the males, which have tusks.
There are also supposed to be mountain lions, bobcats and rattlesnakes in my new neighborhood, as the trailer park backs up to a wash — or dry, usually, river bed — and is situated in what’s still mostly semi-wilderness.
I’ll introduce you next week to my temporary home, which will be providing me with the first RV experience — although a stationary one — of our trip.
Why, after nearly 20,000 miles, did we stop? Mainly to get organized, and for a dose of stability, but also to get caught up on the various components of my multi-hundred dollar Internet empire — ohmidog.com, Travelswithace.com, Dogincthebook.com and Johnwoestendiek.com.
Why stop here? Mainly, because it’s where, on Craigslist, I found a one-month, dog-friendly lease. It’s also near where my father and brother live. And I love the desert — particularly those parts of it man hasn’t mucked up yet.
Then, too, there’s this: Today’s high was 70 degrees. Tomorrow’s high will be 70 degrees. The day after that, I think predictions call for a high of 70 degrees.
Posted by John Woestendiek December 3rd, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: ace, america, animals, arizona, camper, cave creek, dog friendly, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, john steinbeck, petite acres, pets, rest, road trip, rv, stop, tourism, trailer, trailer park, travel, traveling with dogs, travels with ace, travels with charley
One can see fall in an Airstream, or one can see fall on an Airstream.
Here, we do the latter, allowing the shiny aluminum trailer, a genuine American icon, to reflect, in addition to all else it is a reflection of, Autumn’s many hues.
Call it Artstream — a term I just invented, I think, that I will sell to you for $10,000. It is going to be all the rage, unless someone has done it before, in which case it will be half the rage (and $5,000). If you’d prefer to just have one of the photographs, they are only $1,000.
All proceeds will go towards buying me an Airstream of my own.
Why? Because they’re awesome.
Seeing them being pulled down the highway, like big toasters on wheels, always lifts my spirits, and passing one provides a good opportunity to check myself out and, if necessary, fix my hair. Best yet, they take me back to yesteryear, where, I know, I’ve been going a lot lately.
They’ve got a pretty fascinating history, as explained on Airstream’s website, starting in 1929 when Wally Byam purchased a Model T Ford chassis, built a platform on it, and began his attempts to fashion a self-contained home on wheels.
After experimenting with canvas and tents, he built a tear-drop-shaped permanent shelter atop the platform that enclosed a small ice chest and kerosene stove. He then published an article, “How to Build a Trailer for One Hundred Dollars.” When readers wrote Byam for more detailed instructions, he began sellling them, for one dollar each, earning $15,000.
In 1932, after building several more trailers for friends in his backyard, Byam rented a building and the Airstream Trailer Company began.
Byam, according to the company website, was “a visionary who grasped the societal urge to journey and commune with like-minded people.” He was prone to wearing blue berets and, in addition to his fashion statements, was a master promoter, showman and dreamer.
He once described his quest as building a trailer that “my lovely old grandmother might tow … to the middle of the Gobi Desert, there to live in gracious metropolitan luxury … without reloading, refueling, recharging or regretting.”
In the process, he came up with a form that, like old Coca-Cola bottles and McDonald’s arches, would bypass ephemera and get all the way to icon – becoming a shining one, no less.
So, no, I’m not really the artist. He was.
Posted by John Woestendiek October 19th, 2010 under Muttsblog.
Tags: airstream, airstream trailer company, aluminum, animals, autumn, campers, camping, colors, dog's country, dogs, dogscountry, fall, foliage, history, nostalgia, pets, photography, reflections, retro, road trip, rvs, toaster, trailer, trailers, travel, travels with ace, wally byam, yesteryear
Poor Marmaduke. The movie’s not even out yet, and already its trailers are drawing bad reviews.
I’m not sure when trailer reviews became part of the media landscape, but it seems a little like reviewing a meal before it’s out of the oven.
“Worst thing ever,” huffed the Huffington Post.
“(It) actually gets progressively worse as it goes along, which is quite a feat for a two minute video. It starts with Owen Wilson as “the duke,” himself. Nothing wrong with that. Who doesn’t like some Owen Wilson? But before you know it you’re in the midst of mind-blowing awfulness, being slapped around by Fergie, terrifying talking animals, and toilet jokes that even children would frown upon.”
New York Magazine called the trailer “safe and effective birth control” — meaning, I guess, that people will forego reproducing so they don’t have to take the kids to this movie:
“There’s only one thing about the Marmaduke trailer that isn’t an insult to dogs, people, and the art of moviemaking itself, and that is the nice car William H. Macy is probably now enjoying with his small-role earnings. We guess it could be worse — that bad CGI of all the dogs dancing in the park at the end could have been set to “Hallelujah.”
“Marmaduke trailer is a real dog,” reads the headline at Latinoreview.com.
“The trailer shows just how awful a movie can be. Not only is the CGI really, really bad but the laughs are non existent. I’m not sure what kid would possibly find any of this funny. Especially since it has jokes that I’m sure they’ve seen a hundred times before.”
Looks like, in the view of the critics, anyway, Marmaduke should have never left the comics page.
Posted by John Woestendiek March 29th, 2010 under Muttsblog, videos.
Tags: animals, awful, bad, comic strip, comics, critics, dog movies, dogs, dogs in the movies, entertainment, huffington post, latino review, marmaduke, movie, movies, new york magazine, news, ohmidog!, owen wilson, pets, reviews, trailer