South Dakota

August 22, 2015

The dogs handled sleeping in the tent surprisingly well. Jack was happily reunited with his blankie girlfriend even though he had figured out how to squeeze himself into the gap between the front and back seats in the car where I kept the blankets. Leo kept trying to climb onto my inflatable sleeping pad. Piper….well she just slept.

I woke up with the sun. I think. It was very overcast but light out. We walked around most of the perimeter of the park. Still no bison but lots and lots of deer. I made a leisurely breakfast as I broke camp and as I was carting everything to the car I looked up and saw the elusive bison. We took another stroll over to have a look then back on the road.

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So heroic looking.

The town before the highway, Luverne, had a small coffee joint so of course I had to stop. It was quite obvious that I didn’t fit in with the women that were there and I beat a hasty retreat.

Then back on the highway and into South Dakota whose state motto should be: “windy as
F%$k”. Even when I was going straight the steering wheel was slightly canted the whole time which made it really fun when driving across a bridge or next to a truck. I watched one pickup with a trailer on the bed driving in front of me and the entire trailer was being displaced a few degrees by the wind.

I stopped at a ramshackle farm that advertised bison for sale and spoke with the gentleman working there. I think he may have actually built the place he was so old but he was one of those rare breed that are so sweet you have to stay as they talk; definitely one of the nicest people I have ever met. I learned all about his children and grandchildren.  He even told me about his plans to move to Canada years ago but he didn’t. We had a nice long chat before I headed back into the wind storm with some bison jerky and pepperettes when some other customers came in.

I soon started seeing signs for Al’s Oasis and famous buffalo burgers. Again, we had to stop. So I ran in and grabbed a buffalo burger for me. And since it would be cruel to eat it in front of the dogs I also got them a patty to share. Spoiled? Absolutely. It says something when I ordered a plain patty and it gets rung through with nary a raised brow.  Seems like I’m not the only one that spoils their dogs.  And I was gently corrected when I ordered a bison burger.  It seems that it’s “bison” in Minnesota but “buffalo” in South Dakota.  We crossed the road and ate our meal next to some statutes that blocked the wind a tiny bit.

A taster’s note: I found the buffalo (or bison) to be drier than beef.  Had I not known what it was, I would not have noticed a difference.  Just something to keep in mind when buffalo is slightly more expensive than beef.

With full tummies we headed back out onto the road and into the wind.

Then we come across the Badlands. I’ve never been before and seeing it on TV is just not the same. One minute prairie then BAM Badlands. I asked at the gate  to the Badlands Park if it was always this windy and the woman said “yes”.  Then she paused and said “well, maybe not this bad”.

We got out for a walk but there were all these signs that said dogs aren’t allowed on the trails. I don’t think they minded too much with the wind.  In fact, Piper did not like it much at all and stayed close to me with her little stump of a tail tucked low.  Leo did not stray far either.  Jack…he was completely content to sit and take it all in.  We did a few little short jaunts out of the car but with the risks of rattlesnakes, they were very short and I kept them on very short leashes.

Now all the way across South Dakota there had been signs for Wall Drugs. Since it was right outside the Badlands I figured I’d check it out. I’m sure some people would love it and do love it. Me…I grabbed an ice cream cone and got the hell out of there. A bit too touristy for me. So back in the car.

And here’s where things go awry. I had planned to camp out again and was still going to even with the high winds. And then it started to rain and the temperature was dropping. Me wet in a cold tent? No problem. Three soaked dogs in a cold tent? No way. So I pushed on trying to find a place to stay. By this time we’re at the edge of South Dakota and cutting across a corner of Wyoming into Montana. The map had me off the interstate and on a smaller highway which would normally be no big deal. Except here there was no internet and no cell signal. And no towns. Ok no biggie I know there would be a town eventually.

And we then  we drove into Broadus (I have no idea how to pronounce that) Montana. We drove by a motel with a vacancy sign and kept going. Between the bikers and the guy in the DJ booth out front it looked like the kind of place that would have Patrick Swayze doing roundhouse kicks all night long. Roadhouse.

Ok I knew there was another park up ahead. The wind had died down and the rain had stopped. Still cold out but the tent stays warm once we all pile in.

By this time it’s night. Full on middle of nowhere night. Now, in my travels through The States I’ve noticed that they aren’t always good with marking their parks. You’ll be driving on the highway and see a sign that says to take the next exit. You take the next exit and there’s nothing else. It’s like they say “there’s a park out there. Now go find it”. To complicate matters, the park signs are often brown with white lettering. Not really hi viz.  Not that the signs are much different in Ontario, it just seems that I’m able to find them easier.

So there I am driving and driving and driving and drive right through it. Either I completely missed the signs or it’s a place with no camping.

At this point it’s getting close to midnight local time and after 1:00 am our time so I pulled over at the next rest area, release the dogs from their harnesses and after a quick walk outside to stretch our legs, we get back in the car and snooze for a few hours.

The temperature kept dropping and at one point I turned the car back on to get some heat. According to the thermometer it was 3. There’s no missing digits there. It was barely over freezing!

In a moment of weakness while I was waiting for the heat to kick in, I got out the map and booked a hotel room in Spokane Washington for the next night. And that turned out to be an incredibly good decision as I shall explain later.

And that was how Saturday ended: the three of us in the car in a rest stop in Montana.  At least we had plenty of warm blankets and I somehow ended up with Jack squeezed on my lap under the steering wheel.  After Piper tried to sleep on my lap and eventually got off because I was moving too much trying to get comfortable under a 65 lb boxer.

 

Minnesota

August 21, 2015

I had a bit of a dilemma this morning when I woke up.  I have an uncle and his family in Nebraska that I haven’t seen in forever and I had planned to head down that way. I had called them when I had an idea of when I’d be passing through but no reply.  I pondered my options over oatmeal I prepared with the coffee maker.  Sometimes you just have to work with what you have.

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Coffee machine oatmeal for breakfast. Necessity is the mother of invention. Or breakfast any way.

While I was planning my route I started out generally westbound but around the time that my route options split, I still had not heard from anyone.  There had been a little town in Wisconsin I had visited eons ago and I decided to head there instead. Problem was, I had no idea what the town was called.  All I could remember was that it had painted cows, much like the moose that had been in Toronto. I had tried all kinds of searches for painted cows but gave up.  For some reason, I thought it was near the House in the Rock which is worth seeing for sure…if one does not have a small pack of dogs with them. So I Googled House in the Rock and started heading to Spring Green Wisconsin.  

Almost as soon as I got there I realized it’s not the same town and I was in a cell dead zone. We still stopped for a walk through the town before we climbed back into the car.  Eventually I found a visitor centre and learned that I’m in the wrong bloody end of the state!  Painted cows will have to wait for another time.

So back on the interstate we go. One thing that I noticed is there is next to no warning when you’re leaving the state. It would have been nice to get some Wisconsin cheese but construction had everything all buggered up. Next thing I know I’m in Minnesota!

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Snoozing the miles away.

As we drove along, I was amazed at the sheer number of wind farms. I don’t know what it was but they were totally tripping me out. It’s not like we don’t have one at the CNE Grounds in downtown Toronto or anything. Maybe it’s just that there’s so many of them and they are all over the place.  It was strange to see them lazily turning all around us with no end in sight as the fields rushed by.

We stopped at a rest stop somewhere in Minnesota and I sat back and watched as the dogs had a rambunctious game of tug.  Normally it’s just Leo and Jack but this time Piper decided to get in on the fun.  I was getting stares from the few other people there but watching the three of them, it was impossible not to laugh.  It made me so happy to see them having that much fun.

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A quick game of tug at a rest stop in Minnesota.

So the next mission was to find a place to sleep. After what seemed forever we kind of stumbled onto Blue Mound State Park. The lady in the office asked me if I want a car site or a cart in site. A what? She explained to me with a cart in site you literally haul your stuff to your site with a cart and that the sites are a bit more private. Sold. So pick my site and off we go.

I parked the car and see that there are tipis nearby. I guess it’s the same as the yurts we have up north. Nifty. It would have been cool to stay in one but I figured dogs aren’t allowed and they are much bigger than what I need.  Had it been raining and we were planning on being there for a few days it might have been different. We set up camp and have just enough time for a quick hike.

And almost immediately find a bison viewing platform. Bison?! We hop up the platform but no bison to be seen. However we did start to hear them way off in the distance. Jack stopped and the stance he had made me think of Billy from The Predator: “there’s something out there. And it ain’t no man.” Thankfully without the “we’re all going to die here” but they have a sign that says “Don’t anger the bison because even a strong fence won’t hold them”. Made me laugh because the fence was two strands of barbed wire and some cow fence. I think we could have pulled it down.

With night falling I finished off the pizza and had some bison vodka listening to the bison lowing in the far off distance.  And for the first time, the entire pack slept in the tent.  I had no idea if Leo had ever gone camping before.  I had nothing to worry about.  With Piper and Jack showing him the way, he took to the tent with no problems.  All Jack wanted was to snuggle up with his favourite blanket and soon his snoring drowned out the sound of the bison.

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Oh blankie…how I have missed you.

The Beginning- Road Trip 2015 West Edition

The siren call of the road cannot be ignored.  The two previous years I had driven out to visit my grandparents in the southeast corner of Manitoba which is a drive of approximately 2000 km.  I knew that I wanted to drive out again and had originally planned to leave on August 31, but when the opportunity arose to have a slightly longer stretch of time off, I had to take it.  I had wanted to go for a longer trip and this was my chance.

The catch?  The opportunity arose on a Monday with time off starting on Thursday.  So I had a few days to organize and get supplies, all while working.  I somehow managed to pull it off.

And so begins Road Trip 2015 – West Edition.

 

August 20, 2015
After a frantic few days organizing supplies, we hit the road at 7:00 am this morning.

Standard road trip rules would apply:
1. NO CHAIN RESTAURANTS
2. Stop when we want to
3. Don’t plan too far ahead
4. Listen to the radio until there is no signal
5. Road trip bottle is Zubrowka Bison Grass Vodka

The traffic across the top of Toronto was not too bad but then coming into Guelph we got hit with a sudden wall of rain. No drizzle or light rain to ease into it. It was “oh it looks a bit cloudy” and then whoosh. We made it through the rain and got to the border at the Ambassador Bridge.

I, of course, pick the slowest lane. And then when I got up to the booth, I am reduced to a bumbling fool when I lay eyes upon the border guard who is one of the most gorgeous men I have ever seen. Getting across the border is stressful enough for no reason. Then trying to string more than two words together as a raging puddle of hormonal goo? Definitely not my usual charming self.

I have always heard how bad Detroit is but it didn’t look too bad as we went speeding down the interstate.  Then again, most things look like a blur anyway.

Michigan seemed to go on forever. And nothing really piqued my interest. Until we were almost into Indiana. Then we stumble onto this tiny pocket with wineries and breweries and…wait for it…. The Chocolate Garden. Well how could I not stop?

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Enter here? Don’t mind if I do.

They had truffle tastings, like one would have with wines. I devoured a few samples and then I had to walk away before I bankrupted myself. But not without getting a mocha. No powered or prepared anything. They had jars filled with chocolate, actual chunks of chocolate, and they would add either coffee or water. Oh. My. GAWD.

We got through Michigan and into Indiana. Then I saw one of the most confusing signs I think I have ever seen. It read “Texas Grill”. Which was in Michigan City. In Indiana. I’m surprised I noticed it at all among the signs for adult stores and churches. It makes for, shall we say, interesting reading.

Through Indiana and into Illinois. And here comes the construction. Interstates are confusing enough to an interloper such as myself.  So there I am crawling along trying to figure out if I need the 90 West or 290 West and then I realized I needed gas. So I start looking. Keep looking. Ummmmmm usually gas stations are right on the highway or signs posted near the highway. Nothing. I pulled out the handy Gas Buddy app and think I know which way is south to get to a cluster of stations. Nope. I ended up taking the scenic route for gas. Oh and more tollbooths than I have ever seen.

I managed to get the car back on the road and it was time to start looking for a place to sleep. When I initially looked through the route there weren’t any interesting campgrounds immediately apparent so I figured a hotel room, at least for the first night.

I booked a room at the Extended Stay America in Rockwood. Pulled up to the hotel and waited for the desk staff to come to the desk while I chatted with some other guests as the were fawning over the dogs. When the staff returned, they gave me some surprising news. I was at the wrong hotel. The one I’m booked at is literally around the corner. Two of the same hotels within spitting distance of each other.

After spending almost 13 hours on the road I figured I needed a bit of exercise so I threw on my running gear, put the dogs on a tie rope around a tree and literally ran back and forth in the back driveways.  It was an L-shaped run so I ran it as intervals: alternating fast sprints with slow jogs. That got real boring real fast. Music would have been nice but I hadn’t brought my phone and the music from the business next door wasn’t loud enough to really hear. Oh the business? The Tiger Tail Lounge. A strip club. That I can see from my room.

So I went back to the room and ordered a pizza. Cracked open the bottle. It was a good first day on the road.

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Pizza.  Again.

An Adventure…without Dawgs

I fancy myself a bit of a runner.  I am not fast and I only completed my first marathon last October.  I do not run a lot of races but I have done a few over the past couple of years as this is something that I have adopted somewhat late in life.  Last year I did one of the Hypothermic Half Marathon races in Montreal and this year on February 1, my racing buddy asked if I wanted to do it this year as well.  It didn’t matter that I had not run much since the marathon.  The temperatures were mild and it was a chance for two single girls to go to Montreal for a weekend.

The mild temperatures that we had been enjoying quickly plummeted the week before the race.  Race day itself was looking like it would be around -25 C with wind chills in the -30 C range, even dipping as low as -40 C.  But we were going to do this race; or give it a real shot anyway.  I dropped the dogs off with my good friend Liz (a total lifesaver and amazing all around person) and drove down to pick up my friend.

We left Toronto on Friday afternoon and promptly hit traffic.  It was expected at that time of the day so I wasn’t too concerned.  However the weather was determined to slow us down and we were soon crawling eastward.  We passed cars in ditches and even had one spin out across the highway in front of us.  A drive that should have taken five hours took eight.  It didn’t help that we seem to have problems navigating the multitude of one-way streets in downtown Montreal, an issue that was exacerbated by road-weary brains.

Finally we checked into Hotel Faubourg Montreal.  It was a nice suite and after we unloaded our belongings we walked outside in search of food and a welcoming drink.  The first restaurant we went to ignored us, so back into the cold we walked.  Several other places were closing.  Eventually we went to another hotel that had a lounge and had some fancy drinks.  The kitchen had closed but we had gotten to the point that we were too tired to eat.  We walked back to the room like zombies and were soon sleeping.

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The remains of a fancy drink.

Saturday we almost slept through the hotel breakfast but we just made it.  It was better than some of the other breakfasts I had had on the road with nary a waffle or waffle machine in sight.  We decided to go to the suburbs to go pick up our race kits and a few other things we needed.  I had forgotten to pack my outer wind pants which I was definitely going to need.  The course is two loops through Parc Jean Drapeau in the St. Lawrence River and there is a good wind that blows off the water.  I ended up finding a better pair of tights than the pants I already had so it was a worthwhile trip.

We decided to test our fortitude by walking around downtown Montreal for a few hours.  We stumbled across Montreal Poutine  and just had to stop.  Poutine…how could you not?  French fries smothered in cheese curds and gravy.  I had mine topped with fried onions and she had hers topped with smoked meat.  It was good and I could have gorged myself on cheesy gravy fry goodness but we stepped back out into the cold.  The temperature had dropped considerably while we had been eating and we sought refuge at a cafe down the road.  Soon we made the cold trek back to the hotel.

In an effort to thaw out, we turned the heat up but soon it became apparent that nothing was working.  Old buildings being what they are, there was a mean draft from the window. The gentleman from maintenance tried to help but we were soon moving to another, much warmer room.  We ordered pizza from Pizza Il Focolio and waited for it to be delivered.  And waited.  And waited.  After an hour and a half we called and were told that it would be at least another 45 minutes.  I don’t think so.

Back out into the cold we went and walked to nearby Chinatown.  We had some good food at Restaurant Beijing then made the quick walk back to the hotel.  On a side note, as much as I love Chinese food, not the best thing to eat before a race.

The next morning we were the first ones downstairs for breakfast and then soon on the Metro to the Parc.  It was cold but the blazing sun made it bearable and we joined other brave souls at the Aquatic Centre.  We learned that they had added an option for this race: you could stop after one loop instead of doing both for the full 21.1 km.  I had no intention of doing such a thing but it is easy to think that at the beginning when standing in a warm building.

The crowd moved out into the cold and we fell into step with them.  It was a short wait before the front of the pack started off but soon I was passing under the inflatable arch and out onto the course.  As much respect as I have for my fellow runners, I am always blown away by the volunteers, especially in a race like this one.  It was cold and windy and there they are standing out there just so I can run by them and get the odd high five or words of encouragement through muffled layers.

Once I started moving I soon fell into a steady, if slow. rhythm.  My sunglasses were fogging up badly so they were tucked into a pocket early into the race.  My breath soon had my eyelashes frozen and when I started getting close to aid stations, I would take off a glove and pinch the icicles off before taking my water.  I passed the point to turn at the end of the first loop and kept going.  My hamstrings were burning and my face was freezing but it was not about the physical discomfort anymore; it was about beating the temperatures and the snow and the wind and getting to that finish line.  The cups of water at the stations were more slush than water and the gels I carried for fuel were in various stages of frozen so I could only choke one down.  My stomach was a little upset from the dinner the night before and there were a few times when I wondered if there was a place to duck off the course.  My neck gaiter, a tube of cloth worn around the face, had become so frozen that it was too heavy to stay up and was gaping around my neck.  The last kilometre has been the hardest for me in this race but finally rounding the bend and seeing the finish line helped my feet to fly.

I crossed under another red arch and had a medal draped around my neck.  I stood and waited for my friend who was a few minutes behind me as the icicles melted off my eyelashes and eyebrows.  I have since seen the pictures taken by the race photographers and I had ice over most of my face.  I checked the weather report and a short time after the race, the temperatures were showing as -23 C and feeling like -31 C.  My friend crossed a short time later and we went inside to warm up and eat.  Some lack lustre nibbles and we went back to the hotel.

After a warm shower and dry clothes, we were back on the highway.  The trip home was uneventful and I was soon back home with my dogs.  I had been worried about my pipes freezing and had left the water running slightly.  No problem there.  So I tossed my sweat-drenched clothes into the washer and was relaxing when Piper suddenly seemed to be curious about something and ran into the kitchen.  Oh NOOOOOOOOOOO.  The drain must have become frozen somewhere and the washer had backed up into the kitchen sink.  There I was, exhausted from running and a long drive on the road, bailing out the water and mopping the floor.  Finally I sat back down.

I like to get pictures of the dogs wearing my medals and this was no different.  I also got a hat but Leo was the only one that would stand still long enough for a picture.

As much fun as it was, I missed travelling with the dogs.  This trip was obviously different because there was a destination and a time frame that had to be kept, so it lacked the carefree feel of the other trips.  Could I have brought them with me?  Absolutely not.  It just made me appreciate how amazing they are to travel with.

And we have so many more adventures just waiting to be told.  Unfortunately I’m having technological issues so once I get those sorted out, the stories will continue…

A Brief Interlude

I am going to take a break from recounting our past adventures to tell of a more recent one, an adventure more in line with what this blog (and the associated Instagram, Facebook, Twitter accounts) are all about.

I had heard of a “barkery” just over an hour away in Hamilton.  A place where one can enjoy a cup of coffee and a snack for you and your dog!!!!  How could I not go?

So after looking at the weather reports, I decided to make the trek on Monday February 1, 2016.  I even checked the website to make sure it would be open.

That morning we hit the road.  Well, we stopped for a hike in a nearby forest and then we hit the road.  Traffic was relatively light which was good because the drive across the bottom end of Toronto can be so dreary.

Soon enough we left the highway and made our way into the parking lot.  My eyes brushed over the line of signs until it focused on one and we navigated our way past the moving cars.  As we got closer, I had a sinking feeling in my chest.  It wasn’t anything I could say for sure, but there was something bothering me.  I joked to the dogs “Wouldn’t it be funny if it were closed?”

I parked my car directly in front of the storefront.  The store was in darkness.  A brightly-coloured piece of paper was taped to the door.  Closed.  For a special event.  I stood there in front of the door and peeked inside, hoping to catch a glimpse of what may have been.  Nothing.IMG_5676

So we drove back toward the highway and I saw a sign for a conservation area.  Great.  Plan B.  Take the dogs for a walk while I figure out what to do next.  When I drove up to the gate I saw that it would cost $15.00 to get in.  I promptly did a U-turn and went back towards the highway, stopping in a plaza since there’s no point in driving around aimlessly.

I took the dogs for a walk around the block to stretch their legs then pop into the 50 Point Market.  I needed a snack.  I bought the pulled pork sandwich for lunch and a small piece of sausage for the dogs.  The sandwich was…mediocre.  I wanted it to be good.  I really did. The flavour in the pork was lacking to the point where I tasted the bun most of all.  I shared the sausage with the dogs as I looked up dog parks.

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Sausage snack time.

A highly rated park in Niagara Falls caught my eye.  Close to The Falls which is a place I wanted to stop anyway.  Perfect.  Back in the car and onward we go.  My GPS soon had us in Niagara Falls and we were getting closer to the Fireman Dog Park.  And then drove right by a vacant lot.  Apparently it didn’t exist anymore.

So I did the only thing I could do.  We went to see The Falls themselves.  After parking the car, we walked down along the gorge and back.  The weather was fantastic and with next to no crowds we had a wonderful stroll.  Lots of posing for photos too, for the dogs and people walking by who wanted to get pictures with them.  Jack has developed quite the sense for when to strike a pose and seems to know when he looks good.  I just have to keep the camera steady.

After we had wandered for a couple of hours we jumped back in the car and drove to nearby Niagara on the Lake.  I was originally going to drive straight through but then decided to stop. The window of Il Gelato Di Carlotta called to me and I stopped for a latte and salted caramel macaron.  It was one of the best macaron I have had in a long time.

We crossed to the other side of the street to go back to the car and came upon a Rocky Mountain Chocolate shop.  Of course I had to go inside.  When I mentioned that I had some friends waiting for me outside, the woman at the counter asked if they could have a treat.  Today was lucky for us in one way: they don’t always have the cookies with dog-safe confectionary coating.  So along with a few little treats for me (namely ice wine bombs and chocolate bacon clusters), the dogs were able to get something too.  I think they were happy.

After stopping at The Ice House for a bottle of Vidal ice wine, we made our way home.  The drive was uneventful with the soft sound of snoring drifting from the back seat.  They didn’t seem to mind not getting to the “barkery”.  I guess it just gives us another excuse to try again.  Maybe after a phone call first…

Then Along Came Leo

No doubt, dear reader, you will have noticed that my previous road trip in April 2015 featured a boxer named Piper and a Boston Terrier-Pug cross named Jack.  But what of Leo, the Boston Terrier in the profile picture?  Well Leo came into my life in a rather unexpected way.

July 1, 2015 – Canada Day

Being a shift worker, it is not unusual to have to work holidays and that Canada Day was no exception.  It was a relatively quiet day until about two hours before the end of my shift which was when I met Leo.

His owner had passed away unexpectedly and the family was unable to take him.  Under normal circumstances he would have gone to a shelter until either the family found someone or he was put up for adoption.

I looked at that little shaking body and I felt my heart breaking for him.  On an impulsive and crazy whim, I offered to take him.  As soon as I said it I thought “What are you doing?  You know nothing about this dog! Important things like how he is with other animals.  There are two dogs and three cats already at home.  What happens if he’s aggressive?”  I told myself it was crazy but I would not have been able to leave him in a cage after what he had been through.

The family agreed to let me take him as long as I gave him back if they found someone.  Absolutely.  I explained that it would be better for everyone and I already had a house full of critters and the last thing I needed was another.

When I walked Leo to the car he hopped in the front and had his feet braced on the door before I was able to get in the driver’s seat.  He watched the city go by the window and I will always remember the reactions of the people we drove by when they saw his little face.  It did not take long for him to be passed out and snoring on the way home.  Poor little fellow probably hadn’t had a good sleep for a while.

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Enjoying the view on his way to his new home.

I did feel a little apprehensive about bringing him inside.  Piper can sometimes come across a little strong and if a dog is fearful it stresses everyone out.  I opened the door and Leo walked in.

Piper and Jack came to the door, there was some sniffing and then they practically gave him the tour of the place.  It sounds crazy but that is exactly how it looked: here’s our water bowls, food is over here.  This is the couch and it’s pretty comfy.  Bed is this way… There was no snarling or barking or posturing.  It was almost too anti-climactic.  We slept in one big mass that night as though he had always been there.

The next day was my last of work.  I put Leo in a separate room and placed a baby gate across the door so they could see and smell each other but there would still be some separation.  I wasn’t too sure about how everyone would be alone and I didn’t want everyone hanging out together until they had a chance to get to know each other.  I had asked a neighbour to pop in on them a few times during the day and she told me that each time, someone had pulled the gate down and Leo was with the other two.

Sure enough when I got home that night, the gate had been pulled down and Leo was at the door waiting for me.  The house had not been destroyed, the cats did not look like they had been terrorized, and everyone was relaxed.

I stayed in touch with the family and a few weeks later they told me that they could not take Leo from me and he was my dog now.

He is sitting on my lap as I type this now.  He has brought so much joy to my life and so much energy to the house.  He and Jack will play tug until one of them gives up, usually Jack.  He has learned how to swim and loves long hikes in the forest.

Just wait and see what fun the four of us have had.  And that’s just since July.

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Mischief? Me?

End of the Journey

April 30, 2015

This morning we woke up…well I woke up squeezed into a small strip of bed. After extricating myself from the covers, I went downstairs and had the last of the wafflewiches and coffee. With the car packed up we began our journey back to Ontario.  After stopping to let a duck cross the road.

Road Trip 2015-spring edition 457

Just a duck crossing the street. No big deal.

And then changed direction and headed to downtown Montreal for Schwartz’s smoked meat. See as I was driving I could just hear my brother’s voice in my ear about not bringing back smoked meat. So I stopped, grabbed a few packs of meat, took the dogs for a short stroll around downtown Montreal and THEN we began the trip back home.


A few quick breaks at OnRoute stops and we delivered the purchased products to my brother and dad.  I took the opportunity to let Piper play with his fiance’s Great Dane while Jack did all he could to stop them, and then we were back on the road home.

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Piper and cousin Athena.


On Tuesday April 21 in the wee hours of the morning we left home and on Thursday April 30 at 7:00 pm we returned.

We had set off with no destination and no route planned. Yet over the course of 5426.9 km we had seen and done so much:

I learned that the strength of the radio signal is in direct proportion with how much you like the station. If you hit scan often enough , you WILL hear Maroon 5’s “Animal”, Pink Flloyd’s “Brick in the Wall”, or Nirvana’s “Heart Shaped Box” a few times per day. You will also find a station called The Edge or Mix or Kiss.
I discussed universal health care in an ice cream shop in the Catskills and what a turtle sees in the oceans before it hits Hawaii over a breakfast buffet in Strasborg. We were out-polited by so many people which totally destroyed the “rude American” stereotype.
We met people who literally did not know what was past the next town.
We learned that not every two star hotel is created equal.
Chain restaurants are always open but that’s because they lack character and soul.
We hiked through rain thinking “we can’t possibly get any wetter” and then learned that yes in fact we could.
We shared pancakes and bacon as snow whitened our heads and shrimp as we breathed in the briny scent of the Atlantic Ocean.
We watched the sun set on the mountains and watched clouds broiling over the waves.
We learned that you don’t have to plan every move before you make it.
People thought I was crazy, either because I was a woman travelling alone or because I had no destination in mind. But for every person telling me I was crazy I had just as many tell me it was amazing.
Could the trip have been more efficient? You bet.
But just going where the wind blew was the most freeing and therapeutic thing I have felt in a long time.
I don’t know what I was expecting with this trip. Whether some great truths of the universe would be revealed or a spiritual awakening.
I did find something. While sitting on a rock overlooking the mountains I felt a calm that I did not realize was missing. It was something that could not be found in book nor building. Something that could not be given by another. Something I had not known until I did; if that makes any sense.
I found a sticker in a gift shop that said “not everyone who wanders is lost” which I learned was a quote from “The Lord of The Rings”. I have to agree for sometimes it is in the wandering that we truly find who we are, not because we are lost but because we don’t know where we are or where we need to be. We find a strength we did not know existed or peace or love or whatever you seek it is always within you waiting to be found. Maybe it is best heard in the wind through the trees or off the ocean in the sounds of the gulls or the never-ending cityscape. There is something in the road beneath moving tires and landscape rushing by windows and terrain moving underfoot that is healing.
And I hope that by bringing you with us, dear reader, you may have a chance to experience it with us.

I hope you continue to journey along beside us.  There are still so many stories to tell.

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A quick stop on the side of the river.

Vermont

 

April 29, 2015
I didn’t set my alarm this morning since I’ve been up before it on every other day. Today of course is the day that I sleep in and miss breakfast at the motel. I have to admit that I was pleasantly surprised with how nice the the motel.

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What a nice place to enjoy breakfast.

We set out and ended up in Vermont in the Green Mountains. We stopped at the Big Moose Deli to grab a bit of food. I go inside and that’s when I see a sign saying the deli was closed. All the food they had on display was stuff that needed to be heated up. My heart san because so much of it looked so tasty and I had been looking forward to a good, old-fashioned deli sandwich.  I asked the man working behind the counter where I could stop to grab some food and he started giving me directions that involved a plaza with a Home Depot.  I told him I wasn’t eating at chain restaurants during the trip and he paused and I watched him looking for words.  “I’m screwed aren’t I?” I asked.  He nodded and then he handed me an oatmeal raisin cookie and told me to enjoy. Wow. So I bought a double chocolate whoopi pie for later since I felt weird about taking the cookie. It’s a fun place with all kinds of statues and souvenirs. When I brought the dogs out of the car for a stretch and some water Jack was quite taken by a statue of Elvis. Who knew he was a fan of The King? Or it could have been the giant hot dog right next to it. And he also was wagging his tail at the Blues Brothers. There’s a giant sasquatch in Vermillion Bay just past Thunder Bay in northern Ontario that Piper is terrified of.  A  statue of a bear holding skis? Oh please…. she didn’t even bat an eye.


We passed through Bennington which was such a lovely little town I could have stopped and wandered through there if the mountains weren’t calling to me. We stopped at the Brown Cow Cafe to grab a real cup of coffee and a yogurt granola parfait.


We did a bit of hiking in the mountains then stopped beside a river and had a snack. Of course how could I not share at least a little of my parfait?  Now I think of myself as a pretty decent tracker and can find trails that most people would walk right past.  And sometimes there is a degree of stubbornness that gets me into a bit of trouble; like when you hike through a section of forest that had been damaged, most likely by heavy snow.  Climb through brambles and over fallen trees?  No problem!  Leave some blood on said brambles and trees?  Even less.  Oops.

We left there and then started heading north towards Montreal. Now most of the time I found that I was good at following the directions given by locals. This time….well apparently either they told me the wrong highway or I remembered the wrong highway and we took an extremely scenic route out of the mountains.

By the time we got to the border it was quite late.  And it was at the border that I realized what a lousy gift bringer I was.  Maybe it just seemed worse during the conversation in my absolutely awful French:
“How much are you bringing back as gifts?”
“Like $100 bucks. Water bottles. Some chocolate. Ya I think that’s about it.”
“Any food or alcohol?”
“Ummmmmmm half a pizza and part of a bottle of Forty Creek.”  He looked at me and blinked a few times.  I looked right back and shrugged.  And that was how I got back over the border.  I finished the last of the pizza from Strasborg on the way to Montreal.


Long story short we didn’t get into Montreal until after 10:00 pm. And because it was so late the only non-chain restaurant open was pizza…of course.  
I’m kind of glad because it was one of the best pizzas I have ever had. Shove a bunch down my throat and follow up with a double chocolate whoopi pie. Talk about ending the night right.

North Through The Catskills

April 28, 2015

The Hotel Strasburg was lovely and quaint and just like staying at grandma’s house if grandma was living in the house her mother was born in. A light breakfast and off we went. I asked about a place to get a good cup of coffee and was directed to a cafe around the corner. Aannnnnnnndddddd it was closed. No java for me.

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You weren’t planning on coming back to bed were you?

Now when I planned my route each morning, a huge factor was the availability of rooms for that night.  I would have a general idea of the direction and then book a room that way. Cost was a big factor but there are a lot of places that don’t allow dogs.  At the end of this day, we ended up back in the Catskills.  We stopped at a farmer’s market and as much as I tried to get something healthy, let’s just say the chocolate cream pie was calling to me.


The trip on the road was pretty uneventful and we went for a hike in some of the same trails at the south that we hiked before though we stayed off the trails that required huge 
feats of athletic ability.  We had done those already so we took it easy.  We had gone south along the west side of the park but then started back north on the east side so we had a chance to see different places, including a portapotty that had a hole back in the back wall.

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You weren’t planning on coming back to bed were you?


When we got to the Rodeway Inn, I will admit I was a bit apprehensive. It looked like another road motel but the room was nice and clean. The location had an amazing view, especially the breakfast bar. And I have two dogs taking up a huge portion of a king-sized bed. Just like being at home.

Homeward Bound

April 27, 2015

On our way home. The Days Inn had a continental breakfast so no waffle this morning. It made me sad.
Initially the plan had been to follow the coast back north but there were just so many CITIES in the way. It’s not that I don’t like visiting cities; it’s just when I have two dogs with me, cities are kind of boring.  I can’t browse in the shops and the three of us do tend to take up a lot of sidewalk space.  And it’s just not as much fun for them to be surrounded by concrete and glass buildings.  So I decided to stay away from the big cities.

As I looked at the roads north I thought “Not too many options away from the cities and we can go through Shenandoah Park and the Skyline Drive that I was robbed of during our trip south.  And my receipt was still good for admission.  How could we not go back? It’s only a five hour drive.”  But let me tell you friends: when the GPS says that it takes five hours to get somewhere, those will be the longest five hours of your life.  A pleasant surprise was the dog park we found at the visitor centre at The Halifax County Visitor Centre.  Although they were pretty bored of it pretty quickly so we were back on the road in no time it seemed.

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These are the best places to stumble on.


On the plus side, we got to see all the sights that we missed because of the fog the last time through. Not only that, but even more deer and a bear with her two cubs ran across the road right in front of us.  Piper was beside herself with all the activity.  Even though they both wear harnesses in the car, she was practically climbing through the back window to see all the action.

 

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Wow.

We put in at the Hotel Strasburg for the night. It’s in the town of Strasburg at the north end of the park.  It is a small town that was pretty much closed by the time we rolled into town.  Even the hotel restaurant was closed.  With my no chain restaurant rule, I ended up eating a lot of pizza.  The hotel was small, basically a renovated Victorian-style house which was one step up from a B & B. It was small and quiet and we were asleep fairly quickly as I thought of what we were going to do tomorrow.

 

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My room in the Hotel Strasburg