Dawgs About Town

It happens every year: the dog’s annual visit to the vet.  And let me just say that if I had any doubt as to the weirdness of my dogs, it is dashed to smithereens any time we get close to the vet’s.  My dogs love the vet.  And I do mean LOVE (as in all caps bold underline and italic) the vet.  Piper will wake out of a dead sleep whenever we get close and start whining up a storm as soon as we get into the parking lot.  All three of them will drag me into the office.  I cannot get the door open fast enough for them.  I have worked really hard to make it a positive place for them and have brought them to the vet for visits and treats and gotten them used to everyone there.  My thinking is that in the case of an emergency, I want to reduce the stress as much as possible to make a difficult situation a little less difficult.  Well apparently I did my job too well.  I’m lucky because all of the vets and staff at the clinic are amazing and I know my critters are in good hands.

We got into the office and everyone got weighed and saw the doctor and we collected our year’s supply of flea and tick control and heartworm meds and bloodwork and OH MY GAWD my credit card screamed as it tried to cling to the leather of my wallet.  Four digits; that’s all I will say about the bill.

As much fun as the vet is, I like to make our outings as fun as possible to keep the good vibes rolling so we went for a nice long hike in our local country preserve.  As we climbed out of the car, I noticed a lovely young black lab that was dragging it’s owner towards us.  It seemed friendly but when he led the dog one way, we went the other.  That would not be the last time that we would see that bouncing ball of energy or her not bad-looking owner.

Even with plenty of cars in the parking lot, we barely saw anyone else as we hiked trails that wound through tall grass and tall trees.  We were beginning to make our way back to the car when that same black lab came bounding around a corner, all floppy years and big feet.  At first she didn’t see us but her owner was more on the ball than the pup and she was back on leash as she kept straining towards Piper.  The owner told me that her best friend is a boxer and she just wanted to play.

Now let me just go off on a bit of a side note here: I’ve been single for a while and I’ve come to realize that it is because I am clueless when it comes to either possible interest or possible opportunities.  This being a prime example: had I been paying attention I would have said something along the lines of “Maybe she wants another boxer friend” which could have been chance to get to know the owner.  What do I do instead?  “Cool,” as we walk on by.  I was about 20 steps past when I literally groaned out loud with a full-on face palm.

I’m not going to say that I kept my eye out for that lab and Mr. Cutie.  I may have even lingered in the parking lot to make sure that the dogs were all strapped in.  For safety sake of course.  Eventually, once everyone was safely strapped in, we set out for our next fun stop of the day.

I have been chastised (jokingly I hope) several times at my local pet store for showing up without the pups so I just had to bring them in for a visit since we were passing by.  After they got their first set of treats from the staff, we went to the wall of toys.  They seemed interested in the “Chatterball” which is a ball that makes noise.  So of course, they got a Chatterball.  And more treats before we left the store.

I needed something to take a bit of the edge off after that vet bill so we went to Second Wedge Brewing Co.  I had been there before and knew that dogs were welcome.  We were greeted at the door by the resident brewery dog, another lab named Sadie.  I didn’t quite trust my pack to stay out from underfoot so they stayed on leash which seemed to bore Sadie.  And soon my pack was sprawled out on the floor around me.

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Outside the brewery

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The menu board

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The dogs wondering if they get some.

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A room with a view.

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The dogs with their new friend Sadie.  Jack doesn’t seem to care.

I tried a couple of the seasonal brews: Day Tripper and Smoked Wheat on Rye and fell in love with the Smoked Wheat.  A lovely smoky flavour running through lovely beer.  Soooooooooo good.  I could drink that for the rest of my life and be happy.  As I sipped away, the staff and other customers came to visit with the dogs who would sit up just to get their attention and then flop back over onto their sides.  Then I heard something that made my ears perk up: a food truck was coming by in a few hours.  I was torn.  Do I hang around in town for the truck or just go home.  And then I heard the menu: barbecue.  Problem solved.  Of course I was going to stay.

I collected the dogs and wandered down the main street with plenty of people stopping to pet the dogs or wave at us as they drove by.  We wound our way past people fishing in one of the town ponds then through main park and finally back to the brewery.

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Beside Elgin Pond on Youth Fishing Day.

The truck was parked out front but was still making final preparations so I decided to have one more beer.  I popped into the brewery and was shocked at how many people were in there, a huge difference from a short while ago.  There was another dog that was wandering around in there and he was not on a leash.  I was a little concerned with the dominant body language he was showing so I kept the dogs outside.  The patio is amazing and we were the only ones sitting outside.  OK I was sitting as the dogs were passed out on the ground around me.  Soon I saw people walking near the food truck so I drained my beer and went out to the truck.

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We had the patio all to ourselves.

We were still early and stood staring at the menu, trying not to look too pathetic as we waited alone outside the truck.  Soon others joined us and then the panel of Laura’s Casual Kitchen lifted to expose the interior and we saw the people frantically working inside.

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Laura’s Casual Kitchen truck.

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Patiently waiting.

In no time, I found myself the proud holder of a plate of smoked ribs, potato and egg salad, and a cornbread muffin.  I parked myself on a nearby concrete footing that happened to have a piece of metal sticking up that was a convenient leash holder.  Let’s just say the ribs did not last long and the potato/egg salad was really good.  I usually put eggs in my potato salad so it was nice to see it somewhere else.  I wasn’t fond of the cornbread and found it really dry.  The butter that accompanied it was so hard that it was torn apart to fall down my shirt.  All things considered though, it was a fantastic meal.  The dogs were more than happy to take care of all the crumbs that fell and they had a few samples of the ribs.  I had to ignore Leo’s attempts at Jedi mind tricks to hand over a rib.

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Potato/egg salad, smoked ribs, and a cornbread muffin.

I loaded, practically lifting, the dogs into the car (with some Smoked Wheat and Day Tripper to enjoy at home) and soon we were back home.  The dogs were so worn out that I had to bribe them out of the car.  They slid out, had a drink, and flopped in their usual sleeping spots: Piper sprawled on the couch, Jack on his mound of blankets, and Leo in his chair in my craft room.  Soon the sound of snoring echoed around me.

A Short Trip to Somewhere

I found myself with some time off and the first hint of a gorgeous day a few days ago so I figured “Let’s go somewhere.”  With my newly acquired Parks Canada Discovery Pass burning a hole in my pocket (OK it was pinned to my cork board but that doesn’t sound as good) it was an easy decision to make.  And as there are only five national parks in Ontario and a very limited amount of time, it was narrowed down to Georgian Bay Islands National Park.  So I loaded the dogs in the car, punched in the park name, and followed the directions from my pushy telephone.

I wasn’t really paying attention as I blindly followed the voice in the phone.  I was somewhat familiar with the route since we were headed towards Midland and as we continued north, I saw some ominous clouds ahead of us that had me worried we might have to cancel our trip.  But after a few turns, I was back facing the sunshine.

I turned down the last road and eagerly fixed my pass to the rearview mirror as I drove towards where I thought must be the gate.  Nope…no gate.  An administration building with a ton of vehicles but no gate.  Weird.  I brought the dogs out of the car and headed towards the first thing that looked like a trail.  There were no markings, no maps, but oh wait: there’s a sign that indicates the park border.  OK so at least I’m on national lands.

We went traipsing along the narrow but well-trodden trail.  I stopped at the edge of a river to let the dogs have a drink and of course they can’t just drink from the shore.  Oh no.  They have to wade in chest deep and drink that way.  All of them.  Great.  Wet dogs.  In fact, Piper wanted to go for a full-on swim and kept trying to wade deeper.  Leo dropped into the dirt as soon as he got out of the water and I cringed with every wiggle that sent more dirt into his drenched coat.  Jack, well Jack’s got that thick pug coat that holds water like a sponge so I had the pleasure of repeated shakes.  After they had sorted themselves out, back on the trail we went.

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The river.

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Can’t you just drink from the shore like normal dogs?

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Oh not you too Leo.

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Piper decided to strike a pose by herself.

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I’m always getting butt shots.

Then we exited onto a paved path.  I turned to look behind me, thinking that I had missed more trail as I was enjoying the sun.  Noooooooooo there was nothing else.  Huh a ten minute walk and I find myself on a paved trail behind some houses.  I knew that there were some small parks but this was a bit much; or not.  Oh well, we continued on.  There was a placard for the Trans-Canada Trail so obviously we had somewhere to go.  It was a nice view out over the water and we walked by some really creepy structure that I think was part of the shipping industry from a bygone era.  All I can say is that I would not have been surprised to see a clown peeking out a window, especially since I had just seen the preview for the movie “It”.

Everyone was super friendly and if I didn’t immediately acknowledge someone, like when I was stooping and scooping, they made sure to say “Hi” as they went past.  There’s no better way to meet people than when you’re trying to tie a bag full of poop.

The paved path quickly heated up and the dogs stopped pulling to sniff everything which is the universal signal for “I wanna go back”.  So we turned around and went back through the park.  Thinking the park had to be bigger, we took a few more trails but we still made it back to the parking lot in zero time.  I felt a little silly for having brought my big camera pack complete with tripod and hiking poles.  Bit of overkill with that.  So I left the big pack behind and brought only my camera as we wandered around a picnic area next to the parking lot.  There were some old stone foundations and I just could not resist stopping for a few pics.  Of course it would have been nice if I had brought my tripod for a group selfie but a wadded up jacket and nearby piece of stone will do almost as good a job.  Having said that, there are plenty for a blooper reel.IMG_0839

Feeling a tad bit peckish, we drove into Midland proper.  I had only been to Midland once before for last year’s Butter Tart Festival so I wanted to stroll the town without being run over.  It’s a very pretty little town with an outstanding coffee shop called “Grounded Coffee Co.”  I ordered my usual americano with a splash of cream and bit of sugar and got a blueberry scone because…well I wanted one.  I sat at the table outside the cafe on the sidewalk and entertained passersby as I shared itty bitty bites of scone with the dogs.  Some people would stop and get some dog lovin’.  There was one gentleman who slowly walked by with a cane and appeared as though he had had a stroke or something similar and the dogs were just so gentle, it made me so proud of them.  Especially Piper since she is a master of the full-body lean.

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You look like you need help with that.

After I had refuelled, we continued to walk to the shore where there is a nice waterfront area.  And then, I saw it.  Always looking for landmarks to pose the dogs I could not pass up the opportunity to get them in front of a giant metal goose.  Nor could I miss the seagull sitting on the head of the goose.  How cool.  Although I was distracted (and maybe a little over caffeinated) when I saw a man sitting by the lake with a red toque and red and white sweater.  Holy crap I found Waldo!!!!  It must have been quite a sight for the people sitting in their cars (I don’t know why) as I tried to pose the dogs, get a photo of the seagull, and covertly get a photo of Waldo.  I managed to get two of the three.  By this point, the dogs were bored of my shenanigans and soon sprawled out on the lawn while I snapped happily away.

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A seagull on a goose’s head! How awesome.

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The dogs are decidedly unimpressed.

Once I was done with photos, and Waldo had left, we sat on the end of one of the piers just to enjoy the sunshine and each others company.  After a bit, we walked back to the car, stopping for one more picture next to a boat.  Dark clouds were hanging low over the water and the wind was starting to blow so we hustled the rest of the way.

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Leo’s trying to figure out how to get the water far below. Piper doesn’t care.

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Jack is content to just chill.

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“Oh come on. Another pic?!”

I was giving the dogs some water before loading them in the car when I heard the first rumble of thunder.  I looked up and saw that the sky had gone from dark clouds to having a green tinge to it.  Uh oh.  When ever there are green skies you know there’s a real storm brewing and no sooner had I started the car, then the first drops fell.  Soon the rain was pouring down and my poor little car was getting pelted by hail and the wind blew us side to side.  Fortunately, the worst of it ended quickly and most of the drive was uneventful if too rainy for any side trips.

Oh and the park that I was in?  It wasn’t Georgian Bay Islands Park.  I’m not quite sure where I was.  I’m thinking it’s just a small chunk of land for their administration office and where they park their cars.  So it looks like we’re going to have to go back.  Only maybe this time with no hail.  But I’m not saying I won’t look for Waldo again.

 

No Denying the Mothman

Starting Mileage: 2403.6

It was downright cold when I woke up the next morning.  Rather, it was cold outside; inside it was so warm under the blankets that it took me a while to get out of bed.  But the need to get on the road, and a boxer nose that kept making those exasperated snorts in my face, made me drag my butt out from the warmth.  I took the dogs for a walk around the grassy area but after they had quickly done their business, they were pulling me back towards the hotel.  I got the hint.

After I poured out their breakfast, I made my way to the lobby for mine.  I found the offerings to be consistent if nothing else.  I guess I can’t expect much for free and in short order I was back in my room with a waffle and some yogurt.  I was eager to get going and wolfed the food down before we were back on the highway.  I had been debating whether to take my time or push to get back home that night and figured I would let the road decide: if there was something fun worth exploring then we would explore and we would get home when we got home.

Knowing that we were entering Jefferson National Park, I had my eyes peeled for any sign indicating where we would have to go for a hike.  After I emerged from a tunnel that ran through a mountain, I finally saw a sign.  The sign told me that we were leaving Jefferson National Park.  Huh.  I thought about turning around to try and find our way back in there but I was soon gratefully that we were not in the trails when a sudden snow storm descended on us.  It cleared quickly and I decided to stop for a coffee and made my way towards Bluefield West Virginia.  Some parts of the drive were beautiful and had lovely views that I was able to sneak a peak at as we wound through narrow hilly roads.

When I stopped at the Corner Coffee Espresso Bar and Bistro, I saw some of the biggest cinnamon buns being frosted by the woman at the counter.  I debated getting one as I asked her where some good places to hike were.  She told me about Pinnacle Rock then suggested going to Pipestem Resort State Park.  I ordered a latte and passed on the cinnamon bun (I know! I’m shocked too!) and began to backtrack to the highway.  The latte was nice and warming on such a chilly day and I had planned to stop at a scenic overlook that we had driven past.  Unfortunately it wasn’t so scenic because the snow had began to fall thick and heavy in the swirling hypnotic mess that blows through hill country.

By the time we made it to Pipestem Resort State Park, the snow had stopped and the wind had died down a bit.  I drove through the gate and was surprised to see that there was no one working.  I guess it was an off-season and admission was free.  Wahoo.  I drove all the way though the park until finally stopping near the visitor centre on the way back out.  Seeing as how there was no one around us I had briefly toyed with the idea of letting them run off-leash, especially since there was a trail that headed into the trees near the lot.  But as soon as the dogs got into the forest, both Piper and Jack were on their toes.  They obviously knew that there was something out there and they were determined to find it.  For all his mismatched and unathletic-looking build, Jack is surprisingly good at tracking and has that single-minded puggy stubbornness that will keep him with his nose to the ground as he tries to pull my arm out of the socket.  Piper is also a very good tracker but where Jack is like a fish on the end of the line, she just wants to go.   Leo on the other hand was oblivious.   He just wanted to pee on everything.

I was really glad that I had kept them on leash when not one but two deer went bounding through the forest.  Thankfully it didn’t take long for their attention to be drawn back to the trail we were hiking as it was covered with slippery leaf cover and some steep climbs.  By the time we got back t the car, I think they were ready to take a break.  I never did find out where the name Pipestem Resort came from.

Now when we left the park and were back on our route, I noticed that we were going to drive by Beckley.  I was tempted to stop for a mothman but no.  I just had a coffee-based drink.  I don’t need to stop so soon.  Why would I go back to Beckley?  Hey how the heck did I end up in Backley?  At the Chocolate Moose of all places.  Well since I was there it would be a waste not to support a local business.  I had remembered the owner telling me about the New River Gorge National River when I passed through the last time and I had just finished my mothman (which was as good as I remembered it) when we arrived at one of the trailheads.

I hadn’t done any research (of course), so I just drove around until I started to see signs for trails and randomly picked one.  This time the dogs gave no indication of there being any wildlife nearby which was great because the footing was a bit slick from the recent snow.  The trail is an easy one to follow and I soon realized why they call it Long Point Trail: at a small off-shoot you can look over the gorge and see the bridge that spans it.  A fog had started to roll in and partially obstructed the view, which I think made it look even more dramatic.  And then the snow started to fall again and I decided to go back to the car instead of finishing the trail.  I wasn’t sure if the weather would get better or worse and I didn’t want to risk navigating tricky trails when I’m not familiar with the area.  And we would have to get back on the road unless I wanted to spend another night in a hotel.  Of course, by the time we got back to the car, the snow had stopped and the sun was actually shining.  Oh well.  The dogs jumped into the car and were curled up before we got too far down the road so obviously they weren’t upset that their hike had been cut short.

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Leo stretching his legs.

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Checking out the scents.

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Do we have to pose again?

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Piper surveying her domain.

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Always up for a hike.

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Jack has no problem with heights.

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A first look across the Gorge.

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New River Gorge Bridge.

I was driving along the bridge when I looked to my right and saw the very point that we had been standing on.  I had known that it was high but I had no idea just how high and for some reason that short glimpse of this jutting outcrop of rock that stood in stark contrast to the dark green trees that framed it, well it just got to me.  I would have pulled over if there had been a safe place to do so for a picture.  I can’t quite explain why it had such an impact on me; it just did.

The rest of the drive north was incredibly uneventful.  We stopped at some rest stops, I finished the leftover pizza, and we drove some more.

And then we got to the border.  You know there’s a story with me crossing the border.  First I picked the slowest line.  Of course.  When I pull up to the booth, there’s a woman sitting there and she starts with the “Where were you?”  South Carolina.  “How long were you gone?”  I left on Monday.  “Where did you stay?”  Red Roof Inn.  “Is that a condo?”  I’ll admit that one threw me for a bit of a loop when I replied that it was a hotel…er motel. “Did you meet anyone down there?”  Now this is the second time I’ve heard that question although the stunning guy from the crossing south was a lot more fun to answer.  No I didn’t.  “Do you have any firearms or weapons?”  No I don’t.  “Did the dogs go down with you?”  Yes I answer and offer their paperwork which she takes and shuffles through.  When she hands them back she again asks if I had any firearms and weapons.  I tried not to laugh and I probably sounded like I was choking because all I thought to myself was do you think that asking me the same question twice will trip me up?  Like I’d go yes…Oh wait ya got me.  If it sounds like I’m harping on her I’m not.  I have a lot of respect for the the border personnel and it’s not a job that I’d want to do.

So once that was all squared away, back on the road we went.  I was going to stop at duty free but I was just so tired and it was so close to home that I didn’t want to delay being in my own bed.  I stopped just once to fill up the gas tank and with it being well after rush hour, I made good time across the top of Toronto.

And at 1:41 am, I turned off the car and brought my weary pack inside.  I was so tired that I left most of my things in the car and barely pulled on my pajamas before falling into bed with three dogs and two cats curled up around me.

Finishing Mileage: 3585.7 km

The Season Begins

The weather may not be good for a road trip in Canada, but there is plenty of sun if you drive far enough south.  So with my first week of vacation this year that is exactly what I did.  For some reason, I did not prepare as much as I have in the past.  OK I’ll be honest: I think I was feeling a bit burned out and exhausted from work and just wanted to GO.  So while I packed my tent and sleeping bag, I did not have much in the way of food reserves.  I had also left my inflatable sleeping pad and stuffable pillow in my locker at work soooooooo that put a bit of damper on things.

And even though I went to bed late and completely beat, I woke up around 3:00 am.  I dozed off and on and then finally was tired of not sleeping so climbed out of bed at 4:45 am.  A leisurely breakfast of left over banana fritters (not my best work but it was a new recipe) and we were out the door at 6:00 almost on the dot.  Everything was going well until we hit traffic north of Toronto.   It really says something about infrastructure when you’re crawling along before 7:00 am.

Big shout out to Matthew Wakelee who had posted about Eternal Flame Falls (https://wordpress.com/read/feeds/44878580/posts/1318698544) and with south in our sights, it seemed like a good place to start.  But to start, we had to get there.  For some reason, when I entered Eternal Flame Falls, my phone tried to send me to Europe.  After almost throwing the stupid phone out the window, I did a bit more digging and found that the falls are in Chestnut Ridge Park.  OK so now I have a starting point.

Now anyone who has read my posts knows that I seem to have issues with getting across the border.  Don’t know why I turn into a babbling fool but this time was no exception.  I pull up to the booth and there is this gorgeous man staring back at me.  Imagine a Spanish version of Jason Statham.  On a side note, I wonder if they intentionally put the good looking staff at the border to trip you up.  So anyway, I’m trying not to humiliate myself more than I do on a regular basis as I hand over my passport.  He asks where I’m going and what I’m doing and is it just the four of you?  I almost melted when he made my dogs sound like little people.  Then “are you meeting anyone down there?” The outside voice said “no” but the inside voice added “want to change that?”  Fortunately it stayed the inside voice and soon we were through the border.

Less than 30 minutes later, I pulled into Chestnut Ridge County Park.  I put leashes on everyone then we set out looking for a map.  Hmmmm there was no map and no signs for these falls.  Finally I met a couple out walking their dog and it turns out I was at the wrong end of the park and I had to go to Seefort Road.  So back in the car and we continue on.  The next road we saw didn’t have a sign so I figured this was Seefort Road.  I drove into the park and there were signs for all kinds of things but nothing for a waterfall.  I get the dogs out of the car and head towards trees and finally I found a map.  And Seufert (not Seefort) Road is the next one down.  So back in the car we go.  Finally I see a sign for Eternal Flame Falls and I park the car.  The dogs looked at me with the “Are you sure this time?” look as I opened the door for them.  Can’t blame them for that I suppose.

The warning signs at the trailhead were encouraging (sarcasm).  The trail is an out and back that is only 0.56 miles each way.  I had read reviews about it being a tricky hike and not well marked.  At first it was muddy and rooty, just the kind of trails that we hike at home.  I found that the trail was extremely well marked with little numbered flame placards but they looked as though they were fairly new.  The trail leads down a ravine, then back up, then cuts back and down long the river.  You have to cross the river a few times which would be no big deal in the summer but in the winter, the water had frozen on the rocks leaving a slick sheet of ice on everything.  I’ll admit that I almost went down a few times and trying to navigate with the dogs on their leashes was a bit tricky.

We were picking our way over some fallen trees when we rounded a corner and there it was.  I had seen photos but actually being there left me speechless and standing awestruck.bigfallblurgroup

I stayed for a while taking photos (of course).  I loved the fact that we were the only ones there.  It is such a magical place that I wanted to imagine that we were the only ones that knew about it.  But I’m glad that we left when we did because we passed a woman and her dog who were going to the falls.  I was a little irritated that she didn’t put her dog on a leash meaning I had to pick by her across slick rocks but I was in too good a mood to be bothered much.

After that, I was in need of a cup of coffee so after a quick Yelp consult, we made our way to Bean Coffee House in North East Pennsylvania.  Yes the town is called North East.  I ordered an americano and then decided on a roasted red pepper hummus sandwich with cucumber and black olives.  The sandwich came with kettle chips and a pickle.  I was looking for some place to park and was dismayed to see parking meters everywhere.  A shame because the park would have been a nice to sit.  I had my eyes peeled for a parking lot when out of the corner of my eye I saw “Little Shop of Donuts” as I drove by.  I almost slammed my brakes right there but the car riding my rear bumper would have put an end to the trip fast.  So I drove the block wondering if my eyes had deceived me but no…there it was.  I was so excited I ended up missing the parking spots in the front and drove around the building before I launched myself at the front door.

Here’s the scoop: they have vanilla and chocolate donuts and put toppings on them to order.  I felt a tear form at the corner of my eye as I examined the menu.  A donut shop with a menu.  I decided to get two donuts and both were going to be chocolate: a Peanut Butter Cup and a Happy Camper.  One donut was covered with chocolate and peanut butter and the other got a smear of marshmallow, some chocolate, and graham crackers. Yes I know it’s selfish to get chocolate because the dogs couldn’t have any but I think the unopened pack of treats in the front seat would buy me out of any guilt they may throw at me.donutparking

I was so fixated on donuts, that I didn’t think to eat my lunch there and continued on down the road.  Or maybe I didn’t want them to watch me as I laughed maniacally while I shoved chocolate and peanut butter and marshmallow into my mouth.  After a short drive to the outskirts of town, I found an empty church lot and parked there to have my food.  The sandwich was kind of disappointing.  I really wanted to like it but the bread had that almost-toasted or slightly-stale feel to it and the toppings were pretty much piled in the centre of the bread so the edges of the sandwich were just bread.  The best part about it was the pickle.  The americano was excellent however.  I had the Happy Camper donut first.  The donut was good: light and cakey and not overwhelmed by the toppings.  I was going to save the other one for later in the day but later turned out to be less than an hour.  So it wouldn’t get stale…yeah that’s it.

Because I was limited for time, I spent longer on the interstate than I normally like to which meant that we visited a few rest stops.  For the record, Montana still has the best rest stop pet areas.  By far.  We stopped at one in West Virginia that was so thick with poop that the dogs didn’t even want to walk there.  Although I did notice that the silhouette they use for dogs is a boxer.  Strike a pose Piper.

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Not quite the same stance on the sign.

I booked a room at the Travelodge in Beckley, West Virginia.  I’ll admit that the room was cleaner than I had expected it.  Not a big fan of carpet but it’ll do.  My room was on the ground floor at the end of a hallway with a door to the lot.  The door opened to a rather secluded and concealed area that was surrounded by trees and next to a cemetery.  All of that was no big deal but the fact that the door didn’t lock was a bit concerning to me.

After a quick check on Yelp, I noticed there was a Mexican restaurant close by; just a few blocks away and on the other side of the street.  Rather than wait for the lights to cross the street, I stayed on the hotel side on what appeared to be a wide grassy strip in lieu of a sidewalk.  Well soon the grassy strip started to slope.  Next thing I know, we’re picking our way across a grade of more than 45 degrees.  So I guess I can turn a walk around the block into a hike.

By the time I walked into Campestre, I was hungry.  The kind of hungry where you don’t want to talk, you just want someone to put food in front of you.  After some quick questions, I ordered the Tapatio.  I had to wait another ten minutes so I took the dogs and we continued walking.  And then I saw something.  A sign emerging from the pools of light cast by the streetlights and passing headlights and the glow of nearby stores:  Chocolate Moose Coffee.  I was tempted.  Really tempted but decided that would be a visit best saved for the morning.

We went and picked up my food and decided that we had had enough hiking for one day so we stayed on the sidewalk and crossed at the lights at the hotel.  I sat on the bed and after toasting the days safe travels with the Road Trip bottle (Jack Daniels Honey), I opened the container to reveal chicken and ribeye steak and mushrooms and cheese and beans with flour tortillas and salsa and a sour cream with some kind of spice and fresh tortilla chips.  It was so good I barely stopped to breathe.  I would definitely go back there again.  For some reason I found the sour cream to be intriguing; perhaps because I could not quite identify the flavour.

Sleepy and satisfied, I squeezed myself between the dogs and drifted off to sleep.

I Need a Suggestion Box

Well my friends, the days are slowly getting longer, it isn’t quite as cold, and I have more fur on my floor which means it’s almost time for Road Trip Season!

I have a few trips already (kind of) planned out but I’m looking for your suggestions.  It could be an awesome town, a great cafe, or the must-do hike.  Anything and everything you have I want to know but with one condition: it has to be in the contiguous United States and Canada.  As good as my little Corolla is, it doesn’t handle water crossings well.

If we visit a place you suggest, I’ll make sure you get a shout out.  Now if it’s a secret that you don’t want broadcast (and I get why that would be), send me an e-mail (3adventuredawgs@gmail.com).  We can go and keep the location on the down low.

I have been waiting to hit the road since last year and I cannot wait to see what suggestions you have for what is out there.

Cheers all.

P.S.  I couldn’t resist sharing some pictures of our trips over the past two seasons.

More Than a Safety Dance

I get asked, a LOT, if I’m scared to travel on my own with only my four-legged companions.  It never really occurred to me to be scared to travel.  I don’t think of myself as above-average in the bravery department and initially I had felt a degree of trepidation but that was about being on my own in case something happened, like some mysterious part in the car broke.  But I’ll tell you: if you want to feel like a total badass, get out on the road on your own.  There is something so empowering about being out there and having to be completely self-reliant to make you feel like you can take on the world.

Trust Your Gut

Your survival instinct has been around for a lot longer than you have been and has kept a weak and defenceless species alive, so when it’s telling you that something is wrong, trust it!  Take a second and figure out what may be wrong and if you still have that feeling in the pit of your gut, move on.  Yes you may miss something but there are so many people who say “I had a feeling and I ignored it…”

Don’t be an Ass on the Road

I credit the fact that I have never had any major catastrophes on diligent pre-planning and maintenance of the car.  In bad weather I slow down and keep lots of distance between the cars ahead of me.  Those two things will go a long way to keeping you safe on the road itself.

Watch Your Feet

If you go out for a hike, take care where you put your feet; a rolled ankle can be a minor inconvenience but if you lose your footing and cause serious damage, the consequences can be much more extreme.  I was once hiking through the Adirondacks on a leaf-covered trail.  Everything looked pretty good but the leaf cover camouflaged a small depression and when I was watching the dogs, I wasn’t watching my feet and rolled an ankle.  It wasn’t too bad but it was unpleasant.

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There’s something out there

Dress for the weather, both wen you head out and what it could be and at least take a small snack with you.  I’m sure no one goes out planning to get lost but it does happen.  In fact studies have found that you’re more likely to get lost after you’ve been somewhere a few times.  It makes sense: when you first go somewhere, you’re paying total attention but once you get comfortable, the mind starts to get a bit lazy.  Next thing you know, you’re lost.  Carry a whistle.  And even though you may not get any cell service, bring your phone with you.  Some signals will go through and you can always use it as a flashlight or signalling device.

 

No Valuables

There is no need to wear ginormous diamond rings or expensive watches when you’re driving the roads so leave them safe at home.  Big sparklies can draw unwanted attention.  Same thing with having expensive things visible in the car.  And don’t flash stacks of cash.

Plan for the Worst, Hope for the Best

Have a plan in mind for what you will do in the event of a flat tire or car stops moving or you run out of gas.  Knowing what you will do in any situation reduces the anxiety of that unknown element.  When we were in Arizona, I had my eyes peeled for snakes and I had read up on care for snake bites.  Maybe a bit paranoid but I’d rather have that piece of mind.  The weirdest thing was seeing signs for poisonous snakes in Minnesota and Montana.

And because we were heading into the desert, I made sure I had a TON of water with me.  And I’m glad I did because we went through a lot of it.  Oddly we went through more when we were at Monument Rocks in Kansas.  But it was hooooooooot.

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Monument Rocks in Kansas.

Do you have a daredevil dog?  Jack is fearless when it comes to heights and will walk to the very edge of sheer drop offs.  Once I realized that he gave zero F’s about heights, I kept him either on leash or next to me to keep him from taking an accidental tumble.

Mind Games

It’s not just car stuff to worry about.  Think about what it takes to make yourself a less than ideal target.  Have a plan of action to deal with people who get up in your space.  The dogs are the best body guards out there and I don’t worry about people getting close without me knowing about it.  And while the boys are less than intimidating, Piper more than makes up for it, especially when she fixates on something: her head goes up, her chest goes out, and she gets that intense Boxer stare that makes her look like she squints a little as her underbite somehow becomes even more pronounced.  Heck, it even makes me stop and do a double take.

If you’re going to be on your own, be prepared to take care of yourself.  Adopt the warrior mindset that nothing is going to stop you from going home safe.  Get the thought into your mind that you will bite, claw, kick your way through anyone and anything that tries to interfere with your safety.

I know a lot of people put their faith in pepper spray and stun guns.  For them I have two things to say: what are you going to do if it gets taken away, and have you ever experienced it?  Like so many other things, TV would have you believe that a spray or zap will drop a person in their tracks.  Reality unfortunately is far from TV.  Neither are the end all be all of safety.  Never mind the legality (depending on where you are).

Personally, when I’m walking towards the car I like to keep the key in a fist so that the metal part is sticking out between my fingers; this turns the key into something that would hurt.  I also keep lots of keys on a carabiner that’s big enough for me to fit my hand through.  That makes a good distraction if I smack someone upside the head with a mittful of keys.

The idea is to avoid being in that situation to begin with.  Look at everyone near you.  Make eye contact.  Walk with your head high because you are a badass explorer taming the road.  It also makes you look like less of a target and gives the impression that you know everyone’s face.  People up to nefarious purposes want the easy target so don’t be an easy target.

Part of not being an easy target is parking your car where it can be seen.  When possible, avoid parking near shrubs, trees, walls, anything that can provide cover for anyone who wants to lie in wait.

Think dirty.  Ask yourself what you would do if you wanted to sneak up on someone and do what you can to prevent it.

When I’m travelling with the dogs, we don’t spend much time in cities since it’s harder to maneuver with them and I can’t really explore shops since I’d have to tie them up outside and I always worry about tying them up outside.  I make sure I keep them in sight as much as possible.  I don’t like to drive much at night since the whole part of driving is to see as much as I can and unfamiliar cities are hard enough to navigate at the best of times, never mind when it’s dark.  That also keeps me out of sketchier parts of cities.

Someone at the Door

Hotels are relatively safe but if someone is knocking at your door there’s nothing wrong with asking who they are and if they say they’re with the hotel, have them wait until you confirm it with the front desk.  Keep the blinds drawn if you’re at ground level or if there’s a walkway that goes by your window.  And use every locking system available to you.

Find the Spot

When you’re camping, spot selection is highly personal but there is one thing to consider: if you’re close to people more people will see you.  If you’re far from people, there may be no one close enough to hear you if you call for help.

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Leo trying to figure out how to get in first.

Gas Makes Car Go

Nuff said.

Now I know there are TONS of other safety tips, some of which I have addresses in earlier posts.  Is there anything that you do to maintain your safety on the road?

If Everyone Else is Doing it…

I guess it’s that time to look back at the past year and reflect, and blah blah blah.  You won’t see any resolutions here my friends since I think they are a waste of time.  But just for a laugh, let’s take a boo at what we’ve done this year.  OK I’ll admit that it’s a chance to share some of my favourite pics of the pups.

It’s been almost a year since I started this blog.  Wow.

I had the chance to go to The Bahamas for my brother’s wedding (Click here for the story).  That was pretty spectacular and I definitely want to go back again.  A longer visit and more cash to really explore the islands.  If anyone has any suggestions for places to go that are off the beaten path (or beach), I’d love to hear them.

After The Bahamas, the dogs and I drove the North Carolina Historic Barbecue Trail.  This was our second trip through North Carolina and an exercise in gluttony.  I mean from the first stop at the Skylight Inn in Ayden to the last stop around 500 miles away in Murphy at Herb’s Pit Bar-B-Que I ate only at the 23 restaurants listed on the trail.  Breakfast, second breakfast, brunch, lunch, mid-afternoon lunch, dinner; every day was fuelled by chop pork, coleslaw, hush puppies, some french fries, and even a banana pudding.  I had the opportunity to experience Southern Hospitality and the beauty that is North Carolina.  That’s part of the reason why I love reading coach4aday .  There are so many things that I have learned that I would not have even thought about before (state dirt anyone?).  We had the chance to drive the Tail of the Dragon in Tennessee which isn’t as impressive in a Corolla as I imagine it would be on a bike. (Want to catch up on the trip that I called The Road to Q-Demption?  Click here: Day 1Day 2Day 3Day 4Day 5Day 6Day 7Day 8)

As if the pig out (haha get it?) wasn’t enough, after that we destroyed a ton of butter tarts, that most totally Canadian of all desserts, at Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival in Midland, Ontario.  I ate a lot.  They did too so it was a good day. (Get our scoop on the day here: Ontario’s Best Butter Tart Festival)

Then there was a little drama with Piper (of course).  See she’s not the healthiest dog in the world.  In fact, I call her my million-dollar baby because I’m pretty sure that she alone is putting my vet’s kids through college.  I had come home one morning after working a midnight shift and found her all messed up.  Turns out, she appears to have had something like the doggy version of a stroke.  I was so worried about her and that she would never recover.  Not so much physically but that she would be all depressed.  After a few days she was just like normal and now you’d barely notice anything is amiss.  Well she does have a slight head tilt to the right and her eye doesn’t open fully but at least she’s not doing that weird “shark bite” thing anymore.  And when people comment about “Ah how cute with her titled head”, if I’m in a shit-disturbing mood, which is usually with people who irritate me, I just look at them and deadpan “she had a stroke” then try not to laugh at the reactions.  Maybe some people would think that’s mean but I have then had very good conversations about people that want to know more and it becomes an educational experience, especially when they see that a dog can have something like that happen and still live a full and happy life.  Piper will let me know when she’s not happy and until that day comes, we’re going to keep doing what we do.  (Poor Piper:  A Sick Dog and a Missed Trip)

It just so happened that I had some time off around Canada Day and with Piper somewhat back to normal, I decided to take a small trip to see how she would handle travelling again.  We stayed close in case it was too much for her so we ended up in Georgian Bay and then wandered around the Bruce Peninsula in Ontario.  I had what still stands as the best burger I think I have ever had at a restaurant in the literal middle of nowhere, we had fish and chips from a stand that gets their fish from the lake that’s a stone’s throw away (how’s that for fresh), and we hung out at a cidery.  (If you want to check out our Georgian Bay trip, click here: Day 1Day 2Day 3)

Unfortunately I did lose one of my cats, Martini.  I intercepted her and Toby as they were en route to a shelter a few years ago.  She was a sweetheart of a cat and because her heart was so big, it eventually gave out.  I stayed with her at the vet’s because as hard as it is for me, I just can’t imagine leaving them there alone.  This was really the first time I mentioned it and I hardly told any of my friends about it.  Considering that’s really been my only loss of the year, I think we came through pretty good.

Then there was our trip to Prince Edward County.  It is a gorgeous and rugged part of southern Ontario that is exploding as a food and wine centre with amazing restaurants and wineries popping up all the time.  We spent a few days just aimlessly wandering The County and even visited with some old friends that had retired there.  (Links to our Trip to the County are here: Day 1Day 2Day 3)

And then there was the big trip.  I take one big trip out west to see my grandparents but I usually take the scenic route.  This year the scenic route was via Arizona and Nevada by way of Colorado.  Ahem a very scenic route indeed.  I think this trip covered the most diverse scenery in one single expedition: from prairies to mountains to desert, we saw it all.  It was truly an amazing experience to have had.  And if you want to see for yourself, the links are here: Time For One Last TripThrough Michigan and BeyondIn Search of the Yellow Brick RoadOut of the PlainsRocky Mountain HighIs There Life on Mars?Watching for Lights in the SkyLeaving NevadaWell Hello IdahoCrossing North DakotaBack into CanadaHeading Home, and Last Day on the Road.

As I sit on my couch with a fire roaring away and snow falling outside, I realize that this has been a good year for me.  I’ve stayed healthy, my dogs are snoring around me as I type this and all of them are in relatively good health (I’m looking at you Piper), I have a roof over my head, food on my table, and gas in the car.

Goodbye 2016.  Not too sad to see you go but hey 2017, you don’t have to do much to be a better year.  Just leave Ryan Reynolds and Channing Tatum alone.  Thanks a bunch in advance.

Your friends,

AdventureDawgs

This Post is For the Dogs

So your car has been checked over and is good to go.  You’ve gathered the generic stuff for the car.  Now let’s look at some of the things you’ll want for your four-legged travelling companions.

Food:

I feed my dogs kibble which makes travelling much easier since I don’t have to worry about cans or keeping raw food cold.  I know some raw foods are dehydrated and if I was going to make the switch, that is probably what I would use.  The most important thing is to make sure you bring enough food to last the entire trip and then some extra.  Even if you use a nation-wide chain brand, there will be places where you cannot find a store or they could even be sold out.  So why risk it?

I pack kibble into large zip top bags and keep those in one of the bins.  That way, I can grab a bag and transport from the car to the room if we’re staying in a hotel or pour it out into the bowls if we’re camping or stopped for a snack.  It’s another way to prevent water from destroying all the food and I can carry a bag easier than trying to lug a bin or having to move things to get at the bin several times a day.

If you want to take it one step further and your dog is on a fixed portion size, you can even pre-measure each meal; that way all you have to do is open and pour it out.

Bowls:

I love collapsible bowls and have two different models which gives me three sizes.  I have a large fabric bowl which I only use for water, two larger plastic ones, and two smaller plastic ones.  The plastic ones collapse flat meaning they take up very little space.  The fabric one came in a handy carrying case that I could run my belt through if I were so inclined.  The big one I use strictly for water.  The dogs don’t really like it so I usually only use it when we’ve set up camp for the night.  I use the large ones for water during rest stops and when we’re done for the night, one gets used for Piper’s food.  The other I use for water if we’re in a hotel.  The two little ones are for Jack and Leo’s food.

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Collect the whole set.

Water bottles:

I keep two large Nalgene water bottles with me for water.  That is the minimum although I usually have two additional steel water bottles.  It lets me give them fresh and clean water anywhere.  I like the large mouth on the Nalgene bottles and is easier the negotiate with more tap systems.  Or if you pour from a pitcher of ice water, it keep the mess down a bit.  When we were heading south into Arizona and Nevada, I also brought a gallon jug of water; just in case.

Leashes and Collars:

They wear their collars at all times and I keep their main leashes in the front seat with me.  I also have spare leashes and collars that I keep with the ropes and bungee cords.

Tie-Out:

I have a plastic-coated wire tie-out.  It’s basically a clothes line with clips on either end that allows me to use it in various ways: I can put it through the handles of the dogs leashes then run it between two fixed objects like trees or around an object and clip it to itself.  I’ve even wrapped it around one of my car tires when there aren’t any trees or other things to fasten it to.  It gives me a chance to set up camp without having to worry about the mischief they’ll get into and every campground I have ever been in requires that dogs be kept on leash.  They usually get the leashes tangled up a little but for the most part they just sit down and watch me.  I’ve considered putting them all on a separate tie-out but then they would take up so much space that I would basically have to keep them on such a short line that it would almost be cruel and counter productive.tie

Clips:

I have a bunch a carabiner-style clips that I bring.  I pretty much always have one clipped to one of the belt loops on my pants so I can attach the handles of their leashes and go hands-free.  They are also helpful for attaching their leashes to the tie-out so I don’t have to unsnap it to take them for a walk.  That’s more for convenience but at least one for walking is a must.  They don’t have to be climber-grade clips but I have had some cheap ones that broke just from light use.  Another great thing with the clip is that I can use it to attach their leashes to something before running into a store or washroom.  I just snap it to the leash handles, wrap it around, and snap onto the leashes.  Quick, easy, and secure.

Harness or crate:

I like keeping the dogs in harnesses when we travel because…well let’s face it: I only have so much space in my car and crates just won’t fit.  There are two main styles that I have seen: Piper wears one that has a strap that clips into the child seat attachment.  It usually stays attached because it’s bit of a pain to unsnap it every time we get out.  That’s why Piper is often seen naked while Jack and Leo are wearing their harnesses.  Jack and Leo’s harnesses have a loop that you run the seat through and secure.  The loop has a a clip and that snaps onto a ring on their harness.

Some people think that strapping their dog down is cruel but I think it’s crueler to let your dog become a missile if there’s a collision.  Also, the dogs can interfere with your concentration if their moving around or decide they haven’t told you that they loved you enough and decide to stick their nose in your ear or slobber all over your face.

On a side note, I’m going to be doing some research into harnesses and road safety since I understand that there are actual crash tests being done into their safety.  Stay tuned for that.

I was going to get them harnessed up for a photo shoot but I had nowhere to take them and they get SO excited when the harnesses come out it felt like it would be a tease.  So here are a few pics from the vault.

 

Documents:

If you plan on crossing the Canada/United States border, you’ll have to have copies of vaccination records, especially rabies.  I keep copies of their vaccination records in a plastic envelope in the glovebox with their information taped to the front and I also keep a copy in my backpack.  The weights are there just in case I need to administer any kind of medications.  I believe that any time I can reduce thinking should we find ourselves in a panic situation, it will help things go smoother.  It also helps if I have someone else with me or if we have to rush into a vet’s office.  In reality, a vet will weigh them anyway but this makes me feel more secure that I have all the information handy.  Peace of mind and all that.envelope.jpg

Medications:

If your dog takes any kind of medications, make sure that you have more than enough to last the trip.  I know it sounds like I’m harping on carrying more, but you’d hate to run short because you spilled some.  If it’s a liquid, then bring some extra syringes so you don’t have to worry about losing one.  Of course, you could always keep one tucked away in your first aid kit.

Blankets:

I have several thick and warm blankets that I keep in the backseat along with a few towels.  I also have a down comforter that comes with a stuff sack so it packs into a small space yet is quite warm.  And I have an old sheet that goes into the backseat that I use as a base layer in the tent.

Poo bags:

Always stoop and scoop.  They also work as garbage bags or if you have a container that suddenly springs a leak.  Heck, I’ve used one to tie up a piece of plastic that came loose from the bottom of my car.

Clothes

If you’re going somewhere cold, does your dog have coats that they wear?   If you normally put a rain coat on them, make sure you bring that.  What about booties or paw protector cream for snowy trips?  If you plan on hiking on sharp rocks then you’ll definitely want to protect delicate tootsies.  They don’t have to cost a fortune since there are plenty of patterns online to make your own boots if you’re so inclined.

Have I forgot any dog gear that you like to carry?

Next is up is gear for people.  There are a few other posts that have popped into my head from our travels.  It’s funny but once you start actually thinking this stuff through, what at first seemed like it would be a quick post explodes into a whole series.  I’d love to hear any ideas you may have as well.