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The Home Team / The ups and downs of road tripping

Published 11:32 am, Thursday, September 20, 2012
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Greetings from Wyoming!

So here I am, at this writing, starting off Day Seven of my cross-country road trip with beagle (If you saw my Aug. 22 column "It's That Time Again," you'll have a little background on this adventure), and I'm feeling, well, euphoric.

But I definitely wasn't euphoric the night before last in Denver. In fact, I was so bummed out I contemplated turning back. Ricky the Beagle, my pardner in this venture, had such a bad stomach ache he was actually refusing food. (Shocking!) Playing nurse to a dog had put me at a severe sleep deficit, and I was starting to think L.A. just wasn't in the cards this year. Who needs this aggravation?

But by the afternoon of the following day he had perked up and was back to his scrappy, ravenous self. We were rocking out to great tunes as we headed north on I-25 toward Casper. Ah, this is the life!

At a pit stop I started calling ahead for a room for the night. I'd always done it this way while traveling, but this time, no rooms anywhere in Casper. Or in Overton. Or Shoshoni. "There's been a fire, and we're housing all the evacuees." "There's a big convention here today." "This is still the high season."

Jeez.

I was getting more and more depressed and desperate and had just about resigned myself to sleeping in the car when my wife called with good news: She'd found a pet-friendly room in Thermopolis, Wyoming, right outside Hot Springs State Park.

I didn't care if it was right outside the town dump; all I knew was that Ricky and I would have a roof over our heads. Eureka! This road trip thing is the greatest!

I should have been prepared for these wild mood swings. This wasn't my first rodeo. I made this same cross-country haul last year with the alleged purpose of bringing Ricky to visit my youngest son, who was in his freshman year at USC. I enjoyed it so much I decided to make it a September ritual -- at least for as long as Robby was out in L.A. At least my memory is that I enjoyed it so much. Those close to me remember quite a bit of whining and grumbling at certain junctures. There were times I found it difficult to check into a motel every night, check out every morning, keep up with my epileptic beagle's meds regimen, fit in a meal or two, get a few hours sleep, maybe make a visit, maybe see a sight, post on my blog, and still put in 500-odd miles a day. I could never find anything I wanted in the car, which was packed to overflowing, and I was waging a constant battle with my dog to keep him away from his food supply.

On our third night out, en route to Tulsa, Okla., about three hours behind schedule (as usual), and with Ricky being particularly annoying, my iPod crapped out. This was the last straw. On the road, music is my lifeline. Quite honestly, the chance to listen uninterrupted to hours and hours of music is one of the major attractions of this adventure. Maybe this whole thing wasn't meant to be. I seriously considered cashing it in, turning the car around, and heading home with my tail between my legs.

And then I switched to XM radio. And somehow the dial landed on '60s Pop Hits with Cousin Brucie. Cousin Brucie!

The same Cousin Brucie I used to listen to as a teenager! The same Cousin Brucie who paid a visit to Teaneck High School because we had made our very own Miss Hill WABC's Principal of the Year by virtue of sending about 9 zillion post cards to the station. (That's pretty much all we did senior year.) Wow, this was amazing! Cousin Brucie! Who knew he was still on the air? Who knew he was still alive?

Man, I love this road trip thing!

And so it goes.

Sure, yesterday's no-rooms panic might have been a little hairy. But today the sun is shining. I'm in beautiful downtown Thermopolis at the Hot Springs Motel with man's best friend at my feet. In a few moments we'll be continuing on west to Yellowstone.

This road trip thing is the best.

"The Home Team" appears every other Friday. You can also keep up with Hank's adventures with his dog, Ricky, on his blog, "Beagle Man," on the Westport News website, at: http://blog.ctnews.com/beagleman/ To reach Hank, e-mail him at DoubleH50@gmail.com or follow him on Twitter @BeagleManHank.