The Home Team / Road warrior and road woofer come home
On Monday, Ricky and I went for a walk around the church at Greenfield Hill, one of our favorite haunts. Tuesday, it was the Sherwood Mill Pond Preserve. (This was before I noticed the "No dogs" sign. Sorry. It won't happen again.)
Yes, after our 22-day cross-country road trip, my beagle and I are back in familiar territory. But there's a sense of motion, a sense of being on the road, that I haven't quite shaken yet, almost a week after returning home to Westport. A sense that I'm supposed to be getting somewhere.
When I walk into a building -- any building -- I fight the urge to say, "Do you offer a Triple-A discount?" I'm also still programmed to ask for a room on the ground floor (easier to get up and walk the dog at 5 a.m., and preferably one with a fridge (for his food and his array of meds).
If he's not at my side, I get a momentary panic attack -- forgetting that he's now safe in his house, and since there are other people besides me to take care of him, that he and I no longer need to be attached at the hip. I find it incredibly luxurious that I can choose my clothes for the day from my closet, and not from the chaotic battlefield the back of my SUV had become. And that I don't need to make a motel reservation every day at lunchtime, after I've gotten some idea where my mileage will land me. And that I don't need to study maps at night, and cling desperately to Garmin by day. That I can actually eat a meal sitting -- not standing behind the Acura with Ricky so he doesn't have to be left alone, locked up in the car. That I don't have to be moving. That I don't have to drive 500 to 600 miles today.
Yes, Ricky and I certainly covered a lot of ground together -- 7,643 miles, to be precise. We drove through 23 states -- seven of them new for me, 20 of them new for my less-experienced beagle. We saw Honky Tonk Row in Nashville, Route 66 in Oklahoma, and Old Town in Albuquerque. We saw the Grand Canyon (OK, Ricky slept through most of that one) and the Strip in Las Vegas. We saw the USC Trojans stomp Syracuse in a football game at the Los Angeles Coliseum. We walked the Promenade along the beach in Santa Monica, drove the amazing Highway 1 from L.A. to San Francisco, through Big Sur, and spent some time on the beach at Lake Tahoe. We saw the Big Four at Mount Rushmore, then got lost in the Badlands of South Dakota and almost had to spend the night in the car.
We stopped to see my best buddy in Alexandria, Va., and had a Teaneck (NJ) High School reunion dinner in Beverly Hills. We visited good friends in Laguna Beach, San Francisco, and Denver -- as well as one of my son Robby's chums at Grinnell College in Iowa. And, of course, Robby got to spend lots of quality time with his dog -- the sine qua non of this whole journey -- while we were at USC.
Along the way, I unintentionally discovered a fantastic weight loss regimen -- Beagle Man's spectacular new LA/XC Diet¢. My top three priorities on the trip were to keep moving, to look out for Ricky's well-being and to hit a major U.S. attraction every now and then. What often got sacrificed were sleep (averaged four hours per night) and eating (often had only one meal a day). As a result, I arrived home five pounds lighter -- and my only exercise on the whole trip was putting the pedal to the metal.
And what of the epic battle (I touched on this in my previous column, "Even the best laid plans hit some bumps in the road") my little beagle waged in his never-ending quest to reach his food supply in the back of the car? Well, certainly things improved after it finally occurred to me to use Ricky's crate to actually restrain him and not as just another obstacle to block him from his goal. The addition of the dog barrier in L.A. was a major turning point, as well. But though these various barricades did ultimately help me keep Ricky from his food container, they never -- not even by Day 22 -- stopped him from trying. As Robby will gladly tell you, his dog has heart.
Would I want to set out on another major road trip with Ricky? Not today. And not tomorrow. But somewhere down the line?
In addition to "The Home Team," which 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.