When I was little I hated feeling trapped in the car. My parents smoked and it seemed, when I was 5 and 7 and 10 and 13, there was nothing worse on this earth than being held hostage in the back seat of a Chevy or Dodge while my mom and stepdad, and then just my mom after the divorce, smoked one cigarette after another. “Please let me stay with Grandma,” I begged.
I’ll turn 50 this year, and not much has changed. My husband tells people I have a 4 hour limit. Bless him. He’s giving me way more credit than I deserve as I’m fairly certain I have about a one hour limit, if that, and that I also need to be the one driving and deciding which route to take and when and where to stop and eat and pee and stretch my legs. And stop. Just stop.
We recently drove 2,392 miles in 4 days. With 3 big dogs in the back hatch. We struggled about how best to take them, coming to agreement that 2 could be in the far back with 1 comfortably in the backseat but, as dogs do, they let us know that wasn’t happening. 200 lbs of 3 dogs huddled tight into the back hatch and were, I kid you not, the best travelers you’ve ever met. We barely knew they were there. They were so good. So quiet. So much better than, well, me. And here’s what I learned:
1. I can go for more than an hour, and even more than 4 hours, but I can’t do anything but look at the map and plan the next stop. I brought 7 books and read nothing.
2. People do not pick up dog poop at Rest Stop “pet areas.” I stepped in a huge pile of shit the first day. People!
3. Wendy’s has the best chicken sandwich. Burger King as the best French Fries.
4. Unlike at home, I cannot take 3 dogs for a walk, at the same time, in a strange neighborhood, at 6 a.m., in the Motel 6 parking lot.
5. If there are people with German Shepherds and aggressive Boxers in a dog park screaming obscenities, do not be lured in by the words “dog park.”
6. Gas stations often have poop-free zones in which to walk your dogs!
7. There is such a thing as being too tired to drive. Or function. Or speak.
8. It seems our rescued 10+ yr old Golden used to belong to a truck driver. He pulled desperately toward every tractor trailer he saw, and he literally hugged our SUV as if he thought we would abandon him at a truck stop. We wish he could talk.
9. Our favorite hotel chain, by far, was the La Quinta. I requested a “dog friendly” room by an outside (not lobby) entrance, and it was perfectly lovely until the next morning when the carpet suddenly smelled like dog piss. But it was roomy, and comfy, and convenient. And as perfect as it could be.
10. I met a 70+ yr old woman who travels every year from her apartment in New York to her house in Phoenix, with her big Golden Retriever and a cat. She was a hoot. Said it takes 5 days. Loves the drive. Loves her animals. Was gone by 6 am the next morning. And she’s a love, my hero, period. I wish I’d gotten her name. She’s got more than a one hour, or a 4 hour, limit. And so do I, really. Especially now that there are no cigarettes. No smoke. Even if some damage can occur when the dog pulls your entire shin into a tree stump while trying to get into the nearest truck. But I digress. ___________________
How do you travel by car? And do you travel with pets?