Read about the quest here.

Fetch in 50, A Victory Lap: How to Ride Home in Someone Else’s Car.

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Dad didn’t fight it… because he knew.

I suppose I did first, really.  I know the feel of Betty’s gears better than the felt on my balls. But given my inability to dictate any semblance of human speech, it didn’t matter.  What did was that Betty needed a vet, and a vet she needed quick.

In typical Fetch in 50 fashion, the timing of our “situation” was, for lack of a better term, interesting. I mean, we were 19,533 miles in and out of the summer, with our current position a mere three-hour shot to our driveway. After 98 days on the road – a road that demanded patience, and in turn, delivered immeasurable opportunity – dad eased my fearful fur with a look and a remedy that stretched from ear to ear:  he smiled.

The real kicker was that just an hour ago dad gave Betty quite the oral thank you card.  His gratitude for four years of service to him and I came out in one big, messy monologue. She was shade and she was warmth. She was home and a window to the world.  If it majored in love, it minored in surprise. Dad holds quite the vision for all who cross his path, but said even he was surprised by our mechanical-free summer.

Until now that is: when Betty’s top-end speed could see a deer make a roundtrip highway crossing without threatening its path.

Dad exited in Concordia, Missouri and popped in the first available gas station in search of an auto garage.  (The one across the street had just gone out of business.)  “Turn right and just past the church,” dad said, repeating the directions from the cashier.  “Maybe we should drop Betty off at the church instead,” he joked.  “And light a candle… or two.”

My premonition was that this would be an overnight job in the least.  Fetch in 50, Operation Alaska now seemed a shoe-in to hit the century mark in nights, and depending on the severity of Betty’s injury, there was an outside chance we’d reach month five.  At least we wouldn’t have to find a parking lot… we could sleep IN Betty, IN the garage.  But then dad handed Dennis, the man whose shop this was, his Triple A card and the Universe opened wide.

Dennis:  Looks like you got Premier Status.
My dad:  Is that right? (Dad hadn’t a clue of what Dennis just uttered. That’s when the awkward pause began).

Dennis:  Well… you can get a 200-mile tow with this card.
My dad:  Really? How far are we?
Dennis:   One-hundred and ninety miles from here to the Arch.
My dad:  So you can tow us home? (With dad’s math skills and following a long summer, he wasn’t too quick on the uptake.  Bless his bearded heart).
Dennis:  Yes I can.
My dad:  When?
(I was hoping for tomorrow, but would settle for the day after next).
Dennis:  
Can you gimme 30 minutes?

Sure enough, after a petro stop, Dad, me, and an on-leash Betty – in all her mala-swinging glory – were headed east. Dad was detached, I could feel it, but a bit disappointed that after the grind of the summer, and his paw being the only one to push Betty’s pedal – (not a tenth of a mile had been driven by anyone else) – that he wouldn’t be able to take her across the finish line.  He said our front-seat-tow-truck status felt like a country song.

(Singing).

Close to home from a road trip,
Broke down on the highway.
Tow truck with my yellow lab,
Didn’t get to finish my way.
love

But somehow our victory lap home couldn’t have been scripted any better.

As I sprawled across dad’s lap, his heartbeat never felt so still. Between Dennis and dad’s sporadic conversation, I closed my drooping eyes and fell into my last deep Fetch in 50 sleep, where memories of a grand and glorious American adventure flashed across my canine cortex like a montage of moments passed.

Like our first night on the road when we CouchSurfed with an electric-guitar-playing herbalist in Ojai, California – all the intel dad needed to comfortably BettySurf for the remainder of our journey.

Or the week we spent driving to Key West only to leave less than 24 hours later because dad said it was like “Six Flags on an island.”

Then there was the summer up East. In Maine, we awoke in a dark Walmart parking lot to drive up Cadillac Mountain – the peak of Acadia National Park – to catch the sunrise and first light in all of North America.

During our tour of Ivy League campuses, a professor at Brown University told us that Fetch in 50 was – and I quote directly – “the coolest idea I’ve ever heard in my life.”

And it’s hard to forget our visit to New York City.  It was September 11th, hot, and busy.  I lollygagged to a single toss in Central Park.  We slept at a Walmart across the Hudson River in New Jersey.  By happy accident, Betty’s view was a panorama of the Manhattan skyline.

We drove through a heat wave to reach the Outer Banks. Dad beelined into the cold Atlantic as I feared for his life. The moment I caught him, a wave caught us. Together, the liquid lift was an aerial, salty experience. It still feels like something more was at play that day.

There was the food too. In North Carolina, I begged for a driver’s Doritos three lanes over at a stoplight. In Oregon, I sat for a man with torn clothes and an onion-like stench.  He gave me the only food he had:  an entire banana.  Dad called him a “paragon of faith.”

When I arose from my dream, Dennis and dad had slammed their doors and were headed towards the facilities. With no yearning to bark, I sat in the front seat of the red truck and the anthem played on…

(Singing).

Stuck in park at a rest stop.
Betty White still in jeopardy.
Wondering:  will it ever end?,
Or is this just another memory?
love

I rotated between dad’s lap and Dennis’s knee the remainder of our 174-mile tow home.  What originally seemed to be an inconvenient way to conclude our 49-state journey, turned out to be the most graceful closing act. Dennis was our captain and his truck was our land ferry. A mile from home, we exited the highway at the exact moment the sun fell from Earth. But before the curtains closed, dad had an idea.

Drop us off at the church, will you Dennis?

Ten minutes later, with dad’s arm out the window and my nose towards the sky, together, we crossed the finish line.

19,534 miles.

love
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Into Oregon and Through Nevada: Fetch in 50 Turns Fetch in 49.

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First and last toss in Nevada.

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We entered Oregon at rush hour and dad veered left.

The abrupt turn didn’t calculate right away. For much of the past week, the three of us had trekked through the bowel of Small Town U.S.A.  Now, a mere 10-minute ride from downtown Portland – and reintroduction to humanity – it seemed dad had plans for an extension.

If there’s a perpetual riddle to life on the road, reintegration takes the trophy.

My nose can relate. In the countryside, there are acres of land at its sniffing disposal. But not in the city. Between the trash, the fumes and overdeveloped earth, not only is fetch space affected, so too is my oxygen.

I think dad’s sweet spot is acoustically related. The guy likes stillness, or as he calls it, “the best state anyone will visit.”  I’ve come to enjoy it as well.  And each time we transition back to the hubbub that is society, reverence is a must.  If jerkily entered, his sweet spot quickly becomes a sore spot.

So I let him do his thing.  And that’s what this turn was about.  Dad needed a breather, courtesy of an evening drive, before jumping back in.

We peeled east down Highway 84, a scenic little drive that parallels the Columbia River. The timing proved ideal. The air chilled and the sun fell. Together, we stood at the base of Mt. Hood, gawking; just the three of us, all alone, in a thicket of lodgepole pines.  (Silence).  When we circled back to Portland, I snored and dad completed his reintegration with a string of heartfelt tunes.

From there on, Oregon astonished – despite being nicknamed for a rodent.

Our 48th state was the ultimate championship test. In all my years on the fetch circuit, never have I experienced such surface fluctuation. Morning toss in the Cascades gave way to evening toss at Canon Beach.  But the real adjustment came in Central Oregon, where the high desert caught my stride by surprise.

I’m pretty certain dad fell for Bend, Oregon. He said God must’ve timeshared there. I couldn’t argue. Every which direction seemed an advertisement for Heaven.

We spent three days in and around Bend.  Our first afternoon we hiked the most beautiful state park, Smith Rock, either of us had ever seen.  My paws turned red and my tongue hung low.  The next day we climbed to the summit of Mt. Bachelor.  Dad took a nap.  And I took it in.

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On top of Mt. Bachelor.  When dad sleeps, I watch… kind of.

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Cool nights made for added blankets in the rear of Betty. Walmart’s occupancy was at an all-time high that week.  Of course, dad can make home just about anywhere.

I’d wager a week’s worth of road treats that my dad is the only camper in the history of Walmart camping to diffuse his car with essential oils prior to bed, only to wake up, walk inside, and grab a green juice for breakfast.


Gus!

Sorry, an organic green juice. See what I mean?  You just can’t script things with this guy.

Oregon had some interesting quirks too. Strangers pumped Betty’s tank, which I didn’t care for one bit.  Sales tax is obsolete, which I don’t understand one bit.  And grass, dad says, is legal, which has me wondering the number of states I’ve unlawfully grazed in.

Two weeks later, we were in Nevada, the only state I’d yet to clench my jaw. We split the Mojave Desert and arrived in Vegas at nightfall.

The irony of a Sin City finish to Fetch in 50 was too comical to ignore.  The thought of me completing the dream with a night chase on the Vegas Strip could garner quite the Instagram shot. But dad determined – with all his facial-haired foresight – there isn’t a vaccination on the market to guard against the filth of that sidewalk. Plus, our fulfillment doesn’t stem from a mouse click.

That’s not to say we skipped the Strip.  No, no.

After 17,000 miles on the road this summer, Betty deserved to strut, and strut she did. By sports cars and casinos; past limos and a big fountain with a strong, synthetic stench. Dad smiled at the moment, but wondered aloud how this street and the Blue Ridge Parkway could both be branded All-American Roads. No woods and no wildlife. Dad did mention a pack of wolves, but I didn’t smell any.

The following day we ditched the glitz and the glamour and I earned the 49th stamp on my fetch passport with a single pop-fly.  After a dry and exhausting desert hike – and 80-plus days away from home – we knew it was enough.  A few hours later, dad said the omens confirmed our completion.

Just before leaving town, Betty had a run-in with local law enforcement. Despite her paperwork and palpable aura, the officer said Betty was not showing up as a registered vehicle… anywhere.  Dad was pretty ho-hum; he even read a magazine while Sherlock did his detective work. Not me though.  When he returned, I showed him my teeth.

The nerve! The gall! The disrespect! Not only did he touch a woman without her permission, but he failed to genuflect as well.  When I first heard the sirens, I assumed a reward was in store. Did they want to name the highway for Betty? Maybe he was delivering the key to the city? Nope, just a leisurely Saturday warning that disrupted my nap and lifted my butt hair.

“All is well,” dad said.

And we broke east beneath a pink desert sky.

hello

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Fetch in 50 Back in the States: A Kennel, A Godfather, and A Short Film in Washington.

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Beach fetch: on set at sunset.

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I was surrounded by tall walls.

Never in my life – and I mean never – had I so much as seen, let alone been the sole inhabitant, to a structure of such sterility.

The cement cell was roofless, sure, but the psychological tactics didn’t fool me. The blue-skied view served as one big hopeful illusion – more torture than gesture for the lonely prisoners who’d paced the chain-link gate.

My howls for help had gone unanswered and the reality of my incarceration began to settle in. For four years and 46 states I’d eluded an on-leash society; soon, a uniformed man would appear. He’d read me my rights and deliver the charges…

Beer-bellied-border-patrol guy: Gus, you have walked, ran, swam, pissed, sniffed, shat, slept, hiked, eaten and drank without a leash both at home and abroad.  Do you deny this?
Me:  Where’s my dad?!
Beer-bellied-border-patrol guy:  You are being charged in the court of canine law as a ‘fetch fugitive.’  How do you plea?
Me:  WHERE’S.  MY.  DAD?!?!

I hadn’t seen him since he locked me in here and walked away. That was 20 minutes ago.  Dad wouldn’t rat us out, would he? 

I mean, sure, our guilt was fairly blatant; all the evidence was printed in the canine rags.  (Dad said one newspaper called me a “four-legged Jesse James.”) Still, we’d take it to trial just to make ‘em work for our sentence. With my career and fate hanging in the balance, I’d opt for a jury over any admission to some bureaucrat with a badge.

My only question though was why now? This particular border crossing, our eighth and final one of the summer, should have come with a parade, not a summon.

In the past week we had slept at a gas station, ate from a neverending inventory of canned goods, belched and developed acute acid reflux because of said canned goods, and switchbacked obscure highways through the armpit of Canada.  The system sure knows how to kick you when you’re down, the thought rang.  And that’s when a door slammed.

Faintly, footsteps approached. Soon after, a shadow canopied my cage and an irked baritone filled my ear. Like William Wallace, I looked vertical and prayed for strength.

They took the apples! They took all of the ORGANIC apples!!!

Dad unlatched the gate, apologized and set me free. Promptly, he described his meeting.

First, they forced him to surrender Betty’s keys.  (This took some time).
Then, he waited.  (Which took even more time).
Finally, the interrogation began.  (This was a waste of time).

Bureaucrat with a badge:  Sir, are these your apples?
My dad:  Sure are.
Bureaucrat with a badge:  Where did you get them?
My dad:  A grocery store… wait, is this a trick question?
Bureaucrat with a badge:  Did you know they are a product of New Zealand?
My dad:  Does it matter if I did or I didn’t?
Bureaucrat with a badge:  I’m afraid we’ll have to confiscate them.
My dad:  Confiscate? That’s a little heavy.
Bureaucrat with a badge:  American food laws differ from Canada’s.
My dad:  But I just bought them. What if I ate all of them right now?
Bureaucrat with a badge:  I’m sorry, but that’s not allowed.
My dad: (Death stare).
Bureaucrat with a badge:  Drive safe.

It had been a month since we found any organic produce.  At this point in the journey, dad would have surrendered his Apple computer before his organic apples.

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Dad’s collection of apple tags.

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The antagonist, dad said, held the brown bag as if a sudden movement might detonate their cores. Dad loathes drama, but admitted that, if we ate Monsanto-made fruit, the chemicals combined with the fire in his eyes could have blown up the building. He likened his loss to that of Belushi.

Not long after, dad and I were in Washington; back on home turf for good. With our close call behind us, all road facets improved from that point forward.

Like in the San Juan archipelago, where we stayed in a secluded cabin in the woods for two whole nights.  Real bed included.

Then, in Anacortes, when dad ran into a close family friend at the grocery store. By a serendipitous stroke of the Divine, he spotted her via Betty’s rearview mirror prior to reversing from the parking lot. Mammoth hugs ensued.

And then, a real life road miracle happened.  After a dreary morning stuck in the slow death that is Seattle traffic, I awoke in Betty circling the airport terminal.  Before gaining perspective, there I was, lying in the backseat on my godfather’s lap with all my Love and all my Might.

I’d never collected a family member on the road before.  Each time Betty fell from our Missouri driveway, it felt like a portal plunge into a land of unfamiliarity.  No recliners.  No dishwashers.  And certainly, no family.  Was my godfather’s road breath embarrassing?  Absolutely.  But some things are best left unsaid.

As it turns out, my godfather had come to film Betty, dad and me across our 47th state for a few days. From sunrise to sunset, the lights were on.  In Olympic National Park.  At the gas station. And over the Cascades. With clothes.  Without clothes.  However and wherever the narrative flowed.

One day we were kicked off of a pear farm. The next, I ran off set to eat bacon with a diner waitress.  Had dad not chopped me in my youth, my first-born pup would bear her name.

The rain came and went – we were in Washington after all – but Betty’s new wipers kept things clear. I was the star of the show, yes, but you know what they say in the biz… you’re only as good your leading lady. Come awards season, I trust Betty to be handed the hardware she deserves.

Theatrical release is currently one of many moving pieces. Dad says that short documentaries about a car, a dog and their bearded chauffeur aren’t high on Hollywood agenda’s. Fortunate for our film that, come press time, we’re all too aware that purity is power.

More to come next week,

love

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Fetch in 50 Alaska Status: Views from the Top of the World.

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It’s called “road breath.”

Legend has it that the testament of an epic adventure happens when I pant on dad.  According to him, temperature, hang-time and disgust are measured in equal parts. Apparently my “road breath” has hit a record level.  “Just the right amount of stink,” he keeps saying.

It makes sense, really. If glass reflected scent, dad would never look in the mirror again.  His “road breath” smells like an espresso machine farted. I can’t inhale enough of it. I knew we were on the ride of our lives, but with dad’s new system, I’m thrilled to know it’s official.

Speaking officially, did you see the headline in the Anchorage Times?

‘FETCH IN 50’ HAVING A BALL ACROSS ALASKA.

The pun was clever, I thought, though I’d have opted for ‘FETCH IN 50’ THROWING A PARTY UP NORTH. Get it, throw? We didn’t make the newspaper, of course.  Please, that’s for important intel like today’s crime and tomorrow’s weather.  Heaven forbid you just walk outside.

But I digress because that’s what humans say. The truth is we drove, hiked and fetched our asses off for a week and a half in the Last Frontier. And that is the news I’m set to deliver.

Our entrance to Alaska was quite the spectacle. We ditched the paw-parazzi by crossing the Yukon River by ferry. It took less than five minutes. From there, Betty tightroped Canada’s spine for 50 miles on the Top of the World Highway.

The day was gloomy, but the smoky clouds gave birth to the northernmost border crossing in the U.S., a spot open just four months each year.  “We earned a photo at this sign, pup,” dad said. He hopped out and fumbled his tripod for a minute, maybe two. Then the security door opened and the border agent appeared.

Sir?

Bent over, dad looked between his legs.

Uh, would it be easier if I took the photo for you?

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We made it!

She got our snapshot, but I doubt I looked at the camera; the scent from a nearby pole hijacked my everything. It smelt like one… no… two retrievers. I pulled dad across the street to confirm and spray.

My guys are inside, the agent said.  Would Gus like to meet them?  Slow day at the border, I thought.

I was right, two retrievers. Back and forth we branded the northernmost pole in the U.S., although I misfired on one and it flew back to Canada. We ran around the station off leash until the next traveler arrived.  God, I’d love to inspect one car, just one!!!

We slept in the pines that night, beneath a bridge on the river. Dad did the math:  it took 400-plus hours to reach Alaska, and less than two to update my fetch resume. But the adventure had just begun and west continued to be the way.

First it was Chicken, a gold-mining town with 8 residents, none of them birds. Then, Delta Junction, the official end of the Alaska Highway. I didn’t get to drench the “landmark” due to the tour bus of elderly photographers. I did, however, deuce in the nearby mulch.  I pray the stench peels its paint.

The holidays came early when we landed in North Pole, Alaska, a cash-grab of a destination where it’s “Christmas all year-round.”  Dad hardly blinked. He said the real Christmas miracle was catty-corner Santa’s workshop, where a fully functioning Blockbuster sat across the street.

That evening we entered Denali National Park, an area similar in size to a former fetch-flame of mine, Massachusetts. Like the entirety of the American park system, I’m not allowed out of the car.  Pets can disturb wildlife, all the pamphlets say. They should really clarify that term – “wildlife” – you know, before opening the gates to vanloads of insufferable sightseers. Talk about animals.

By Day 3 we made it all the way to Anchorage.  A nice young vendor at the Sunday market gave me scraps from the salmon cookout. I’ll always remember her face.

Dad chose the fishing town of Seward in the Kenai Peninsula as a settling down place.  We hiked through bear country in the sopping rain and I had my first ocean dip of the trip.  But the settling down part never manifested.

We arrived during the annual salmon fishing tournament, so Betty remained our home.  Locals said that fall arrived a month early, which meant rain, rain, rain.  We camped on the edge of the Gulf of Alaska with glacier views and bald eagles soaring above.  I slept and dad wrote.

A week into Alaska and still no sign of the sun. The clouds had blocked our view of Denali (the former Mt. McKinley) and dad was cold and wet. It was time to move on.

A couple long days on the road followed.  We crossed the border two more times. The drives were cinematic. Trees were yellowing and life kept giving. 800 fresh land miles brought us to Haines, Alaska. That’s when the sun came out.

It was like the opening of an award-winning play. Pull the curtain back and the sky, the peaks and the stars all appear. The ocean turned a Godlike shade.  “Oh there you are Alaska,” dad said.

Since then we’ve left Alaska, but Haines is what I’ll remember most.  And not just because I had the game of my life in a quiet Alaskan cove – one that brought me to a shiver – but probably because dad showered two nights in a row.  That’s no small feat in and of itself.

The next time we talk, my “road breath” might be harming the ozone.  Betty’s going on her fourth oil change of the trip today and dad said that for her 200,000-mile anniversary, he’s putting some shiny new windshield wipers on her.  Boy does dad know women..

Until next time,

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Fetch in 50: The Stories, the Scoop and the Saga of a Single Day on the Alaska Highway.

My name is Gus, but for the sake of authenticity, and the most precise summary of our week prior, allow me to be Frank regarding ‘Mile 0’ of the Alaska Highway.  For shits, let’s start with what it isn’t.

‘Mile 0’ of the Alaska Highway is not in Alaska! At first, I thought the signpost to be one of those cheesy roadside attractions, you know, like the ‘World’s Largest Apple Basket’ – which sadly is a real thing. (It’s in Frazeysburg, Ohio.  If it sounds juvenile, well, it’s even more life-sucking when you witness it.  You’re welcome for adding time to your life).

Back to the road.

Dad loathes these tourist stops. So when he stood in the middle of the highway for a snapshot of such futility, I 1). Watched in angst for his safety, and 2). Realized it wasn’t the prank I hoped for. Welcome to ‘Mile 0.’ Just kidding! Welcome to Alaska, you’ve come a long way.  That was my hope.

We were, in fact, still in Canada, Dawson Creek to be precise, a forgettable place some 1,500 miles from the Alaska state line – the supposed-to-be 46th notch on my collar.

To call this milepost gut-wrenching would be a gross understatement.  But to say it didn’t fuel us forward would be a grand miscalculation.

(Speaking of fuel and grand miscalculations, boy do I have a story for you. Same day too. But let’s not get ahead of ourselves, that’s two breakfasts, a lunch and a matinee lamb crisp into the future).

5,391 miles in three weeks is no small feat, I’m aware. No one said the road to Alaska was paved with pixie dust – though it’d be nice if it was paved in its entirety. Grit and grind (and I guess, gravel) are prerequisites for the fulfillment we seek.  Betty will tell you; the tread on her tires is all too evident, and goddammit, it won’t be had for nothing… we’ve come too far!

See? I told you I’d be Frank.

As for the drive, we modeled it after some dead guy’s quote. Umm… “a journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.”  That’s the one. I hate to piggyback on Eastern clichés, but there isn’t enough sleep to get there on naps alone.  Plus, the potholes are like alarm clocks on asphalt.

Which brings me to the physical state of the road.

The Alaska Highway is not a lap around suburbia. There is rarely, if ever, a smooth shot, let alone a straight one. There are no exits, only shoulders, and a healthy dose of eroding terrain.

And since I’m being Frank, uh, what’s with the speed limits Canada? For a proudly progressive nation, your speed limits, or (cue the French accent) “maximums,” are more conservative than George W. at a fundraiser in Dallas.  In America, we’d just park it.

Now, now, I’m being a sour traveler, but seriously, they’re quite underwhelming. What’s not underwhelming is the scenery.  So let’s deviate into the beauty of the drive.

The Alaska Highway is all that’s right about the natural world. The smell of the pines, the crisp air, the hue of the lakes and the rivers.  Oh Canada, let me count the ways your waters zig and zag.

Then there’s the wildlife, which I’m not exactly fond of but do admit to its intrigue.  Dad and Betty have given moose, foxes, elk, caribou, sheep and deer the right-of-way. No bears like last summer, but far too many ravens. I understand their sacred significance, but let’s call a spade a spade: they’re loud and they’re ugly.

The weather on the Alaska Highway is the real wild card of it all. Itinerant clouds erase blue skies. It rains a lot too; every couple of hours, which only augments the intensity.  I pray daily for dad in his seat. At night, I curl by his sleeping bag for warmth and in gratitude.

If there’s one thing to micromanage on the Highway, it’s gas status.  In such a remote part of the globe, stations are few and far between. Day one, 300 miles in, and guess who starts to feel frail?  Betty.

As a disclaimer, dad is the ultimate gentleman when it comes to Betty’s tank. Rarely does it plunge beneath halfway. For whatever reason, between the clamoring rain and kilometer conversion (dad’s math is worse than my breath), he chose the Alaska Highway for the scare of the century.

Then, when all hope felt lost, and Betty’s gauge closer to “D” than “E,” a lone pump behind a lone log structure sprouted from the mountains. (And this is why you commune with the road gods).  The clerk confirmed our desperation when reading the receipt.

Wow, that’s as high as it gets out here. You must have been on fumes.”

“Yeah, I thought we were toast,” dad said. “That’d be a story. What happens then?”

“Oh, at least a 5-hour wait… $500 tow too.”

Dad took the lesson in stride, but not before he apologized to Betty. I’m not complaining, dad emerged from the gift shop with a bag of freshly chopped bacon treats.

Our long first day on the Alaska Highway ended 50 miles down the way. We whiffed at two campsites before settling in at Muncho Lake, British Columbia – a glorious spot in the northern Rockies. That’s when a gold miner on his way home from Alaska grabbed dad’s ear in the parking lot. Not the best timing, but dad listened.

From Colorado… drinking Bud heavy… stitches on his nose… killed a wolf up North. His story melted when dad spoke of our journey.

…”yep, we call it Fetch in 50.”

Silence. Softness. A child’s smile.

Dad found his sweet spot.

A few moments later, I found mine. After a long and bumpy day, dad veered for a cove. The bonus of traveling vertical this time of year is the light of the night.  Dad clicked my leash and cocked his arm.

The water never felt so good.
the light
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P.S. Tune in next week as the Alaskan dream comes true.

Fetch in 50 Beneath the Border — Montana, Canada, and Beyond.

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Dad, Betty, and me gawking at the Tetons on our own private road outside of Jackson, Wyoming.
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Coming to you live from Kalispell, Montana, this is Gus, your favorite front seat canine and loyal Fetch in 50 correspondent.

As we speak, we’ve been on the road for 16 long days. Conditions vary from place to place. The only constant is Betty – um, wow, now that’s a bumper sticker! Can you say patent pending? I can’t. I can only bark.

Back to Betty, she gives and gives. It’s funny to say but, for a woman of her pedigree, and far-reaching industry respect, and not just for automobiles but the entire feminist movement, it truly feels like she’s now just hitting her stride.

Take a world-class athlete for example. We’ll use me for simplicity’s sake. In biz-talk, Betty is what we call “in the zone.” She knows her mission and is on the drive of her life. As a lifelong shotgun sleeper, I know these things. Every highway vibration shakes my golden core.

Never mind the naysayers who say she can’t make it and the assholes who floor it around us as we gently ascend mountain ranges, then give us the stink eye as if to make a point. Never mind them.  Betty knows who she is and this ride has been sports-car smooth. You know, I think dad might be right… age is an illusion.

With our Alaskan journey in hot pursuit, Fetch in 50 is in reboot mode in northern Montana following a transient couple of weeks. This is our second day in these parts, which is a refreshing change of pace from the 4,100 miles we’ve spun to date. Hot days, alpine hikes, river and lake fetch, and car sleepovers have mandated the break in action. We need it more than American politics need a 3rd party.  OK, maybe not that bad.

When we cross the border tomorrow, it’s 3,900 kilometers to Anchorage. I’m polishing my metric system skills for Canada. (That’s 2,400 miles in non-metric-system-speaking human terms. In dog terms, it’s just a really fuckin long way). You think so too, eh?

Our respite though (I think) is revitalizing dad’s senses. He mentioned this morning that it’s time to “slow things down,” which despite the water in my ear, it still garnered quite the ring. Two nights of uninterrupted and perspiration-free shut-eye will do that to a man. I like coffee as much as the next guy, but come on, he’s not Buddy the Elf.

But the grind hasn’t been for naught. Never is. Hell, I deliver these words from the altar of God’s Country, where mountains rise like snow-capped cathedrals, and the skies – wheewww! – that’ll stain the memory.

Dad even made a friend today, just one – a Presbyterian pastor turned commercial knife sharpener who once sold beer at Busch Stadium. I think I got that right. Leave it to dad to meet that guy of all people. He had a beard too, which from the look in dad’s eye, I could tell he respected.

As for fetch, I’ve tacked four states to the ole résumé, bringing the Grand Tally to 45. The best part about summer is the majority of my retrieving happens in water – my sanctuary.  In South Dakota, I swam a reservoir. North Dakota, a murky creek. In Wyoming, I calmed the Snake River.  And Montana, I had a morning paddle in a peaceful cove on Flathead Lake – one of the largest and purest freshwater lakes known to man. I swam and hydrated.

It’s all bittersweet, really. On the one paw, I long to complete the dream. On the other paw, well, these moments with dad are going too fast.

Tomorrow, we’ll hit the pavement once more. Our last stop this side of the line will be Glacier National Park. There, we’ll meander the scenic Going-to-the-Sun Road. Not long after, it’s Canada and beyond. (In Alaska, they have the Top of the World Highway. Yikes!)

Until next time, this is Gus signing off.

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lo

Fetch in 50 in the Southwest: 5 Short Stories from 5 Spectacular States.

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Somewhere in New Mexico waiting for my dad.

love big big
A three-week adventure to the Southwest has Fetch in 50 on the brink.  41 states down, 9 to go.  Dad and Betty and I navigated 5,011 miles through some wildly wonderful American terrain.  (Seriously folks, you need to buckle up and see this place).

On the road, there’s no shortage of life, unpredictability, and limitlessness. Dad says the fickle nature of what’s “out there” is the seed from which possibility blooms. I agree, though my affinity for adventure is hardly as poetic. Our latest fetch mission, however, certainly fit the bill.

Liftoff was temporarily postponed as Betty, the day before and in typical woman fashion, had dampened the driveway. The car surgeon called it a “steering leak.”  Dad called it “female issues.”  I called it “too much information.”  Nonetheless, Betty is the queen and so we bow.  Never rush a woman as they say.

Next, our route was threatened when a gigantic storm system broke north from the Gulf. My nervous system jumped north with it. After a team meeting with Randy (our map), dad rerouted us through Colorado. I nudged his side in gratitude.

With our biggest and final adventure on the horizon, I’ve been training like never before – we’re talkin creek toss, humidity exposure, and multiple breakfasts – the works.  Last Tuesday I met with a sniff specialist after a game of basement fetch.

Despite my hectic schedule, I found a gap to scribe our chronicles in the Southwest before we depart for the Northwest.

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1. Kansas. Flyover country makes for some damn good fetch turf. The Flint Hills are golden and glorious and undisturbed by the stuffiness of municipality.  A good chunk of it I imagine is guarded by straw-hatted farmers with shotguns, but the hills, and the space between, are alive and full of wonder.

Betty chauffeured us to a reservoir in what felt like a universe designed for fetch. Our evening hike split through the vast expanse. It was happy and Holy.

Pulling away, dad parked in the middle of a two-lane highway as the falling sun lit the land in a way a dog shouldn’t describe. From there, twilight carried us west.

2. Colorado. On our drive to Boulder, Betty’s warning light illuminates. At her age, this is hardly breaking news and usually means nothing – her dashboard has a pulse of its own. But this episode I could feel. Dad could too despite his will not to.

Still, Betty brings us to our hike in the flatirons with a promise of post-trail service. When dad extends his promise back to Denver, she rebels and stalls on Boulder’s busiest street. Dad knows he pushed it. His head falls onto her frozen steering wheel. I rest mine on my pillow – (mountain hikes are exhausting).

Again, dad reverts to a promise: if Betty restarts sans tow, he’ll take her to the car hospital right down the way. Betty needs attention, but I’m pretty sure her charade is one of protest. Her caboose, halfway on to Pearl Street, is currently redirecting traffic. How embarrassing! She lets dad sweat it out a bit longer before firing back up.  Faker

The repair shop is near closing time, and with all symptoms pointing towards the transmission, well, I figure we’re in Boulder for at least the night. In the waiting room, I curl up on the couch. Dad makes a talkative new friend. She goes on and on about mushrooms and even invites us to sleep at her place if Betty doesn’t heal tonight, which wouldn’t be so bad – I’d love to pay it forward and take care of her raccoon issue.

“You’re ready to go!” the clerk tells us. Yep, one small part and Betty is purring once again.  Her resilience will never be questioned. It’s an auto miracle in the mountains – the timing, the service, the everything.

3. New Mexico. Two mornings later, we’re cruising the high desert on our way to new mountains. Every so often dad likes to pull over, turn Betty off and walk the highway in search of a good photo. A car without a key is a quiet car, right? Not on this New Mexico morning.

Today, whether she’s on or off, Betty decides to let her dashboard defrost blast hot air… on FULL blast. I pant the entire ride to Taos, where it’s 70-degrees, and the oil change guys have no cure. I’m a little worried – the sweat from dad’s beard would measure on a rain gauge.

After a long day, we retreat to lower ground and head for Santa Fe. Descending via the High Road, windows fully down, a weather marvel happens:  the temperature plummets and a blizzard blows through Betty. The slow-motion flakes are like a movie and take up residence on my whiskers.

In all my road days never have I felt so refreshed.

At the Hilton for some shuteye – they have nice parking lots – Betty begins to click! click! click! at 1am. The result is bittersweet:  the heat is off, now I can hear myself sleep. But…. her battery is dead, sounds like a problem for the morning.

4. Arizona. Of all my front seat views, I’m not sure I’ve seen a site as stunning as Sedona. There’s red rock everywhere. It even feels sacred to walk on.  We ditch the spring break crowds and head for the trail.

Deep in the forest, a man with a backpack stops and asks us for a ride back to town. Dad agrees. Really dad? Just like that? One – this guy could be anybody. Two – he’s wearing a Detroit hat (a place no one ever seems to compliment). Lastly, even if he is clean (slim chance) I’ll need a) time to secure Betty, and b) a ten-count inhale of his backpack… minimum. When protocol concludes – and it’s gonna take some time – let’s start with a handshake before carpool conversation.

As it turns out, strange-hiker-guy aces his inspection.  Just my luck.   Dan, party of one! Your backseat-reservation is ready. Dan party of one! I just did an 8-mile morning hike, do you really think I’d abandon my throne? Plus, there’s a Road Code, which I hardly feel the need to explain.

Dan is a Navy-vet traveling solo. He hasn’t owned a car in 9 years which is the reason he’s laying down eating his apple in Betty’s bed.  He and dad really hit it off.  When I wake up 20 minutes later, it’s just dad and me again… all is well.

5. Texas. I’m tired. It’s dark. And tractor trailers are wobbling by us at 90mph.  Everything is bigger and faster in Texas. Bless her heart but Betty wasn’t built for 80mph speed limits.

We stop at a highway checkpoint where an armed officer interrogates dad while a German Shepherd circles Betty.  Excuse me, but I do my own security work, thank you!  I growl at them both from the inside.  Dad says it’s OK, we’re close to the border. I don’t know what that means, but I did learn one thing…

Border patrol isn’t a toll booth. They always give treats.

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This is all for now guys. But I invite you to drive with us this summer as we approach the finish line. There will be plenty of photos on our Instagram page.

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Fetch in 50 Comes to Iowa: A Field. A Dream. And the Ultimate Night Game.

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Written by Gus

I hadn’t a clue of where we landed.

Having spent close to a week in what I call “automotive anguish” – a self-diagnosed condition – and abruptly awaking from a deep puppy sleep, I wasn’t the most stable source of time and space, despite my famous nostrils.

Dad walked the dim property while I watched from Betty’s front seat. He seemed to be surveying our location in alignment with the missing sun.  Dad can’t hide his plotting face; his eyes squint in a manner only I can spot. Nothing is classified between master and pup.

As my senses adjusted, the scene began to focus.  Grass and dirt teamed for a field of a certain sport. To the right, a white farmhouse stood respectfully out of play.  The horizon had a rich orange tint as if brushed by Monet.  A ring of corn framed the painting.

Dad’s investigation lasted a torturous ten minutes. I’d yet to figure his intentions, but there was nothing vague about his stride. He knew the ground he walked and yearned to drink its pulp.  When he returned to Betty, dad briefed me on the situation.

Our whereabouts were that of Dyersville, Iowa. Snout analytics quickly confirmed the latitude.  This particular pasture?  Some place called Field of Dreams.

Dad referred to it as “extra sacred soil” – and not because Kevin Costner once ran its bases (never heard of the guy) – because it existed as a space for all to Remember.  Our only caveat?  The site had closed three hours past.

Hence the empty parking lot.  Hence the holy hush.  Hence dad’s deliberation – an unusual delay for such a rule-averse soul.  And then, with a gentle tone – one that had no intention of disturbing the moment – he spoke…

“Well, our timing is certainly no accident.”

love
His inference read like a teleprompter – one without need for a single word more. Resting on an altar was a moment tailor-made to our road vision. Capturing it was all that remained. I hoisted my ears to peak elevation (a.k.a. my “YES lift”).

The next thing I felt was the moist dew of the right field turf.  In a sprint fueled from Within, dad and I had travelled the length of the outfield… back… and back again faster than Harry Potter could apparate.  The stretch of our legs was no match to the stretch of our Souls.

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As we panted in unison, Betty but a blip in the dusky distance, dad did the one thing, the only thing, that could have heightened the moment… he reached for his pocket.

Being a seasoned veteran, I can spot “the reach” before the hand ever decides to move.  It’s not a craft you master overnight.

Years of study and concentration sharpen one’s ability to discern a pen reach from a key reach – a key reach from a phone reach – and a phone reach from a ball reach.  By the grace of the road gods, this was, in fact, the holy grail of reaches.  I grounded my stance and assumed the position.

There was no audience to witness the performance of my career – and honestly, we didn’t want it any other way.  All that emanated was the click of ball to jaw and paws to earth. In between, there was nothing – a nothingness that somehow held it ALL.  Dad was right.  This wasn’t any old patch of grass, it oozed an ethereal scent.

Ray wanted a catch.  I wanted a fetch.

love
The final toss – a two-hopper that I athletically turned into one – came sooner than I’d have liked. It wasn’t until my return jog, though, as dad’s silhouette disappeared into deep centerfield, that the entirety of the moment changed gears.

Just when I thought things couldn’t get any darker, they did.  When I met him in the corn, twilight was completely gone. The stalks towered not only my short stature, but dwarfed dad’s too.  It was like some sort of vegetable portal – a doorway mighty enough to drop my ball to the ground and halt dad in his tracks.  A shy summer breeze embellished the script.

“Can you feel it, pup?” dad whispered. His eyes closed and arms V-ed wide. We were miles from the nearest church, but something baptismal appeared to be happening.  Together, we breathed.

“Heaven on earth,” he continued.  “Take it all in.”

It wasn’t until the following afternoon (and several home run trots later) that the importance of our Iowa evening integrated fully. Eight days and 2,000 miles in the making, all roads had led us to that specific piece of farmland at that specific tick in time — a cosmic payoff at the conclusion of a lengthy journey.

So, you wanna know the secret to capturing the moment?

Choose often.
Wiggle the rules.
Take the Game into your own hands.

After all, what other game is there?

love
Gus

 

Fetch in 50 in the North Country (Part 1): All Adventures Aren’t Created Equal.

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  this is t.j.’s blog

we’re talking fetch in 50 here.

you are reading all of this
are you glad that you stopped by
thanks for coming
i do appreciate it

what’s up with you?

anything good?namaste. 

Written by Gus

Before I riff on our latest road adventure, I’d like to distribute the following context:

2,731 miles.
8 days.

Phew! That felt good. No dig to dad, but it feels wrong (and a little less climatic) to exclude such muscular detail.

And no, I did not count our highway meanderings, never (dad’s warned me of getting lost in numbers), Betty’s dashboard informed me.  A woman of her purity is incapable of deceit, I tell ya.  After all, her last name is White.

Now, without further ado (but with a quantitative understanding in tow), I bring to you our latest American escapades.

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It’s a rare occurrence, a phenomenon really, that we know where we’ll sleep for the night – geographically speaking that is.  Unless dad is slicker than I imagined (and he isn’t, trust me), schedules and destinations aren’t exactly our MO.

Dad prefers, as he calls it, the “fluid” route. “Free of time, full of freedom,” he’s always telling me. His in-car wit is never short on flair. It’s all very Kerouac of him, which is quite the laugher, because, well, dad hates On the Road.  Nevertheless, who am I to stomp a man’s Expression?

This particular bout of Fetch in 50, however, I’d been drooling over for quite some time.  Chicago, Wisconsin, Minnesota, and Iowa – the meat being the middle, of course.  “Heading to the North Country, pup.”  The sound of it vibrated my bones.

For fetch purposes, my interest lied strictly in the water.  I’d seen dad’s magazine cut-outs.  Rivers, beaches, Great Lakes, regular lakes – the vision alone set my sea legs in motion.

But as things would have it, and this is a real shocker for such a plan-allergic duo, our northbound ride was a far cry from a case study in freedom. (This is the part where you, the reader, refresh oneself on the numeric context I so appropriately laid out).

Frankly, it felt more like the “Little Water, Lots of Corn” tour with the North Country spiel being nothing but catchy propaganda for dad to drop the windows and blare Dylan for a week.

I know, poor old Gus, such an oppressed canine.  At this rate I might be the poster dog for the next Sarah McLachlan commercial, right? (Singing) I will remember youu. Will you remember meee?

But I digress because… 1). I once heard a human say that.  2). Thanks to Oprah I have an attitude of gratitude (you miss her too, admit it), and  3). This trip wasn’t wrong, just a wee bit different.  It beat to its own drum.  Even dad would agree.  Allow me to elaborate.

Having built quite the road résumé over the course of my day, I’ve learned a number of things about not only myself as a Dog Being, but the ingredients for which a memorable adventure entails.  Want to know the secret?

Here, lean in.
No, like really lean in.
Take a hit of this dog breath.  It’s not going to melt you.
There you go.  Right there.
Fresh and potent with a fishy finish.
Not so bad, huh?

The secret is there is no secret.  (How you like that build-up?)  There is a tried-and-true method to a forgettable experience though.

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It’s called never leaving the driveway.  To start the car, you gotta turn the key, sure.  But to move the car, you gotta hit the gas.  So GO people! — wherever It may be.  Those who settle are those who skip the pedal.

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Which brings me back to the road. This is how our North Country script read; directed by the Youniverse, starring Betty, dad and yours truly.

Chicago was Chicago.  Tall.  Crowded.  Shitty parking.  The city life basics. Dad drank espresso.  Me from a filthy sidewalk bowl.  I did manage a leash-free game on the greenery at Northwestern.  Great pitch come to think of it. For the most part though, we were there by day, gone by morning.

Day two, rain in Wisconsin.  Dad drove.  I waited.  Rain continued.  Dad drove further. I waited longer. Three days here in total.  The sun shone the latter of the two.  Didn’t help.  The sites and shore failed to impress.

Rarely do states flop in their entirety (and by rarely I mean never), but there’s a first for everything, right? Sorry cheeseheads, but let’s be honest, you’re nothing but a Michigan imposter.

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Just a guy sleeping on a dashboard wondering when it will stop.
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It wasn’t until day six after another rainout and a thousand new miles on Betty’s belt that we found a favorable swimming hole.

Grand Marais, Minnesota, right on scenic Lake Superior — a mere 40 miles from the Canadian border.  My dip was divine but it failed to last an hour. Dad said we had to maneuver our way back to humanity for the evening.  We found it.  And I slept like a puppy that night.

It didn’t take long before logging truck driver distances again. Dad’s back hurt, my heart did.  Minus the Minnesota respite, the trip had been anything but ideal.  Some places fall flat on their face (ahem… Key West.  We get it, you like Jimmy Buffet.  Give it a rest, will ya?), that’s the nature of the business — and life in general for that matter.  I understood it, but was stubborn to accept it.

All of a sudden home smelled closer than ever.  My nosedometer is tuned to the hundredth of a mile. Dad drove from a slouched position; the sun eager to clock out.  I knew Operation North Country was running on fumes, but was there really no allure?  Who was I kidding?  I waved the white flag and closed my eyes.

The next thing I heard was the stillness of the summer night. It seemed to breathe through me.  Betty napped, crickets chirped.  It took me a moment to realize this wasn’t a dream.  I was in fact awake.

With that, dad opened the door, and with a twinkle in his eyes, he whispered…

“This is it, pup.  Are you ready?”

hello there
For Part 2:  The Conclusion, tune in next Tuesday.

How A Bear in Virginia Broadened My Instincts — Fetch in 50 Gone Wild.

Written by Gus

love and light
It all changed in an inhale.

Sure, we were on the road, thousands of fetch throws from home and half a mile and counting inside a dense Virginia forest. But this whiff… it was different.  And I knew it the second I leapt from Betty (that’s our car).

At first, I tried to sniff past it.  Through it.  Around it.  Anything really.  We’d been in the car long past our daily drive time and I wasn’t in the mood to play MacGyver.  I was in the mood to run amok.  Off-leash.  Off-hours.  You know, be a dog.

But who am I kidding?  A dog with a dad is a dog with a purpose.  We never clock out.  And when dad and I came around that next corner, I couldn’t fight it any longer.  My nose had officially redlined.

Now, before I go any further, and before you say that dog’s smell everything, let me give you the 411 on our nose.  Don’t worry, I’ll keep things “human” simple.

You see, a dog’s nose is like a mother’s intuition:  off-switch not included.  To question such an instinct is to question the sun and the stars — a blasphemous action indeed.  Wanna dodge the dog house?  Do.  Not.  Fuck.  With.  It.  Ever.  Comprendo?

Gus!  What did I tell you about cursing on the blog?

That’s there’s a time and a place??

Exactly.  Great execution, son!  On with the post…

As I was saying, this smell wasn’t a typical canine curiosity.  This was a scent of the cautious kind.  A full-blown nostril explosion.  It felt big.  It felt alive. And the fact that I couldn’t pinpoint it, I knew one thing and one thing only… wherever it was, whatever it was, I had to be there first.  Slowly, I distanced myself from dad.

The trail narrowed to the size of a fetch stick. This sudden lack of space brought my deepest fears to the surface. I was supposed to be dreaming about the waterfall at the end of the hike.  God, an afternoon dip would really hit the spot…  Instead, the scent drew nearer and clearer.  I felt my ears lift.

What is it pup?

Shit, dad’s on to me.  So much for a covert operation.  Stupid box head!

Just looks like a fallen rock, bud.

Yeah, I see the stupid rock.  It sat in the middle of the path just a short toss ahead.  I ran it through analytics five minutes ago.  But the big smell… where was it and why couldn’t I analyze it?

All my life I’ve trained for a moment like this.  Hydrants.  Suitcases.  Friend’s assholes.  Hell, one time I woke dad in the middle of the night to chase an opossum out of the backyard.  Smelt it down the hill, through the drywall, while sleeping.  They don’t teach that at PetSmart.

And then, without warning, but with the authority of a Spartan warrior, my dad’s voice froze me in my prints.

Gus, COME!

In all my days, never once have I heard such a tone.  Every furry follicle of my being could feel its vibration.  Dad wasn’t inviting, dad was commanding.  As I made an about-face, the picture came into focus.  Dad found the smell first!

There they were.  Forty feet to dad’s left, forty feet to my right… two black bear cubs frolicking on the green hill.  Behind them with a very fixed eye stood mom:  large, lengthy, and surprised – a shared sentiment.  Everything slowed down yet everything sped up.

Gus, COME!

The difference in elevation gave the bears a much closer appearance. Dad stood still, his eyes on a timeshare with me and mama bear.  Now the cubs hid behind her.  I stared back bracing for a sudden move.

Gus, COME!

Third command.  Oh man, I’ve never gone to third command! Decision time. Do I return to dad or stand my ground?  I want dad to know that I’d fight to the death for him.

Pride aside, I go with the former.  When master’s call, it’s a dog’s soul duty to honor said call.  (Plus I’ve seen the Nat Geo Channel.  Dog versus bear doesn’t end well).  I return to dad and submit to the leash.  As we flee the area, mama grunts twice as if to expedite our exit.

Good boy, puppy dog!

And here’s the golden nugget:

Bear or morsel, respect the energy around you.  Suck some air.  Gauge the room.  The wisest instincts often mean walking away.

Do it and you might just get a treat.  I did.  Dad hides mine behind the dash.

Shhhh….

Gus

 

10 Things My Dad Taught Me While Riding Shotgun on the Road.

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Written by Gus
love

My inaugural blog post, what a thrill!  Not quite as exciting as the parking meter I just sprayed in downtown Richmond (I held it all night for that one), but an adventure nonetheless. Since my dad drives a lot, I thought I’d give him a reprieve from his weekly writing duties.

We’re pumping gas as we speak. Some hayseed town in rural Virginia. There’s a lot of missing teeth here. I wonder how they chew their bones. Anyway, dad’s trying to put the windshield wiper back on.  It snapped in two when he raised it to clean Betty’s windshield.  And dad is not what you’d call “car savvy.”  I think it’s supposed to rain here too.  And the adventure rolls on…

In homage to Father’s Day, I’ve been sneakily documenting dad’s nuggets of wisdom.  Believe it or not, the guy talks all the time.  To me.  To himself.  To the funny man’s voice that blares from Betty’s doors.  He even sings too.  I love my dad’s voice.  I sleep through half of it (“fetch rest” as they call it in the biz), but when I’m up, I’m a blessed pup with a front row seat.

And just so you know that I know, I’m aware he’s not my “real” dad (yes, we had the talk). Turns out my “real” dad (you know, the one with the tail) flew the coup when mom broke the news that she was preggers.  Apparently the guy went a-wall and took a walk all the way to California.  No joke.  That’s where he lives now.  I have the papers to prove it.

But enough about deadbeat dads, this weekend isn’t about them.  It’s about the owners and teachers that understand the command “stay” (take that “real” dad).  By the way, I’m not exactly sure how to use air quotes, I learned from a TV show my dad was watching last week.

Where was I?  Right.

Dads don’t need to be blood or the same species (mine isn’t) or still on the planet for that matter either.  Whoever or wherever they are, send ‘em some extra puppy love this Sunday. Enough from my panting chops though, seriously, it’s so damn hot on the East coast.

TEN THINGS MY DAD HAS TAUGHT ME ON THE ROAD

1. Under no circumstances EVER is bad internet connection a real complaint.  Dad says some people walk ten miles a day just to drink water. Dirty water too. And you’re in a hissy fit because your Instagram page won’t load while waiting in line at Starbucks?  As my dad says, “Let me introduce you to ‘Perspective 101.'”

2.  Science and spirituality can coexist.  As a matter of fact, they already do. Science teaches us what’s “out there.”  Spirit teaches us what’s “in here.”  (You can’t see me, but I’m pointing to my furry golden chest).

3. Highway workers are the most underappreciated souls going.  They work long hours… in the sun… without any regard for their body.  All so we can experience this playground called Earth.  Next time you’re stuck in traffic, rather than curse the fates, thank the Youniverse for a way.

4.  That dog named Marley is the reason leash laws exist.  And leash laws are the reason I’ve broken the law in every state.

5.  Emotions are good.  Lack of emotion is not.  Dad says I wear mine on my sleeve. He also says he doesn’t mind because he respects a man that communicates.  Just know when to draw the line.

6. Tattooing the word “peace” on your back doesn’t make you any more peaceful.  Those that ink their beliefs are typically those who fear them the most and live them the least. If it’s in another language, especially Sanskrit, dad says look out. The same goes for bumper stickers and Facebook statuses.

7.  Social media has stripped the world of its mystery.  Ever heard of balance, people?

8. If human beings learn to consciously breathe, two things will happen: health care will reform itself and the drug companies will go belly up.  Who’s in?

9. Harry Potter is the greatest piece of literature this side of the 21st century.  In dad’s dream world, it would be mandatory school text. But until we learn to play more and reason less, the paradigm will never shift.

10.  Dog is God spelled backwards.  Accident?  My dad thinks not.

OK, wiper blade is fixed. Doubt it works.

We’ll do this again.

Gus

Fetch in 50 Indiana: Traffic, Basketball, and a Little Bit of Road Magic.

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We were bumper-to-bumper on a two-lane highway an hour east of Indy. Tired of the pace, I exited at the rest stop for some much needed revitalization, and for Gus because, well, he’s a lean, mean sniffing machine.

As we finished up our business, I studied the route ahead and noticed a small town I had circled on the map.  Knightstown.  Tiny print.  Didn’t ring a bell.  The marking was from a year ago when we’d driven through Indiana, but not in this direction.  So I Googled it.

Knightstown is home to Hoosier Gym.  That’s right!

It was used as the home court of the Hickory Huskers in the 1986 film Hoosiers starring Gene Hackman and Dennis Hopper, one of my favorites. And thanks to the traffic angels, we had paused in the knick of time as to not pass it up.  Game on!

Now, in most of Middle America, road signs are a definite luxury.  The first typically alerts you of the exit with an arrow pointing right or left.  In this instance, we turn right.  To find the second, well, just drive until told otherwise because distances aren’t provided.  As if the road god’s are inviting all to trust and let go.  Step away from the iPhone, we’ll get you there big fella.

Et voila, a mere 15 minutes later we arrive at our destination.

From the outside, the gym is not what I’d envisioned.  I expected a school of some sort to encompass the scene.  Nope.  There she was, Hoosier Gym, alone in her Truth amidst a rural Indianan neighborhood – a cute, little brick building with old wooden doors and a pine tree to her right.

Since the making of the film, the entrance hall has been transmuted into a museum filled with jerseys and trophy cases, t-shirts and movie memorabilia. In one corner, Hoosiers plays in Blu-Ray, and in the center, the guest book brims with visitors spanning the globe.

And then, I step in…

Like an ambush on the soul, my imagination instantly goes wild.  I wasn’t sure which vision pierced my heart first… was it the passionate small-town fans I saw cheering from the vintage bleachers?  Was it the spot of hardwood that I currently stood upon, the one where Jimmy beat the buzzer?

Maybe it was my view of the bench, the historic piece of wood where Coach Dale calmly, but authoritatively told the ref, “My team’s on the floor,” and deliberately played a man short.

There was magic here.  I could hear it.  I could see it.  I could feel it.  And I allowed myself to be completely swallowed by it.

And then, as if the scenario could emit any more enchantment, I notice something else…

On the far end of the court, two basketballs lay still on opposite sides of the hoop.  (Cue the wide eyes, drop the lower jaw).  You mean we can actually play in this basketball sanctuary?  Slowly I approach, as if too quick a movement could make them disappear.  They didn’t.

And I shot…. and I shot…. and I shot.  

For 45 minutes, I was like Gus on the shores of the ocean with the grace of Jimmy’ jump shot.  Everything went in. Free throws, three-pointers, and fadeaways.  It.  Was.  Magic.  One of “those” moments where the soul is afloat and all we have to do is step out of the way.

You can’t plan it.  You allow it.
You don’t make it.  You let it flow through you.
You need not a cape or a wand or a rabbit in a hat…. just a willing curiosity to participate in the Play.

For the brief amount of time I shadowed that hardwood, I opened myself so damn wide that something sacred underwent.  Nothing supernatural or out of the ordinary.  Just a raising of my energy that wound up matching the moment.  A magical one.

Deem life Magic.

It’s everywhere.
onelove

TJ

Fetch in 50 Arkansas: Notes and Insights from the Natural State.

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Mount Magazine State Park, highest point in Arkansas.

Every time I’m preparing for the road, a sentiment of the most potent kind permeates my being – Resistance.

When travel day arrives, and all that’s left is a Gus-leap into Betty and a gear-drop into drive, a strange thing happens…

My bed and living quarters grow increasingly snug.  The status quo becomes daring and desired.  And the monotony of routine suddenly transmutes into a recurring role on Survivor, or even wilder, a Powerball ticket that wins by the week.  To ditch the confines of safety instantly seems loony.

And so went the tune prior to my latest Fetch in 50 bout to and through an autumn-induced Arkansas.

For nearly a month, I found ways to push it aside.  First, baseball playoffs began, and the Cardinals kept advancing.  To part at such a time could seriously taint my fandom…. Two weeks wasted.  (Side note:  Baseball bores the hell out of me).

I piggybacked that excuse with another, telling myself it wasn’t quite “fall enough” yet in Arkansas, which might result in trees of an inadequate shade.  Can you even imagine?  I hear some don’t recover from such a tragedy…  Two more weeks down the shoot.

By the end of October, I shook the paralysis and made my way south.  And whad’ya know – another nature-enriched, heart-opening road retreat every mile marker of the way.  Blessings were everywhere.  Which then, of course, unearths the usual question.

Why not take action a month ago?

Well, aside from being human (and always pushing for multiple lessons), let’s go with the short version:

Fear.

Cliché to say, yet it fits.  Ask any artist, writer, actor, teacher, creator, pioneer, entrepreneur, or dreamer out there what’s keeping them from moving forward, and the honest ones will feed you the F-word.

Some call it resistance or hesitation; others say “I’m procrastinating” or “I’ve decided to settle down,” or my favorite, “I just don’t have the time.”  Fear, fear, fear.  Same color, different shades.

In my case, fear rears its ugly head in the form of resistance.  Nothing heavy, but enough to slam the brakes…. on everything.  Instead of surfing that cosmic wave called “flow” – one that’s inspired, guided, and completely got my back – I freeze in indecision.

Want to know the quickest route to doubt?  Stop choosing.  It’ll peel the passion and vigor right off your plan.  No one’s ever feared their way to freedom.  When you don’t decide, you delay the Divine.

own the glow
Indecision, then, is a very grand decision after all – one to stall your Story.

I’m not referring to those intuitive pauses where you take a step back in order to make space or because something doesn’t feel right, oh no.  That, in fact, is wisdom speaking.  I’m talking about those soul-pulling ideas you continue to push back on.

From experience, then, I must warn of its dangers:

1.  Hesitance kills desire.  Enthusiasm, opportunity, and trust too.  To get back in motion, a convincing almost has to unfold.  Putting your heart on the stand is the ultimate self-bitch slap.

2.  Powerlessness.  Major side effect.  It’d be a whole lot easier to just choose and choose often.  You are a creator!

3.  Those God whispers known as inspiration?  Count on them visiting less frequently.  Through action, your creative genius likes to be acknowledged.

4.  The longer you wait, the further “it” gets.  If you want a divide, visit the Grand Canyon.

5.  And the saddest of them all… not only do you miss out on you, so too do we.  Every visionary out there depends on the pursued dreams of others.  Success stories remind and spur us forward.

Now don’t get me wrong, this isn’t designed to lambast the prospect of fear.  I would never.  Far too many have already contaminated its name.  Beat it, crush it, conquer it, the commercial runs.  A macho approach if there ever was one.

Why?

Fear doesn’t dissolve nor does it carry a white flag. 

It’s always there.

Your latest victories aren’t the result of defeating this ubiquitous emotion, but because you used fear as fuel.  Teamwork and combat are drastically different philosophies.  One’s harmonious and sustainable.  The other?  Not so much.

Think you’ve smashed all your fear?  You haven’t.  As soon as the next opportunity arises, you’ll have a new fear to befriend.   And that’s OK.

At the very least, I expect a smidgen of resistance to manifest every time I hit the road or jump into a new project.  It’s what keeps me on my feet.  The key though is closing the gap between inception and action.  Trimming hesitance, even if it’s to a five-o’clock-shadow.

Choosing hydrates our God seeds.

A lesson I’ve learned for the final time.

own the glow

TJ
own the glow

Fetch in 50: A State of Vulnerability – Made in Michigan.

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Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore, Upper Peninsula, MI.

The open road can bring up a whole heap of emotion.  From uncertainty and splendor, to deep fear and the finest fulfillment.  And every time I’m out there, cruising America’s freeways of freedom, the Youniverse always speaks in a clearer, much more emphatic dialect.  For whatever reason, the road plugs me in.

For starters, a focal point of Gus and me’s Authentic Adventure is nature-based – long hikes through the woods, mountain treks, and swims in basically anything that gets us wet.  The great outdoors nourishes our spirit.  Show us a grassy knoll, and we’ll show you Heaven on Earth.

Beyond the physical activity though, meditation (aka conscious breathing) is a key ingredient to the pie.  Wherever the path, road, or trail winds, whether a traffic delay in Nevada or getting lost in no-man’s land in the middle of the sticks of an Indiana state park, deep, deliberate breaths sustain my every step.

Inhale love and lightExhale divine timing.
Inhale love and lightExhale divine timing.
(Claim, command, and repeat as necessary).

And finally, I rarely listen to music while on the road – two, three times tops in a multi-week jaunt.  On those days, it’s max volume and liberating.  But in between, as part of the Higher Purpose of my journey, I prefer to bask in that space of stillness and solitude (my holy ground and magic spring) as often as I can.  It’s the art of what I like to call vehicular meditation.

This past excursion of American bliss, through Michigan’s true-blue waters and idyllic August landscape, was about as serene and stimulant-free of a road retreat as I’ve had to date.  And with each experience, a variety of emotions arise.

This episode’s contestant?  Vulnerability.  Yikes!

Now, I wouldn’t exactly call this feeling “new.”  Far from it actually.  Truth be told, I’ve been to the bottom’s bottom of the most hallowed depths of vulnerability and back.  And when logging chunk-mileage, it’s actually my most commonly visited emotion.

Why vulnerability?

Well, when you’re on a two-lane highway in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan with nothing but your dog (albeit a miracle one), your thoughts, a cell phone without two days of service, not a car nor human in sight for miles on end, and a sign that says “Welcome to the End of the World” all while juggling to uphold your faith and innate compass’s credibility for guiding you out here in the first place, and that it will in some way, somehow lead to something extraordinary, trust me, vulnerability is the perennial flavor of the day.

That said, anything that connects me to a deeper layer of who I AM and what I represent on this planet, I’m game to explore.  That perpetual, code-chiseling search for meaning and purpose dictates most of my days.  But vulnerability, that’s often triggered flight mode, and been an entrée served with a side of avoidance.

In the best-selling book Daring Greatly, Brené Brown defines vulnerability as “uncertainty, risk, and emotional exposure.”  She debunks the myth that it’s synonymous with weakness, and adds that, as humans, we don’t do it,  it does us.  Isn’t that the truth?

In other words, our choice isn’t whether it appears, but how we respond to its presence.  We can push it away and distance ourselves further from our truth, or we can embrace it as an inevitable and beautiful part of the human experience.

Years back, option A was my route of choice.  I loyally subscribed to the “head-led” misconception that feeling deeply somehow made me less of a man.  That and a confidence-lack of sitting fully in my own skin.  The thought rang:

If I feel “that,” that could lead to “this.”  If “this” leaks, I could lose “that.”  If I lose “that” and allow it all to just flow, what will I possibly latch onto to protect myself in a big, daunting world?

VULNERABILITY UNVEILED

vulnerability: capable or susceptible to being wounded or hurt, as by a weapon;  open to moral attack, criticism, temptation, etc.

Unfortunately, academia tells but one side of the story, and simultaneously gives vulnerability a stuffy, misunderstood persona.  Thus, it’s a quality both judged and made wrong, suited for weaklings.

But the resplendent, mountain-moving side of vulnerability is this:  as daring and risky of a space it can be to sit with, it’s one of the most rewarding and heroic gifts bestowed upon the human spirit.

That’s right, ‘heroic,’ a golden attribute available to courageous souls willing to be seen.

KLITE LEXICON…

Vulnerability:  the willingness to be seen; liable to profound happiness, internal clarity, and the utmost self-love; doorway to miracles and the official drug of writers, musicians, actors, and artists of all kinds.

Personally, when I’m vulnerable, I get showered with blessings:

…. I’m more open and considerate.
…. I’m surrendered, but active.
…. I’m the ultimate vibration of all I desire to create.
…. I’m a force of LOVE to be reckoned with. 
…. I’m the image, the likeness, and the activity of God.
….I see only the perfected, grace-unfolding flow of brilliance and divinity in all things.

This isn’t to say that vulnerability is all rainbows and unicorns.  It can just as easily be an uncomfortable and overwhelming shitstorm of emotion.  A lot of times it is.  But if you ride out your inner weather and refuse to turn your back, you’ll find the reward greatly outweighs any repent for emotional integrity.

MICHIGAN AND BEYOND

“The highest form of human intelligence is the ability to observe yourself without judging yourself.”     Jiddu Krishnamurti

Traversing the U.S. has proven to be my best vulnerability professor to date. For 15 days and 3,500 miles to and through Michigan, I gave myself the OK to sit in a space of complete, non-judgmental receptivity.  Another road trip, another opportunity met.

Were there moments of frailty and angst?  Of course.  But in that unfamiliarity, I never felt more alive and on purpose.  As a result, some of my most powerfully-championed wisdom was born.

As I continue to move forward with my vision and step even further into my heart activity, I know that every square inch of patience and gumption I can conjure will get its chance at the podium.  To start the kind of conscious conversation I want to spark, I must be so willingly transparent to the point of having a see-through soul.

The entire process of getting KLITE off the ground has been an experiment and commitment to true vulnerable acceptance.  No vulnerability = no KLITE. And for this platform to grow, availability to myself, for myself is of the essence.

Feeling deeply.  Loving loudly.  Acting faithfully.  

The only protection I’ll ever need.

own the glow

TJ

 

Fetch in 50 in the Sunshine State… A Short Story in Reciprocity.

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Location:  Mexico Beach, FL.

THE SCENE

It’s a quiet Monday morning on the Florida panhandle as Fetch in 50 rolls into town.  Fetch conditions are pristine:  the gulf, still.  Sun, mild.  The beach, nearly empty.  A solo seal and pod of dolphins frolic offshore as fishermen line the coast.

As we pull off-road to check the dog beach rules (suggestions for poorly-trained dogs really), we discover that Mexico Beach is a no-go.  Gulf Bay though (ten feet to my left, literally) is a green light, on leash of course.  So we head eastbound, where 30 seconds later, Gus is sans leash chasing his ball as if it’s the first time he’s laid eyes on it.

A short while later and a mile up the coastline, I strike up a conversation with a ponytailed man named Steve.  Steve, a dentist from Oklahoma, is lounging beachside with a book when Gus politely drops his dripping ball onto Steve’s bare foot.  His eyes say,  Maybe he wants to play too Dad!

What starts as a hi-and-bye turns into a 45-minute story-swap about our lives and slowly gravitates to the state of the world.   Ahhh my favorite….

Things kick into high gear after the following Q+A:

Steve:   Are you a student?
Me:   Of life, yes.

(Long pause ensues).

I proceed to tell him of Fetch in 50, that I’m en route to the Keys, and the blog I’m set to launch.

Steve:   So you got your degree in writing?
Me:   No, business actually. (Damnit, just as he was figuring me out.)
Steve:   You must be one heck of a writer then.
Me:   Not really.  I’m learning though.
Steve:   Well how do you do it?
Me:   I trust my voice.

This tidbit leads to the intimacy of my blog:  called Keepin’ it Light with the aim of spreading consciousness.  This, that, and the other.

By now, Steve’s eyes glow with intrigue.  His attention is all but in my side pocket, and he too, begins to open up.

Steve tells me of the week he just spent in Atlanta playing best man at his brother’s wedding.  The speech-giving part was a nerve-racking endeavor, but by the end, he felt comfortable, alive, and fulfilled having done it.  As a result, he had some of the best conversations with people as he’s had in a long time.

Coming off the high of his weekend, Steve presents his dilemma…

Steve:   I’m tired of seeing the world with a cynical eye.
Me:   Then don’t.  Keep it light.  Choose the good.   It’s there too.

(Steve gives me an it-can’t-be-that-easy type of look).

Side note:  I’ve known Steve for 30 minutes.  He’s sweet, sincere, and gentle.  Cynicism and Steve don’t go.  I see the Real Him.

His dilemma veers to its source.   The media, the economy, the president.   Steve feels cheated and discouraged.  One of those what-to-do, who-to-trust-anymore sort of deals.

Me:   I just send him love.
Steve:   What’s that you say?
Me:   Love.  I send the president love.
Steve:   Hmm…

(Insert longest pause yet).

Me:  (Thinking to myself)  Well, there it is.   I’ve put myself out there AND the nail in this convo.

(Several more silent seconds).

And then…

Steve:   What’s the name of your site again?

(I spell it out for him).

Steve:   Thanks for reminding me.   You’ve restored my faith in the world!

MORAL OF THE STORY

Light breeds light.

That last piece of me carried a tremendous amount of deliberation and angst before vocalizing.  It took some wherewithal and kahunas to finally let it rip. And that’s why I knew I had to deliver it.

And look what happened:  I opened up and Steve was blessed.  Steve opened up and I was blessed.

When you honor your True Self, through the willingness of being seen for all that you are, you make space for others to unveil their truth.  Welcome to the magic of the circle of Light!

Forget the perfectly polished delivery and let go of the end-reaction.  You’re not here to be flawless nor does anyone need you to be. You’re here to be your truth.

You need it.  I need it.  We need it.

Transparency and soul-based speaking.

That’s a good place to start.

own the glow

TJ

own your glow. like big time

Fetch in 50 Launch, From Point A to Point Be.

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Heart Lake, Mt. Shasta, CA.

Fetch in 50, Gus and I’s quest to explore every state in America, has officially begun.  Woot, woot!  Woof, woof!

On August 5, 2012, after selling many of my belongings and filling Betty (my Chevy Tahoe) with what was left, I pulled away from the sunny southern California coastline, saying goodbye to my home and roommate (my brother, Trevor) of the past two-and-a-half years en route to life’s next big adventure.

It felt like the opening credits of a Hollywood drama.  Only thing was, the script had yet to be written.

An inspired idea dating to June of 2010, Fetch in 50 took two plus years for its Divine Timing to appear.  Where will it take me?  I don’t know.  How will it end up?  Not a damn clue.  Am I anxious, scared, and uncertain?  Without a doubt.

But greater than all of that junk (what the French call gar-bage) is the truth I hold within.  And that is with every fiber of my being, I know this journey is 122% backed by Spirit and all I have to do is show up.  Maktub is my mantra.

So with Gus in tow, we launched from L.A. and drove headfirst into the unknown (dun, dun, dun!).  Our first stop:  Ojai, California, a mere two-hour drive north.

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Gus and his suitcase.

Overflowing with excitement, Gus leaned out the backseat window while I hung over the dash as if to will us there sooner.  Off to see the country, I said out loud while merging onto the freeway.  From the get-go though, the You-Niverse had different plans.

Two years in the making and a month’s worth of preparation and anticipation, here we were, going 5 mph in bumper to bumper L.A. traffic.  Not exactly the sunroof-down, wind-in-my-hair opening I’d envisioned.

Great way to start, I thought sarcastically, 45 minutes into the delay.  But without hesitation, my Higher Self fought back, If we’re in a hurry already, you might as well quit now.  So I did (not Fetch in 50, the pity party).

And with that, I surrendered, embraced the world’s biggest parking lot (the 405), and let go.  There was no other choice.  We weren’t going to visit every state overnight.  I AM where I AM, so enjoy the ride. 

Little did I know, this moment was setting the table for the road that lied ahead.

THE JOURNEY ITSELF

For the next 20 days, Gus and I zigzagged 3,921 miles across the U.S., cruising through lush forests, majestic mountains, desolate deserts, and the vastly underrated plains of the Midwest.

We slept in five states, four motels, three Walmart parking lots, two friend’s homes, and a preaching Couchsurfer’s futon before landing in St. Louis, our temporary hub for most of the next year.

But throughout these three weeks, the Youniverse continued to teach in an attempt to mold some character and strengthen everything I’d harnessed the past four years.

Like the day we left Ojai, went an hour in the wrong direction, and passed a sign that read “Now Entering Los Angeles County.”

Or two hours later in the central valley of California, 115 degrees, Betty in park, counting the cars in front of us as I stood on Highway 5 (I reached 37).

Or the following afternoon on our way to Heart Lake in Mt. Shasta when we drove 30 extra miles into Shasta National Forest while I continued to tell an eager Gus that it’s right around “the next turn.”  It wasn’t.  We weren’t supposed to enter the forest to begin with.

This took place in California. In a 24-hour period.  I have similar stories for each day.

On many nights, I wasn’t sure where we’d sleep or what town we’d end up in.  Eventually, those thoughts became pests and bled into my day.  Will we have enough time to hike in Lake Tahoe?  What will I eat tonight?  How and when do I squeeze Moab into this leg of the excursion?  Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah…

Fetch in 50 was going to be a process.  I knew it, yet I also feared it.

I feared it because somewhere along the way I bought into society’s misinterpretation that a process meant hardship and struggle.  It had to be long and tough.  Dues must be paid.  And knowing what I know, well, I knew better.

The word process derives from the Latin root prōcessus meaning “a going forward.”

So in essence, it didn’t matter what we did, where we slept, or how we got there, because even driving backwards had its purpose.  There’d be bumps along the way, of that I was sure, but who’s to say that moving forward doesn’t have a few detours?

It was clear to me that the first leg of Fetch in 50 was backed by some pretty consistent energy. The theme was adamant when running across my mental news-ticker.  It read:  more being, less doing.

At times, I’d get caught up in the humanistic mumbo jumbo that told me Fetch in 50 was a goal and destination.  The kind you’d write on a yellow legal pad with your daily To-Do list at the top:

August 5th 2012, Point A:  Los Angeles.  Point B:  Ojai.

August 6th 2012, Point A:  Ojai.  Point B:  Mt. Shasta.

August 9th 2012, Point A:  Mt. Shasta.  Point B:  Lake Tahoe.

But the idea didn’t birth from a To-Do list mindset.  Quite the opposite really.

Fetch in 50 unfolded as a result of the being.  By doing less and thinking less, and by feeling more and being more.  I maintained my life’s vision, but made space for those unpredictable, out-of-the-blue, never-would-have-imagined ideas and miracles that manifest only when given some breathing room.  In other words, I loosened my grip on life.

Rather than go, go, go, I allowed for flow, flow, flow.  On the road, the ultimate field of possibility, why should things be any different?  If at all, they’re to be expanded and amplified.  Because it’s in this space that extraordinary happens.

The path ahead will offer endless opportunities to sit in this space.  To slow down, take in the moment, and acknowledge the present as all that exists.

The magic made manifest from every ocean and mountain, sunrise and sunset, has the exact essentials as the traffic jams and reroutes, the bad food and restless nights:  the air in my lungs, the beat of my heart, and the power to choose (my authentic freedom) in any given moment.

There will be Love, laughter, joy, and insight.  And I’m sure the flat days will come, when I’m lonely, impatient, and question my sanity for committing.  All of this will be part of the experience.

But as far as Fetch in 50 goes, there is no point A, B, C, or D.  Wherever I AM, my world will be.

And I plan on to take it all in.

own the glow

TJ