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.
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.
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.