First and last toss in Nevada.
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.
On top of Mt. Bachelor. When dad sleeps, I watch… kind of.
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.
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.