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Time travel and the Taj Mahal of parking lots

Today was a pretty lousy day for adventures. We had to go back in time so that we could stay in the place where I won Second Dog in the Running with the Bears. I say back in time because apparently in ancient times people didn’t have GPSes, and if they got lost then they went into a gas station and asked for directions. And if it was really complicated they wrote those directions down on a piece of paper. So when we couldn’t find The Past and had driven through the same intersection 4 times in a hour, she stopped at a gas station and came out with a piece of paper that had directions on it.

Sometimes a place really doesn’t want you to see it. Mom’s been here a bunch of times and never been able to run in the woods while she’s here, so she suggested we go out for a short run even though it was pouring down like buckets. We had gone half a day out of our way and traveled back in time to get here, after all. When I went on my potty break and I saw the puddles I asked, “Does it actually sound like fun to you to run in this?” I was using my coach voice, since I wanted her to think that this was in her own best interest, but secretly I was trying to make her drop the running idea. We both hate the rain. “Well no, not really,” she admitted. “Isn’t this trip supposed to be all about having fun?” “I guess you’re right. Let’s go out to breakfast instead.”

So we did.

Mom left me in the car-house and came back a few minutes later with two boxes of the most delicious smelling food I had ever smelled. I sure hoped that there were eggs in it, and she would share them with me. She opened one of the boxes right under my nose. “This… is for you!” she said, opening the box with a TA-DAAAAAAAA flourish. “Oh! Oh! Start eating quick so that I can have some!!!” “No, Oscar, the whole thing is for you.” I couldn’t believe it! A whole plate of food just for me! There were scrambled eggs, and potatoes, and BACON which I don’t think I had ever tried before because Mom’s a vegetarian. “Oh no, I couldn’t possibly…” I said, eying the bacon. “Seriously, Oscar! Eat it! It’s your reward for being so brave when you were dognapped.” So I tried it. Now bacon is my favorite thing.

It rained and rained all the way through the mountains, past dozens and dozens of exciting trails. It was still raining when we got to the desert, where it’s not supposed to rain. We drove for almost an hour down a nearly abandoned road past a bunch of dirt tracks that could have been trails, or maybe they were some kind of road without pavement. Finally, Mom pulled over at one of them. “Let’s just find out,” she said.

It turned out to be a trail after all. There were critters that lived in the ground, and funny bushes and rocks. The trail didn’t go very far, and at the top there was a flat spot with a bunch of of those smooshed things that smelled like rust. “Is this a museum trail? Did history happen here?” “I don’t think so,” said Mom. “Unless it’s a beer-drinking-in-the-middle-of-nowhere museum. Let’s keep going.” Mom had a glint in her eye. “Let’s hike like we’re wild and, just walk on the regular ground where there’s no trail. I bet we can at least get to those rocks up there.” I thought that maybe once we got too far from the trail we’d run into an invisible wall or fall into the ground or something, but our feet worked on this ground just like they worked on the trail! So we hiked wild.

“Mom, how do you know we’re not going to get lost in the wild?” I asked, thinking about how we spent the whole day lost yesterday, and how her sense of direction wasn’t very reliable. “Oscar, we can see everything for miles around. We’ll be able to see the van wherever we go. We’re not going to get lost.” She had a point. We’d walked a mile and a half, and could still see the car-house plain as day since it was the only thing on the road.

It would have been fun to keep walking up and up the mountain and see how far we could go until we almost couldn’t see the van anymore, but it could start raining again at any second. Mom thought that we could find something better.

We got back in the car and kept driving down the road, but not long after that, the pavement disappeared and turned into trail. We tried driving on the mud for a minute or two, but the car-house is not wild like us and it sounded like it was going to rattle to bits. So we had to turn back. It took us almost an hour to get back to another road. We saw a few more trails that we tried to stop at, but something always got in the way. Either someone was in our way when we saw the turn-off, or we couldn’t find a way to get across the highway to the trailhead, or the access road wasn’t paved and the car-house chickened out. Finally Mom decided that today would be an administrative day. Mom said we would find a really nice campground and she would take a shower (she hadn’t showered in 2 days) and do laundry and we could relax all evening.

But when we got to the camp ground they were all full. Mom came back to the van fuming. “They wouldn’t even let me pay to take shower. They treated me like a homeless person. Who the heck do they think they are? They’re just a parking lot with a water feature out front, they’re not the damned Ritz.”

I had never thought about it that way before. We have a home, but right now we’re homeless because we’re on vacation. Are homeless people just regular people who decided to live in car-houses full time so that they didn’t need so much money and could spend more time with their dogs?

“It’s probably because you’re dressed like a homeless person,” I said. “If I had gone in there with my snappy tie, they probably would have treated me with respect. You have to think about presentation, Mom…” Mom had put my lobster bandana on me because she said it makes me easier to spot when I have responsibility, and I kind of liked what it did for my look. “Well maybe if I could take a darned shower I wouldn’t look like a hobo…” Mom grumbled.

We drove another half hour to another park that reminded me of the scary park on the second night. But they were full too. This time Mom came back to the car perplexed. “They’re full with people who live here and work at Tesla. God, I can’t imagine calling a dump like this home…” So there ARE people who live in car-houses all the time… but they still have to work and can’t spend time with their dogs. What’s the point? “I guess we’ll have to stay at Walmart. Walmart is the Taj Mahal of parking lots!” she said.

I was excited to see the Taj Mahal of parking lots, but it wasn’t as great as I hoped. There were no trees, and a big truck came and made really loud noises that made me jump. Mom was thrilled though. She disappeared for like an hour and came back with a whole cart of stuff that barely fit in the car-house.

“I had planned to take the interstate to Salt Lake, but you know what? We’re not getting on the interstate again for the rest of this trip!” Mom swore. “No more truck stops and Walmarts for us! We’re not homeless, we’re camping.”

-Oscar the wild dog


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