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With tips for Fido-friendly travel, road trips on a budget, and much more, PlanYourRoadTrip.com is our favorite new trip-planning website.
|Day One: One Toddler, Two Dogs, Three Thousand Miles|
|Written by Robyn Larson McCarthy|
|Wednesday, 05 November 2008 19:00|
Day one, and we've already spotted a Hawaii license plate. That's right, Chaucer and his entourage are on another cross-country road trip, seeking dog-friendly lodgings, restaurants, and activities for the traveling terrier to review on his website . Our destination is Tucson, and our ETA is Tuesday. No leisurely meanderings from national park to national park as we enjoyed this past summer.
A tight schedule isn't the only difference this time around, either. For the first time ever--with Chaucer, that is--we're camping en route. As if that doesn't guarantee enough fun, the newest member of the family--Brontë the six-month-old lab--is along for the ride.
The storms soaking the Northeast made for stressful driving and dreary views our first day. Fortunately, I've never suffered from motion sickness, so car trips are an opportunity to catch up on business magazines and for Carmen and me to discuss book outlines or other long-term projects for the publishing company. Still, Chaucer and The Boy would have preferred that the skies not open up each time we stopped for them to run around. Lunch was a picnic affair in the car, The Boy perched between the driver's and passenger's seats. Good thing the Sequoia's center console is so large.
Brontë, of course, couldn't have been happier streaking around the rest stops with a drenched Carmen in tow. The aroma of wet dog lingered until evening.
The family camper trailer (seen in the photo here, taken in the Canadian Rockies when my parents were grad students) still awaits a new cover, wheels, and paint job. And since Chaucer's publicity budget doesn't include a line item for "RV rental," we had little choice but to opt for what many campgrounds so kindly label as "primitive tenting" on their maps.
After a mini-shopping spree at L.L. Bean, Carmen and I found ourselves on the leaf-strewn lawn earlier this week ready to practice erecting our brand-new tent. Now, I was in Girl Scouts the last time I personally set up a "real" tent--the kind with a logger jam of heavy metal poles in four-dozen unmarked sizes and canvas material as heavy and unwieldy as a toddler gone limp during a tantrum in the main grocery store aisle at dinner hour. So, what a delight to find how much tent technology has changed. Five fiberglass poles, color coded tags everywhere, and material that's lighter than my rain jacket. Perhaps we should have bought two!
It couldn't have been any easier. Here's Carmen at the step where the instructions read: "The tent should now be standing fully upright." Hey, I thought we weren't supposed to open the beers until camp was completely set up!
Fast forward to our first night on the road. We arrive at the Washington, D.C. Capitol KOA about 7:30 p.m. The rain has finally let up. We're the only "primitive tenters" so we have our pick of the campsites. We choose one close to the playground and games area, so The Boy would have plenty of space to run around in safely while we set up. Since the bathroom and laundry buildings separate us from the RVers--a most fortunate thing, as we later discovered--we used the car's headlights to illuminate our work without blinding anyone.
While the setup still came in over the 10 minutes promised on the tent's packaging, the only casualty was a smashed fingernail. Uttering a single shrill bark at some invisible woodland critter, Brontë startled me into hammering my hand rather than the tent spike.
Having never been in a tent before--or even slept outdoors--Chaucer received a tranquilizer after his supper. As the vet says, "At his age, there's no reason for him to feel agitated." Besides, the dog who knew how to pop the windows open in an apartment I once lived in would have no trouble escaping from temporary cloth housing were something to spook him in the night.
Brontë, as she always does, took it all in stride, snuggling happily in her crate with her favorite stuffed toy. So, after settling the Boy to sleep in his new Disney Cars sleeping bag, Carmen and I popped open a couple of Pilsners and sat down to feast on a savory frittata I'd baked at home the previous night. Just before lights out, Carmen told me where she'd safely tucked away the car keys.
Turns out, the hiding place wasn't safe enough. But I'm jumping ahead, as the night's excitement technically happened on day two. Check back tomorrow!