Darth Dog Returns

Before we left for Singapore I had driven from Boise to Madison in December 2006. This was to take Laney to the Finley household where she would live while we were overseas. We also left our car there - the only one of our three that we didn't sell. When Shannon moved back to the US she was able to use it while she lived at the Finley's as well. Now we were back in the US. When we flew to Madison for Shannon's high school graduation, it was my job to drive the car, and the dog, back to Boise. I wasn't excited about it but since no one else was willing to do it, it was up to me.

Most of the time Laney was pretty good riding in the car

Sandy and Shannon had left Madison and flown to Southern California. They were taking a short vacation there as Shannon's graduation present. Afterwards they would fly back to Boise directly. Meanwhile I packed up the car and Laney for the long drive home. We had quite a bit of stuff to transport back. The car is a Ford Escape, not very big, so it was packed absolutely full. I had my luggage, some extra luggage from Sandy, Shannon's things that she wanted to move back to Boise, Laney's stuff, a number of quilts and a lot of fabric that Sandy had bought in Wisconsin over her last few trips. I piled all her quilts behind the passenger seat, put one of Laney's blankets on top of them, and that was Laney's spot for the trip back. The back of the car, the spot behind my seat, and the other front seat were completely filled with stuff. I was hoping that I wouldn't have to make an emergency stop or a sudden swerve. I was afraid that the piles of stuff would all collapse and bury Laney and me.

According to Google Maps the trip is 1600 miles. We were planning on two days. Our overnight stop would be in Sidney, Nebraska. We had stayed there on our trip out in 2006 at a "pet friendly" Holiday Inn. But when I called them the day before we left they were fully booked. I guess Sidney, Nebraska is a hopping spot. But I was able to get a reservation at the Motel 6 and they allowed dogs as well.

I was up early on our departure day. Well, my father-in-law told me as we were leaving that it wasn't early, but it was early by my standards. I was putting the last few things in the car. Laney is usually excited when anyone is packing - she has learned that it means the person is leaving. But she was even more excited when I was packing her stuff. She really didn't know what to make of that. She was wondering why her toys and food and bowls and blankets were all going in the car. Everyone said goodbye - all the Finley's were really sad to see her leave after having her in their house for two and a half years. But she was excited and jumped right into the car. We pulled out of the driveway at 8 am.

Taking a nap made the time pass more quickly

Most of the time Laney was pretty good about riding in the car. She spent a lot of time just sitting in her spot. She didn't have a lot of room. I never did see her lie down on her side. When she did lay down she would lie on her stomach or curl up. I piled all the quilts under her spot (I didn't have anyplace else to put them). Don't know whether she was comfortable or not. But she didn't complain too much. Usually she would either stare out the side window or look between the seats to see out the front.

Every hour or two I would stop at a rest area to let her out for about five minutes. As soon as I started to get out of the car she would be in the front seat trying to get out past me. But I made her wait till I came around to the rear passenger door so I could put her leash on before she got out of the car. Most rest stops have designated pet areas. Laney went absolutely nuts in them. All dogs like to sniff trees and fire hydrants and other places where other dogs "do their business". Well in this case dozens of dogs use a very small area. So there were more smells than any dog could imagine. She just about pulled my arm out of the socket as she tugged from one spot to another to sniff. She would be so excited that her whole body would tremble while she was sniffing. And occaisionaly she would use the facilities for a bathroom break. Since I had no way of knowing for sure when she needed to go I rarely went more than two hours without stopping. Sometimes she would start to make a fuss while we were driving but I couldn't tell if she really needed to go or was just getting tired of riding. After her walk, which was always way too short from Laney's perspective, I would have to convince her to get back into the car. She was never happy about that. But she always did go. Of course by the time I walked around to get in the car she was already in my seat, tracking whatever dirt or mud or whatever was on her paws onto my seat. I tried wiping my seat off the first time or two I stopped but eventually just gave up. The car, my clothes, and I would just have to get a good cleaning when we got back to Boise.

Laney finally gets a chance to run loose

After she had her walk I would usually take her bowl (or later a water bottle) to get her a drink. She always seemed to be thirsty. I think she was warm in the backseat even though I had the air con on because she was usually panting. That or just excitement. Of course that meant that there was always lots of drool all over the car. Some of it always seemed to end up on my seat and even on me. After she had her drink I could finally go make a pit stop myself. Each stop at a rest area usually took us about fifteen to twenty minutes so by the end of the day the time added up.

When we got on I-80 near Iowa City, the car that I merged behind had Idaho plates with a 1A county code. That's for Ada County - which is Boise. I thought, wow, this is going to be easy. I can just follow them for the next day and a half all the way home. It didn't work though. For some reason they didn't stop at every rest area along the way.

We got lunch the first day at a McDonalds drive through. Normally I never use the drive through but on this trip I made an exception. Laney could smell the burgers so she was in my lap and hanging her head out of the car as I was paying the lady at the window. I thought she might try to hop right through the window and into McDonalds. The lady thought that it was pretty funny. She said that she had a yellow lab.

Of course with Laney along there wasn't anyplace for us to eat at McDonalds so we drove to the next rest area. The entire time Laney sat and stared at the bag of food as though she thought it might make a break for it and try to escape. And did I mention that she drooled the whole time? At the rest area we sat at a picnic table and had our lunch. A two cheeseburger and large fries value meal was about right for the two of us. I was just about to take a bite from the first cheeseburger when a rabbit ran across the grass. Now I had seen Laney at the Finley's house the week before sit ten feet away from a rabbit in the back yard and not pay any attention to it. This time she bolted after it, just about ripping my arm off and pulling me over backwards. The cheeseburger went flying out of my hand and landed on the ground. Ok I guess that one is hers. Good thing there were two of them. I learned not to hold food and her leash in the same hand. If I were the suspicious type, I would think she pretended to chase the rabbit just to make me drop the burger.

I'm sick of the back seat - I'll drive the next section

After lunch we had several hours of driving to get through Iowa. We reached Omaha about 4:30 pm and rush hour was already underway. Traffic was very heavy but at least it kept moving. Unfortunately just then my cell phone started to ring. I don't like to answer the phone while I am driving because it isn't safe. There are numerous studies that have been done that have proven it. Talking on a cell phone while driving is the same as driving drunk. But I figured that I should probably look to see who was calling so I could call back. In heavy traffic on an unfamiliar highway it was not easy to get my phone out and glance to see who had called. When I looked up, I was right at an exit. I was in an exit only lane! I must have missed the sign while I was futzing with my phone. It was way too busy to make a last second lane change so now I was headed off on the wrong way into downtown Omaha, in rush hour traffic, in a strange city, with no detailed map. Shit!!! There were some pretty tense moments but I eventually managed to get turned around and get back onto I-80 West again. We lost about twenty minutes. All I had seen was that the call had been from a 608 number. Whoever it was is strongly advised to never ever admit that they were the one who called me.

I found a small state park next to a freeway offramp for our dinner. They had picnic tables but unfortunately there was a parks department guy cleaning up there. There was a "no pets" sign in the picnic area. So Laney and I went to the other side of the park. I figured we would just sit in the grass and eat. But it had rained here shortly before and the grass was wet. So it was down on one knee and eat as quickly as possible. Laney had her regular dog food augmented with some tuna salad from my Subway sandwich.

After two solid days in this car I am SOOOOOOO bored

After dinner we had several more hours to ride. We just missed some big thuderstorms which were just south of the freeway. We made it to Sidney by 9:30 pm. The guy at the Motel 6 said they were filled up and we were the last guests to check in. I guess Sidney isn't a party late kind of town. There was a grass field in back of the hotel and Laney and I spent about half an hour walking back and forth across it. Finally we settled in for the night. The bed was just barely big enough for both of us.

Since we would be home the next evening there was no time constraint. So we had a leisurely start the next morning. We slept in till 8 am. We had another long walk, gassed up the car, and were on the road at 9:40 am. Only 50 miles to go to the Wyoming border. As we left Sidney I noticed a huge Cabela's store next to the freeway. Seemed strange to have such a huge store in such a small town. But then I noticed a big office building next to it that said "Cabela's World Headquarters". That explained why there was a store there but the HQ seemed even stranger. It had to be at least a three hour drive to the nearest airport. There are reasons that most big businesses are in larger cities.

We stopped at a Subway in Laramie to get lunch. Then we continued west until we found a rest area. But there was also a dirt road leading away from the freeway exit. Instead of the rest area, I just drove a quarter mile down the dirt road and pulled off. It was open range in all directions. Finally I could let Laney out without a leash. I was going to stand by the car and share the sandwich but in about thirty seconds I realized that the place was swarming with mosquitoes. WTF? We are in the desert! I got back inside the car to eat my lunch while Laney stayed outside and ran. And ran and ran and ran. She didn't sniff or stop to check anything out. She just ran, full speed, in big circles around the car for fifteen solid minutes. I guess she had a lot of pent up energy. Finally she started to slow down and I called her back to the car. I had picked most of the tuna salad off the sandwhich and gave that to her with her regular dog food. She wolfed it down. You haven't seen food "wolfed down" until you've seen it done by a real wolf. In about thirty seconds she was done and we were back in the car. I still ended up with about half a dozen mosquito bites on my legs though.

Steve had to put up with Laney's backseat driving the whole way

I-80 really is a boring drive. There isn't any scenery through Iowa, Nebraska or Wyoming. There isn't much of anything. I did notice one difference from thirty years ago when I first drove I-80 on my way out to Stanford University to start graduate school. Back then there were pumping oil wells all along the highway. Now there are very few of them. Most US oil is long gone - which explains why we had to invade Iraq and not Wyoming. Now they have been replaced by windfarms. They seem to be sprouting up all over Nebraska and Wyoming. Potentially they could be a great sustainable, non-polluting source of energy but there is still a lot of debate about whether they are cost effective or just a corporate ripoff of government subsidies. And only about 1% of all electricity in the US is produced by windpower. They sure do look impressive though.

Unfortunately one thing I saw along the highway was plenty of roadkill. That's why it was really amazing when driving though Utah I saw a momma duck leading about ten little ducklings across the freeway. They were just stepping off of the roadway when I saw them. Somehow with cars and trucks going by at 75 mph, she had gotten them all across four lanes of traffic safely. Utah is such a family oriented state.

After Ogden Utah I was on familiar ground. I have driven between Boise and Salt Lake City many times. We had a final dinner stop in Heyburn, Idaho at a Wendys. Then we were on the home stretch. When we came down the hill into Boise Laney started to get excited. When we got off the interstate I opened her window about six inches. Usually Laney is not your typical ride-with-her-head-hanging-out-the-window-sniffing-the-air kind of dog. But tonight she was. And she seemed really excited. I guess she recognized the smell of Boise.

We pulled into our driveway at about 11:30 pm, forty and a half hours after leaving Madison.