Just got back from a cross-country drive with my two dogs and boy, did we have a few adventures along the way. We were headed from Southern California to Asheville, North Carolina, where we spent a month in a rented cottage. We checked out many beautiful trails off the Blue Ridge Highway, where the Great Smokey Mountains meet the Blue Ridge Mountains. Lots of cold streams and lakes for the pups to cool their paws in. And I know every great dog park in every city we stayed overnight: Flagstaff, Albuquerque, Amarillo, Oklahoma City, N. Little Rock, Brentwood TN, and then Asheville, one park more beautiful than the other.
At one point, we narrowly escaped several hurricanes driving east the last week in May and, when leaving Oklahoma City after deciding to take a chance that we could make it safely, the hotel clerk gave this advice: "If you see one coming, get out of your car and into a ditch right quick." Well, since we didn't have a ditch with us, we could only hope. We did see a hurricane in the rear view mirror, but it didn't get us.
In Little Rock, the dog park is acres and acres, and it's part of the nation's largest park, Burns Park, with several 18-hole golf courses in it, a couple of lakes for boating, miles of bike paths, an original log cabin smack in the center where it's been for over a hundred years, even a covered bridge like the one in The Bridges of Madison County, and more recreation than you ever dreamed of.
And who wouldn't love driving through towns named Bucksnort and Toad Suck?
Bucksnort, Tennessee, got its name from William ("Buck") Pamplin, who loved whiskey. He would get soused and roar and snort. People would say: "Just listen to Buck snort." His snorting became so frequent and the comment made so often, that the neighbors found themselves running the last two words together into Bucksnort. As for Toad Suck, Arkansas, long ago, steamboats traveled the Arkansas River and tied up to wait where the Toad Suck Lock and Dam now spans the river. While they waited for the water to rise, they refreshed themselves at the local tavern, to the dismay of the folks living nearby, who complained: “They suck on the bottle ’til they swell up like toads.” The name Toad Suck stuck.
In Brentwood TN, on the outskirts of Nashville, there's another gorgeous, large dog park and, one day, a beautiful blonde woman came over and asked me about my little terrier. "Is he a Wheaton?" she inquired. We got to talking about dogs and she asked if I'd come over to meet her husband. "Sure," said I, and we walked to a shady area where a tall man in a black Stetson stood up from the bench to greet us. "How do, Ma'am," he said, removing his hat. Well, it was none other than Clint Black. I took another look at the beautiful blonde woman and she was Lisa Hartman. They were just as nice and interested in dogs as I am. There's really nothing like country people for down-to-earthiness.
Between Nashville and Asheville, we ran into an intense hailstorm. The radio said they were as "big as golf balls" but they were really only as big as mothballs. Apparently, weather predictors have even more trouble with reality than I do. We were driving through, with the hail crashing down and making godawful noises as they hit the car, and I noted people stopped under every overpass, not even bothering to pull over to the side. Believe me, I had to do some fancy swerving to get through and out the other side. I thought they were a bunch of yellow-bellied sapsuckers, until someone later told me that I was the idiot, not the people who stopped and waited for the storm to pass. Seems that the law of physics applies here: if you drive in a hail storm, the intensity between your car as target for the hailstones is greatly enhanced. So if any of you ever are in that spot, pull over.
We got safely back but driving west, we encountered high temperatures up to 110 F and I had the A/C on high the whole way, because of the dogs. I had to wear a sweat jacket and down vest to keep from freezing, just to get the cold air through the car for the pups. You should've seen the looks I got at traffic lights by sweaty people in sleeveless shirts and convertibles staring at shivering me with the windows up. It was only after we got gas in Albuquerque that a woman suggested I might consider shutting off the A/C in front by the driver and just leaving it on in back. She was way smarter than I am but then, so is cottage cheese.
Anyway, it's a wonderful thing to talk to people in different places. In a small Texas town named Groom stands the 2nd largest cross in the nation (190 feet) just off the I-40 at the old Mother Road, Route 66. It was near there I met little girl of about 8 years old in a faded print dress, who was kicking sand while I was filling up the Pupmobile's tank. I asked her what she did for fun, and she shyly replied, "I run the dumper." When I asked what that meant, she took me by the hand around to the back of the station where I saw a big blue Dempsey Dumpster. She let go of my hand and ran toward it and right up onto its side, doing a back flip at the top, with a perfect Olympic-type landing on both feet. "That," she said proudly, "is running the dumper."