Day three of our journey found us continuing to marvel at the Columbia River Gorge, then wandering into the long, open roads of extreme eastern Oregon. Much as I had a desire to cross a second State line that day, we took mercy on the cat (and ourselves) and stopped in Baker City, Oregon that night.
This might be a good time to talk about traveling with a cat.
Our resident Vole Killer is a wonderful beast. In many respects, she has some dog-like qualities — she follows Ashielah around the garden/grounds, pines for her (and from reports, sometimes for me) when she heads off to the library, rolls in deer poop — she even tolerates walking on a leash fairly well — however, despite these canine-like characteristics, let’s just say this: I strongly doubt she will be riding with tongue-lolling-head-out-the-window joy in an automobile at any point in the near future.
She has calmed somewhat over the days, and grown less complaintive (not a real word) about being sequestered in tent or carrier, but the vocalizations while driving on day three were . . . challenging for us all.
So it was that we splurged on a very cheap pet-friendly motel that night, to give her some room to run and us, a respite from the cold nights in that area (when we stopped and checked with a local resident at a beautiful – but high – mountain campground, she told us it had been 22 degrees the night before).
Day Four found us headed into Idaho, passing a factory that blew huge smoke-rings into the sky (no lie), and touching up against the Snake River from time to time. A stop in Boise at the ginormous Food Coop (found only by thwarting Google Maps directions, thank you very much) had me checked out by a woman who asked about our trip when I offered my PT Coop card for a discount.
“Kansas, eh? Where in Kansas? I lived there.”
“Emporia,” I replied. “Where did you live?”
My jaw dropped. “Get. Out. That’s where my mom grew up!”
“Is she Swedish?” the clerk asked.
These little synchronicities have followed us all along the way. Just moments ago, I met a man from Sequim (45 miles from PT, for those of you non-northwesterners) in the parking lot.
At the end of Day 4, we pulled into Walcott Lake State Park near Rupert, Idaho. The Camp Host had apparently retired for the season, so we were without firewood. I scouted around the various camp and picnic sites for partial or left-behind wood, and was gifted wood by a lovely couple who were camped at a site near us in their RV (they were there with their parents, whose RV sat next door).
So we cozied by the fire in the chilly night air, slept warm as toast in the tent, and were up and ready to roll the morning of day five.
Ah yes, Day Five.
Having loaded up the van, packed the cat in the carrier until we could get her transferred to the relative freedom of wandering the back of the van (Ashielah usually refers to “Freeing the Kraken” each time the carrier is opened), and prepared my travel mug with hot tea, I went to start the van and . . . . nothing.
I fiddled and tried this and that, called my hometown mechanic for advice, got a jump from the lovely fire-wood-giving neighbors, and tapped on the starter motor for a while.
So, I started calling around for a rolling mechanic or the cheapest towing company.
I had maybe forty-five seconds of “Oh Shit” — but the truth was, we were in a lovely place, had plenty to eat and drink, and this, too, felt part of the adventure.
No rolling mechanic, so Beulah the Van was toted into Burley, Idaho for repair. $330 later (not exactly in our travel budget, but there it is), we were rolling by 5 pm, and arrived last night in Ogden, Utah. I’m typing to you from there at the moment.
Here’s the thing: The exact nature of this breakdown is clearly metaphoric — it actually had nothing to do with the hard driving we’d been doing, or the weather, or anything else — it was a problem with the ignition switch itself — we had power, the engine was fine, we just couldn’t get started.
Ashielah and I have been pondering what it means to be given a new key to get started. Now, we have two keys — one to access the vehicle, and another to start the engine — an apt metaphor for how we work together — she as a “container,” and me as a “driver.”
I also noticed that I was kind of relieved to have a roadside breakdown behind us — it’s one of the things you can wonder-about/dread when traveling, and now it’s happened and it wasn’t excruciating at all — everything got taken care of and our travel schedule has changed, and all of that is just fine.
I kept thinking about how I would probably have reacted (and yes, it would have been a reaction) to all this ten (or even five) years ago. I think I would have felt frightened and angst-y, but this time, I could barely register it as an annoyance.
Yes, the presentation of the bill did have some andrenaline-producing effects, but in point of fact, it was no more impactful than a cup of strong coffee, and I found myself alert and ready when it was time to drive again.
So we begin Day Six in Ogden, and will be departing in another hour or so for more points unknown.
We think that part of the learning in the breakdown was that we had been rushing to “get there.” This experience led us to just “be here” — as there was nowhere else to be. Which is true all the time, really.
Think of us driving along today to the tune of Kitty Opera, and if you’ve ever thought of making a donation here at the blog, this would be a great time. You can help us pay for that “new key” — or perhaps some earplugs. 😉