The great roadtrip of May 2011

As I write this, I’m standing at the kitchen counter in our new apartment in Phoenix. Since we don’t have any furniture yet (apart from a bed and one chair from Ikea, which we take turns sitting on) I now do everything from this spot: email, Skype, eat, lean, sob quietly. My legs ache from standing around all day but the end is in sight because I think we found a nice couch at the weekend, and a possible table and chairs. Hopefully, there will be lots of sitting in my not-so-distant future.

We’ve been here a week today, and despite the distinct air of emptiness in the house, I feel settled already. I’ve met some really nice people and am more than happy to grow old here and never move house ever again for the rest of my life. Plus, the fact that the weather has been in the 30 degree range since we arrived ain’t bad either.

Our roadtrip from Oregon took nine days, and thanks to my nerdy little schedule, we made good time and were able to relax along the way. We went whale watching in Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast, camped in the Redwoods State Park in Northern California, spent three days in San Francisco, drove on the Pacific Coast Highway and stayed in Pismo Beach, Huntington Beach and Palm Springs before we crossed the state line into Arizona. We mostly stayed in Motel 6s where we could as they’re very dog-friendly, as well as being cheap and clean. Milo was a little champ through all the travelling, apart from one or two days when he didn’t eat or got sick and the tick he picked up when we camped. So gross.

Here are some pictures from the trip for your delectation. Please enjoy.

This is where Milo spent most of our days without a peep out of him. Good dog.

Depoe Bay, where we saw (bits of) a grey whale (not pictured).

We also saw some big fat sea lions (pictured).

Local royal wedding humour. Fnar fnar.

One of the zillions of little towns we drove through on the 101. Can't remember the name.


Crossing the state line into California. Hide your fruit and veggies.

Our spot in Elk Prairie Campsite. We were a bit underprepared so we won't be doing that again for some time.

In case you didn't know, redwoods are quite tall.

Dinner. Giant marshmallows (me) and wieners (Eoin).

Like I said, redwoods are big. And old.

Our first glimpse of San Francisco. Such a pretty city. Stunning views from every street.

We arrived via the foggy Golden Gate Bridge. FYI there's a surprise $6 toll on the other side.

Gorgeous houses on Alamo Square. Wantsies one, please.

Alcatraz. One of the highlights of the trip for me. The audio tour is enthralling.

The beach at Carmel-by-the-Sea. Cutest little town ever. Clint Eastwood used to be mayor here, fact fans.

We stayed two nights in Huntington Beach, which has an off-leash dog beach. Milo couldn't believe his luck.

The only picture I have of Palm Springs. 'S okay though, cos I'm defo going back.

And that’s how we got here. Travelling in America so easy, with lots to see. Hopefully we’ll get to do more very soon.

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Hood Riiiiiver

Saturday was an absolute scorcher here in Oregon (well, about 20 something degrees and sunny) so we decided to take advantage of the great outdoors. I’m so conscious that we’ll be back in the desert soon that I’m making a real effort to appreciate the trees, grass and running water while I can. We decided to go to Hood River, a little town in the Columbia River Gorge at the far side of Mount Hood, and spend the day walking/hiking. It’s about 60 miles away.

The journey was a breeze so we got there in under an hour and a half. I bought a pet barrier thingy last week for the car so Milo doesn’t need his crate anymore, he can roam around in the boot area with his toys. I think he appreciated the luxury, although he acted as nonchalant as ever.

After a little wander around the town (quaint, non?) we sat outside a cafe in the sun and had a quick lunch. A local Montessori school was holding some sort of a parade for Earth Day in the town square opposite so it was a bit hectic. Lots of dogs and people wanting to say hi to Milo. I didn’t get to snap a pic because my hands were full with sandwich and excited puppy.

After that, we went off in search of a walking trail which took us across a bridge…into Washington. Yup, we crossed a state line for the first time! It was uneventful. Over in Washington, we stopped at a little beach, which was accessed via a train line. Every fibre in my body told me walking across working train tracks was a bad idea, but apparently it was the only way.

About 10 minutes up the road we stopped again, this time at the foot of a little mountain, and decided to go for a longer hike. There was a little stream running alongside the track which Eoin dropped Milo in to cool off. He enjoyed it.

As we climbed further upwards the view got even prettier. See?

Once we got further away from the road I decided to let the dog off his leash and see what happened. He was really good! He ran around us but never strayed more than 20 feet away. If we stopped for a break, so did he. This bodes well for camping. I’m now confident he won’t leg it into the woods never to be seen again.

And just look what I spied on the way back to the car. Another snake, this time much bigger. I spotted it slithering across the road in the distance. So gross.

And so, after a quick ice cream stop, we set off back to Hillsboro, all of us pooped. That will probably be the last time I’ll be in the Columbia River Gorge since we’re leaving on Saturday. It’s so beautiful it reminds me of home. I’m sad to say goodbye, but excited to start the next chapter of this little adventure.

“Milo, stop humping your brother!”

There’s a phrase I never thought I’d hear myself say, but I did, on Tuesday, when Milo was randomly reunited with one of his littermates.

We were in Hondo Park, the lovely off-leash dog park I go to at least once a week. It was warm and sunny for a change, so the place was kinda jammers. Five minutes after I released the hound I noticed he had made a little chum who looked a lot like him. Creepily so, actually. They were chasing each other and generally having the craic, as puppies do. After a quick chat with this little dog’s owners we deduced that Milo, and his new BFF, Briley, were in fact brothers. Their whole litter had been called after Santa’s reindeer because they were born before Christmas. Milo was originally named Blitzen (yuck) and Briley was Dancer (double yuck).

What are the chances? I’d always wondered what became of Milo’s littermates and now I can say that one of them, at least, has a lovely home. Briley goes to puppy school twice a week and is very obedient. In fact, he made Milo look like the village idiot. The two got on so well that, of course, Milo wanted to take the relationship to the next level, as usual. Incest is best, wha’?

Twins! Briley (left) has an even sadder face than Milo, something I didn't think was possible

Adorbs. So familiar and yet so different

Their first ever watercooler moment. Probably talking about the Timbers opening game

"Wheeeeeeee!"

Milo, ever the sexual predator, tries to perform an act that's illegal in all 50 states. BAD DOG.

Briley’s owners said they often pop into Hondo Park so I really hope these two run into each other again before we go. They make a really cute combo, don’cha think?

On the road again

Ah Oregon it’s been real, but it’s time to move on.

Starting on May 1st, we are officially making our way back down to Arizona, where we’ll be living for the next two years or so. I have mixed feelings about it. On one hand, because we were there for the first three months of the assignment, and because I was always conscious we’d be going back, I felt more settled there and keep referring to it as “home.” But on the other, my heart belongs to Portland and I’ll miss it something fierce. It’s a shame that we didn’t get to do all the things we planned while we were here, but what with the poxy weather, new pup, and Eoin’s long hours, we were restricted. I’ve made my peace with it though. And hey, maybe we’ll come back for a holiday? Two years is a long time.

Anyway, this move is going to be a little different to the last two (from Ireland to AZ and from AZ to here) mostly because we’re going it alone. Previously, The Massive Multinational Company That Cannot Be Named had been our mammy and organised our apartment, cable, internet, phone, car and furniture – everything. This time, however, they’re only looking after the house, the rest is up to us. Normally this wouldn’t be a problem, but we’ve been so spoiled it seems a little scary, especially the part about arriving to an empty house with only an air bed to our names. Terror Town.

Still, I’m really looking forward to it, especially as everything is more fun now that we have Milo. Eoin has already purchased some new wheels (well, new to us) and we’ve decided that we’re going to drive down and make a holiday of it because he has some much-needed time off to take. This is the part I’ve been concentrating on and I’m so excited about it. Chandler is about 1,300 miles away and we’re giving ourselves ten days to get there, taking the scenic route.

It looks long, right? Basically we’re driving down almost the entire west coast of America. The weather should be nice, especially in Southern California, so we’re going to camp when we can and just spend time by the coast before we venture into the desert for the long haul. We plan on stopping in Depoe Bay on the Oregon coast for whale watching, staying in the Redwood State Park, tasting wine in Napa Valley, spending a couple of days in San Francisco and then hitting the beaches around Santa Cruz, Pismo Beach, Malibu and Huntington Beach before heading inland to Palm Springs, and then finally “home.”

Not a bad start to the next chapter, eh?

If anyone has advice or recommendations for things we should see and do along the way, please, help a sista out.

Are you there St. Patrick? It’s me, Sarah

“Hope you’re not afraid of snakes!”

I’m in Orchard Park, my usual dog-walking haunt, and a man striding towards me has just stopped to announce there’s a snake about 12 feet from where I’m standing. I’m rooted to the pavement and suddenly very conscious of my bare ankles (spring has finally arrived, yay.)

“Don’t worry, it’s just a small one. Twelve inches max!” he adds, before continuing merrily on his way.

My life flashes before my eyes. I’m thinking about all those early morning and late night walks in the grass near our apartment where Milo likes to do his business. I’m also thinking, Why the hell didn’t anyone tell me there would be snakes in Oregon? You’d expect that kind of carry on in Arizona, but not here, in the damp, leafy Pacific Northwest. Although hang on, surely snakes, being reptiles, like damp conditions? And leaves are a great place to hide. Snakes are sneaky like that.

I strain my eyes to see if I can make out a snakey looking figure on the path ahead. There are yellow flower yokes strewn around willy nilly. I inch forward, dragging Milo for protection. And then I see it. A snake! A real life snake! Not in a zoo or a terrarium, in the wild.  I grab my phone, and keeping what I feel is a safe distance (about 11 feet) I try to snap a quick picture.

“Is that another snake?”

I’m sure the voice behind me is coming from a huge, person-sized snake but it’s just another man walking his dog.

“Are you telling me there are more?” I squeak.

“Oh yeah,” Man No.2 replies knowingly. “I just passed one up the street. Bigger than this one though. About 18 inches.”

Suddenly all I can think about is snakes. They’re everywhere. Every twig, every leaf, every movement is a throbbing mass of snakes. I never quite recovered after the boa constrictor ate the donkey in The Swiss Family Robinson. And Milo is no use. I just know if he saw a snake moving he’d grab it and try to play with it. I had been preparing myself for the inevitable day when he leads me to a dead body but this snake thing came out of nowhere. Is it on me? I FEEL LIKE IT’S ON ME.

Doggy style

If you think that animals wearing clothes is stupid or cruel or whatever DO NOT KEEP READING. You have been warned.

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Milo at five months

Milo turned five months old on Saturday. Don’t they grow up so fast? I know I complain about him a lot (here, for example. And here) and he’s definitely hard work, but he’s made such progress in just the last two months that I feel a little boast coming one. Uh oh, here it comes…

  • I’m proud, and relieved to say, that Milo is potty trained now! It was like one day a switch flipped and he realised that pissing on the carpet was gross. He has an accident about once a week at most, which is my fault because I haven’t taught him to say, “Excuse me, may I go outside to relieve myself? I’m bursting” yet.
  • He is doing really well at puppy school. That’s right, we all go off to a puppy obedience class on Monday nights. He can sit on command (he actually learned that before school (smug)), give me eye contact, “wait” and we’re currently working on “down.” We’re also learning “heel” but that’s proving tricky because neither of our hearts are in it.
  • He is now fully vaccinated against every disease a dog could ever possibly catch. His next visit to the vet will be for neutering in a few weeks because he still humps other dogs like it’s going out of fashion and I can no longer handle the embarrassment.
  • He has stayed away from home overnight and got an A on his report card. (Yes, you get a report card in which the kennel workers detail your dog’s behaviour, eating habits and, er, bowel movements.)
  • He’s had his nails done in the doggy salon and got a gold star for excellent manners.
  • He’s been into the city. We took him to the Portland Saturday Market last week which he enjoyed so much he had diarrhea for two days after (eating little bits of dropped food was the cause I suspect). He was a bit bold but only because everyone wanted to play with him. One man actually offered to buy him from me. The cheek! (Although if the price was right…)
  • He’s gotten BIG. I know he looks small in pictures but he’s actually a medium-sized dog and weighs 18lb now. He still has a cute puppy face but he’s getting too heavy to pick up for long periods and it hurts when he walks on me.
  • The most exciting thing I’ve discovered about Milo in the past couple of weeks is that he enjoys wearing little jumpers. This came as a shock to me because he’s very rambunctious, but I’m running with it and have ordered a few little presents for him online. Bear in mind, I cannot afford clothes for myself.

Milo at three months. Small. Dainty. And yet still looks like a little old man.

Milo at five months. A brute. Note he has ripped up and probably ingested most of his bed.

 

The only problem persisting is the poxy crate training. Eoin and I went for a wander around the fancy end of Portland on Saturday for a couple of hours and he was roaring his head off when we got back. I don’t blame him, I wouldn’t like to be stuck in a small dark crate myself either, but he even barks if I take out the bin and leave him loose in the apartment. He’s getting better overall though, so I’m just gonna continue doing what I’m doing and hope he just shuts up and gets used to it.