The trouble started last night. After we left the moon, Mom wanted to find a place that had a shower, but we were getting close to a city called Bend. In cities we’ve learned that there are people living full time in all the parks where car-houses can stay. We planned to find a place about an hour outside of the city, but Mom miscalculated and we were sucked into the Gore Tex of the city before we found a place to stop. I had resigned myself to smelling Mom’s stinkiness for another day, and we were on our way to Walmart when we found a car-house park with an opening. I thought it was a good place, but Mom said that it wasn’t because:
the shower was “revolting”
the after hours check-in didn’t give her the wifi password
you couldn’t use the water if you didn’t bring your own hose
our view was of the Wendy’s drive-through
there was a streetlight that shined right into the Covered Wagon when we slept
and they locked the toilets overnight
“…And this dump costs twice what the place in Missoula cost!” she fumed. “That was the nicest place we’ve stayed in yet!”
Our trail for the day was like the Motel Six Stars of trails, with all the comforts and amenities, like a paved parking lot, cell service within a 15 minute drive, and an air freshener in the outdoor bathroom. As Mom was getting everything ready for our run, she discovered that one of her shoes was missing.
“Don’t you feel so lucky that you brought an extra pair of shoes?” I said. Mom has been using her spare pair whenever the white dirt makes her good pair too wet to wear for two runs in a row.
“But these shoes are falling apart!” she complained. “The left shoe has like 5 rips in it. I’m going to bust out the side of it one of these days.”
“Well we can get you a new pair,” I said. “See? We’re in a city where they do lots of outdoorsy things, I bet they sell lots of trail shoes.”
“But I have freakishly small feet. I have to order these ones online because no stores carry my size.”
“Well I’m sure that we can find another brand that you don’t know that you like yet,” I tried.
“Truthfully, Oscar. We’re running out of money. I don’t know if spending $150 on a new pair of trail shoes is the best use of the money we have left.” Dogs don’t use money, so I didn’t know how to answer that. Instead, I kept quiet and strained at my leash to go make friends with a bunch of mountain biker ladies who were also getting ready to leave the parking lot without commenting on what a good looking dog I am.
The trail turned out to be an easy 7-mile flat route that followed a happy river through the pine trees to a waterfall. “Isn’t this great, Mom?” I said. “No dirt roads to get here, no mountains to climb, no big trees blown over the trail, no dog-boiling weather… Just a nice, easy run through the pine trees.”
“It’s alright, I guess,” Mom said, like it wasn’t so great at all.
“Oh brother, what is it now?” I asked.
“I’m bummed out about my shoe.”
“Don’t be bummed. We’re almost home. I bet your foot won’t rip all the way out of them for at least another week.”
“No, it’s not that. I hate the feeling that because I need to buy new shoes, I can’t buy something else I’ll love with that money. Those ladies in the parking lot had those beautiful mountain bikes… I would like to buy a mountain bike, but there are so many other things to save up for…”
“That’s silly, Mom. I can’t ride a mountain bike, so obviously buying The Covered Wagon was a better purchase.”
“It’s not just bikes and shoes. It’s also this trail. It’s nice and everything, but wouldn’t you rather be seeing something spectacular today that not everybody gets to see? I mean, for heaven’s sake, you can drive right up to the falls at the top, and there was a big railing blocking all the dog views. I’m sure we could have found something better if we’d tried.”
“It’s okay, Mom. I could smell the waterfall through the railing. Don’t be a trail snob. Isn’t it relaxing to run on a trail that is easy on the Covered Wagon, and easy on your legs?”
“But doesn’t it ever give you anxiety?” Mom asked.
“It gives me anxiety to be left outside of Starbucks feeling like I’m missing something because you don’t want me there. Exploring natural places never makes me feel like Starbucks. Why would it give me anxiety when I’m not missing anything?”
“Because we can’t possibly see all the beautiful places and do all the cool things. When we pick one trail, that always means that we’re missing another trail. That’s called ‘opportunity cost.’ Even if we could see everything, we would eventually get tired, and then we would be spending our time in beautiful places wishing that we weren’t there. Missing beautiful places, and being tired in beautiful places I don’t skip make me feel like I’m wasting my life.”
“Mom, being a dog isn’t about seeing all the beautiful places, it’s about realizing that no matter where you are, it is a beautiful place if you smell it right. Remember The Lonliest Road in America? Most people think that desert is boring, but I couldn’t be happier because there were bunnies to chase? And you were inspired by the Pony Express. Why don’t we go back and look for your shoe so that you don’t have to be anxious about spending our adventure stressing about shoes.”
“But we’ll have to backtrack. We’ll be wasting my life… I mean, we’ll be wasting time.”
“Today was supposed to be a rest day anyway. What’s more relaxing? Finding your shoe, or spending the day in a shoe store?”
At the crummy car-house park, Mom asked the man at the desk if he’d seen her shoe. He hadn’t. “Oh well. Thanks for trying,” she said, looking down at the floor in sadness. She was still looking down when she turned around to walk out. Then she said, “MY SHOE!” Someone had left it on the floor with a note in it! “Oh Oscar,” she said when we came back to the Covered Wagon. “You were right, it wasn’t my shoe that ruined our run, it was me! I did all that worrying for nothing. I’m going to live the rest of today just like a dog. No FOMO for me, let’s just drive south until we sniff out a good campground. There are bound to be a ton of them; the map is practically solid green from here to Bakersfield. We’ll stop early and then we can build a fire and relax all day! We’ll be stopped in time for lunch!”
Mom isn’t a very good dog, because it took us six hours to find a campground. First we had to get out of the Gore Tex of the city. There was plenty of open land around Bend, but now that Mom knows that she can set things on fire, she wanted to go somewhere where she could burn again. We drove and drove, but the wilderness never came. We just found one gas-station-depressing-restaurant-and-used-car-lot town after another. Then the rain started. There was no reason to stop if it was raining, so we continued driving…
It rained all the way back to California, where we were held up by a bandit. The highway robber wasn’t very intimidating looking because he was dressed like Russell from Up, but that was probably part of his hustle. He was undaunted by my barking and stole Mom’s perfectly ripe avocado. Mom was almost as upset about this as she was about her shoe, because a perfectly ripe avocado is even more rare than a trail shoe that fits you perfectly.
Now we were out of the mountains and in farms, and Mom was getting even more upset because she was hangry and Russell had stolen her avocado, and there was still nowhere to stop. We finally found a campground when it was nearly dinner time. The disappointment continued as Mom and I collected a whole bunch of sticks that I was hoping that she would throw, but she just set them on fire instead. Then she finally began to make us some food.
Right when it was about to be ready, a car stopped at the campground so that the people inside could use the bathroom.
“Are we in time for dinner?” asked the man. He asked in that way that you’re supposed to laugh even if it’s not funny, because no matter how you answer, you look like a boob. Mom wasn’t in a laughing mood.
“This is lunch, and breakfast too,” Mom mumbled, but the man already wasn’t listening. He thought that his funny joke should be the end of the conversation. So she killed the man and we had to eat him to destroy the evidence.
Oscar the Pooch