I hope I don’t make anyone too jealous by saying this, but I just feel so sorry for anyone whose not-at-home family lives nearby, because they must have to spend Christmas with their grammies, and grampies, and littermates, and littermates-not-necessarily-of-their-choosing rather than going on adventures in storybook places like Las Vegas and Utah. Luckily, Mom and I don’t have any not-at-home family nearby, and since the DMV doesn’t give dogs Real IDs, we don’t have to fly anywhere for Christmas, so we’re free to do whatever we want. Which is how we found ourselves back outside Las Vegas, pointed in the direction of Utah.
We drove past the shiny butts and boobs part of Las Vegas, and on to the exciting part where the rocks are. “Mom, are we going back to that park where we keep almost dying?” I asked.
“No, we’re going to a new place. It’s called Valley of Fire. Doesn’t that sound exciting?”
“Oh yes, it does! Is the fire on the ground, or flying through the air like asteroids?” Both sounded pretty exciting. “I hope it’s like asteroids so I don’t burn my paws.”
“Um, I think it’s called that because of the color of the rocks,” Mom said. “Let’s find out.”
But when we got there, there was no fire, only wispy clouds stuck to the mountains and blocking the sky. “Did the fire go out in the rain?” I asked. I know about science, so I know that when a fire gets wet it turns into smoke.
“Ugh, the forecast said the rain was supposed to be over by now, but the storm’s been following us since California. I think it’s going to rain the whole time we’re out here.” That happens, because Mom is the Weather Jinx.
“That’s okay,” I said. “That way I won’t burn my paws on the fire. Let’s go.”
Because it was Christmas Eve, Mom made me put on my fancy Christmas jammies with the butt flap. They’re made for sleeping, not hiking but Mom said I should wear them anyway so I wouldn’t have to waste looking superfly by only wearing them when I was tucked under the blankets waiting for Santa to come up the Covered Wagon’s exhaust pipe. My jammies aren’t that great for running, but looking superfly takes sacrifice, so I stumbled and tripped on the saggy pants as I sprinted through the brush. Every time I had to stop and wait for Mom, I did a summersault and then a few burpees to see if I could jump out of my jammies, but every time Mom caught up she made sure that they were on snugly.
I sprinted, rolled, and danced down the dry sand river that was the trail. I was extra excited because Mom was running too. “Wow, Mom. You never run in new places anymore. It’s a Christmas miracle!”
“Well I figure my knee is pretty much better, and I’ve got most of my fitness back. Why not run?”
Why not run indeed!
Pretty soon the flat desert next to the sand river started to rise up in those funny desert rocks that seem like something make-believe. “Why are the rocks in Las Vegas this color?” I asked. “Is it because of all the murder victims we learned about in that documentary series?”
“Are you talking about CSI again? No. I think it must be because the rock has a lot of iron in it,” Mom said.
“Well that explains all the holes in the rocks, but it doesn’t explain why they’re so wrinkly. Whoever does the ironing in Las Vegas must be as bad at it as you!”
Sometimes Mom and I took breaks from running to explore the most impressive ironing fails in the rocks. Mom kept trying to get me to peek through the portholes, but things like hoops, and tunnels, and caves kind of scare me. So every time Mom walked the long way around to the other side of the rock, I followed her to see what the excitement was all about. Each time, she looked up at the empty hole and looked disappointed, then she looked all around like she’d lost something until her eyes found me. She looked mad for a second, but I smiled at her and wagged my tail to let her know she’d done a good job finding a safe way around the hole, and then she couldn’t help but smile and pat my soggy head.
Toward the end of the run, I sniffed after a critter into a grabby thorn bush, and when Mom called me to come, the bush had grabbed onto my jammies and held me there. I thrashed mightily until I was free, and then bounded off the rock and back onto the sand trail. When I landed in the deep sand, I tripped on the footie of my jammies, which made me flex my huge muscles. Under the strain of my bulging muscles, the jammies ripped off my back. I left them in a puddle on the ground and bounded after Mom like Thunderdog. When I streaked past her in a black blur, she screamed, “HEY!” and ran back to pick my jammies up off the ground, but to my relief she put them in the packpack and let me run free like a nondenominational dog for the rest of the adventure.
As the ironed rocks opened up again and we jogged through the rain and deep sand back to the Covered Wagon, Mom said, “You know, on the whole drive over here I was stressing out about this hike.”
“Why?!” I asked. This had been like the easiest hike ever.
“Well there was the rain…”
“You take a shower every day, and you’re scared of a little rain?”
“…and I didn’t know if the park would be open on Christmas Eve…”
“There are lots of people who spend their holidays in parks. They’re always open on big vacation days.”
“…and I didn’t know if I’d forget something or if we’d get lost…”
“You always forget something, but it’s never really a big deal. And we often get lost, and that’s how we find the best adventures.”
“…I thought that if I ate breakfast I would feel sick running on a full belly, but if I didn’t eat I would feel weak…”
“You never eat breakfast before our workouts at home, why would today be any different?”
“…I was stressing that if I dressed for a run, and then walked too much I might get cold and wet. Or if I didn’t dress to run then we’d be out in the rain for too long…”
“You really should try just running naked. It works for me, and I never have to worry about what I’m wearing.”
“…In my mind everything had gone wrong at once, and I was trying to fix it before we even got here. In my mind the run was not really fun at all.”
“You really shouldn’t try to run a run before you get there,” I suggested. “You’re liable to spoil the whole thing. Next time let’s save you the stress and just run to Utah.”
“Well now that we’re here, I’m having a great time. None of those bad things happened except the rain, and even that isn’t as big a deal in real life as it was in my head.”
“I haven’t had so much fun since the last time we were in the desert,” I said. “I don’t know what you get so worried about anyway. Have you ever noticed that walking and running in a new place works exactly the same as walking and running in a place where you’ve already been? You should remember all the thousands of miles that we’ve gone already, and almost nothing bad has happened in all that time.”
“You know, you’re right. When I got hurt, I was on the treadmill at home.”
“And all the times we’ve been in trouble, we’ve used our smarts to get out of it. You really should stop worrying so much…”
“That might be so, but I don’t think so,” Mom said.
“What do you mean?” I asked.
“Don’t you see it? Obviously my anxiety has magical powers. My worrying brings us good luck and keeps us safe. Sometimes I think you don’t appreciate all the good things I do for us…”
Oscar the Thunderdog