Since the Utah part of our trip was the part we were most excited about, The Curse of the Weather Jinx picked the day we crossed into Utah to throw a huge storm at us. “Well we were only supposed to do a small hike today anyway…” Mom said as we hunkered under Wagon cover with rain banging on the roof and the wind rocking us like Noah’s Ark.
“So we’re skipping it, right?” I said. Neither Mom nor I like the rain. Mom’s not much good at cold either.
“Well there’s supposed to be a short break in the weather this morning… wanna go for it and see what we find?” she said. Mom’s suggestions mean that the decision’s been made, because she’s the one that knows how to drive.
As we drove through the sloppy, slush on the highway that was trying to turn into white dirt, Mom looked around. “I think we’ve been here before…” she said. “Remember that time we wound up on the wrong side of the Grand Canyon?”
I did. We were so new at traveling back then that we didn’t know how to use AllTrails to find the best trails. Instead we wandered aimlessly through The West looking for somewhere to stop, and hoping it turned out to be cool. That day we had gotten so lost that we missed the whole Grand Canyon and had to spend all day driving back around it to the opposite rim, which made Mom mad.
Before that, while we were still getting lost, we’d driven around for hours trying to find a place to hike. Once we finally found somewhere, I had flopped down under a tree a short way from the car-house and refused to move, which made Mom really mad. “It sure was hot that day,” I said, looking out the window at the heavy white dirt covering everything. “Traveling takes practice, doesn’t it?”
“Yeah. We’ve learned a lot about finding dog-friendly trails, and offroad driving, and offline maps, and off the grid camping.”
“And how you don’t need showers,” I added. “Or all your clothing.”
When we got to the park, we were the only ones who thought to show up on such a rotten day. (Pro tip: If you want to see all the best stuff without sharing it, go during a severe storm.) We left the Wagon alone in the car kennel and walked into the white smudge that was the trail. “It’s mountains of white dirt!” I squealed, rolling in a summersault and then digging. “There’s sand under here!”
“It’s pink sand dunes,” Mom corrected me.
“Whatever you say, Mom,” I rolled my eyes, and then I rolled my body in the white… I mean pink… dirt again. “It looks like Lawrence of Arabia!”
“No it doesn’t. There’s no snow in Arabia. You’ve never even seen Lawrence of Arabia.”
“Neither have you…”
The weather report had said that the slop falling from the sky was going to pause, but that was a big, fat lie because big, fat snowblobs fell from the sky the whole time we were there, filling our pawprints and making the ground blend in to the sky. “This sucks,” Mom grumbled.
“No, Mom, this is awesome,” I corrected her. “It’s better than awesome. It’s… There’s no word for it in your language for how awesome it is.” So I barked the word in my language, and then did a cartwheel followed by a sprint to show her what it meant.
That’s the thing about nature, the weather is a part of it. If you only go out on the nice days, you’re missing so much of the awesome things that nature can do. You haven’t seen excitement until you’ve seen the waves in a storm, or felt wind so strong that bits of you blow away, or hiked up a mountain until you’re up to your chest in white dirt. Rain though? Duck rain. What I mean to say is that severe days are the ones that make the best stories, and the ones that make you the most proud when you’re safely back in the Wagon waiting for Mom to come out of the gas station with a hot dog. But to earn that confidence, you’ve got to let nature do its thing and not try to change it. Nature is like a best friend that way.
Speaking of best friends… Another thing that’s cool about this town is that it’s home to thousands of stray life coaches who live in a private community called Best Friends Animal Sanctuary. Best Friends was the other reason why we didn’t hike here two years ago: because everywhere we stopped we saw a sign that the canyon was the private property of the dogs, and cats, and bunnies, and horses, and alligators, and wombats, and dolphins*… that live there. It takes a lot of land to give them all a home, since none of them are sent to death row, so we were okay with giving them privacy. Lots of people recommended we visit while we were in town, so when we were done in the white… no, coral pink… dooms, we went to the Best Friends gift shop. I wanted to go inside, but the lady said that there were cats on the loose. “I LOVE CATS!” I said.
“Which is why you’re staying in the car…” Mom said. And then she went inside to spend lots and lots of money on gifts while I protected the Wagon from roving cats..
It was cool that she supported the life coaches looking for work, and I was also willing to be patient while she went to the stupidmarket, since that’s where she buys things like cheese and treats. But when she left me alone in the Covered Wagon while she went into a coffee shop with her laptop, I started to lose patience. “What is this nonsense?!” I sniffed when she came back out with no takeout container for me.
“We might as well take advantage of the nasty weather to get some chores done,” Mom shrugged, like she didn’t see a problem with leaving me alone with the Covered Wagon all day.
When she went into the laundry mat without me and left me nothing but DOG FOOD to keep me busy, I waited until she was gone and knocked the bowl over with my paw, spilling kibbles all over the bedding. “This is bullplop!” I raged and looked for something to destroy. What I found under my upturned bowl was the sleeping mat. I tore a hole in it, and ripped out the stuffing and threw it all over the kibble that was all over the car. “That’ll show her!” I thought.
But by the time Mom came out, my tantrum was over and I was starting to feel kind of guilty for what I’d done. “WHAT THE HELL, OSCAR?!” she said in her road rage voice. Then she turned on her dragon voice, “That was BAD! VERY BAD!” Mom never gets that mad at me, except when I run with wolf-dogs or deer rather than with her, so I stood shivering boldly in the corner of the car until she slammed the door on me. For years I was afraid I’d ruined everything. Maybe Mom was off getting a new Best Friend right now, and it would just be me and the Covered Wagon alone against the world. Mom was the heart of the Covered Wagon, and it didn’t mean much without her.
But Mom did came back a few year-minutes later. And when she did, I was back at the door waiting for her. “I’m very sorry I ripped up our bed,” I said, leaning my neck out to kiss her face. “I promise I won’t punish you anymore.” She kissed the special spot on my forehead between my eyes, and my nubbin started to waggle a little bit. “Come on, why don’t we do something special, just for you?” I suggested to show how sorry I was.
“I’m glad you said that, because we still need to go to the post office…” Mom said. After I had apologized so nicely, she still wanted to give me a panic attack by leaving me to wait while she went alone into that den of wandering murderers! I swear, you guys, that actually happened…
Oscar the Pooch
*facts not verified