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Thursday, April 8, 2010

The Long Road, Part II

I honestly cannot recall whether Mat and I slept through the night, or if we were awakened prematurely by the cold and damp. I cannot forget, however, the viscous gray seepage in which we found ourselves by morning. I will never forget the color, the texture, or the copious abundance of the mud in that giant washbasin in which we had camped. I will never forget because, to this day the mud is with us—a gray film on my tent, washed several times and used several more in the intervening years; a collection of sloppy wet-paw slashes across Mat's guitar case, smeared during the passage of our soggy dogs in to the car the next morning. It was the fourth day of our trip, and we had passed what would be, on this trip, the last night of camping.

The frugal and outdoorsy vibe had left us, and as Mat and I scraped the mud from our boots, our gear, and our pups we made plans for change. Before the breakfast hour passed, we were plotting to overnight in a motel. The mud basin had rendered our poor tent too unwelcoming.

We had no trouble finding a pet-friendly motel at nightfall, and we fell headfirst into the shower at first opportunity. The four of us—two human, two canine—went in looking like Creatures From the Gray Lagoon, and it was refreshing to emerge with our skin, our hair, and our clean fur shining. The rats, safe in their travel cage, escaped the dirtying and the cleanup. On day five, the six of us left Montana in better shape than we'd come in.

What had been planned as a six day trip looked promisingly short on that fifth morning, and after a rash glance at the map it was decided that we would push for our final destination in one last marathon. Whidbey or bust, we said, and with the last ferry sailing at two in the morning we had a handy deadline by which to set our goal. We couldn't open our wallets for another motel stay, and we couldn't bear to think of crawling back inside the slimy gray mass that had been our two-man, three-season home away from home.

 . . . to be continued . . .

(photo: a dramatic recreation of our morning in South Dakota)

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