South it is.
Doesn't feel southerly yet. On this unscripted detour, I discover the same vastness and changing topography that enthralled me in Wyoming. Hour after hour of driving without vile advertisement billboards.
Nature, as intended -- well, except for the scar of asphalt across the land.
Before the snow disappears, we dart up behind one of the mountain ranges for a stroll.
I don't really know where we are or care, we're celebrating being out of the car! No apparent sign of life around,except a ranch, a mere dot in the distance miles away.
Correction: pheasant live here. Cole's random running hither and dither is actually how he narrows in on scent plumes.
I'm so startled by the first pheasant he flushes that I hold the camera backwards and video 60 seconds of the aghast expression on my face as he chases a pair off into the distance.
The birds lob approx 500 yards each time they burst out of the sagebrush. We helplessly watch Genius playing hopscotch with the pheasants until they disappear. No sense calling, he's deaf when chasing, then out of earshot. No sense following tracks, there are so many from other animals it would be futile.
I have to trust that even though Cole is now lost, he'll eventually find his own scent and backtrack. The last time I saw a speck lob up it was at the base of the mountain, in cougar territory. I walk 20 minutes back to the car, then back to where we left. Repeat. I've learned that chasing after him or trying different trails to find him makes things worse. I have to keep my scent as unidirectional as possible for him to lock on.
An hour and a half into our hell hike, Pete finds a cougar or coyote cache.
Two half eaten calves. At this point, I weigh my options. With two hours before dusk, do I flip my lid and start balling, or do I keep my eyes dry to scan the horizon and keep my red mittens up in air? An additional half hour of jumping jacks pays off. The prodigal son returns. Now, I can lose it royally.
Between the stress of the drive and the ten minute sobfest, I'm drained. I keep having to pull over. Only city on the horizon is Las Vegas. Google provides me with a hotel that is willing to accept 3 dogs and I put a death grip on the steering wheel and slog through the remaining three hours.
"Toto, we aren't in Kansas anymore."
A few years ago, Cole and I were on our way to California via Vegas. I had plans to walk him through a casino lobby, strictly for bragging rights, but while driving down The Strip, the mass of humanity overwhelmed me. Panic stricken, I bolted out of Vegas like my tail feathers were on fire.
Here is my chance to wipe that inglorious visit off my record. With two more burly dogs flanking me, no one is going to bother me, right?...
Sorry, no pictures of us checking in at the Westin.
No pictures of the casino.
No pictures of the stream of people wanting to say hi to the puppies.
What a bad idea.
Pete-- "Hey James, I'm famous, they all want to meet me, take me back to the lobby."
Moi-- "Never. Forget it. I'm requesting armed escorts to get back out of here."
Cole must've read something in Psychology Today about desensitizing oneself to worst fears by confronting them...we ride the elevator four times that night to take him to the dog area to pee.
Monsieur can't find a blade of grass or snowflake to alleviate himself upon. Tinkling on gravel is unthinkable because of the splash back possibility.
"Look Ma: What happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas."
Each time we go back down, the crowd seems more inebriated; friendlier, some would say. Maybe we can rappel out the window?
The car is sitting in Valet spot #2, by the front door. I pay extra to have it where I could see it... In case we need to bug out in 74 seconds flat.
Back and forth we go. I get down on my knees, I beg, finally Cole goes for a wee.
One more evasive dodge to the elevators and we're home free!
We're famished, but we are NOT going back out.
We could all stand to skip a meal by this point.
Until I remember this phenomenon called room service.
Four cheeseburgers, salad, ice cream and mineral water. Can we get 10 sq ft of sod for Cole?.. we'll be all set.
"You've had your $25 Vegas burger, this one's mine".
At the crack of dawn, Seal Team is leaving Vegas at Mach 2. We don't even stop for a morning whiz until we get far enough a way, like in Arizona!
I find Monolith Gardens in Kingman by chance.
By the time we finish this trip, we'll have run in 14 states, including the golden 5 in the NW Cole and I needed to clench the 48. Garrett and Pete weren't our cohorts since the beginning, yet they've quietly been racking up numbers in the past couple years. 26 states run as a matter of fact. Over halfway. Way to go!!!
Cole proves once again he can't be trusted to run off leash in jack rabbit country.
Captain Mayhem, I love you, yet want to strangle you.
There's a reason the bunnies hide under the cacti. No more demonstrations today please.
"Try acting sane, like Pete. That would novel and appreciated."
Having survived Vegas, I don't care that I still have over 28 hours driving until we're home. I'm alive, man!
I must quit shunpiking and get back on the Interstate, if we're ever to get home!
In my next life I want to come back as a vigilante who tears down highway billboards by night and repurposes the wood to build livestock shelters by day.