Exodus to the Heartland...part one

In my pursuit of the glamour life, I was recently agonizing over outlandish exotic and decadent vacation spots. Whether to soak up the history of Greece or the sun in the Caymans....I just couldn't decide. Then the Angels From God cut a deal with their higher power, and YOU KNOW WHO provided the perfect vacation opportunity ....to include them: Ann Harris needed a ride to visit her mother in Indiana.

Ah, an interstate road trip in their new VW Passat....with the sunroof open. The Angels From God were quivering with excitement. We packed up four days worth of compact discs, and left Quincy for Manhattan, to collect Ann, Perry Winkle, Greta Garbo, and enough cargo to fill a Mack truck. Ann warned me to arrive early and avoid the 8th Avenue Street Fair traffic gridlock. Frankly, Toot does not get up before 6:30 AM, so by the time we rolled into the Big Apple, parachute was the only means into Ann's neighborhood.

Our Exodus to the Heartland was delayed by an hour or four....and, don't get me started on the Holland Tunnel. We did not hit New Jersey until sunset. Later I heard Ann tell her Mom, "We got a late start today." If 6:30 a.m. is a late start, Toot is moving to another time zone.

Ann laid out the route....across New Jersey, Pennsylvania and Ohio. When I heard that the "Pennsylvania Turnpike" was on our agenda, I got spontaneous creeps. Usually my memory is opaque (although improving with ginko biloba), but I recall a previous roadtrip ......at age 7...... when my grandmother, Irma, and mother, Berenice, braved the Pennsylvania Turnpike to visit Uncle Corky in Baltimore. Irma and Berenice (may they rest in peace) were both a little loopy..... text book agoraphobics. Paralyzed by a fear of heights, we had a twelve hour rest stop on the turnpike, until Irma hired a hitchhiker to drive us back to Chicago.



Determined as I am NOT to become my mother, I boldly looked over the guardrail at the cascading peaks and valleys....froze at the wheel and nearly drove us off the road. I heard a sharp, "Denise.....what the HELL are you doing?" from the back seat "Peanut Gallery" .....swerved back and the episode vanished as quickly as it had come.

Perry loves a road trip...he's just a little nervous about being left behind.

On this trip, the "Peanut Gallery," was situated squarely in the back seat. Ann has car travel to the Heartland finetuned to a science. She sits caddycorner from me....the Angels From God sit in the front passenger's seat, and Perry and Greta sit with Ann in back. The seating arrangement is designed to minimize the earsplitting conversation from the big-mouth Perry, should he not have some part of his anatomy touching Ann.

With hospital-like precision, Ann drapes the back seat, her lap included, with multiple towels to absorb the puke expected from Greta Garbo. Greta's extreme car sickness renders her impotent as an instrument of mayhem, and through her stupor, she doesn't notice that Toot and Nadia migrate to the back seat. Ann certainly notices, since she suddenly has three dogs in her lap, and a portly Nadia, inhibiting blood flow in her feet. All said, the girls get along well in the car......with Greta out of action. And, on this trip, they got along better than usual.

A long road trip makes stange bed fellows...Toot hugs Greta

The drive progressed like molasses in winter. To amuse ourselves, Ann and I engaged in a spirited debate as to whose Eskie was the most neurotic. After finally conceding a five-way tie, Nikita and Toot exhibited some behaviors that tipped the scales. Ann photo-documented the behavior for submission to the New York Institute for Insane Dogs. We are waiting for the research results.

The Diet Coke Bottle Decapitation Procedure

Nikita can be described as slightly....."focussed." Well, ok...... it's obsessive-compulsive disorder, but I have it under control. I like to drink consecutive Diet Cokes, while driving, to fend off emergency quarterpounderwithcheese stops. (I have a 50% success rate.) Nikita developed a keen interest in the empty bottle and patiently waited until I had replaced the cap and replaced the bottle in the cup holder. Then, he snatched the empty and gnawed off the cap. Game done, points scored.

After the first ten diet cokes, Nikita became impatient with my consumption pace. He snatched a bottle, half full, spilled it on the floor, and received a thwack on the nose. After that, he stalked me for every bottle.....waking up out of a sound snore at the slightest hint of an empty. Nikita was 17 for 17 during the trip.

The Toot Manoever

And, then, my co-dependent Patootie proved that she is one marble short of a full bag. After explaining to Toot, ad nauseum, why she cannot sit on my lap while I am driving, she planted herself on the between-seat armrest. Sometimes she rode face front, other times backwards, to see what we had passed. Toot never knows whether she is coming or going.

Eventually, Toot improvised on the seating arrangement. I felt pressure as she leaned against my arm....then a "whop," as her behind landed on my shoulder....then a "wiggle, jiggle" as her behind lodged between the seat and my shoulder, and finally a "thud," as her behind settled squarely across my middle back. A four-step manouver, perfectly executed everytime.

Clearly ignoring my angry admonishions, "Toot, MOVE YOUR DAMN BEHIND," she refused to budge. Ann swung into action, "Do you want me to pull her out of there?" By that time, I realized that Toot was providing significant lumbar support. And, she was warm, too....like wearing a politically-correct fur stole. I let her slide.

The Super-8 Deception

By 8 pm, we had reached Somerset, Pennsylvania, and decided to treat ourselves to the Super-8 Motel. Since the Jacuzzi Suite was booked, we were relegated to a rear third floor room near the back door. Ann is sticky about ethics, so when she registers for the room, she asks "Do you take dogs." When the clerk says "Yes," she can safely assume that means multiple dogs. Naturally, nobody would expect two women to check into a motel with five dogs. We simply walk them in shifts so people assume they are the same dogs. An advantage to being addicted to one breed.....they all look alike.

This strategy secures our anonymity. The only fly in the ointment is big mouth Perry Winkle, whose separation anxiety sparks a bloodcurdling barking frenzy whenever Ann leaves the room. As a pre-emptive strategy, Ann tosses me the leashes and says, "Keep them quiet." Oye vey, with what... sodium pentothal?

I did my best, but could not contain the caterwalling. And, I must say that Ann did not break speed records unloading the car. Then, she left the room AGAIN to pick up Chinese food.....thinking that would be the quieter option than the delivery person banging on our door. A debatable assumption.

And, there we were. Epitomizing the GLAMOUR LIFE, two single women on the north, north side of thirty, sharing Chinese food, and drinking expensive Chardonnay out of plastic cups in a Super-8 motel, in Somerset, Pennsylvania, on a Saturday night... with 5 dogs. I made them all suffer through the VH-1 biography of Billy Idol.

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© 2001 Eskies Online/Denise Gareau