Welcome to “Travels with Ace”

One man, one dog, one year on the road

John and Ace / Photo by Brendan Finnerty

Inspired by John Steinbeck, unemployment, boredom and that sense of wanderlust that percolates in us all, “Travels with Ace” began as equal parts experiment and adventure.

Might Ace and I — if we were to give up our house in Baltimore — be able to travel across America for what we once spent on rent and utilities? If we stayed in only the cheapest of motels, camped, and freeloaded whenever possible off of friends, family and strangers, could my 130-pound mutt and I survive as nomads? In other words, can one see America for the same price as settling in America. Could we soar for what it was costing us to nest?

One year after we set off on what was intended to be a 3-month journey — with 27,000 miles, lots of Ramen noodles, Taco Bells and Motel 6’s behind us — we can report that yes, you can (not that we always have) if you really try.

We can also report that the people and dogs we’ve met, the sights we’ve seen, the memories we’ve dredged up, the smiles we’ve been blessed with, the stories we’ve heard, and the hospitality we’ve encountered — while sleeping on sofas, air mattresses, campers, empty houses, tents and boats — defy any monetary measurement. They have been, as the commercial says, priceless.

And more than once, they’ve prompted us to wax poetic — or at least try.

From shelters in Louisiana to animal sanctuaries in Utah to strip clubs in Dallas, I learned tons about dogs and about people — about their resilience, and adaptability and the innate goodness of both species.

I saw more deeply into, and grew even more amazed by, my own dog.

We encountered an America much changed — whether for the better is debatable — since John Steinbeck and his poodle, Charley, crossed it in a camper named Rocinante 50 years ago.

Stick to the Interstate and you see a country that, as Steinbeck noted, is losing its localness. Venture off it, though, and, as William Least Heat Moon proved, you’ll find places still holding on to, and often oozing, character — and characters.

We’ve met our fair share of them — from Kinky Friedman, the prolific Texas author/dog rescuer/political candidate to Sonny Barger, a founding member of the Hells Angels; from a harmonica-playing hobo to a man who has spent nearly 30 years painting a mountain. Not a picture of a mountain, an actual mountain.

We posted about our travels daily, or pretty near, up until settling back down, for the time being, anyway, in Winston-Salem, N.C., my birthplace.

Unlike John Steinbeck’s classic, “Travels with Charley,” our trip was all about the dog, a species that, without a doubt, holds a far higher place in society than it did in Steinbeck’s day. We visited shelters, sanctuaries and rescues; dog-friendly vacation spots, restaurants, bars, parks and other places where people share in the joy of the species, or work to make the world a better place for dogs.

Because when the world is a better place for dogs, it is a better place for people. It’s as simple as that.

To read the latest “Travels with Ace” posts, click on the “The Blog” tab above. That will take you to the introductions, where you can click your way to the full post.

Other tabs will take you to our collection of “Highway Haiku,” poetry composed behind the steering wheel; and an archive of our “Roadside Encounters,” profiles of some of the dogs and people we met on the road.

If you’re one of those of you who said our travels should be a book, we’ve got one of those too, though you can only read it here. Clicking on “the book,” tab will take you to a linked list of all (or what will soon be all) of the chapters.

If you are a publisher and want to buy it, where were you when I needed you?

If you’re one of those wary of reading a dog book for fear the dog is going to die, worry not. Ace, now going on 11, is alive and well and sleeping on the couch at this very moment.

If you read the whole thing, and like it, and want to send the author a buck or two, we won’t turn it down. For now, and until the spirit moves us, we can be reached through my website, ohmidog!, or through our mailing address, PO Box 169, Bethania, NC, 27010..

What readers are saying about “Travels with Ace”

I can’t really put my finger on why, but your road trip stories are probably my favorite thing on the internet right now.

“Maybe it’s just the daily reminders that overall, people are good, dogs are awesome, and life can be fun …” (Lisa)

“The tales of JW and Ace have touched me deeply …  What you two are seeing and experiencing – and how you are writing unabashedly from the heart and soul – produce something like I read nowhere, anywhere, today on the ‘net…” (EighteenPaws)

“Please. More kudzu. More dogs in kudzu. More reflections on looking for dogs in kudzu. More gypsy wandering. More Ace in gypsy locales. More dog friendly encounters. Please …” (Sue)


“Travels with Ace” is an offspring of ohmidog! — a website devoted to celebrating the canine spirit and bringing you the latest in dog news from around the world.

It is produced, with help from friends, by John Woestendiek, a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist who worked at, among other newspapers, the Philadelphia Inquirer and, until 2008, the Baltimore Sun.

You can learn more about ohmidog! here.



6 comments for “Welcome to “Travels with Ace”

  1. John Scepanski
    November 26, 2011 at 2:05 pm

    John, you and Ace are starting to look alike. I can’t say, though, whether you are getting to look more like him or he is getting to look more like you.

    Bro-in-law John

  2. Joann Hart
    January 3, 2012 at 6:07 pm

    To John and Ace:

    Hello from Joann and Prissy in cold and windy Hardy, Va. We are doing well but the move hasn’t been without challenge. Prissy was very sick a couple of weeks ago with vomiting and bloody diarrhea. She spent two day in the hospital on IV fluids. The blood work was inconclusive as to the cause but the vet said it could have been stress induced from the move and the fact that I left her with her “new daddy” for three days and he fed her too much “people” food! I am happy to report that after seven days of meds and a lot of spoiling, she is back to her old self! She and I have been a little homesick but are adjusting pretty well. We are already enjoying our “Travels With Ace” calendar for 2012. Hope you and Ace have a wonderful New Year!

  3. Anne Case
    January 7, 2012 at 2:33 pm

    Charles saw you on Nightline and I have tracked you down. It is wonderful to hear your voice after all these years.

    Charles and I are remembering tales of Quando at Horseshoe Bend Farm.

    We still live in Lexington… right downtown on Short Street. If you are ever this way, we have a dog friendly guest room ready for you !!

  4. Cindy Shapiro
    March 14, 2013 at 6:02 pm

    Just found your site. Am a fellow animal adorer. I am going to get your book to read. Those of us who love our dogs know how emotional they are, intelligent and loving they can be. Sounds like you had an incredible journey. Thanks for sharing!

  5. May 28, 2013 at 4:58 pm

    I’m so glad we (Phoebe Rose, celebrity pug-Facebook) and I found your site and looking forward to reading about your travels with Ace. Phoebe and I relocated 7 months ago from Los Angeles to Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. A very affordable and quirky Hot Springs town of 7,000.

    Although we prefer luxury and historic hotels-we have found some amazing budget pet friendly accommodations. Check out our site:http://poshpettravel.com/

  6. sara jane
    June 3, 2013 at 1:00 pm

    Thanks for sharing your stories. Found your blog after googling “Chester Drawers” (haha- love it!) and am enamored. Keep up the great work! You are an excellent, and very enjoyable, writer. I would happily buy your book if it’s available!

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