It was 117 degrees.
Which normally would be a good argument for not going back to Phoenix, after completing our swing through northern Arizona and Utah. But, as it’s home to my brother and father, and I’d left some of my baggage there — the physical kind, with zippers and handles and pouches in which to put things and then forget them — we returned.
Also, I had to pick up some ohmidog! materials I’d ordered online and had sent to my brother’s home — some new business cards and magnet signs that allowed me to turn my regular old, overloaded, as of yesterday officially paid off Jeep Liberty into …
I figured, with all the ground we’re covering, why not do a little advertising for the old website? Now my fellow motorists can see my ohmidog! sign, maybe even remember that it’s spelled o-h-m-i-d-o-g, and look it up online when they get back to the comfort and convenience of their homes — if not sooner.
In hopes of keeping my big magnet sign from being ripped off, I also attached some little magnet cards to which people can help themselves.
We’re giving the ohmidogmobile! its first test this week, as we drive back to Santa Fe for a weeklong pet-sitting gig at the home of some friends. I’ll be taking care of their three dogs in exchange for getting to use their home, and hold wild parties in it, while they’re gone on a trip to New York.
We’ve made a few decisions — holding wild parties not actually being among them — regarding our continuing journey. We still have no solid plans — that would be wrong — but we’ve decided to try and stay on the road for six months. We’ll start heading back east after Santa Fe, work our way to the Atlantic Ocean, dip our toes in it, maybe check back in on Baltimore, and then head back west again on a more northerly route, zigging and zagging — but mostly zagging — across the U.S. for another four months, plus.
Why? Because we gave up the old homestead. Because job offers aren’t pouring in. But mainly because we love it — I’m sure I do, I think Ace does — and I’m thinking it might be worth writing about someday in a form other than blogging.
Not that we have anything against blogging. I wonder though. Would John Steinbeck — our inspiration for this trip — have blogged? As he crossed America with his poodle Charley, would he — were the technology available — have sought out power sources, logged into his computer and jumped on Facebook? Or would he have viewed it all as a massive waste of time — time that could have spent connecting face-to-face with fellow humans? How shameful would it have been, in retrospect, if John Steinbeck, rather than writing “Grapes of Wrath” and “Of Mice and Men,” was spending his time composing html, fighting off hackers and Tweeting what he ate for dinner?
(Which reminds me, I had some excellent dim sum the other day, including several dishes I couldn’t identify, at C-Fu Gourmet, a Chinese restaurant opened in Chandler by Ron Lou, a former professonal football player.)
In 1961, when Steinbeck made his three-month trip with his dog, he was marveling at things like vending machines that dispensed soda with ice, and hot cups of soup and coffee, and at a cutting edge form of housing known as mobile homes. Technology has dizzyingly and exponentially advanced since then, not so much saving us time and effort as giving us new headaches and making us more dependent on that which we don’t really understand.
John Steinbeck, for instance, didn’t have a malfunction indicator light on Rocinante, the name he gave his camper truck. He couldn’t Google in search of dog-friendly lodgings. He couldn’t check in with loved ones by cell phone, order pizza online, or turn to Mapquest to figure out how far he could get by when. On the other hand, he didn’t have to worry about Internet connections, or keep track of what needed recharging. Something always does — cellphone, camera, voice recorder, computer, myself.
I don’t fancy myself a modern-day Steinbeck. I’m not traveling with a bottle of applejack to share with those I encounter on the road. I’m not even sure what applejack is. (I could Google it, and get an instant answer. But instant answers, on top of often being wrong, can suck the mystery out of life. What fun is going over that next hill, around that next curve, when you already know what will be there?)
But I am a huge Steinbeck fan. So I was pretty excited when, on a return visit to my father’s house, he managed to dig up a letter he once received from Steinbeck — in connection with an article Newsday was doing at the time. It was mailed the year before Steinbeck and Charley departed on their trip.
In re-reading the book for the fourth time — like driving a familiar road, I get something new out of it each time — I’ve come to the conclusion that, while I’m no John Steinbeck, my dog Ace is a far more interesting canine than Charley.
This week we push on, eastwardly — though we’ll definitely be back this way again to see some people and write about some things we missed. Meantime, we’re in search of new hills, new vistas, new dogs, new folks, new mystery, new people to freeload off of … and maybe some applejack.