The New York Stork Brings My Kind of Babies…and More

That Thing I Both Dread and Look Forward To Has Come to Pass—I Met Cats

Yes, this early

I know that you know that I love critters. I try to be an equal opportunity critter admirer, but a loosely-guarded secret of mine is that cats are my fav. I can’t help it! As early as I can remember I was dragging cats around with me, apparently even preferring them to my Easter basket and, gasp, chocolate.

I love how soft their pelts can be, and I most adore snuggling up with them and burying my face in their oh-so-delicious fur. It’s my favorite form of therapy.

As such I’ve been both looking forward to meeting cats on the road and dreading it, because if they are in dire straits I know I will be forced to take action on their behalf. Which sounds like a lot of emotional pain.

Plus, if the cats are the “property” of another, the situation can and often does end badly, since these folks are seldom interested in help or opinions. Rescue peeps encounter situations like this daily. God love ya.

Nuggets. You’re welcome.

For some inexplicable reason, we found ourselves spending a month in New York state, including three weeks at a campground outside of Malone near the Canadian border.

Here, as fortune would have it, lived three striped brother cats.

These boys “belonged” to the owners of the campground.

They were not neutered.

And often hungry.

However—being cats—they made ends meet by wisely working the campground crowd for their fill of snacks and snuggles.

It didn’t take them long to identify their softest touch, me, who scrambled to serve them a heaping bowl of yum anytime they made their way to my doorstep.

The most gregarious of the three is this boy; I nicknamed him “Finally,” because I was FINALLY in some kitty-lovin’ heaven. Once he marked me as his primary food source I saw him every day, and was rewarded many times over with purrs and snuggles when his tank was topped off and he was feeling a bit nappy.

It wasn’t long before his shyer brother joined us (all stripes, no white), but I didn’t meet the third and final brother until we were readying for departure. By this point I was totally in love with Finally and Furrily, and worried about them getting enough to eat when I was gone. Did the owners expect them to hunt for their food? Would they provide more nourishment when the camping season was over? Would they get them the vet care they needed, neuter them? I didn’t know.

I prepped two big bowls of food that morning and fretted when the boys were no-shows. I tucked the offerings behind a tree so the cats could find them but they wouldn’t be so visible (and tossed!) by campground staff. Then I spotted the now-familiar stripes and white paws sitting down for a bite, and raced over to greet my baby. Finally! But wait…there was no white stripe on his nose! Here indeed was the elusive third brother, in coloring the middle ground between the other two boys. He ravenously gobbled down both bowls, then I quickly refilled them before I left in hopes that all three could enjoy one more meal on me.

Now I think of them often and wonder if they’re ok. As much as I enjoyed seeing their little faces and providing them sustenance, I’m probably better off NOT meeting any more campground cats. I’ll be plum overwhelmed with all the fretting.

I Love Me Some Rivers

We camped beside a lovely river in Malone, the sound of which provided a soothing background noise for sleepytime. I even bought a tube and bobbed on down the rapids, with Joe taking slow-mo video of me making a run over the tiny waterfall.

I had a blast! Until, that is…I discovered my new wedding band that Joe bought before the trip was missing from my left hand. Oh, god…I lost my wedding ring. In the river. From which odds of recovery were virtually nil.

Quick. Hide me from Joe! Oh, don’t bother: I have a blabbermouth, so I immediately fessed up. Needless to say, Joe was an unhappy camper and I’ve been in the naughty chair ever since. Way to spoil my own fun. Note to self, and you if you’re listening: Remove all rings and other jewelry before tubing rivers.

What’s Even WORSE than The Fridge Opening During Travel? Damn DampRid, That’s What.

DampRid starts working as soon as it’s exposed to air. The little round whatever-they-ares are full of vim and vigor, and before you know it they’ve sucked up all the moisture from the environment and the little plastic container is now full of liquid instead of pellets. Genius, you say to yourself. I need 100 more of these things. NO!

No you don’t.

Trust me, this is one of those lessons we learned the hard way. The real hard way, and so maybe my tale will inspire you to CHOOSE ANOTHER PATH. Duck those DampRid “geniuses.

You see, the top of the DampRid container is just latticework because the air needs to get IN, but if you somehow spill the ensuing liquid? Just throw the entire camper away and start fresh. It’s your best option. (Don’t believe me? Check out these poor frantic bastards trying to get the stuff OUT of their carpets, closets, and floors.)

The day started off so lovely. We patted ourselves on the back for ensuring the fridge door was locked, and I told Joe, “Wow, we didn’t even fight this morning getting on the road! We’re really getting the hang of this camping thing.”

Universe: “Not so fast, ya losers.”

When we reached Malone it was my job to get Tootie into the camper and set up with her food and water, open the pull-outs, and start putting the insides back together. Joe deals with the outside stuff like the septic, water, and electric. I immediately spotted the new DampRid container on its side beside the stove, but assumed it was no biggie. “You got this, Tami,” I sez to myself. “Just a teensy spill, you’ll have this wiped up in a jiff.”

But a half hour later when Joe finished his chores and had the temerity to step inside, he found me in a puddle of goo, tossing potatoes out the camper door, and crying that it’s everywhere and IT. WILL. NOT. GO. AWAY.

And it burns!

The stuff is just wrong. When you get a paper towel and try to wipe it up it just IGNORES YOU. Gives you the natty natty boo boo raspberry. And stays right where it is. I’ve never seen anything like it. We’re still finding it on the floor after EVERY move, and we DON’T KNOW WHERE IT’S COMING FROM.

Time to buy another camper.

Other Coolness from New York

We caught up and went to dinner with a couple we met when we were stationed in Germany more than 30 years ago; neither of us had seen them since. Unfortunately, we forgot to take a group photo as a memento of the auspicious occasion, so you’ll just have to take my word on this one. Shout out to Bob and Carmen for a wonderful reunion.

This pic is from Joe’s going away party in 1987, and yes, we’re well-aware we don’t look like this anymore, but thanks for pointing it out! The years have not been very very kind…

We visited Fort Ticonderoga, at a whopping price of $25 each for admission to the property. We thought that was steep, but it did include a tour of the fort, the museums, and a trip up Mt. Defiance as well. The tour guide—umm, how to put this kindly—babbled and rambled for at least 350 hours (or 20 minutes, but it was HOT outside), detailing each and every battle that took place there until my eyes glazed over, my brain short-circuited, and I fell from a parapet. Not really, but that might have been preferable.

Joe won BIG at the casino, a whopping $14, while I lost my whole $10—which sounds about right. We took a cruise of Lake George on the Mohican (lovely), went to a demolition derby (trumpery and covidy), and broke down and started paying Elon Musk $135 a month for Starlink. We don’t regret the decision, though, because internet out here has been anywhere from nonexistent to horrible. We were at our wits end, I tell ya! Now we can stream and do most anything we want online, and phew. Relief.

Our Search for the Eloosive Moosive in NH and Vermont

New Englanders, and those who come to partake of these illustrously-wooded states, are obsessed with the large land animal known as the Eloosive Moosive. Thus begins our search…

So Much “Fake Moos”

Just another “fake moos” sighting

Joe: I want to see a moose.

Me: Duh.

We’re in Mooseland. Of course we’ll see a moose. Or even multiple meeses.

I was confident, especially after the girl at the sub shop told us she’d seen TWO. In one YEAR!

Holy common AF. It goes without saying then that our task was to search for this mythical being; but, in order to lure him, her, or them (we’re equal opportunity meese viewers) out into the open, we agreed to meander about pretending to do other things. In their general vicinity.

After all, we reasoned, this way we’d be sure to spot them from the corner of our eye and react accordingly. Oooh….aaaaahhhh….picture, picture, picture.

To earn the favor of the moosegods, we even stayed along the Moose River in Vermont, doubling down with our pick of the Moose River Campground. Surely meese must abound here where they are immortalized in statue and signage, no?

We Searched LOW…

We went On Foot…And by Bike…

I even tricked a chipmunk into our fire ring and proceeded to torture him for answers. “Every admission gets you one more sunflower seed, bucko. Now…where are the GD meeses? Are you acquainted with any of these beings? Take me to your moose leader.”

But he just eyed me up and down dismissively, yanked the sunflower seed bag out of my hand, and escaped through the christmas tree cutout. Turns out chipmunks are sneaky bastages, too. And able to withstand a measurable amount of torture by seed. Respect.

We Even Searched High…

Joe made this drive alone. No way!

I mean HIGH as in UP IN THE AIR, folks. Get your minds out of the cannabis gutter. (I’ll meet you there later…only where it’s legal, of course, which it turns out is most of New England.)

In order to search for meeses up HIGH, however, I would be required to confront one of the teensy terrors I’ve been hiding from you; I mean, you’re probably suitably convinced of my bravery in all matters right now. Why mess with a good thing?

What? I already mentioned my abject abhorrence of heights in a previous blog? Well, then, my not-so-secret secret fear is out. Yes, I’m afraid of heights. Yes, my palms become dew-laden even watching mountain climbers in movies. No, it never gets better. I posit that in a former life I was a Native American woman trying to protect my child and we were both tossed over a cliff by evil palefaces. Or something of that nature…don’t be judgy about my past-life memories.

I’m usually ok if I can back off from the edge about 20 ft or so, and with that in mind I was forced to decline, in ever-so-ladylike fashion, Joe’s offer to ride shotgun with him on a drive up Mt. Washington. Um…no guardrails, you say? Not wide enough for two vehicles, you say? Right on the edge of a cliff, is that right?

Nope, no, not today, not tomorrow, not EVER. No.

NO! No.

We hopped a cable car to the top of Cannon Mountain ($26) and a train ($75, ouch but worth it once) to the top of Mt. Washington. Both were lovely and recommended for you (survivable for me) and the views made me glad I didn’t scurry into hiding and miss all the memories.

In the end, I must report udderly [see what I did there] no Eloosive Moose sightings for us, notwithstanding the diligence with which we undertook our mission. Maybe next pass?

The Treat of Stephen Huneck’s Dog Mountain

You’re probably cooler than me. Wiser. More hip. If so you probably know of Stephen Huneck and his beautiful artwork, but we stumbled upon Dog Mountain because it was near our camp along the Moose River.

We visited for their end-of-summer Dog Party and I was in heaven! I watched the dogs run, swim, and play off-leash in the pond, and then got to wave bye-bye to the dirty little critters as they headed off home with mommies and daddies for a bath.

Speaking of Rescue Dogs

It’s been a struggle making time for both sightseeing AND writing, designing, and publishing animal books from the road, but I’m super proud of our latest title at FCB: Hachi’s Favorite Akita Stories.

Editor Anastasia Ormeron worked closely with Akita fans worldwide to put together true tales of Akitas and the people who love them.

Illustrator @Akitas_comics created the amazing cover artwork, and then I designed the cover and interior from my “RV office-on-the-road,” which consists mainly of a recliner, a lap desk, and a laptop. Anastasia and I then hashed it out to as close to perfection as our little hearts could take us, and here we are!

Hachi’s Favorite Akita Stories is now available in hardcover, paperback, and kindle. Coming soon in audiobook.

P.S. A Signature for the Bears, Please?

I’m raising awareness (not well, mind you) for two bears captured from the wild at a park in New Hampshire. Could you please sign and share my petition? I would be most grateful, and offer you my eldest cat in thanks. If she rips your face off, that one’s on you…fair warning.

https://chng.it/JRHXkcnnF7

Live Free or Die in NH? Not if You’re a Clark’s Bear

Care about the rights of bears to live free in the wild? Please sign and share the change.org petition here: https://chng.it/wDnDKmXg8c

The White Mountains of New Hampshire are among the most beautiful in the country. Hiking and other nature activities abound in the state, and the gorgeous countryside is home to some of the most majestic wildlife in the northeast.

It’s an outdoor tourist’s dream come true.

Until you hit Clark’s Bears, that is.

Then those who value the outdoors and respect the animals who call it home will find themselves in disbelief that this continues to go on in a state with such a high regard for freedom.

What started as a roadside attraction in the 1950s has expanded into a nice little park, where they unfortunately don’t take New Hampshire’s “Live Free or Die” motto very seriously. For bears, at least.

Clark’s Bears has been capturing, confining, and forcing bears to perform stupid little tricks for humans since the year 1949. In the past 73 years, while the country has dramatically changed its outlook on the use and abuse of animals, the Clark family has stubbornly stuck to their “right” to steal bears from their native habitat—their homes—and force them into captivity. For life.

Why? Money and profit, obviously.

Here’s the thing. Clark’s has built an entire park off the backs of the bears, and at this point the amusement park could easily expand to include more rides and more water features instead of continuing to use and cruelly confine nature’s majestic black bears.

But Clark’s has once again taken the easy way out, stealing two more young bears from their homes in the wild.

Darla and Hindie pace relentlessly in their cage, desperately seeking a way out

They’ve “acquired” Darla and Hindie, both 20 months old, who are now sentenced to life behind bars for the brief entertainment of humans.

Life free or die, New Hampshire? Shouldn’t that same motto apply to the bears?

It’s long past time for Clark’s to stop this animal cruelty. Bears deserve to live in the wild, they deserve to choose their own path and their own destiny. It’s time to let them go.

Free Darla, Hindie, and the others, and if they are too tame to survive in the wild, then allow them to go to a sanctuary where they can again know what it’s like to experience life as a bear.

The Clark family claims to LOVE the bears. This isn’t love. Love for the bears means you would put their welfare ahead of your own.

Until Clark’s can do that, we must speak out on behalf of newcomers Darla and Hindie. They deserved better. Without enough humans who care, these two youngsters will never know the freedom that is so valued in the state of New Hampshire.

As Ian Malcolm said in Jurassic Park, “They were so preoccupied with whether or not they could, they didn’t stop to think if they should.”

Care about the rights of bears to live free in the wild? Please sign and share the change.org petition here: https://chng.it/wDnDKmXg8c

A Chitty Sitcheeashun and a One Trip Overkill to Canadia, Eh?

Showing off my considerable panorama skills. No, I wasn’t drunk, but Joe looked skinny so he was a fan.

Maine, Part Deux, and Canadia, Parts Un & Deux

We wanted to skip on over to Canada (or Canadia, as the hubs calls it) without taking our camper, so for Part Deux of our Maine stay we picked a KOA campground in Houlton, Maine, just a couple miles from the Canadian border.

We scored a nice end spot, and overall the campground was neat and well-cared for, better than most. Moving day sucks in general (picture making your house mobile once a week to get what I mean) but there’s always a twinge of excitement too: What will the next campground be like? Will there be bears and moose and no trumpers and we’ll meet our new best friends who are as cool as us (yes, I understand the bar is low)? OOOh, the possibilities are limited only by the camping imagination!

Inevitably when we arrive we see that there are no bears or moose, and we don’t know who in their right mind gave this place a five, but hope does spring eternal, eh? Without hope for better, I presume humanity would just melt down into a puddle of depressed goo and call it a day.

Joe planned an overnight trip and hotel stay at the Chateau Saint John in Saint John, New Brunswick, so we could explore the Bay of Fundy and whatever else might catch our eye.

Although the room was pretty normal in terms of a mid-range hotel, I hadn’t realized just how affected I’d been by our new RV lifestyle. I was agog at the size of the place, plopping my booty down on the FULL-LENGTH couch and calculating that our room was twice the size of our camper. Not only that, but I mentally installed a small kitchenette next to the wardrobe and declared that I could totally live here.

[On the bright side, when we do decide to buy a house again it should be affordable…anything the size of a hotel room and I’ll feel like a queen.]

Saint John is home to the Reversing Falls, which we eventually came to understand as a function of the ocean meeting the Saint John River—when the tide’s low the “falls”—more like rapids or eddying pools of water—go in the direction of the bay, and when it’s high tide they reverse and go upriver. According to this link, “five thousand years ago, sea level was 30 meters or 100 feet lower in this area. Native people living here at that time enjoyed an impressive waterfall!” Now? Think whirlpools.

I wouldn’t bother going onto the Skywalk, a paid attraction, because the views are better from the bridge and the park on the other side anyway, and they’re both free.

As we walked across the bridge I was touched to see a series of messages aimed at stopping people from leaping into the churning waters below. My humble gratitude…

The next day we drove the Fundy Trail Parkway before heading back to the campground and the Good Ol’ US of A. I confess I hadn’t missed the country I call home due to all the political turmoil and general slide into the horrors of Gilead. We paid $11 each to explore the Bay of Fundy coastline, a true beauty which put me in mind of the drive along the California coastline.

Unbeknownst to Us, a Chitty Sitcheeashun Unfolds Back at Camp

I was nervous about leaving Tootie alone in the camper overnight, a reminder of why I’d initially planned the trip without the comfort or concerns of traveling with companion critters.

Joe assured me that the camper was the same as a little house, meaning that while we were gone Tootie would have electric (i.e. air conditioning) as well as her meals and a clean litterbox all available to her. She’d be fine.

I fretted “what if” the power went out, or “what if” someone broke in, or “what if” a bad storm blew across while we were away. Would Mommy’s Little Girl be ok?

I let my daughter know where we were staying—just in case the worst should happen—so she could rush up to re-rescue my little Tootiekins.

It would turn out that there WAS a bad storm while we were in Saint John, and the cozy, sleep-inducing pitter patter of rain on the roof is far from the reality of enduring a storm in the equivalent of a rather large tin can. Tootie was probably scared—well, more afraid than usual—but at least she still had AC, my main priority.

As I jumped out of the car and raced to the camper door, my subconscious noted a whiff of doody in the air; I didn’t spare it a second thought, though, because my priority was first and foremost Tootie’s well-being. Besides, it didn’t take me long to learn that “whiffs of doody” are a part of everyday life in the RV world. Dogs are frequently dropping off packages here-there-and-everywhere, and each camper is sporting its own personal sewage system.

Chit Happens.

After making sure my baby was ok—she was—I sagged into my chair and snapped my recliner back into the “AHHH” position. “Finally, all is well and I’m home, relaxin’,” I sez to meself.

“Honey, we have to move spots,” Joe bellowed [at least in my mind], bursting through the door. “We’re right next to the septic tank, and someone flushed wipes and clogged the line. It’s overflowing all over the place out here.”

Oh, that’s what I smelled?

[I didn’t think to take photos of our noxious dilemma, no. And I was not the picture of wifely acquiescence; let’s just say “words were said” and fur was flown.]

Eventually, we did move to a spot further up, we got one night free, and the septic broke two more times while we were there. Luckily by then we were well clear of that particular war zone.

A path along the river in Houlton

We Shouldna’ Done it Twice

Joe and I made the mistake one time of going for a jaunt into Canada. And by jaunt I mean just a little in and out (like an hour or two), unplanned, on-the-same-day kinda’ trip. We thought nothin’ of it. Joe had flown with me to an animal conference in Montana and we rented a car for the final leg to the event location. When we realized our hotel was close to Canada we thought we’d just tuck in to have a look-see and then come along right out again.

They thought we were drug smugglers.

I mean, they didn’t say that to our faces, but apparently anyone who crosses the border for just a matter of hours is highly suspect of being some kind of smuggler, and drugs seem like the obvious choice.

[This is one of those things you don’t get if you’re not a bad guy. We were super confused when we got searched going into both countries.]

After we barely escaped with our lives, we made a pact never again to go into Canadia for the day.

Then we did it again.

There just wasn’t much to do in Houlton. Joe made the durn-fool decision to look for more of nature’s wonders in Canada, and found a covered bridge and some falls not too far from us.

“Hey, we should go see this stuff in Canada on Thursday,” he told me.

“We said we’re not going into Canada for the day ever again: remember Montana, remember the pact?”

“No, I don’t remember that,” he eyed me quizzically. “I’m sure it will be fine.”

“Right,” I grumbled, knowing I would live to regret my mealy-mouthed ways.

They thought we were drug smugglers.

I mean, they didn’t say that to our faces, but apparently anyone who crosses the border for just a matter of hours is highly suspect of being some kind of smuggler, and drugs seem like the obvious choice. [I know, dejavue.]

We were questioned extremely thoroughly by a grumpy Canadian border guard [apparently they exist] then the truck was searched by two more on our way into Canada, and when we came back even the U.S. guy eyed us up mighty suspicious-like.

This time I mean it. I’m NEVER-ever-AGAIN going into Canada just for the day. Trust me, you shouldn’t either.

My Bookclub of One

Campgrounds have this cool free library kinda deal—often in the laundry room or rec area—where you can leave or take a book that strikes your fancy. Sometimes these libraries are massive, spanning bookshelves, and sometimes a half dozen titles sit pitifully on a stand.

Even though I brought both kindle and paperback books with me, I decided to choose one random title per stop as a way to expand my book vocabulary.

At this stop I chose The Summer I Dared, by Barbara Delinsky, and wouldn’t you know it was about an island of lobster fishermen? Sigh. But at least one of them was concerned about conservation and ecology etc. so I guess that’s something…and, she writes well. The protagonist of the story is a woman who always neglected her own wants and needs to please her family and her husband, and she finally says “No more.” I wonder how many women can relate to that? Oh, I’d probably be a bad book blogger, eh?

A Couple More Funnies

I bought this magnet
And this one…
Found at Maine Walmart. Are you kidding me? Yes, please.
Me: “Aw, I love cows.” Joe: “No, you’re not adopting one.” Me: “Of course not. You gotta adopt TWO so they have a friend.”

Just when you think you and your hubby couldn’t be any more different.

Joe and I sometimes use the same first Wordle word so we can compete more fairly. I agitated for this concession because he was beating me by an average of 3-1, but I contended that he had more luck at picking the first words and so the results could be swayed. (I learned this logic from drumpf.) Now I think I’m slightly ahead by 4-3, but on whatever day this was (above) we both used ALL the same words…isn’t that romantic! Maybe I do love him after all…

P.S. We toured a potato chip factory in Canada…maybe some things are best left unseen. Just sayin’.

Maine, Maine, Where Have You Baine All My Life?

The view from Cadillac Mountain, Acadia National Park

Oh, my goodness. I’d never baine to Maine before (yes, it’s a word, they’ll be adding it to dictionary.com any second) but I’m in LOOO-VVVV-EEEEE! Where to start?

One of the goals of our current nomadic lifestyle is to find a state we’d be happy retiring to, and for me Maine is leading the pack thanks to its beauty, coastline, lakes and rivers, and lack of drumpf signs—proven to cause eye spasms and other sundry stress-related illnesses in those with dumpty-allergies. However, we have many miles to travel before such a lofty decision can be made, so I’m tucking my oh-so-humble opinion away for later perusal as we traverse the rest of this fine nation.

The Fridge Fracas

I told you we were total camping newbs, right? Turns out this is good news for you, because I’ll have an extra large barrel of “mistakes were made” stories to dole out as we go along. Yippee!

It seems that the refrigerator locking mechanism, seen above, becomes an important tool to prevent meltdowns and loss of food resources as said camper gets yanked along from Point A to Point B. In this case we undertook a 248-mile trek from Littleton, Massachusetts to Ellsworth, Maine, where we plopped ourselves at the Patten Pond campground for an 11-day stay.

We’d been on the road for only twenty minutes when Joe said to me, “Hey, did you remember to lock the fridge door?”

I gave him the side-eye. Was I supposed to? “No, why, did you?”

“No,” he frowned, watching the camper sway in the rearview. “It’ll probably be fine, though, right?”

“Yeah,” I said in my most reassuring voice. “I’m sure it’s all good.”

NO! No it isn’t, ya dorks! By the time we bounced ourselves into our next campground, most of the fridge and half of the freezer were rolling around on the camper floor. We were able to salvage much of it, and we considered ourselves lucky when we saw what DIDN’T fall out of the fridge—the oversize jar of dill pickles with its requisite buttload of pickle juice. Whew, that was a close one…

Who’s gonna tell ‘im?

Animals in Name Only

The Patten Pond Camping Resort had their streets named with a local animal and then a word starting with the same letter. (Except for Owl’s Way, which just messes with my OCD.) “OOh, how exciting,” methinks to myself. “I would totally name my streets that way too. (Except for Owl’s Way, which—as I’ve mentioned—just messes with my OCD.) “I can’t WAIT for all the animals I’m about to meet! In 3-2-1…”

A Wise Bear brings Wine

Have I told you I like animals? Maybe. Well, I do, and the highlight of each stop for me is always the wildlife. But alas, in Maine I was stymied at every turn. We took the Nature Tour boat ride and only saw seals from afar (nah, we won’t take our binoculars, why would we need those?), hiked and encountered no bears or rattlesnakes (which was probably good, though, now that I think on it) and didn’t even share our campsite with a chipmunk.

But I know they’re out there somewhere; they’re just waiting to get to know me better before revealing themselves. The supply of wooded acreage in Maine is ample and the animals have tons of space to avoid humans, which I grant them is the most smartest move.

The Campground

The Schoodic Peninsula, SHHHH, Don’t Tell Anyone

We found out about The Schoodic Peninsula from the volunteers who run the Downeast Scenic Railroad (above), which we tested out on Sunday. They only do excursions on Saturdays and Sundays, and are a nonprofit with some dedicated volunteers at the helm. As long as you’re expecting a slow, pleasant ride through some woodlands and the town of Ellsworth, you’ll get your money’s worth.

The bottom of Schoodic Peninsula is part of the Acadia National Park, but most people don’t go over there because it’s an hour drive from Bar Harbor and the more well-known Park attractions like Cadillac Mountain and Thunder Hole. For me Schoodic was the hands-down winner, both because of the gorgeous views AND because of the lack of crowds.

So I’ll tell you about it but let’s just keep it between us…if you can only pick one, pick Schoodic. If you can only go on a weekend, choose Schoodic. The Mount Desert (pronounced dessert, I know, don’t get me started) park area is ALWAYS more crowded. Always. No matter the day.

The first day we drove to Schoodic, we set up our chairs along a gorgeous swath of coastline and I commenced reading and snacking with abandon; “ah, this is the life,” methinks to myself. “Finally, I’m livin’ the dream—beautiful weather, beautiful view, quiet, treats, and a book.”

Unfortunately for me, Joe was as antsy as a kid on a sugar high. “Shouldn’t we go hike the trail now before it gets too late?” he blurted out on more than one occasion, ruining my peaceful enjoyment of my surroundings.

“Argh,” says I. “I just wanna read and take in the scenery, why can’t I do that? Fine, then,” I grumble, mumbling to myself about how I’m comin’ back here and reading All. Damn. Day.

Which I did. Only the next time I played it smarter: I made him walk BEFORE we sat by the seashore, and told him he had to stay until I was ready to leave this time. He took a nap, which was fine and dandy by me. The longer he slept, the longer I got to relax.

At Cadillac Mountain we met an artist who was painting the scenery on tiny little copper canvases; seeing talent in action is so inspiring. [Should I take up art again? Nah…I’ll just watch others create, SOOO much easier.] We also explored my fear of heights further (yes, it’s alive and well) and Joe’s unfortunate need to make jokes about plummeting over the edge as my anxiety skyrockets. I’ve heard this is a man thing, but let me be the first to assure men this IS NOT HELPFUL. IN ANY WAY. Thank you.

Should we Talk about the Lobster in the Room?

One of my animal rescue friends texted me: “Tami, make sure you go out on a working lobster boat while you’re in Maine.” We’re still buds because of my kindness and easygoing nature (eh-hem), but I do have to admit he got an earful in return.

I mean, I was already engaged in a fruitless attempt to ignore the very existence of the Maine lobster fishing fetish. I hadn’t realized at first that the buoys I was seeing throughout the water belonged to lobster traps. I thought they were guidance buoys, and when it dawned on me what they actually were, Joe used his patented technique to distract me from the coming animal rant. “Do you see seals out there?”

My head whipped around, “Seals, where?”

“I didn’t see any, I just wondered if you did. Any chipmunks?”

I narrowed my eyes at him. “I know what you’re doing, ya sneaky bastage.” Truth be told, it usually works, because then we bicker about his distraction techniques instead of him listening to me rant, which he must find an acceptable tradeoff.

Luckily for me he doesn’t like seafood.

Bar Harbor itself is quite lovely, with a plethora of restaurants, harbor and Acadia tours, and souvenir shops. I decided that when I was annoyed by an animal industry, I would buy myself a passive-aggressive t-shirt to make myself feel better.

Animals eating people is always a good choice. Until I get scarfed down by a bear of course…then it won’t be so funny, eh? But I’ll be dead, so maybe I’ll still get a good chuckle out of the irony of it all.

I Can’t Believe it Happened!

Last week when I suggested campgrounds prohibit political signage (you realize before drumpf NO ONE was dragging political signs camping with them, right? Who in their right mind?) I figured it was a pipe dream. But when we hit Maine the campground rules had the following:

Halle-effin-lujah! It finally happened. Now I can’t leave Maine.

Tootius Maximus Gets a Fix

Everyone’s got their way to escape, eh? But Tootie, as a feral cat, doesn’t have much of a life outside this camper. She’s certainly not a cat I can outfit with a harness and leash and walk around the campground, or even let her sit outside with me. She would be terrified and find a way to wiggle out of the harness and that would be it for her. She’d be gone. And I’d be wrasslin’ with a whole tankful of guilt and remorse.

But when I see her sitting in front of the screen door and wistfully looking outside I get sad for her too. Like her mommy and daddy, she used to eat her feelings, but now she can’t because of her throat issue, so she’s forced to eat to live rather than live to eat.

I wanted to enrich her life, but she’s not much for toys at her age. “She does love herself some catnip,” I muse. “Except she usually makes a huge mess by rolling in it and eating it before finally passing out covered in the stuff.”

Still, it was one thing I could offer her to give her a moment of escape, no matter how brief her “high” lasts. Joe picked some up for me at the store and the second it arrived she was out of her “office” and searching for it. This was rare for her in the middle of the day, so I knew she had caught the scent but just couldn’t find it. After letting the anticipation build for just a few more moments I put a small amount on a towel and let her go for it. She did not disappoint! I tried giving her more the next night, but she showed little interest, so I guess catnip will be a once a week special treat so she has something to look forward to!

My friends are starting to send me memes with a little something in common. Should I be worried?

East Hampton, CT, Land of Father’s Days, Anniversaries, and Family Visits

One of the funny signs seen while camping in East Hampton

Happy Father’s Day, Male Readers! What, that was a week and a half ago? Well, no matter. Keep in mind that I thought of you that week, and make this retroactive to last Sunday like a good lad. There ya go.

Here, I’m leaving you this funny sign that was probably written by a man, which doesn’t in any way interfere with its ability to amuse. You’re welcome.

Who doesn’t love the word “amok”?

Camping signs are a definite “thing” out here in the RV world, and I’m all for anything that can make me lol. Therefore I’ll be kind enough to share with you any gems I come across in my travels. No need to thank me—I’m generous like that.

I love the word “amok,” don’t you? It’s just funny without even saying another word, which is a rarity. In fact, one of my favorite lines from a movie is in Two Weeks Notice, where Hugh Grant is eating cheesecake and he says to Lucy, aka Sandra Bullock, “There’s something amok with this cheesecake.” In his English accent? Hilarious. [Turns out it was made from tofu, which probably wasn’t as good back in the early 2000s, but is downright tasty these days. I’m looking at you, Daiya.]

Signs in Campgrounds Should be Funny or Kind…Not Anxiety-Producing, Amiright?

Turns out there are signs that aren’t amusing in any way, and I don’t understand why campgrounds won’t make their sites a politics-free zone. You know the ones I’m talking about. Ones that, say, worship a man who led a cult to assault our Capitol and our democracy? Yeah, that one. We trundled our way up to Connecticut, a blue state, eager to escape the stress-inducing world of drumpfdom.

The first sign I saw as we pulled into the Markham Meadows Campground read, “You are Now Entering a Stress-Free Zone.”

“Oh, Hallelujah,” methinks to myself. “Finally, I’m in a sane place and can relax into the moment.” Then we schlepp around the corner to park our camper, and lo and behold run headlong into yet another disturbing sign of drumpf worship—and it’s directly across the pond from us. I despair that this particular disease has spread well beyond the borders of trumpland, and folks like me are being ideologically assaulted everywhere we go. Bah.

All these campgrounds already give campers a list of rules you have to abide by; how difficult would it be to add one little rule that reads: “No political signage. Everyone is out here to leave daily life behind, so please leave politics at home and be kind to your neighbors. Thank you.” There. Problem solved!

The 11th Anniversary Bargain

We celebrated our 11th Anniversary on our first whole day in East Hampton, and a bargain to forego cards and gifts FOR THIS YEAR ONLY was struck in advance due to space constraints in the camper. I had to be very careful to ensure that the hubs understood this was a ONE-YEAR EMBARGO only, because he’s fully capable of extending the policy ad infinitum if I don’t keep an eye on him every second. How do I know that? There is precedent.

Consider this . . . every year we hold this particular discussion at Easter:

Me: Are we doing anything for Easter?

Him: We aren’t religious, we don’t celebrate Easter.

Me. The Bunny doesn’t care if you’re religious or not, The Bunny brings candy for ALL.

Him: But we aren’t religious.

Me: Buy me some fucking candy.

See what I’m sayin? He’s a sneaky one. He has also attempted to deploy the same argument in favor of boycotting Christmas, but that test balloon never made it off the ground. I’m watching you, Bud! (But I’ll always love you…)

We ate breakfast at a little local diner, and then headed in the direction of the coastline hoping for some beach time. We landed at a harbor in Old Saybrook where there wasn’t a beach per se, but there was putt-putt, so we shrugged our shoulders and the challenge was on.

Joe and I are both a trifle too competitive. He will deny it of course, but I for one shamefully admit to being the bearer of a competitive nature; he won’t even play Scrabble with me anymore because he claims that I get mad if I don’t win by ENOUGH. I don’t think he has any evidence to back him up on this foul accusation, though, so it will have to forever be his word against mine.

Hubs with his tiny putter

I immediately claimed the right to choose his putter for him and handed him the tiniest one for the tots. To get even he pulled the one for Andre the Giant out of the rack for me, and the game commenced.

I was distracted by the local pokemon go action (don’t be judgy) and by the third hole I was already bleeding profusely. I made the ultimate sacrifice of putting my phone away so I could focus on the task at hand, but my luck never improved and I was soundly trounced by my loving husband.

After the match we once again went in search of a beach, but Old Saybrook was charging between $25-$40 just to park at one of their beaches if you weren’t a resident. Highway robbery, I tell ya’. Nah…that wasn’t happening.

Visiting the CT coastline? I’d recommend doing a little better homework than we did.

In the end a nice dinner (Impossible burger for me, yum) and a couple different ciders rounded out the day nicely.

Grandma Pat and the Laundry Conundrum

This would come up as a topic of discussion at some point, so we might as well thrash it out now. I have a teeny tiny laundry issue—that’s not really even worth mentioning really—except it impacts my joy of travel.

I spend less time pondering the fun things we can do on our trip than the following crazily important questions: “What about laundry? Can I do laundry there? Is it gross? Crowded? What if I can’t do laundry for weeks at a time? How will I survive?”

I’ve never liked laundry to pile up, because then it seems overwhelming, like it’s something you’ll never get done. I’ve got enough overwhelminginity in my life without adding dirty laundry to the list. My fairly normal OCD worsened from my years in dog rescue, because then EVERY DAY became overwhelming. Not only did my laundry need to be done but all the dog laundry too. AAAHHHH!

I felt a touch bit better knowing we were going to visit Rayne’s grandma Pat; not only because I love her to pieces, but also because she’s a laundry nut too. She’s constantly doing laundry and even grabbing our laundry when we visit, so I knew she’d be onboard with us dragging our dirty clothes along behind us. We even washed our sheets and our comforter, so I can breathe a little easier for a week or two! Whew.

Dishwasher Despots

Every family’s got one: that person who knows the ONLY right way to load the dishwasher, and spends half their lives re-arranging it along behind the rest of the family. God help ya’ if you have more than one!

Joe is ours. Brynn and I never cared enough to argue about it with him, so we’d just shrug our shoulders and save our energy for more important battles. We don’t have a dishwasher out here on the road, and I think Joe relished the opportunity to put his considerable skills to use at Pat’s house.

Except here he ran into an immutable force: a fellow Dishwasher Despot, in her own territory! He was outgunned. As it turns out, there’s MORE than one right way to load the dishwasher, and Pat took the opportunity to school him on the REALLY real correct way: hers.

I simply sat back and enjoyed the show. In fact, “relished it” wouldn’t be a stretch. Sometimes it’s just the little things, ain’t it?

This week we’re in Massachusetts, and I will regale you with more splendiforous tales soon. In the meantime, enjoy some more photos from the campground and other Connecticut delights.

Oh, and P.S.

I put my Imagine: Life on a Chain novella into paperback and kindle formats if you’re interested in reading it or purchasing it as a gift. Audiobook to come soon.

I will definitely be offering nonprofit pricing to any groups who’d like to purchase to give away or sell at booths. Just reach out to me through my site at tamirathayne.com.

I don’t have it up on the site yet because I’m still figuring out how to make time for writing and publishing while I’m on the road, but I’ll get there!

Imagine: Life on a Chain

by Tamira Thayne

The dog awoke, feeling more uncomfortable than usual—which was saying something, given that he was chained to a dilapidated box the size of a grocery cart.

The world seemed off, the neighborhood quiet, even the woods behind him hushed—like everything waited…

He shifted uneasily, sniffed the air.

What was that? He brought his head up and inhaled deeply.

He didn’t recognize it—and yet…and yet. Something about the odor nudged a memory from his mind, of a time when life held promise, when he’d fully embraced the naïve enthusiasm that came with puppyhood.

He tugged on the mental string, and the flashback overwhelmed him. He sagged onto the ground, assaulted by memories of his first home…

• Based on true-life stories of rescue dogs •

Paperback ISBN: 978-1-954039-20-9
Paperback https://www.amazon.com/dp/1954039204

Kindle: https://www.amazon.com/dp/B0B4BD34S8

Untethered Tour Camps in the PA Poconos, But No Heart-Shaped Honeymoon Tub for Me

The Pocono Palace. Hubba hubba.

We were halfway through our sojourn in the Poconos before Hubs comes out with the truth.

“See that hotel? That’s where my first wife and I went on our honeymoon.”

“Whaaattt? Oh, these jokes write themselves. Where’s my heart-shaped jacuzzi tub? Champagne? Why did she get all the good stuff and I’m in a camper in a rundown campground with my 11th anniversary looming in a matter of days? WHAAAAAA!”

I can’t imagine for the life of me why he waited until we’d passed it a dozen times before fessing up. It’s not like I’m fully capable of turning such things into joke fodder or a means of upping my own wifely status.

Redboxes: They Still Exist and Now I Know Why

I remember it clearly, as it was just a month or two ago and it hasn’t yet slipped through my mental sieve. I stopped at a convenience store and noticed the Redbox outside. “Redbox? Who the hell still rents movies from those things. Dinosaurs, I tell ya’!”

Cue digging foot of mouth in three…two…one. Me, that’s who! Turns out we’ve got ourselves a tiny little internet problem out here on the road. Firstly, I assumed we came equipped with unlimited hotspot on our phones—as we used to—but Verizon played a sneaky trick last time we “upgraded” and cut us down to 25 GB a month. Joe ran out of data in May and I ran out in June, and that just ain’t raight. Rude, Verizon, Rude!

Secondly, I assumed all campgrounds would have free wifi as this isn’t the dark ages, but apparently much of the U.S. is still missing that memo. Including campgrounds. Double Rude.

Others traversing the U.S. are sporting internet solutions that we haven’t yet explored—newbs and all. But I’m sure Joe will investigate more this week, and then we can slay this particular giant. Or not.

We ended up renting movies we hadn’t seen on two different nights, and I’m here to assure you that Redbox does still have a purpose on this earth after all. My bad, Redbox. Continue about your business.

Bushkill Falls Hike

Come on, it’s Adorkable!

We’ll be sightseeing at least a coupla’ days at each stop, but don’t expect us to showcase the obscure or out-of-the-way stuff. We’ll most likely be hitting up popular tourist activities that spark our interest or float our boat, and who doesn’t love him or herself a good waterfall?

We sojourned to Bushkill Falls during the week (advised, so much less crowded!) and it cost $15 each to partake of this particular beauty. It’s $18 on weekends.

In my humblest of opinions it was well-worth the price of admission. They’ve spent a ton of time and money adding wooden walkways and steps throughout, so you get to feel like you’re living in a Swiss Family Robinson treehouse as you traverse the terrain and trot out your own particular brand of oohs and aahs.

We picked the longest route, even though it clearly told us those who are out of shape should be moving along to one of the easier trails. I’m surprised our faces weren’t plastered on the sign as a cautionary tale: “These idjits thought they could do the two-hour tour. Don’t be them. Bwahahahaha….”

Maybe we’ll actually get a little more svelte throughout our journey thanks to all this exertion? One never knows.

The Big ‘Un

There’s no shame in admitting that I had to make frequent stops when ascending the rocks and steps. As soon as this girl’s heart rate hits 140, my inner diva makes an appearance and I do declare “Imma bouta faint” or something equally awkward. Luckily for us we were surrounded by others of a similar shape and size, and there were frequent drink and “I gotta sit down before I die” breaks for most everyone.

The only animals we saw were stuffed, which is ew, but at least they don’t appear to have been killed just to display here, as the sign claims they were donated by “state and local game commissions.” Take it for what it’s worth.

Speaking of Out of Shape…I Got A Bike

This may come as a surprise to you, but I’m not a good biker either. I know. Who’da thunk it?

Ever since I was a little kid I had to walk up ALL the hills. Even the little ones. Everyone says, “Don’t you shift down?” like I never thought of it or somethin’.

“Why Yes, Yes I do! But then I have to peddle MORE to go a shorter distance. How is that easier? My poor tiny leggies get too tired to go on. All I can do is end this torture and get off the bike!”

Walking is easier.

Joe lived in town and biked EVERYWHERE as a kid. He even peddled 12 miles to go work for FREE at a garage, and all I can think is Who Does That?

For whatever reason, even though he’s barely ridden in years, he hasn’t lost his bike finesse. Being the gentleman he is, however, he kindly got off and walked when I did, informing me we’d work on my lack of biking fortitude as we go. Don’t hold your breath, man!

Pocono Snake & Animal Farm

In a perfect world there would be no zoos, no roadside animal exhibits, no exploitation of animals, but support for them to live in their native habitats. We don’t live in a perfect world, alas, and sometimes BETTER has to be good enough because BEST isn’t an option. This applies primarily to wild animals who are purchased by humans with zero clue as to their needs, and who hence inevitably seek to “get rid” of them. But where can they go? They can’t go back into the wild because they’ve become unable to fend for themselves.

As such, I didn’t find myself vehemently opposed to the Pocono Snake and Animal Farm. Many of their animals are rescues, or “donated” as they called it, by people who got them and had no business having them. Most of the animal habitats ranged from adequate to good, and I truly hope these babies lives have improved from whatever dastardly conditions they previously endured.

Food we purchased for BearBear, the monkeys, and the pigs or goats.

We paid $9.50 each to get in, plus $6 for food for the animals.

Food! For the Animals!

I’ll be the first to admit this is a genius move on the part of the PSAF. We pay to get in…AND we pay for the food for their animals, too? Diabolical!

I’m a hardcore animal feeder, and my primary concern (i.e. obsession) when I visit these kinds of places is “Are the animals being fed?”

I worry and drive myself to distraction over the thought of hungry animals, even though I logically know it’s happening all over the world at any given time and there’s little I can do about it.

But I can at least help in my little corner, right?

If I see an animal I want to feed him or her. It’s really that simple, and it brings me great joy to watch them eat and know I played a part in filling their little bellies. [Assuming they aren’t chomping on a human or another animal, that is…I can’t be seeing that, oh, the trauma.]

I bottle-fed the pigs, tossed fruit and veggies to the monkeys (spoiler, they throw most of the veggies on the ground, but they love the fruit), and fed the bear. Bearbear is over 20 years old now, and they have a couple monkeys who are over 50 years old. It’s normal for animals reaching the end of their life spans to look a little worse for wear; as we age it happens to all of us—and our companion animals, too. The owners of PASF wisely posted signs about the age and condition of the oldest animals so that people like me wouldn’t lose our minds.

A few of the animals we met that day: Bearbear sits in front of the tube and catches each treat as you put it down. Timmy the capuchin jumps up and down and throws his pillow around to entertain the kids who visit. The alligator snapping turtle sits with his mouth open, wiggles his tongue, and the fish swim right in. Who knew!

Tootie Gets a New Hiding Spot

If you know feral cats, you know they have to have a hiding spot. These are hard to come by in a small camper, but Tootie was squeezing herself amongst our stash of stuff at the end of our bed whenever she felt scared. This was far from ideal, since she couldn’t turn around in the tiny space and was left with her butt hanging out. It looked downright uncomfortable. So we moved her cat tube to the end of the bed and covered it with the bottom of the comforter. Now she can slip under the blanket and up into the tube whenever she wants. She proclaimed herself satisfied with the upgrade, and now she comes out of “her office” for food, potty, treats, and some occasional mommy love.

Timothy Lake North Campground

What a dump! Oh, is that too harsh? How about this: Methinks this campground could use a teensy bit of fluffing up. We felt like we were camping in an apocalyptic ghost town, complete with skeletons of campers past and an aversion to grass cutting or any of the basic tenets of groundmanship.

The campground is run by Thousand Trails, which we’ve joined with a basic camping membership on the recommendation of a friend. We’re still debating the pros and cons of purchasing any of their various upgrades, but Timothy Lake North Campground was not a plus for their side. Oddly enough, Lake Timothy South is just a mile or two down the road, and it is clearly a much better run and cared-for campground. What up with that?

PoGo in the Poconos

Either the Poconos isn’t fond of Verizon or Verizon isn’t fond of the Poconos. Whichever the case may be, I showed two bars or nothing throughout our stay, an unfortunate circumstance which is not conducive to pokemon play. I even got tossed from a Mewtwo raid that only had four people in it, an obvious crime against PoGoLand! I was needed, dammit!

The worst violation took place at Bushkill Falls, which sported an impressive array of gyms, pokestops, and pokeman for the taking. I witnessed the bounty before me as we turned onto the property, slavered appropriately, only to freeze up and catch the distinct tinkling laughter of Verizon as they mocked my dismay. I never could get back in the game while there. Triple Rude.

We’ve landed in Massachusetts at a tres bonne campground boasting internet AND cable. Lordy, lordy, am I witnesseing a miracle? I shall regale you with our [mis]adventures from last week and this one soon. Tata for now…

Untethered Tour Stop One: Home in PA, an Engagement or Marriage?, and One Angry Feral Kitty

The Untethered Tour has officially begun! I’m not gonna claim that our first stop was particularly auspicious by any means…but every beginning is still a beginning, no?

New to the blog? If so, all you need to know to catch up is that the hubs, yours truly, and my feral cat Tootie are spending the next year traveling the U.S. in search of freedom (not the idiotic “patriot” kind), adventure (no rock climbing for this girl), and any interesting animals and people we meet along the way.

Since the three of us are freakishly shy, you can expect us to meet more animals than people. And by “meet animals,” I probably mean just awkwardly spying on them in the wild. Through the window. As one does.

Before we could commence on this daring adventure, however, we had to be out of our house by the end of April and Joe still had over a month of work to go. So he dropped me (and dear Tootance) at my mother and stepfather’s house in Bellwood, PA, so I could make myself useful for a couple weeks. My mom suffers from advanced dementia, is no longer verbal, and unable to care for herself; her husband Chuck is determined that she won’t die alone in a nursing home, which is so “god love the man” of him.

Mom with Chuck and her caregiver Celia. We went for walks on nice days.

I hadn’t seen them much since the pandemic started, both because I lived four hours away and because I was terrified of taking them out with covid. I knew he had his hands full, but without spending the three weeks with them I wouldn’t have understood the extent of his sacrifice.

Sisterly love. My Aunt Bee comes down a few times a week to help get mom to bed.

A huge Shout Out and much respect to all caregivers of dementia patients. To lose your husband, wife, or parent to this disease is horrific and cruel…the person you love is gone long before their physical body follows.

Watching Chuck behave so lovingly with my mother, however, gave me chills. He’d tease her by talking in a falsetto, and then he’d laugh and kiss her while she just looked at him like “who the eff is this dude taking liberties with my personage, I’ve never seen him before in my life.” He was inspiring.

Once in awhile, though, once in awhile, a slight smile would lift her lips and I’d be left to wonder how much of the world around her might still be getting through. As a test, I sang and danced for her daily, but she, alas, remained unimpressed. I mean, I’ve been told I’m a “very determined” dancer, so I can’t imagine she wasn’t secretly enthralled by my performance. She just has a good poker face.

Tootie mostly hid under the bed. What can one expect from a feral cat, anyway? She does love her mommy, though, so she would come up and cuddle me at night, yet never became comfortable enough to venture out during the day, what with all the “stranger-danger.”

After Mom and Chuck went to bed, however, party Tootie came out to play…or lay, as the case may be. Whatevs. At least she was out!

Joe picked me up Wednesday the 8th, and we drove the 12 miles to our campsite in Duncansville, PA for the next five nights. Why so close you ask? [Damn, it’s gonna take these moe-rons three years to cross the country at this rate…]

We had a reason, I promise. My handsome, almost 29-year-old son Rayne and his girlfriend Kristin got engaged, and we could hardly miss my first child’s engagement bash! That just makes for bad family drama, which we’re obviously way too mature for. (Duh.)

We decided to pick up Tootie the next evening, because we still had a lot of work to get the camper in order, and—to be honest—we were terrified of wrastling her out from under the bed. The little turd bit me recently when I was trying to give her medicine, so I’ve been left with a pretty healthy respect for her general chomper area and tend to avoid pissing that part of her off.

As a disclaimer, I fully hope that she will eventually “get” what we’re up to and docilely toddle into the crate to be moved from the camper to the truck and back on moving days. We remain far from this goal to date.

The wrastling went as poorly as one could expect, and included ferocious growling and gnashing of teeth. Tootie wasn’t happy either. I was a little too fluffy to fit under the bed (eh-hem), so I had to scour the garage for a primitive cat-sweeping tool, finding a set of old crutches which would fit the bill. I quickly learned that Tootie must have had a bad crutch experience in her past, because she immediately set to attacking the offending “cat sweepers” in a most unladylike manner. The ensuing battle spilled from the bedroom into the laundry room, where after some more “persuasion” she was finally cornered and morosely slipped into her crate, pouting in the corner.

I would have taunted her for being such a sore loser about it all, but I’d prefer not to have my face ripped off in the middle of the night; I wisely kept my commentary to myself.

Plus, I love her. She a little Tootie Monster, after all.

Engagement or Marriage? It’s All Very Confusing

I love my kids. I love that they are so different from me and from each other, and I love that they have minds of their own. And that they are pretty unapologetic about it, too! As they should be.

Rayne asked Kristin to be his wife on a ski trip in March, and—as women are wont to do—she immediately went into planning mode while Rayne looked about for a hiding spot. They worked it out amongst themselves eventually, and settled on an engagement party this year and a wedding at the Outer Banks next year.

Then they threw a wrench in the works by getting “technically married” at the courthouse so she will be listed as his next of kin when he goes off to school for the Air Force Reserves. But they still had the engagement party and the official wedding is still on for next year, so seize the day, you do you, and all that good stuff.

I love Kristin to pieces, and warned her that she picked a bit of a clunker family to marry into, but WELCOME! Guess she’s stuck with us now.

One of us has one pair of shoes out. The other has four.

Happy Camper Tips

  1. Drugs. I recently started taking anti-depression meds for the first time in my life, and I wonder why I didn’t do it much sooner! Now me and the other ladies I meet bond over our meds. Ha. And I’m much less concerned about the little things. Which is important when taking the plunge on a change like this! Campground is creepy? Stay inside and read, you say? Sweet, I’m in.
  2. Have a partner who likes to plan. In truth, Joe doesn’t like to plan either, but he’s been on the hook for most of it so far. Turns out his ex-wife did most of their itinerary stuff when they were together, so I figure why can’t we just ask her to plan our route? Seems like a wise compromise to me.
  3. Learn to live with your partner’s messiness. I want to be neat. I think I have the gene for it, somewhere buried under all those years of dog fostering. I don’t often succeed, but when it comes to a space as small as our camper, my mind automatically rejoices, “Yes, NOW our house can be unsullied, flawless even! Surely Joe will see how important it is that we keep everything in its place and then we’ll be the happiest of campers forever after, amen.” Wrong. I’ve mostly given up on my dream of the perfect little camper home already, and we’ve just hit our second campground. If you want to know how I’ve gotten over it so quickly, a reminder to see Tip #1.
  4. Don’t travel with a feral cat. The reasoning on this should be obvious to everyone who isn’t me, but just in case: the reality is that if said cat escapes the confines of the truck, camper, or carrier, you may never lay eyes on the angry little kitty again. No pressure, though.

Scorecard

I wouldn’t rely on me for great camping advise. I’m a total newb. That being said, I’ve been to three campgrounds so far, and Wright’s Campground in Duncansville made the top two. I think if you get a decent spot, you’ve got a full hookup, and they keep the place looking cared for and the grass cut, how bad can it really be? After all, we already bring our “hotel room” along with us. The people there were nice and the place was cared for. It was small and basic, but it worked for us!

Sightseeing at the Horseshoe Curve

I’m from the area but Joe isn’t, so we made an effort to visit one tourist attraction while we were in town. We chose the “World Famous Horseshoe Curve,” because anything world famous must be Ah-Maz-Ing, right? Most locals have been there, kids even take field trips with school like I did as a youngster, so it’s worth a looksee if you happen along. It cost us $8 for the two of us to get in with military discount, and we waited an hour for a train to decide to show up. With 50-60 trains per day, we obviously hit the lunch break or something, but there’s also a museum where I learned that during WW2 Nazis were arrested for planning to blow up the Horseshoe Curve. See? I told you it was THAT important.

For Pokemon Go players such as myself (no shame!), the Horseshoe Curve sports a gym and a coupla stops too, so go throw me out when you get there so I can get my 50 coinage.

Trumpers gotta trump

Speaking of Not-sees, the Cult of Trump still has to trumpet their loyalty even as their golden boy goes down for attempting to steal an election in what’s supposed to be a democracy. I’m out here tryna’ forget about all things drumpf, but these constant reminders could drive a girl to edibles. What states are they legal in nowadays, anyways?

Today we landed in East Stroudsburg, PA, so if you have any tips or animals for us to meet, give me a shout! See you on here next week with another tres-exciting update.

Road cat—as opposed to road kill—but just a little less grumpy.

Preparing for the “Untethered Tour,” aka Life on the Road with Tami and Joe

I started this “Untethered” blog many moons ago when I was daily advocating for dogs on chains. While I’m no longer on the front lines of the dog-chaining issue, I appreciate all those who still work on their behalf and am forever grateful to those who care for these “forgotten” dogs.

It turns out, however, that “Untethered” as a principle continues to fit many aspects of my life, so I’m just gonna keep on goin’ with it wherever the blog takes me today.

In 2015 I left the organization I’d founded to free dogs from chains, Dogs Deserve Better, and I felt “Untethered” from my life’s mission—an uncomfortable feeling given that I believed I’d work with and for chained dogs forever, and even had the tats to prove it.

Now what was I supposed to do?

My sweet hubby had bought us my dream home along the Thornton River in Culpeper County, VA, and I thought we’d live there forever, so I busied myself writing more books and publishing animal books by other authors, too.

But alas, at the grand old age of 58, I’m learning there may be many “Untetherings” in a person’s life; last August Joe and I began to discuss the greatest “Untethering” of all: selling our house and going on the road for a year to explore the country.

We’d just lost my precious cat Una, who tethered me to the here and now for each of his 18 years. You know when you meet that soul animal who becomes your reason to get up in the morning, the first kiss of every homecoming, and the one who might just sleep on your head (and you like it)? Una was that guy for me.

Joe had suffered a trauma in the form of a motorcycle accident 1.5 years ago which left him with ongoing health issues. He worried if he waited until he was 62 to retire that his health might be too bad to explore the U.S., so we decided to leap a bit early and JUST GO FOR IT NOW.

And So We’ve Become Untethered…

We sold our beloved home (yes, I cried) and had every intention of traveling without animal companions, too. I was concerned that my constant worry for the safety and well-being of the animals would dampen our joy at being on the road, so friends stepped forward to care for our dog and “the boys.” (Yes, I cried.)

We finished the fence at Joe’s friend Samantha’s house, and His Puppyness is making himself right at home with her and her children. It turns out he LOVES kids, something we didn’t know because we haven’t yet had grandchildren and had no young ones running around.

Then my high school friend Julie and I drove from North Carolina to San Diego with the bobtail brothers Jersey and Mike, where they will be hanging out with her, her boyfriend Joe, and their kitty Katy. We took four days to cross the U.S. and “lived it up” in cat-friendly hotels each night, which we found with the help of the Bring Fido app (recommended!)

In fact, no sooner had we reached the glorious shores of the Motel 6 in the glamorous town of Lordsburg NM, than we plotted to visit the Mexican restaurant across the street for some Cinco de Mayo beverages. The boys would be safely “hotelified” and we reasoned that we could have ourselves a little fun and then waddle on back to our room for a good night’s sleep before we tackled our last day of driving.

Julie went to ask for some shampoo while I put my feet up on the bed to enjoy a moment of peace and quiet. Twas a brief moment, to be sure, because next thing I heard was an ungodly shrieking that my rescue brain told me could only be the demands of a kitten. A very tiny and hungry kitten. Yikes!

(FYI, the second thing my brain always says in these instances is “NO! No, no, no, no, no…this isn’t happening! But alas it is…)

A thorough search and questioning at the office and of other Motel 6ers turned up no other kittens and no Momma. We were on our own. I don’t consider myself a kitten expert, but I knew we needed formula and we needed it yesterday, AND I consulted one of my cat-expert friends just to be sure. Unfortunately the closest Walmart—which I knew carried it—was almost 50 miles away! The only grocery store in town was a no-go, and there were no pet shops.

At first I was like, “No way am I driving another 100 miles round trip after we’ve been driving all day,” which makes sense; however, one shriek later had me in the car and putting the Walmart address in the gps.

We all knew who the boss was, and it wasn’t me!

Julie and I took turns playing Momma all through the night, and the kitten mews—a kind word for it—continued pretty much unabated if he wasn’t eating or napping. We stopped at the Hermitage No-Kill Cat Shelter in Tucson, AZ the next morning on our way through, where they graciously took our little boy in and will nurse him until he’s ready for adoption. Julie was already a little attached and feeling conflicted because she’d been the one to rescue him, but in the end we agreed that putting him in the hands of experts would give him the best chance at the life he deserved.

We may have missed our party, but we got to do a good deed for an animal instead, so in the end we were the better people for it. Right? Right.

I visited with Julie and Joe for a couple days while we got the boys acclimated, then I sold my car and took a flight back to VA.

Talk about “Untethered!”

Now I had no home, no car, and three of our companions were with friends…

There was still one more, though…

Enter Da Tootie Monster, aka Tootance

Tootie Monster has been with me since she came to the DDB Center in 2011. She was a feral kitty who was born near the Treasurer’s house in PA, and when we thought she was pregnant we took her in to foster with me at the center. When she turned out be “sans kittens” we got her fixed and she stayed on as one of my gang.

Tootie is still mostly feral but does love her Momma and her sister Bryn. She has suffered ill health for about two years due to ongoing throat issues; I thought I would lose her in November, but we opted to get her through Christmas with stronger meds. I was prepared to let her go in January, but then she was like “Nah, whatchu lookin’ at, Momma. I’m all good here. Move along. Nothing to see.”

So, the great irony is that we will indeed be traveling with a companion anyway—the one who is most guaranteed to hate every second of it.

Ah, life.

Test Weekend

We bought a camper and a truck to haul her with, waiting up to seven months for delivery due to new pandemic “norms.” We bought small, as there are only the two of us (plus one additional happy cat camper, eh-hem.)

Last weekend we trundled ourselves out for a test weekend to Gettysburg, ala the Drummer Boy campground. We weren’t there for sightseeing purposes, though, although there is much to see if you haven’t been there yourself…no, it was something much more nefarious: Exactly HOW MUCH of our lives COULD we squeeze into this 26-foot camper?

As it turns out…not nearly as much as we hoped. We’d divided our goods between a storage unit and boxes that went into the camper, and Friday night was another in a long line of packing and unpacking nightmares of which I’ll spare you the details. The pics speak for themselves after all, no?

By Saturday a.m. we finally had the place looking as promised in the brochure, but it was not without a meltdown or two. (It was Joe…ok, fine, it was me...picture me wailing and throwing myself on the bed proclaiming I was done and couldn’t do it another second and you could have been right there with us.)

I’d been invited by one of my long-time facebook friends, Stephanie Baum, to come visit her cat rescue Saturday morning while we were in Gettysburg, Forever Love Rescue. I went in expecting a home-based rescue the way DDB was until we got the center, but I was blown away by the beautiful building and all the precious cats waiting and hoping for their new forever homes!

One of the things we talked about was how people like me in the early 2000s had inspired Stephanie to get involved in animal rescue, and it was both thrilling and gratifying for me to see that the cycle continues—it’s now women like Stephanie inspiring others to take action on behalf of animals.

Forever Love was exactly what I’d hope every cat facility would be: cats who did well with other cats and had “graduated” roamed free throughout the facility, plus they have foster homes, and wonderful and dedicated leaders and volunteers. What a joy for me to experience!

I promptly plopped my butt down on the floor and tried to make friends with every feline who came within petting distance. Only one wasn’t amenable to my considerable charms, so I’d call it a win right there.

We’ll be heading to the northeast soon . . . if any of my other rescue friends would like a visit and a shout-out please let me know! I’d love to see your work for the animals.

We rounded out the test weekend with a lunch date with Joe’s sister Ibi and her family, and she gifted us an adorable Happy Camper sign and a book on the national parks. She’s sweet like that. [I understand that Happy Camper signs are a prerequisite to going on the road. I’m not sure what you do if you’re an Unhappy Camper, but we’ll figure that out when the time comes.]

Saturday evening was the first time in forever that we were “done” with our long list of chores and able to relax in our new camper. We sat beside each other and read and chatted for a bit, but then it seemed like we were getting on each other’s nerves. So I slunk on over to the bed to read to get a little distance, yet I remained at most only ten feet away from my beloved husband of 11 years.

Um…this might take a little getting used to for two very independent introverts.

My kids are betting how long it takes us to kill each other (I don’t think they mean that in the literal sense, right? I mean, a divorce would be a lot more socially acceptable.) If you wanna get in on that bet contact one of them. I’m not your bookie…unless you wanna give me a cut…

In another two weeks we will officially begin the “Untethered Tour,” and I hope to blog more about our trip and the animal and human friends we meet and make along the way. Follow me to get the scoop on all our adventures!

Can we say Bon Voyage if we’re staying in ‘Murika? Who knows…

Read FREE! Episode Twenty of Imagine: Life on a Chain. Epilogue

Well, we’ve come to the end of our tale. If you’ve reached this point I’m grateful to you for reading along, and I hope you’ll share Imagine’s story with your fellow dog lovers.

Imagine’s character is based on two dogs I rescued from chains, a dog named Magnum—the dog you see pictured on the cover—and one named Banshee, a black lab. Magnum was so damaged by his time on the chain that he had difficulty with life as a family companion. He stayed with me until his death. Banshee loved his ball more than life itself, but suffered from separation anxiety due to his imprisonment. He would have made an incredible working dog, and I believe he could have sniffed out virtually anything if he’d been given the chance he deserved. It always made me sad that he didn’t have the opportunity to excel because of man’s shortcomings.

This version you’ve read will be polished up and made into a book, too, which I’ll announce when it’s ready. I guess it will be more of a novella at around 25,000-30,000 words.

Enjoy Imagine’s finale, and I’ll be back next week with the first episode of a free read on a short story. If you want to catch up from the beginning, go here and just click along the links at the bottom of each episode to reach the next.

Imagine…Life on a Chain

Episode Twenty: Epilogue

Using his Gift

Dream was transfixed by Imagine’s mournful tale of life at the end of a chain, clucking her tongue and cuddling into him when he became too sad.

“Well, that will never happen to you again, my bro,” she insisted. “You’re safe now. Home. For good! Let’s go play some ball. Confession: I’ve missed you so much, that I even taught myself how to play ball alone, the way you always did. Ya dork!”

They raced to the backyard where she proceeded to show him her own perfected toss and catch, and Imagined teased her by getting to the ball first and initiating a round of keep-away.

Dad called them in for breakfast, and then asked Imagine the question he’d been hoping for.

“Imagine, do you want to go back to the center today? They asked if we could put your gift to use for the community to sniff out this virus. Is that something you’d want to do?”

Imagine responded by rearing up on his hind legs and giving a happy “Woof” and a wag of his tail.

“Good enough, then, off we go. Dream, would you like to be your brother’s lieutenant?”

Dream looked at Imagine in confusion, and he quickly explained to her what they would be doing. “Remember when Mom was ill and I could smell the sickness on her?”

“Yeah?” she said, a question in her voice.

“Well, now there’s a new sickness out there among the humans, and I can smell it. I taught dogs at the center to follow my lead, so when I alert that someone is sick they all alert as well. It’s quite impressive to see. Want to try it?”

“I’m not leaving your side, bro, so I guess I’m all in. You’re never getting rid of me again!” Dream responded, a determined set to her shoulders.

Imagine grinned, finding it hard to believe that not only did he have his family back, but he’d get to help his community too. Was he awake? Was this all a dream?

He shoved a paw in his mouth and gave it a chomp. “Yelp!” he cried. “Yep. I’m awake, alive, and I’m finally feeling happy again. Yippee!”

He ran circles around Dad, barking. “Let’s go, old man! We don’t want to be late on our first day!”

Dad laughed and picked up their leashes, motioning for the door.

Keys to the City

They arrived at the center just as the morning volunteers were lining up outside. Folks cheered when Imagine reached the sidewalk, and Becky called out, “Here’s the Dog of the Hour now! Thanks for coming, Imagine, Dennis, and this must be Dream. You turned out so gorgeous, pretty girl.” She held out her hand for Dream to sniff.

Willow was leashed at Becky’s side like the day before, and she pulled the leash taut, trying to reach Imagine. “Guess what, Imagine . . . I think I caught the scent too! Maybe I can lead my own team.”

“Wow, that’s amazing, Willow! I’ll let you take the lead this morning, and if they see you’ve got it too, maybe we can break up into two teams.”

Willow did indeed prove to have the gift as well, so Imagine served as her first lieutenant, Dream following behind and learning the ropes. They scented one staff member and one volunteer, but overall the center had enough help to manage the day’s workload.

Before long, a line of reporters from local and even national news beat a path to Freedom Chaser’s door, with Imagine and Willow putting on demonstrations all over the area.

Soon Willow was adopted by Dad’s new “friend” Julia, and the two dogs and their teams became regulars around town, always starting at Freedom Chasers first thing in the morning and then heading to town hall, the mayor’s offices, and even the county courthouse.

Julia and Willow eventually moved in with Dad, Imagine, and Dream, and the dog who spent three years on a chain now awoke each morning with a smile on his face, memories of the hardships surfacing only in the occasional nightmare.

As masks and vaccines became widely available and the world longed for a return to normal, Imagine was needed less by the community, and that suited him just fine. He looked at the matching Keys to the City framed and hanging on the rec room wall, and smiled.

Willow and he had been honored by the community, their work recognized and valued, and now he could relax and enjoy his golden years with his expanded family, his sister and father by his side.

He was Free. Beloved. And Happy.

Like every dog deserves.

The End

Tamira Thayne is the author of It Went to the Dogs: How Michael Vick’s Dogfighting Compound Became a Haven for Rescue Pups. She’s also written other books for adults and children, including these for adults: Capitol in Chains, Foster Doggie Insanity, The Wrath of Dog, The King’s Tether, The Knights Chain, and The Curse of Cur. For kids of all ages she’s published No Guppy Puppy, Raffy Calfy’s Rescue, Spittin’ Kitten’s Speed-Away, Squirmy Hermie’s Heroics, Smidgey Pidgey’s Predicament, Happy Dog Coloring Book. She is the editor of More Rescue Smiles, and co-editor of Unchain My Heart and Rescue Smiles.