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.

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?

Untethered Tour Shares Massachusetts Campsite with Chippy, Pays in Sunflower Seeds. Oh, and We Visit Some Places, Too.

Do These Seeds Make my Face Look Fat?

I love chipmunks. Bunnies, too. I’d love them anyway, but one of the primary reasons I’m so enthralled is that our home in Virginia had next to none of either, and what you don’t see every day you start to miss and become even more fascinated by. I could only surmise that there was so little food for animals higher in the chain that the chipmunks and bunnies were overhunted and all but disappeared; the situation made me sad.

I had one little guy for awhile but I told myself not to get too attached—I watched him for weeks but then he was gone…[sniff.]

Anyhoo, the chippy you see above was one of the two reasons our campsite in Littleton, Massachusetts (https://campatminuteman.com/) was my favorite yet. The second? A completely wooded locale surrounded by tall trees left me feeling all nestled in, like our small rodenty flatmate.

As we began to back our camper into the site I spotted two of the little guys chasing one another up trees and over rocks and was immediately happier. A chipmunk (or two) I could love for days, yippee!

I discovered “my” chippy had a hole right near a rock by the septic line. Fine, maybe he wasn’t the wisest of chippies—or maybe he won that “crappy” locale in a booby prize contest—but he was still mine, all mine! I immediately set about plotting how to introduce myself, what kind of food I should offer, and if he would agree to be my valentine or not. That last desire made me particularly nervous, because putting myself on the line like that also left me wide open for the worst possible outcome: chippy rejection!

To be honest, I don’t know if “he” was really a dude or not [I had a vibe], but I’m an equal opportunity chippy snuggler, so I was all in regardless.

I immediately procured [yes, these are for ME, honey], some shelled sunflower seeds and put a little pile in sight of my window. Within moments Linus (that’s his name, he told me, I swear!) was onsite fillin’ up. Impressive! How do they know so fast? Smell, sight? Maybe I should investigate, or you can educate me, which sounds easier now that I think about it.

I dug out my camera with the long lens to get a closer shot, then I piled seeds around the campsite so I could watch him discover the next and the next and then carry his booty off to his lair. As I watched him my heart splooted and the baby talk splurted outta my mouth, “Oooh, come here sweet little guy! Those cheeks…can I please kiss ’em?”

He, of course, because he’s small and probably doesn’t swear, even to himself, replies, “Good seeds, Nutto, but you’re not getting those freaky lips anywhere near THESE cheekies. Now remove your nasty poo-mobile from my proppity.”

But since I don’t speak Chippish (which I will rectify as soon as Duolingo gets onboard), I continued to give him seeds and attempted to woo him daily with varying degrees of success.

Joe Channels His Redneck Ingenuity

I guffawed when he said he’d use the leafblower to get the fire going. He had the last laugh. I poo-pooed his desire to roast marshmallows inside instead of out on a rainy night, but he got me on that one too. He’s obviously been studyin’ up! Now I gotta’ get me a “Redneck Camping 101 for Idiots” manual too so I can find all the workarounds.

We Did Sightsee Too…Salem was First

I was excited to visit Salem because of the notoriety of the place, and found myself a bit disappointed. I mean, not sure what I was expecting, really? Bonafide witches galore, unknown and super creepy creatures at every corner and perched in every tree? Perhaps my expectations were too high…

The city was bigger than we thought, so after we finally located a parking garage (nope, not a city girl) we jumped on the next bus tour ($22, recommended) and then visited two of the many museum choices.

The Salem Witch Museum ($16.50 each) seemed to be the most popular, but I was like, “Um, why?” after we spent our time and money to get in on the action. Consider yourself warned. Not only that, but [uh-oh, is she warming up the soapbox for a RANT?] you could ONLY buy tickets online…even if you were standing at their door.

Which seems not only rude, but also ROO-OODE. What about the elderly, or people who just don’t have a smartphone or internet for whatever reason? They just can’t come? Discrimination, I tell ya!

Joe and I can muddle our way through these kinds of things even though we speak internet as our third or fourth language. But if my mother were still able to travel she simply couldn’t get into the museum, for all the reasons mentioned above. I’m all for online tickets…they’ve made our lives no doubt easier. But we can’t discriminate against those for whom today’s world can be very overwhelming, can we? [End rant.]

I “enjoyed” the Salem Witch Dungeon ($13 per person) more, although by then the bar wasn’t very high. Pretty much wherever you went you heard the same tale of how it all went down—some teenage girls were looking for attention by creating drama, and then some so-called Godly people got in on the action by lying about folks they didn’t like so they would be killed. Nice. So what we’re saying is people then were just as nasty as they are today? Noted.

Boston’s Duck Boat Tour, and Then a Boat Tour

Yes, this may seem redundant, but not in the mind of my hubby, whose inner workings I’m not always privy to. We attempt to make what we see and do fair by either choosing something we both enjoy or taking turns. Since I really wanted to do the Duck Tour, when he still wanted to take a harbor tour after I simply shrugged and said “Ok.” Whatever floats his boat, right? Apparently that’s boats and more boats…

We had a real character for a tour guide on the duck boat tour, and I can only remember two of his jokes to go with the above pics: 1. Here’s a statue of a woman looking at her phone in church, and then they hanged her. 2. There’s a bar across the street from this cemetery, and it’s the only place in the world you can drink a cold Sam Adams while overlooking a cold Sam Adams. (I didn’t say he was politically correct.)

Joe said he’d never been to Boston, but I knew I had…except I’d only seen the Capitol building because I was chained out in front of it all day. Chained dogs don’t get city tours of course; they’re ostracized and ignored, which I can assure you happened to me in every state I visited. “Who’s that crazy lady on the chain? She’s soooo awkward! Avoid her at all costs.”

Whatever, people! I was making a point…

I met this rabbit at the Capitol building. He almost came right up to me! I’m used to woodland creatures who run at the first sight of a human, these city guys blow my mind. If I wasn’t already engaged to Linus the Chippy, I would have offered Bun Bun my hand as well. No two-timing allowed…at least in the same state. That’s my rule and I’m sticking to it.

I told you that Joe and I are antisocial introverts who hide in our camper and never talk to anyone. Yeah, that’s kinda true, although I’ll have you know I’ve been making a little effort to meet new people. Why, just today I talked to our neighbors in the campground, as a matter of fact, and they were nice and didn’t cut me up and cook my eyeballs or anything.

They’re both pretty adorable

We had some mail sent to Joe’s son’s friend’s apartment in Boston, because mail on the road is a bit of a nightmare. Rachel kindly walked downtown to rondevue with us after her work and we had dinner together; then we got to meet her puppy Atlas, who you can imagine I was quite taken by. (We wrastled.)

I also went on a lunch date-but-not-a-date with author Christy Burbidge, who has two books with FreedomChaser and is co-editing Don’t Look a Gift Couch in the Mouth with me [Yes, I know we’re decades behind, but I promise it will be out in time for the holidays. My bad….] We forgot to get a pic together though, so my question is “if there’s no pic did it even happen?”

Enjoy some more photo evidence of our Massachusetts stay. Or not. Really, the choice is yours:

We’re currently in Maine, so sign up for updates or check in next week for more Untethered Tour news!

Tootie funny: she tried to go into her hiding spot from the other side—got stuck—so she just hung out like that for a bit before she backed out and huffed to her normal “office.”

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.

The 7 Things a Cat Named Tuna Tried to Teach Me that I Failed to Learn

My limbs felt heavy as the dog and I plodded up the hill, like gravity had doubled its pressure and forgotten to notify me in advance. I fought the unseen forces that held me tightly to the earth, my legs barely clearing the ground as I slogged my way toward home.

The drizzle of rain was appropriate, even soothing. At least it matched my mood.

I noted without much interest that I seemed incapable of walking at a normal speed, that the grief manifested itself in physical ways, too.

It wasn’t just all in my head.

Una was unbothered by most things…even new arrivals didn’t phase him.

Tuna had been gone a week now, and I was no nearer to moving past the intense mourning than I was the day he left me. In fact, I felt worse. I got out of bed, but only because I had other animals who needed me. I moved forward with my day, but only because that’s what I did—and I was afraid if I stayed in bed too long I’d never leave it.

The low-grade depression I ran with most days intensified in times of deep distress.

I sat down to eat my breakfast and felt utterly alone, even though His Puppyness still lay at my feet and our other cats meandered about the kitchen. Except Tuna always sat in the chair next to me, insistent on checking to see if I had anything good. He’d take a sniff first to determine if he was missing anything, and then sometimes he’d accept a little bite of butter toast. And then maybe one more. Once he was satisfied, he’d jump down and wander off.

I pulled the chair closer to me so the dog couldn’t steal Una’s treat, like I always did.

Pretended the chair wasn’t empty . . .

I dreamed the first night he left me that my mother with dementia was dressing herself on a picnic table, unaware that she was giving an entire slew of strangers an unwelcome peep show. Awkward.

I awoke in horror (no Freudian analysis, thank you), but then reality hit me that my baby was gone . . . and I realized I’d repeat that dream ten times over rather than face this particular reality.

Because my baby, my emotional support cat, was gone.

No, we had no official documentation in regards to his emotional support cat status, it was just an unspoken agreement between us. His loss devastated me.

The day I’d dreaded for years had come.

We all have that one, or two if we’re lucky, animals who becomes our soulmates. There’s no rhyme or reason to how it happens, it just does. We usually love all our rescue companions, but some slip past the guardrails and take over our hearts.

Tuna was a rescue kitten who came to me in the early 2000’s. One of our Dogs Deserve Better volunteers discovered him dumped in a ditch near her house; he was still very young, and very, very sick. She asked if I’d take him and I couldn’t say no—because he was just a little guy, and because he immediately tugged at my heartstrings.

I had every intention of rehabbing him and finding him a new home.

But instead he stayed, for the next umpteen years.

We named him Charlie, but his name quickly devolved, becoming first Charlie Tuna, then Tuna, The Biggest Fish, and—because my daughter was just learning to talk and dropped a lot of her initial consonants—The Biggest Ish and then finally, he became just Una.

Una was my world from the very beginning. He was curious and friendly with everyone he met, but he loved his momma. [There’s no accounting for taste.] He was incredibly tolerant of my daughter dragging him around, cradling him on his back like a baby, even sticking goofy hats on his head. Through it all his eyes would seek out mine, as if to say, “Are you gonna’ just leave me hanging here, or what, Ma?”

Una was smart. He knew what he wanted and he went after it, communicating in no uncertain terms his goals. He slept on my head whenever he could, and I loved nothing more than snuggling my face into his precious neck.

Una loved his Liquid Biocell, and opened his mouth for it without hesitation

He jumped onto the kitchen stool each morning and yowled loudly for his biocell (num nums we called it) and his licks of coconut oil until his needs were met.

Una was that perfect mixture of cat vs. dog in temperament. I always found dogs to be a bit too needy, but cats have a reputation for being standoffish. Una landed right in the middle of the two, and his uniqueness made him beloved by most everyone he met.

The mere thought of losing him sent me into spasms of internal panic, and once he turned ten I reminded myself often to treasure each moment with him. I burned the memories into my ever-so-forgetful brain in hopes I wouldn’t lose them.

When I realized he was leaving me—liver failure came for him—the panic set in for real. I stayed up all night, cuddled him even when he grew weary of being cuddled, and explained that I needed him. I couldn’t let go.

But I knew I had to, because I loved him too much to watch him suffer for me to selfishly eek out an extra day or two together.

I’m not ok, and I really don’t know how to go on without him.

Una tried, and failed, to teach me many things over the years. I wish I had his personality as a human, but he was pretty much my opposite in every way.

Here’s a list of the Top Seven Things I would have learned from the best cat ever, if I were the teachable sort:

1. Sleep on heads, or in a pile, because there’s no sense in waking up alone.
2. Never meet a stranger, but if said stranger isn’t kind, leave ‘em in the dust and go home to your mommy.
3. You can both drink and eat with your hands, don’t listen to anyone who tells ya’ different.
4. Take a walk with the big dogs, no sense sitting around on the porch.
5. Find your person and become their world.
6. Let others groom you whenever possible. No sense doing it yourself!
7. Keep your dignity until the end, and go out with your person by your side.

This morning the phone rang, and caller ID told me it was the vet’s office. I knew why they were calling. I picked up, keeping my voice even, smooth…indifferent.

“Hello?”

“Is Ms. Thayne there?”

“Speaking.”

“Hi, we just wanted you to know that Tuna’s ashes are back. You can come pick them up anytime.”

“OK, thank you. Have a great day,” I replied, not a whisper of pain in my voice.

I dropped the act as I replaced the receiver, holding back a sob. Every new reminder becomes a fresh stab to my already flayed heart. 

I’m watching TV after dark—our time together, the time when he always sought and found my lap. Every evening I held him, caressed the day’s worries away, and we both looked forward to those few hours. I become engrossed in the show and momentarily forget. Then a commercial hits, and the heaviness descends anew.

It seems that at the end of every happy ending there is just THE END.

RIP, Una. That day has come for us. And I miss you as much as I feared I would.

See you at the bridge, my love. Catch me some Swedish fish, please…Mommy likes those.

My baby.

P.S. There’s another story about the time I THOUGHT I lost Una in our Rescue Smiles book, if you’re interested.