Pete: Traveling Adventure Dog Extraordinaire

 

Since Pete was adopted in 2005, he has had to make quite a few adjustments in his life. He was adopted in Birmingham, Alabama and has since lived in Arkansas, New Mexico, Colorado and now Texas. He has been able to camp and hike in the Ozarks of Arkansas, Wasatch Range of Utah and the Weminuche Wilderness of Colorado’s San Juan Mountains. He has jumped from rock to rock in the deserts of Southern Utah and forged his own path through freshly fallen snow in the mountains around Durango. He has canoed in Lake Vallecito north of Durango and he is currently learning how to navigate the crashing waves of the Texas Gulf. Through it all, he has been my trusty and steadfast sidekick.

Like most dogs, Pete has learned to roll with the punches and accept his current circumstances for what they are. He has learned to carry a pack with his food/water and swim across rivers when backpacking, jump from rock to rock when in the desert and to be the follower when he gets tired when snowshoeing. He learned that it is hard to say goodbye to his friends, Sumo, Alpe and Lopa. But he has also learned that, even though he doesn’t like car rides, he is going somewhere fun as long as his bed is in the back seat of the truck.

I am not saying that Pete isn’t concerned when there is a change in his routine. From the time that he was adopted, he has shown anxiety in one form or another. As a puppy, he tore up furniture and my favorite shoes when left alone. He eventually graduated from being disruptive to not eating when he was anxious. He has always been a grazer when he eats but would normally always finish off his daily rations by the end of the day. With his anxiety and health issues, his eating habits are more unpredictable these days and make it difficult to know when he needs to go to the bathroom. Eating and bathroom habits are the topics of a lot of conversations regarding Pete lately as well as breathing rates and overheating. Once his routine is settled for a few days, we all seem to relax and become regular again, pun intended.

In October of last year, 2016, we bought the camper trailer and Pete had to get used to our future home. We started selling/donating everything in the house in order to move into the camper and he started showing concern for what was happening around him. It helped when we moved his ‘camping’ bed into the trailer so that he could start making it his home too. It was also around that time that he was diagnosed with Idiopathic Vestibular Disease which caused him to lose his balance and his eyes rapidly moved from side to side. Luckily he started eating solid foods again after a week but was left with head tilt and wobbly back legs. Throughout this health scare it was also determined that his heart was significantly enlarged and that his previously diagnosed heart murmur was more pronounced. He was put on an Ace-Inhibitor and a Diuretic in order to make him more comfortable if everything started to go sour. All of this made us consider his health and quality of life as we moved forward with our travel plans. Ultimately, we decided that if Pete is healthy and able, he will continue adventuring with us.

On July 1st, we threw Pete’s big comfy bed in the truck, attached to our camper trailer, waived goodbye to Durango and began meandering our way to the coast. He really liked stopping at Mom and Jack’s Square Dot Ranch for a few days. He got to play with the cows and inspect a new calf while relaxing in the garden and flower beds. While Justin and I flew off to his brother’s wedding, Pete got to spend a long weekend with my sister, her two man children, and their two dogs. While there he got to see some long lost friends and go for long walks. Once Justin and I were back at the Ranch, we threw Pete’s bed in the truck once again and headed south. Final stop: Crystal Beach, Bolivar Peninsula, Texas.

Now that we have been at Crystal Beach for 2 weeks, Pete seems to be adjusting well. We just had a Vet appointment saying that he hasn’t progressed beyond where things were prior to the move and that his medications are doing more good than harm. We are all learning how to keep him cool when it is supper hot and humid outside. He is getting more and more used to playing in the water as it rushes up on the beach but is still not a big fan of the waves when they crash onto his face. Since he gets a bit overheated on walks in the sun and heat, he will soon be decked out in a life vest so that he can stay cool when exercising in the rolling waves.

Moving forward, I know that I can’t imagine this adventure without Pete. I also know that Pete would do anything to go on adventures with us, even if his old body is tired and worn out. But as long as the fates allow, I will have a nice comfortable bed ready for him.

Buying a Travel Trailer, AKA Sailboat Practice

Hey, we’ve had a few mimosas this morning, lets offer half what they are asking. Whats the worst that could happen? That’s how we bought our RV.

A few months earlier Shannon and I were still working out our plans to move to the coast and start our boat search. where we would live in that time was a big question, and we just figured we would have to rent an apartment or something wherever we decided to go. Having to rent a place, for probably a thousand dollars a month or more and sign some sort of longer term lease was not an ideal situation. We wanted to be able to move quickly if we didn’t find any boats, or move onto the boat if we found one.

I was out for a run one day (where I do most of my good planning) and ran by the local RV dealer. Something struck me, and it stuck with me the rest of the way home. Doing the math (which is most of what I think about while running), I figured if we could buy a used trailer for five or six thousand dollars, that would be just as much as six months renting, and we would have complete flexibility as to where and when we go! The search for an RV began.

The search began as many others do, Craigslist. We quickly found that not only was it possible to get a decent RV for the price we want, but there were several to chose from. Knowing nothing, we just started calling people to try and look at some. This was nearly a complete failure. Apparently the market for used RV’s is such that they sell almost immediately. Every call or email we made, no matter how soon after the post was put up, we we already 2nd or 3rd in line.

Just so we could actually start looking at some we went to the RV dealer that I had passed to originally come up with the idea. We knew most RV’s at the dealer would be WAY over our price range, even the used ones, we just wanted to have a look at what kind of things we should be looking for. After looking at a few, we found one that just connected with is in the right way. Out of curiosity we asked the price. $14,900. Um no, we immediately went back to craigslist.

After several more failed craigslist attempts, we were starting to lose faith in the idea. So while sitting at the bar for breakfast, with our mimosas in hand we decided to just make a low-ball offer for the trailer at the dealer. We walked in with confidence, and offered $7000 in cash (less than half the listing price). To our surprise they didn’t laugh, and a bit of skillful negotiating and some signatures later, we pulled away with our new to us RV.

That very night, we tossed in some camping gear and towed it up to Lake Vallecito for our first excursion in our yet to be named trailer. We discovered many things that trip, how small it was, how not to use the toilet, how to lock ourselves out, and that we needed our own hoses to connect to the water. One advantage was that usually when you buy an RV from a dealer, they want to keep it for a day or two to do a delivery inspection. We were so eager to take it that we didn’t let them do that. but we discovered what worked and didn’t, things like certain lights, tanks sensors, the heater acted weird, and the A/C didn’t work at all. We brought it back the next day and they fixed all of it, $900 worth of work all for free claiming they would have found and fixed those things. I doubt they would have found all of those things as it took several hours of heat running to discover its issues. For more details on the camper itself, check this page, Serenity (our Travel Trailer RV)

We got it back from the the dealer in nearly perfect working order. So I geeked out and promptly began replacing, upgrading, and tearing everything apart. Power is going to be a big issue on the sailboat, and RV power systems are nearly identical to sailboat systems. The trailer has a single 12v battery to power most systems, so I want to know how long that will last. First thing I installed was a battery monitor and live usage gauge. I then spent days testing every light, every pump, every circuit, and fully charging and draining the battery over and over again to determine exactly what everything uses. I found that one of the bigger drains was simply the old incandescent lights. With every light on it was pulling almost 500 watts and about 5 amps, at that rate the lights alone would drain the battery in less than 17 hours of use. I knew replacing with LED’s would significant reduce that power, so on the first of many trips to the RV parts store I found that a pack of 2 LED’s was almost $30! There are 28 lights to replace, so that wasn’t going to work. A quick trip to my local computer found that I could buy a 30 pack of the exact same LED’s for $45, no brainier there. After I installed the lights, I tested again to find that all lit up, it uses ~20 watts total, and just over an amp. Power for lighting was no longer an issue.

Shannon and I live and work on the internet, so upgrade number two was to fully network the trailer. Most RV parks (and future Marinas) have some sort of provided Wifi. For security, I don’t want to be on the same network as everyone else, nor do I want to update all 15 Wifi devices at every stop, so I picked up a Ubiquity Access Point, and configured a separate secure and encrypted internal WiFi for all my devices.

The bonus of all of this? Most, if not all of the upgrades to network and power systems are fully transferable to the boat with we get one!

Speaking of getting a boat, stay tuned for news on that too, we spent all last weekend touring boats down in Corpus Christi.

Adventures in Utah

From the moment I had car, I would drive the back roads of Oklahoma to clear my head. Now that I have a long daily commute, I rely on special places to bring me back to center. Since I am now in SW Colorado, I have my pick of places that can be visited year-round. During the warm months, I venture into the mountains with Justin and our trusty canine companions for a long weekend of backpacking or we pitch a tent along a roaring river in the mountains around Silverton. In the cooler months, the Utah Desert calls our name. Justin introduced me to the desert not too long after we started dating (almost 6 years ago) and I have been hooked ever since. When it is just us, we have a handful of very private camping spots that we prefer, far away from the road and noise of others. The solitude is rejuvenating. It takes us away from our technology and back into our relationship with ourselves and with each other.

We arrived at night and set the following into motion: beer/wine toast (Hooray, we are in the desert!), tent and kitchen simultaneous setup (divide and concur), get the fire raging, put hobo dinner in fire (chicken surprise), eat food (everything tastes better when camping) and sit by the fire and relax (add more beer/wine and maybe a flask of some Utah or CO whiskey). Justin had prepared the Chicken Surprise prior to our departure. It was a lovely mixture of chicken, potatoes, onions, and butter to keep it from sticking. He even made mine with some bell and jalapeno peppers. Just wrap with foil, throw it in the fire, add some cheese and chow down!

The next morning, we planned out our day over mimosas and a tasty blend of eggs, bacon and cheese. This particular trip, we decided to load the dogs and hop into the Tacoma for a little 4 wheeling and then a bit of hiking. We were wondering where road 25 leads and how it intercepted other known roads in the area. We went exploring and found that my Keen sandals became a great sand collection device. Once we determined that we had a good mental mapping of road 25, we headed back to the truck, and bounced down the road back to camp. We even found some wild horses on the way back. After a quick sandwich, Justin decided he would take Lopa for a run. Pete and I decided to lounge in the shade. Having forgotten to put new books on my tablet/phone, I went on a winning streak with Plants vs Zombies. With night approaching, we got the fire raging once again and started our Dutch Oven Taco Casserole: Layers of black beans, homemade tomato sauce, ground turkey, spices, tortillas and loads of cheese! Did I mention that everything tastes better when camping?

Sunday morning, our Taco Casserole leftovers were used to make the most disgusting looking but the most amazingly tasty breakfast concoction when thrown together with eggs. We, and our mimosas, decided to leisurely pack up our gear since we didn’t really want to head back to civilization. Ever so slowly, we packed… (Shannon, March 2016)