Sunday, March 14, 2010

Travels with Sally

There is something about traveling alone with a dog for a trip of two or three hundred or so miles that is at once energizing, affirming, and satisfying. Not by any means that lesser distances with the same dog are lacking in satisfaction; quite often a simpler trip, some ordinary chore or even a trip to swim laps at the Y pool is the better for her company. The longer the trip, you might say, the more different its rhythm and camaraderie. A simple trip to the bank, for instance, usually brings her a biscuit or, if the teller knows her, one for now, one for later.


The longer distance, say the approximately three hundred twenty miles between 652 Hot Springs Road in Santa Barbara and 121 Fox Hollow Road in Woodside, affords a dramatic shift in scenery--the Pacific Ocean, the San Joaquin Valley, and those majestic tall sticks, Palo Alto, the redwoods-chances to chat, chances to pause for rest or coffee or, in Sally's case, water; certainly there is an opportunity to discuss and merge opinions on meal options. Do we want, for instance, to hit the Quiznos for her roast beef and your turkey on the way up, then a more leisurely supper of carnitas at Mariscos in Soledad on the way down. And since one of us seems interested in peeing around San Juan Batista, do we pull off at The Artichoke Capital of the world at Watsonville or Stay with it a few more miles to Gilroy, the Garlic Capital, where we might just crash for the night, thinking about the breakfast options at The Paradise Cafe, where the hot cakes are the size of a steering wheel on an eighteen-wheeler and Sally enjoys the linguica sausage?

Seen as an invitation to consider the fairness of factoring in Sally's needs, the longer trip represents an opportunity to revisit a trip made untold numbers of times when you lived in the hills just north of the Hollywood Bowl and had significant reasons to visit San Francisco, and now in more recent years, like the circuit riders of eld, visiting writing groups. The result is thinking more like Sally in terms of smells, bits of landscape added to her portfolio, freedom to stroll away from untoward traffic, some variety of greenery, and places to effect removal of waste material with comfort.

None of these Sally-like approaches are disagreeable to you and when you factor in your priorities with hers, you find her ahead on points. Thus does she slow you down to be alert for adventures, for places you, oriented to different types of goals, might ordinarily miss.

Arriving at downtown Woodside by about eight, you have time for a latte at the Woodside bakery and an opportunity to fill the two water bottles you carry for her. Alongside Buck's famed Woodside Restaurant, there is a long, pleasant walk way alongside a stream that mostly is conducting serious stream business. There are eclectic patches of grass, a large horseshoes game layout, and a wide enough pathway to accommodate humans, horses, and dogs. You sip and walk, Sally sniffs and investigates. It is just the right prelude to the writing workshop that begins at nine. You come outside to visit her during midmorning break and of course you lunch together, which means some venison jerky for her and perhaps a sandwich for you, followed by a walk along the back part of the parking lot of Roberts' Market, which abuts a large, lush tangle of shrub and grass.

This is a group of writers you've been with for over twenty years; meaning some good friends and always one or two works in progress that are thoughtful and engaging. Five o'clock arrives always a bit too fast for your taste. Then it is farewell for another six or seven weeks.

Sally greets you warmly as you slide into the car, buckle up, and move down Woodside Road toward the 280, which will lead you at length to the 85, which short-cuts you to 101 south, just before Gilroy. You are scarcely two miles away from Woodside and Fox Hollow Road, telling Sally how the open road beckons to us and our whims, dog and human, now. Suddenly, on our left, is the linear accelerator associated with Stanford University, the sight of which always reminds you not so much of sub-atomic particles in rapid movement, intended for collision, but of ideas sent about at a dizzying speed until they gather escape velocity. There is a sense, especially toward this time of year, of sharp, friendly light, causing the fields to vibrate with light, making the cows and horses so dazzlingly black in the light that you think you can see the traces of rufus lurking in their hides. The horizon seems wide open; you and your dog are darting southward and the afternoon is yours. A Prius pulls abreast of you and Rob, from your group, nods before peeling off. A few moments later, a BMW flashes its lights behind you, and Dell shears off for his turn-off. The horizon yawns comfortably before you. You reach into the glove compartment for a handful of venison treats, which you pass back to Sally.

The afternoon is yours.

Supper is your call, you say.

After a few moments, she clambers from the rear deck to the passenger seat, dances that circling down dance so many dogs seem to know from birth. Comfortable, she reaches over and socks your leg. She's up for an ear scritch, but not too much.

The afternoon closes in on you as you see the announcement for the 85 turnoff slightly ahead.

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