It’s Charlie Bravo Day Eve at the Casa del Whackos, and Charlie’s in one of her moods. On certain nights, she decides that she wants to start the night alone on the couch, but will eventually migrate to the bed by the next morning. Other nights she sleeps like the dead in a sprawl of perpendicularly placed dogs that force me to assume the shape of a contorted starfish to secure any available sleeping area.
But some nights, she wants her dad to herself.
Maybe she’s thinking, as I sometimes do, of being out on the road, just the two of us, me and the girl: no distractions, no cell coverage, the only pressing concern getting camp set up before the sun dips below the rim of the canyon.
The key word in “vagabonding” is “bonding”, as nothing like time spent together on a journey brings two people together; this is also true of the warring parties in one’s own head. This is why there’s nothing like traveling with Charlie, as her boundless enthusiasm makes every stop both an adventure and an extreme test of patience. “C’MONDADTHISISTHECOOLESTTHINGEVERYOUGOTTACOMECHECKITOUT!!!!”
But then when it’s time to crash, and the the tent goes up and the sleeping gear comes out, you had better pray to all that’s holy that you find your place in the sleeping bag before she does. Although she actually weighs 58#, she has this magic power of increasing her density to that of one of the moons of Jupiter; she ain’t moving, and the sooner you resolve yourself to that fact, the sooner you can get on with the rest of your life.
The last trip out west, we camped on the very edge of the Rio Grande Gorge in New Mexico, the river roaring away eight hundred feet below us. As the the great brilliant belt of the Milky Way was arcing it’s way across the desert sky, we elected to sleep without the rain fly on the tent so to have our own private exhibition in the heavens.
Well, a rain fly serves to keep water out, but it also keeps a good deal of heat in. The arid desert atmosphere doesn’t hold its heat at night, and true to form, the temperature plummeted along with the sun. Finding sleep in a cold sleeping bag with a writhing black mass of dog flesh is not an easy feat, but after an extended territory battle which I inevitably lost(as always) and the resulting face slathering session, I eventually faded out.
To be so easily outmaneuvered by a character that thinks nothing of nibbling her butt in public does not speak well for the advancement of our species.
I was rudely awakened sometime after midnight by someone shining a flashlight directly in my face. How did they sneak up on the camp without waking Charlie or myself, and more importantly, why? If it was someone in search of a sleeping bag to share, they were barking up the wrong tree. There was no room at THIS inn, and we were even fresh out of stables and mangers, so they could just go follow another star.
While a rain fly keeps water out, it also keeps light out; what my sleep befuddled mind had me convinced was an obnoxious flashlight was actually the light of a brilliant Comanche moon that had risen high in the desert sky. The lunar landscape around us was bathed in an eerie glow as bright as day; athough I would love to be able to better describe it, I must confess it was difficult to see clearly when buried as deep as humanly possible inside the bag in a vain attempt to evade the piercing light and the frigid night air.
But, lordy, what I wouldn’t give to be there right now; right, Charlie?
Are you kidding, dad? The other dogs haven’t figured out that we’ve snuck off to Zach’s old room, it’s just you and me, and we can turn the light off and the thermostat up should the need arise. I would call that the best of both world’s, eh, papa-san?
Except one thing, Charles.
What’s that, daddums?
We ain’t on the road.
Yeah, there IS that…
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