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Karen and Barkley go Camping:
mom's satellite journal

by Diannek


Here's a selfie of the two of them
checking out some petroglyphs in the dessert. Karen didn't have to worry
about Barkley running off. He stayed close.

Karen reveals her plan: I guess you would call ours a close knit family. I’m very tight with my daughters. We live within 5 miles of each other and spend lots of time together. Karen and I take vacations together. So imagine my surprise when she told me she was going on vacation, a camping trip to Yellowstone, without me. Oh, bummer. Well, small bummer though. The whole family had just gotten home from a nice long Hawaii trip and I was happy to be unpacked and looking forward to a nice long lazy rest of the summer – at home. And I'm not a big fan of camping trips.

Karen, however, was excited to go on a nice long road trip with her new doggy, a black lab mix that we call Barkley. Camping! I’m not sure Karen has even been camping before. And this is to be a big trip, from San Jose, California, to Yellowstone Park, Wyoming and back. She’ll be driving her mature Toyota 4 Runner and bringing actual camping gear. Tent, sleeping bag, all that sort of thing.

And nobody even asked Barkley if he likes camping. He’s a middle-aged doggy, beautiful, but scarred, big body, spends a lot of time sleeping. Great fur, wild swinging tail. He looks fearsome but he’s really just a big oaf of a dog who tolerates cats, hates other dogs, likes walks, short ones, but really loves to loaf. He weighs about 80 lbs so he’s a handful. Karen is training him not to lunge and try to maim every other dog he comes in contact with.

So Karen had been somewhat shy about telling me her plans. I guess she was afraid I would lie down on the floor, kick and scream, or go into some other type of hissy fit, making it difficult, if not impossible, for her to enjoy the trip. I decided not to do that, even though some part of me really didn’t want my 40 year old daughter to go on the road so far from home, alone, except for a big black dog. Scary, right? But knowing the dog was with her helped me keep calm and carry on. Plus, both Karen and I had read Wild, by Cheryl Strayed. If Cheryl, who is also somebody’s daughter, could make that hiking/camping trip and live through it, Karen and a big mean-looking oaf of a dog, in a very safe truck, could go on a camping road trip.

Here's Barkley, the co-pilot, in his specially configured passenger seat, wearing his road warrior bandana. Karen says he was game for the trip. He stayed alert and watchful. Good doggy! He especially loved herding cows, which they came across occasionally on the back roads. If he could talk, I think he would tell us he liked Motel 6 nights the best.

On the Road
: The first day on the road Karen was headed for Lake Tahoe. Before she left Karen reminded me that I had an app on my iphone called Find My Friends, affectionately known as the stalker app. It's a satellite app that tracks friends, letting you know where they are in the world. They have to agree to be stalked, of course. I wasn’t paying much attention at first, mainly because I didn’t really understand how the app worked. Then I figured out that there’s a setting that lets you see real ground features, not just a blank grid with labels on it. And Karen's car was a big dot that moved along the ground. Things suddenly got more interesting once I could see rivers, lakes, towns, trees, bushes, big boulders even, and all the roads nicely marked.

That first night she didn’t end up at Lake Tahoe as she had planned. We couldn’t text so I didn’t know why she was so far from the lake. Her dot went to the lake, and then it moved somewhere else. It was a puzzle that I couldn’t solve because we couldn't communicate. I worried about it, and I have to confess that I didn’t sleep too well that night. I could think of lots of scary scenarios about why she wasn't at the lake. Gulp. But the next morning Karen texted when she could and told me that she had to find a different camp site, which turned out to be a nice one by the Truckee river. The Tahoe campground had been full. Simple answer. Sigh.

Her first night went well, but Barkley was scared, he shivered and seemed confused. He probably wanted to be in his own beddy-by at home. That was then we realized that Karen was camping with a house dog, a dog who prefers walls and floors to hard ground in foreign places. He prefers familiar walks with familiar smells to strange paths and weird smells. He’s a fraidy dog.

We know something about Barkley’s background. Previously, he lived in a small apartment and his owner worked long hours so he spent most of his time in his crate. He doesn’t mind his crate, but Karen seldom asks him to spend time in it. She lets him wander around the house while she’s at work. And there are 3 cats also living with her so there is company. Karen says she’s going to stop worrying about Barkley being cooped up in the house. He likes it that way!

In the old days when somebody went on a road trip, they stopped here and there and occasionally bought a postcard and mailed it home. About a week later, the family would know where you had been a week earlier. You might call home when you could find a pay phone, but that was all the communication there was. And everybody was fine with that.

No longer do we have to wait by the phone or mailbox for news from our loved ones, Stalker App will let you know where they are in real time – most of the time. The “most of the time” part is difficult for me. Satellites don’t do well in mountainous areas. They will be working just fine and then all of a sudden they say "Location unknown". What? I'm getting used to the fact that I can see where she is most of the time, but usually when she stops for the night, I lose contact until she hits the road again.

So as the days are passing Karen is learning how to camp, and learning a lot about Barkley too. They have had some great adventures and I have been lucky enough to follow along with them. I check in via text with her in the morning just before she hits the road. She has also called a few times and she sends photos. Once she was really frustrated because she couldn’t find what she was looking for and kept back tracking. I had seen her very confused dot and was wondering what was going on. She called then. I was glad to hear from her because I could almost feel her frustration from here. A stalker person can make up many scenarios to account for such odd maneuvers, but they are usually wrong. So I’ve stopped doing that. I’m trusting that she is making good decisions and is safe and sound.

Karen's last night on the road was spent at the northeastern edge of California,
near Goose Lake. Here's the border sign at the exact edge
of California. She couldn't help but notice the gun shop sign on the Oregon side.

: As I finish up the summer edition of Clever, Karen is now home from her great adventure. She put 3,500 miles on her truck, visiting Nevada, Utah, Wyoming, Idaho and Oregon. She had a wonderful time but admits that parts of it were a little frightening. Both she and Barkley had a few tense moments in their tent. They didn't venture out of it after dark. Once an animal came into her camp, and sniffed her tent. Barkley growled but was shivering with fear. The animal peed on the tent and then left.

Karen met up with lots of camping families who were friendly. They were good company and gave her sound advice, like be sure to buy some bear spray before heading into Yellowstone, which she did. A couple of old cowboys camping next to her fixed her and Barkley a great steak dinner, and then provided a getaway breakfast to boot. She had a few ordeals that she didn't mention until she got home. It was easier to hear about them while she was sitting next to me at Coco's than to get bits and pieces from the road. I was grateful for that.

Moms the world over will be moms, we can't help it. We love our kids and worry about them, even after they are all grown up and on their own. This was a grand adventure for both of us. We will have lots of giggles about it in days to come as she reveals more and more of her adventure to me. Meanwhile, I'll be so happy to have her sitting across the table from me, and not be a dot on a satellite map.

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