Becoming an international Dalmatian and a sports dog

Buckingham – at 4.48pm today I officially become  a cross border dog as at the last minute we decide to head into Canada and get to Vancouver in time for dinner.

Before that however means we have to get there.   We eventually leave the warm hospitality of our Seattle host Bryan mid morning with the aim of going north and perhaps checking out the border towns of Bellingham and Blaine.  First though we hunt for a stateside post office so that we can mail the written postcards that have been piling up.   We hit I-5 north in the sun that is desperately trying to come out and convince us to stay a while longer in Seattle  but we resist the temptation as Lisa has made an appointment with a realtor in Blaine

First we arrive in Bellingham and are given the ‘brief tour’ advice by the Tourist Information office.    We come upon the small suburb of Fairhaven which has a ‘good feel’ about it.   Maybe we are influenced by the unusual bustle of a Saturday lunch time but we have a good feeling about this town.   We make a quick diversion to one of the towns real estate office and are provided with more than we need by Dick, shame that we are in such a hurry and he isn’t because he even offers us lunch – what a nice person?!    Anyway, we promise to come back, which we will, and re-join I-5 to continue north to Blaine where we meet up with Lilla, a Peruvian realtor.   The two houses that we are looking at are in a gated community, which wouldn’t be our choice, but this one has a golf course and a marina:  what more would 2 lazy getting older humans and a dog want?!

We arrive at Lisa’s brother’s house and I discover a brand new sport, or rather, I introduce everyone to a new way of playing table tennis.  I stand next to the net and try to catch the ping pong ball then sprint to chase it from one end of the table to the other.  Failing to catch it, I would take over from one of the players at the end of the table and leap into the air to catch it in my mouth, when I deem this as scoring a crushing point.  What fun although incredibly exhausting.

Wine, wine, wine

Buckingham  – they leave me with Kevin and Salsa and go north to Napa Valley, wine tasting for the day. Salsa and I make sort of a peace and occupy different parts of the house.

Meanwhile in wine country they hit their first winery just before noon and are taken on a behind the scenes tour of Provenance by Shaun, the visitor centre manager. Provenance are about to experiment with cement vats instead of steel from France (so they must be good) and this innovation is apparently the latest thing to hit the valley. They buy a couple of bottles of Malbec from the buy and retreat to the Rutherford Grill for lunch. The it’s off to the Reserve room of BV to sample the clone wines that go into making the top of the range George de Latour.

Up the hill to Artesa, a favourite spot as the views are great and the winery is buried in the hill. However the wines don’t match the vistas and it is all too much for Rex. The tastings are rounded off with bubbles at Domaine Caneros, one of the few places that serve full glasses and stay open until 5.45pm.

Being the non drinker Lisa has been driving the other 3 sippers around all day so they make their way through the Napa rush hour to join Mark and Cheryl Laven, old friends and colleagues from Canada, for dinner at the latest Thai restaurant in town. Mark L brings a fine selection of wines which they all endeavour to make an impression in.

Full, (in more ways than one) they leave for the 2 hour drive home. The GPS having failed, Janie provides directions home (time to get a new toy perhaps).

Wine country to Frisco

Buckingham – we head off into the countryside for a run early this morning and it is so quiet. There was a storm last night so there is a lot of stuff down from the trees.

The sulphur smell from the spring pervades the water supply so Lisa refuses to shower in fear of her hair being sulphureted. The time saved by Lisa not showering means that we set off very early this morning, so early that there is no chance that we can get any wine tastings in.

The aim today is to travel north along the coastal Highway 1 to San Francisco, our first stop is Hearst Castle but fortunately dogs are not permitted so they decide not to leave me in the car for 3 hours and give the edifice a miss.

We pull over to our next stop to see a colony of elephant seals on a beach a few miles north, 3,000 of them. The male can weigh upto 5,000 pounds.  They are a noisy bunch and I can’t quite make out what they are and eventually decide iit’s just white noise that I filter out.

The drive is stunning, fortunately most travellers take the inland Route 101.  Highway 1 is not that busy but due to the bends and switchbacks the journey takes longer than it normally would.

After a long while we reach Carmel-by-the -sea and find an outside café for lunch before walking down to the beach, dog heaven and provides our first touch of the Pacific Ocean on this trip.   We could live here, although slightly $$$. Mark even says if money is unlimited, we’ll buy an ocean front house so I can run wild.

We’re on Route 1 and come across a wolf.   He is inquisitive and approaches closer so Lisa takes a picture whilst I get jealous.   I’m not sharing my bed with my ancestor.   As Lisa leans out to take a photo we think that he is just after a Chinese take away after all.

We call in to Monterey but are not as impressed so head off to Los Altos Hills, in San Francisco where we are staying with Salsa (Janie & Rex).   If it wasn’t for Janie and Rex, good friends from Taiwan,  I wouldn’t be here because Mark & Lisa were foster parents to their Dalmatian Pokey.   Janie cooks up huge meal, their first home cooked meal since our Santa Fe invite, which smells delicious, although I don’t get to taste any.

Trek across the wild west -Santa Fe to Sedona

Buckingham – it’s going to be a long drive, the longest so far, so we attempt to leave early.

Santa Fe is at the very start of the Rocky Mountains so in effect as we head SW to Albuquerque we are crossing the continental divide, another milestone. The weather and the topography change and the further west we go the more cloud we encounter, ominously a sign of things to come perhaps.

East of Flagstaff, our southerly turning point for the day, we take a small detour off I40 to visit Meteor Crater, well Mark does and Lisa takes me for a quick walk because as usual, I’m not allowed in.  It’s amazing that a hole this big was made by a chunk of rock 150 feet across.

We approach stunning Sedona with the sun casting its rays on the red rocks.  The elevation is over 6,000 feet and still the peaks are high above us.   It is breathtaking for the first time in our trip that we come across high peaks.

Lisa is unhappy with our rental.   There is nothing that indicates a warm welcome and we’re here for 2 days.  It is by far the worst place we’ve stayed at and the roaring heat vent even wakes me up in the middle of the night.

Santa Fe – our final day

Buckingham – Saturday in Santa Fe means the flea and farmers markets, we have breakfast at dulce, a local café and then head out. The flea is an artisty place where Lisa engages and tries unsuccessfully to bargain for a cow hide – he wants $400 and gives her a $10 discount.  We walk away to fight another day (see Sedona).  The irony is that these hides are actually imported from Brazil, the chemical tanning process is apparently outlawed in the US.   So what happens to the hides of all the US beef consumed in this country?

We return to our loft and it is with some sadness that they do the final wash and pack, so Mark gets a haircut to relieve the stress, the first of the trip.

The afternoon adventure takes us south west to the small village of Pecos,  we finally see trees instead of scrubs and we take a brief walk around a still frozen lake before heading off to a rendezvous with Melissa, our new-found friend/realtor, who is showing us more houses, but this time in Eldorado, a pancake flat desert community to the south of Santa Fe. Me thinks that Mark is not taking to the moonscape of this town.

We arrive slightly late, but in time for champagne and the sunset at the house of Francis and Michael, our new-found friends and landlords.  I also get to meet the famous Ali Mcgraw, their lab and although we are the same age she is slightly more energetic, pernhaps she is used to the altitude.   We are joined by Melissa and her builder husband Mazatl for homemade pizza and more champers and wine.   We all get along well and are a diverse and communicative group.  If we do eventually settle here, I’ll have my friend Ali Mcgraw,  a realtor, a builder and 2 financiers taken care of already.

Santa Fe – Getting into a routine

Buckingham – We are here for a week and are getting into a sort of routine, up at dawn to drive for a run.  This morning it was -8.5C (that’s 16.5*f for our American friends) and at over 7,000 feet that is quite cold.  We discover that running up the hills at this elevation isn’t as easy as at sea level.  From the dog park we can see over town in one direction and out to the distant snow-capped mountains in the other – makes the early start worthwhile.

Home for breakfast, which today is substantial as we need our energy for the house hunting expedition.  I have been told that SF is a contender in the place to live stakes.

They leave me at home and go to see 6 properties with Melissa.  The typical adobe houses are very charming although the last house, even that the entire area is built by one developer and it’s made of timber, is stunning with an entire glass frontage and a central courtyard.   Lisa is trying hard to convince Mark SF is the place to settle.

They come home to take me to see the State Capitol of Santa Fe.  It is built in the shape of a Zia sun symbol with a large collection of art and monumental sculptures throughout the grounds.

We turn a block to see the San Miguel Mission, built in 1610, is the oldest church in the United States.  Unfortunately, it is closed for viewing so Lisa takes a few quick snaps from the outside which is good because the chill factor is still rather high.

We go back to the dog park where I play with my fav toy and after a short rest at the condo and Mark gets his dream.  They bundle up and walk to Maria’s for their famous margaritas.  The food is enormous and Lisa loves her newly discovered posole (Mexican pork and hominy stew).  They bring back the oven fresh tortillas for me and it’s mmm-mmm-good!

A new years day

Buckingham – happy new year to all my readers!

After exhausting myself by barking at the fireworks through the night we are on the beach before dawn to see a flight of 10 pelicans flying due west – a positive portent perhaps. We head off at 8am and are in Sarasota for breakfast at a great cafe in the sun on the street.   Within minutes they seem to have clicked with this town and there are murmurs that Florida could be back in the frame as a future home (it reminds Lisa of Vancouver).   With breakfast complete and following a chance conversation with a local realtor we end up in the very attractive St Amands Circle and Harding Circle Historic districts  – are the gods trying to tell us something?   We take a diversion up the coast,  Zillowing properties as we go, and regret not having spent more time in Sarasota, but then the beaches  do not allow my 4 paws to walk on them so I’m glad we didn’t stay here.

For the first time since our journey on 15th November we drive westward.  We arrive at our first  La Quinta hotel (they allow dogs) at way past my dinner time, but Lisa is happy because it’s a good size room with king size bed and white cotton sheets.   Never would have expected a roadside motel could be so clean and comfortable.

Apparently I am not allowed to stay in the hotel by myself so they buy take out for the first time:  Chinese food.   So much food that they can’t finish so everything’s in the bin except the rice.  My first 2012 dinner contains rice. wow!

I hear it’ll be an early start tomorrow again to cover another near 400 miles so I’ll better get some beauty sleep in now.

Folly Beach

Buckingham – We are at Folly Beach, about one hour east of Kiawah, not as nice as where we live at the moment and they don’t allow dogs off leash on the beach, but at least it gets us out of the house. Lisa finds a seafood place for lunch so I am reinstalled in the car for a while. She wants salmon, but today’s catch has not yet come in – we find out later that the salmon was originally caught in Scotland. What do you expect if you have lunch at the ‘Crab Shack’.

We see Santa Claus and his people on the beach – very strange as there is hardly anyone else about – what are they thinking?

On the way back we call by ‘the tree’ again and I do my best to provide it with sustenance for the next 300 years while Mark decides that it needs some support – I wish she would stop trying to get me to pose in front of these tourist traps!


Buckingham – we had just finished our normal morning run when we discovered a 3 mile open beach race happening later that morning-of course we had to enter. There were 100’s of runners and a fair number of dogs of all shapes and sizes so for the first time I had some real competition. We started off near the back of the pack and I spotted my nemesis – a boxer – we ran him down and easily overtook him. Next stop the lead dog who was running well with its human and it took me almost a mile to catch up. We led the dog pack at the turn and never looked back. With a mile to go Lisa tried to distract me with an introduction to a female dal but the finish line was in sight and we went for it! Victory. I met the female dog again and Mia is a snoot. She came 2nd in the national dog championship but hey, I have even nicer spots and a prettier face. So I snuff her back, not interested. I crossed the line first and I AM top dog. No one snuffs me.

Thanksgiving – Eve

For the past few days all conversations with strangers have ended with the words ‘Happy Thanksgiving’. In previous years this has always been something to look forward to, invariably dinner with the ‘UN’ and Karen cooks the feast – we miss you guys. This year it is just the 3 of us so we are feelin kinda empty. No doubt there will be fireworks tomorrow night so Mr B will be going nuts.