Jess Goes West

The past week has been a whirlwind of driving, sneaking dogs into motel rooms, more driving, beef jerky, gas stations, more driving, unpacking, and settling into California. I think my sleep cycle is still on the eastern timezone. (At least I'm having no trouble getting the dogs out for 6 AM runs?)

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We left the east coast right after a snow storm and two weeks of “arctic blast” temperatures. We slept in Virginia, Tennessee, Oklahoma, and Arizona along the way—and just about every morning was below freezing all across the country. I had initially planned to do some mushing, but since I was keeping pace with Will towing a trailer, I didn’t want to venture too far apart. The goal was to get to California as quickly as we could.

For that reason, my plan to vlog kind of fell apart. I did take some videos, but it’s just me, at the start of each morning, saying where we were and what day it was. I was driving alone and couldn’t record unless we stopped. All our stops were at gas stations, restaurants (only for dinner), and motels—none of which were particularly scenic. Except maybe that stop in New Mexico:

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I’m really proud of how the dogs handled four and a half days of travel. We stayed at dog-friendly motels, but all of them had a two dog limit, so we had to be sneaky getting the dogs in and out of the rooms. Next time I make the journey across, I'll stop to mush and maybe have them sleep in the van, or book a campsite. There were definitely some turds dropped indoors (and pee... and barf...), but they did their best with limited outdoor time. The older dogs handled everything like pros—they're used to traveling in the van and snooze the whole way. Hubble, on the other hand, would do his moo-howl after about five hours of driving. He still held it together pretty well for a rambunctious five-month-old.

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When we crossed into California, we found a spot off the highway to drop the dogs for their midday break. It happened to be right next to a dirt road, so I hooked them up for their first official west coast run:

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It was an extremely short run, as it was in the upper 50s and I didn’t want to overheat them, but they did great. Will ran alongside us with Hubble for a short sprint and he looked so ready to join the team (not yet, little dude). The run was just enough to get them through the last leg of our journey, which was also the most annoying.

The last few miles took us up 7,000+ feet into the mountains surrounding Big Bear. This winter had been bone-dry for the most part (except for the last time Will got here) but we arrived during a snow storm. Of course. We weren’t sure we’d make it up to the house, but decided to spend the money on snow chains and see how things went rather than give up and stuff the dogs in another motel.

The road was mostly clear until we got into town. The rain at the base of the mountain gradually changed over to snow as we ascended and night fell. My 4-cylinder van struggles up hills and Will, towing a car trailer, was being extra cautious. When we made it to our part of town, we had to go downhill then uphill to where the house sits. Literally 0.2 miles from our doorstep, our vehicles got stuck, and we had to give up. We put “I’m sorry!” signs on the windshields in hopes that we wouldn’t offend our new neighbors with our stranded vans and dragged our necessities up the hill.

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Luckily, the next day warmed up quick, and the roads were clear by noon. We got the vans to the house and got to unpacking. I'll have more to say about the house and our new local trails in another post. Until then, there's still so much to do.