Thursday, May 29, 2014

Reflections on Week 2

'Shave Yer Ears'

Funny the things you think about before embarking on a six month journey - mine was this and I stored it in a voice memo on my iphone just in case I forgot my last thought before I got on the road.


It's always fascinated me how much life experience can be condensed down into a mile, a moment, and even a microsecond.  We're on week three and already it feels like eons have passed.  We've zig zagged the coastal mountains and the farmlands of northern Washington down into the city proper and witnessed a whole lot.


Seattle:  The City of ???

Walking amongst the innermost guts of a city, you kinda get to know it on an visceral level.  You don't need to read municipal code, do a Google search or even check in with Wikipedia - just walk through it.  And though I have done all of the above I have torn feelings about this place perhaps because of and despite of itself.  


Bare Naked Baristas?

From Everett to the George Washington Bridge is pretty much a continuous row of used car dealerships, box stores, strip malls, and these curious salacious sexy time coffee shacks like this one. 
And this one.  (FYI - Neither of which convinced Indiana they were worth their weight in Expresso to pop in).

I tried to look up what Seattle's sobriquet is and I got bupkis other than 'Rain'.  Perhaps this place and its people aren't even sure what it is.


To Be Sure 

The beauty here is boundless.  From Pike Place Market to the Chihuly Garden and Glass to the Waterfront District and countless soundside nooks surrounding Elliot Bay, the rusted steel structures of the Gas Works Park and the magnificent Madrona trees that are only found in this part of the world.  

Perhaps then, Seattle is a city of contrasts as its expertly manicured landscape is mottled with the misbegotten.

I have never seen so many homeless people in all of my travels and it's now perfectly clear to me how the Grunge genre got its beginnings here.  

Don't get me wrong, I'm nothing more than a passing observer but taken as a whole, my Seattle experience has been a bit disappointing.


The Second Long Island?

Only once before have we walked through a community that not a single person stopped to inquire about our cause or mission.  Or offer a warm greeting of welcome to the fuzzybutts.  And that was the stretch between the Brooklyn Bridge and Port Jefferson on our first walk.  Seattle now has the distinction of being the second.  

I've spoken with a few folks about this and the best guess is due to the breadth of the homeless population people are desensitized to them.  And by 'them' I mean 'me' since I have a backpack and look kinda homeless.  

At least the chap whose backpack I snapped a photo of at Pike Place Park has some panache.  


Cat Town?

Don't know how to sum Seattle up really and maybe won't have the context for some time. That's why it's taken me a tad longer to post this blog. I suppose I had a preconceived notion of this place and it just didn't play out like I had hoped. The media was kinda 'Meh' I guess from so many who pass through here for some cause or another.

Is this where grumpy cat lives?  Maybe we're just cat-less in Seattle...


Annuit Coeptis

We've been granted safe passage thus far and that's the thing to be grateful for. A few close calls and some rough and tough stretches but we're making progress and as our dear friend Buddy pointed out yesterday, we're at the midway point to Oregon.  And we made some new friendships and revisited old ones, too.  

But it's time to move on.  

It's not always up to us if the message we deliver is received but no community can be deaf and dumb to an epidemic so broad reaching and indiscriminate. That's why we talk loudly and carry a big stick.  

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Twinkle Toes

Last week I noticed a blister on Hudson's paw and he's been sidelined since. Just as in people it's not an uncommon occurrence but in all of the miles we've logged together, not one we've ever encountered before.  

Perhaps it was a jagged stone, or a thorn from the wild strawberry bushes that abut the backroads we travel, or a shard from a discarded bottle that caused it but it's healed now and tomorrow Hudson will rejoin the ranks and our pack is back again.  

To Booty or Not to Booty

... is the question.  There are many many mitigating factors for an answer but for me, it's three.  (1)  Breed.  Some do better with footwear than others and some are better suited than others.  With double hind dew claws - Pyrs aren't.  Plus, dogs in general just don't like them.  

(2) Trail conditions. Some situations necessitate them, surely, as Hudson and Murphy wore them many many miles on our first walk.  And (3) Temperature.  The weather has been favorable for us since we first left the border May 10th barely reaching above 70 during the day but it's on the rise which is why we try to reach our daily goals before noon time before the ambient temperature of the sun has yet to heat up the pavement significantly.  


Hudson has always had 'soft paws'.  It's part of his charm.  Can't wait to have him rejoin us on the trail tomorrow as we have 10 miles to Tacoma.  

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Chasing Your Hero

Never cared for Matthew McConaughey even though he comes from my stomping grounds.  A grown man shouldn't outta spend his time doing stoner flicks and romantic comedies.  And he's notorious for taking his shirt off & the south is stocked full of guys like him trying to impress girls.

But I've seen some of his more recent stuff - a few episodes of True Detective and saw a video of his Oscar speech that's made me reevaluate him.

In his presentation he talked about how he never saw himself today but who he could be down the road - How 'hero' is unattainable but it's not unchasable and his speech spoke to what I've been feeling for a long time.

Who I am is always around the bend, atop the next mountain, and through the bottomlands.  It's what keeps me going and forward bound.  And it's made me realize that I am an inspiration to some.  And some of them want to walk with us on the West Coast and we'd love your company.

Walk a mile.  Walk a day.  Walk a week to show your solidarity in this story - contact Valerie K to schedule and coordinate. She's been inspired and in training to come out to walk with us for a week.

You're a hero.  Now chase it.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

The Trailer is Live

One walk sponsor was inadvertently left out of the graphic in the trailer and that's Easter Mountain Sports (EMS).  They donated a sleeping bag, head lamp, and other camp gear. There are other individuals who have made this journey possible and my heartfelt gratitude goes out to them as well.  Puppy Up!

Speaking of, I have to promote the Puppy Up song that Joshua Louis composed - this is the instrumentation of it but you can purchase the full version of it on iTunes.  

Sunday, May 18, 2014

Reflections on Week 1

Friday we made it to Edison WA wrapping up week 1 of 25 of our journey. By my estimates we logged about 55-60 and given the week we had, I'm pleased with our progress.  

The Launch

Our sendoff Saturday the 10th at the Peace Arch Park was great. Folks from five states were there including two of our PUPS (Chris & Hope & Lori & thanks to Valerie for helping plan and coordinate), Erick with TAGG, and Sarah Charney the veterinarian oncologist from Boundary Bay Specialty Hospital in Vancouver.  


Unless you're an extreme backpacker you're prob unfamiliar with this anatomical reference. It puts the G in grind and the work in twerk.  It's a subset of pelvic muscles that are quite possibly impossibly capable of being trained.  But after a few days with a fifty plus pound pack they hurt.  

But for me, the term is also a metaphor for what the onset of a massive undertaking is like. There are things that just can't be planned for or anticipated. Like Hudson throwing up in our tent.

Yep, just two nights into it, I had drifted off into the good sleep only to be abruptly awakened to the sound of retching.  Hudson had vomited earlier that Mother's Day morning and I didn't give it much thought since he occasionally has a heave and a hurl and seemed fine from then on.  But after five more times in the tent Sunday night, I made the decision to pull him from the road for a few days rest.  

Google v Reality

Planning our route from Memphis is a whole lot different than getting up here and scouting out the terrain.  I had planned on a more direct path but road conditions sometimes dictate otherwise.  

To be sure, the options are kinda limited since I-5 is the only direct highway from border to border so I anticipated zigging and zagging until we got to Southern Oregon at which point we'll pick up 1/101 the rest of the way.  But I've made the decision to stick the shoreline as much as possible because they be mountains up here.  Speaking of....


Only in my world would our first great technical challenge be a mountain named Chuckanut.  

And though it did try to toss us a few times, its native name means long beach and even on the occasionally treacherous stretches, we bore witness to some of the most stunning bay side vistas.  As well, the mountainside is lined with cascading waterfalls pictured nearby.  

It's also home to Larrabee State Park, a destination point for anyone travelling in this area.  We took a days rest there and the beach on Sammish Bay was so totally alluring.

The whole area, including our time in Bellingham WA, now known to me as the City of Backpacks, reminded me of the Sirens of Shenandoah in the shadow of the Blue Ridge mountain back on our first walk.  I didn't want to leave.

The people I met here are all so beautiful eclipsed only by the presence of their surroundings.  From the Bellwether Hotel to Boulevard Park to the Interurban Trail we picked up for a bit, this is a special place in the universe and I'm surprised I've been tempted so early on in the walk.  Indeed, Erick my walking companion for a few days remarked many times that this is a place he'd like to relocate to.  But the journey must continue...

Testing the Mettle

The first week is always unkinking - adjusting weight load, routes, and all sorts of last minute adjustments physically and spiritually.  It's a curious truism one which I can only suspect because god's just making sure you're serious.

We were picked up Friday and transported to Seattle for the Petapalooza and it was great to spend time with Buddy and Ja-Cee, our PUPS up here in the area and their kiddos - Fonto & Sabrina.

In a few hours, we'll be back on the road.... Until next time here are a couple of other pics to tide you over...

Tuesday, May 13, 2014


 I wrote sometime ago about still being haunted by Highway 40 out of Baltimore on the first walk. For some it's like the naked nightmare when you're in public completely unclothed and exposed or others the one about missing the final exam and failing the semester even years past graduation.

Mine is losing my boys. 

It almost happened on that highway.  I'd been given collars to test out for a potential sponsor. Slim sleek with a few bells and whistles I outfitted Hudson and Murphy with them and hoped they'd work but at that critical point - they failed and slipped off within 50 feet of 4 lanes of traffic traveling 60 mph.  

I had like four heart attacks in the time it took me to secure them.

That wasn't the first time nor the last they got loose and during the 2,300 mile walk and I always imagined, no I hoped for a better solution than microchips which is basically, 'you lost you're dog,well maybe he'll turn up when someone finds him.'

TAGG offers that kind of hope to pet parents and that's why we're partnering with them on this walk.  

Not only does TAGG have GPS tracking if your dog gets lost but you can also monitor their daily activity and they're the only company that does that.  And while we're on the road, TAGG plans on having contests for the pups with the most points though expect some stiff competition from the fuzzybutts.  We're averaging around 500 per day!

Also the folks there have a promo called TAGG it forward and if you purchase a pet tracker you'll get 10% off and they'll donate $25 towards our cause.  Sweet.  Just enter 2dogs in the promo code.

Now that the sites are live, you can track the fuzzybutts as they walk the west coast on the awesome micro site TAGG has built for us at  This is my first time using an iPad and I haven't figured out yet how to hyperlink.  

Thanks to the folks at TAGG & for loaning us one of their teammates Erick who flew up for our launch to walk with us for a few days.  More on that later...  

Saturday, May 10, 2014

The Journey Begins

“There is no greater glory than a good piece of wood in hand, the path underfoot, your companions at your side and the call of the wild leading you on…”

- Yer Big Dog

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

T Minus 4

Murphy's Rain

Back when Murphy was undergoing his second round of radiation at CSU, I witnessed a rainbow from a sunshower and wrote about the Japanese expression 'Mono no aware' in a blog in 2010.  Down south we call that phenomenon the Devil's Rain a phrase I renamed as to describe the hopefulness I felt beneath my tears.    

As Hudson, Indiana and I drove through the Cascades Tuesday morning and approached the Snoqualmie Pass on I-90 to Seattle, I was welcomed once again by Murphy's Rain (top left photo).  That's all I needed.  

The Drive 

After a tiresome 2,800 mile 40 hour drive, the Fuzzybutts and I made it from Memphis yesterday to make final preparations and get a lil R&R&Romping prior to our launch from the Canadian Border.  That's a pic of lil' Nana committing the cardinal sin of trespassing on Hudzer's Altar.  Yeh, you can tell how well that went by his expression.  

Peace Arch Park

One of the first tasks on my list once we got there was scoping out the park where we're having our launch this Saturday, high noon.  Never been this far north and west before and the only border crossing I've ever made on land was from Brownsville TX to Matamoros Mexico.  

There it's all chaos with rows and rows of sputtering cars, a smoggy haze, and the incessant rapping on the window by Chiclet peddlers.  

Here it's, well, peaceful and I found the inscriptions on both sides inspiring. Facing Canada, it reads, 'Children of a Common Mother', and facing the US, 'Brethren Dwelling in Unity'.  


Task 2 began at 5:30 AM as I went to scout our route on the first stretch of our trek:  The Border to Everett WA.  Driving up Interstate 5 yesterday I became a bit concerned about the road conditions we'd be confronted with but after reconning this morning, most of my fears have been allayed.  There are some tough spots sure; shoulderless backroads lined with water-filled trenches as well as long spanning narrow bridges but all doable and we've seen this many times before on our first 2 Dogs adventure.

However, there's a 10 mile track on Route 11 that presents considerable risk to our safety. Pic nearby.  High reaching cliffs on the left and a 50-80 foot drop off on the right with little to no room for negotiation.

This has me slightly worried but two things are in our favor.  First, sunrise is 4:30 AM on the west coast this time of year and when driving this stretch this morning, it was relatively desolate so we'll have a few hours to get through it before morning school and commute traffic gets underway.  Second, it is not only perilous to pedestrians but cars as well so if there we do encounter traffic, it will be slow moving.  

But there's a saying on the road, as in life I suppose.  Don't walk 10 miles until you walk the first.  Or maybe that's my saying.  I recall meeting a Marine on the trail and I always liked his perspective as we shared our many challenges on our travels.  'Impossible is just a degree of difficulty.'  


Yer Big Dog's Notes 1:  For the next six months, this blog is my journal of our journey from Canada to Mexico and this is where it'll be posted first and from the road.  I'll have limited time and energy to proof, re-read, edit, or even re-think its content. 

YBD's Notes 2:  In 2010, Seattle was our last stopping point on the lecture circuit after the Austin to Boston walk and it was right before Murphy was due for his second CT scan back at CSU where we would ultimately learn that not only did his first radiation fail but a new sarcoma had developed on his nasopharynx.  

It's bittersweet to be back here again and I couldn't help but find a subtle irony in that to return here, we had to cross through the Bitterroot Mountains and the flowers that they're named for.  Nearby is a photo, not mine, as they were not in bloom yet. 

What I love about the Bitterroot is it's stubbornness to survive even in the harshest of all conditions.  It can live up to a year without water...