Monday, March 26, 2012

No Phone, No Pool, No Pets (Part One)

The book was done, as far as the parts I could do. Daughter had a light week of schoolwork. Consort had two large projects which arrived in his life due yesterday; he needed a quiet work space. We needed relaxation time. Mother-daughter road trip!

Not just any road trip, but a trip we’ve been pining over for years. This year, finally, we’d travel many, many hours to clean litterboxes and dog runs! Because it would appear I’m a little confused about what the definition of the word “relaxation” is.

 We headed to Best Friends, the largest animal sanctuary in the United States, to work for a week. How big is it? Darn big; they own 3,700 acres and lease another 33,000, which makes sense when you realize they have about 1,700 animals living with them at any given time. When you have that many animals, it’s just considered good form to have what amounts to a national park between you and your neighbors.

If you know about animal rescue, you’ve seen their work. After Katrina, a branch of their organization spent nearly a year in the Louisiana/Mississippi area, rescuing and placing homeless animals. They took in some of Michael Vick’s dogs. They’ve sent support to international rescue groups in times of crisis. They’ve got their own show, Dogtown, on the National Geographic Channel. They average 27,000 visitors a year, about 4,500 of whom end up volunteering. This is no small achievement because Best Friends isn’t just 36,000 acres of space located within a thriving metropolis. No, Best Friends is proudly off the beaten path. It’s surrounded by Zion National Park, the Grand Canyon's North Rim, Bryce Canyon National Park, and Lake Powell, which mostly means people are driving through to go somewhere else about five months a year, during the tourist season. The rest of the year you can stand in the middle of the road in the local town, Kanab, for minutes at a time if you felt so inclined, because there’s no traffic. Directions in town are based on whether you go to the first light or the second light; there are only two. How far off the grid is Best Friends? My GPS stopped working for several miles during the trip there. So if someone is coming to work at Best Friends, it’s because they worked very hard to do it.

LESSON ONE: Eight hours is not six hours.

When I punched the address into Google maps, it informed me the trip would take eight hours. I—who usually assume everything will go much worse than anticipated and take much longer— uncharacteristically decided the trip was no longer than six hours. See, because it takes about four hours to get to Las Vegas, which is almost exactly halfway to Kanab, so the whole trip would take six hours!

Yes, I’ve arranged for someone else to teach my child math.

The trip was a little over eight hours. Many of those hours were spent driving through the desert, which makes for a challenging learning experience unless you’re trying to teach your child every single synonym for the words beige and featureless. Don’t get me wrong, I actually love the desert, but it’s a love based less on novelty and more on how impressive it is to go hundreds of miles without anything actually changing. It’s the visual version of a Philip Glass piece. There was a brief flurry of excitement around Las Vegas, what with the billboards (“Mom, why would anyone need edible underwear?”) and then we were back on the moon again. To pass the time, we ate the taquitos and Girl Scout cookies I packed. Daughter learned a valuable lesson about her mother; road-trip food sneers at Recommended Daily Allowances of anything nutritious.

And then we drove into this.

Notice how it appears to only be over the highway? That’s because it was only over the highway. Over the sound of the fire-hose inundating the car, Daughter and I tried to think of synonyms for apocalyptic.

LESSON TWO: You never know.

About six hours into the journey, we started the drive through Zion National Park. A mile or so into the park, we stopped at a gate; the park fee was $25.00. I flinched. “Is there no other way to Kanab?” The forest ranger shrugged and said, “You can go back around at Hurricane.” Hurricane was an hour back, which meant I was weighting $25.00 against my sanity or a deep vein thrombosis from having sat for so long. I grimaced and paid, all the while cursing Google for never saying “Hey, this route? It’ll cost you.” We went into the park and then we saw this

 and this

 and this.

The mountains were red, as were the roads, because they used the local rocks for paving material. The sky was ludricrously blue. The clouds and the snow were the same pristine white. It was like a landscape created by a kindergarten student with two crayons. Daughter squealed in joy because she thought she saw a mountain goat scrambling across a hill but then decided it was probably a shadow. We came out from a tunnel and saw this.

 There was a family of four mountain goats, just sort of loitering by the side of the road. I mean, like three feet from the car; if inclined, the kid could have lunged from the car and touched a mountain goat horn. In the time it took me to stop squealing and grab the camera, they drifted a bit, not from fear but what appeared to be disgust at my lack of cool. We pulled over and just basked in the not-Los Angelesness of it all. I turned to Daughter.

“You remember my irritation about having had to pay?” I said to her, barely concealing a grin. Her eyes shining, the kid said to me, “It was so totally worth it.”

She was so totally right.

Eight hours and a few minutes after we started, we landed in Kanab, Utah, the setting sun turning the mountains the pink of an Easter ham, a few golden beams lighting up our home base for the next four days, the Quail Park Lodge, an adorable renovated motor lodge from the Route 66 era. I can rave about it, I can unequivocally recommend it for the customer service (details to follow), or I can show you one of the two dogs who is there every day. This is Foo,

and this is Foo playing with the three kids who stayed at the motel that night.

There's also an affable huge Leonberger named Coda, but he mostly slept and every picture I got of him looked like a meditation on roadkill. Just take my word for it, he was there.

We arrived at eight, ate the last of the taquitos and cookies as a sort of dinner and collapsed in exhaustion by nine. We needed to get our sleep; we were due at work the next day.



Blogger PinkieBling said...

This is so cool! I live in Salt Lake City, and I've wanted to go check out Best Friends for years now.

Can't wait to read part two!

4:05 PM  
Blogger Teresa said...

I too have always dreamed of that road trip and volunteering at Best Friends. I hope to get there sooner rather than later but in the meantime I will live vicariously through these posting!

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Caron said...

Visual Philip Glass...perfect description!

8:16 PM  
Blogger Judy said...

You are THE coolest mom. EVER.

7:54 AM  
Anonymous NancySongbird said...

Ditto Judy, because she beat to to saying the exact same thing. What a great trip. :-) Cna't wait to hear more about it...

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I've been wanting to go to Best Friends!

What a great trip, thanks for sharing....

11:32 AM  
Anonymous Laurie in SC said...

I now want to rent a wood-paneled station wagon, grab a couple of kids, and drive around the country touring National Parks.
Thank you so much for posting this. It made my day.

10:25 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

What a great start to your trip! Before I read the rest, I just want to say how much I adore your writing style!

Love, Roxanne

5:53 PM  

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