Trust, Travel, and My Golden Retriever
Yes — in 2022
I have a faint vision of what it would have been like living as a teen in the 1960s. I read and study that time, and although filled with revolution and distress — as today is — key elements are quite different.
Teens had a voice. They took chances and were relatively unafraid. People communicated. Individuals looked each other in the eye and discussed what was important to them. Divorce surely was not as rampant. Influences surely did exist, but authenticity was at the forefront. People cried aloud for peace and worked much closer together. The air was cleaner and the climate brighter. Maybe, even individual spirit was brighter.
Struggles abound in any era, but for what it is worth- I just have a personal vision. Please, do not judge me- that is not the purpose of this piece. It is much deeper than what you think as you read the following piece. Look between the lines if you are able and see the essence of what I am putting down.
I have hope.
I am a diehard liberal. I run so far left I will keep any conversation with a conservative in circles.
I feel that the words that pass between people are all we really have in the end.
We remember even after eons, ages, and past lives.
If you search your heart you will remember- from your soul rising unexpectedly- how you were changed, formed, and constructed.
You were treated, molded, and sculpted throughout time.
Trust me- it is a different level and not many are even open to it. And yes- I do not believe in drugs or excess alcohol ever- that is just escaping. My current conscious self is what I was put here with and chose to work with. It is very, very powerful all on its own. So- social issues are a huge part of my persona.
In actuality, I have limited time for people with no empathy- trust me there are many. And so, the adventure goes…
My pulse as a college professor and high school teacher is clearly on the youth of today and the future of tomorrow. As an educator, I am fortunate to have some time away from school in the summer months.
I decided to travel. Jack (my golden retriever) accompanies me just about everywhere I go. Yes, he even comes to the college and sits in the back of English 101. No, he is not a service dog, just a really cool pup. I rescued him from a barn in Eastern Pa. when I saw him tied up at an estate sale. (That is a story for another day…)
Anyway, the thought to hitchhike in 2022 is kinda insane. However, I am a bit on the edge with societal norms myself so I thought I would give it a go (with Jack, of course). I am also trained in Martial Arts so, quite confident in my ability to protect myself. I figured I could use this crazy venture as a course topic at my university. The weight of pros- cons, society, and individual freedoms. The topics were rampant in my mind. So, I went with it.
My travel goal was from Brooklyn, New York to Ojai California. 2,844 miles to be exact. I had a month to travel and four huge dogs to rescue in California. There are many pet rescues in the United States, however, many are limited in the size and scope of their ability. Due to the devastating fires in Cali this summer, many animals were left homeless/ lost. A rescue that a friend of mine has in Cali had one Bernese Mountain dog, a Rottweiller, and two older Great Danes that were frightened and more than difficult to place. Vivian, my friend, was able to provide free transport to the east coast, but physically needed someone to take possession of the dogs and travel back to New York. I volunteered. I know- crazy right?
The easy thing to do in this situation is to fly out (with Jack) and drive back with the transport. The fun/ insane adventure thing to do is to secure an “Interstate Rescue Badge” and see the country. My mission (and no one else's) was to reinforce in my mind the kindness of strangers on the ground. Keeping a log would also aid my societal core purpose. I follow some travel sites and people living “off the grid” so I did not find many difficulties noted. After much mulling over the scenarios, I packed my backpack and contacted a colleague that drove Jack and me to the George Washington Bridge.
Sam, my colleague, dropped us off (with reservation) and a prayer on the Jersey side. We walked into New Jersey about to hitch a ride. I guess walking in Fort Lee, NJ with a backpack and a golden retriever is a bit unusual. Within minutes, a woman in an SUV asked if I needed a ride. Wow- sure- she had a Yorkie pup in her Subaru and was headed to Cleveland Ohio to visit her sister that just had a baby. So, the first 465 miles were a piece of cake. Heather and her pup Frieda were kind and amazed at my travel itinerary. We became fast friends. It took us 11 hours, one lunch, one dinner, and two margaritas to arrive at her sister's home. Since her sister had reservations about me (of course) — Heather said I could sleep in her SUV. Day one- all was great. I texted Sam and Vivian to ease their minds and fell asleep with Jack in a very long, newly paved driveway in Cleveland Ohio.
On the morning of day two- Heather brought me a breakfast sandwich, in the driveway, and drove me to the Ohio Turnpike. This roadway connects to 80 west. Once on the side of the highway, Jack and I walked about a mile or so and saw a police vehicle on the opposite side of the road. Noticeably, she drove forward obviously coming around to “get me”. Just then a red Kia stopped- a young kid- and asked if I needed a ride. Jack and I hopped in and found that Max (luckily) was headed to the University of Colorado Boulder- 1,346 miles away. I spoke of my plans, showed him my “Interstate Rescue Badge” and told him of my mission that people are kind, good, and generous.
Yes, he thought I was weird.
Idealistic views are not lost on the youth of today I assured him. Max was going to study business management and his family (on his Grandfather’s side) ran a rescue back in Pennsylvania specifically for kittens. Funny, how life is. We traveled and stopped a few times. Although not initially planned, I offered to secure two separate hotel rooms to alleviate the long 24-hour trek. We stopped in Des Moines, Iowa, and left each other in Boulder late the next day.
As we had exchanged numbers, Max called me about an hour after leaving and said he secured a room for me in an unused dorm at the college through the summer dean on campus. Apparently, the dean- Peter George- was intrigued and wanted to meet me. We met and Jack and I slept comfortably. I actually had a lovely shower on the college campus. Vivian and Sam were astonished at my good fortune. One caveat though, I promised to write a paper and provide some visuals of my travels back to the assistant dean for him to use in some Humanitarian courses in the fall. Perfect for me. My manifestations and paying it forward were simply coming to fruition.
On day four, I stopped at Starbucks on campus. It was a cool Friday morning and I saw the assistant dean getting coffee. We shared some pleasantries and then I was on my way. He watched as I took the student Summer Campus Jitney bus to a small strip mall area close to Route 80 West. I still had about 16 hours to go and a thousand or so miles to Ojai. In front of the PetCo by the mall, a black Jeep Wrangler pulled up. It was the assistant dean. He asked if I needed a ride to Ojai. Truth be told, I thought he was quite attractive from the get-go, but that wasn’t my mission. In addition, I am always leery of people that have two first names (we all have our odd perceptions). Funny how life plays out.
Peter, Jack, and I drove to Ojai together in a 2001 black Jeep Wrangler. He had the weekend off and mentioned that I was an amazement to him. He also was generally in fear of my safety. I appreciated his honesty. He was recently divorced and took the Colorado summer job just to refocus and get away. Peter was a professor in a private New Jersey College. He taught Human Behavior and Societal norms. Funny how life plays out.
Ojai was beautiful and Vivian had secured a cool, little, 2 bedroom Airbnb for Peter, Jack, and me. It was something out of a Netflix show- overlooking the mountains and filled with wildflowers even in the incredible drought. We decided to stay an extra day and asked Vivian to join us at the Topa Winery in Ojai for lunch and relaxation. Peter was easy to be with and this adventure was more than I could have hoped for. He was straightforward, funny, and thank goodness one of the most liberal men I have ever met.
I circle back now to my reasons for the adventure. They were all accomplished. The trip home, although long and rainy was easy. Peter went back to Colorado and we have seen each other every weekend since he got back to Jersey. Now, being August- all of the dogs are placed except one Great Dane, (we call him Gus) which Jack and I have adopted for ourselves. One odd unexpected issue is that I have to move because my landlord refuses to let me have both dogs. I can deal with that, I have until November to find something suitable.
The log, papers, poetry, and stories written along the way have been submitted for course approval. It takes a bit for editing purposes and university protocol, but I am assured the course topic will be created by the spring semester. Common themes are even now flowing from my colleagues- computer lessons for the elderly taught by students, and coffee carts on campus with a focus on teaching special needs students. More will evolve.
I continue to have deep admiration for the daily mission of kindness and compassion to all that participate. I encourage participation in rescue missions of all types and the preponderance of free thought within our ever-changing society. Judgment is never an issue.
Just be, whatever that is for you. Just be.