Traveling the outback

    There is nothing like motoring down a rural road with a mind full of contentment while towing an Airstream trailer like an obedient dog on a short leash. Yet few delve deeper into this day dream to confront the mountain of preparation required to keep the grin firmly stapled on an otherwise questioning face. Let me explain:

    It is nearly impossible to pack and keep track of the perfect blend of clothing, groceries, tools, toys and other seemingly indispensable materials necessary to oil the squeaks out of an otherwise halting adventure. Carrying too much has as many drawbacks as bringing too little, though only time will tell.

    On a recent sojourn to an undisclosed location I felt that all was in order, with only the steps to retract and the door locked before getting gas and heading out of town. My check list was three pages long and printed in a typeface that made a small black ant look like a mastodon on a rampage, but one has to have a plan and stick with it.

    My wife, Annette, closed the trailer door and retracted the steps as my dog, Spooky, sat in the back seat ready to smell some wide-open spaces. We approached the gas station alert to the fact that the gauge was on empty and were greeted with a fleet of vehicles that had lined up for a sip at the pump. I turned a corner to make another pass when a young woman shouted that the trailer door was swinging in the breeze.

    I immediately pulled over on the small street and went to secure the door, noticing that the steps had somehow extended themselves into the street, providing us with two starboard protrusions needing proper attention. Once secured, I headed around the block and encountered another bumble of cars waiting for fuel, so I drove the few blocks home and had lunch, not in some rustic snapshot in Norman Rockwell's mind, but right in front of my house. After an hour on the road we had gone nowhere.

    The sandwich and iced tea did temper the turmoil, allowing for a second attempt at launching. We sputtered into the station just before the engine died for lack of fuel. Filling up the tank required an approval from a Swiss bank. Fortunately I was in possession of a valid passport and remembered the 54-letter password or we would have had to walk home. Spooky, though, hit the biscuit lottery and doggedly chewed the morsels that the attendant offered.

    Once fueled we hit the road at a moderate speed and in the general direction of our destination, which I hesitate to mention to you, gentle reader, as its popularity might soon make it bumper-to-bumper as the readership decides to roar out of town in search for my Shangri-La.

    Once camped I assumed the role of a sultan seated atop a mound of pillows, surrounded by good music, exotic foods and dressed in silk. Though, to be a tad more truthful, I was soon wearing a crawl suit and was under the tow vehicle in search of a serious source of squeals, thumps and clunks experienced first on the tractor-friendly descent into the aforementioned destination. In little less than three hours I had traced the source of the sonic disturbance to the precise placement of a couple of English walnuts. It took deep meditation and a host of self-hypnosis not to incriminate the two squirrels that have it out for me at my home in Ashland. I simply do not understand how they could have done the deed, but such is their loathing of me, I knew that they could figure it out.

    We frolicked, romped about the property, while Spooky marked at least a thousand trees, leaving him panting, happy and severely dehydrated. A full bowl of water later and he was off doing his best to make a lasting impression.

    Our three days away passed quicker than an un-named test pilot in Area 51 and, once again, we were home. Days of sylvan wonderment slowly drained from my brain as the phone began a riotous routine of regular ringing "¦ It was back from La-La Land and into the muck of reality. invites your inquiries as to his most recent destination. Talk to him under the tow vehicle or simply send him a walnut-sized e-mail.

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