Postcards from the Perimeter
The dogs and I are having a great time taking Betty around the country!
For those new to Postcards from the Perimeter …
- Betty is a 27’ long motorhome (click here for details)
- Dogs are Zack and Zoe, I am Leah (click here for details)
- We are circumnavigating the Perimeter of the lower 48 US States or bust (click here for details)
Hard to believe now, before we left I was so very anxious about the trip! Knock on wood we’re doing well.
Will They Hate It?
I was of two minds before we left:
- the dogs would get used to Betty, or
- they’d hate it and me for dragging them away from home and yard
After more than 4000 miles and 40 days, I now know …
The Dogs Don’t Hate
It’s that simple. They don’t hate.
It’s today,” squeaked Piglet.
My favorite day,” said Pooh.”
― A.A. Milne
It’s not so much that we’re just getting used to Betty. It’s more that we’re learning and living in the moment.
I’m sure when we return home the dogs will be happy, but they’re also happy now. Me, too.
A Favorite Thing: Betty’s Panoramic View
One of my favorite things about this trip is the ever-changing landscape.
Thank goodness for our panoramic view. I’m so pleased with Betty’s huge windshield and side windows!
The dogs like it too. As I drive along, they alternate between gazing out the windows and napping.
- Zack’s nose is at the window when there’s promise of action (slowing down / speeding up.)
- Zoe likes dramatic views (lakes, mountains, canyons and cows.)
When I run errands, they each claim a front seat.
People get a kick out of seeing them up front. The most frequent comments are “Is he a good driver?” and “That’s a big dog house!”
When camped, Zack is happier if he can see out. So I keep the privacy drapes open so Zack can keep guard. Good dog!
I’m not saying we haven’t been uncomfortable and have had to make adjustments. And still have anxiety. Mostly from Zack. But we’re figuring it out.
Betty’s Jerks and Bangs
To better understand Zack’s anxiety, there’re a few things to know about Betty.
Betty’s leveling jacks are great so we don’t roll out of bed when parked on a slope.
They also help reduce the feeling of being on a dingy at sea. Without them, Betty sways and bounces whenever we walk around, scratch our head or yawn.
What are Leveling Jacks?
The jacks are four peg-like legs with steel disk feet I lower using a control panel on the driver’s dashboard. They lower to the ground to raise the four corners of Betty to different heights to achieve a levelness.
I made the mistake of having the dogs inside the first time.
Zack freaked when the leveling system jerked Betty about. It was hard to get him back inside (I had to bribe him with food for days.)
Eventually, we developed a routine so now he barely bats an eye, as long as we stick to the routine.
- We park, then walk the campground.
- They stay outside and I tell Zack “make sure we get level”, giving him a job to do (I know this may sound like nonsense, but it works.)
- I go inside and set the leveling jacks.
- Back outside I tell Zack “good job”. No fanfare.
Rain makes this routine tricky, though, especially when it’s a big mud puddle outside. A few times I’ve kept the dogs inside and it takes a couple days for Zack to be comfortable again.
Betty has two slide-outs, one in the dinette area, one in the bedroom. I simply push a button and part of a wall slides out, making a little more floor space.
The sliding is slow with relatively little noise.
However, Zack takes offense if he’s inside during the slide.
Because the leveling jacks should be set before sliding out any rooms, I simply add slide-outs to the jack-leveling routine explained above, so it’s no big deal.
Unless, of course, it’s raining.
If I’m expecting rain, I often won’t use slide-outs, and sometimes not even the jacks unless we’re not level, just to reduce Zack’s anxiety-level.
There’s got to be a better way to ‘train’ Zack to not care about Jacks and Slide-Outs action when he’s inside. I’m open to suggestions.
If a campsite has a water spigot, I hook our hose to it and simple pressure brings water to our faucets, just like in a house. No problems.
However, when a campsite is ‘dry’, water comes from Betty’s tank up to our faucets when I flip the water pump switch on a control panel in the kitchen.
The pump groans and squeals (when a faucet gets turned on) and bangs (periodically when not in use.)
The noise made Zack nervous for the first few weeks. So I started saying “pump on” before I turned it on, without looking at him.
That works pretty well. I guess he just doesn’t like surprises.
For the first several of weeks on the road, it was really hot.
When I get too hot, my stamina, good mood and patience melts away pretty fast. The dogs get miserable, too.
I finally figured out how to use Betty better to deal with the heat.
Use the Generator
Betty’s cockpit has an air conditioner for the front seats. But it’s not enough to cool the house.
It seemed too weird at first, but I got desperate enough to turn on the house generator to run Betty’s air conditioner (which blows cold air down from the ceiling) while I drive in high heat. Much better!
Stop and Relax
I’m often tempted to drive straight through to our next camping spot. But if I can find a shady spot to stop every 90 minutes or so and have a little walk-about, snack and relax, the three of us do much better. Being hot and road-weary at the same time is no good.
Weather permitting, I attach a cable lead between each dog’s collar and a handle next the door outside.
At first the dogs got tangled in the leads, wrapping each other up. I was afraid they would get decapitated or wrench a leg out of joint.
But they figured out quickly how move to avoid injury. They can now wrestle without problem, it’s amazing to watch!
Bumps in the Night
At first, dog beds were just in the dinette/kitchen area. If the bedroom slide was out, they’d take turns on the floor next to my bed at night.
The problem was: they move around at night. And when they flop down on the bedroom floor, they’d grunt and thump against the bed, waking me up. I was already having a hard time sleeping.
I finally moved a dog bed next to mine at night. There’s a lot less grunting and bumping going on now and sleep has improved. And it’s more comfortable for their old dog bones.
We’re learning along the way. I mentioned Zack’s anxieties, but for the most part they’re both loving the scenery, getting lots of pets & scratches when strangers need a ‘dog fix’, sniffing every new corner, napping at the dinette while I type, chasing grasshoppers and tracking squirrels, …. the list goes on.
Meanwhile, we’ve been across the northern states and started our decent down the eastern states towards the south! More on that in the next post.
Sleepless in Michigan <– Previous
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