Sunday, April 22, 2007

6 Bucks and a Squeaky Toy

National Capital Bearded Collie Club Regional Specialty: 3rd in Sweeps, made the cut in regular 12-18 class

This posting was first printed in the newsletter of the as "Val and Karen's Bogus Journey."

Val and Karen's Bogus Journey

It started out innocently enough, and even sounded like a pretty good idea at the time. I'd decided to enter Dinah in the NCBCC Regional Specialty, and I couldn't bear to keep all of the fun and adventure to myself. I sent Val an email saying something like, “Wanna go?”... and the adventure was on. I made the arrangements for the hotel room and rented a minivan so we could tote Dinah, Traveler, and all of our show junk to the show and back in relative comfort. We were all set to travel in style... or so we thought.

The morning we were about to leave, my cell phone rang. It was Boobyprize – er, I mean Enterprise – Rent-a-Car, calling to tell me that they didn't have a vehicle for me in spite of my having requested one two months in advance.

“That's okay,” I said. “I'll take an SUV.”

“We don't have any of those, either.”

“Well, what do you have?”

“We don't have anything. We're really sorry.” (Somehow I was reminded of the Cheese Shop sketch from Monty Python.)

I reported the results of this enlightening dialogue to her and said that I'd be running a little late, as I had to formulate Plan B using only my little Subaru and a car-top carrier.

Locating the car-top carrier was simple enough. It lived in our tool shed behind the house, where it had resided since Greg last used it in 2004 to move things out of his old place. In the intervening years, it has acquired its share of cobwebs, bits of dried grass, and suchlike. I hosed the thing off and attempted to unlock the two tiny locks that held the thing closed. The locks were rusted shut. I began to have a very bad feeling about the way things were going, but I persevered. Greg reappeared with a hacksaw, and proceeded to saw off the locks. I decided to use tie-wraps for security, since I had a large bag of them and no other method available for securing the top of the carrier in mid-flight.

I called Val, told her I'd be a little but later, and started to pack.

Finally – about three and a half hours later than I'd planned to leave, I pulled into Val's front yard. The car-top carrier had plenty of space for our luggage and tools, but there was just one teeny little problem: we were both just a little bit too short to reach it. She produced a step stool, and we commenced to pack the car-top carrier. I secured it with tie-wraps and hoped for the best.

Traveler had been looking forward to riding in comfort in the rental van, since he usually travels to shows in Pat's Econoline. He was somewhat less than impressed with the accommodations afforded by the back seat of a Subaru. Val installed his blanket and showed him that his girlfriend Dinah Moe was riding in a crate in the back. He reluctantly took his place. Maybe he knew something we humans didn't know.

Bogus Journey, Chapter 2

In spite of the less-than-spacious quarters in the Subaru, our trip south went smoothly, if not quickly enough to satisfy us. Trav eventually settled down in the cramped back seat, drooling a little. Dinah dropped off to sleep in her crate.

Val and I were just so happy to finally be on the road that we chattered happily all the way from Maine through New Jersey, stopping only for biology breaks and to refuel the car (and the driver). We wondered aloud why Tony Soprano, Bruce Springsteen, and Jon Bon Jovi didn't have rest stops named after them on the New Jersey Turnpike. I learned from Val that there are actual “Sopranos” tours you can take around northern New Jersey – apparently her brother took one and had a great time. Dinner consisted of a couple of greaseburgers we picked up at a rest stop on the Turnpike, but we didn't care. All we cared about was getting there.

Finally, after at least 400 years of driving, we arrived at the Red Roof Inn near the fairgrounds. When we entered the lobby to check in, we became privy to the conversation between the previous customer in line and the guys at the front desk. “You're full? But I had a reservation!” I crossed my fingers inside my pockets, hoping that when we reached the counter, we wouldn't have to sing the same song. After that long drive, I was ready to set up camp in the lobby and sleep there, if necessary. I didn't have the intestinal fortitude to try and find another hotel at that hour.

Our turn came, and we stepped up to the counter. For one brief, frightening instant, the reservations clerk was unable to locate my name in the computer. That lobby floor started to look mighty tempting. Finally, he found our room for us and handed over the keys. Heaving sighs of mixed relief and exhaustion, we headed out to the car to unpack. We cut loose the tie-wraps on the car-top carrier, unloaded our luggage and other necessities, and then tie-wrapped the thing closed again.

Trav was so tired of riding in the back seat that anything – even a camping trip to the Red Roof Inn's lobby – would have sounded like fun to him. In spite of his drool-soaked beard and shirt front, Dinah was glad to see him and insisted on playing with him the moment she was released from her crate in the back. Neither of them would eat, so we walked them and then crashed for the night.

Dinah woke me before sunrise (for which I was appropriately grateful). Figuring that no sane human being would be outside at 4:30 in the freakin' morning, I slipped on some shoes, took my room key, and headed outside with Dinah toward the nearest grassy area.

The little princess sniffed around for at least half a lifetime before finding a spot she thought worthy of her attention. Although I'd been hoping to remain invisible, Tom Dixon spotted me on his early-morning walk. He was already dressed and groomed for the day. My hair straggled in my eyes, I hadn't showered since the previous morning, and my morning outfit consisted of a nightshirt and a pair of Crocs. Bless him, Tom didn't react in fear or horror at my appearance, but petted Dinah and exchanged pleasantries for a few minutes.

Once back inside the room, I'd hoped to avoid waking Val, but Trav was up and ready to go. While she sleep-walked him outside, I tried to persuade Dinah to go back to sleep with me. She preferred to play with Trav. I crated her, hoping that she'd settle down, but that proved fruitless as well. We ended up starting our day long before the alarm went off. We cut the tie-wraps on the car-top carrier, stowed our gear, added more tie-wraps, and headed down the street to the fairgrounds.

We followed the line of cars into the fairgrounds and looked around for the Whatsis Building, where our Specialty was supposed to take place. Seeing nothing that looked like a Whatsis Building, we asked the gentleman in the golf cart who appeared to be presiding over the parking. He responded with a storm of unhelpful gobbledegook that left us more confused than we had been before we asked. We finally decided to follow the other cars that were heading out the other side of the fairgrounds and turning. Maybe that road would lead us to the Whatsis Building.

Eventually, we did find the building in question, unloaded pups and gear, and proceeded to set up. Karen Bowens had agreed to show Dinah that day, so I set off in search of her. After finding her setup, i delivered Dinah into her care and parked the car.

Bogus Journey, Part 3

Here's where we actually started to relax and have some fun. Val and I saw loads of Beardie people we knew, including Traveler's Gramma Lesley, Barbara Marshall and her sister Abi, Lucy Campbell-Gracie (who had bought the Mainiacs director's chair at the previous year's rescue auction and had it along with her), and too many more to list.

Barbara and Abi had had a Bogus Journey of their own, trying to find the Whatsis Building, getting set up, and so on. Unfortunately, they didn't make it in time to show the girls -- but they were on their way to a protest in Alexandria, and Barbara did me the enormous favor of helping me adopt a spinning wheel from Gregory Wollon. I had offered to take the spinning wheel back in the days when I thought I would have rental van to bring it home in (remember the rental van?) -- but we had absolutely nowhere to carry, tie or drag the wheel with the Subaru and all of the other stuff. Fortunately, Barbara did have room, and graciously agreed to stop by one of the highway rest stops near Havre de Grace to pick the wheel up from Gregory. (That wheel rode in style, safely buckled into the back seat like a toddler, all the way to the Acton shows back in Maine.)

NCBCC had a wonderful hospitality table set up with coffee, donuts, and pastries for breakfast, plus six-foot subs and other great stuff for lunch. Thanks, NCBCC! Beardie people mostly appear to be caffeine addicts like myself, so the caffeinated coffee disappeared in no time.

Finally, it was time for Sweeps. Dinah was entered, as it would be her last time in the 12-18 month class before she went on to Open. Sharon Ipser gave her 3rd place, which also earned us a check for 6 bucks and a squeaky toy. The 6 bucks barely covered a third of the cost of the show entry, but it did represent the very first time Dinah won a cash prize at a dog show. (You wouldn't believe the number of times people have asked, "So have you ever won any money from all these shows?" Now, I can respond in the affirmative, and I saved the MB-F check stub to prove it.) Dinah was very happy with the squeaky toy.

The regular classes came next. I had hoped that Justine Waldron would recognize the one little Breaksea in the crowd because she loved Dinah's sire Danny, but there were bazillions of dogs in the ring. In the 12-18 class where Dinah was, there were at least 4,876 other entries, and Dinah and Karen Bowens did what they could to get through the ordeal. Dinah showed very nicely until she grew bored. Karen did her best to keep Dinah's attention, but by the time the final go-round came along, Dinah was already thinking about something else. At least she made the cut.

Something like a dozen years later, it was Traveler's turn. Trav had spent at least half a lifetime waiting for Best of Breed, but he'd had plenty to do before then. Gramma Lesley and Val had spent lots of time grooming him with great care, and he looked as stunningly handsome as ever. He had to wait around for ages on his grooming table for anything to happen. Finally, Lesley took him into the ring.

The Best of Breed ring was even more crammed than the 12-18 ring had been, and Trav fared about as well as Dinah had -- except that he didn't even get a check for 6 bucks. He did get a squeaky toy, anyway.

By this time, at least a geological age had passed, and we still had to drive home. Not that we were going home empty-handed, by any means. If they gave out world championships for bargain hunting, Trav's Gramma Lesley would be the undisputed A Number One. She had found a whole warehouse's worth of really fantastic items for National Specialty trophies, and we got to bring them all home! We shuffled the bags in the car-top carrier, crammed most of the trophies in, and barricaded Trav in the back seat with the rest. Trav was understandably thrilled.

The highlight of our trip home (aside from the fun we had loading the car) was stopping along the New Jersey Turnpike for (relatively) inexpensive gas and a dozen Krispy Kremes for Pat. I'm surprised we had room in that car for the box of donuts, but somehow, they made it home with us and didn't get crushed or drooled on along the way.

We ended up meeting Pat at the Biddeford Park 'n' Ride. Val had had the presence of mind to ask him to bring along the stepstool, and the loading and unloading process went a heckuva lot more smoothly. I swear I heard Traveler heave a sigh of relief when he jumped back into his van and settled in.

After all of the expense, aggravation, and just plain stupid stuff that happened on this trip, it was almost hard to believe it was over by then. At least we got a good "war story" out of it.

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