After a few quiet days by the pool soaking up sunshine and eating we decided to take a drive to Punta Gorda, Fl and check out the bike trails, village and sunsets. Punta Gorda is a nice area with a bit of history and a lot of condos. This is a popular spot for snow birds. The bike trail winds through the parks and is a bit bumpy, but nothing a puppy in a basket can’t handle.
The village is interesting with a covered outdoor shopping area that ends in a patio style restaurant. It took us about twenty minutes to amble down the walkway with puppies either walking or in the stroller. We were stopped several times by dog lovers. This was a village of snow birds who loved their dogs and missed them desperately. Many never considered bringing their dogs on holiday as they are unaware of the many options currently available by a dog loving society. LaQuinta Hotel chain is not only pet friendly, but they don’t charge a pet fee and they don’t have a limit. Often places will limit the number of dogs to one or two, but LaQunita has no limit, is incredibly clean and comfortable. We find other chains use harsh chemicals to clean rooms that they set aside for pets, but all the rooms at LaQuinta are pet friendly and very clean. Most responsible pet owners who travel are very clean in a hotel with their pets.
One older gentleman was petting Taz as I held her in my arms with a warm smile as he explained how he missed his little shih tzu. I was warmed by the light in his eyes and delighted when he started pulling out pictures of his baby girl Bella, a gorgeous little cream and white shih tzu, who was clearly the love of his life.
We had many giggling comments suggesting we must be crazy to bring three dogs with us on holiday, but more genuine and positive comments stating that we had a lovely family.
My love of animals is something that I cherish and try to share with others. One of my favorite things about our pilgrimage to Florida is taking the dogs. I look forward to spending time with them, whether they are cuddled on my lap in the car or playing ball in the park. They are included in all our decision and are a vital part of our holiday. They come to dinner with us at pet friendly outdoor patios, they bike ride in their buddy riders, they kayak wearing life jackets, hike and even shop at the outdoor markets.
The dogs often pull us into the spotlight with strangers. Most of the time its other dog lovers who cheers our work with dog rescue and want to give ours a cuddle because they miss their dog left at home. Occasionally we meet people who sneer and make rude comments. Some just point and laugh. We support the kindness and do our best to repel the negative so it does not touch the sensitive hearts of our delightful pups.
It is easy to travel with the dogs. There are so many pet friendly resorts, hotels, beaches, parks and restaurants.
One of our best travel purchases is our Dogger Stroller (http://www.dogquality.com/dogger.html) from Anne Marie on the west coast of Canada. We’d been searching for the perfect stroller for years and had tried many different kinds, but weren’t completely happy until we got our Dogger. It’s easy to push, all terrain and most importantly the dogs are very comfortable. They will nap in the stroller while we have meals and it saves our arms from carrying. Some flea markets allow small dogs that are carried or in strollers, so it comes in very handy in Florida where Flea markets rule. One more positive about Dogger: customer service. Anne Marie is fantastic and her product is all quality.
After a yummy meal of oyster pots and peach coloured drinks at the patio restaurant we decided to go looking for two of my favorite things: chocolate and sunsets.
The chocolate would be easy as there was a specialty chocolate shop in Fisherman’s Village where I made my wallet lighter and my body heavier with peanut butter and dark chocolate squares, salt water taffy and chocolate covered pretzels. With my chocolates weighing me down we walked to the car and headed west to find the sunset spot.
We had no idea where we were headed, so we kept the sun in view to gauge our needed direction. Often the sun was obscured by buildings and vegetation, but at the end of the due west road we found a small park with a tiny hard sand beach and a view of the sun setting into the water.
There were a handful of people with lawn chairs settled in the beach to watch the sunset armed with bottles of beer and cameras. We joined the throng with puppies in tow to watch the ball of fire sizzle into the salty water.
We had packed a few bottles of icy cold beer just in case this moment came upon us and we cracked the beer with the warm breeze on our faces we smiles, held hands and felt a little magic. I snapped some cool shots that reminded me of a hot foreign plant like mars.
As Taz became limp in Brent’s arms and the bottles emptied the air turned cool as the sun disappeared. With goofy grins and soft relaxed bodies we wobbled our way back to Cape Coral to make dinner and marvel at the pictures of a lovely sunset.
The drive home:
We left Cape Coral, Fl at 9am after a delicious breakfast of bacon and eggs prepared by Brent’s folks. We had packed the day before somehow managing to stuff all we’d brought and all we’d purchased back into the truck. Including a four foot tall vase and three foot wide sun made out of fragile pottery.
Our first day was a short one to Savannha, Ga where we stopped before dark. It was so nice to relax and prepare for our next long day of driving. Since Georgia would be our last stop in the warm weather we were going to drive quickly north to have short drive on the third day.
We woke up at 6am on Tuesday and quickly packed up before enjoying our free breakfast. Somehow we lost time and it was just before 8 when we hit the road for our eleven hour drive to Pittsburgh.
Our ride home was relatively uneventful, at least as far as our standards. Before we left we were aware we had a small oil leak in the canyonario and we kept an eye on it for our trip. In total we added two gallons of oil which tells us that the oil leak worsened as we drove. We made it as far as Pennsylvania before we heard the truck make a squeaking noise. A repetitive squeaking noise like an unhappy belt.
It was dark out when we pulled into a gas station and Brent lifted the hood of the truck and then made what I would describe as a distinctive negative noise. I pulled on my winter coat and stood outside with questions on my lips, but too afraid to ask.
We stood in the cold snowy silence for a few monments before Brent declared “I forgot to put the oil cap back on.” I looked at the engine and it was liberally coated with oil. It left a black sheen on all the engine parts including the belts. The oil was making the belt squeak.
It was a good news / bad news situation. Brent stuffed a rag into the oil opening and we climbed back into the warmth of the truck and continued the thirty minute drive to our pre-booked hotel in Pittsburgh.
We got to the hotel a little later than usual because we had to stop at the grocery store for food. On our drive through West Virginia Brent and I started talking about funny times from our childhood. He was telling me how the only time he ate TV dinners as a kid was when his folks were going out leaving him with a babysitter. I laughed because it was the same in my family. We decided we needed to have TV dinners that night in the hotel, so we popped into Walmart and each grabbed our favorite TV dinners.
Fried chicken for Brent and salisbury steak for me. The only reason this worked out was because we knew our hotel room had a microwave and we were bound and determined to take advantage. We spread ourselves out on the king size bed while the microwave worked its magic.
We watched an episode of the Big Bang Theory as we devoured our microwaved over processed meals. Sometimes it is these things that happen on a long trip that stick in our heads.
The next morning we woke up to temperatures well below freezing and the canyonario wouldn’t start. Knowing this might be a possibility we had parked as close as possible to our hotel room in case we needed to plug in the block heater. Lucky us the short extension cord reached the truck and the outlet.
After a chilly walk to the gas station for coffee we tried the truck again and much to our chagrin it would not start. Sitting in the hotel room debating if we should call AAA I suggested using a little starter fluid. Brent’s face lit up and he said “why didn’t I think of that?”
Our next issue was retrieving the starter fluid which was buried beneath several layers of pottery and totes filled with our important stuff. Our fingers froze as we moved around our stuff to finally uncover the coveted can of ether. Woohoo!!
One spray of starter fluid and we were finally on our way. Three hours later than expected, but still moving with a short four hour drive home. We hit a bit of snow at the Pennsylvania / New York border along the 90, but it didn’t slow our truck down.
We hit the Peace Bridge around 4ish and sailed through with our honesty faces and happy smiles. We were finally almost home after three days of driving.
We pulled into the driveway and Taz became over the top excited to be home. She was instantly on cat patrol and any other creature that should wander into her path. Jackson became excited once in the house and ran to all his favorite spots. Even Poco was trotting around finally familiar with his surrounding.
The Horses Reunion:
During our vacation we boarded our thoroughbred named Turtle as a local stable. It was impressive from the outside all made from wood including the biggest arena in the area. Twenty stalls laid out in the shape of a cross with several paddock outside.
We had been working really hard to put some weight on Turtle since we adopted him in November and he lost most of that while at the boarding facility. From what other boarders tell me the horses do not get outside very much, but otherwise nobody had many complaints.
Turtle seemed depressed and lack luster when we picked him up and we chalked it up to him missing his mares. He seemed bony and thin, probably lost weight sitting in a stall for a month.
I rode Turtle in the arena and we did two small jumps for the first time. I gave Brent a short riding lesson before we loaded him into our trailer and headed home.
The reunion between Turtle and the girls was very moving. It was quiet and peaceful filled with joy. It felt like Turtle shook the dust off him and lit up from the inside when he touched Autumn and he looked comforted when he nuzzled Splash. It was so sweet and we’re very happy to have everyone home again.
This picture of Taz gives the most genuine feeling of pleasure we get from our trip to Florida. We missed the worst of winter weather this year and got some of the best spring weather Florida has to offer. People ask why we keep returning to Florida: basically its the closest place we can drive to that has the best weather. Brent and I call it: Chasing Weather.