I’m exhausted so I’ll keep this brief, or fail to. Susan and I and the four pups (believed by the kennel caretaker at the Grand Canyon to be border collie mixes) are home in six respective individual pieces. We left the Grand Canyon at 7:45 a.m. and after arrived home 515 miles later (including a sidetrip down Route 66 from Seligman to Kingman) shortly before 5 p.m.

Oh, there is one interesting thing in need of a bit of detail: Not more than 40 miles away from the park, I got stone cold busted by a Coconino County sheriff’s deputy coming towards us who lit me up as I was otherwise legally passing a car in front of me, but just a weeeeeeeee bit too quickly. Immediately upon seeing the colored lights I didn’t waste any time and pulled over onto the shoulder, put the car in park, rolled down the window and placed both hands on the top of the steering wheel and waited his arrival.

He opened with cordial “Good morning” and closed with a terse “92!” as in the number of miles per hour I was going. I gulped and tried to lamely blame it on the speed accumulated in passing the other vehicle while going downhill, but he just shook his head and informed me that he’d clocked said vehicle at 70 — 5 mph over the posted speed limit — and I knew I had nowhere else to run so seeing as we were in Arizona I just summoned up the oft-used phrase from the Coen Bros. film that includes that state’s name in the title:

“OK then.”

“License and registration please.”

I indicated that the vehicle was a rental and the information was in the glove box and that my license was in my back pocket.

“OK then,” he said and as Susan fished the papers out I retrieved my license. Handing them both over to him I decided to do something I usually never do: ask for mercy. See, if I’m caught doing something wrong as the operator of an automobile I usually just man up and take the punishment. But something nudged me internally and I opted to give it a shot. What was there to lose?

“Might there be the possibility that you could just issue me a warning, sir? My wife and I are returning home from vacation.”

There was a really long few-seconds pause as the avuncular deputy seemed to consider this. Then finally he made my day with “Yes… I believe I can let you off with a written warning and save you the almost $600 the ticket would cost you.”

I believe my reaction was “Whoa!” and I’m even more certain Susan said “Jeez!” but under her breath.

It was right then that one of the pups in the back set to yelping.

“That’s right,” he said, “Now wait right here and I’ll be back in a few minutes.” And as he walked away he said “that pup sounds like it wouldn’t be happy with a $600 ticket either.”

“Actually,” I said sticking my head out the windor, “there’s four of them.”

“Four?”

“We found them abandoned up in Monument Valley the day before last on our way here.”
Peaking in through the rear hatch window he seemed impressed. “Well they’re sure better off now than they were then.”

“Yes sir!”

Then he entered his patrol wagon for an eternity to run a wants/warrants check on me and to make sure the vehicle was clean and I just sat there staring out the window hoping he wouldn’t change his mind and decide a ticket was in order after all.

When he arrived back at my side he asked what our plans were for the dogs and I told him we were going to keep on and find good homes for the rest. Then he did something I’ve never had happen before. He asked for my social security number. For a flash I thought about transposing a couple digits but I figured he’d already had the number and might be expecting that so I just recited the nine digits in proper sequence. He wrote it down in a booklet and then gave it to me for my signature, letting me know that this was just a written warning and would not be reflected on my driving record. Despite my curiousity about the warning needing to be so documented, I signed without protest or inquiry and handed it back to him.

Giving me my copy he said he hoped I’d play it a bit safer and slower during the rest of our journey home — and especially so on the stretch of highway we were on. “This is some of the deadliest road in Arizona if not the country,” he lectured. “Why just a couple weeks ago right around the bend up there I had an eight-car pile up. Explosions. Fire. Everyone burrned.”

I gave him my best and not insincere wide-eyed horror look and I heard Susan say “My goodness!” as I told him how much I appreciated his assistance and kindness. Then we wished each other nice days and I got going watching him pull a u-turn and head toward the park as we headed homeward bound, telling Susan that whatever blessings the puppies brought us I believe I just used up a good and sizeable chunk.

Six hundred dollars! Yikes and whew!

Anyway, the long remainder of the trip didn’t involve encounters with any other law enforcement, but it did involve traveling through the 116-degree temps through Lake Havasu City and across the Colorado River and California border. Earlier along Route 66 we stopped at the incredible general store in Hackberry and the only other stop was off Interstate 40 in Ludlow for gas and Dairy Queen confections — my first ever and boy were they gooooood.

Before home we opted to stop at the park below the Silver Lake Reservoir to let the pups out for a romp and stomp in the grass, and we found ourselves confronted by an enthusiastic and very friendly Boston terrier who it turned out didn’t belong to anyone in the vicinity. Luckily she had tags a plenty and I found out her name was Odey and called the phone number, which her grateful guardian answered after several rings. Turned out she lived just up the street and Odey had gotten out the front door.
I’m all for intervening on dogs’ behalfs but with four discarded pups in the back of the car the first thing I get to do when I get home is reunite another one with its peeps? Enough already!

Home after that we found mom and the cats, dog and tortoise all well and after saying hello we dropped the surprise on mom that we’d “picked up some hitchhikers” and then brought up the pups and everyone got along well enough. The cats were curious more than disturbed and Shadow, while interested and amenable at first sniff, later adopted a rather standoffish distance; yelping sharply at them a little fiercely whenever they came too close. It’s understandable.

Mom said goodbye shortly after that and with the four tykes all over the place it soon became clear that some sort of portable pen was going to come in handy in keeping the inquisitive quartet contained so it was off to Petco to purchase one as well as collars and leashes for all. Then, after all that, I still managed to dredge up the energy to join my fellow IAAL•MAF’ers for tonight’s Midnight Ridazz bike ride, participation of which easily topped a thousand in my guesstimation.

And here we are. It’s good to be home. All’s quiet and everyone’s all bedded down for the night but me — but not for long.