Leaving The Big Chill took a lot of planning. We knew we wanted to go to a warmer place in the south to escape the worst of the Maine winter. Zuma despises rain, ice, and snow. Iiii know! Her breed is from Denmark, for Gawd’s sake. But she won’t go out in the cold rain and snow unless dragged and she hates the cold. Kinda like me. We were going to exit Maine after Christmas, then we decided to flee from the encroaching cold weather before the snow began to fly, so we headed out on November 30th. Zuma was very excited to jump into our VW van (whom I named Blanca) and begin the adventure. Doug spent months searching for a VW van and then many months having it readied for the trip. Jason, one of Epifanes’ employees was a huge help and did a lot of the work to get Blanca in top shape.While on our “walkabout” I am writing a book about traveling with a Great Dane. Zuma is an excellent traveling companion, the perfect, non-complaining “road sistah”.
We decided to cover a lot of miles the first few days so we could get into warmer climes, therefore we only stopped two nights in New England. It was too chilly to camp out in Blanca, so we had to stay in a hotel the first two nights until we reached warmer weather. We were horrified to be charged $100.00 (non-refundable) for the dog (regardless of size) for one night at a Marriott in Massachusetts. We are platinum members but oh no, dem’s the rules. On to Harrisburg, PA to a pet-friendly La Quinta. No charge for the dog. They could not have been nicer, they welcomed us with open arms. Shame on you, Marriott. We’ll stay at La Quinta.
By December 2nd we were in Lancaster, PA, enjoying beautiful pastries we purchased in this beautiful historic town and heading merrily toward Delaware, in the rain.
We were having a great time until …. suddenly the van started to slip out of gear on the highway. We stared wide-eyed at each other and both agreed we were suspecting the same thing: the transmission. Doug did some quick Googling roadside. We limped to Dover, DE where Doug had located a VW dealer and service department. Thankfully, it was not far to go and we virtually puttered into the parking lot. Totally unexpected. This is Doug and Zuma in the waiting room.
After an afternoon in the waiting room, the verdict was in. The van needed a new transmission. We decided we didn’t have a lot of choice. So we left the van there for repair; Doug picked up a (jumbo) rental car and we found a nice nearby pet-friendly hotel (Holiday Inn). Everybody was extremely welcoming and friendly to us and to Zuma (she loves hotels and thinks she has the power to open the elevator door by staring at the lower corner where the door opens).
Doug’s back was acting up and by the time we arrived at the hotel he needed to rest it. The next day he was barely able to move and we hung out at the hotel. It rained all day but Zuma and I were still able to get out for walks. Zuma was scratching all that night so we took her to a groomer the next morning. Fabulous experience! Zuma felt so much better afterward. The grooming salon (Scruffy to Fluffy) fit us in immediately and were absolutely fantastic. To make the experience even better, they have a young special needs man there whose job is to play with the dogs while they await their turn. As you can see in this photo, Brett was fabulous with Zuma. What a fantastic idea to have someone capable and kind to comfort the dogs and keep them busy. Jen, the owner of the salon, gave us all kinds of information about places to walk our dog and offered tips on places to see. She also referred us to a local veterinarian.
Afterward, we went for a drive into the semi-rural area bordering Dover where we found a fabulous orchard (Fifer’s) and we bought an apple caramel walnut pie to celebrate!
On Friday morning, Zuma’s skin was still clearly irritated and she was constantly chewing her legs, so we zipped her to a vet right away. The vet office was extremely gracious and took us immediately; the Dr. said it is a contact allergy. I had recently washed her bed in a new detergent and the vet was sure that was the problem. Zuma was prescribed antibiotics and prednisone. Poor Zuma, drink drink drink, urinate urinate urinate. Doug went to a walk-in clinic and was prescribed muscle relaxants for his back. Thankfully he isn’t on prednisone too, haha. There’s just so much a girl can take, ya know?
After lunch, we left Dover and drove to Rehoboth Beach, a charming seaside spot with great cafes and shops. On our way there we stopped at a toll booth. When we went to hand over our dollar, the attendant told us we were already paid for, by the person in front of us. She told us people do that here, just to be nice. It made us smile all day. We could hardly wait to pay it forward at the next toll and we happily did so!
That evening we had a fabulous time at the hotel bar with a local and the staff all helping us determine the next stage of our journey, pointing out places not to miss. We visited the Amish Farmer’s Market the next morning. All the vendors are Amish, in their bonnets and dresses, trousers and suspenders. It’s like stepping back in time in a way. It’s just great. I bought more pie (just three slices) and Doug insisted I back off the pie purchasing. Uh oh, Pie intervention. I didn’t know I had a problem but apparently, I need to go into a 12 step program to keep me away from pies.
I suppose I could complain about the fact I acquired food poisoning the first day (Thank you, Burger King; my error, I know I can’t eat at BK or McD’s), about the $8,500.00 bill for the van, about Doug’s painful back and Zuma’s itchy skin. But all of us are on the mend and we’re all so thankful for the great people we have met and the fantastic service and hospitality we have received from everyone along the way. Jinxed? Nah, we’re Blessed.