Travels with Charlize, in search of living alone

Dr. David Gross

Dr. David Gross

Part 49: Old stomping grounds

It is after dark and we finally arrive in Las Vegas. We enter town on a freeway I know nothing about, five or six lanes of rush hour traffic at 65 miles per hour. I have the mistaken idea that I can spot a hotel or there will be a sign for one. I will be able to pull off and check in. I am quickly relieved of that ridiculous idea as the traffic worsens. I gradually inch our way to the right lane and take the first exit I come to. I obstruct traffic for seven or eight blocks looking for a place to pull off the street. I spot a parking lot and pull into it. Whitey, Charlize and I are all still whole, amazing! The hometown drivers continue to curse my out-of-state license plates and are, no doubt, glad to see me get the hell out of their way.

This time my new GPS comes through. I am less than a mile and a half away from a pet-friendly La Quinta Inn. I follow the spoken directions and the map to the front door. I thank the device. I don’t know how I would have coped without it as tired and frazzled as I am.

I know for certain I am getting “long in the tooth” (that’s how one gestimates the age of older horses). A long drive and two nights in ’50s motels with less-than- comfortable beds, and my shoulders and back are aching. The spacious La Quinta room, modern plumbing that functions as intended and a comfortable king-sized bed, and I’m living large. The folks at the front desk recommend a close-by restaurant. After a nice steak and a long hot shower, I catch up with the Winter Olympics. Charlize wolfs down the steak scraps that I mix in with her kibble. The Las Vegas room cost less than either of the previous night’s motels.

We are up early and on the road again by 7:30. I am anxious to visit old, familiar places in Arizona. We arrive in Boulder City, Nevada and follow the signs to Hoover Dam. It will always be Boulder Dam to me. We stop to gawk, along with a surprising number of tourists. Lake Mead reflects the drought conditions of the Southwest, with the water level significantly lower than I can remember. Charlize does her thing, making friends with two young couples.

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I say hello and they answer, very friendly but speaking what I surmised to be a Balkan language. They have a few words of English but my zero words in their language make it impossible for me to find out what I am certain is an interesting story. I do understand when they ask for the dog’s name but I just leave it at “Charlie” — too difficult to explain more.

Since Charlize doesn’t read, she was unable to follow the directions stenciled onto the wall she jumped onto.

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Just above Charlize’s rump, two lines are visible on the dam. The top line is the high-water mark for Lake Mead. I can’t come close to guessing how much water is gone from this reservoir.

Next on the agenda is Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona. The sun is out and the outside temperature gauge in Whitey reads 70 degrees — this is my Arizona in February. In the late 1940s, my family used to go camping in the Oak Creek Canyon. Sedona consisted of a gas station and a general store. There might have been a dozen or so rustic cabins sprinkled along the canyon. Progress and population evoke change. The canyon now seems full of Inns and restaurants and summer homes all crowding in on the remaining campgrounds. Sedona is a huge tourist mall, crowded with cars, RVs and people.

I take Charlize for a walk. One of the places we pass advertises: “The history of Oak Creek Canyon and Sedona”. We did not go in so I have no idea what they were selling, maybe just providing free information, but my impression of Sedona is that not much is given away free. There I go again, complaining about “progress”. But I urge you to imagine what Sedona looked like before this photo. Note the landscape, the red rock formations poking over the clutter.

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- By Dr. David Gross

Publisher’s note: After his losing his wife of 52 years to cancer, Dr. David Gross continues his road trips with his dog, Charlize, and is writing about his experiences.

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